Friday, June 17, 2016

Royal Brunei Armed Forces execs arrive in Maguindanao for Ramadan visit

From the Philippine Star (Jun 17): Royal Brunei Armed Forces execs arrive in Maguindanao for Ramadan visit

Major Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan of the Philippine Army’s 6th Infantry Division, huddle with visiting officials of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces. Unson

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines - Top officials of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces on Thursday paid their compatriot-peacekeepers in Central Mindanao a “Ramadan visit” and offered dates as gift.

It is a sunnah (tradition) among Muslims to feast on dates after a day-long fast during the month-long Ramadhan.

The visiting dignitaries, Generals Pehin Datu Pekerma Jaya and Dato Paduka Seri Mohamad Tawih bin Abdullah and Police Commissioner Dato Seri Pahlawan Shah Al Islam, were personally welcomed at the Maguindanao Airport in Datu Odin Sinsuat town by Major Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan of the Philippine Army’s 6th Infantry Division.

Pangilinan led the traditional planeside military honors for them as they alighted from the aircraft that flew them from Brunei to the Maguindanao Airport.

Senior military officials in Brunei regularly visit their compatriots helping enforce the government-MILF ceasefire during the Ramadan.

Muslims abstain from food and drink at daytime as a religious obligation and as atonement for wrongdoings when they observe the Ramadan fasting season, which lasts for one lunar cycle, about 28 to 29 days.
They also focus on charitable acts and reconcile with adversaries during the Ramadan, which is for them a “holy month.”

Brunei has a contingent in the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT), which is helping oversee since 2004 the ceasefire between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Soldiers from Brunei are helping observe the enforcement of the interim truce in all of the 36 towns in Maguindanao province, through their office in Cotabato City.

The IMT is comprised of soldiers and policemen from Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia and non-uniformed conflict resolution experts from Japan, Norway and the European Union.

Duterte in 'brother to brother' meeting with MILF, MNLF leaders

From ABS-CBN (Jun 18): Duterte in 'brother to brother' meeting with MILF, MNLF leaders

Alonto: MNLF, MILF to support Duterte's federalism proposal

President-elect Rodrigo Duterte met with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leaders at a restaurant in Davao City Friday night.

President-elect Rodrigo Duterte met with leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Moro National Liberation Front at a hotel in Davao City on Friday evening.
Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chairman Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim and his first vice-chairman Ghadzali Jaafar, as well as Moro National Liberation Front leader Datu Abul Khayr Alonto were among the key figures who met with the incoming president at around 9:30 p.m.

Alonto described the gathering as a "brother-to-brother meeting."

He told reporters that the MILF and the MNLF have agreed to support Duterte's proposal to shift to a federal form of government.

"A federal system could very well put in place a government of transparency and accountability, and effectively address the peace and order problems including drug trafficking and kidnap for ransom," Alonto told reporters.

"The president-elect has our commitment and our support, hindi sa salita, sa gawa. It's high-time wag na yung mga salita-salita. All of the things we talked about, we have to do it," Alonto added.

The MNLF chairman said it is time to accept that a "centralized form of government is a dismal failure" as it is the reason "why there is war in Mindanao."
Despite agreeing to the shift to a federal form of government, Alonto said they are still hopeful that the "good aspects of the Bangsamoro Basic Law will be retained," and that the country will see the Bangsamoro as a federal state model.

When asked if the MILF and MNLF can finally patch things together and come up with a united front under Duterte, Alonto said, "God willing, In Sha'Allah."

Alonto heads an MNLF faction separate from the one headed by founding chairman Nur Misuari that was behind the bloody Zamboanga siege in September 2013.


The MILF, the country's largest rebel group, earlier said it has sought to close ranks with the MNLF to push for a peace deal under Duterte.
The MILF has sent emissaries to Misuari to discuss a "common approach" after an accord it agreed with outgoing President Benigno Aquino failed to get congressional approval, Jaafar said.

The fugitive Misuari was "very hopeful" about the prospects of ending the four-decade-long rebellion under Duterte, who will assume office on June 30, Jaafar told ABS-CBN News.

"It's unity in diversity," Jaafar said, adding there have been separate negotiations with MNLF central committee chairman Muslimin Sema since the start of the year.

Sema said the two groups could “merge” its respective peace deals with the government - the MNLF’s Tripoli Agreement of 1976 and a subsequent agreement in 1996, and the MILF’s Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro in 2014.

“We’re actually making it easy for government,” he told ABS-CBN News. “We are calling on other factions to come on board.”

Misuari has gone into hiding after being charged over the 2013 siege on the southern port city of Zamboanga.

The 2014 agreement between Aquino and the MILF would have granted wider autonomy to the country's Muslim minority, but the peace process ground to a halt after 44 police commandos died in a botched anti-terrorist raid in the remote farming town of Mamasapano last year.

Military, NPA clash in Misamis Oriental

From InterAksyon (Jun 16): Military, NPA clash in Misamis Oriental

Government troops and New People’s Army guerrillas are engaged in a clash that erupted early Thursday morning and, the military said, is still ongoing in the hinterlands of the Misamis Oriental town of Talisayan, 98 kilometers northeast of Cagayan de Oro City.

No casualties have been reported but the Army’s 58th Infantry Battalion confirmed that fighting broke out after patrolling troops encountered around 10 rebels in Barangay Macopa.

The fighting happened even as negotiators of the incoming Duterte administration and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines ended informal talks in Oslo, Norway with an agreement to resume formal peace talks in late July.

A days-long battle last week that left at least two rebels dead also sent 60 families fleeing the villages of Kamansi and Banglay in Lagonglong town. The evacuees are camped out at the provincial capitol compound in Cagayan de Oro.

Nenita Helogon, secretary general of the tribal group Tagtabolon, said this was the fourth evacuation this year. She said the displaced farmers are asking the provincial government to intercede for the pullout of the military from their communities and to provide them with medicines, foods, and security.

Fighting erupts in Misamis Oriental anew

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Jun 16): Fighting erupts in Misamis Oriental anew

MISAMIS ORIENTAL. Internally-displaced individuals from the Higaonon tribe of Sitio Camansi and Sitio Tapol in Barangay Banglay, Lagonglong town, stage a protest rally at the Press Freedom Monument in Cagayan de Oro City about their ongoing displacement brought about by allege military operation in their community.

WITH the ongoing clash between the New People’s Army rebels and the government troops in Talisayan, Misamis Oriental, the dialogue between the military and some 28 displaced families of Sitio Camansi, Lagonglong town in Misamis Oriental on Friday, June 17, has been aborted.

Misamis Oriental Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (PDDRM) Officer Fernando Dy Jr. said that the military is engaging with another important matter as the fighting erupted in Talisayan town.

"Naa man gud giatiman ang military sa Talisayan nga panghitabo, syempre ila gayud to unahon busa walay available karon maong nasibog," Dy said.

Dy expects that the dialogue will resume today, June 18.

Dy assures the displaced families to get appropriate assistance they most need such as food, medicine and shelter.

But, he worries that individuals including children may get sick due to sanitation issues and frequent rains.

"Ato lang kabalak-an nga basin magkasakit unya sila kay sige ra ba ulan, but we see to it that the needs are met like food. Nabalaka pud basin naay gubot-gubot sa palibot maapil unya sila kay public park baya na," Dy said.

Dy admits that they didn't expect the families to flock at the capitol and air their demands as he thought everything was already set for the safe transport of families back to their community.

The fact finding team sent to the area has recommended the community is already safe and the fleeing families can go back home.

Tagtabolon Secretary General Nenita Helogon said they were excited to face the army in the presence of the provincial government officials to air their demands so that they can go back to their homes.

"Naghinam-hinam na unta gyud mi nga mapaabot sa ila among hangyo aron makapauli nami kay dili baya sayon ang kahimtang namo dinhi," Helogon said.

Displaced families are still camping at the provincial capitol grounds since Thursday, June 16, and would only go back to their homes once they secure the written agreement that the government troops composed of the 58IB, Philippine Army would no longer stay and build detachment inside their community.

"Ang amo ra man gayud nga mobalik lang mi sa among sitio kung makadala mi sa papel kasulatan nga ang mga sundalo igo ra molabay ug dili magpondo ug walay detachment himoon ug dili na mag-interoga sa mga sibilyan," Helogon said.

It can be recalled that some 47 families trooped to Lagonglong gymnasium to seek shelter fearing the presence of the military would ignite chaos, while some families went back to their homes due to health reasons.

"Ang uban manganakay na, ang uban naay sakit, naay angkan nga nabughat, naay disable and dili na namo pwede kuyogon dinhi," Helogon said.

At Scarborough Shoal, China Is Playing With Fire: Retired Admiral

From Foreign Policy (Jun 16): At Scarborough Shoal, China Is Playing With Fire: Retired Admiral

At Scarborough Shoal, China Is Playing With Fire: Retired Admiral

China would risk a potential military confrontation with the United States if it started dredging on a disputed shoal off the coast of the Philippines, retired U.S. Navy Adm. Dennis Blair said Thursday. And in a clash with the United States and its allies in the Philippines, Beijing almost certainly would lose, he said.

“If the Chinese push there, I think there’s going to be trouble,” said Blair, who once oversaw U.S. forces in the region as the former four-star head of Pacific Command. “And it’s trouble that the United States and the Philippines are going to win because the military situation is set up that way.”

To assert its power in the South China Sea and back up its expansionist territorial claims, Beijing has sent out fishing fleets in contested waters and built up artificial islands atop reefs in the past two year years, constructing airstrips and deep-water harbors that can accommodate naval ships.

In a growing rivalry over the strategic waterway, both China and the United States have stepped up patrols of naval ships, reconnaissance planes, and fighter jets in the disputed waters. The deployments have amounted to “shadow boxing” between the two powers and the risk of conflict has remained relatively low, said Blair, who also served as director of national intelligence during President Barack Obama’s first term.

But unlike the disputed Spratly Islands, which are the subject of multiple rival claims from China and several other Southeast Asian countries, the Scarborough Shoal effectively pits Beijing directly against Manila.

With the shoal located less than 150 miles from the Philippines, but 500 miles from China, experts believe Manila has a strong legal case in the disputed claims. The stakes are high as the Philippines has a mutual defense treaty with the United States that could possibly be invoked if Manila sought to defend what it considers sovereign territory.
I would be surprised if the United States hasn’t told China it’s a shoal too far for them,” Blair told a group of reporters at a briefing at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, where he serves as CEO. “It hasn’t been said publicly, but I hope we have done so privately.”

Tensions rose this week at the shoal after Chinese Coast Guard vessels prevented a Philippine nationalist group from planting a Filipino flag on one of the rock outcroppings.

The shoal is one of many maritime disputes at the center of a legal case the Philippines has brought against China before an international court in The Hague. The Permanent Court of Arbitration is due to rule this month on the case, but China has already vowed to ignore the tribunal’s decision, which is expected to favor Manila.

If China succeeded in taking over Scarborough, it could build airstrips there and enable Beijing to draw a “strategic trianglelinking reefs and islands in the Paracel Islands to the west and the Spratlys to the south, effectively fencing off the South China Sea, experts say. That could pave the way for Beijing to declare a possible air defense identification zone in the area, demanding commercial and military aircraft seek permission before flying through it.

Allowing China to seize complete control of the shoal and launch land reclamation work would represent a “geopolitical loss” for Washington that would be unacceptable, Blair said..

For the United States, the Scarborough Shoal represents “at least a pink line, if not a red line,” Blair said.

If a clash erupted, China would find itself in a difficult position, hundreds of miles from its military bases. Any Chinese aircraft would need to be refueled just to arrive at the location.

“From everything I know militarily, that would be a bad place for China to pick a fight,” he said.

The feud over Scarborough Shoal flared up in 2012, and the United States tried to mediate a deal to defuse the argument. The Philippines complied with the deal and withdrew its ships, but the Chinese never pulled back their vessels and continue to deploy ships at the mouth of the shoal’s bay.

The United States has conveyed its solidarity with the Philippines through a number of symbolic steps in recent months, but has stopped short of publicly announcing any red lines.

Asked if the United States had issued a warning to China not to undertake land reclamation at Scarborough Shoal, State Department spokesperson Anna Richey-Allen said the United States regularly holds discussions with Chinese officials about developments in the South China Sea.

“Beyond that, I cannot comment on the specific content of our diplomatic engagements,” Richey-Allen told Foreign Policy.

“Since 2012, Chinese Coast Guard vessels have sought to block fishing access to the area, restricting the long-standing commercial practices of others. We are concerned that such actions exacerbate tensions in the region and are counterproductive,” she added.
In April, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter made a point of stepping foot on an American aircraft carrier, the USS John C. Stennis, as it patrolled waters west of the Philippines. He then paid a visit to the annual Balikatan exercise, which involved 5,000 troops from the United States, 3,500 troops from the Philippines, and 80 forces from Australia and included an amphibious operation on a hypothetical South China Sea island.
After the exercise, the Pentagon sent out A-10 Thunderbolt warplanes to conduct patrols over Scarborough Shoal.

The United States also has announced plans to rotate troops and aircraft at five bases across the Philippines under a new military cooperation agreement, marking a dramatic about-face in relations as Manila kicked out all American forces more than two decades ago.

Before the ruling from the international court on Manila’s complaint, China has been lobbying other countries for support and launched a public relations campaign to make its case. It apparently scored a diplomatic victory this week when Southeast Asian countries backed off a statement critical of Beijing over its policies in the South China Sea.

The original statement issued Tuesday from foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations underlined the importance of freedom of navigation in the waterway and expressed concern over developments that had “eroded trust and confidence.” But Malaysia’s foreign ministry later retracted the statement without offering an explanation

US Navy Sends Electronic Attack Warplanes to Philippines Amid South China Sea Tensions

From The Diplomat (Jun 17): US Navy Sends Electronic Attack Warplanes to Philippines Amid South China Sea Tensions

Four aircraft arrived at Clark Air Base for pilot training and to support U.S. Navy operations in the South China Sea.

Amid rising tensions in the South China Sea, the United States Navy dispatched four U.S. Navy EA-18G Growler airborne electronic attack aircraft and about 120 military personnel to Clark Air Base, an air force base located on Luzon Island in the Philippines, according to a U.S. Seventh Fleet press release.

The four aircraft and 120 personnel arrived on June 15 for training with Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) FA-50 aircraft pilots and to support U.S. and Philippine naval operations in the South China Sea, as the statement makes clear with a veiled reference to so-called freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs) in the disputed waters.

“In addition to bilateral training missions, Growler aircraft will support routine operations that enhance regional maritime domain awareness and assure access to the air and maritime domains in accordance with international law,” the press release reads.

Boeing EA-18G Growler aircraft are designed to detect, jam, and destroy enemy radar emissions, as well as disrupt electronic warfare attacks by an adversary, according to Defense Industry Daily:
 The EA-18G Growler electronic warfare version is a derivative of the F/A-18F Block II that removes the internal gun, adds electronics within the aircraft to help it detect and jam enemy radars, and mounts four specialized ECM (Electronic CounterMeasures) pods under the wings.
The dispatch of electronic warfare planes makes sense given that the U.S. Navy has repeatedly reported difficulties in collecting data in the past due to Chinese electronic countermeasures. For example, in April 2015, a Global Hawk Long-Range surveillance drone was not able to gather data on Chinese military installations on the Spratly Islands due to Chinese electronic interference.

The EA-18G Growler aircraft are part of an air contingent at Clark Air Base stood up on April 16, following a joint announcement by U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin in Manila. The contingent at Clark Air Base was made possible by a new U.S.-Philippines defense pact. This so-called Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) provides U.S. military personnel and equipment access to Philippine military bases on a rotational basis, among other things.

“The first temporary Air Contingent was comprised of five A-10C Thunderbolt aircraft, three HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and approximately 200 personnel deployed from multiple Pacific Air Forces units.  The forces deployed to the Philippines for exercise Balikatan and completed their final mission April 28, 2016,” the press statement notes.

As I explained last month:
The United States (…) dispatched A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft and HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters near Scarborough Shoal, 120 nautical miles off the coast of the Philippines’ Luzon Island, to demonstrate its commitment to the Philippines, which lays claim to Scarborough Shoal and had administered it until 2012, when China seized the feature by force. Now China appears to be getting ready to launch a land reclamation campaign on Scarborough Shoal.
The Philippines have taken China to court over the South China Sea disputes, including Scarborough Shoal. A ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague is expected soon.

IGP: Families know where RM12mil went, police not involved in any payment

From The Star Online (Jun 17): IGP: Families know where RM12mil went, police not involved in any payment

Any payment to secure the release of the four Sarawakian sailors were made by their families without the involvement of the police, said Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar.  

He said police were not involved in paying for the hostages to be freed.

Khalid also denied claims that the Special Branch had received the RM12mil raised by the families.  

“I must reiterate again that the government nor the police had paid any money to the kidnappers. If there were matters involving money or payment, it was something that was done by the families themselves,” he told a press conference here on Thursday.  
Asked if he knew where the RM12mil was channelled to, Khalid said: “I don’t know. We have nothing to do with the money and where or to whom it was channelled.  

“I think the families know where the money went and who received it,” he added. 
On the families' claims that the money was given to the Special Branch in Sandakan, Khalid said there were “third parties” involved with the families.  

“Everyone will use the name of the police and Special Branch but like I said, we don’t cooperate with anyone in paying ransom to the kidnappers,” he said.  

The families of the four Sarawakians, who were held hostage by Abu Sayyaf gunmen, had sought donations to secure their freedom.

After raising RM12mil, they claimed to have handed the money to the Special Branch on May 24.  

It was reported that RM9mil was raised through donations by individuals, RM1mil came from the mortgage made on two of the families' houses and RM2mil came from the shipping company in which the four men worked.  

However, the families came under pressure over where the donations they collected have gone when police said that no ransom was paid to the kidnappers.  

On Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the money raised by the families had been channelled to certain organisations in the Philippines whose “activities are legal”, but maintained that it was not used to pay ransom.  

The four Sarawakians - kidnapped on April 1 - were released on June 7 after long-drawn negotiations with the militants led by sub-commander Apo Mike.  

The two brothers Wong Teck Kang, 31, and Tech Chii, 29, their cousin Johnny, 21, and Wong Hung Sing, 34, who is not related to them were crew members of a tug boat.

No new kidnapping

From The Daily Express (Jun 17): No new kidnapping

Claims of four Malaysians being abducted by Sulu gunmen in a fresh case Thursday turned out to be the work of rumour-mongers.
Several Philippines online news portals quoting a Philippines police official who apparently is a police director of Tawi-Tawi Island had alleged that four unidentified Malaysians were snatched off the coast of East Malaysia and brought to Sulu via the shores of Sitangkai.    Malaysian police who were in the dark about the claim scrambled to verify the news report with their Philippines counterpart following enquiries made by the media here.    Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said that on checking with the relevant authorities, police learnt that the claim was false as no such abduction had occurred.    Last week, four Malaysian sailors who spent more than two months in captivity in the hands of Sulu gunmen in the South of Philippines were freed by the kidnappers after negotiations by the Malaysia and Philippines authorities.    On April 1, brothers Wong Teck Kang, 31, and Wong Teck Chii, 29, and their cousin Johnny Lau Hien, 21, and Wong Hung Sing, 34, all from Sibu, Sarawak, were abducted from a Malaysian-registered tugboat sailing close to Pulau Ligitan waters, off Semporna.     They were released at about midnight on June 8, but it was not immediately clear if ransom was paid.     However, a relative of one of the four, spoke out about rumours suggesting that the hostages were released after a ransom of RM12 million raised in donations from the public since their plea to release the hostages was highlighted in the media.     It was reported that the Abu Sayyaf had earlier demanded a ransom of RM18 million (P190 million) in exchange for their freedom.    Abu Sayyaf, a group linked to the Islamic State, have become notorious for kidnapping, earning millions of dollars in ransom.     The militants regularly abduct foreigners and locals to extort money for their release. In May, the Abu Sayyaf released 14 Indonesian sailors who were kidnapped in two high-seas raids similar to the abduction of the Malaysians.     The kidnappings prompted Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines to launch joint patrols in their waters and set up a security hotline.     It was reported that in April 25, the Abu Sayyaf beheaded Canadian hostage John Risdel after a deadline for paying a ransom of US$6.4 million passed.     Risdel was kidnapped along with a Canadian friend, Robert Hall who was also beheaded last week allegedly after a P600 million ransom the militant group demanded for his release was not delivered before the 3pm deadline.     In November last year, they beheaded a Malaysian, Bernard Then, from Sarawak, who was kidnapped together with a Malaysian woman at a restaurant in Sandakan, but the woman was freed.    Earlier, State Police Commissioner Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun said he would leave it to Inspector-General of Police (IGP) to issue a statement in regards to the RM12 million collected from donors.    It was reported that Datuk Lau Cheng Kiong, who is the uncle of Johnny Lau Jung Hien, said the families raised RM12 million in donations from the public including RM1 million from the mortgage of their two houses at Pulau Li Hua and the employer of the four contributed RM2 million.    Lau said all the money including the donations were handed over to the police in Sandakan.    However, last week, IGP Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar was reported as saying that no ransom was paid and the release was achieved through negotiations between the kidnappers and a joint Malaysia-Philippines team.    On another development about Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) personnel being arrested by the Philippines Navy, Abdul Rashid brushed this aside as rumour. "It is best not to listen to rumours…and do not spark speculation over the incident. I wonder where this information comes from," he said.    Meanwhile, Malaysia Ex-Police Association Sabah branch new chairman Sergeant Major (Retired) Awang Kassim bin Awang Gemok advised retired policemen in Sabah who have yet to register with the association to do so, so that their welfare and wellbeing could be looked after. He also cautioned the public not to channel their donations to any quarters using the name of the association.

Arrest of ‘spotter’ a big blow to Abu Sayyaf

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Jun 17): Arrest of ‘spotter’ a big blow to Abu Sayyaf

THE police said the arrest of an Abu Sayyaf Group “spotter” is a big blow to the kidnapping activities of the group in Zamboanga del Norte and other parts of Zamboanga Peninsula (Western Mindanao).

Senior Superintendent Edwin Wagan, Zamboanga del Norte police director, said the arrest of Abner Gumandol has great effect since the latter serves as the “eye” of the rebels in its kidnapping activities in the region.

Gumandol, who carries the aliases of Sehar Muloc, Abner Muloc, and Commander Red Eye, was arrested last week in the village of Kaliantana, Naga, Zamboanga Sibugay.

Gumandol is the leader of criminal gang known as “Muloc group” operating in the municipalities of Salug, Liloy, Godo, and Tampilisan.

“Hindi ko masasabi na totally wala na pero nakita natin na nasusugatan ang grupo (Muloc) sa pagkahuli nitong si Kumander Red Eye,” Wagan said citing Gumandol is a notorious lawless group commander in the region.

Major Filemon Tan Jr., Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) spokesman, said Gumandol has direct link with Sulu-based ASG mid-level leader Idang Susukan.

Gumandol is allegedly involved in the October 7, 2015 kidnapping of former Italian priest, Rolando del Torchio in Zamboanga City and of Jeffrey Lim, the mayor of Salug, Zamboanga del Norte on April 2, 2012.

Sharifa Muloc, who claimed to be the wife of Gumandol, however, has denied that her husband is an ASG member.

“He is not an Abu Sayyaf member but a brigade commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) based in Camp Salman,” she claimed.

The MILF camp is located in Barangay Salman, Tungawan, Zamboanga Sibugay.
Wagan said the alert category has been raised to the highest level at the Zamboanga del Norte provincial headquarters where Gumandol is detained.

Wagan disclosed that additional personnel from the Zamboanga del Norte public safety company have been tasked to augment in guarding Gumandol’s detention cell.

Abu Sayyaf releases grisly video of Robert Hall's beheading

From Asia One (Jun 17): Abu Sayyaf releases grisly video of Robert Hall's beheading

A screengrab taken from the video showing Hall kneeling down before his captors, just moments before his beheading. Photo: The Star

The Abu Sayyaf has released a gruesome video showing the beheading of Canadian hostage Robert Hall.

The video starts off with two militants standing over Hall, who is made to kneel down before them, with the Islamic State flag in the background.                 

The 90-second video seemed to have been shot in a jungle.

In his last moments, Hall is seen wearing an orange t-shirt and black sweatpants while his hands seemed to be tied behind his back.

One of the militants in the video held Hall's head while the other hand is seen holding a rambo knife.

Throughout the video, another militant, wearing a ski mask, stands behind Hall and recites a prayer in Arabic, which lasted about 45 seconds.

Immediately after this, Hall is forced to the ground while the militant with the machete proceeds to hack off his head.

As this is happening, Hall can be heard groaning.

Hall's severed head is then held up and paraded in front of the camera while the militants shout Allahu Akbar (God is great) several times.

After the beheading, the camera also catches a glimpse of a third militant dressed in blue and wielding a machine gun.

It is believed that the video was taken in Jolo, southern Philippines.

On Monday, the Abu Sayyaf threatened to behead Hall at 3pm if ransom was not paid.

Hall's decapitated head was found placed inside a plastic bag beside Carmelite Cathedral in Jolo.

The 68-year-old Hall had been a hostage of the Abu Sayyaf group since September 2015.

Since Hall's beheading, his family released a statement saying that every option to free him was considered but agreed with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's directive that money should not be paid to hostage takers who seek to undermine fundamental Canadian values.

Last month, his fellow countryman John Ridsdell was also beheaded.

Abu Sayyaf, based in the south of the mainly Roman Catholic Philippines, is known for kidnapping, beheadings and extortion.

Security is precarious in the southern Philippines despite a 2014 peace pact between the government and the largest Muslim rebel group that ended 45 years of conflict.

In Manila, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte's national security adviser said Duterte's new government, which takes charge on June 30, would "take a stronger action against lawlessness in the south".

"We cannot allow this situation to continue, this should end once and for all," Duterte's adviser Hermogenes Esperon told Reuters.

Abu Sayyaf had initially demanded one billion pesos ($21.7 million) each for the detainees, but it lowered the ransom to 300 million pesos each early this year.

Preliminary intelligence reports in the Philippines indicated Hall had been beheaded 10 minutes after a 3 p.m. deadline lapsed in the mountains outside Jolo's Patikul town

PH Navy’s 2016 model civilian employee is Cordilleran

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 16): PH Navy’s 2016 model civilian employee is Cordilleran

A native Cordilleran is the 2016 Model Civilian Employee of the Year of the Philippine Navy.

Esteban Bading, from Kalinga,   received his award from President Benigno S. Aquino III, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,  during the 118th anniversary celebration of the Philippine Navy on June 1, 2016 at Pier 13 South Harbor in Manila.

He bagged the prestigious award   for his untiring and exemplary efforts in helping the Philippine Navy in its mission to run after violators of environmental laws (illegal logging and illegal fishing), smugglers, communist terrorists and organized crime groups.

Esteban is the eldest son of Peter Panga Bading (D) and Irene Wayyag Wenta, both natives of Mangali, Tanudan, Kalinga. He was born and raised in Antamok Mines, Itogon, Benguet.

The 62- year old Esteban is married to Teresita Orion Bading, currently the Administrative Officer of Bohol Island State University, Clarin Campus in Clarin, Bohol.  The couple has three children who are all professionals.

Bading studied for one semester at Saint Louis University, Baguio City before trying his luck at the Philippine Military Academy. He was the first Kalinga native to enter PMA; unfortunately he did not make it.

 He entered the military service on January 10, 1979 where he was enlisted as a Duty Sergeant (E-4) and assigned at the Office G-1, HPA, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.  He left the Army in 1984 for the proverbial “greener pasture”.

While in Quezon City, he worked at odd jobs for survival. The following year, he moved to Bohol with his wife and daughter. He worked as a contractual employee of a unit   under the operational control of Naval Forces Central in Cebu City.

He became a Philippine Navy casual civilian employee in January 1987 until August 23, 2002 when he was appointed as regular permanent.

Bading was twice awarded the “Civilian Employee of the Year for Administration” (efficiency in office work) in 1999 and 2006. Last October 2015, he was awarded the “Civilian Employee of the Year for Operation” (efficiency in field work). The three awards were all given while under the operational control of Naval Forces Central.

His award last year  pitted  him against  candidates of the other Naval Forces and major units of the Philippine Navy, where he emerged as the best,  thus this fourth award, the “Philippine Navy Model Civilian Employee of the Year 2016”.

With four awards to his name in his 29 years of service in the government, Bading is indeed an epitome of serving with honor and excellence.

New TRADOC Commander assumes

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 17): New TRADOC Commander assumes

Brigadier General Herminigildo Francisco Aquino formally assumed today as the new head of the Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).

He replaced Major General Ivan Samarita who retired after reaching the mandatory age of 56.

Aquino is a member of the Philippine Military Academy “Maharlika” Class of 1984.

“Under Samarita’s stint, the Army school was able to attain the Proficient Stage in the Army Governance Pathway which is a step closer in attaining our vision to become a world-class training institution by 2022,” TRADOC Public Information Officer LTC. Oscar Partuza said.

“We conducted several activities prior to his retirement namely a fun bike, fun run, tree planting, and testimonial dinner,” Partuza added.

Friday’s Change of Command ceremony was presided over by Army chief Lieutenant General Eduardo Año.

TRADOC, may bagong kumander

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 17): TRADOC, may bagong kumander (TRADOC, has a new commander)

Pormal nang naupo kaninang hapon si Brigadier General Herminigildo Francisco Aquino bilang bagong pinuno ng Army Training and Doctrine Command o TRADOC.

Kanyang pinalitan si Major General Ivan Samarita na nagretiro na.

Si Aquino ay miyembro ng Philippine Military Academy “Maharlika” Class of 1984.

Sinabi ni TRADOC Public Information Officer LTC. Oscar Partuza na sa ilalim ng pamumuno ni Samarita ay nakamit ng Army school ang Proficient Stage sa Army Governance Pathway na nagbigay daan upang mapalapit ito sa hangaring maging world-class training institution pagsapit ng 2022.

Bago magretiro si Samarita, ilang aktibidad ang idinaos ng TRADOC kabilang na ang fun bike, fun run, tree planting, at testimonial dinner.

Ang ginanap na Change of Command ceremony ay pinangunahan ni Army chief Lieutenant General Eduardo Año.

Army's 59th infantry battalion welcomes new commander

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 16): Army's 59th infantry battalion welcomes new commander

The Philippine Army's 59th Infantry Battalion has welcomed its new commander who was installed during a change of command ceremony at Camp Capinpin in Tanay Rizal earlier this month.

Installed was Lt. Col. Andres Ferrer of the second Infantry Division replacing Col. Marceliano Teofilo.

The ceremony was officiated by assistant division Commander Brig. Gen. Amador Tabuga who expressed full support to both officials.

Teofilo currently serves as the infantry division chief of staff while Ferrer is the former battalion commander of 16th Infantry (Maglilingkod) Battalion based in Surigao del Sur which supports the operational requirements of Eastern Mindanao Command (EASTMINCOM).

Teofilo was also given various awards during the ceremony such as a military merit medal, a command plaque and a plaque of recognition from the Provincial Government of Palawan for services rendered.

Tagalog news: 2 dating rebelde mula San Jose pinagkalooban ng tulong ng pamahalaan

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 15): Tagalog news: 2 dating rebelde mula San Jose pinagkalooban ng tulong ng pamahalaan (2 former rebels from San Jose granted government assistance)

Dalawang nagbalik loob na rebelde o former rebels (FR) mula barangay Batasan, San Jose ang pinagkalooban bawat isa ng P65,000 kamakailan sa kapitolyo, Mamburao.

Ayon kay Dennis Beltran, Provincial Programs Manager and Planning Officer ng Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), ang halagang tinanggap ng dalawang FR ay alinsunod sa ipinatutupad ng Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPPAP) sa ilalim ng Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP). Ang unang tseke na may halagang P15,000 ay maaring gamitin sa kanilang mga pangunahing pangangailangan habang isinasailalim sila sa ‘integration’ o ang proseso ng kanilang pagbabalik sa isang regular na pamumuhay sa isang  kumunidad. Ang halagang P50,000 naman ay gagamitin sa kanilang mapipiling pangkabuhayan o ‘livelihood project’ gaya ng paghahayupan at iba pa.

Ang dalawang FR ay ilan lamang sa mga kabataang katutubong Mangyan na nahikayat na sumali sa New People’s Army (NPA). Ayon kay Nicolo Formentos ng Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office, ang dalawang FR ay magpinsan at may edad na 20 at 21 taong gulang. Matagal na umanong ninais ng mga ito na sumuko subalit dahil sa banta sa kanilang buhay ay hindi agad  naisagawa. Ang PSWDO ang tangapan na mangunguna sa pagtulong sa mga FR’s sa kanilang integration.

Sinabi naman ni Lt Col Rodolfo Gesim, Battalion Commandeer ng 41st Infantry Battalion (IB), na napagdesisyunan ng dalawang FR na magbalik-loob sa pamahalaan dahil na rin sa kahirapan ng kanilang kalagayan sa kabundukan. Hinikayat din ni Gesim na sana’y magbagong buhay na ang iba pang mga kaanib sa NPA para na rin sa katiwasayan ng kanilang pamilya at pagkakataon na makapamuhay ng maayos. “Hindi karahasan ang sagot sa problema, maari nating pagusapan ng maayos ito”, ayon pa kay Gesim.

Sinangayunan naman ni Governor Mario Gene Mendiola ang pahayag ni Gesim. “Dapat ay manatiling bukas ang kumunikasyon sa mga nais magbalik sa ating pamahalaan”, dagdag pa ng gobernador. Noon pa man ay aktibo ang pamunuan ni Mendiola sa pagtulong sa mga FR.

Ang lalawigan ay nakapagtala na ng 13 FR, na pinakamaraming bilang ng mga nagbalik loob sa pamahalaan sa buong Mimaropa.

Samantala’y nagalok naman ng ‘scholarship’ si San Jose Mayor Romulo Festin sa dalawang FR.

Ang mga pangalan o iba pang pagkakakilanlan sa dalawang FR ay hindi maaring banggitin o isama sa balitang ito para na rin sa kanilang kaligatasan.

47K workers employed for Kalahi-CIDSS projects in Bicol

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 16): 47K workers employed for Kalahi-CIDSS projects in Bicol

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has employed thousands of residents in the Bicol region for the construction of community-managed projects under Kalahi-CIDSS programKapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS), a community-driven development (CDD) program aimed to reduce poverty in poor villages.

DSWD Bicol Director Arnel Garcia said some 47,283 workers were employed for construction of at least 1,304 projects in 99 poor municipalities in the region from 2015 to present.

The said projects are constructed to provide basic access infrastructure, basic social services, community production, economic support and common service facilities and environment protection and conservation.

Garcia said the total labor cost amounts to Php97,589,529.00 with each laborer receiving a minimum of Php260.00 depending on the prevailing rate in the locality.

Of the total number of workers, 9,202 are women hired as part of the gender mainstreaming in Kalahi-CIDSS where men and women are given opportunities in labor works. Their labor cost amounts to Php16,105,170.

Furthermore, 37% of the total laborers are Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries who received a total Php29, 346 629.00 for their salaries.

Necita Mesa of Baao, Camarines Sur, a housewife with three children, was one of the residents who built their access road.

Her colleague who belongs to the Barangay Subproject Management Committee (BSPMC), the community implementer of the Kalahi-CIDSS project in their village, recruited her.

Hiring workers within the community, Garcia added, is an effective strategy to ensure quality workmanship as they themselves are the beneficiaries of the project.

“Hiring workers within the community where projects are being constructed will not only give them additional income but they will also ensure quality workmanship because they themselves are the beneficiaries of these,” Garcia said.

Albay hosts Asia Pacific Partnership with US

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 17): Albay hosts Asia Pacific Partnership with US

Now on it's eleventh year in providing humanitarian assistance and promoting common understanding amongst nations, the Asia Pacific Partnership for Humanitarian Mission will be hosted by the province of Albay from June 27 until July 10, 2016.

Aimed in increasing multilateral cooperation for humanitarian assistance, the Pacific Partnership is the largest annual multilateral humanitarian mission conducted in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region by the United States and its regional allies. The missions are also intended to improve capacity and enhance regional partnership amongst friendly countries, like Indonesia, Timor Leste, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

For the Philippine leg of the humanitarian missions, the hospital ship USNS Mercy is expected to arrive in Legazpi City from Timor Leste on June 27, which will officially mark the beginning of the joint medical and civic engagements.

Arriving ahead of the others, the NSCB (USAF’s engineering and construction battalion) arrived in Legazpi City last May 20. As early as May 28, they have already begun their task of constructing facilities for local elementary schools in Albay; namely Comun Elementary School, Mabini Elementary School and Kinawitan Elementary School. Ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the new school buildings will be held on early July, when the high commands of the humanitarian personnel are present in the country.

Last June 14, the joint command of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and other concerned agencies held a meeting to finalize and coordinate the medical, civic and solidarity activities with the USNS Mercy’s advance team headed by Lt. Rebecca Wolf.

Throughout the months of June and July of 2016, participants of the missions will be conducting subject matter expert exchanges (SMEE) and activities on medical development. These includes discussions concerning infection control, epidemiology, nursing, and emergency response.

The SMEEs will be hosted by Public Health Office, Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital (BRTTH) in Legazpi City, Ziga Memorial Hospital in Tabaco City, and Josephina Belmonte Duran Memorial District Hospital (JBDMH) in Ligao City. Events also include trainings and workshops for basic life support and first responder courses.

Nursing skills workshop and surgeries would also be done on-board the USNS Mercy, with Filipino and American doctors and nurses working side-by-side. While the ship is anchored in Albay, selected patients could be brought on-board for treatment and guided tours of the hospital ship will also be made available to the Filipino counterparts.

To establish camaraderie between the nations involved, the joint command also included solidarity events like benefit concerts and engagement of the USNS Mercy’s band. Basketball and volleyball competitions were also organized between the AFP and the visitors.

A dental symposium is scheduled to be held at Ago Medical and Educational Center on July 10, which will be followed by a dental SMEE on-board the USNS Mercy.

By July 11, the hospital ship departs the country, along with all the humanitarian personnel, for the next leg of the missions in Vietnam.

DPWH-PAMANA to start infras for Samar’s interconnectivity

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 16): DPWH-PAMANA to start infras for Samar’s interconnectivity

DPWH is set to start constructing roads and bridges that will benefit hard to reach areas in Samar.

During the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) meeting on Tuesday, Assistant Regional Director Virgilio Eduarte took the honors of announcing the projects to the PPOC members.

He enumerated five road projects and bridges with multi millions of budget leading to the hinterland of  Samar in the towns of San Jose de Buan and Matuginao, the two municipalities are closer to the provinces of Eastern and Northern Samar respectively.

Eduarte added that other road projects will connect barangays of Paranas, Motiong and Jiabong which are also hard to reach.

Some Php 517 Million is allotted for the repair rehab and improvement of the Lokilokon (Paranas) to the town of San Jose de Buan and beyond until Barangay Gusa, the farthest Buan barangay, the project covers more than 30 kilometers.

Another project is repair, rehab of the Motiong poblacion to Barangay New Minarog  to Barangay Canligues which is worth Php 125 M.

DPWH 8 is also in charge of constructing eight bridges leading to San Jose de Buan worth Php 150 M and another two for the Motiong side, identified as Bonga and Nagbak Bridges, also worth Php 77 M.

These road projects stand to benefit Samarnons who have almost given up wishing for development changes to happen.

The project is funded through the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) which is one of the national government’s strategies in promoting peace in conflict-afflicted areas. It also aims to empower communities and strengthen their capacities to address issues of conflict and peace through activities that promote social cohesion.

Strict monitoring by Pamana and its technical working group with third party monitors will be done regularly to ensure that the contractor supervised by DPWH will implement the road projects according to the new standards.

NPA surrenderees inaasam ang pagtanggap ng suporta sa pamahalaan sa pamamagitan ng CLIP

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 14): Tagalog News: NPA surrenderees inaasam ang pagtanggap ng suporta sa pamahalaan sa pamamagitan ng CLIP (Surrenderees look forward to receiving government support through CLIP)

Hangad ngayon ng mga former rebels na sumuko galing sa bandidong grupo na new peoples army (NPA) sa Surigao del Sur na makatanggap ng agarang tulong mula sa pamahalaan sa pamamagitan ng comprehensive local integration program (CLIP) ng Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

Sa pakikinayam sa dating rebelde na si Jomar Gano, 24-anyos, na taga Lianga, Surigao del Sur na simula pa noong Marso 16 nitong taon buhat ng siya’y kusang umalis mula sa teroristang grupo bilang vice platoon lider ay wala pa rin siyang natanggap na kaukulang benepisyo sa nasabing programa.

Hiling umano niya na maibigay na ito kasama na ang iba pang mga nagbalik-loob sa pamahalaan upang magkaroon ng pinansyal na suporta para makapagsimula sila ng panibagong buhay. Anya, mas makabubuti na sa pamamagitan nito ay matugunan ang anumang nakasaad sa comprehensive local integration program nang sa gayun ay mas lalong mahikayat ang iba pang miyembro ng NPA na tumigil na sa pag-alsa laban sa gobyerno.

Samantala, inihayag naman ng pamunuan ng DILG na ginagawa na nila ang koordinasyon sa lokal na pamahalaan para mapabilis ang pagpoproseso ng pagbibigay ng benepisyo para sa mga former rebels. Anya, kung makukumpleto na ang mga kinakailang dokumento ay agad-agad naman nila itong ibibigay.

30 new IP schools open in Kapalong, Talaingod

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 17): 30 new IP schools open in Kapalong, Talaingod

Around 30 new schools in the farflung barangays of Kapalong and Talaingod began its first day of classes on Monday.

Department of Education - Davao del Norte Assistant Schools Division Superintendent Winnie Batoon said that the Department of Education with the assistance of the local government units and tribal communities, opened new schools in areas with the indigenous people (IP) communities.

“We are opening new schools to give opportunities to the indigenous people to access basic education,” Dr. Batoon emphasized.

He said that some of the schools offer primary level only as per request of the tribal leaders, while some are integrated schools.

In an earlier interview with Davao del Norte Assistant Schools Division Superintendent Dr. Josephine Fadul, she said that the teachers were trained with IP education and multi-grade systems to suit the need of the community.

“The tribal leaders, themselves, trained the teachers on their culture because even though they are in the same municipalities, each tribe has its unique customs and traditions,” Dr. Fadul said.

Dr. Batoon disclosed that as of now, salaries of some of the teachers are funded by the local government units through the Special Education Fund.

He also stressed that make-shift buildings were being utilized as classrooms as of now, while classrooms are being constructed through the help of the Kalahi-CIDSS of the Department Social Welfare and Development and Dep Ed.

7 LGUs to be declared as insurgency free

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 17): 7 LGUs to be declared as insurgency free

The Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) will endorse to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan seven local government units in the province to be declared as insurgency free areas.

Upon the recommendation of the 1003rd Infantry Brigade, the PPOC earlier today resolved to declare Dujali, Carmen, New Corella, Sto. Tomas, Island Garden City of Samal, Panabo and Tagum as insurgency free areas pending the concurrence of the Sangguiang Panlalawigan.

1003rd Brigade Commander Col Ricardo Nepomuceno emphasized that the local government units fulfilled the parameters stated in the AFP-PNP Joint Letter Directive for Area Clearing.

Col Nepomuceno stressed that since the province was declared last year as peaceful and development ready, the said municipalities are now ready to be declared in the final stage of area clearing.

“When we say peace and development ready area, it implies that the political structure in the barangays has been dismantled but we are not saying that there are no armed group within the area,” he said.

Nepomuceno added that on this final stage, we are saying the New People’s Army has been reduced to the minimum number, in which for the province, it is pegged at 12.

“And then, they should have no capability to conduct big tactical offensives and no atrocities in the area within the last 4 months,” he said.

New batch of 4ID candidate soldiers ready for training

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 16): New batch of 4ID candidate soldiers ready for training

A total of 225 young individuals mostly from Northern Mindanao and Caraga regions took their oath as the new set of trainees for the Philippine Army Candidate Soldier Course.

The oath taking ceremony for the selected trainees, held at Camp Evangelista, Patag, Cagayan on 16 June 2016, was formally graced by Major General Benjamin R Madrigal Jr, commander of 4ID as presiding general and keynote speaker.

MGen Madrigal said “From among the thousand young individuals who applied to become a soldier, I congratulate all of you (CS), for passing the necessary requirements for military training.”

This is the first step in joining the noble profession of arms, said Madrigal.

He also thanked all parents and loved ones of these brave young Filipinos for entrusting your sons under the care and supervision of the Armed Forces of the Philippines AFP) adding that soon these brave young men will be the future protectors of the Filipino people and will wear the badge of courage until they retire from the service.

After a thorough screening from among the thousand Candidate Soldier (CS) applicants, only 225 passed the qualifications.

Following are the processes that were conducted for choosing the best and the brightest from among the applicants: Registration, initial validation of the supporting documents, trade test, screening interview, initial physical fitness test, initial deliberation board interview, medical examinations, final physical fitness test, and final deliberation board.

After the ceremony, these 225 new CS will immediately be sent to the 4th Division Training School in Malaybalay City for their six-month military training. (4ID/PA)

Notorious gang leader in Zambo Norte falls

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 15): Notorious gang leader in Zambo Norte falls

Joint elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP) in the Zamboanga Peninsula region, and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) successfully apprehended a notorious gang leader operating in the province of Zamboanga del Norte.

Abner Gumandol, the alleged leader of the notorious Muloc Group also known as “Seharmuloc” and “Red Eye,” was apprehended at Barangay Kaliantana, Naga, Zamboanga Sibugay Province on June 12.

In a press conference held at the PNP Provincial Command, PSSupt. Edwin C. Wagan, Zamboanga del Norte PNP Provincial Director said Gumandol was arrested by virtue of a Warrant of Arrest (WOA) issued by Judge Cherry Concha of RTC Branch 10, Dipolog City on December 14, 2015 for kidnapping.

Gumandol’s group, with more or less 20 members is suspected to be involved in the kidnapping of Salug, Zamboanga del Norte Mayor Jeffrey Lim on April 2, 2012 and was responsible for the abduction of retired Italian priest and pizzeria owner  Rolando del Torchio from his business establishment inside the Andres Bonifacio College compound on October 7, 2015.

Lim was released on November 5 of the same year, while del Torchio was released on April 8, 2016.

According to Wagan, Muloc Group has been operating in the municipalities of Salug, Liloy, Godod and Tampilisan, Zamboanga del Norte for quite some time and is being linked to extortion, shooting, robbery, kidnapping and gun-for-hire activities specially in the third congressional district of the province.

Gumandol is presently detained at the ZNPPO with heavy security provided by the police and the Provincial Command has been placed on red alert 24/7 since the notorious gang leader was brought in.

Wagan assured that he is in constant communication with other friendly forces in the area who expressed readiness to extend support should their help be needed.

With the arrest of the notorious gang leader, the PNP chief said that kidnapping and other criminal activities in the province will be reduced.

Wagan attributed the success of their operation to the information provided by concerned citizens and other law enforcement agencies based in the province. Wagan however, said that he is not aware if there is any reward for Gumandol’s arrest.

Military to stay in rebel-infested areas in Misamis Oriental

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 16): Military to stay in rebel-infested areas in Misamis Oriental

Government troops deployed in the villages in Misamis Oriental would remain until the areas are declared “insurgency free,” the military said Thursday.

Capt. Patrick Martinez, spokesperson of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, said that soldiers were camped about a kilometer away from the villages and do not hamper the movement of the villagers.

Community residents of Camansi and Tapol, all parts of the mountain village of Banglay town in Lagonglong, Misamis Oriental, evacuated from their homes when soldiers from the 58th Infantry Battalion arrived in the community a few days ago.

Nenita Helogon, secretary general of the Tagtabolon, a tribal group, said that the villagers moved out of their homes for fear of getting caught in the gun battle between the communist New People’s Army (NPA) and the government troops in the area.

Martinez, however, said the presence of the government soldiers in the area did not violate any human rights law since the military were simply following the mandate as the lead role in the counterinsurgency operations.

“I believe the military did not violate any law, but are just performing the mandate. The mere presence [of the soldiers] is not a violation, in fact, it is in compliance with the mandate to suppress insurgency under Republic Act No. 8551,” he said.

He said that the military has knowledge of the extortion activities of the NPA in the area, which prompted the deployment of the government troopers under the Army’s 58IB.

Martinez said that any military action they have conducted is a product of deliberate planning, taking into consideration the legal aspects of their operations before deploying their troops to the area.

2 NPA rebels killed in South Cotabato clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 17): 2 NPA rebels killed in South Cotabato clash

Two suspected New People’s Army (NPA) were killed in an encounter with government troops in a remote village in Lake Sebu town in South Cotabato on Friday morning.

Lt. Col. Benjamin Leander, commanding officer of the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion, said their troops were patrolling a portion of Sitio Lampinik in Barangay Ned at around 7:50 a.m. when they clashed with the rebels.

He said their scout platoon launched combat patrols in the area after receiving a tip from concerned residents about presence of the NPA rebels.

“We have long been monitoring the movements of the rebels there in coordination with local residents and village officials,” he said in a radio interview.

Leander said their troops mainly engaged with nine heavily armed rebels, who were believed to be members of the NPA’s Guerilla Front 73.

Two of the rebels were killed during the encounter while no one was hurt on their side, he said.

Recovered from the slain rebels, who have yet to be identified, were an M14 rifle at an AK-47 rifle.

He said their remains have been brought to the center of Barangay Ned for proper identification and disposition.

Incoming GPH peace panel, CPP-NDFP sign agenda for resumption of peace negotiations

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 17): Incoming GPH peace panel, CPP-NDFP sign agenda for resumption of peace negotiations

The incoming government peace panel and the Communist Party of the Philippines/National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP/NDFP) have sealed the agenda to start the formal peace talks by the third week of July.

In the Joint Communiqué signed by the members of the incoming GPH panel and CPP/NDFP team during their two-day meeting in Oslo, Norway on June 14 and 15, they agreed to recommend to President-elect Rodrigo Duterte the immediate release of NDFP consultants and other Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) protected persons in accordance with the JASIG to enable them to participate in the peace negotiations; and the immediate release of prisoners/detainees based on humanitarian grounds.

During the resumption of the formal talks they will discuss the affirmation of previously signed agreements; accelerated process for negotiations, including the timeline for the completion of the remaining substantive agenda for the talks, socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces; reconstitution of the (JASIG) list; Amnesty Proclamation for the release of all detained political prisoners subject to concurrence by Congress; and the Mode of Interim ceasefire.

The Joint Communiqué was signed by members of the incoming GPH panel composed of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza, GPH panel chair Silvestre Bello, and Hernani Braganza as member; while, the CPP/NDFP panel is composed of NDFP Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison; NDFP panel chair Luis Jalandoni; and Fidel Agcaoili as member. Ambassador Elisabeth Slattum, the special envoy to the Philippines Peace Process Royal Norwegian Government, stood as witness.

In a press statement Friday, Dureza lauded the signing of the Joint Statement in Oslo, Norway as it ushers in the formal re-start of “another renewed effort to end conflict and bring about that long elusive but cherished peace in the land.”

Dureza described their meeting “as a reunion of sorts of old friends on both sides of the negotiating table but whose efforts in various times and climes in the past proved futile.

“Now, new sparks of the dawning Rodrigo Duterte presidency are re-igniting the peace landscape,” he added.

According to Dureza, there was optimism and trust during the two-day meeting. “There is mutual enthusiasm and hope, not only amongst us negotiators across the table, but most significantly, among us all Filipinos, in whose behalf all these efforts are being done in the first place,” he added.

Dureza, however, expects some challenges along the way “but there is a destination that we must all inevitably reach.”

Since the government participants have not yet assumed office, the two panels agreed to formalize the consensus points soon after Duterte's government starts.

Army, police place troops on alert for possible NPA retaliation

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 17): Army, police place troops on alert for possible NPA retaliation

Police and military authorities here have been placed on heightened alert for possible retaliatory attacks from communist rebels after a clash with government forces Friday morning that left two rebels killed.

“We expect retaliatory attacks from them, we are ready, we have enough forces,” Senior Inspector Joven Bagaygay, police chief of Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, said of communist New Peoples Army.

Two communist rebels were killed in a clash with elements of the 27th Infantry Battalion in Sitio Lampatok, Baranghay Ned, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato.

Bagaygay said government forces were conducting foot patrol in Sitio Lamtapok, Barangay Ned, Lake Sebu before dawn when they chanced upon about 9 heavily armed NPAs belonging to Guerilla Front 73 at 6 a.m.

A 20-minute firefight erupted that left two NPAs killed, Bagaygay said. There was no casualty on the government side, according to team leader Army 2Lt. Glen Gautane.

“The Army received reports about the presence of armed men in Sitio Lamtapok and they conducted foot patrol before the clash,” Bagaygay said.

The remains of fallen communist rebels were brought to a funeral parlor in Surallah, South Cotabato awaiting claimants.

Government forces, Bagaygay said, recovered one AK-47 rifle and M-14 automatic rifle and ammunition from slain rebels.

Lt. Colonel Benjamin Leander, 27th IB commanding officer, said the rebels should cease from harassing and extorting money from villagers especially now that government efforts for a peaceful settlement have started at the top level.