Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Samar mayors urge military to secure rebel-free areas

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 23): Samar mayors urge military to secure rebel-free areas

Two outgoing mayors in Samar province concluded that declaration of insurgency-free of status is not a guarantee that an area is free from threats of New People’s Army (NPA).

Pinabacdao town Mayor Mario Quijano and Motiong town Mayor Francisco Langi recalled that NPA were active in supporting some candidates and harass voters in the past elections despite insurgency-free declarations.

“Many people in Samar province failed to exercise their rights to vote because of NPA threats,” recalled Quijano, who lost his re-election bid in the recent elections.

Langi, whose son lost in the mayoralty race, emphasized the need for the Philippine Army to maintain their presence in declared rebel-free areas.

The two officials said they never expected that threat from the members of the NPA would prevail in the 2016 elections.

Capt. Ian Fabellon, spokeperson of the Philippine Army’s 8th infantry division said that they could not be blamed since the town chief executives are signatories in the declaration as well.

Both officials believed that this matter should be taken in consideration with the formal peace talks between the incoming administration of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte and the national Democratic Front.

Improvement still needed in AFP disaster response efforts

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 23): Improvement still needed in AFP disaster response efforts

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla admitted there is still room for improvement in the military's efforts to effectively respond to natural calamities of great magnitude.

He made this statement shortly after 2nd Metro Manila Shake Drill and National Simultaneous Earthquake Drill Wednesday where the AFP deployed considerable assets to ensure that the exercises were realistically as possible.

Padilla gave the AFP a grade of 90 percent in its "readiness state" but said these can be further perfected in the coming drills.

The latter refers to the capability to respond effectively and quickly on emergecies.

In Wednesday's earthquake drills, the AFP deployed three AgustaWestland AW-109 "Power" helicopters for damage assessment, six UH-IH air ambulances for transport of critical injured individuals to safe zones, and its premier humanitarian disaster relief unit, the Libis, Quezon City-based 525th Engineering Combat Battalion for urban search and collapsed structure rescue missions.

The six UH-IH air ambulances came from Joint Task Group-National Capital Region, Southern and Northern Luzon Commands.

These assets were deployed to highlight AFP rescue efforts should a massive 7.2 magnitude earthquake strike Metro Manila.

ISIS targets South-east Asia radicals in latest recruitment video; 'propaganda', says Philippines

From the Straits Times (Jun 23): ISIS targets South-east Asia radicals in latest recruitment video; 'propaganda', says Philippines

The Philippine military has dismissed as mere “propaganda” a video purportedly released by militants to recruit radicals from South-east Asia into the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“People should not be bothered by this because it’s part of the propaganda they are propagating,” Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla, the military’s spokesman, told reporters.

The 21-minute video showed a man, said to be a Filipino, urging Muslims to unite under Isnilon Hapilon, chieftain of the small but brutal Abu Sayyaf group.
Ms Rita Katz, director of Site Intelligence Group tracking the activities of ISIS, said the video was aired in five languages – Arabic, English, Filipino, Indonesian and Malay – suggesting it was targeting to radicalise Muslims throughout the region.

Hapilon was described as “amir” or prince of the mujahideen in the Philippines.
“Do not pity them. Stab them with the use of bolo, pour gasoline on their residences. Be careful and be strong and don’t be misled by the tactics of the newly elected president of the Philippines in the person of (Rodrigo) Duterte,” the man in the video said.
In a speech on Tuesday (June 21), Mr Duterte had vowed to crush the Abu Sayyaf.
“There will be a time. There will be a reckoning,” said Mr Duterte.

He said this days after the Abu Sayyaf, known for extortion, kidnappings, beheadings and bombings, executed Mr Robert Hall, 51, a Canadian, one of four hostages taken from an upscale resort in Davao province, 1,000km south of the capital Manila.

Mr Hall was abducted along with another Canadian, Mr John Ridsdel, 68, a Norwegian, Mr Kjartan Sekkingstad, 57, and a Filipino, Ms Maritess Flor, 41.
Mr Ridsdel was beheaded on April 25.  The fate of the other two hostages remain unknown.

The man in the video, along with two other foreign ISIS members, were shown beheading three hostages. Before that, he said: “Today, we are slaughtering these murtads (Muslims who rejected Islam), but tomorrow, in your land we will slaughter you.”

He said Muslims “will wage war upon you, terrorising, casting fear in your hearts”.

Brig-Gen Padilla urged the public to ignore the video.

“If you are a member of the social media community, let us not dignify this. Let us not give importance to this (video).

Let’s do what is right, which is to delete it and don’t pass it to others,” he said.

He added: “What this evil force is doing should not be given space on our phones and computers. So, if you receive this (video), don’t pass it. They have nothing to day except spread evil and to propagate the values of radicalism and extremism.  There are not very human in nature. These are animalistic and evil in all its entirety.”

Security forces have intensified operations against the Abu Sayyaf since Mr Hall’s beheading.

On Tuesday (June 21), three Abu Sayyaf fighters were killed in a clash in the southern Sulu province.

Postpone Sulu meet, MNLF asks Duterte

From The Standard (Jun 23): Postpone Sulu meet, MNLF asks Duterte

THE Moro National Liberation Front has asked President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to postpone a scheduled trip to Jolo, Sulu to meet with MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari because peace spoilers may take advantage of the visit and endanger the life of the incoming leader.

MNLF spokesman Reverend Absalom Cerveza made the remark as three more members of the Abu Sayyaf group were killed while scores of others wounded when the military overran two bandit camps in Sulu.

Cerveza said the MNLF poses no threat to the president-elect because Misuari and Duterte are long-time friends, but the separatist group only wants to ensure Duterte’s safety his visit to Sulu.

“I asked him not to go yet because he has not even taken his oath. Although no one will do anything wrong to him, one never really knows,” Cerveza said, referring to a meeting with Duterte in Davao City two weeks ago.

Cerveza said they are are not discounting the possibility that some disgruntled security personnel may try to hurt Duterte because of internal and external security policy pronouncements.

“I said, I’m not afraid that you will be betrayed by the MNLF because nobody will betray you. But you cannot be sure of the soldiers, the police. If he is shot there, they may try to blame Misuari,” Cerveza said.

Cerveza quoted Duterte as advising Misuari to just stay cool in Sulu. “Tell the chairman [Misuari] not to make any move and just stay there.”

But Cerveza said Duterte and Misuari will likely come be a productive meeting since they have known each other for years until Misuari was detained in Laguna over the rebellion charges against him.

Meanwhile, three more Abu Sayyaf members were killed while scores of others wounded when the military overran two big bandit camps in Sulu.

Major Filemon Tan, spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command, said an encounter between elements of the 32nd Infantry Battalion against more than 200 bandits occurred Tuesday afternoon at Barangay Pansul in Patikul town.

“The encounter lasted for about 1 hour and 30 minutes, after which the ASG members scampered towards separate directions. The said encounter resulted in the deaths of three ASG members and the wounding of 10 others, while 16 soldiers were wounded in said encounter,” Tan said.

According to battalion commander Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Flores, fresh troops were inserted in the area to continue the “cat-and-mouse” operation against the fleeing bandits.

A day before the encounter, on Monday, elements of the 45th Infantry Battalion discovered two abandoned camps in Barangay Sinumaan, Talipao.

“Said camps can accommodate approximately 150 persons and have running trenches with potable water within the perimeter. Also found in the area were hammocks, water container and other personal belongings of the Abu Sayyaf members,” Tan said.

At least 11 brigades, or 5,500 soldiers, have been deployed in Sulu to go after only an estimated 200-man ASG that recently beheaded two Canadian hostages, John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, after their families failed to deliver the P300-million each for their safe release.

Still in the hands of the bandits were Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Hall’s Filipina girlfriend Marites Flor. All the victims were abducted in September 2015 at a resort in the Island Garden City of Samal and brought to Sulu.

Aside Sekkingstad and Flor, other hostages still in the hands of the bandits are Ewold Horn, a Dutchman birdwatcher, and four to five other hostages.

Incoming security officials and experts including some political quarters are supporting calls for President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in Sulu and Basilan and other parts of Mindanao where lawless groups and terror groups such as the ASG and the Maute group in Butig, Lanao del Sur operate.

4 kids wounded as clan war erupts in North Cotabato town

From InterAksyon (Jun 23): 4 kids wounded as clan war erupts in North Cotabato town

PIKIT, North Cotabato -- A long-running feud between clans in a remote village of Pikit, North Cotabato turned violent Wednesday afternoon, leaving four children wounded, police said.

Chief Inspector Joseph Placer, Pikit police chief, said the children, aged 1 to 9, were hurt when a rifle grenade was fired at the house of Barangay Bualan councilman Zoren Ayunan past 2 p.m.

Police said the grenade attack was in apparent retaliation for the shooting of Norodin Musa, 31, in the nearby town of Aleosan earlier in the day. Relatives of Musa, who was seriously wounded, blamed members of the Ayunan clan for the shooting.

Both families have relatives in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Moro National Liberation Front, police said.

The local government is spearheading efforts to convince the warning families to negotiate a peaceful resolution of their differences.

Cotabato blast hurts student, 2 soldiers

From GMA News (Jun 23): Cotabato blast hurts student, 2 soldiers

A student and two soldiers were injured in an explosion that rocked Midsayap town in Cotabato, a television report said Thursday. A report on GMA News' Unang Balita said the blast was caused by an improvised explosive device (IED).

The wounded student was identified as Meriam Sangki, 16, a Grade 10 student of the Dapbil Sampulna Olandang High School (DSOHS). On the other hand, injured soldiers were identified as Sgt. Edwin Soria and PFC Jestoni Bauzon, both members of the 62nd Division Reconnaissance Company Philippine Army.

Citing initial information, the report said the IED went off at about 7:40 a.m. as soldiers were passing by the DSOHS. Midsayap Chief of Police Supt. Tom Tuzon, was quoted as saying that members of the rebel Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) was behind the blast.

Tuzon claimed that after the explosion the BIFF fired several shots, prompting the soldiers to fire back. All three victims were rushed to the Amado Diaz Provincial Hospital. Police and the military investigators are looking into the the incident.

Army, PNP exhume pregnant mother corpse, 2 other bodies of Lumad family

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 22): Army, PNP exhume pregnant mother corpse, 2 other bodies of Lumad family

Joint elements of the Army’s 8th Infantry Battalion, Philippine National Police in Bukidnon, Agusan, and Public Safety officers exhumed three bodies of “Lumad (Indigenous People)” discovered 56 kilometers east of Malaybalay City.

Lt Col Lennon G Babilonia, 8th Infantry Battalion commander said the three bodies of a Lumad family, including a pregnant mother, were buried by the New People’s Army (NPA) at the site where the family was ambushed by said NPAs.

The 10 year-old boy who survived the ambush recounted that while he and his family were on their way to Agusan del Sur, the armed group believed to be NPAs, ambushed them in broad daylight of June 5 near Tagikan River, San Luis, Agusan del Sur.

The boy said that his pregnant mother, his father, uncle, two brothers, and his sister were among those he believed were already killed by the NPAs as he saw with his own eyes the merciless firing of weapons towards them before his escape.

This led the army and the police to join efforts in the investigation in order to recover the bodies of the victims buried some 56 kilometers east of Malaybalay City.

Discovered in the site was a grave where the three bodies of Bocalas family were buried together, including the pregnant mother. All were found riddled with bullets and already decomposing.

On June 8, 2016, the NPA South Central Bukidnon Sub‐regional Command, in a media statement, admitted the murder of Bocalas family because of the crimes they allegedly committed against the people.

In a statement, Babilonia condemns the killing. He said this is a serious violation of human rights.

“This is plain and simple murder of helpless parents and kids trying to live a normal life as Lumads. The NPAs killed a pregnant mother, two family members, and three other children—who, the relatives have presumed dead and buried somewhere else—just because of their accusations of having committed crimes against the people. That is ridiculous! Those few people who are still blindly supporting the NPA should rethink if they are aiding a revolutionary group or a criminal group," he said.

He also commended the PNP and military forces who hiked the mountains for the two‐day search and recovery effort in order to give the victims a decent traditional burial and peace of mind for the relatives who offered tribal ritual and prayers at the grave site.

US warns China vs provocations if arbitration case favors PH

From InterAksyon (Jun 23): US warns China vs provocations if arbitration case favors PH

The United States warned China on Wednesday against taking "additional provocative actions" following an impending international court ruling on the South China Sea that is expected to largely reject Beijing's broad territorial claims.

A senior State Department official voiced skepticism at China's claim that dozens of countries backed its position in a case the Philippines has brought against Beijing and vowed that Washington would uphold US defense commitments.

Colin Willett, deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia, said Washington had "a lot of options" to respond to any such Chinese moves in a region she said was vital to US interests. She also made clear that with a ruling expected possibly within weeks, the United States was working to rally sometimes wavering allies and partners in the region to ensure a unified front.

How Washington handles the aftermath of the ruling is widely seen as a test of US credibility in a region where it has been the dominant security presence since World War Two but is now struggling to contain an increasingly assertive China.

"We, the United States, do have very clear national interests in the area," Willett told Reuters.

"We have an interest in upholding our defense commitments and our security partnerships."

The Philippines is contesting China's claim to an area shown on its maps as a nine-dash line stretching deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia, covering hundreds of disputed islands and reefs and encompassing a vital global trade route.

The consensus among officials and analysts inside and out the region is that the ruling will go largely against Beijing.

US warnings

US officials have warned China against declaring an air defense identification zone in the South China Sea, as it did in the East China Sea in 2013, and against stepping up its building and fortification of artificial islands.

They say that beyond diplomatic pressure, the US response to such moves could include accelerated "freedom-of-navigation" patrols by US warships and overflights by US aircraft as well as increased defense aid to Southeast Asian countries.

Willett said that while it was still unclear how the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague would rule, "it isn't in (China's) interest to take additional provocative actions" after it does.

Willett reiterated the US view that the ruling must be binding. She declined to detail how the United States might respond should Beijing stick to its vow to ignore the ruling, but said: "I do think it’s an important inflexion point, not just for the United States, but for the whole region."

Willett said Washington hoped China would see the ruling as "an opportunity to restart serious discussions with their neighbors."

China has accused the United States of "hyping" the issue and warned in May that international complaints about its actions in the South China Sea would snap back on its critics. But it has largely avoided specific threats of how it might respond to the arbitration ruling.

On Monday, US Navy chief Admiral John Richardson said China's large-scale land reclamation in the South China Sea and militarization of artificial islands had extended its potential ability to deny access to some of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

The US aircraft carriers John C. Stennis and Ronald Reagan staged joint operations last weekend in seas east of the Philippines in a show of strength ahead of The Hague ruling, prompting strong Chinese criticism.

China has listed more than 40 countries it says supports its position on the arbitration case. Willett said it was not even clear what those countries "have allegedly agreed to."
"There's some skepticism about that grouping," she said.

Only eight countries have publicly supported China's position, including land-locked states such as Niger and Afghanistan, according to Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Willett played down an apparent display of disunity by Southeast Asian countries last week. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, following a foreign ministers meeting in China, issued and then abruptly withdrew a statement that expressed deep concerns over tensions in the South China Sea, a retraction widely seen as the result of Chinese pressure.

A senior US official said ASEAN countries were "under an intense amount of pressure" and made clear that behind the scenes, Washington was working to stiffen their resolve.

Militiaman killed, another wounded in Davao City ambush

From InterAksyon (Jun 23): Militiaman killed, another wounded in Davao City ambush

Suspected New People’s Army guerrillas ambushed two unarmed militiamen in Davao City Tuesday evening, killing one and wounding the other, the military said.

Captain Rhyan Batchar, 10th Infantry Division public affairs office chief, said in a statement Thursday that Mansarok Imbac and Ruel Salangoy were riding a motorcycle to buy food in Paradise Embac in Paquibato district when they were attacked around 6 p.m. in Purok 7 Cristory.

Mansarok died on the spot while Salangoy was rushed to a nearby hospital.

Troops of the 10th ID have launched a pursuit operation against the rebels.

Indonesia sailors 'not being held hostage'

From the 4BU Website (Jun 23): Indonesia sailors 'not being held hostage'

Reports that seven Indonesian sailors had been held hostage by the Philippine militant group Abu Sayyaf are false, the Indonesian police and military say.
The wives of two of the sailors told Indonesian media on Wednesday that Abu Sayyaf militants had seized the crew and demanded a $US5 million ($A6.66 million) ransom for their release.
The women told local television they received phone calls from their husbands and were asked to notify the government, their employers and Indonesian media.
The military and the police denied the reports, saying that the sailors' wives were victims of a scam intended to blackmail the company their husbands work for.
"It's false," armed forces chief General Gatot Nurmantyo said on SCTV."It's a scam."
The head of the special crime department at the national police, Agung Setya, told Jawa Pos: "It was the work of fraudsters."
Last month, Abu Sayyaf released 14 Indonesian sailors they had abducted from two tugboats after holding them for a month.The Indonesian government denied any ransom was paid.Abu Sayyaf militants have been blamed for some of the deadliest terrorist attacks in the Philippines, as well as high-profile kidnappings of foreigners.

ISIS releases first propaganda video for Philippines

From the Philippine Star (Jun 22): ISIS releases first propaganda video for Philippines

In this image taken by an Iraqi Counterterrorism Service photographer on Sunday, June 19, 2016, soldiers pose with an Islamic State militant flag in Fallujah, Iraq after forces re-took the city center after two years of IS control. Thousands of civilians are fleeing Fallujah after the city was declared liberated from the Islamic State group, the United Nations said, while an Iraqi commander reported fierce clashes as elite counterterrorism forces pushed to clear out the remaining militants. Iraq Counterterrorism Service via AP

The so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, released a video early on Wednesday in an attempt to recruit radical fighters in the Philippines and neighboring countries.

Rita Katz, director of SITE Intelligence Group tracking the activities of ISIS, said the video targeting the Philippines was in five languages: Arabic, English, Filipino, Indonesian and Malay.

Screenshots of the video taken by the agency show Filipino, Indonesian and Malaysian fighters urging their countrymen to join their ranks in Syria. But for those who could not reach the Middle East, the group also gave them an alternative.

"If you can't get to Syria, 'join the muhajideen in the Philippines'," the terror network said, as quoted by Katz on her Twitter account.

Describing the content of the video, deep web monitor Vocativ said the ISIS has appointed a leader in the Philippines by the nom de guerre of Abdallah al-Filipini, a representative of the self-dubbed caliphate.

The release of the video did not surprise Katz, who noted that the Islamic State has also released an infographic claiming the presence of its network in the Philippines.

In the graphic released earlier this month, ISIS claimed to have 10 fighting battalions in five different locations in the country. It also claimed that ISIS followers mostly in Basilan have killed 289 people since April 2015.

ISIS propaganda materials usually feature gruesome images that exaggerate the group's power.

Philippine military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the public should refrain from sharing and distributing the video, saying its values are inhuman and evil.

"People should not be bothered by this because it's part of the propaganda they are propagating," Padilla told the Straits Times in a report Thursday. "Let's not dignify this... Let's do what is right, which is to delete it and don't pass it to others."

Security officials in the Philippines denied the presence of ISIS fighters in the Philippines, but noted that several radical groups such as the Abu Sayyaf have pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State's self-appointed caliph.

ALSO READ: Armed Forces doubts ISIS hand in Basilan attack

Last week, the Abu Sayyaf beheaded its second Canadian hostage, Robert Hall, after its demands for ransom were not met by the Philippines and Canadian governments.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, American President Barack Obama and President Benigno Aquino III condemned the execution of Hall, but insisted that ransom will not be settled with extremist groups.

Security forces have intensified operations against the Abu Sayyaf following the beheading. On Tuesday afternoon, three Abu Sayyaf fighters were killed while 16 soldiers were hurt in a clash in Sulu.

US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Tuesday that countering jihadist propaganda continues to be a challenge for the government.

"How do we break that chain? How do we counter this extremist ideology that's online, knowing that the internet has to remain free and open? What can we get out there that's a counter-message to that?" she said in an interview with the Associated Press. Her statement came amid investigations of a recent massacre on a nightclub in Orlando by a gunman allegedly inspired by the ISIS.

Just two weeks ago, the Islamic State had suffered setbacks in Syria, Iraq and Libya where the Sunni militant group captured large tracts of territory in Iraq and Syria two years ago.

Seesaw battles raged in Syria's Raqqa province, with ISIS fighters retaking areas from government forces Tuesday. Two days earlier, the Syrian troops briefly seized an ISIS-held oilfield in Thawra and threatened to retake the Tabqa air base, which would have opened a direct line for troops to the militants' self-styled city of Raqqa.

Abu Sayyaf kidnapping reports emerge but denied by Jakarta and Manila

From The Star Online (Jun 22): Abu Sayyaf kidnapping reports emerge but denied by Jakarta and Manila

Abu Sayyaf.
Abu Sayyaf

Abu Sayyaf gunmen are believed to have struck again in international sea waters in the Celebes Sea.

Hardly two weeks after four Malaysians were released by the militant group, gunmen are believed to have taken at least six Indonesia sailors off a tugboat in waters between Philippines and Indonesia at about 11am Wednesday.

The gunmen are believed to be hiding on an island in Tawi Tawi and are poised to demand ransoms of nearly RM200mil for their release.

Sources say that they are trying to enter Jolo tonight with the kidnap victims. The identity of the group responsible is yet to be fully established.
However, the Indonesian embassy in Manila has denied the reports.

According to the Indonesian minister counsellor in Manila, Eddy Mulya, Indonesian authorities have confirmed with the Harbour Master Port Authority’s office in  Samarinda that the news of the alledged kidnapping was not true.

In a statement on Wednesday, Eddy also said that a search on Google had revealed that the number given to the authorities for negotiation belonged to a fraud syndicate.

He also said that the coordinates of the ship at 12.45pm revealed that the vessel was nearing the island of Maratua, heading in the direction of Samarinda.

Indonesia’s National Armed Forces (TMI) military chief General Gatot Nurmantyo had denied reports of the kidnapping.

“I’m sure it’s a lie,” Gatot was quoted as saying by the Indonesian press on Wednesday.

Earlier, rumours began circulating that six or seven men from Samarinda in East Kalimantan were taken hostage by Abu Sayyaf militants while their vessel, TB Charles had been sailing in Filipino waters.

On Wednesday, one of the ship’s crew, by the name of Ismail, had contacted his wife Dian Megawati informing her of the alleged kidnapping and urged her to contact the authorities.

Ismail had also told his wife that seven of the 13men on board the TB Charles had been taken by the group and asked her to prepare ransom for their release.

Abu Sayyaf strikes anew, takes 13 Indon sailors off Southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jun 23): Abu Sayyaf strikes anew, takes 13 Indon sailors off Southern Philippines

Suspected Abu Sayyaf militants have seized 13 Indonesian tugboat crew members off the southern Philippine province of Tawi-Tawi on Wednesday barely a week before President Benigno Aquino steps down from office, reports said.

Indonesian media also reported that the boat captain phoned his wife and told her that they were intercepted at sea by gunmen, who introduced themselves as Abu Sayyaf and were demanding 20 million ringgits for their safe release.

The militants and their hostages – of tugboat Charles OO – were last reported heading to Tawi-Tawi, one of 5 provinces under the Muslim autonomous region. There was no immediate statement from the boat owner PT Rusianto Brothers.

The tugboat was heading to Samarinda in East Kalimantan following a trip from the Philippines when gunmen intercepted it. The Abu Sayyaf reportedly split the hostages into two groups.

The Abu Sayyaf previously kidnapped 14 Indonesian tugboat crewmembers in separate attacks at sea and brought them to Sulu province and eventually released through the intercession of the Moro National Liberation Front.

Philippines military and police authorities were not immediately available to confirm the reports. President Aquino has ordered a military campaign against the Abu Sayyaf in the southern Philippines following the beheading of a Malaysian and two Canadian hostages.

Murdered Canadian Highlights Philippines' Abu Sayyaf Challenge for Duterte

From The Diplomat (Jun 23): Murdered Canadian Highlights Philippines' Abu Sayyaf Challenge for Duterte (By Luke Hunt)

The incoming president faces a vexing problem.

While the police were counting the toll in Orlando left by Afghan-American Omar Mateen – who shot dead 49 people – the authorities in the southern Philippines were attempting to identify Canadian Robert Hall, who was kidnapped and this week killed by Abu Sayyaf militants.

Mateen and the Abu Sayyaf were Islamic State sympathizers. But, importantly, neither tragedy was coordinated from an IS central command post or through orders delivered by a religious hierarchy.

The Abu Sayyaf killing was in keeping with the group’s history of banditry and slaying individuals unless their financial demands are met.

Sadly, consecutive governments have for decades failed to deliver on promises to shut the Abu Sayyaf down. Outgoing Philippine President Benigno Aquino III put on a brave face.

“This latest heinous crime serves to strengthen our government’s resolve to put an end to this reign of terror and banditry,” he said following Hall’s death. Recently elected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau backed Aquino, saying Canada “will not give into their fear mongering tactics.”

Yes. But this is very cold comfort.

Hall’s pending death was flagged loudly by informed media following the decapitation of his compatriot John Ridsdel in April. Numerous warnings were issued that Hall would also be executed if the authorities failed to deliver on Abu Sayyaf ransom demands.

Predictably, Canada and the Philippines held course, refusing to give into the demands of terrorists.

It’s an almost ritual response and an attitude shared by other governments, at least in public. But it’s not always true, as hostages have been released previously following negotiations.

Ridsdel, Hall and his Filipino partner Marites Flor, and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad were kidnapped from a marina near the city of Davao in September, which is also home to incoming Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Duterte sold himself in recent elections as the mayor who cleaned up the provincial town of drug dealers, murderers, and thieves.

He has promised to eradicate crime across the Philippines – which presumably includes the kidnappings in the south – within six months by doubling the salaries of police and the military and pardoning any excessive force by presidential decree.

He claims that policy made Davao peaceful. Human rights groups, meanwhile, say his approach was responsible for hundreds of unnecessary killings. And in any case, many doubt Duterte’s initial claims. A cabinet meeting in Davao earlier in the week highlighted just how bad the city still is.

It proved a nightmare for police and officials, who had to bring in an extra 600 personnel to ensure security. Extra training was given for another 122 personnel and intelligence gathering was stepped up substantially.

Importantly, it was not far from here that the three Westerners were taken. It was also near here that Ridsdel’s head was found in a gutter just two months ago. Hall’s decapitated head, meanwhile, was found in a plastic bag on a nearby island. In this part of the world, the Abu Sayyaf, armed with an allegiance to ISIS, operates with impunity. It once sank a ferry in Manila Bay, killing more than 100 people.

There is now speculation that Duterte will be granting himself special powers to combat the Abu Sayyaf. However, given his track record and despite painful boasts that he can do whatever he wants, such powers are probably misplaced and unlikely to change much.

That’s a great pity for the remaining hostages – Flor and Sekkingstad.

Luke Hunt can be followed on Twitter @lukeanthonyhunt

Gov`t to Verify Info Regarding Hostage Taking by Abu Sayyaf

From (Jun 23): Gov`t to Verify Info Regarding Hostage Taking by Abu Sayyaf

TEMPO.CO, JakartaThe Indonesian government will check the veracity of reports about citizens being held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippine waters.

"The government was trying to verify if the information was true as we have twice had such experiences and have now a network in place to deal with it," Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung said at the presidential office on Wednesday.

He assured that the government would continue coordinating with the Philippine government and military officials to collect complete information about it.

"Certainly, the government wants complete information before taking any action," he stressed.

Regarding the information about seven citizens hailing from Samarinda in the province of East Kalimantan currently being held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf group, Coordinating Minister for Political, Security and Legal Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan expressed inability to make any statement without first checking the reports.

"Let me check it first," he pleaded.

Pramono revealed that President Joko Widodo would visit Natuna Islands along with Coordinating Minister Luhut Pandjaitan, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) commander, General Gatot Nurmantyo, to inspect the state of security in the border area.

"Natuna is the territory of the Unitary State of Indonesia. That is already a settled issue. So as the head of state and government, the President wishes to assure that Natuna is part of the countrys sovereign territory," he explained.

President Joko Widodo has called on the countrys apparatuses to defend the countrys sovereignty including the Natuna Islands waters. His statement came in the context of recent Chinese claims.

"The President has ordered to defend Indonesias territorial sovereignty that has been painstakingly built since independence," presidential special staff Johan Budi stated at the presidential palace compound on Monday.

President Joko Widodo summoned Minister Luhut Binsar Panjaitan the same day to discuss the recent South China Sea incident.

Johan informed that the President wished to assure himself that sovereignty was being enforced across the country without necessarily impacting good relations.

"So, the first important thing is preserving Indonesian sovereignty. That is what the President said to the Coordinating Minister of Political, Security and Legal Affairs," he noted.

He assured that positive diplomacy would be carried out with China but reiterated that sovereignty is one thing that cannot be bargained.

"It was also conveyed to Coordinating Minister Luhut that maintaining good relations was also important, not only with China but also with other countries as well," he emphasized.

Situation in the South China Sea has been escalating due to several incidents. China has lodged protest with Indonesia following the seizure of a Chinese fishing boat in the Indonesian Exclusive Economic Zone in the Natuna Islands waters on June 17, 2016 for illegally fishing in the area.

7 Abu Sayyaf bandits killed in Sulu clash

From GMA News (Jun 23): 7 Abu Sayyaf bandits killed in Sulu clash

Seven members of the bandit Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) were killed in a clash with government soldiers on Wednesday in Sulu province, a television report said. 

Citing military sources, Unang Balita reported Thursday that the armed encounter, which also left 18 soldiers wounded, took place in Barangay Panglayahan in Patikul town.

One of the wounded soldiers was in critical condition, the report added.

Last Tuesday, the military said three ASG men were killed, while 10 other members were injured in a clash also in Patikul.

Sixteen soldiers were injured in the skirmish.

Also, last week, authorities nabbed a suspected ASG member identified as Adam Mahamdom, who was allegedly involved in the kidnapping of eight workers at Golden Harvest Plantation in Basilan in 2001.

Suspected Abu Sayyaf members kidnap ship crew

From Rappler (Jun 23): Suspected Abu Sayyaf members kidnap ship crew

Armed men believed to be members of the notorious group seize 7 of 13 crew members from a cargo ship manned by Indonesian and Malaysian sailors, a source tells Rappler


Suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) reportedly abducted 7 crew members of a cargo ship headed to Indonesia on Tuesday, June 22.

The cargo vessel was traversing Indonesian waters from the Philippines when the armed men, who were on motorized boat, fired at the vessel and seized 7 of the 13 crew members, said to be a mix of Indonesian and Malaysian citizens, a source told Rappler.

It was not known whether the kidnappers took both Indonesian and Malaysian hostages, as of posting.

With their victims, the kidnappers reportedly fled towards the direction of Tawi-Tawi in the southern Philippines.

The same source said the captain of the vessel was able to contact his wife to inform her they were kidnapped and that a ransom payment demand was set at P20 million.

The incident is the latest in a string of abductions in seas between Indonesia and the Philippines. On May 1, the ASG released its captive Indonesian sailors after the crew members' company reportedly paid a P50-million ransom.

The latest kidnapping incident comes as Philippine President-elect Rodrigo Duterte warned that the group will soon have to face the consequences of their actions.

Last week, outgoing Philippine President Benigno Aquino III personally went to Sulu after the ASG beheaded a second Canadian hostage when a ransom payment demand was not met. He said that Philippine authorities have refined their operations in the hope rescuing the remaining hostages.

On Tuesday, June 21, 3 ASG members were killed in a military encounter in Sulu, which also left 16 soldiers wounded.

The Canadian government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Philippine government are strictly observing a no-ransom policy, to keep the Abu Sayyaf from funding more criminal and terror activities.

Duterte says purchase of FA-50 jets just a waste of money

From the Philippine Star (Jun 22): Duterte says purchase of FA-50 jets just a waste of money

The Philippine Air Force’s first two units of the FA-50PH fighters jets arrived in the country in November 2015. KAI/Released

The Aquino administration’s purchase of 12 FA-50 lead in fighter trainer jets is just a waste of money as the air assets are only being used now for ceremonies, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte said.

Duterte said the jets – the biggest items in the military’s modernization shopping list – cannot be used to fight insurgency.

He added that the two FA-50s that were delivered to the Air Force are not enough to challenge China, which has occupied Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, a fishing area off Zambales that is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

“We only have what two FA-50s? Why did you buy that?” Duterte said in a business forum in Davao City last Tuesday.

“To the Air Force, do not misconstrue me. I’m a Filipino. I’m a citizen of this country and I have every right to say what I want to say. Sayang ang pera dun (Money was wasted there). You cannot use them for anti-insurgency, which is the problem at the moment. You can only use these for ceremonial fly-by,” he added.

The Aquino administration has bought 12 FA-50 jets from South Korea’s Korea Aerospace Industries for P18.9 billion to enhance the country’s territorial defense capabilities. Two of the jets were delivered in November while the ten others will be arrive in the country next year.
The jets conducted fly-bys during the 80th anniversary of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Pampanga and national hero Jose Rizal’s 119th death anniversary in Manila last December.

Duterte said the money spent for the jets could have been used to buy helicopters or boats that would have prevented the kidnapping of three foreigners and a Filipina in Davao del Norte last year.

“If we had night vision goggles, we could have caught up with these guys and if we had fast boat, we could have pursued them,” he added, noting that the assets would have allowed security forces to reach Davao del Norte in two to three minutes.

Duterte said the internal security problems should be solved first so the country can promote tourism and lure more investments. Military officials previously claimed that they are achieving gains in their anti-insurgency campaign and are ready to shift their focus from internal security to territorial defense.

Abu Sayyaf bandits kidnapped Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipina Maritess Flor at the Ocean View Resort in Samal Island off Davao Oriental last September.

The local terrorists beheaded Ridsdel last April and executed Hall last week because their ransom demands were not met. They have threatened to behead Sekkingstad next if his family fails to pay ransom.

The designated security officials of the incoming Duterte administration has asked the help of local executives to secure the release of the remaining captives.

We have to build credible force to deter foreign aggression – Incoming AFP chief

From Update.Ph (Jun 22): We have to build credible force to deter foreign aggression – Incoming AFP chief

Incoming Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya vowed to prioritize the acquisition of modern equipment and weapons to make the Filipino military a more credible defense force.

“We have to build a credible force. We have to have a defense capability that can deter foreign aggression,” he said in reply to question on whether he will continue to push for the AFP’s modernization.

As of this posting, fruits of the AFP’s ongoing modernization program include the two Hamilton-class cutters, six multi-purpose assault craft, 113 armored personnel carriers, three brand-new C-295 medium lift aircraft, two C-130 heavy transports, two FA-50PH light-interim fighter aircraft and eight attack versions of the AgustaWestland AW-109 “Power” helicopters, five landing craft heavies and two strategic sealift vessels to name a few.

Visaya said modernizing the AFP will allow the Philippines to stand up on its own against aggressors without dependence from other countries.

“Just like any Armed Forces, the AFP is bound to defend our country and secure our sovereignty,” he added.

Visaya is slated to take command of the 125,000-strong AFP by July 1.

He is a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1983 and outgoing commander of the Lucena, Quezon-based Southern Luzon Command.

Duterte: FA-50PHs only for ceremonial fly-bys

From Update.Ph (Jun 22): Duterte: FA-50PHs only for ceremonial fly-bys

President-elect Rodrigo Duterte said the 12 FA-50PH light-interim fighter aircraft purchased from South Korea under the Aquino administration, with 2 already delivered, are only good for “ceremonial fly-bys” and cannot be utilized for anti-insurgency operations.

“Sayang ang pera doon. You can’t use it for anti-insurgency which is the problem of the moment. You can only use it only for ceremonial fly-bys,” the President-elect said in a forum with business leaders June 21, as quoted by GMA NEWS Online.

He added that the money for the FA-50PHs could have been of worth for the present situation if used to purchase helicopters with night vision capability that can chase Abu Sayyaf Group terrorists. He said the Philippines will not go to war with China.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Air Force will be celebrating its 69th founding anniversary on July 5, days after Duterte assumed as the Commander-in-Chief. The Air Force already sent him an invitation for the said event.

Incidentally, two FA-50PH “Fighting Eagle” will be conducting a high-speed opener pass during the anniversary rites over the airspace of Clark Air Base, Angeles City in Pampanga.

22 assorted aircraft will be also flying in formation in the shape of a giant “69”.

USS Coronado departs for Western Pacific deployment

From Update.Ph (Jun 22): USS Coronado departs for Western Pacific deployment

USS Coronado

United States Navy Independence-class littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) is set to be deployed to US 7th Fleet area of operations. Prior to her deployment to Western Pacific, USS Coronado will join Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2016, US 3rd Fleet said.

USS Coronado will depart 3rd Fleet’s Naval Base San Diego, June 22.

“We’re excited to have USS Coronado taking part in the world’s largest international maritime exercise,” said US 3rd Fleet commander Vice Admiral Nora Tyson. “This ship will play a critical role in the fleet and in our nation’s defense. RIMPAC provides a good opportunity for our partner navies to work with the ship and see how it can contribute to collective regional security.”

In US 7th Fleet, Coronado and a crew of about 70 Sailors, assigned to LCS Squadron (LCSRON) 1, will conduct presence operations and goodwill activities with partner nations.

“It is an honor and privilege to deploy the first LCS-2 (USS Independence) variant to the 7th Fleet AOR,” said Cmdr. Scott Larson, commanding officer of Coronado and LCS Crew 204. “It’s time to demonstrate the full potential of these ships to the fleet, and I have every confidence that the Coronado team is poised to execute at a high level in support of vital operational tasking. I am exceedingly proud of how hard these Sailors have worked and trained, and grateful for the unconditional support our families have provided in helping us reach this milestone.”

Coronado is an innovative surface combatant designed to operate in littoral seas and shallow water to counter mines, submarines and fast surface craft threats in coastal regions.

US 7th Fleet’s AOR includes 36 maritime countries and the world’s five largest foreign armed forces, People’s Republic of China, Russia, India, North Korea and Republic of Korea. Moreover, five of the seven US Mutual Defense Treaties are with countries in the area, Republic of the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Japan, and Thailand.

US Navy destroyer now patrolling South China Sea

From Update.Ph (Jun 22): US Navy destroyer now patrolling South China Sea

United States Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance (DDG 111) is on a routine patrol in the South China Sea as part of a Pacific Surface Action Group (PAC SAG) deployment to the Indo-Asia-Pacific, the US Navy said. Exact location were the said vessel is patrolling was not mentioned.

Spruance departed homeport in San Diego on April 19 and remained under the operational control of Commander, 3rd Fleet, shifting operational and tactical control to Commander, 7th Fleet and Destroyer Squadron 15, depending on individual mission tasking while in the US 7th Fleet area of operations.

Spruance is accompanied in the PAC SAG by Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Decatur (DDG 73) and USS Momsen (DDG 92).

“In the past two weeks, we have operated in the Eastern Pacific with the U.S. Coast Guard and Pacific Island partners. Now, we are conducting operations in the South China Sea,” said Spruance commanding officer Cmdr. Manuel Hernandez. “The versatility to conduct multiple missions proves our capability to execute a variety of maritime operations across thousands of miles of ocean.”

“Spruance is currently operating in the South China Sea in support of maritime security and stability of all nations, especially in the Indo-Asian-Pacific,” said Hernandez. “Spruance is ready and capable. The Spruance team has trained extensively for this deployment.”

NDFP peace consultant on alert for missing tribesmen allegedly abducted by Army troops

From InterAksyon (Jun 22): NDFP peace consultant on alert for missing tribesmen allegedly abducted by Army troops

Randy Malayao, a National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant on the peace process, on Wednesday expressed concerns regarding the possible abduction of Aggay tribesmen of San Mariano, Isabela by elements of the Philippine Army 5th Infantry Division.

According to Malayao, the human rights group Karapatan-Cagayan Valley (Karapatan CV) has reported that some indigenous people in San Mariano have been taken away by Army troops operating under the 86th Infantry Battalion of the 5th Infantry Division.

"If there is some truth to this, or that some Aggays are being forced to serve as guide by patrolling troops, we condemn this as violation of protocols of war or of rules of engagement," Malayao said.

Karapatan, in an alert message, stated that 16 Aggays, including women and children, were seized by the government soldiers on June 17, 2016. The human rights group also reported that the soldiers illegally searched the huts of the Agtas.

Malayao said that KARAPATAN CV, with the Social Action Center of the Archdiocese of Ilagan City, Isabela and representatives of the Provincial Government of Isabela conducted a search for the missing Aggays.

According to the group, the 5TH Infantry Division denied that the Aggay tribesmen were in their custody.

Malayao added that Aggays interviewed by Karapatan-CV said some of their village mates were forced into a helicopter.

He said, while this still has to be verified, "ang malinaw, may ongoing military operations sa Tappa-Cadsalan-Buyasan area ng San Mariano (What's clear is that there is an ongoing military operation)."

ASG member nabbed in Zambo City

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 22): ASG member nabbed in Zambo City

Combined police and military operatives have arrested a suspected notorious Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) member disguised as fruit vendor in this city, a top official disclosed Wednesday.

Chief Supt. Billy Beltran, Police Regional Office-9 (PRO-9) director, identified the arrested notorious ASG member as Usman Atalad, 46, who carries the aliases of Atalad, Suhud Limaya and Hud.

Beltran said Atalad was arrested during a law enforcement operation around 12:45 p.m. Tuesday along J.S. Alano Street, Barangay Zone, this city.

He said the lawmen sighted the suspect selling fruits in the vicinity of the Zamboanga City Police Office (ZCPO) and the old public market.

He said Atalad has standing warrant of arrest for seven counts kidnapping and serious illegal detention issued by a court in Basilan province.

Atalad was the second suspected ASG member who was arrested in the vicinity of ZCPO and old public market. The market is located at the back of ZCPO headquarters.

The first was Adam Mahamdom alias Junior Hali, who arrested on June 15 by joint police and military operatives.

Mahamdon, a member of the ASG’s Urban Terror Group (UTG), is facing eight counts kidnapping and serious illegal detention cases.

DND awards medals to wounded soldiers for gallantry in action

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 22): DND awards medals to wounded soldiers for gallantry in action

The Department of National Defense (DND) awarded medals on Wednesday to the 16 soldiers, including a junior officer, who were wounded in the line of duty for gallantry in action.

The awardee-soldiers were among those who were wounded in the one-and-a-half-hour firefight on Tuesday afternoon in Sitio Bud Duwa Bayho, Barangay Pansul, Patikul, Sulu.

Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) spokesman, disclosed that 15 of the 16 were admitted at Camp Navarro General Hospital (CNGH) while the remaining one, at a private hospital in this city.

Outgoing DND Secretary Voltaire Gazmin personally pinned the Wounded Personnel Medals (WPM) on the 15 wounded soldiers when the defense chief visited them at Camp Navarro General Hospital (CNGH).

The awardees admitted at CNGH are as follows: 2Lt. Jeron Nablo; SSgt. Joel Balasa; Sgt. Reynaldo Flores; PFC Jetter Atay; PFC Jessie Braterna; PFC Gilbert Camasis; PFC Rio Cablasa; PFC Jay Nomer Delaqueña; PFC Edentorio Dolorosa; PFC Jeremias Galvi; PFC Ramonito Ilat; PFC John Ray Mintac; PFC Joel Nuena; PFC Jayson Rendon; and, PFC Jessie Sarang. They belong to the Army’s 32ndn Infantry Battalion.

Tan did not release the identity of the wounded soldier admitted at the private hospital.

The troops were on combat operation when they clashed with around 200 ASG brigands on Tuesday afternoon in Sitio Bud Duwa Bayho, Barangay Pansul, Patiul, Sulu.

The troops were in search of the hostages, including foreigners, that are still being held captives by the ASG brigands in Sulu.

Meanwhile, Tan said Gazmin also visited the headquarters of the Army’s 104th Infantry Brigade in Camp Luis Biel III in Isabela City, Basilan.

Gazmin urged the troops to carry on and do their jobs with utmost commitment for the future of the next generation.

He thanked the troops for their support during his stint as DND secretary.

Cops, Army hunt down BIFF in roadside bombing that hurt soldiers, student in North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 22): Cops, Army hunt down BIFF in roadside bombing that hurt soldiers, student in North Cotabato

Police and military forces here have launched a manhunt against suspected members of extremists Bangsamoro islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in the borders of Maguindanao and North Cotabato following roadside bomb attack that hurt soldiers and a student Wednesday.

Supt. Tom Tuzon, Midsayap town police chief, said the manhunt was launched by Midsayap PNP personnel and elements of the Army's 6th Infantry Division.

Injured in the 5 p.m. roadside bombing in the village of Ulandang were Private 1st Class Jestoni Bauzon and Sgt. Edwin Soria, both of the 62nd Reconnaissance Company of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, and student Miriam Akis, a high school student of Dabpil Sampulna National High School.

They all sustained shrapnel injuries in various parts of their bodies, police said.

Akis who was heading for home from school happened to be near the site where the improvised explosive device (IED) was set off by BIFF.

Police described the IED as "very powerful." Bomb experts said it was fashioned from 105 mm mortar round with mobile phone as trigger mechanism. The bomb experts also recovered cut nails and metal sheets used as shrapnel of the IED.

The soldiers were on board a military truck passing by a narrow road near the school when the IED exploded followed by strafing from gunmen nearby.

Others soldiers in the vehicle returned fire, triggering a brief encounter until the attackers fled to Maguindanao side of the border.

Police and military authorities could not say whether or not the gunmen who opened fire after the blast also suffered casualties.

Police blamed the BIFF, saying the IED used in the attack was similar to other IEDs used by the BIFF in attacking government forces in Maguindanao this year.

The victims were rushed to a hospital in Midsayap town proper.

Joint police and soldiers immediately established checkpoints in the borders of Maguindanao and North Cotabato where the BIFF operates.(

Gazmin to formally say goodbye to PA Friday

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 22): Gazmin to formally say goodbye to PA Friday

Outgoing Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin will formally bid farewell to the officers and enlisted personnel of the Philippine Army (PA) on Friday.

This will take place at PA headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City, said Army spokesperson Col. Benjamin Hao.

Gazmin is scheduled to step down from his post by June 30.

A brigade-size parading troops from the different post units and offices of the PA will give Gazmin a testimonial review.

The parade will be held at ROTC Hunters Guerilla Field/HPA Parade Ground.

Army Chief, Lt. Gen. Eduardo M. Año together with his staff, other ranking PA officers, enlisted personnel and civilian employees will attend the event.

Gazmin was the 40th Commanding General of the Philippine Army. He held the position from July 13, 1999 - October 22, 2000.

Ample military assets deployed during nat'l quake drill

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 22): Ample military assets deployed during nat'l quake drill

Adequate military assets were deployed during the 2nd Metro Manila Shake Drill and National Simultaneous Earthquake Drill.

This was disclosed by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla during a press briefing.

This includes three AgustaWestland AW-109 "Power" helicopters which has the capability to detect and transmit on real time videos of devastated areas in Metro Manila and six UH-IH air ambulances which could transport critical injured individuals to treatment centers in the aftermath of 7.2 magnitude earthquake.

These UH-IHs will be coming from the Northern and Southern Luzon Command and Joint Task Group-National Capital Region, Padilla said.

Also deployed are the Army's Libis, Quezon City-525th Engineering Combat Battalion which is the military's premier humanitarian assistance and disaster response unit.

An engineering battalion consists of around 500 - 1,000 officers and enlisted personnel.

It is equipped with a variety of bulldozers, backhoes and other heavy construction equipment.

Padilla said the 525th Engineering Combat Battalion is specialized in urban search-and-rescue and collapsed structure retrieval operations.

The 525th Engineering Combat Battalion was one of the first military units deployed to Leyte during the aftermath of Supertyphoon "Yolanda" in Nov. 8, 2013.

Together with units of the Catbalogan-based 8th Infantry Division, the 525th Engineering Combat Battalion helped clear debris from roads leading to Tacloban City and other parts of Leyte.

AFP warns public not to dignify hate video calling for attacks

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 22): AFP warns public not to dignify hate video calling for attacks

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) refused to comment on a viral video reportedly released by an "radicalist, extremism group" calling for massive attacks against people standing against their beliefs as it urged the public not to be swayed by such gesture.

"Do not glorify and dignify (statements and videos made by) these groups," AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said.

In the same vein, Padilla urged the public to refrain from spreading the video and delete it, so as not to spread the group's message of hate, radicalism and extremism.

"The message of the video is animalistic and evil in all its entirety," he added.

In the video, an unidentified terrorist group is calling for violent attacks against Christians and Muslim backsliders who are standing against them.

SC orders PNP to probe abduction of CPA founding member

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 22): SC orders PNP to probe abduction of CPA founding member

The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) to investigate the abduction of James Balao, the founding member of the Cordillera People's Alliance (CPA).

The CPA is a coalition of non-government organizations (NGOs) which is advocating the interest of the indigenous people in the Cordillera Region.

Balao was abducted by five armed men on Sept. 17, 2008.

In the latest resolution of the SC on the case of Balao issued on Tuesday, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) were relieved of the duty to investigate the case.

Instead, the SC ordered the PNP to investigate the angle presented by the witness Bryan Gonzales.

In the PNP Formal Report, it said that according to Gonzales, Balao may have been abducted by the members of the CPA themselves.

It was learned that Balao was living in a house together with the alleged members of the CPA who were only identified as "Uncle John" and Rene.

However, when the PNP attempted to investigate the two individuals, it was surprising that the leadership of the CPA did not cooperate.

The SC gave the PNP a period of six months to complete the investigation.

The case stemmed from the petition for the issuance of writ of amparo filed by the siblings of Balao and the leadership of the CPA before the La Trinidad, Benguet Regional Trial Court (RTC) against former President and now Pampanga (2nd District) Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The RTC granted the petition for the writ of amparo.

However, on Dec. 13, 2011, the SC reversed the privilege of the writ since the petitioner did not present sufficient evidence.

The writ of amparo is granted to any individual whose right to life, freedom and security is being violated or threatened.

EMC to act as Command Center in times of massive tremor

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 22): EMC to act as Command Center in times of massive tremor

The Davao City-based Eastern Mindanao Command (EMC) will serve as a Command Center should a massive tremor strike tremor strike Eastern Mindanao.

This was determined during Wednesday's National Simultaneous Earthquake Drill, said EMC public affairs Major Ezra Balagtey.

"This was the focus of the simulation exercise conducted by EMC during the simultaneous national earthquake drill on June 22," he added.

The exercise which started at around 9:00 a.m. had two phases; Phase I involved the immediate action after a disaster which includes local evacuation and rescue within NSFA, while the second phase focused on the role of EMC in the four regions of eastern Mindanao namely Regions X, XI, XII & XIII; being the lead agency in Search Rescue and Retrieval.

The exercise included the simulation of battle staff action as part of the command and control mechanism and integration to the Incident Command System, and restoration of communication lines particularly with operating units in eastern Mindanao.

Rapid Damage and Needs Assessment was also simulated being the initial reference in the prioritization of assets within the inventory and deployment of troops, Balagtey added.

PA Mobile C3 Center deployed during nationwide quake drill

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 22): PA Mobile C3 Center deployed during nationwide quake drill

The Philippine Army's (PA) mobile command, control and communication center was tested during the second Metro Manila Shake Drill and National Simultaneous Earthquake Drill (NSED) Wednesday.

It is also known as the PA Mobile C3 Center, said Army spokesperson Col. Benjamin Hao.

It is the latest land based mobile communication platform developed by the Army.

Col. Vener Odilon D. Mariano, PA Assistant Chief-of-Staff for Command and Control Communication and Cyber System, said the PA Mobile C3 Center is the latest land based mobile communication platform developed by the Army.

“This Mobile C3 Center will serve as the alternate Army Operations Center for continuous command, control and communications for humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) operations of the Army,” he added.

The PA Mobile C3 Center is equipped with major means of communications ranging from high frequency (HF), very high frequency (VHF), ultra high frequency (UHF), air and marine bands including satellite voice capability.

It can communicate in different Armed Forces of the Philippines and Army major units through voice and data using the telephone extenders and its radio communications.

Hao said the PA’s participation in the earthquake drill aims to prepare the military personnel and its dependents before, during and after the earthquake to save lives and properties.

The Army’s HADR units were also alerted to respond during the occurrence of disasters and calamities.

The PA is one of the government agencies that is immediately deployed as first responders during disasters.