Saturday, September 3, 2016

IN PHOTOS: Blast in Davao City

From Rappler (Sep 3): IN PHOTOS: Blast in Davao City

Witnesses say they heard a loud bang and saw smoke from the site of the explosion, a massage area in the market

At least 14 people died while scores were injured after an explosion at the Roxas Night Market in Davao City on Sptember 2, 2016. Photo by Manman Dejeto/Rappler

The Roxas Night Market is the usual place in this city where people from all walks of life gather to dine, shop at bargain prices, and unwind.

Friday night teemed with more than the usual number of people because it was payday for most.

Shortly before 11 pm on September 2, the festive atmosphere and the laughter were drowned by shouts and cries. An explosion had just occurred.

BLOODY. At least 14 people die while scores are injured after the Davao explosion. All photos by Manman Dejeto/Rappler

BLOODY. At least 14 people die while scores are injured after the Davao explosion. All photos by Manman Dejeto/Rappler

Witnesses said they heard a loud bang and saw smoke from the site of the explosion, a massage area in the market. Ambulances rushed to the scene, carrying the injured on stretchers.

An improvised explosive device caused the explosion, Presidential Spokesman Martin Andanar said, adding that drug traffickers opposed to Duterte's war on crime or Islamic militants may have been responsible.

BODY BAGS. Davao's 911 volunteers carry a body bag of one of the 14 people who died in the explosion.

BODY BAGS. Davao's 911 volunteers carry a body bag of one of the 14 people who died in the explosion.

The casualty count was at 14 early Saturday morning.

Over 60 were injured by the blast and were being treated in different hospitals, including a pregnant woman who remained under intensive care. Officials of the Southern Philippines Medical Center said 16 victims were in critical condition. Pieces of shrapnel were found on the victims, they said.

Many of the casualties were reportedly attendants and customers of the massage parlor near the night market.

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio assured the families of the victims that the city government would help them in hospitalization, burial, funeral, and day-to-day expenses.

HEIGHTENED ALERT. A member of Task Force Davao secures the blast site.

HEIGHTENED ALERT. A member of Task Force Davao secures the blast site. 

JOINT FORCES. PSG armored personnel carriers guard the Marco Polo Hotel.

JOINT FORCES. PSG armored personnel carriers guard the Marco Polo Hotel.

ON HIS FEET. President Duterte arriving at the blast site before 5 am, September 3.

ON HIS FEET. President Duterte arriving at the blast site before 5 am, September 3.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared a "state of lawlessness" in the country after the deadly blast.
The declaration is meant to ensure "coordinated efforts" between the police and the military in the government's fight against terrorism and illegal drugs.
Duterte said there would be greater presence of soldiers all over the country and more checkpoints. He, however, added he would not be imposing any nationwide curfew yet.
"These are extraordinary times....There is a crisis in this country involving drugs, extrajudicial killings, and there seems to be an environment of lawlessness, lawless violence," the President said.

PNP chief: IED caused Davao blast

From Rappler (Sep 3): PNP chief: IED caused Davao blast

Davao region police are tracking down 4 “persons of interests” – two men and two women – whose sketches have yet to be released to the public   

DAVAO BLAST. PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa (far right) during the Command Conference of the Regional Peace & Order Council meeting at the PRO11 headquarters in Davao City on September 3, 2016. Photo by Col. Edgard Arevalo/AFP PAO

DAVAO BLAST. PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa (far right) during the Command Conference of the Regional Peace & Order Council meeting at the PRO11 headquarters in Davao City on September 3, 2016. Photo by Col. Edgard Arevalo/AFP PAO
The Philippine National Police (PNP) confirmed Saturday night, September 3, that the blast that killed at least 14 people and injured 67 at a night market in this city was caused by an improvised explosive device (IED).
In a press conference at the Police Regional Office 11 in Davao City, PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said a Special Investigative Task Group (SITG) formed to probe the blast confirmed that it was an IED that exploded in the middle of a busy night market before 11 pm on Friday, September 2. (For updates on the Davao blast, check Rappler's live blog)

Dela Rosa said the type of IED had yet to be fully reconstructed but initial investigations show it was a mortar round.

Davao regional police are tracking down 4 “persons of interests” – two men and two women – but did not give further details.

Investigators have a sketch of the suspects but this has yet to be released to the public.

The Abu Sayyaf has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the PNP said it is still verifying this.

The PNP chief flew in from Manila Saturday afternoon, hours after the fatal explosion. Upon arriving in Davao City, Dela Rosa joined a Regional Peace and Council Meeting at the Eastern Mindanao Command headquarters in Camp Panacan.

Bayan condemns Davao explosion

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 3): Bayan condemns Davao explosion

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Southern Mindanao region (Bayan-SMR) on Saturday condemned last Friday’s explosion at the Night Market in Roxas Street, Davao City that killed at least 14 innocent civilians and injured 65 others.

“Bayan-SMR strongly condemns the terrorist attack on Roxas Night Market in Davao City,” the group’s secretary-general Sheena Duazo said in a statement sent to the media.

The attack, Duazo added reminded the people of Davao City of the twin bombings in 2003 in Davao International Airport (March 4) and Sasa Wharf (April 2) that killed 39 people and injured around 200.

“We are also reminded that on the same year, there was the accidental bombing in a hotel room occupied by CIA agent Michael Terrence Meiring, who was later 'rescued' from a hospital and flew back to the United States by FBI agents,” she said.

Duazo also warned against the “unleashing of an anti-Moro hysteria now that the Abu Sayyaf Group has owned up to the Roxas night market bombing.”

She also alleged that the ASG was widely known as a CIA creation, and just like other terrorist groups in the world like the ISIS.

“We grieve for the families who lost their loved ones in this incident. While we remain vigilant and calm, let us also learn from the history of warhawks that spread out a climate of fear and impunity.”

Duazo said the present fear and speculation can be stopped through thorough and objective probe on the bombings and to include the possible spoilers of peace and order from the unscrupulous elements in the AFP and PNP.

“We must not forget. We must stand together and call for justice and a just peace for the country,” she said.

Human rights group condemns Abu Sayyaf alleged link to Davao bombing

From the Philippine Star (Sep 3): Human rights group condemns Abu Sayyaf alleged link to Davao bombing

The army and police are yet to confirm the reports circulating that the Abu Sayyaf could be behind the explosion at the Roxas night market on Friday midnight. photo

Human rights group Karapatan condemned the Abu Sayyaf group (ASG) for the September 2 bombing in Davao City where at least 14 were killed and 60 more hurt.

While expressing condolences and sympathies with the families of the bombing victims and with the people of Davao in these trying times, Karapatan called on government to make the perpetrators of the bombing accountable.

Cristina Palabay, speaking in behalf of the human rights group, is specifically calling President Rodrigo Duterte to probe the role of the military and the US government in the attack.

“Historically, Abu Sayyaf group and their acts have always been supported by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the US government, both had a hand in the creation of the said group,” Palabay said.

“Time and again, bombings and the ‘terrorist’ bogey have been used to create situations of chaos, to justify gross human rights violations by the US and Philippine governments and the military, and to justify increased US military intervention and presence in the country,” she added.

Karapatan is also worried over the declaration of a state of lawlessness.

Questioning the operational guidelines on the apprehension of individuals in checkpoints, Palabay said: “Why is the war on drugs included as basis for the declaration?” What is being done to investigate the role of the AFP and the US in the said acts, given their relationship with the ASG?”

She also warned against indiscriminate and warrantless arrests, torture, illegal detention and far graver abuses of people's rights, including the rights of Moro people who have always been considered “collateral damage” in the past administrations.

Davao explosion: What we know so far

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 3): Davao explosion: What we know so far

Leila SOCO

SOCO operatives at the blast site. Photo by Leila Salaverria

Over 12 hours after a strong explosion rocked the popular night market on Roxas Boulevard in Davao City, the casualty toll now stands at 14 dead and 71 wounded. At least 10 of the victims were reported to have died at the blast site.
  • According to the Twitter account of Atenews, the Ateneo de Davao student publication, the explosion occurred at around 10:20 pm on Friday, September 2. The night market is located on the street fronting the Ateneo de Davao campus.
  • Sometime past 11 pm, Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte arrived at the site and called on the public to stay calm. Later he disclosed that the city had received a bomb threat two days earlier. “Ang sabi [It said] do not pass this around so tumahimik na lang ako [so I just kept quiet],” he said. He also issued a statement confirming that at least 10 persons had died in the explosion.
  • Sometime past 4 am, at the blast site, President Duterte told reporters he was declaring a state of lawlessness. His commander-in-chief powers allow the President to call out the military to do police work in case of “lawless violence.” He emphasized: “It’s not martial law but it would require nationwide, well-coordinated efforts of the military and the police.”
  • At this same briefing, the President announced that the scope of his declaration was nationwide: “Lahat,” he said.
  • Early on Saturday morning, reports saying the Abu Sayyaf bandit group claimed responsibility for the bombing surfaced. The Associated Press reported that the claim was made by a spokesman named Abu Rami. Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno also confirmed in a radio interview that the bandit group had made the claim.
  • Mid-morning of Saturday, a statement issued in the name of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana disclosed that he had ordered the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines on high alert. “I have directed all commands of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to be on high alert especially in urban centers for possible other terroristic act attempts by this group,” Lorenzana said in the statement.
  • The Philippine National Police also undertook parallel precautions. “In connection to the explosion incident in Davao City last night, full alert is hereby declared nationwide,” the memorandum issued by Chief Supt. Camilo Cascolan, of the Directorate for Operations, read.
  • At around 10 am, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar announced that President Duterte had cancelled his Brunei visit — what would have been his first presidential trip. “The Brunei trip is cancelled,” Andanar said in a text message to reporters.
  • Before noon, Abu Sayyaf denied that it was behind the deadly attack. Instead, the terrorist group pointed to ally Daulat Ul Islamiya as the perpetrator of the bombing.
Abus say ally behind attack
  • At 4 pm Saturday, as announced by Davao City Mayor Inday Sara Duterte, a memorial service for the victims of the explosion will take place, at the site of the blast.

Abu Sayyaf disowns Davao explosion, says ally was behind attack

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 3): Abu Sayyaf disowns Davao explosion, says ally was behind attack

The Abu Sayyaf on Saturday denied it was behind Friday night’s explosion that killed 14 people and wounded 67 others (official figure as of 6 a.m. Saturday) at the night market on Roxas Ave. here.

But Muammar Askali alias Abu Ramie, the self-styled spokesperson of the Al Harakatul Al Islamiya, the Abu Sayyaf’s official name, pointed to an ally as that behind the deadly explosion.

In a phone call to the Inquirer, Askali identified the group behind the blast as Daulat Ul Islamiya.

“They are doing this to sympathize (with) our group and we are sending a message to President Rodrigo Duterte that all the Daulat throughout the country is not afraid of him,” Askali said.

READ: Abu Sayyaf claims responsibility for Davao blast–Sueno

He said the bomb attack was only the start of similar attacks as the military continues to put pressure on his group in Sulu.

“We can hardly call people, but we can still inflict damage to the soldiers,” Askali said, describing how tight their situation in Sulu was.

About 9,000 troops were now in Sulu pursuing the bandit group. Since August 26, 15 soldiers had died and 30 bandits had been killed.

Askali said the bomb attacks would only stop “if Duterte will make our hadith his laws and he will seek conversion to Islam.”

The hadith is described as a collection of traditions containing sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, with accounts of his daily practice. Sunni Muslims use this to emulate the Prophet’s practice.

But Chief Supt. Manuel Gaerlan, the Southern Mindanao police director who now supervises the investigation of the blast, said what they were looking into now was the possible participation of “disgruntled vendors” in the city but they were also considering other possible groups as suspects.

“There were some disgruntled vendors in the awarding of stalls at the night market. This is one of the motives that we are looking into,” he said.

READ: Davao explosion: What we know so far

Gaerlan said any group can claim responsibility over the explosion but that is normal.

“They can use it to boost their popularity but as I said, we are still investigating,” he said.

Gaerlan also said the police were still not confirming that what exploded was indeed a bomb.

“We are still collecting more pieces of evidence,” he added.

Chief Insp. Andrea dela Cerna, the Southern Mindanao police spokesperson, said metal fragments had been recovered from dead and wounded victims but it was not clear if what went off was an improvised explosive device.

She said this was being determined by the Special Investigation Task Group formed in the aftermath of the blast.

Gaerlan also said the police have custody now of CCTV footage from several establishments around Roxas Ave. and these were being reviewed.

Gaerlan also declined to comment on reports that at least two suspects were now under police custody.

“The technical aspect of the investigation, we are still not ready to divulge it but we hope we can pursue the suspects,” Gaerlan added

5 killed as MNLF, Abu Sayyaf clash in Sulu

From CNN Philippines (Sep 3): 5 killed as MNLF, Abu Sayyaf clash in Sulu
After a day of relative silence, fighting again broke out in Sulu early Friday morning — but it was between the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), leaving five combatants dead.

Military officials said the bandits attacked a temporary base in the town of Kalingalan Caluang, killing four MNLF fighters. One bandit was also killed.

The MNLF has been helping the military in operations against the ASG in support of the government's peace efforts in Mindanao, a brigade official said.

Related: Duterte appeals to Abu Sayyaf: Do not mutilate bodies

Armed Forces spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said 400-500 bandits remained, with 2/3 of them armed.

Regarding those affected by the skirmishes, more than 500 families  in Patikul have received relief goods from the provincial government.

But some 1,500 more families in Patikul, Maimbong, and Talipao had yet to get aid.
Sulu Gov. Totoh Tan said distribution of relief goods was ongoing.

Tan also appealed to residents to help crush the bandit group — by not getting orders from them and informing the authorities if they had information about the lawless elements.

Meanwhile, amid the intensified military operations against the ASG, three speedboats with expired registration and permits were intercepted last Monday by the military near Maimbung Bay.

Troops of the Joint Task Force Sulu were patrolling the coastal waters to prevent the Abu Sayyaf from escaping or getting reinforcement when they encountered the unregistered vessels.

4 MNLF, 2 Abu Sayyaf killed in clash in Sulu

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 2): 4 MNLF, 2 Abu Sayyaf killed in clash in Sulu

The Moro National Liberation Front were reportedly assisting government soldiers who are conducting operations against the Abu Sayyaf. Google Earth

At least four members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), who were helping government troops, and two Abu Sayyaf militants were killed in an encounter in Indanan town, Sulu on Friday, according to police.
The Sulu Provincial Police said the MNLF fighters were on a blocking operation -- a mission to deny an opposing force access to an area or prevent its movement in a certain direction-- when they encountered an undetermined number of Abu Sayyaf militants.
Police reported that fierce fighting erupted past 6 a.m., which left four of the MNLF fighters and two Abu Sayyaf dead.
The Abu Sayyaf reportedly retreated with an undetermined number of wounded fighters.
Meanwhile, naval forces intercepted and seized three speedboats along the coast of Maimbung town while conducting a blockade to prevent the Abu Sayyaf group from escaping through the sea and to block reinforcement routes.
Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said two of the speedboats -- M/B Lingisan and M/B Fumancho -- were equipped with two 200-horsepower outboard motors each. The other boat, M/B Emperor, had three 200-hp outboard motors, which would allow it to travel at 48 kph.
He said authorities are investigating whether the Abu Sayyaf group uses the speedboats for its operations.

DVIDS: U.S., Philippine Airmen talks enhance interoperability

From Defense Video Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS) (Sep 1): U.S., Philippine Airmen talks enhance interoperability

U.S., Philippine Airmen talks enhance interoperability

Maj. Gen. Conrado V. Parra, Jr., Philippine Air Force vice commander, left, Maj. Gen. Mark Dillon, center, Pacific Air Forces vice commander and Col. Fermin M. Carangan, Philippine Air Force assistant chief of air staff for operations, participate in briefings during the fifth annual U.S. and Philippine Airman-to-Airman Talks at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Aug. 30, 2016. The goals of the three-day conference were synchronizing planning between the U.S. Air Force and Philippine Air Force, shaping engagement priorities, strengthening the bilateral relationship with the PAF and focusing on a 3 to 5 year outlook for PACAF-PAF activities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kamaile O. Chan)

His words reflect the importance of the ability of multi-national militaries to work, train and fight alongside each other in the dynamic security environment that characterizes the Indo-Asia-Pacific. The A2A talks were designed to not only foster military-to-military relationships with allied forces, but also to pave the way for future collaboration.

Parra led a delegation of eight Filipino airmen that met with Maj. Gen. Mark Dillon, Pacific Air Forces vice commander, and 24 PACAF Airmen, Marine Forces Pacific and Hawaii Army National Guard personnel to discuss the way ahead for military cooperation between their two air forces. 

The goals of the three-day conference were synchronizing planning between the U.S. Air Force and Philippine Air Force, shaping engagement priorities, strengthening the bilateral relationship with the PAF and focusing on a 3 to 5 year outlook for PACAF-PAF activities.

“These talks help to determine activities that will help bridge the gap between the two air forces,” said Parra. “We are here to discuss our primary concerns, regarding recent security developments in the East Asia Sea and our hope is that this will be a fruitful engagement for us.”

In recent years, military cooperation between the two countries has expanded to include the Philippines hosting U.S. Pacific Command and PACAF exercises like Balikatan and Pacific Angel, and supporting the Pacific Air Chief Conference, the Pacific Rim Airpower Symposium and the Pacific Airlift Rally. Additionally, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and his Filipino counterpart, Voltaire Gazmin, announced in April 2016 that the Philippines will host U.S. military missions to increase U.S.-Philippines security cooperation.

One of those missions included U.S. Pacific Command directing PACAF to stand up an Air Contingent at Clark Air Base, Philippines, in April 2016, to set the foundation for joint air patrols that complement ongoing joint maritime patrols between the two countries. The purpose of the Air Contingent is to provide credible combat forces capable of a variety of missions including force projection, air and maritime domain awareness, personnel recovery, combating piracy, and assuring access to the air and maritime domains in accordance with international law. Additionally, the contingent provides opportunities to expand cooperation and interoperability with Philippine counterparts and reassure partners and allies of our steadfast commitments in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. To date, the Philippines have hosted two iterations of Air Contingents, including A-10 Warthogs and HH-60G Pavehawks in April, and Navy EF-18 Growlers in June.

Additionally, both nations recently signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, which like the Air Contingent, demonstrates U.S. commitment to the Indo-Asia-Pacific by establishing a mutually beneficial agreement that provides rapid humanitarian assistance and helps to build capacity for the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Many of these key engagements have been successful and talks such as these further enable PACAF and PAF leaders to streamline the tactics, techniques and procedures that are shared between the two countries, strengthening the U.S.-Philippine bilateral relationship.

“Our two air forces have accomplished a lot of great training,” said Dillon. “Our goal during these talks is to continue the momentum by strengthening and thickening the relationship between the two air forces by building on the successes of the past with a solid roadmap for the future.”

Free pass doesn’t mean Nur off hook, says Palace

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 2): Free pass doesn’t mean Nur off hook, says Palace
Criminal cases against Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder Nur Misuari will be pursued despite President Duterte’s order to law enforcement agencies not to arrest him, Malacañang said on Thursday.

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the President’s stand-down order to the police and the military was not meant to violate the law or disrespect the court that issued the arrest warrant for Misuari.

Abella said the Commander in Chief’s directive was a “strategic move” to broker peace with the Misuari-led faction of the MNLF and end a decades-long secessionist rebellion.

“It’s not a question of (violating the law) because the man (Misuari) is not fleeing anyway. . . The man is there and he’s willing to talk,” Abella said in a press briefing in Malacañang.

“It’s . . . a strategic move because… (as the President said) if  anything happened to the man while he was in our custody, it would really be trouble for us,” Abella said.

On Wednesday, Mr. Duterte disclosed that in a phone conversation with Misuari, they agreed to meet in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to resume peace negotiations between the government and the MNLF.

Mr. Duterte told the  police and military not to arrest Misuari if they saw him.

Abella, when reminded that only the courts could issue and lift arrest warrants, said: ” I don’t think the cases (against Misuari) are being dismissed. . . It’s just a question of strategic choice… it’s the tactical choice (of the President).”

Misuari has been in hiding since  he was ordered arrested for allegedly leading more than 200 MNLF fighters in the violent siege on Zamboanga City in September 2013 that left more than 200 people dead and hundreds wounded.

The siege displaced some 100,000 residents of coastal villages, many of whom are still in evacuation centers.

Abu Sayyaf ready for ‘last war’

From The Star Online (Sep 2): Abu Sayyaf ready for ‘last war’

The number of Philippine troops running after the Abu Sayyaf in the southern island province of Sulu is expected to swell to about 9,000 by next week, the Armed Forces said on  Thursday, amid taunts by the ruthless kidnap-for-ransom group that it was prepared for a “jihad.”

The deployment is the largest concentration of troops in a single area in recent memory, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said.

It also comes shortly after 15 soldiers were slain by the Abu Sayyaf in fierce clashes this week in Jolo, where the terrorists  are holding a number of foreign hostages, including a Dutch birdwatcher  seized in 2012 and a Norwegian abducted last year from a beach resort.

The gunmen earlier this year beheaded two Canadian hostages, while an 18-year-old Filipino captive suffered the same fate recently.
President Duterte called on the public on Wednesday night to be vigilant against retaliatory attacks in the wake of intensified military operations.

“You should be on guard since we’re hitting them hard,” Mr. Duterte said in a speech in Davao City. “I expect some…retribution also from them. That’s their reprisal.”

He said the gunmen “do not live by the laws of civilization. They are really evil.”

Padilla said the troop deployment was the biggest in recent memory and was “indicative of government’s resolve to crush the Abu Sayyaf.”

He said the deployment was equivalent to almost two Army divisions, with 8,000 fighting soldiers in place.

Army Chief Lt. Gen. Eduardo Año said three more infantry battalions consisting of around 1,500 soldiers were on their way to reinforce the troops already in Sulu. They were expected to arrive in the capital Jolo by Saturday.

Blend well

Padilla said the troop buildup was part of President Duterte’s vow to crush the Abu Sayyaf, who are believed to number fewer than 250 fighters but are known to blend in well in Jolo’s rough jungle terrain.

He said troop realignments were  also ongoing in nearby Basilan island, where there was also an  Abu Sayyaf presence.

“Artillery support is high. The required artillery support or fire support that our operating troops are requesting are provided. We have adequate air and naval support,” Padilla said.

Abu Sayyaf spokesperson Alhabsi Misaya said they were ready for the offensive, as he called on all Tausugs to join in a jihad or holy war.

Misaya, in text messages, said the Abu Sayyaf had anticipated that “by Sept. 1, the Abu Sayyaf and soldiers of Duterte will test each other in a liberation.”

‘To the finish’

Misaya, who is under the command of overall Abu Sayyaf leader Radulan Sahiron, said this would be “the last war of Patikul to the finish.”

“If they are given courage, this war is more fierce than in Zamboanga,” Misaya wrote in one of the text messages to the Inquirer, adding that they would rather “initiate the attack against the  soldiers of Duterte.”

“The Abu Sayyaf is ready with its more than 1,000 forces to do a jihad,” he added.

Lt.  Gen. Mayoralgo dela Cruz, chief of the Western Mindanao Command based in Zamboanga City, said he received a similar message but minimized the Abu Sayyaf’s real force as being only between 200-250.

Dela Cruz said the military would prefer the Abu Sayyaf staged the attacks as “it’s better to be this way, so that we will no longer be hunting them.”

Abu Sayyaf to bring fight to AFP doorstep

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 2): Abu Sayyaf to bring fight to AFP doorstep

Bandit group vows to seize offensive, initiate clashes and urges Tausugs to back 'jihad'


The Abu Sayyaf will not wait for soldiers to assault its positions in Sulu and will initiate clashes with the military while rallying Tausugs to supports its “jihad.”

Abu Sayyaf spokesperson Alhabsi Misaya said in text messages on Thursday, that “by September 1, the Abu Sayyaf and soldiers of (President Rodrigo) Duterte will test each other in a liberation.”

Misaya, who is under Radulan Sahiron, called the looming battles with government soldiers “the last war of Patikul to the finish.”

“If they are given courage, this war is more fierce than in Zamboanga,” Misaya wrote in one of the text messages that were also sent to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

He said that if soldiers would not attack them, they would “initiate the attack against soldiers of Duterte.”

“The Abu Sayyaf is ready with its more than 1000 forces, to do a jihad,” he added.

Lieutenant General Mayoralgo dela Cruz, the chief of the Western Mindanao Command based here, said he also got hold of a similar text message.

But he said that the military has always treated any information from the Abu Sayyaf with a grain of salt.

“This message is part of their warfare, whether true or not, we have prepared for it,” he said, adding that he doubted Misaya’s figure of 1,000 Abu Sayyaf combatants as the bandits’ numbered only between 200 and 250.

Dela Cruz added the military would be glad to see Abu Sayyaf attacking. “It’s better to be this way, so that we will no longer be hunting them.”

“(A)nd I even suggest that they look for a place (where the battle would take place) so it will no longer be difficult for us to locate them,” Dela Cruz added.

While not specifying the number of troops currently in Sulu, Dela Cruz said more war logistics have been sent to the island-province.

The military now maintains two brigades of soldiers – or the equivalent of six battalions – in Sulu.

Dela Cruz said the Abu Sayyaf has been recruiting new members.

“The Abu Sayyaf is recruiting members and they can easily convince drug addicts to join them, just give them shabu and some pocket money.  These (drugs and pocket money) entice them to join Abu Sayyaf,” he said.

Dela Cruz said soldiers had told their superiors of bandits with amazing stamina and aggression, even when wounded.

Army Scout Rangers hoist the Philippine flag on Friday after gaining control of one of the defensive positions of Abu Sayyaf in Basilan. The military offensives against the terror group continue.  CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Army Scout Rangers hoist the Philippine flag after gaining control of one of the defensive positions of Abu Sayyaf in Basilan. The military offensives against the terror group continue. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
“Even when they were seriously wounded, they continued getting closer to the troops. They kept on advancing even if they were hit,” he said.

Dela Cruz also said soldiers had repeatedly found “drug paraphernalia” in the Abu Sayyaf camps they had overrun.

“It’s an indication that these bandits are into drugs,” he said.

Since Aug. 26, more than 50 persons – 15 of them soldiers – have been killed in the Sulu clashes.

The Abu Sayyaf has lost 36 of its men, Dela Cruz said.

SPO2 Almuzrine Sabdani, a Patikul town police officer, said the recent spate of Abu Sayyaf’s retaliatory attacks showed they have suffered heavy losses.

“They have been retaliating,” he said, adding that the clashes have spread to the barangays (villages) of Bakung, Maligay, Tugas, Latih and Bungkaong.

Vice Gov. Haroun Al Rashid Lucman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said about 2,766 families have been displaced in four Patikul barangays alone.
[VIDEO : Duterte: No state of emergency after deadly Sulu clash]

MILF: Editorial - Colombian peace deal: Victims-centered

Editorial posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Sep 3): Editorial - Colombian peace deal: Victims-centered

After five decades of bloody conflict with eight millions victims, the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have clinched a final peace deal, ending seemingly an intractable conflict. It is another feather in global conflict resolutions that can be a model by itself.

The success of these negotiations can be attributed to a number of factors. Among which are resolutions of land reform and drug trafficking issues. But most important of all, the rights of the victims such as to truth, justice, and reparation became the centre of the talks. In this reckoning, both the government and the FARC are made accountable. The United Nations has estimated that 12% of all killings of civilians in Colombian conflict have been committed by FARC and other guerrilla groups, and the rest, 88%, by government forces and paramilitaries.

The emphasis on victims’ rights and the just resolution of those abuses and violations committed mainly by state forces made the talks and the deal unique --- and successful. In the GPH-MILF peace process, transitional justice, in order to redress the legacies of massive human rights abuses committed by government and its armed forces, formed part of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB). They created the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC). Chaired by a Swiss expert, Mo Bleeker, the body, after a long, thorough and systematic approaches, made 90 recommendations including the creation of the National Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission for Bangsamoro (NTJRCB). But for various reasons, the Aquino administration failed to create this commission, and instead spread the functions of the supposedly body to other government agencies that are already in place.

The MILF views the decision with reservations. Instead of healing the past, the dispersals of the functions to various agencies will either be relegated to the background or die a natural death. We would like to see that under the Duterte administration the recommendations of the TJRC would be given due course, or at least the special focus that it deserves.

Frankly, the MILF at the outset expressed serious doubt on the independence of a body that is being created by government to handle issues that were mainly borne out of state repressions and excesses. But because of the overwhelming importance of such body in the Bangsamoro, in the end we have to support it. An old cliché says that in the absence of what is best, what is available is always the best.

Signing of the CAB and passing the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) are the indispensable aspects of peace-making (with the MILF) in Mindanao, but without undertaking the serious “healing process” through transitional justice they are seriously flawed and incomplete. To the MILF, the massive violation of human rights and the loss of our landholdings cannot just be redressed by short-cutting it via “forgive and forget”. The way is through this set of judicial and non-judicial measures in order to redress the legacies of massive human rights abuses, which also included criminal prosecutions, truth commissions, reparations programs, and various kinds of institutional reforms.

But the MILF does not want transitional justice pursued through the hard way, because the future is more important than what happened in the past. Sometimes, the softer approach is more preferable. In the end, the most desirable result would be solving the Bangsamoro Question, without impunity, and where peace and justice reign.

MILF: Davao night market explosion kills 14, injures 60

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Sep 3): Davao night market explosion kills 14, injures 60 

A powerful explosion rocked the busy night market along Roxas avenue in this city last Friday night killing 14 people and injuring 60 others prompting President Rodrigo Duterte to declare the entire country under the State of Lawlessness.

Members of the Philippine National Police immediately responded and arrived in the blast site. Rescuers brought the victims to the nearest hospitals.

Investigators are now probing to identify the kind of bomb that was used.

Right after the incident, Davao City Vice-Mayor vice mayor Paolo Duterte asked the public to go home for their safety.

President Rodrigo Duterte was attending an occasion at Panakan when the explosion took place.

In an interview by Bombo Radyo, Secretary Martin Andanar clarified that the declaration of state of lawlessness effective on September 3 is not tantamount to Martial Law but this is to allow stronger coordination between the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines and to give them wider authority in providing safety measures like installing more checkpoints to secure the people and vital installations.

He explained that it is the job of the authority to protect the welfare of the people considering the culprits behind the bombing incident, whether they are terrorists or drug lords, are not visible.

Duterte said there will be military movements that will be implemented but it doesn’t mean there is martial law. He also clarified that the declaration has nothing to do with suspension of writ of habeas corpus.

The bomb site was less than a hundred meters away from the premises of Ateneo de Davao University. The school announced suspension of its classes following the incident.

MILF: Panels meet to plan for BBL passage

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Sep 3): Panels meet to plan for BBL passage

The Peace Implementing Panels of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) met on August 29 and 30 at Davao City 
to find ways for the eventual passage of the stalled Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

In a strategic planning workshop, the Panels explored concrete measures to be undertaken so that the present 17th Congress of the Philippines would pass the Bangsamoro enabling law.

An intensive review of process went through by the BBL was made by focusing on the challenges and lessons learned from the past experience.

In his opening remarks, MILF Peace Implementing Panel Mohagher Iqbal said that flexibility and creativity are needed since the process is now in the implementation mode. However, he emphasized that consistency to signed agreements should be foremost in consideration.

Iqbal said that while regular meetings of the Panels would be held in the Philippines, formal documents like the term of reference for the Panels would still have to be signed in Kuala Lumpur.

Iqbal, who is now on his 13th year of uninterrupted chairmanship of the MILF Panel, appealed to everyone not to lose sight of main agenda which is how to solve the Bangsamoro Problem or Question.

“We have to make use of the process as a problem-solving exercise,” he said.
Some mechanisms of the peace process were made to report to the two panels.

These included the Coordinating Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), Joint Task Force on Camps Transformation (JTFCT), the Joint Normalization Committee (JNC), Ad-Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG), International Monitoring Team (IMT) and Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC).

Three known Constitution experts were also invited to share insights on the BBL.
They were former SC Justice Adolf Azcuna, former COMELEC Chairman and 1987 Constitutional Commission member Christian Monsod and Ateneo School of Government Dean Antonio Laviña.

MILF: Malaysian facilitator in GPH-MILF peace process passes away

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Sep 3): Malaysian facilitator in GPH-MILF peace process passes away

Malaysian facilitator, HE Dato’ Tengku Ab’Ghafar bin Tengku Mohamed, passed away at around 9:00 am, September 2, at his home in Kuala Lumpur.

Dato Tengku just arrived last night from Teheran, Islamic Republic of Iran, to accompany his wife, who is also suffering from lingering illness.

After confirming his death, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) immediately issued an official statement.

The statement was signed in behalf of the MILF by Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim.

The official statement reads in part as follows:

“It is with profound sadness that the MILF shares the passing of the Malaysian Facilitator, His Excellency Dato’ Tengku Ab’Ghafar Bin Tengku Mohamed, in the morning of September 2, 2016 at his home in Kuala Lumpur. Our heartfelt sympathies go to his family, friends and colleagues in the Malaysian Government.”

The statement repeated the Islamic prayers whenever a Muslim, man or woman, dies: “Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un” which means “From Allah we came from and to Him we shall return”.  

Dato Tengku Ghafar officially assumed his role as the Malaysian Facilitator during the 21st round of peace negotiations April 27 to 28, 2011.  However, he led the delegation of Malaysian officials that visited the late MILF Chairman Salamat Hashim to discuss the resumption of the peace talks in 2001 after the "all-out-war” between GPH forces and the MILF.  Since then, Dato Tengku Ghafar was knowledgeable on the plight and political struggle of the Bangsamoro people.

The statement pointed out that while acting on behalf of Malaysian Government, as the Facilitator of the peace talks, Dato’ Tengku Ghafar provided a trusted space for the GPH and MILF peace panels to discuss and reach agreements on the toughest issues concerning the Bangsamoro Question.

The MILF also praised Dato’ Tengku with these words: “Exemplifying professionalism of the highest degree, wisdom, patience and compassion, he placed importance on building trust and relationship as well as integrity of the peace process.”
The MILF also noted that Dato’ Tengku had always emphasized that international and third parties serve at the pleasure of the GPH and the MILF and that decision making and ownership must remain with the parties.

He patiently and tirelessly worked with both peace panels as the negotiations led to the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in 2014. After the signing of the agreement, he continued to act as support for both parties to tackle issues during the implementation of commitments and advised to find creative solutions tackle challenges.

The MILF also highly acknowledged the exceptional role played by Dato’ Tengku in the peace process: “Without any doubt that the GPH and the MILF peace process would not have reached this point without the guidance, leadership and steadfast captaincy of Dato’ Tengku Ghafar, from the time parties agreed on the Ten Decision Points in April 24, 2011 and until the launching of the implementation phase under the administration of President Duterte earlier last month.”

Finally, the MILF’s statement ended with a confession that the GPH and MILF might have lost a champion of the Bangsamoro peace process, his wisdom, patience and acumen will be remembered.

Asked to say about the passing away of Dato’ Tengku, Mohagher Iqbal, chairperson of the MILF Implementing Panel, described him as an honest peace broker, a sincere friend, and a diplomat of the highest caliber.

“He is such a nice person and he is full of wisdom,” Iqbal disclosed.

Iqbal recalled the many instances in past years where Dato’ Tengku used to urge the MILF peace panel to make concessions in order to push the peace process further.

MILF: ICRC official makes courtesy call to MILF Chairman

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Sep 3): ICRC official makes courtesy call to MILF Chairman

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Sub-delegation Head for Mindanao Mr.  Yann Fritz held an extensive meeting with MILF Chairman Alhaj Murad Ebrahim during his visit on August 31 at Camp Darapanan.

Along with Cotabato ICRC Head Dominic Earnshaw and Field Officer for Cotabato Alhusari Arba, Fritz was warmly welcomed by Chairman Ebrahim and some members of the MILF Central Committee in their administrative base.

The ICRC, an independent and neutral organization ensuring humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of armed conflict, had been assisting displaced people in Central Mindanao and the island-provinces.

Apart from the courtesy call, the ICRC came to hear updates on the peace process. It also expressed its reliance on the MILF leadership’s advice concerning the Front’s personnel on the ground relative to ICRC programs in far flung areas where the MILF elements can assist.

Fritz, who is newly assigned as Mindanao ICRC head, mentioned the programs they are presently engage in, such as food assistance, potable water and sanitation facilities in evacuation centers. He said that ICRC also provide quality care for weapon-wounded people, visits detainees due to conflicts and has new program on promoting awareness of and respect for international humanitarian law.

Chairman Ebrahim expressed gratitude to the ICRC for its continuing assistance to the residents of conflict-affected areas. “The ICRC with its programs is helping so much in easing the sufferings of the people in the region,” he said.

In his updates, the Chair told the delegation that “formal engagement of the MILF with the new administration has already started; continuity of the road map was discussed; and an upcoming series of meetings of the two Peace Implementing Panels is in line. A new BTC is to be formed that is more inclusive..”

“So far there is an optimism that we can still move forward with the peace process,” Ebrahim answered when asked how he sees the situation of Mindanao in the long term.

The conversations covered many concerns in the peace process such as decommissioning, wealth sharing, BBL as working paper and federalism.

MILF: Orientation dialogue held in North Cotabato town

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Sep 2): Orientation dialogue held in North Cotabato town

Another orientation dialogue on Federalism and Bangsamoro Basic Law was held in Dungguan, M’lang, North Cotabato on August 28, 2016 by the Federation of Bangsamoro Civil Society Organizations (FBCSO) in partnership with North Cotabato Development Services Association (NOCODESA).

The dialogue was conducted to broaden people’s understanding on the current partnership of the government and MILF specifically in the way to educate people on their quest for right to self- determination (RSD).

“This event is an initiative made by FBCSO as part of support to build trust and confidence and would be strengthened by GPH and the MILF because of the propose Federalism by the present administration as well as the importance of the Bangsamoro Basic Law to the Bangsamoro people,”, explained Sheikh Moidjoddin Talusob, Secretary General of FBCSO, in his overview of the event.

Engr. Mohajirin Ali gave updates about the GPH-MILF Peace Implementing Panels’ meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last August 13-14, 2016.

He encouraged participants to trust the leaders of Bangsamoro because of the challenges they overcome during the several talks on the issues they desire to settle. Engr. Ali also stressed that the government will also be committed to enact the enabling law for the Bangsamoro.

Peace Implementing Panel Chairman Mohagher Iqbal discussed the “Federalism in the Realm of BBL”.  Firstly, he defined and described the Federal form of government. He reminded participants that the MILF is not opposing the so-called Federalism being planned by President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s administration but it should be better if the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will be a template of Federalism.

Chairman Iqbal also stressed that the challenges faced by them during the height of negotiation with the government was part of their struggle to achieve lasting peace in the Bangsamoro.

Ustadz Ebrahim Ali, former BTC commissioner and Chairman of the Committee of Da’wah of Central Committee of MILF, was also present. He emphasized that unity is a way to achieve freedom for the Bangsamoro.

Abdullah Salik, Jr, FBCSO president and Alih Anso also delivered messages as part of their commitment for being advocates to the people’s quest in Mindanao especially to the reality of the Bangsamoro Right to Self Determination (RSD).

Mr. Nas Pulindao, FBCSO Vice President, facilitated the input sharing in the last part of the program that gathered collective observations and perceptions of participants in defferent sectors of society.

Akmad Agao of North Cotabato Development Services Association (NOCODESA) gave the closing remarks and thanked the 600 participants from different members’ organization of FBCSO.

'State of lawlessness' is legal and constitutional - justice secretary

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 3): 'State of lawlessness' is legal and constitutional - justice secretary

President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration of a "state of lawlessness" is legal and constitutional, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said Saturday.

"The power of the President to declare a state of lawlessness is legally justified under his constitutional authority to faithfully execute the laws, protect the people from lawless and criminal elements, not to mention the rampant killings, and the ISIS threat to commit terrorism," Aguirre told PNA.

"It is not martial law because the military is not being called to replace civilian authority. Civil liberties are not impaired. In other words, it is just a declaration of a state or condition of lawlessness, nothing more," he explained.

Aguirre noted that the state of lawlessness can be validated by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), given the rampant killings, terrorist acts, the entry of Islamic State elements and the seizure of smuggled m-16 rifle parts.

He said that because of this declaration, the military and the police can legally set up checkpoints.

President Duterte declared a nationwide state of lawlessness following Friday night's bomb attack in Davao City that claimed 14 lives and injured 71 people.

He declared the "state of lawlessness" in Davao City but expanded it to cover the entire country, authorizing the police and military to conduct security searches in cars and frisk individuals at checkpoints.

Duterte clarified that the "state of lawlessness" is not martial law and does not involve the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.

Perpetrators of Davao City blast, to be identified, made to pay

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 3): Perpetrators of Davao City blast, to be identified, made to pay

Perpetrators of the Davao City bomb attack that killed 14 people and wounded 71 others Friday night, will be identified and made to pay for their crime, a military official said Saturday.

While the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) has reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said the "act of owning the explosion is something we expect the ASG to claim".

"The post-blast investigation by the Philippine National Police (PNP) is underway and it is expected to come up with conclusive, official findings," he said.

"That notwithstanding, if this was an act perpetrated by any group or by any individual, they will be made to answer for this dastardly crime," Arevalo stressed.

He further said that the AFP, by virtue of the declaration of a "state of lawlessness" in Mindanao and the rest of the country by the Commander-in-Chief, President Rodrigo Duterte, responds to the call and is prepared to undertake the tasks to ensure public safety.

He said AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Ricardo Visaya has placed the entire AFP on red alert, directing all area commanders to coordinate with their counterparts at the PNP.

Visaya likewise ordered them to coordinate with regional directors of the Department of Interior and Local Government to convene the Regional Peace and Order Council to tackle the directive of the Commander-in-Chief, Arevalo said.

He thus asked the cooperation of the public, especially in going through checkpoints.

"We ask our people to bear with us as we dutifully but courteously conduct our checkpoints and increase our presence in some areas. Your soldiers are there to ensure that public will be safe and that no criminals or terrorists lurk in our streets and perpetrate another vicious act," Arevalo pointed out.

"We are calling for vigilance among our people. That is our first line of defense and the ultimate measure to attain collective security. Finally, we urge our people to remain calm and continue with their normal lives as we, as a people, go through this test of our resolve to fight terrorism and criminality," the military official said.

AFP to participate in 44th Alay Lakad Sunday

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 3): AFP to participate in 44th Alay Lakad Sunday

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has announced that it will be extending its full support to the 44th Alay Lakad this Sunday.

This is a simple gesture to help out-of-school youths in the country, AFP public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said.

This year’s Alay Lakad will carry the theme, “Alay-Lakad – May Pag-asa ang Kabataan”.

The activity is chaired by four civic clubs known for their contributions in community services nationwide -- Rotary International, Lions Club International, Kiwanis International and Junior Chamber International Philippines.

Different Walk Groups (WG), led by the Junior Chamber International, will come from various staging areas within the National Capital Region (NCR) and will merge in front of the Quirino Grandstand, Rizal Park in Manila at 8 a.m.

Each Walk Group will be escorted by personnel of the AFP and Philippine National Police to ensure the safety of the participants.

The GHQ AFP Headquarters, Philippine Army, Philippine Air Force and the Philippine Navy will be contributing a total amount of PHP280,000 for the fund-raising activity.

The 250-strong AFP contingent will be led by Brig. Gen. Rhoderick M. Parayno, Civil Relations Service commander.

Arevalo said the AFP is unwavering in its support for the continuous protection of the Filipino youth that plays a significant role in nation-building.

“Our participation in the Alay Lakad is a simple manifestation of our commitment to assist government agencies and non-government organizations in nation-building programs,” AFP Chief-of-Staff Gen. Ricardo Visaya said.

“We hope that by this simple gesture of walking side by side, we will be able to inspire the youth to become more productive and relevant members of the community," he added.