Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Troops rescue abducted businesswoman in Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 21): Troops rescue abducted businesswoman in Sulu

Government forces have safely rescued a businesswoman who was seized by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) brigands in Sirawai town in the nearby province of Zamboanga del Norte on Monday.

Ayub Pia, acting Sirawai municipal administrator, told the Philippines News Agency by phone that Martina Lim Yee, 69 (not Christina as earlier reported), was rescued early Wednesday in the coast of Indanan, Sulu.

“The son-in-law was able to talk to her (Martina) through phone,” Pia said.

“The troops from the 35th Infantry Battalion, Joint Task Force Sulu, rescued kidnap victim Martina Yee in Sulu this morning,” Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) spokesperson said in a text message.

The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) brigands, were forced to abandon Yee, since she was weak and is hampering their movements as troops were hot on their trail.

Yee, who owns and manages a hardware, was seized by seven ASG brigands around 3:40 p.m. Monday in the coastal Barangay Poblacion, Sirawai, Zamboanga del Norte.

Yee was at her hardware store when the seven ASG brigands barged in and abducted her.

They dragged Yee to a waiting double engine motorized banca and sped towards the direction of Barangay Pugus, Sirawai, Zamboanga del Norte.

From there, she was transported to Indanan, Sulu where the troops rescued her.


Duterte mulls over the resurrection of the defunct Philippine Constabulary

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 21): Duterte mulls over the resurrection of the defunct Philippine Constabulary

President Rodrigo Duterte, in his camp visit on Tuesday (Sept. 20), to the 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army said he is mulling over the resurrection of the defunct Philippine Constabulary (PC) to help fight urban terrorism in various parts of the country.

In his speech before scores of military officials and soldiers of the said Infantry Division, President Duterte said resurrecting the PC would be a great boon to the government’s current intensified campaign against extremist groups and illegal drug syndicates.

The PC was abolished in the early 90’s and was subsequently merged with the Integrated National Police to form the present Philippine National Police.

He rallied the soldiers to train hard and stay true to their mandate because he said there’s a new war in the horizon resulting in the resurgence of terrorist attacks in the wake of the government’s war against insurgency and drug syndicates.

This is why I am urging you to reinvent yourselves as soldiers for a new kind of war and to master the skill of profiling criminals,” the President told the soldiers.

In the same vein, President Duterte brandished a thick file of papers which he said contains at least 1,000 names of mostly barangay captains, reportedly involved in the illegal drug trade, mayors and congressmen included.

“This is the primary reason why I ordered the postponement of the barangay elections, to prevent drug syndicates from funding corrupt local officials,” he added.

President Duterte also reiterated his promise to double the salaries of the soldiers and provide them the necessary weapons and equipment they need in the field to accomplish their mission.

“Get a Medal of Valor and I, in turn, will find something good for you,” he said.


We need US for South China Sea – Duterte

From the Philippine Star (Sep 21): We need US for South China Sea – Duterte

The Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague, in a ruling last July 12, invalidated China’s massive claim in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea and upheld the Philippines’ sovereign rights over areas seized or claimed by the Chinese. PCA/Released

President Duterte has apparently mellowed even further on his sentiments about the United States, reiterating yesterday he did not seek the pullout of American forces as the Philippines would need its ally in defending the country from intrusions in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea.

“I said there will be some time in the future that I will ask the US special forces to get out, almost 117 of them, better that you get out so that I can talk peace… and so I can show that you are not there,” he said in a speech before the 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army in Mawab, Compostela Valley.

“I never said get out of the Philippines. For after all, we need them in (South) China Sea,” Duterte added.

Under Duterte’s administration, the Philippines has been trying to establish better relations with China despite the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s recent ruling that Beijing’s claims over the whole of the South China Sea through the nine-dash line did not have any legal basis.

On Sept. 12 in MalacaƱang, Duterte said he wanted the US soldiers to get out of Mindanao because they might be kidnapped. This was after he repeated his story on the Bud Dajo massacre to point out the Americans’ lack of moral ascendancy to talk about human rights.

After a few days, Duterte clarified in Bulacan he wanted American troops to leave Mindanao so that the government would have “space” to hold peace talks with Moro rebels.


World-class dragon boat squad sets sights on Olympics

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 21): World-class dragon boat squad sets sights on Olympics

The Philippine Army Dragon Boat Team wins gold in the small boat category (200m) at the International Dragon Boat Federation Club Crews World Championships held in Ravenna, Italy on Friday, Sept. 5.  CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/Giorgo Minestrini

The Philippine Army Dragon Boat Team wins gold in the small boat category (200m) at the International Dragon Boat Federation Club Crews World Championships held in Ravenna, Italy on Friday, Sept. 5. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/Giorgo Minestrini

AFTER conquering the world, the Philippine dragon boat team has begun to look at the Olympics.
Canoe-Kayak chief Jonne Go yesterday divulged that dragon boat events might finally see action in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

According to the Philippine Canoe Kayak Federation president, the five-seater events for 200 and 500 meters could make it in the global quadrennial Games than bigger boats with 10 or 20 paddlers racing.

“We’re highly competitive in the five-seater. We expect to perform well if and when it becomes an Olympic event,” said Go during the Philippine Sportswriters Association forum at Shakey’s Malate backed by Pagcor, Accel and San Miguel Corporation.

The PCKF, which handles the national squad, has proven time and again that Filipino paddlers can emerge triumphant on the world stage with three gold medals in the recent ICF Dragon Boat World Championships in Moscow.

Pinoy paddlers ruled the 20-seater senior mixed team 500m event, 10-seater mixed junior 200m and 20-seater senior mixed team 200m despite the frigid conditions at the world-class Krylatskoe Olympic Racing Course.

The team will again aim for gold medals, this time on the continental stage as the Philippines host the 2016 Asian Dragon Boat Championships in Puerto Princesa City on Nov. 11-13.

“If we can win races against the best in the world, I guess we have brighter chances to win a gold medal in the Olympics as well,” said national head coach Len Escollante.

The Philippines hasn’t won a gold medal in the Olympics yet with weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz ending a dry medal spell after 20 years in the recent Rio De Janeiro Games with a silver medal in the women’s 53kg event.


ADAS 2016: Pride of Philippine Navy dented

From Shepard Media -- ADAS 2016: Pride of Philippine Navy dented

ADAS 2016: Pride of Philippine Navy dented

The Philippine Navy’s (PN) first Strategic Sealift Vessel (SSV) was hit by a Liberian-registered tanker in waters off Zamboanga City on 19 September.

At the time, the 7,200t BRP Tarlac, the navy’s largest ever vessel, was acting as a floating command-and-control platform for operations being conducted against the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in the southern Philippines.

Anchored 1,000 yards south of a pier at Naval Station Romulo, the merchant tanker Tasco collided with the SSV. RAdm Jorge Amba, commander of Naval Forces Western Mindanao, said no crew were hurt, but that the naval vessel suffered ‘minor damage in the right forward bulwark and side ramp’.

Damage was considered minor enough to allow BRP Tarlac to continue operations, and it will be repaired in its next scheduled maintenance cycle. Capt Lued Lincuna, the PN spokesperson, noted that the ‘minor dents on her starboard side because of the incident…will not affect her role in said operations’.

The tanker was prevented from sailing onwards to Malaysia while the Philippine Coast Guard conducted an investigation into the at-sea collision.

Tarlac is helping impose a naval blockade against the ASG in Mindanao. Severe fighting on the island of Jolo has resulted in heavy casualties on both sides. Around 7,000 soldiers are currently pursuing an estimated 400 ASG members in Sulu.

Launched by PT PAL in Surabaya, Indonesia on 17 January, the BRP Tarlac landing platform dock (LPD) was commissioned into the PN on 1 June.

Assigned to the navy’s Sealift Amphibious Force, it is one of two LPDs purchased under a PHP3.87 billion (US$92 million) contract approved in October 2013. PT PAL was duly selected to construct the two ships on 18 November 2014.

The second 123m vessel is expected to be delivered to the Philippines in May 2017.

Ships in the class have a complement of 121 officers and enlisted personnel. They are capable of carrying 500 troops, two landing craft and have a flight deck for two helicopters, making the class ideal for amphibious operations or disaster relief missions.

Maximum speed for the SSV is 16kts, and its range is listed as 9,360nm.

The PN actually requires four such LPDs, but funding has permitted the acquisition of only two so far.


Southeast Asia: World piracy hotbed

From Hellenic Shipping News (Sep 20): Southeast Asia: World piracy hotbed


There was shouting on deck, and shots. Gunmen had boarded, and their message was clear: Come with us, or we will kill you. They shot one crew member and kidnapped four others.

“They were a terrible-looking group, running around with AK-47s,” Mr Sembara said. “I thought they were going to kill us all, but they only took my friends.”

The April attack, in the Celebes Sea south of the Philippines, was not isolated, or even out of the ordinary. Southeast Asia now accounts for the majority of seafaring attacks globally, surpassing the Horn of Africa, according to the International Maritime Bureau. And governments in the region are scrambling to combat the problem.

“In Somalia, the attacks have gone down,” said Noel Choong, head of the maritime bureau’s piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. “In Nigeria, the numbers are still there, but not as much as in Asia.”

In 2015, there were 178 attacks in Southeast Asia and none in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea region near Somalia, according to the maritime bureau, after a multinational security crackdown there. The bureau also reported that in the first half of this year, Southeast Asia was the scene of more than one-third of the 98 attacks and attempted attacks globally.

The men who attacked the tugboat, an Indonesian-flagged vessel that had been hauling a coal barge, were later identified as members of Abu Sayyaf, an extremist group based in the southern Philippines that has acted as a hostage-for-ransom gang for more than two decades. It has also pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State.

Abu Sayyaf is responsible for most of the kidnappings at sea in Southeast Asia, but several other criminal gangs also operate in those waters.

Between March and August, Abu Sayyaf kidnapped 25 Indonesian and six Malaysian seamen in attacks along vital trade routes for coal barges in the Sulu Archipelago. The extremist group continues to hold nine Indonesian sailors from the recent attacks.

Alarmed by the spate of kidnappings for ransom, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines agreed in May to conduct coordinated naval security patrols in the Sulu Archipelago, and establish a hotline among themselves. In August, they agreed to allow “hot pursuits” of kidnappers and armed robbers by their maritime security forces into one another’s territory.

“The idea is for the closest patrol boat to take the necessary action,” said Arrmanatha Nasir, an Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman.

The Indonesian navy thwarted the hijacking of an oil tanker by pirates off the southwest coast of Borneo in May, and arrested nine suspects. But attacks on oil tankers have become less frequent as global fuel prices have dropped, according to a recent report by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime.

Many attackers are instead targeting ships carrying valuable commercial cargo that can be sold on the black market, such as crude palm oil.

“Most of the criminal gangs that hijack fuel tankers are waiting for fuel prices to go up again, and then they will resume hijacking them,” said Karsten von Hoesslin, a maritime piracy expert and the host of the National Geographic Channel’s Lawless Oceans<>, who wrote the report.

“Until then, they are attacking ships carrying other types of cargo that is now more valuable,” he said.

Before the recent surge, Southeast Asia did have some success battling maritime crime.
In 1993, the maritime bureau documented about 20 maritime criminal attacks and attempted attacks in Southeast Asia, but that number steadily rose to nearly 250 by 2000.

Joint patrols by Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand in the Strait of Malacca – one of the world’s busiest sea lanes – drove down maritime crimes between 2006 and 2009. In 2008, there were only 54 attempted or actual attacks in the region, according to the maritime bureau, compared with 92 in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea region.

The recent kidnappings have alarmed the Indonesian government in Jakarta, in particular, because Indonesian tugboats have been the primary targets of Abu Sayyaf militants.

Indonesia orchestrated the release of 10 sailors who had been kidnapped in late March by Abu Sayyaf and held for nearly two months by paying, according to the Indonesian news media, a ransom of more than $1 million, or more than 35 million baht.

Days after that attack, Abu Sayyaf attacked the TB Henry, the tugboat that Mr Sembara was on. He and five other seamen aboard – including the man who had been shot and wounded – were left behind as four others were taken because there was not enough room on the attackers’ speedboat.

Abu Sayyaf attacked another tugboat in June in the Sulu Sea, taking seven Indonesian sailors hostage. Two of those hostages, after being threatened with beheading, escaped in August by swimming out to sea from the Philippine separatist island of Jolo, where Abu Sayyaf is based. They were rescued.

Some doubt that the recent security agreements to counter the kidnappings will be effective or that the countries will carry through on their pledges of cooperation.

Zachary Abuza, a professor at the National War College in Washington, who specialises in Southeast Asian security issues, said the agreements would not satisfy the Indonesian government.

“They have been trying to deal with this for several months, and it does not match because there is such a disconnect, and a lack of political will and capabilities,” Abuza said. “These countries are so very guarded about their territories, but they have very little ways to defend them, which makes them very insecure.”

That is little comfort to shipping company bosses such as Suharjono, the operations manager of Global Trans Energy International Jakarta, which owns the TB Henry.

The four sailors kidnapped from the TB Henry were released after 25 days. The company said no ransom had been paid, but the local news media speculated that ransoms had been paid for all Indonesian and Malaysian sailors who had been released.

“My crew is still traumatised,” said Mr Suharjono, who, like many Indonesians, goes by one name. “And security is just getting worse.”

Source: New York Times


Indonesian skipper freed in Jolo island

From The Star Online (Sep 20): Indonesian skipper freed in Jolo island

A picture made available on 8 September 2016 shows Filipino Marine soldiers on a fastcraft inspecting a fishing boat as they conduct navy blockade in the waters of Sulu, Jolo township, Sulu island, Philippines. - EPA

A picture made available on 8 September 2016 shows Filipino Marine soldiers on a fastcraft inspecting a fishing boat as they conduct navy blockade in the waters of Sulu, Jolo township, Sulu island, Philippines. - EPA

The Indonesian skipper who was kidnapped in the east coast of Sabah has been released in Jolo island.

Sources in the southern Philippines island told The Star that Harman Mangga, a 30-year-old skipper of a Sabah-owned fishing trawler, is no longer in the custody of his Abu Sayyaf captors.

It is not known whether a ransom was paid for Harman’s release or he was rescued in a military operation.

The Star reported that on Aug 3, two crewmen had returned to Sandakan waters with the trawler, claiming that their skipper Harman was being held hostage by gunmen in southern Philippines.
They told Malaysian police that the gunmen were demanding RM10,000 for Harman’s release.

However, their claims about the “kidnapping” raised a red flag as the RM10,000 ransom demand was a far cry from the usual starting demand of up to RM20mil.

According to the account of the two crewmen, aged 24 and 26, the trawler with the three men left Sandakan at about 6.30pm on July 31.

Then on Aug 3, at about 4.20pm in waters off Kinabatangan, four men armed with M16 rifles came aboard as they were pulling up their nets.

Apparently, the four men were in military fatigues and spoke in Malay with a foreign accent.

The gunmen allegedly took the crewmen and their trawler to a nearby island before moving to another island.


Philippine President to Work with US Military Despite Threats

From the Voice of America Online (Sep 20): Philippine President to Work with US Military Despite Threats

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte visits Philippine Army Scout Rangers at their headquarters at Camp Tecson in San Miguel township, north of Manila, Philippines, Sept. 15, 2016.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte visits Philippine Army Scout Rangers at their headquarters at Camp Tecson in San Miguel township, north of Manila, Philippines, Sept. 15, 2016.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s apparent rejection of U.S. military help in patrolling a contested sea and in fighting Muslim rebels may mark just another angry outburst rather than an order to quit cooperation, as Filipinos largely welcome the help despite uncomfortable memories of American colonialism.

Duterte, the 71-year-old president known for rash remarks and a personal distrust of the United States, said last week he would not let foreign powers help with patrols of disputed waters near the South China Sea, an apparent slight against a deal reached by his predecessor for U.S. aid. China is the rival maritime claimant.

The president had called a day earlier for U.S. military advisers to leave southern Mindanao, an island where Philippine forces are battling Muslim insurgents. But Philippines secretary of foreign affairs Perfecto Yasay said later Duterte would not pull out of any U.S. military aid agreements.

FILE - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte salutes flag-draped coffins of 15 soldiers killed in Monday's gun battle with Muslim Abu Sayyaf militants during his visit to Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga city, in southern Philippines.

FILE - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte salutes flag-draped coffins of 15 soldiers killed in Monday's gun battle with Muslim Abu Sayyaf militants during his visit to Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga city, in southern Philippines.

Jumped the gun ?

Analysts in Manila said Duterte may have just spoken prematurely in both cases.

“The president is very outspoken and too transparent about his personal feelings and attitudes, and I think that perhaps this particular statement really is just a kind of personal expression at this point,” said Jay Batongbacal, director of the Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea at University of the Philippines.

The U.S. Embassy in Manila calls the American alliance with the Philippines among the most “enduring and important” in the Asia Pacific.

“It has been a cornerstone of stability for over 70 years,” an embassy spokesperson said by e-mail. “It is built on shared sacrifices for democracy and human rights and strong people-to-people and societal ties.”

The embassy declined to comment on Duterte’s remarks last week.

FILE - U.S. Marines from the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and Philippine marines take their positions as they take part in a boat raid exercise during their joint military exercise, dubbed PHIBLEX 2016.

FILE - U.S. Marines from the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and Philippine marines take their positions as they take part in a boat raid exercise during their joint military exercise, dubbed PHIBLEX 2016.

US forces

U.S. forces are helping local units investigate kidnapping threats, do forensic analysis and “institutionalize” cybercrime investigations, the spokesperson added.

Although some Filipinos resent the United States colonial role in the Philippines from 1898 to 1946, most welcome U.S. military aid in the “background,” Batongbacal said. That means they accept today’s sharing of intelligence and technology, just not a U.S. role "as front-line troops fighting with the Philippines on the ground,” he said.

American forces have helped the Philippines fight rebels in Mindanao for 14 years, aiding in counterterrorism operations. One rebel group, Abu Sayyaf, has fought back against Duterte’s effort to crush it. The clashes have caused civilian, rebel and military deaths. Duterte declared a state of lawlessness this month to help coordinate the military with police.

Abu Sayyaf is best known outside the Philippines for kidnapping foreign tourists in Mindanao. In April the group beheaded a Canadian hostage. Abu Sayyaf is one of at least four Muslim rebel groups pushing for autonomy in the south. Their conflict with the Philippines government has left about 120,000 people dead over the past half century.

Duterte's beef with US

Duterte’s issue with the United States may stem from an incident in the southern city Davao where he was mayor for 22 years before being elected president May 9.

Local media have reported that Duterte was upset in 2002 when an American national with connections to Mindanao rebel groups was hurt in a bomb blast in Davao and quickly taken out of the country by U.S. security forces.

“Ever since he was mayor he had this personal attitude,” said Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Philippine advocacy group Institute for Political and Electoral Reform. “He thinks that particular person was spirited away by the FBI and he suspects it has something to do with the bombing, and ever since he has been making those kinds of comments.”

Two years ago Manila and Washington signed an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement that lets U.S. forces rotate in and out of the country and build or operate military facilities.

Duterte’s rejection last week of these ties may signal that his government is shifting toward China, which recently lost a world court arbitration case over competing maritime claims in the South China Sea. Duterte’s predecessor had filed the case.


Duterte to revive Philippine Constabulary

From Rappler (Sep 20): Duterte to revive Philippine Constabulary

The President says he needs more law enforcers to fight urban terrorism   

MORE FORCES NEEDED? President Rodrigo Duterte arrives at the Villamor Airbase in Pasay City to attend the 48th anniversary of the 250th Presidential Airlift Wing on September 13. File photo by King Rodriguez/PPD

MORE FORCES NEEDED? President Rodrigo Duterte arrives at the Villamor Airbase in Pasay City to attend the 48th anniversary of the 250th Presidential Airlift Wing on September 13. File photo by King Rodriguez/PPD

In order to fight urban terrorism, President Rodrigo Duterte will revive the Philippine Constabulary (PC) and put it under the command of the military.

"I will return the Philippine Constabulary under the 4 commands – army tapos Philippine Constabulary kasi kailangan ko ng tao sa urban terrorism like the SAF (Special Action Forces)," said Duterte on Tuesday, September 20, at a military camp in Mawab, Compostela Valley. (I will return the Philippine Constabulary under the 4 commands – army and the Philippine Constabulary because I need people in urban terrorism like the SAF.)
The President was apparently referring to the old set-up in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), when the PC was a major service command of the military along with the Philippine Army, Philippine Air Force, and the Philippine Navy.
The PC began as a police force of the American colonial government in 1901, and was eventually subsumed under the military.
As part of the military, the PC took care of peace and order concerns while the other services fought national rebel movements. The PC, for instance, took the lead in the implementation of martial law in 1972 through the arrest of activists, the takeover of key private establishments, traffic control, and even garbage collection.
No to 'militarized police'
The 1987 Constitution that was crafted after the EDSA People Power Revolution, however, called for the creation of a national police force that is civilian in character. The sense was that the Philippines should do away with a "militarized police."
Congress enacted a law to implement this constitutional mandate, giving birth in 1991 to the Philippine National Police – a merger of the PC with the Integrated National Police, the police force for cities and large towns.
This came a year before the former PC chief, retired general Fidel Ramos, won the presidency.
The transition has not been easy, as the PNP had to slowly let go of its military mindset, structure and training, to become an effective civilian police force. Its key leaders, for example, are still graduates of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), such as the incumbent PNP chief, Director General Ronald dela Rosa, a 1986 graduate of the PMA.
But on Tuesday, Duterte said he needs the PC – essentially a police force under the AFP command – to suppress urban terrorism which he says is the next big threat the country faces.
To troops he said, "Most of all you, have to reinvent yourself from a soldier sa itong (in the face of this) terrorism. It will come," he said.
He told the military to improve how they profile bombers or terrorists.
"Start to profile a bomber or a terrorist. Naka cap, naka shades, ang buhok fake toupee. Malikot ang mata ng terorista (They wear caps, shades, their hair is fake, is a toupee. The eyes of a terrorist move around.)" said the President.
To address terrorism, the Duterte administration has sent thousands of additional soldiers to Sulu, the stronghold of terrorist group Abu Sayyaf.
Following the deadly Davao City bombing, Duterte declared a state of national emergency on account of lawless violence. Through the declaration, Duterte ordered that more police and military be deployed in public areas, especially in Mindanao.
Duterte has warned that there will likely be more "explosions" in cities in Mindanao or other parts of the country.
He also said that some terrorist groups in Mindanao have pledged allegiance to the Islamis State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Chinese trader seized in Zamboanga province

From the Mindanao Examiner (Sep 20): Chinese trader seized in Zamboanga province

Unidentified gunmen seized an elderly Chinese trader in daring broad daylight abduction in downtown Sirawai in the southern Filipino province of Zamboanga del Norte, police said Tuesday.

It said the gang dragged the 60-year old Christina Yee to a waiting pump boat that sped off towards the high sea on Monday afternoon.

Police said Yee owns the Ben Yee store in downtown Sirawai. No individual or group claimed responsibility for the latest abduction, but this occurred despite heightened security alert in the troubled region where military forces are battling the Abu Sayyaf group tied to the Islamic State.

Yee’s family did not give any statement to the media and police said there is an on-going operation to track down the victim.

The province is a known lair of Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels and criminal gangs blamed by authorities in previous ransom kidnappings there.

In October last year, suspected MILF rebels kidnapped Italian restaurateur and former missionary Rolando del Torchio, who owns Ur Choice Pizza House in the village of Miputak in Dipolog City in Zamboanga del Norte province.

Torchio, 56, was taken to Sulu province and freed in April this year after paying huge ransoms to his captors.


Boy killed, 3 others wounded in strafing in Lamitan City

From the Mindanao Examiner (Sep 20): Boy killed, 3 others wounded in strafing in Lamitan City

A three-year old boy was killed and her mother and sister and a neighbor were wounded after gunmen opened fire on their house in Lamitan City in the southern Philippine province of Basilan, police said Tuesday.

It said Omal Lario was hit in the chest and died on the spot while her 25-year old mother Usaiya was also shot in the chest and her sister Naira, 5, had been hit in the foot in the attack which occurred at dawn Monday in Balobo village.

Their neighbor, Said Montong, 11, was also shot in the knee, police said.

The victims were all asleep when the attackers arrived and sprayed the house with automatic gunfire. Police investigators recovered bullet casings fired from an M16 automatic rifle and M1 Garand rifle.

Police said the wounded were rushed to the hospital. The motive of the attack is still unknown or whether it was connected to clan war or not, but police said it is investigating the strafing.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for the attack, but rebel groups are also actively operating in the province which is part of the Muslim autonomous region.


Caraga Army units receive 34 new mobility assets

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 20): Caraga Army units receive 34 new mobility assets

Philippine Army units operating in Caraga region received 34 new mobility assets as part of its modernization program to beef up its military, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.

Major General Benjamin R. Madrigal, Jr.; the commanding general of the 4th Infantry (Diamond) Division headed the ceremonial blessings of the 34 newly issued military trucks on Monday morning at the Division Advance Command Post (DACP) based in Brgy. Bancasi, this city.

Top military commanders in the region, senior and junior military officers and personnel attended the event.

The blessing rites of the 27 units of KM 450 and 7 units of KM 451 were officiated by Rev. Fr. Joshue Cadorna, rector of the Order of Discalced Agustinians (OAD) and Rev. Fr. Catalino Mabale, OAD; before its deployment to the 4th Philippine Army Infantry Division Units here in the region.

MGen. Madrigal said in his message that the Army’s new mobility assets can be used not only to transport troops but also for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations during emergencies and calamities.

The KM 450 truck is a light multi-purpose all-terrain military truck with a payload capacity of 530 kilogram on hard surface roads and 330 kilograms on cross-country terrain. It can tow light trailers or artillery pieces and can accommodate 14 fully armed troops to include the driver. Its windshield and body walls may be folded down for added combat versatility.

The KM451 ambulance vehicle truck is mounted with an integrated shelter that is equipped with emergency rescue medical devices on a 1 ¼ ton standard chassis thereby improving the operation convenience of medical staff and patients. It can accommodate eight walking patients or four patients on stretchers. It is mainly used to extricate wounded troops in combat since the truck is furnished with emergency medical treatment equipment and drugs.

According to Madrigal, the military vehicles were procured from South Korea through the government to government negotiation. The South Korean government even gave additional equipment on top of what has been procured, which is part of the Korean government’s goodwill to the Philippine government.

He charged the recipient Army unit officers and personnel to ensure that the new military mobility assets will be properly cared of and be subjected to regular check up to ensure its longer usage.

Security fortified at N. Cotabato provincial jail amid reports of impending attack

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 20): Security fortified at N. Cotabato provincial jail amid reports of impending attack

Authorities here are in heightened alert after receiving intelligence reports citing that Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) militants are planning to attack the North Cotabato provincial jail at the capitol complex in Barangay Amas to spring out a high-valued colleague.

Sr. Supt. Emmanuel Peralta, North Cotabato police director, revealed such information after the arrest last Sept. 7 of alleged BIFF member Jokrie Buisan during a joint military-police operation in M’lang, North Cotabato.

The raiding team was to arrest brothers Anwar Sandigan and Guiamadel Sandigan, both noted BIFF bomb-making experts, at their safehouse in Barangay Dungguan, M’lang, but failed to net them.

Instead, the team chanced upon Buisan together with a cache of bomb-making materials composed of blasting caps, detonating cords, circuit boards, small batteries, cellular phones and a fragmentation grenade, among others.

Peralta said security forces have been doubled at the perimeter of the complex, particularly at the site of the provincial jail.

Further, military personnel belonging to the 39th Infantry Battalion were fielded to fortify security and provide safety to personnel of provincial and national-line government offices situated in the complex.

Jail Supt. Peter Bungat, newly designated provincial jail chief, has ordered a strict body search to all visitors and guests entering the jail compound.

In 2007, heavily armed men, numbering to 50, attacked the jail facility that led to the escape of 40 inmates.


President Duterte set to visit 9th ID headquarters in Camarines Sur Wednesday

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 20): President Duterte set to visit 9th ID headquarters in Camarines Sur Wednesday

President Rodrigo R. Duterte will visit government troops in Bicol under the 9th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Camp Elias Angeles, Barangay San Jose, Pili, Camarines Sur.

He will arrive on Wednesday morning in Naga City from where he will proceed to Camp Elias Angeles for a situation briefing with Maj. Gen. Manolito P. Orense, 9th ID commander.

The President will give a talk to the Army soldiers under the 9th ID, also known as Spear Division at the multi-purpose gym.

He is expected to join a boodle fight with the soldiers and have a photo opportunity with them.

On September 3, the 49th Infantry Battalion of the 9th ID was sent to augment government troops fighting in Mindanao.

Soldiers from the 65th IB, also from the 9th ID, were earlier deployed to the same area.

The President has been going around military camps in the country in previous weeks with a promise to the soldiers that they will be given what is due them while soliciting support for his programs.

In August, President Duterte visited the troops in Camp General Teodulfo Bautista in Jolo, Sulu and met with top military officials to get first hand information on the military operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group.

Camp Bautista was the eighth military camp visited by the President since he assumed the presidency.

Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar earlier said President Duterte has to visit the military camps just like the previous Presidents to boost the soldiers’ morale and to personally interact with them on the government’s programs lined up for the AFP.


Security stepped up in Dumaguete City amid bomb threats

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 20): Security stepped up in Dumaguete City amid bomb threats

The Philippine Army has stationed a platoon of soldiers from the 79th Infantry Battalion in Dumagute City to assist the Philippine National Police (PNP) in joint patrols and checkpoints to boost security of the capital city and thwart any possible bomb attacks.

City police chief Supt. Jovito Atanacio, meanwhile, assured that the security of resorts, vital installations, public buildings, communication facilities and malls have been intensified pursuant to the target hardening strategy, a media release from City Hall said Tuesday.

Coordination among enforcement and security agencies has also been strengthened with frequent patrols and visibility by the Philippine Coast Guard on shallow waters; Philippine Navy on deep sea; maritime police for ports and PNP for the inland communities.

“We are also closely monitoring the entry of all vehicles from Luzon and Mindanao to prevent contraband and explosives from slipping past security,” Atanacio stressed.

1st Lt. Eidherf S. Cruz, who briefed the members of the City Peace and Order Council presided by Mayor Felipe Remollo late last week, said there is a need to develop a security plan versus terror attacks and conduct simulation exercises to gauge the readiness of the authorities to prevent and foil bomb threats.

Both the PNP and Army urge civilians to help the authorities by reporting suspicious activities and personalities that may engage in terrorism for validation and appropriate action.

Nevertheless, no serious and validated threat from the international fundamentalist group ISIS has been reported.


WMC now tracking abductors of 60-year-old businesswoman in Zamboanga Del Norte

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 20): WMC now tracking abductors of 60-year-old businesswoman in Zamboanga Del Norte

Western Mindanao Command (WMC) units are now tracking down the suspects behind the abduction of a 60-year-old Filipino-Chinese businesswoman in Sirawai, Zamboanga Del Norte Monday afternoon.

The incident took place 3:00 p.m., according to WMC spokesperson Major Filemon Tan.

He identified the victim as Martina “Tinang” Yee.

Tan said the businesswoman was forcibly by the suspects while inside her grocery store in Poblacion, Sirawai.

The victim was dragged towards the shoreline and was forced to board a double-engine pumpboat en route to Zamboanga City.

Joint elements of the military and police conducted hot pursuit operations to rescue the victim.

Air and naval assets were also tasked to establish security points along the shoreline of Sirawai and Sibuco, Zamboanga Del Norte.


Construction of first-ever drug rehab center in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija ongoing

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 20): Construction of first-ever drug rehab center in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija ongoing

The country's first-ever drug rehabilitation center is being constructed on a 10-hectare land at the 45,837-square hectare Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija province, Philippine Army (PA) spokesperson, Col. Benjamin Hao, said Tuesday.

Hao said the project is led by the Department of Health while the PA Real Estate Office is providing zoning support.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier announced that he is eyeing the use of vacant lands in military camps as locations for the government's drug rehabilitation centers.

"The 7th Infantry Division (which is based in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija) provided the area for the proposed drug rehabilitation center. At the moment, we are securing the location, it is around 10 hectares. Construction started last August 28," Hao said in Filipino.

He added that the contractors are based in Quezon City.

The drug rehabilitation will be separate from the military units based in Fort Magsaysay, which include the Special Operations Command and the Army Artillery Regiment.

Two other military bases, Camp Macario Peralta in Jamindan, Capiz and Camp Tecson in San Miguel, Bulacan, are also being eyed for drug rehab centers.

Workers in the construction site are vetted and given IDs for security purposes, the Army spokesman said.

DSWD to continue aiding Lumads

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 20): DSWD to continue aiding Lumads

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said Tuesday that it will continue to assist more than 500 Lumads families who returned home through programs such as Cash/Food-for-Work C/FFW) and Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA).

DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo said that the C/FFW with a recommended budget of Php 11 million would be implemented through the Sustainable Livelihood Program’s Cash for Building Livelihood Assets (CBLA).

In a statement, Taguiwalo also said that implementation would be for a maximum of 11 days per person while working or cultivating their agricultural land or any preparatory work for the livelihood endeavor most suitable to the IDPs.

DSWD-Caraga will also facilitate Lumads' access to ESA for the repair of their houses that were left unattended, and those that were burned down.

The Department is also prioritizing the education of Lumad children with the proposed construction of school buildings in Caraga region.

The 500 Lumad families have returned to their villages after staying at the Tandag Gymnasium for a year. They were part of the 730 families who were forced to leave their homes and livelihood on Sept. 1, 2015 due to threats from paramilitary groups such as Magahat/Bagani, and from continued militarization of their ancestral land.

The Lumads mass evacuation was triggered by the killing of two of their Lumad leaders, Dionel Campos and his cousin, Bello Sinzo, who were shot in broad daylight, in the presence of the whole community by Magahat/ Bagani members.

Also found dead that day was Emerito Samarca whose throat was slit from ear-to-ear. Samarca was the executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Center (ALCADEV), a self-initiated school for the Lumads which has long been accused by the paramilitary group Magahat/Bagani and the military as an NPA school.

According to the Lumads, internally displaced persons (IDPs), on August 31, 2015, two days before the tragic death of the two lumad leaders and the educator from ALCADEV, the Magahat/Bagani Force and elements from the 36th IB encamped in the ALCADEV school compound threatened the school’s faculty members, staff and community members to massacre the community if the people would not leave in two days.

Since the Lumad's mass evacuation in September last year, the DSWD-Field Office Caraga, together with other government agencies, non-government and humanitarian organizations, extended food and non-food assistance to the evacuees as augmentation support to the local government unit of Surigao del Sur to ensure that basic needs were provided to the evacuees.

“All efforts must be made to ensure and protect the security of the Lumads. It is not enough that they have been able to return to their communities: We have to remain vigilant against the resurgence of any threats,” said Taguiwalo.


Peace process adviser warns of ‘saboteurs’ of peace talks

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 20): Peace process adviser warns of ‘saboteurs’ of peace talks

An official of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) on Tuesday warned the existence of groups that might sabotage the peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF).

Speaking at an engagement here, OPAPP Assistant Secretary Dickson Hermoso claimed that he received intelligence reports that certain armed groups would pretend as New People’s Army (NPA) rebels and burn road equipment and instigate other lawless acts, trademarks of NPA actions in the past.

Hermoso, a retired Philippine Army general, said bandits and ordinary extortionists are taking advantage of the peace talks for their own interests and to destroy the ongoing peace process of the government and the rebel groups in the country.

“For instance, I have received reports that the burning of a heavy equipment in Davao del Sur and the owner of that equipment received an extortion letter purportedly from the NPA,” he said.

Hermoso said he has asked law enforcers to check the sender "because I could sense that somebody was out to destroy the credibility of the NDF’s quest for a lasting peace in the country".

To verify allegations of atrocities reportedly committed by the NPA and government forces, an interim monitoring team tasked to investigate the reports should be created, he said.

Hermoso was invited to a forum organized by “Balay Mindanaw” in celebration of the International Day of Peace on Wednesday.

“Balay Mindanaw" is working towards peace-building and the resolution of conflicts in Northern Mindanao. It expands dialogue with the government, non-government representatives, interfaith groups and the security sector.