Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Maute Group may target Black Nazarene procession

From Rappler (Jan 5): Maute Group may target Black Nazarene procession

Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno gives assurances security forces are on 'full alert' for possible terror threats on the religious event typically attended by over a million

TARGET OF TERROR? Devotees try to get near the carriage carrying the image of Jesus of the Black Nazarene as the annual Traslacion starts at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila on Saturday, January 9, 2015. File photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

TARGET OF TERROR? Devotees try to get near the carriage carrying the image of Jesus of the Black Nazarene as the annual Traslacion starts at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila on Saturday, January 9, 2015. File photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

Law enforcement authorities will be on "full alert" on Monday, January 9, following intelligence reports that terror groups may target the Black Nazarene Procession in Manila.

"The threat, as you know, is the Maute Group and maybe the Abu Sayyaf, but mainly the Maute Group. They are connected with ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria)," said Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno on Thursday, January 5, during a Palace news briefing.

"The threat here, especially with a big event like this in Manila, we are receiving intelligence reports that they are also here," said Sueno, referring to the Maute Group.
The possible threat on the Black Nazarene procession, a religious event held every January 9 and typically attended by over a million, comes after the killing by government forces of a pro-ISIS group leader.
Mohammad Jaafar Maguid, leader of the Ansar Khalifa Philippines, was killed on Thursday during an operation by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) and police.
Days before, there was an attack on a North Cotabato jail and a series of bombings in Leyte and Cotabato.
So far, no terror group has claimed the attacks.
The DILG, military, and police will discuss security measures for the Black Nazarene during a joint command conference on Friday, January 6, said Sueno.
Asked if the government will advise devotees not to attend the event due to the threat, Sueno said devotees are unlikely to listen to any official advice.
"That is there faith. If they go there, they firmly believe, strongly believe that God will protect them. How do you discourage the faith of a person that they will be safe going there?" said Sueno.
But the government may talk to church leaders about the procession if there is a "strong" threat.
"The government can advise and talk to our church leaders if the threat is very strong," said the interior secretary.
Sueno gave assurances security forces have "doubled, tripled" their preparation for any threat and that the police are on "full alert."

Leader of Ansar Al Khalifha Philippines dies, 3 arrested in Sarangani operation (Photo)

From InterAksyon (Jan 5): Leader of Ansar Al Khalifha Philippines dies, 3 arrested in Sarangani operation

Where terror suspect Tokboy was felled in Kiamba, Sarangani. Photographed by Jerwen Paglinawan, InterAksyon

(UPDATE - 2:09 p.m.) The suspected leader of the terrorist group called Ansar Al-Khilafah Philippines SOCCSKSARGEN, identified as Mohammad Jaafar Sabewang Maguid, alyas Tokboy, died in a combined law enforcement operation conducted at Angel Beach Resort, Brgy. Kitagas, Kiamba, Sarangani Province early Thursday.
Recovered from Tokboy were two so-called baby armalite rifles and a grenade.

Arrested were three of Tokboy's companions: Matahata Dialawe Arboleda, Ismael Sahak alyas Mael, and Morhaban Veloso alyas Bugoy.

The suspects were intercepted on board a Toyota Wigo compact sedan, but they fought back, which resulted in the armed encounter leading to the death of Tokboy.

Security forces immediately placed General Santos City and neighboring areas under heightened alert following Maguid’s death as Senior Superintendent Leonardo Suan, Police Regional Office 12 deputy regional director for operations said they are monitoring the movements of the remaining members of the terror group.

“We’re closely monitoring if a new leader of the group will emerge,” Suan told a press conference at PRO-12 headquarters in Barangay Tambler, General Santos City.

Senior Superintendent Joseph Semillano, Sarangani police director, said the operation that got Maguid was participated in by his office, the Regional Public Safety Battalion and Regional Intelligence Unit, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency and the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion.

“At 10 minutes after midnight, we were able to neutralize Tokboy,” Semillano said.

He said Maguid’s group arrived at the resort late Wednesday night in a red Toyota Wigo sedan and rented a cottage.

Although his three companions were immediately arrested, Maguid ran toward a dark portion of the beach and was shot dead.

Colonel Tyne Banas, commanding officer of the Army’s 1002nd Brigade, said the death of Maguid would deprive his group, which is estimated to have between 10 to 15 members, of his “network and connections.”

“It’s possible that the group will just disband,” he said.

Australia denies trying to recruit Indonesian soldiers

From InterAksyon (Jan 5): Australia denies trying to recruit Indonesian soldiers

Indonesian airborne troops help each other apply camouflage paint. (Reuters file)

Australia Thursday rejected claims it tried to "recruit" Indonesia's best soldiers as it worked to mend relations with Jakarta after military ties were suspended.

The two neighbors revealed Wednesday military cooperation had been put on ice last month after teaching materials deemed offensive to Jakarta were found at an Australian army base.

Cooperation including joint exercises and education and exchange programs were halted after a visiting Indonesian officer raised concerns about the materials.

Authorities did not say what caused offence but the Australian Broadcasting Corporation said it related to posters of West Papua, an eastern Indonesian province where a low-level insurgency has been simmering for decades.

The ABC also broadcast footage Thursday of Indonesia's military chief General Gatot Nurmantyo giving a lecture in November, voicing fears Canberra was trying to recruit soldiers sent to Australia for training.

"Every time there is a training program -- like recently -- the best five or 10 students would be sent to Australia. That happened before I was chief so I let that happen," he said in translated remarks, according to the broadcaster.

"Once I became chief commander of the national forces, it (the students being sent) did not happen again. They will certainly be recruited."

Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne denied Canberra had targeted Indonesian soldiers to be potential agents.

"No, that is not the case and it is something which we would not countenance of course," she said.

Payne added that an investigation into the teaching materials that sparked the spat was almost complete and the government took the concerns seriously.

"We are working closely with our counterparts both at the military and at the political level to rectify any concerns, to address any concerns and to resume the relationship in its entirety as soon as possible," she said.

'Relationship is fine'

Indonesian newspaper Kompas said the row erupted after a visiting special forces instructor found teaching materials he deemed disrespectful towards his country's armed forces, as well as materials he thought insulted Indonesia's founding philosophy of "Pancasila."

The ABC reported that the instructor had complained about training posters of West Papua displayed at the Australian Special Forces base in the western city of Perth last November.

Papua's independence movement enjoys support among activists abroad, including in Australia.

Indonesia keeps tight control over the area and is sensitive about any perceived attempts by foreign governments or NGOs to intervene.

Payne underlined Australia's position on West Papua.

"We of course, in accordance with the Lombok Treaty, which is the treaty between Australia and Indonesia, recognize Indonesia's sovereignty and territorial integrity and that is our firm and stated position," she said.

Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu appeared to play down the row.

"Our relationship is fine, let's not be reckless," he told reporters late Wednesday.

"The point is we must maintain good relations between our countries -- don't let the rats make the relationship turn sour."

It is the latest tiff between the key allies and neighbors, whose relationship has been beset in recent years by disputes over Jakarta's execution of Australian drug smugglers and Canberra's hardline policy of turning migrant boats back to Indonesia.

Payne said the row had not impacted Indonesia's cooperation on Australia's policy on boatpeople or their joint work tackling extremists linked to the so-called Islamic State group.

Judges review charges vs 14 suspects in Roxas blast

From the Mindanao Times (Jan 5): Judges review charges vs 14 suspects in Roxas blast

TWO judges of the Regional Trial Court (RTC-XI) is evaluating the indictment of 14 individuals tagged in the Roxas night market explosion that killed 15 and injured 69 others.
RTC Judge branch 54 Melinda Alconcel-Dayanghirang and RTC Branch 33 Judge Lope Callo will study the probable cause before issuing warrant of arrests against Abu Calid, Abu Hadid Dilangalen, Wendel Facturan (aka Muraimin), Zack Haron Lopez, TJ Macabalang (aka Abu Tufael), Pendatum Coy Mahurom, Ausa Abdullah Mamasapano (aka Abu Hamsa) , Musali Mustapha (aka Abu Hurayra ), Jessy Vicent Original (aka Aisha), Datu Masla Sema (aka DM), Abu Solaiman, Jackson Usi (aka Abu Mansur), Abubakar Zulkifli (aka Abs), and a certain Cocoy/Jericho.
The respondents were charged on the recommendation of the Office of the City Prosecutor for violation of Sec. 3 (terrorism) of Republic Act 9374 (Human Security Act) and multiple murder with multiple attempted murder under the Revised Penal Code.
In the 17-page resolution, government prosecutors charged the respondents based on extra-judicial confessions executed by respondents Usi and Mamasapano who admitted participation in the planning and execution of the bombing.
The terrorism case was raffled off to RTC Branch 54 Judge Melinda Alconcel-Dayanghirang while RTC Branch 33 Judge Lope Callo will be handling the multiple murder with attempted murder.
Once issued, the warrants of arrest will be served by the RTC sheriff with the help of the Philippine National Police (PNP) or the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
Killed in the Roxas bombing were Jay Adremesin, Maria Luz Arellano, Mercy Basilisco, Rogelio Cagantas, Cristelle Decolongon, Daniel Larida, Melanie Faith Larida, Pipalawan Macacua, Eufemia Biscocho, Kristia Gaile Bisnon, Ruth Merecido, Salvador Reginaldo Nagal, hristian Denver Reyes, Evelyn Sobrecary and Vicenta Asperin who died with her unborn child.

UPDATE: Leader of armed group sympathetic to ISIS killed in Sarangani clash

From MindaNews (Jan 5): UPDATE: Leader of armed group sympathetic to ISIS killed in Sarangani clash

Joint government operatives killed a notorious leader of an armed group sympathetic to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and arrested three of its alleged members, one of them a woman, in an operation early Thursday in Kiamba town in Sarangani Province.

Sr. Supt. Leonardo Suan, Police Regional Office-12’s deputy regional director for operations, said fugitive suspect Mohammad Jaafar Sabewang Maguid alias “Tokboy” was killed in an encounter past midnight at the Angel Beach Resort in Barangay Kitagas, Kiamba.

Maguid was the founder and leader of the Ansar Al-Khilafah Philippines (AKP), which had been blamed over a string of terror attacks in Sarangani and neighboring areas these past years.

Suan identified the arrested suspects as Matahata Dialawe Arboleda, Ismael Sahak alias “Mael,” and Morhaban Veloso alias “Bugoy.”

Recovered from the clash site were two Bushmaster M-16 Armalite rifles, two hand grenades, 24 magazines of M-16 Armalite ammunition, two bullet bandoliers and a brown envelope containing various documents of the group.

In a press conference, Sr. Supt. Joseph Semillano, Sarangani police director, said their intelligence operatives initially received information on Wednesday night that Maguid was sighted at the Angel Beach Resort.

He said they immediately informed the other units about the report and embarked on an operation.

The operation involved elements from the PRO-12’s Regional Public Safety Battalion and Regional Intelligence Unit, Sarangani Provincial Police Office, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency and the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion.

“At 10 minutes after midnight, we were able to neutralize Tokboy,” Semillano said.

Engr. Arnulfo Flores, the resort’s owner, told radio station Bombo Radyo that Maguid’s group arrived in the area late Wednesday night aboard a red Toyota Wigo sedan with temporary license plate 12190176.

Citing accounts from resort personnel, he said operatives were able to arrest Maguid’s three cohorts upon entering the area.

He said Maguid reportedly tried to escape from the area but was cornered near the boundary of a neighboring beach property.

Semillano said the suspect initially attempted to draw an Armalite rifle before fleeing.

As Maguid was running towards a dark portion of the beach, operatives fired at him, Semillano said. Maguid sustained three gunshot wounds on his body.

Suan said they are monitoring the movements of the remaining members of the AKP.

“We’re closely monitoring if a new leader of the group will emerge,” he said in a press conference at the PRO-12 headquarters in Barangay Tambler here.

Col. Tyne Banas, commanding officer of the Army’s 1002nd Brigade, said the killing of Maguid is a major blow to his group.

He said it mainly reduced the capability of the group, which has an estimated 10 to 15 members, as it lost Maguid’s “network and connections.”

“It’s possible that the group will just disband,” Banas said.

He said their operations have been continuing against the remaining members of the AKP, which he maintained as a “mere ISIS sympathizer” but not recognized by the ISIS.

Maguid, who bolted from the Sarangani provincial jail in 2010, is facing at least 15 arrest warrants issued by various local courts since 2008.

He is facing multiple counts of murder, attempted murder, frustrated murder, robbery with violence, robbery with homicide, destructive arson and arson, filed at the Regional Trial Court Branches 11 and 38 in Alabel, Sarangani.

Authorities tagged Maguid’s group as behind the planting of an improvised explosive in December at a Christmas display in front of the Kiamba municipal hall.

Joint operatives seized suspected bomb-making materials at his house in Barangay Daliao in Maasim town in October last year.

In August, SAF operatives killed three alleged members of the AKP in an operation in upper Sitio Lebe in Barangay Daliao.

Recovered at the site were various high-powered firearms and a black flag bearing an ISIS logo.

ISIS suspect killed in Sarangani clash

From MindaNews (Jan 5): ISIS suspect killed in Sarangani clash
A suspect linked to the ISIS was killed in joint police and military operations in the municipality of Kiamba, Sarangani province past midnight today, reports said.

Chief Supt. Cedrick Train, Region 12 police director, confirmed that Mohammad Jaafar Sabewang Maguid alias “Tokboy” was killed during a clash in a beach resort in Barangay Kitagas in Kiamba around 12:10 a.m. Thursday.

Maguid was reported to be the leader of the Ansar-Khalifah (Supporters of the Caliphate) in the Philippines (AKP), which is said to have ties with the ISIS-linked Maute Group and the Abu Sayyaf Group operating in Region 12.

Three of Maguid’s men were also reportedly arrested in the raid.

Seized from Maguid are two Baby Armalite rifles and a hand grenade.

Maguid, reports said, was involved in a series of attacks in Sarangani and established a training camp in the mountains of the neighboring municipality of Palimbang in Sultan Kudarat province which were raided by government forces over the years. A Malaysian member of his group, along with young recruits, was reportedly among those killed in one of those raids.

Respect for culture and practices, only way to sustainable peace -- Sec. Dureza

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 5): Respect for culture and practices, only way to sustainable peace -- Sec. Dureza

In compliance with the 6-Point Peace and Development Agenda of the Duterte Administration, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) conducted a forum, dubbed as Peace Building Conversations, among and between various IP traditional leaders’ peace tables held at the Southern Christian College (SCC) Midsayap,  Cotabato Tuesday.

Some 170 members of different indigenous tribes such as Aromanon, Blaan, Teduray-Lambangian, Manobo, Bagobo and Higaonon joined event  organized  by the Cotabato Provincial Government and OPAPP.

It aims to provide a venue for the target attendees to air and express their views, opinions voice out their concerns on vital issues relative to the ongoing peace process..

Cotabato OIC-Governor and concurrent Vice-Governor. Shirlyn Macasarte expressed appreciation and gratitude  for the attendance of the hundreds of participants coming from different towns of Cotabato, Maguindanao and Bukidnon despite the short notice.

This, she said, is a manifestation of the keen interest of the IP community to actively engage and get involved, and contribute to government’s  quest for meaningful peace.

“This is one opportunity  for  IP community to voice out their wishes  so that these will be discussed and the laws that  will be implemented  for the IPs will be  perfect. We would like to recognize the administration of President Duterte who is  from Mindanao and knows the different  tribes  here. We are  very glad  that the administration is giving the IPs  an  opportunity to be heard," Macasarte said.

OPAPP Conflict and Prevention Unit  Dir Ferdinand “Bong” Jovita  explained the 6-Point Peace and Development Agenda that include meaningful implementation of the mutually signed peace pacts with the MILF (FAB and CAB), completion of implementation of remaining commitments under the 1992 GPH-MNLF Final Peace Agreement, Accelerated Signing and implementation of peace accords with CPP-NPA-NDF; immediate conclusion of the peace process with the Central Luzon Liberation Army (CPLA)- RPMP-RPA-ABB; peace promoting catch-up socio-economic in conflict-affected areas; and building culture of peace and conflict-sensitivity.

Some issues raised and presented by participants grouped into six during the workshop include: NPA atrocities, violation on human rights and IPRA law, discrimination against IPs (no access to scholarship programs, corruption involved in project implementation (NCIP) for IPs, IP representation in the peace process, claim that IPs are victims of both peace and war, recognition of ancestral domain, assurance of inclusive socio-economic intervention for IPs and environmental and cultural preservation, among others.

OPAPP Secretary Jesus Dureza, on his part, said, personally engaging the IP communities in very informal manner and gathering their insights to show government’s commitment for inclusive peace and development initiative in Mindanao  is important.

"Peace conversations are held as a venue to listen to you and for you to know that we listen to you in our effort to improve your quality of life and your community. We will continue to listen to you for us to  know what your needs are considering your culture and traditions and existing practices,"  Dureza told the participants.

According to Secretary Dureza it is very important to engage the bigger public in the peace agreement to let their voices be heard.

“It is very important that we must also engage the bigger public, ang atong peace agreement hindi lang sa mga MILF,MNLF but the bigger public. That is the reason why we are expanding the peace table so we are conducting now peace conversations because we have ato listen to them,"  Dureza said.

(Update) Kidapawan jail escapees identified, massive pursuit operation in North Cotabato continue

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 5): (Update) Kidapawan jail escapees identified, massive pursuit operation in North Cotabato continue

Over a hundred escapees from the North Cotabato District Jail, also known as the North Cotabato Provincial Jail, still remain at large and being hunted down by authorities a day after some 100 heavily armed men stormed the penitentiary to spring out several high profile inmates accused for their involvement in past terror bombings in south central Mindanao.

Chief Insp. Joyce Birrey, spokesperson of the North Cotabato provincial police office, said 12 of the 158 inmates who bolted prison in the wee hours of Wednesday had so far been arrested and returned to jail.

Five fugitives who died while resisting recapture in military-police pursuit operations were identified as Joey Aranas, Allan Jay Fabro Tolentino, Edfel Bautista Liscano, Rapacon Dimawan Ambolonto, and Adonis Ray Ferraren Cedeno.

Jail Officer 1 Excell Ray Vicedo, the guard on duty during the attack, died on the spot while Satar Manalundong, a village councilman of Barangay Patadon also got killed.

Two wounded escapees were identified as Peter John Ararao and Johnmeir Selgas, both confined at the Cotabato Provincial Hospital.

A civilian, identified as Sorelo Quino of Sitio Puas Inda, Amas, was injured in the conduct of pursuit operation after the jailbirds who killed held him hostage for several hours.

The massive pursuit operations resulted in the recapture of 12 escapees identified as Jason Angkanan, Wennie Curimo Rota, Faisal Tiburon, Joselito Tomines, Jerome Oguit, Melvin Antipuesto Canete, Mohammad Mama, Roli M Dinampo, Faisal Bansilan and Ginda Angkil, Richel Vales Flores, and Joreste Robles Perdido.

Senior Supt. Emmanuel Peralta, North Cotabato police director, said intense pursuit operations is underway to recover the remaining fugitives through the augmentation of the PNP’s Provincial Public Safety Forces, Regional Public Safety Battalion 12, PNP’s Special Action Force, and military’s 39th and 7th Infantry Battalions.

The operation is focused in several villages in the adjacent towns of M’lang and Matalam here.
Town Mayors Russel Abonado of Mlang and Cheryl Valdevieso-Catamco of Matalam, respectively, both firmly committed to support the initiative and mobilized all force multiplier in their respective areas of responsibility.

North Cotabato Acting Governor Sherlyn Macasarte-Villanueva on Wednesday created a special task force to look into the current crisis.

Japanese destroyer flotilla now in Subic Bay for 3-day goodwill visit

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 5): Japanese destroyer flotilla now in Subic Bay for 3-day goodwill visit
While two Russian naval vessels are now docked at Pier 15, Manila South Harbor for a six-day goodwill visit, two ships of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Escort Division 4 have arrived in Subic Bay, Zambales for a three-day port visit which started Wednesday.

Capt. Lued Lincuna, Philippine Navy (PN) spokesperson, said the ships are JS Inazuma (DDG-105) and JS Suzutsuki (DD-117).

These naval vessels are under the operational control of JMSDF Escort Division 4 headed by Capt. Atsushi Minami.

"The JMSDF Escort Division 4 will be staying in the country to replenish supplies, conduct maintenance work and crew rest prior going back to Japan from conducting Counter Piracy Operations at the Gulf of Aden," Lincuna said.

Minami is expected to render a courtesy call to the head of the Naval Education and Training Command in San Antonio, Zambales, he added.

"The visiting Navy vessels will also hold a passing exercise with the PN off the waters of Corregidor Island on Jan. 6 prior departure from Subic Bay," Lincuna said.

The visit is expected to enhance the already strong relationship between the PN and JMSDF.

Moreover, the visit will provide the PN officers and enlisted personnel a chance to interact with the Japanese counterparts to promote camaraderie and naval diplomacy, the PN spokesperson added.

PN to conduct PASSEX with departing Russian ships Saturday

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 5): PN to conduct PASSEX with departing Russian ships Saturday

The Philippine Navy (PN) will conduct a "passing exercise" (PASSEX) manuever with the two Russian naval vessels once they formally depart from Pier 15, Manila South Harbor on Saturday.

This was confirmed by PN spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna in an interview Thursday.

The PASSEX is part of the send-off ceremonies where visiting naval ships are given honors.

"Yes, that's part of (the) send-off ceremony and naval customs and tradition wherein we render PASSEX to any visiting navy. We have to comunicate thru voice radio and BRP Rajah Humabon (FF-11) will do the task," he added.

The BRP Rajah Humabon is the same ship which met the anti-submarine destroyer Admiral Tributs and oil tanker Buris Butoma during their arrival off Corregidor Island on Monday.

PASSEX will also provide PN and Russian naval units the chance to conduct some maneuvering and communication exercises.

The same was confirmed by Russian Pacific Fleet flotilla deputy commander Rear Admiral Eduard Mikhailov.

"These maneuevers will take place on Jan. 7 when we start our route from the Port of Manila there will be exercises and communication and manuevering in the territorial waters of the Philippines," he added.

AFP chief Año gets fourth star (Bio Data)

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 5): AFP chief Año gets fourth star

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Eduardo M. Año earned his fourth star effectively making him nation's highest ranking military personnel on Thursday morning.

The promotion makes him a full general making him senior to all Unified Command and Service heads still in service.

Donning ceremonies was spearheaded by Department of National (DND) Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

Año was joined in this simple ceremony at the DND Building Hall of Flags in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City by wife Jean Maria.

He is the 48th AFP chief-of-staff replacing Gen. Ricardo Visaya who formally retired from the service last Dec. 8.

Año is a member of Philippine Military Academy Class of 1983. He is also a cum laude graduate of the prestigious military academy.

Año will serve as AFP chief until he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 56 on Oct. 26, 2017.

He served as Intelligence Service, Armed Forces of the Philippines from 2012 to 2014 before becoming commander of the Compostela Valley-based 10th Infantry Division.

Año was also credited with the capture of Communist Party of the Philippines chair Benito Tiamzon and wife Wilma in Alonguisan, Cebu last March 22, 2014.

He was also responsible for the killing of rebel commander Leonardo Pitao alias Kumander Parago in June 28, 2015.

Año was named Philippine Army commander in July 15, 2015.

The new AFP chief is a recipient of two Distinguished Service Stars; one Gold Cross medal for gallantry in combat action; a Silver Cross Medal; and 24 Bronze Cross medals for intelligence operations; 38 Military Merit Medals, three of which are with Spearhead Device for accomplishments in combat actions against armed enemies; and nine Military Commendation Medals; a Silver Wing Medal, and other various awards and Command Plaques to include the most coveted Philippine Military Academy Cavalier Award in recognition as outstanding PMA Alumnus in the field of Army Operations in 1996.

Why Are Russian Warships in the Philippines?

From The Diplomat (Jan 3): Why Are Russian Warships in the Philippines?

A look at the significance of the latest development in an expanding defense relationship.

On Tuesday, two Russian warships arrived in the Philippines for a goodwill visit in the latest sign of warming ties between the two countries.

This is not the first time that Russian vessels have docked in the Philippines. Philippine Navy Commodore Francisco Cabudao, who led the welcoming ceremony for the ships, confirmed to reporters that they had done so twice before, with the last one in 2012, in spite of earlier reports that had emphasized the unprecedented nature of the interaction.

Nonetheless, the four-day visit by a Russian anti-submarine ship, Admiral Tributs, and sea tanker Boris Butoma, has naturally turned heads. Russia, ambitious abroad but increasingly isolated from the West, has been looking to boost its presence in the Asia-Pacific, including in Southeast Asia. And though the Philippines has traditionally been a U.S. ally, Moscow no doubt senses new opportunities with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has been seeking to diversify Manila’s relationships away from Washington and toward others, especially Beijing and Moscow.

Though rhetoric by both sides still significantly outpaces reality in the Philippines-Russia relationship, there have been concrete steps taken to actually follow through on this. Duterte had sent his foreign and defense ministers to Moscow to explore potential opportunities to boost military-to-military ties. Following his return from the trip, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that while Moscow had expressed a keen interest in advancing defense ties across the board, including selling equipment to Manila, the Philippines would be open to only some arms sales, in line with its own defense needs, capabilities, and budget availability. Equipment such as drones or sniper rifles, Lorenzana said, would be more likely than big-ticket items like submarines, and purchases are still being mulled.

The visit of the warships is yet another sign of the potential for burgeoning Philippines-Russia defense cooperation, even though it is still early days. The engagements during the visit itself are fairly standard: according to the Philippine Navy, they include tours to historical sites, ceremonies, capability demonstrations, shipboard tours, games between troops, and interactions with civilians.

But Eduard Mikhailov, deputy commander of Russia’s Pacific Fleet, was quite grandiose when speaking about Moscow’s ambitions for the future defense relationship. Apart from indicating that Russia stood ready to help the Philippines combat piracy and terrorism, Agence France-Presse quoted Mikhailov as saying that Russia was “very sure” that in the future, joint exercises focused on these areas would be carried out with varying degrees of complexity. Interestingly, Mikhailov also reportedly raised the prospect of joint exercises with other countries, including China and Malaysia, in the South China Sea.

“We really hope that in a few years, the military exercises for example in your region, in the South China Sea, will (involve) for example, not only Russia-Philippines, but Russia, Philippines, China, and maybe Malaysia together,” he said.

Mikhailov, who spoke through an interpreter, offered few specifics on what he meant, and given how often rhetoric surpasses reality in this relationship as well as the details that would be key in any such specific arrangement, that proposal should perhaps be seen as an aspiration rather than an actionable deliverable. Nonetheless, comments like this, as well as the engagements more broadly, do indicate the importance of paying attention to a defense relationship where most developments would have hardly been fathomable even a year ago.

Philippine Military Website Hacked and Defaced

From Hack Read (Jan 3): Philippine Military Website Hacked and Defaced

A hacker going by the online handle of Shin0bi H4x0r hacked and defaced the official website of the Philippine Military on 30th Dec 2016. The hacker left a deface page along with a message on the hacked military website bashing the site’s admins for not implementing proper measures on such a high profile platform.

Upon visiting the website, users were welcomed with a deface page displaying messages like “Surprise! Philippine Army you get Owned. I was bored so I thought of testing my skills on the US Army website Oh well, wrong target. I hacked Philippines Military and Army. Fix your security or I will be back. | Just a friendly defacement, your website security was good, but not good enough. Security is just an illusion, hacking is a talent, defacement is art.”

The link of targeted website along with its mirror as a proof of hack is available here and here.

   Shin0bi H4x0r   @shin0bi_h4x0r 30 Dec 2016

The website provides news, information, photos and press releases about the military and its activities. Although it is unclear what flaw was used to deface the website, it highlights the fact that even military servers are not safe from simple attacks. However, this is not the first time when a high profile website in the Philippine has fallen prey to hackers. In the past, Anonymous hackers have been targeting government websites in the country including National Police Website, the website of senator Leader Sotto and National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) website.

One particular cyber attack that shocked the country was the hacking of Philippines Election Commission (COMELEC) website in which personal and voters details of 55 million citizens were leaked to raise awareness about the presidential election that was to take place on May 9th, 2016 however, one alleged Anonymous hacker was arrested soon after the data went public.

A the time of publishing this article, the targeted Philippine Military website was down.

BIFF storms Cotabato jail, springs 158

From the Philippine Star (Jan 5): BIFF storms Cotabato jail, springs 158

Police and jail personnel patrol outside the walls of the North Cotabato District Jail in Kidapawan City after more than 100 armed men, believed to be members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, attacked the compound to free certain detainees. AP
KIDAPAWAN, North Cotabato, Philippines – More than 150 inmates of the provincial jail here escaped when suspected Muslim rebels stormed the facility in a pre-dawn raid yesterday, killing one guard, authorities said.

A two-hour firefight broke out when more than 100 armed men, believed to be members of the extremist Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), attacked the jail at about 1 a.m., according to jail authorities.

“It was not a jailbreak. It was a planned rescue of certain detainees. It’s to rescue their comrades under our custody. It is a rescue operation,” jail warden Peter John Bongat said.

Initial reports said at least 158 inmates had escaped. It was unclear how many of them were linked to the raiders.
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Bongat said one of his subordinates, Jail Officer 1 Excel Rey Visido, was killed in the firefight with the gunmen.

“The (inmates) took chances because of the volume of fire ... they used their beddings, piled them on top of each other to escape,” Bongat said.   

Initial reports said five of the escapees were killed while another inmate identified as Peter John Arana was wounded in the firefight.

An official of nearby Barangay Patadon identified as Satar Manalundong was found dead with multiple gunshot wounds. A villager identified as Sorelo Quino was wounded.

Officials said Manalundong was found dead along the route where the inmates and their rescuers may have used to escape.

The five inmates who were killed were identified as Joey Aranas, Allan Tolentino, Edifel Liscano, Rapacon Ambolodto and Adonis Cedeño.

Eight other escapees were recaptured. They were identified as Jason Angkonan, Wennie Rota Koremo, Faisal Tiburon, Joselito Tomines, Jerome Oguit, Richel Vales Flores, Joreste Robles Perdido and Ruta Koremo.

Barangay Amas chairman Alexander Austria said he and his men were able to recapture one escapee he did not identify.

“This inmate is an ethnic Maguindanaon from Kabacan municipality (in North Cotabato), being prosecuted for a drug offense. We turned him over to the police,” he said.

Austria said the gunfire woke his village, which was several kilometers from the prison, and he immediately posted guards because of worries the attackers and escaped inmates could enter the village.

“We heard the gunfire and we sprang into action to guard our village,” Austria said. “We were afraid the escapees could try to enter our village to hide or take hostages.”


The jail is located inside the provincial capitol compound in Barangay Amas in Kidapawan City, a short distance from the provincial police office.

Bongat said the jail, which housed 1,511 inmates, lacked guards and was a dilapidated former school building located in a forested, secluded area.

He said they were only 21 of them, armed with automatic pistols and a few M16 rifles, as against the more than 100 attackers who were all carrying assault rifles fitted with grenade launchers.

“We were overwhelmed. The attackers were heavily armed,” Bongat said.

According to Bongat, the attackers were led by Commander Derby, a former member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and a detainee who escaped last year.

Derby was said to be the former leader of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF).

MILF spokesman Von al-Haq, however, said he did not know who the attackers were and was contacting members to get more information.

The MILF has about 10,000 armed followers, but they have been observing a ceasefire with the government as part of the peace efforts. Some of them, however, broke away from the MILF to form the separatist BIFF to protest the peace deal with the government and continue fighting.

Abu Misry Mama, spokesman for the outlawed BIFF, denied they were responsible for the attack.  Mama said not a single BIFF member was involved in the jailbreak.

An inmate, Felix Capalla, had claimed the attackers rescued the prisoners who are mostly known members of the BIFF.

Senior Insp. Xavier Solda, spokesman for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), said the inmates took the opportunity to escape through the back portion of the penal facility while the jail guards were up against the gunmen and trying to protect the thousand other inmates.

Keep calm

Security forces have been deployed to hunt down the escapees and their rescuers.

Malacañang appealed for sobriety as it assured the public that security forces are now working to recapture the prisoners.

“The PNP (Philippine National Police) and the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) are working closely to capture the escapees. Hence, we appeal for calm and sobriety,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement.

“We assure our people that manhunt operations on the escapees are now underway as BJMP units in Region 12 and nearby provinces are on heightened alert,” he added.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael Sueno ordered the BJMP to intensify the manhunt for the fugitives.

“I have ordered BJMP-Region 12 to be on heightened alert, and to work closely with the Philippine National Police to capture all jailbreakers at the soonest possible time,” he said.

Sueno said the PNP Special Action Force (SAF) and the military, along with the BJMP Special Tactics and Response Team, are now tracking down the escapees.

AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said military forces immediately provided assistance after receiving information about the incident.

“Yes, we did react immediately as soon as we got the information and assisted the BJMP and the police in running after the escapees as well as the attackers,” Padilla said.

AFP Public Affairs Office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo explained the military’s role is purely to support hot pursuit operations.

While jurisdiction over a detained criminal offender falls on the BJMP, Padilla said the AFP is very much willing to provide support.


Shirlyn Macasarte, acting governor of North Cotabato, said her office had been tipped off about the plan by the BIFF to free its members as early as the second quarter of last year.

“They were involved in murders and at the same time I think they have experience in bomb making, so we watched them closely,” Macasarte told ANC.

Bongat also admitted to have received information about the possible attack during the holidays, so they sought assistance and deployment of Army troops.

“We received information about the planned attack so we improved our security measures. There were legitimate and reliable information, that they would launch an attack on New Year,” Bongat said.

However, the Army troops who were securing the jail facility were pulled out for deployment for a military operation, giving the attackers opportunity to spring out the inmates, he said.

“We have many Muslim personalities (in the jail) that are members of various organized, syndicated groups,” Bongat said of the 158 detainees that escaped.

He said this is not the first time that alleged rebels attacked jail facilities, citing the case of a jail in Compostela Valley where the communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels did the same thing.

The Maute group, regarded as one of the most dangerous extremist organizations, freed 23 inmates in a jailbreak last year in nearby Midsayap town.

Philippines: Top militant leader’s follower killed

From Anadolu Agency (Jan 4): Philippines: Top militant leader’s follower killed

Military says follower of Abu Sayyaf leader who has multi-million bounty on his head died in clash in troubled Basilan

A suspected follower of a top leader of a Daesh-linked militant group was killed in a clash with government troops in the Philippines’ troubled south Wednesday, according to the military.
Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., Western Mindanao Command spokesman, said in a statement that troops in the island province of Basilan -- a known stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf -- were conducting focused operations against the group when fight broke out in the morning in Sumisip town.
"A notorious follower of Abu Sayyaf top leader Furuji Indama was killed in the intensified operations launched by the military in Basilan," Tan said, adding that an R4 assault rifle was also recovered.
After the Abu Sayyaf fighters withdrew, government troops launched pursuit efforts.
"All other troops were alerted and continue to conduct full inspection to all vehicles going to and from the vicinity," said Tan. "Pursuit operations are ongoing as of this press time."
Indama has a multi-million bounty on his head and has been blamed for murder, kidnapping, deadly bomb attacks and the beheading of marines.
On Tuesday, the Armed Forces of the Philippines updated its count of hostages believed to be held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf to 27.
The majority of the captives are sailors and fishermen from Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Since 1991, the Abu Sayyaf -- armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles -- has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortion in a self-determined fight for an independent province in the Philippines.
The group is notorious for beheading victims after ransoms have failed to be paid for their release,
It is one of two militant groups in the south to have pledged allegiance to Daesh, prompting fears during the stalling of a peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebel group that it could make inroads in a region torn by decades of armed conflict.

Philippines jailbreak: MILF commander Satar Mandalondong led daring midnight operation?

From the International Business Times n(Jan 4): Philippines jailbreak: MILF commander Satar Mandalondong led daring midnight operation?

Philippines jailbreak: MILF commander Satar Mandalondong led daring midnight operation?

Philippine President Benigno Aquino (2nd L) talks to Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas (L) while looking at weapons during the Ceremonial Turnover of Weapons and Decommissioning of MILF Combatants at the old capitol in Simuay town of Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao province, southern Philippines June 16, 2015. . REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

Suspected Muslim rebels from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front attacked a the southern Philippine prison and freed 158 inmates in a daring attack on Wednesday.

About 100 armed men, surrounded the North Cotabato District Jail in Kidapawan city in the restive Mindanao region shortly after midnight. They opened fire at guards and stormed the prison, which had around 1,511 inmates.

Philippine police said the attackers' goal was to free their comrades in custody. "It's to rescue their comrades under our custody. It is a rescue operation," jail warden Peter John Bonggat said, according to local ABS-CBN television.

Jail officials could not confirm if all the escaped prisoners belonged to the Moro militant factions. Bonggat, however, confirmed that many Muslim rebel leaders were housed in the Kidapawan jail, 950 kilometres away from capital Manila.

"We have many Muslim personalities (in the jail) that are members of various organised, syndicated groups," Bonggat told AFP.

Local officials said as many as six attackers and one prison guard were killed in cross-firing. "When the attack came, according to the report of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, it was a two-hour firefight" Philippine National Police Spokesperson Dionardo Carlos said.

"The jail guards were trying to stop the attackers and then our police responded ... Unfortunately, because of the commotion, some inmates escaped using a wooden ladder that they stuck to the wall at the back portion of the jail," he said at a press conference.

No group has claimed the attack, but the Philippine officials believe MILF is behind the prison attack. Officials suggested that MILF commander Satar Mandalondong is the kingpin behind the jailbreak, Al Jazeera reported, citing sources.

MILF, which demands autonomy for the Moro Muslim people of the southern Philippines, did not claim responsibility for the attack.

The Philippines has been plagued by an Islamic insurgency propelled by militant organizations like the Abu Sayyaf Group and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that operate in the Sulu archipelago and the Mindanao island.

The government signed a peace treaty with the MILF in March 2014, but various splinter groups including the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) that aim to create an Isis-style caliphate in the south of the county have engaged the military in pitched battles.

Govt Puts Temporary Ban on Unescorted Ships Sailing to Philippines

From the Jakarta Globe (Jan 4): Govt Puts Temporary Ban on Unescorted Ships Sailing to Philippines

Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan confirmed that the government has placed a temporary moratorium on sailing permits for ships heading to the Philippines from Indonesia. He added that any barges heading to the neighboring country must be escorted by the military.

"We have asked that six coal barges currently in Philippine waters should be escorted by that country's military before being picked up by the Indonesian Military [TNI] when entering Indonesian waters," Jonan said after meeting with Vice President Jusuf Kalla in Jakarta on Tuesday (19/04).

The temporary moratorium will be in force until an agreement is reached between Indonesia and the Philippines, which he said was still being discussed by TNI chief Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo and Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi.

"If there are no escorts available, we suggested that the ships should remain there. This applies to those in Tarakan and Manado [North Sulawesi]," Jonan added.

Moreover, Jonan said he expected to see more security for any ships sailing to the Philippines rather than paying more money for the release of hostages.

The temporary moratorium comes after 14 Indonesian crewmembers were taken hostage by the Philippine rebel Abu Sayyaf in two separate incidents recently. The company that owns the hijacked tugboat, Brahma 12, has agreed to pay the 50-million-peso ($1 million) ransom demanded by the Abu Sayyaf for the release of 10 Indonesian crewmembers who have been held hostage since March 26.

Chief Security Minister Luhut Pandjaitan said the rebel group had been in contact with the company, Patria Maritime Lines.

"It is agreed that [the company] will pay 50 million pesos, or the equivalent of Rp 14.3 billion, which will be handed over at a certain location," Luhut said on Tuesday, as quoted by

The minister said the two sides would communicate again later this week to discuss further details.

The Abu Sayyaf group is notorious for kidnappings, beheadings, bombings and extortion. The group has also been a major influence on other terror groups in Southeast Asia, including those in Indonesia.

Russia offers Philippines sophisticated weapons and close friendship

From InterAksyon (Jan 4): Russia offers Philippines sophisticated weapons and close friendship

Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev (L) and Rear Admiral Eduard Mikhailov (C), deputy commander of Flotilla of Pacific Fleet of Russia, give a press briefing onboard the Russian Navy vessel Admiral Tributs docked at the South Harbor, January 4, 2017. (Philippines News Agency/ Avito C. Dalan)

Russia is ready to supply the Philippines with sophisticated weapons including aircraft and submarines and aims to become a close friend of the traditional US ally as it diversifies its foreign ties, Russia's ambassador said on Wednesday.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has thrown the future of Philippine-US relations into question with angry outbursts against the former colonial power and some scaling back of military ties while taking steps to boost ties with China and Russia.

Illustrating the transformation of Philippine foreign relations since Duterte took office in June, two Russian warships are on a four-day visit to Manila this week, the first official navy-to-navy contact between the two countries.

Russian Ambassador Igor Anatolyevich Khovaev took the opportunity to hold a news conference on board the anti-submarine vessel Admiral Tributs.

He said he understood that the Philippines was intent on diversifying its foreign partners.

"It's not a choice between these partners and those ones. Diversification means preserving and keeping old traditional partners and getting new ones. So Russia is ready to become a new reliable partner and close friend of the Philippines," he said.

"We don't interfere with your relations with your traditional partners and your traditional partners should respect the interest of the Philippines and Russia."

The Russian navy visit comes less than a month after Duterte sent his foreign and defense ministers to Moscow to discuss arms deals after a US senator said he would block the sale of 26,000 assault rifles to the Philippines due to concern about a rising death toll in a war on drugs launched by Duterte.

Khovaev said Russia had a range of weapons to offer.

"We are ready to supply small arms and light weapons, some aeroplanes, helicopters, submarines and many, many other weapons. Sophisticated weapons. Not the second-hand ones,” Khovaev said.

"Russia has a lot to offer but everything will be done in full compliance with international law."

He said it was too early to talk about the scope of military cooperation but, in a clear reference to the United States, said old allies should not worry.

"Your traditional partners should not be concerned about the military ties ... If they are concerned, it means they need to get rid of clichés," he said.

Rear Admiral Eduard Mikhailov, head of the Flotilla of the Russian Navy Pacific Fleet, said on Tuesday Russia wanted to hold maritime exercises with the Philippines to help combat terrorism and piracy.

The United States and the Philippines have been holding naval exercises annually but Duterte has decided to reduce the number of exercises and to move naval drills away from the disputed South China Sea, to reassure China, which is suspicious of US military movements in the disputed waters.

China says aircraft carrier testing weapons in South China Sea drills

From InterAksyon (Jan 4): China says aircraft carrier testing weapons in South China Sea drills

China's aircraft carrier Liaoning is berthed at Dalian Port. (REUTERS/File photo)

A group of Chinese warships led by its sole aircraft carrier is testing weapons and equipment in exercises this week in the South China Sea, China's foreign ministry said Wednesday.

Exercises by the ships, in particular the aircraft carrier Liaoning, since last month have unnerved China's neighbors, especially at a time of heightened strain with self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own, and given long-running territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

China says the Soviet-built Liaoning and the other ships conduct routine exercises that comply with international law.

"The Liaoning aircraft carrier group in the South China Sea is carrying out scientific research and training, in accordance with plans," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular news briefing.

"The purpose is to test the performance of weapons and equipment," he said.

The People's Liberation Army Navy said on its official microblog this week that the aircraft carrier conducted drills in the South China Sea with its fighter jets and helicopters.

US warships have also been conducting what they call "freedom of navigation" patrols through the South China Sea over the past year as concern grows about Chinese construction of air strips and docks on disputed reefs and islands.

The group of warships sailed through waters south of Japan and then rounded east and south of Taiwan late last month on their way to the south China province of Hainan.
Taiwan's defense minister warned at the time that "the threat of our enemies is growing day by day".

Taiwan media have reported that the Liaoning could sail north up the median line of the Taiwan Strait, the narrow body of water separating Taiwan and China, on its way to its home port of Qingdao.

Taiwan's defense ministry said the talk about the timing and northward route of the Liaoning was speculation, and it would make preparations based on the situation and "maintain its grasp of the movements" of the ship.

Business relations between mainland China and Taiwan have grown significantly over the past decade but tension has increased since the island elected a president from an independence-leaning party last year.

China distrusts President Tsai Ing-wen and has stepped up pressure on her following a protocol-breaking phone call between her and US President-elect Donald Trump last month.

Beijing suspects Tsai wants to push for the island's formal independence, a red line for the mainland, which has never renounced the use of force to bring what it deems a renegade province under its control.

Tsai says she wants to maintain peace with China.

NPA had motive in Lumad leader’s death: military

From the Mindanao Times (Jan 3): NPA had motive in Lumad leader’s death: military

THE MILITARY is pointing an accusing finger at the New People’s Army on the killing of a Lumad leader and his two brothers were killed in an attack in Sitio Kalapagan, Barangay Poblacion, Caraga town in Davao Oriental around 11 p.m. of Dec. 30.
The victims were identified as Likid (high datu) Cupertino Banugan, along with his brothers Benny and Ramon. Cupertino was the chief of the tribal council of the CADT-01 area.
According to the report, an undetermined number of armed men alighted from two utility vans and mowed down the houses of the IP leader and his brothers. The military and police believed that that attackers were members of the New People’s Army.
The victim was allegedly branded by the NPA as an asset of the military and has been feeding information to the authorities on the activities of the communist guerillas. The tribal council already released a statement insisting that it’s supporting the peace and development efforts of the government.
Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, AFP spokesperson, said in a statement that Cupertino Banugan had received several death threats from the NPA.
He said another possible motive was the decision adopted by the tribal council headed by Banugan involving the land claims of two families in Sitio Sabang where the NPA favored the losing family against the tribal council’s decision.
“The tribal council detests the meddling of the NPA in the affairs of the IP especially the decisions of the tribal council and its elders and made a strong statement against such actions of the NPA,” the statement added.
Apparently, the tribal council that the victim headed established a village peace zone that prohibits the entry of armed groups.
According to the military report, sometime this June last year, around 200 NPAs coming from New Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental entered the CADT-O1 area and knocked on the doors of residents, including that of Cupertino Banugan.
He reported the incident to the press as he blasted the NPA of meddling in the affairs of the Lumads.
A similar incident happened in November last year, but the tribal council and its elders put it under wraps so as not to worsen the situation.

Photo: Hot Pursuit

From MindaNews (Jan 4): Photo: Hot Pursuit

Combined elements from the Army and the Cotabato Provincial Police Office Office patrol the national highway near Amas Capitol Compound in Kidapawan City as they search for the 158 escaped inmates following a raid by at least 100 armed men at the provincial jail inside the capitol compound dawn on Wednesday (4 January 2017). Mindanews Photo

COMMENT: IV. BEL: Roadmap and Roadblocks (9)

From MindaNews (Jan 4): COMMENT: IV. BEL: Roadmap and Roadblocks (9)

Last of nine parts

Sad notes

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/04 January)–  But sad notes mar the “only option”. The odds are stocked against “the only option”.  Moro National LIberation two-part article in the MNLF Website (10/18/16 and 11/ 28/16) entitled “Roadmap to MNLF-Duterte Government Peace Talks”

In the article, the Moro Problem is blamed on the Americans and Philippine presidents particularly Manuel L. Quezon, Elpidio Quirino, Ferdinand E. Marcos, Corazon C. Aquino, Joseph E. Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the non-Misuari MNLF factions are called traitors. Only Misuari and the peace process following the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and the Final Peace Agreement (FPA) with the full support of President Duterte are the hopes for the “liberation” of the Moros.

The article portrays Misuari as carrying heavy “chips on his shoulders” and constantly “grinding his axes” This explains Presidential Adviser Jesus  Dureza’s reason for the separate talks of the Duterte government and Misuari:  “We are separately handling the Misuari faction in another track. There is still a very deep division, in principle, between the two groups”, referring to MILF and other MNLF factions. (MindaNews, 11/ 9/16: BA needs P136 billion for Bangsamoro Development Plan))

Last  December 14 (ABS-CBN News and GMA News), Misuari flew to Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In a pre-departure interview, he said he would have a meeting with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to (1) finalize the details of negotiations with the government; (2) know who will mediate during the talks and when that person will go to the MNLF camp. He said “the government agreed that the talks will take place at the group’s camp, similar to how it was done in former president Fidel V. Ramos’ time”.

The inference: The OIC will facilitate and determine the details or mode of negotiation. Why not finalize the details of the negotiation with the Philippine government panel? The talks will be held at the MNLF camp in Sulu.

Misuari also wants to know from the OIC which of the FPA and the CAB it will recognize. To Misuari, the Jakarta accord is more binding since it is an international treaty”, MNLF spokesman Absalom Cerveza said, “As far as the OIC is concerned they will only honor the Jakarta peace accord.”

These, too, are sad notes.  They see only their own shadows; they listen only to their own voices. First, they see the FPA as an internationalized treaty but not the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the mode of the Government-MILF negotiations which have been internationalized ten times more than the FPA. Second, they ignore what the OIC Secretary General has said a number of times that the OIC wanted the MILF and all MNLF factions to unite and consolidate all their agreements with the Philippine government.

The latest OIC statement was on November 8, 2016 on the release of Misuari. The statement came out in full in the OIC website – not in any newspaper. The following are the paragraphs emphasize the OIC position:

“The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) welcomes the decision of the President of the Republic of the Philippines, H. E. Mr Rodrigo Duterte, to lift the warrant of arrest against Prof. Nur Misuari, Chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and to reinstate his freedom.

“The OIC received this information with great satisfaction and considers it another manifestation of the positive approach of the current administration towards the long-standing problem of the Bangsamoro people.

“The OIC Special Envoy for Peace in the Southern Philippines, Ambassador Sayed El-Masry, reiterated the long standing position of the OIC, that Chairman Nur Misuari is an indispensable factor to the peace process; being the founder of the MNLF and the historical leader of the Bangsamoro people.

“The OIC also takes this opportunity to reiterate its support for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and its leader, Chairman Hajj Murad as well as for the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), which should be embodied undiluted in the new enabling law.

“The OIC believes that it is now time to proceed steadfastly to close the ranks between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation front (MILF) in order to coordinate efforts to merge the two peace tracks and maintain all the gains contained in all the peace treaties namely: the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, the 1996 Jakarta Agreement and the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB).
“The OIC maintains its position that it does not favour one Moro faction over another, but that it is in full support of the inalienable rights of the Bangsamoro people to determine their future and seek peace and prosperity in their homeland.”  

The OIC’s four-point position is clear:
  • Misuari is indispensable to the peace process for being the founder of the MNLF and historical leader of the Moros.
  • It supports the MILF, its Chairman /Al Hajj Murad and the CAB.
  • It wants the MNLF and MILF to close ranks, merge the two peace tracks and converge all the gains in all peace treaties.
  • It does not favor either the MNLF or the MILF; above all, “it is in full support of the inalienable rights of the Bangsamoro people to determine their future and seek peace and prosperity in their homeland.”
We await Misuari’s return from Jeddah. If the OIC is true to its November 8 statement, it would advise Misuari to take the “Only Option”. President Duterte, taking a cue from the OIC statement, should convince Misuari to join the single MILF-led BTC track.

So much is at stake. Not only the Moros are in suspense; but also – perhaps, more so — are the international leaders, agencies and governments that have helped sustain the peace and the 16-year Government-MILF negotiations. Ultimately, history will be categorical in its verdict. Either, Bangsamoro: fulfillment at last; or, Bangsamoro: denial as ever.

MILF executes 3 men by musketry in Southern Philippines (Photos)

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jan 4): MILF executes 3 men by musketry in Southern Philippines






Screen shots from the MILF video of the execution of 3 men found guilty of murder in Lanao del Sur in the Muslim autonomous region in southern Philippines. It also shows MILF leader Abdullah Macapaar. (Mindanao Examiner)

Screen shots from the MILF video of the execution of 3 men found guilty of murder in Lanao del Sur in the Muslim autonomous region in southern Philippines. It also shows MILF leader Abdullah Macapaar. (Mindanao Examiner)

MARAWI CITYMoro Islamic Liberation Front rebels who are negotiating a final peace deal with Manila executed 3 men found guilty of murder in Lanao del Sur, one of 5 provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.

A video clip of the execution was recorded by a rebel on his cell phone and eventually posted on Facebook. It showed the trio, identified only by their first name or alias – Patrol, Sabar and Udi – blind folded and each tied to a bamboo pole while rebels aimed their automatic rifles and shot them.

A senior rebel leader, Abdullah Macapaar, also known by his nom de guerre Commander Bravo gave the final order of the execution as he watched from behind the line of the musketeers, all clad in black coverall suit and bonnet.

They chanted “Allahu Akbar” many times as they untied the three men after shooting them. All of the men were still breathing as they lay to the ground, but eventually expired from bullet wounds in the chest. Dozens of rebels also witnessed the execution.

The 10-minute clip was posted by Abu Haneef Tabarusaw. It was unknown when the execution took place and where, but comments left by those who watched the video claimed the firing squad occurred in the town called Balindong after the trio had been found guilty by a rebel court and sentenced them to die by musketry.

The death sentence was handed down to prevent a clan war between the families of the men and their victims. Clan war is not uncommon in the Muslim region.

One comment reads: “Ang kasalanan po ng mga namatay ay nakapatay po ng tao. Dahil hindi sila napatawad ng pamilya ng pinatay nila ay kamatayan rin po ang kabayaran. Ang isa po dun (ay) para maiwasan lumala pa ang rido (clan war).”

It was not the first time the MILF executed criminals found guilty by their Shariah court. The rebel group also publicly hanged 3 men in the restive regions in the past. There was no immediate statement from the authorities, but the clip has gone viral after it was shared on Facebook on January 3.

The MILF, which is fighting for a Muslim homeland in the troubled South, signed an interim peace deal with the Aquino government in 2014.