Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Abu Sayyaf running out of money- military chief

From ABS-CBN (Apr 12): Abu Sayyaf running out of money- military chief

The terrorist Abu Sayyaf group is going low on funds as relatives of their kidnap victims have refused to give in to their ransom demands, Armed Forces chief of staff Eduardo Año said Wednesday.

"They are in dire need of money. That is why they will always plan and attempt to kidnap," Año said in a press conference.

Intelligence reports showed that the 11 Abu Sayyaf members who ventured to Inabanga, Bohol Tuesday were supposed to carry out a "plan for kidnapping," Año said.

"If you look at the past kidnappings, they happened during Easter Sunday or during the Holy Week... You cannot stop these people from planning or continue attempting. Iba ang pag iisip nila."

But the military chief assured the public that government forces are on a mission to "destroy" the bandits "in their bases before they can hatch their plans."

"Kahit na mag-attempt sila ng attempt, we will continue to deny," he said.

Año said 11 notorious members of the Abu Sayyaf, including 2 sub-leaders, surrendered to the the government in Sangga-sangga, Tawi-Tawi Tuesday, while another Abu Sayyaf wing from Basilan yielded last week.

"Hopefully, other Abu Sayyaf members will have a clearer mind and surrender to authorities," Año said.

"We expect to see more in the coming days... We are working very silently but very effectively," he added.

TIMELINE: Abu Sayyaf in Bohol

From ABS-CBN (Apr 12): TIMELINE: Abu Sayyaf in Bohol

April 6 to 7: The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) monitors a group of Abu Sayyaf in Indanan, Sulu. The group leaves Sulu bound for central Visayas, prompting the AFP to alert its intelligence community nationwide.

April 9: The US Embassy warns its citizens against traveling to central Visayas, including Cebu and Bohol, over "unsubstantiated yet credible" reports of kidnapping threats.

April 10: The AFP receives reports of the presence of 3 pump boats, with around 11 heavily armed men, in Inabanga, Bohol.

Residents first spot the armed men Monday morning entering Inabanga River and going to Barangay Napo in the town of Inabanga.

The police also receive reports that the bandits "could have been Muslims" since they were aboard boats only used in Mindanao.

The AFP would later disclose that the group was supposed to carry out "a plan for kidnapping."

Had they been successful, the Abu Sayyaf incursion in Bohol, a major tourist destination, would been the first in the area in years.

April 11: A firefight between joint military and police forces and the Abu Sayyaf starts at around 5 a.m.
WATCH: Bohol clash captured on cam

A policeman and three soldiers are killed. The bodies of five armed men are recovered (as of 2 p.m., April 11).

At least 700 individuals in Inabanga leave their homes due to the firefight.

More countries issue travel advisories following reports of the clash.

The United Kingdom urges its citizens to be "especially vigilant" in traveling to Central Visayas, citing the United States' warning of terror activity in the region.

The Australian government also advises its people against traveling to Central Visayas and Mindanao, including the Zamboanga Peninsula, and the Sulu Archipelago and southern Sulu Sea.

The Canadian government, likewise, issues a travel warning urging its citizens to "exercise a high degree of caution" when going to the Philippines and "avoid all travel" to Mindanao and the southern Sulu Sea.

New Zealand classifies traveling to central and western Mindanao as an "extreme risk" to its citizens' security.

April 12: AFP confirms the death of Abu Sayyaf leader Muamar Askali, alias Abu Rami.

Capt. Jojo Mascariñas, spokesperson of the Army's 302nd Brigade, identifies the government's casualties as:

- 2nd Lieutenant Espelito Saldua, Jr.;
- Corporal Meljun Cajaban ;
- Sergeant John Dexter Duero;
- PO2 Rey Anthony Nazareno.

As of posting, government troops are still tracking 5 Abu Sayyaf members who survived the firefight.

The AFP says the remaining bandits fled after an overnight siege near a remote village, where helicopter gunships were used against them. The bandits' local contact also fled the community.

The French Embassy in Manila also releases a travel advisory, citing “credible reports of threats of kidnapping by terrorist groups in the Central Visayas, particularly in Cebu and Bohol.”

AFP Spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla says they received information over the past few weeks about a potential activity from lawless elements to disturb the peace in central Visayas.

Sources: AFP press conference, ABS-CBN News field reports, Agence France-Presse, Reuters

Suspected Abu Sayyaf member nabbed in Zamboanga City

From ABS-CBN (Apr 12): Suspected Abu Sayyaf member nabbed in Zamboanga City

Authorities on Wednesday arrested a suspected member of the Abu Sayyaf group in Barangay Talon-talon, Zamboanga City, seizing explosives and drugs in his possession.

Authorities identified the suspect as Abdu Sahibul, a known member of the Abu Sayyaf operating in Sulu.

The arrest happened just as authorities foiled the group's purported kidnap plan in Bohol, which led to a firefight Tuesday. The clashes left four government troops and six bandits dead.

READ: Bohol 'back to normal' after Abu Sayyaf attack - officials

Senior Supt. Luisito Magnaye, Zamboanga City Police director, said two fragmentation grenades were recovered inside Sahibul's house.

Also recovered were six big sachets of suspected illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia.

Composite units of the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) served two search warrants against Sahibul.

Magnaye said they received information that Sahibul has been hiding explosives in his house.

There were also reports that Sahibul has been involved in the illegal drug trade in the area of Talon-talon and nearby villages.

Sahibul was also involved in the foiled kidnapping of a doctor in October 2015, also in Barangay Talon-talon.

The confiscated grenades were turned over to the explosives ordnance division of the PNP, while the confiscated illegal drugs were handed over to the PDA for filing of criminal charges against Sahibul.

11 Abu Sayyaf bandits surrender in Tawi-Tawi

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 12): 11 Abu Sayyaf bandits surrender in Tawi-Tawi

Abu Sayyaf (Manila Bulletin)
Abu Sayyaf (Manila Bulletin)

Two notorious sub-leaders of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and nine of their followers have surrendered to the military in Tawi-Tawi, officials said.

In statement released on Wednesday, Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said the bandits yielded voluntarily to the troops of Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi at the Marine Barracks Domingo Deluana in Barangay Sanga-Sanga, Bongao town at around 6 p.m. Tuesday.

The Westmincom credited the surrender of the bandits to the ongoing military operation in Tawi-Tawi.

The military continues to put pressure on the Abu Sayyaf as Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Eduardo Año left a marching order to suppress the ASG within the time frame provided by the Commander-in-Chief, President Rodrigo R. Duterte, which is on June 30.

The Westmincom identified the Abu Sayyaf sub-leaders who surrendered as Berong Sariol alias Boy Master and Ben Saudi Dambong Sariol alias Boy Pangit.

Petinglay said the siblings Berong and Ben acted as the leaders of separate Abu Sayyaf groups active in kidnap-for-ransom activities in Tawi-Tawi and in neighboring Malaysia.

The other nine ASG members who surrendered are also relatives of the siblings. They are Jasim Dambong alias Dams, Mujil Dambong, Magelan Langal, Kael Sariol, Nurhamin Sariol, Alhan Sariol, Amnisain Sariol, Akmad Sariol and Benasil Sariol.

The Westmincom said those who surrendered are all residents of Sitio Gigipan, Barangay Baldatal, Sapa-Sapa in Tawi-Tawi.

Seven firearms consisting of an M-16 Armalite rifle with attached M-203 grenade launcher, one M-14 rifle, one M-79 rifle, and four caliber .30 M1 Garand rifle were turned over to the military.

“The surrendered Abu Sayyaf members will be turned over to the Tawi-Tawi police for the proper legal procedures,” Petinglay said.

According to the military, the Sariol group was tagged in the murder of Father Jesus Reynaldo A. Roda of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) in Tawi-Tawi in 2008 as well as in other kidnapping activities in the province.

The military also linked the Sariol group to the “Muktadil brothers,” who are notorious in kidnap-for-ransom and extortion activities. The siblings Nikson and Brown Mukdatil were killed by soldiers when they tried to escape after their capture in Sulu last year.

“Your armed forces remain committed in sustaining the internal security in Mindanao with the all-out offensives being launched by the joint task forces of the Western Mindanao Command,” Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Westmincom chief, said.

Galvez said that a total of 16 Abu Sayyaf members have surrendered lately to the government.

Clearing ops vs ASG enclave in Bohol ongoing, reinforcements now on ground

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 12): Clearing ops vs ASG enclave in Bohol ongoing, reinforcements now on ground

Government security forces are still conducting clearing operations in Sitio Ilaya, Barangay Napo, Inabanga town, Bohol where an estimated 60 Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits have landed Monday night.

This was said by 3rd Infantry Division public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ericson Rosana in a message to the PNA Wednesday.

"Clearing operations are still ongoing. The body count is still the same, five ASG dead, three soldiers and one police officer killed," he added.

And when asked what is keeping government forces from completely overrunning the ASG enclave, Rosana said the area is heavily "forested" making it difficult for troops to spot their targets.

As this develops, units from the Light Reaction Regiment, troopers from 83rd Special Action Company and Naval Special Operation Group arrived in Tagbilaran Airport to augment security personnel conducting clearing operations against the ASG.

They were aboard a Lockheed C-130 "Hercules" cargo plane with tail number 4704 which flew from Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

These specialized troops arrived around 4:30 p.m. Around five ASG bandits, three soldiers and one police officer were killed in the 7 a.m. clash with the bandits who were earlier spotted aboard three pumpboats entering the riverside in Sitio Ilaya Monday night.

DSWD extends aid to conflict-affected families in Mati, Davao Oriental

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 12): DSWD extends aid to conflict-affected families in Mati, Davao Oriental

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has provided PHP310,393 worth of assistance to 1,236 families, consisting of 6,180 persons from four barangays, who were displaced by the armed conflict in Mati, Davao Oriental.

In a DSWD armed conflict disaster response update issued Wednesday, the department noted that most of the families have begun returning to their homes Tuesday evening after the military announced that it was already safe for the evacuees to go back to their areas.

Some 213 families from Barangay Don Salvador Lopez have however opted to remain in the evacuation center for fear of another encounter.

Since March 30, several encounters between government forces and members of the New People's Army have forced residents of the villages of Tagbinonga, Buso, Don Martin Marundan and Don Salvador Lopez in Mati to flee to safety.

DSWD aids families affected by operations vs Abu Sayyaf in Bohol

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 12): DSWD aids families affected by operations vs Abu Sayyaf in Bohol

The Department of Social Welfare and Development's (DSWD) office in Central Visayas has extended initial assistance to the 593 families displaced by the ongoing military-police operation against alleged members of the Abu Sayyaf Group in Inabanga, Bohol.

In a news release issued Wednesday, the department reported that some 150 family food packs (FFP) have been distributed to the affected families, and another 100 packs will be delivered to Bohol's provincial social welfare office.

The DSWD also said it has 11,000 FFPs in its warehouse in the province, while repacking of goods is ongoing at the National Resource Operations Center (NROC) and regional office.

(Update) ASG death toll in Bohol clash now at 6 -- AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 12): (Update) ASG death toll in Bohol clash now at 6 -- AFP

The number of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits killed in the ongoing clearing operations in Sitio Ilaya, Barangay Napo, Inabanga town, Bohol has now climbed to six.

This was confirmed by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla in a message Wednesday.

"Clearing and mopping up operations are still ongoing. As of 1:30 a.m. one more bandit was neutralized bringing to six (the number of) enemy killed and accounted for. Government casualties remain at three soldiers (one junior officer and two enlisted personnel) and one policeman. We also have one wounded," he added.

An estimated 60 ASG bandits are believed to be holed up in the above-mentioned area.

The military has cordoned the area after it received reports from civilians on the sighting of three suspicious looking pumpboats entering the locality Monday night.

ASG leader Abu Rahmi among 6 bandits killed in Bohol ops -- AFP chief Año

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 12): ASG leader Abu Rahmi among 6 bandits killed in Bohol ops -- AFP chief Año

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Eduardo Año on Wednesday confirmed that Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) leader Abu Rami was one of the six bandits killed in the encounter with government troops in Inabanga town, Bohol.

"Yes, Abu Rahmi is among those Abu Sayyaf killed in Bohol operation, six killed among the enemies, our troops recovered another body on the site of encounter," he added.

In the same encounter, three soldiers and a police officer were also killed.

With this development, the AFP chief said the ASG must think twice of challenging government security forces and trying to sow terror, the AFP chief stressed.

"I recognized the heroism of our soldiers, for doing the ultimate sacrifice as fastest as possible, I also acknowledge the help of the citizens who reported to authorities the presence of the armed men," Año added.

The AFP chief also called the ASG leader's death a major blow to the bandit organization.

"It’s a major blow , Abu Rahmi participated in Samal kidnapping and also on the Canadians I can declare that the threat is over successfully after the siege in Barangay Napo, Inabanga, Bohol although we are still pursuing some of the remnants of the groups, our assault them continues to scour the area," Año said.

The Bohol encounter erupted after civilians reported sighting three suspicious looking pumpboats, carrying heavily-armed men, entering the Sitio Ilaya riverside Monday night.

(Update) AFP chief assures identity of slain ASG sub leader 'Abu Rami'

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 12): (Update) AFP chief assures identity of slain ASG sub leader 'Abu Rami'

The military is very positive that Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) sub-leader Muamar Askali alias "Abu Rami" was among the six bandits killed during clash with government security forces in Inabanga, Bohol Tuesday morning.

This was after the picture of the slain bandit matched "99 percent" with existing file photos of the ASG leader, said Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Eduardo Año in press conference Wednesday.

"First, we have sources inside that initially told us that Abu Rami was among those killed during the encounter. Secondly, we compared the picture of Abu Rami and the picture of the slain Abu Sayyaf there in Inabanga and they resembled almost 99 percent," he added.

The slain bandit's identity was further confirmed when the ASG members, in government custody, positively identified former as Askali, who is also serving as the group's spokesperson.

"Abu Rami" is believed to one of the planners of the Samal Island raid which resulted in the kidnapping of Canadians John Ridsel, Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstand and Filipina Marites Flor last Sept. 21, 2015.

Both Canadians were beheaded while Sekkingstand and Flor were later released by their ASG captors.

Askali was also behind the kidnapping and beheading of German Jurgen Kantner and murder of his partner Sabine Mertz in November last year.

Año said that in both instances, the ASG leader was present in the beheading.

With this development, Año is very confident that a crippling blow has been dealt to the lawless group.

"We have successfully thwarted an attempt to destroy the peace and security of one of our provinces with the combined determination of our AFP and your PNP (Philippine National Police), as well as the full cooperation of our citizenry and our local government units in Bohol. May this be a fine example of 'Bayanihan' in the true sense of the word and the strengthening of our commitment as a nation to work together against those who contemplate on hurting our people and communities," he added.

The AFP chief said they are now conducting pursuit operations against the remaining five members of Akali's group and their "Balik Islam" contact in Sitio Ilaya, Barangay Napo, Inabanga town.

Motive of the group in making their Bohol landing seemed to be the abduction of tourists now to be frequenting the province.

"Their motive is aimed at kidnapping tourists rather than conducting any terror activities," Año said.

He added that they are well aware of the bandits' activities as they were detected in Indanan, Sulu last April 6 and 7 before making their departure for Bohol.

Their arrival aboard three pump boats in Inabangan, Bohol last April 10 was detected, thanks to the reports of civilians in the area, the AFP chief stated.

This prompted government security forces in the area to deploy troops and cordon the area which eventually led to the death of Askali and five other bandits, along with three troopers and one police officer.

Abu Sayyaf member dies, cop wounded in shootout

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Apr 11): Abu Sayyaf member dies, cop wounded in shootout

A SUSPECTED member of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and listed as number three in the drugs watchlist was killed while a policeman was wounded in a shootout in an east coast village of Zamboanga City.
Eight people, who were caught having pot session, were arrested.
Chief Inspector Elmer Solon, Police Station 4 chief, said the shootout occurred around 5 p.m. Monday, April 10, in Bilang-Bilang Island in the village of Mercedes, east of the city.
Solon identified the slain suspect as Matiling Addusi, who has a standing warrant of arrest for murder.
The police chief said that Addusi is a follower of Sulu-based Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Alhabsy Misaya and listed as the number three high value target drug personality in the city.
The wounded policeman was identified as Police Officer 3 Zaide Tutuan, who is assigned with the Police Station 4.
Solon said they were conducting security patrol along the shore of Bilang-Bilang Island when they chanced upon a group of people having a pot session in one of the houses.
He said the suspects scampered to different directions but eight of them were arrested.
Arrested were the following: Sabirula Basarahi, 40; Marham Bumpasan, 19; Mohammad Tating, 40; Adzron Madda, 37; Hamja Salim, 28; Wadud Madda, 17; Abubakar Halis, 31; and, Madi Asmarin, 20.
Solon said a shootout ensued when Addusi, who run towards one of the houses, shot Tutuan while in pursuit of the suspected Abu Sayyaf member.
He said Addusi was killed in the shootout.
He said they recovered inside the house where Addusi hid a magazine loaded with four live ammunitions of caliber .45 pistol; one empty shell of same caliber; two empty shells of caliber 5.56 rifle; one sling bag with seven heat-sealed plastic sachets of suspected shabu placed inside a pouch; and other prohibited drug paraphernalia.
The confiscated illegal drugs has an estimated street value of P80,000.

Army 'kills Abu Sayyaf commander' blamed for beheadings

From Al Jazeera (Apr 12): Army 'kills Abu Sayyaf commander' blamed for beheadings

Clash on Bohol leaves several fighters dead, notably Moammar Askali, blamed for the beheading of foreign hostages.

In 2000, Abu Sayyaf men snatched foreign tourists from a Malaysian resort, releasing them for millions of dollars in ransoms [File/AP]

Soldiers battling Abu Sayyaf in central Philippines are reported to have killed a key commander of the armed group who had been blamed for the beheadings of two Canadians and a German hostage.

Military chief of staff General Eduardo Ano said troops recovered and identified the remains of Moammar Askali, also known as Abu Rami, at the scene of the battle in a coastal village on Bohol island on Tuesday.

Five other Abu Sayyaf members were killed, along with four soldiers and policemen.

Ano said troops took the picture of Askali after his death and that captured Abu Sayyaf fighters identified the the young commander.

READ MORE: Abu Sayyaf video 'shows beheading of German hostage'

"This is a major blow to the Abu Sayyaf," Ano told AP news agency. "If they have further plans to kidnap innocent people somewhere, they will now have to think twice."

He said Askali had led several fighters, who travelled by speedboats from their jungle hideouts in the southern Sulu province to Bohol, in an apparent bid to carry out another kidnapping in a region that is popular for its beach resorts and wildlife.

Sporadic gun battles between the remaining Abu Sayyaf fighters and government forces continued on Wednesday, military officials said.

At least 10 people has been killed since Tuesday in the fighting in Bohol, far from the group's southern jungle bases.

Military officials say at least six fighters, three soldiers and a policeman have died in the ongoing gun battle in a village in the coastal town of Inabanga.

Bohol - an island province - lies near Cebu province, a bustling commercial and tourism centre.

Ronald dela Rosa, the national police chief director-general, said troops and policemen attacked the armed men early on Tuesday in Inabanga, where they had arrived aboard three boats.

It is the Abu Sayyaf's first known attempt to carry out ransom kidnappings deep in the heartland of the central Philippines, far from its jungle lairs in the southern provinces of Sulu and Basilan.

Bohol, which is popular with tourists, lies about 640km southeast of Manila, and about an hour away by boat from Cebu province, across the busy Cebu Strait.

READ MORE: Rodrigo Duterte apologises to Germany over beheading

Abu Sayyaf fighters have crossed the sea border with Malaysia on powerful speedboats and kidnapped scores of foreign tourists in past years.

In 2001, they sailed as far as western Palawan province, where they seized 20 people from a resort.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered troops to destroy the group in Sulu and in outlying island provinces, and has threatened to declare martial law in the country's south if the threat posed by the Abu Sayyaf and other groups aligned with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) gets out of control.

Abu Sayyaf is still holding at least 29 captives in Sulu's jungles, many of them foreign tugboat and cargo ship crewmen seized at the sea border between the southern Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Abu Sayyaf fighters carry out ransom kidnappings deep in central Philippines [Reuters]

Reds to FB: Put our official page back online, with all posts, likes, followers

From GMA News (Apr 11): Reds to FB: Put our official page back online, with all posts, likes, followers

The Communist Party of the Philippines on Tuesday decried the censorship of its official Facebook page and called on the social networking platform to stay true to its principles.

In an open letter to Facebook and Facebook Philippines, CPP media liaison Vim Montes said Facebook took down their page — Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC) — last April 8 despite their efforts to communicate with the social networking site's team.

"Contrary to its declared mission 'to make the world more open and connected' and be a platform of 'diversity of (a) global community,' Facebook has practically censored the CPP and the Philippine revolutionary Left, at a time that the PRWC has succeeded in building a considerable community within Facebook," Montes said.

At the time it was censored, Montes said the PRWC page already has more than 10,000 likes and followers and has served as a tool for the CPP to convey daily news of the struggles of the Filipino masses.

Montes claimed Facebook took down the PRWC page after exposing alleged fake news released by the Armed Forces of the Philippines that it had encountered members of the New People's Army — the group's armed wing — "to justify the killings of unarmed peasants in the countryside and widespread violations of human rights."

He added that the suspension of their page also came following their statement calling Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana, AFP chief Gen. Eduardo Año, and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon as "U.S. stooges" out to derail the peace talks between the government and the communist rebels.

"Over the past months, the PRWC page has served as a communication tool to convey to the public the views of the CPP as well as daily news of the struggles of the broad Filipino masses for social justice and peace," Montes said.

Montes said the takedown of the CPP's official Facebook page denies the public of relevant news and information which reflects the views of the communist movement.

Despite being a privately-owned platform, Montes said Facebook should return the PRWC page and its contents as a sign of respect for the communist group's beliefs.

"The PRWC page must be put back online, with all its previous posts and records of Likes and Followers. The community built around it deserves nothing less," Montes said.

"Having become a major means of public communication and platform for information exchange, Facebook must respect the public good, including the community’s right to choose what to read and believe in," he added.

For the meantime, Montes said supporters of the CPP can like and follow Ang Bayan, an alternative page they created while the PRWC page is suspended.

Army warns vs extortion activities in Antique

From the Sun Star-Iloilo (Apr 11): Army warns vs extortion activities in Antique

The Philippine Army urged businessmen or contractors in Antique to reject extortion demands from lawless elements, including the New People's Army (NPA) rebels.

Lieutenant Colonel Vener Morga, commander of the Philippine Army’s 82nd Infantry Battalion, said the extortion activities happened in Guimaras and Northeastern Iloilo but as a precaution, he is also warning businessmen and contractors in Antique province.

He said the NPA has presence in the towns of Hamtic, Sibalom and San Remigio. Morga urged the public to help stop extortion activities by reporting such incident to the Armed Forces of the Philippines or the Philippine National Police.

Security tightened in NPA-infested areas

From the Sun Star-Davao (Apr 12): Security tightened in NPA-infested areas

LOCAL authorities beefed up their security measures particularly in areas where the New People's Army (NPA) is present in the wake of the burning of two pineapple harvesters which approximately cost P24 million owned by Davao Agricultural Ventures Corporation (Davco) Inc. in Gumalang village, Baguio District, Davao City.
Civil Military Operations Officer of the 3rd Infantry Battalion (IB) Captain Alenel Valles said Tuesday, April 11, that they are involving other law enforcers, including the police and business entities to thwart atrocities that would be initiated by the rebels.
"[We are conducting] intense monitoring in our area, at the same time, coordination with the Philippine National Police (PNP) and business sectors to preempt similar incidents," Valles said.
Valles also confirmed that the burning of equipment on Sunday, April 9, was allegedly perpetrated by the NPA rebels after the company rejected the extortion demand of the rebels. According to him, it was the second time that Davco has been the subject of arson attack by the reds for refusing to give revolutionary tax.
 As of Tuesday, troops of the 3rd IB, upon conducting probe, had not yet apprehended the suspects and they are continuously conducting hot pursuit operations to catch the fleeing rebels.
Meanwhile, the 4th round of peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) had just concluded, which led to the signing of an interim joint agreement which is considered a step closer to attaining a bilateral ceasefire.
Thus, with these efforts to restore peace, Valles urged the revolutionary communist to abide to its provisions and display good deeds as a manifestation that they also want peace.
 "We want peace and will follow the conditions of a bilateral ceasefire if agreed upon by the GRP and NDFP. The NPA must be sincere enough to show their allegiance to the ceasefire," he said.

Soldier, three NPAs killed in North Cotabato firefight

From the Philippine Star (Apr 11): Soldier, three NPAs killed in North Cotabato firefight

The clashes were sparked by a reported raid by the NPA on Barangay Mahogcong in Magpet town

A soldier and three New People’s Army guerrillas were killed in a series of firefights Monday in Barangay Balite in Magpet town in North Cotabato, authorities said Tuesday.
The Army’s 39th Infantry Battalion, which has jurisdiction over Magpet and nearby towns in the province, confirmed via an online statement the death of an enlisted soldier, whose identity was withheld pending notification of relatives.
Two other soldiers were wounded in the skirmishes, now confined in a hospital.
Local officials, among them members of the Magpet municipal peace and order council, said on Tuesday that three NPAs were killed in the encounter.
The group, led by Joel Pulido, belongs to the NPA’s Guerilla Front 53, which allegedly retaliates against civilians suspected of helping the military monitor its activities.
Army officials said guerrillas under the group are also known for their excessive collection of “protection money” from farming communities to raise funds needed to sustain its operation.
The hostilities on Monday forced about a hundred families in Barangay Balite to evacuate to Katindu and Anuling areas in Arakan, North Cotabato.
Senior Superintendent Emmanuel Peralta, director of the North Cotabato provincial police, said the running gunbattles in Barangay Balite on Monday erupted when the NPAs attacked soldiers pursuing retreating rebels who raided Barangay Mahongcog, Magpet the day before.
The rebels disarmed volunteer community watchmen and barangay officials at gunpoint.
Mahongcog Barangay Chairman Michael Lingaro and his tanods lost more than a dozen firearms, including M14 and M-16 assault rifles and 12-gauge shotguns to the rebels.
Magpet is surrounded by hinterlands where there is heavy NPA presence.
The rebels who fired at soldiers in Barangay Balite retreated to a nearby hinterland when they got low on ammunition, according to local police.
Evacuees told reporters they saw the fleeing NPAs carry four wounded companions as they fled.

WHAT WENT BEFORE: Abu Sayyaf, Maute group

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 12): WHAT WENT BEFORE: Abu Sayyaf, Maute group

Elements of 1st Co. RPSB 7 conduct  security patrol along Inabanga river in Inabanga town, Bohol where armed groups entered and engaged government troopers in a shootout. Photo by Tonee Despojo, CDN

Elements of 1st Co. RPSB 7 conduct security patrol along Inabanga river in Inabanga town, Bohol where armed groups entered and engaged government troopers in a shootout. Photo by Tonee Despojo,

Thirty-two people, 10 of them children, were wounded when two bombs exploded while they were watching an amateur boxing match in the plaza in Hilongos, Leyte province, in Eastern Visayas on Dec. 28, 2016.

In February, Muslim convert Jake Anthony Macuto and three of his companions, believed to belong to the Maute group tagged as the terrorist group with links to the Islamic State jihadi group in the Middle East, were charged for the twin bombings.

Hilongos is a fourth-class municipality 146 kilometers away from the regional center of Tacloban City. Chief Supt. Elmer Beltejar, police director for Eastern Visayas, said Macuto might just be on a test mission.

In November 2016, the US Embassy issued a travel advisory warning its citizens that a “terrorist” group planned kidnappings in Cebu province.

The advisory was issued in response to comments made to journalists by the regional police that six Abu Sayyaf bandits were in Cebu, a popular tourist destination in Central Visayas.

Police strengthened security, though presidential assistant for Visayas Michael Lloyd Dino said southern Cebu remained safe for travelers. He challenged the US Embassy to substantiate its claim.

On Oct. 25, 2016, Philippine National Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa admitted in a press conference that the Mindanao-based Abu Sayyaf terrorists were traveling from one province to another and reaching as far as Metro Manila.

This was after reports that six members of the bandit group, led by one Commander Messiah, arrived in Cebu that month, reportedly to abduct prominent people.

Supt. Julian Entoma, chief of the regional intelligence division of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7), also alerted people on possible terrorist attacks in the region, like bomb attacks in shopping malls and other business establishments.

Chief Supt. Noli Taliño, the Central Visayas regional police chief, admitted receiving information but said it had not been confirmed yet.

How suspected Abus slipped into Bohol

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 11): How suspected Abus slipped into Bohol

RESIDENTS of Barangay Napo, Inabanga town, Bohol flee their homes amid heavy artillery firing between the government troopers and armed men. Leo Udtohan, INQ

RESIDENTS of Barangay Napo, Inabanga town, Bohol flee their homes amid a gunfight between the government troopers and armed men. Leo Udtohan, INQ

INABANGA TOWN, Bohol – Julita Cenabre was trembling in fear as she was holding on to their three-month-old granddaughter at the elementary school in Barangay Kawayan, Inabanga town, Bohol.

She was not used to the exchange of heavy artillery and the sounds of bombs exploding as government troopers hunted down at least 60 suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) who arrived in this town on board motorbancas through the Inabanga River.

Before sunset on Tuesday, nine persons were confirmed dead by the military and nine bombs had been dropped by the Philippine Air Force in Napo and their neighboring barangays in the bid to flush out the lawless elements.

Among those killed were five suspected ASG members, three soldiers and one policeman, according to the joint statement released by Chief Supt. Noli Taliño, head of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7) and Lieutenant General Oscar Lactao, Commander of the Central Command, on Tuesday afternoon.

The statement said government troopers were also able to recover three M-16 rifles and an M-4 carbine from the ASG members as of 1 p.m. on Tuesday.

‘Visitors’ from Jolo

Although the police and the military suspected the armed men belonged to ASG, some residents in Napo said the group may be part of the Maute group from Mindanao.

Marina Melloria, 51, said her cousin, Joselito, married a woman from Mindanao suspected of being a member of the Maute group

Joselito was seen by a resident escorting a group of about 15 heavily armed men on Monday afternoon whom he described as his guests.

“Unsa na man na dong (Who are they?),” asked Roger Cellan, a resident of Sitio Ylaya, Barangay Napo when he saw Joselito passing by.

“Mga bisita nako (My visitors),” was Joselito’s reply.

Cellan said Joselito told him that they came from Jolo, Sulu and traveled to Bohol province on board their pump boats.

Like the other neighbors, Cellan became uneasy with the presence of armed men in their community.

Travel advisory

The incident happened two days after the United States Embassy in Manila issued a travel advisory on Sunday and in the wake of preparation of the province for the meetings for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit scheduled for April 18-22.

In the travel advisory, the US Embassy warned Americans in the Philippines to be careful in traveling to Central Visayas, citing “unsubstantiated yet credible information” that terrorist groups may attempt to conduct kidnappings there.

“The US Embassy has received unsubstantiated yet credible information that terrorist groups may attempt to conduct kidnappings in Central Visayas, which includes both Cebu and Bohol provinces,” a travel advisory on the embassy’s website said.

‘We were all scared’

Inabanga is about 71 kilometers from the capital Tagbilaran City but is an hour away from pumpboat to Cebu City.

The gun battle that started at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday sent at least 1,200 residents fleeing their homes from barangays Napo, Calenti and Banahao who were scared of being hit as bombs were being dropped.

At least 600 residents were taking shelter at the elementary school in Barangay Kawayan while another 600 residents were at the chapel in Barangay Banahao.

“We had not experienced this before. We were all scared,” said a resident who declined to be identified.

At least three pump boats loaded with armed men were seen entering the Inabanga River that leads to Napo River, an interior village about 10 km from the national highway.

Other towns can be accessed through Barangay Napo. These are the municipalities of Danao, Buenavista, Dagohoy and Carmen.

Jose Genosas was hauling sand and gravel from Napo River on Monday afternoon when he noticed three motorbancas passing by.

‘Bullets as big as corn ears’

Thinking that these were tourists, he didn’t pay attention until his neighbors started talking about the presence of armed men in Napo.

Children told their parents of men, cleaning their long firearms with “bullets as big as corn ears.”

Alarmed, the parents informed their barangay leaders who then tipped off the police who later coordinated with the military.

Joint police and military went to the area past 5 a.m. on Tuesday and were met with heavy gunfire by armed men who were suspected to be ASG members.

According to Captain Jojo Mascariñas, spokesman of the 302 Brigade, there were at least 60 members of the ASG fighting against government troopers.

The first bomb was dropped by a Philippine Air Force aircraft at 1:45 p.m. As of 4:40 p.m., nine bombs had been exploded, causing the ground to shake as the residents screamed in fear.

“We were scared of the bombs exploding since morning,’ said Marlyn Bautista, 40, a resident of Sitio Luak, Barangay Napo.

She joined her neighbors in crossing the river and walking at least 50 meters just to seek shelter in the Kawayan Elementary School.

The Inabanga municipal government also ordered a forced evacuation due to the ongoing gun battle.

Frank Baylosis, Inabanga information officer, said in a phone interview that barangay officials went house-to-house to convince residents to “abandon their homes and move to a safer place” on Tuesday morning.

Criminals With a Cause: The Crime-Terror Nexus in the Southern Philippines

From The Diplomat (Apr 11): Criminals With a Cause: The Crime-Terror Nexus in the Southern Philippines (By Robert Attwell)

Kidnappings in the region highlight the complex links between poverty, crime, militancy, and terrorist financing.

Philippine media usually refers to the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and similar groups in the southern Philippines as “bandits” rather than terrorists, jihadists, or militants. There is good reason for this. The lines between the criminal and terrorist activities of these groups are blurred, something academics and analysts refer to as the crime-terror nexus.

The murder of an adventurous German couple by ASG is illustrative of the blurred lines between criminal and terrorist activities, both in the Philippines and more generally. Jurgen Kantner was kidnapped by ASG bandits while sailing his yacht off the coast of Sabah, in Malaysia, in November 2016. His partner, Sabine Merz, was shot and killed during the kidnapping. ASG demanded a 30,000,000 peso ($600,000) ransom to secure Kantner’s release.

The pair had been kidnapped before, in Somalia in 2008. There, they were held hostage by pirates for 52 days and released following a ransom payment. Kantner then returned to the site of the kidnapping to retrieve his beloved yacht, the Rockall, which the pirate gang abandoned in Berbera. This escapade reportedly earned him the moniker “the mad German sailor.” Unfortunately, he will sail no more. He was beheaded by ASG after the February 2017 ransom deadline passed. Philippine authorities recovered his body in Sulu Province, the second poorest province in the country with 65.7 percent of the population living below the poverty line.

Dire socioeconomic conditions caused by decades-long separatist insurgencies in Mindanao and the surrounding smaller islands facilitate both militancy and criminality, which are prevalent in the region. Poverty and violence can have a profound psychological effects on young people and can drive them into the arms of both criminal gangs and militant groups by poisoning their youthful idealism and skewing their search for an identity.

These harmful socioeconomic and psychological influences are not unique to impoverished youths in Mindanao. An illustrative study of European Islamist militants demonstrated that at least 57 percent of them had a criminal past and were radicalized in prison. The study further contends that radical narratives – as articulated by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other militant groups – appeal to the psychological needs and desires of criminals. Specifically, radical narratives supposedly offer criminals a path to redemption whilst simultaneously licencing continued criminal behavior. Recent ISIS recruitment drives explicitly target criminals, saying “sometimes people with the worst pasts create the best futures.” Whereas potential recruits had previously been selfish thieves, rapists, murderers, and kidnappers, post-radicalization they become thieves, rapists, murderers, and kidnappers with a cause.

Militant groups in Mindanao and around the world depend heavily on criminal income streams to fund their activities, thereby morphing into hybrid criminal-terrorist organizations. They frequently partner with transnational organised crime groups to smuggle a variety of illicit items, ranging from drugs to guns to people. Alternatively, many militant groups establish criminal empires of their own. While most militant groups have multiple sources of revenue, such as donations from sympathizers, a 2016 report on terrorist financing in Southeast Asia found that criminal activity is the primary source of revenue for groups based in the Philippines.

ASG is only one of many such hybrid militant-criminal groups operating in the southern Philippines, especially in the violence-ridden island of Mindanao. Others include, but are not limited to, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the Maute Group, and Ansar al Khalifa. All of these groups have declared allegiance to ISIS and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Mindanao is also home to the New People’s Army (NPA), a Maoist insurgent group. All of these groups fund themselves through criminal activities, including, but not limited to, kidnapping, extortion, and drug trafficking.

Kidnappings for ransom are a significant source of income for militant and criminal groups in the southern Philippines, most notably ASG. This group is responsible for a recent surge in maritime kidnappings in the Sulu and Celebes Seas, encompassing the waters around the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia. They reportedly raised $7 million from kidnappings for ransom in 2016 and currently hold 29 people hostage, including 21 foreigners. The group frequently works with Sabah and Sulu-based criminal gangs, which sell kidnapping victims to the militant group.

Extortion is also a common funding strategy for hybrid militant-criminal groups, particularly the Maoist NPA. This group targets foreign and local businesses operating in Mindanao, as well as in several areas outside the region, such as Samar and Isabella Provinces. Most of the targeted companies are in the mining or agricultural sectors. Recently, Mindanao’s banana industry has been under strain from NPA extortion. Banana farmers appealed to the government to intensify its campaign against the NPA in response to a spate of attacks, including assassinations and arson, resulting from their refusal to pay extortion fees. The group justifies its extortion activities as “revolutionary taxes.”

Although kidnapping and extortion bring in significant revenues, drug trafficking is probably the most profitable illicit revenue stream for hybrid militant-criminal groups in the Philippines. A national survey conducted in 2016 by the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) found that there are currently 1.8 million drug users in the Philippines, nearly 2 percent of the population. The study also found that 4.8 million Filipinos aged between ten and 69 have used illegal narcotics at least once in their lives. Crystal meth, locally known as shabu, is the most popular drug and is regularly consumed by six out of ten of the country’s addicts. All of this indicates that there is a sizable internal narcotics market for militant groups and their criminal partners to exploit. ASG, for example, has been directly tied to the illicit drug trade in the southern Philippines, as have BIFF and the Maute Group. Group members are both narcotics distributors — with militants moonlighting as dealers — and consumers, as shabu is frequently used for recruitment. The shabu trade is primarily overseen by Chinese organized crime groups, which suggests that Philippine militant-criminal groups cooperate with both local and transnational criminal organizations.

President Rodrigo Duterte, the country’s first president from Mindanao, has controversially made combatting the illegal drug trade and crushing the Mindanao insurgencies his top priorities. However, with 11 out of the 20 poorest provinces in the country being located in Mindanao, the long-term success of these objectives will largely depend on whether policymakers address the complex links between poverty, crime, and terrorism. Economic growth and social development are therefore as, if not more, important for tackling these issues than military might and aggressive policing.

[Rob Attwell is an Asia-Pacific focused junior analyst at S-RM, an international business intelligence and risk management consultancy. You can follow Rob on twitter @Attwell_on_Asia.]

War games dropped from Balikatan

From the Philippine Star (Apr 10): War games dropped from Balikatan

War games have been dropped from the Balikatan exercises scheduled next month here and in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, according to the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement (PCVFA).
ORMOC CITY, Philippines – War games have been dropped from the Balikatan exercises scheduled next month here and in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, according to the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement (PCVFA).

Instead, the visiting United States forces would partner with the Philippine Army in constructing classrooms in two schools in Ormoc and one in Guiuan. They will also conduct community relations activities like health education and veterinary services.
In an orientation here last Thursday, Undersecretary Pedro Cesar Ramboanga of the PCVFA identified Gaas, Don Carlos Rivilla, Margen and Nueva Vista in Ormoc; Surok and the Felipe Abrigo Memorial Hospital in Guiuan as the barangays and institution where the troops would work.

The soldiers will construct a two-classroom building each in Gaas, Don Carlos Rivilla and Surok and conduct health education in Margen and Nueva Vista. They will also hold a medical seminar at the Felipe Abrigo Memorial Hospital. It was emphasized that the Balikatan would be an “exchange of skills and technology.”

The US soldiers will be restricted to their quarters to avoid a “Pemberton-like” incident from happening again, referring to the conviction of US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton for the killing of transgender woman Jennifer Laude.

In the event that they are allowed to go out, they would be escorted by the Philippine Army.

US crucial for Sison’s PH return

From The Standard (Apr 11): US crucial for Sison’s PH return

ONLY the interference of the United States proves crucial for the return of Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison to the country.

Sison has expressed he is preparing for a possible return following the invitation of his pre-law student at the Lyceum of the Philippines, now President Rodrigo Duterte, to end his many years of self-imposed exile.

Sison said: “My lawyers and route planners are studying how to avoid any stopover where the government is rabidly pro-US and whether a return visa to The Netherlands effectively guarantees the protection provided by the European Convention on Human Rights.

“I can travel on a Philippine passport for the sake of the peace negotiations. I am most likely to visit the Philippines to promote and advance the peace process.”

Sison, who brushed off claims by Duterte that he was “very sick,” earlier said he was in the pink of health and expressed openness to return on the success of peace talks, or if he would get to be awarded as a National Artist.

Amid claims by the United States which branded Sison and the CPP as a “terrorist organization,” the rebel leader maintained he should be allowed to return to the country without US meddling.

Sison said: “Neither the US nor Interpol has any warrant of arrest against me. As a result of the foreign ‘terrorist’ labelling by the US State Department, there is only the order to the Office of the Foreign Asset Control under the US Treasury Department to prevent or freeze any bank account or financial transaction that I might have in the US banks.

“Thus, royalty payments to me by my American publishers have been frozen since 2002.”

He added: “The European Council through the Dutch government consulted the US before it decided to concede to the judgment of the European Court of Justice to remove my name from the EU “terrorist” list because of the violations of my rights.

“The US government could not give any new defamation against me.”

During the recently concluded fourth round of talks in the Netherlands, government and NDF negotiators both agreed to conclude the unfinished distribution of land and do this for free for the landless and poor farmers, farm workers, and fisherfolk, with just compensation to owners.

Also agreed on was a joint interim ceasefire between the military and the New People’s Army.

Sison, who sought long years of political asylum in Utrecht, The Netherlands, was hospitalized in January, causing him to miss the third round of peace talks in Rome, Italy.