Thursday, September 21, 2017

China concerned Chinese may be fighting in Marawi

From Update Philippines (Sep 22): China concerned Chinese may be fighting in Marawi

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries and dialogue partners are worried that foreign terrorists fighting in Marawi City might go back and spread terror to their respective countries.

This was noted by Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Officer-in-Charge Catalino Cuy during the press conference at the closing of 11th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime (AMMTC) and its Related Meetings and Second Special ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Rise of Radicalization and Violent Extremism held in Pasay City.

Cuy, who is the current leader of AMMTC, said member countries expressed during the meetings that “they were concerned that the fighters who might be fighting in Marawi might go back to their respective countries and spread the terror when they get back home.”

“Because there are some identified Malaysian and Indonesian fighters in Marawi. So that’s one of the concerns of our neighbors,” he added.

“Even China, expressed concern that there might be Chinese nationals already in Marawi and they are worried that afterwards when the situation is resolved in Marawi they might find another place and they go back to their respective countries,” Cuy added.

LOOK: PCG receives new twin-engine speedboat

From Update Philippines (Sep 22): LOOK: PCG receives new twin-engine speedboat


The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) received a twin-engine 200Hp Yamaha Speedboat for use of PCG in southwestern Mindanao on Wednesday, September 20.

PCG District Southwestern Mindanao acting commander Captain Ronnie Gil L. Gavan received the said speedboat from the provincial government of Tawi-Tawi led by Governor Rashidin Matba.

“The said speedboat will be used for maritime security patrol as one of the main functions of the PCG,” PCG said.
PCG photo

LOOK: Scout Rangers use improvised giant slingshot in Marawi, Angry Birds style

From Update Philippines (Sep 21): LOOK: Scout Rangers use improvised giant slingshot in Marawi, Angry Birds style

Scout Ranger Books photo.

Philippine Army Special Operations Command’s Scout Rangers showed the ‘Angry Ranger’ giant slingshot in the official social networking page of Scout Ranger Books. The Angry Ranger is being used in Marawi City.

“Meron po kaming giant slingshot na tinatawag namin na Angry Ranger. Ang bala niya ay granada,” said in the Scout Ranger Books page. “Kada may papasukin na building ang isang Scout Ranger unit, pinapaulanan muna ni Angry Ranger ng mga granada para ma detonate ang mga IED dun.”

It added that due to Angry Ranger’s effectiveness many lives were already saved. “Dahil epektibo si Angry Ranger, marami na rin na save na buhay ito,” it said.

Officially the First Scout Ranger Regiment, is Philippine Army Special Operations Command unit trained for anti-guerrilla jungle warfare, raids, ambushes, and sabotage.

The First Scout Ranger Regiment has four fighting battalions with 21 companies.

9 NPAs killed by Army troopers

From Update Philippines (Sep 21): 9 NPAs killed by Army troopers

Nine members of NPA were killed, while one was wounded in government side after 84th Infantry Battalion, of 7th Infantry Division, Philippine Army encountered approximately 15 NPAs at Sitio Barat, Barangay Burgos, Carranglan, Nueva Ecija at around 7:25 am, September 20.
“Acting on reports from local residents fed up with the NPAs extortion activities, 703rd Brigade Commander Colonel Abraham Claro C Casis directed the conduct of a focused military operation to the 84IB,” 7ID said.

“The Charlie Company of 84IB was sent to inspect said area, and on nearing the vicinity, they were suddenly fired upon. The troops immediately assumed defense position and firefight ensued,” it added.

7ID said after the firefight subsided, troops clearing the area were able to recover 10 high-powered firearms and nine (9) backpacks with subversive documents.

LOOK: 7 Abu Sayyaf terrorists surrender

From Update Philippines (Sep 22): LOOK: 7 Abu Sayyaf terrorists surrender

Seven members of Abu Sayyaf terrorist group have surrendered to government through 2nd Special Forces Battalion at its Headquarters in Barangay Bayog, Talipao, Sulu on September 16 and 18. 2nd Special Forces Battalion is currently being led by acting commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Jessie R. Montoya.

The seven surrendered with their firearms consisting of two M16 rifles, four M1 Garand rifles, and one Caliber .45 pistol.

The Civil Relations Service (CRS) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said surrendering of firearms shows their sincere commitment to return to the folds of law, rejoin the society, and live peacefully with their families.

“This is through the efforts of 3rd Sulu Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit Active Auxiliary (CAA) and Special Forces Intelligence Team (SFIT) led by Captain Heinrich B. Ambrocio who negotiated for the surrender of these ASG members belonging to the slain ASG Sub-Leader Alhabsy Misaya,” CRS said.

CRS said among the surrenderees are Aldin Hadil Akmad, 25 years old; Willing Ibba Jaabal, 45 years old; Ijal Samsain Sadjal, 25 years old; and Emar Ladjar Y Udjah, 17 years old who surrendered last September 16.

It added that last September 18, three more ASG members namely: Musoy Elani, 25 years old; Tayong Bahala AKA Freeman, 50 years old; and Muknan Basir, 30 years old surrendered.

Budget for Korean corvette’s transfer to PH navy approved

From Update Philippines (Sep 22): Budget for Korean corvette’s transfer to PH navy approved

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has approved and forwarded the budget request worth PHP250 million to the Office of the President for the transfer of former Republic of Korea (ROK) Navy Flight III Pohang-class corvette ROKS Chungju (PCC-762) to the Philippine Navy, MaxDefense Philippines said.

ROKS Chungju was decommissioned from South Korean navy service in December 2016.

The Philippine government will be paying the South Korean government with token fee of USD100.

However, the Philippine government will handle the cost for the ship’s refurbishment to make it safe to sail from South Korea to Philippines.

“We have sent a letter to the Government of South Korea expressing our intent to acquire one Pohang class corvette. We are hoping to receive the vessel within the year,” DND public affairs chief Arsenio Andolong told PNA in April 2017.

“The transfer will be in the form of a donation, however, we will pay a token fee of USD100. The corvette will still undergo refurbishment, the cost of which we will shoulder,” he added.

House to file Bangsamoro commission version of BBL next week

From Rappler (Sep 21): House to file Bangsamoro commission version of BBL next week

President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to certify as urgent the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law

LEDAC MEETING. President Rodrigo Duterte meets with the  with the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) at the Malacañang Palace on September 20, 2017. Photo by Robinson Niñal Jr/Presidential Photo

LEDAC MEETING. President Rodrigo Duterte meets with the with the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) at the Malacañang Palace on September 20, 2017. Photo by Robinson Niñal Jr/Presidential Photo

A revised version of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will be filed at the House of Representatives by next week, nearly two months after the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) first submitted it to Malacañang.

Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas made the statement on Thursday morning, September 21, after he and other Congress leaders attended a Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) meeting on Wednesday night, September 20.
"We will file the bill for the BBL submitted by the BTC next week," Fariñas said.

He added, “The President informed us that he will leave to the wisdom of the Congress the final version of the BBL."

President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier committed to push for the legislation of the BBL, which failed to pass Congress during the previous Aquino administration because of the botched Mamasapano operation.

The proposed Bangsamoro region, which will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), is a fulfillment of a 2014 peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Duterte has yet to certify the BBL as urgent, but he has repeatedly made the promise. Once certified as urgent, Congress is expected to pass ithe controversial measure within the year.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier said that he wants to file the BBL himself at the House. He said in an interview early September that the BTC version of the BBL might be consolidated with other House versions of the bill.

7 Filipino militant suspects arrested in Malaysia

From Rappler (Sep 21): 7 Filipino militant suspects arrested in Malaysia

The arrests last week brings to 41 the number of foreigners suspected of being 'terrorist fighters' who have been detained in Malaysia this year

Malaysian police have detained 7 Filipinos suspected of involvement with the Abu Sayyaf militant group, an official said Thursday, September 21, the latest arrest of extremist suspects in the Muslim-majority country.

The 7 men, aged between 22 and 38, were working as private security guards in and around the capital Kuala Lumpur, said national police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun.

One had fought Filipino troops and was previously involved in abductions in the southern Philippines. Police did not give details about the other suspects.

The arrests last week bring to 41 the number of foreigners suspected of being "terrorist fighters" who have been detained in Malaysia this year, he said.

Fears have been growing in Malaysia that Muslim militants are ramping up their activities, inspired by the Islamic State group and a conflict in the Philippine city of Marawi between followers of the jihadists and authorities.

"The police will continue to launch operations to detect and catch foreign terrorist elements that infiltrate Malaysia," Mohamad Fuzi said in a statement.

The men caught in the latest arrests had entered Malaysia via Sabah state on Borneo island in September 2015 before heading to the capital city using fake documents, the police chief said.

The Abu Sayyaf are Islamist militants engaged mainly in kidnappings for ransom who have operated out of the southern Philippines for years.

They have raided Malaysian parts of Borneo, not far from the southern Philippines, and abducted foreign tourists.

One faction has pledged allegiance to IS and joined militants battling security forces since May in Marawi, the main Muslim city in the mostly Catholic Philippines.

Malaysian police earlier this month said they had arrested 19 suspects including 11 foreigners who had been plotting to disrupt the 2017 Southeast Asian Games and the country's independence day celebrations.

Release order out for Nur after posting bail

From the Mindanao Times (Sep 21): Release order out for Nur after posting bail

THE REGIONAL Trial Court Branch 16 issued the release order after Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari posted bail on Tuesday for the four cases filed against him.
Misuari posted a bail of P460,000 before the RTC Branch 16 under Executive Judge Emmanuel Carpio for his cases of graft and malversation through falsification of public documents.

His bail amounted to P200,000 for each of malversation through falsification charges, and P30,000 for each of the graft charges.
The release order was then forwarded yesterday to the Sandiganbayan pending for approval.
Last Aug. 31, the Sandiganbayan has issued a warrant of arrest against the former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao for graft and malversation through falsification charge.

Misuari, along with other officials, was charged with two counts of graft and two counts of malversation for the allegedly anomalous purchase of educational materials in 2000.

The Sandiganbayan then issued a warrant of arrest vs. Misuari.

Meanwhile, in September 2016, the Office of the Ombudsman charged Misuari and former local officials with graft and malversation for the anomalous purchase of P137.5 million worth of textbooks and educational materials in 2000 back when he was still the ARMM governor.

Cops in NorthCot town under ‘NPA threats’ – police official

From MindaNews (Sep 21): Cops in NorthCot town under ‘NPA threats’ – police official

A police officer in Makilala, North Cotabato has disclosed that his men are under threats of abduction by the New People’s Army (NPA).

Chief Insp. Johnny Rick Felongco Medel, Makilala police station chief, said he based his report from the information he gathered from the intelligence community. “We have been receiving reports that some members of the Makilala Police would be the next target of the NPA,” he said.

To counter this, Medel has heightened security alert among his men.

He said he doesn’t want a repeat of what happened to his subordinates, PO1 Bristol Catalan, who was abducted by NPA rebels last August 16 in a remote village in Kidapawan City.

Catalan, up to this writing, is still being held captive by the NPA despite calls from Kidapawan Bishop Colin Bagaforo and local officials from Makilala and Kidapawan City.

Bagaforo said he has sought the help of three priests from the Diocese of Kidapawan and a pastor from another religious congregation to negotiate for Catalan’s safe release.

On August 26, Bishop Bagaforo recorded his urgent appeal addressed to the leaders of the NPA, Communist Party of the Philippines, and the National Democratic Front operating in the provinces of North Cotabato, Davao del Sur, and Bukidnon for Catalan’s release.

The appeal has been playing daily over the Catholic-run DXND. “The appeal would be aired over DXND until such time Catalan is released from captivity,” said the radio station’s management.

NorthCot’s ‘most wanted’ killed

From MindaNews (Sep 21): NorthCot’s ‘most wanted’ killed

North Cotabato’s most wanted fugitive and suspected gun-for-hire was killed in Carmen town around 10 p.m. Wednesday, a village official said.

Killed was Nasser Omar, also known as Commander Derby, who was believed behind the killing in 2010 of Pol Dulay, vice-mayor of Kabacan, North Cotabato.

Nestor Salama, chair of Barangay Batongkaya in Montawal, Maguindanao confirmed Omar’s death in an interview Thursday with radio station DXND.

Salama said that Nasser, who carried a P2.5-million reward money on his head, was killed in Barangay Nasapian, Carmen by his close-in bodyguard whom he refused to name for his “security”.

In 2010, the municipal government of Kabacan offered a P1.5-million reward for his arrest or death after witnesses tagged him as Dulay’s killer.

In May 2017, another P1-million reward was dangled for his capture after he led the escape of at least 157 inmates from the North Cotabato District Jail (NCDJ) on January 4, 2017.

Omar was allegedly hired to take Melvin Casangyao out of NCDJ.

Casangyao is an alleged drug lord operating in North Cotabato and neighboring provinces, reports from the police said.

But Senior Supt. Agustin Tello, provincial director of the Maguindanao Provincial Police Office, said he wants proof of Omar’s death.

Also, Inspector Pandulo, chief of Pagalungan (Maguindanao) police, said he would only believe the report if he he saw Omar’s body.

But Salama said the fugitive was already been buried on Thursday morning in keeping with Islamic tradition.

He said Omar was shot while sleeping inside the house of his mother-in-law in Nasapian.

His wife and son were also hit but survived the attack. Both were being treated in a hospital in Kabacan, a town next to Carmen.

Police kill notorious bandit allied with Abu Sayyaf

From the Mindanao Examiner (Sep 20): Police kill notorious bandit allied with Abu Sayyaf

Police forces killed a notorious criminal whose group is affiliated with the Abu Sayyaf following a firefight in the southern Philippine province, officials said Wednesday.

The fighting broke out in the village of Mamagon in Naga town after civilians tipped off police on the presence of gunmen in the area, according to Chief Inspector Helen Galvez, a regional police spokesperson.

She said a team of policemen were sent to the village and caught up with a band of armed men and a firefight erupted that killed the 44-year old Moner Jikiri Timbol, a member of the Abdusalam Group, blamed for the spate of ransom kidnappings and banditry in Zamboanga Peninsula. Timbol was also wanted for murders in the province.

“Elements of Zamboanga Sibugay Provincial Public Safety Company conducted prophylactic patrol after receiving reports the regarding presence of armed men at Sitio Pulo Panjang and upon reaching the area, the operating troops encountered seven men armed with high powered firearms which led to a ten-minute firefight,” Galvez said.

There was no report of police casualties, she said, adding, Chief Superintendent Billy Beltran, the regional police commander, praised the successful operation. Police forces were still hunting down at least 6 other gunmen who managed to escape during the running gun battle.

7 Abu Sayyaf militants captured in Kuala Lumpur

From the Mindanao Examiner (Sep 21): 7 Abu Sayyaf militants captured in Kuala Lumpur

Malaysian authorities are holding 7 Filipino militants who are members of the notorious jihadist group Abu Sayyaf following their capture in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia did not release the identities of the militants, but police said their ages are between 22 and 38, who managed to slip into the capital from the eastern state of Sabah near Tawi-Tawi, a province in the Muslim autonomous region in southern Philippines.

Their capture was the result of a careful operation and an offshoot of the arrest of 2 other Abu Sayyaf and six Malaysian militants in August in Kuala Lumpur, but it was unclear how the militants managed to sneak into Sabah. Although Malaysian authorities said some of those captured were working as private security guards for some companies in Kuala Lumpur and had faked their identities.

There was no immediate statement from the Philippine foreign ministry office or the military authorities in connection to the capture of the militants whose group is allied with the Islamic State.

OPAPP to launch ‘Peace Buzz’ in Caraga region

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 22): OPAPP to launch ‘Peace Buzz’ in Caraga region

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) will launch the Peace Buzz as the main highlight of this year’s Peace Month Celebration.

The Peace Buzz is a peace caravan that will roam nationwide to bring the government’s peace initiatives on the ground. The Peace Buzz will kick off in Baguio City, and will make stops in the cities of Quezon, Legazpi, Catbalogan, Butuan, Davao and Iligan. It will conclude its journey in Marawi City, in time for the closing ceremony of the Peace Month.

It is expected to arrive in Caraga Region on the 26th of September 2017 with the peace advocates, resource speakers and some OPAPP executives on-board the bus.

“In support of this activity, we also identified several activities in Caraga region that are anchored to the Caraga Roadmap for Peace. These activities are expected to raise awareness of the communities, through our media and local communicators, indigenous people (IP) leaders and women's sector on the following main topics: Updates of the Philippine Peace Process; The Comprehensive and Agreement on Respect to Human Rights – International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL); and The Roles of Women and Indigenous Peoples in the Peace process and Community Peacebuilding,” said Allan Almoite, Manager of Area Management Team of Northern Mindanao.

Pursuant to the thrust of the Government to instill greater consciousness and understanding among the Filipino People on the comprehensive peace process, the month of September was declared as the ‘National Peace Consciousness Month” by virtue of Proclamation No. 675 dated 20 July 2004. The Proclamation mandates the OPAPP to be the lead government agency to coordinate and monitor the observance of the National Peace Consciousness Month.

“Puso para sa Kapayapaan, Magkaisa para sa Bayan,” is the theme for this year’s celebration of the National Peace Consciousness Month.

OPAPP rolls off nationwide peace caravan from Baguio

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 20): OPAPP rolls off nationwide peace caravan from Baguio

In celebration of the National Peace Consciousness Month, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) will roll out a “Peace Buzz” caravan from here to Mindanao on Thursday, September 21.

The caravan is aimed at bringing to the grassroots the consciousness, understanding and sustaining of institutional and popular support to build a culture of peace.

The National Peace Consciousness Month is observed every September by virtue of Proclamation 675 issued in July 2004. The nationwide caravan will start in Baguio on September 21.

Mayor Mauricio Domogan, who chairs the Cordillera Regional Development Council (RDC) and Peace and Order Council (RPOC), said the OPAPP’s "Peace Buzz" is a “road trip” towards peace that will bring the government’s peace initiatives to the ground.

“A peace caravan will journey from northern Philippines, in Baguio to the south in Marawi,” he said. It will make stopovers in Quezon City, Legazpi City, Catbalogan City, Butuan City, Davao City, Iligan City and will end in Marawi for the closing ceremony of the National Peace Consciousness Month.

During the send-off program on September 21, Cordillera elders will do a customary prayer ritual followed by an interfaith prayer for peace.

“This prayer for peace will be sent to the people of Marawi through the Peace Buzz to be handed to the community leaders of Marawi in hope that this offering will convey the Cordillera people’s solidarity with them in their time of crisis,” Domogan relayed.

Messages of peace carrying the theme, “Puso para sa kapayapaan, magkaisa para sa bayan, will be given by RDC, RPOC, a Cordillera elder who advocates for peace, and a Muslim community leader.

The National Peace Consciousness Month is celebrated to instill greater consciousness and understanding among the Filipino people on the comprehensive peace process to strengthen and sustain institutional and popular support to promote a culture of peace based on non-violence, respect for fundamental rights and freedoms, tolerance, understanding and solidarity.

"It reflects the positive change we want our country to achieve and to remind us to put a little more understanding and respect to one another despite the differences in culture, which can be the strength of our country," Mayor Domogan said.

Misuari posts bail for graft, malversation raps

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 20): Misuari posts bail for graft, malversation raps

Executive Judge Emmanuel Carpio issued the release order of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Chieftain Nur Misuari after posting bail on Tuesday in connection to the graft and malversation charges before the Sandiganbayan.

Misuari is facing two counts of graft and two counts of malversation for the alleged anomalous purchase of education materials when he was the governor of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao in 2000.

Misuari reportedly spent P115 million for educational materials, but were not delivered to intended recipients.

The anti-graft court has ordered police authorities to arrest Misuari early this month. It has set the bail at PhP200,000 to PhP460,000 each for malversation through falsification charges, and PhP30,000 each for graft.

Misuari posted a cash bond of P460,000.
Misuari is in Davao City and met with President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday night at the Matina Enclaves.

OPAPP: Sustain gains of peace process

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 20): OPAPP: Sustain gains of peace process

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Undersecretary Nabil Tan has exhorted the need to sustain and advance the gains of the peace process to counter and address the root cause of violent extremism -- a key driver that led to the ongoing armed conflict in Marawi City.

Tan, who is actively involved for years in the peace negotiations with the Moro fronts representing the government, made the appeal during a forum on the Bangsamoro Peace Process and Countering Violent Extremism and Terrorism on Sunday, September 17.

Tan said furthering the peace building in Mindanao would discourage the emergence of violent extremism and radicalism particularly in conflict-ridden areas.

Tan provided updates on the developments of the implementation of the peace agreements between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MNLF).

He exhorted the need to support the overall peace process in Mindanao amid the ongoing conflict in Marawi City.

“The crisis in Marawi is just a microcosm of things until and unless fully healed, conflict can erupt,” he said, adding that the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) “will actively engage in the social and cultural healing processes because they are very important.”

“The social healing and cultural healing is part of the Task Force Bangon Marawi, which OPAPP is a member,” he said.

“Poor governance, non-involvement of the youth, education, health, etc. these can be drivers of extremism because when hope is almost lost, which is prevalent in the conflict area, it’s a fertile ground for extremism,” Tan, chair of the government implementing panels dealing with the MILF and MNLF, said.

Sheik Zayd Ocfemia, chair for social affairs of the Zamboanga Peninsula Ulama Council, emphasized during the forum that wrong interpretations of the teachings of Islam, and the vulnerability of the people in the conflict-prone areas are some of the major causes of the violent extremism in Mindanao.

Tolerance and co-existing with other religions are at the center of the teachings of Islam, Ocfemia said.

Quoting a verse from the holy Quran, Ocfemia said Islam is against the notion of using violence.

He said the Ulama or Muslim clerics in the country have earlier issued a fatwa or Islamic law declaring terrorism as “haram” or forbidden.

Ocfemia noted that they have laid down several actions to address violent extremism and terrorism through countering “the narrative of the radicals and the war mongers by instituting policies and programs aimed at reducing poverty, promoting social justice and equal opportunities regardless of religion or ethnicity.”

The Ulama also called on to strengthen “interfaith dialogues with the cultural and religious sensitivities of all groups in order to attract wider participation among Muslim scholars.”

Prof. Alih Aiyub, secretary-general of the National Ulama Council of the Philippines, said the mixture of structural violence in Mindanao has provided a conducive environment for radicalism to emerge.

Aiyub said a comprehensive solution to address the social ills in the conflict-ridden areas should be implemented on the ground.

For his part, Rear Admiral Rene Medina, Naval Forces Western Mindanao commander, said the military is tapping all sectors, particularly the Moro fronts to “completely defeat terrorism.”

“Security is a shared responsibility. It needs sustainment of partnership between the different stakeholders,” Medina said.

He represented Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, during the forum.

“The resolution of the Bangsamoro question is the long-term solution in achieving peace in Muslim Mindanao…It has direct and lasting impact in combating terrorism,” Medina said, quoting Galvez.

During the forum, Peter Cheng, OPAPP program manager for Zamboanga-Basilan-Sulu-Tawi-Tawi areas, also provided the updates to the participants about the six-point Peace and Development Agenda of the Duterte administration.

Abul-Jalil Umngan, Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) Western Mindanao area manager, also spelled-out the strategic direction for Mindanao “to operationalize the policy directive of President Rodrigo Duterte to push for the systemic shift to a federal form of government.”

“As such, we will be providing a mechanism that will bring the Moro people together to forge unity; ensure their participation in the national discourse on federalism; and isolate the extremist groups within our midst. For this purpose, we will be at the soonest, convene the All Moro Convention,” Umngan, representing Secretary Datu Hj. Abul Khayr Alonto, said.

The whole-day forum was initiated by OPAPP in connection with the month-long celebration of the National Peace Consciousness Month this September.

Police beef up border security due to clashes in Nueva Ecija

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 20): Police beef up border security due to clashes in Nueva Ecija

The Pangasinan police has beefed up security in the border areas of eastern Pangasinan following a clash between elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the New People's Army (NPA) in Caranglan, Nueva Ecija.

At least nine NPA rebels were reportedly killed in the firefight that began early today (Wednesday).

According to Senior Supt. Ronald Oliver Lee, police provincial director, the firefight involves soldiers of the Philippine Army and a band of NPA rebels in Caranglan, Nueva Ecija.

Lee said government forces now manning the border areas in the Pangasinan side are from the Pangasinan Police Provincial Office, Provincial Public Safety Company and the Regional Public Safety Battalion, all of the police; as well as from the Army's 84th Infantry Brigade.

He said these forces are being readied to intercept NPA rebels who may be straying into Pangasinan after being driven out from Caranglan, Nueva Ecija.

In fact, he said, the police and the military boosted their strength in the areas around the towns of San Nicolas, Natividad, San Quintin and Umingan, Pangasinan where they were already on full alert since July 28 this year.
On July 28, elements of the Regional Public Safety Battalion 1 (RSPB1) clashed with NPA rebels in the boundary of Barangays Sta. Maria and Malico in San Nicolas where one government trooper was killed and another was wounded.

Another firefight happened on August 25 in the same area resulting in the death of three NPA rebels..

Lee admitted that NPA rebels who clashed with government forces in San Nicolas on July 28 and August 25 in San Nicolas, Pangasinan came from Nueva Ecija where they are reportedly actively operating.

Security tightened in Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 21): Security tightened in Cotabato

Amid security threats, government authorities have established five guarded boat docks to prevent criminals and jihadist from entering this city and avoid Marawi City-like siege.

Cotabato City, which has a population of about 300,000 as of 2015 census, is traversed by various rivers used as waterways from other areas of Maguindanao.

It is bounded by Rio Grande de Mindanao in the east and Tamontaka river in the south.

The establishment of boat docks is one of the security measures put up by the Cotabato City inter-agency Peace and Order Council chaired by Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi, according to Halima Satol-Ibrahim, city information officer.
The boat berthing sites are on the riversides of Barangay Bucana, Matampay, Tamontaka, Kalanganan and Timako areas.

People are closely monitored at the entry and exit points for security purpose. Sayadi ordered the tagging of all boats, passenger vessels or fishing boats with numbers and identification marks.

Members of the Joint Task Force Kutawato, composed of military and police units will man the boat docks.

The task force was launched early this year to help secure the city from lawless elements, kidnappers and terrorists operating in Maguindanao.

Army cites troops for honesty

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 21): Army cites troops for honesty

The Army here rendered a snappy salute to two infantrymen for their honesty that brings honor to the organization.

On Wednesday, Maj. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, commander of the 6th Infantry “Kampilan” Division based in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao, cited Private PFC Pol William Patarata and militiaman Ronnie Delfin, both of 38th Infantry “We clear” Battalion for honesty, according to Capt. Arvin John Encinas.

Encinas, 6th ID spokesperson, said the two both received certificate of appreciation for returning more than PHP120,000 cash and checks they found on a roadside in Cotabato City last week.

Patarata and Delfin were on board a motorbike traversing Lorenzo Street in Cotabato City when they found the passbook at the roadside. It was owned by couple Roger and Jovie Changco.

The cash amounting to PHP20,000 was inserted in the passbook along with a PHP9,000 worth of check. The passbook has P100,000 cash deposit.

Undecided where to bring the money, the two brought it to the division headquarters and turned them over to their superiors who in turn contacted the owners.

“I am guided by our division commander’s reminders that we soldiers must do good all the time,” Patarata, 24, said.

Delfin, on the other hand, said he was brought up by his parents not to claim what is not his. “Hindi po sa amin ang pera, kailanman di magiging amin ito at nararapat lang na isauli sa tunay na may-ari (The money was not ours, it will never be ours and we know it deserved to be returned to the owners),” he said.

“I awarded them with cash rewards as recognition for their honesty,” Dela Vega said in a TV interview. “Other soldiers should emulate what the two had done,” he added.

Army, NPA clash in NoCot

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 21): Army, NPA clash in NoCot

Heavy firefight between soldiers and suspected rebels erupted Wednesday afternoon in a remote village in North Cotabato.

Lt. Silver Belvis, speaking for the Army's 39th Infantry Battalion, said Thursday the operation lasted for more than an hour and resulted in the recovery of war materials left by fleeing communist New Peoples’ Army.

Belvis said the fighting erupted at around 3 p.m. at sitio Kinampang, Barangay Balite in Magpet, North Cotabato.

Civilians alerted the militiamen and the Army’s 39th IB about the presence of 20 to 30 heavily armed rebels in the sub-village.

After verification, the Army launched offensive backed by helicopter attacks to flush out the rebels who were reported to be extorting civilians of farm produce.

Extortion is one of the fund-raising activities the NPA had been using against civilian farmers in remote villages and multi-national firms in North Cotabato.

Belvis said the rebels were under the command of Ronald Sagcaan of Pulang Bagani Group. They all belong to Guerilla Front 53 operating in North Cotabato’s second district.

No casualty was reported on government side.

Belvis told DXND Radyo Bida in Kidapawan that there were reports of NPA casualties but this has yet to be confirmed.

Clearing operations were immediately conducted by Army troops where 15 kilos of ingredients for making improvised explosive devices were found.

Belvis said government forces also recovered fragmentation grenades, ammunition and subversive and propaganda materials.

The Army has been bracing for counter-attacks from the communist rebels following the recovery of 20 Armalite rifles from the rebels in Kidapawan City last month and the arrest of a ranking NPA leader in Makilala, North Cotabato.

Navy, PAF conduct joint exercises

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 21): Navy, PAF conduct joint exercises

The Philippine Navy (PN) and Philippine Air Force (PAF) have been conducting joint exercises to enhance interoperability and operational capability amid the growing threats in the southern Philippines area.

The 1st joint training is code named Naval Forces Western Mindanao-3rd Tactical Operations Command (NFWM-3TOC) Interoperability Exercise “Ayudahan” 2017.

Rear Adm. Rene Medina, Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) commander, on Thursday said the exercises aim to develop the interoperability and operational capabilities of NFWM-TOC units in Western Mindanao Area of Operations.

Medina said it is also to enhance the overall coordination and responsiveness in the conduct of joint maritime operations in support to Internal Security Operations (ISO) and Territorial Defense Operations (TDO).

He said the joint exercises are being carried out in three phases and these are: Preparation Phase, August 1 to September 17); Exercise Phase, Sepember 18 to October 12; and, Termination Phase, October 13 to 16.

He said this included series of classroom instructions, lectures, and discussions on the formulation and execution of joint operation plans, subject matter expertise exchanges (SMEEs) and Field Training Exercises (FTX).

The joint exercise is being participated by the following NFWM units: Naval Task Force 61; Naval Special Operations Unit 6; Naval Air Unit-Western Mindanao; Naval Intelligence and Security Group-Western Mindanao; Maritime Situational Awareness Center- Western Mindanao; and, Naval Station Romulo Espaldon.

The participating units from the 3TOC are as follows: 15th Strike Wing; 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing; 304th Air Intelligence and Security Squadronl; 722nd Special Operations Squadron; 505th Search and Rescue Group (SRG); Edwin Andrews Air Base Hospital; and, Philippine Air Force Engineering Construction Group.

Medina is optimistic that the participating units will take the joint exercise as an opportunity to learn and develop their capabilities during the conduct of joint maritime patrols, surveillance and search patrols, and rescue operations in the Western Mindanao region.

He said the continuous collaboration of the two forces is an evidence of a strong commitment to serve and perform their respective duties for the pursuit of lasting peace, order and development in the Western Mindanao.

Ex-judge to lead local peace talks with Reds in Davao

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 21): Ex-judge to lead local peace talks with Reds in Davao

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio named a retired judge to lead the local peace talks with the communist armed group operating in the city.

Duterte-Carpio bared Wednesday she has asked retired judge Ridgway Tanjili to chair the Davao City Local Peace Committee (LCPC), which will be composed of City Social Services and Development Office (CSSDO) head Ma. Luisa Bermudo, Lawyer Eliza Lapeña from the City Legal Office, Captain Joselito Areja of Barangay Malabog, Davao City Archbishop Romulo Valles, representative from the private sector, and two other consultants.

Tanjili, who was appointed judge by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in early 2000, is a law graduate at the Ateneo de Davao University and a graduate of Master in Public Administration.

Tanjili headed the Public Attorney’s Office-Davao for 16 years before he headed the Regional Trial Court Branch 15.

The city mayor also said she has initially talked to the two consultants, but she begged off to name them at this time. She said both have experience in peace works.

Her offer to them, she said will be formalized before October 1 when the LCPC will start to buckle down to work.

The LCPC has one year (until November 18) to engage with the New People’s Army (NPA) operating in the city. Davao City has known Red areas in Paquibato, Marilog, Baguio, and Calinan Districts. The NPA guerrilla fronts operating in the city are the Fronts 54, 56, and Pulang Bagani Command (PBC) 1, 2, and reportedly a newly-created PBC 3.

“They (members of the LCPC) will try their best to deliver unsay dapat mahitabo (what should be done),” the mayor said.

If nothing significant happens in November 2018, Duterte-Carpio said she will disband the committee.

Meantime, the mayor revealed she received feelers from a member of the NPA to surrender.

While she welcomed this a good development, Duterte-Carpio clarified her objective for the local peace talks is the NPA to work with government and lay down their arms.

“They (rebels) can work with us with their arms if they want. I will be very flexible just to attain that elusive dream of peace,” the mayor stressed.

She said she will find them jobs such as working as forest guards.

But if rebels surrender individually, the mayor said the can seek help from local officials and avail of programs already available for them like the CLIP (Comprehensive Local Integration Program) offered by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

The mayor said the LCPC can still help facilitate for each surrenderer to avail programs but she hinted to broader work of the committee like tackling issues on amnesty for those facing charges in local courts, decommissioning of firearms, among others.

Duterte-Carpio confirmed there will be no military component in the LCPC.

Earlier, the military expressed support to the localized peace talks even if the peace negotiations with the communists at the national level had been suspended by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Brig. Gen Bienvenido Datuin, Assistant Division Commander of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division, lauded the mayor for initiating the local peace talks and other trailblazing activities like the recruitment of the Special Cafgu active auxiliary (SCAA).

“We will toe-the-line,” Datuin earlier said as he does not see any problem on the local peace talks even if the commander-in-chief (President Duterte) has “no talks” policy with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

He said the Philippine Army could even pursue its reintegration program, continue securing the people, and develop conflict-resilient communities.

“It is not about winning the war, but it is about winning the peace,” Datuin stressed, hoping that the other side will also respect the peace initiatives of the mayor.

“Let’s give it a try,” he said.

Duterte-Carpio is pursuing local peace talks as it is her duty as a local leader for the Dabawenyos to achieve just and lasting peace even if the national government already suspended peace negotiations with the NDF.

Recapture of key Maute outposts huge blow to terror group

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 20): Recapture of key Maute outposts huge blow to terror group

The recent recapture of the Bato Mosque and Amaitul Islamiya Marawi Foundation building in Marawi City has an enormous impact on the fighting capability of the remaining members of the Maute group.

"This recent development has an enormous impact on the (Maute group's) position (in terms) of tactical and strategic positioning of their troops," AFP Public Affairs Office chief, Col. Edgard Arevalo said late Tueday.

The two buildings, which were converted into defensive outposts by the terrorists, were recaptured by government troops over the weekend.

The said operation also resulted in the rescue of Father Chito Soganub and another hostage.

Aside from its strategic and tactical significance, the recapture of the Bato Mosque and the Amaitul Islamiya Marawi Foundation is a big blow against the morale of the remaining Maute terrorists, who could be demoralized and forced to surrender in the coming days.

As of this posting, number of slain Maute terrorists are placed at 673 along with 149 government troops killed.

Fighting in Marawi City broke out last May 23 after a failed effort to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and his cohorts.

Number of civilians killed or executed by the lawless elements totaled to 47 while rescued Marawi City residents are placed at 1,730 and recovered firearms at 699.

Gov’t won't allow formation of armed groups: Palace

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 20): Gov’t won't allow formation of armed groups: Palace

Malacañang on Wednesday said the government will not allow the formation of armed groups seeking to rectify perceived wrongs or issue demands to the government.

“The government does not tolerate the formation of armed groups to seek redress for grievances of citizens. Also, demands from government are better made through dialogues and consultation with various stakeholders,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.

The statement was made following reports on the emergence of a shadowy group in Mindanao calling itself the Meranaw Victims Movement, whose members are supposedly “sons and brethren” of evacuees from Marawi City.

The group is allegedly demanding the government, the Islamic State-inspired Maute group, and even the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for the restoration of normalcy in Marawi City and in the province of Lanao del Sur.

The group has threatened to use force if their demands are not met.

However, Malacañang said the government is still verifying if the group really exists.

“The government, through the military, is still verifying the veracity of the video posted online on the existence of a new armed group called Meranaw Victims Movement,” Abella said.

AFP remains committed to democratic principles

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 21): AFP remains committed to democratic principles

As the nation commemorates the 45th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) assures the public that it remains committed in complying with all democratic principles.

"The AFP passes on its assurance to the people that we abide fully by all the principles of our democratic way of life and that allowing vindictiveness to rule will not be productive," AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said late Wednesday.

Padilla also pointed out that the prevailing martial law in Mindanao which was imposed due to the outbreak of heavy fighting in Marawi City following the series of Maute Group attacks last May 23, is not the same as the one imposed in 1972.

Martial law in Mindanao is being implemented in accordance with existing laws especially those that pertain to prescriptions and proscriptions relating to human rights.

Also, Padilla said the people's right to peaceful assembly is enshrined in the Constitution and the AFP is duty bound to protect this.

"It is a right that we are duty bound to protect as part of our mandated duty," he added. But despite being a part and parcel of a democratic way of life, the AFP spokesperson said this right must be availed responsibly and must not unduly disturb the peace and the right of others to carry on their lawful business.

"We then admonish those participating in such exercises to make sure that they do not unduly impede traffic, ensure they do not destroy public & private property and respect those who do not wish to participate," he added.

This is in wake of President Rodrigo Duterte's decision to declare Sept. 21 as a "National Day of Protest" giving leeway to militant groups and other sectors to take to the streets and air their grievances.

PH signs treaty banning nuclear weapons

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 21): PH signs treaty banning nuclear weapons

The Philippines has signed a United Nations (UN) treaty banning nuclear weapons, as it called on other member states to join the international community in making the world a safer place.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Alan Peter  Cayetano signed Wednesday the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons on the sides of the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

"We call on Member-States that possess the world’s largest nuclear arsenals to sign on to the treaty," he said after signing the instrument.

 "The world will only be safe if we eliminate all weapons of mass destruction."

Cayetano said the treaty presents a unique opportunity for nuclear weapon states to demonstrate that they remain committed to their own cause of nuclear disarmament and the UN Charter.

The Philippines is among 121 UN member-states that adopted the treaty, the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons with the goal of leading towards their total elimination.

The treaty, adopted last July at a UN conference in New York, prohibits a full range of nuclear weapon-related activities, such as undertaking to develop, test, produce, acquire, possess, stockpile, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons.

“As a signatory, the Philippines stands ready to contribute to the work ahead," the DFA chief added.

 "Our signing of the treaty today affirms our unequivocal commitment to put nuclear weapons firmly on the path of extinction, a cause of the highest priority embodied in our country’s constitution."

The Philippines has been consistent in its nuclear disarmament advocacy. It contributed to the effort when it presided over the 2010 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

ASEAN, dialogue partners hope for end of Marawi conflict soon

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 21): ASEAN, dialogue partners hope for end of Marawi conflict soon

The ASEAN member states and its dialogue partners are hoping that the more than three-month fighting in Marawi be resolved soon.
This was stressed by Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) officer-in-charge Catalino S. Cuy during the press briefing on the highlights of the 11th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crimes and the 2nd Special ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Rise of Violent Extremism Thursday.
In attendance were leaders and heads of delegations from Brunei Darussalam, Kingdom of Cambodia, Republic of Indonesia, Lao People's Republic, Malaysia, the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, the Republic of the Philippines, Republic of Singapore, Kingdom of Thailand, and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam as well as officials from dialogue partners such as China, Japan and South Korea. 
The 11th AMMTC was held last Sept. 18 to 21 at Conrad Grand Hotel in Pasay City.
"During the meeting the member countries of ASEAN including the dialogue partners there were unanimous in acknowledging the threats in violent extremism. This is a present threat already and they (greatly concerned about the situation in) Marawi City (and worried) and they are hoping that this situation (be resolved at) the (soonest) possible time," he said.
Fighting in Marawi City started last May 23 after a failed attempt to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and his cohorts. 
Cuy added these nations agreed that closer coordination, cooperation is needed in countering the terror threat in the region.