Monday, October 2, 2017

10 armed men held for trying to enter Camp Aguinaldo

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 3): 10 armed men held for trying to enter Camp Aguinaldo

Military police arrested 10 members of the purported "Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty" while attempting to enter the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City Monday.

The incident took place 5:45 a.m., AFP public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said in press briefing.

"At around 5:45 a.m. of 2 October 2017, 10 members of a certain 'Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty' on board a van were held at Gate 6 of Camp Aguinaldo," he added.

Arevalo said the group was held for questioning for carrying firearms with no appropriate documents, including exemptions from the election gun ban.

The group's leader was a certain Daniel Pagalan, allegedly the group's ‘Chief Intelligence’ while his companions were identified as Alvin Simbahon, Rolando Mahusay alias "Kumander Melody", Dioscoro Danis, James Iwayan, Butch B. Galimba, Rico Giducos, Ramil B. Peralta, Rundy Paderes and Pascula Dizon alias "Kumander Haslim".
All of them are reportedly residents of Koronadal City, South Cotabato.

"They were identified based on identifications they presented bearing the letterhead 'Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty'. The fact that they wore (the same) black T-shirts and design drew the suspicion of the guards on duty.

When asked, the men admitted to have firearms in their possession," the AFP official added.

When questioned further, the group claimed that they were on their way to present their letter request for accreditation to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana through a staff.

"But upon checking, it turned out that they have no prior appointment with the office that they intended to visit. Hence, the persons were held for questioning," Arevalo added.

Seized from the group's possession were two homemade .45 caliber pistols and three 9mm handguns, three magazines with 47 rounds of 9mm bullets and 26 .45 caliber live ammunition and identification cards of still unknown authority and source.

Arevalo said the suspects were immediately turned over to the nearby Station 8 of the Quezon City Police for investigation.

"We commend the guards on duty under the leadership of Col. John Dominic Pulido, the Camp Commander, for their vigilance and appropriate action taken as required under the circumstances. These sentinels will be cited for the faithful performance of their duty and in manifesting a high degree of alertness and level of camp security," he added.

AFP assures humane treatment for captured Maute terrorists

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 3): AFP assures humane treatment for captured Maute terrorists

While the remaining Maute Group terrorists have expressed their willingness to fight to death, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) assured the public that those who will be captured in the ongoing clearing operations will be treated humanely.

AFP public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo gave this assurance as military units in the area could obtain a lot of critical battlefield information which could hasten the clearing of areas in Marawi City still being held by the lawless elements.

"They (Maute terrorists) are on the losing end (so) we encourage them to give up. We are giving them this assurance that they will be treated humanely but of course they would really have to face the consequences of their actions," he said.

As of this posting, Maute-held areas in Marawi City are confined to eight to nine hectares with an estimated 50 bandits manning the defense position.

Number of hostages are still at 43 with 749 Maute Group terrorists slain in the ongoing operations.

Government losses are still 155 soldiers and police officers while captured weapons are at 795.

NCIP asks AFP to absorb Lumads

From the Mindanao Times (Oct 2): NCIP asks AFP to absorb Lumads

AN OFFICIAL of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) said culture sensitivity is implemented in providing employment opportunities to 300 Lumads who are set to be trained by the military within this month in preparation for them to serve as soldiers in two regions of Mindanao.

Shirley Iguianon, chief of Technical Management and Services Division of NCIP XI, said they assured that the rights of the Lumads are respected and are not violated while giving them opportunities to serve in military.
The trainees will be deployed within Regions XI and XII, the areas covered by 10th Infantry Division.

She said this is a result of the agency’s request to Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that at least five percent of the soldiers should be allotted for indigenous peoples (IPs). She said the program has been planned since 2010 but was only implemented this year.
“This employs the culture sensitive needs of the IPs,” Iguianon told the TIMES in an interview last Friday. She said the Lumads have to be deployed especially in their ancestral domains in Regions XI and XII.

The new program, she said, is aimed to provide employment opportunities for the Lumads. The NCIP provides certificate of confirmation that would attest that he or she is part of any IP tribes in the island.

“They will be distributed to regular units of 10th Infantry Division,” Major Ezra Balagtey, spokesperson of AFP’s Eastern Mindanao Command, said in phone interview. He said they can serve up to six years, which can be renewed every three years.

The soon-to-be trained Lumads, Balagtey said, are different from Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit. He said they would be like regular soldiers that would be deployed in the regular units.

Capt. Rhyan Batchar, chief of division public affairs office of 10th Infantry Division, said they waived the requirements like passing an exam and age for the Lumads to enter the military. Should a Lumad opted to extend service after six years, Batchar said he has to pass the aptitude exam.

Batchar said the AFP is employing the Lumads to help them communicate especially with the tribal leaders. This initiative was a realization of the plan of General Año, who was formerly the commander of 10th Infantry Division.

“We want to recruit them and help them as well,” Batchar said.

The new program to provide employment opportunities for Lumads in AFP was also discussed during the public hearing of Commission of Human Rights (CHR) on the fulfillment of the rights of IPs in the regions on Sept. 27-28 at El Bajada Hotel.

The commission will finalize the whole result of their public hearing by December, especially on the issues raised by those in Mindanao as 65% of the IPs in the country is in the island.

“Cutting across these issues are issues of discrimination, violation of free and prior informed consent process especially in development aggression more so in resources conflict situations aggravated by various armed groups intruding into ancestral domain and recruiting IPs in their various struggles,” CHR said in a statement.

Tribal leader released less than 24 hours after he was abducted

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 1): Tribal leader released less than 24 hours after he was abducted

After less than 24 hours in captivity, a tribal leader was released Friday night in good physical condition by his abductors somewhere in San Roque area, San Miguel town, Surigao del Sur, a police official reported on Sunday.

In a flash report on Sunday to Chief Supt. Rolando B. Felix, regional director of Northeastern Mindanao Police Regional Office 13 (PRO 13), San Miguel Municipal Police Station (MPS) chief of police Sr. Insp. Florence D. Murao said Datu Saturnino Gallego of the Indigenous People Mandatory Representative (IPMR) was released by his abductors at 9:30 p.m. on Friday.

However, the motive of the abduction and reason for the release of the IPMR tribe leader remain unknown.

“We are still investigating it,” Murao said.

Gallego is active in the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur, and has been helping the government with its peace and development program.

He was taken from his residence at 10 p.m. on Thursday by about 20 heavily armed New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Sitio Hayon, Barangay Libas Sud, San Miguel, Surigao del Sur, Capt. Francisco P. Garello Jr., Civil Military Operations (CMO) officer of the 36th Infantry (Valor) Battalion (36th IB), said.

The 36th IB CMO officer said Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit Active Auxiliary (CAA) member Danny Rivas, was also abducted with Gallego.

Rebels attack airport in Albay, burn equipment

From the Gulf News (Oct 2): Rebels attack airport in Albay, burn equipment

While peace talks remained suspended, about 30 heavily-armed members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) continued their attacks and set on fire heavy equipment worth $1 million being used in the construction of an international airport in Albay province in the Bicol Region.

Superintendent Arthur Gomez, the provincial police spokesman, disclosed the attack in the town of Daaga, Albay arose from the rejection by the airport contractors of the NPA demand for the payment of “revolutionary taxes.”

Gomez reported that the airport attack was one at least three raids conducted on Thursday night by the insurgents in Daraga, the other two consisting of raids on a police outpost and a military camp considered as “diversionary.”

Police and the military blamed the raids on the NPA, the armed component of the Communist Party of the Philippines that has been waging a Maoist-style insurgency against the government for close to 50 years, considered the longest in the region.

Gomez said no one was reported hurt but the Maoists torched at least $1 million worth of heavy equipment being used in the construction of the airport , described as a “flagship project, ”like dump tracks, graders, cranes as well as a jeep and a pickup.

Some of the witnesses told the police they overheard the insurgents as saying in Filipino the attack was launched as “punishment” for the airport contractors’s refusal to pay the “revolutionary taxes” being demanded, according to Gomez.

“So sad. Another setback after 12 years of effort. But we are not giving up,” said Congressman Joey Salceda and also the former governor who initiated the airport project to lure more visitors to visit Albay, the home of the majestic but fiery Mayon Volcano which experts agree, has the world’s most perfect cone.

The Albay raids were the latest in a series of attacks launched by the Maoists since President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte suspended in May peace talks in Oslo, Norway which has been brokering the negotiations.

The Maoists were represented in the talks by their political arm the National Democratic Front headed by fomer priest Rafael Jalandoni.

Among others, Duterte cited the Maoists’ demand for the payment of revolutionary taxes, which he, however, denounced as “extortion” from business firms.

Fierce encounter yields weapons, documents

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 1): Fierce encounter yields weapons, documents
Government troops seized several war materials from heavily armed Communist rebels, but not after engaging them in a fierce gun battle on Friday in Agusan del Sur, regional Army spokesman Capt. Joe Patrick A. Martinez said yesterday.
Soldiers from the 26th Infantry Battalion (26th IB), under the command of Lt. Col. Rommel Pagayon, seized two AK 47 rifles, a .9mm sub-machine gun, an M14 rifle, an M16 Armalite rifle with attached M203 grenade launcher, an improvised M16 Armalite rifle, an Improvised Explosive Device (IED), 495 pieces of live ammunition for Ak47 rifle, other assorted live bulletins, personal belongings and subversive documents with high intelligence value, the regional Army spokesperson added.

The 25-minute heavy gun battle started at 12 noon on Friday in Kilometer 46, Barangay Binicalan, San Luis, Agusan del Sur.

The troops of the 26th IB were responding a call from the villagers about the presence of armed men in their highland communities.

“As promised to our people, we will respond immediately if anyone needs our help,” Pagayon said.

As of press time, a pursuit operation against the rebels, believed to be members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) Southern Mindanao Regional Committee in the highland areas of Agusan del Sur.

Maj. Gen. Ronald C. Villanueva, commanding general of the Army’s Northeastern and Northern Mindanao Fourth Infantry (Diamond) Division (4th ID) on Sunday lauded the troops and assured the public of the military’s commitment to address the threats that are hindrance to peace and development.

Army uncovers BIFF graves in Maguindanao

From the Manila Times (Oct 1): Army uncovers BIFF graves in Maguindanao

SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao: The Philippine Army discovered at least 10 gravesites of slain members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Datu Salibo town of Maguindanao.
Troops of the 57th Infantry Battalion (57th IB) and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Task Force Ittihad under Commander Khem on Thursday overran the BIFF encampment in Barangay Tee, Datu Salibo and found a cadaver in what was believe to be used as a graveyard of the bandits.

Also seized were four improvised explosive devices, a homemade M79 grenade launcher, two M14 rifles, an M16 rifle, and an Islamic State flag.

The military said the cadaver belongs to Ansari Alimama, a BIFF member from Butig, Lanao del Sur. It was turned over to Datu Salibo Police Station for disposition.

Major Gen. Arnel dela Vega, Joint Task Force Central commander, said personnel of the 32nd Explosive Ordnance Disposal team of the 2nd Mechanized Battalion also carried out safety procedure on the recovered explosives.

How Daesh used Tabligh cover to sneak into Marawi

From Arab News (Oct 2): How Daesh used Tabligh cover to sneak into Marawi

A Muslim young girl holds a placard after noon prayers for the Marawi siege and the plight of Rohingyas, in Quezon City on Friday. (Reuters)
The Philippine military was unable to meet its Sept. 30 deadline to end the siege of Marawi, but it has vowed to intensify efforts to defeat the Daesh-backed Maute group and re-establish the government’s writ in the city.

 The death toll in the last 132 days of fighting has reached 951, including 749 militants, 155 soldiers and policemen, and 47 civilians, said Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., deputy commander of the Joint Task Force Marawi.

 President Rodrigo Duterte had expressed hope in September that the city would be liberated “by the end of the month.” This hope was shared by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

 Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) chief Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. said the offensive will be completed within the next two weeks, but sources on the ground told Arab News that this is unlikely.

 Military officials said they believe Isnilon Hapilon, Daesh’s chief in the Philippines, is present on the main battleground along with Omar Maute, another key leader behind the Marawi siege.

There are reports that the two terror leaders were wounded, but this is yet to be verified,” Col. Edgard Arevalo, the Armed Forces’ public affairs chief, told Arab News.

 He said the crisis broke out on May 23 when militants engaged in a firefight with troops who had tried to serve an arrest warrant against Hapilon.

 Official sources said foreign fighters entered Marawi under the guise of Tabligh (a convention of Muslim missionaries).

“There was a Tabligh convention a week or two prior to the incident. Being a religious activity, we aren’t inclined to impose restrictions... We have reason to believe that some of them used it as their cover to get into Marawi,” Arevalo said.

 Marawi police chief Ebra Moxir, who is also an imam (Muslim prayer leader), told Arab News that thousands of people came for the Tabligh, but some of them “were in the city for something else.”

He said Maute leaders rented a house to stock munitions as fighters from Basilan, Sulu and Maguindanao areas came to Marawi.

 At least 25 foreign fighters are believed to have come to the city to join Maute, of whom 15 have been killed in combat, said Arevalo.

 Lorenzana said the foreign fighters included Indonesians, Malaysians, Saudis, Yemenis, Indians and Chechens.

 Officials said Daesh was attracted to the island of Mindanao, where Marawi is located, as a place to relocate from Iraq and Syria due to the presence of local terrorist groups. Daesh is not gaining strength in the Philippines, the officials added.

“Hapilon is a recognized emir of Daesh (in the Philippines), so this is where they made an initial attempt to establish a wilayah, or province,” said Arevalo.

 Brawner Jr. told Arab News that there are only 40-50 Maute fighters left, confined to a small area with nowhere to go.

“All possible escape routes have been sealed, guarded by government forces. Some of the remaining Maute fighters have sent surrender feelers,” he said.

 Arevalo told Arab News: “We’ve strategically located our personnel in areas we deem as their most probable avenue of escape, which is Lake Lanao. We’re now closely guarding this area.”

He said the military’s biggest tactical and operational achievement has been to gather the militants and their leaders in one location.

 The government is determined to get all Maute fighters in Marawi to “either surrender or die,” he added.

“We’re not expecting that it will spill over into Metro Manila or any other cities in the Philippines.”

Some Maute hostages in Marawi contacted families —military

From GMA News Online (Oct 1): Some Maute hostages in Marawi contacted families —military

Some civilians being held captive by the Maute group in Marawi City have contacted their families, a military official said Sunday.

A radio dzBB report quoting Colonel Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of Joint Task Force Ranao, said the latest development increased the military's confidence that more civilians will be rescued as troops continue to push into the center of the battle zone.

Meanwhile, Brawner also said that more members of the Maute group have sent surrender feelers.

Western Mindanao Command chief Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez Jr. said last week that three Maute group members have surrendered and currently under the military's custody.

Galvez, however, declined to divulge the identities of the local terrorists who are undergoing interrogation.

The deadline promised by ground commanders in Marawi City to end the conflict by September 30 has lapsed.

Defense chief Delfin Lorenzana had said in an ambush interview at the House of Representatives last Wednesday that ground commanders were confident that the crisis will end by September 30.

"Ang sabi naman ng ating mga commander sa ground ay tatapusin na yan bago matapos ang buwan, so they have three days to do the job. So I am holding them responsible for fulfilling their promise," Lorenzana told reporters.

President Rodrigo Duterte had also said that he was hoping the armed conflict in Marawi City that has displaced thousands of its residents will end last month.

However, gunfights continued on Sunday, October 1.

A total of 951 people, including 749 Maute members and 155 soldiers and policemen, have been killed in the ongoing conflict.

Forty-seven civilians have also died while 1,733 more have been rescued.

PRO-7 beefs up anti-insurgency ops in Negros Oriental

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 2): PRO-7 beefs up anti-insurgency ops in Negros Oriental

The Philippine National Police (PNP) Regional Police Office (PRO-7) in Region 7 is starting to pour in more combat-trained troops to Negros Oriental to beef up its anti-insurgency operations in the province.
PRO-7 Regional Director Chief Supt. Jose Mario Espino announced the deployment of one platoon from the Regional Public Safety Battalion 7 (RPSB-7) during the regular Monday morning flag-raising activity of the Negros Oriental PNP Provincial Office (NORPPO) at Camp Fernandez in Sibulan town.

In an interview, Espino disclosed that the move is just the first step towards securing the province from the threat posed by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

“That is only initial to augment Guihulngan (police force) in response to the clamor of the local executive and residents” of that northern Negros Oriental city, said Espino.

He cited the ambush allegedly perpetrated by the communist rebels in Guihulngan City last July where the police chief and five of his men were killed, while three other police personnel and a civilian were wounded.

Chief Supt. Espino disclosed that in the coming days, the PRO-7 would be creating a task force to solely address the insurgency problem in Negros Oriental.

This would be headed by PRO-7 Deputy Director for Operations, Sr. Supt. Dennis Agustin, he further disclosed.

Also, the PRO-7 will beef up the Public Safety Battalion and the Public Safety Company to further strengthen the PNP’s internal security operations (ISO), he added.

According to Espino, a command conference on Monday with the Negros Oriental PNP, headed by the acting provincial director, Sr. Supt. Edwin Portento, will help the PRO-7 determine the strength, equipment and capabilities of the anti-insurgency troops here.

“Kung ano man ang kulang, pupunuan natin. (Whatever is lacking, we will provide)”, he added.

It was Chief Supt. Espino’s first visit to the NORPPO as he assumed command of the latter as PRO-7 regional director following the abolition of the Negros Island Region, which took effect September 30.