Wednesday, January 31, 2018

NDFP condemns arrest, demands release of consultant Baylosis

From InterAksyon (Feb 1): NDFP condemns arrest, demands release of consultant Baylosis

Bayan Metro Manila poster demanding freedom for arrested NDFP consultant Rafael Baylosis

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines condemned the arrest Wednesday of its Rafael Baylosis and demanded his “immediate and unconditional release” as well as that of a companion seized with him.

A statement from Luis Jalandoni, NDFP national executive committee member and former chairman of its peace negotiating panel, said Baylosis, a member of the NDFP Reciprocal Working Group on Political and Constitutional Reforms, and his companion “are now illegally detained at Camp Crame in Quezon City.”

Police confirmed the arrest of Baylosis and a companion, who they named as alleged New People’s Army member Guillermo Roque, by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group along Katipunan Avenue Wednesday afternoon.

Authorities claimed two pistols were also seized from them.

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan claimed Baylosis’ arrest was “on the basis of a warrant that stemmed from false or trumped-up charges” and noted that it came after President Rodrigo Duterte terminated peace talks with the NDFP, which represents communist rebels.
Since the talks ended Duterte has issued increasingly bellicose statements, not just against the armed revolutionary movement but also what he claims are its “legal fronts.” He has also ordered the rearrest of all NDFP consultants who were earlier granted bail to participate in the talks.

Baylosis is the first to be captured.

It remained unclear what the charges against Baylosis were, although he and several other NDFP consultants, including Satur Ocampo, alleged Communist Party of the Philippines leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, and Adelberto Silva are charged with multiple murder over a mass grave of alleged rebel victims discovered in Leyte.

On January 11, a Manila trial court judge granted a motion of the Department of Justice and ordered the rearrest of the Tiamzon couple and Silva.

In his statement, Jalandoni, who remains a senior consultant of the NDFP peace panel, called the arrest of Baylosis “a flagrant violation” of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, a 1995 pact between the NDFP and government, that “assures all consultants and those participating in peace negotiations immunity from surveillance, harassment, search, arrest, detention, prosecution and interrogation or any other similar punitive action” and said Duterte “must be held accountable for this trampling upon a valid peace agreement.”

At the same time, he said Baylosis and his companion “have the right to consult with their lawyers, be visited by their families, doctors, and friends” while in detention.

The NDFP officer also urged “all peace-loving people and organizations to mount a strong campaign demanding the immediate release of Rafael Baylosis and his companion Jun” and demand that Duterte respect all “binding peace agreements,” including the JASIG and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.”

“President Duterte must not be allowed to kill and destroy the peace negotiations,” he said.

For his part, Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said: “Rather than persecute peace consultants, Duterte should resume peace talks on the most important substantive agenda.”

He stressed that Baylosis “is no criminal. Resistance to injustice and working for a just peace are not crimes.”

Eastern Sabah: Malaysia’s Frontline Against Militancy

From The Diplomat (Jan 31): Eastern Sabah: Malaysia’s Frontline Against Militancy (By Michael Hart)

A bolstered security architecture in Sabah and its surrounding waters is having an impact.

In the early hours of December 4, Malaysian special forces were dispatched alongside maritime police officers to investigate reports of a small boat acting suspiciously in waters off the coast of Lahad Datu, a town on the eastern edge of Sabah state. Sabah was the site of a deadly siege by a ragtag band of Islamist fighters – who had arrived by sea under the cover of darkness – almost five years previously.

As the security forces reached the vessel, they soon came under fire and a brief gun battle erupted. The vessel sped off into the open water, but when troops caught up with it several minutes later they discovered the boat’s single occupant fatally wounded, having sustained multiple gunshot wounds. The deceased militant was later identified as a member of the notorious Abu Sayyaf group, based across the Sulu Sea in the southern Philippines and responsible for a spate of kidnappings in the region.

The fatal clash was the only incident of its kind off Sabah’s coastline in 2017, yet it served as a stark reminder of the threat posed by Islamist militants to Malaysia’s easternmost state. This threat has always existed due to Sabah’s proximity to militant strongholds in the impoverished island chain dividing the Sulu and Celebes Seas, but the threat has now been raised further after last year’s five-month jihadist siege of Marawi city on the Philippines’ conflict-plagued southern island of Mindanao.

Whilst Islamic State’s attempts to carve out a regional caliphate have heightened fears of terrorist infiltration into Malaysia, the threat must also be placed within the context of Sabah’s history as part of an Islamic Sultanate prior to the colonial era, as well as within a more recent history of Islamist intrusions and hostage-taking incidents, which have periodically shattered the relative peace enjoyed by Sabahans.

In an era of growing threats, can the state’s authorities prevent similar crises from reoccurring and avert the kind of deterioration in security witnessed elsewhere in the backwaters of Southeast Asia?

Before the colonial period in Sabah, which was at the time known as North Borneo, the area came under the jurisdiction of the Islamic Sulu Sultanate, which ruled modern-day Sabah from 1658 until a contract was signed in 1878 leasing the territory to the British North Borneo Company. Sabah was then briefly occupied by the Japanese during World War II before returning to British administrative control as a formal colony. This arrangement lasted only until 1963, when Sabah opted to join the newly independent state of Malaysia. In the decades since, Malaysia has been accused of illegally giving thousands of Muslim immigrants in Sabah citizenship in the hope of securing favorable election outcomes, boosting the state’s population from less than 600,000 in 1970 to over 3.5 million today.

The government in Kuala Lumpur has also continued to make an annual payment of around $1,500 under the terms of the original 1878 lease agreement to the present-day Sulu sultan, who leads what is now a purely symbolic entity based in the former Sultanate’s heartland in the Sulu islands. The Philippine state, into which modern-day Sulu is incorporated, has also maintained a nominal claim to Sabah. Successive administrations have opted not to actively pursue that claim, for fear of damaging relations with Malaysia, which has played a crucial peacemaking role in the southern Philippines’ long-running Moro insurgency, fought between Muslim separatists and Manila for the last 40 years.

Despite its contested past, for decades Sabah remained relatively free from militant activity in the postindependence era. This period of calm abruptly ended in April 2000, when Abu Sayyaf militants stormed the resort island of Sipadan, kidnapping 21 tourists and resort workers. A six-month hostage crisis followed and focused the world’s attention on the increasingly lawless waterways separating Sabah from the Sulu archipelago. The hostages were all eventually released unharmed following the payment of large ransoms and a series of rescue operations launched by the Philippine armed forces.

A wave of Abu Sayyaf kidnappings followed over the next decade, before a new crisis in February 2013. The centuries-old dispute over the ownership of Sabah was revived when a group of around 200 armed men, loyal to the present-day Sulu sultan, arrived onshore and invaded Tanduo village, near Lahad Datu, in a bid to reclaim lost territory and re-establish the past Islamic sultanate. The situation developed into a drawn-out siege, which ended in brutal battles between the militants and the Malaysian security forces, resulting in at least 68 deaths as the men were ejected from Sabah.

Sensing a threat to the Malaysian state, the 2013 incursion sparked Kuala Lumpur into action. Soon after the siege ended, Prime Minister Najib Razak announced the creation of the new Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) to police a swathe of the state’s 1,400 kilometer-long coastline demarcated as the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESSZ). This beefed up security infrastructure remains in place today, and covers ten districts along the eastern coast, which are patrolled by police officers, army personnel, and members of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA). More police stations and detention centers have also been built in Sabah, whilst naval capabilities have been upgraded in an attempt to prevent similar incursions by armed groups.

Despite these measures, the threat from Islamist terrorism has surged in the past few years reflecting both regional developments and global trends, namely the emergence of the transnational jihadist group ISIS in 2014. This coincided with a new wave of piracy attacks launched by Abu Sayyaf off Sabah’s coastline, with 12 kidnapping incidents resulting in the capture of 33 hostages between 2014 and 2016. The spate of attacks led many countries to warn their citizens against travelling to Sabah.

Militants have also used Sabah as a launchpad to enter the conflict-prone southern Philippines. In 2016, senior ISIS-linked Malaysian militant Dr. Mahmud Ahmad funneled jihadists through the region, acting as chief recruiter for the Abu Sayyaf faction led by Isnilon Hapilon, which went on to participate in the Marawi siege. Intelligence sources say Ahmad had formed alliances with top regional militant leaders and played a key role in uniting Islamist groups in Southeast Asia under the ISIS banner. The five-month assault on Marawi last year, in which jihadists from across the region affiliated to a plethora of radical armed groups battled to forge a regional ISIS province, highlighted the need to address the issues of radicalization, terrorist recruitment, and people smuggling along the eastern Sabah coast.

The Malaysian authorities have responded once again by tightening security across the state. Since May last year, more than 230 arrests and 6,000 security checks have been made on land whilst monitoring of the coastal areas of the ESSZ has been expanded amid a climate of heightened vigilance. A dawn-to-dusk curfew for civilian vessels in waters off the ESSZ has been expanded indefinitely in an attempt to crack down on kidnapping incidents, whilst a new command post has been installed on the remote Ligitan island to boost the surveillance of waters close to Abu Sayyaf’s strongholds. Meanwhile Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi recently announced that 500 members of the People’s Volunteer Corps (RELA) will be deployed in 2018 to help the armed forces keep watch over the ESSZ.

Regional cooperation with neighboring Indonesia and the Philippines has also helped restrict the movement of suspected terrorists. The three countries launched trilateral naval patrols in the Sulu Sea in mid-June last year, which were quickly followed by the initiation of regular air patrols in October to spot suspicious activity from the skies. The three nations have also agreed to enhance counterterror cooperation and intelligence sharing, and have established a network of maritime patrol bases to better-police their porous maritime border areas. To coordinate the effort Malaysia has set up a new naval command center in Tawau, whilst similar posts have opened at Tarakan in Indonesia and Bongao in the Philippines. Malaysia and Indonesia have also agreed to create an additional five joint command posts along the land border separating Sabah from Kalimantan state, to curb militant activity.

The Malaysian authorities are also keen to ensure that if an attack or kidnapping incident does occur, they are well-placed to respond. ESSCOM chief Hazani Ghazali said last month that his troops “frequently train and rehearse” to stay “at the leading edge of combat capabilities.” In December, ESSCOM held a counterterrorism drill at Sandakan airport focused on urban warfare techniques, replicating conditions faced by the Philippine military in Marawi. Just weeks earlier Malaysian special forces had participated in Operation Tiger Strike alongside U.S. troops. The six-day joint exercise was designed to test interoperability and saw officers take part in simulated amphibious combat scenarios.

Over the past few months, the bolstered security architecture in Sabah and its surrounding waters has produced some quantifiable results. The maritime curfew imposed throughout 2017 saw no kidnappings take place within the waters of the ESSZ during a calendar year for the first time since its formation five years ago. There has also been no repeat of the 2013 incursion and no major terrorist attack in the area, despite Islamic State’s stated wish to target Malaysia. The central government in Kuala Lumpur recently approved $64 million in funding for ESSCOM in 2018 adding to more than $80 million allocated last year, reinforcing its long-term commitment to ensure stability is maintained in Sabah.

If militants are present on any notable scale within Sabah, they appear to be lying low in the face of the enhanced security measures put in place, whilst the authorities have refuted any suggestion that local Muslim communities are harboring jihadist fighters from the southern Philippines. So far, the knock on effects of the instability to Malaysia’s east appear to have been limited, and Sabah’s tourism industry continues to thrive. The economic benefits derived from a stable environment make the region’s power brokers all the more determined to avoid a deterioration of security akin to Mindanao.

In the post-Marawi era, the authorities in Sabah know they must exercise continual vigilance and remain on a heightened state of alert, amid fears of terrorist infiltration driven by the risk of fighters returning not only from Mindanao, but also from the Middle East as ISIS loses territory there. Despite suffering a blow in Marawi, Islamic State’s lingering regional ambitions remain a threat. A repeat of the 2013 Lahad Datu incursion cannot be ruled out in an era where nostalgic but bloody attempts to revive imagined past glories and utopian epochs continue to hold sway among radical Islamists.

Due to its geographical position, Sabah will remain at risk despite the best efforts of the security forces and law enforcement agencies. Its long and heavily indented coastline along with its proximity to the impoverished and lawless islands of the Sulu archipelago, awash with armed Islamist groups, will continue to make Sabah an attractive gateway for militants intent on not only resurrecting past territories, but with eyes on carving out new ones.

[Michael Hart is a writer and researcher focusing on civil conflict and terrorism in Southeast Asia. He has written for publications including The Diplomat, World Politics Review, Asia Sentinel, Eurasia Review, Geopolitical Monitor and Asian Correspondent.]

Suspected Spanish terrorist says he went to Philippines for vacation

From the Philippine Star (Jan 31): Suspected Spanish terrorist says he went to Philippines for vacation

Spanish national Abdelhakim Labidi Adib is escorted by army troopers after attending proceedings at the Department of Justice in Manila, Philippines, Wednesday Jan. 24, 2018. Army troops have captured Spanish national Adib who they say was carrying grenades and bomb parts and is believed to be supporter of Islamic State group-linked Abu Sayyaf militants on southern Basilan island. AP Photo/Aaron Favila

Spanish national Addelhakim Labidi Adib said he was on vacation in the Philippines when he was nabbed by government forces as a suspect supporting Islamic State group-linked Abu Sayyaf militants.
Labidi Adib is facing a complaint filed by the Philippine Army claiming that he violated Republic Act 9516 or the illegal possession of explosives.

But Labidi Adib said he went to the country to see famous tourist spots in Mindanao after seeing "good reviews" from the internet.

"I went here in the Philippines as a tourist. I have no intention whatever to aid anyone in any terrorist activity especially in causing trouble to the community," his counter-affidavit filed before the state prosecutors on Wednesday said.

READ: Illegal possession of explosives rap filed vs suspected Spanish terrorist

The Spanish national said he stayed in Davao City for five days, then he explored Cagayan de Oro next where he met a certain "Abuzaid."

"I met him on the street like any other person and we would meet often," Labidi Adib said.

He said Abuzaid asked him to visit Basilan next.
It was when he was arrested by the military who were acting on an intelligence information reporting the presence of a foreign terrorist in the area.

According to the military, at around 11 p.m. on January 22, government forces stationed at a checkpoint in Maluso, Basilan saw Labidi Adib and another Filipino. The two reportedly ran away but the Spanish national was caught.
His companion, believed to be a member of the Abu Sayyaf, eluded arrest by jumping off a cliff.

The Spanish national, however, contradicted this and said that it was January 20 at 5 p.m. when he was arrested by the Philippine Army.

"It is respectfully submitted that at the time I was illegally arrested by civilian persons, I was just walking on the road aside from that I was not doing any crime nor was about to do a crime besides there is no checkpoint," Labidi Adib added.

He asked the DOJ to drop the illegal possession of firearms complaint filed against him.

The DOJ deemed the case submitted for resolution on Wednesday.

Malaysia jails teenager for 5 years for supporting militants on Facebook

From the Straits Times (Jan 31): Malaysia jails teenager for 5 years for supporting militants on Facebook

KOTA KINABALU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A Filipino teenager who supported the militant Abu Sayyaf group via Facebook posts was on Wednesday (Jan 31) sentenced to five years' jail by a court in Malaysia.

In November 2017, the 18-year-old boy had admitted to supporting the Abu Sayyaf group through his Facebook account under the name of "Abu Tahlaba Al-basilanie", between March 1 and 6, last year.

The offence of soliciting or giving support to terrorist groups or for the commission of terrorist acts carries a sentence of life imprisonment or up to 30 years' jail.

Justice Ravinthran Paramaguru said that the five-year jail sentence was meted out after considering all factors, including the fact that the accused had committed an offence under Malaysian law and that it was a serious offence.
He said that although the defence counsel had said that the accused may not have realised that what he did was an offence, ignorance of the law is not an excuse.

He added that the accused had reached the age of maturity between March 1 and 6, the dates the offence was committed.

The judge also noted that the posting of pictures and videos was not only an expression of support but indicated a solemn oath (baiah), which was a formal statement of support.

Justice Paramaguru said that he did not think it would be fit to send the accused to the Henry Gurney reform school for juvenile offenders as the case was serious.

He said the accused should consider himself lucky and reflect on what he has done while in prison.

During mitigation, counsel Mohd Nazim Maduarin, who represented the teenager, urged for a lenient sentence saying that the accused was a first-time offender and had just reunited with his father when he came to Sabah, Malaysia, from the Philippines in 2016.

He added that the accused studied only up to Grade 7 in the Philippines, which is the equivalent of Form One in Malaysia.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Azlina Rasdi pushed for a deterrent sentence to serve as a lesson to the accused and also as a reminder to the public at large.

She said that although the prosecution conceded that the accused was a first-time offender, the court must look at the seriousness of the offence committed.

Philippine boy jailed for supporting Abu Sayyaf Group

From the Borneo Post (Feb 1): Philippine boy jailed for supporting Abu Sayyaf Group  

KOTA KINABALU: An under-aged Philippine boy was jailed five years by the High Court here yesterday for supporting the Abu Sayyaf Group by uploading pictures and a video to social media Facebook.

Justice Ravinthran Paramaguru imposed the sentence on the teenager who was arrested for supporting the group by uploading those items on a Facebook account under the name of Abu Tahlaba Al-basilanie between March 1 and March 6, 2017 beside Putatan flyover, next to Kampung Petagas here.

Yesterday was fixed for his probation report prepared by the Welfare Department to be tendered to court as the accused is a youthful offender.

The boy had previously pleaded guilty to the charge framed under Section 130J (1) (a) of the Penal Code which provides for a life imprisonment or a jail term of up to 30 years or a fine, and shall also be liable to forfeiture of any property used or intended to be used in connection with the commission of the offence, upon conviction.

In imposing the custodial sentence on the accused, the judge held that what had been done by the accused was an offence under Malaysian law.

The judge also said the court gave consideration that the accused had reached the age of maturity between the date of the commission of the offence where the accused reached 18 a few days after committing the offence.

Apart from the accused’s age, the court also took into account that the accused was a first offender and he had only uploaded photos and the video but he did not go to the extent of making any oath of allegiance to any leader or ‘baiah’.

Ravinthran said he would not mind imposing a heavier custodial sentence on the accused, adding the latter should consider himself lucky.

The judge did not think of sending the accused to a reform school as the offence committed was a serious one.

He ordered the accused, whose race is Yakan, to serve his jail term from the date of his arrest on March 7, 2017.

In pleading for a light sentence, counsel Mohd Nazim Maduarin, who represented the accused, submitted that his client had no previous conviction and had just reunited with his father in 2016 when he came to Sabah from their hometown.

The counsel also said the accused’s educational level was only at Grade Seven, which is equivalent to Form One in Malaysia.

Mohd Nazim further submitted that his client did not know that what he had done was an offence and wished to turn a new leaf as the accused wanted to go back to his country of origin.

In reply, deputy public prosecutor Azlina Rasdi applied for a deterrent sentence to be given to the accused.

She argued that even though the accused was a first offender, the court should take into account the gravity of the offence when imposing the punishment.

NPA fighter-turned-militiaman beheaded in Surigao del Sur – military

From Rappler (Jan 31): NPA fighter-turned-militiaman beheaded in Surigao del Sur – military

(UPDATED) Mar Acevedo Bocales, as member of the New People's Army, surrendered to authorities in December 2016, then joined the Cafgu.                                                                           

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) – The body of a former communist guerilla was found headless on Monday, January 29, a day after he was abducted in a Surigao del Sur town, the military said.

Major General Ronald Villanueva, commander of the 4th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, identified the victim as Mar Acevedo Bocales.

Bocales, according to Villanueva, was abducted on January 28 in Sitio Hagimitan, Barangay Bolhoon, San Miguel town in Surigao del Sur.

“The following day, his cadaver was found in the same area. His body was tied and showed that he had undergone torture before his head was cut off,” Villanueva said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the 36th Infantry Battalion said Bocales was part of the paramilitary organization helping troops in counter-insugency operations.

Previously, he had joined the ranks of the New People’s Army, but surrendered to authorities in December 2016,.

He was enrolled into the government’s Comprehensive Local Integration Program, and was later enlisted as a militiaman.

The military alleged that the NPA was behind Bocales’ brutal death.

NPA denies involvement

But the NPA in a January 31 statement denied such claim.

Ka Ariel Montero, NPA Regional Operational Command spokesperson, instead tagged a different armed group, Magahat, which he said was led by Emerson Cuarteron.

Magahat is a paramilitary group which the Human Rights Watch said in 2015 was implicated in an attack on a tribal school in Surigao del Sur province.

“They harass and extort from people earning a living from gold mining in Barangay Castillo and Bolhoon, San Miguel,” said Montero.

For years, the military had intensified its counter-insurgency operations in Surigao del Sur. In 2016, it deployed some 500 troops to fight communist guerillas.

In the same year, the Armed Forces of the Philippines Eastern Mindanao Command said the province would be insurgency-free by the end of 2016.

EXTORTION EYED AS MOTIVE//Abu Sayyaf men ambush truck in Basilan; 3 dead

From GMA News (Jan 31): EXTORTION EYED AS MOTIVE//Abu Sayyaf men ambush truck in Basilan; 3 dead

Three men on board a truck involved in a government project were ambushed and killed by suspected Abu Sayyaf members in Basilan province on Wednesday morning.

Police said the ambush happened at the boundary of Tipo-Tipo and Lamitan towns in Barangay Baas at past 10 a.m..

Superintendent Christopher Panapan, chief of the Lamitan City police, clarified that the victims were not DPWH employees, but merely contracted for one of the project's of the agency.

He said investigators were looking into extortion as a possible motive for the attack.

The victims were bound for Isabela town when ambushed by armed men believed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf.

Pursuit operations are ongoing against the bandits.

Tipo-Tipo Mayor Ingatun-Lukman G. Istarul, meanwhile, revealed that the DPWH has long been requesting security from the local government but has yet to be given one.

Philippines Eyes Closer Military Ties With India

From Borneo Bulletin (Jan 30): Philippines Eyes Closer Military Ties With India

The Philippines is looking at improving military ties with India after President Duterte’s official visit to New Delhi, Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Sunday.

Lorenzana said Manila was eyeing the possibility of “military-to-military cooperation” with India, besides the purchase of military equipment for the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ modernisation programme.

“Yes, we are looking at a military-to-military cooperation including defence equipment that we can buy from them,” Lorenzana said.

The defence chief said that the Philippines was also eyeing warships from the South Asian country, which had built its own aircraft carriers and was planning to build six nuclear attack submarines. “Yes, in fact one of their shipbuilding companies actually was the initial winner of the two frigates but was disqualified in the second round of prequalification process,” Lorenzana said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) shakes hands with President of Philippines Rodrigo Roa Duterte ahead of a meeting on the sidelines of Asean-India Commemorative Summit in New Delhi. – AFP

Lorenzana was referring to the Philippine Navy’s P15.7-billion frigate acquisition project, which was eventually awarded to Hyundai Heavy Industries of South Korea.

The defence chief was part of President Duterte’s delegation when he visited India last week to attend the India-Asean Special Commemorative Summit.

Manila’s plan to boost its military ties with New Delhi comes as India moves to improve its ties with Southeast Asian countries in the face of China’s emergence as the dominant power in the region.

DOJ orders release of Maute leader’s wife due to weak evidence

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 31): DOJ orders release of Maute leader’s wife due to weak evidence

Najiya Karon-Maute was the widow of Mohammad Khayyam Maute, one of the Maute brothers who led the siege of Marawi City on May 23, 2017. (Photo from CIDG-ARMM)

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has released for further investigation the wife of one of the slain leaders of the Maute terror group.

In its inquest resolution made public Wednesday, the DOJ said the complaint of rebellion against Najiya Dilangalen Karon-Maute is not proper for inquest but a preliminary investigation.

A suspect undergoes an inquest proceeding if arrested without a warrant. A warrantless arrest is allowed under the rules set under the Rules of Criminal Procedure.
Based on the complaint filed by the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines-The Judge Advocate General (AFP-TJAG), Najiya should be prosecuted for rebellion for aiding members of the Maute group.

Authorities based their complaint on the testimony of a certain Martino Elyana, who was abducted in Padian, Marawi City. Elyana said he saw Najiya and her husband Mohammad Khayyam “Otto” Maute bringing food to members of the group at the Bato Mosque on June, 2017. Elyana said he escaped the Maute lair on July 2017.

Najiya was arrested on Jan. 23, 2018, in Cotabato City.

The DOJ Task Force Marawi chaired by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter L. Ong said aside from the statement of Elyana, the military and the police failed to present additional evidence to support the allegation.

“However, aside from the statement of Martino Elyana as to the acts committed by the respondent at time he was held captive, complainants did not present any other evidence against the respondent,” the DOJ resolution stated.

The DOJ added that the allegations against Najiya were committed seven months prior to her arrest “thus rendering this case not proper for inquest but for regular preliminary investigation.”

“Besides, at the time respondent was arrested on Jan. 23, 2018, there is no evidence or even allegation that she was committing, about to commit, or has just committed an offense,” the DOJ added.

The DOJ also noted that Elyana, while he affirmed what has happened when he was abducted, he changed the date of his abduction during clarificatory questioning by the DOJ prosecutors.
Najiya Maute was ordered to submit her counter-affidavit on Feb. 14, 2018.

An AFP 'breakthrough': 310 NPA, Abu Sayyaf members surrender in January

From ABS-CBN (Jan 31): An AFP 'breakthrough': 310 NPA, Abu Sayyaf members surrender in January
Calling it a "breakthrough year" in counterterror efforts, the military on Wednesday said about 310 members of the terror-tagged New People's Army (NPA) and the Abu Sayyaf Group surrendered to government this month.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Edgard Arevalo said among those who laid down their arms, 60 were from the Abu Sayyaf and the rest were communist rebels.

"These are indicators of growing discontent within their organizations, the success of our programs, and the cooperation between residents and local government units," Arevalo said in a press conference.

"We are continuously receiving more surrender (feelers) from these local terrorist groups," he said.

The military is now considering 2018 as a "breakthrough year in countering terrorism" given the surrender of hundreds of rebels on the first month of the year.

Between January 2016 to January 2017, only 167 Abu Sayyaf members surrendered to government forces.

Last year, a series of skirmishes between the military and the Abu Sayyaf in Bohol and Mindanao resulted in the killing of key Abu Sayyaf leaders.

Abu Sayyaf leader killed in Bohol clash

President Rodrigo Duterte meanwhile declared the NPA as a terrorist organization after he formally ended peace talks with the communist movement.

Duterte declares CPP-NPA as terror group

Military camp inside Marawi will avoid another siege,’ says task group commander

From the Manila Times (Jan 31): ‘Military camp inside Marawi will avoid another siege,’ says task group commander  

BUILDING a military camp inside the main battle area of Marawi City will be a “deterrent” to another war between government security forces and the Islamic State-inspired Maute group in Marawi City, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said on Wednesday.

Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., deputy commander of Joint Task Group Ranao, made the statement, as he also emphasized that Marawi City may be a target again by lawless elements.

“This camp will serve as a deterrent so we can avoid terroristic activities like what happened in the Marawi siege. It might be a target again in the future once it is developed into a modern Islamic City,” Brawner said in a radio interview.

“That is why we need to secure the investment of our government and other countries as well because really, a lot of organizations and other countries are pouring in investments and aid for Marawi City,” he added.

On Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte led the groundbreaking ceremony of the newly-built military camp in Marawi City.

He was joined by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, AFP chief Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., commander of the AFP’s Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom); and Lt. Gen. Rolando Bautista, commanding general of the Philippine Army.

Brawner said the camp would not be built in the center of Marawi City’s business district but on the side of the main battle area and on top of a hill overlooking the district up to the lake.

The 10-hectare area is also owned by the government, he added.

“This was the former city hall, it has been abandoned that is why there are not structures surrounding it. Not even houses and business structures around it. It is an isolated area,” he said.

He said the military camp would serve as headquarters for an Army battalion.

The war erupted on May 23, 2017 after the military failed to serve an arrest warrant against Islamist leader Isnilon Hapilon, prompting Duterte to declare martial law in Mindanao.

The South China Sea and the Decline of US Influence

From The Diplomat (Jan 31): The South China Sea and the Decline of US Influence (By Mark J. Valencia)

The United States’ ability to sway Southeast Asian states to its side is waning.

For 70 years the United States has dominated Southeast Asia with both hard and soft power — the capability to use economic or cultural influence to shape the preferences of others. Soft power underpins and makes possible robust hard power relationships. But some analysts and policymakers refuse to recognize that U.S. influence and its relationships in Southeast Asia are much shallower and more ephemeral than assumed.

Indeed, despite U.S. enticement and pressure, U.S. allies Australia, Japan, and the Philippines have so far declined U.S. requests to join its freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea against China’s claims. Indonesia has expressed disapproval over such U.S.
“power projection” in the area. U.S. relations with Thailand have not been close since the military coup there in 2014 and Bangkok seems to be leaning toward China. Malaysia-U.S. relations have been brittle since the United States took a legal interest in Prime Minister Najib Razak’s international financial dealings. Even staunch U.S. strategic partner Singapore seems to be seeking a more neutral position between Washington and Beijing.

A recent example of this decline of U.S. soft power was the reaction of the Philippines regarding the January 17 USS Hopper freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) near Scarborough Shoal. The Shoal is claimed by China, Taiwan, and the Philippines. The U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer sailed through the 12 nautical mile territorial sea around the disputed feature. The Hopper’s transit was in innocent passage, which is generally considered legal (if somewhat provocative). China requires permission for innocent passage by warships and objected.

For the United States, this FONOP was a demonstration of international law. But it got no support from its ally, the Philippines. Indeed, to Washington’s chagrin, Philippine presidential spokesperson Harry Roque told the Straits Times, “For us, that [referring to China’s protest against the FONOP] is really a problem of America because we have come to a point that we now have an independent foreign policy… The problem of America today is no longer the problem of the Philippines.”

The U.S. Embassy in Manila responded, “[We] believe that ‘U.S. military personnel partnering with the [Armed Forces of the Philippines] is a more accurate description of the role of any U.S. military presence here.”

Some U.S. observers seemed shocked at the Philippines’ position, but this reality has been evolving for some time. It clearly manifested itself last August when ASEAN leaders and their dialogue partners, including China and the United States, held a series of key security meetings in the Philippines, which then held ASEAN’s rotating chair. The joint communiqué of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting strongly favored China’s preferences over its opponents within ASEAN as well as the United States. Some saw this as a new diplomatic low for Washington. Indeed, according to Philippine analyst Richard Heydarian, it was “a slam dunk diplomatic victory for China.”

Around the same time, in August 2017, Philippine Foreign Minister Alan Cayetano scolded those pundits who criticized the presence of Chinese ships in the South China Sea but did not criticize the presence of U.S. warships in the disputed waters. He said, “You have to realize that their reason for being is to pursue the interest of the American people. So … we have to pursue Philippine interest.” If Southeast Asian senior officials are stating such sentiments in public they may well be expressing more fundamental concerns in private. But it seems that the United States is not listening.

Instead, the United States has doubled down on its current policy regarding the South China Sea in stepping up the frequency of its FONOPS and declaring China a “strategic competitor.” Many in Southeast Asia fear getting caught between the United States and China in their struggle for dominance in the region. Yet some analysts continue to support provocative U.S. military forays there, ignoring the fact that such moves are increasingly unwelcome even among China’s rival claimants.

One example is a recent piece in Foreign Affairs. After disparaging what it perceives to be the tepid U.S. response, the piece offers some wishful thinking as to how the United States can deter China in the South China Sea. In particular, it encourages Washington to convince “the Duterte government to follow through on plans to allow upgrades at all five previously agreed-upon bases, reverse its decision to ban the storage of ammunition at them, and permit a regular schedule of U.S. combat aircraft rotations.” It also urges “the U.S. government to publicly state that its commitment to defend Philippine troops, ships, and planes from attack under Article V of the two countries’ Mutual Defense Treaty applies to contested waters and islands in the South China Sea.” No mention is made as to how the United States can convince the Philippines to do something its government is not particularly interested in doing.

They say the most difficult journey begins with the first step. The first step for the United States regarding Southeast Asia is to recognize reality. Then Washington needs to adjust its policies and approach accordingly.

[Mark J. Valencia is an Adjunct Senior Scholar at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, Haikou, China]

Paper: PEACETALK: Addressing Violent extremism within the Southeast Asian context

From MindaNews (Jan 30): PEACETALK: Addressing Violent extremism within the Southeast Asian context (By Yusuf Morales)

This discussion note describes the phenomenon of Violent extremism and its impact on Southeast Asia, as well as how the process of Islamization in southeast Asia happens. Using the paradigm of how the context of Islamization of the Southeast Asian, the author uses this paradigm as the operating mechanism on how Southeast Asian countries can battle Violent Extremism and Terrorism in their respective countries.

Discussion paper presented at the Putrajaya International Security Dialogue 2018 last January 5, 2017 at Marriot Hotel Putrajaya. Activity was organized by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Malaysia and the Muslim World League.


When one may glance at the significance of southeast asia, it appears to be the main crossroads of west and the east from both a cultural and an economic persepective. And to look at it as the new virtual melting pot of the world where the west seamlessly blends in with the east, with all of its positive and negative traits intertwined.

Even in the context of violent extremism and terrorism, it seems that it has arrived on our doorstep and that it needs contextualization as to how a response would be done in the mind of the southeast Asian.

Nature of Southeast Asian Culture

The clear distinctive mark of southeast Asian culture is its plurality. This is manifested through its cultural diversity. Of the six thousand languages spoken in the world today, an estimated thousand are found in Southeast Asia. Archeological evidence dates human habitation of Southeast Asia to around a million years ago, but migration into the region also has a long history[1].

It is important to note that both in peninsular and insular Southeast Asia, different cultural imprints have been seen, among them notable was the Hindu and Buddhist influences which has remained to this day even in Indonesia and Malaysia, brought by the Sri Vishaya and Madjapahit empires respectively. While insular Southeast Asia (Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines) is no longer predominantly Hindu or Buddhist, but its cultural influences remain in our respective countries.

Islamization of Southeast Asia

The Islamization of Southeast Asia has been brought through several contexts and constructs. Initially, Arab traders and sailors regularly visited the ports of Southeast Asia long before they converted to Islam. At first glance the region was little more than a middle ground, where the ships coming from the different trade routes docked at the intersection of Southeast Asia from which by the 7th and 8th centuries A.D., sailors and ships from areas within Southeast Asia – particularly Sumatra and Malaya – had become active in the maritime trade of the region. Southeast Asian products, especially luxury items, such as aromatic woods from the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra, and spices, such as cloves, nutmeg, and mace from the far end of the Indonesian archipelago, had also become important exports to both the Asian mainland such as China and India and the Mediterranean states whether Africa, Turkey or the European states. Eventually these trading links were to prove instrumental to the expansion of Islam in Southeast Asia than they had earlier been to the spread of Buddhism and Hinduism[2].

The conversion followed several patterns:

First, honest Muslim and Arab merchants gained respect among the local traders and in the process of assimilation of trade relations enabled the locals to embrace Islam and gain access to other parts of the modern mercantile world at that time. The second was when these mercantile ships carried Sufi missionaries who carried the deeper and more intricate expressions of Islam towards Southeast Asia and as these visits became more frequent, more conversions happened of which both the traditional Pre-Islamic customs and the Islamic practices were assimilated and indigenized forming a healthy fusion wherein local customs that were not clearly against Islam were allowed to exist at the same time reinforcing a more tolerant and more multicultural expression of Islam. Some of the kingdoms in Southeast Asia may have preferred to remain non-Muslim but have continued to have healthy trade relations with their Muslim neighbors[3].

As the Muslims continued to gain numbers, strength and influence, these Muslim communities managed to generate and create centers of knowledge that were said to be equal if not better than the Arab centers of learning, to the point that in one epoch of history Aceh was said to be the “porch of Makkah” due to the number of Muslim scholars who settled there and elsewhere in Southeast Asia creating voluminous works of Islamic scholasticism. In effect creating their own indigenous yet authentic expression of Islam.

This expression of Islam manifests as an orthodox representation of Islam at the same time not losing its distinct indigenous character of Southeast Asian Islam.

Extremism as an attempt to be the new counter-narrative

There are several contexts to understand why extremism or violent extremism is the current attempts to be the counter-narrative that aims to supplant the moderates and the traditional culture in Muslim countries.

There are two constructs we need to understand:

First is the battle between moderates and extremists, and second is the battle between indigenization and Arabization of Islam in Southeast Asia.

Moderates, believe that a balance can be struck between cultural traditions of Southeast Asians without compromising the depth of spirituality that it has enjoyed through the centuries, while extremists believe that culture must be disrobed from the Southeast Asians’ mind, in order that a pristine understanding of Islam can be achieved. Moderates believe that Islam can localize, indigenize and contextualize to achieve a religious and cultural balance, while extremists believe that there can be no quarter given and that culture must be eliminated and that a total shift to all things Arab must be attained.

Given these constructs, extremists aim to pull down our existing systems while the moderates want a clear balance of both state, faith, culture and life.

But what we forget is that Islam has already indigenized and adapted itself to Southeast Asia and has taken a new life of its own, being in one of the largest areas where Muslims live outside of the Middle East and creating its own cultural and philosophical expression.

To counter this our experiences and basic theological constructs by our Ulama can be used as a basis to combat and counter violent extremism and terrorism.

How do we respond to Violent extremism in the Southeast Asian Context?

To efficiently address the construct of violent extremism and terrorism in the Southeast Asian context, we may need to address it through three main areas:
  1. Theology – the theology must not only be inclusive but respectful of religious differences within the Islamic tradition as well as other religions. Any Islamic interpretation that views differences of opinion as heresy and should be dealt with violence should not be accommodated as this will run to the anathema of an inclusive and multicultural society.
  2. Localization of Islam and culture – one of the core tenets of Islam is its ability to localize and translate into the native discourse. This has been the strength of indigenized and localized Islam. The more indigenous and localized Islam has become, the stronger it is to resist violent extremism. There must be a strong move for indigenization vs Arabization.
  3. Acknowledging Islam and multiculturalism in our own countries. Indigenous Islam has proven the success of multiculturalism and cultural pluralism in Southeast Asia. This is the strongest mechanism we can assimilate to counter Violent extremist and intolerant beliefs.
Theological positioning on PCVE

To be able to effectively address the ideological and the narrative components of Violent extremism it is important to realize that the Muslim scholars have been making clear cut theological positions against Violent extremism. It is noteworthy to mention these as part of a whole of nation approach as well as whole of region approach to countering violent extremism. As a policy we suggest that educational and cultural institutions should ensure the inclusion of the following foundational documents to be emphasized, taught and practiced at different levels in Muslim communities[4]:
  1. A Common Word[5], an interfaith document signed by Muslim scholars highlighting the acceptance of the two commandments to be present in Islam and Christianity, “Loving God” and “Loving neighbor”. This is important so that Muslims would openly welcome the concept of respect for non-Muslims and respect for Christians.
  2. Amman Message[6] -This is a document signed by different Muslim scholars recognizing the many schools of thought in Islam as well as recognizing that diversity of understanding in Islam, that it recognizes and respects all Muslims regardless of school of thought, respect and jurisprudence. This document clarifies that Muslims should not shed blood of fellow Muslims on the basis of differences of belief and are required to respect them.
  3. Letter to Baghdadi[7]. This letter was signed by Muslim scholars explaining why DAESH/ISIS is misguided and what the theological and textual references are to prove that DAESH is un-Islamic.
  4. Marrakesh Declaration[8] C:\Users\asus\Documents\dabiq magazin\\. is a declaration of Muslim scholars on how non-Muslim minorities are to be treated. This document was signed as a response to the abuses done by DAESH against non-Muslim minorities and is a guide to Muslims on how to engage with non-Muslims when they are the majority.
  5. Charter of Madina or also known as the Madina Constitution[9], a theological document of the first government of Muslims in Madina which clearly defined community and Muslim to non-Muslim relationships from a communal to state level.
To exclude these documents in the ideological discourse means there is a serious attempt to avoid addressing the ideological roots of extremism.

Addressing Indigenization and localization of Islam.

Each of the Southeast Asian countries, especially Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines has had its own understanding and contextualization of how Islam is lived in each of these countries. The idea that Islam forms part and parcel indivisible from the national character of these nations is one way of grabbing the narrative and discourse of Violent extremists and terrorists that Islam is edged away and pushed away from the national discourse.

Indigenization and knowledge generation are essential elements that ensure that Muslims in Southeast Asia are stepped and balanced in moderation and multiculturality of their peoples.

Inclusion as part of the National identity

It is important to highlight that one should not exist without the other, meaning the recognition that Islam forms one of the important identities of southeast Asians in their countries but also that each country is clearly multicultural and multi-religious. An active recognition of this is in the context of their individual national ideologies, Pancasila, Salam Satu Malaysia, Pagmamalasakit at pagbabago (Change and concern) and other countries.

Using these three elements we find both moderation and balance in our respective countries and can serve as the functioning mechanism to counter violent extremism and terrorism.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. PeaceTalk is open to anyone who wishes to share his/her views on peace in Mindanao. Prof. Yusof Roque Morales is currently Commissioner representing Muslim Minorities (Sama Tribe) at the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos and a member of the Board of Advisers of Al-Qalam Institute for Muslim Identities, Ateneo de Davao University. He is also a Consultant for Muslim and IP concerns of the Social Development Council, Ateneo De Zamboanga University and adviser to the Indigenous Peoples Council of Leaders of Zamboanga city and of Salaam Ateneo de Manila University.  He is currently a visiting lecture in several service academies and schools in the uniformed services of the Philippines)


Theological documents and declarations:

 A Common word
Amman Message
Charter of Madina
Letter to Baghdadi
Marrakesh Declaration

 Online Articles:

Peacetalk: Addressing religious violent extremism from an ideological framework some thoughts for consideration. Mindanews accessed 23 December 2017

introduction-southeast-asia accessed dec 23, 2017
[2] accessed 23 Dec 2017
[3] ibid
[4] accessed 23 December 2017

Group says all-out war vs NPA endangers Lumads

From MindaNews (Jan 31): Group says all-out war vs NPA endangers Lumads

President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s order to “destroy” the New People’s Army (NPA) endangers thousands of Lumads (indigenous peoples) and farmers in Mindanao as it gives the military a “go signal” to continue the deployment of troops and operations in their communities, a Lumad group said Tuesday.

Kerland Fanagel, chairperson of PASAKA Confederation of Lumad Organizations-Southern Mindanao, said the all-out war could displace the indigenous peoples, worsen the situation in Mindanao and cost the President “isolation and condemnation” from the Lumads.

Fanagel said over 100 Manobo evacuees from Talaingod and Kapalong towns in Davao del Norte have been holed up for four years at the Haran evacuation enter of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines in Davao City to escape alleged harassment by paramilitary and military units in their areas.

He said PASAKA-SMR noted that 34 of the 112 victims of politically-motivated killings recorded since 2016 were Lumads, including a student from Talaingod who was killed last year by the Alamara, an alleged paramilitary group.

He said a certain Ricky Olado, 30, a Lumad in Arakan, North Cotabato and member of the Tinananon Kulamanon Lumadnong Panaghiusa was killed on January 28.

Another Lumad, Timuay Alberto Andes, a leader of the Subanen tribe in Zamboanga del Norte was arrested by the paramilitary.

Upon arrival from his two-day visit in India on Saturday at the Davao International Airport, Duterte said his order against the “enemies of the state,” including the NPA, is to destroy them.

He also vowed to go after the so-called legal fronts of the NPA.

“Pero kayong (but you) enemies of the state, my orders are really to destroy, to destroy the apparatus. Itong NPA, totodasin ko talaga sila. Tatapusin ko. (This NPA, I will kill them. I will finish them). The talks are over. No more talks,” Duterte said.

He said he will also order Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to cancel the permits of mining companies that are paying the NPA so-called revolutionary taxes.

“Kayong mga nakikinig, Kayong mga Lumad. Niloloko lang kayong lahat niyan. Alam mo kung si — kay sabi ko nga, kung bright ‘yang Sison na ‘yan, siya ang Presidente ngayon galing sa India, hindi ako. (Those of you who are listening, you Lumads. You are just being fooled. As I said, if Sison was really bright, he could have been the President who visited India, not me),” he said.

He said the money the NPA reportedly collects from mining companies is being used to fund an organization that destroys the country.

Fanagel said there has been a rapid deployment of troops in Mindanao, including the 56th Infantry Battalion and the 15th IB from Bicol Region that are detailed in Davao del Norte, North Cotabato, and Bukidnon.

“It shows that this government is no different from the past governments who launch counter-insurgency programs that target Lumad and peasant communities and schools. They will fail to silence the Lumads who are defending their culture and their ancestral domain from mining and plantations,” he added.

Duterte’s Proclamation No. 374 declares the Communist Party of the Philippines and the NPA as terrorist organizations pursuant to Republic Act No. 10168, also known as the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2002.

The law states, “It is the policy of the State to protect life, liberty, and property from acts of terrorism, to condemn terrorism and those who support and finance it and to recognize it as inimical and dangerous to the national security of the country and the welfare of the people, and to make financing of terrorism a crime against the Filipino people, against humanity, and against the law of nations.”

The proclamation added that the law “criminalizes the financing of terrorism and dealing with property or funds of designated persons/organizations, and prevents and suppresses the commission of said offenses through freezing and forfeiture of the property or funds of said designations persons/organizations, among others.”

Bulalacao is new PNP spokesperson

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31): Bulalacao is new PNP spokesperson

Chief Supt. John Bulalacao was appointed as the new spokesperson of the Philippine National Police (PNP) on Wednesday.

Bulalacao replaces Chief Supt. Dionardo Carlos, a member of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1988, who has been named head of the NAIA-based Aviation Security Group following the mandatory retirement of Chief Supt. Sheldon Jacaban Tuesday.

Bulalacao, also a member of PMA Class of 1988, had served as National Capital Region Police Office directorial staff head and Cavite Police director.

He also served as Firearms and Explosives Office assistant chief, deputy director of the PNP Logistics Support Service, and Civil Security Group chief-of-staff.

Japanese destroyer to visit PH on Feb. 2-4

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31): Japanese destroyer to visit PH on Feb. 2-4

Highlighting the strong ties between the Philippines and Japan, the Japanese destroyer, the JS Amagiri (DD-154) will be paying a goodwill visit from Friday to Sunday.

She would dock at Pier 13 of the Manila South Harbor, Navy spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna said in a message Wednesday.

JS Amagiri would be accompanied by one DH-60J patrol helicopter, he added.

"Welcome ceremony and port briefing will be conducted upon arrival of the JMSDF (Japan Maritime Self Defense Force) vessel at Pier 13, South Harbor, Manila after a customary meeting procedure with BRP Rajah Humabon (PS-11) at the vicinity of Corregidor Island, Manila Bay," Lincuna added.

JS Amagiri is a Asagiri-class destroyer and specializes in anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare. There are eight units of these ships in the JMSDF which are capable of running at speeds of 30 knots.

Japan-donated plane conducts maritime patrol over Bajo De Masinloc

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31): Japan-donated plane conducts maritime patrol over Bajo De Masinloc

A Japanese-donated Beechcraft King Air TC-90, under the operational control of the Northern Luzon Command, conducted its first maritime patrol air patrol mission over the Bajo De Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal), Zambales and other areas under NOLCOM supervision Wednesday.

"Given the task, the (T)C-90 plane, with a tail number of 390, made its maiden flight at 9:45 a.m. of January 31, 2018, in the area of Bajo De Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal), Masinloc, Zambales. It has flown around the shoal for about 800 feet above sea level sighting four Filipino fishing boats, together with nine Chinese vessels comprising of four Chinese Coast Guard vessels, four unknown Chinese vessels and a Chinese fishing vessel. Moreover, the Filipino pilots heard no challenge from the Chinese Cost Guard," NOLCOM spokesperson Lt. Col. Isagani Nato said.

Wednesday's air patrol was the first ever for TC-90 in Philippine service. Its employment boosted the capability of the Navy to conduct limited airlift, reconnaissance and surveillance within NOLCOM's area-of-jurisdiction.

It will also complement the efforts of the Philippine Air Force to monitor and watch over the three maritime areas in Northern and Central Luzon.

Nato said NOLCOM would utilize all available assets and resources to protect our national territory, including its northern maritime areas, and assert our sovereign rights over the country's maritime domain.

"NOLCOM will continue to do its mandate that will be non-provocative strictly adhering to the International Law and in line with the directives and policies of the national government," he added.

The said plane, one of the two Japanese aircraft donated to the Philippines last March last year, was activated during short ceremonies at Naval Base Heracleo Alano, Sangley Point, Cavite City last November 21.

Its activation boosted the operations and maritime air surveillance capabilities of the Naval Air Group.

The TC-90s have a range of over 1,000 nautical miles, and a cruising speed of 260 knots and capable of carrying eight passengers along with the pilots.

As of this time, the Navy is operating around six Norman Britten "Islander" patrol aircraft, four GAF "Nomad" planes, five AgustaWestland combat utility helicopters and one Robinson R-22 training helicopter.

The TC-90, which was part of the Beechcraft King Air aircraft family, was offered by Japan shortly after the Agreement Concerning the Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology was finalized last Feb. 29, 2016.

Two of the TC-90s were delivered to Sangley Point, Cavite last March 27 with the remaining three to be delivered in the first quarter of 2018.

DOJ to submit for resolution raps vs. alleged Spanish terrorist

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31): DOJ to submit for resolution raps vs. alleged Spanish terrorist

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is set to submit for resolution the criminal complaints filed by the Armed Forces of Philippines (AFP) against a suspected Spanish terrorist arrested in a checkpoint in Basilan.

Abdelhakim Labidi Adib, 20, appeared on Wednesday’s preliminary investigation and submitted his counter affidavit to Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong and Assistant State Prosecutor Rodan Parrocha.

Adib sought the dismissal of charges of illegal possession of explosives filed by the Philippine Army’s 14th Special Forces Company against him.

Adib, a Spanish national of Tunisian descent, was arrested last Jan. 22 at a military checkpoint in Basilan. Government troops claimed he was accompanied by an Abu Sayyaf member who is one of their targets.

His companion, however, escaped by jumping off a cliff.

Seized from his possession were a hand grenade, rifle grenade, detonating devices, and blasting caps.

Adib argued that the case filed against him should be dismissed.

“I was illegally arrested by civilian persons, I was just walking on the road, aside from that I was not doing any crime nor was about to do a crime. Besides, there is no checkpoint. It must be noted that the evidence seized, although alleged to be inadvertently discovered, was not in plain view. It was planted by the arresting officer because I never have those items in my bag nor in my possession," read his 10-page counter-affidavit.

He said he arrived in Manila on Oct. 10, 2017, and went to Davao where he visited several attractions before proceeding to Cagayan de Oro.

He said that in Cagayan de Oro, he met a certain Abuzaid who claimed to be of the Yakan tribe. He said Abuzaid offered to take him to his tribe and introduce him to its culture.

As a starting point, he said he searched for the first city that he would visit and the most recommended was Davao City.

“I went here in the Philippines as a tourist. I have no intention whatever to aid anyone in any terrorist activity, especially in causing trouble to the community,” Adib said.

After schooling, he said he moved to Switzerland where he worked and saved money because it was his dream to travel to a faraway country. He said he chose the Philippines because he heard a lot of “good reviews” about the country.

“I began thinking about going to the Philippines when I heard so many good reviews and feedback about the country that it is a touristic place with beautiful islands and scenery and above all, splendid people who are very accommodating and hospitable,” he said.

“I did not stop thinking about the delicious food which is hard to refuse. I imagine that it is possible to have a happy life, filled with good times and happiness and devoid of many problems,” Adib added.

“Another reason, which at the beginning I did not think too important, was to find a good woman to complete my happiness and make my life with her,” he added.

He said that it was not his intention to go to Basilan and that he went to the Philippines for a vacation.

He said he stayed for two months in Cagayan de Oro. From Cagayan de Oro, he said they proceeded to Zamboanga and eventually to Basilan to visit the Yakan tribe. While in Basilan, he said the three weeks he spent with the tribe was “not a happy experience”.

“There is no food, no shower, no electricity, no proper shelter and it was not a comfortable stay,” he said, adding that he was afraid, especially after the group showed him photos of dead people.

“I decided to go home. I really regret my decision in going to Basilan. Nobody explained to me that Basilan is a dangerous place,” he said.

Before he was allowed to leave, he said the tribe members took his money, about 1,000 franks, mobile phone and some of his personal belongings.

He said he was escorted to Isabela City, Basilan on Jan. 19 where he was arrested by armed men.

He also countered the military’s claim, stressing that he was arrested on Jan. 20 and not January 22.

DOJ begins probe on rebellion raps vs. Maute leader's wife

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31): DOJ begins probe on rebellion raps vs. Maute leader's wife

The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday started the preliminary investigation on the criminal complaint filed by Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) against the wife of one of the slain leaders of the Maute terror group.

Najiya Dilangalen Karon-Maute was arrested on Jan. 23, 2018 in Cotabato City, and was facing a rebellion complaint filed by Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines-The Judge Advocate General (AFP-TJAG).

The complaint was based on the testimony of a certain Martino Elyana who was abducted in Padian, Marawi City.

Elyana said he saw Najiya and her husband Mohammadhayan "Otto" Maute bringing food to members of the group at the Bato Mosque in June 2017.

Elyana said he managed to escaped the Maute lair in July 2017.

Najiya Maute was ordered to submit her counter-affidavit on Feb. 14, 2018.

The DOJ Task Force Marawi chaired by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter L. Ong said that aside from the statement of Elyana, the military and the police failed to present additional evidence to support the allegation.

"However, aside from the statement of Martino Elyana as to the acts committed by the respondent at the time he was held captive, complainants did not present any other evidence against the respondent," the DOJ inquest resolution stated.

The DOJ added that the allegations against Najiya was committed seven months prior to her arrest, thus rendering this case not proper for inquest but for regular preliminary investigation.

"Besides, at the time respondent was arrested on Jan. 23, 2018, there is no evidence or even allegation that she was committing, about to commit, or has just committed an offense," the DOJ added.

The DOJ also noted that Elyana, while he affirmed what had happened when he was abducted, he changed the date of his abduction during clarificatory questioning by the DOJ prosecutors.

Najiya was subject of an arrest order issued by the Department of National Defense, the agency in charge of implementing martial law in Mindanao.

2 gov't workers killed, 2 others hurt in Basilan ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31): 2 gov't workers killed, 2 others hurt in Basilan ambush

Two government employees were killed while two others were wounded in an ambush staged by the Abu Sayyaf bandits along the circumferential road in Basilan province, officials reported Wednesday.

Brig. Gen. Juvymax Uy, the Army’s 104th Infantry Brigade commander, disclosed that the ambush happened at around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday in Barangay Baas, Lamitan City, Basilan.

Supt. Christopher Panapan, Lamitan City police officer-in-charge, identified the fatalities as Basit Daimun and Ahzhar Dakis, both truck mixer operators of the Department of Public Works and Highways in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (DPWH-ARMM).

Wounded were Mitoy Estajal and Abdul Sarabin, also employees of the DPWH-ARMM.

Investigation showed the victims were aboard a dump truck traveling to Lamitan City coming from Ungkaya Pukan town when the Abu Sayyaf bandits attacked them.

The dump truck, which veered to the sideof the road, was also damaged during the ambush.

Panapan said the motive of the ambush was extortion.

Soler Undug, DPWH-ARMM Basilan district head, revealed the Abu Sayyaf bandits had threatened to harm the DPWH-ARMM workers if and when they would not give in to their demands.

Uy said the bandits fled towards northeast direction after they ambush the dump truck of the DPWH-ARMM.

Uy said troops were deployed to track down the bandits.