Saturday, March 10, 2018

Armed Robberies but No Piracy Incidents in Asia During February says ReCAAP ISC Monthly Report

From Hellenic Shipping News (Mar 9): Armed Robberies but No Piracy Incidents in Asia During February says ReCAAP ISC Monthly Report

A total of five incidents of armed robbery against ships were reported in Asia in February 2018. No piracy incident was reported. Of the five incidents, three were actual incidents and two were attempted incidents. Of the two attempted incidents, one was an attempted incident involving the abduction of crew from a container ship at approximately 4.4 nm southwest of Sibago Island, province of Basilan, Philippines. There is no actual incident of abduction of crew and no incident of hijacking of ship for theft of oil cargo reported in February 2018.



 In February 2018, a total of five incidents of armed robbery against ships (comprising three actual incidents and two attempted incidents) were reported. All incidents have been verified and reported to the ReCAAP ISC by ReCAAP Focal Points and regional authorities. Compared to January 2018, the situation in February 2018 has improved. A total of eight incidents were reported in January 2018 compared to five incidents in February 2018. Graph 1 shows the number of incidents reported each month from February 2017 to February 2018. Refer to the Appendix on pages 15-18 for the description of these incidents.


 Of the five incidents reported in February 2018, four incidents occurred on board ships while at anchor/berth (in Bangladesh, India and Vietnam), and one incident on board ship while underway (off Basilan, Philippines).


 Chart 1 shows the significance level of incidents⁵ reported in February of 2009-2018. Of the five incidents reported in February 2018, two were CAT 3 incidents, one was a CAT 4 incident and two were attempted incidents. No CAT 1 incident was reported in February 2018 compared to one CAT 1 incident reported in February 2017. The number of actual incidents reported during February 2018 was the lowest among the 10-year reporting period (2009-2018). The location of the incidents is shown in Map below.




 During January-February 2018, a total of 13 incidents were reported, of which nine were actual incidents and four were attempted incidents. Except for January-February 2009, the number of incidents reported during January-February 2018 was the lowest among the 10-year reporting period. Compared to January-February 2017, there was a 24% decrease in the total number of incidents during January-February 2018. A total of 17 incidents (comprising 14 actual incidents and three attempted incidents) were reported during January-February 2017. Graph 2 shows the number of incidents reported during January-February 2009-2018.

ReCAAP ISC Monthly Report, February 2018 [PDF]
Source: ReCAAP ISC

Authorities wary of AKP recruitment in Mindanao

From the Manila Bulletin (Mar 10): Authorities wary of AKP recruitment in Mindanao

Authorities are keeping an eye on the reported recruitment of Islamic State (IS)-inspired local terror group Ansar Khilafah Philippines in Central Mindanao region following the death of a suspected AKP leader in a shootout with police operatives in Polomolok, South Cotabato recently.

Chief Insp. Aldrin Gonzales, regional police spokesperson, said police authorities have been coordinating with the military authorities and security forces in monitoring the recruitment activities of the IS-inspired AKP terror group in the provinces of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat.

Police killed last Wednesday Benzaid Nilong, a suspected AKP leader, in a shootout last Wednesday in Barangay Pagalungan, Polomolok, South Cotabato.

South Cotabato police director Nestor Salcedo said Nilong was killed after he shot it out with policemen manning a checkpoint along the national highway in Polomolok town.

He said Nilong and three other unidentified companions onboard two motorcycles resisted arrest when flagged down by policemen.

The three other suspects managed to escape during the hot pursuit operation.

Police tagged the group of Nilong as responsible for a series of criminal activities including illegal drugs, robbery, carnapping and gun-for-hire in Polomolok and nearby areas.

The group was also tagged responsible for the killing of Senior Inspector Herman Gabat, deputy police chief of Polomolok, last September 2017.

Gabat, who was a staunch anti-illegal drugs advocate, was gunned down by two unidentified gunmen while eating inside a restaurant along the national highway in Polomolok town.

Police tagged Nilong as one of the remnants of AKP leader Mohamad Jaafar Maguid was killed in an encounter with security forces last January 2017 in Kiamba, Sarangani.

In Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat, police authorities have intensified their campaign against loose firearms amid the declaration of Martial law in Mindaanao.

Sultan Kudarat police director Raul Supiter said police authorities had retrieved at least 28 high-powered firearms which were turned over by village officials in Palimbang town.

The recovered firearms include three M16 rifles, five M14 rifles ; three Garand, one M-79 rifle; thirteen 20 gauge shotguns; two M-203 grenade launcher and one UZI sub-machine pistol.

Supiter said security forces had launched the campaign to recover the firearms which might be passed on to members of AKP terror group who had established a stronghold in Palimbang town.

Intelligence reports had indicated that Maguid who used to live in Palimbang town had reportedly received logistical support which includes firearms and money from Palimbang Mayor Abubacar Maulana.

Maulana had gone into hiding after the local court ordered for his arrest over charges for illegal possession of explosives filed by the police last November.

A New Philippines Naval Station in Sulu?

From The Diplomat (Mar 5): A New Philippines Naval Station in Sulu?

A closer look at a noteworthy development.

 A New Philippines Naval Station in Sulu?

Late last month, the Philippines finalized plans for the construction of a new naval station in Sulu. Though specifics remain unclear at this early stage, the move reinforces the increasing importance Manila is placing on boosting its capabilities to address a wide range of security challenges, including those in the Sulu Sea.

As I have been noting in these pages, though the Sulu Sea has long been an area rife with a whole series of transnational challenges, there has been greater attention around it over the past few years. The overwhelming focus in the media has been on trilateral cooperation between Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines (See: “Confronting Threats in the Sulu-Sulawesi Seas: Opportunities and Challenges”).

Less in the headlines but equally if not more important, are national efforts being undertaken by each of these countries as well. For the Philippines, for instance, that has thus far included not only a series of exercises and patrols with individual countries, but also various moves taken by the Philippine Navy (PN) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in this respect (See: “Where is the Philippines Coast Guard in its Military Modernization?”).

In another development in this space, late last month, plans were finalized for the construction of a new naval station in Sulu. According to the Philippines News Agency (PNA), the PN plans to construct a naval station in Barangay Bual, Luuk, a town in Sulu, based on a property donated by the municipal government of Luuk.

On February 23, a series of ceremonies marked the official launch of the idea, with the signing of a memorandum of agreement and deed of donation by the commander of Naval Forces Western Mindanao (Navforwem) Rear Admiral Rene Medina, Mayor Allayon Arbison Jr., and Sulu second district Rep. Munir Arbison, along with a groundbreaking ceremony and a medical and dental mission.

No further details were publicly disclosed about the new naval station or specific plans therein. And lest observers get carried away, it is worth noting that this is just a three-hectare area donated to the Philippine Navy. Additionally, there have been many instances in the Philippines of such basing ideas being hampered or delayed by a whole host of problems, ranging from inadequate funding to bureaucratic rivalry.

Nonetheless, the very fact that such developments are occurring is testament to the fact that the Philippine military is seriously looking at ways to boost its presence to tackle transnational threats in the Sulu Sea. Though the headlines may be overwhelmingly focused on in subregional endeavors like trilateral patrols, domestic efforts in this vein will continue to be important to watch as well.

Philippines says eight jihadists killed in the south

From the New Straits Times (Mar 9): Philippines says eight jihadists killed in the south

This photo taken on March 8, shows Philippine soldiers standing next to their armoured personnel carriers as they man a checkpoint along a highway near the clash site between government troops and Islamic militants in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town, Maguindanao province on the southern island of Mindanao. The Philippine military said on March 9 it has killed at least eight Islamic militants in an operation to stop jihadist efforts to set up base in the country's south following the deadly five-month siege of Marawi city last year. AFP

The Philippine military said Friday it had killed at least eight Islamic militants in an operation to stop jihadist efforts to set up base in the country’s south following the deadly five-month siege of Marawi city last year.

Armoured vehicles and artillery were used against about 50 gunmen from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) on Mindanao island on Thursday, local military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Gerry Bisana said in a report.

The military said last month that gunmen linked to the Islamic State group have renewed an armed campaign to set up a caliphate in the region, home to the Catholic nation’s Muslim minority.
A first attempt was put down last year after a US-backed military campaign that flattened Marawi and left more than 1,100 people dead.

Survivors of the Marawi siege have recruited a fresh force of about 200 gunmen, according to the military, with President Rodrigo Duterte warning they could attack other Mindanao cities.

Bisana said troops recovered the bodies of eight gunmen, although they believe the militants carried off 15 other dead comrades.

He added that a soldier was also wounded in the fighting near the town of Datu Saudi Ampatuan.

“Soldiers have been vigilantly guarding the entire central Mindanao in order to constrict the firefight in specific... areas, and continue to pursue the remnants of the terror group,” regional military chief Major-General Arnel dela Vega said.

The BIFF is a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country’s largest Muslim guerrilla force that signed a peace treaty with Manila in 2014 after a decades-long armed campaign that claimed more than 100,000 lives by official estimates.

The MILF has echoed Duterte’s warnings in recent months, as the two sides pushed to get Congress to pass a Muslim self-rule law that both said would help roll back jihadist gains in Mindanao.

Marines kill ASG ‘coddler’ in Sulu gunfight

From GMA News Online (Mar 11): Marines kill ASG ‘coddler’ in Sulu gunfight

An alleged Abu-Sayyaf Group (ASG) "coddler" was killed during a short gun-battle with Marine Battalion Landing Team 1 in Sulu province's Luuk town Saturday morning, the Philippine Marine Corps reported in a statement.

The Marine unit, which was operating in Barangay Tubi Puti due to a report from a concerned local, was allegedly fired at by the suspect at 5:10 a.m.

The fatality was later identified as barangay resident Muksidin A Dadil.

Among the items recovered from the scene were a rifle magazine, seven 7.62 mm rounds, two 7.62 mm shells, two .30 caliber rounds, combat webbing with 14 magazine pouches, four uniforms, two cellphones without simcards, and three identification cards.

The recovered body was turned over to Barangay Tubig Puti's officer-in-charge for proper disposition.

The Philippine Marine Ready Force-Sulu commander Col. Armel S. Tolato applauded his Marines and thanked the local community for their trust and cooperation.

“We welcome those who want to return to the fold of the law and live normal lives. But for those who choose otherwise, we will relentlessly pursue them”, said Col. Tolato.

Philippine church groups leap to defend alleged rebel

From UCAN (Mar 9): Philippine church groups leap to defend alleged rebel

Parents claim the young woman was in an immersion program with farmers

Philippine church groups leap to defend alleged rebel

Myles Albasin, 21. (Photo courtesy of Arkibong Bayan)

Church groups in the southern Philippines have taken up the cause of a young woman accused of being a communist rebel fighter by the military.

Rural Missionaries of the Philippines condemned the arrest last week of Myles Albasin, 21, who used to work as an intern for the religious organization.

Albasin, a native of Cagayan de Oro City, was arrested with six others in a village in Negros Oriental province on March 2.

The military filed charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives against her and her companions.

In a radio interview, Albasin claimed she was in the village to work with local farmers. She denied that firearms seized by soldiers belonged to her or her companions.

Albasin, a native of Cagayan de Oro City, graduated from the University of the Philippines last year and became secretary-general of the youth group Anakbayan.

"We are aggrieved that the response of the state, and the people quick to judge her actions, had been to accuse her of being a terrorist," said Ailene Villarosa, coordinator of the Rural Missionaries.

Last year, President Rodrigo Duterte classified the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People's Army, as a terrorist organization.

"We are angry that empathy with the poor and working for their betterment has become the definition of anti-state activities," said Villarosa.

"We saw her love for the downtrodden and oppressed in the few months she was with us, assigned to assist our advocacy work for indigenous peoples," she added.

Albasin's mother, Grace, also denied that her daughter is a member of the guerrilla group.

"She was there for an immersion with the farmers," Grace said. She admitted her daughter joined leftist groups as a student but stressed, "there's nothing wrong with that."

In a statement, the ecumenical group Promotion of Church People's Response bemoaned the arrest of Albasin and her companions.

The group called for an investigation into the military's claims because it might be a "publicity stunt" against individuals and groups "committed to the cause of social justice and genuine peace."

The church group appealed to the Philippine government and rebel National Democratic Front of the Philippines to resume peace talks "to address the root-causes of the armed conflict."

Peace negotiations were called off last year after the two sides failed to agree on ceasefire conditions.

Military spokesman, Col. Medel Aguilar, insisted that Myles and her companions were communist rebels.

"Saying that the suspects are not members of the [rebel group] is nothing but their claims. Let them prove that they know better than our troops who were in the area," said the military official.

23 BIFF fighters fall in Maguindanao encounter

From The Standard (Mar 10): 23 BIFF fighters fall in Maguindanao encounter

AT LEAST 23 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters were slain while 24 others,including an army soldier, were wounded in a battle between the terrorist group and security forces in Maguindanao Thursday morning.

The number of deaths from the BIFF could still rise after the government gained the upper hand, the military said, adding the fighting was continuing.

Capt. Arvin John Encinas, spokesperson of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division said the fighting occurred at around 6 a.m. between some 50 BIFF and soldiers of the 2nd Mechanized Infantry battalion at Sitio Lapitos, Brgy. Lower Salbu, Datu Ampatuan town.

The confrontation sparked when troops under 1 Lt. Sandag and Capt. Olunan of the 2Mech Company conducting security operations in the area were fired upon by the terror group.

Reinforcements arrived to support the troops in the initial fighting.

This prompted ground commander to send attack aircrafts to support ground troops while pounding enemy positions.

Encinas said the BIFF group, estimated at around 50 armed fighters, under commander Peni of Karialan faction, suffered 12 killed in the initial exchange of heavy fighting while an army soldier was wounded.

Of the 23 slain BIFF rebels, only three were identified as Abdulljack Usop, Samad Abdul and Kasim Samaon while the others were certain Lacoste, Palusi, Ando and Kasan. One of the wounded was Faisal Solaiman.

Encinas said MG520 attack aircraft were mobilized to finish off the BIFF group.

“The casualties from the BIFF are expected to rise as they were hit heavily by aerial and ground bombardment,” Encinas said.

Meanwhile, the AFP’s efforts to prevent and counter violent extremism in Mindanao was gaining ground with the recovery of 575 loose firearms in 2018.

Notable of these are the gains from seven municipalities in Sulu that surrendered 187 loose firearms on March 6, 2018, and other places in ZamBaSulta area which the military described as a manifestation of local government units’ cooperation in PCVE efforts of the national government.

The Western Mindanao Command reported that the municipal and barangay officials from Talipao, Parang, Omar, Indanan, Maimbung, Jolo, and Patikul, Sulu turned over nine M14 rifles, three .30 Caliber BAR rifles, nine M79 Grenade Launchers, 64 M16 rifles, three AR15 rifles, 93 M1 Garand rifles, four M203 Grenade Launchers, and two Caliber .45 pistol.

Of these, Talipao Mayor Nebukadnezar Tulawie surrendered the most with 60 high and low-powered firearms, consisting of 41 M16 rifles, three AR15 rifles, twelve M1 Garand rifles, two M79 Grenade Launchers, one Bar, and one M14 rifle.

PNP to exhaust all legal remedies vs alleged ISIS leader and recruiter

From the Manila Bulletin (Mar 9): PNP to exhaust all legal remedies vs alleged ISIS leader and recruiter

The Philippine National Police (PNP) will exhaust all legal remedies to pursue its charges against an Egyptian national who was said to be an ISIS leader and recruiter.

Fehmi Lassqued aka John Rasheed Lassqued, a suspected member of the Islamic Terrorist group ISIS, is guarded by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, as he was presented to the media at the PNP Headquarters in Camp Crame, February 19 2018. (Mark Balmores / MANILA BULLETIN)

Chief Superintendent John Bulalacao, PNP spokesperson, said Fehmi Lassqued is not yet off-the-hook after the Department of Justice (DOJ) junked the PNP’s charges against him including illegal possession of firearms and ammunition and illegal possession of explosives.

Similar charges against Lassqued’s Filipina girlfriend, Anabel Moncera Salipada, have also been dismissed for lack of merit.

“This is not yet final. The arresting officers can still avail of other legal remedies like filing a petition for review before the DOJ Secretary,” Bulalacao said.

“Meantime, let us just leave this first to the disposition of the investigating teams or their legal offices,” he added.

Dela Rosa said that Lassqued and Salipada were arrested by joint elements of the National Capital Region Police Office-Regional Police Intelligence Operations Unit (NCRPO-RPIOU) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) last February 16 in an apartment in Manila.

PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said Lassqued served as a former negotiator between the ISIS leadership and local government officials in Syria and Turkey, and a former ISIS commander in the Syrian-Turkish border.

Dela Rosa added that he now serves as an active ISIS recruiter of prospected Filipino terrorist fighters.

During the arrest, Dela Rosa said the two suspects yielded assorted firearms, ammunition, components for improvised explosive device (IED), and a black ISIS flag.

However, in Lassqued’s counter-affidavit, he said that he was smoking near the Ayala Triangle Tower One in Makati City during a break of his Spanish class when he got arrested on February 16.

In a seven-page DOJ resolution, Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong said that two photographs taken by the arresting team showed Lassqued and Salipada with the confiscated items had different backgrounds compared to the five photographs taken by the team showing the confiscated items without the suspects.

The NCRPO team said earlier that all seven photographs were taken inside the apartment unit where the suspects were supposedly arrested.

‘Du30 package’ seen leading to CPP-NPA collapse

From The Standard (Mar 9): ‘Du30 package’ seen leading to CPP-NPA collapse

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Durerte predicted that the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army will soon collapse as hundreds of communist rebels and sympathizers are giving up their arms in exchange for a better life and integration into the society.

The President said that with more rebels surrendering, he hopes that the Armed Forces can quash the rebel group soon.

“We are trying to really go out and just embrace them as brothers… If they [the NPA] become decimated by the number of surrenderees, maybe the Armed Forces can finish them off next year,” Duterte said in a meeting with the local chief executives of Luzon at the Royce Hotel in Pampanga.

The military said more than 2,000 NPA fighters, militia members and mass supporters have given up this year alone.

The President lauded the joint efforts of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, and the local government units for the increasing number of surrendering rebels.

Dutere said surrendering rebels are given livelihood opportunities and housing units.

“We are about to complete many—in Davao City we will have 1,000; in Tagum about 700. Then Surigao and in Zamboanga. Here in Bulacan we have also completed many units,” he said in Filipino.

“It’s a matter of how to talk to them sincerely and if they want to surrender, they will have their own houses then we can give them money in the transition,” Duterte added.

Rebel returnees can also be trained by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Duterte said, noting that the country is in need of more skilled workers.

“There are construction [jobs] in Manila, Davao, and Cebu that have temporarily stopped because of the absence of skilled workers,” he said.

The Army, meanwhile, said it is open to settling the conflict with the NPA peacefully.

“We are the forces on the ground. We’re always interested in reaching a settlement,” said Army spokesman Lt. Col. Louie Villanueva.

“In the first place, it’s always us who are [on] the verge of conflict, we are the ones who are always affected by this conflict,” he added in Filipino. With PNA

But Villanueva said that the NPAs should show sincerity and fully comply with a ceasefire once oneis in place.

Duterte, on Nov. 23 signed Proclamation 30, ordering the termination of all peace negotiations and meetings with the rebel group, after a series of attacks on military and police personnel.

6 returnees get CLIP help

From the Mindanao Times (Mar 10): 6 returnees get CLIP help

SIX FORMER members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) who surrendered to the government received their assistance through the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon on Thursday.

Capt. Norman Tagros, the civil-military operations officer of the Philippine Army’s 403rd Infantry Brigade, said the CLIP Committee of Bukidnon, through Bukidnon Provincial Administrator Atty. Nestor Cajes, Jr., and 403rd IB Deputy Commander Col. Royland Orquia, facilitated the giving of checks to the former NPA members in a simple ceremony around 1 p.m. on Thursday.

Tagros said the six former regular NPA members received a total of P65,000 each for their livelihood and immediate assistance and firearms remuneration amounting to a total of P115,000.

“These surrendered individuals were among the last batch of former CPP-NPA members who went to Manila on March 5-7 for a tour in different historical sites and a visit to Malacañan Palace where they also dined with President Rodrigo Duterte,” he said.

During the giving of CLIP Assistance, alias Jake, one of the surrenderers, mentioned that “we are very happy with the program of the government.”

“The promise is for real,” Jake said in vernacular. “It’s very different to the unfulfilled promises of the CPP-NPA.”

“I am urging my former colleagues to avail of this government program.”

Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Eric Vinoya, the commander of the 403rd Infantry Brigade, assured the former CPP-NPA members of their security and well-being.

Vinoya also mentioned that the CLIP Committee will continue assisting the rebel returnees as they start their life anew.

“More than the immediate cash and livelihood assistance as well as the firearms remuneration, we will ensure that these individuals will have a better life by continuously providing them capacity development and livelihood skills trainings in collaboration with different government agencies to help them in their employment,” Vinoya said.

“Our President has also promised them housing benefits and even made an unprecedented gesture of inviting our brothers to dine with him in Malacañan Palace and have a tour in different historical places in Manila,” he added.

More detachments for SCAAs sought

From the Visayan Daily Star (Mar 10): More detachments for SCAAs sought
Insurgency-affected barangays in Negros Oriental have requested for the establishment of additional detachments of the Special Civilian Active Auxiliary or SCAA, of the Philippine Army, following the recent sightings of armed rebels in Bindoy, Ayungon, Tayasan, Manjuyod, and Mabinay, or the BATMAN-NAY areas, in the province.

The request came after the reported massive recruitment of the New People’s Army in barangays Nalundan and Cabcaban in Bindoy, Barangay Pansiao in Manjuyod, and in adjoining barangays.

Members of the joint municipal peace and order councils of the five local government units approved the request, through a resolution addressed to the Provincial Peace and Order Council chaired by Gov. Roel Degamo.

Board Member Jessica Villanueva, chairman of the peace and order committee of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan assured them during the joint peace and order council meeting, of her full support when the issue is taken up during the PPOC meeting and when endorsed to the SP.

The 62nd Infantry Battalion commanding officer, Lt. Col. Darrel Banez, told the participants at the meeting that it is not that easy to establish a detachment as, it requires substantial funding. However, in the absence of any allocation from the General Appropriations Act, LGUs concerned may contribute from their respective budgets for additional recruitment and training.

He said the minimum requirement for a CAFGU company is 125 personnel who will be trained for about three months, and this will cost about P3 million, including the uniforms, combat boots, and monthly allowance of P4,500 each.

Mabinay Mayor Ernie Uy said that aside from sourcing the funds from the provincial government, concerned LGUs can contribute for the expenses or move for realignments as members of the PPOC.

During the joint MPOC meeting Banez reported that from the 160 SCAAs funded by the province, including their rice subsidy, only about 40 have remained, some of them left their work because of delayed honoraria.

Villanueva said the SCAAs have to wait for six to eight months for their monthly allowance, so a number of them stop or look for other jobs.

Meanwhile, the Manjuyod police is digging deeper into reports that suspected members of the NPA had searched the residence of the barangay captain of Pansiao last month.

Manjuyod chief of police, Senior Inspector Van Joel Tingson, said that while the town is generally peaceful with no high profile cases, the sightings of armed individuals are keeping the police on their toes.

The police is also validating reports of rebel sightings, intimidation and harassments of residents of barangays Namugong, Bantolinao, and Candabong as well as the alleged recruitment of minors to the rebel movement, he added.

In Tayasan, the chief of police, SI Fortunato Villafuerte, has confirmed sightings of rebel elements in barangays Bago, Saying, and Hinabangan, but he said this is not much of a problem because of the presence of Army detachments, in Lag-it, Pindahan and Tanlad.

Ayungon Mayor Edsel Enardecido, meanwhile, said he is worried about repercussions in case of a rebel attack on the police station, and is urging residents to be on the lookout for suspicious-looking individuals in the poblacion.

NPA nurturing criminals: Army

From the Visayan Daily Star (Mar 10): NPA nurturing criminals: Army

The word war continues to heat up between the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division and Negrense rebel priest Frank Fernandez, who was accused of recruiting minors and teenagers, and training them to become criminals.

Brig. Gen. Dinoh Dolina, 3 rd Infantry Division commander, yesterday said that the involvement of six communist rebels, including two minors and 21-year-old amazon Myles Albasin, in a robbery incident and in threatening a barangay chairman and two others on Feb. 16 in Brgy.Panciao, Manjuyod, Negros Oriental, confirms the CPP NPA recruitment and training of innocent civilians, including children, to take part in criminal activities.

Albasin and five others were captured last week by 62 nd Infantry Battalion soldiers, following an encounter in Mabinay, Negros Oriental.

The apprehension of the six suspected rebels yielded six high-powered firearms, explosives and subversive documents, that confirmed also their involvement in the ransacking of the house of Panciao barangay chairman Mario Gonzales, where Albasin has kept the record of the incident, Brig. Gen. Eliezer Losañes, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, in a statement, said.

Albasin and her group carted away two shotguns and a 357 caliber revolver from the residence of Gonzales, who, with former CAFGU member Anoy Catubig and barangay tanod chief Andoy Balderas were also threatened by rebels, the military said.

Dolina said the CPP-NPA is taking away the promising future of young innocent children and their chance to uplift their social status.

Fernandez, in a statement issued, condemned the military raid, illegal arrest and detention of Albasin and the five others.

He maintained that no encounter had taken place.

Charges for illegal possession of firearms and explosives have already been filed by the police against six arrested rebel suspects.

Full alert vs. ISIS remains

From the Visayan Daily Star (Mar 10): Full alert vs. ISIS remains

The Bacolod City Police Office is still not discounting the possibility of an ISIS spillover and remains on full alertagainst possible threats or terroristic activities.

“Because of what happened in Mindanao, we can’t discount the possibility that the ISIS will find another place or another city to launch their evil intentions,” Senior Supt. Francisco Ebreo, BCPO officer-in-charge, said yesterday.

The military had admitted that remnants of the ISIS-inspired Maute Group are trying to revive their forces after their losses in the Marawi siege last year.

Two alleged high-profile ISIS-affiliated personalities Tunisian Fehmi Lassoued and Maute Group Sub-leader Nasser Lomondot were arrested in Metro Manila, last month, a CNN Philippines report said.

The intelligence community, the Philippine National Police, and the Armed Forces of the Philippinesare in coordination to monitor the actual happenings and prevent any atrocities like what happened in Marawi City, Ebreo said.

“Whatever information the intelligence units are gathering, we are having a fusion,” he said.

A profiling is being done to keep track of people from Marawi and nearby areas in Mindanao, who arrived in the Western Visayas, including Bacolod, he said.

The threat of terrorism is usually noted in areas withmany touristsor where they can launch even small terroristic activities as long as it can gain mileage and attention, Ebreo said.

“The threat is normal, but it does not mean that there is an eminent one” he said.

Still the police are not lowering their guards, Ebreo added.

Pres. Duterte promises houses, livelihood to rebel returnees in Sulu, Basilan

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 10): Pres. Duterte promises houses, livelihood to rebel returnees in Sulu, Basilan

ZAMBOANGA CITY -- President Rodrigo Duterte tonight in a speech at the Edwin Andrews Air Base (EAAB) here promised rebel returnees especially those in Sulu and Basilan that they will be given houses and livelihood to help them live better lives after struggling for so long.

President Duterte said it is his duty to seek peace, and that he is “ready anytime to talk peace” with the rebels. He is looking into the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to provide technical vocational education to the returnees.

Meanwhile, the President warned mayors and officials who use their influence to proliferate illegal drugs.

“Do not feel so invulnerable. If you use the office of the mayor for drugs, I will get you,” he warned.

President Duterte also reiterated his support for policemen who continue the fight against illegal drugs, and hit critics.

“I have been a trial lawyer for 9 years. Do your duty, and I’ll take care of everything else,” he emphasized.

The President conferred the Order of Lapu Lapu to soldiers who served in Marawi, including wounded personnel, as well as those with distinguished acts of service during the siege.

Task group for urban security activated in Puerto Princesa

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 10): Task group for urban security activated in Puerto Princesa

TASK FORCE. Mayor Lucilo Bayron of Puerto Princesa speaks in front of the members of the newly-activated Joint Task Group Puerto Princesa for urban security operations at the headquarters of the 3rd Marine Brigade (MBDE) in Barangay Tiniguiban on Saturday (March 10, 2018). (Photo by Wescom PAO)
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The Armed Forces of the Philippines' Western Command (Wescom) on Saturday activated a joint task group on urban security operations, scaling up Puerto Princesa’s security and safety against any threat of lawless elements.

Capt. Cherryl Tindog, Wescom spokesperson, said the Joint Task Group Puerto Princesa (JTGPP) will be under the operational control of Joint Task Force Peacock, the ground component in the military command’s Joint Area of Operations.

“Under the leadership of its newly appointed commander, Lt. Col. Dante Robert Grasparil, the JTGPP is in charge of the conduct of Internal Peace and Security Operations in Puerto Princesa City, complementing the security efforts of Joint Task Groups North and South, thereby covering the entire province of Palawan,” she said.

The task group shall also conduct mobile and foot patrols in commercial centers, points of convergence, and other vital installations and facilities.

“It shall also provide security coverage at the airport, seaport, wharves and other points of entry through waterways. It shall also conduct random riverine checkpoints and security patrols to deny entry to lawless elements,” Tindog said.

The activation occurred at the headquarters of the 3rd Marine Brigade in Barangay Tiniguiban. It was done in the presence of Lt. Gen. Rozzano Briguez, commander of Wescom as presiding officer, and Puerto Princesa Mayor Lucilo Bayron as guest of honor.

"The City of Puerto Princesa is grateful for the activation of the Joint Task Group Puerto Princesa because of the security it will provide to our constituents. It gives us the assurance that the City is safe for all local residents and tourists," Bayron said.

Briguez, on the other hand, said Wescom is committed to ensuring the city’s safety and security, which means a lot to its tourism industry and its residents.

"Rest assured that through Joint Task Group Puerto Princesa, your Team Wescom shall secure Puerto Princesa and keep its people safe," Briguez said.

Joint maritime security exercises for Puerto Princesa cops held

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 10): Joint maritime security exercises for Puerto Princesa cops held

JUST A SCENARIO. 'Kidnappers' holding 'Malaysian national' hostage on a motorboat during the maritime law enforcement exercise on Friday (March 9,2018).

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- A maritime law enforcement exercise (MARLEX) between two police groups was conducted here Friday afternoon in Honda Bay, Barangay Sta. Lourdes.

The MARLEX was between policemen of the Special Operations Unit-Maritime Group (SOU-MG) headed by Senior Superintendent Gregorio Togonon and the City Police Office (CPO) led by Senior Superintendent Ronnie Francis Cariaga and meant to enhance law enforcement and security operations at sea and in coastal areas.

In a simulation exercise (SIMEX) during the MARLEX, two teams composed of 12 Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) assault forces personnel each from the maritime and CPO police forces were dispatched to rescue a “33-year old Malaysian tourist” kidnapped from a resort nearby Honda Bay.

They had to rescue the “Malaysian” after he was forced by three supposed kidnappers to board a motorized boat.

Togonon said the MARLEX and the simulated exercise would prepare them to confront an incident at sea or in coastal areas that would threaten the safety and security of the city.

“What we want to do in this activity is to check our interoperability capabilities and capacities. We will continue to have MARLEX to level them up when the responsibility calls for them to work together,” he said.

Cariaga said in the coming months, more maritime law enforcement exercises would be conducted to see how their personnel would work with each other as a group.

"If we have enough resources, we will do this to expand their knowledge in responding to similar situations as the SIMEX. Hopefully, we will do this too, with other law enforcement agencies,” he said.

He said among those he observed during the SIMEX was the need to have a dedicated communication line only for the team to use in case such an operation is warranted.

This way, the teams would not be interrupted by other concerns that need to be communicated using the same communication frequency.

"There should be no interventions so that the operating units can carry out their tasks effectively. It is important to look for a frequency were communication traffic will not hinder the operation,” he added.

“The SIMEX scenario was kidnapping because there’s a history here that happened in 2001, which we want to prevent from happening again,” Cariaga said.

Abu Sayyaf man linked to mass kidnap arrested in Basilan

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 10): Abu Sayyaf man linked to mass kidnap arrested in Basilan

Houses on stilts stand along the shore of Malamawi Island, Isabela City, Basilan. (PNA file photo by: Teofilo P. Garcia Jr.)

Joint police and military operatives arrested an alleged Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) member believed to be involved in the kidnapping of 53 people in Basilan province 18 years ago, a top police official announced Saturday.

Chief Supt. Billy Beltran, Police Regional Office 9 (Zamboanga) director, identified the suspect as Masser Lim Omar, 57, resident of Barangay Panigayan, Malamawi Island, Isabela City, Basilan.

Beltran said Omar, who was arrested in his residence in Malamawi Island at about 2:30 a.m. Saturday, has a standing warrant of arrest for kidnapping and serious illegal detention with ransom, with no recommended bail.

He said the suspect was involved in the March 21, 2000 kidnapping of 53 people, including slain Claretian priest, Fr. Roel Gallardo, from a school in Barangay Tumahubong, Sumisip, Basilan.

The other victims included teachers and students, who were herded to an ASG camp in Mount Punoh Mohaji, Sumisip. The Abu Sayyaf bandits executed Gallardo and some of the hostages, including two teachers.

The other hostages were later released in batches in exchange for food supply and “tokens” while the rest were rescued by the military in an assault that saw the fall of the ASG camp.

Beltran said Omar was taken to the Isabela City Police station for proper booking and disposition.

Kidapawan bishop appeals anew to NPA to free captive cop

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 10): Kidapawan bishop appeals anew to NPA to free captive cop

Kidapawan Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo reiterated his urgent appeal to the New People’s Army (NPA) to release Senior Insp. Menard Cui, whom the rebels seized on December 28, 2017, in nearby President Roxas, North Cotabato.

“I strongly appeal to the NPAs to free Insp. Cui,” Bagaforo said, noting the police officer has been in the hands of communist rebels for 72 days now.

Cui’s wife Florelie died two days after he was snatched by gunmen at a KTV Bar in Barangay Poblacion, President Roxas, North Cotabato.

Bagaforo earlier made a public appeal over Church-run Radio DXND in Kidapawan City for the rebels to free Cui so he can be with his wife during her last hours on earth. The appeal fell on deaf ears.

On Friday, police authorities in North Cotabato rejected calls from families of Cui to negotiate for his release.

Supt. Leo Ajero, North Cotabato provincial police deputy chief for operations, said the government does not, as matter of policy, negotiate with the communist rebels for the release of a kidnap victim.

The NPA’s Guerilla Front 53 offered to free Cui in exchange for arrested tribal leader, Mylan Andas, an alleged sub-leader.

The police arrested Andas in 2017 in Magpet, North Cotabato, for possession of firearms.

A Church official working for Cui’s release has admitted the rebels wanted freedom for a number of comrades arrested by the government in exchange for his release.

President Duterte warns troops against resurgence of NPA sparrow unit

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 10): President Duterte warns troops against resurgence of NPA sparrow unit

President Rodrigo Duterte, during his visit in Zamboanga City on Saturday, March 10, awards medals to soldiers for gallantry in action during the five-month seige in Marawi City last year. (Photo by: Teofilo P. Garcia Jr.)

Soldiers and policemen have been warned against the resurgence of sparrow unit of the New People’s Army (NPA) in their locality.

The sparrow units are the hit men of the NPA in urban areas with primary mission to kill lawmen and government officials.

President Rodrigo Duterte issued the warning during his “talk to men” at the Edwin Andrew Air Base (EAAB) saying they should be vigilant of their security and safety.

“Be careful, they (sparrow hit men) are active now,” the President told the troops.

The resurgence came after the NPA hierarchy has ordered to intensify its attacks on government forces in the country after the President canceled the peace talks with the NPA.

Duterte told the soldiers and policemen to be watchful of their surroundings, especially at home, citing two to three soldiers die daily from sparrow attacks in the entire country.

The President said some of the troops were killed at home while others while doing marketing chores for the command.

Duterte said there are times different person would conduct the surveillance on probable targets and other individuals would strike.

He also told the troops to avoid loitering in stores and public places as they are vulnerable targets.

“Those are the things you have to be very, very careful, especially if you are carrying firearms,” he said citing “they are after the firearms.”

He said Agriculture Sec. Emmanuel Piñol has proposed the so-called “TienDa ng Bayan” to protect the troops from attacks by NPA sparrow unit.

The “TienDA ng Bayan” will serve as the market place where troops can purchase food supply and other needs at home or for the office.

The sparrow unit of the NPA has resurfaced which was very active in the 80s killing soldier and policemen in urban centers.

Meanwhile, President Duterte has awarded medals to 33 military officers and personnel in recognition for the service to the country.

The awardees for the Order of Lapu-Lapu (Kampilang Medal) were the Maj. Velmor Manaois; Capt. Dimas Jun Balai; 2Lt. Nathan Rey Eucare; SSgt. Ramonito Diapolet; Sgt. Ramises Relos; Sgt. Joemarie Perez; Cpl. Jovith Clamotcha; PFC Winston Tangilan; PFC Vladimir Ramos, represented by his mother, Susan; PFC Jefry Jacinto; and, PFC Jay Ar Nogodula.

The Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) said they were recognized for sustaining wounds while participating in the campaign against the Daesh-inspired foreign and local terrorists under Isnlon Hapilon and Omar Maute for almost five months from May 23 to October 2017 in Marawi City.

The President also awarded the Order of Lapu-Lapu (Kamagi Award) to the following: Lt Col. Joel Mamon; Lt. Col. Alvin Luzon; Lt. Col. Jonathan Hallara; Maj. Jimmy Brey; Maj. Mark Anthony Salvador; Maj. Virgilio Sagge; Maj. Reese James Obeso; Capt. Jefferson Santos; Capt. Joffrey Tacusalme; Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay; Capt. Michaelangelo Castro; 1st Lieutenant Albert Alvarez; 1st Lieutenant Jefferson Balante; 1st Lieutenant Junrey Sajulga; 2nd Lieutenant Rojean Rodriguez; Ensign Al Khaizer Amil; 2nd Lieutenant Jeff Brandon Cruz; Ensign Leo Adrianne Bello; MSgt. Rolly Principe; Underwater Operator 2nd Class Edgar Enojo; Underwater Operator 2nd Class Glenn Reus; and, Builders Utility 2nd Class Teodorico Decenan.

They were awarded for their exceptional performance and their active participation and contribution to the campaign against local and foreign terrorists during the five-month Marawi siege, according to the Westmincom.

Aside from medals, the President also gave tokens to the awardees.