Saturday, May 5, 2018

MILF commander, 2 others shot dead

From the Philippine Star (May 6): MILF commander, 2 others shot dead

Three members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were killed in separate police operations in Sultan Kudarat yesterday.

Randy Kamid, Yusof Mukalam and Jaime Silongan allegedly shot it out with police officers during raids on their respective houses in Lambayong town.

Police said Kamid is a commander of the MILF.
Mindanao Regional Trial Court Branch 16 Judge Alandrex Betoya issued the search warrants for illegal possession of firearms and illegal drugs.     

Maguindanao offers 12 PMA cadets support for masteral studies

From the Philippine Star (May 5): Maguindanao offers 12 PMA cadets support for masteral studies

The Maguindanao provincial government adopted 12 Philippine Military Academy cadets, entitled to support for doctorate studies on the socio-cultural intricacies of Southern Muslim, Christian and Lumad communities if admitted to the Armed Forces.
The three Mindanao groups, called “tri-people” in technical parlance, are stakeholders to the current peace processes of President Rodrigo Duterte with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front, meant to end the now five-decade southern secessionist conflict.

Maguindanao’s provincial governor, the now third-termer Esmael Mangudadatu, said Saturday that he adopted the 12 third year PMA cadets as “children of the province” during a brief engagement with the class while in Davao City last week as part of their studies.
“Even if I am already out of my position by June 30 next year, I guarantee them support from the provincial government if they wish to pursue graduate studies on southern Mindanao cultures, on the history of Mindanao and its Moro people and on how Maguindanao’s tri-people are thriving together,” Mangudadatu said.

Mangudadatu said communities in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao need military officers who are well-versed with the socio-economic, political and religious ramifications of all the security woes besetting ARMM’s five provinces.

Maguindanao is a component-area of ARMM, which also covers Lanao del Sur and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

The governor declined to identify meantime the 12 cadets citing documentary protocols and procedural coordination with the PMA administration that his office is still initiating.

He hinted, however, that one of the cadets the provincial government adopted is son of Gen. Nolly Samarita, former commander of the Army’s 602nd Brigade in Carmen town in North Cotabato.

Samarita supported extensively the domestic peace-building initiatives of Mangugdadatu and the governor of North Cotabato, Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza, while a brigade commander.

Mangudadatu said the Maguindanao Program for Education and Community Empowerment, or MagPEACE, is ready to bankroll the masteral studies of the 12 cadets in any school in the country once admitted to the Armed Forces.
“They are to become scholars of our very unique MagPEACE if they intend to pursue masteral degrees on peace education and community-building in the context of religious and cultural solidarity among Mindanao’s tri-people,” Mangudadatu said.

Mangudadatu and the PMA’s current third year class dined together while aboard a naval vessel that brought them to Davao City last week for an educational tour.

No fewer than 2,000 Muslim, Christian and Lumad beneficiaries finished college courses since the inception of MagPEACE more than six years ago.
A scholar, Faizah Gladys Kadon-Tejero, 28, passed the latest Bar examination, the first lawyer produced by MagPEACE.

Kadon-Tejero, who is of Maguindanaon descent, is employed in the office of the Commission on Elections in Davao City.

“Some of the MagPEACE scholars who are now professionals are working in Maguindanao as teachers. Some are working in non-government organizations involved in various programs complementing the Mindanao peace process,” Mangudadatu said.

Among government officials who had availed of MagPEACE funding for graduate studies was retired Army Col. Prudencio Asto, former spokesman of the Army's 6th Infantry Division, whose units are scattered across central Mindanao and in parts of the second district of Lanao del Sur.
Asto, who earned a doctorate degree on peace and development at the Cotabato State Polytechnic University in Cotabato City, is now a professor in the Benguet State University.

Asto said Saturday he now teaches conflict resolution via community-supported diplomatic procedures and traditional approaches.

"I'm grateful to Gov. Mangudadatu. My stint as spokesman of 6th ID gave me chance to pursue a doctorate degree with the help of MagPEACE," Asto told The STAR on Saturday via mobile pho ne.

MNLF top brass attend OIC ministers meeting

From the Manila Bulletin (May 5): MNLF top brass attend OIC ministers meeting

Three top leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led a dozen of their field commanders in attending attend the 45th session of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Council of Ministers in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Jolo, Sulu map (Wikipedia/ Manila Bulletin)

Yousef A Al-Othaimmen, Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), invited the MNLF delegation to attend the ministers meeting slated May 5 to 6.

Among those who left for the meeting were MNLF Chair Yusop Jikiri, Hatimil Hassan, MNLF vice chair for Internal Affairs; Muslimin Sema, chair of the National People’s Congress; Dr. Abdurahman Amin, MNLF liaison officer to the OIC; and Pundomah Sani, MNLF vice chair for military affairs.

MNLF is internationally recognized by the OIC and its Parliamentary Union of OIC Member States (PUIC).

Since 1977, the MNLF has been an observer member of the OIC, and, on January 30, 2012, MNLF became an observer member of the Parliamentary Union of Islamic Cooperation (PUIC), as approved during the 7th PUIC global session held in Palembang, Indonesia.

Group of ASG members’ sons eyed behind kidnap of two policewomen

From the Manila Bulletin (May 6): Group of ASG members’ sons eyed behind kidnap of two policewomen

A group composed of children of slain Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members in Sulu is being eyed behind the kidnap of two policewomen and their two companions in Patikul town of Sulu last month.

PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde (Mark Balmores / MANILA BULLETIN)
Director General Oscar Albayalde, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said this means that the group has links with the ASG which is notorious for kidnap-for-ransom modus for both local and foreign captives.

“There is a group. It’s a group of sons of the ASG members killed in police and military operations. It’s affiliated with the ASG,” Albayalde said.

PO2 Benierose Alvarez and PO1 Dinah Gumahad were kidnapped, along with their two male companions, in Barangay Liang in Patikul town of Sulu on April 29.

The victims had just gone from a military camp when they were abducted by armed men on board a tricycle which was later abandoned. The armed men are reportedly led by a certain Mujir Yada.

Albayalde earlier disclosed that the kidnapmen have been demanding P5 million for the release of the two cops, adding that the abductors also showed proof of life to the negotiators.

The PNP chief said it is not clear why the kidnapmen targeted the two lady cops although it was earlier disclosed that those who actually took the victims are sons of slain ASG members.

“But this is not a new group. It’s an existing group,” said Albayalde, citing reports from the local police.

Authorities suspect that the victims were already turned over to the ASG for the ransom negotiation, which is usually being done by groups affiliated with the ASG.
“We are sure that this group has ASG affiliation because their ancestors are previously connected with the ASG,” Albayalde said.

It was recalled that the ASG also gained notoriety for beheading their victims if the ransom they would demand are not given.

The government earlier said it would not yield to any ransom demand, although there were reports that some local people were already tapped as negotiators for unconditional release of the two cops and their companions.

Cayetano: Diplomatic actions being done to resolve PHL-China sea row

From GMA News (May 6): Cayetano: Diplomatic actions being done to resolve PHL-China sea row

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Saturday took a swipe against critics who claim that the government does not act on the militarization of areas in the West Philippine Sea, saying that diplomatic actions are being made to resolve the spat with China.

Cayetano made the remark after reports that China has installed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems on three reefs in the West Philippine Sea.

"Doon sa nagsasabi na wala kayong ginagawa, hindi nila alam yung sinasabi nila. Kasi yung ginagawa, yung diplomatic action nandoon, just because hindi tayo nakikipagsigawan, hindi ibig sabihin na walang ginagawa," Cayetano told reporters on Saturday.

Several lawmakers from the House of Representatives have condemned the installation of the anti-ship cruise missiles in the contested Spratlys.

Magdalo party-list Representative Gary Alejano, for one, said that the development only shows the continuous aggression of China that threaten Philippines' national security.

"China continues to build up its military portfolio in the South China Sea despite its repeated pronouncements that it will not militarize the region," Alejano said.

"The actions and continuous aggression of China in the West Philippine Sea are obviously threats to our national security," he added.

For his part, Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon, senior vice chairman of the House Committee on National Defense and Security, in an interview on Super Radyo dzBB expressed concern about the report on Beijing's missile deployment.

He said that, at least, Manila must make diplomatic moves to express displeasure over a "creeping militarization" in the area.

"Magkaroon man lang sana ng diplomatic effort na magpahayag ng displeasure ang pamahalaan ng Pilipinas," Biazon said.

 DZBB Super RadyoVerified account @dzbb 6 hours ago
Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon, nababahala sa ulat na naglagay ang China ng missile sa pinag-aagawang teritoryo sa West Philippine Sea.

@dzbb 6 hours ago
Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon, nababahala sa ulat na naglagay ang China ng missile sa pinag-aagawang teritoryo sa West Philippine Sea.

Cayetano acknowledged China's recent move is of "grave concern," given the Philippines' territorial and sovereignty rights claims in the area, but explained that there are also multiple claimants.

"Many of the claimants have features that they hold and have installations here, iba-iba yung nature. Then you have the West having their Navies sail through the area. Ito'y hindi maso-solve ng Pilipinas at ng China lamang," he said.

"It's not just between the Philippines and China. It's between China and the neighbors in the region. It's between the claimants and non-claimants. It's between the claimants and the non-regional players."

But Cayetano said discussions will continuously be held to address the territorial row. The Code of Conduct (COC) on South China Sea must likewise be expedited.

"Definitely magkakaroon ng mga forum din na pag-uusapan ito at yung COC, kailangan nating madaliin kasi pwedeng sakupin ng COC yung usapin ng militarisasyon ng mga features sa South China Sea," he said.

"From the start, naging very clear ng Pilipinas at pati ng Brunei na gusto natin huwag mag-militarize kundi mag-demilitarize ng any assets doon. But so far, of all the claimants, Pilipinas at Brunei lang ang may klarong stand na ganun," he added.

Malacañang has yet to make a comment on the matter, pending verification of the report.

NPA condemns killing of NegOr broadcaster

From the Visayan Daily Star (May 5): NPA condemns killing of NegOr broadcaster

The Leonardo Panaligan Command of the New People’s Army issued a statement condemning the killing of radio anchorman Edmund Sestoso on April 30 in Dumagute City, Negros Oriental.

Rebel spokesman Ka JB Regalado called on the Negros Oriental Police Provincial Office for a thorough investigation of the shooting incident.

Regalado said what happened to Sestoso and the physical assault against former Negros Press Club president Ranie Asue form part of the media repression under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Sestoso, an anchorman of DYGB-FM Power 91, succumbed to multiple gunshot wounds, after he was shot by a motorcycle-riding gunman.

A P400,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of the gunman behind the death of Sestoso.

The Negros Oriental Police Provincial Office has created a Special Investigation Task Group to lead the investigation into the killing of Sestoso.

Abu Sayyaf warning up!

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 5): Abu Sayyaf warning up!

Abu Sayyaf militants whose group is tied to the Islamic State is reportedly planning to strike off the coast of Sabah in Malaysia and are likely to target seafarers, according to Asian piracy watchdog ReCAAP.

The Singapore-based ReCAAP or the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia, issued the warning to seafarers over crew abduction threat posed by members of Abu Sayyaf in Malaysia.

In its report, ReCAAP said Abu Sayyaf militants will be using a 3-engine speedboat to kidnap mariners operating in the area. “All vessels transiting the area are advised to exercise extreme caution when transiting in the waters of Lahad Datu and surrounding waters in Sabah,” the warning further reads.

It said since October 2016, the militants have begun to target ships of larger tonnage, such as Dong Bang Giant 2, Royal 16, Southern Falcon and Kumiai Shagang. Once in their hands, mariners are often subject to months of captivity and sometimes even execution. This is in particular due to the fact that the Philippine government has adopted a no-ransom policy when dealing with the Abu Sayyaf group.

Bulk Carriers
In November 2016, six men were taken by the militants from the bulk carrier Royal 16. Bodies of two decapitated seafarers were found by the Philippine military in July 2017, while one seafarer was allegedly killed in a gun battle in the same month. Two seafarers have been rescued from the group, while the fate of one more mariner remains unknown.

The Abu Sayyaf is still holding over a dozen mostly foreigners, including seafarers, kidnapped off Basilan and Tawi-Tawi provinces in the Muslim autonomous region in southern Philippines; and had previously launched surprised raids in Sabah.

There was no immediate statement from Filipino authorities on the report.


The Abu Sayyaf has recently kidnapped 2 policewomen and two civilians in Sulu province. Policemen and soldiers were searching for police officers Benierose Alvarez and Dinah Gumahad who are assigned with the crime laboratory and engineering department or the regional police force, and civilians Jakosalem Blas and Faizal Ahijid.

They were travelling on a motorcycle taxi when about a dozen gunmen flagged down their vehicle in Liang village in Patikul town and took them away. Police have identified the gang’s leader as Mujir Yada and that the Abu Sayyaf is demanding P5 million ransoms for the safe release of the policewomen.

It was unknown why no policemen and soldiers were guarding the highway or why authorities failed to prevent the abductions despite an extended martial rule on the whole southern region.


Military and police authorities have miserably failed to impose tight security not only in Jolo, but elsewhere in the province, including Patikul town where the Capitol Building is located.

Abu Sayyaf militants had previously attacked Jolo and kidnapped innocent civilians despite the presence of military and police camps in the town. Even the town’s police headquarters are not safe anymore and also attacked in the past.

Police and military checkpoints and patrol were also limited in many towns and by nightfall there are hardly any soldiers and policemen guarding vital government installations in Jolo and nearby areas.

Protect Communities

Sulu Governor Totoh Tan has repeatedly rallied his mayors to work hard in protecting their communities and at the same time working hard to lure investors to put up business in Sulu. Tan had repeatedly ordered authorities to impose a tighter security in the town and for the military to help police in maintaining peace and order in the province.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government has removed last year the supervision of the local executives over the police, which relied heavily on the support of local governments in their campaign against criminality.

Marawi heroes thankful for BCDA assistance, eager to report back to duty

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 4): Marawi heroes thankful for BCDA assistance, eager to report back to duty

MARAWI HEROES. Private First Class Romeo Esperida Jr. (left) and Corporal Domingo Torreon visit the BCDA office in Taguig City to express their gratitude over the agency’s hospitalization assistance. Last year, the BCDA allocated P5 million for troops injured during the Marawi siege.
Two of the 52 soldiers granted hospitalization assistance by the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) last year are eager to report back to duty.

Private First Class Romeo Esperida Jr. and Corporal Domingo Torreon recently met with BCDA President and CEO Vivencio Dizon and Vice President for Corporate Services Retired Brig. Gen. Carlos Quita to personally express their gratitude to the agency for its assistance.

Esperida and Torreon were just two of the 52 soldiers who benefited from the P5-million fund set up by BCDA in honor of the heroism and bravery of the troops who fought for the liberation of Marawi City. The fund allowed injured troops to access medical treatments at the St. Luke’s Medical Center.

Esperida, a member of the 63rd Company of the Marine Special Operations Group, suffered severe injuries in a firefight with Maute Group militants on June 9, 2017, wherein 13 of his comrades died.

Recalling the incident, Esperida said he felt that he only had a 50 percent chance of surviving. “Paunti-unti, nagba-blackout na ako. Yung tropa, grabe sampal sakin kasi alam na natutulog na’ko…Hanggang sa pag-evacuate sa’min, binibira kami ng ISIS.”

Esperida was initially brought to Iligan and Cagayan de Oro before he was transferred to the V. Luna General Hospital in Quezon City. He said he was informed of the BCDA fund for wounded Marawi soldiers, allowing him to have his right eye operated on at St. Luke’s in Taguig City.

Esperida, who sustained serious eye and limb injuries, was awarded the Order of Lapu-Lapu with the Rank of Kampilan by President Rodrigo Duterte in February. Dr. Fabio Enrique Posas, who treated Esperida after it was discovered that there was shrapnel lodged in the latter’s neck, was given the Order of Lapu-Lapu with the Rank of Kamagi.

“Okay na rin yung pakiramdam ko ngayon…Parang normal na,” Esperida told BCDA last week.

Corporal Domingo Torreon, 30, also a beneficiary of the fund, said he would have lost his vision if it wasn’t for BCDA’s hospitalization assistance.

“Noong na-operahan ako, sinabi ko sa nurse, wala kaming pambayad. Sabi sakin, ‘sagot ng BCDA’,” Torreon, an officer of the 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion, said.

Torreon said he could still remember seeing the bullet fly towards him. “Sinilip ko yung [target], parang may approaching na bala na nakita ko, pagputok, boom! Bagsak ako, wala na akong makita.”

He said he considers himself lucky that he was able to gain his vision back after the many operations he went and will still go through. “Kung wala siguro ang pondo ng BCDA, walang nagtulong sa’kin, siguro bulag na ako ngayon,” he said.

While he is yet to undergo two more operations, Torreon said he is looking forward to report back to duty.

“Babalik ako sa trabaho. Ang sundalo, hindi lang puro gyera; kasi sa nakikita ko sa digmaan, walang nananalo, walang natatalo. Yung kalaban, namamatayan. Yung tropa, may casualty. Walang magandang naidudulot ang gyera,” said Torreon.

The BCDA is planning to make the P5-million allocation a revolving fund for injured troops who cannot receive the needed medical care in military hospitals due to lack of facilities and doctors.

The hospitalization assistance is on top of BCDA’s P8-billion contribution to the modernization program of its major stakeholder, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, during the first two years of the Duterte administration. BCDA has contributed a total of P40 billion to the AFP since the agency was created in 1992. (BCDA)

2 NPAs, 17 Militia ng Bayan surrender to government troops

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 4): 2 NPAs, 17 Militia ng Bayan surrender to government troops

Seventeen alleged Militia ng Bayan (MB) and two New People’s Army (NPA) members voluntarily surrendered to government troops last week at Sitio Marat, Poblacion, Paracelis, Mountain Province.

The surrender of these individuals to soldiers of the Alpha Company, 77th and 54th Infantry Battalions is through the joint efforts of government troops, Paracelis Municipal Police Station and local officials of Saliok, Natonin, Mountain Province headed by Punong Barangay Enrique B Banggollay. They surrendered two high-powered firearms to authorities.

Bongallay disclosed that the surrenderees have signified their intention to surrender to government troops and abandon their armed struggle sensing that their struggle is a waste of time. The surrenderees came from Ifugao, Mountain Province and Cagayan Valley.

Lt. Colonel Narciso Nabulneg, Jr., commanding officer of the 54IB, commended the soldiers for their successful negotiation and the 19 alleged MB and NPA members for their sincerity and willful desire of returning into the folds of law without any doubt or hesitation.

“I appeal to their companions residing in the mountains of Cordillera and Cagayan Valley to lay down their arms and together let’s enjoy living a peaceful life in the community,” Nabulneg said.

Forging peace through indigenous dispute resolution

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 5): Forging peace through indigenous dispute resolution

For years, if not decades, we have witnessed how government administrations engage in various means and approaches in order to forge genuine peace talks with rebels, insurgents, and recently even with bandits.

Recently, the Kaluarga Association of Moro IPs (KAMI) gathered some 20 indigenous peoples from the Yakan, Sama, and Bajau tribes in Basilan for the Kalilintad (Peace) Mindanao for a forum on indigenous people’s dispute resolution at Langgal School of Living Traditions in Binuangan, Isabela City.

KAMI is a community-based people’s organization that aims to assist on Yakan culture advocacy activity.

KAMI president Salem A. Mohammad said that the program will provide a venue for cultural dialogue and exchanges among the Lumad, Yakan Moro, and the lowland settlers of Basilan to promote understanding and appreciation of the diverse Basilan culture towards sustainable and inclusive peace and development.

The two-day forum held last April 8-9 was funded by the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA). Invited resource persons spoke on cultural dialogue, local history, cultural diversity and coexistence, among others.

Mar Salahuddin, project coordinator, said in an interview that the project was conceptualized sometime in 2016 by the Committee on Traditional Arts of the NCCA to identify common disputes in conflict areas like Basilan and address them.

He said that the activity is participated by those who usually handle disputes and conflicts in their respective communities. During the workshops, they are expected to share their experiences on how they resolve disputes and conflict and to learn from each other in the hopes of finding solutions to life and work challenges.

He said that in spite of the many opportunities that the modern and technology-driven society offers, the IPs continue to experience discrimination particularly in finding employment.

“Even if they met the qualification standard set by the position, still IPs do not usually get the job,” he said.

Although it is not deliberately expressed that they don’t get the job because they are IPs, IPs feel that such is the case and ask that they be given equal opportunity since they feel that they don’t have a chance to get a job outside Basilan. This may become a root for conflict.

Culturally, at least in Basilan, Salahuddin recognized that land disputes within families especially among siblings remain prevalent. Male siblings usually get larger share of the inheritance than female siblings. Again, in some cultural context, the male and female have specific roles that is a standard recognized in a particular tribe or community.

The forum on indigenous dispute resolution may be seen in two ways. Firstly, among IPs they could find indigenous knowledge and practice among IPs that may work well to resolve disputes. Secondly, IPs may identify various and common disputes among themselves that government and concerned agencies may need to address.

KAMI is yet to uncover fully, through the forum, on how to bring genuine "Kalilintad Mindanao" in place. But with the unity within and among indigenous peoples of Basilan, lasting peace won't be that difficult to achieve.

1 rebel killed, 3 soldiers hurt in Iloilo clashes

From the Philippine News Agency (May 5): 1 rebel killed, 3 soldiers hurt in Iloilo clashes

A rebel was killed and three soldiers were wounded in separate encounters between troops of the Philippine Army’s 61st Infantry Battalion (61st IB) and members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Iloilo province on Saturday morning.

The rebel was killed in the first encounter in Sitio Anoy, Barangay Cabalunan in Miag-ao town at about 5:49 a.m.

Brig. Gen. Pio Diñoso, commanding officer of the 301st Infantry Brigade, said in an interview that the slain rebel has yet to be identified as the Scene of the Crime Operation of the Philippine National Police is still investigating the scene. Soldiers recovered one M653 and AK-47 firearms.

The soldiers were patrolling the village of Cabalunan when they encountered about 15 rebels who were the first to shoot. The firefight lasted 10 minutes, said Diñoso.

“There are locals reporting to us that there are NPAs in the area doing some extortion and recruitment so we conducted a community protection patrol,” he said.

Meanwhile, another encounter between troops of 61st IB and 10 NPA members took place in Caratagan village, Calinog, Iloilo.

Diñoso said the soldiers were on their way to the village after receiving reports from locals about the presence of the NPA in the area when an explosion occurred and wounded three soldiers.

A 10-minute firefight ensued, he said, adding that his men sustained only minor injuries.

“They even wanted to continue with their operation,” Diñoso added.

The wounded soldiers, however, were pulled out to be given anti-tetanus shots. “Hopefully, after they will be given (anti-tetanus) shots, they will get back to their operation,” he said.

Diñoso said the two encounters are manifestations that the public has already mustered the courage to help government forces by giving them information on the activities and whereabouts of the rebels.

“Maybe, the public is already tired of the extortion and recruitment activities of the NPAs. That is why they are already helping us,” he said.

Hot pursuit operations against the rebels involved in the two encounters are ongoing and additional troops have been deployed to help.

Army detonates IEDs in Maguindanao highway

From the Philippine News Agency (May 5): Army detonates IEDs in Maguindanao highway

DATU SAUDI AMPATUAN, Maguindanao—Military bomb experts deactivated Saturday two powerful improvised explosive devices (IEDs) planted by suspected local terrorists along this town’s national highway.

Lt. Colonel Gerry Besana, spokesperson of the Army’s Task Force Joint Central, said the two improvised bombs were detonated by bomb experts from the Army’s 2nd Mechanized Battalion at past 6 a.m. Saturday.

The discovery of the IEDs disrupted the flow of traffic from the adjoining towns of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Salibo and Datu Piang.

Besana said the IEDs, fashioned from 60 mm and 81 mm mortars, were apparently intended for military vehicles traversing the only road that links the three towns. 

Senior Supt. Edwin Wagan, Maguindanao police provincial director, said the IEDs were planted near residential houses and took some time for the military to detonate due to its proximity to public areas.

The two explosives were separated about 50 meters apart, and believed to have been planted by members of the IS-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). 

“It was the work of the BIFF and they planted two bombs, a primary and secondary so that when the first missed, the second will surely hit a target traveling the highway,” a military intelligence officer said.

Traffic resumed, as well as campaign activities of village and SK elections candidates in Datu Salibo, after the IEDs were deactivated.

Gov't nurse killed, 2 hurt in Maguindanao ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (May 5): Gov't nurse killed, 2 hurt in Maguindanao ambush

A nurse of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s humanitarian team was killed while two of her four companions, including two town councilors, were injured in an ambush at the highway in Barangay Tenorio here Saturday afternoon.

Registered nurse Betsy Yap, a staff nurse at the ARMM Humanitarian Emergency Action Response Team (HEART), was declared dead on arrival at the Notre Dame Hospital in Cotabato City, according to Capt. Arvin John Encinas, spokesperson of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division.

Those injured were identified as Jonathan Layson, the victims’ bodyguard and Crispin Beling, driver, all residents of South Upi, Maguindanao.

Contrary to earlier reports, the Datu Odin Sinsuat municipal police said South Upi, Maguindanao Councilors Beatrice Beling Yap and Reymundo Kinlat were not hurt in the incident.

Police said the victims were on board a Mitsubishi sedan car (LCJ-624) on their way to Cotabato City when a lone gunman opened fire at about 4:10 p.m. in a highway in Barangay Tenorio, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

The slain nurse, a daughter of Councilor Yap, was declared dead on arrival at the Notre Dame Hospital where the victims were brought following the incident.

Police said the vehicle was riddled with bullets from a. 45-caliber pistol that the suspect used based on empty shells recovered at the ambush site, a populated residential area situated some 500 meters away from Camp Siongco, the headquarters of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division.

The lone gunman fled onboard a motorbike. Police are still investigating the motive and identity of the attacker.

ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman, in a statement, condemned the attack saying killings have no place in a functioning democracy.

“As the people prepare to exercise their democratic rights in the upcoming barangay elections, acts of violence committed against public servants carry a chilling effect that go against the very grain of what democratic institutions stand for,” the governor said.

“Our humanitarian workers are at the frontlines in providing basic social services, and form the core of our emergency response in times of conflict and calamity,” Hataman said of Yap’s work as a public-spirited worker.

“We condemn this act of senseless violence, and we call on local government and law enforcement units to exert all efforts in ensuring that the killer will be brought to justice,” the governor stressed.

4 cops hurt in IED blast in Masbate

From the Philippine News Agency (May 5): 4 cops hurt in IED blast in Masbate

At least four members of the Police Regional Special Operations Task Group (RSOTG) deployed in Masbate on Monday were wounded when an improvised explosive device went off along the provincial road of Barangay Cajunday in Baleno town Saturday morning.

The injured policemen were taken to the Masbate Provincial Hospital for immediate medical attention due to shrapnel wounds in different parts of their bodies. Their superiors withheld their names.

Senior Inspector Ma.Luisa Calubaquib, the PNP Bicol spokesperson said on Saturday that around 9:50 a.m., RSOTG-Masbate personnel, together with Baleno Municipal Police Station, implemented a joint search operation against some suspects in the area.

But while on their way back to the Masbate Police Provincial Office in Camp Bonny Serrano in Masbate City on board their police vehicle, an improvised explosive device set by unidentified suspects along the road exploded, hurting four policemen.

The team were part of the at least 2,000 police officers deployed by the Police Regional Office 5 (PRO-5) to Masbate province last Monday.

Counter-terror drills also part of 'Balikatan 2018'

From the Philippine News Agency (May 5): Counter-terror drills also part of 'Balikatan 2018'

With terrorism now a global threat, this year's "Balikatan" exercises will pay special focus on counter-terrorism maneuvers that will be conducted through simulation training events.

"Scenario-based itong 'Balikatan', lalo na yung meron tayong (The 'Balikatan is scenario-based, with) simulation training events wherein yung mga planner, yung mga leadership natin, they were trying to command and control different forces for any eventuality," public information officer of “Balikatan 2018”, Lt. Liezl Vidallon, said in an interview late Thursday.

Aside from counter-terrorism, this year's exercises will focus on inter-operability of participating Filipino and American units.

Vidallon declined to give the exact numbers of participating US and Filipino troops pending the actual start of the exercises.

This year's “Balikatan” is the 34th iteration of the annual Philippine and American military exercises. It will formally start on May 7 and end on May 18.

Lessons learned from the previous "Balikatan" exercises will be incorporated in the various field exercises planned for this year.

In last year's “Balikatan”, some 2,800 Filipino soldiers, 2,600 American soldiers, 80 members of the Australian Defence Force, and 20 from the Japan Self-Defense Force joined the series of military maneuvers on May 8-18.

Highlights of last year's exercises were the urban search-and-rescue and collapsed structures exercises conducted in Fort Magsaysay, Palayan City, Nueva Ecija, which involved rescue methods for individuals trapped in collapsed buildings, a common occurrence in massive earthquakes.

More troops deployed in Cagayan to curb Reds

From the Philippine News Agency (May 6): More troops deployed in Cagayan to curb Reds

The 5th Infantry Division has deployed more troops in Cagayan province to prevent communist rebels from conducting extortion and terrorism activities in relation to the upcoming Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.

"The series of skirmishes between the 17th (Infantry Battalion) troopers and the (rebels) confirmed the regrouping of the terrorist group in Zinundungan Valley. That is what we are preventing, the launching of their plans against the people, local officials and our troops in connection with the upcoming election,” 5th Infantry Division commander Major Gen. Perfecto M. Rimando Jr., said in a statement Saturday.

Deployment took place after troopers from the 17th Infantry Division engaged rebel forces at Barangay Balanni, Sto Nino, Cagayan last May 3.

In the said encounter, five troopers were wounded while an undetermined number of rebels were killed and hurt.