Sunday, September 9, 2018

Army activates task force for Western and Central Visayas

From the Manila Bulletin (Sep 8): Army activates task force for Western and Central Visayas

The Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) has activated a new task force that covers Western Visayas and Central Visayas.

Maj. Gen. Dinoh Dolina, 3ID commander, said Joint Task Force SPEAR aims to have a “development support operations to sustain the peace, ensure security, and help maintain public order to significantly contribute to the inclusive economic and human development” in the two regions of the Visayas.

“It covers the land, sea, air and cyberspace domain of Regions 6 and Region 7,” Dolina added.

While it was created last month, it is only this month that Joint Task Force SPEAR is on full implementation.

During its creation, Joint Task Force SPEAR has already neutralized seven New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in San Jose town, Antique province.

The Joint Task Force SPEAR was also behind the apprehension of Oger Pelonio, who is believed to be a member of the Abu Sayyaf group.

Meanwhile, Dolina urged task force members to accomplish their mission with discipline, professionalism and positive attitude.

Marines in Sulu use kites for peace

From the Manila Standard (Sep 3): Marines in Sulu use kites for peace

As Peace Month began, Philippine Marines deployed in conflict-affected Sulu sent messages of peace to enemies of the state that are lurking in the province and causing havoc using Tausug kites known as “taguri.”

Marine Battalion Landing Team 1 Commanding Officer LtC Stephen Cabanlet sent off his unit’s message to members of the Abu Sayyaf Group and other lawless elements to surrender and return to the fold of the law.

The Marine Battalion, in partnership with the Notre Dame of Jolo College,  kicked off Peace Month with a Kite-Making Contest and an Art Exhibit in Jolo, Sulu’s capital town.

“To the Abu Sayyaf, the path where you stand right now may not be of your choosing but the future is yours to make.  Make that decisión right now and join me in this journey towards peace,” Cabanlet said.

The Marine officer has been leading his battalion island-hopping in Sulu while meeting Tausug and Sama people from different communities, delivering civic-military projects with different non-government organizations and volunteer associations.

They stressed that the government is wanting to bring better development in their lives but needs the people’s cooperation.

“Peace is elusive and we may not even achieve it in our lifetime, but we are working hard to make it possible for the next generation,” Cabanlet said.

The Taguri-Making (and Kite-Flying) Contest is a Project by MBLT1 and the Notre Dame of Jolo College, kicked off on September 3 and will end on September 4.

The kite, locally known as ‘taguri,’ is part of Tausug culture and is an all-year outdoor game in Sulu.  It reminds the Tausug to treasure their culture.  However, it could also be a warning sign to the lawless that they abide with the forcé of the law, Cabanlet said.

Meanwhile, the 1st Marine Battalion’s Civic-Military Officer,  1Lt. Ramel Vilocura, further shared about Huminang, the art exhibit that features the work of about 12 visual artists from Mindanao, paintings by Sulu school children, Marine soldiers stationed in the área.

“The artists Edwin Jumalon, Saudi Ahmad, Lorna Fernandez, Jana Jumalon-Alano, Sayid Cedicol, Chester Mato, Is Jumalon, Melissa Abuga-a, Teofilo Torino, Mai Secuban, Pat Borja, and myself have united in this art exhibit for a cause in shared recognition that the most genuine source of power in Southern Philippines is art and culture,” Zamboanguena artist Mijan Jumalon said in a separate interview.

“’Huminang’ is a fierce declaration that peace can be meaningfully cultivated with a mindest of creation,” Vilocura said.

Cabanlet added that both activities, the kite-flying contest, and the art show, are both parts of Task Force Sulu’s campaign, ‘From Terrorism to Tourism’.

“These are works that embody joyful creativity amidst conflict, and human values amidst violence,” Jumalon said.

Suspected Abu Sayyaf member killed in Basilan shootout

From GMA News (Sep 9): Suspected Abu Sayyaf member killed in Basilan shootout

A suspected member of the Abu Sayyaf group was killed in Basilan after he shot it out with arresting lawmen last Saturday night.

A report on GMA News' "Balitanghali" said Omaidie Salain was killed in a manhunt operation in Isabela City in Basilan when he resisted arrest.

Salain had been wanted for robbery with homicide, and was also included in the wanted list of the Zamboanga City Police Office for his supposed involvement in gun-for-hire activities.

The report said authorities claimed they recovered a hand gun, a magazine, bullets, and six sachets of suspected methamphetamine (shabu) at the scene of the shootout.

PN readies BRP Tarlac for first port call to Russia

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 6): PN readies BRP Tarlac for first port call to Russia

BRP Tarlac (LD-601). (PNA photo by Priam F. Nepomuceno)

The Philippine Navy (PN) is currently preparing BRP Tarlac (LD-601), one of the two strategic sealift vessels in its fleet, for its first ever port visit to Vladivostok, Russia.

The ship is set to leave on Sept. 17, PN spokesperson Commodore Jonathan Zata told the Philippine News Agency Thursday.

Preparations for the ship's port visit to Russia include stocking of provisions like fuel, oil, lubricants and sundries needed for the voyage.

BRP Tarlac will sail alone and Zata said the voyage from the Philippines to Vladivostok, Russia will take "eight to 10 days."

He added that BRP Tarlac's port visit will last five days.

The scheduled PN port call is in reciprocation of the visit of Russian warships in Manila last June and those of last year, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said.

The Tarlac-class SSVs are the largest PN ships in service as of this posting.

These vessels have an overall length of 120 meters, breadth of 21 meters, and draft of five meters and can carry a payload of 2,800 tons.

Both have a cruising speed of 13 knots and maximum speed of 16 knots and a minimum operating range of 7,500 nautical miles.

The SSVs can carry 500 troops, two rigid-hull inflatable boats, two landing craft units and three helicopters.

DND thanks Jordan for chopper donation

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 7): DND thanks Jordan for chopper donation

The Department of National Defense (DND) thanked the Jordanian government for the two Bell AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters it gave to the Philippines, noting these will be a big help in the military's ongoing campaign against internal security threats.

"The DND thanks the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan for supporting the ongoing capability upgrade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines," Defense spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in message to the Philippine News Agency (PNA) Friday.

"The Cobra helicopters, in particular, will help in the AFP's ongoing campaign against terrorism and violent extremism," Andolong said.

The Bell AH-1 Cobra is a two-blade, single-engine attack helicopter manufactured by Bell Helicopter.

It was developed using the engine, transmission and rotor system of the Bell UH-1 Iroquois.

A member of the prolific Huey family, the AH-1 is also referred to as the Huey Cobra or Snake.

Special Assistant to the President (SAP) Christopher "Bong" Go said Thursday the Philippines will get two Cobra helicopters from Jordan.

The helicopters will be delivered in July next year after the training of Filipino pilots.

Go made the confirmation as the DND and the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on defense cooperation.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Lt. Gen. Mahmoud Freihat, signed the MOU on Thursday during the three-day official visit of President Rodrigo Duterte to Jordan.

AFP belies report media barred from headquarters

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 7): AFP belies report media barred from headquarters

The military on Friday denied reports that it is preventing members of the media from entering the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

AFP spokesperson Col. Edgard Arevalo said there are no orders to bar the entry of members of the Defense Press Corps (DPC).

He, however, requested DPC members to present theirs IDs when asked by military personnel guarding the gates.

"For the information of DPC members, please present your DPC ID to the gate when demanded. There is no instruction to bar entry of DPC members. Others will clear with Col. (Noel) Detoyato (head of ) the Chief AFP Public Affairs Office," he added.

Arevalo also denied reports that the AFP scheduled a press conference Thursday night.

"Also, there is no (scheduled) press briefing. You will hear it from me (in case there is one), Col. Toods (Detoyato) or Director (Arsenio) Andolong (Defense spokesperson)," he added.

Navy looking into cause of flagship's grounding

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 8): Navy looking into cause of flagship's grounding

With Philippine Navy (PN) flagship BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (FF-15) safely docked in Subic Bay, Zambales, the focus is now on determining the actual cause of its Aug. 29 grounding off Hasa-Hasa Shoal in Palawan province.

"The priority of the Navy is to determine the actual cause/s of the incident and ensure that appropriate actions are undertaken in order to avoid similar incidents to occur in the future. Likewise, the ship's expeditious restoration to operational status is the intended outcome of the dry-docking and repair of (the) FF-15," PN spokesperson Commander Jonathan Zata said Friday.

The Navy has created an investigation committee to look into the grounding of BRP Gregorio Del Pilar and determine the facts behind the incident.

Zata said Commodore Toribio Adaci Jr., Fleet-Marine Ready Force head, will chair the committee, which will consist of key officers of the Navy and will be backed by technical staff and experts to enable a more thorough and in-depth inquiry.

The results of the investigation will be submitted to PN flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad as soon as it is completed, without prejudice to thoroughness and due diligence.

"Concurrently, FF-15 will be inspected to determine the extent of repairs to be conducted. FF-15 was last dry-docked in 2015 and is scheduled to undergo repair and maintenance in 2018. The incident has somewhat advanced its schedule of repair and maintenance. The extent and cost of repairs will be determined as soon as inspection has been completed," Zata added.

BRP Gregorio Del Pilar was towed clear of Hasa-Hasa Shoal at about 11:54 p.m. on Monday and arrived in Subic Bay at about 11:50 a.m. Friday.

It is one of three Hamilton-class cutters acquired by the PN from the United States Coast Guard and converted into frigates.

Each ship has a gross tonnage of 3,250 tons, a length of 378 feet, beam of 43 feet, and draft of 15 feet while its propulsion systems consist of two diesel engines and two gas turbine engines, giving it a top speed of 29 knots.

It has a cruising range of 14,000 miles and a sea and loiter time of 45 days. Each vessel is armed with a 76-mm. Oto Melara automatic cannon, 25-mm. and 20-mm. light cannons, and .50-caliber machine guns.

Crew of grounded Navy flagship to undergo stress debriefing

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 9): Crew of grounded Navy flagship to undergo stress debriefing

After the successful retrieval of the grounded Philippine Navy (PN) flagship BRP Gregorio del Pilar (FF-15) off Hasa-Hasa Shoal in Palawan, its officers and crew will be subjected to a stress debriefing to help them recover from their ordeal.

"They will undergo a stress debriefing while concurrent efforts are underway in further inspecting the extent of repairs to be done," PN spokesperson Commander Jonathan Zata said in a statement Saturday.

Zata said the crew attended a thanksgiving mass held on board the ship shortly after its arrival at Subic Bay 11: 50 a.m. Friday.

Meanwhile, Commander Dominic B. Benauro has been appointed as new commanding officer of BRP Gregorio del Pilar.

"He is a member of PMA (Philippine Military Academy) Class 2000 and has commanded a number of commissioned vessels of the Navy," Zata said.

As this develops, the Special Investigating Committee established by PN flag-officer-in-command (FOIC), Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad, and under Commodore Toribio Adaci Jr., has begun the formal inquiry surrounding the circumstances of the ship's grounding last August 29.

"The result of the inquiry will be submitted to the FOIC, PN and is intended to determine the facts of the incident, as well as actions that will ensure that similar circumstances will not recur in the future," Zata said.

The primordial concern of the Navy, he added, is to determine valuable lessons learned from the incident, as well as the expeditious restoration of the flagship to operational status.

AFP yields to SC tackling of amnesty bids

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 9): AFP yields to SC tackling of amnesty bids

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief-of-Staff Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. said Sunday he is submitting to the Supreme Court (SC) as the nation's highest court to tackle petitions related to Presidential Proclamation No. 572.

"The AFP submits to the majesty of the SC and yields to its wisdom as it tackles the petition pertaining to Presidential Proclamation 572 (PP 572) filed by Senator (Antonio) Trillanes IV, " Galvez said in a statement released Sunday.

Proclamation 572 voided the amnesty granted to Trillanes by former president Benigno Aquino III's Proclamation No. 75 issued in November 2010.

"In deference to the SC that has taken cognizance of the case, we will not anymore comment on its merits as we hope other parties would follow suit," Galvez said.

He also denied claims made by some quarters of divisiveness or rumblings in the military, noting that the AFP remains united and will be united and strong as an organization.

"Let me then, as the AFP Chief of Staff, take this occasion to warn persons who or groups that attempt to divide the AFP by sowing intrigues and discord among its officers and enlisted personnel. You will not succeed," Galvez said.

Nonetheless, he reminded every soldier, airman, sailor, and marine not to meddle or take part in partisan politics.

"Our loyalty is to the Constitution. I command the troops to adhere to the rule of law and always obey the Chain of Command. Violation of these instructions will be dealt with severely and personnel who will get involved will be immediately relieved from their posts and investigated," Galvez added.

And while aware that the troops have individual views on many issues, those merely hallmark an intelligent and matured organization like the AFP, he added.

"But we always put the interest of the organization and the nation above our own," Galvez said.

"Finally, I have, as the appointing authority, commissioned the General Court Martial (GCM) that shall continue hearing the case of the erstwhile Navy Lt. Trillanes IV. However, with the recent pronouncement of the Chief Executive, GCM proceedings will be held in abeyance until the SC has ruled on the legality of PP 572," he added.

'Christian policy' up for discussion by MILF in new Bangsamoro

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 6): 'Christian policy' up for discussion by MILF in new Bangsamoro

A Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) official said they have already obtained a copy of the “Christian policy agenda”, which was submitted by a group of Christian church leaders based in the new Bangsamoro political entity that will be established following the passage of Republic Act 11054, or the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the MILF Implementing Panel and commissioner of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), said in forum held here on Wednesday that they received the policy agenda from Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, the archbishop of Cotabato.

Iqbal said he was handed a copy of the document during a meeting with Quevedo in Cotabato City last week.

“Quevedo asked us: How about the injustices that were committed against the Christians? When you’re talking about historical injustices, you are not selective,” he said.

Iqbal assured that addressing "historical injustices" in the new Bangsamoro entity "would be an inclusive process.”

The BOL is set to create the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) that will replace the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), with the MILF taking the helm of leadership.

The “Christian policy agenda” was the result of a series of consultations organized by Christians for Peace (CFP) -- a coalition headed by church leaders, in some parts in Mindanao, particularly those that will be affected, after the enactment of the BOL.

Among the points raised in the policy agenda, once BARMM is established, is the security of tenure of Christian employees working in the ARMM regional government, the participation of Christians in the political process, transitional justice, and the status of the Christian educational system in the Muslim-dominated territory.

Included in the agenda is the point on the block grant provision or funding from the national government that a local authority such as BARMM can allocate for a wide range of services.

On the matter of transitional justice, Iqbal said Quevedo put forth the question regarding the administering of justice to Christian residents in the BARMM. Iqbal said the MILF will discuss the Christian policy agenda in a meeting with other stakeholders.
“The MILF will not answer it (Christian policy agenda) alone; of course, with the consultation of the BTC and the [Moro National Liberation Front],” he added.

In a dialogue the CFP conducted in Opol, Misamis Oriental recently, church officials were one in saying that Christian communities must not be left out in the political process of the BARMM, and that they must take a participative and proactive approach rather than just wait on the sidelines.

Catholic priest Father Ramonito Torres, vicar general of the prelature of St. Mary’s in Marawi City, said it is important for the MILF leadership to know the stand of the Christians in the new political landscape.

“Our fear in going through the transition is the fear of having the wrong information and non-preparedness in the changes that will come out and being left out,” Torres.

Army, NPA in 15-minute firefight in Iloilo town

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 6): Army, NPA in 15-minute firefight in Iloilo town

Members of the Philippine Army’s 61st Infantry Battalion (61st IB) and about 10 members of the New People’s Army (NPA) engaged in a 15-minute firefight in Sitio Ali, Barangay Malublub, Leon town, Iloilo province early Thursday.

Col. Benedicto Arevalo, Commander of the 301st Infantry Brigade, said there was no casualty among the government troops, whose number was not revealed by the Army for security reasons.

Arevalo added that they could not determine if any of the NPA fighters belonging to the Sibat Platoon, Komiteng Rehiyon-Panay, got hurt.

The troops were patrolling Sitio Ali at about 4:50 a.m. when they encountered the rebels, he said. The rebels withdrew to the nearby village of Gines.

He said the encounter was the result of their strengthened and relentless patrols in response to information from the communities about the presence of NPA rebels in their areas.

“We are continuously receiving reports from concerned citizens, that is why we are taking action to protect our people,” he said.

Arevalo said the military has recorded seven encounters with the rebels since July 21.

Residents, particularly those of Malublub, have reported that the rebels were preparing to do extortion activities in the area.

“That is what we are addressing because the people are harmed by their extortion activities,” he said.
Arevalo said the encounter was also the result of their relentless pursuit against the rebels after the wounding of an employee of Century Peak Energy Corp. in Barangay Igcabucao, Igbaras, Iloilo last August 29.

On Aug. 24, three police officers of the Iloilo Police Provincial Mobile Force Company were wounded in a clash with the NPAs in Leon, Iloilo.

“We will be relentless in our pursuit of these perpetrators, as well as in conducting patrol operations to protect our people,” he said.

“We are encouraging the people of Panay to report any NPA activity in their area in order to put an end to their extortion activities,” he added.

1 killed, 3 hurt in Maguindanao explosion

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 7): 1 killed, 3 hurt in Maguindanao explosion

SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao – A 59-year-old man was killed while his wife and two others were injured in an explosion in Barangay Bialong here Wednesday night, police said Friday.

Inspector Abdin Arasa, town police chief, said the blast occurred at a house past 10:30 p.m. in Barangay Bialong, a remote village situated some 20 kilometers away from the town center.

The police official identified the fatality as Abdulaziz Asim, a resident of Sitio Diyati, Barangay Tina, who was declared dead on arrival at the Maguindanao provincial hospital here.

Injured were Asim’s wife, Farida, 49; Saiden Maulana, 21; and Sema Bedo, 55, both residents of Barangay Bialong who are now undergoing treatment in the same hospital.

Arasa said it was not clear what triggered the explosion and what kind of explosive was used as investigation is still going on.

"Police probers are also trying to determine if the blast was accidental or related to the ongoing military pursuit operations against local terrorists in the Bialong area,” he said.

Arasa noted that the military launched two weeks ago an operation in the area against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a local terrorist group that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria organization.

“The village officials have been told to order their constituents to vacate their villages due to the on-going law enforcement operation,” he said.

Arasa, however, said some of the evacuees return home to attend to their farms during the daytime.

Currently, many families have deserted the village of Bialong because of its proximity to the site of sporadic clashes between government forces and BIFF radicals.

Witness info behind Maute leaders' demise: Army

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 7): Witness info behind Maute leaders' demise: Army

Local residents acted as key informants in identifying the remaining members of the Islamic State-inspired Maute armed group that led to an encounter with the military in Lanao del Sur on Thursday, killing a soldier and three terrorists and two civilians.

Lt. Col. Edgar Allan Villanueva, the Army's 49th Infantry Battalion (IB), said Friday the clash in the town of Sultan Dumalondong targeted one of the IS-Maute's leaders, known as Mubarak Manalao.

"They were reported by the residents who frequently saw them in the area. Some of them were not known by residents," Villanueva said. Manalao, who also goes by the name "Popular", was reported wounded during the Marawi siege, the Army official said.

"Itong si alias Popular ay may tama sa paa at nahihirapan nang maglakad (Manalao had a wound on e foot, and was having difficulty walking)," he added.

Villanueva said a soldier died during the clash, as well as three Maute militants and two civilians who were caught in the crossfire. The military recovered two M16 rifles, an improvised explosive device, 17 cellphones, and other paraphernalia from the clash site.

Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., Deputy Commander of Task Force Ranao, said two of the three slain terrorists were known sub-leaders of the Maute group under the command of Owayda Benito Marohomsar, alias Abu Dar.

In a statement, Brawner expressed condolences to the families of the civilian casualties.

"It is very unfortunate that our citizens have to go through this incident again brought about by elements of the Maute-ISIS group," Brawner said.

"We also express our condolences to the family of our killed soldier. He is indeed a hero who has paid the ultimate sacrifice so that our brother and sister Maranaos can live in a peaceful environment," he added.

The clash was the fourth encounter between government troops and Maute remnants, who still roam Lanao del Sur and neighboring areas, this year.

In January, government troops engaged 10 Maute remnants in Barangay Kalilangan, Masiu town, which left six soldiers injured.

In June, another encounter with a group of armed men, believed to be under the command of Abu Dar, occurred in Tubaran town. Hundreds of residents evacuated and temporarily stayed in the evacuation centers for days for fear of getting caught in the crossfire.

Army troops of the Joint Task Force ZamPeLan (Zamboanga Peninsula, Lanao) were on combat operation in Masiu last July when they encountered the terrorist group. A Maute member died while no casualty was reported on the government side.

BIFF militant captured in Maguindanao encounter

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 7): BIFF militant captured in Maguindanao encounter

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao – A suspected member of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) was arrested following a brief encounter Friday afternoon between soldiers and the terrorist armed group in the Maguindanao town of Pagalungan, the military said.

The firefight along Tunggol River erupted when BIFF members, led by Gapang Sapal--a sub-commander of the Islamic State-linked BIFF-Abu Toraife faction--fired at personnel of the Army’s 7th Infantry Battalion pursuing gunmen onboard a motorized banca.

Colonel Alfredo del Rosario, 602nd Infantry Brigade chief, told reporters that the soldiers were checking on intelligence reports about the transport of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) from Sultan sa Barongis, Maguindanao to Kabacan, North Cotabato when the gun battle took place around 3 p.m.

After a 15-minute firefight, Del Rosario said government troopers arrested Mohamid Kambilan, a follower of Abu Toraife - whose group was tagged in the Isulan twin bombings last week that left five people dead and 48 injured.  

Three civilians living near the river were injured in the crossfire and rushed by soldiers to a hospital in Kabacan, North Cotabato, he said.

Del Rosario said the soldiers recovered two M16 rifles, a Garand rifle and a .45-caliber pistol at the encounter site. No IEDs were recovered.

Del Rosario could not say if the BIFF suffered fatalities but said plenty of blood was found at the clash site.

The road linking North Cotabato and Maguindanao were closed from 3 p.m. until past 4 p.m., and motorists were advised to avoid traveling at night as military pursuit operations continue against the terror group in the area.

Army in ‘offensive mode’ vs. NPA after 8th encounter in Panay

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 7): Army in ‘offensive mode’ vs. NPA after 8th encounter in Panay

The Philippine Army is now in an “offensive” mode against the New People’s Army (NPA) as they recorded their eighth encounter with the rebels on the island of Panay on Thursday afternoon.

The latest and eighth firefight broke out at 3:50 p.m. as troops of the 61st Infantry Battalion (IB) were patrolling the village of East Villaflores, Maayon, Capiz. They encountered about 10 NPA rebels, identified as members of the Sangay Partido Pamproganda-East, Komiteng Rehiyon-Panay, Col. Benedict Arevalo, commander of the 301st Infantry Brigade, said in an interview Friday.

“These rebels have so many activities, like extortion, recruitment and organizing the people in the community to say political words,” he said.

“The encounter lasted for 20 minutes but the enemies withdrew towards the nearby village of Bongbongan,” he said, adding that no one was hurt from the government side but undetermined on the enemy’s. The number of the soldiers was not revealed by the Army for security reasons.

The latest encounter, which is the eighth since last July 21, happened just hours after a gun battle in Sitio Ali, village of Malublub, Leon, Iloilo at 4:50 a.m. of the same day.

The series of encounters was the result of their “aggressive” move against the enemies, said Arevalo.

“That is the commitment of the government forces. We should be aggressive. That is the only way,” he said.

Arevalo reiterated that the series of encounters was the offshoot of their response to reports they received from the community about the presence of rebels in their area.

He said they have already received less than 100 reports through text messages from concerned individuals in the past four weeks.

He said that they expect to have more encounters with the enemies as they run after them.

As of the moment, he said there are 100 to 200 rebels in Panay.

He appealed for them to surrender as the military is willing to accept them and help them through the local integration program.

“If they do not want to surrender, we do not have other recourse but to run after them,” he said.

Evacuees return to NegOr village after military-NPA clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 7): Evacuees return to NegOr village after military-NPA clash

The situation in Manjuyod, Negros Oriental has normalized as evacuees have begun returning to their homes after they fled, following an encounter between government troops and suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Sitio Basakan, Barangay Panciao of that northern town on Monday afternoon.

Mayor Felix Sy immediately convened the municipal peace and order council with the presence of elements from the 15th Infantry Battalion (IB), who engaged suspected NPA rebels in a five-minute firefight, and the 62nd Infantry Battalion, to assess the state of security in Manjuyod.

Manjuyod police chief, Senior Insp. Antonio Jabar, disclosed on Friday that the situation in Panciao has normalized, with additional troops deployed to the barangay, specifically the Alpha Company of the 15th IB.

Meanwhile, 12 families are still with their relatives and friends in the lowlands but the respective heads of their families, including sons of legal age, returned to their respective homes because of their farm animals, he said.

According to Jabar, the battalion commander of the 15th IB has requested the evacuees to go back to their respective homes because the area is already secured. A community support program is also being implemented in the area for the benefit of the residents.

After the encounter early this week, some 350 individuals left their homes in Panciao and temporarily took shelter at the Bagtic Elementary School.

Meanwhile, a candle-lighting activity is scheduled 6 p.m. Friday at the covered court of Panciao for the killing of village chief Mario Gonzales, who will be buried on Saturday.

A peace rally is expected to be held during the burial rites, according to a press release from the Civil Military Office of the 62nd IB.

Police to file charges vs. suspects in Aug. 28 Isulan blast

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 8): Police to file charges vs. suspects in Aug. 28 Isulan blast

PRIMARY SUSPECT. Chief Supt. Eliseo Tam Rasco, regional director of the Police Regional Office-12 (PRO-12), shows during a command conference the computerized facial composite of the primary suspect in the Aug. 28 bomb explosion in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat. (File photo by PRO-12)

GENERAL SANTOS CITY -- Police next week will file charges against the suspects in the first of the two recent bomb attacks in Isulan town in Sultan Kudarat province, which killed five people and wounded 48 others.

Police Regional Office 12 (Soccsksargen) Director, Chief Supt. Eliseo Tam Rasco, said Saturday the Special Investigation Task Force (SITG) “Hamungaya” is finalizing the cases against the suspects in the Aug. 28 explosion in Isulan.

Rasco met on Friday with members of the two SITGs created by PRO-12 in line with the twin attacks to monitor the progress of the ongoing parallel investigations.

SITG “Hamungaya” is mainly focused on the first attack, which happened two days before the culmination of Isulan’s 7th Hamungaya Festival and 61st foundation anniversary celebration.

Three people were killed and 46 others were wounded in the blast, which ripped through an “ukay-ukay” stall and a nearby store located beside the national highway in Barangay Kalawag 3.

Another SITG dubbed “LJ” was activated for the Sept. 2 blast inside the Liezther James Internet cafe in Barangay Kalawag 2, which left two people dead and 12 others wounded.

The two SITGs are headed by Senior Supt. Oliver Enmodias, PRO-12 deputy director for operation.

“I have ordered the speedy filing of airtight cases against all those behind these incidents,” Rasco said.

The police official directed the two SITGs to give more focus on their investigation and resolve these at the soonest possible time to “bring prompt justice to all the victims.”

He said that the Philippine National Police national headquarters and the general public are closely monitoring the updates and developments on the two incidents.

"Rest assured that we will not stop until appropriate charges will be filed against those responsible individuals and we will see to it that the long arm of the law will finally put them behind bars," Rasco said.

Investigators earlier released a computerized facial composite of the main suspect in the Aug. 28 blast based on witnesses’ accounts.

However, sources said several other suspects were being considered by the SITG in connection with the attack.

Isulan Mayor Marites Pallasigue earlier said three “persons of interest” have been identified in line with the Sept. 2 attack.

IED seized from NPA member nabbed in Koronadal City

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 8): IED seized from NPA member nabbed in Koronadal City

IED. The recovered improvised explosive device (IED) from a suspected member of the New People’s Army arrested in a village in Koronadal City on Saturday morning (September 8, 2018). (Photo by Alejandro Saludo)

GENERAL SANTOS CITY -- Joint Army and police personnel recovered an improvised explosive device (IED) from a suspected member of the New People’s Army (NPA), who was arrested in a village in Koronadal City on Saturday morning.

Koronadal City police chief, Supt. Benjiel Kirby Bajo, said the explosive was found at about 8:40 a.m. inside the room of suspect Maria Malaya Fernandez, 30, at a boarding house in Navarro Subdivision, Barangay General Paulino Santos.

He said Fernandez was nabbed based on a warrant of arrest for kidnapping and serious illegal detention issued by Tacurong City Regional Trial Court Branch 20 Judge Melanio Guerrero.

The case stemmed from the abduction of Sgt. Solaiman Calocop and Private First Class Samuel Garay of the Army’s 39th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Telafas, Columbio town in Sultan Kudarat on Feb. 2, 2017.

Calocop and Garay were released two months later by the NPA’s Mt. Alip Command in Davao del Sur province.

Bajo said Fernandez, who hails from Columbio town, arrived in the city only on Friday as monitored by elements of the Military Intelligence Group (MIG) and the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP).

He said the MIG and ISAFP, who led the operation, had long been tracking down her movements.

During a search of the suspect’s room, the police official said they found the IED hidden inside a box.

He said the explosive was made of an M-203 rifle grenade that was placed inside a polyvinyl chloride or PVC pipe measuring about three inches long and three inches wide.

Three blasting caps were also found inside the box, with one connected to a black wire and the other two placed inside a plastic bottle.

The recovered items were immediately secured by responding personnel from the South Cotabato police’s explosives ordnance disposal unit.

“This could have been intended for a planned attack in the area. It’s fortunate that we were able to recover it early,” Bajo said in an interview.

He said the suspect was allegedly a medic of the NPA’s Front 72 that operates in the Sultan Kudarat town of Columbio and neighboring areas.

Fernandez is now in the custody of the MIG and ISAFP pending her formal presentation to the court that issued the warrant for her arrest.

Civilian shot by BIFF in clash with Army dies

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 8): Civilian shot by BIFF in clash with Army dies


The firearms recovered by military forces from elements of the Islamic State-inspired Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters – Abu Toraife faction following a gun battle Friday (Sept. 7) along Tunggol River at the boundary of Pagalungan and Datu Montawal towns in Maguindanao. (Photo by 6ID)
CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao – One of three civilians fired upon by fleeing members of the Islamic State-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) at the borders of Pagalungan and Datu Montawal towns in Maguindanao province died in a hospital Friday, the military said.

Capt. Arvin John Encinas, Army’s 6th Infantry Division spokesperson, identified the fatality as Babay Dansalan of Barangay Dungguan, Datu Montawal town.

Two other civilian companions of Dansalan -- Maula Rerente Mangimblas and Dangalao Dangwa Akad, also of Barangay Dungguan -- are still undergoing treatment in a hospital in neighboring Kabacan town in North Cotabato province.

Shortly before 3 p.m. on Friday, a firefight erupted between troopers of the Army’s 7th Infantry Battalion and members of the BIFF faction of Abu Toraife along the Tunggol River traversing the towns of Pagalungan and Datu Montawal.

Some 10 armed men under BIFF sub-commander Gapang Sapal were aboard a motorized banca to transport homemade bombs to Kabacan, North Cotabato via the Tunggol River when they were intercepted by military personnel manning the Tunggol Bridge that separates Pagalungan and Datu Montawal.

The BIFF-Abu Toraife group has been tagged by the military as behind the Aug. 28 and Sept. 2 bombings in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, which left five people dead and 48 others injured.

“The BIFF fired at our troops on the bridge and those at the riverbank, triggering the firefight,” Encinas said, adding that the military has been earlier tipped off by civilians about the planned transport of three improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by the terror group through the river.

He said the tipsters disclosed that the IEDs would be coming from riverside Sitio Kabasalan, Barangay Darampua, Sultan sa Barongis, Maguindanao to Kabacan town, prompting the Joint Task Force (JTF) Central to conduct appropriate security measures.

As the firefight raged on, Encinas said the BIFF abandoned their motor banca and fled towards Barangay Dungguan, where they deliberately fired at the three civilians they saw along the way.

Soldiers, however, were able to corner and arrest two BIFF members, identified as Mohamid Kambilan and Abdulah Minola, both of the Abu Toraife faction. Both are now being detained at the Datu Montawal police station as charges are being readied against them.

The pursuit also resulted in the recovery of two M16 rifles, one M1 Garand, one .45-caliber pistol, assorted firearm clips, and ammunition.

Civilian residents revealed that about 7 p.m., three of the suspects killed and two more who were wounded were fetched by two motorized bancas in a secluded expanse of the river.

Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Army’s 6th Infantry Division commander and concurrent head of JTF Central, said the local government units of Pagalungan and Datu Montawal are in close coordination with them to fend off the terrorist group from their respective areas.

“The Datu Montawal LGU also promised to shoulder expenses for the burial of Dansalan and medical expenses of the two other civilians wounded in the incident,” Sobejana said.

He promised to stop the nefarious activities of the BIFF with the help of LGUs and communities in Central Mindanao.

“Security is not the sole responsibility of the military and police. Security is everybody’s responsibility,” he said.