Monday, October 1, 2018

8 ex-rebels linked to land-grabbing arrested in Benguet; firearms seized

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 1): 8 ex-rebels linked to land-grabbing arrested in Benguet; firearms seized

Eight men tagged by police as members of a gun-running and land-grabbing syndicate were arrested by police in a recent raid that also resulted in the seizure of a cache of high-powered firearms in Tuba, this province.
Chief Superintendent Rolando Nana, police regional director in Cordillera, said the raid in Sitio Barakbak, Barangay Ansagan, Tuba, in the morning of September 25 was conducted by joint elements of the Municipal Police Station, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), and the Police Mobile Force Company (PMFC) and supported by a search warrant.

Nana said the search resulted in the confiscation of six loose firearms and assorted ammunition.

Arrested were Reymund Barbero Bagni, Gordon Jackson Walis, Gilbert Balacdey Loreto, Shobert Sumalnap Ubuagan, Eljhon Ubuagan Sumalnao, Florencio Ayao Beronilla, Dearly Langgi Beronilla, and Jerome Berona Guerrero, all residents or natives of Sallapadan, Abra.

Nana said Bagni, a former rebel commander of the New People’s Army (NPA) who surrendered to authorities during the Marcos regime, stood as their leader.

The other suspects, he said, were former fighters of the defunct Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) who have allegedly resorted to gun-running and land-grabbing.

During the raid, they yielded three shotguns; two.22-caliber rifles; one M-16 rifle; and an assortment of firearm magazines and bullets.

Nana said the group has come to be known as the “Bagni Group,” which has allegedly been hired by some influential individuals in the region to do “dirty work.”

He said that when the raiding team swooped down on the bailiwick of the group, police also received 26 firearms surrendered by the community.

NPA hits 2 LGUs

From the Visayan Daily Star (Oct 1): NPA hits 2 LGUs

The New People’s Army Mt. Cansermon Command in central Negros has criticized the local governments of Himamaylan City and Binalbagan, for not taking any action against what it claimed to be an increasing number of human rights violations allegedly committed by the 62nd Infantry Battalion in their respective areas.

Rebel spokesman Dionesio Magbuelas, in a statement issued by the Mt. Cansermon Command in central Negros, specifically mentioned Binalbagan Mayor Emmanuel Aranda, whom he accused of tolerating the presence of Army soldiers in residences without the permission of the owners, and of threatening members of legal associations.

Aranda recently attended an activity of the 62nd Infantry Battalion, who facilitated the surfacing of 60 supporters of the New People’s Army in Brgys. Bi-ao and Santol, Binalbagan, who had withdrawn their support from the rebel movement and pledged their allegiance to the government.

Two months ago, 113 alleged supporters and sympathizers of the New People’s Army in Brgy. Buenavista and Mahalang, Himamaylan City, also renounced the armed struggle and expressed their support to the duly-constituted government, Lt. Col. Egberto Dacoscos, 62IB commander said.

Magbuelas challenged the Commission on Human Rights, local government units and progressive organizations to conduct an investigation and file charges against those responsible for committing human rights violations.

Col. Alberto Desoyo, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, on the other hand, slammed the CPP-NPA in Negros for killing 15 innocent civilians from January to September this year, for which they had claimed responsibility allegedly for atrocities.

Meanwhile, Magbuelas condemned what he claimed to be the forced surrender of farmers in Brgy. Santol, Binalbagan last month, alleging that they were only informed by the Philippine Army to attend a dialog, in connection with the land they are tilling, that used to be owned by the Fuentespina family.

On July 8, Magbuelas further claimed that farmers in Brgy. Carabalan, Himamylan City, were also called to attend a meeting, forced to sign a blank paper, and ordered to burn a CPP-NPA flag.

U.S. warship sails near disputed South China Sea islands -U.S. official

From InterAksyon (Oct 1): U.S. warship sails near disputed South China Sea islands -U.S. official

The Ronald Reagan Strike Group ship's the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), the guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) and the guided-missile destroyer USS Milius (DDG 69) conduct a photo exercise with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ship's the helicopter destroyer JS Kaga (DDH 184), the destroyer JS Inazuma (DD 105) and the destroyer JS Suzutsuki (DD 117) in the South China Sea August 31, 2018. (U.S. Navy/Kaila V. Peter)
A U.S. Navy destroyer sailed near islands claimed by China in the South China Sea on Sunday, a U.S. official told Reuters, potentially angering Beijing at a time of tense relations between the two countries.

Beijing and Washington are locked in a trade war that has seen them impose increasingly severe rounds of tariffs on each other’s imports.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the destroyer Decatur traveled within 12 nautical miles of Gaven and Johnson Reefs in the Spratly Islands.

The operation was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, where Chinese, Japanese and some Southeast Asian navies operate.

China’s claims in the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes each year, are contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

“We conduct routine and regular freedom-of-navigation operations, as we have done in the past and will continue to do in the future,” the U.S. official added.

China’s foreign ministry did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

The United States has criticized China’s construction of islands and military facilities in the area and is concerned they could be used to restrict free nautical movement.

The U.S. military has a long-standing position that its operations are carried out throughout the world, including in areas claimed by allies, and are separate from political considerations.

The latest move comes at a particularly tense time in relations between the United States and China.

Friction between the world’s two biggest economies is now moving beyond trade, with U.S. President Donald Trump accusing Beijing this week of seeking to interfere in congressional elections, marking a new phase in an escalating campaign by Washington to put pressure on China.

China recently denied a request for a U.S. warship to visit Hong Kong and this month Beijing postponed joint military talks in protest against a U.S. decision to impose sanctions on a Chinese military agency and its director for buying Russian fighter jets and a surface-to-air missile system.

In May two U.S. Navy warships sailed near South China Sea islands claimed by China.

Anti-terrorism law weak, Senate wants longer surveillance, detention of suspects

From Rappler (Oct 1): Anti-terrorism law weak, Senate wants longer surveillance, detention of suspects
Proposed amendments to the Human Security Act include increasing surveillance to at least 90 days and detention to at least 30 days for 'suspected terrorists'
 MONITOR. Amendments to the Human Security act eye longer periods of surveillance and detention.
MONITOR. Amendments to the Human Security act eye longer periods of surveillance and detention.

The Senate is set to pass amendments to the Human Security Act of 2007 or anti-terrorism law that would allow extended periods of surveillance or detention of "suspected terrorists." (READ: What you need to know about state surveillance)

Senator Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the committee on dangerous drugs, said the move would be done to strengthen the Human Security Act, which he claimed was one of the “weakest” anti-terrorism laws in the world.

He had taken up the measure with Senator Gregorio Honasan II, chairman of the committee on national defense and security, in a joint committee hearing on Monday, October 1.

“We only need to look at the historical background of the 11-year-old Human Security Act of 2007 to arouse our interest and look at a compelling need to amend what this representation may refer to as a dead letter law,” Lacson said during the hearing.

He said the “only” thing the law led to was the labelling of the Abu Sayyaf as a terrorist group by a regional trial court in Isabela, Basilan. in 2015.

Longer surveillance: Along with top security officials, the Senate panel proposed extending the surveillance of suspected terrorists from the current 30 days to a period of 90 days, which may be open to further extension.

However, security officials would still have to secure the authorization of a court to do so.

“Ang kinukuha ng court order dito 'yung technical surveillance, meaning you will wiretap and you will monitor 'yung kanyang social media accounts, email,” he said, noting no court order was needed to conduct physical surveillance or “human intelligence.” (READ: You think your data, communication devices are safe? Think again)

(What the court order will give is permission for technical surveillance, meaning you will wiretap and you will monitor the person’s social media accounts, email.)

SECURITY. Senator Panfilo Lacson during the Senate hearing on the amendment of the Anti-Terrorism bill on October 1, 2018. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler
For security forces to conduct surveillance, lawmakers said there would need to be “reasonable grounds” to believe a certain individual was a suspected terrorist. As to what may constitute “reasonable grounds,” however, was not disclosed. (READ: Military rejects electronic surveillance limits in draft constitution)

Longer detention: Senators said they would also consider increasing the period of detention of suspected terrorists to a period of 30 days, which may again be extended, from the current 3 days maximum allowed under the law.

Security officials argued the 3 day period was not enough to elicit information from suspected terrorists, especially if they were "hardened" or experienced.

“If we were able to capture an ideologue bomber, more or less one week, wala tayong makukuha (we won’t be able to get anything),” Armed Forces of the Philippines chief General Carlito Galvez Jr said.

Asked for their position on the matter, Comisison on Human Rights representative Jomanher Asalan said, "I believe, sir, it (3-day detention) is not sufficient," but that there would need to be "valid ground" for any person to be detained.

Lacson added any extensions would likewise need approval from the courts and that rules of a warrantless arrest must still be observed.

“This is not as if anybody may be arrested. We will still follow rules on) warrantless arrest, meaning, a person is about to commit, actually committing, has committed [a terrorist act] before getting arresting...the suspected terrorist,” he said.

Open to abuse? According to Lacson, what would safeguard citizens from possible abuse of power by security forces would be the anti-terrorism council, which would need to approve any proposal to have an individual placed under surveillance or detained.

“If there are no sufficient grounds or prior intelligence information pointing to that person as a suspected terrorist, it will not be approved by the anti-terrorism council,” he said in Filipino.

But for critics, the lack of a definition of security or what may be considered “reasonable grounds” is exactly what may leave surveillance open to abuse. Lawyers also argue that while rights are in place, gathering evidence to prove your privacy was violated by the government may be one of the biggest challenges. (READ: Prone to abuse: State surveillance as a tool to silence critics )

Lacson said the Senate panel eyed the passage of the bill before session would adjourn for the holidays on December 15.

Philippine Navy vessel makes historic visit to Russia

From Rappler (Oct 1): Philippine Navy vessel makes historic visit to Russia
The Philippine Navy's BRP Tarlac makes a historic port call to Vladivostok as President Rodrigo Duterte leads a pivot to Russia and China
HISTORIC VISIT. BRP Tarlac is seen about to dock in Vladivostok, Russia, on October 1, 2018. Photo courtesy of Philippine Ambassador to Russia King Sorreta
HISTORIC VISIT. BRP Tarlac is seen about to dock in Vladivostok, Russia, on October 1, 2018. Photo courtesy of Philippine Ambassador to Russia King Sorreta

Philippine Navy vessel BRP Tarlac made a historic port call to Vladivostok, Russia, on Monday, October 1, as the Philippines moves closer to Russia and China under President Rodrigo Duterte.

BRP Tarlac's port visit to Russia is scheduled from Monday to Saturday, October 6, said the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

The PNA, quoting Philippine Navy spokesperson Commander Jonathan Zata, said the Philippine Navy "will conduct a series of confidence-building activities" with their Russian counterparts.

"We are very much excited about this historic event since this is the first time that a Philippine Navy commissioned vessel is able to visit Vladivostok," Zata said.

He added that this was possible due to Duterte's efforts to modernize the Philippine Navy, as well as the support of other stakeholders.

Duterte has vowed to pivot to Russia and China because he detests the United States' supposed meddling in his bloody anti-drug campaign.

Recently, however, an American official warned the Philippines against buying military equipment from Russia – a comment that angered Duterte again.

Duterte's renewed anger at the US did not stop Philippine defense officials, on the ground, from engaging with their American counterparts. On September 18, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, a former defense attaché to the US, met with US Defense Secretary James Mattis to discuss the fight against the terrorist Islamic State and other issues.

LOOK: Armed MILF allowed to register for 2019 polls in Lanao del Norte

From Rappler (Oct 1): LOOK: Armed MILF allowed to register for 2019 polls in Lanao del Norte

MILF combatants are not allowed to enter Lanao del Norte if they are armed and in uniform, says governor-turned-lawmaker Khalid Dimaporo

COMPLACENT? Representative Khalid Dimaporo says cops allowed armed MILF men to register to vote without commotion. House of Representatives YouTube account screenshots

COMPLACENT? Representative Khalid Dimaporo says cops allowed armed MILF men to register to vote without commotion. House of Representatives YouTube account screenshots

 Were the Lanao del Norte cops being complacent?

On Monday, October 1, Lanao del Norte 1st District Representative Khalid Dimaporo showed photos of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatants gathering inside an elementary school to participate in the special voters registration for the upcoming 2019 polls.

There is nothing irregular in the process as they are allowed to register in vote. Dimaporo even conceded that Mindanao has been more peaceful since the declaration of martial law after the Marawi siege.

The problem, as Dimaporo pointed out with photos flashed before the House of Representatives' session hall, was that they were allowed to register in combat overalls and while carrying firearms.

"When I was governor of Lanao del Norte, you do not allow the MILF to enter the province of Lanao del Norte if they are fully armed and in uniform," Dimaporo said as he interpellated the 2019 budget of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) — the executive department which administratively oversees the national police force.

IN UNIFORM. An MILF combatant is allowed to register to vote in uniform complete with his armband.

Cops even allowed the armed and dressed MILF men to take a photo with them.

PHOTO OP. A local cop in a neon green vest stands as MILF men take a photo with him in the registration.
According to Dimaporo, this would not have happened if there was substantial coordination of cops with the local government units. It has become difficult to do this, he said, because many local government officials lost their police powers—the ability to command and set the direction for local cops' strategy to keep public safety and order—since the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

"If you take away the deputation powers, it is difficult to move. It's hard when you don't work, when you don't talk together. You don't establish a chain of command, and that's what's most important when it's on the ground," Dimaporo said in a mix of English and Filipino.

He also said that local cops need to be serious in their heightened alert level in Mindanao, especially since they have received a sizeable salary hike under President Rodrigo Duterte.

"I would just like to appeal that cases like these in the local level, you should show that you deserve that salary increase. Medyo masakit (It's quite painful) that when we work hard to keep the MILF at bay pero (but) here they come going to our elementary school, and our PNP is being, frankly, complacent," Dimaporo said.

In reply, the sponsor of the DILG's budget Nueva Vizcaya Representative Luisa Cuaresma said the DILG and the PNP will look into the matter.

Soldier, pro-ISIS militant killed in clash (Photos)

From the Mindanao Examiner (Oct 1): Soldier, pro-ISIS militant killed in clash (Photos)

Government forces clashed with pro-ISIS militants in the restive region of southern Philippines that left two persons dead, officials said Monday.

Captain Clint Antipala, a spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division, said one soldier died in the operation that targeted members of the Dawlah Islamiya in the villages of Malimbato and Upper Dimayon in Lanao del Norte’s Tagoloan town.

The weekend operation killed Rasol Mambuay and the recovery of an M16 automatic rifle, grenade, communication radios and materials in the manufacturing of improvised explosives.

Military photos show the slain Dawlah Islamiya member Rasol Mambuay and materials in the manufacture of improvised explosives seized from pro-ISIS militants in Lanao del Norte’s Tagoloan town. (Mindanao Examiner)
Antipala said soldiers of the 4th Mechanized Infantry Battalion, municipal policemen and members of the National Bureau of Investigation were involved in the operation aimed at capturing Dianalan Dimanatang Imam and Manbuay and their followers.

He said the militants were among those who took part in the deadly siege of Marawi City in Lanao del Sur province last year.

Antipala did not say how many militants were able to escape the government operation or if they were plotting to sow terror in the region where security forces are battling various pro-ISIS groups, and communist insurgency.

The whole of southern Philippines are under an extended period of martial rule following the Marawi siege that lasted 5 months, but many militants involved in the attack managed to escape and were said to be recruiting members in the region.

US Marines, AFP launch KAMANDAG 2 exercise

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 1): US Marines, AFP launch KAMANDAG 2 exercise

Brigadier General Chris McPhillips, Commanding General of the 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade, Major General Nathaniel Casem, Inspector General of the Philippine Navy, and Brigadier General Melquiades Ordiales, Deputy Commandant of the Philippine Marine Corps, open exercise KAMANDAG 2 during a ceremony at Subic Bay International Airport. (US Embassy Manila)

The 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade (3d MEB) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) opened exercise KAMANDAG 2 with a ceremony at the Subic Bay International Airport on Monday. KAMANDAG 2 will take place from October 1 to 10, 2018, at multiple locations on the island of Luzon.

KAMANDAG 2 is an exercise between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States which also features participation from Japan. The Philippine-led exercise will include military-to-military exchanges between the AFP and U.S. forces with a focus on counterterrorism and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capabilities.

KAMANDAG 2 will enhance cooperation and interoperability between Philippine and U.S. forces as we continue both countries’ commitments to support each other as friends, partners, and allies. Service members will practice humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, an amphibious landing, live fire training, close air support, jungle survival training, urban operations training, and combat lifesaving during KAMANDAG 2.

“In its first iteration last year, KAMANDAG gave rise to many inaugural advancements between our militaries,” said Brig. Gen. Chris A. McPhillips, 3d MEB Commanding General. “I’m looking forward to all that we’re going to achieve together this year.”

The U.S. and Philippines will partner for a variety of community relations events during KAMANDAG 2. Engineering and construction projects are ongoing at a school and two daycare centers in Ternate, Cavite. While in Ternate, U.S. and Philippine military medical teams will teach hundreds of Ternate residents about lifesaving skills, disease prevention, and dental hygiene. Participants in exercises like KAMANDAG 2 develop lifelong friendships and connections that bring the U.S. and Philippines closer together as friends, partners, and allies.

KAMANDAG is an acronym for the Filipino phrase “Kaagapay Ng Mga Mandirigma Ng Dagat,” which translates to “Cooperation of Warriors of the Sea,” highlighting the partnership between the Philippine and United States militaries. KAMANDAG 2 will increase overall U.S. and Philippine readiness, improve combined responsiveness to crises in the Indo-Pacific region, and strengthen both countries’ decades-long partnership. (US Embassy Manila)

GenSan blast suspect slain in Cotabato drug bust

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 1): GenSan blast suspect slain in Cotabato drug bust

An alleged member of a local terror group tagged as among the suspects in the Sept. 16 bomb explosion here was killed in an anti-drug operation in Polomolok town of South Cotabato over the weekend.

Chief Supt. Eliseo Rasco, regional director of the Police Regional Office (PRO-12), said Monday suspect Samrud Embang was slain in an encounter with joint operatives at around 4:15 p.m. Saturday in Purok 1, Barangay Glamang in Polomolok town.

He said the operating team conducted an entrapment operation against the suspect that resulted in a brief firefight.

Rasco said the operating team was composed of elements from the Regional Police Drug Enforcement Unit-12, Regional Intelligence Division-12, Regional Mobile Force Battalion-12, South Cotabato Police Mobile Force Battalion and the Provincial Intelligence Branch.

Recovered from the suspect were a rectangular sachet of suspected methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu, a caliber .38 revolver and PHP500 marked bill used in the buy-bust operation.

“He was a level 1 high-value target based on President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s narco list,” Rasco said.

He said verification showed that the suspect was a member of terror group Ansar Al-Khilafah Philippines (AKP) and among the suspects in the Sept. 16 blast in front of a lying-in clinic in Makar junction here that injured eight people.

The PRO-12 described the AKP as an Islamic State-inspired group operating in South Cotabato, Sarangani and General Santos or Socsksargen area and is part of the local network of the Maute group.

Previously based in Sarangani Province, the group reportedly merged with local armed groups following the neutralization of its alleged founder Tokboy Maguid in a police operation in Kiamba town in January last year.

Police filed multiple frustrated murder charges against 19 alleged AKP members, including primary suspect Jeffrey Alonzo, in connection with the bomb attack here.

Alonzo was arrested in a drug buy-bust operation in Barangay Lapu, Polomolok three days after the blast.

Rebel returnee nabbed in GenSan for illegal possession of firearm

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 1): Rebel returnee nabbed in GenSan for illegal possession of firearm

Police arrested a rebel returnee after yielding an unlicensed handgun in a raid at a coastal village here on Sunday.

Senior Supt. Raul Supiter, city police director, said Monday suspect Jimmy Gicale Lawas alias “Danao”, 45, was nabbed during a search operation at his house in Phase 1-B, Purok Changco, Barangay Bawing.

He said the raid was based on a search warrant for illegal possession of firearms and ammunition issued last Sept. 26 by Judge Oscar Noel of the Regional Trial Court Branch 35 here.

The operating team was composed elements from the city police’s Intelligence Branch, Police Station-5 and the City Mobile Force Company.

Supiter said they recovered from the suspect’s house a Norinco caliber .45 pistol loaded with six ammunition.

He said Lawas was a former member of the New People’s Army and settled in the area after he voluntarily surrendered several years ago.

“We earlier received a tip from an informant that he (Lawas) has been carrying an illegal firearm,” he said.

Supiter said the operation was compliance with a directive issued by Chief Supt. Eliseo Rasco, regional director of the Police Regional Office-12, to intensify their operations against loose firearms.

He said the move was part of the strategies adopted by the regional office to deter the occurrence of gun-related crime in local communities.

Lawas, who is currently detained at the City Police Station 5, will be charged with violation of Republic Act 10591, the “Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act“.

Maute member, soldier killed in Lanao del Norte clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 1): Maute member, soldier killed in Lanao del Norte clash

Two people, including an alleged Maute group member, were killed in a clash in the province of Lanao del Norte, the military reported Monday.

Maj. Gen. Roseller Murillo, Joint Task Force Zampelan (Zamboanga Peninsula and Lanao) commander, said the firefight happened Sunday at the boundary of Barangays Malimbato and Dimayon, Tagoloan, Lanao del Norte.

Murillo, Army’ 1st Infantry Division commander, identified the slain Maute group member as Hadji Rasol Mambuay alias Mercury.

Murillo said the clash, which lasted for 10 minutes, ensued while the joint team of lawmen launched an operation to arrest Dianalan Dimanatang Imam, alias Papayungan, and Mambuay, whose group was involved in the 2017 Marawi siege.

The firefight resulted in the death of Mambuay and a soldier while Imam and the rest of their followers fled the scene.

Murillo said the joint team of soldiers, police and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents recovered from the clash site one M-16 Armalite rifle, a grenade, two units of radio transceivers, one short magazine and bomb-making materials.

The identity of the slain soldier, who belongs to the Army 4th Mechanized Infantry Battalion, was not released.

“Our deepest condolences to the loved ones of our soldier and killed Maute remnant,” Murillo said.

“Rest assured that the heroism and sacrifices of our soldier will not be in vain. We will continue to pursue the remnants of Dualah Islamiyah-Maute terrorist,” he added.

Soldiers intercept IEDs in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 1): Soldiers intercept IEDs in Maguindanao

Soldiers of the Army’s 90th Infantry Battalion manning a checkpoint in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao intercepted Monday two improvised explosive devices placed inside a bag from a passenger jeepney bound for Cotabato City.

“It was found at the rear portion of Lawin passenger jeep at about 7 a.m.,” said Major Arvin John Encinas, spokesperson of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division.

Soldiers in Barangay Capiton, Datu Odin Sinsuat inspected all vehicles coming into the city from Maguindanao as part of security measures following a series of bombings in Central Mindanao last month.

Encinas said the powerful improvised bomb was fashioned from 81 and 60 mm mortars with mobile phone as trigger mechanism.

According to Amidin Tato, driver of the red Lawin jeepney (MWA-955), someone from the town of Kabuntalan, Maguindanao loaded the bag into the vehicle and told him that somebody would fetch it at the jeepney terminal in the city’s market area in Barangay Poblacion 1, Cotabato City.

Citing intelligence report, Encinas said the IED was manufactured in the marshy villages of Midsayap in North Cotabato, loaded into a motorized boat and transported to Kabuntalan town before it was transferred to the passenger jeepney.

He believes that members of the ISIS-inspired Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) are involved in the latest attempt to sneak in IEDs into the city.

“The recovered IED has the ‘signature style’ of the BIFF,” Encinas said. The discovery of the IEDs created a monstrous traffic along the section of the Maguindanao highway in Barangay Capiton, situated about a kilometer away from the 6th ID headquarters in Barangay Awang.

The IEDs were safely detonated by personnel of the military’s explosives ordnance disposal unit.

Last July 20, a powerful IED was also found inside a Cotabato-bound passenger van from Datu Saudi Ampatuan.

Its driver claimed someone loaded the bag in the van and paid an amount of PHP100, equivalent to a sitting passenger. Police and Army personnel intercepted the IED at a checkpoint in Barangay Broce, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

US, PH, Japan troops to participate in 'KAMANDAG'

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 1): US, PH, Japan troops to participate in 'KAMANDAG'

(Photo courtesy: US Embassy Information Office)

Marine troops from the US, Philippines and Japan will be participating in this year's "Kaagapay ng Mandirigma ng Dagat" (KAMANDAG) Exercises in various location in the country from Oct. 1 to 10.

Capt. Jerber Anthony Belonio, Philippine Marine Corps spokesperson, said around 1,000 US, 350 Filipinos and 100 Japanese Marine troops will be taking part in the exercises.

He said "KAMANDAG" activities include the following: opening ceremonies at the Subic Bay International Airport in Olongapo City, Zambales; boat raid in Ternate, Cavite; amphibious landing exercise at the Naval Education and Training Center in San Antonio, Zambales; and closing-out event in PMC headquarters at Marine Barracks Rudiardo Brown in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

Scenarios for this year's "KAMANDAG" exercises include counter-terrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Belonio added that the Japanese contingent will act as observers in the various exercises involving Philippine and US Marine troops.

"Well ang terrorism kasi, it's a global problem so syempre lahat naman tayo (all of us), lahat ng (all) countries may kanya kanya tayong (we all have our own) problem when it comes to terrorism well it speaks a global language, so yan yung isang aspect na pwede natin, kumbaga common sa lahat ng mga country na involved sa exercise, so kumbaga (that is one aspect we all have in common, as far as the countries involved in the exercises are concerned) its a common ground," Belonio said when asked on the inclusion of counter-terrorism scenario for the maneuvers.

Military not coddling Palparan: AFP spox

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 1): Military not coddling Palparan: AFP spox

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday vehemently denied that it is coddling retired Major Gen. Jovito Palparan.

"The AFP shares the aggrieved parties’ call for justice. In deferring the transfer, the AFP is not protecting Major Gen. Palparan et al. It merely submits to the judicial processes already in place and running," AFP spokesperson Col. Edgard Arevalo said in statement to the PNA Monday.

Arevalo said the AFP wants to know which commitment order takes precedence in Palparan's case and how the court will resolve the pending motion for continued detention at Camp Aguinaldo Detention Facility in Quezon City.

Once this is resolved, Arevalo said, the AFP will comply with the order of the relevant court.

"Note that Major Gen. Palparan et al. are facing two cases: one before Regional Trial Court Branch 15 of Judge Alexander Tamayo for Cadapan and Empeño case.

"The other case is with Regional Trial Court Branch 19 presided by Judge Francisco Felizmenio for Manalo Brothers case," he added.

In both cases, the courts ordered that the accused be committed to the Philippine Army Custodial Center (PACC) for custody.

"Major Gen. Palparan et al. were convicted for the Cadapan and Empeño case where the court ordered that the former be confined at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa. Meanwhile, the Manalo case is pending and the accused’s continues commitment at the PACC stays by virtue of said Commitment Order," the AFP spokesperson said.

Following his conviction, Arevalo said the lawyers of Palparan and his fellow convicts have filed for motion for reconsideration last Sept. 18.

"Counsels also filed on Sept. 24 an urgent motion to defer the implementation of the order to transfer Major Gen. Palparan -- the resolution of which they are awaiting hence the continued detention at the PACC," he added.

He added that the military respects the law and pertinent judicial process and will not frustrate any pursuit for justice.

"The conviction and the new commitment order to NBP in the Cadapan and Empeño case now confuses with the hitherto existing commitment order to the PACC in the Manalo Brothers case," Arevalo said.

To resolve the conflicting issue on commitment orders, the PACC filed a manifestation with motion praying for court determination which commitment order prevails on Sept. 24.

It conducted its first hearing on the matter on Sept. 28, Arevalo said.

Last Sept. 17, the Malolos Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 15 found Palparan and two others guilty of kidnapping and serious illegal detention over the disappearance of UP students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño in 2006.

Suspected ISIS member barred from entering PH

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 1): Suspected ISIS member barred from entering PH

Immigration officers barred anew a 36-year-old Pakistani national, suspected of being a trainer for the terrorist group Daesh, from entering the country at the Clark International Airport (CIA) in Pampanga last week.

BI OIC Deputy Commissioner Marc Red Mariñas identified the suspect as Naeem Hussain, who was intercepted last Sept. 22, when he arrived aboard an Emirates Airlines flight from Dubai.

The foreigner was immediately excluded and booked on the first available flight to origin for being included in the bureau’s list of suspected international terrorists.

“He was turned away because he is on our alert list of suspected international terrorists for being an alleged trainer of Daesh,” Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said in a statement.

Daesh, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), is waging a fanatical and brutal war against the US and its coalition partners in Iraq and Syria where it wants to establish an Islamic caliphate.

He has been on the watchlist of the military intelligence community which sought the BI’s help in monitoring the Pakistani’s possible entry or departure from the country.

According to Hussein, he had been working as a digital designer for the last 16 years and that he traveled to the Philippines to visit his Filipina girlfriend who lives in Olongapo City.

He has been denied entry last May when he attempted to enter the country, also from Dubai, via the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

BRP Tarlac now in Russia for first-ever port visit

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 1): BRP Tarlac now in Russia for first-ever port visit

Strategic sealift vessel BRP Tarlac (LD-601) officially docked at Vladistok, Russia at around 11 a.m. (Manila time) Monday.

This was confirmed by Philippine Navy (PN) spokesperson, Commander Jonathan Zata, in a message to the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

"She arrived around 11 a.m. (Manila time) today (at the Russia Pacific Fleet Naval Base in Vladivostok)," he said.

BRP Tarlac's arrival in Vladivostok marks the first time that a PN commissioned vessel is able to visit Russia, Zata added.

"This is made possible through the Commander-in-Chief's efforts to modernizing your Navy as well as the support from all stakeholders in seeing a stronger and more credible maritime organization," he said.

BRP Tarlac's first ever port visit to Russia will be conducted from Oct. 1 to 6. She left Manila South Harbor last Sept. 21.

The PN contingent, led by Captain Florante Gagua, will conduct a series of confidence building activities with the Russian Navy to further enhance relationship and cooperation.

These include a visit to Russian Navy facilities and sports and cultural interaction.

Sea exercises will likewise be undertaken after the conclusion of the port visit.

Shun partisan politics, Galvez tells AFP troops

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 1): Shun partisan politics, Galvez tells AFP troops

Armed Foces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Carlito Galvez Jr. pins the Gold Cross Medal to one of the 18 awardees during the flag-raising ceremony at the AFP General Headquarters Canopy Area in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Monday (Oct. 1, 2018). (Photo courtesy: AFP Public Affairs Office)

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff, Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., on Monday urged military personnel to veer away from partisan politics.

“Let us not be disturbed by the political noise and to take sides. We need to uphold our oath and obey the Chain-of-Command from the President, SND (Secretary of National Defense) down to our office chiefs and section/squad leaders. Let us remain solid and true to our oath, mandate and always undivided,” Galvez said during flag-raising ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

The AFP chief also took the opportunity to award 14 soldiers and four civilian personnel of the AFP in recognition of their selfless service and commitment to the country.

“These public servants are stewards of our institution -- a crucial aspect that keeps us on our steadfast pursuit of becoming a world-class AFP. For it is through outstanding work that manifests our dedications to better serve our nation,” Galvez added.

Awarded with the Gold Cross Medal for their gallantry in action during the war against terrorist groups in Marawi City last year are 1Lt. Eddie Badol, 1Lt. Jed Joseph Dandasan, Sgt. Julius Garsuta, Sgt. Wayne Fillalan, Pfc. Marcelo Hora, Jr., all from the Philippine Army, and Airman 1st Class James Gayotin.

While the Distinguished Aviation Cross was awarded to Air Force 1Lt. Julius Macasiray for his conduct of aerial operations during the liberation of Marawi.

Meanwhile, Commander Gilbert Villareal, Jr., and Senior Chief Petty Officer Mario Vasquez received the Distinguished Navy Cross for distinguished achievement as part of the Naval Task Unit Marawi under Joint Task Force-Trident during the liberation of Marawi in 2017.

Also, the Chief of Staff Commendation Medals and Ribbons were given to Army Maj. Jeremy Damonsong, S/Sgt. Ariel Gregorio and Sgt. July Lipaopao for eminently meritorious and valuable achievement as General Headquarters Planning Augmentation Team during the Marawi siege in 2017, and acted as Liaison to GHQ to address immediate concerns of the AFP leadership.

The 'Gawad sa Kaunlaran' were awarded to PA Col. Noel Vestur and Lt. Col. Resurrecion Mariano for their civic-military operation activities that aimed to recognize soldiers’ sacrifices.

The same award was given to Michael Manaois, Susan Bascon, Mark John Ulep, and Myka Loraine Nacionales, civilian employees who significantly contributed to the improvement of the quality of life of beneficiaries of killed-in-action personnel, and the welfare of the wounded soldiers during the Marawi crisis.

'Red October' not a security threat, Albayalde says

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 1): 'Red October' not a security threat, Albayalde says

The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Monday said it does not see the "Red October” plot against the Duterte administration as a security threat.

“Hindi siya nakikita natin na (We don't see it as a) threat as of this time, but it can be a concern, as far as the PNP is concerned. We don't know with other intelligence community. But as far as the PNP, kung ang tatanungin mo ay sa (if you will ask about) recruitment on our side, sa (for this) October movement na ito ay wala sa amin (we don't have that). We don't know with other agencies,” Albayalde told reporters when asked on the comment during the press briefing on Monday.

Albayalde, however, defended President Rodrigo Duterte's remarks on rumors of an ouster plot during a televised tête-à-tête with Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo.

“I think there's a basis for the statement of the President. Remember the President has unlimited access, hindi lang yung (not just the) PNP. There's a reason for this at mayroong basehan yan (and there's a basis for that). Hindi basta basta pwedeng sabihin ng Pangulo yan kung walang basehan (The President won't say that without having any basis). Even the intel community, there's a basis for that,” he noted.

Reacting reports of protest actions set on Oct. 17, Albayalde assured that measures are in place to secure these activities.

“Unang-una yung mga kilos protesta parang naging parte na ng buhay natin yan (First of all, mass actions are a part of our lives), it's a way of life already by some sectors of our society. Although in any protest, kailangan natin mag-provide ng (we need to provide) security not only for those who are conducting the rally but also doon sa mga hindi (for those who are not joining it), para may (to ensure) peace and order doon sa lugar (in these places),” he said.

The PNP chief, meanwhile, advised people from the labor sector not to be swayed by calls of left-learning groups to join mass actions.

“What we know, doon sa (in the) grassroots kasi, parang ini-instigate nila the labor sector na mag-rally kaya yung sa mga factories madalas nagra-rally. Tapos nai-infiltrate yan ng mga makakaliwa kaya yung mga ating nagtatrabaho sa mga factories. Huwag tayo maniwala dahil tayo din ang mawawalan ng trabaho, yun ang gusto ng ibang sector ng ating lipunan, i-instigate mga manggagawa natin sa factories na mag-strike (They are instigating those in the labor sector, especially those working in factories to join rallies. Let's not believe that because it is us who will lose jobs. That's what other sectors of society want: to instigate workers in factories to join strikes),” Albayalde said.

“Ang akala nila kapag na-paralyze yung production at nagkaroon tayo ng economic crisis, ang turo dyan sa Presidente na naman. Hindi nila alam na nawawalan tayo ng trabaho, yung ordinaryong Pilipino at saan naman kukuha ng pagkain ng ating mga pamilya (What they think is that if production is paralyzed and an economic crisis happens, our President is the one to blame. They do not know that we are the ones who will lose jobs, especially the ordinary Filipinos. How will we feed our families then?)” he added.

Security execs seek 30-day detention for terror suspects

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 1): Security execs seek 30-day detention for terror suspects 

Top security officials on Monday said suspected terrorist should be detained for at least 30 days even without a valid court order considering the complexities of investigating terror acts in the present security landscape.

The officials made the proposal during the Senate hearing, conducted by the Senate Committee Public Order and Dangerous Drugs chaired by Senator Panfilo Lacson, on the proposed amendments to the Human Security Act (HSA) of 2007.

Under the said law, suspected terrorists “may not be detained for more than three days without the written approval of a municipal, city, provincial or regional official of a Human Rights Commission or judge of the municipal, regional trial court, the Sandiganbayan or a justice of the Court of Appeals nearest the place of the arrest.”

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff, Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., said the three-day reglementary period is not enough to get information from captured suspected "hardcore" terrorists.

“Based on our experience, if we were able to capture a very ideologue bomber, more or less wala tayong makukuha (we would not get anything) in one week. Normally, it would take two weeks before we could break him,” he said.

He cited the case of the Isulan incident where the AFP was able to capture "supposed" bombers, but was unable to get any information from them.

“Because of our permissive laws, the bombers were able to be released from detention,” Galvez said.

Besides, being able to get the substantive and corroborating information, Galvez said the 30-day detention period for suspected terrorist is also a good “disruptive measure” to prevent further threats.

“Normally, terrorists act within a cell or in different cells. Thirty days is also a pre-emptive measure, wherein if there are also other co-conspirators that will have a simultaneous terrorist attack, that 30 days is a good disruptive measure for counteractions to prevent imminent attacks,” Galvez said.

“They can be a lone wolf or a pack of wolves, and sometimes deception is involved wherein a cell is meant to be captured to allow other cells to perpetrate a bigger attack. Thirty days would be enough to completely disrupt or completely defeat the threat,” he added.

Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) officer-in-charge Eduardo Año agreed with Galvez, saying: “Thirty days is actually enough time for the security sector to conduct all intensive investigations, follow up operations and counteractions."

He, however, said it does not mean that the 30-day detention period would be used to the maximum.

“If we have already neutralized the plan and can already file charges, even less than 30 days is enough. But the 30 day-period guarantees that the security forces can do its job properly,” said Año, a former AFP chief.

National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) Director General Alex Paul Monteagudo, meanwhile, said an extended detention period is needed adding that the country is facing a totally different security landscape than when the HSA was first passed.

“When the law was passed, there was no such problem as extremism or the type of threat that we are experiencing today,” he said.

Monteagudo said the Philippines now has the weakest anti-terrorism law in the region, and it is the reason why the country is attracting foreign terrorist fighters even from as far as Iraq, Syria and Morocco.

He said the proposal might not even be sufficient to determine the domestic and international links of the suspected terrorists.

“The 30 days should even be extendable if necessary, considering that the investigations that we conduct not only concern domestic networks but also international networks. It takes time for us to establish and coordinate with other foreign countries regarding the terrorist networks,” Monteagudo said.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana also urged for a stronger anti-terrorism law, saying martial law would not be necessary if the country’s anti-terror law has more teeth.

President Rodrigo Duterte has placed the entire Mindanao under Martial law from May 23, 2017 until the end of this year after Islamic State-inspired local and foreign terrorists seize Marawi City.

Under martial law, security forces are allowed to make warrantless arrests.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Oscar Albayalde also called for a stronger law against terrorism.

“With the global threat of terrorism now confronting our country, today is the most opportune time to highlight the shortcomings of the provisions of the Human Security Act so that we may be able to craft a more effective anti-terrorism law -- one that law enforcement and the military would not have the utmost difficulty in implementing,” Albayalde said.

Lacson is seeking to amend the provisions of HSA through his Senate Bill 1956, in order to strengthen a law that he said has become a “useless piece of legislation” through the years.

In pushing for stronger legislation, Lacson noted that since its enactment 11 years ago, no person or organization has been prosecuted under the HSA.

Lacson, a former PNP chief, added that since the 9/11 terror attack against the United States, Australia has already legislated 61 new anti-terror measures.

“As lawmakers, we cannot in good conscience remain silent and do nothing about our primary law against terrorism, becoming nothing more than a useless piece of legislation,” the chair of the Senate Committee Public Order and Dangerous Drugs said at the start of the hearing.

Lacson said while an anti-terror law in itself cannot solve the problem of terrorism, government and law enforcers should be given the much-needed tool to prevent, respond to, and address the growing threat of terrorism.

“We cannot allow this to continue. We must act now. Our inaction will make us equally accountable for every death, injury and damage terrorists inflict on our country,” he said.

3 local terror group members nabbed in South Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 1): 3 local terror group members nabbed in South Cotabato

Joint operatives arrested three alleged members of an Islamic State-inspired local terror group and recovered several explosives in an operation in Tupi town in South Cotabato early Monday.

Chief Supt. Eliseo Rasco, regional director of the Police Regional Office-12, said Akmad Bulacon and sons Muktar and Zandro were nabbed in a raid at a house in Purok 1, Barangay Palian in Tupi.

He tagged the three as members of notorious criminal and terror group Ansar Al-Khilafah Philippines (AKP).

Armed with arrest warrants, Rasco said operatives from the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force, Anti-Kidnapping Group, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency and the Tupi and Polomolok municipal police stations stormed the house of the Bulacons at around 2 a.m.

He said the operation mainly targeted cousins Arafat and Mohammad Bulacon, who were charged for the killing of Police Officer (PO) 1 Achilles Tablazon in the area last Sept. 15.

But the official said the two targets managed to escape by fleeing towards the mountainous area of Barangay Lunen, Tupi.

He said Akmad, the father of Arafat, and sons Muktar and Zandro were cornered by operatives while trying to escape.

Recovered from the three were a backpack containing two black emblems with markings of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, two blasting caps, ammonium nitrate, bandolier with several ammunition of 5.56-M16 rifle, a fragmentation grenade and three rifle grenades, he said.

Rasco said the operating team also seized two motorcycles that were reportedly used in the killing of Tablazon in front of his house in Barangay Palian, Tupi.

The slain police officer was a member of the security staff of Chief Supt. Ulysses Caton, the deputy regional director for administration of the PRO-12, and previously assigned at the intelligence branch of the South Cotabato Police Provincial Office based in Koronadal City.

Rasco said the three suspects are currently detained at the Tupi municipal police station lockup pending the filing of appropriate charges.

“We have ongoing manhunt operations against the two subjects of the arrest warrants,” he said.

Police described the AKP as an Islamic State-inspired group operating in South Cotabato, Sarangani and General Santos or Socsargen area and part of the local network of the Maute Group.

The group, which originated in Sarangani Province, was tagged as behind a string of killings, armed robberies, illegal drug activities and terror attacks, including the Sept. 16 bomb explosion here that left eight people wounded.