Monday, November 28, 2016

Duterte’s PSG advance party bombed in Marawi

From MindaNews (Nov 29): Duterte’s PSG advance party bombed in Marawi

Seven personnel from the Presidential Security Group (PSG) serving as President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s advance party and two Army escorts were reported wounded after a powerful improvised explosive device (IED) hit the convoy of the elite security group while heading to Marawi City this morning, police and military reports said.

Chief Supt. Agripino Javier, police regional director for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said they received report that a loud explosion believed to be from an IED was heard around 10:30 a.m. in Barangay Emie Punud, Marawi City.

“They were ambushed using an IED while traversing from Iligan City to Marawi City,” he said in a text message.

Armed Forces spokesperson Restituto Padilla said the convoy was composed of PSG personnel, RTVM, and Army escorts, all part of the advance party for President Rodrigo Duterte, who is set to visit Lanao del Sur on Wednesday.

There were no names of the injured yet as of press time.

Asked about the incident, ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman said he has no details yet on the attack, but he has information that President Duterte is scheduled to visit Army troops who are now fighting the rebels belonging to the Maute group, which is said to have links with ISIS.

The President, in his speech two days ago, named a certain Commander Bravo who he threatened to arrest for reportedly putting up his own government and giving protection to a drug syndicate.

It was not clear who the President was referring to, but the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) also has a Commander Bravo, the alias of Abdurahman Macapaar, who has led MILF attacks in Lanao del Norte in the 2000 and 2008 wars.

But Macapaar has lately expressed support for the peace process between the government and the MILF.

http://www.mindanews.com/top-stories/2016/11/dutertes-psg-advance-party-bombed-in-marawi/

2 more FA-50PH supersonic jet aircraft to arrive Dec. 1

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 29): 2 more FA-50PH supersonic jet aircraft to arrive Dec. 1

Two more FA-50PHs "Fighting Eagle" jet aircraft is scheduled to arrive at Clark Field, Angeles City, Pampanga on Dec. 1, raising the number of the Mach 1.5 capable aircraft of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) to four.

This was disclosed by PAF commander Lt. Gen. Edgar Fallorina during the sidelights of the Department of National Defense's 77th founding anniversary Tuesday.

He added the South Korean-made jet aircraft will be arriving 10 a.m. Thursday.

Fallorina said the two new FA-50PHs will be escorted on their way to Clark Field by the first two "Fighting Eagle" in PAF service.

The PAF chief, who got a chance to ride the FA-50PH's backseat last Nov. 26, described the aircraft as "very capable" and brings "pride to every fighter pilot".

"It (feels) great to secure a country with a fighter aircraft (like the FA-50PH)," he added.

As this develops, Fallorina said there are currently nine Filipino pilots fully trained to fly the FA-50PHs.

Three of these are instructor pilots and the remaining six are operational ones.

The PAF has 12-plane order from Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) worth PHP18.9 billion.

The remaining eight FA-50PHs are expected to be delivered this coming 2017 and 2018.

The FA-50PHs has a top speed of Mach 1.5 or one and a half times the speed of sound and is capable of being fitted air-to-air missiles, including the AIM-9 "Sidewinder" air-to-air and heat-seeking missiles aside from light automatic cannons.

It will act as the country's interim fighter until the Philippines get enough experience of operating fast jet assets and money to fund the acquisition of more capable fighter aircraft.

The FA-50PH design is largely derived from the F-16 "Fighting Falcon", and they have many similarities: use of a single engine, speed, size, cost, and the range of weapons.

KAI's previous engineering experience in license-producing the KF-16 was a starting point for the development of the FA-50PHs.

The aircraft can carry two pilots in tandem seating. The high-mounted canopy is applied with stretched acrylic, providing the pilots with good visibility, and has been tested to offer the canopy with ballistic protection against four-pound objects impacting at 400 knots.
http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=944229

7 PSG members, 2 troops hurt in roadside bombing in Lanao del Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 29): 7 PSG members, 2 troops hurt in roadside bombing in Lanao del Sur

A total of nine government forces, including seven members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) were injured in a roadside bombing in Marawi City, a military official disclosed Tuesday.

Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) spokesperson, disclosed the incident occurred shortly after 10:00 a.m. Tuesday in Barangay Matampay, Marawi.

Wounded in the IED explosion were one PSG official, six enlisted personnel and two regular troops.

The identities of the wounded soldiers were not immediately available. One of them was seriously wounded.

Tan said the troops were in a convoy of vehicles carrying PSG personnel, Radio-Television-Malacanang (RTVM), and escorted by 103rd Infantry Brigade troops when one of the vehicles hit an improvised explosive device (IED) fashioned out as a landmine.

Tan said a Presidential chopper immediately airlifted the seriously injured and four others to an undisclosed medical facility for emergency care.

The PSG and RTVM personnel are in Lanao del Sur in preparation for the visit of President Rodrigo Duterte to get first hand information on the ground in the ongoing offensive against the Maute terror group.

The offensive started when the terror group occupied an unoccupied town hall of Butig, Lanao del Sur.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=0&sid=&nid=0&rid=944211

Killed Maute Group members now at 40, 20 troopers hurt

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 29): Killed Maute Group members now at 40, 20 troopers hurt

Military offensives against the Maute Group, now on its fourth day at Butig town, Lanao Del Sur, has resulted in the death of 40 bandits and wounding of 20 troopers.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said in a briefing Tuesday government forces continue to inch their way to the Maute Group strongholds in Butig.

However, the military advance is being held up by sniper fire and threats of improvised explosive device (IED) attacks by the bandit group, he added.

Most of the military wounded are not serious and the patients (are) ambulatory, Arevalo said.

The AFP offensive is headed by the 103rd Infantry Brigade which is now reinforced by armor, artillery, and air units.

Arevalo said the Maute Group, which is concentrated in Barangays Sindig and Bayabao, is putting up a tough fight but he expressed confidence that the military will crack up the group's resistance soon.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=&sid=&nid=&rid=944209

2 Abu Sayyaf terrorists killed in maritime ops

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 29): 2 Abu Sayyaf terrorists killed in maritime ops

Navy photo
Navy photo

Two suspected members of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group were shot and killed during maritime patrol operations off Barangay Muti, Zamboanga City noontime Monday.

In a statement Tuesday, Philippine Navy Spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna said naval units consisting of intelligence, special operation group members and fast craft were patrolling off Sitio Niyog-Niyog when they spotted a motorized pumpboat with the suspected bandits, allegedly under sub-leader Marzan Ajijul, apparently trying to extort money from fishermen in the area.

The military intercepted the bandits, triggering a 15-minute firefight which ended in the killing of the two ASG members, Lincuna added.

No losses were sustained by government forces. Recovered were a .45 caliber pistol, a hand grenade, and suspected “shabu”.

The pumpboat with “Irsan” markings with 13 horsepower single engine onboard was also recovered.

“The PN will continue conducting intensified maritime patrols together with other maritime agencies in order to address the illegal activities victimizing our fishermen and commercial vessels,” Lincuna said.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=&sid=&nid=&rid=944209

Oslo too cold for peace talks, so it’s on to Rome

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 27): Oslo too cold for peace talks, so it’s on to Rome

Luis Jalandoni, peace negotiator of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). (AFP PHOTO / NOEL CELIS)


Luis Jalandoni, peace negotiator of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). (AFP PHOTO / NOEL CELIS)
Rome is the new venue for the third round of talks between the government and the communist National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) because of a slight problem in Oslo, where previous talks were held—it’s too cold in Norway in January.

“Both sides find Oslo too cold. It would be below zero in January. When we went there once in February, it was minus 20 degrees Celsius and people got sick,” Luis Jalandoni, senior adviser to the peace negotiating panel of the NDFP, said during a peace forum at the city hall here on Friday.

Jalandoni described the Rome talks from Jan. 18 to 25 as a “hard battle” because both government and NDFP panels would address social economic reforms being pushed by the NDFP.

“The NDFP would demand the abrogation of unequal treaties with the United States, like the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca),” he said.
 
He said the VFA “violates our sovereignty” while the Edca allows US troops and personnel “to go to different so-called agreed locations.”

“It would not be an easy negotiation. There will be big tough battles ahead in order to get the reforms, [such as] the defense and recognition of ancestral domains. It would mean battles to assert our national sovereignty,” he said.

He said the discussions would “address the root of the armed conflict so there would be a basis for a just peace.” “There should be land reform … national industrialization, so the Philippine economy can take advantage of its human … and natural resources,” he said.

Jalandoni had concerns, however, about the impact of ceasefire breaches allegedly by the military on the talks.

The issue could be resolved if the government and the communist rebels agree to a joint bilateral ceasefire, which would enforce a set of guidelines accepted by both parties, said Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello II, a member of the government peace panel.

Some of the alleged military breaches involve indigenous peoples (IP) communities, prompting the Cordillera Peoples Alliance to request Jalandoni and Bello to discuss IP rights when the panels discuss the  socioeconomic agreement.
http://globalnation.inquirer.net/150134/oslo-cold-peace-talks-rome

GRP to finalize draft of ceasefire agreement next week

From MindaNews (Nov 28): GRP to finalize draft of ceasefire agreement next week

The government (GRP) peace negotiating panel will finalize its own draft of the ceasefire agreement next week in hope to sign a bilateral document with the National Democratic Front (NDFP) next month.

GRP panel member Angela Librado-Trinidad said in an interview with reporters during the launch of the Mindanao Women’s Peace Table Monday that the panel members are now busy defining what would constitute “hostile acts”, an important provision that will clear out violative acts to the bilateral agreement.

“Actually, ang sabi namin (we said) there are technical issues that have to be worked out, example, both parties have their ceasefire declarations. This will be unified – definitions that will be agreed on, terms we need to agree on. We hope that if these things are ironed out, then we could discuss the bilateral ceasefire,” she said.

Librado-Trinidad said that the panel members will convene this week to discuss the developments that will lead to a common document that will be signed by both panels expectedly on December 10, the International Human Rights Day.

“We are positive that things could work out well. On December 10 or a few days later, a bilateral ceasefire agreement could be signed,” she added.

But in a statement dated November 24 but emailed to media outlets on the 27th, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) rebuked Secretary Silvestre Bello, GRP negotiating panel head, “for baselessly claiming that a bilateral ceasefire may possibly be signed by December 10 when in fact there are no negotiations for such an agreement with the NDFP.”

“Bello is conjuring the illusion that a bilateral ceasefire is already in the works in the hope of drawing away attention from the fact that the GRP, so far, has failed to meet its obligation to release political prisoners en masse through a presidential amnesty proclamation,” said the CPP.

The statement also cited NDFP negotiating panel chief Fidel V. Agcaoili as saying that “the GRP is negotiating with itself” in response to Bello’s claims that drafts of the bilateral ceasefire agreement have been exchanged between the two panels.

The communists said the signing of the bilateral ceasefire agreement before or around December 10 will not likely happen, pending the release of all political prisoners.

“The longer the GRP takes to fulfill its obligation to release all political prisoners, the prospects of such an agreement ever being forged become ever dimmer,” it said.

“The failure of the GRP to release all political prisoners in accordance with the August 21-26 Oslo talks, discourages the revolutionary forces from pursuing negotiations to forge a bilateral ceasefire agreement,” the statement read.

The communists also lambasted the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) who they claimed continues to conduct “armed suppression operations” in the countryside.

The CPP demanded the government to end the Oplan Bayanihan “armed suppression operations” and pull out all its forces in the hinterlands.

“If the Duterte regime will continue to turn a deaf ear to the clamor for it to end Oplan Bayanihan, it might just force the hand of the revolutionary forces to defend the rights and welfare of the broad masses within the guerrilla zones and defend the peace talks against its fascist saboteurs in the AFP,” added the CPP.

Librado-Trinidad said that some of the GRP panel members are also going around the country to get insights from several sectors on what would be considered “as hostile acts” to ensure that these definitions will reflect the interest of the stakeholders.

“You have to make sure that these definitions will reflect the interest of all those who would be affected directly and indirectly, so we have to be consulting [them]. And other than that, if we have come out with the definition, you also have to consult the other party whether this is acceptable or not. So this is not just an issue of defining it. It’s actually coming up with an agreement with respect to the more substantial issues,” she said.

Librado-Trinidad emphasized the need to strike a common ceasefire document with the NDFP because “as long as the parties are not bound by an agreement, individual parties could accuse each other of violations and this could not be resolved because there is no agreement yet.”

On the release of the 434 political prisoners, she said that they are working on the release of another batch before the end of the year, most especially those who are in the priority list identified based on humanitarian counts, such as sickly, senior citizens, and women.

“We are working on the release and we understand that the release of the prisoners is an issue of urgency but there are things that we need to work out. We have to make sure that the releases would not be subject to any question – legally and judicially. We are trying our best although probably the best might not be enough at this point in time. We are exerting all our efforts to make the release happen,” she said.

http://www.mindanews.com/top-stories/2016/11/grp-to-finalize-draft-of-ceasefire-agreement-next-week/

http://www.mindanews.com/top-stories/2016/11/grp-to-finalize-draft-of-ceasefire-agreement-next-week/

Army's 4th ID chief optimistic that government, rebels forge joint ceasefire

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 28): Army's 4th ID chief optimistic that government, rebels forge joint ceasefire

A top military official here expressed optimism on Monday that the government and communist rebels would agree to a bilateral ceasefire as the Christmas holidays near.

Maj. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, Jr., Army's 4th Infantry Division (4ID) commander, said that at present both government and rebels had separately declared a unilateral ceasefire as both parties observe a “defensive mode.”

Madrigal said that an official declaration of a joint unilateral ceasefire by the government and communist rebels would ensure the total suspension of combat operations by both sides during the holiday season.

He said the bilateral ceasefire comes with an effective mechanism like the creation of a monitoring committee to ensure that no armed violation would be committed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and New Peoples' Army during the observance of the cessation of hostilities.

“So far, peace is holding,” Madrigal said, as he hoped that the situation would sustain until Christmas time and even after December.

He said that everybody has benefited from the ongoing ceasefire as formal peace talks between the negotiators from both parties had been conducted in the past few weeks in Oslo, Norway.

Madrigal said he personally supports the peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF, the umbrella organization of the leftists.

Madrigal also assured the rebels that the continued presence of soldiers in rural communities was only to implement the peace and development program of the military and the local governments.

The military top brass issued the statement in response to the rebel accusations that the Phil. Army was conducting surveillance and questioning residents in remote villages in Northern Mindanao.

Earlier, Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez, Army’s 4ID spokesperson, said that soldiers would only enter a community upon the invitation of the local officials.

Besides, the Army soldiers would only go to the communities in order to extend assistance in the form of infrastructure development and medical missions.

Martinez said that the AFP is ready to lend a helping hand because the military has the equipment and the expertise in implementing infrastructure projects.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=944038

Government remains committed to release of political prisoners

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 28): Government remains committed to release of political prisoners

A member of the government peace panel negotiating with the National Democratic Front (NDF) is positive there will be a release of substantial number of political prisoners based on humanitarian grounds particularly the women, sickly and senior citizens in the coming days.

This was revealed Monday by panel member Angela Librado, who said that their release is part of the commitment of President Rodrigo Duterte to free detained members of the NDF.

This is also in accordance with the signed agreements between the GRP and NDF panels in Oslo, Norway during the resumption of formal talks last August.

While she was positive on the release in December, Librado said there are legal and judicial issues that need to be addressed.

“We are looking to release substantial number,” Librado said.

She declined to give the exact figure recommended for release on humanitarian grounds.

It is noted that there are 434 personalities in the list of detainees as submitted by the NDF panel to the government.
  
Forty five (45) of those recommended for release are women.

The planned release is part of continuing efforts to expedite and accelerate the peace negotiations and processes that are also brokered by the Royal Norwegian Government.

Librado pointed out that the recommendation for the release of detainees on humanitarian is not tied to the bilateral ceasefire.

She said they have already completed the guidelines for the release of detainees and have submitted a list of those who will be included in the second batch on humanitarian grounds.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier ordered the release of 22 high ranking NDF leaders to allow them to participate in the peace negotiations.

“We hope that the release could be had. We understand that the release is an issue of urgency but there things to make to ensure that this will not be subject to any legal and judicial question,” she added.

Librado assured they are working their best to meet what has been agreed in Oslo.

"Probably it will not be the best but at this point in time we are exerting all our efforts that the release will happen,” she stressed.

Librado also clarified that there are two different modes of releases of political prisoners. One is based on humanitarian grounds while the other is through amnesty which needs the concurrence of Congress after the President signs the proclamation.

It may be recalled that the draft proclamation was earlier submitted by the panel for the signature of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The draft proclamation also included NDF consultants already released on bail and now participating in the peace negotiations.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=944033

To avoid crisis, Lanao del Sur relief agencies rushing relief aid to hostilities-diplaced families

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 28): To avoid crisis, Lanao del Sur relief agencies rushing relief aid to hostilities-diplaced families

To prevent a humanitarian crisis, relief officials of Lanao del Sur are now rushing to extend help and medical services to families displaced by armed hostilities in the town of Butig.

According to reports from the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC), a total of 1,995 families have been affected by skirmishes between a local terrorist group and government forces which began on Saturday.

The terrorist group, Dawlah Islamiya extremists composed of Maute Brothers terrorist gang, stormed the town of Butig, occupied government buildings and raised an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) flag. The group had pledge allegiance to the international terrorist organization.

Salma Jayne Tamano, Lanao del Sur’s provincial information officer, said this afternoon that the affected families were given initial food rations and are to receive more provisions within the week.

Tamano said Lanny Alonto, Provincial Social Welfare and Development (PSWD) chief, said her office needs volunteers to help relief workers prepare the necessary food provisions and non-food assistance to displaced families.

The Army has been pursuing the Maute terrorist group with about 300 followers in the hinterlands of Butig town, employing air and ground assaults.

Reports have it that the town center had been liberated by government forces but the bandits are still occupying several outlying villages.

There were reports that Omar Maute and his brother, the group leaders, have been seriously injured and are in critical condition.

But military and police officials in the ARMM are yet to confirm the report.

Displaced civilians are now housed in various evacuation sites and are being attended to by the provincial government and other relief agencies of the national government, according to Lanao del Sur Gov. Soraya Alonto Adiong.

Gov. Adiong has assured the provincial government will provide all evacuees with enough relief supplies while they are confined in evacuation sites.

Adiong also directed the Lanao Sur provincial health office to be preemptive against highly communicable diseases common in evacuation sites by providing immunization and other health services.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=943995

Police, Army hunt down armed men in attempted burning of passenger bus in South Cotabato town

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 28): Police, Army hunt down armed (men) in attempted burning of passenger bus in South Cotabato town

Police and Army personnel launched pursuit operations against a group of armed men who attempted to burn another passenger bus in the outskirts of Tantangan town in South Cotabato on Sunday night.

Sr. Supt. Franklin Alvero, South Cotabato police director, said Monday armed men claiming to be members of the New People’s Army (NPA) tried but failed to set afire a Husky Bus Line unit with license plate 658-756 at a portion of Barangay Maibo in Tantangan town at past 7 p.m.
   
He said no one was reported hurt from among the six passengers, driver and conductor of the bus, which originated from Tacurong City and was en route to Koronadal City when the incident happened.

Citing accounts from witnesses, the police official said one of the still unidentified suspects initially boarded the airconditioned bus in front of the Fit Mart department department store in Tacurong City.

He said the suspect then asked to get off along the national highway in Barangay Maibo in Tantangan.

Upon stopping, Alvero said several armed men boarded the bus, directed the passengers to disembark and commandeered it towards a portion of the nearby Lagos farm located about 50 meters away from the highway.

“They poured five gallons of gasoline on the bus and tried to set it on fire but did not ignite as they were reportedly rushing to leave the area,” he said.

Alvero said the circumstances of the incident was similar to the burning in the last two weeks of three passenger bus units of the Yellow Bus Line Inc. (YBL) and heavy equipment of four companies working on government projects in parts of region and the neighboring areas.

A YBL bus unit bus was burned last Saturday in Magsaysay town in Davao del Sur. Two other bus units of the company were torched in Tupi, South Cotabato and Kiamba, Sarangani on Nov. 14 and 24.

Four heavy equipment were burned at government project sites in Barangay Alegria in Alabel, Sarangani, Barangay San Jose in this city, Bagumbayan in Sultan Kudarat and Matanao in Davao del Sur.

The suspects declared during the attacks that the owners of the concerned companies had failed to pay revolutionary taxes to their group.

“The modus was the same as in all these previous attacks,” Alvero said.

Husky Bus Line, which services routes in parts of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudaray and Maguindanao, is owned and operated by the Biocoop Husky Transport Services Inc. based in this city.

Alvero said officials of the bus company did report threats from any group prior to the incident.

He said they could not yet conclude whether the attacks were carried out by the NPA, which has not yet issued any statement or declaration regarding them.

“Our investigation has been continuing and there are ongoing operations against the possible suspects,” he said.

He said the operations are backed by troops from the Army’s 1002nd and 601st Brigades.

But he assured that they strictly abide by the government’s declared ceasefire with the NPA in line with the ongoing peace process.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=943825

Duterte allays terror fears

From The Standard (Nov 28): Duterte allays terror fears

Palace rules out suspension of habeas writ

MALACA√ĎANG on Monday quelled fears over the possible suspension of the writ of habeas corpus amid continued terror threats.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella scored opposition lawmakers who claimed that President Rodrigo Duterte was laying down conditions to declare the suspension of the privilege of habeas corpus, following the discovery of a bomb near the US Embassy as well as the ongoing military operations against the Maute local terrorist group.

“The reaction of opposition lawmakers that the discovery of IED near the US Embassy along with movement of the Maute group may be laying a foundation for the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus is reading too much into the situation,” Abella said.


“The suspicious circumstances are already being investigated,” he added.

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said there was no compelling reason to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus at this point.

“As a strong advocate of the rule of law, he is fully aware of the limits of presidential powers,” Andanar said. “Given this, President Duterte believes any intervention at his level is unnecessary.”

Andanar also said that there was no cause for alarm in Metro Manila after an improvised explosive device was found near the US Embassy on Roxas Boulevard.

“The PNP is on top of the situation and shall beef up security measures in public places especially where there are big crowds,” Andanar said in a statement.
A member of police bomb disposal unit places a water bomb disruptor at the site, where a suspicious package was found, for detonation along Roxas boulevard near the US embassy in Manila.
“We assure the public that this incident should not be a cause for alarm. Business and work continue as normal,” he added.

A bomb was found by a street sweeper in a trash can along the boulevard at past 7 a.m., with parts of the improvised bomb, including an 81-mm mortar, a 9-volt battery, a cellphone, a switch and a blasting cap.

Investigators said the mortar was similar to the one used in the night market bombing in Davao City that killed 15 people in September.

The attack prompted Duterte to declare a state of lawless violence nationwide.

Andanar said that police have already heightened security in Metro Manila.
Members of the Explosive Ordinance Division (EOD) of the Manila Police District Command gather evidence after detonating an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) found near US Embassy along Roxas Boulevard in Manila. Norman Cruz
“To ensure public safety in airports, seaports, bus and mass transport terminals, concerned transport agencies are instructed to increase the visibility and presence of uniformed personnel and heighten the screening of persons and luggage as part of our security vigilance,” he added.

Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa bristled at speculation that the government had orchestrated a bomb threat to pave the way for the declaration of Martial Law.

“For God’s sake, the government will not use an incident that will cause panic, fear and undue harm to its own people to declare martial law,” Dela Rosa told the ABS-CBN network. “We wouldn’t do that. What if our children were hurt in the blast?”

“Think that there is a God watching over all of us, and stop insinuating that the government is behind this,” he said in Filipino

http://thestandard.com.ph/news/headlines/222681/duterte-allays-terror-fears.html

Former GRP panel member airs concern on increased activities of CPP-NPA

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 18): Former GRP panel member airs concern on increased activities of CPP-NPA

A former member of the peace panel of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) talking with the National Democratic Front (NDF) aired his concerns on the increasing activities of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in the countryside of Davao Region.

Ednar Dayanghirang, former member of GRP panel in the past administration, said he observed the increased activities of the NPAs in remote areas in the region particularly now that the unilateral ceasefires from both the government and the NDF are already in place.

Dayanghirang now serves as chairperson of the advisory council of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Davao Region and head of the Multi-Sectoral Advisory Council of the 10th Infantry (Agila) Division of the Philippine Army.

He told reporters on Monday that NPA activities in the region include medical missions, lectures and recruitment of new members.

“Most of these activities are non-violent given that the unilateral ceasefires from both sides are now in place,” he said.

The presence of the unilateral ceasefires also prevented the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to take necessary moves against the NPAs, he added.

Dayanghirang said there must be a declaration of bilateral ceasefire as the peace negotiations between the government and the NDF is pushing through.

“In bilateral ceasefire there is set of rules that must be followed. Complaints against violations from both sides can be filed and investigated,” he pointed out.

He also called on the provincial governments and local government units in Davao region to reach out to their constituencies, especially those who reside in the remotest areas.

Dayanghirang also cited the move of the provincial government of Davao Oriental particularly on the recent launching of its outreach program services to far-flung villages.

“In order for the government to be relevant to the people, it must go to the people,” he said.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=944024

Western Mindanao Command sets race for wounded warriors

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 18): Western Mindanao Command sets race for wounded warriors

The Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) is holding a race on Wednesday, November 30, for the wounded warriors of Mindanao.

Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., Westmincom spokesperson, on Monday said the race dubbed as the “Heroes Run 2: Race for Wounded Warriors of Mindanao” is in commemoration of Andres Bonifacio Day, the father of the Philippine revolution.

Tan said the race would be held in the vicinity of this camp that houses the headquarters of the Westmincom in this southern port city.

He said there would also be a free Zumba session and “static display featuring the gallantry of our soldiers during the activity” in collaboration with the Westmincom Forward Liaison Elements and personnel of the Philippine Army, Philippine Navy and Philippine Air Force.

He said the race would consist of 3-kilometer (km), 5-km and 10-km run for both male and female participants.

Proceeds of the race would be used for the benefit of the soldiers wounded in armed confrontations with lawless groups here in Mindanao, he added.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=943967

2 more troops wounded in latest encounter with Maute Group

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 28): 2 more troops wounded in latest encounter with Maute Group

Two more troopers conducting clearing operations in Maute-infested Butig town, Lanao Del Sur were wounded in a clash early Monday morning, bringing the total of government troops wounded in the ongoing dislodgement operations to six.

This was disclosed by 1st Infantry Division public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Benedicto Manquiquis in a message to the Philippine News Agency.

The clash took place around 6:30 a.m. at the vicinity of Barangay Sundig in Butig, he added.

Troops from the 51st Infantry Battalion, 15th Infantry Battalion, 11th and 15th Division Reconnaissance Companies were conducting clearing operations in Barangay Sundig when they encountered an estimated 30 armed men, triggering a firefight that wounded two members of the 51st Infantry Battalion.

An undetermined number of the bandits were believed killed and wounded in this latest encounter, Manquiquis said.

Since the start of military operations against the Maute Group Saturday, a total of 11 bandits were killed and five wounded.

Dislodgement operations are now ongoing against the terrorists who are holed-up in the abandoned Butig town hall.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=943871

19 Maute members killed in Butig military offensive, 13 troops wounded

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 28): 19 Maute members killed in Butig military offensive, 13 troops wounded

The number of Maute Group bandits killed in the ongoing military offensive in Butig town, Lanao Del Sur has climbed to 19, while 13 militarymen were wounded.

During a briefing, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the number of casualties and wounded were as of noon Monday.

All troops wounded in action were evacuated and undergoing treatment in various medical facilities.

Dislodgement operations are now being conducted by the 103rd Infantry Brigade assisted by armored and artillery units. Also backing these assets are close-air support units spearheaded by SF-260 and OV-10 attack planes by the Air Force.

Padilla said Maute casualties could go higher as government forces are now zeroing in on the old Butig municipal hall and Barangays Sindig and Bayabao where most of the terrorists are holed up.

Maute supporters living in these areas are providing aid to the terrorists.

Padilla expressed hope that areas held by Maute members would be overrun by the military soon.

There are no civilians in the areas as most of them have been evacuated early Friday, he added.

Padilla said the terrorists tried to capture last February the Butig municipal hall only to be foiled by government troops.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=943921

U.S. Embassy in Manila closed on November 30 in Observance of Bonifacio Day

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 28): U.S. Embassy in Manila closed on November 30 in Observance of Bonifacio Day

The U.S. Embassy in the Philippines and its affiliated offices will be closed to the public on Wednesday, November 30, 2016, in observance of the Philippine holiday, Bonifacio Day.

The Embassy and affiliated offices will resume their services to the public on Thursday, December 1, 2016.

 http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=943926

Malacanang calms public after improvised bomb was found near US Embassy

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 28): Malacanang calms public after improvised bomb was found near US Embassy

Malacanang has assured the public that authorities are in control of the situation after a confirmed improvised explosive device (IED) was found and defused near the United States Embassy in Manila Monday morning.

”We assure the public that this incident should not be a cause for alarm. Business and work continue as normal,” Presidential Communications Office (PCO) Secretary Martin Andanar said in a press statement.

Andanar said the Philippine National Police (PNP) is on top of the situation and has beefed up security measures in public places, “especially where there are big crowds.”

”To ensure public safety in airports, seaports, bus and mass transport terminals, concerned transport agencies are instructed to increase the visibility and presence of uniformed personnel and heighten the screening of persons and luggage as part of our security vigilance,” Andanar said.

Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella downplayed suspicion that the discovery of the IED and the movement of the Maute Group “may be laying a foundation for the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.”

He said the opposition lawmakers are “reading too much into the situation.”

”The suspicious circumstances are already being investigated by government security forces,” Abella added.

According to reports, the police bomb squad had safely defused the improvised bomb found at the southbound lane of Roxas Boulevard near the US Embassy.

The discovery of the improvised bomb happened three days after the Maute terror group reportedly occupied an abandoned portion of Butig town in Lanao del Sur last Saturday morning.

This prompted the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to immediately conduct military operations, resulting in the killing of 11 members of the Maute group last Saturday.

Andanar said last Sunday that the AFP will continue to frustrate the sinister objectives of the Maute Group which has long been professing allegiance to international terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or ISIS.

Maute Group is allegedly behind the deadly bombing in Davao City last Sept. 2.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=943925

PNP chief says bomb found near US embassy signature of Maute group

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 28): PNP chief says bomb found near US embassy signature of Maute group

The improvised explosive device (IED) defused this morning along Roxas Boulevard near the United States Embassy was similar to the explosive used in the Davao City blast last Sept. 2, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa said on Monday.

At a press conference in the Manila Police District headquarters, Dela Rosa said initial examination conducted by the PNP Bomb Data Center showed that the IED was similar to the one used by the Maute group during the Davao blast that claimed the lives of 15 civilians and injured 70 others.

”Ibig sabihin ng same signature ay design, composition and the way it is connected,” Dela Rosa said.

He noted that initial examination conducted by the PNP Bomb Data Center showed that the bomb was similar to the one used by the Maute group, a local terror group.

”If you're a determined terrorist, you can deliver the bomb to your intended target... IED could be a diversion from clash with Maute group,” he added.

He did not discount the possibility that planting of the IED could be a handiwork of the Maute group -- the subject of the ongoing military offensive in Butig town, Lanao del Sur province.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=943909

AFP mum on Maute Group involvement on foiled IED attack near US Embassy

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 28): AFP mum on Maute Group involvement on foiled IED attack near US Embassy

While the disarmed improvised explosive device (IED) found near the United States Embassy in Manila may be similar to the bombs being made by the Maute Group, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has declined to comment on the involvement of the bandits on the foiled bombing attack.

"You know the signature of the bomb may be similar to the bomb used by the Maute (Group), so there is (that) possibility but we don't have information to support than yet," AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said Monday.

The IED disarmed near the US Embassy is composed of an 81mm mortar and a cellphone triggering device.

Earlier Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa said the IED is similar to the one detonated in the Sept. 2 Davao City blast which killed 15 people and wounded 70 others.

"The police is very much in charge of the metropolis for security and we defer to them to lead the investigation so let's wait for their findings, so if the Chief, PNP says this, then he must have a basis to have said that, but for us we continue to monitor and we'll just assist," Padilla added.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=943932