Friday, December 9, 2016

Political prisoners in Misamis Oriental stage hunger strike

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 9): Political prisoners in Misamis Oriental stage hunger strike

Political prisoners in Misamis Oriental are now on hunger strike to dramatize their demand for the release of all political prisoners in the country, provincial jail officials here said Friday.

The jail officials identified the political prisoners as Antonio Saliring, Vicente Libona, Rene Lopez, Joel Llagao, and Delan Samonte, all detained at the Misamis Oriental Provincial Jail.

Arnuldo Saliring, who is facing robbery and homicide, said that the hunger strike started Wednesday and would last until Saturday in time for the observance of the Human Rights Day.

He said that the political prisoners skipped breakfast and lunch and only took water as part of the nationwide hunger strike being staged by political prisoners throughout the country.

Vicente Libona, 59, of Gingoog City, was detained for eight years with the same cases as those filed against Saliring.

Libona said he has been in prison for eight years on cases he did not commit and the government did not even bother to review his case.

He said that the political prisoners, who were on hunger strike, were expressing sentiments to remind President Rodrigo Duterte’s about his campaign promise to release all political prisoners in the country.

Libona referred to President Duterte's inauguration speech five months ago, where he announced that he will release all political prisoners in the country.

He said that he hoped that Mr. Duterte would fulfill his promise, especially in the spirit of Christmas this year.

Asked about his Christmas wish, Libona said, “My Christmas wish is the freedom of the political prisoners in the country.”

Troops arrest Abu Sayyaf member in Zamboanga City

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 9): Troops arrest Abu Sayyaf member in Zamboanga City

Police here announced on Friday the arrest of an Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) member involved in a raid of a plantation in Basilan province 15 years ago.

Chief Supt. Billy Beltran, Police Regional Office-9 (PRO-9) director, identified the arrested suspect as Ahmad Adil, who carries the aliases of Abu Umbra and Abdulrakman Zacaria.

Beltran said joint police and military operatives have arrested Adil around 12:20 p.m. Thursday in Barangay Mampang, sitauted some six kilometers east of this city.

Beltran said Adil has standing warrant of arrest for the crime of kidnapping and serious illegal detention for his alleged involvement in the raid of the Golden Harvest Plantation in June 2001 in Barangay Tairan, Lantawan, Basilan province.

During the raid, the Abu Sayyaf bandits beheaded nine of the 30 plantation workers they seized and shot to death another one.

The rest of the workers were either rescued or have escaped at the height of military pursuit operations launched against the bandit group.

Beltran said Adil was detained prior to his turnover to court authorities.

Adil’s arrest came after Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar has ordered the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office to enforce safety and security augmentation plan for the locality.

“My instruction always is to strengthen and tighten security in response to threats of terrorism, extremism and fundamentalism,” the mayor said.

US Ambassador to PHL wants to visit Davao City

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 9): US Ambassador to PHL wants to visit Davao City

After meeting President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacanang Palace, US Ambassador to Manila Sung Kim on Friday said he is eager to visit Davao City, the hometown of the chief executive.

In a chance interview, Kim said he is now arranging his schedule to visit other tourist spots and most visited places in the country but he wants to prioritize Davao City.

“I am planning to visit Davao City by next week. I want to know more about the culture of Filipinos in this part of Mindanao,” Kim said.

He recalled that the last time he visited the Philippines was 25 years ago, as he claimed that he is looking forward to revisit Davao City to see the progress in the President’s hometown.

The Korean–born US Ambassador said he was given extra hour by President Duterte when he made a courtesy call and presented his credentials.

“It was terrific. The president was kind enough to give me a lot of time and we were able to cover a whole range of issues-- important issues regarding US-PHL partnership. I think it was a terrific start.

I’m very much looking forward to work with President Duterte and his team to strengthen our special partnership,” the chief US envoy in Manila stressed.

Asked how he gauged the Philippines-US relations, Kim said he had said many times that the relationship of the two nations is one of most enjoyed and most special.

“I’m deeply committed to do everything possible to make sure to strengthen all of the important aspects of this relationship. And there are many different dimensions of this of course, we have a rock solid alliance. Very strong economic engagement, long enforcement cooperation etc.,” he explained.

He said that his plan and commitment is to make sure “to strengthen and deepen all aspects of our relationship.”

“So, I’m sure you can expect that relationship will continue to grow,” he pointed out.

When asked how he will strengthen the US-PHL relations under the Trump administration, Kim said he sees “US-PHL relationship is one of their most enduring because this relationship has enjoyed very strong support and strong commitment throughout the past 70 years of our alliance.”

“I think there’s a wide recognition in Washington that this is an important relationship that sends mutual interest, so I expect that with the new administration, we will see similar type of strong commitment to this relationship,” he noted.

“I think it reflects the deep bond between the people of the two countries. There’s a very close friendship, I mean four million Filipino Americans residing in the US, over quarter of million Americans residing here. So my impression in five days here is I’m very, very excited to be here," he pointed out.

Meantime, Kim said his dream as a diplomat is to be the first US Ambassador to Korea.

“... obviously for me to go back to Korea as the first Korean US Ambassdor. Korea is very special to me, but I have to confess, I am also super excited about being here, I have visited the Philippines many years ago, and I have been struck by the energy and the beauty of the Philippines and I want to come back. It took me 25 years, but I’m back and it's good to be back here,” he concluded.

Trooper killed along with 2 ASG bandits in fresh Sulu clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 9): Trooper killed along with 2 ASG bandits in fresh Sulu clash

A trooper from the 21st Infantry Battalion was killed along with Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits following a clash with an estimated 150 terrorists in Patikul, Sulu Thursday morning.

Western Mindanao Command spokesperson Major Filemon Tan said the encounter transpired at 9:53 a.m. at Sitio Datag, Barangay Panglayahan of the above-mentioned locality.

Troopers from the 21st Infantry Battalion were conducting focused military operations in the area when they encountered ASG terrorists under Radullan Sahiron, Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan and Mujer Yadah.

Fighting lasted for 30 minutes and resulted in the death of Staff Sgt. Allan Caliguran, while the terrorists had two casualties and six wounded.

Around 12 noon of the same day, pursuit troops recovered an M-14 magazine and empty cartridges.
At around 3 p.m., patrolling troops also discovered newly abandoned harbor position which can accommodate more or less 100 bandits at Sitio Kan Baddal, Barangay Panglayahan, Patikul, Sulu believed to have been occupied by the engaged enemy.

"Troops further observed fresh enemy tracks towards southwest," Tan said.

Plans to decommission Navy World War II vintage ships now afoot

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 9): Plans to decommission Navy World War II vintage ships now afoot

As more modern naval platforms are procured and commissioned, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said plans are afoot to decommission World War II vintage ships still in service in the Philippine Navy.

He made this statement during Friday's welcoming ceremonies for BRP Andres Bonifacio (FF-17), the country's third Hamilton-class cutter.

Deactivation of these senior vessels will allow the Navy sufficient personnel to man ships coming from the pipeline and thus ensure a more capable and credible naval force.

World War II ships in PN service include the BRP Rajah Humabon, BRP Rizal, BRP Malvar, BRP Quezon and the BRP Laguna among others.

Former SAF trooper tops NAPOLCOM PESE exam

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 9): Former SAF trooper tops NAPOLCOM PESE exam

Police Supt. Wildemar Tan Tiu, a BS Civil Engineering graduate and member of the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) Sambigkis Class of 2003, is this year’s topnotcher in the Police Executive Service Eligibility (PESE) validation interview phase administered by the National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM) for the third level ranks in the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Tiu, Deputy Chief of the Permit to Carry Firearm Outside of Residence (PTCFOR) Unit under the Office of the Chief, PNP, placed first among the 259 senior police officials who passed the validation interview phase of the PES Eligibility process.

This was disclosed by NAPOLCOM Vice-Chairman and Executive Officer Rogelio T. Casurao as he announced the 10th PESE Conferment Rites on Dec. 12, 2016, which will be held at the Jesse M. Robredo Hall, DILG-NAPOLCOM Center in Quezon City, with DILG Secretary and NAPOLCOM Chairman Ismael D. Sueno as the Guest of Honor and Speaker.

Tiu has remarkable academic credentials. Aside from being a licensed Civil Engineer, he also has two master’s degrees in Public Administration (MPA) and Business Administration (MBA). He is also a recipient of numerous awards and commendations in his 16 years of dedicated police service.

Prior to his present assignment at the PTCFOR Unit, Tiu served as Station Commander of Police Stations 2, 3 and 4 of Cebu City Police Office and assigned at the Headquarters Cebu City Police. He also served five years at the PNP Special Action Force (Air Unit, Human Resource Doctrine and Development and Rapid Deployment Battalion).

Vice-Chairman Casurao said that the 259 passers represent 90.56 percent of the 286 police officials who underwent the validation interview, which is the second and final phase of the PES eligibility process.

The PESE, which has two phases --the written exam and the panel interview -- is an eligibility requirement for the ranks of Police Senior Superintendent, Police Chief Superintendent, Police Director, Police Deputy Director General and Police Director General.

The complete list of PESE conferees can be viewed at the NAPOLCOM website at

GRP panel reiterates commitment on amnesty, release of detained communist rebels

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 9): GRP panel reiterates commitment on amnesty, release of detained communist rebels

The government (GRP) panel negotiating peace with the National Democratic Front (NDF) upheld its commitment in facilitating the issuance of an amnesty proclamation and the release of detained communist rebels.

Panel members Rene Sarmiento and Angela Librado-Trinidad highlighted the efforts being exerted by the government in fulfilling its obligation to the GRP-NDF peace process to the members of the Special Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity of the House of Representatives during a congressional hearing.

Librado-Trinidad underscored that both parties agreed in their joint statements last August 26 and October 9 that the GRP panel will recommend to President Rodrigo R. Duterte the release of detainees based on humanitarian grounds and the promulgation of an amnesty proclamation.

“The GRP already made the initiatives after the August 26 talks. We amended the guidelines of the Presidential Committee on Bail, Recognizance, and Pardon (PCBReP), which will be the platform on the release of detainees based on humanitarian grounds. We already drafted the amnesty proclamation and submitted it to the president last September,” Librado-Trinidad explained.

The new rules of the PCBReP will now cover the commission of the crime that took place on or before July 1 this year; while, the amnesty proclamation is already being reviewed by the Office of the President.

Librado-Trinidad also updated the legislators on the status of the prisoners to be released based on humanitarian grounds.

“When we say humanitarian grounds, these are prisoners which are categorized either as sickly, elderly, or those who have been detained for a long period of time, and women,” she clarified.

“The panels have been collating all the information with respect to this effort so that a substantial number of prisoners will be released before we resume our talks in January next year,” Librado-Trinidad added.

Last December 2, President Duterte granted presidential pardon to four communist rebels convicted of murder and kidnapping who have long been recommended for pardon but not acted upon by the previous administration.

“President Duterte never abandons his position that he will grant amnesty and on the release of the detainees,” Librado-Trinidad stated.

Meanwhile, the House Special Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity started its deliberations on the amnesty bill submitted by Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the house resolutions calling for the immediate releases of prisoners.

Arroyo, who is also the House deputy speaker, filed House Bill No. 490 seeks to grant amnesty for the members of the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/NDF and other individuals involved in past political conflicts.

Sarmiento lauded the members of the Lower House for proactively initiating an amnesty proclamation for the rebels.

Under the 1987 Philippine Constitution, the granting of amnesty is lodged to the President with the concurrence of both chambers of Congress.

“There is no prohibition in the Constitution that says Congress cannot initiate an amnesty measure,” Sarmiento, who is also one of the framers of the Constitution, underlined.

“There is always reference to Congress in so far as the amnesty is concerned. In other words, we will listen to Congress and seek their recommendations. This is not setting aside the role of Congress when amnesty proclamation is concerned,” he added.

For her part, Tawi-Tawi Representative and committee chairperson Ruby Sahali assured the government panel to hastily work on the proposed amnesty measure.

“I really wanted this masterpiece to be the legacy for the 17th Congress,” Sahali pointed out.

Philippines: 2 Abu Sayyaf, army soldier die in clashes

From the World Bulletin (Dec 9): Philippines: 2 Abu Sayyaf, army soldier die in clashes

At least two ISIL-linked militants and a soldier have been killed, while six others have been injured in clashes in the majority Muslim province of Sulu, the military said Friday.

Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., spokesman for the military's Western Mindanao Command, said in a statement that a 30-minute firefight occurred in Sitio Datag, Barangay Panglayahan in Patikul at 9.30 a.m. (0130GMT) Thursday.

"Members of the 21st Infantry Battalion were conducting a focused military operation when they encountered about 150 Abu Sayyaf members led by Abu Sayyaf leader Radullan Sarhiron," Tan said.

Sahiron, the one-armed most senior Abu Sayyaf leader, has a $1 million bounty on his head for alleged involvement in the kidnapping of U.S. tourists in 2001.

"The number of casualties on the Abu Sayyaf's side was based on an intelligence report," Tan said adding that the troops recovered an M14 rifle magazine and an empty M14 cartridge from the site of the encounter.

"Soldiers also found a newly-abandoned harbor position believed to have been occupied by the Abu Sayyaf members."

Tan added that authorities are currently verifying reports with Malaysian counterparts of an armed confrontation between Malaysian forces and suspected Filipino gunmen involved in cross-border kidnappings.

The Star online reported Friday that three suspected kidnappers were shot dead and three others captured in a 20-minute gunfight between the police’s Tiger Platoon and eight gunmen in waters off Pulau Bodgaya in Semporna at 9.40 p.m. Thursday.

According to Tan, the military is still verifying a report that three Filipinos suspected of involvement in kidnappings in Sabah and nearby areas were killed.

The report claimed that the whereabouts of the two other suspects could not be immediately ascertained as security personnel continue to comb the area.

Kidnap-for-ransom gangs frequently operate in the seas between the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia.

They are known to hand over their captives to the Abu Sayyaf and negotiate for a ransom that, if paid, is shared with the group.

Earlier this year, the Abu Sayyaf beheaded two Canadian hostages after million-dollar ransoms failed to be paid.

Since 1991, the group -- armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles -- has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortion in a self-determined fight for an independent province in the Philippines.

It is one of two militant groups in the south to have pledged allegiance to ISIL, prompting fears during the stalling of a peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that it could make inroads in a region torn by decades of armed conflict.

Sabah maritime kidnapping, looting ends in bloody shootout; Three dead, two missing

From the New Straits Times Online (Dec 9): Sabah maritime kidnapping, looting ends in bloody shootout; Three dead, two missing

The most beautiful waters in the world were the unlikely setting for an orgy of violence, and a deadly confrontation between bloodthirsty, modern-day pirates and fearless law enforcement personnel here last night.

Seven armed bandits in a speedboat took to the waters of Lahad Datu and Semporna and engaged in wanton hijacking, theft, kidnapping and murder on a scale never before seen here, with the crew of fishing trawlers taking the brunt of their brutality.

And although much of it occurred in the pitch blackness of night, the tension and terror were palpable for everyone involved.

The bandits began their rampage in the Bakapit waters of Lahad Datu, where they stormed and commandeered a fishing trawler at around 9pm. The vessel was ransacked and several items, including a mobile phone, were looted; and one member of the crew was abducted, and taken with the men on their continuing spree of violence.

The gang then cruised into Semporna waters, where they encountered a second hapless fishing boat near Pulau Gaya, which they also boarded, taking with them food items and an outboard engine – and leaving the crew stranded.

Several nautical miles later, the bandits came across another defenceless fishing trawler, which they summarily stripped of valuable items, and from which they plucked a second hostage.

As far as the bandits were concerned, the night was far from over, as they were intent on pilfering from many more boats – but when they approached a fourth vessel not long after, little did they know that they had unwittingly led themselves to the boat of the not-to-be-messed-with GOF Battalion 14's Tiger Platoon.

When they realised too late what they were facing, the bandits opened fire, which led to a minute-long shootout – in complete darkness.

"The kidnap group intended to find other boats to steal from, until their vessel (unwittingly) approached the boat of the GOF Battalion 14's Tiger Platoon.

"As they drew closer, the Platoon leader saw clearly that one of the kidnappers was holding a long firearm, and another was carrying what looked like a heavy weapon, while a third was laden with chains of bullets around his body,” said Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Abd Rashid Harun.

Realising the threat, the officers shouted “Police!” to force the group to identify themselves. However, upon hearing the word, shots were fired from the kidnappers' boat.

"The security team returned fire to defend themselves, and I was told the exchange lasted about one minute," Rashid added at a press conference at the district police station here.

When the skirmish ended, the kidnappers’ bullet-riddled boat began to sink, and upon closer examination, three of the criminals were found dead, floating on the water, while two were still alive, and another had disappeared, specifically, the member with the chains of bullets, he added.

Rashid said one kidnap victim from the Lahad Datu incident was rescued, while the second is still missing and the search and rescue operation continues.

He said at the time, the GOF members involved were conducting an Ops Coral stint to ensure safety in zones under the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom), which was initiated in Sept.

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Abd Rashid Harun said that the group opened fire once they heard the officers shouting "police"  Pix by Abdul Rahemang Taiming

Two of the suspects hanging by the boat. Pix courtesy of NST reader.

Three ‘abductors’ shot dead, two arrested off Sabah

Posted to Malaysiakini (Dec 9): Three ‘abductors’ shot dead, two arrested off Sabah

Security forces shot dead three of seven abductors, believed to be from southern Philippines, in a shootout in Pulau Gaya waters off Semporna last night.

Sabah Police Commissioner Abdul Rashid Harun said the security forces arrested two of the other four abductors and freed one of two captives, both skippers of fishing vessels.

The remaining two abductors and the other captive went missing following the clash with General Operations Force (GOF) personnel at about 9pm, he said at a press conference in Semporna.

“During the shootout, the two captives - abducted in the waters of Bekapit in Lahad Datu and Pulau Gaya - were on board the abductors’ vessel.

“One of them was found on board after the shootout but the other and two of the abductors were missing,” he said.

Relating what happened, Abdul Rashid said the seven abductors who came in a boat abducted the skipper of a fishing vessel, in his 30s, in the Bekapit waters in Lahad Datu.

“The abductors destroyed the telecommunications equipment on board the fishing vessel and proceeded towards Semporna waters.

“They then came across another fishing vessel but were only able to take the outboard engine as all the fishermen on board jumped into the sea to escape abduction,” he said.

He said the abductors came across another boat and kidnapped the skipper, also in his 30s.

Abdul Rashid said the abductors then came across another fishing vessel, unaware that on board was a Tiger Platoon unit of the GOF that was conducting the ‘Op Coral’ operation in Pulau Gaya waters.

'Shootout ensued for one minute'

The head of the security forces unit spotted the abductors and the heavy firearms they were carrying, with one of them having ammunition strapped around his body, he said.

"He shouted 'police' and the abductors opened fire. The security forces personnel returned fire in defence and a shootout ensued for one minute and the abductors' boat began to sink slowly," he said.

The security forces personnel went on board the sinking boat and found three abductors dead and arrested two others, he said, adding that they also found one of the captives safe.

"Two other abductors and a captive are missing. We are looking for them," he said.

Abdul Rashid said one of the security forces personnel, a lance corporal, was injured in the right leg during the shootout and had been sent to hospital.

Bernama found out later that the policeman from Sarawak is in stable condition.

Abdul Rashid advised people on the nearby islands who happened to come across any suspicious men with someone who may look like a captive to report to the nearest police station.

He also said that the 'Op Coral' exercise was a special operation undertaken in September to fight crime in the nation's waters and provide security on the islands.
"The success against the abductors can be attributed to the cooperation with EssCom (Eastern Sabah Security Command) where the Malaysian Armed Forces, police and Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency are represented," he said.

At a hospital in Semporna, the injured Sarawak lance corporal said he did not realise he had been shot until after the shootout.

"I did not feel any pain but after the shootout my leg went numb and I had to bandage the wound," he said.

He said he was grateful that all his colleagues were safe and that the abduction for ransom was foiled.
- Bernama

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