Friday, December 23, 2016

Stalked by Death: Indigenous Lumad killings continue in the Philippines

From the Asian Correspondent (Dec 23): Stalked by Death: Indigenous Lumad killings continue in the Philippines

A Lumad man raises his first during a rally. Source: Mark Ambay III/IPMSDL)

THE Lumad peoples of the southern Philippine island of Mindanao are composed of 18 different ethnolingustic groups, including the B’laan, Higaonon, Manobo and Subanon peoples. They are some of the poorest people in the country despite the fact that their ancestral lands are some of the most fertile lands on the island and much of the mineral resources of Mindanao are located within their territories.

For years, the Lumad have been fighting an uphill battle to retain control of their ancestral territories against corporate encroachment, plunder and militarization. This struggle has resulted in hundreds, if not thousands, of Lumad deaths, many falling victim to extrajudicial killings perpetrated by military, paramilitary and private security forces. Most of these abuses, however, have gone unpunished.

The new Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, the first one to hail from Mindanao, is a known supporter of the fight against Lumad killings. Despite the promise of change, death still haunts the Lumad of Mindanao.

Deadly history

When Gloria Macapagal Arroyo stepped down in 2010 after being president of the Philippines for nine years, she left behind a bloody trail of Lumad killings. Human rights organization Karapatan documented a total of 89 cases of extrajudicial killings of indigenous peoples during the Arroyo administration, and many of these were Lumad.

Her successor, Benigno Aquino III, had a worse human rights record–102 indigenous people were killed during his six-year term. According to a shadow report submitted to the United Nations in late 2016, 87 of the IP killings involved the Lumad. Some of the most gruesome killings of Lumad happened during his term.

On Oct 18, 2012, soldiers under the 27th Infantry Battalion (IB) of the Philippine Army (PA) strafed the house of B’laan anti-mining resistance leader Daguil Capion in the village of Bong Mal in Tampakan town, South Cotabato province. Capion was injured but managed to escape, but his pregnant wife Juvy, 27, and their children Pop, 13, and Janjan,8, died in the shooting incident.
Soldiers also brought the remains of the dead out of the house, an act which violated the B’laan culture. Among the B’laans, it is considered taboo for non-relatives to disturb the remains of the dead.

On the afternoon of Aug 18, 2015, Datu Herminio Samia, 70, his children Joebert, 20, and Emir, 19, as well as his other relatives Elmer, 17, and Norman, 13, were killed by members of the 1st Special Forces Battalion in Sitio Mando, Brgy. Mendis, Pangantucan town in Bukidnon province.

According to the lone survivor of the incident, the 15-year-old son of Datu Herminio, the five victims, who were members of the Manobo tribe, were shot one by one by the soldiers.. The military, on the other hand, claimed the five were all members of the New People’s Army and what transpired was a legitimate armed encounter between the military and the Communist rebels.

A B’laan woman (left) joins other Lumad during the Manilakbayan (Journey to Manila) in October 2016. About 500 B’laans joined the protest caravan in Manila, Philipppines to demand justice for abuses committed by Sagittarus Mines, Inc. Source: Mark Ambay III/IPMSDL)
Paramilitary forces also went on a killing spree in the town of Lianga in Surigao del Sur province. At 4am on Sept 1, 2015, members of the Magahat-Bagani Force woke up residents of Diatagon village in Lianga, Surigao del Sur and forced them to gather in the village square. There, the Magahat-Bagani shot and killed Datu Dionel Campos, 41, and Datu Jovello Sinzo, 69. Residents rushed to the house of Emerito Samarca, 54, only to find him dead, as well.

Samarca was executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV), an award-winning non-government organization that ran a school for indigenous people in the area. Campos and Sinzo were tribal chieftains who had repeatedly called for the disbandment of paramilitary forces in the province.

Is change coming?

Duterte handily won the presidency with a promise of change, with his predecessor’s administration widely seen as corrupt, inept, elitist, and insensitive to the plight of ordinary Filipinos. In his inaugural address, Duterte stated his inclination of inclusion of indigenous peoples’ interests and agenda, especially the Lumad, in the peace process with the National Democratic Front (NDF) and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which is waging the longest-running Maoist revolution in the world and which counts many Lumad as fighters of the New People’s Army (NPA), its armed wing.

Yet nearly six months into his term as president, at least ten cases of extrajudicial killings of Lumad have already taken place.

On July 12, three Higaonon men were shot and killed by private security forces employed by Ramcar, Inc., in Brgy. Lupiagan, Sumilao, Bukidnon. The killed Higaonons were members of the Sitio Inalsahan Indigenous Peoples Organization, which has an ongoing land dispute with Ramcar, a company engaged in cattle ranching. The site of Ramcar’s ranch is well within the ancestral lands of the Higaonon of Lupiagan.

On July 15, only three days after the killings in Sumilao, motorcycle-riding men fired at Bagobo tribal leader Hermie Alegre, 31, in Tugbok district, Davao City. Alegre died en route to the hospital. He was the chairperson of the Kahugpungan sa mga Lumad, an organization of Bagobo people engaged in a land dispute with the religious group Jesus Christ: A Name Above Every Name. The indigenous rights organization PASAKA pointed to the 84th IBPA and the paramilitary group Alamara as perpetrators of the shooting incident.

A pregnant Tigwahanon Manobo woman died and five others were injured when members of the paramilitary group New Indigenous Peoples Army for Reforms (NIPAR) rained bullets on Manobo people celebrating a wedding in the village of Tibugawan, Brgy. Kawayan, San Fernando, Bukidnon on July 30, 2016. Butsoy Salusad, the head of NIPAR, has also been tagged  as behind the killing of Matigsalog tribal leader Jimmy Liguyon in 2012. An arrest warrant was issued for his arrest, but police and military forces have so far failed to enforce the warrant, and Salusad was even seen together with military and police personnel on different occasions despite the warrant.

Two Banwaon indigenous rights activists were also shot dead in separate incidents on Aug 12, 2016, in the town of San Luis, Agusan del Sur. Jerry Loyola, 42, went to answer a knock on the door of his house in Brgy. Balit and was shot three times in the chest. He died instantly. Not even an hour later, Jimmy Barosa of Brgy. Kasilayan was also shot in the back while taking a rest in front of his house. Both attackers fled on motorcycles afterwards. Both were members of the organization Tagdumahan, which was actively campaigning against the entry of mining and logging companies on Banwaon ancestral territories. Tagdumahan has been tagged by the Philippine Army as supporters of the NPA and its members had been repeatedly harassed by paramilitary groups.

In Compostela Valley, anti-mining activist Jimmy Liguyon was shot by two motorcycle-riding men in the town Montevista in Compostela Valley province on Oct, 10, 2016. Liguyon, a member of the Mandaya tribe, managed to ask for help from bystanders and was rushed to the hospital in Compostela town and then transferred to another hospital in Tagum City, where he died the next day. Liguyon was an officer of the Comval Farmers Association and actively campaigned against entry of the Agusan Minerals and Petroleum Corporation in Compostela town, and was also a critic of the human rights abuses committed by the 66th IBPA.

Three days later, another anti-mining Lumad activist was killed in Compostela Valley province. Joselito Pasaporte, a member of the Mansaka tribe and the group Panalipdan Youth, was shot dead in front of the Mabini town cockpit by an unidentified gunman. Police investigators said Pasaporte was number 6 on its druglist and his killing was most probably drug-related. Human rights group Karapatan refuted police claims, saying the military was behind the slaying of Pasaporte because of his stand against large-scale mining.

No policy changes yet

Activists have lauded many of Duterte’s statements and proposed policy changes as being pro-people, such as his criticism of American intervention in Philippine affairs as well as appointment of several progressives into his Cabinet. Yet they have also remained critical of his other programs, such as his anti-drug war which has already claimed the lives of at least 5,000 suspected drug users and criminals.

Duterte’s predecessor Aquino’s Internal Security Plan, Oplan Bayanihan, has been widely criticized by different groups as the template of state-sponsored terrorism and extrajudicial killings. Despite calls for its scrapping, Duterte has yet to implement a new security plan in exchange for the one he inherited. As such, human rights remains a sensitive issue for the Duterte administration.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte walks with cadets of the Philippine Military Academy during the Armed Forces anniversary celebration at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon city, Metro Manila Dec 21. Pic: Reuters
“Human rights violations in Mindanao continue to rise amidst the peace process,” said Barug Katungod Mindanao in a statement.

Extrajudicial killings of Lumad and other activists are being done “through the continued implementation of Oplan Bayanihan and in the guise of community peace and development program (COPD),” it also added.

In addition, some see Duterte’s pronouncements as just talk, with no actual policy changes being implemented. Despite his statement regarding putting a stop to the proliferation of paramilitary groups in the country, especially in Mindanao, no paramilitary group has been dismantled and disbanded.

Until and unless Duterte follows through his promises of change with concrete action and scrapping of government policies such as Oplan Bayanihan, the killings of the Lumad peoples of Mindanao will continue.

[This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of Asian Correspondent
The original article was first published by the Mindanao Interfaith Institute on Lumad Studies with the support of the European Union and Healing the Hurt project of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Region.]

Army commander assures Reds they can spend Christmas with kin

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 22): Army commander assures Reds they can spend Christmas with kin

New People’s Army rebels in Mindanao. DENNIS JAY SANTOS / INQUIRER MINDANAO

New People’s Army rebels in Mindanao. DENNIS JAY SANTOS / INQUIRER MINDANAO

A military commander who has jurisdiction over provinces where the New People’s Army operates has reassured guerrillas they could celebrate Christmas with their families and be safe from arrests.

Earlier, President Duterte urged NPA rebels to come home and enjoy Christmas with their loved ones.

Lt. Col. Ronnie Babac, commander of the Army’s 73rd Infantry Battalion based in Malita, Davao Occidental, said NPA rebels going home would not be accosted if they did not carry firearms with them because of the existing truce.

“Take the opportunity of the declared ceasefire between the GRP and CPP-NPA-NDF (CNN – Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines),” Babac said.

The NPA has not responded as of yet. Emails sent by the Philippine Daily Inquirer to NPA spokespersons remained unanswered as of Thursday.

“This yuletide season, we are welcoming our NPA brothers to take this chance of visiting their loved ones and feel the spirit of Christmas peacefully in their home without fear of being arrested as our unit is in all out support for the ongoing Peace Talks and ceasefire with the CNN,” he added.

Babac’s unit has jurisdiction over Sarangani and Davao del Sur provinces, where the NPA has been accused of staging attacks in recent months, including the recent burning of Yellow Bus units, and last week’s attack on a batching plant in Digos City.

Babac said “With the resumption of the peace talks with the CNN, military activities such as combat operations have discontinued and priority efforts of the unit have shifted to peace and development efforts.”

Despite the truce, the NPA was being accused of staging attacks against companies not giving in to its “extortion demand.”

Chief Supt. Manuel Gaerlan, the Southern Mindanao police chief, said a lot of businessmen have complained to him that “people introducing themselves as NPA rebels” have been asking “Christmas gifts and extra bonus.”

“The catch is if they would not give, their heavy equipment will be burned or businesses harassed,” Gaerlan told reporters here.

He said the police was not immediately concluding that those behind the extortion efforts were indeed rebels.

“But the NPA should issue a statement on these (attacks) because if not, it would appear that it was part of their ideology,” Gaerlan added.

He said to help businessmen feel more secure, the police has coordinated with the military on the conduct of more patrols and other preventive actions.

“But we cannot deploy policemen to each business establishment. Only general protection because if we provide them policemen, we would be accused of favoring one company,” Gaerlan added.

Frank Fernandez alive

From the Visayan Daily Star (Dec 23): Frank Fernandez alive

ka Frank

Ka Frank Fernandez (center) answers questions from the media somewhere in southern Negros yesterday* ( Shiela Gelera photo )

The elusive Frank Fernandez, a former priest-turned spokesperson of the National Democratic Front in Negros, who was rumored to be dead, is alive and well.

Contrary to reports that he was ailing and dying, Fernandez yesterday challenged Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr., 81, to a marathon in the mountains going to their guerrilla camp.

Fernandez answered questions from the media in a clandestine press conference at a peace forum somewhere in southern Negros,which was also attended by his wife Cleofe Lagtapon and KaJuanito Magbanua of the New People's Army.

In 2014, Marañon had offered to provide medical assistance to the reportedly ailing Fernandez, who was also tagged by the military as the secretary of the Komiteng Rehiyonal-Negros.

Fernandez said their enemies may think that if he dies, the force of the rebels will weaken, but it will not.

“The people know that the revolutionary movement is alive, not because of Frank Fernandez, but the masses keep the revolution alive,” he said.

As one ages, Fernandez said, illnesses can occur, but the ones he had are only minor and could be managed by their medical staff.

Fernandez's last public appearance was reportedly 30 years ago during peace talks in Bacolod City between the rebels and the administration of late president Corazon Aquino in 1986.

Tagged by the military as the number 1 most wanted rebel in Negros, Fernandez is facing murder and frustrated murder charges, and there is a P7.8 million bounty for his arrest.

Meanwhile, asked to rate President Rodrigo Duterte in his first six months performance, being 1 as the lowest and 10 as the highest, Fernandez said it is 5.

Duterte considers the United States as his number one enemy, but being anti-US is not enough, since many Filipinos are still working and staying in US. He should also end the capitalist system which is an evil itself, Fernandez said.

Security in South Cotabato tightened as fourth bus since Nov torched

From InterAksyon (Dec 23): Security in South Cotabato tightened as fourth bus since Nov torched

File photo shows a bus burned by gunmen in Koranadal

Authorities have begun stricter security measures in South Cotabato after yet another bus, the fourth since last month, was burned by still unidentified gunmen Wednesday night along a busy street in Koronadal City.

The burning of the Husky Bus unit, owned by the General Santos City-based BIOCOOP transport services, happened around 7:15 p.m. along the national highway in Barangay Morales, Superintendent Franklin Alvero, South Cotabato police director, said.

The bus, which was traveling from Cotabato City to General Santos City, was the second owned by the firm to be torched.

Quoting witnesses, police said a man boarded the bus in Tacurong City and, on reaching Barangay Morales, asked the driver to stop the bus so he could get off. When the driver pulled over, between six to eight men armed with handguns hopped in and ordered him to leave.

The man who got on at Tacurong asked other passengers to alight with him because the bus would be burned and then the other men doused the vehicle with gasoline and set it on fire.

Mayor Peter Miguel called the arson “well planned” but said the attackers could be from outside the city.

On November 27, gunmen burned a Husky bus in Tantangan, South Cotabato.

Two other buses, owned by Yellow Bus Lines, were torched by men who claimed to be communist guerillas in Tupi and Sto. Nino towns.

YBL has lost four buses since November 13, with two units burned in Kiamba, Sarangani, and Magsaysay, Davao del Sur, since last month.

Aside from buses, gunmen claiming to be New People’s Army guerrillas also set ablaze construction and quarry equipment in Koronadal City last week and a Dole Philippines banana plantation packing plant in Surallah, South Cotabato.

However, the men involved in the Koronadal bus arson did not identify themselves as rebels.

Negros rebels ‘eager to strike’ over abuses but will abide by ceasefire - NPA commander

From InterAksyon (Dec 23): Negros rebels ‘eager to strike’ over abuses but will abide by ceasefire - NPA commander

Negros rebel leaders Juanito Magbanua of the New People's Army (right) and former priest Frank Fernandez of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines talk to journalists at a grassroots peace forum in Central Negrs. (photo by Nonoy Espina,

Communist rebels on Negros are “eager” to carry out operations against government security forces but are abiding by their unilateral ceasefire despite military abuses in communities within their hinterland base areas, the commander of the New People’s Army on the island said.

Speaking to reporters Thursday at a grassroots peace forum in a mountain village ahead of the 49th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines, Ka Juanito Magbanua said were it not for the unilateral ceasefire declared by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in August for the resumption of formal peace negotiations with the Duterte administration, “we would definitely be carrying out tactical operations.”

In fact, Magbanua said, “we had to postpone several operations because of the ceasefire declaration.”

The government also declared its own unilateral ceasefire but rebel formations in many regions of the country have reported continued violations by the military, from combat and intelligence operations  disguised as civil-military or “peace and development” actions to the actual occupation of communities, including public facilities like schools, daycare and health centers, chapels, and village halls.

An NPA guerrilla with a dove pasted on his cheek mans a rebel checkpoint during a grassroots peace forum in Central Negros. (photo by Nonoy Espina,

Magbanua said it has been no different in Negros where “we have received reports of widespread violations of the (government) unilateral ceasefire” all over the island.

In fact, Magbanua said, a week earlier, they had to move the venue of their peace forum after government troops “occupied” the village originally chosen as the venue and “occupied the chapel, the gym, barangay hall” and other facilities and conducted a “census” during which “they interrogated residents, asking who the leaders of mass organizations were and also who among their relatives have joined the NPA.”

“It’s been very, very difficult for the comrades because we are strictly observing our ceasefire and choose to take evasive maneuvers despite the dangers to ourselves, although the NPA is very eager to mount tactical operations because of the continuing military abuses,” he said.

He said just before the rebels declared their ceasefire, “we already had several targets for our operations but had to postpone these because we wish the peace talks to succeed, not for the CPP or the NPA or the NDFP but for the people.”

An NPA guerrilla stands guard as people gather for a grassroots peace forum in Central Negros. (photo by Nonoy Espina,

PROOF OF LIFE | Elusive Negros priest-turned-rebel Frank Fernandez goes public again after 3 decades

From InterAksyon (Dec 23): PROOF OF LIFE | Elusive Negros priest-turned-rebel Frank Fernandez goes public again after 3 decades

Government wanted posters show a picture lifted from the news of a mustachioed, middle-aged man, one of the communist rebel leaders on Negros who marched through the streets of Bacolod City during the ill-fated peace talks with the administration of the late President Corazon Aquino in 1986.

Over the next three decades, Frank Fernandez, a former Catholic priest, has been declared several times by the military to be either dead or suffering from a serious or terminal illness of one sort or the other, even as he continued to be the voice of the revolutionary movement on the central Philippine island.

On Thursday, December 22, at a grassroots peace forum organized by the rebels in a mountain village in Central Negros, Frank Fernandez, who has acted as spokesman of the National Democratic Front on the island since the early 1990s, when he gave up a national leadership position in the underground organization and returned to oversee the revolutionary movement’s recovery from a disastrous rift that had decimated its ranks, allowed his face to be photographed again by media.

While visibly older -- he is in his 70s now -- appeared healthy, his body lean, his movements belying his age. Journalists who have covered him over the years said he actually looked much healthier than he did two decades ago.

He jokingly said claims about his premature demise or infirmities “are probably so they (the military) can collect the P5-million, now P10-million I hear, bounty on my head” but, turning serious, said these “are part of the psychological warfare component” of the counterinsurgency campaign, mainly spread in the hopes of sowing demoralization among the rebels and their supporters.

An NPA platoon presents arms as the communist anthem 'Internationale' is sung during a grassroots peace forum in Central Negros. (photo by Nonoy Espina,

Abi nila kun mapatay si Frank Fernandez, may epekto sa rebolusyon (They think if Frank Fernandez dies, it will affect the revolution),” he said, adding this was probably why Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Maranon Jr., who is 81, “repeatedly claims I am ailing.”

“Everyone dies,” Fernandez said. “But look around you, look at all the young people who are here in the NPA (New People’s Army) and the revolutionary masses. The people know that the revolutionary movement on Negros is alive not because of Frank Fernandez but because the people themselves give the revolution life. So, I may no longer be here but they ensure the revolution lives.”

NPA units that showed up for the peace forum were overwhelmingly made up of young men and women who looked to be in their early 20s.

The peace forum drew more than 3,000 people from all over Negros -- mainly from areas where the rebels operate -- to a village school although many more continued to arrive throughout the day and was, according to NPA officers, the largest event they have organized in years.

Discussing his health, Fernandez admitted to suffering “minor ailments that are manageable by the medical teams of all NPA units” as he makes his way around guerrilla zones.

In fact, to get to the peace forum, he said, he joined NPA units march over 15 nights through mountainous terrain, “without flashlights, fording rivers and carrying packs.”

He then playfully issued an invitation to Maranon “to come visit the guerrilla zones so I can challenge him to race me hiking through the countryside.”

An NPA guerrilla applies face paint to a child at a grassroots peace forum in Central Negros. (photo by Nonoy Espina,

China begins daily civil charter flights to South China Sea outpost

From InterAksyon (Dec 22): China begins daily civil charter flights to South China Sea outpost

Aerial image of Woody Island in the disputed South China Sea. (Google Earth)

China has begun daily civilian charter flights to Woody Island in the disputed South China Sea after the airport there was approved for civil operations, state news agency Xinhua said on Thursday.

China claims almost all of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of maritime trade passes each year. The Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan have overlapping claims.

The first flight took off on Wednesday from Meilan Airport in Haikou, the provincial capital of China's southern island province of Hainan, and landed on Woody Island at 10:20 a.m. Thursday.

Civilian charter flights will run every day with tickets costing 1,200 yuan ($172.77) one way, Xinhua said. ($1 = 6.9 yuan)

Woody Island (Chinese name: Yongxing), in the Paracels which are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan, is the seat of what China calls Sansha city that is its administrative center for the South China Sea.

The airport, which is a joint military-civilian facility, was approved for civilian operations last Friday, Xinhua said. The expansion of the Yongxing airport was completed in May.

"This will effectively improve the working and living conditions of civil servants and soldiers based in Sansha city," the report added.

The flights will leave Haikou airport at 8:45 a.m. and return from Woody Island at 1 p.m., Xinhua said.

China has been building other airfields in the South China Sea as part of a controversial land reclamation program and in July civilian aircraft successfully carried out calibration tests on two new airports in the Spratly Islands, on Mischief Reef and Subi Reef.

China took full control of the Paracels in 1974 after a naval showdown with Vietnam.

Though China calls it a city, Sansha's permanent population is no more than a few thousand, and many of the disputed islets and reefs in the sea are uninhabited.

Sansha City was officially established in 2012 to administer the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands, and their surrounding waters in the South China Sea.

In February, Taiwan and US officials said China had deployed an advanced surface-to-air missile system on Woody Island.

Another bus torched

From the Mindanao Times (Dec 23): Another bus torched

A HUSKY Tours passenger bus was torched by an armed group along the national highway in Barangay Morales, Koronadal City at 7:11 p.m. on Wednesday.
The military report showed that the bus was torched by eight perpetrators who introduced themselves as members of New People’s Army (NPA).
Troops of the 27th Infantry Battalion and South Cotabato Provincial Police Office were able to respond after five minutes but the bus was already engulfed in fire.
The perpetrators already fled using their motorcycles heading toward the hilly portion of Barangay Morales.
Elements of Police Provincial Safety Company already conducted pursuit operation while troops of 27th IB conducted a mobile patrol and established blocking position in Barangay Tinungkop, Tantangan of the said place.
Authorities are still conducting further investigation to know the cost of damage and to track down the perpetrators. Based on the records of 27th Infantry Battalion, they already recorded six torching incidents by alleged NPA members in their area of operation.

Joint Army-PNP forces arrest 5 Maute group followers

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 23): Joint Army-PNP forces arrest 5 Maute group followers

Government forces arrested on Thursday five militants allied with the Maute terror group after a series of police-Army operations in Barira, Maguindanao, officials said Friday.

Senior Supt. Agustin Tello, Maguindanao provincial director, said one of the suspects was implicated in the Sept. 2 Davao City bombing that left 15 dead and 60 others wounded.

He identified the bombing suspect as Jessy Vincent Orihinal, a former member of Maguindanao police office. He was arrested along with Ibrahim Arumpac, Hamza Bagul, Musa Rasamallah and Mohammad Said Biniday. They are now detained at Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (CIDG-ARMM) and undergoing tactical interrogation.

Tello said the police received a tip from concerned citizens about the presence of suspicious men in Barangay Nabalawag, Barira, Maguindanao.

Acting on the tip, Tello said a joint Barira PNP and Army's 37th Infantry Battalion conducted operation that also led to the recovery of six luxury vehicles the group was trying to hide in the mountains of Barira.

Citing intelligence information, Tello said the group belonged to Maute terror cell operating in Maguindanao.

Reports said the group wanted to hide the vehicles in Barira before bringing them to Butig in Lanao del Sur where the Maute group operates.

Known as the Dawlah Islamiya, the Maute group led by Omar Maute, has been on the run for three weeks now following a 12-day Army operation that drove them out of Butig, a town they occupied for three days.

Tello said police seized a white Toyota Tamaraw FX (ULB-358), a gray Mitsubishi Adventure (DSL-162), a white Mitsubishi Montero (AEX-783), a white Toyota Fortuner (TDQ-440), a silver Toyota Fortuner (TQK-892) and a Toyota Hi-Ace van without license plate.

He said the CIDG and Land Transportation Office-Maguindanao are now validating the ownership and registration of the impounded vehicles.

Año gives early Christmas present to battle casualties

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 23): Año gives early Christmas present to battle casualties

Soldiers wounded in the ongoing campaign against terrorists and lawless elements were given an early Christmas present by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Eduardo M. Año Thursday.

These gallant, who are now undergoing treatment and rehabilitation at the AFP Medical Center in V. Luna, Quezon City, were given cash incentives, Christmas presents, and Noche Buena packages by the AFP chief.

AFP public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said the gifts are to honor the sacrifices and gallantry showed by these wounded troops in fulfilling their constitutional mandate.

Aside from Año, Major Service commanders, AFP Surgeon General paid their respects and compliments to these brave troops who are now confined at the AFP Medical Center's Heroes Ward.

9th suspect in Davao City blast arrested in Maguindanao operations

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 23): 9th suspect in Davao City blast arrested in Maguindanao operations

Joint military and police operatives arrested the ninth suspect in the Sept. 2 Davao City blast during checkpoint operations in Barira, Maguindanao Thursday afternoon.

Philippine Army (PA) deputy public affairs chief Lt. Col. Ray Tiongson said the operations took place 4 p.m. at Sitio South Madalum, Barangay Nabalawag.

He added operatives from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (CIDG-ARMM) local Philippine National Police, and troops from the 37th Infantry Battalion, 6th Infantry Division conducted a joint checkpoint operation which resulted in the apprehension of six vehicles without plate numbers and arrest of five persons identified as: ex-PO2 Jessy Vincent Guinto Original alias Abu Aisha, formerly assigned at Antipolo Police Station and among those responsible in the Davao Night Market Bombing; Arumpac Ibrahim Pandita; Hamsa Bagul; Musa Rasamal; and Mohammad Said Jamla.

Tiongson said the other occupants of the vehicles managed to flee upon sighting government security personnel.

"Found in one of the vehicles was a set of IED (improvised explosive device) materials while found in the possession and control of arrested personalities were four fragmentation grenades," he added.
ll six vehicles were then confiscated.

"Said persons and recovered explosives were brought to CIDG-ARMM for documentation and proper disposition, while the confiscated vehicles were placed under the custody of Highway Patrol Group Police Regional Office ARMM, Parang Maguindanao," he added.

Security operatives earlier arrested eight out of the 12 suspects involved in the Davao City blast which killed 15 and wounded 70 others last Sept. 2.