Saturday, January 7, 2017

Conflict Analysis of Muslim Mindanao (December 2015)

From GSDRC Applied Knowledge Services (Dec 2015): Conflict Analysis of Muslim Mindanao

For a copy of the full report go to the following URL:

Executive summary

The Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), situated within the Philippines and initially founded in 1989, consists of five provinces – Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. Conflict between Moro1 groups seeking an independent state in Mindanao, and the Government of the Philippines (GPH) has been ongoing for four decades (Heydarian, 2015, p. 1).

After numerous attempts to resolve the conflicts, a final peace agreement between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Philippines’ largest rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), was signed in 2014 paving the way for the establishment of a new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BAR) to replace the current ARMM. However, progress on the implementation of the peace agreement has been slow. The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which is the basis for the creation of the new BAR, has not been passed and seems unlikely to do so before the Philippines holds presidential elections in 2016.

The conflict between the GPH and the MILF is not the only conflict affecting the ARMM. Rather, the conflict situation in Mindanao is multi-faceted, involving numerous armed groups, as well as clans, criminal gangs and political elites. While the GPH is actively trying to resolve these conflicts, the degree of violence and unrest in the ARMM serves as a major obstacle to achieving sustainable peace in the region. 

There is a relatively small body of recent literature on conflict in Muslim Mindanao. This largely consists of grey literature, although a number of academic journal articles have also been published on the subject. A recent initiative led by International Alert and the World Bank, provides quantitative data on all the main drivers of conflict in the ARMM, disaggregated by province. This is called the Bangsamoro Conflict Monitoring System (BCMS).

The presence of a plethora of armed groups in the ARMM increases the risk of accidental clashes between groups which are aligned, or between armed groups and government forces. However, the Moro insurgencies in the region are not considered to be the main source of conflict in the region by INGOs and academics working in the ARMM. Thus, while resolving the conflict between the GPH and the MILF will be a step towards peace in the ARMM, it will not end conflict in the region.
Rido or clan feuding is one of the primary drivers of conflict in the region. Moreover, it is inter-linked with many of the other drivers of conflict discussed in this report, as conflict actors in the ARMM often belong to multiple groups and frequently shift alliances.

Lawlessness in Mindanao is responsible for thriving shadow economies. Principal among these are the trade in illegal drugs and weapons. While the shadow economies in the ARMM are linked to violence and conflict, some of them, such as cross-border trade in the Sulu Sea also have the potential to contribute to peace. This is because they play an important role in the provision of livelihoods for fragile island communities.

Intercommunal tensions are also prevalent in Mindanao. Moros do not constitute a single ethnic group. Numerous Muslim ethnic groups have distinct linguistic and cultural traditions while at the same time identifying as Moro because of their religion. Moreover there are sizeable populations of descendants of Christian settlers from other parts of the Philippines living in the ARMM, as well as non-Muslim indigenous tribes, referred to collectively as Lumad. While intercommunal tensions are not a major source of conflict in the ARMM, the potential for conflict if all groups are not fairly represented in the new BAR is highlighted in the literature. 

(1 Moro is a collective term for members of Muslim ethnic groups in the southern Philippines.}

The absence of state services in the ARMM also contributes to fragility and instability in the region. Regional government spending on services is low, and the provision of healthcare and education in the region is inadequate.

International involvement in resolving conflict in the ARMM has been relatively limited. Conflict resolution efforts have largely been led by, but not limited to, Muslim actors, such as Malaysia and the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC). Beyond Malaysia’s facilitation of the peace process, regional actors have shown very little interest in conflict in Mindanao in recent years.

Conflict in the ARMM affects men and women in different ways. There is a growing body of literature on gender and conflict in Mindanao. Moreover, a number of recent papers look at the role that women can play in peacemaking and peacebuilding in the region.

Hybrid Warfare in the South China Sea: The United States’ ‘Little Grey (Un)Men'

From The Diplomat (Dec 31): Hybrid Warfare in the South China Sea: The United States’ ‘Little Grey (Un)Men' (By By

Unmanned systems are ideal for hybrid/political warfare, and UUVs are the newest sharks in the water.

 Hybrid Warfare in the South China Sea: The United States’ ‘Little Grey (Un)Men'

In recent days, much has been written about the seizure of a United States unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) ship ASR-510’s (a Dalang III-class vessel). A popular claim is that the PLAN’s seizure of the U.S. Navy’s buoyancy glider was China’s response to President-elect Donald Trump recent Twitter “cry-bullying.” Trump has disputed the one-China policy, recently accepted a phone call from Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen, and panned China’s military building spree the South China Sea (SCS).

Trump’s compendium of tough talk on Twitter has included numerous slams and swipes against China over many months, including China’s activities in its peripheral waters. China opposes the presence of U.S. aircraft and naval vessels in waters it claims as its own. While claiming the right to act as it chooses in its own backyard, the Communist Party of China (CPC) warned it would not tolerate U.S. probing and possibly marauding in the region, and would take any steps necessary to oppose U.S. intrusions.

The UUV incident is also in effect an extension of China’s rejection of The Hague’s 2016 Court ruling, which refutes China’s “historic claim” over the SCS, as well as Beijing’s frequent irritation over the United States’ persistent “meddling” in China’s (regional) affairs. China’s actions toward the incoming U.S. president are also in line with its interaction with the United States stretching back over a decade. In 2001, George W. Bush found himself in a similar situation with the Hainan P-3 Orion incident, and, in 2009, President Barack Obama contended with confrontation between five Chinese ships and a U.S. Navy survey vessel.

The incident received plenty of coverage from political, legal, diplomatic, and military angles, with a focus on the potential for the Asia-Pacific’s undersea balance. While the UUV’s seizure continues to spur debate, a further point of interest should be raised. It is precisely the absence of any political framework on the use of unmanned systems in the region, which we previously addressed in this forum that in principle could lead to further similar deployments of unmanned systems – deployments that would fit neatly within the framework of political warfare.

The use of unmanned systems, in particular small, autonomous vehicles, such as the UUV seized by China, are ideal for (offensive) political warfare. The incident off the coast of the Philippines provides a blueprint for the future employment of unmanned systems in maritime conflict, for instance in the SCS and East China Sea (ECS), and even the Strait of Taiwan. They can be tactically and strategically effective. They also markedly mirror the deployment of Putin’s “Little Green Men” (or “Polite People”), masked soldiers wearing unmarked uniforms that popped-up all over Crimea and elsewhere in Ukraine. They also resemble China’s fishermen-turned-militia, which U.S. Naval War College Professor of Andrew S. Erickson dubbed China’s “Little Blue Men.”

Unmanned systems are no different, serving a state’s policies as we label, “Little Grey (Un)Men.” Either in unison or in swarms, they are ideal for the sort of hybrid/political warfare we are seeing increasingly put to use with exceptionally positive effect, at least for its employers. Just like their human counterparts, unmanned systems are the gateway to stealthy incursions, akin to “Little Green Men” that were instrumental in Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s territory. Devoid of even the slightest hint of nationality – flags and service numbers among other national indicators – “Little Grey (Un)Men” are perfect for semi-covert missions. Semi-covert operations and systems, within the framework of hybrid warfare, serve many purposes, one of which is a demonstration of actively opposing the policies of other states.

Devoid of legal identification, these systems can never be fully linked to their host state. UUVs are the newest sharks in the water. They are anything but innocuous. The deployment of many UUVs or unmanned surface vehicles (USVs), in contested maritime waters would be a clear sign of support for a state seeking to defend its (perceived) territory. We have run headlong into the need to consider the implications of UUVs being deployed in large quantities according to the same tactics as the Chinese fishing militia.

There should be little doubt that the use of unmanned systems sets a strong political signal. Not only does it unambiguously establish the Washington and its allies’ willingness to counter Beijing’s “Little Blue Men,” it demonstrates the United States’ capacity to maintain its presence and reach into highly contested territory. Moreover, while providing additional intelligence to the United States and its allies, it signals an eagerness not only to challenge China’s posture but also to expand in another direction within the framework of hybrid/political warfare.

The United States introduced UUVs as one of the newest elements in its force postures years ago and currently occupies the leading role in this realm. Interestingly, Beijing is displaying more restraint in its military drone use than Washington, but we are seeing the same expansion of surveillance and weaponized drone application above, on, and underneath the water. UUV deployment in the SCS, or anywhere for that matter, is part of the landscape of (potential) conventional warfare, and part of the much-generated debate these days about hybrid warfare. Because UUVs are not limited to just one dimension of warfare, they fall within the category of “hybrid.” However, any potential use of force can be classified as hybrid because of its multipurpose character. This in turn immensely expands the basis for risky political engagement.

The asymmetric character of America’s “Little Grey (Un)Men” is one of the their most dangerous characteristics, capable of exploiting China’s weaknesses. We ought to bear in mind that nearly every conflict in history has been defined by the application of asymmetries taking advantage of a potential enemy. The result has usually been destructive engagement involving the use of regular and conventional military forces to various extents.

UUVs, like so-called cyber warfare, will expand the scope of war and warfare, opening new directions for actors to pursue in war. Even in coalitions, where states are closely aligned and share many security concerns and attitudes, overwhelming disparity in the understanding of hybrid, hybrid threats, and hybrid warfare exists. The same is true of China and the US, both of which possess radically different security languages.

Much of the political conflict in the SCS and ECS is comprised of abstract notions, with few images existing. Particularly in the era of digital streaming and video content, an extremely limited degree of video content is available, which makes both conflicts something of an abstract perception within the political discourse of respective national audiences. However, China returning the UUV after seizing it underscores the potential for establishing a framework regarding the application of unmanned systems in East Asia.

]Tobias Burgers is a Doctoral Student at Otto-Suhr-Institute, Free University Berlin and formerly a Visiting Researcher at CSS, NCCU, Taipei, Taiwan.

Scott N. Romaniuk is a Doctoral Student at the School of International Studies, University of Trento and a Research Associate at the Center for the Study of Targeted Killing, University of Massachusetts (Dartmouth), United States.]

YearEnder: Peace negotiators find end to conflicts not that easy

From the Philippine Star (Jan 8): YearEnder: Peace negotiators find end to conflicts not that easy

There is no clear indication that the decades-old armed conflict in Mindanao will end despite the sincerity of President Duterte to reach a solution to the secessionist problem in Mindanao with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), as well as the National Democratic Front-Communist Party of the Philippines (NDF-CPP) and its armed wing New People’s Army (NPA).

Like in previous administrations, the government peace negotiators appeared to be having difficulty reaching a peace agreement with the communist groups.

Officials of the NDF-CPP led by CPP founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison have been issuing “double-meaning” statements pertaining to the party’s seriousness in ending its more than 40-year-old armed conflict.

Fighting between government troops and the rebels marked the first six months of the Duterte administration.
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Duterte announced the immediate implementation of a unilateral ceasefire with the NPA-NDF-CPP during his first State of the Nation Address in July.

Instead of reciprocating Duterte’s goodwill, the NPA ambushed government troops, killing a member of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit and wounding four others in Sitio Patil in Barangay Gupitan, Davao del Norte. 

Aside from the declaration of a unilateral ceasefire, Duterte also  released from detention Benito and Wilma Tiamzon and granted presidential pardon to four political prisoners.

The Tiamzons were able to participate in the peace talks in Oslo, Norway as members of the NDF peace panel following their release.

Sison said the forging of an agreement between the government and the NDF remained possible.

The President, however, has rejected the request of the NDF to release more than 130 political prisoners as part of the confidence-building measures in the peace negotiations between the communists and the government.

Duterte said he would order the release of the political prisoners serving time for criminal offenses only if the NDF representatives would present documents signed by both the negotiating panels of the government and the CPP.

The government peace panel said it has drafted the amnesty proclamation and submitted it to the President in September.

The government amended the guidelines of the Presidential Committee on Bail, Recognizance and Pardon to facilitate the release of the political detainees on humanitarian grounds.

As a gesture of goodwill, Duterte pardoned four communist rebels convicted of murder and kidnapping on Dec. 2.

Martin Villanueva, Bonifacio Suyon, Dindo Absalon and Rico Bodina had served 18 to 26 years in prison.

In almost 50 years of guerrilla war launched by the NDF, through its armed wing NPA, more than 150,000 people have been killed in armed clashes.

The military said the NPA members had been reduced to less than 4,000.

But NDF panel chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni claimed they have 10,000 members operating in more than 120 guerrilla fronts in 72 provinces.

The peace talks with the NDF-CPP-NPA have been disrupted at least 15 times.

The breakdown in the talks was mainly due to two issues: the release of detained NDF consultants and declaration of a ceasefire.

With both issues addressed, the formal resumption of peace talks on Aug. 22 in Oslo was made possible.

The government has an ambitious target of conducting the talks with the NDF-CPP-NPA for one year and implementing the reforms that they would reach in the succeeding five years of the Duterte administration.

Last August, the government and the NDF ended the first round of talks in Norway and agreed on three of five substantive issues, including a formal commitment to accelerate the process of forging a political settlement during the term of President Duterte.

The three major issues settled were the “affirmation of previously signed agreements; reconstitution of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) list, and the accelerated process for negotiations, including the timeline for the completion of the remaining substantive agenda for the talks: socio-economic reforms; political and economic reforms; and end of hostilities and disposition of forces, including the Joint Monitoring Committee.

Government peace panel chairman Silvestre Bello III said all agreements signed during the peace negotiations from the time of former president Corazon Aquino up to the present were re-affirmed “subject to enhancements that may be mutually agreed upon later by both panels.”

The agreements that were re-affirmed include The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992, Breukelen Joint Statement of 1994, the JASIG and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

To speed up the peace negotiations, both panels agreed to activate the Reciprocal Working Committee on the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms as well as the Reciprocal Working Groups on Political and Constitutional Reforms and End of Hostilities-Disposition of Forces.


The government peace negotiators then led by Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and the MILF panel affirmed their partnership for the continuity of the Bangsamoro peace process when Duterte assumed office.
After breaking away from the MNLF then headed by Nur Misuari, three other terrorist groups – the Abu Sayyaf, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Maute group – held sway in Mindanao.
Misuari created a five-member panel to negotiate with the government.

The panel will work on the completion of the remaining commitments under the 1996 Final Peace Agreement and the Tripartite Review Process on the peace deal between the government, MNLF and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Misuari, who had been released by the court so he could participate in the Bangsamoro peace process, opted not to take part in the newly constituted Bangsamoro Transition Commission to draft a law for the future Bangsamoro government.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said the passage of a new Bangsamoro law would move alongside efforts toward implementing a federal form of government to end decades of armed conflict in Mindanao.

“We would entrench the Bangsamoro law and make it operational because federalism is a long process. If the next Bangsamoro law would be constitution-compliant and Congress will pass it, maybe the Bangsamoro can test pilot our move to federalism,” Dureza said.

Homebound Russian ships get PASSEX from PN

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 8): Homebound Russian ships get PASSEX from PN

The country's Russian naval visitors formally left Pier 15, Manila South Harbor with the Philippine Navy (PN) providing the traditional "passing exercise" (PASSEX) Saturday morning.

The Russian ships, the Udaloy-class large anti-submarine vessel/destroyer Admiral Tributs and naval tanker Boris Botuma, left the above-mentioned port facility around 9:00 a.m., PN spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna said in a message to the PNA.

PASSEX was provided to the Admiral Tributs as it was steaming in Manila Bay, he added.

The former was provided by the BRP Rajah Humabon (PS-11), the same ship that met the Russian ships during their arrival off Corregidor Island last January 2.

The PASSEX is part of the send-off ceremonies where visiting naval ships are given honors.

Earlier, Russian Pacific Fleet flotilla deputy commander Rear Admiral Eduard Mikhailov said they are more than willing to show and demonstrate the use of its various naval combat systems to its Filipino counterparts once an agreement has been inked allowing Philippine and Russia maritime forces to train together.

"Maybe in the future, we'll have exercises with your (and we'll teach you) maneuvering and use of combat systems," he added.

Also, when the proper time comes, Mikhailov said Russia, the Philippines, China and Malaysia can participate in one big naval exercise in the South China Sea.

He added that this is possible as all the above-mentioned countries are concerned with the safety and security of the region.

Mikhailov is the head of the Russian naval delegation of the six-day goodwill visit to the country which ended on Saturday.

4th ID places all units in HADR footing due to 'Auring'

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 8): 4th ID places all units in HADR footing due to 'Auring'

With tropical depression "Auring" expected to affect a large part of eastern Mindanao, the Cagayan De Oro-based 4th Infantry Division has now prepared and alerted all its units for possible humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) missions.

This was disclosed by 4th Infantry Division public affairs office chief Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez in a statement late Saturday.

He said the placing of all their units in HADR footing is in support to the Regional Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Council and the different local government units in CARAGA Region.

In line with this, the 401st Infantry Brigade which covers the Agusan Del Norte and Agusan Del Sur has prepared its disaster response units and is closely monitoring the critical areas along Agusan River to include the nearby communities in all coastal areas and along Lake Mainit.

Meanwhile the 402nd Infantry Brigade, whose area of operation covers the whole of Surigao Del Sur, Surigao Del Norte and Province of Dinagat Islands, is closely monitoring with the local government units the coastal areas and the communities near the riverbanks.

4th Infantry Division commander Major Gen. Benjamin R. Madrigal, Jr., said all of their units are now dedicated for HADR missions with "Auring's" possible arrival.

"We have dedicated majority of our troops to help our local government units. I have reminded them to be more proactive in their actions in order to mitigate the effect/impact of the said tropical depression in the area," he added.

"Likewise, we also urged everyone to cooperate with our local authorities in every announcements to avoid unnecessary injury or loss of life," Madrigal concluded.

WATCH: MILF Executions Of 3 Tied Up Prisoners By Gunfire (Warning - Graphic video)

Posted to Zero Censorship Website (Jan 4): WATCH: MILF Executions Of 3 Tied Up Prisoners By Gunfire (Warning-Graphic video)

    • A video clip of an execution of three people in the southern Philippines has gone viral after it was leaked on Facebook.

      The 12-minute execution video was uploaded by a certain "Abu Haneef Tabarusaw." It showed heavily armed men wearing dark clothes and bonnets, positioned in front of three men who were blindfolded and tied to poles.
      Also seen in the video are flags similar to those belonging to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

      The men tied to a pole were identified only as Udi, Sabar and Patrol. They were allegedly convicted for the crime of murder and sentenced to death by a Sharia court last year.

      The video also showed MILF Northwestern Division Commander Abdullah Macapaar alias Commander Bravo witnessing a last-minute plea for the lives of the three men. However, a man and an elderly woman refused to spare the lives of the three.

      At a commander's cue, the men were shot dead in a fusillade of automatic rifles' gunfire.

PH, Japan navies hold war games

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 8): PH, Japan navies hold war games

The Philippine and Japanese navies on Friday engaged in maritime exercises in waters off Subic to demonstrate freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

Atsushi Minami, captain of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), said the brief naval exercise involved communication training and execution of the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea.

“We are very much excited to have this interaction with the Philippine Navy,” Minami told reporters here.

Two Japanese ships

The Japanese Navy sent two warships—the Inazuma and the Suzutsuki—for the drill.

The two ships arrived here on Wednesday for a three-day port call, restocking and maintenance.

Their almost 400 personnel were given time for rest and recreation after conducting counterpiracy operations in the Gulf of Aden.

“It is a very good chance for us to show the freedom of navigation in this area because South China Sea is very important for Japan,” Minami said.

He said Japan’s lines of communication passed through the South China Sea, making regular patrols in the area necessary.

“The peace and stability in the South China are very important to us. On a regular basis, navigating this area is also important to us,” he said.
Int’l cooperation

Minami said the United States, the Philippines, Japan and other Asian countries should cooperate to ensure observance of the freedom of navigation and rules of law in the South China Sea.

“The Japanese government has strongly opposed the unilateral change of status quo [in the South China Sea] by force. Many countries share the same concern in this area,” he said.

The Japanese Navy has scheduled more port calls to Subic Bay, Manila Bay and other areas in the Philippines in the future, he said.

“We already visited India and Malaysia for our counterpiracy operations. The Philippines is our last destination before heading back to Japan,” he said.

Minami also paid a courtesy call on the commander of the Naval Education Training and Command (NETC) in San Antonio, Zambales province.

“We opened our ship to Philippine Navy personnel so they could have a tour here and understand our capability,” Minami said.

In a statement, the Philippine Navy said the visit of Japanese Navy personnel would enhance “the already strong relationship” between the two navies and would “promote camaraderie and naval diplomacy.”

Army: ‘Lawless armed group’ intentionally killed tribal chieftain

From the often pro-CPP online publication the Davao Today (Jan 8): Army: ‘Lawless armed group’ intentionally killed tribal chieftain

The military refuted claims made by the New People’s Army that Mandaya tribal chieftain Cupertino Banugan was killed in Davao Oriental province due to self-defense.

Banugan was “killed by members of a lawless armed group who forcibly entered his own abode on Dec. 30,” an army spokesman told Davao Today in a phone interview on Friday, Jan. 5.

“There was no firefight, no other armed forces in his house when chieftain Banugan was killed in his house  as per investigation our (Philippine National Police) counterparts in Caraga, ” said Capt. Andrew Linao, spokesperson of the 701st Infantry Brigade.

Linao also said the armed men entered the vicinity of Banugan’s residence “with the intent to kill.”

“His house’s gate was destroyed. They entered the house and shot at him using a high-powered firearm. His door was destroyed, and police were able to retrieve grenade launchers inside,” Linao said.

In a press statement, New People’s Army Comval Davao East Coast Subregional Command owned up to the killing of Cupertino Banugan, his brother Ramon, and a relative Dodo Banugan.

NPA Spokesperson Roel Agustin II said they were acting on “self defense” when they served an order to disarm Banugan, whom they said is a leader of paramilitary group Mandaya Ancestral Defense Unit. Agustin said, it was Banugan who attacked them in Sitio Calatagan, Barangay Poblacion, Caraga town in Davao Oriental on the evening of January 30 last year.

“Cupertino used his title as the tribal chieftain to usurp 14,000 hectares of land owned by the Iligan, Bayon, Silat, Tibay, and Panin clans of Caraga. He systematically extorted land rent from the poor Mandaya peasants, Cupertino collected 10 percent from the gross sale of abaca and other products of the farmers, including Marijuana,” Agustin said.

Read related story: NPA owns up to disarming, killing tribal chieftain, 2 others in Caraga town

Linao denied any knowledge of Banugan’s activities as leader of MANADU, saying that they only knew Banugan as the tribal chieftain who held a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title over 13 hectares of land in Sitio Sangab, Brgy. Pichon in Caraga.

“We know he is a tribal chieftain, and they have formed organizations there already. But apart from that, there were no paramilitary forces when Banugan was killed. Only his family members were there,” Linao said.

Read related story: ‘Abusive’ tribal chieftain tagged in militarization in Dav Or

Linao, however, declined to pinpoint the identity of the armed group, saying that they are looking at all leads. Linao said a special investigation task group called “SITG Banugan” will be established to “look deeper” into the case.

“We cannot point at anyone yet because the investigation is still ongoing. We don’t want to be biased by pointing. We’re looking at many angles and the NPA is only one point of interest,” Linao said.

Linao said there may also be a case of “personal interest” at play. Linao said Banugan had made many enemies because of the resources found in the land included in his CADT.

Foreign follower of Ansar Al-Khilafa founder killed in Sarangani

From the Philippine Star (Jan 7): Foreign follower of Ansar Al-Khilafa founder killed in Sarangani

A foreigner identified with the slain leader of the Ansar Al-Khilafa Philippines was killed in Maasim town in Sarangani on Saturday.
Supterintendent Romeo Galgo,Jr., spokesman of Regional Police Office 12, said the slain militant, initially identified only as Abu Naila, resisted arrest and was shot soldiers and police during a raid in Barangay Daliao in Maasim.
The operation that resulted in the death of Abu Naila was part of an effort to locate followers of Mohammad Jaafar Maguid, founder of the outlawed jihadist group operating in the fashion of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, in seaside Sarangani towns.
Maguid, known to his contacts in the Middle East and Pakistan as Abu Shareefa Al-Filibini, was killed on Thursday in a shootout with personnel of PRO-12 and agents of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency at a beach resort in Kiamba town, also in Sarangani.
“Initial reports relayed to us by our operating personnel indicated that Abu Naila, a loyal follower of the slain leader of their group, was a foreigner. We’re still trying to establish his exact nationality,” Galgo said.
Abu Naila was a known henchman of Maguid, who established the Ansar Al-Khilafa group in Barangay Butril in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat in 2013.
Maguid and his followers built a camp in Barangay Butril with an ISIS flag in the center.
He and his men were driven away from Barangay Butril in late 2015 by Regional Police Office-12 and the 1st Marine Brigade in an operation where seven militants were killed, among them a nephew of a former congressional representative in Maguindanao province.
Police agents who cornered Maguid on Thursday attempted to subdue him while in Barangay Kitagas in Kiamba but he resisted and pulled out a gun, prompting them to shoot him.
Three of Maguid's companions immediately yielded to police when their leader was shot. 
The arrested militants -- Matahata Dialawe, Arboleda Shahak, and Morhaban Veloso -- were brought to an undisclosed police camp. They are heavily guarded against any attempt by companions to spring them from detention.

Another foreign jihadist killed

From The Standard (Jan 7): Another foreign jihadist killed

SECURITY forces shot dead a suspected foreign jihadist and his female companion after they resisted policemen and soldiers who were sent to arrest them in a coastal town of Sarangani province Saturday morning.

Central Mindanao police spokesperson Supt. Romeo Galgo said the slain jihadist was known only by his nom de guerre Abu Naila and his companion as Kadija and authorities believe he is one of the Indonesian or Malaysian fugitives linked with the terrorist Islamic State.

Galgo did not say how security forces learned of Abu Naila’s location but a joint task force composed of Special Action Force commandos and troops of the 4th Special Action Battalion and 27th Infantry Battalion were sent to Barangay Daliao in Maasim town to arrest them.

Abu Naila, however, refused to yield and even lobbed a grenade at the authorities, prompting the lawmen to fire at the suspect and his female companion, Galgo said, adding that bomb components and IS-related propaganda was also found at Abu Naila’s hideout.

Galgo said Abu Naila is believed to be a member of the Ansar Al-Khilafah Philippines, whose leader Mohammad Jaafar Maguid, alias Tokboy, was also killed on Jan. 5 in an encounter with government troops at Angel Beach Resort in Kiamba town, also in Sarangani province.

Abu Naila was the first foreign terrorist killed this year by government forces in Mindanao after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered an all-war against terrorists.

In November 2015, Indonesian national Ibrahim Alih, also known as Abdul Fatah, a Jemaah Islamiya operative in Mindanao under the protection of the AKP, was also killed with seven Filipino jihadists in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat.

The slain Indonesian national was said to be involved on Oct. 12, 2002 bombing in Bali, Indonesia that left 202 people, including 88 Australians, 38 Indonesians and 20 other nationalities with 209 injured.

Fatah was a long-wanted terrorist along with two other JI operatives, the late Usman Basit and Zulkifli bin Hir, both killed in separate encounter with military and police forces in Central Mindanao.

On Aug. 13, 2014, the Ansar Al-Khilafah Philippines (Supporters/Helpers of the Caliphate) released a video showing its members pledging allegiance to the Islamic State and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

But AKP is not the only group that has pledged allegiance to the terrorist Daesh. The Katibat Ansar al Sharia, Katibat Marakah al Ansar and the Abu Sayyaf group have also separately pledged allegiance to IS.

In the annual New Year Command Conference with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police at Malacañang on Friday, Duterte has reiterated his commitment to crush the Abu Sayyaf group.

“The President reiterated his commitment to end the Abu Sayyaf Group,” said presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in an interview over Radyo ng Bayan on Saturday.

Abella said President Duterte reiterated his firm stance against corruption, as well as his administration’s campaign against illegal drugs and terrorism.

“He reiterated his guidance regarding corruption, especially because, as he says, corruption is not easily eradicated, and then the campaign against drugs and terrorism,” Abella said.

The Palace official said the joint command conference lasted two hours, describing it as a “substantial and a very fruitful meeting which puts the President in touch once more with this branch of government.”

Police search Camp Bagong Diwa jail ahead of Traslacion 2017

From ABS-CBN (Jan 7): Police search Camp Bagong Diwa jail ahead of Traslacion 2017

The National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) searched on Saturday two Special Intensive Care jail facilities inside Camp Bagong Diwa amid terror threats ahead of Monday's procession of the Black Nazarene.

About 250 officers searched jail cells where suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf and other high-profile inmates are detained.

Police seized contraband items, such as two cellphones as well as a notebook filled with phone numbers. The items are being investigated.

"Importante yun, mapag-aralan, maimbistigahan especially yung mga contact numbers, bank account kung meron, account numbers," said Police Senior Superintendent Eleazar Matta, NCRPO regional intelligence officer. (It is important to study and investigate especially the contact number as well as bank accounts if there are.)

Matta said his office has not confirmed that threats exist within Camp Bagong Diwa but he said police are not discounting any possibility.

Manila cops raid Islamic Center

From the Philippine Star (Jan 8): Manila cops raid Islamic Center

Policemen raided the Islamic Center in Quiapo, Manila early yesterday morning and brought around 80 men, including seven minors, to the Manila Police District (MPD) headquarters, following reports of threats to the Feast of the Black Nazarene tomorrow. Joven Cagande

Policemen raided the Islamic Center in Quiapo, Manila early yesterday morning and brought around 80 men, including seven minors, to the Manila Police District (MPD) headquarters, following reports of threats to the Feast of the Black Nazarene tomorrow.

Chief Insp. Jay Dimaandal, head of MPD’s District Special Operations Unit, said the police operation was part of the “regular Oplan Galugad” search operation.

It was National Capital Region Police Office chief Director Oscar Albayalde who ordered the conduct of Oplan Galugad in Muslim areas suspected as lairs of terrorist groups, including the detention cells occupied by Muslim groups in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

A police team riding in 20 police mobile cars, open vans and 6 x 6 trucks showed up at the Islamic Center along Carlos Palanca Street just across the Quiapo Church past 3 a.m. yesterday.
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According to MPD’s Station 8 commander Supt. Olivia Sagaysay whose team also joined the operation in the Muslim Center in Quiapo, raiding policemen were backed by 11 warrants of arrest and two search warrants.

Senior Insp. Salvador Tangdol, head of MPD’s anti-illegal drugs unit, said the police arrested Loren Fahad alias Loren Datu-Haron y Dizon, 49, and Amir Hussein, 17, who were both living at the Islamic Center.

The arrests were covered by a search warrant issued by Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 37 presiding judge Virgilio Macaraig.

Police also seized from Fahad and Hussein 16 sachets containing suspected shabu weighing around 80 grams, two weighing scales and a bundle of transparent plastic.

They will be subjected to an inquest for possible violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, according to Tangdol.

Police raiders also recovered an unlicensed caliber .45 pistol, a hand grenade and some 100 grams of shabu from other men brought to the MPD.

The MPD is still verifying the records of the 80 men they brought to headquarters since past 7 a.m. yesterday. Most of the men said they had nothing to do with any criminal activity in Quiapo, stressing they are only vendors.

In Camp Bagong Diwa, police raiders headed by NCRPO intelligence chief Senior Supt. Eleazar Matta raided the SICA 1 and SICA 2 detention facilities, where members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Moro National Liberation Front and Moro Islamic Liberation Front are being detained.

Matta told The STAR policemen searched for the cellphones of detainees who might have contact with terrorist groups outside the camp who are planning to conduct bombing runs during tomorrow’s Traslacion.

Earlier, Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno said security threats from extremist groups like the Maute group and the Abu Sayyaf surfaced in relation to the Traslacion, or the traditional procession of the image of the Black Nazarene.

Erap, MPD downplay apprehensions

But Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada yesterday downplayed apprehensions that terrorist elements would disrupt the Traslacion, saying the possibility of such attacks is “very minimal.”

MPD director Chief Supt. Joel Coronel advised the public to calm down and not entertain any talk of terrorist activity.

Coronel is the overall commander of the 6,000-strong combined police, military and civilian security force that will be deployed to the Traslacion.

The MPD will be backed up by force multipliers composed of barangay officials, paramedics, firefighters, traffic aides and non-governmental organizations.

“Of course, we all agree that the threat exists regarding the possibility of a terror attack in any situation, including the Traslacion of the Black Nazarene. But is there a strong possibility or likelihood that such attacks will happen? Based on the assessment of our intelligence community, it is very minimal,” Coronel said.

He said if the threat is high, security officials would recommend the postponement of the Traslacion, which is expected to be attended by 18 million devotees.

But Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Governor Mujiv Hataman advised Manila’s security forces to consider all possibilities that the Abu Sayyaf and the Maute terror groups can disturb the Traslacion to ensure all its threats will be addressed.

Hataman also said it would be hypothetical for him to give assurance that movements of the terror groups can be thwarted down south and be prevented from going to Manila.

Be vigilant too, devotees told

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella advised Black Nazarene devotees to be vigilant too when practicing their faith by taking necessary precautions during the Traslacion.

The MPD reminded again the millions of Black Nazarene devotees not to bring backpacks during the procession to avoid being confronted by security officers.

Coronel said prohibiting the use of backpacks is implemented during events attended by huge crowds because backpacks can be used to bring explosive materials and other dangerous contraband.

“All you need is a hand towel or handkerchief and plastic water bottle,” he said.

“We will check and we will not allow any person carrying backpacks to approach the Black Nazarene’s carrier and the procession,” he added.

For those who need to bring bags, they may deposit or leave them at the 10 command posts located in strategic points.

Coronel also appealed to the public to cooperate to ensure a smooth and safe observance of the religious activity.

“If you notice suspicious-looking persons or situations, please report it to any security personnel. We will go to them and check them,” he added.

MILF commander says leaked execution video shows 3 men sentenced to death by Sharia court

From Coconuts Manila (Jan 6): MILF commander says leaked execution video shows 3 men sentenced to death by Sharia court

MILF video

The video shows heavily armed men wearing dark clothes and bonnets, positioned in front of three men who were blindfolded and tied to poles. PHOTO: Video screengrab

A video clip of an execution of three people in the southern Philippines has gone viral after it was leaked on Facebook.

Graphic video

The 12-minute execution video was uploaded by a certain "Abu Haneef Tabarusaw." It shows heavily armed men wearing dark clothes and bonnets, positioned in front of three men who were blindfolded and tied to poles.

Also seen in the video were flags similar to those belonging to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The men tied to a pole were identified only as "Udi," "Sabar," and "Patrol." They were allegedly convicted for the crime of murder and sentenced to death by a Sharia court last year.

The video also showed MILF Northwestern Division Commander Abdullah Macapaar alias Commander Bravo witnessing a last-minute plea for the lives of the three men. However, a man and an elderly woman refused to spare the lives of the three.

At a commander's cue, the men were shot dead in a fusillade of automatic rifles' gunfire.

The incident happened in Watu Balindong, Lanao del Sur last year.

Death penalty ordered by Sharia court

In a telephone phone interview with ABS-CBN News, Commander Bravo explained that in Islam, convicts can settle with the aggrieved party through blood money or be pardoned.

He added that death penalty is not uncommon in Islam.

"Ang sabi ni Allah doon sa Quran, ang sino mang makapatay ay patayin rin," he said.

Commander Bravo added that the men who were executed were tried fairly in a court by 11 Islamic law scholars or ulamas. He was the last to sign the court’s execution order.

The MILF commander said the death of the three ended a feud between families.

Bravo also told ABS-CBN News that they also took videos of previous executions and only one has been leaked online so far. —Roxanne Arevalo, ABS-CBN News

[This story first appeared on ABS-CBN News Online and is republished with permission.]

Farmers, Lumad in 2016: A year of blood, struggle

From the often pro-CPP online publication the Davao Today (Jan 6): Farmers, Lumad in 2016: A year of blood, struggle


The year 2016 was a bloody year of struggle, especially for the farmers of Southern Mindanao. Last year, farmers felt the devastating effects of a year long dry spell, and bore the brunt of violence both from state agents and private companies.

On April 1, 20 farmers were injured, 78 jailed, while three died after Kidapawan City Police dispersed a 5,000-man barricade. The farmers, who came from eight municipalities of North Cotabato demanded 15,000 sacks of rice from the provincial government headed by Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza. They barricaded the national highway in Kidapawan City to bring attention to their plight.

The provincial government of North Cotabato had already declared the province in the state of emergency since January. The drought however, had already been raging since November of 2015.
Instead of rice, however, farmers were peppered with bullets.

Kidapawan ‘massacre’

The Kidapawan Massacre, as it is now aptly known, would be the first of the many bloody encounters that farmers would face.

On June 2, some 20 soldiers from the 60th Infantry Battalion strafed a house in Laak, Compostela Valley.

Rubber tappers Aladin and Randy Rosquites scampered away and were uninjured, but their house was riddled with bullet holes. Aladin noted that two backpacks with personal belongings, including government issued identification cards, cellphones, and work clothes were missing.

Aladin called the incident a ‘massacre’ because they were fired upon with no warning.

60th Infantry Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Emmanuel Canilla however, said the shooting was a legitimate encounter with members of the New People’s Army who fired some 50 meters away from the house of Rosquites. Aladin belied the army’s claim, saying they were alone when the gunfire happened.

Celebration turned bloody

On July 31, a wedding reception in Sitio Tibugawan, San Fernando, Bukidnon turned into a funeral after armed men led by a certain Butsoy Salusad fired upon them from a hilltop, killing one pregnant woman and wounding five minors. Salusad is the leader of paramilitary group New Indigenous People’s Army.

Datu Jimboy Mandagit, one of the tribal leaders in Sitio Tibugawan said he was one of the targets of Salusad. Mandagit said he earlier received a death threat from Salusad, who said he “hindered” Salusad’s plans through his anti-mining stance.

In a press conference, Lt. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero of the Eastern Mindanao Command denied any links to Salusad and other paramilitary organizations.

More attacks vs farmers

On Aug. 5, a farming town in Barangay Parasanon, Maragusan, Compostela Valley was rocked by airstrikes and gunfire when the military clashed with the NPAs in the boundary between them and Barangay Mahayahay.

Juanito Torcende, captain of Barangay Parasanon said farmers were only able to return to their farmlands after he pleaded to the army.

Anti-mining activist and farmer leader Jimmy Saypan fell on Oct. 11, after being gunned down by a riding in tandem. Saypan, then secretary general of Compostela Farmers Association was shot at around 5 am in Purok 6-A, Barangay Jose Poblacion, Montevista town in Compostela Valley Province.

Like other members of his group, Saypan was previously tagged by the military as a member of the New People’s Army.

Farmers were also among those hurt and nabbed in the violent dispersal of the anti-US protest at the US Embassy in Manila on Oct. 19, who were  rallying under the national minority alliance Sandugo.
Sandugo is an alliance of indigenous people’s groups all over the country, many of whom are farmers in their respective hometowns.

Among the members of Sandugo is the Salugpongan, a group of datus from Talaingod, Davao Del Norte who united in 1994 to prevent the encroachment of big logging company Alcantara and Sons in the Pantaron Range.

Land issues

The farmers’ struggle for land was also highlighted last year.

On Dec. 5, some 600 farmers occupied the campus grounds of the Cotabato Foundation College of Science and Technology to demand the 700 hectares of land reservation that was allocated for, but remained unused by the school.

The farmers, led by the MAILUMUNADO Farmers Association Incorporated were tilling the lands since the 1950s, when the school’s founder Hadj Fatima Matabay Plang founded the school.

The 700 hectares was part of the 1,000 hectares of land reservation given to CFCST on July 22, 1963 through Republic Act 3801.

The farmers are also claiming the 4,000 hectares of land, which was allocated for the University of Southern Mindanao by President Carlos P. Garcia through Presidential Declaration No. 428 on July 24, 1954.

Cecilio Carmelo, chairperson of MAFAI, said CFCST was only able to develop 300 hectares, while USM used only 131 hectares.

The MAFAI farmers are set to hold a dialogue with the national representatives of DAR on January 13 to discuss MAFAI’s petition regarding the lands of the two schools.

On Dec. 13, seven farmers were injured after blue guards armed with shotguns allegedly hired by Lapanday Foods Corporation fired at the protesting farmers, who occupied part of the land at San Isidro in Madaum, Tagum City.

Since Oct. 18, 1999, the Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperation 1 was obliged to sell its Class A bananas to LFC under the Banana Sales and Marketing Agreement (BSMA) and Banana Purchase Agreement (BPA) for the Class B bananas.

However, in 2010, after experiencing “onerous contracts,” members of the Hearbco-1 enacted a referendum that decided whether the cooperative would continue with the contract. Members of the “No group” formed Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Incorporated and insisted its independence from Hearbco1.

Farmers of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Incorporated found hope in the cease and desist order issued by the Department of Agrarian Reform on Dec. 15, which ruled in favor of the MARBAI farmers.

However, on the last day of December, the guards of Lapanday reportedly held the MARBAI farmers on gunpoint and forced them out of their land. Currently, the guards allegedly hired by Lapanday have reoccupied the contested land.

CARP’s failure

Farmer’s landlessness, according to farmer activist Pedro Arnado, remains a reason of poverty among the country’s food producers.

Arnado of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas said only one out of 10 farmers owned land. The rest are still tenants, or have sold their lands to big multinational companies because of lack of necessary assistance from the government.

Arnado also branded the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program as a failure, and said it was the reason why so many farmers are still landless today.

“CARP required farmers to pay amortization of 30 years to the government. Without necessary assistance in the form of subsidies, farmers had to sell their lands again,” Arnado said.

Arnado also mentioned that most of the lands in Southern Mindanao are owned by no more than 20 families, which include names like Lim, Dayanghirang, Malañaon, Rabat, Palma Gil, Yu, Zamora, Dizon, Floirendo, Piñol, Espinosa, Sacdalan, Cagas, Villa Abrille, Bautista, and Almendras, among others.

Arnado expressed hopes that a genuine agrarian reform program will be hammered out following  the third round of peace talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines this month. The forthcoming peace negotiations  will tackle the  genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization under the substantive agenda on the Comprehensive Agreement on Socioeconomic Reforms.

Govt eyeing constitutional amendments for Bangsamoro

From The Standard (Jan 6): Govt eyeing constitutional amendments for Bangsamoro

THE government is eyeing possible constitutional amendments to accommodate adjustments to  the new Bangsamoro enabling law, Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza said Friday.

Dureza told a television interview this could be a “way forward” to address the aspirations of the Bangsamoro should the new arrangements be perceived as “not constitutionally compliant...”

Dureza added amending the 1987 Constitution might be the way to go, as the roadmap of the Duterte administration leads to shifting to a federal form of government.

“[At] the end of the Duterte roadmap, it’s actually federalism. And in federalism you really have to amend the Constitution,” he said.

On Dec. 30, Dureza announced that President Rodrigo Duterte was set to name this month the 21 individuals who would compose the new and expanded Bangsamoro Transition Commission.

In an earlier statement, Dureza noted the existing Philippine Constitution had become a “stumbling block” in effectively negotiating peace with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines/Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front.

“If you talk with the CPP and even the Bangsamoro they will never admit and agree that they will be circumscribed by a Constitution or by our laws,” Dureza said.

He added all agreements previously signed with the major rebel forces made no reference to the Philippine Constitution.

“We always refer to international laws and protocols,” he added.

Dureza had earlier stressed that federalism might be a mechanism to correct the “wrongdoings” of the government against the Bangsamoro people and other indigenous groups [in Mindanao].

In the same interview, Dureza said the selection of members of the BTC might be done on Jan. 21.
Dureza said the failure of Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law could be attributed to some perceived unconstitutionality of some of the provisions of the proposed bill.

Instead of refiling an improved version of BBL, Dureza said the contentious provisions of the BBL could be included in a proposed new charter.

Amending or writing a new charter could also accelerate the peace negotiations with the NDF, Dureza  added.

Created through Executive Order No. 8 signed by Duterte on Nov. 7, The BTC is one of the mechanisms under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which would be the basis for drafting an enabling law that would  establish and put to work the envisioned Bangsamoro political entity.

The new entity will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

New 6-yr plan seeks to crush jihadists

From the Manila Times (Jan 7): New 6-yr plan seeks to crush jihadists

TOP military and defense officials on Friday discussed the “Development Support and Security Plan Kapayapaan,” a new military strategy that aims to defeat enemies of the state and address threats to national security.

In a high-level command conference at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año said the military’s top priority would be the destruction of terrorist groups like the Abu Sayyaf Group, the Maute Group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and other foreign and local terrorist groups.

The new six-year security plan replaces the Internal Peace and Security Plan IPSP “Bayanihan” that was implemented in January 2010 and expired on December 31, 2016.

Put into operation by the previous Aquino administration, IPSP Bayanihan has been the subject of criticism by leftist groups seeking a peace deal with the government.

The new military strategy, presented to military top brass, defense officials led by Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and key national security officials, will serve as the “blueprint” of how the AFP will conduct its campaigns, said Col. Edgard Arevalo, chief of the AFP Public Affairs Office.

The plan was crafted by a technical working group from the AFP in consultation with various government agencies.

Top military field commanders, major service commanders, Wide Support and Separate Unit commanders, and key staff of the AFP were in attendance at the security meeting presided by Lorenzana.

Arevalo said that during the meeting, the AFP chief “was clear, concise, and direct in his pronouncement that the top priority of the AFP under his leadership shall be the destruction of the terrorist groups.”

To achieve this, Año disclosed that besides the conduct of focused combat operations employing the resources of the AFP, “I desire that we enhance stakeholder engagement to ensure robust participation of the religious sector and local government.”

“From our end, I want everyone here to exercise the highest degree of commandership. After all, the most important element of combat power is leadership. Do and give your best and together we will create a winning team and get the job done,” Año pointed out.

The AFP chief also vowed to give priority to frontline units in the assignment of the best officers, enlisted soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines.

“And as such, we must take care of them. While we endeavour to give them the fighting edge, it is as essential that we increase their survivability rate,” he emphasized.

At the same time, the AFP out must look out for the welfare of its personnel and their loved ones, especially those who were combat casualties, by expediting the processing of the benefits due them; streamlining the process and rationalizing the requirements for promotion, schooling, and awards; as well was the disposition of cases, Año said.

DILG Sec. Sueño absolves MILF involvement in Cotabato jail attack

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jan 7): DILG Sec. Sueño absolves MILF involvement in Cotabato jail attack

Interior Secretary Ismael “Mike” Sueño on Thursday absolved the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) of any involvement on the North Cotabato District Jail attack on Tuesday night (January 3), which led to the escape of more than 158 inmates, said a report by on January 5.

Sueño said MILF Commander Sammy Al-Mansour and Vice Chairman Ghadzali Jaafar both denied the group’s involvement in the attack.

The escapees are mostly Hilongos, Ilocanos and Moros and some are considered high profile inmates.

“We are doing our own investigation but me, I personally believe the words of General Sammy Almanzor and Vice Chairman Ghadzali Jaafar,” Sueño said.

I have already talked to the two rebel leaders, the quoted Sueño saying.

“So I have to tell you frankly, we are not involved,” Sueño said, quoting Al-Mansour.

Sec. Sueño said that the MILF assured him they would capture escapees who enter their territory.

Malacañang had earlier said the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines were “working closely to capture the escapees.”

One of India’s newest vessels currently in Philippines

From Update.Ph (Jan 7): One of India’s newest vessels currently in Philippines

An Indian Coast Guard (ICG) vessel is currently in the Philippine for a visit. The vessel, one of ICG’s newest and first in the series of 105 meter Offshore Patrol Vessel (ICGS) Samarth arrive in Manila today, the Embassy of India in Manila said.

The vessel was welcomed by Philippine Coast Guard. “The ship is open to visitors tomorrow, Sunday, 8 January from 1000 to 1600 hrs and you are cordially invited,” the Embassy of India said.

According to Embassy of India, Samarth, which means capable, is designed and built indigenously by M/S Goa Shipyard Limited and is fitted with advanced Navigation and Communication equipment, sensors and machineries. The ship is capable of carrying one Helicopter and operates five high speed boats.

Bicutan jail searched to thwart terror plans

From Rappler (Jan 7): Bicutan jail searched to thwart terror plans

This comes after Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno says terrorists might target the Feast of the Black Nazarene on January 9

JAIL SEARCH. The NCRPO orders a search of Bicutan jail facilities to thwart possible plans of terrorism. Photo courtesy of NCRPO spokesperson Chief Inspector Kimberly Molitas

JAIL SEARCH. The NCRPO orders a search of Bicutan jail facilities to thwart possible plans of terrorism. Photo courtesy of NCRPO spokesperson Chief Inspector Kimberly Molitas

The police chief of the National Capital Region (NCR) ordered the search of jail facilities in Bicutan, Taguig City, to thwart possible terror plans as the Feast of the Black Nazarene approaches.

Chief Superintendent Oscar Albayalde, chief of the NCR Police Office (NCRPO), issued this directive with the approval of Ismael Sueno, Philippine Secretary of the Interior and Local Government (SILG).
"The Regional Police Director Oscar Albayalde, upon guidance of the SILG Sueno, ordered the immediate search of jail facilities inside Bicutan to thwart any terrorism plans or activities," NCRPO spokesperson Chief Inspector Kimberly Molitas said on Saturday, January 7.
Molitas said the search is ongoing as of posting.
Police conducted this search of the Bicutan jail after Sueno said the terrorist Maute Group, as well as the Abu Sayyaf Group, might target the Feast of the Black Nazarene on Monday, January 9.
Police earlier said 5,763 law enforcers will be deployed to secure Nazarene devotees on Monday.
The Palace on Saturday also advised devotees to "look out for one another" during Monday's feast.
The annual January 9 feast is expected to draw up to 8 million devotees raring to touch or see a 17th-century mulatto image of Jesus Christ, in a procession called the Traslacion.

DND eyes jumpstart of defense MOU with Russia under Duterte Administration

From InterAksyon (Jan 7): DND eyes jumpstart of defense MOU with Russia under Duterte Administration

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana over the weekend expressed optimism that the country's defense ties with Russia will vastly improve under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. 

Secretary Lorenzana was alluding to the independent foreign policy thrust of President Duterte.

Speaking aboard the Russian anti-submarine ship Admiral Tributs, Lorenzana said he sees the goodwill visit of the Russian Navy as the start of closer partnership between the respective defense establishments of the Philippines and of Russia.

Admiral Tributs, an Udaloy class anti-submarine destroyer, together with the tanker and supply ship Boris Botoma of the Russian Navy, were both docked at Pier 15 at Manila South Harbor for a four day good will visit in the country.

"We thank you sincerely for this cordial gesture and we hope that this will be the start of a partnership between the One Defense Team - Philippines and its counterpart in the Russian Federation," Lorenzana said in the statement.

The defense secretary mentioned his trip to Russia early last month, where he met with the Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov and Director Alexander Fomin of the Federal Service of Military Technical Cooperation to discuss mutual concerns such as terrorism and illegal drugs.

Lorenzana said that, during his talks with Russian defense officials, they also talked about the possibility of future military engagements.

The defense secretary conveyed to the other side his agreement to continue the Memorandum of Understanding between the two defense organizations initiated in 2014.

Lorenzana said both sides agreed that the MOU should be finalized in time for signing during the forthcoming visit of President Duterte to Russia.

Once signed, the MOU becomes the basis of all future military-to-military engagements, which may include visits, exchange of students, conferences, joint exercises, among others. 

"May our common aspirations for regional and global peace and security enable us to become good partners, cooperating and coordinating towards tranquil and safe seas for all," Lorenzana said.

Roxas night market blast suspect files another plea

From the Mindanao Times (Jan 7): Roxas night market blast suspect files another plea

THE LEGAL counsel of the suspect in the Roxas night market bombing has filed a motion for judicial determination of probable cause.
During the hearing yesterday, Regional Trial Court Branch 33 Judge Lope Callo has reset the hearing on the motion on Feb. 3 at 10 a.m. to give the prosecution time to comment on the motion.
The motion was filed by lawyer Aquila Grapilon, legal counsel of Mokammad Abdul Jabbar A. Sema alias Datu Masla” or “DM.”
Judge Callo also issued a subpoena against Jackson Mangulamas Usi alis “Abu Mansur” or “Jam” and Ausa Abdullah Mamasapano alias “Abu Hamsa” as they were the one tagged Sema because of their extra-judicial confessions.
The two respondents are now temporarily held in the detention facility of Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.
Usi and Mamasapano, in their separate extra-judicial confessions, admitted that they were responsible behind the explosion that killed 15 and injured 69 others.
They also disclosed that it was Sema who suggested to use the bomb in Davao City instead because it is the hometown of President Rodrigo Duterte, and to compel the government to cut the military forces in Basilan which at that time was fighting the Abu Sayyaf Group.
Initially, the group planned to use the bomb Midsayap, North Cotabato but it did not push through since there were no crowds in their specific target when they arrived.

Japan to set up body to promote maritime safety in Southeast Asia

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 7): Japan to set up body to promote maritime safety in Southeast Asia

The Japan Coast Guard plans to establish an organization dedicated to helping Southeast Asian countries improve maritime safety capabilities, apparently as part of Japan's moves to deal with China's assertiveness at sea, JCG officials said Saturday.

The coast guard aims to build stronger ties with counterparts in the region as part of Japan's drive to enshrine the rule of law in coping with disputes in the South China Sea, where surrounding countries including China have competing territorial claims, they said.

In addition to disputes with China, the coast guards of Southeast Asian countries face a pressing need to enhance their ability to respond to natural disasters and piracy.

Foreign ‘ISIS sympathizer,’ live-in partner killed in Sarangani operation

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 7): Foreign ‘ISIS sympathizer,’ live-in partner killed in Sarangani operation

A foreign national tagged as a sympathizer of international terror group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and his Filipina live-in partner were killed in a joint police and military operation in Maasim town in Sarangani Province on Saturday.

Supt. Romeo Galgo, public information officer of the Police Regional Office (PRO)-12, said suspect Abu Naila was gunned down by operatives after reportedly resisting arrest at around 11:45 a.m. in Barangay Daliao in Maasim.

The foreigner’s live-in partner identified only as Khadija was also killed during the operation, he said.

The official said a police team was conducting a security operation in the area when they initially spotted the foreigner and his Filipina partner.

He said the operation was backed by elements from the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion.

“The two were reportedly acting suspiciously and when accosted, the foreigner tried to hurl a grenade at our operatives,” Galgo said.

He said investigators were still verifying the real identities of the slain suspects, but the woman reportedly hails from Butig town in Lanao del Sur.

The foreign national appeared to be African, he said.

Galgo said local informants confirmed that the two were linked to slain local terror leader Mohammad Jaafar Sabiwang Maguid alias Tokboy.

Maguid, the founder and leader local terror group Ansar Al-Khilafah Philippines (AKP), was killed in an operation past midnight on Thursday at the Angel Beach Resort in Barangay Kitagas in Kiamba, Sarangani.

AKP, which had pledged support to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, was blamed over a string of terror attacks in Sarangani and the neighboring areas since 2008.

Maguid grew up in Barangay Daliao, Maasim and his family remains based in the area.

Several members of his group were killed in police and military operations in the area in the last two years.