Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Cops arrest suspect in killing of 8 fishermen

From ABS-CBN (Jan 11): Cops arrest suspect in killing of 8 fishermen

ZAMBOANGA - Law enforcers have arrested a suspect in the killing of eight fishermen in waters off Sitio Laud, Siromon Island, Zamboanga City.
Suspect Midzfar Nuno was arrested Tuesday in a buy bust operation for possessing three sachets of alleged shabu, a grenade and marked money.

Investigators said Nuno was also involved in the sea-jacking of a motorized pumpboat, hacking and killing of 8 fishermen. A Coast Guard official earlier said five armed men on a speed boat participated in the killing of the fishermen off Laud Siromon island Monday night.

Police Chief Inspector Ramon Bautista, Jr. of Police Station 2 in Barangay Curuan said Nuno is the top 2 drug personality in the area and is accused of throwing a grenade at a police station last year.

The suspect, however, vehemently denied allegations that he was involved in the massacre of the eight fishermen.
He said he was at home resting when the police came and arrested him for possession of illegal items. He also denied that the grenade and the drugs were his.

Police are set to file a complaint against Nuno for violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, and for illegal possession of explosives.

Meanwhile, families of the eight slain fishermen continue to flock to a local funeral parlor to mourn the loss of their loved ones.

Eva Bagalonon, 39, lost her son and husband in the incident. Her eldest son, 19-year old Nani, will have to work extra hard to feed his other 6 siblings, all still studying.
Eva said while she still fears for her son’s life when he continues fishing, the family does not have a choice since it is the only work that her husband taught their children. She urged the local government to help her family.

Thelma Sevilla expressed anger with the way her brother-in-law was killed. She said she saw hack and bullet wounds on the head and other parts of the victims' bodies. She urged authorities to arrest the suspects at the soonest possible time.

The remains of the fishermen will be brought home to Barangay Sangali for their wake.


Rappler Talk: Fragile talks with the Philippine left

From Rappler (Jan 11): Rappler Talk: Fragile talks with the Philippine left

National Democratic Front chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili talks to Rappler about the status of negotiations with the Philippine government

Rappler talks to Fidel Agcaoili, the chief negotiator of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

Formal talks between communist rebels and the Philippine government will resume in Rome next week, January 18. Five months since the resumption of formal talks, has the optimism of the Philippine left diminished in light of its criticisms against President Rodrigo Duterte's recent actions including the burial of the late Philippine Dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

The negotiations are entering a critical phase as the two sides are deadlocked on the crucial bilateral ceasefire agreement that was expected to make the ongoing ceasefire more stable.

Watch our interview with Agcaoili here on Rappler.


HUWAG KANG PAPATAY | Southern Tagalog rebels back Traslacion message vs drug war EJKs

From InterAksyon (Jan 11): HUWAG KANG PAPATAY | Southern Tagalog rebels back Traslacion message vs drug war EJKs

Communist rebels in the Southern Tagalog region hailed the Catholic church for making its message against the extrajudicial killings that have characterized government’s war on drugs a central part of this year’s Traslacion or procession of the Black Nazarene.

This year saw the Quiapo church, which houses the religious image, displaying a huge banner exhorting: “Huwag kang papatay (Thou shalt not kill).” The message was also seen printed on T-shirts worn by many of the devotees who came to honor what they believe is a miraculous statue.

Jaime “Ka Diego” Padilla, spokesman of the New People’s Army’s Melito Glor Command, in a statement, called the move “a meaningful opportunity to share with the many people who joined the procession our condemnation of the widespread killings and injustices in the country.”

Citing official figures placing the number of deaths since July, when President Rodrigo Duterte came to power, at more than 6,000 with only a third of these from police operations, Padilla said: “Many innocents have been victimized by the Duterte regime in the war against drugs while not a single drug lord has been jailed in Southern Tagalog and the whole country except small-time drug pushers and users.”

He said Duterte’s approach to solving the drug problem has “dismayed” the revolutionary movement in Southern Tagalog, especially when activists and progressives began to be targeted in the guise of the campaign.

Padilla said the prayers of devotees for an end to the killings “can only be achieved if we act to resist and oppose the injustices being committed today.”


Taiwan scrambles jets, navy as Chinese carrier enters Taiwan Strait

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 11): Taiwan scrambles jets, navy as Chinese carrier enters Taiwan Strait

China's Liaoning aircraft carrier and other warships conducts a drill in the South China Sea. (Reuters)

Taiwan scrambled jets and navy ships on Wednesday as a group of Chinese warships led by China's sole aircraft carrier sailed north through the Taiwan Strait, the latest sign of heightened tensions between Beijing and the self-ruled Taiwan.

The Soviet-built Liaoning aircraft carrier, returning from exercises in the South China Sea, was not trespassing in Taiwan's territorial waters but entered its air defense identification zone in the southwest, Taiwan's defense ministry said.

As a result Taiwan scrambled jets and navy ships to "surveil and control" the passage of the Chinese ships through the narrow body of water separating Taiwan and China.

"We have full grasp of its movements," Taiwan defense ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said.
Taiwanese military aircraft and ships have been deployed to follow the carrier group, which is sailing up the west side of the median line of the strait. he said.

China has said the Liaoning aircraft carrier was on drills to test weapons and equipment in the disputed South China Sea and its movements comply with international law.

The latest Chinese naval exercises have unnerved Beijing's neighbors, especially Taiwan which Beijing claims as its own, given long-running territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

China claims most of the energy-rich waters of the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. Neighbors Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

China distrusts Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and has stepped up pressure on her following a protocol-breaking, congratulatory telephone call between her and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump last month.

Beijing suspects Tsai wants to push for the island's formal independence, a red line for the mainland, which has never renounced the use of force to bring what it deems a renegade province under its control.

Tsai says she wants to maintain peace with China.


Deployment of troops in communities to continue under DSSP 'Kapayapaan'

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 11): Deployment of troops in communities to continue under DSSP 'Kapayapaan'

Deployment of military units in communities, especially those which has requested for a protective presence, will continue under Development Support and Security Plan (DSSP) "Kapayapaan".

This was disclosed by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo in response to the question on whether the new strategy will allow for troop withdrawals.

"We don't see any problems with our troops deployed in communities, their presence their was requested by the people to be there (to secure them) and help the local government and empower our people, so their presence their is meant to serve the people. Military presence should not be an issue as it is requested by the people," he said in Filipino.

Militant groups have been demanding for pullout of troops due to alleged human rights abuses and militarization complaints.

AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Eduardo Año chief stressed that missions under DSSP "Kapayapaan" are purely to sustain the peace, ensure security and maintain public order.

He added that four strategic concepts of the latter are the following:

-Sustained military operation to defeat the foreign and local terrorist organizations
-Contribute to the promotion of peace
-Active support to law enforcement in war against drugs
-Contribute to nation building.

"The leftists have nothing to worry about. In fact we expect them to cooperate with us so that we can work out the attainment of a permanent and lasting peace," Año said.

The AFP chief said that while DSSP "Kapayapaan" is focused on the primacy of the peace process, terror groups like the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Maute Group, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Ansar Al-Khilafah Philippines and other lawless groups will feel the full brunt of the military's combat power.

"While we are addressing the ASG (threat and other lawless elements), we apply the full forceof the AFP, in fact in the Western Mindanao Command area where the ASG and other terror groups (are known to be operating), 51 battalions are already deployed to (conduct focused military operations against them," he added.

Año said this is the biggest ever troop deployment for the AFP as they are making sure that the campaign against the ASG and other lawless and terror groups will be significantly defeated and their capabilities to wreck havoc or terror reduced to the very minimal.

He added efforts to combat these threats will be evaluated this coming June to determine whether the strategies being implemented against them are taking effect.

When asked what initiatives the AFP are taking against these lawless and terror groups, Año said the military has intensified our intelligence operations and engagements with the local communities so local residents will report to authorities presence of suspicious-looking individuals in their respective areas.


Sulu Sea Kidnappings A Threat To Merchant Shipping: Report

From the Malaysian Digest (Jan 10): Sulu Sea Kidnappings A Threat To Merchant Shipping: Report

The Sulu Sea between eastern Malaysia and the Philippines has become dangerous for merchant shipping due to rising threat of kidnappings, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said on Tuesday.
The Sulu archipelago is a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf, an al-Qaeda linked group notorious for kidnappings and, increasingly, piracy.
The IMB report was released just hours after armed men attacked a fishing boat, killing eight fishermen, in what appeared to be a pirate attack off the southern Philippines.
IMB said global sea kidnappings rose three-fold in 2016, even as global piracy hit its lowest level in nearly 20 years. Pirates kidnapped 62 people for ransom in 15 separate incidents in 2016.
"The kidnapping of crew from ocean going merchant vessels in the Sulu Sea and their transfer to the Southern Philippines represents a notable escalation in attacks," Kuala Lumpur-based IMB said.
IMB is advising charterers and owners to consider avoiding the Sulu Sea by routing vessels West of Kalimantan.
Tug boats, barges and fishing vessels have been targeted previously, but lately merchant ships are also being attacked, IMB said. They include the massive 180,000 tonne iron ore carrier Kumiai Shagang that saw an attempted attack late last year.
Several sailors and tourists were taken captive by Islamist militants last year in attacks on tug boats and yachts in the Celebes and Sulu seas, raising concern among defense officials from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
In November, the Philippines agreed to allow Malaysia and Indonesia to carry out "hot pursuits" in its territorial waters, as the three nations looked to tackle kidnappings and piracy by Abu Sayyaf.
Commenting on the threat of kidnappings in the Sulu Sea area, one Singapore-based senior maritime security executive said: "The only worthwhile advice is to avoid the area."

DBM announces increase in wages of government employees, AFP, PNP

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 11): DBM announces increase in wages of government employees, AFP, PNP

DBM issues guidelines for second tranche of compensation adjustment for civilian personnel, military and uniformed personnel.

Starting January 1, 2017, teachers, health workers, soldiers, policemen, and all other civil servants will receive a bigger take home pay. This is in line with the Duterte administration's pledge to raise the compensation of the country's public sector civilian workers and military and uniformed personnel (MUP).

“These are the people who help and protect the Philippines. We want them to feel satisfied about their jobs, inspire them to be more productive workers and allow them to provide for their families. Raising their wages is only just,” said President Duterte.

Pursuant to Executive Order No.201 s. 2016 (EO 201), which grants a compensation adjustment for government workers and additional allowances for MUP in four tranches, the DBM issued National Budget Circular No. 568 and Local Budget Circular No. 113.The circulars will implement the second tranche of compensation adjustment for the said public servants.

National Budget Circular No. 568 outlines the guidelines, rules, and regulations for the implementation of the second tranche of EO 201 for civilian personnel in the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches, the Constitutional Commissions and other Constitutional Offices, State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), and government-owned-and-controlled corporations (GOCCs) covered by the Compensation and Position Classification System (CPCS), under Republic Act No. 6758.

Local Budget Circular No. 113 on the other hand covers all positions for salaried local government unit (LGU) personnel and all positions for barangay personnel which are paid monthly honoraria.

With the second tranche implementation of the compensation adjustments, government workers are set to have more money in their pockets as their salaries will increase in addition to the mid-year and year-end bonus. In addition, an enhanced Performance-Based Bonus will be granted to those who meet their agency targets.

For instance, a Teacher 1 will get an annual compensation package of P324,962 while a Nurse 1 will get P398,822, bringing their total compensation to twice that of their private sector counterparts.

Meanwhile, the MUP are now entitled to a provisional allowance, mid-year and year-end bonus, an enhanced Performance-Based Bonus subject to accomplishment of performance targets, as well as an increase in the hazard pay from P390.00 to P540.00 per month.Certain ranks will also receive augmentation in the form of officers’ allowance.

Thus, in 2017, the total annual compensation for a Police Officer 1 (PO1) and a military Private will be P399,396. This represents a 14 percent increase in compensation for a PO1 and a 10 percent increase in compensation for a Private. The substantial increase in allowances will more justly reward our brave policemen and soldiers who put their lives on the line for the country.

Managers and executives will also receive substantial pay increases of 15 to 27 percent so the government may attract and retain the best talent. A Division Chief will receive an amount ofP1,097,863annually; a Director IV-level position P1,659,491 annually; a Secretary-level post P2,595,137 annually; and a highest-ranking General, P2,144,283 per annum. This scheme intends to position their compensation packages closer to that of the private sector, in line with the principle of "equal pay for work of equal value."

The compensation and allowances will be adjusted in accordance with the schedule provided in EO 201.

Funding for compensation adjustments of national government agencies is provided for in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for FY 2017. For covered GOCCs and GFIs, funding will be sourced from their respective corporate operating budgets. While for LGU personnel, the amount shall be sourced from LGU funds authorized by their respective sanggunian.

 To learn more about the compensation adjustment for MUPs and Civilian Personnel, visit www.dbm.gov.ph.


Rare WW II photos on display in newly renovated PVB branch in Lingayen, Pangasinan

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 10): Rare WW II photos on display in newly renovated PVB branch in Lingayen, Pangasinan
Veterans and their dependents will now see a slice of history in capsule through rare World War II photographs now on display on the wall of the renovated Philippine Veterans Bank (PVB) branch in Lingayen, which was inaugurated Monday night.

The inauguration coincided with the commemoration of the 72nd anniversary of the Lingayen Gulf landings in the morning at the Pangasinan Veterans Park near the seashore, behind the provincial capitol here.

The inauguration of the branch located at RBP Building on Avenida Rizal West in Poblacion, Lingayen was led by PVB president and chief executive officer Nonilo Cruz with Governor Amado Espino III and Second District Congressman Leopoldo Bataoil as special guests.

Also present were some of the World War II veterans of the town who co-owned the bank based on its charter.

Gov. Espino and Rep. Bataoil lauded the bank for renovating all its branches in Pangasinan, a sign of its growth and stability and its willingness to help develop the province and its people.
Meanwhile, the centerpiece of the renovated branch is its World War II History Wall-6 panels that tell the story of World War II in the Philippines with several of the panels dedicated to World War II events that have happened in Lingayen and other towns of Pangasinan.

The history wall is a standard attraction in every PVB branch to remind the public that the bank is owned by the veterans, numbering some 300,000 all over the country, who did not hesitate to risk their lives so the Philippines would gain freedom.

"It's a tribute to the blood, sweat and tears of the veterans who risked their loves so that we will all be free," said Cruz during a program after the inauguration.

In addition to the history wall, the branch has also two display cases that contain artifacts, paraphernalia, and memorabilia from the war, which, combined with the history wall, make clients as well as visitors of PVB Lingayen almost like they were making a trip to the museum.

The history wall has also a great panel with a display monitor that continuously screens WW II documentaries and photos.

At the same time, PVB Lingayen also sports a new facade with a large "V" that is not only considered a nod to the bank's stockholders, the veterans, but also a symbol of the aggressive outlook that the bank has of the town.

Other PVB top officials who attended the inauguration were Atty. Federico Manalo, corporate secretary; and Mike Villa-Real, vice president and head for corporate and consumer relations.


EastMinCom's Task Force Haribon alerts all units for ASEAN Summit

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 10): EastMinCom's Task Force Haribon alerts all units for ASEAN Summit

The Eastern Mindanao Command's (EastMinCom) Joint Task Force Haribon has alerted all its units to get ready to support the Philippine National Police (PNP) in securing the launching of the 50th Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit on Sunday in Davao City.

JTF Haribon commander Brig. Gen. Gilbert I. Gapay bared that the support plan of their group covers different scenarios particularly on Disaster Response, Terrorism and Internal Security Operation.

"Our plan is in support to the PNP Plan and we consider different possible scenarios and we are closely coordinating with different concern agencies particularly the PNP," Gapay said.

He also said that their sea, air and land assets will be on standby alert for the ASEAN activities security requirement.

About 600 personnel from air force, navy and army will be committed to over 1,400 personnel already deployed to support the security of different activities relative to the launching.

As part of the preparations, table top exercises were initiated by the JTF Haribon to ensure that all areas will be covered.

Last January 6, a Joint Exercise was held along Davao Gulf to fine tune naval security measures and enhance inter-operability among committed units.

Also, JTF Haribon conducted a Security Forum at Babak, Island Garden City of Samal on Monday to strengthen cooperation among stakeholders in securing the island as one of the potential area to be visited by delegates of the ASEAN.


Dagupan's Gen. MacArthur Park set for renovation

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 10): Dagupan's Gen. MacArthur Park set for renovation

Mayor Belen T. Fernandez has outlined a plan to renovate the General Douglas MacArthur Park in Barangay Bonuan Gueset here and make it one of the tourist destinations in the city.

She bared her plans following the commemoration of the 72nd General Douglas MacArthur landing in what is now known as Bonuan Tondaligan on Monday, attended by World War II veterans and members of the Knights of Columbus of the Msgr. Henry C. Schmitz Assembly CAN 2995.

She vowed to use part of more or less PHP100 million cash surplus of the city last year to finance the renovation of the park with additional financial assistance from 4th District Congressman Christopher ‘Toff’ de Venecia who earlier committed to help improve the park.

“We already have plans to renovate the park and intend to connect it by a short road to the bigger Tondaligan Park and to be lined up by some sculptures depicting MacArthur and his troops landing in the beach of the city," the mayor said.

Fernandez added that they will also upgrade the statue of the General and put it in a lower elevation so that people will have a closer look of him and appreciate his historical landing in our city,” said Fernandez.

The mayor called on the members of the Knights of Columbus and the living veterans for a meeting at her office so they can map out plans on how to renovate or remodel the park before she will leave for Washington D.C. in the U.S. as a member of a Philippine Mission to be headed by Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael Sueño in late January.

She vowed that on her trip to Washington D.C, she will connect with Americans well versed on the subject in a bid to finally settle the issue on where MacArthur really first set his foot when he came to liberate Luzon island from the Japanese Imperial Army.

"Once we have settled this, we will make a representation with the National Historical Commission and Congress to recognize the claims of our own veterans that indeed, the General first landed at the Bonuan Blue Beach,” said Fernandez.

The development of the MacArthur Park, she said, will enforce plans to boost the city's tourism program, which is among the many activities and programs lined up during the city’s celebration of its platinum (75th) year of cityhood

“We are what we are today because of the great sacrifices of our American friends and our own fellow freedom-loving Filipino war veterans,” she said as she lauded the veterans for risking their lives so the Filipinos will be free.


Jailed drug lord behind Jan. 3 North Cotabato jail attack

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 10): Jailed drug lord behind Jan. 3 North Cotabato jail attack

A jailed drug lord has financed the January 3 siege by some 100 armed men at the North Cotabato District Jail (NCDJ) facility at Barangay Amas here, a top provincial official confirmed Tuesday.

North Cotabato acting Governor Sherlyn Macasarte Villanueva named the moneyed inmate as Melvin Casangyao alias “Hapon”, who paid the group of Esmael Nasser alias Commander Derby to "rescue" him from the prison facility.

Nasser, leader of a ragtag bandit group based in Kabacan town, was once an inmate of NCDJ who managed to escape last year.

According to Villanueva, Casangyao contracted Nasser the sum of PHP1 million for the attack at the penitentiary.

The acting governor added that the “deal” also includes an additional PHP 1 million and two units M60 machinegun should the mission to get Casangyao out of jail succeed.

Villanueva is certain that the attack was drug-related based on record that 94 of the 158 inmates who escaped were facing drug charges.

The provincial government has offered a bounty of PHP2 million for the recapture of Casangyao and another PHP1 million for the arrest of Nasser.

Added to this, the official also offered PHP10,000 each for the remaining 98 inmates who remain at large.

Members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan have approved the reward system for the escapees.
Currently, a total of 49 escapees were recaptured, 10 died and one was wounded during the continuing military and police pursuit operations.


World War II markers proposed in every town covered by allied beachhead 72 years ago

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 10): World War II markers proposed in every town covered by allied beachhead 72 years ago

A son of a World War II veteran has proposed the putting of markers in every town in Pangasinan where the allied liberation forces landed on January 9, 1945 to begin the liberation of Luzon from the enemy.

Dr. Vicencio Villaflor Jr., son and namesake of Dr. Vicencio Villaflor Jr., who once served in the medical corp of Col. Windel Fertig of the Mindanao Command during World War II before migrating to Dagupan, said his suggestion is a middle of the road solution to the unsettled puzzle where General Douglas MacArthur first landed when he came to Pangasinan with his troops.

He said to finally settle the controversy, World War II markers should be put up in San Fabian, Dagupan, Binmaley and Lingayen where the allied liberation forces landed in a 20-mile (32-kilometer) beachhead that began at dawn of January 9, 1945 or 72 years ago.

To date, the honor on where Mac Arthur first set his foot when he began the liberation of the Philippines is being fiercely contested by Lingayen, Dagupan and San Fabian.

"As for me, I believe that every rank and file soldiers and officers, that set foot in the beach represented the 6th Army of General Water Krueger and under the command of General Mac Arthur. These soldiers all represented General Mac Arthur," Dr. Villaflor said.

He suggested that the markers should read: "On this hallowed ground in San Fabian, Dagupan, Binmaley and Lingayen, the soldiers of the 6th Army under General Walter Krueger under the command of General Douglas MacArthur landed to begin the liberation of the Philippines from Japanese occupation and thus fulfill his promise: 'I shall return' to the Filipino people".
This, he said, will hopefully end the controversy on where General Mac Arthur first landed in Pangasinan that divided many people for decades so that they can finally move on.

This will encourage partnership with each neighboring areas for the rapid development of tourist attractions and make tourists come here to our beaches, he said.

A commission can help improve the services while civic spirited citizens are encouraged to come and help in this endeavor.

At the same time, Villaflor expressed belief that the word "I" in MacArthur's immortal phrase "I shall return" meant that he would come back to the Philippines with the full might of the American forces behind him, which he did in the early morning of January 9, 1945.

He said the markers that would be built must be protected from vandals so that they will not follow the markers earlier erected in some of these beaches that were either stolen or vandalized.
He cited the 1948 marker put up by the National Historical Commission (NHC) in Bonuan with the help of the Rotary Club of Dagupan marking the spot where soldiers of II Corps of the 6th Army under General Kriueger had already disappeared.

In 1984, Mayor Cipriano Manaois erected a monument /statue of General Mac Arthgur in the property of Capt. Moises Maramba in Bonuan, Dagupan City but is not so well kept and needs restoration.

Compostela Valley gov named new RPOC chair for Davao Region

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 10): Compostela Valley gov named new RPOC chair for Davao Region

NABUNTURAN, Compostela Valley – President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed Compostela Valley Governor Jayvee Tyron Uy as Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) chairman in Davao Region, the post that he once held when he was mayor of Davao City.

Uy’s appointment was also signed by Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Ismael Sueno, who serves as chair of the National Peace and Order Council (NPOC).

The appointment was personally handed to Governor Uy by DILG Compostela Valley provincial director Noel Duarte.

Among the basis of Governor Uy’s appointment to head the RPOC was his best practices in ensuring peace and stability in the province that resulted to the declaration of Compostela Valley as conflict manageable and development ready area.

ComVal is home to many fronts of the New People’s Army (NPA) and has seen so many atrocities before it was declared as development ready.


Eastern Visayas top cop: Maute group behind Leyte town plaza blast

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 10): Eastern Visayas top cop: Maute group behind Leyte town plaza blast

The Philippine National Police (PNP) in Eastern Visayas said on Tuesday that the Maute terrorist group in Mindanao was behind the Dec. 28, 2016 town plaza bombing in Hilongos, Leyte.

No group has not yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but PNP Eastern Visayas Regional Director, Chief Supt. Elmer Beltejar, said that the explosive device used in Hilongos is of similar design and signature to those planted by the Maute group in Davao and Cotabato bombings and even in the foiled explosion attempt in front of the US Embassy.

The police declined to name the suspects, but they are aware of their location.

“Per intelligence information we gathered, the main suspect is really a member of the Maute group, but there were three of them who planned and executed the bombing. They were sighted few a days before the bombing, and hours before the bombing,” Beltejar told reporters.

Citing intelligence reports, the police regional chief confirmed that local drug syndicates financed the Maute group to launch the retaliatory attack on Dec. 28, 2016 that injured 35 viewers of an amateur boxing match.

The bombing happened after the Oct. 22, 2016 arrest of Raidah Ampaso Sarip, a native of Marawi City and resident of Hindang, Leyte for illegal drugs trade and production of fake money.

“This is also a way for the Maute group to show that they are a force to reckon with to get the nod of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) for affiliation and also for fund purposes),” Beltejar said.

The police is speeding up the investigation relative to the explosion incident that spoiled the town’s fiesta celebration.


Gov. Espino bares additional benefits for veterans, kin

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 10): Gov. Espino bares additional benefits for veterans, kin

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan -- Governor Amado “Pogi” I. Espino, III vowed to provide expanded benefits to World War II veterans in Pangasinan, particularly the impoverished ones, in answer for their immediate need and those of their families.

The governor announced this at the 72nd anniversary celebration of the Lingayen Gulf Landings and 10th Pangasinan Veterans' Day held Monday night at the Veterans’ Memorial Park within the Capitol Complex here.

“In my capacity as governor of this province, I vow to pursue a more comprehensive program to give honor to our unsung heroes, by expanding our services to them and their immediate families,” he said.

The governor directed the Provincial Population Officer, Provincial Social Welfare and Development Officer, and Provincial Employment Services Officer to design a special livelihood and educational assistance program for the families of those of the veterans who are in dire need.

“Our World War II veterans were there when we needed them, let us be here for them in return. By providing the needed aids to them (war veterans), we can assure them of keeping their legacy of bravery," Gov. Espino said.

The provincial chief executive, however, noted the dwindling number of living war veterans in Pangasinan from around 15,000 during World War II to only 370 as of January 2017.

Corollary to this, Romeo Madriaga, area director of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), confirmed that Pangasinan had the most number of veterans before, compared to Cebu.

He said during the war, it was in Pangasinan where American Lieutenants Robert Lapham and Edwin Ramsey aggressively recruited would-be guerillas to join their forces to continue the fight against the Japanese.

Gov. Espino recalled that his father, former governor and now Fifth District Congressman Amado T. Espino, Jr., instituted the Pangasinan Veterans Day as an annual event in Pangasinan to coincide with the Lingayen Gulf Landings Anniversary.

Being a former soldier himself, the elder Espino started giving prime attention to the war veterans and their families.

Since 2008, the veterans and theirs sons and daughters have availed of free medical and dental services and medicines with cash gifts and other tokens as well as free transport service during observance of the veterans' day.

The veterans have also become recipients of the provincial government's free health care services from the 14 government-owned hospitals.

A major milestone made by the provincial government was the construction of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office building within the Capitol Complex in 2015.

In the same year, the provincial government awarded medals of valor to the veterans who have not been accorded honors.

“Certainly, they deserve all these. However, we feel that these are not enough to reciprocate their sacrifice for our country. They deserve more,” said Gov. Espino.


WMC units now tracking suspects who gunned down 8 fishermen off Zamboanga City waters

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 10): WMC units now tracking suspects who gunned down 8 fishermen off Zamboanga City waters

Western Mindanao Command (WMC) are now tracking down the five heavily-armed men who shot and killed eight fishermen off Laud Siromon, Barangay Dita, Zamboanga City Monday night.

The incident took place 8 p.m. WMC spokesperson Major Filemon Tan said the victims were all aboard a fishing boat, reportedly owned by one Mumar of Sangali, when the suspects arrived out of nowhere and started shooting the fishermen, killing eight before making their getaway.

He added that the seven other fishermen, dove into the water, to avoid the gunfire of the suspects, surviving in the process.

"Motive of the gunmen was said to be personal grudge between two fishing groups and another angle considered is extortion," Tan stressed.

Around 8:40 a.m. Wednesday, Barangay Sangali chair Daud Bakil appeared before the Sangali Police Station with Kervin Banahan, one of the survivors, to report the strafing incident.

The other survivors are currently on Siromon Island in Zamboanga City.

"The Joint Task Force Zamboanga is now closely looking and monitoring the developments in the area. The Marine Battalion Landing Team-11 is also currently in the area to assist the Curuan police as investigations are ongoing," Tan added.