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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Manila tells Filipinos to leave immediately Yemen



MANILA - The Philippines has urged Filipinos in Yemen to immediately leave the country as soon as possible due to extreme security concerns.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said its embassy in Riyadh continues to monitor the political and security developments in Sana’a and the rest of Yemen in light of the recent resignations of high officials of the Yemeni government.

“All Filipinos in Yemen are urged to leave the country as soon as possible. The Republic of Yemen continues to be under Alert Level 3 (Voluntary Repatriation) with all new deployments of Filipino workers or their return from vacation banned.”

“All Filipinos are urged to avoid unnecessary travel outside their homes which should also be fortified against stray bullets. The Embassy strongly urges them not to participate in any mass demonstrations and to avoid areas of conflict. If necessary, they are advised to leave their places of residence which are in or near areas of conflict,” the DFA said.

It said all Filipinos must immediately coordinate with the Crisis Management Team based in Sana’a for assistance.

According to a BBC report, Yemen is in deeper crisis than ever and mired in two larger struggles that make its instability an even greater threat.
A Shia-led rebel grouping known as the Houthis, from northern Yemen, has mounted what, to for all intents and purposes, is a slow-motion coup. Their leader, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, is now in control of much of Yemen's state apparatus, such as it is.

The President, Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who is a close US ally, along with his government, has resigned, but there are reports his resignation has been withdrawn - the situation is far from clear.

A US drone strike in Yemen recently had killed three suspected al-Qaeda members. The drone strikes have been under way since 2002, and since then there have been well over 100 such attacks. (Mindanao Examiner)


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5 people hurt in road accident in Zamboanga highway



PAGADIAN CITY – Police held a 27-year old truck driver after he fled from a road accident that left 5 people injured on a highway in Zamboanga Sibugay province in southern Philippines, officials said Wednesday.

Officials said Mahathir Malawani, a native of Marawi City in Lanao del Sur province, was intercepted by policemen in Buug town after fled from the town of Diplahan on the night of January 27.

Malawani hit a motorcycle and injured its driver Roger Baluarte, 44; and passengers Avelinda Macalos, 53; Candelario Duhaylungsod, 44; and Marchboy Sandalan, 16.

A 57-year old man, Ignacio Visaya, who was on a bicycle, was also hurt when he jumped in a canal to avoid the truck.

Officials said Malawani was heading to Marawi City from Zamboanga City when the accident occurred. (Mindanao Examiner)


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President Aquino nagsalita na ukol sa SAF-MILF clashes sa Maguindanao



MANILA – Humarap na rin ngayon sa publiko si Pangulong Benigno Aquino upang liwanagin ang madugong sagupaan sa pagitan ng Special Action Force commandos ng Philippine National Police at dating rebeldeng grupo na Moro Islamic Liberation Front sa lalawigan ng Maguindanao sa magulong Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Bagama’t isinalaysay ni Aquino ang naganap ay hindi naman nito sinabi kung sino ang nag-utos sa SAF na pasukin ang bayan ng Mamasapano nitong Enero 25 dahil sa impormasyong naroon ang teroristang si Basit Usman at Malaysian Jemaah Islamiya bomber Zulikifli bin Hir.

Umabot sa 44 ang bilang ng SAF commandos na napatay sa labanan matapos na lusubin ng mga ito ang kampo ng MILF 105th Base Command. Maging ang Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters ay sumagupa rin sa grupo ng SAF commandos.

Halos 400 ang puwersang ipinadala ng PNP, ngunit nabigo ang mga ito na mailigtas ang mahigit sa 100 commandos na siyang pumasok sa Barangay Tukanalipao na teritoryo naman ng MILF. Inakusahan ng MILF ang SAF ng paglulunsad ng operasyon ng walang koordinasyon kung kaya’t nadamay pati sila sa kaguluhan. Lumagda ang MILF ng peace deal sa pamahalaang Aquino noong nakaraang taon.

Mistulang nag ala-President Obama naman si Aquino at kung sakaling mahuli si Usman o Marwan ay susurpresahin nito ang publiko sa kanyang anunsyo. Tulad ng ginawa ni Obama ng ipag-utos nito ang sikretong operasyon sa loob ng Pakistan upang madakip o mapatay si Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden. Ngunit hindi ito ang naging resulta sa Mamasapano at sa halip ay nabisto ang sikretong operasyon ng SAF at napaslang sa labanan ang maraming commandos.

Maging si Aquino ay hindi rin sigurado kung napatay nga ng SAF si Zulkifli, alias Marwan, na unang sinabi nina Defense chief Voltaire Gazmin at Interior Secretary Mar Roxas na umano’y napaslang sa labanan.

Sinabi naman ni ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman na napatay nga si Zulkifli at agad umanong inilibing ng mga sibilyan sa lugar dahil ito ang naaayon sa Islam. Hindi rin umanong pedeng hukayin at kunin ang bangkay ni Zilkifli dahil labag ito sa Islam.
Nag-alok ang Estados Unidos na $5 milyon reward kay Zulkifli at $1 milyon naman kay Usman.

Narito naman ang buong pahayag ni Aquino: “Humaharap po ako sa inyo ngayon upang iulat ang ating nalalaman ukol sa nangyari sa Mamasapano, Maguindanao, nitong nakaraang Sabado at Linggo. Ginagawa po natin ito hindi upang pangunahan ang board of inquiry na itinalaga upang tuklasin ang buong katotohanan, kundi dahil karapatan ninyong malaman ang alam natin sa puntong ito.

Noong Sabado ng gabi, ika-24 ng Enero, isang grupo ng mga kasapi ng Special Action Force ng ating Philippine National Police ay tumungo sa Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao. Ang kanilang misyon, ipatupad ang mga outstanding warrants of arrest sa dalawang notorious na teroristang matagal nang pinaghahanap ng mga awtoridad: Sina Abdulbasit Usman at Zulkipli Bin Hir, alias Abu Marwan. Sa pagtupad ng kanilang tungkulin, 44 sa ating mga pulis ang napatay, habang 16 naman ang sugatan, kabilang na ang 3 sibilyan, ayon sa huling tala ng ating NDRRMC.

Bilang Pangulo, bilang Ama ng Bayan, napakalungkot pong isipin na kinailangang magbuwis ng buhay ng ating kapulisan sa misyong ito. At kung mayroon nga pong depinisyon ang bayani, sila na iyon: Silang mga humarap sa panganib upang pigilan ang banta sa ating kaligtasan; silang mga nasugatan; silang naghandog ng buhay sa ngalan ng kapayapaan. Bilang paggalang sa mga ng mga nasawi, magdedeklara tayo ng isang National Day of Mourning bilang sagisag ng pagdadalamhati at pakikiramay ng ating buong bansa.

Hindi po pangkaraniwang kriminal sina Marwan at Usman. Mayroong mahabang listahan ng mga warrant laban sa kanila; kay Usman pa lang po, mayroon nang di-bababa sa walong outstanding warrant, habang may di naman bababa sa dalawa kay Marwan. At 2002 po ang isa sa mga pinakamaaga rito, kaya’t ang ibig sabihin, Congressman pa lang ako ay pinaghahanap na sila. Lilinawin ko lang po: Kapag may warrant laban sa isang tao, bawat alagad ng batas ay tungkuling ipatupad ito. Kaya nga po, dati pa, marami nang mga operasyon para madakip o subukang madakip sina Marwan at Usman, pati na ang iba pang terorista, ang isinigawa ng iba’t ibang sangay ng security sector, kabilang na ang AFP, PNP, at NBI.

Hindi sa bawat pagkakataon ay hinihiling nila ang pahintulot ko, dahil impraktikal naman kung hintayin pa nila ang clearance mula sa akin. Ang tungkulin ko: siguruhing ginagampanan nila ang kanilang responsibilidad. May pagkakataon naman pong inaakyat nila sa atin ang sitwasyon para makapagbigay tayo ng payo, tingnan sa malawak na pananaw ang sitwasyon, o ipaliwanag ang maaaring maging implikasyon nito.

Halimbawa po nito ang pagtugon sa rogue MNLF elements sa Zamboanga, ang paghuli sa pinakamatataas sa ating listahan ng Most Wanted Persons, o ang paglusob sa ating mga peacekeeper sa Golan Heights. Sa kaso po ng Golan Heights, hindi naman puwedeng ang battalion commander lamang doon ang magdedesisyon sa kanilang pag-alis. Bilang may pangunahing responsibilidad sa ating ugnayang panlabas, kinailangan tayong abisuhan upang masigurong natututukan pati ang ating mga obligasyon sa United Nations.

Bahagi po si Marwan ng Central Committee ng Jemaah Islamiya, na nagsagawa ng Bali bombing sa Indonesia. Dito, dalawang magkasunod na pagsabog ang nangyari, kaya’t tinamaan pati ang first responders at iba pang hindi umalis. 202 katao ang nasawi dito, at suspek po si Marwan dito. Sa Cagayan de Oro noong 2012, tinangka ni Marwan na gayahin ang modus na ito; nadiskubre ang pangalawang bomba kaya’t hindi ito sumabog, ngunit dalawang katao pa rin po ang nasawi sa pangyayaring ito.

May alegasyon na noong 2006, kasama ni Umbra Kato, pinamunuan ni Marwan ang pagtatanim ng bomba upang pagtangkaan ang buhay ng gobernador ng Maguindanao noong panahon na iyon na si Andal Ampatuan. Dahil miyembro si Marwan ng international terrorist networks, na may koneksiyon sa iba pang mga grupong terorista, siya ay may kakayahang kumuha ng kaalaman, kagamitan, salapi, dagdag pa sa paglikha ng safe havens para sa mga kapwa niya terorista. Ito ang dahilan kung kaya’t itinuring siyang pangunahing target ng operasyon. Iniuugnay naman si Usman sa siyam na insidente ng pambobomba sa Mindanao. Siya ang pangunahing akusado sa pambobomba sa General Santos City noong 2002, kung saan 15 ang namatay at 60 ang nasugatan.

Kasama ang isa pang terorista na ang ngalan ay Mawiyah, sina Marwan at Usman ang nagsagawa ng terorismo sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng Mindanao. Kilala ring trainer ng paggawa ng bomba ang dalawang ito. May mga ulat pong mayroon silang pagawaan ng mga improvised explosive device, na siya nilang ibinebenta sa mga kapwa nila terorista. Marami na silang nasaktan at napatay, at habang malaya sila, patuloy ang banta laban sa kaligtasan ng ating mamamayan.

Ididiin ko lang po: Sa Article II, Section 4 ng Saligang Batas, nakasaad na “The primary duty of government is to serve and protect the people.” Kaya nga po, nang nalaman ng ating kapulisan ang tutok na lokasyon nina Marwan at Usman, nagdesisyon silang kumilos upang ipatupad ang mga warrant sa mga ito. Actionable intelligence po ang nakalap ng ating mga awtoridad: Hindi lamang rehiyon, o probinsiya, o munisipyo ang natukoy nila, kundi ang mismong mga bahay na pinagtataguan ng dalawa. Kung hindi aaksiyunan ang kaalamang ito, maaaring makatakas sina Marwan at Usman, at kakailanganin na namang simulan ang mahabang proseso ng paghahanap sa kanila.

Pasado alas-4 ng umaga ng Linggo nang umabot ang Special Action Force sa kutang pinagtataguan nina Marwan at Usman. Sa nangyaring engkuwentro, diumano’y napatay ang pangunahing target na si Marwan. Nang marinig ang putukan, nanlaban naman si Usman at ang kanyang mga kasamahan.  May mga non-combatants na nakita sa mga tirahan nina Marwan at Usman; kinailangan talagang dikitan sila ng ating mga puwersa para maiwasang madamay ang inosente. Unang inatake ang bahay ni Marwan; rumesponde naman sina Usman at nawala ang element of surprise na siyang magpapahirap na matupad ang kanilang misyon. Kaya naman, minabuti ng SAF na umatras at makipag-rendezvous sa mga kasamahan nilang nagbabantay ng kanilang daraanan papalabas sa lugar ng engkuwentro. Lumalabas pong sa withdrawal na ito nangyari ang pinakamadugong bahagi ng sagupaan.

Gaya po ng marami, may mga katanungan din ako ukol sa insidente, kaya inaasahan natin na mahahanap ng binuong board of inquiry ang katotohanan ukol sa insidenteng ito. Sa mga briefing na ibinigay sa akin ng PNP ukol sa continuing operation laban kina Marwan at Usman, makailang ulit kong idiniin ang pangangailangan ng tama, sapat, at napapanahong koordinasyon.

Kumplikado ang sinasabi ngang terrain sa operasyong ito: ‘Yung mismong lupa maputik, may mga swampland, marshes, at kailangang tumawid ng ilog upang marating ang destinasyon ng ating SAF. Maraming mga puwersang nagkalat sa lugar na ito: Nariyan ang BIFF, MILF, at mayroon pang Private Armed Group. Kahit pa ba magkahiwalay na ang MILF at BIFF, marami sa kanila ang magkakamag-anak sa dugo o sa pag-aasawa. Hindi basta-basta maaaring pumasok ang mga estranghero. Kailangang tahimik at dahan-dahan ang pagpasok ng ating mga tropa; kung hindi, maaaring maalerto ang kanilang mga target.

Lalo pa’t dahil hindi kalakihan ang puwersa ng SAF kumpara sa mga nakapaligid na maaaring makialam, mahalagang nakaantabay ang Sandatahang Lakas upang maiposisyon nito ang mga tropa, kasangkapan, at kagamitan tulad ng mga kanyon kung sakaling kailanganin ng suporta ng ating kapulisan.

Kailangan po nila ng sapat na panahon upang mailagay ang kanilang puwersa sa kung saan ito pinakamakakatulong. At sa ganitong klaseng bakbakan, kung kakailanganin ng ayuda mula sa Sandatahang Lakas, hindi ora mismo ay makakarating ito, lalo pa’t may iba’t ibang mga tungkulin ang mga kasapi ng 6th Infantry Division na siyang pinakamalapit sa aksiyon.

Sa paulit-ulit kong pagpapaalala sa pangangailangan ng koordinasyon, ang isinagot po sa akin ng direktor ng SAF, “Yes Sir.” Ang sabi lang niya, kailangan din ng operational security, o ang pagsigurong ang dapat lang makaalam ang masasabihan ukol sa operasyon. Gayumpaman, idiniin kong kailangan pa ring ialerto ang ibang mga sangay o ang kanilang mga hepe; kailangan nasa tamang oras ang abiso, at kumpleto ang impormasyon, para makapaghanda nang maayos.

Tanong ko: Bakit at paano nga po kaya nangyari na malapit na sa jump-off o naka-jump-off na, nang sinabihan ang batalyon ng AFP na malapit sa operasyon? Ang problema po dito, nagkalat sa iba’t ibang lugar ang mga sundalong kasapi ng batalyong ito na nagbabantay sa main supply route sa lugar na ito.

Sa madaling salita, dikit na sa oras ng engkuwentro ang abiso, at mahirap masabi kung nagkaroon ng sapat na panahon upang ihanda ang ayuda kung kakailanganin. Kung may compliance pong nangyari sa atas kong siguruhing may sapat na koordinasyon, parang sinagad po itong very minimum compliance. Nagulat nga po akong malaman na ang pinuno ng Western Mindanao Command, o maski ng 6th Infantry Division, ay tila naabisuhan lamang matapos ang unang engkuwentro laban kina Marwan at Usman; palabas na ang puwersa ng SAF, at nagkakaroon na ng problema sa puntong ito.

Sa panig naman po ng MILF: Napakalaki na ang mga hakbang na nagawa natin dahil nagtiwala tayo sa isa’t isa. Napatunayan natin na kaya nating magtulungan: Noong 2014, isang Japanese national ang nailigtas sa Maguindanao; sa taon ding iyon, napigilan ang pagpapasabog ng isang bomba sa Maguindanao din. Nabasa ko rin po ang pahayag ni Chairman Al Haj Murad ukol sa insidente sa Mamasapano; magandang unang hakbang ang pagbubuo nila ng isang Special Investigative Commission upang matukoy ang mga detalye at katotohanan ng pangyayari. Inaasahan kong sa lalong madaling panahon, mas kongkretong patunay ng pakikiisa sa paghahabol ng kapayapaan ang ipapakita ng MILF, tungo sa paghahabol ng katotohanan, at sa pagpapanagot sa mga may kasalanan.

Iwasan na rin po sana ng lahat ang pagkakalat ng haka-haka ukol sa mga pangyayari. Ang sabi nga po sa bibliya: The truth shall set us free. Mayroon na pong board of inquiry na itinalaga upang makalap ang buong katotohanan. Abangan na lamang po natin ang resulta nito.

Napakalayo na po ng ating narating tungo sa kapayapaang matagal na nating minimithi para sa Mindanao. Ibayong tiwala po ang ipinamalas ng lahat ng panig upang maabot ang puntong ito. Sa nangyaring insidente sa Mamasapano, mayroon na pong mga nagsasamantala ng trahedya para mabawasan ang tiwala; nais nilang mabigo ang proseso ng pangkapayapaan. Mayroon na nga rin pong nagmumungkahing itigil ang pagsulong ng Bangsamoro Basic Law sa Kamara at Senado.

Hindi po dapat mangyari ito. Nakataya sa batas na ito ang buong peace process. Kung mabibigo ang pagpasa ng batas sa lalong madaling panahon, mabibigo ang peace process, mananatili ang status quo. Kung ganoon, ano pa ba ang aasahan natin kundi pareho ring resulta: Mga taumbayang nawawalan ng pag-asa at namumundok; mga napagkaitan ng hustisya na pinipiling gumawa ng karahasan sa kapwa. Para na po nating tinulungan sina Marwan at Usman na maabot ang kanilang mga layunin.

Gusto po ba nating bumalik sa punto kung kailan palaging nakahanda ang mga komunidad na tumakbo sa mga evacuation center, dahil palaging may banta ng putukan? Kung ganoon ang mangyayari, sino ang makikinabang? Kung mabibigo ang prosesong pangkapayapaan, ilang libingan pa kaya ang kakailanganin nating hukayin? Ilang bata pa kaya ang iidolohin ang mga tulad ni Marwan; ilan pa ang gugustuhing maging Usman; ilang inhinyero pa ang pipiling gumawa ng bomba, kaysa magtayo ng gusali?

Isipin din po natin: Ang mga kasapi ng Special Action Force ay nasawi habang tinutupad ang kanilang tungkuling panatilihin ang kaligtasan. Kung hindi magtatagumpay ang prosesong pangkapayapaan; kung babalik tayo sa status quo, o kung lalala pa ang karahasan, di ba’t ito mismo ang kabaliktaran ng kanilang pinagbuwisan ng buhay?

Di po ba: Sa hinaharap nating hamon upang maisulong ang kapayapaan, lalo pa tayong dapat magkapit-bisig, at lalo pa dapat nating ituloy ang mga susunod na hakbang tulad ng pagpapasa ng Bangsamoro Basic Law; ang pagbubuo ng Bangsamoro Transition Authority; pagpapalawak ng oportunidad sa lahat; at pagwawasto sa sistema ng pulitika kung saan may iilang nakikinabang sa kapahamakan ng napakarami nating kababayan.

Sa mga pamilya naman po ng mga nasawing kasapi ng Special Action Force: Damang-dama ko ang pinagdaraanan ninyong dalamhati. Alam ko ring maaaring may katuwang itong agam-agam para sa inyong kinabukasan, lalo na kung tumatayo na breadwinner ang kaanak ninyong nagsakripisyo para sa operasyong ito. Sinisiguro ko po sa inyo: Ibibigay ng estado ang sagad na maaari nitong ibigay ayon sa mga batas at patakaran. Sa pagkakataon pong ito, diretso kong pinapakiusapan ang publiko na kung puwede po ay magbigay din tayo ng ayuda, at isagad ang pagtulong sa mga pamilya ng nasawi, bilang pagkilala sa kadakilaan ng mga bayaning nag-alay ng buhay tungo sa minimithi nating kapayapaan.

Sa harap ng ating pagluluksa, sa harap ng mga pagnanasa ng ilang bumawi at maghiganti, sa harap ng bantang magiba ang tiwalang pinanday natin sa napakahabang panahon, ngayon, sinusubok ang kakayahan nating magpamalas ng ibayong malasakit sa ating kapwa. Kaya nga po, sa lahat ng kapwa kong nag-aasam ng kapayapaan, mula sa mga mambabatas, sa mga kasapi ng unipormadong hanay, sa mga pinuno at kasapi ng MILF, sa mga kababayan natin sa Bangsamoro, sa bawat disenteng Pilipino: Ipakita natin kung ano ang kayang abutin ng isang bansang binubuklod ng nagkakaisang adhikain.

Siguruhin nating hindi masasayang ang sakripisyo ng mga nasawing kasapi ng Special Action Force. Mararating natin ang katarungan, harinawa, sa loob ng tamang proseso, at nang hindi bumibitaw sa mga pangarap nating makamtan ang malawakan at pangmatagalang kapayapaan.” (Mindanao Examiner)


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Malaysian JI bomber Marwan is alive in Southern Philippines



MAGUINDANAO – A Malaysian leader of the Jemaah Islamiya, Zulkifli bin Hir, is still alive and not dead as reported by Philippine officials following deadly clashes with rebels in the restive Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao.

Emmanuel Fontanilla, a spokesman for the former rebel group Moro National Liberation Front which signed a peace deal with Manila in 1996, said Zulkifli, who is also called Marwan, was not even in Maguindanao’s Mamasapano town when police commandos raided a purported JI hideout in Tukanalipao village on January 25.

The commandos were also running after Filipino terrorist Basit Usman in the village, who was reportedly with Zulkifli. There was no report about Usman, but both men are on the wanted list of the Philippines and the United States. Washington has offered $1 million reward for Usman and $5 million for Zulkifli, an engineer trained in the United States, is believed to be the head of the Kumpulun Mujahidin Malaysia terrorist organization and a member of Jemaah Islamiya’s central command. Since August 2003, he has been present in the Philippines, where he is believed to have conducted bomb-making training for the Abu Sayyaf.

The police raid left 44 commandos dead after they intruded inside the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s 105th Base Command sparking fierce clashes. The MILF, which signed a peace agreement with the Aquino government last year, said police forces assaulted the base forcing former rebels to fight back in self-defense. MILF members also stripped the slain commandos of their uniform and weapons, but it was unknown whether their leaders would return it to the police.

“Masakit po yung nangyari (at) mga kapatid din natin yung namatay. Ang pagkakaalam namin yung kanilang subject ay wala po doon. Wala po doon. Nasa Lanao po. Mali yung intelligence nila. Mabuti pa nagtanong sila sa amin,” Fontanilla said in a radio interview.

Defense chief Voltaire Gazmin and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, citing intelligence information, said Zulkifli was killed in the daylong battle and that there is a photograph of his cadaver to prove the terrorist was slain.

Marwan buried in middle of battle

Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman also claimed in that Zulkifli was killed and that his body was recovered by civilians and immediately buried in accordance with the Islamic tradition. He said the body cannot be exhumed because it is against Islam.

“'Kagabi nagva-validate din tayo, ang sabi eh inilibing na. Community na ang naglibing. Kasi usually, by tradition, kung mayroong Muslim na namatay, mayroong obligasyong ilibing within 24 hours. Not necessarily and BIFF or MILF ang naglibing sa kanya, “Hataman told radio network dzMM.

No Marwan or Usman in Mamasapano

Hataman’s claim cannot be independently confirmed, but Mamasapano town Mayor Tahirodin Benzar Ampatuan said there were no reports that Usman or Zulkifli were hiding in his town. “We have no reports that Usman or Zulkifli are hiding in our town. What the police raided was the 105th Base Command of the MILF,” he told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

Ampatuan said police also did not inform or coordinate with him when they launched the operation in Tukanalipao village. “We are not even aware of the police operation and police did not coordinate with us,” he said.

He said his group had recovered a total of 35 bodies of commandos and turned them over to the police.

The 6th Infantry Division also said the police failed to inform or coordinate with them when they mounted the operations that led to fierce clashes with former rebels. Another rebel group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, also attacked police commandos and killing more than a dozen of them.

Mohagher Iqbal, MILF vice chairman, said the operation of the Special Action Force commandos was uncoordinated. “We were not even informed about this (operation) and it was not coordinated with us. They attacked the 105th Base Command and our members defended themselves from the attack,” he said in a separate interview.

MILF investigation

Murad Ebrahim, the secluded chieftain of the MILF, has ordered an investigation into the clashes. “Our concern is the truth. There will be a lot of speculations as to what happened and until what happened is established with credibility and integrity, the said incident will weigh down our current efforts to bring peace to our homeland,” he said in a statement.

“In order to give meaning to their deaths, we must resolve not to let something like this happen again. To this end, the MILF is convening a Special Investigative Commission to be composed of members of the MILF Central Committee and BIAF (Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces) General Staff who are tasked to investigate the events at Mamasapano, Maguindanao that resulted in the death of members of the MILF and of soldiers of the Philippine Government,” he added.

Despite the violence and mounting calls by politicians to review the peace accord with the MILF, Ebrahim reiterated their commitment to the peace process. “We hereby reiterate the MILF’s full commitment to the peace process with the Philippine Government. An enduring peace and justice remain to be our primary objective. In this regard, all actions and pronouncements of our political and military units of the MILF should advance and adhere to this primary objective as much as possible and with due regard to the safety and security of our people and communities,” he said.

Ebrahim also condoled with the families of the slain police commandos. “First and foremost, we express and send our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those who died in the armed encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. The emotions of loss and pain are not alien to us Bangsamoro and Mujahideen. Nevertheless, respect and solidarity is due to all, irrespective of which side they belong,” he said.

President finally speaks

President Aquino has finally broken his silence and read a statement broadcast January 28. Here is Aquino’s statement in full.

“Humaharap po ako sa inyo ngayon upang iulat ang ating nalalaman ukol sa nangyari sa Mamasapano, Maguindanao, nitong nakaraang Sabado at Linggo. Ginagawa po natin ito hindi upang pangunahan ang board of inquiry na itinalaga upang tuklasin ang buong katotohanan, kundi dahil karapatan ninyong malaman ang alam natin sa puntong ito.

Noong Sabado ng gabi, ika-24 ng Enero, isang grupo ng mga kasapi ng Special Action Force ng ating Philippine National Police ay tumungo sa Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao. Ang kanilang misyon, ipatupad ang mga outstanding warrants of arrest sa dalawang notorious na teroristang matagal nang pinaghahanap ng mga awtoridad: Sina Abdulbasit Usman at Zulkipli Bin Hir, alias Abu Marwan. Sa pagtupad ng kanilang tungkulin, 44 sa ating mga pulis ang napatay, habang 16 naman ang sugatan, kabilang na ang 3 sibilyan, ayon sa huling tala ng ating NDRRMC.

Bilang Pangulo, bilang Ama ng Bayan, napakalungkot pong isipin na kinailangang magbuwis ng buhay ng ating kapulisan sa misyong ito. At kung mayroon nga pong depinisyon ang bayani, sila na iyon: Silang mga humarap sa panganib upang pigilan ang banta sa ating kaligtasan; silang mga nasugatan; silang naghandog ng buhay sa ngalan ng kapayapaan. Bilang paggalang sa mga ng mga nasawi, magdedeklara tayo ng isang National Day of Mourning bilang sagisag ng pagdadalamhati at pakikiramay ng ating buong bansa.

Hindi po pangkaraniwang kriminal sina Marwan at Usman. Mayroong mahabang listahan ng mga warrant laban sa kanila; kay Usman pa lang po, mayroon nang di-bababa sa walong outstanding warrant, habang may di naman bababa sa dalawa kay Marwan. 2002 po ang isa sa mga pinakamaaga rito, kaya’t ang ibig sabihin, Congressman pa lang ako ay pinaghahanap na sila. Lilinawin ko lang po: Kapag may warrant laban sa isang tao, bawat alagad ng batas ay tungkuling ipatupad ito. Kaya nga po, dati pa, marami nang mga operasyon para madakip o subukang madakip sina Marwan at Usman, pati na ang iba pang terorista, ang isinigawa ng iba’t ibang sangay ng security sector, kabilang na ang AFP, PNP, at NBI.

Hindi sa bawat pagkakataon ay hinihiling nila ang pahintulot ko, dahil impraktikal naman kung hintayin pa nila ang clearance mula sa akin. Ang tungkulin ko: siguruhing ginagampanan nila ang kanilang responsibilidad. May pagkakataon naman pong inaakyat nila sa atin ang sitwasyon para makapagbigay tayo ng payo, tingnan sa malawak na pananaw ang sitwasyon, o ipaliwanag ang maaaring maging implikasyon nito.

Halimbawa po nito ang pagtugon sa rogue MNLF elements sa Zamboanga, ang paghuli sa pinakamatataas sa ating listahan ng Most Wanted Persons, o ang paglusob sa ating mga peacekeeper sa Golan Heights. Sa kaso po ng Golan Heights, hindi naman puwedeng ang battalion commander lamang doon ang magdedesisyon sa kanilang pag-alis. Bilang may pangunahing responsibilidad sa ating ugnayang panlabas, kinailangan tayong abisuhan upang masigurong natututukan pati ang ating mga obligasyon sa United Nations.

Bahagi po si Marwan ng Central Committee ng Jemaah Islamiya, na nagsagawa ng Bali bombing sa Indonesia. Dito, dalawang magkasunod na pagsabog ang nangyari, kaya’t tinamaan pati ang first responders at iba pang hindi umalis. 202 katao ang nasawi dito, at suspek po si Marwan dito. Sa Cagayan de Oro noong 2012, tinangka ni Marwan na gayahin ang modus na ito; nadiskubre ang pangalawang bomba kaya’t hindi ito sumabog, ngunit dalawang katao pa rin po ang nasawi sa pangyayaring ito.

May alegasyon na noong 2006, kasama ni Umbra Kato, pinamunuan ni Marwan ang pagtatanim ng bomba upang pagtangkaan ang buhay ng gobernador ng Maguindanao noong panahon na iyon na si Andal Ampatuan. Dahil miyembro si Marwan ng international terrorist networks, na may koneksiyon sa iba pang mga grupong terorista, siya ay may kakayahang kumuha ng kaalaman, kagamitan, salapi, dagdag pa sa paglikha ng safe havens para sa mga kapwa niya terorista. Ito ang dahilan kung kaya’t itinuring siyang pangunahing target ng operasyon. Iniuugnay naman si Usman sa siyam na insidente ng pambobomba sa Mindanao. Siya ang pangunahing akusado sa pambobomba sa General Santos City noong 2002, kung saan 15 ang namatay at 60 ang nasugatan.

Kasama ang isa pang terorista na ang ngalan ay Mawiyah, sina Marwan at Usman ang nagsagawa ng terorismo sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng Mindanao. Kilala ring trainer ng paggawa ng bomba ang dalawang ito. May mga ulat pong mayroon silang pagawaan ng mga improvised explosive device, na siya nilang ibinebenta sa mga kapwa nila terorista. Marami na silang nasaktan at napatay, at habang malaya sila, patuloy ang banta laban sa kaligtasan ng ating mamamayan.

Ididiin ko lang po: Sa Article II, Section 4 ng Saligang Batas, nakasaad na “The primary duty of government is to serve and protect the people.” Kaya nga po, nang nalaman ng ating kapulisan ang tutok na lokasyon nina Marwan at Usman, nagdesisyon silang kumilos upang ipatupad ang mga warrant sa mga ito. Actionable intelligence po ang nakalap ng ating mga awtoridad: Hindi lamang rehiyon, o probinsiya, o munisipyo ang natukoy nila, kundi ang mismong mga bahay na pinagtataguan ng dalawa. Kung hindi aaksiyunan ang kaalamang ito, maaaring makatakas sina Marwan at Usman, at kakailanganin na namang simulan ang mahabang proseso ng paghahanap sa kanila.

Pasado alas-4 ng umaga ng Linggo nang umabot ang Special Action Force sa kutang pinagtataguan nina Marwan at Usman. Sa nangyaring engkuwentro, diumano’y napatay ang pangunahing target na si Marwan. Nang marinig ang putukan, nanlaban naman si Usman at ang kanyang mga kasamahan.  May mga non-combatants na nakita sa mga tirahan nina Marwan at Usman; kinailangan talagang dikitan sila ng ating mga puwersa para maiwasang madamay ang inosente. Unang inatake ang bahay ni Marwan; rumesponde naman sina Usman at nawala ang element of surprise na siyang magpapahirap na matupad ang kanilang misyon. Kaya naman, minabuti ng SAF na umatras at makipag-rendezvous sa mga kasamahan nilang nagbabantay ng kanilang daraanan papalabas sa lugar ng engkuwentro. Lumalabas pong sa withdrawal na ito nangyari ang pinakamadugong bahagi ng sagupaan.

Gaya po ng marami, may mga katanungan din ako ukol sa insidente, kaya inaasahan natin na mahahanap ng binuong board of inquiry ang katotohanan ukol sa insidenteng ito. Sa mga briefing na ibinigay sa akin ng PNP ukol sa continuing operation laban kina Marwan at Usman, makailang ulit kong idiniin ang pangangailangan ng tama, sapat, at napapanahong koordinasyon. Kumplikado ang sinasabi ngang terrain sa operasyong ito: ‘Yung mismong lupa maputik, may mga swampland, marshes, at kailangang tumawid ng ilog upang marating ang destinasyon ng ating SAF. Maraming mga puwersang nagkalat sa lugar na ito: Nariyan ang BIFF, MILF, at mayroon pang Private Armed Group. Kahit pa ba magkahiwalay na ang MILF at BIFF, marami sa kanila ang magkakamag-anak sa dugo o sa pag-aasawa. Hindi basta-basta maaaring pumasok ang mga estranghero.

Kailangang tahimik at dahan-dahan ang pagpasok ng ating mga tropa; kung hindi, maaaring maalerto ang kanilang mga target. Lalo pa’t dahil hindi kalakihan ang puwersa ng SAF kumpara sa mga nakapaligid na maaaring makialam, mahalagang nakaantabay ang Sandatahang Lakas upang maiposisyon nito ang mga tropa, kasangkapan, at kagamitan tulad ng mga kanyon kung sakaling kailanganin ng suporta ng ating kapulisan. Kailangan po nila ng sapat na panahon upang mailagay ang kanilang puwersa sa kung saan ito pinakamakakatulong. At sa ganitong klaseng bakbakan, kung kakailanganin ng ayuda mula sa Sandatahang Lakas, hindi ora mismo ay makakarating ito, lalo pa’t may iba’t ibang mga tungkulin ang mga kasapi ng 6th Infantry Division na siyang pinakamalapit sa aksiyon.

Sa paulit-ulit kong pagpapaalala sa pangangailangan ng koordinasyon, ang isinagot po sa akin ng direktor ng SAF, “Yes Sir.” Ang sabi lang niya, kailangan din ng operational security, o ang pagsigurong ang dapat lang makaalam ang masasabihan ukol sa operasyon. Gayumpaman, idiniin kong kailangan pa ring ialerto ang ibang mga sangay o ang kanilang mga hepe; kailangan nasa tamang oras ang abiso, at kumpleto ang impormasyon, para makapaghanda nang maayos.

Tanong ko: Bakit at paano nga po kaya nangyari na malapit na sa jump-off o naka-jump-off na, nang sinabihan ang batalyon ng AFP na malapit sa operasyon? Ang problema po dito, nagkalat sa iba’t ibang lugar ang mga sundalong kasapi ng batalyong ito na nagbabantay sa main supply route sa lugar na ito. Sa madaling salita, dikit na sa oras ng engkuwentro ang abiso, at mahirap masabi kung nagkaroon ng sapat na panahon upang ihanda ang ayuda kung kakailanganin. Kung may compliance pong nangyari sa atas kong siguruhing may sapat na koordinasyon, parang sinagad po itong very minimum compliance. Nagulat nga po akong malaman na ang pinuno ng Western Mindanao Command, o maski ng 6th Infantry Division, ay tila naabisuhan lamang matapos ang unang engkuwentro laban kina Marwan at Usman; palabas na ang puwersa ng SAF, at nagkakaroon na ng problema sa puntong ito.

Sa panig naman po ng MILF: Napakalaki na ang mga hakbang na nagawa natin dahil nagtiwala tayo sa isa’t isa. Napatunayan natin na kaya nating magtulungan: Noong 2014, isang Japanese national ang nailigtas sa Maguindanao; sa taon ding iyon, napigilan ang pagpapasabog ng isang bomba sa Maguindanao din. Nabasa ko rin po ang pahayag ni Chairman Al Haj Murad ukol sa insidente sa Mamasapano; magandang unang hakbang ang pagbubuo nila ng isang Special Investigative Commission upang matukoy ang mga detalye at katotohanan ng pangyayari. Inaasahan kong sa lalong madaling panahon, mas kongkretong patunay ng pakikiisa sa paghahabol ng kapayapaan ang ipapakita ng MILF, tungo sa paghahabol ng katotohanan, at sa pagpapanagot sa mga may kasalanan.

Iwasan na rin po sana ng lahat ang pagkakalat ng haka-haka ukol sa mga pangyayari. Ang sabi nga po sa bibliya: The truth shall set us free. Mayroon na pong board of inquiry na itinalaga upang makalap ang buong katotohanan. Abangan na lamang po natin ang resulta nito.

Napakalayo na po ng ating narating tungo sa kapayapaang matagal na nating minimithi para sa Mindanao. Ibayong tiwala po ang ipinamalas ng lahat ng panig upang maabot ang puntong ito. Sa nangyaring insidente sa Mamasapano, mayroon na pong mga nagsasamantala ng trahedya para mabawasan ang tiwala; nais nilang mabigo ang proseso ng pangkapayapaan. Mayroon na nga rin pong nagmumungkahing itigil ang pagsulong ng Bangsamoro Basic Law sa Kamara at Senado.

Hindi po dapat mangyari ito. Nakataya sa batas na ito ang buong peace process. Kung mabibigo ang pagpasa ng batas sa lalong madaling panahon, mabibigo ang peace process, mananatili ang status quo. Kung ganoon, ano pa ba ang aasahan natin kundi pareho ring resulta: Mga taumbayang nawawalan ng pag-asa at namumundok; mga napagkaitan ng hustisya na pinipiling gumawa ng karahasan sa kapwa. Para na po nating tinulungan sina Marwan at Usman na maabot ang kanilang mga layunin. Gusto po ba nating bumalik sa punto kung kailan palaging nakahanda ang mga komunidad na tumakbo sa mga evacuation center, dahil palaging may banta ng putukan?

Kung ganoon ang mangyayari, sino ang makikinabang? Kung mabibigo ang prosesong pangkapayapaan, ilang libingan pa kaya ang kakailanganin nating hukayin? Ilang bata pa kaya ang iidolohin ang mga tulad ni Marwan; ilan pa ang gugustuhing maging Usman; ilang inhinyero pa ang pipiling gumawa ng bomba, kaysa magtayo ng gusali?

Isipin din po natin: Ang mga kasapi ng Special Action Force ay nasawi habang tinutupad ang kanilang tungkuling panatilihin ang kaligtasan. Kung hindi magtatagumpay ang prosesong pangkapayapaan; kung babalik tayo sa status quo, o kung lalala pa ang karahasan, di ba’t ito mismo ang kabaliktaran ng kanilang pinagbuwisan ng buhay?

Di po ba: Sa hinaharap nating hamon upang maisulong ang kapayapaan, lalo pa tayong dapat magkapit-bisig, at lalo pa dapat nating ituloy ang mga susunod na hakbang tulad ng pagpapasa ng Bangsamoro Basic Law; ang pagbubuo ng Bangsamoro Transition Authority; pagpapalawak ng oportunidad sa lahat; at pagwawasto sa sistema ng pulitika kung saan may iilang nakikinabang sa kapahamakan ng napakarami nating kababayan.

Sa mga pamilya naman po ng mga nasawing kasapi ng Special Action Force: Damang-dama ko ang pinagdaraanan ninyong dalamhati. Alam ko ring maaaring may katuwang itong agam-agam para sa inyong kinabukasan, lalo na kung tumatayo na breadwinner ang kaanak ninyong nagsakripisyo para sa operasyong ito. Sinisiguro ko po sa inyo: Ibibigay ng estado ang sagad na maaari nitong ibigay ayon sa mga batas at patakaran. Sa pagkakataon pong ito, diretso kong pinapakiusapan ang publiko na kung puwede po ay magbigay din tayo ng ayuda, at isagad ang pagtulong sa mga pamilya ng nasawi, bilang pagkilala sa kadakilaan ng mga bayaning nag-alay ng buhay tungo sa minimithi nating kapayapaan.

Sa harap ng ating pagluluksa, sa harap ng mga pagnanasa ng ilang bumawi at maghiganti, sa harap ng bantang magiba ang tiwalang pinanday natin sa napakahabang panahon, ngayon, sinusubok ang kakayahan nating magpamalas ng ibayong malasakit sa ating kapwa. Kaya nga po, sa lahat ng kapwa kong nag-aasam ng kapayapaan, mula sa mga mambabatas, sa mga kasapi ng unipormadong hanay, sa mga pinuno at kasapi ng MILF, sa mga kababayan natin sa Bangsamoro, sa bawat disenteng Pilipino: Ipakita natin kung ano ang kayang abutin ng isang bansang binubuklod ng nagkakaisang adhikain. Siguruhin nating hindi masasayang ang sakripisyo ng mga nasawing kasapi ng Special Action Force. Mararating natin ang katarungan, harinawa, sa loob ng tamang proseso, at nang hindi bumibitaw sa mga pangarap nating makamtan ang malawakan at pangmatagalang kapayapaan.” (Mindanao Examiner)


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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

DSWD under fire for controversial 'family' program


 
MANILA - Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman has defended her so-called "family" program from criticisms despite the huge expenses it incurred in bringing poor families for a vacation in various resorts in the Philippines.

Rep. Lito Atienza has lambasted Soliman for continuously misleading the public on the way the Department of Social Welfare and Development "swept under the rug" the street children and street dwellers of Manila to ensure they were off the road during the recent visit of Pope Francis to Manila.

"Hayagang nagsisinungaling si Secretary Soliman sa simula’t simula sa issue ng pagtago ng mga street families ng Maynila. Ang una ay sinabi nya na hindi totoo ang isyu na ito, ngunit nang mabisto, ito raw ay isang regular na programa ng DSWD," said Atienza.

He was referring to the sudden disappearance of street children and the homeless during the five day pastoral visit of Pope Francis. Atienza said he considers this a big insult to the papal visit since the Pope traveled thousands of miles precisely to meet and comfort the poor.

During his interpellation of Rep. Emmy De Jesus’ privilege speech denouncing what she termed as "human rights violations" committed by the DSWD, Atienza said that instead of hiding poor families at a beach resort, they should be given long term livelihood opportunities considering the almost P70-billion Conditional Cash Transfer budget the DSWD has.

"I cannot imagine why the DSWD did such a thing. This is an insult to the dignity of these streetchildren and homeless people. Hindi dapat abusuhin ang kalagayan ng maralita kundi dapat ay tulungan silang makaahon sa kahirapan," Atienza said.

Atienza said he would call for a congressional probe into this very serious matter. (Mindanao Examiner)


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Bomber blows self up in Southern Philippines



COTABATO CITY – A suspected bomber was killed after an improvised explosive he was transporting accidentally detonated early Tuesday evening in Pikit town in the southern Filipino province of North Cotabato, officials told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

Officials said one civilian was also injured in the blast that occurred in front of a convenience store in downtown area. The identity of the dead bomber was not immediately known, but the town had been bombed several times by suspected rebels in recent months.

Other reports said another man was also killed in the explosion.

The blast occurred just as a battalion of marines arrived Tuesday in nearby Maguindanao to augment army troops in the province, scene of deadly clashes between police commandos and former Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels.

At least 44 commandos were killed in the fighting in Mamasapano town where police had been pursuing Filipino terrorist Basit Usman and Jemaah Islamiya bomber Zulkifli bin Hir, but intruded into MILF territories.

Just early this month, security forces disarmed an improvised explosive on a busy road in Pikit town. The explosive was still wrapped in packing tape when spotted by a villager who immediately informed authorities.

A series of explosion also toppled at least two power pylons in the province also this month and authorities blamed the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters as behind the bombings.

Late last year, a powerful bomb explosion injured more than a dozen people in downtown Kabakan in North Cotabato after a mortar bomb went off outside a public school and soldiers and policemen recovered two more explosives nearby. (Mindanao Examiner)


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Bodies of slain police commandos now with Philippine Army

  Contributed photo of slain Special Action Force commandos in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao province in Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner - Ely Dumaboc)
 

MAGUINDANAO –A total of 44 bodies of slain police commandos are now in the custody of the military in southern Philippines following deadly clashes with former Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels in Maguindanao, one of five provinces under the troubled Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao.

But the MILF reported that 64 members of the Special Action Force had been killed in the weekend battle after commandos raided the remote village of Tukanalipao in Mamasapano town which is a known stronghold of the former rebel group.

Commandos were allegedly pursuing Filipino terrorist Basit Usman and Jemaah Islamiya bomber Zulkifli bin Hir in the village after intelligence report claimed the duo was hiding in the area which is also the MILF’s 105th Base Command.

“A total of 44 bodies of slain SAF members are now at the 6th Infantry Division,” Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, an army spokeswoman, told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner. 

The police maintained that only 44 SAF commandos had been killed in the fighting that the government insisted was a ‘mis-encounter’ between the two groups. Nearly a battalion of police commandos were involved in the pre-dawn operation, but the military and the MILF both said that SAF did not inform or coordinate with them.

Mamasapano Mayor Tahirodin Benzar Ampatuan also said that he was not informed by the police about the SAF operation and only learned about it after commandos attacked the MILF base.

He said police did not inform and coordinate with him when they launched the operation in Tukanalipao. “We are not even aware of the police operation and police did not coordinate with us,” he said in a separate interview.

Ampatuan said his group recovered a total of 35 bodies and handed the cadavers to the police. “We have recovered 35 bodies and handed all these to the police authorities,” he said.

He said there were no reports that Usman or Zulkifli were hiding in his town. “We have no reports that Usman or Zulkifli are hiding in our town. What the police raided was the 105th Base Command of the MILF,” Ampatuan said.

The SAF commander, Director Getulio Napeñas, has been relieved from his post as the government starts an investigation into the clashes. (Mindanao Examiner)


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Sayyaf rebel, 7 others breaks out of prison in Philippine jail



ZAMBOANGA CITY – Eight prisoners, including a notorious Abu Sayyaf rebel, have escaped Tuesday from a jail in Basilan, one of five provinces under the troubled Muslim autonomous region in southern Philippines, security officials said.

Officials said the escape was only discovered in the morning after guards conducted a head count of prisoners at the provincial jail in Isabela City.

Among those who bolted the prison was Said Usman, whose group is operating in the restive island- province just several nautical miles south of Zamboanga.

The others prisoners have been identified as Akmad Arasani, Obet de la Cruz, Serhan Akalum, Serham Akalum, Benhar Ibrahim, Oliver Tinguha and Mumar Dala.
The prisoners destroyed the ceiling and jumped off the wall and escaped.

It was unknown why prison guards failed to prevent or detect the daring escape, but it was not the first time such breakout occurred there. There were several instances in recent years that prisoners had managed to escape by sewing off the iron grills of their cell.

Security at the prison facility has been a perennial problem even in the past due to the lack of government support and poor equipment. (Mindanao Examiner – Ely Dumaboc)



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PICE Davao City inducts new officers for 2015

 PICE President of Davao City, Engr. Angel T. Torrejon delivers his acceptance speech during the PICE's 40th Induction Ceremony held recently at the Marco Polo Davao. Also in the photo are (L-R) Engr. Erdsan Rene S. Suero, Cong. Karlo B. Nograles, Engr. Eduardo S. Luenberger, Engr. Roderick R. Tecson, Engr. Juliet T. Luy, and immediate past president, Engr. Jose D. Gestoveo, Jr.

DAVAO CITY - The Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers (PICE) Davao City Chapter has recently installed its new and the 40th set of officers, directors and working committees at the Marco Polo Davao.

The new officers took their oath to Davao City First District representative, Congressman Karlo Alexei B. Nograles.

In his keynote speech, Nograles recognizes the role of civil engineers in nation building. He said civil engineers play a crucial part in the realization of their infrastructure and road network projects in the city since the time of his father, speaker of the House of Representatives, Prospero Nograles.

The 2015 officers who took their oath were Engr. Angel T. Torrejon, President; Engr. Juliet T. Luy, 1st Vice President; Engr. Roderick R. Tecson, 2nd Vice President; Engr. Mary Ann R. Oani, Secretary; Engr. Cresilda T. Caballero, Treasurer; Engr. Juan Claudio Y. Tinga, Auditor; Engr. Anacleto V. Calamba Jr., PIO; Engr. Elmer C. Capili, Business Manager; and Engineers Gary Lee L. Anghag, Gintherese A. Capa, Loreto G. Dalangin VI, Flordeluna J. Juyo, Nelson S. Palermo, Arniel A. Sosa and George Anthony G. Toribio as member of the Board of Directors.

Engr. Erdsan Rene S. Suero and Engr. Eddie C. Fuentes also took their oath as  chairpersons of the convention and nomination committees respectively.

Torrejon, a businessman and contractor, laid his priority agenda during the year. As kick off point, Torrejon said he will start his term by providing a refresher’s training enhancing the knowledge of each officers, directors and committee members on classic guide to smooth, orderly, and fairly conducted meetings. He said total harmony is important in getting everyone’s opinion during every meeting.

In addressing the Board, Torrejon also said he wants his term packed with actions. “I want to bring PICE’s presence in less fortunate communities. I want to promote continuing professional development trainings and fellowships among PICE and Junior PICE members and non-members alike. To do this, I need your full support and cooperation.”

“Let’s start the ball rolling by working together the facelifting of PICE building and the immediate construction of the 120 persons capacity PICE training center that will become operational before the end of the second quarter of this year,” he said.

He also vowed to bring another PICE national convention in Davao before the year ends. He said the undertakings are necessary for PICE Davao to become liquid. We need to generate funds to finance all our projects. "Kaya natin ito," Torrejon said. (Mindanao Examiner with PICE)


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Filipino leaders pay homage to Saudi King

 Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz waits before a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (not pictured) at his desert encampment in Rawdat al-Khuraim in this January 5, 2014 file photo. Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has died, state television reported early on January 23, 2015, and his brother Salman became king, it said in a statement attributed to Salman. (REUTERS/Brendan Smialowski/Pool/Files)






 And Raisonel Datu Magangcong, President of ARAP-OFW Foundation, Inc. (6th from left - first row) and other Muslim leaders, during a forum in Makati City. And during a news conference January 26, 2015 prior to the Saudi embassy homage prayers for Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.  Raisonel personally delivered a letter to the Saudi embassy in the Philippines to express  sympathy with Saudi government and its people on the sudden demise of King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. (Mindanao Examiner)
(Mindanao Examiner)

MAKATI CITY – Philippine leaders paid homage Monday to Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who died at the age of 90.

Leaders from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao gathered at the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Manila and offered prayers alongside embassy officials as they pay their last respect to the Arab King.

Malacanang earlier extended condolences to the Saudi Royal family citing the legacy left behind by King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, especially in mercy and compassion for Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia.

President Aquino had previously praised the King for granting clemency to Filipino workers under trial and for extending financial assistance to save Rodelio Lanuza from death row.

King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud had often given opportunity to Filipino workers facing immigration problems and for standardizing employment contracts in Saudi Arabia.

The alliance of Recruitment Agencies of the Philippines (ARAP-OFW Foundation, Inc.) together with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front expressed optimism that the legacy of King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud will continue with the assumption of his 79-year old half-brother as the new Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who is also the Defense minister since 2011. He has also been standing in for the ailing Abdullah for several months by chairing cabinet meetings, representing Saudi Arabia abroad and hosting foreign dignitaries, according to a report by the Guardian newspaper.

In a letter sent to Saudi Arabia, the ARAP-OFW Foundation, Inc. headed by its president, Raisonel Datu Magangcong, said they are hopeful that the new King will further strengthen the same mercy and compassion the deceased King had towards Filipino workers.

“The Alliance of Recruitment Agencies of the Philippines and the Bangsamoro people share in your loss of the illustrious monarch and revered leader.  Our thoughts go out to the Saudi Royal Family and the people of Saudi Arabia.”

“The late Custodian of the Two Holy Mosque, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz bin Saud, is most especially remembered for valuing the contributions of Filipino migrant workers in the national development of the Kingdom.  The recruitment industry in our country is hopeful that Your Highness ascends to the throne will further strengthen and deepens the benevolence, mercy and compassion towards Filipino workers in the Kingdom, most especially those who landed in jails and on death row,” Magangcong said in the letter.

Magangcong and his group earlier pledged to help Filipinos who are languishing in jails abroad by funding training for diplomats, lawyers and social workers from the ranks of Bangsamoro professionals.

The fund being offered by ARAP-OFW Foundation, Inc. would also help to support and establish legal and humanitarian assistance for overseas Filipino workers in jails.

Magangcong earlier called on fellow Muslims to help the Aquino government save the lives of Filipinos in death rows in the Middle East. More than 250 Filipino workers are currently in death rows and over 7,000 in jails awaiting death penalty.

The MILF is also supporting the ARAP-OFW Foundation by endorsing a policy proposal adopted during a recent forum on overseas Filipino workers, citing incapacity of embassy personnel to facilitate cases of distress workers, as well as the lack of effective program that addresses the psycho-social health of OFWs coping homesickness and culture shock.

The group also said it would dispatch emissaries to coordinate with the host countries for the new scheme of crises intervention involving Filipino Muslims who are actively engage in the diplomatic community and regarded with high respect in the Middle East.

ARAP-OFW Foundation has urged the government to allocate more funding for additional embassy personnel and consular offices in the Middle East, especially in countries where there are large presence of Filipino workers, to ensure their welfare.

According to data provided by the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi, there are over 100,000 Filipinos working as domestic workers in the United Arab Emirates – which is one of the largest OFW populations in the world with roughly 40% working in low-paying jobs.

The ARAP-OFW Foundation, which is representing hundreds of recruitment agencies deploying Filipino workers in the Middle East, said it would enter into contract with Bangsamoro leaders for the recruitment and training of Muslim diplomats, lawyers and social workers for immediate deployment abroad in collaboration with Arab counterparts. This will compose the first batch of private personnel augmenting deficiencies of embassies and consulates in United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Aside from that, ARAP-OFW Foundation said it will also sign a memorandum of agreement with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority for competency standardization of embassies' personnel. It said the partnership aims to raise competent delivery of the welfare of OFWs and effective rapport with employers and government of the host country. (Mindanao Examiner)


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Monday, January 26, 2015

Rebels tell villagers to flee homes in southern Philippine town




DAVAO CITY – Villagers have fled their homes in San Luis town in the southern Filipino province of Agusan del Sur after communist rebels allegedly told to evacuate because of an impending military offensive, officials said Monday.

Officials said nearly 900 people, mostly tribesmen, were forced to flee their homes and sought refuge at the Urios elementary school in Balit village. New People’s Army rebels told them that government troops were heading to their village.

Maj. Ezra Balagtey, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command, said there was no military operation in the area, but troops were there to facilitate social services for civilians.

He said Gen. Aurelio Baladad, commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command, accused the NPA – which is fighting for a separate state - of intimidating and harassing villagers.

“The NPAs displayed their blatant disregard of (sic) human rights when they forced the massive evacuation of the community. They displaced the indigenous people from their place of abode and prevented them to practice their way of life that blatantly erodes their dignity as a people” Balagtey quoted Baladad as saying.

“They don’t want the government's presence in these communities so that they will blame the government for neglecting its responsibilities and thus lay the basis for more recruits. They want the marginalized communities to be constantly in quagmire so that they will have constant issues to manipulate the poor and hammer down issues against the govt. If they truly are for the welfare of the IP communities, why stop the delivery of basic services and development in these areas,” Baladad said.

Local government and military officials have urged the villagers to return home. (Mindanao Examiner)


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US troops assist Philippines in rescuing wounded, slain commandos in restive South (Warning: Contains graphic images)




 Contributed photos of slain Special Action Force commandos in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao province in Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner - Ely Dumaboc)


Video from YouTube.








And bodies of slain police commandos being retrieved from Mamasapano town by Mayor Tahirodin Benzar Ampatuan (shown talking on the phone) and his group. (Mindanao Examiner Photo - Mark Navales)


MAGUINDANAO – US troops deployed in southern Philippines have been assisting in the rescue of police commandos that clashed with former rebels in Maguindanao, one of five provinces under the troubled Muslim autonomous region.

American soldiers on helicopters evacuated wounded commandos from the town of Mamasapano where police forces clashed January 25 with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front after they intruded on an area under the control of the former rebel group.

At least 43 bodies of commandos, including some officers, have been retrieved by civilians and brought by soldiers to their headquarters at the 6th Infantry Division in Maguindanao’s Awang town. Many of the cadavers were stripped of its uniform and boots and some were even desecrated, but more bodies were still being retrieved in the remote village of Tukanalipao.

More than 100 police commandos were trying to capture notorious Filipino bomber Basit Usman and Jemaah Islamiya leader Zulkifli bin Hir, also known by his alias as Marwan – both men are also being hunted by the United States for their role in terrorist attacks in the Philippines.

Mayor Tahirodin Benzar Ampatuan said they have many of the bodies they have recovered had been turned over to the police. “We have recovered 35 bodies and handed all these to the police authorities, but there are still more cadavers in the area and we are trying to recover them,” he told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

Ampatuan said police have not informed and coordinated with him when they launched an operation in Tukanalipao. “We are not even aware of the police operation and police did not coordinate with us,” he said.

He said there were no reports that Usman or Zulkifli were hiding in his town. “We have no reports that Usman or Zulkifli are hiding in our town. What the police raid was the 105th Base Command of the MILF,” Ampatuan said.

The MILF and the 6th Infantry Division also said the police failed to inform or coordinate with them when they mounted the operations that led to fierce clashes with former rebels. Another rebel group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, also attacked police commandos and killing more than a dozen of them.

The Special Action Force commandos were pursuing “high-value” individuals on the hinterland village of Tukanalipao when they intruded inside an MILF base sparking a firefight for many hours. Army troops were sent to the area after police sought help from the military to retrieve the slain commandos.

Police and military officials were not immediately available to give a statement, but the MILF, which signed a peace deal with Manila last year, has confirmed the clashes and blamed the police for the violence.

The MILF, which signed a peace deal with Manila last year, blamed the police for the breakout of violence. “There were fierce clashes. Police forces attacked the MILF at two o’clock in the morning and our forces have to defend themselves to save their lives,” MILF Vice Chairman and chief peace negotiator, Mohagher Iqbal, said in a separate interview.

Iqbal said the police did not coordinate with the MILF when it launched so-called law enforcement operations in the town. “There was no prior coordination from us and police just launched the operations,” he said.

Ghazali Jaafar, also an MILF vice chairman, said he was saddened by the clashes between police and MILF forces, especially at a time that Congress is deliberating the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law which is part of the peace accord.

“Very unfortunate ito and it is uncalled for at itong PNP ay kasama sila sa pagsulong ng kapayaan na pinagsisikapan natin na mabuo sapagkat naniniwala tayo na buong-buo na itong problema natin sa Mindanao ay kayang bigyan ng mapayapang solusyon at iyan ang dahilan kung bakit sinusulong natin ang kapayaan sa gobyerno ng Pilipinas,” said Jaafar in a radio interview with dzRH.

The 6th Infantry Division was also not informed of the police operations and unaware of it until soldiers reported heavy clashes before day break and fighting lasted until late in the afternoon.

The fighting erupted just as President Aquino visited Zamboanga City which was the scene of a deadly car bombing blamed on the Abu Sayyaf rebels. Two people were killed and 54 others wounded in the blast outside a disco bar on January 23.

Aquino was briefed by police and military officials on the security situation in Zamboanga and later visited blast victims in hospitals. He was also informed about the clashes in Maguindanao and sent Defense chief Voltaire Gazmin and General Rustico Guererro, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, including Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, to Maguindanao to defuse the tension there and speed up the recovery of slain commandos. (Mindanao Examiner – With reports from Mark Navales, Rose Muneza and Ely Dumaboc.)



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Sunday, January 25, 2015

President Aquino flies to Zamboanga, visits blast victims






 President Aquino in Zamboanga City with Mayor Maria Isabelle Salazar. And Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte who was also welcomed by Salazar. (Photos by Joey Bautista)


ZAMBOANGA CITY – President Benigno Aquino has flown to Zamboanga City on Sunday and was briefed by police and military on the security situation following a bombing that killed 2 people and left 54 others wounded.

Aquino proceeded immediately to the Edwin Andrews Air Base from the local airport. He was accompanied by Defense chief Voltaire Gazmin, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and was met by Mayor Maria Isabelle Salazar and other senior military and police commanders.

After the closed-door briefing, Aquino inspected the village of Guiwan where the January 23 bombing occurred. He also visited victims of the blast at the hospitals here and offered them financial assistance.

He also met with the families of those killed in the car bombing - Reynaldo Tan and Dante Valente - and also offered money to their kin.

Salazar has appealed to Aquino to order the immediate transfer of 57 Abu Sayyaf prisoners following a recent attempt by the rebel group to rescue them.

While in Zamboanga City, Aquino also had a meeting with Rep. Lilia Nuño and other officials about the ongoing recovery and rehabilitation efforts for the victims of 2013 rebel attacks here.

Aquino’s sudden visit here also coincided with the arrival of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte who is advocating federal form of government. Duterte is being pushed by many Filipinos to run for president in next year’s general elections.

Salazar also welcomed Duterte and his entourage in Zamboanga.
Aquino is said to be eyeing Roxas as the government’s presidential bet. Aside from Duterte and Roxas, Vice President Jejomar Binay is also eyeing the presidency. (Mindanao Examiner)


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Muslims Protest Attacks On Islam


Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper Jan. 26-Feb. 1, 2015.

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Police commandos, MILF forces in deadly clashes in Southern Philippines



MAGUINDANAO – Dozens of police commandos were reported killed and wounded in fierce clashes Sunday with Moro Islamic Liberation Front members in the southern Philippines.

The Special Action Force commandos were pursuing a “high-value” individual on the hinterland village of Tukanalipao in Maguindanao’s Mamasapano town when they intruded inside an MILF base before dawn sparking a firefight for many hours.

Intelligence reports said as many as 37 commandos were feared dead in the encounter, but their bodies have not been recovered due to sporadic clashes. The number of casualties could be higher.

The police sent more reinforcement to rescue the commandos, but was also intercepted by Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters near the village. Four BIFF fighters were reported slain in the clashes.

Army troops were sent to the area after police sought help from the military to retrieve the slain commandos.

Police and military officials were not immediately available to give a statement, but the MILF, which signed a peace deal with Manila last year, has confirmed the clashes and blamed the police for the violence.

“There were fierce clashes. Police forces attacked the MILF at two o’clock in the morning and our forces have to defend themselves to save their lives,” MILF Vice Chairman and chief peace negotiator, Mohagher Iqbal, told regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

Iqbal said the police did not coordinate with the MILF when it launched so-called law enforcement operations in the town. “There was no prior coordination from us and police just launched the operations,” he said.

The 6th Infantry Division was also not informed of the police operations and unaware of it until soldiers reported heavy clashes before day break and fighting lasted until late in the afternoon.

The fighting erupted just as President Aquino visited Zamboanga City which was the scene of a deadly car bombing blamed on the Abu Sayyaf rebels. Two people were killed and 54 others wounded in the blast outside a disco bar on January 23.

Aquino was briefed by police and military officials on the security situation in Zamboanga and later visited blast victims in hospitals. He was also informed about the clashes in Maguindanao, but it was unknown if he would go to the restive province and meet with security and MILF officials.

His sudden visit also coincided with the arrival of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte who is advocating federal form of government. Duterte is being pushed by many Filipinos to run for president in next year’s general elections.

Aquino is said to be eyeing Interior Secretary Mar Roxas as the government’s presidential bet. Aside from Duterte and Roxas, Vice President Jejomar Binay is also eyeing the presidency. (Mindanao Examiner - With a report from Mark Navales)


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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Grenade explodes at bus terminal in Southern Philippines



COTABATO CITY – A grenade exploded late Saturday at a bus depot in the southern Philippine city of Cotabato, authorities said.

It said the attack on the depot damaged several provincial buses parked inside, but there were no reports of casualties, according to the police and military.

Soldiers and policemen sent to the depot along Don Rufino Street in downtown Cotabato recovered the safety lever of an MK2 fragmentation grenade.

Initial reports said a man on a motorcycle lobbed the grenade at the bus terminal and sped off immediately.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for the attack. The motive of the attack is unknown, but police suspect extortion was likely behind the blast.

The attack came just recently following a deadly car bombing outside a bus terminal in Zamboanga City.

Two people were killed and 54 others wounded when the car, packed with explosives, detonated near a disco bar. No group claimed responsibility for the attack. (Mindanao Examiner – Mark Navales)


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Rebels raid banana plantation in Philippines



CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Communist rebels raided a banana plantation in the southern Philippines, but authorities said there were no reports of casualties from the attack.

Dozens of New People’s Army rebels assaulted the plantation owned by DOLE Philippines on Tuesday in Valencia town in Bukidnon province.

It was not immediately known if rebels were demanding money from the company, but police and military said the NPA has been extorting money from various plantation owners in the restive region.

The NPA has been fighting for many decades now for the establishment of a separate state in the country. (Mindanao Examiner)


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