Tag Archive: Northern Mindanao


5 rebels killed in Bukidnon clash

Five New People’s Army members were killed while two soldiers were wounded as government troops clashed with a large band of rebels who ambushed them in Pangantucan, Bukidnon, on Tuesday, the military said Wednesday.

Troops recovered the slain rebels’ bodies, along with an AK-47 rifle, 19 back packs, food and medical supplies, and subversive documents, said Captain Albert Caber, spokesman of the Armed Forces’ Eastern Mindanao Command.

An officer and an enlisted personnel of the Army’s 3rd Special Forces Company (3rd SFC) were also wounded in the clash and have been taken to the hospital, Caber said by phone.

“Residents reported that there are at least five other rebels who have been wounded, so it’s possible that the casualties will rise. Clearing operations are ongoing as we speak,” he added.

The clash occurred 4:14 p.m. in Brgy. Mendiz, but was reported to the regional military command only Wednesday because of poor communication lines in the area, according to Caber.

Fighting lasted for one hour and 30 minutes before the rebels withdrew, he said.

According to Caber, elements of the 3rd SFC went to that barangay to check reports on the presence of NPA members.

“May nagreport kasi na may mga NPA dun, so pinuntahan ng SF to verify. While on their way, pinutukan na agad sila, so nagretaliate ‘yung SF. More or less 60 ‘yung nakalaban nila doon,” Caber said.

“Ambush talaga ang nangyari, kaya lang nakapag-return fire ‘yung SF,” he said.

The slain rebels have yet to be identified but information from the ground indicate that they were members of the North Central Mindanao Regional Commitee and were led by an alias “Andy,” Caber said.

Troops have already coordinated with the local government to help identify the slain rebels and facilitate their burial, he said. (John Roson)

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An alleged student of slain Malaysian bomb expert Marwan who is himself wanted for carrying out bombings, was arrested in Panaon, Misamis Occidental, Saturday afternoon, a police official said.

Arrested was Abdul Malik Sali, a member of the Al Khobar group, Northern Mindanao regional police director Chief Superintendent Agrimero Cruz said.

Elements of the Panaon Police and the PNP’s anti-terror Special Project: Mindanao Khilafah Islamiyah arrested Sali at a checkpoint along the National Highway around 5:30 p.m., Cruz said in a text message.

Operatives carried out the arrest on warrants for multiple murder with frustrated murder and multiple attempted murder, he said.

Sali is believed to be behind two bombing incidents in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato, and Digos City, Davao del Sur, where several lives were lost, Cruz said.

He is a “member of the Al Khobar terrorist group under the umbrella of the group of Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan,” the police official said.

Sali’s arrest came almost two months after Marwan, a suspect in the deadly 2002 bombings in Bali, Indonesia, was killed in a raid by the PNP Special Action Force in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, last January 25.

The raid, however, also cost the lives of 44 SAF members as armed Moro groups ganged up on the police commandos.

In 2008, the Department of Interior and Local Government announced a P400,000 reward for anyone who can help authorities capture Sali, one of the suspects in the bombing of a Metro Shuttle Bus in September 1 that year.

The incident killed at least five people and injured 30 others.

Same bounties were offered for Sali’s fellow bombing suspects Mahir Abu Bakr and Jonaria Mindiba.

Al Khobar is a group of extortionists based in the marshlands of Maguindanao and are responsible for the spate of bombings in Central Mindanao since 2006, according to a statement issued by the PNP in 2013.

The group was allegedly created to support the Southeast Asian terror network Jemaah Islamiyah and other foreign militant jihadist groups.

It was intended to serve as a special unit concentrating on using explosives and carrying out extortion schemes across Cotabato, until it transformed into a kidnap-for-ransom gang and, much later, into an extortion group, according to the police statement. (John Roson)

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Alleged members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have reportedly been promising to give lands to tribal folk once the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is passed, a military official said Friday.

Armed Forces public affairs chief Lieutenant Colonel Harold Cabunoc said the military learned of the offer through tribal leaders who had protested the MILF’s “new” camp in Brgy. Rogongon, Iligan City.

Alleged members of MILF 103rd Border Command’s 305th Guerilla Unit recruited Higaonon and Maranao tribesmen to train at the camp, then asked them for an P800 “membership fee,” Cabunoc told reporters.

“At in return diumano ay bibigyan sila ng five hectares of land once na maipasa na ‘yung BBL at ma-establish ang Bangsamoro,” he said.

A total of 85 Higaonon and Maranao tribesmen were recruited at the camp in May 2014 then 90 more were recruited last January, Cabunoc said.

Cabunoc said the offer is an “issue,” considering that tribal folk, particularly the Higaonons, own ancestral lands around the camp.

“Issue talaga ‘yun dahil yung ancestral domain ay para ‘yun sa Higaonon tribe mismo at sila ang talagang kinikilala na may karapatan sa naturang lupa, tapos may biglang magpapakilala na sila ang magbibigay ng lupa na ‘yun para sa mga nagpa-affiliate o nagpa-train. Magkakaproblema ang komunidad,” he said.

Cabunoc made the remarks after confirming that the military endorsed protests by Higaonon tribal leaders against the “new” camp in Brgy. Rogonon.

Colonel Gilbert Gapay, commander of the Army’s 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade, had recommended that the camp be dismantled because of the tribal leaders’ protests and because it was built while the ceasefire between the government and MILF is in effect.

Cabunoc said the issue about the camp is a “challenge” to the MILF sincerity in upholding provisions of the 18-year-old ceasefire.

“Challenge ito sa kanila… Alamin nila kung sino ‘yung mga tao na ‘yun, kung talagang tao ba nila na member talaga ng Moro Islamic Liberation Front or nagpapagangap lang na member ng MILF para magkapera,” he said.

“‘Yung pag-recruit at saka pag-training at saka pag-expand ng area, bawal po ‘yun ayon sa usapang pangkapayapaan na pirmado ng government at saka MILF,” Cabunoc noted. (John Roson)

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Authorities arrested the leader of the so-called “Martilyo Gang” during an operation in Ozamis City Friday morning, police said.

Glenn Tayrus was arrested at a popular fastfood chain’s branch along Don Bernad ave. around 9 a.m., Northern Mindanao regional police director Chief Supt. Agrimero Cruz said.

Elements of the Cagayan de Oro City Police, Regional Public Safety Battalion, Regional Special Operations Group, and 10th Regional Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit carried out the arrest on a warrant for robbery with violence against persons, Cruz said.

Tayrus is one of the principal suspects in robbing a branch of the Development Bank of the Philippines and a pawnshop in Cagayan de Oro in November 2013 and December 2014, respectively, he said.

Tayrus is tagged as the National Police’s most wanted person among crime groups, being the leader of the Martilyo Gang that operates nationwide, Cruz said, citing records of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.

The gang, whose members use hammers in staging holdups, has been blamed for two heists inside the SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City in January and December 2013.

It can be recalled that those incidents had prompted the National Capital Region Police to ask mall managements to control, if not prohibit, the sale of hammers inside their premises. (John Roson)

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The Philippine Air Force grounded its UH-1H (Huey) helicopters after one unit got involved in an accident in Cagayan de Oro City on Wednesday.

The Huey unit carrying the number 518 “rolled over” while it was about to take off from Camp Evangelista, headquarters of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, around 3:30 p.m. Air Force spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Enrico Canaya said.

The helicopter has two pilots and two crew members at the time, but no one was reported injured, Canaya said in a text message.

He said the helicopter was damaged, though the extent is not immediately known.

The helicopter was supposed to return to the Air Force’s 10th Tactical Operations Group base at the Lumbia Airport after transporting 4th ID commander Major General Oscar Lactao from the 402nd Brigade headquarters in Butuan City, said Major Ezra Balagtey, Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command public affairs officer.

“UH-1Hs are grounded,” he said. (John Roson)

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photo from Zamboanga City Police Public Safety Company

photo from Zamboanga City Police Public Safety Company

The number of fatalities in the suspected car bomb explosion in Zamboanga City rose to two while the injured now stand at 52, authorities said Saturday.

This developed as it was learned that all police units in Mindanao had been placed under the highest alert status due to “threats of terrorism,” hours before the blast.

The second fatality was identified as Dennis Valiente, Zamboanga City Police director Senior Superintendent Angelito Casimiro said in a text message.

photo from Zamboanga City Police Public Safety Company

photo from Zamboanga City Police Public Safety Company

Valiente, 33, expired around 8:30 p.m. while undergoing treatment at the Western Mindanao Medical Center (WMMC), according to an emailed report from the Zamboanga Peninsula regional police.

Ten of the injured, including policeman SPO1 Sanzibal Laha Bajari, remain at the WMMC, Zamboanga City Medical Center, Ciudad Medical Center, Zamboanga Peninsula Medical Center, and the Doctors Hospital as of Saturday, according to the report.

Members of the 9th Regional Crime Laboratory Ofice are still trying to determine the type of improvised explosive that went off, Casimiro said.

photo from Zamboanga City Police Public Safety Company

photo from Zamboanga City Police Public Safety Company

The military said earlier that Friday’s 3:30 p.m. explosion came from a red Toyota sedan parked beside the Fantasy disco bar in Brgy. Guiwan.

The bar is just in front of the Guiwan bus terminal.

Members of the military’s Task Group Zamboanga (TGZ) and policemen cordoned the area while forensics teams gathered materials to determine the type of improvised explosive device that went off.

Superintendent Ariel Huesca, Zamboanga City Police spokesman, said Friday night that additional policemen from the 9th Regional Public Safety Battalion and TGZ have also been scattered in and around the city to conduct checkpoints.

photo from Zamboanga City Police Public Safety Company

photo from Zamboanga City Police Public Safety Company

The explosion occurred while government troops are conducting an offensive against the Abu Sayyaf in neighboring Basilan province.

The al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf has been blamed for several bombing incidents in Zamboanga City in the past.

Abu Sayyaf retaliation eyed

A senior police official said Saturday that the bombing in Brgy. Guiwan may have been a retaliation for a foiled attempt to spring Abu Sayyaf members from the Zamboanga City Reformatory Center.

“It’s the foiled jail escape,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

Jail guards foiled the plot on January 19, after finding three guns and more than 100 ammunition inside two cells of the ZCRC.

The firearms and ammunition, which were supposed to be used in the escape of 57 Abu Sayyaf inmates, were hidden inside two concrete stoves brought in by a woman, according to a report from the regional police.

Entire Mindanao on full alert

Meanwhile, another police official said Saturday that all police units in Mindanao had been placed under the highest alert status before the explosion in Zamboanga City.

“All of Mindanao is in full alert… It took effect Friday morning,” Northern Mindanao regional police director Chief Superintendent Agrimero Cruz said in a text message.

National Police officer-in-charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina ordered the raising of the alert status, Cruz said.

Cruz, in a statement emailed Friday night, said he directed all police units in his region to observe the status in light of “threats of terrorism” and the IED explosion in Zamboanga.

Full alert, the highest among three police alert statuses, means that all policemen in affected units should be available for duty.

The implementation of full alert in Northern Mindanao comes with “target-hardening” measures, 24/7 checkpoints, deployment of EOD and K-9 units at bus terminals, maximized police visibility in areas of convergence, and border patrols, Cruz said.

“Surprise random checkpoints are also implemented,” he said.

Northern Mindanao is connected to the Zamboanga Peninsula in the west by Misamis Occidental and Lanao del Norte.

The region’s two highly urbanized cities – Cagayan de Oro and Iligan – experienced bombings by the Abu Sayyaf and other Islamic militants in recent years.

“While the PNP enourages vigilance, the public is advised not to panic… Community members are encouraged to report suspicious individuals and activities to the nearest police station,” Cruz said in his statement. (John Roson)

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(Update 10 p.m.) A man was killed while 48 other people were injured when an improvised bomb exploded beside a disco bar in Zamboanga City Friday afternoon, authorities said.

“One died while forty-five persons were wounded in the IED (improvised explosive device) explosion,” Zamboanga City police spokesman Superintendent Ariel Huesca said in a text message Friday night.

Captain Maria Rowena Muyuela, Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command spokesperson, said in an emailed statement that the number of injured later rose to 48, as per the city government’s tally.

The victims were brought to the Western Mindanao Medical Center, Zamboanga City Medical Center, Zamboanga Peninsula Hospital and Doctors Hospital, Huesca said.

Killed was Reynaldo Tan, while the injured include a person who is “critically wounded” and a policeman, city police information officer SPO2 Alex Mabalot said by phone.

‘Blast came from car’

The blast came from a car parked beside the Fantasy Disco Pub in Brgy. Guiwan, Muyuela said, citing information from the Task Group Zamboanga (TGZ).

The explosive was “encased” in a red Toyota sedan (WOH-608) owned by one Ralph Lakibul, a resident of Brgy. Canelar, according to a separate military report.

“Hindi totally nawasak ‘yung kotse, mare-recognize mo pa ‘yung porma niya na kotse, pero nakataas na ‘yung hood,” Mabalot said.

The site of the 3:30 p.m. explosion is located just across the street in front of the Guiwan Bus Terminal, he added.

Security tightened

Members of the TGZ and policemen have cordoned the area, Muyuela said.

Post-blast investigation was still ongoing Friday night “to determine the signature/type of IED used by the perpetrators,” Huesca said.

“Undetermined pa kung ano ang sumabog, maraming version, we are still waiting for the EOD (explosives and ordnance disposal unit) to report,” Mabalot said.

Additional policemen from the 9th Regional Public Safety Battalion and TGZ have also been scattered in and around the city to conduct checkpoints, Huesca said.

The explosion occurred while security forces are conducting an offensive against the Abu Sayyaf in neighboring Basilan province.

The al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf has been blamed for several bombing incidents in Zamboanga City in the past.

Northern Mindanao alerted

Meanwhile, policemen in the neighboring region of Northern Mindanao were placed under full alert – the highest among three alert statuses – after the explosion in Zamboanga City.

All police units were told to observe the status in light of the IED explosion and “threats of terrorism,” regional police director Chief Superintendent Agrimero Cruz said in a statement.

The full alert status comes with “target-hardening” measures, 24/7 checkpoints, deployment of EOD and K-9 units at bus terminals, maximized police visibility in areas of convergence, and border patrols, he said.

Northern Mindanao is connected to the Zamboanga Peninsula in the west by Misamis Occidental and Lanao del Norte.

The region’s two highly urbanized cities – Cagayan de Oro and Iligan – already experienced bombings by the Abu Sayyaf and other Islamic militants in recent years.

“While the PNP enourages vigilance, the public is advised not to panic… Community members are encouraged to report suspicious individuals and activities to the nearest police station,” Cruz said. (John Roson)

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Two security guards were injured after a grenade thrown by a man during a fit of jealousy went off at a ranch in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon, on Tuesday, police reported.

Injured were Heusterio Magana and Richard Shaymanlao, both guards at the Lorenzo Ranch in Brgy. Dalirig, according to a report from the Bukidnon provincial police.

The explosion occurred around 9:50 a.m. at the ranch’s gate.

One Christopher Haton, a resident of Brgy. Dalirig, was seen hurling the grenade 20 meters away from the gate before the blast, according to the report.

Investigation indicated that Haton became jealous and angry after seeing the security guards glancing at his wife, so he lobbed a grenade at them.

Magana suffered wounds to his abdomen because of the blast, while Shaymanlao sustained wounds to the buttocks.

Both guards were taken to the Bukidnon Provincial Hospital Annex in Manolo Forthich for treatment. (John Roson)

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Police scour the RTMI bus that was bombed in Maramag, Bukidnon, on Tuesday. (police photo)

Police scour the RTMI bus that was bombed in Maramag, Bukidnon, on Tuesday. (police photo)

Authorities are looking at terrorism and extortion as possible motives in the bus bombing that left 10 people dead and 42 others injured in Maramag, Bukidnon, on Tuesday, security officials said Wednesday.

Lieutenant General Aurelio Baladad, chief of the Armed Forces’ Eastern Mindanao Command, said investigation showed that the bomb had the “signature,” or make, similar to those assembled by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

“‘Yung lumitaw, ‘yun na nga, ang signature ng bomb is BIFF,” Baladad told reporters by phone.

Police mark the spot at the overhead baggage carrier where the bomb is believed to have been planted. (police photo)

Police mark the spot at the overhead baggage carrier where the bomb is believed to have been planted. (police photo)

Another military official, who requested anonymity, said the make of the bomb – an 81-millimeter mortar ammunition detonated with a cellphone – points to the group of one Dawtin Gendang of the BIFF.

Gendang and new “graduates” of the BIFF appeared to have carried out the attack on the Rural Transit Mindanao Inc. (RTMI) bus as “test mission,” the official told reporters.

Gendang was previously identified as a suspect in the bombing of another RTMI bus that injured four people last November 6, Inspector Jiselle Longakit, Bukidnon provincial police spokesperson, said.

The bus door after the blast. (Army photo)

The bus door after the blast. (Army photo)

The BIFF, according to the military, has links with bomb expert Abdul Basit Usman who is connected with the regional terror network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and is wanted by both the Philippines and United States.

The group has also recently expressed support to the Middle East-based jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Tuesday’s explosion occurred inside an RTMI bus around 5:40 p.m. while it was passing through Maramag, on the way to Cagayan de Oro City.

Police said on Tuesday that the bus came from Wao, Lanao del Sur, but stated on Wednesday that it came from Banisilan, North Cotabato.

The blast happened in front of the main gate of the Central Mindanao University (CMU), shortly after the bus picked up passengers at a nearby bus stop.

The blast killed Kim Valiente, 17; Anita Santillan, 54; Marielle Achacoso, 17; Niezel Dee Gonzaga, 22; Catherine Villahermosa, Johnrey Valdesco, John Bernard Cuhanap, Jonathan Balida, Michael Buctos, and a still unidentified person. Some of them are students of CMU.

Forty-two other persons, some of whom are also CMU students, were hurt and taken to different hospitals.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, in a statement, called the bombing a “barbaric” act and called on people to help authorities identify the attackers.

“We condole with the families of the victims of this tragic incident. The DND thru the AFP is in full support and cooperation with the PNP to get to the bottom of this barbaric act,” Gazmin said.

The defense chief declined to say what angles are being looked into, stating that the DND was still waiting for results of the investigation.

Longakit said investigators are initially looking at extortion as a possible motive but have not set aside terrorism.

“We are still coordinating with the bus company on that (extortion angle),” she said, adding that terrorism has “not yet” been ruled out.

A statement released later by the provincial police said the management of RTMI “refused to give extortion fee,” but did not point to any group. (John Roson)

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The mayor of Impasug-ong, Bukidnon, died after suspected New People’s Army (NPA) members ambushed his convoy this morning (Wednesday), authorities said.

Mayor Mario Okinlay was brought to the Malaybalay Polymedic Hospital because of a bullet wound, but he expired after a few hours, Maj. Christian Uy, spokesman of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, said by phone.

Okinlay’s convoy was passing through Brgy. Bontongon around 8:20 a.m., when it was fired upon by at least three armed men, Uy said.

Okinlay and 20 employees of the local government unit and policemen were riding motorcycles, followed by a team of soldiers from the Army’s 8th Infantry Battalion who were on a 6×6 truck, he said.

The soldiers returned fire, but the assailants quickly fled, Uy said.

Insp. Joann Galvez, Bukidnon provincial police spokesperson, said Okinlay had just finished conducting a public service program called “Hatod Serbisyo” in Bontongon and was returning to Brgy. Poblacion – located some 18 kilometers away – when suspected NPA members ambushed the convoy.

The mayor suffered a bullet wound to the abdomen during the attack, she said.

Around 11:30 a.m., Okinlay’s brother Dodo, a barangay kagawad, confirmed to police that the mayor passed away, Galvez said.

Authorities suspect the NPA of carrying out the attack because of previous intelligence reports on the rebels’ plan to kill the mayor, she said.

Last June 25, the provincial police’s intelligence branch told the Impasug-ong Police about the NPA’s plan to liquidate Okinlay, Galvez said.

This prompted the town’s police chief to meet with the mayor that day to discuss precautionary and preventive measures, she said.

Uy, for his part, said the rebels might be angry with Okinlay for cooperating with government troops.

“Nakikipag-coordinate siya sa amin, including on this medical mission sa Bontongon. Siguro gusto nilang (rebels) i-discredit yung mga ganitong programs ng local governments with the military,” Uy said, adding that Impasug-ong was once a “rebel-influenced” area.

All police stations in the province have been told to be on the alert and “advise their respective mayors to be cautious because of the incident,” Galvez said.

The provincial police has activated a special investigation task group to identify and charge those who killed Okinlay, while other police units and Army troops were sent to pursue the assailants, she added. (John Roson)

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