Tag Archive: President Benigno Aquino

An Abu Sayyaf member was killed when the bandit group clashed with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and government troops who provided reinforcement, in Sumisip, Basilan, on Saturday, the military said.

This developed after security forces expressed disappointment over the MILF’s involvement in a clash that resulted in the death of 44 members of the National Police’s Special Action Force (SAF) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on January 25.

Members of the MILF encountered about 50 Abu Sayyaf members in Brgy. Pamatsaken around 10 a.m., said 1Lt. Sally Christine Magno, civil-military operations officer of the Army’s 104th Brigade.

Upon learning the incident, the 64th Infantry Battalion sent three platoons of soldiers and armored vehicles “to reinforce the beleaguered MILF members,” Magno said.

The troops proceeded to the encounter site with Brgy. Central chairman Marjim Barillo and other MILF members, she said.

The Abu Sayyaf members, led by sub-commanders Radzmil Jannatul, Juhaibel Alamsirul, and Pasil Bayali, withdrew towards Brgy. Baiwas, apparently sensing the large strength of the reinforcing troops and MILF, Magno said.

Members of the 64th IB then transported MILF member Sahid Liberal alias “Balinting,” who was wounded in the clash, to his relatives and later to Basilan Community Hospital in Isabela City, she said.

Other soldiers and some MILF members, meanwhile, pursued the Abu Sayyaf and cleared encampments and a jungle base of the bandits between Pamatsaken and Baiwas.

“It was reported that one Abu Sayyaf bandit was killed during the encounter,” Magno said.

The killing of SAF troopers in Mamasapano, which came shortly after a raid where the police commandos killed Malaysian terror suspect Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, raised questions on the MILF’s sincerity in the peace deal it signed with the government in March 2014.

National Police officer-in-charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina publicly criticized the involved Muslim rebels for the “overkill.”

The death of the SAF troopers also fueled talk of a rift between the PNP and Armed Forces which, some say, failed to reinforce the beleaguered policemen in their time of need.

Both the PNP and AFP have denied that such a rift exists, but only after military officials said the SAF failed to coordinate its mission and sacked SAF commander Director Getulio Napenas claimed otherwise.

President Benigno Aquino, in a televised speech on Friday, warned that it will be more dangerous for the country if the PNP and AFP were to clash.

The President, in what was seen by observers as a move to douse the “rift” issue between the PNP and AFP, vowed to pursue justice for the slain police commandos and warned that the combined strength of both agencies will be used to “run over” those who will again attack security forces who are performing their duty. (John Roson)

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National Police officer-in-charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina on Wednesday called on Muslim rebels to explain why members of the Special Action Force (MILF) had to be “overkilled” in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, amid an ongoing peace process.

Espina’s call came amid talk of lack of coordination between the PNP and Armed Forces, and between the SAF and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) with whom the government signed a preliminary peace deal last year.

“Ang aking punto rito eh doon sa mga nakalaban… Granting, for the sake of argument, hindi nag-coordinate ‘yung SAF troopers, was it enough reason for the overkill?” Espina told reporters in Camp Crame.

“Was it justifiable on their part na mayroon kaming usapan, magkaroon ng overkill? They did not have the intent to let anybody live,” Espina said, in an apparent referrence to the MILF.

Members of the SAF also clashed with members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), which is not engaged in peace talks with the government.

The clash in Brgy. Tukanalipao on January 25 left 44 police commandos dead and 16 others injured.

Eight of the slain policemen were members of the 84th Special Action Company (SAC), which carried out a raid against Malaysian bomb expert Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Filipino bomb maker Abdul basit Usman, while 36 were from the 55th SAC which served as a “blocking force.”

According to Espina, some SAF members were already dead before they were shot to the head and stripped off of their uniforms and personal belongings.

“Pagkatapos patayin pinagbabaril sa ulo. Finishing touches… Bakit mo babarilin sa mukha? Tatanggalin mo ang uniform. Kukunin mo ang cellphone, tatawagan mo ang misis nung isa sasabihan na wala na ang mister mo?” he said.

Espina pointed out that the commandos had SAF markings on their uniforms, clearly showing that they are government forces.

“We behave according to the protocol, we expect the other party to behave. Forty-four na buhay ang kinuha ninyo. Meron tayong usapin. Remember those 44. But we will always abide by the peace talks,” he said.

‘Mission accomplished’

In a separate press briefing, former SAF commander Dir. Getulio Napeñas assured that Marwan was killed in the early morning raid in neighboring Brgy. Pidsandawan before the commandos clashed with MILF and BIFF forces in Tukanalipao.

“Mission accomplished. At tinataya ko, magre-resign na ako siguro kung hindi si Marwan… Napakalaki ‘yung kredibilidad na siya ‘yung target at namatay doon sa operasyon,” Napeñas said.

Napeñas, who was relieved as SAF commander following the death of 44 police commandos, revealed that the force started targetting Marwan in December 2010, but early attempts to get the Malaysian terror suspect failed.

Operations had also been planned in 2012 but were shelved.

Purisima OK’d plan

Napeñas said other operations were planned from April to November 2014 and these were approved by PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima before the later was suspended from office by the Ombudsman in December.

He said January 25’s operation in Mamasapano stemmed from the “go signal” that Purisima had given in November.

“Yung go signal na ‘yun ay nag-umpisa pa noong November. Tinuloy-tuloy namin ‘yan. Doon sa rule number 4 ng ating police operational procedure, ‘yung head of office ay puwedeng magsagawa ng operasyon lalung-lalo na may operation na ganyan dati pa,” Napeñas said.

He said Purisima, in November, also told him to inform Espina — then deputy chief for operations — about the raid only when the SAF commandos were already on the ground.

Two ‘chiefs’

So on January 25 — when Purisima is already serving suspension and Espina is officer-in-charge — Napeñas was reporting to both superiors.

“Dalawa sila na nire-reportan ko sa kadahilanang ang project na iyon inumpisahan ni Gen. Purisima noong April pa hanggang November, tuloy-tuloy, siya mismo ‘yung may hawak ng intelligence nung project na iyon,” Napeñas said.

Napeñas also said he did not report to President Benigno Aquino or even Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas because doing so goes against the “chain of command.”

“Doon sa chain of command ng PNP, chief PNP or OIC PNP ang aking unang sasabihan at hindi ako puwedeng lumaktaw,” he said.

Coordination clash

Meanwhile, Espina and Napeñas belied claims that the PNP did not coordinate the SAF raid with the Armed Forces so the latter failed to send reinforcements during the police commandos’ time of need.

Espina said he learned of Marwan’s reported killing 5:30 a.m. and the ensuing clash with BIFF and MILF forces by 6 a.m., so he sought help from AFP Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero.

Espina said Guerrero “mobilized” troops after that and he texted the latter some grid coordinates showing the SAF troopers’ location exactly 7:51 a.m.

The AFP and even President Aquino, in previous statements, pointed out that the military was not given enough time to prepare or send reinforcements for the SAF.

The AFP, in a statement earlier this week, said it did “all that can be done,” but only mentioned the extrication of wounded SAF personnel, not combat support.

Unnamed military sources, in some news reports, also claimed that soldiers manning helicopters, tanks, and Howitzer cannons, at the time did not know the beleaguered SAF troopers’ location.

Napeñas said evidences of coordination, particularly the grid coordinates, will be seen in the probe being conducted by the PNP Board of Inquiry.

He also explained that under police operational procedures, coordination can be done either “before or during” an operation.

“Kaya ‘yung coordination ay puwedeng before o during, sa kadahilanan na nagkakaroon ng compromise kapag nagko-coordinate kami doon sa lugar. Habang naghahanda sila (military), namo-monitor na kaagad,” he said.

Espina was quick to say that the AFP and PNP are “solidly together” and are “always coordinating.”

300 did not sit idly

Napeñas, meanwhile, strongly denied claims that the 300-plus other SAF troopers involved in the operation did not do anything to help their fellow commandos, especially those in the 55th SAC which was “pinned down” by Muslim rebels.

“Hindi po totoo ‘yun. Maraming attempt na dinig na dinig po namin sa radyo, ‘yung battalion commander po mismo nadidinig ko mismo na nag-uutos na pasukin ‘yun… Siya mismo ang nakakaaalam na ‘yung mga tao niya ay nandun sa looban at pinipilit nila na tulungan at reinforce-an ‘yung 55th Company,” he said.

The man on the radio is Supt. Hendrix Mangaldan, commander of the 4th Special Action Battalion that is comprised of the 41st, 42nd, 43rd, 44th, and 45th SACs.

The 45th, 42nd, and 41st SACs were tasked to support the 84th SAC in its raid against Marwan and Usman, while the 43rd and 44th companies were positioned along the road to prevent ambuscades, Napeñas said.

“Ginawa lahat ng effort nung 45th, 42nd, at saka ‘yung 41st company na i-rescue sila (55th SAC) pero dahil sa dami at grabe ng volume of fire hindi na sila nakarating,” he said.

Wait and see

Napeñas, who had been silent since the incident, said he decided to speak in public after learning of statements derogatory to the SAF.

“Minabuti ko na hindi muna magsalita dahil gusto kong hintayin, bigyan natin ng galang ‘yung resulta ng Board of Inquiry pero dahil sa mga statement na lumabas ngayon lang, na sinisira na ‘yung puri ng director ng Special Action Force, pati na ‘yung Special Action Force at buong kapulisan, pagka hindi ako magsasalita, magkakaroon ng public opinion, magseset-in na. Para ito magkaroon lang ng balanse,” he said.

The former commander declined to reveal more and said he will just wait for results of the probe being carried out by the BOI.

“Ang pinakamaganda, hintayin natin ‘yung resulta ng Board of Inquiry para sa ganun ‘yun ang magpapatunay kung ano ang katotohanan sa mga nangyari,” Napeñas added. (John Roson)

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Fort del Pilar, Baguio City – The Philippines will buy two anti-submarine helicopters for the Navy as part efforts to modernize the Armed Forces, President Benigno Aquino III said.

Acquisition of the helicopters will start soon, Aquino said in his speech at the graduation ceremony of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) here.

It will be the first time for the country’s military to have such aircraft, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told reporters later.

The country where the helicopters will be bought from has yet to be determined, he said.

Fighter jet deal signed this week

Aquino also announced that the government is set to sign contracts for the purchase of eight new combat utility helicopters and 12 units of FA-50 lead-in fighter trainer jets.

“Within next week magkakaroon tayo ng pirmahan ng contract, ‘yung FA-50 with the South Korean government at saka ‘yung sa Canada ‘yun combat utility helicopters,” Gazmin told reporters.

The fighter jets will be sourced from Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. for P18.9 billion.

The government aims to have the combat utility helicopters patrolling the country’s skies by 2016, Aquino said.

Meanwhile, the President said the military will receive 63,000 brand new rifles in the next few months to replace its ageing guns.

“Ang mga ripleng ginagamit ng ating kasundaluhan, panahon pa raw ng Vietnam War ang marami sa mga ito,” he said. (John Roson)

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Fort San Felipe, Cavite City – The Philippines can fight back if threatened, President Benigno Aquino III said today, as tensions continued in seas north and west of the country.

“Ang sa Pilipinas ay sa Pilipinas, kaya nating pumalag sa tuwing may maninindak,” Aquino said in a speech at the Philippine Navy’s 115th anniversary here.

“Patuloy ang pagdagsa ng mga banta mula sa loob at labas ng bansa,” he said.

The President made the remarks five days after Taiwan conducted naval exercises in waters near Batanes on May 16.

The military drills came after Philippine Coast Guard personnel shot a Taiwan-registered boat near the same area, killing one fisherman.

Taiwan also recalled its de-facto envoy to Manila and froze the hiring of Filipino workers, prompting Aquino to apologize for the shooting.

Some observers say Taiwan could be using the shooting issue to bring forward talks that are aimed at getting rights to fish in Philippine waters.

“At the end of the day, what they want is a fishing concession. They want to poach legally in our waters,” a former military official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

Currently, Taiwan fishermen are “borrowing” permits from some Filipinos so they can fish in Philippine waters, the official said.

Authorities usually let the Taiwanese go after seeing the permits, he added.

Aquino told reporters that the government will first finish probing the shooting incident before engaging Taiwan in any fisheries talks.

“‘Yung sa fisheries ay ating pinaaaral rin ‘yung mga limitasyon natin. ‘Yung guarding the national patrimony provisions of the Constitution will come into play,” he said.

Aside from Taiwan, the Philippines is also facing issues with China over the latter’s fishing trips to the West Philippine Sea.

Chinese are fishing at Ayungin shoal, one of the Philippines’ territories in the Spratly Islands, “escorted” by a vessel of their navy, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said. (John Roson)

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Suspected New People’s Army (NPA) members fired at President Benigno Aquino’s security escorts in Ligao City, Albay, on Friday but no one was injured, the military said Saturday.

The incident occurred around 1:45 p.m., while a convoy of the Presidential Security Group, police, and Army were passing through Brgy. Palaspas, Maj. Angelo Guzman, spokesman of the Army’s 9th Infantry Division, said.

Four men, believed to be members of the “Militia ng Bayan” and armed with two M16 rifles, fired four times when the convoy passed by, he said.

The security personnel were on their way back to their offices after providing security in Pio Duran, some 20 kilometers away, where the President visited the wake of a soldier, Guzman said.

“They (rebels) indiscriminately fired without considering the harm it may bring to students in a nearby elementary school. The action was not intended to inflict casualty, but a tactic to make the rebels’ presence felt in the area and to embarrass the security forces,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Aquino visited the wake of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s father, former Comelec commissioner Vicente de Lima, in Iriga City, Camarines Sur.

He then visited the wake of Pfc. Erwin Martirez, who was killed in the recent clash between government troops and Abu Sayyaf members in Basilan. (John Roson)

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Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin warned that China may occupy Panatag Shoal (international name: Scarborough Shoal) if the Philippines leaves it unguarded.

“Pagka hindi mo tinauhan ‘yung lugar na ‘yun, ang [gagawin] nila occupancy, nandudun sila, so ‘yun ang gagawin nilang basis nung kanilang claim,” Gazmin told defense reporters in a phone conference Thursday.

The defense chief said it was necessary for the country to send the Coast Guard and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources’ vessels back to Panatag.

“Bakit nga hindi at hindi naman umaalis ‘yung mga Intsik dun, kailangang balikan natin,” he said.

On Wednesday, President Benigno Aquino III said the country should send ships back to Panatag should Chinese law enforcement vessels remain in the area.

The President ordered the Coast Guard and BFAR ships to return to port last Friday because of bad weather brought by typhoon “Butchoy.” (John Roson)

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President Benigno Aquino III has ordered the country’s two ships near Panatag Shoal (international name: Scarborough Shoal) to return home because of bad weather.

Aquino ordered the Coast Guard and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources vessels to “return to port” Friday night due to “increasing bad weather,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said in a statement.

The President’s order came as typhoon “Butchoy” (international name: Guchol) came closer to the country via the Pacific Ocean.

The storm was seen continuously moving towards the country’s northwest Saturday, packing maximum 120 kph winds near the center and a gustiness of up to 150 kph.

“When weather improves, a reevaluation will be made,” Del Rosario said.

Sought for comment on the ships’ pullout, the Department of National Defense said it sees the move as only “normal.”

“It’s a common practice for ships to seek safer areas during inclement weather. Siyempre ang iniisip ni Presidente diyan ay ‘yung safety ng ating mga personnel,” DND spokesman Peter Paul Galvez said.

The military, on the other hand, said it will just continue to monitor developments in Panatag through the Coast Guard.

“That’s the mandate, order ng President ‘yan eh, the Armed Forces of the Philippines is just following,” AFP spokesman Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos said.

“We will be closely in touch with the Philippine Coast Guard… we will maintain coordination with the Coast Guard and other agencies as far as the security of the area is concerned,” he said.

The Coast Guard and BFAR ships had been in a “standoff” with several Chinese law enforcement vessels in Panatag since April, after the Navy tried to arrest Chinese fishermen who were seen carrying live sharks, corals, and giant clams poached from Philippine waters on their boats.

The Navy warship BRP Gregorio del Pilar was the first to engage the Chinese in the standoff, but was eventually pulled out in what government officials said was a move to let civilian agencies deal with Chinese civilian agencies. (John Roson)

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At least 49 policemen are facing possible dismissal from the service over charges of extortion, PNP chief Dir. Gen. Nicanor Bartolome said Sunday.

In the first quarter of the year, the PNP Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management has already handled 96 cases of extortion involving policemen, Bartolome said in a statement.

Of the number, 41 cases have been “resolved” while 49 others are undergoing “summary dismissal proceedings,” he said.

Bartolome gave the remark as he reminded the 185 new graduates of the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) to obey President Benigno Aquino III’s order to fight corruption.

Aquino gave the order after leading the PNPA graduation rites in Laguna on Saturday.

The graduates, who just earned the rank of inspectors, are now the youngest officers of the force mired with a number of extortion cases that affected public trust over the years.

“Corruption in the ranks had, in fact, once tainted the image of the national police to a certain extent that it deeply eroded public trust and esteem of the police institution,” Bartolome admitted.

“We acknowledge as well that the police service presents a wide variety of opportunities for graft and corruption to take place, and that much needs to be done to sustain our objective to block all opportunities for graft and diminish police tolerance to corruption,” he said.

“Speedy investigation is underway against a handful of deviants in the service who failed to toe the line,” Bartolome vowed. (John Roson)

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3 Special Forces colonels sacked

Three Army Special Forces colonels were removed from their posts following the clash with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters that left 19 soldiers dead earlier this week.

Army chief Lt. Gen. Arturo Ortiz ordered the relief of Col. Alexander Macario as head of Special Operations Task Force Basilan.

Macario was removed from his post “after further inquiry showed lapses on his part,” Ortiz said in a text message to reporters late Friday.

Macario will be replaced by Col. Ramon Yogyog effective the same day, Ortiz said.

Colonel Antonio Parlade, meanwhile, was removed as Army spokesman after appearing in television interviews saying that troops were “demoralized” by the clash and that “in his opinion,” the ceasefire with the MILF should be suspended.

“Yes it’s confirmed, I just did my job, said what I think was right,” Parlade said in a text message to reporters, confirming his relief.

“I’m happy knowing our soldiers’ voice and sentiments were heard. We are not politicians. We are soldiers, professional soldiers. We are ready to take the bullet are whatever cost,” he added.

A military source, who requested anonymity, said it was President Benigno Aquino himself who ordered Parlade’s removal as Army spokesman.

“He (Parlade) is supposed to be a spokesman, he sould go back to school… if you are a spokesman, you should not be saying those things,” the source said, quoting the President.

Parlade had served as commander of the 1st Special Forces Battalion, which operates in rebel infested areas in the Southern Tagalog region, before taking over the Army Chief of Public Affairs office in Fort Bonifacio.

Major Harold Cabunoc was ordered by Ortiz to serve as acting Army spokesman.

On Wednesday, Ortiz relieved Lt. Col. Leo Peña as commander of the 4th Special Forces Battalion, the Army unit that was involved in Tuesday’s deadly clash in Al Barkah.

Lieutenant Col. Jose Laplap, the deputy SOTF Basilan commander, was appointed as acting head of the 4SFBn. (John Roson)

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Kato’s group clashes with MILF

A breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) formed by Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato clashed with regular forces of the rebel organization in Datu Piang, Maguindanao, the military confirmed Tuesday.

Members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) clashed with members of the MILF Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces’ (BIAF) 106th Base Command at the boundary of Brgy. Liong and Brgy. Alonganen 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Army 6th Infantry Division spokesman Col. Prudencio Asto said.

The firefight between BIFF members led by commander Abunawas and BIAF members under commander Adzmie stemmed from “property and land conflict,” Asto said, adding that there were reports of casualties on the latter’s men.

Brigadier Gen. Restituto Aguilar, senior military adviser to the government’s peace panel, said Abunawas and Adzmie’s families have long been fighting over a six-hectare agricultural land, but the feud has turned into an “organizational conflict.”

“Unfortunately, the rido has now heightened into an organizational conflict between the BIAF and the BIFF. If not dealt with the soonest possible time, this could lead to further casualties and displacement of civilians,” Aguilar said in a statement.

The clash occurred just two days after President Benigno Aquino III met with MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and other officials of the rebel group in Tokyo, Japan.

Kato allegedly formed the BIFF after being “sanctioned” by the MILF leadership for leading the BIAF 105th Base Command in attacks on civilian communities in 2008. (John Roson)

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