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Archive for August 2008

4 Marines killed, 10 injured in Sulu ambush

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net, Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 10:13:00 08/30/2008

ZAMBOANGA CITY/MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 3) Four soldiers were killed and 10 others wounded in an early morning ambush by suspected Muslim extremists in the southern island province of Sulu on Saturday, officials said.

At 6:45 a.m., a convoy from the 11th Marine Battalion Landing Team was in the vicinity of Bonbon village in Patikul town when they were attacked by the gunmen, believed to be members of the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group, Philippine Marine Corps commandant Major General Ben Dolorfino said.

“Four of our soldiers were killed in the fighting. Ten more wounded and operations are ongoing in the area,” Western Mindanao Command spokesman Major Eugene Batara said.

An unknown number of gunmen are also believed to have been killed in the fighting, Batara said.

The Marines were on their way to a brigade command post on Mt. Bayug in Talipao town when fired upon by the group armed with mortars and high-powered guns, said Navy spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Edgard Arevalo.

The firefight lasted for 10 minutes, after which, the gunmen retreated, Arevalo said, adding the fatalities and the wounded were airlifted to Zamboanga City.

Dolorfino said the soldiers were on a convoy transporting logistics when waylaid.

Two vehicles were hit by an explosion, which would explain the number of casualties, he said.

Dolorfino said it was also not clear if a firefight really took place because “the reports reaching me said the enemies made a quick withdrawal.”

“Cellular phone signal in Bonbon is limited that is why we are having difficulty in communicating with the battalion commander,” he said referring to Lieutenant Colonel Joselito Calimag, the MBLT 11 commander.

Batara said the Marines managed to put up a fight even as the armed men, whom he refused to call Abu Sayyaf extremists, were firing mortars and small firearms on them.

“The said unit could have engaged a bigger force (numbering) around 100 and we cannot determine if they are really ASG members,” he said.

Meanwhile, Major General Juancho Sabban, commander of the military’s Joint Task Force Comet based in Sulu, said continued “security operations” will be conducted in the island-province even during the observance of Ramadan to ensure peace and order.

But Sabban quickly added that “non-stop implementation of humanitarian undertakings” will be implemented alongside military operations.

To prevent the humanitarian action from being misconstrued as military action during Ramadan, which starts on Monday, Sabban said the military “has been in constant dialogue with the imams and ulama for better understanding and to prevent any situation that may be interpreted as a disregard of Muslim tradition.”

The Abu Sayyaf group has engaged in bombings and mass kidnappings for ransom, often targetting Christians and foreigners.

US military advisers have been training local forces to hunt down the group which has been involved in abductions and killings of Americans in the past. With reports from Ed General, Inquirer Mindanao and Agence France-Presse

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

Written by joelguinto

SatUTC2008-08-30T11:16:54+00:00UTC08bUTCSat, 30 Aug 2008 11:16:54 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am08

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Gov’t woos MNLF as peace prospects with MILF hang in balance

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To pursue full implementation of ’96 peace deal

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 15:05:00 08/29/2008

MANILA, Philippines — With prospects of peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) hanging in the balance, the government said it will work for the full implementation of the 1996 peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

“We have to clutch at points of certainty, and that is the Tripoli agreement and the 1996 agreement and all other subsequent agreements that can be made as terms of reference,” Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. told a news conference in Camp Aguinaldo Friday.

“While at the same time, we cannot proceed on the other side, on the MILF, because we don’t know what their position is,” he said.

Teodoro and Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno met with Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, who is also MNLF chairman, on the disarming and demobilization of MNLF fighters and their integration into the military and police.

Sema, who was at the news conference, also denied allegations they connived with MILF forces who staged attacks on civilian communities in Central Mindanao that triggered ongoing hostilities in the south.

The fighting erupted after the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order against signing of a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD) between the government and MILF which would expand the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) into the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.

The ARMM was created under the 1996 peace agreement with the MNLF.

“We begin by going back to the 1996 peace agreement, I don’t think well have a problem within the MNLF. What were trying to do is complete the obligations for everyone and ensure compliance of everyone to the terms of the agreement,” Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said.

Teodoro said the MNLF has “kept its peace, kept its side of the agreement,” and government would “make it work in the face of uncertainty.”

Referring to the Central Mindanao fighting, Teodoro said the MILF has not made its position on the “authority of the government to enforce its law” and on the “countenancing or non-countenancing of atrocities committed by some of its members.”

The military is pursuing two MILF commanders — Ameril Ombra Kato and Abdurahman Macapaar, alias Commander Bravo — blamed for the North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte attacks, respectively.

“Our message to the MILF is to surrender Bravo and Kato. If they don’t, we will get them,” the defense chief said.

Puno explained that “disarmament” and “demobilization” were not the exact wordings of the 1996 agreement but that these meant MNLF members’ turning in their firearms and their integration into the government security force.

While no estimate of armed MNLF members was given, Puno said 1,600 former rebels have been integrated into the Philippine National Police (PNP) and 5,000 others into the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Denying that the MNLF was in cahoots with the MILF in the current hostilities, Sema said: “We would like to say that there is no truth to that. The MNLF remains to be a partner of the] national government in the implementation of peace and development for many, many years until today.”

While he admitted that his organization was not consulted when the government and MILF negotiated the terms of the MOA-AD, Sema said he hoped that the government would find a way to “harmonize” any agreement with the MILF with the one it forged with the MNLF deal.

“There was no consultation with the MNLF, we were not party to the talks, we were not involved. We [are] not opposed also to the peace efforts of the government,” he said.

“As to when finally there will be an agreement with government and the MILF, if it will work, how it will work with the present agreement between the MNLF and the government, ask the government, because we have to harmonize if ever there will be an agreement,” he said.

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

Written by joelguinto

FriUTC2008-08-29T09:32:54+00:00UTC08bUTCFri, 29 Aug 2008 09:32:54 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am08

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No survivors in C-130 crash–PAF

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US Navy ship to help locate downed plane

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 08:57:00 08/29/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The two pilots and seven crewmen of an Air Force C-130 Hercules cargo plane that crashed into the Davao Gulf Monday have been officially declared dead, Philippine Air Force (PAF) chief Lieutenant General Pedrito Caudngog said Friday.

The declaration, after three days of search operations yielded no signs of life, would speed up the delivery of benefits to the dead airmen’s families, Cadungog said in a phone interview.

The crew of the downed plane were Major Manuel Zambrano, pilot, his co-pilot Captain Adrian de Dios, Technical Sergeant Constantino Lobrigas and Staff Sergeants Gary Diñoso, Felix Pedro Patriarca, Patricio Claur Jr., Aldrin Illustrisimo, Petronilo Fernandez and John Ariola.

Cadungog said he could not confirm reports that two Army soldiers were also on the ill-fated aircraft, pointing out that their names were not on the flight manifest.

“We can’t find anything more but floating debris, that’s why this morning [Friday], we declared that there are no more survivors,” he said.

Aside from airplane parts, like the landing gear and a seat, search teams from the Navy and the Coast guard also fished out human body parts from the waters between Davao City and Samal Island.

The plane’s fuselage is believed to be on the seabed, up to 800 feet below the surface.

Cadungog added that the USNS John McDonnell (not McDonald, as erroneously given earlier by PAF spokesman Major Gerardo Zamudio), which the US Navy has dispatched to help locate the plane’s wreckage, will arrive Saturday afternoon, instead of Friday as originally scheduled.

“[The ship will help] determine the depth, position, and location of the airplane,” Cadungog said.

The ship’s findings would determine whether or not the fuselage can be salvaged.

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

Written by joelguinto

FriUTC2008-08-29T09:31:03+00:00UTC08bUTCFri, 29 Aug 2008 09:31:03 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am08

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Pilot of crashed C-130 chose to ‘save lives’

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 19:02:00 08/28/2008

MANILA, Philippines—A veteran of relief missions, the pilot of an Air Force C-130 cargo plane that crashed into the Davao Gulf chose to stay in the military service “to save lives,” instead of transferring to the more lucrative commercial airlines, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said Thursday.

The pilot, Major Manuel Zambrano, who remained missing three days after the crash, was Teodoro’s student in the Air Force Squadron Officers’ Course.

Teodoro conceded that the chance for survivors was “very narrow.” Search teams only found body parts and debris. There was no trace of survivors or the fuselage of the aircraft, though sonar pointed to its possible location 800 feet below the surface.

“It’s quite sad form me, particularly with Major Zambrano… If you remember the mission to Brorongan, where we brought relief goods for the first time, Zambrano was the one who flew it. He was always smiling, very bubbly,” Teodoro told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

Teodoro recalled an article on the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net), wherein Zambrano explained why he was staying in the military service despite the relatively lower pay.

“He said that he opted to stay in the Philippine Air Force than join the airlines because here he was saving lives. That was his character,” Teodoro said.

Among Zambrano’s recent missions was the relief efforts for victims of Typhoon “Frank” (international codename: Fengshen) in June, and the transport of the country’s humanitarian mission to cyclone-ravaged Myanmar in May.

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Written by joelguinto

ThuUTC2008-08-28T15:07:17+00:00UTC08bUTCThu, 28 Aug 2008 15:07:17 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm08

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CPP: DILG’s Puno building RP version of Nazi ‘Brown Shirts’

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 17:12:00 08/28/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno’s arming of civilian “police auxiliaries” in Mindanao is a prelude to building a vigilante army along the lines of the Nazi “Brown Shirts.”

Following attacks by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on communities in Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato provinces earlier this month, Puno announced that the Philippine National Police would arm civilian auxiliaries with shotguns to defend their home against the rebels.

The CPP said Puno’s plan, which news reports say could involve arming as many as 12,000 auxiliaries, was akin to an alleged attempt by the official to transform barangay tanod (village watchmen) into a “civilian army for the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

“Puno has, since the Marcos martial law days, been obsessed with building the local version of Brown Shirts storm troopers, [German dictator Adolf] Hitler’s loose ‘civilian’ army whose unabated, sanctioned rampage against Jews and communists and all remaining resistance to the establishment of Nazi power preceded the official fascist transformation of the German state,” the CPP said in a statement.

The CPP, which leads the almost 40-year old communist insurgency, claimed Puno established “secret training schools” for the alleged Marcos civilian army, including a facility in Tagaytay City.

However, the plan was scuttled by the 1986 People Power uprising that ousted Marcos, the CPP said.

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Written by joelguinto

ThuUTC2008-08-28T15:06:21+00:00UTC08bUTCThu, 28 Aug 2008 15:06:21 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm08

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Defense chief: Flying transports back to 2 in weeks

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 16:15:00 08/28/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The military will hasten refurbishing one of its grounded C-130 transport aircraft to make it would operational within two weeks and fill the void left by the plane that crashed in the Davao Gulf last Monday, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said Thursday.

The crash left the Air Force with only one C-130 to transport troops, ammunition, and disaster relief supplies around the archipelago, with three others in the maintenance bay awaiting spare parts.

“It’s not a question of procuring one more [C-130]. It’s just bringing in service some more, and, within next week, or a week or two, one will be in service, so we have two [flying] and one more will be in the pipeline,” Teodoro told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

Teodoro said a brand new C-130 Hercules would cost around $80 million US.

The defense chief said he wants a “thorough” investigation into Monday’s crash, which happened after the plane lost contact with air traffic controllers shortly after takeoff from the Davao International Airport around 9 p.m.

The Air Force has ruled out sabotage as the cause of the crash and is looking at pilot error, material failure, or bad weather.

Teodoro said that while it was possible, the chances of sabotage were “slim.”

The ill-fated aircraft was carrying two pilots and seven crewmen when it crashed. No survivors have been found though body parts and debris were recovered near the Davao City coast.

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Written by joelguinto

ThuUTC2008-08-28T08:40:10+00:00UTC08bUTCThu, 28 Aug 2008 08:40:10 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am08

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Troops overrun MILF camp, but fail to get Bravo–military

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By Joel Guinto, Richel Umel
INQUIRER.net, Mindanao Bureau
First Posted 11:47:00 08/28/2008

ILIGAN — (UPDATE 4) Government troops have overrun a rebel Muslim stronghold in the south of the country after weeks of fighting that has left about 150 dead, but failed to catch one of the leaders of the Moro rebels’ attacks, military officials said.

In the wake of the capture of the Bilal complex, AFP chief of staff General Alexander Yano called on the troops to press on with the offensives and “show the MILF hierarchy that we are serious [in] punishing their members who refused to give peace a chance.”

The complex in Munai town, allegedly under the command of Abdurahman Macapaar, alias Commander Bravo, was abandoned by the time Army troops entered at around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday after days of fighting, said Lieutenant General Cardozo Luna, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) vice chief of staff.

Major General Nehemias Pajarito, commander of the 1st Infantry Division, said his troops engaged Macapaar’s men in a fierce firefight before capturing Bilal but by they time they entered the complex, the MILF commander and his fighters had fled.

Macapaar is the alleged brains of MILF attacks on five Lanao del Norte towns on August 18 that left at least 28 civilians and three government troopers, including an Army lieutenant colonel, dead.

But Captain Maamo Alonto and Brigadier General Mark Antonio Supnet, commander of the 104th Infantry Brigade, said the assault took place Thursday morning.

“Bravo did not put up a fight like what he promised in one of his interviews. He ran away before our troops entered Bilal complex,” Supnet said in a text message.

Brigadier General Hilario Atendido, head of a task force hunting the insurgents, said there were reports that a 300-man rebel unit had broken up into smaller bands of 50 men and scattered in different directions.

In Manila, military chief General Alexander Yano said the hunt for Bravo and fellow Kato must be pursued to its end.

Luna estimated that the Bilal complex was about the size of Camp Aguinaldo, the AFP general headquarters in Manila. He said the complex was previously overturned during the all-out war against the MILF in 2000, but was returned to the rebels when peace negotiations resumed.

Over the weekend, the military said it has overran 15 MILF camps and communities, including Camp Vietnam in Maguindanao province, a satellite training camp under MILF commander Ameril Ombra Kato, who led rebels who occupied several villages in North Cotabato early this month.

Since early August, fighting in Central Mindanao has left 55 people dead and 69 others wounded, while more than 220,000 have been displaced, the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) said.

Agence Frannce Presse

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Written by joelguinto

ThuUTC2008-08-28T08:39:25+00:00UTC08bUTCThu, 28 Aug 2008 08:39:25 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am08

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