PHL VOWS TO IMPROVE EFFORTS VS HUMAN TRAFFICKING

The Philippines can still do much from the Tier 2 rating it received from the Global Trafficking in Persons (GTIP) report for four consecutive years, Vice President Jejomar Binay said yesterday. Countries in Tier 2 status are those that do not meet the minimum requirements of the United States Trafficking Victims Protection Act but are making significant efforts to do so, while those in Tier 1 status are fully compliant with the TVPA. Binay, chairman emeritus of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), said he is pleased with the country’s consistent performance in the GTIP report but said that the Philippines could still improve in its efforts to curb human trafficking. “On behalf of all IACAT members, I wish to assure our kababayans (countrymen) that we remain firm in our commitment to achieve Tier 1 status. We have taken note of all of the recommendations listed in the 2014 GTIP report and we will focus our energies to meet them,” Binay said. He also thanked the US State Department’s guidance in helping the Philippines identify its areas of opportunity. Binay urged victims to file and pursue cases against those who have been apprehended for human trafficking. “All our efforts will be for nothing if we do not have the support of those who have been victimized,” he said. “Rest assured that the government will exert all efforts to assist and protect you while the cases are being heard,” he added. The latest GTIP report noted that “the government nearly doubled its funding for the IACAT to the equivalent of approximately $2.4 million and continued efforts to implement anti-trafficking laws and policies at the national, regional, and provincial levels.” *READ MORE...

ALSO: Passage of Bangsamoro Law seen by early 2015

Mindanao’s first ever ‘pink mosque,’ located in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town in Maguindanao, will be opened to Filipino Muslims during the first day of the Ramadan fasting month today. JOHN UNSON MANILA, Philippines - With the assurance of President Aquino that the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law would be submitted to Congress by the time it resumes its plenary sessions next month, Senate President Franklin Drilon is confident the measure would be approved by the first quarter of next year at the latest. Drilon said Congress would still work on having the measure approved by the end of the year as was its original target when the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro was signed between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front last year. Drilon though admitted this would be a challenge because of the delay in the submission of the draft law to Congress. “We will strive to finish this by the end of the year but because of the delay, we should have started this last May, this might happen by the first quarter of next year,” Drilon said over radio dwIZ. Drilon said the Senate is expecting to start its deliberations on the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law next month when Congress begins its second regular session. * READ MORE...

ALSO: MILF lobbies Congress for approval of Bangsamoro

Senior officials of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have started lobbying with lawmakers for the approval of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law that will soon be submitted to Congress. Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles said yesterday that MILF vice chairman Ghadzali Jaafar has met with him to personally seek his support for the swift passage of the law that would create the Bangsamoro region in Muslim Mindanao. Nograles said Jaafar assured him that the new regional entity would benefit not only the Bangsamoro people but the entire nation as well, “because it will usher in a new era of peace and prosperity for Mindanao and the Philippines.” He said he in turn told the MILF official that he is definitely for the immediate passage of the proposed law and would even help in convincing his peers to support the measure. Nograles, an advocate of a federal form of government, said the creation of a new autonomous Bangsamoro region could set the stage for a stronger national movement in pursuit of a federal-parliamentary system. “I expressed my support for the Bangsamoro Law because if this is made possible, then it could be a precursor toward a federal and parliamentary form of government for our country, which I as a Mindanaoan, fully support and advocate. What is good for the Bangsamoro people must be good for all Filipinos, equally, without distinction,” he said. Nograles said he told Jaafar “that as people from Mindanao, we all share the concern that more development and more services must be poured into Mindanao, and because we are an island rich with resources, then whatever we reap as a people must be poured back first for the development of our people.” “That is only fair and just, and that can only be achieved under a federal-parliamentary form of government,” he said. The lawmaker pointed out that the Bangsamoro Law would be a “test case” for a federalized government and a proving ground for the Bangsamoro people in their ability to take the lead in bringing peace and progress in Mindanao. READ MORE...

ALSO: New group linked to Abu Sayyaf may be behind threat to Davao City – AFP EastMinCom

A new group linked to the Abu Sayyaf group and Jemaah Islamiyah may be behind the supposed terrorist threat against Davao City, which has been on heightened alert since last week, a ranking military official said on Sunday. The new group, supposedly led by master bombmaker Abdul Basit Usman is planning attacks in the country's largest city, Capt. Alberto Caber of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Eastern Mindanao Command said. Usman is a foreign-trained bomb expert who was caught in 2002, however, he escaped that the same year. The United states has offered $1 million for information that could lead to his arrest. On June 11, a joint police and military operation killed two of Usman's relatives, but the wounded bomb expert managed to escape. "May intelligence report na may plano ang isang grupo na magsagawa ng bomb attack dito sa Davao City," he told GMA News Online in a phone interview. "Wala pang pangalan itong grupo pero may link ito sa Abu Sayyaf at JI (Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian terrorist organization linked to Al-Qaeda)," Caber added. "Puwede na new group ito," he said. Caber said that according to intelligence reports, the group might use bombs or improvised explosive devices for the attack. "Puwedeng magpasabog ang mga ito to kill government forces or to kill civilians to attract international attention," he said. * READ MORE...

 

ALSO: PNP intensifies security amid ‘possible terrorist threat’ in Davao City

PHOTO -Chief Superintendent Reuben Theodore SindacThe Philippine National Police (PNP) is bracing for a “possible terrorist threat” in Davao City, alerting all its police forces in Mindanao on Sunday morning. Directed by Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, six Police Regional Offices (PROs) in Mindanao bolstered their security operations against “possible infiltration of suspected members of said reported threat groups.” “We could not, however, divulge any further details of said reports received so as not to compromise ongoing security operations by both the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in these areas,” Chief Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac, PNP Public Information Office chief, said in a statement. But Sindac stressed that the police were told to “minimize any inconvenience to the public,” saying the threat should not cause alarm for civilians in Mindanao, particularly in Davao region. “Measures being undertaken by our security forces in the area were simply to be more proactive and preemptive to these reports,” he said. He also urged the public to give PNP any information that “would be of help to the police and to (their) ongoing security operations.” * READ MORE...

ALSO: Aquino warns of terror plots in Mindanao

Police and military forces in Metro Manila and Mindanao were placed on heightened alert after President Aquino warned Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of terror threats in the region. Duterte told the media in Davao City that President Aquino called to warn him of plots to terrorize some parts of Mindanao, including the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Kidapawan, Koronadal, and Davao. “The President told me to be vigilant,” Duterte said after holding a command conference at the Grand Men Seng Hotel in Davao City. In Metro Manila, Chief Inspector Robert Domingo, spokesman of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), was quick to clarify that the heightened alert status is more on anti-criminality operations rather than anti-terror measure. “We have not received serious terror threat here in Metro Manila. We are just on normal police operations here,” Domingo told the Manila Bulletin in an interview. ALERT IN MINDANAO But Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) Spokesman Capt. Alberto Caber said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) here are on alert always even before President Aquino’s warning. Caber, however, stressed the military is not taking the report lightly. * READ MORE...


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Phl vows to improve efforts vs human trafficking

MANILA, JUNE 30, 2014 (PHILSTAR)  By Jose Rodel Clapano - The Philippines can still do much from the Tier 2 rating it received from the Global Trafficking in Persons (GTIP) report for four consecutive years, Vice President Jejomar Binay said yesterday.

Countries in Tier 2 status are those that do not meet the minimum requirements of the United States Trafficking Victims Protection Act but are making significant efforts to do so, while those in Tier 1 status are fully compliant with the TVPA.

Binay, chairman emeritus of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), said he is pleased with the country’s consistent performance in the GTIP report but said that the Philippines could still improve in its efforts to curb human trafficking.

“On behalf of all IACAT members, I wish to assure our kababayans (countrymen) that we remain firm in our commitment to achieve Tier 1 status. We have taken note of all of the recommendations listed in the 2014 GTIP report and we will focus our energies to meet them,” Binay said.

He also thanked the US State Department’s guidance in helping the Philippines identify its areas of opportunity.

Binay urged victims to file and pursue cases against those who have been apprehended for human trafficking.

“All our efforts will be for nothing if we do not have the support of those who have been victimized,” he said.

“Rest assured that the government will exert all efforts to assist and protect you while the cases are being heard,” he added.

The latest GTIP report noted that “the government nearly doubled its funding for the IACAT to the equivalent of approximately $2.4 million and continued efforts to implement anti-trafficking laws and policies at the national, regional, and provincial levels.”

* “It undertook notable efforts to prevent the trafficking of overseas workers through training and awareness campaigns for government officials, prospective overseas workers and members of the public and to proactively identify and rescue victims exploited within the country.

“The government obtained 31 trafficking convictions, including its first two convictions in Pampanga, a province known to have a high prevalence of trafficking,” it added.

Among the recommendations included in the report were for the government to increase efforts to hold government officials criminally accountable for trafficking and trafficking-related offenses, and increase efforts to investigate, prosecute and convict an increased number of both labor and sex trafficking offenders implicated in trafficking within the country and abroad.

The State Department also urged the government to hold continuous trials to decrease the burden that lengthy, discontinuous trials place on victims, and “increase the number of government officials, including police and prosecutors, whose duties are dedicated solely to anti-trafficking activities” and to “continue to strengthen anti-trafficking training for police, prosecutors, judges, local officials and diplomats.”

Furthermore, the GTIP report recommended the implementation of the Anti-Money Laundering Act in cases of trafficking and provide victims compensation through seized assets.

The report noted that the “protection for male victims – a growing population – remained severely limited” and recommended the government to “increase the availability of shelter and protection resources that address the specific needs of trafficking victims, with a particular focus on addressing the needs of male victims.”

Passage of Bangsamoro Law seen by early 2015 By Marvin Sy (The Philippine Star) | Updated June 29, 2014 - 12:00am 4 55 googleplus0 1


Mindanao’s first ever ‘pink mosque,’ located in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town in Maguindanao, will be opened to Filipino Muslims during the first day of the Ramadan fasting month today. JOHN UNSON

MANILA, Philippines - With the assurance of President Aquino that the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law would be submitted to Congress by the time it resumes its plenary sessions next month, Senate President Franklin Drilon is confident the measure would be approved by the first quarter of next year at the latest.

Drilon said Congress would still work on having the measure approved by the end of the year as was its original target when the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro was signed between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front last year.

Drilon though admitted this would be a challenge because of the delay in the submission of the draft law to Congress.

“We will strive to finish this by the end of the year but because of the delay, we should have started this last May, this might happen by the first quarter of next year,” Drilon said over radio dwIZ.

Drilon said the Senate is expecting to start its deliberations on the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law next month when Congress begins its second regular session.

* Amid some issues raised with regard to the agreement, including the reported desire of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to incorporate the Tripoli Agreement or the elements of the peace pact between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Drilon said this should not stand in the way of the efforts of the administration to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao.

“What we are doing here is to bring about wide reaching peace in Mindanao and one that is acceptable to a majority of the people in Mindanao,” Drilon said.

Drilon said the MNLF is expected to create some noise about the current peace pact but he said the government is doing its best for overall peace in the entire Mindanao.

After Congress approves the Bangsamoro Basic Law, it would have to be subjected to a plebiscite in Mindanao to ensure public acceptability of the measure.

Drilon said the plebiscite could be done in 2015, or shortly after its approval by Congress.

Regardless of the fact that preparations have to be made for the 2016 national polls, Drilon said the Commission on Elections should be able to conduct the plebiscite next year.

“The elections would not be held until 2016 so there is no reason why they cannot hold a plebiscite in 2015,” Drilon said.

Just like the President, Drilon aired his confidence that the Bangsamoro Basic Law would be in place before the end of the Aquino administration in 2016.

MILF lobbies Congress on Bangsamoro By Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) | Updated June 30, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - Senior officials of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have started lobbying with lawmakers for the approval of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law that will soon be submitted to Congress.

Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles said yesterday that MILF vice chairman Ghadzali Jaafar has met with him to personally seek his support for the swift passage of the law that would create the Bangsamoro region in Muslim Mindanao.

Nograles said Jaafar assured him that the new regional entity would benefit not only the Bangsamoro people but the entire nation as well, “because it will usher in a new era of peace and prosperity for Mindanao and the Philippines.”

He said he in turn told the MILF official that he is definitely for the immediate passage of the proposed law and would even help in convincing his peers to support the measure.

Nograles, an advocate of a federal form of government, said the creation of a new autonomous Bangsamoro region could set the stage for a stronger national movement in pursuit of a federal-parliamentary system.

“I expressed my support for the Bangsamoro Law because if this is made possible, then it could be a precursor toward a federal and parliamentary form of government for our country, which I as a Mindanaoan, fully support and advocate. What is good for the Bangsamoro people must be good for all Filipinos, equally, without distinction,” he said.

Nograles said he told Jaafar “that as people from Mindanao, we all share the concern that more development and more services must be poured into Mindanao, and because we are an island rich with resources, then whatever we reap as a people must be poured back first for the development of our people.”

“That is only fair and just, and that can only be achieved under a federal-parliamentary form of government,” he said.

The lawmaker pointed out that the Bangsamoro Law would be a “test case” for a federalized government and a proving ground for the Bangsamoro people in their ability to take the lead in bringing peace and progress in Mindanao.

* “But the same must also be made equally available, beneficial and functional for the entire country,” Nograles said.

President Aquino earlier assured the MILF and Muslim Mindanao that he would convince his allies in Congress to approve the proposed Bangsamoro Law before the end of this year.

Malacañang has yet to submit the draft to the Senate and the House of Representatives. It plans to do so shortly after Aquino’s fifth State of the Nation Address on July 28.

The Palace wanted to present the draft to lawmakers during the last few days of session two weeks ago, but congressional leaders told executive officials that it would not look good that they rushed its submission just so they could keep their promise.

Congressional leaders suggested that the draft be submitted after the start of the second regular session on July 28.

They suggested to the Palace that while the legislature is on recess, government and MILF peace negotiators should meet with lawmakers, particularly those coming from Mindanao, to discuss with them the proposed law.

The consultations are intended to lessen opposition to the Bangsamoro legislation when the two chambers take it up.

Support for local halal products

Sen. Cynthia Villar, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, urged Filipinos to support locally made halal products as Filipino Muslims marked the start of Ramadan yesterday.

Villar said local halal food producers could gain a solid foothold in the global halal market, which is estimated to be worth $2.3 trillion, the senator said.

“There are an estimated two billion Muslim consumers abroad. There is a growing demand for halal products among non-Muslims, too,” Villar said during the launching of the first Ramadan International Bazaar at the Bonifacio Global City over the weekend. The committee is working for the immediate passage of halal-related bills, particularly on “Philippine Halal Policies and Regulation.”

Villar conducted a public hearing in General Santos City last April and a technical working group held the first of a series of meetings last week at the Senate.

“I am giving my full support to halal food and non-food producers in the country. My committee in the Senate will continue our work to help enhance their competitive edge and we can maximize the huge opportunities in the global halal market,” she said. The senator filed Senate Bill No. 312, or the “Philippine Halal Act,” which seeks to establish a Philippine Halal Accreditation and Regulatory Board. The board will formulate, draft, manage and implement programs relevant to manufacturing, production, distribution, preparation, handling, storage and verification of halal approved-food, non-food merchandise and services. – With Christina Mendez

FROM GMA NEWS NETWORK

New group may be behind threat to Davao City – AFP EastMinCom By ROUCHELLE R. DINGLASAN,GMA NewsJune 29, 2014 5:54pm 128 53 0 295 Tags:

Davao City - A new group linked to the Abu Sayyaf group and Jemaah Islamiyah may be behind the supposed terrorist threat against Davao City, which has been on heightened alert since last week, a ranking military official said on Sunday.

The new group, supposedly led by master bombmaker Abdul Basit Usman is planning attacks in the country's largest city, Capt. Alberto Caber of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Eastern Mindanao Command said.

Usman is a foreign-trained bomb expert who was caught in 2002, however, he escaped that the same year.

The United states has offered $1 million for information that could lead to his arrest.

On June 11, a joint police and military operation killed two of Usman's relatives, but the wounded bomb expert managed to escape.

"May intelligence report na may plano ang isang grupo na magsagawa ng bomb attack dito sa Davao City," he told GMA News Online in a phone interview.

"Wala pang pangalan itong grupo pero may link ito sa Abu Sayyaf at JI (Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian terrorist organization linked to Al-Qaeda)," Caber added.

"Puwede na new group ito," he said.

* Caber said that according to intelligence reports, the group might use bombs or improvised explosive devices for the attack.

"Puwedeng magpasabog ang mga ito to kill government forces or to kill civilians to attract international attention," he said.

Still, Caber explained that the military has yet to validate the intelligence reports.

Retaliation for ASG leader's arrest

The military is not discounting the possibility that the bomb threats are retaliation after the Philippine National Police captured top-ranking Abu Sayyaf leader Khair Mundos, who has a $500,000 bounty.

Mundos was arrested in Barangay San Dionisio, Parañaque City on June 11.

The police and military have tightened security measures in Davao City. Caber said that they have increased the number of personnel and checkpoints within and outside the city.

"We also have operatives in plain clothes," he added.

According to Davao-based GMA News Online contributor Mac Macapendeg, there are more patrol cars and checkpoints in the city, especially in commercial areas.

He said, though, that the heightened security has not kept residents from regular activities.

On alert until August

Davao City has been on heightened alert since last week after President Benigno Aquino III called up Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to warn him of a possible security threat.

"There are reports of possible terrorist attack. For good measure, the president called Mayor Duterte," explained AFP public affairs chief Ramon Zagala in a separate phone interview.

"The public is warned. They should be aware and vigilant," he added.

Caber said the heightened alert in Davao City will remain until August or after the celebration of the Kadayawan Festival, the city's biggest annual celebration.

Meanwhile, the government assured residents that it has enough soldiers on the ground to keep civilians safe.

"We have more than enough forces to secure Davao City and its neighboring towns and communities… We have the support of the civilian population and the rest of the stakeholders," Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, in a radio interview on Sunday, quoted Zagala as saying. — JDS, GMA News

FROM THE INQUIRER

PNP intensifies security amid ‘possible terrorist threat’ in Davao City By Julliane Love De JesusAgence France-Presse, INQUIRER.net11:41 am | Sunday, June 29th, 2014


Chief Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac. NOY MORCOSO lll/INQUIRER.net FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines–The Philippine National Police (PNP) is bracing for a “possible terrorist threat” in Davao City, alerting all its police forces in Mindanao on Sunday morning.

Directed by Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, six Police Regional Offices (PROs) in Mindanao bolstered their security operations against “possible infiltration of suspected members of said reported threat groups.”

“We could not, however, divulge any further details of said reports received so as not to compromise ongoing security operations by both the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in these areas,” Chief Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac, PNP Public Information Office chief, said in a statement.

But Sindac stressed that the police were told to “minimize any inconvenience to the public,” saying the threat should not cause alarm for civilians in Mindanao, particularly in Davao region.

“Measures being undertaken by our security forces in the area were simply to be more proactive and preemptive to these reports,” he said.

He also urged the public to give PNP any information that “would be of help to the police and to (their) ongoing security operations.”

‎* The six PROs include Zamboanga Region police, Northern Mindanao police, Davao Region police, Soccsksargen police, Caraga region police, and Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) police.

The government security forces beefed up their foot and mobile patrols, intensified checkpoints and gun operations in land, sea, and airport terminals, commercial center, places of convergence and vital installations.

Sindac said all six will remain on constant alert, ensuring operational readiness to respond to possible contingencies. ‎
“(These) measures are designed to harden possible soft targets of opportunity,” he added.

The PNP also assured its “continued vigilance against the reported threats.”

“Let us not allow this to affect our lives or decide our fate,” Sindac said.

The threat alert came as minority Muslims in the mostly Catholic nation began celebrating the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

It also came just over two weeks after police captured Khair Mundos, one of the country’s most wanted Islamic militants from the Abu Sayyaf group who was also on the US government’s terror watch list.

Mundos is a key leader and fund raiser for the Abu Sayyaf, which is blamed for the country’s worst terrorist attacks, including a 2004 bombing of a ferry in Manila Bay that left more than 100 dead.

The Philippine military said it was also hunting Abdel Basit Usman, who is also on the US government’s terror list.

Usman had earlier been reported killed in a 2010 US drone strike in Pakistan, but new evidence had emerged that he was alive and hiding among the militant community in Mindanao.

The Philippines and the United States have linked Usman to the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah, acknowledged by the international intelligence community as the Southeast Asian arm of Al-Qaeda.

FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

Aquino warns of terror plots in Mindanao by Elena L. Aben, Aaron Recuenco & Alexander Lopez June 28, 2014 (updated)


AQUINO

Police and military forces in Metro Manila and Mindanao were placed on heightened alert after President Aquino warned Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of terror threats in the region.

Duterte told the media in Davao City that President Aquino called to warn him of plots to terrorize some parts of Mindanao, including the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Kidapawan, Koronadal, and Davao.

“The President told me to be vigilant,” Duterte said after holding a command conference at the Grand Men Seng Hotel in Davao City.

In Metro Manila, Chief Inspector Robert Domingo, spokesman of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), was quick to clarify that the heightened alert status is more on anti-criminality operations rather than anti-terror measure.

“We have not received serious terror threat here in Metro Manila. We are just on normal police operations here,” Domingo told the Manila Bulletin in an interview.

ALERT IN MINDANAO

But Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) Spokesman Capt. Alberto Caber said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) here are on alert always even before President Aquino’s warning.

Caber, however, stressed the military is not taking the report lightly.

The military said they have more than enough forces to secure Davao City and its neighboring towns and communities.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier G. Cruz III, Eastmincom commander, has already directed all military intelligence units in the area to verify and validate the terror plot report, Caber said.

He added that the military is jointly working with local government units and the PNP, which has also been tasked to conduct its own validation of the report.

“Task Force Davao and the PNP are in charge of the security of the city and its people. We have the support of the civilian and the rest of stakeholders,” said Caber.

POLICE VISIBILITY IN S. MINDANAO

Chief Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac, chief police information officer, said security adjustments were also made in Southern Mindanao, especially in Davao City.

“Everything is normal, except in PRO (Police Regional Office) 11,” said Sindac, referring to Southern Mindanao regional police.

Part of the security adjustments is on police visibility through checkpoints and regular conduct of patrols, especially in possible targets like government installations and public places.

Domingo, on the other hand, said there are regular anti-terrorism measures in place in the metropolis.

Asked about the Davao City terror threat, Domingo said they treat it as an isolated incident.

He, however, said they are not taking any terror threat lightly.

* “Right now, we are focused on our anti-criminality operations because that’s the instruction to us by the (PNP) leadership,” said Domingo.

IN DAVAO CITY

Meanwhile, Duterte called on the residents of Davao City to cooperate with authorities in the implementation of security measures.

Duterte said that security measures in the city would include surveillance of personalities and even vehicles.

“May mga hinahanap kaming mga persons of interest and vehicles on the radar of government,” he stressed.

BIFF AND AL-QAEDA LINK

The latest threat alert in Mindanao comes more than two weeks after the military confirmed close links between the breakaway Moro rebel group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the al-Qaeda-linked regional terror group Jemaah Islamiyah. This was after JI bomb expert Basit Usman was spotted at a BIFF lair in Maguindanao.

Usman, who also has links with the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), managed to elude arrest during a military assault last June 10 at the BIFF lair where the notorious Muslim militant leader was sighted.

The military operation also resulted in the arrest of four women, including two Indonesians. One of the women is reportedly the wife of Usman.

AMONG MOST WANTED TERRORISTS

Usman is among those in the United States’ list of most wanted terrorists with $1-million reward. The Philippine government is also offering P6.3 million for any information leading to Usman’s capture.

But while Usman managed to evade arrest, government security forces the next day captured Khair Mundos, the ASG foreign liaison officer who is also included in the US list of most wanted terrorists.

Mundos was arrested by joint government security forces in Parañaque City after a seven-year manhunt.

Mundos was first captured in May, 2004. While in police custody, he confessed to having arranged the transfer of funds from al-Qaeda to ASG leader Khadafi Janjalani to be used in bombings and other criminal acts throughout Mindanao.

In February, 2007, he escaped from a provincial jail in Kidapawan.

In 2009, the US Department of State announced a reward offer of up to $500,000 for information leading to his location, arrest and/or conviction.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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