PHNO HEADLINE NEWS EARLY THIS PAST WEEK

FRENCH PRESIDENT: PHIL MUST BE 'THE FACE AND VOICE" OF CLIMATE CHANGE


François Hollande's visit in Manila on Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015 is the first for a French head of state since the establishment of bilateral relations with the Philippines in 1946. Philstar.com/Jonathan Asuncion  Regularly devastated by killer typhoons, the Philippines can be “the face and voice” of developing countries in confronting climate change, French President Francois Hollande said yesterday.  “In the eyes of the world, Manila is a symbol of suffering and hope,” Hollande said on the second day of his state visit to the Philippines, the very first for a French head of state. CONTINUE READING...

ALSO: Hollande visits Guiuan, E. Samar ahead of climate deal


URGENCY OF ACTION 
Guiuan, Eastern Samar – French President Francois Hollande yesterday took his warning about the need for funds for a landmark climate deal to this town, a second-class municipality where supertyphoon “Yolanda” made its first landfall before claiming more than 7,300 lives, after he and President Aquino launched an international appeal to back efforts to seal the climate change accord in Paris in December.  Hollande warned that there will be no deal if wealthy countries don’t commit adequate funds to help poor nations fight global warming. READ MORE...

ALSO: New Mindanao war begins; Thousands of civilians flee as military, BIFF start all-out offensive


Cotabato City – Thousands of residents of Datu Unsay in Maguindanao started evacuating early yesterday morning after fighting started between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
Last Wednesday, AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang declared an all-out offensive against the BIFF to protect communities from the Muslim rebels. In response, BIFF spokesman Abu Misry Mama said yesterday that they will also launch their own all-out offensive against the military in various parts of Mindanao. READ MORE...

ALSO: ‘4 Indonesians, Arab protected by BIFF’


Ameril Umbra Kato, seated, the founding commander of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, is interviewed by the media inside his rebel stronghold in Maguindanao in 2011. At that time, the BIFF was said to be harboring Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, a member of the Southeast Asian terror group Jemaah Islamiyah. AP FILE PHOTO  CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao—Four Indonesian terrorists and an Arab are reportedly hiding here and are being provided sanctuary by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the Army division commander in the area said on Saturday.  Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, 6th Infantry Division commander, said the four Indonesians and the Arab, who was identified as a chemist, have been hiding in the so-called SPMS complex.   Pangilinan was referring to the towns of Shariff Aguak, Pagatin (now Datu Saudi Ampatuan), Mamasapano and Salibo.  READ MORE...

ALSO: Fighter-turned-witness worries gov’t, Moro panels


MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal: We are verifying this. AP FILE PHOTO  MANILA, Philippines–The news that a Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatant during the Mamasapano massacre has become a government witness is deeply unsettling, both to the government and the secessionist group.  The worst implication of the guerrilla-turned-government-witness naming the MILF rebels involved in the Mamasapano massacre would be that it would trigger fighting within the MILF itself, the source said.  “We are verifying this,” MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said in a phone interview on Saturday.   Iqbal declined to elaborate, saying only that the MILF was “looking at this through the peace process.”  READ MORE...

Toll in clashes with Abu Sayyaf in Sulu rises to 26


MILITARY SPOKESMAN PADILLA: Battles were raging in the mountainous and thickly forested villages of Patikul, an area controlled by Abu Sayyaf, a group of a few hundred gunmen with links to the Al-Qaeda network. The militants were reportedly moving with three Malaysian Jemaah Islamiyah members who were providing them with bomb-making training, military spokesman Colonel Restituto Padilla told AFP. “This (assault) will not stop until we put an end to the Abu Sayyaf,” Padilla said. MANILA STANDARD PHOTO --- A military assault on Islamic militants in the southern Philippines entered its fifth day on Saturday, with the toll rising to 24 guerrillas and two soldiers dead, officials said.  Ten Abu Sayyaf militants were killed in a two-hour clash on Friday after the army pounded their jungle lair on Jolo island with artillery and helicopter gunships, said Colonel Alan Arrojado, who is leading the assault. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: ‘Pinoys believe Aquino is still hiding truth on Mamasapano’


BAGUIO CITY – Filipinos still believe that President Benigno Aquino III is still hiding sensitive matters about the Mamasapano massacre and the best thing for him to do is to admit his mistakes so that the healing of the wounds could start, a lawmaker said on Saturday. “The public is expecting much from the President to set an example in telling the truth and acknowledging full responsibility for the incident so as not to keep everyone guessing along the sidelines,” Romualdez stressed. He said the flimsy excuses of Palace officials only sow more confusion and spawn even more questions that eventually lead to the suspicion that police and military officials are covering up the direct involvement of Aquino in the incident. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO By Jojo Robles: A lying President

When a President lies to save his own skin, you know he recognizes that his days as the highest official in the land could be numbered. And when that President is the same one who was swept to power because of supposed virtues of righteousness, transparency and good governance, perhaps it’s time to put an actual number on the remaining days of his stay in Malacañang Palace—and to realize it’s going to be way ahead of the last day of his six-year term.   That was quite a speech given on primetime television by President Noynoy Aquino last Friday evening. And what made it truly remarkable was how he sacrificed his longtime shooting buddy and security aide, suspended national police chief Director General Alan Purisima, but was still able to lie about his involvement as the prime mover of the disastrous raid that led to the killing of 44 police commandos belonging to the Special Action Force.  Let’s get one thing straight: Anyone who still thinks that the dangerous operation to extract Malaysian terrorist Marwan from the territory of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front did not have the personal blessing of Aquino himself is living in a fantasy world. Only Aquino could have authorized such a foolhardy operation. No one else has the power to do so. READ MORE. DOWN TO THE  VERY END...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Hollande: Phl must be face, voice of climate change crusade


François Hollande's visit in Manila on Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015 is the first for a French head of state since the establishment of bilateral relations with the Philippines in 1946. Philstar.com/Jonathan Asuncion

MANILA, MARCH 2, 2015 (PHILSTAR) By Aurea Calica - Regularly devastated by killer typhoons, the Philippines can be “the face and voice” of developing countries in confronting climate change, French President Francois Hollande said yesterday.

“In the eyes of the world, Manila is a symbol of suffering and hope,” Hollande said on the second day of his state visit to the Philippines, the very first for a French head of state.

Yesterday he saw for himself the progress of rehabilitation and recovery efforts in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, where Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) first made landfall in November 2013. The area was one of the most devastated.Late last year, the province was again battered by Typhoon Ruby.

“Nevertheless there is hope here in Manila,” Hollande said Thursday night during the launch of the Manila Call to Action on Climate Change, expressing admiration for the hopeful and resilient characteristic of Filipinos in the face of tragedies.

He said natural disasters brought about by climate change continue to threaten the world, especially vulnerable countries like the Philippines.

The Philippines endures about 20 major storms or typhoons every year but meteorologists say they are getting stronger and more unpredictable because of climate change.

In his speech at the Guiuan Elementary School, Hollande said, “I came here to make an appeal… That we have to do this, act together, (set) things right and campaign against climate change.”
The French president observed that hundreds of thousands of typhoon survivors in coastal areas in Eastern Samar continue to live in danger zones.

“Although many of their livelihoods and properties were destroyed… residents have shown resilience and remain empowered to restore their self-sufficiency,” he said.

Hollande said his trip to Guiuan aims to highlight climate change, an issue doubly important to France, as it would host the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) in December.

Before leaving Guiuan, Hollande had a brief interaction with local officials and residents. He vowed to extend support but didn’t elaborate.

He was expected to announce 1.5 million euros ($1.7 million) in aid for the French non-government organization ACTED (Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development) to help local storm-vulnerable communities.

‘Strong voice’

The French president had said he heard the “voice” of President Aquino when he spoke at the UN Climate Change summit in New York in September last year, where the Philippines rallied all nations to do their part in addressing the challenge affecting billions of lives due to extreme weather events.

“We need other voices as well,” Hollande said, along with a binding agreement that would contain the commitments of world leaders and their countries to combat climate change.

“We need the Philippines. We need countries which not only were the victims of disasters, but also were able to invent policies and to express a number of recommendations that will be examples for the Paris conference… because we will not succeed unless the people themselves mobilize themselves. Of course, there are many other topics, terrorism, wars, economic difficulties, poverty, and we could very well consider that climate, the environment can wait once again,” Hollande said.

“But, no, because should we postpone the deadline, should we wait until the economy recovers, the peace is back everywhere in the world, we would never ever sign an agreement,” he said.

Aquino, for his part, said the Philippines would continue to champion causes related to global climate change along with countries like France as developed and developing countries continue to debate on compensation, among other issues, to protect vulnerable countries from the devastating effects of the problem.

“The question of ‘will the Philippines take the lead in championing all of these adaptations to global climate change,’ we believe in consensus. We believe that it is already difficult to get everybody to change their lifestyles to make a significant contribution to the necessary changes that will lead to a slowing down of this climate change, if not the eradication of the problem,” Aquino said in a joint press conference with Hollande on Thursday.

“Having said that, therefore, the Philippines intends to attend every (forum) and utilize each of these particular fora to voice the sentiments of those who are at the receiving end of global climate change, and we will try to strive for a consensus with every entity so they can contribute the most at the quickest possible time. Perhaps the effort is being enhanced currently because it is not relegated to countries like ours that are just developing, but even first world countries are beginning to see their own weather patterns changing dramatically and for the worse,” Aquino added.

With such perspective, Aquino expressed hope they would be able to build a consensus to push other countries to maximize their contributions in the effort to combat global climate change.

Climate fund

Hollande said France is ready to assist the Philippines in various aspects as they did when natural disasters struck the country. He added that France would provide assistance to the Philippines in terms of technology and renewable energy sources.

He said that French companies and non-government organizations have provided relief and that his country is offering a loan facility amounting to 50 million euros from the French Development Agency (AFD, or Agence Française de Développement) to help vulnerable areas recover from natural disasters and make them more resilient.

Hollande said the AFD – the institution making it possible to extend loans and credits to investment funds with the Philippines and other countries – has been encouraging all of the technological projects that could contribute to the fight against climate change and natural disasters.

“We have created a Green Fund in France, but what is more important… is to create an international Green Climate Fund whose aim will be to get the most resources, not only from states but also from international institutions – the major international institutions, companies – so that these funds can be made available to vulnerable countries like the Philippines, fragile countries, emerging countries, poor countries; otherwise, we would not be able to convince them to join us and to sign the Paris agreement,” the French president said.

“These countries tell us that they are not responsible for climate change, for climate disruption; that it is the developed countries who, for decades and decades, extracted natural resources,” he said.

“Our ambition is, therefore, starting from 2020, to generate $100 billion for the funding of what would be energy transition and the protection of the most vulnerable countries. This is what we hope to bring forward to the Paris conference but this will not prevent Europe and France to take action, and this is what I wanted to indicate by coming to the Philippines,” he said.

Hollande said some of the contentious issues were the reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the financial contributions to the Green Climate Fund “but I can commit to not giving in.”

“We will not give up on anything until the end and we will make sure that the Paris conference is a moment of hope. We need hope,” he said.

According to Hollande, it has been agreed that if developing countries would not participate and would not be willing to conclude a climate change agreement, then there would be none concluded in the UN summit.

“If the countries, the poorest countries, are not convinced that there will be a fund, an innovative, original fund scheme, which would be made available to them, there would be no agreement in Paris,” he said.

“On this basis, my conclusion is very simple: We should, in Paris, not only ask for agreements – the agreement of each country on its own commitment. We should create a Green Climate Fund… We should include developing countries in the use of this fund,” he said.– Ricky Bautista, Pia Lee-Brago


MANILA BULLETIN

Hollande visits Guiuan, E. Samar ahead of climate deal by Genalyn D. Kabiling & AP February 28, 2015


URGENCY OF ACTION

Guiuan, Eastern Samar – French President Francois Hollande yesterday took his warning about the need for funds for a landmark climate deal to this town, a second-class municipality where supertyphoon “Yolanda” made its first landfall before claiming more than 7,300 lives, after he and President Aquino launched an international appeal to back efforts to seal the climate change accord in Paris in December.

Hollande warned that there will be no deal if wealthy countries don’t commit adequate funds to help poor nations fight global warming.

“There will be no agreement concluded in Paris if the countries, the poorest countries, are not convinced that there will be a fund… which would be made available to them,” Hollande said Thursday.


URGENCY OF ACTION – French President Francois Hollande (third from right) talks to two local fishermen during his visit to the typhoon-ravaged town of Guiuan in Eastern Samar yesterday where he stressed the need for a ‘decisive choice’ in the fight against climate change, especially in the Philippines which has faced increasingly stronger typhoons and more floods in recent years. (EPA)

In Guiuan, he met with fishermen, toured the town with climate ambassadors included in his party – French actresses Oscar winner Marion Cotillard and Melanie Laurent. UN climate chief Christiana Figueres and Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, were also with Hollande.

He was also expected to announce 1.5 million euros ($1.7 million) in aid for the French non-government organization ACTED to help local storm-vulnerable communities.

On Thursday, he pledged loans of 50 million euros ($56 million) to help prevent future weather-related disasters in the Philippines.

The Paris agreement isn’t expected to stop climate change, but organizers hope to secure for the first time the commitment of most countries to do something about it. Previously only rich countries have committed to limit their emissions of global warming gases, primarily carbon dioxide, from the burning of coal, oil and gas.


STARRY SOUVENIR – Hollywood and French actress Melanie Laurent, who was in the entourage of French President Francois Hollande which visited Guiuan, Eastern Samar yesterday, stops to pose for a souvenir photo with a boy holding the French and Philippine flags and his grandmother. Hollande’s visit to Guiuan was part of his two-day visit to the country that focused on climate change. Laurent is best remembered for her roles in the Quentin Tarantino war movie Inglourious Basterds and the 2013 hit Now You See Me. (AP)

‘CALL OF MANILA’

The slow-moving UN talks got a boost last year when top climate polluters China and the US jointly announced emissions-limiting pledges for the Paris deal, which would take effect in 2020. The European Union and Norway have also presented climate targets.

The conference faces a major dilemma on how to raise $100 billion in yearly climate aid by 2020 to help poorer economies transition to clean energy.

Hollande chose the Philippines, which was devastated by one of the most powerful typhoons on record to hit land, to warn of the dangers of global warming and call for governments to pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Aquino, whose archipelago nation is exposed to typhoons in the Pacific Ocean more than any other, has said previously that effects of climate change were worsening at an alarming pace, with typhoons becoming stronger, more frequent, more devastating and larger in scale.

“In the eyes of the world, Manila is a symbol of suffering and hope,’’ Hollande said.

A climate change accord is a way “to make sure that the world will not face global warming that would lead to even worse disasters than the ones we’ve been facing,’’ he said.

The international appeal, named “Call of Manila,” urges the international community “to conclude a universal, equitable and ambitious climate deal … to preserve our planet as a livable place for future generations.”

It says developing countries like the Philippines have contributed the least to climate change, but are the ones that suffer the most from global warming.

‘ENHANCED PARTNERSHIP’

On Thursday, the Philippines and France agreed to “stand together” for peace and prosperity for all, from pushing for a peaceful resolution of the territorial conflict in the West Philippine Sea to fighting cross-border terrorism.

During their meeting in Malacañang, Aquino and Hollande affirmed their commitment to international peace and security that elevated their bilateral ties to “enhanced partnership.”

Hollande arrived in Manila Thursday for a two-day state visit mainly to drum up support for action on climate change. It was the first visit of a French head of state in the country since the country’s diplomatic ties with France were established in 1947.

“We affirm that the Philippines and France shared the same commitment to democracy, the rule of law, the maintenance of peace and international security and to common objectives to promote inclusive economic growth and sustainable development,” a joint statement of Aquino and Hollande read.

The two leaders expressed opposition to “any acquisition or claim, by coercion or force, of any or all territory of a State by another State, in violation of international law, especially the Charter of the United Nations.”

FIGHT TERRORISM

“We reiterate the importance of maintaining peace and stability in Southeast Asia and promoting maritime security, freedom of navigation and the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” they said.

They called for a full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea in fostering peace and stability.

The two leaders also condemned terrorism “in all its forms” and called on world nations to work together “to fight this scourge to mankind.”

Hollande said both nations have agreed to intensify cooperation in the fight against terrorism “because terrorism can strike everywhere.” Among the anti-terror measures are intended sharing of intelligence and monitoring of terror suspects, according to the French leader.

“President Aquino and I are in a complete agreement on the fight against terrorism,” Hollande said.

The French leader also thanked President Aquino for his expression of solidarity following the terror attack on the office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris that left 12 people dead.

President Aquino, for his part, acknowledged that two nations will share intelligence and “best practices” to fortify their defense and security from terrorist activities. Aquino admitted that two countries face a “common problem” of terrorists who are not organized or those called a “lone wolf.” (With a report from AFP)


MANILA BULLETIN

New Mindanao war begins; Thousands of civilians flee as military, BIFF start all-out offensive by Alexander D. Lopez & Genalyn D. Kabiling February 28, 2015

Cotabato City – Thousands of residents of Datu Unsay in Maguindanao started evacuating early yesterday morning after fighting started between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Last Wednesday, AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang declared an all-out offensive against the BIFF to protect communities from the Muslim rebels. In response, BIFF spokesman Abu Misry Mama said yesterday that they will also launch their own all-out offensive against the military in various parts of Mindanao.

The fighting started shortly after around 80 heavily armed BIFF men, led by Commander Karialan and Kadafy Abdulatip, set up a blockade at a vital portion of the Cotabato-General Santos National Highway, particularly in Sitio Quarry, Barangay Iganagampong in Datu Unsay at around 9 a.m. yesterday. The BIFF harassed residents, who were forced to flee, the report added.

After receiving reports about the BIFF blockade, members of the 45th Infantry Brigade and 2nd Mechanized Company of the Army were deployed to conduct clearing operations in the area. However, the government troops were met by gun fires from the BIFF side at the national highway in Maitumaig, Datu Unsay.

Misry Mama had earlier said that, “Kung papasok sila, magkabakbakan talaga. Kung hindi sila mag-offensive kami ang mag-atake mga ilang araw mula ngayon (If they enter our area, there will be a gunfight. If they will not launch offensives, we will attack them in a few days).”

As of press time, no casualty has been reported but thousands of residents have already evacuated. But sources reported that a military tank was immobilized after it was hit by a rocket fired from 90RR launcher.

Fleeing residents said they saw at least six BIFF members killed and several others wounded during the clash.

No casualties were reported on the side of the government forces.

The Cotabato-General Santos Highway was declared cleared to commuters at around 1 p.m. yesterday, but authorities remain on alert following the BIFF declaration of its own offensive.

“The highway is already passable at past 1 p.m. and commuters were already allowed to pass. The army and police forces are now securing the area,” said Senior Superintendent Rodelio Jocson, Maguindanao police director.

Despite the lull, Jocson said other evacuees are still in the national highway as they fear the BIFF might return and harass them in their villages.

Misry Mama had warned civilians near military detachments and installations to immediately leave.

“Kailangan na nila umalis kasi 100 percent gagawa kami ng pag-atake anytime (They have to leave because 100 percent we will launch offensives anytime),” he added.

“EXTRA CARE’

Despite the clashes, the military is taking “extra care” to avoid collateral damage on civilian communities, Deputy Presidential Spokeswoman Abigail Valte said.

“They do take extreme care to make sure that civilians are not harmed in these operations,” Valte said in a Palace press briefing.

Valte said the government has established evacuation centers for families displaced by the fighting between the military and the rebels in the south.

“Part of the deployment of troops would be to assure the safety of civilians. We have, yes indeed, gotten reports that there are evacuations or at least families are moving to avoid fighting. We do make sure that these families make it to a safe place, or at least in their perception what is a safe place,” Valte said.

SPARE KIDS, SCHOOLS

Meanwhile, the Department of Education (DepEd) in Region 12 called on the military and the BIFF to spare the children and local schools from their conflict.

Dr. Allan Farnazo, DepEd Region 12 director, issued the call as the military and the BIFF declared all-out offensive against each other.

He said both parties should exert efforts to make sure that school children and local schools will not be affected by their operations. (With a report from PNA)


INQUIRER

‘4 Indonesians, Arab protected by BIFF’ Philippine Daily Inquirer 5:08 AM | Sunday, March 1st, 2015


Ameril Umbra Kato, seated, the founding commander of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, is interviewed by the media inside his rebel stronghold in Maguindanao in 2011. At that time, the BIFF was said to be harboring Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, a member of the Southeast Asian terror group Jemaah Islamiyah. AP FILE PHOTO

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao—Four Indonesian terrorists and an Arab are reportedly hiding here and are being provided sanctuary by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the Army division commander in the area said on Saturday.

Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, 6th Infantry Division commander, said the four Indonesians and the Arab, who was identified as a chemist, have been hiding in the so-called SPMS complex.

Pangilinan was referring to the towns of Shariff Aguak, Pagatin (now Datu Saudi Ampatuan), Mamasapano and Salibo.

After his meeting with Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, Pangilinan, citing Army intelligence reports, told reporters the foreign nationals were monitored to be moving around the “SPMS box” with BIFF forces and Filipino bomber Basit Usman.

“The Army is relentlessly hunting down these foreign nationals who are in the company of Basit Usman and the BIFF. The MILF will not coddle terrorists, I presume,” Pangilinan told reporters.

Pangilinan said the recent clashes between the BIFF and the military showed that the bandits had been employing “young warriors” under 15.

He also revealed that Usman was recently sighted in a Madrasah school teaching children Islamic radicalism.

“There are no Indonesian or Arabian nationals in our group. We are purely native Maguindanaos and willing to die fighting. We do not need imports like the PBA (Philippine Basketball Association) does,” Abu Misri Mama, speaking for the BIFF, said in Filipino.

“The Army is making up stories. They talk more but they cannot get at us,” Mama said in a phone interview.–Edwin Fernandez, Inquirer Mindanao


INQUIRER

Fighter-turned-witness worries gov’t, Moro panels Nikko Dizon @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 1:47 AM | Sunday, March 1st, 2015


MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal: We are verifying this. AP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines–The news that a Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatant during the Mamasapano massacre has become a government witness is deeply unsettling, both to the government and the secessionist group.

The worst implication of the guerrilla-turned-government-witness naming the MILF rebels involved in the Mamasapano massacre would be that it would trigger fighting within the MILF itself, the source said.

“We are verifying this,” MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said in a phone interview on Saturday.

Iqbal declined to elaborate, saying only that the MILF was “looking at this through the peace process.”

Two government officials privy to the peace process said that an MILF guerrilla claiming to have been a participant in the Jan. 25 bloodbath in which 44 SAF commandos were brutally killed had run to the government for protection had serious implications.

The two officials said they were caught by surprise by the news, which they read in the Inquirer on Saturday.

The Inquirer report said that Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, with justice department prosecutors and National Bureau of Investigation investigators, had interviewed the MILF combatant in an undisclosed place in Mindanao, and that the latter had given a statement in which he named the MILF fighters who participated in the massacre.

Needs validation

The report also said that the MILF-combatant-turned-government-witness had decided to talk to the government because he feared for his life and those of his family.

“Those familiar with the inner workings of the MILF know that the fighters don’t act this way. So this is quite different,” said one of the officials who asked not to be identified.

The identity, background and motives of the MILF guerrilla should be “really validated,” said the second official.

“What he said he would do, naming the MILF fighters involved in Mamasapano, will have great implications. I hope there is a good way of validating him,” the second source said.

For both Inquirer sources, there is more than meets the eye in an MILF fighter running to the government for protection.

He could be a disgruntled fighter, a government asset, a follower of an MILF official who had been expelled from the group, or even an asset of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, a breakaway group of the MILF.

The two officials said they did not know the identity of the MILF fighter and were basing their comments on the Inquirer story.

There are at least eight groups investigating the Mamasapano incident that left 67 people dead: 44 Philippine National Police-SAF commandos; 18 MILF guerrillas; and 5 civilians, including an 8-year-old girl.

No need to consolidate

Aside from the NBI, those investigating the incident are the PNP board of inquiry (BOI), the Senate, the Commission on Human Rights, an MILF’s special investigating body, the International Monitoring Team and the House of Representatives.

But even with several investigating bodies looking into the incident, Malacañang said it did not see the need to have a consolidated government report on Mamasapano.

“At this point, I don’t think the President has expressed any preference but he is expecting first and foremost the report of the BOI. We know for a fact that Secretary Leila de Lima is likewise conducting her own investigation led by the DOJ (Department of Justice) and the NBI, and at this point, we do not see at least a need to consolidate,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said on Saturday over the state-run Radyo ng Bayan.

Valte said it made no difference if the reports of the different government agencies would be consolidated or not.

“What’s important are their findings,” she said.

Valte said it was unlikely that the results of the different investigations would result in confusion rather than finding out the truth.

“The reports will be made available to one another,” she said, referring to the different investigating bodies.


GMA NEWS NETWORK

Toll in clashes with Abu Sayyaf in Sulu rises to 26 February 28, 2015 5:13pm 23 11 0 65


PADILLA

A military assault on Islamic militants in the southern Philippines entered its fifth day on Saturday, with the toll rising to 24 guerrillas and two soldiers dead, officials said.

Ten Abu Sayyaf militants were killed in a two-hour clash on Friday after the army pounded their jungle lair on Jolo island with artillery and helicopter gunships, said Colonel Alan Arrojado, who is leading the assault.

Another 14 rebels and two troops had been killed since the fighting erupted on Tuesday, he said.

Battles were raging in the mountainous and thickly forested villages of Patikul town, an area controlled by Abu Sayyaf, a group of a few hundred gunmen with links to the al-Qaeda network.

The militants were reportedly moving with three Malaysian Jemaah Islamiyah members who were providing them with bomb-making training, military spokesman Colonel Restituto Padilla told AFP.

"This (assault) will not stop until we put an end to the Abu Sayyaf," Padilla said.

The Malaysians have been "monitored for some time" he said.

The Abu Sayyaf in the past have harbored JI militants, including Umar Patek and Dulmatin, key suspects in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings that killed 202 people.

The group is currently holding at least seven hostages, according to the military.

A German couple that they had held captive for six months were freed in October last year with the bandits claiming they were paid P250 million ($5.7 million) in ransom.

Despite receiving training assistance from the United States, the Philippines has struggled to contain the Abu Sayyaf, whose leader last year pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

Founded in the 1990s with seed money from al-Qaeda, the Abu Sayyaf gained international notoriety for kidnapping foreigners for ransom.

The hefty ransom payments enable the group to fund attacks and replenish its forces from impoverished Muslim communities in southern regions of the largely Catholic Philippines.

The group was also blamed for the worst terror attack in the country, the 2004 firebombing of a ferry off Manila Bay that killed more than 100 people. — Agence France-Presse


MANILA STANDARD

‘Pinoys believe Aquino is still hiding truth on Mamasapano’ By Dexter A. See | Mar. 01, 2015 at 12:01am

BAGUIO CITY – Filipinos still believe that President Benigno Aquino III is still hiding sensitive matters about the Mamasapano massacre and the best thing for him to do is to admit his mistakes so that the healing of the wounds could start, a lawmaker said on Saturday.

“The public is expecting much from the President to set an example in telling the truth and acknowledging full responsibility for the incident so as not to keep everyone guessing along the sidelines,” Romualdez stressed.

Romualdez, one of the guests during the grand street-dancing parade of the 20th Panagbenga festival, said the healing of wounds cannot start until the questions of the families of the 44 slain commandos and the Filipino people are answered.

He said the flimsy excuses of Palace officials only sow more confusion and spawn even more questions that eventually lead to the suspicion that police and military officials are covering up the direct involvement of Aquino in the incident.

“We must listen to everyone who has direct knowledge about the incident. Let us not limit ourselves to who are involved in the incident. Let us not keep our people waiting because it might result to other matters beyond our control,” Romualdez said.

The congressman said the results of the police board of inquiry investigation will still be considered ‘half-baked’ because their jurisdiction is limited only to operations and what people want is the truth.

Romualdez said the President should not keep the public guessing on the circumstances that led to the Mamasapano massacre because it will create an avenue of distrust among leaders of the nation.

He also expressed disappointment over the decision of the House leadership to suspend the hearings on the Mamasapano massacre, saying the House leadership made a decision that is only leading people to presume that congressmen are in cahoots with Malacañang to cover-up the whole incident.

Since the proposal to create a Truth Commission passed on second reading in the Senate, Romualdez said proponents of the Truth Commission in the House will increase because of the groundswell of demands for the truth on the Mamasapano massacre.


MANILA STANDARD

A lying President
By Jojo Robles | Feb. 10, 2015 at 12:01am



When a President lies to save his own skin, you know he recognizes that his days as the highest official in the land could be numbered. And when that President is the same one who was swept to power because of supposed virtues of righteousness, transparency and good governance, perhaps it’s time to put an actual number on the remaining days of his stay in Malacañang Palace—and to realize it’s going to be way ahead of the last day of his six-year term.

That was quite a speech given on primetime television by President Noynoy Aquino last Friday evening. And what made it truly remarkable was how he sacrificed his longtime shooting buddy and security aide, suspended national police chief Director General Alan Purisima, but was still able to lie about his involvement as the prime mover of the disastrous raid that led to the killing of 44 police commandos belonging to the Special Action Force.

Let’s get one thing straight: Anyone who still thinks that the dangerous operation to extract Malaysian terrorist Marwan from the territory of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front did not have the personal blessing of Aquino himself is living in a fantasy world.

Only Aquino could have authorized such a foolhardy operation. No one else has the power to do so.

And Purisima, whom Aquino admitted he had consulted about the operation, is not the type of police official who would go rogue. The fact that the operation was green-lighted at all, after the Department of Interior and Local Government, the leadership of the Philippine National Police and practically the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines had been kept in the dark about “Oplan Exodus,” which took place last Jan. 25, and the earlier “Oplan Wolverine,” the similar Purisima-planned operation that was scuttled in the middle of last year, speaks loudly and long about the direct involvement of Aquino himself.

And yet, on television, Aquino refused to detail or even to mention his own participation in the entire operation. Covering his own tracks was what Aquino was doing on national television; and I actually believe that he was telling the truth about how hard it was for him to let go of Purisima, whom he praised to high heavens and whose resignation he still accepted.

Ultimately, Aquino will have to answer the question posed by the late former US senator and diplomat Howard Baker during the Watergate hearings that forced the resignation of Richard Nixon: “What did the President know and when did he know it?”

Until Aquino comes clean on this matter, he can fire anyone he wants to save himself. But he will still have to own up to the responsibility of sending the SAF team on a suicide mission into rebel territory with no backup, just to rehabilitate and reinstate his suspended police chief.

Maybe Aquino will make another presidential speech to own up to his responsibility soon, because the pressure is truly mounting on him to tell the whole truth. But he really should have done that a lot earlier, because now may already be too late.

* * *

Why it is so hard for Aquino to tell the truth about the operation to get Marwan in MILF territory with only a small band of PNP-SAF officers of men, I’ve already discussed at length. Aquino is unique among all previous Presidents I’ve observed as a journalist for nearly 30 years because he simply cannot accept that he is wrong or even responsible.

Perhaps, in Aquino’s mind, he is truly incapable of error, even if he has had no real prior executive experience and despite the fact that he has surrounded himself with people of questionable morals and capabilities like Purisima, who has already been suspended on corruption charges. In nearly five years in office, despite the number of incidents involving presidential bungling starting with the killing of a bunch of Chinese tourists in August 2010 at Rizal Park, Aquino has never admitted to making a mistake, ever.

And for the most part, the people, the media and Congress have accepted Aquino’s lame excuses for being incompetent, lazy and just plain stupid. But the long-running conspiracy to protect Aquino from himself has only resulted in reinforcing his own belief in his own invincibility and emboldened him to keep attempting even more questionable actions, like his creation of the illegal Disbursement Acceleration Program and the Purisima-hatched incursion into Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Unfortunately for Aquino and those who would keep him in power despite all his near-fatal failings, the people are now wising up quickly that their President is really a clueless buffoon with absolutely no sympathy for their ever-worsening plight. And that he remains in power only because powerful interests want to keep up the pretense that he is in control, when he is only a marionette dancing to strings held by monopolistic oligarchs, political opportunists and foreign powers who want to dismember this country and exploit its resources.

What a worthless President we have. And he cannot be allowed, if there is really justice and fairness, to stay in office a moment longer.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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