WE'LL  CRUSH YOU - PNoy TO BIFF (BANGSAMORO ISLAMIC FREEDOM FIGHTERS)

President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday vowed to crush forces opposed to a deal at ending a decades-long Muslim separatist insurgency, which he tagged as ‘peace spoilers,’ as the military continued its offensive against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters - a breakaway group that has been disowned by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The BIFF, however, remained defiant and vowed that their forces would not retreat, even as the Nur Misuari-faction of the Moro National Liberation Front warned of a ‘prolonged’ war if the military continues to attack their camps. BIFF made its stand through spokesman Abu Misri Mama, who also denied military reports that his group has suffered casualties. MNLF spokesman Absalom Cerveza, for his part, said that “if they (government) do not stop the military offensives, then we will have war.” Cerveza added that the attack on MNLF territories ‘is tantamount to declaring war against the MNLF’ even as he claimed that at least a thousand MILF members have defected into their ranks.

ALSO: Army goes for the kill

The military on Thursday gave itself 72 hours to ‘decimate’ the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters even as Malacanang warned the Moro National Liberation Front-Nur Misuari faction against coddling members of the renegade group. Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Batallion, said the 72-hour deadline was approved by the leadership of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which he said gave the go-signal to the military to crush the BIFF for good. “Hindi tantanan, hindi hintuan (operation) dahil ‘yung mismong MILF din ang nagre-request na tapusin ‘yung BIFF para wala silang problema later on,” said Hermoso. (We will not stop our operation because the MILF itself has requested us to finish the BIFF for good so they will have no problem with them later on.) The clashes, which started Sunday, had so far killed 41 BIFF members and wounded 12. The government side, on the other hand, lost one soldier, while 13 others were wounded. The extension was agreed upon by the military and MILF’s Adhoc Joint Action Group (AJAG), as government troops pursued BIFF forces seen seeking shelter in the Reina Regenta Mountain located in the tri-boundary of Datu Piang and Sharif Saydona Mustapha, both in Maguindanao and Pikit, North Cotabato. Hermoso said the AJAG may approve a second extension if necessary. Malacañang, meanwhile, aired the warning to the MNLF after its spokesman Absalom Cerveza called on the military to stop its offensive, “or we will have war.” On Wednesday, Cerveza claimed that government forces attacked MNLF camps in Bgy. Bakat in Datu Piang and in Saydona Mustapha, both in Maguindanao.

ALSO: Give MILF pact a chance’

MALACAÑANG on Sunday appealed to leaders of Muslim groups, including the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), to renounce violence and consider the benefits of the final peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). “The last annex [on normalization] has just been signed. Let’s give it a chance,” said presidential deputy spokesman Abigail Valte. Valte said that instead of waging war, the Muslim leaders should study the issues surrounding the agreement. “Let’s look at the annexes. Let’s look how beneficial it will be to our brothers and sisters in Mindanao,” she said. According to her, the atrocities committed by the BIFF will only make people suffer and stunt development in areas where the BIFF operates. “We seek lasting peace in Mindanao. There are places that really suffer because of these incidents and we all want to have peace there,” Valte said.

ALSO: President willing to support ‘doable’ anti-dynasty bill

President Benigno S. Aquino III is willing to support a bill seeking to ban political dynasties in the country if it is “doable.” The President however admitted that the anti-political dynasty bill is not a priority measure of the administration for now, saying he prefers the swift passage of a bill seeking to reform the pension system of the military and police. “I want to read the entire bill first. At present, I’m busy attending to other matters both in the domestic and in the international scene. I want to see all the details and I apologize that it is not one of my highest priorities at the moment,” the President said in Filipino when asked if he would certify as urgent the anti-dynasty bill. “But if I see that it is really doable, why not,” Aquino added in a media interview after attending an event in Alabang. Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice earlier urged the President to certify as urgent a bill that will meet a constitutional provision that prohibits political dynasties in the country, saying its passage is long overdue. The President said the administration has listed “many” priority bills, including a measure to reform the military and police retirement and separation pay system to prevent the ballooning of the government’s pension requirements.


READ FULL MEDIA NEWS REPORT

We’ll crush you — PNoy

Still, ‘peace spoilers’ remain defiant, vow to resist accord


The roar of cannons. This photo taken on Jan. 28 shows soldiers firing 105mm howitzer canons toward the position of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters during a clash near Rajah Buayan in Maguindanao. AFP

MANILA, FEBRUARY 3, 2014 (MANILA STANDARD) By Joyce Pangco Panares- President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday vowed to crush forces opposed to a deal at ending a decades-long Muslim separatist insurgency, which he tagged as ‘peace spoilers,’ as the military continued its offensive against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters - a breakaway group that has been disowned by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The BIFF, however, remained defiant and vowed that their forces would not retreat, even as the Nur Misuari-faction of the Moro National Liberation Front warned of a ‘prolonged’ war if the military continues to attack their camps.

BIFF made its stand through spokesman Abu Misri Mama, who also denied military reports that his group has suffered casualties.

MNLF spokesman Absalom Cerveza, for his part, said that “if they (government) do not stop the military offensives, then we will have war.”

Cerveza added that the attack on MNLF territories ‘is tantamount to declaring war against the MNLF’ even as he claimed that at least a thousand MILF members have defected into their ranks.

Government troops started ‘pro-active’ assault against the BIFF on Sunday, a day after the government and the MILF signed the last of the four annexes that would pave the way for the creation of a Bangsamoro entity in Muslim Mindanao.

“The AFP, in its role to protect our people, is going on this operation to prevent these lawless activities from inflicting harm on our populace and to seriously degrade their abilities to again act as spoilers,” Aquino said.

Meanwhile, the military claimed that the clashes had so far resulted in the death of 40 BIFF members, up from last Tuesday’s 17.

But in a late report, Moro National Liberation Front-Nur Misuari faction spokesman Absalom Cerveza claimed that six government soldiers were killed in the clashes in Bgy. Bakat in Datu Piang.

6th Infantry Battalion spokesman Col. Dick Hermoso said soldiers had recovered the bodies of 37 of the 40 BIFF members who had been killed in three days of fighting in and around remote southern farming villages.

One soldier was also killed and seven others wounded, Hermoso said, adding that BIFF resistance has started to fade against an all-out assault by 1,500 soldiers.

Hermoso said that among those who died in the clashes were “child soldiers.”


BIFF spokesman Abu Misri (4th from right) and his fellow rebels are seen talking to reporters at their hideout in Maguindanao on Jan. 29, the same day that President Aquino vowed to crush the militants opposed to the government’s peace deal with the MILF. AFP

He said they are seeking the help of the Commission on Human Rights and other local and international organizations promoting the rights and welfare of children to help investigate the BIFF for using “child soldiers.”

“These ‘child soldiers’ were from 14 to 17 of age. Because of this, we condemn to the highest level the BIFF for using children in forwarding their criminal acts,” he said.

Hermoso said the military has counted at least 12 child soldiers killed in the series of clashes buried in fresh graves, but did not touch them in deference to Muslim tradition.

Since Monday, Hermoso said there was no let up in the military’s shelling using 105mm Howitzer cannons against enemy positions in Barangay Ganta, Sharif Saidona Mustapha and Barangay Damablas, Datu Piang, both in Maguindanao, where most of the bodies of the fatalities were recovered.

He said the BIFF had also sent out small teams to do bombings in some selected towns to divert the attention of the military and police.

“They (rebels) set off improvised explosive devices and directed mortar fire on our troops. But they have splintered into smaller groups and our troops are now clearing these areas,” Hermoso said.

Three civilians were also hurt in the violence, including two from a Tuesday bomb blast near a marketplace that the military said was the handiwork of the BIFF.

Hermoso said the operation against the BIFF was properly coordinated with the MILF.

He said that the military’s Coordinating Council on Cessation of Hostilities has asked its counterpart, the CCCH-MILF, to extend for another 72 hours starting 7 a.m. Wednesday to continue the offensives against BIFF forces in the Regente Mountain.

“Both mechanisms have already agreed to that and all MILF forces in the area were notified about the extension. Rest assured our troops will not enter into MILF areas,” Hermoso said.

He said the BIFF lair is formerly part of the MILF’s area which was now being used by the BIFF as main camp.

Hermoso said he expects the fighting to be over in about three days, although he made no mention of the military’s initially stated goals of capturing the BIFF’s top leaders.

The BIFF, a breakaway group from the MILF, is headed by Ameril Umbra Kato, who carries a P10 million bounty on his head for attacking several parts of Mindanao after the non-signing of the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain in 2009.

But despite Aquino’s tough talk, presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles said there might be a mechanism available to Kato’s group if it would seek amnesty through the normalization annex that the government signed with the MILF.

“If they express willingness, there might be some mechanism that can be done,” Deles said in a separate interview.

“But they have to be the ones to reach out. Anytime that there will be changes, then we will evaluate the situation,” she added.

Cerveza, however, warned of a ‘prolonged’ war after it accused the military of attacking its camps in Maguindanao.

He said the military attacked their camps in Bgy. Bakat in Datu Piang and in Saydona Mustapha, both in Maguindanao.

He said MNLF forces engaged government troops in a fierce gunbattle in two MNLF camps in Barangay Bakat, Datu Piang and Shariff Saidona Mustpha in Maguindanao.

He said the military operation against the MNLF and the BIFF is being coordinated with some MILF members loyal to MILF Vice Chair Gadzali Jaafar.

Cerveza, however, belittled the attempt by the MILF and the military to decimate the MNLF’s ranks, saying that the MNLF is fully prepared for a ‘prolonged’ war in Mindanao.

“Where the guns resides, power originates,” Cerveza said as he rejected calls by Jaafar for an MNLF unification with the MILF.

Cerveza instead called on the MILF to join the MNLF, as he disregarded an earlier MILF proposal for them to join the crafting of the preposition by the MILF to join the crafting of the framework agreement.

“The agreement/framework should comply with the Jakarta accord as the OIC wanted and not the JaKarta accord complying with the MILF framework,” he said.

Cerveza said “the talks will eventually fall with the MILF reverting to their mother unit. “If it happens, the MILF will be diluted.”

MNLF overall Commander Bensaleh Sharifah said the attacks on Saidona Mustapha and in Bakat, Datu Piang could signal a prolonged war, while also denying that the camp at Brgy. Bakat in Datu Piang was captured by government troops.

Hermoso earlier reported that they overran a training camp in Brgy Bakat, where they found a lecture room containing several military paraphernalia and improvised explosives.

Sharifah also claimed that the BIFF captured dozens of army soldiers during a running gunbattle at the tri-boundary of Datu Piang, Sultan sa Barongis and Saidona Mustapha on Tuesday. The soldiers, he said, are currently being detained somewhere in Barangay Reyna Regente, Datu Piang, Maguindanao.

Hermoso denied Sharifah’s claim.

Cerveza said that defectors from the MILF joining the MNLF now number at a thousand and said that he expects more MILF rebels to defect to show their opposition to the signing of the normalization annex.

“The MNLF will continue to embrace the MILF. The MILF has directed all state and local commanders to process their integration,” Cerveza said. With Francisco Tuyay, Florante Solmerin and AFP

FROM MANILA STANDARD

Army goes for the kill By Florante S. Solmerin | Jan. 31, 2014 at 12:01am

MILF okays to ‘decimate’ BIFF in 72 hrs


Endgame. Soldiers patrol a village near Datu Piang town in Maguindanao in a clearing operation against the militants opposed to the government’s peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

MANILA -The military on Thursday gave itself 72 hours to ‘decimate’ the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters even as Malacanang warned the Moro National Liberation Front-Nur Misuari faction against coddling members of the renegade group.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Batallion, said the 72-hour deadline was approved by the leadership of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which he said gave the go-signal to the military to crush the BIFF for good.

“Hindi tantanan, hindi hintuan (operation) dahil ‘yung mismong MILF din ang nagre-request na tapusin ‘yung BIFF para wala silang problema later on,” said Hermoso.

(We will not stop our operation because the MILF itself has requested us to finish the BIFF for good so they will have no problem with them later on.)

The clashes, which started Sunday, had so far killed 41 BIFF members and wounded 12. The government side, on the other hand, lost one soldier, while 13 others were wounded.

The extension was agreed upon by the military and MILF’s Adhoc Joint Action Group (AJAG), as government troops pursued BIFF forces seen seeking shelter in the Reina Regenta Mountain located in the tri-boundary of Datu Piang and Sharif Saydona Mustapha, both in Maguindanao and Pikit, North Cotabato.

Hermoso said the AJAG may approve a second extension if necessary.

Malacañang, meanwhile, aired the warning to the MNLF after its spokesman Absalom Cerveza called on the military to stop its offensive, “or we will have war.”

On Wednesday, Cerveza claimed that government forces attacked MNLF camps in Bgy. Bakat in Datu Piang and in Saydona Mustapha, both in Maguindanao.

But Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma said the operations were not meant to discriminate against the MNLF.

“There is no intention to discriminate against any particular sector...We are just protecting the gains of the peace process from potential spoilers,” Coloma said.


President Benigno Aquino III exchanges tokens with Transition Commission Chairman Mohagher Iqbal of the MILF during his courtesy call in Malacañang. With them is Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles. AFP and Malacañang Photo Bureau

At the same time, Malacanang appealed to the BIFF to lay down their arms and ‘return to their normal lives.’

“While there will be no let-up in the military offensive, the government has also offered the possibility of a “return to their normal lives” - short of an outright amnesty offer - for BIFF fighters who would surrender their arms.

“We call on the members and the leaders of the BIFF to put down their arms and be part of the process. We ask them to listen to the plea of their own brothers and sisters to give peace a chance,” government chief negotiator Miriam Ferrer said.

“Local government officials are ready to receive those who would like to silence their guns and participate in the different programs we will be undertaking as part of the implementation of the peace agreements. We know that BIFF members can also contact supporters or local ground commanders of the MILF who could facilitate their return to normal lives,” added Ferrer.

The BIFF, believed to have 250 fighters, is a breakaway faction of the MILF led by Ameril Umbra Kato.

In 2012, the MILF Central Committee expelled Kato from the organization for rejecting the peace talks. Months later, he led several attacks against civilian communities, killing innocent civilians in Central Mindanao.

The encounters started a day after the government and the MILF signed the ‘normalization” annex in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday. It was the last of four annexes which would now pave the way for the creation of a Bangsamoro entity in Muslim Mindanao.

On Wednesday, President Benigno Aquino III ordered the military to crush the BIFF and other ‘peace spoilers.’

Cerveza, however, described the president as ‘reckless’ in making the statement.

“We will be pushed into turmoil and who will be sorry at the end of the day?” Cerveza said.

He added that the ongoing clashes in Maguindano and parts of North Cotabato between the BIFF and the military and some MNLF members who were dragged in the clashes will determine the course of action by the MNLF.

Hermoso, meanwhile, said the MILF fighters had been supporting government troops by not allowing retreating BIFF fighters to take refuge in MILF-controlled territories.

“We’re employing right now three battalions under the 601st Infantry Brigade, at least more than 1,500 soldiers excluding attached forces such as mechanized units,” he said.

Hermoso said sporadic fighting continues within Reina Rgenta Mountain where the BIFF had well-entrenched positions.

He also dismissed rumors that fighters from the MNLF-Nur Misuari faction, were joining the BIFF in the battles.

“May community rin [ang MNLF) kaya lang sa may Midsayap, North Cotabato. Kausap din namin sila dahil nag-close coordination din kami sa kanila at nangako sila na hindi sila susuporta o makipag-alliance. Kaso nga lang ‘yung ibang hanay, ‘yung ibang myembro nila may mga relatives dun (BIFF). Hindi naman nila sinabing we join them, independent acts ng ibang member, pero definitely as an institution hindi sila sumali,” he said.

(The MNLF community has its own community in Midsayap, North Cotabato. We have talked to them because we are closely coordinating with them and they promised that they would support or allied with the BIFF. But some of them have relatives within the BIFF. They did not say they would join as a group, only some of their members who have relatives in the BIFF, but as a group, they had no plans of joining).

Hermoso, however admitted that they were receiving reports of “continuous meetings” of some MNLF members loyal to Misuari but has yet to monitor any movement to reinforce the BIFF.

“It’s not remote (possible Misuari-led MNLF-BIFF merger) dahil may mga reports but we need to validate it. But it’s a good thing some MNLF groups were also blocking BIFF fighters to enter their community just like what the MILF was doing,” Hermoso said.

Hermoso said the military has overran some of the BIFF’s temporary camps, forcing the renegade group to splinter into small groups.

But he said the military is already familiar with the group’s guerilla tactics, especially the elite units such as the Scout Ranger, Special Forces and the police’s Special Action Force who are tasked to conduct relentless pursuit operations while infantry soldiers are focused on conducting offensives and capture BIFF lairs.

On Monday, the military deployed at least three battalions or more than 1,500 soldiers to provide support for the local police in going after the BIFF following a series of ambush conducted by the group against soldiers and policemen who were supposed to issue arrest warrants last Sunday against some BIFF elements. With Francisco Tuyay and Joyce Pangco Pañares

FROM MANILA TIMES

Give MILF pact a chance’ February 2, 2014 9:07 pm by JOEL M. SY EGCO AND WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL SENIOR REPORTER AND REPORTER


Military officers examine documents, uniforms and communication gear found inside the BIFF camp in the village of Ganta, Shariff Saydona Mustapha town, Maguindanao. Photographs of child soldiers were among the items the BIFF fighters left behind. AFP PHOTO

MALACAÑANG on Sunday appealed to leaders of Muslim groups, including the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), to renounce violence and consider the benefits of the final peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“The last annex [on normalization] has just been signed. Let’s give it a chance,” said presidential deputy spokesman Abigail Valte.

Valte said that instead of waging war, the Muslim leaders should study the issues surrounding the agreement.

“Let’s look at the annexes. Let’s look how beneficial it will be to our brothers and sisters in Mindanao,” she said.

According to her, the atrocities committed by the BIFF will only make people suffer and stunt development in areas where the BIFF operates.

“We seek lasting peace in Mindanao. There are places that really suffer because of these incidents and we all want to have peace there,” Valte said.

Government troops hoisted the Philippine flag on Saturday in the biggest camp of the outlawed group in Maguindanao.

The seven-hectare camp in Barangay Ganta in Shariff Saidona town was the base of more than 500 BIFF fighters led by Ustadz Karialan. For five days, it was pounded by artillery fire by combined elements of the Army’s 601st Brigade, the 1st Mechanized Brigade and the Sixth Infantry Division.

The BIFF’s leader, Ameril Umbrakato, vowed to fight to the death.

On the issue of child fighters, Valte said the government condemns the practice as she defended the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) from criticisms that troops killed three minors fighting for the BIFF during the offensive.

“You know, that is what the military is saying . . . that once everybody puts on uniforms and you’re in your combat gear already, it’s hard to distinguish [a child from an adult warrior],” she said.

Military spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said “Operation Darkhorse” was terminated after the three-day extension requested by the Agence France-Presse from the Joint Ad Hoc Joint Action Group of the government and the MILF ended Sunday.

The military said 52 BIFF fighters were killed and 49 were wounded in the offensive.

One soldier was killed and 20 others were injured. Eight civilians were wounded.

Besides the BIFF’s main camp in Shariff Saidona, the military captured three smaller camps and a makeshift explosives factory.

Operation Dark Horse was launched late last week in support of the PNP’s drive to serve arrests warrants on Umbrakato and his followers who were facing various charges including kidnap for ransom and murder.

Zagala said the three-day extension was crucial in applying pressure on the BIFF.

“It allowed the military to press further into areas where the BIFF were entrenched and prevented the spillover of violence by containing the lawless elements in these areas,” he said.

With the BIFF neutralized, the 9,465 families that fled the fighting can return to their homes, Zagala said.

FROM MANILA DAILY BULLETIN

President willing to support ‘doable’ anti-dynasty bill by Genalyn Kabiling January 29, 2014 (updated) Share this:


Anti-Dynasty Bill Not A Priority – President Benigno S. Aquino III is willing to support a bill seeking to ban political dynasties in the country if it is “doable”. However, he admitted that the anti-political dynasty bill is not a priority measure of the administration for now, saying he prefers the swift passage of a bill seeking to reform the pension system of the military and police

Manila, Philippines – President Benigno S. Aquino III is willing to support a bill seeking to ban political dynasties in the country if it is “doable.”

The President however admitted that the anti-political dynasty bill is not a priority measure of the administration for now, saying he prefers the swift passage of a bill seeking to reform the pension system of the military and police.

“I want to read the entire bill first. At present, I’m busy attending to other matters both in the domestic and in the international scene. I want to see all the details and I apologize that it is not one of my highest priorities at the moment,” the President said in Filipino when asked if he would certify as urgent the anti-dynasty bill.

“But if I see that it is really doable, why not,” Aquino added in a media interview after attending an event in Alabang.

Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice earlier urged the President to certify as urgent a bill that will meet a constitutional provision that prohibits political dynasties in the country, saying its passage is long overdue.

The President said the administration has listed “many” priority bills, including a measure to reform the military and police retirement and separation pay system to prevent the ballooning of the government’s pension requirements.

Aquino expressed concern about the growing obligations in the pension of the uniformed security personnel which has reached P50 billion last year. The amount is expected to rise to around P80 billion by 2016, according to the President.

The problem stems from the “indexation” provision of the retirement law which increases the retirees’ benefits whenever the salaries of active soldiers are upgraded.

Aquino explained that a huge portion of the national budget has annually been allocated to pay the increasing pension which has prevented the government from hiring new uniformed personnel. He said the government would have wanted to hire 20,000 soldiers but could not do so due to limited funds.

“There is a bill today that seeks to correct the system wherein those in service will get the benefits they deserve,” he said.

Under the proposed new pension system, Aquino said the government would look for ways to boost the seed capital and integrate military and police pension funds into the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).

Aquino also pointed out that the pension reform bill would help reduce the “pressure on the budget.” He warned that if the pension deficit grows, this would eat into the government’s budget meant for other worthwhile infrastructure projects and social services.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

© Copyright, 2013 by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE
All rights reserved


PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE [PHNO] WEBSITE