Maguindanao crime volume down

Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao – The number of crime incidents in Maguindanao have gone down from January to February, compared to the same period last year, a police official said Sunday.

“Our crime volume recorded this year has been down by 46 percent as compared last year,” Sr. Supt. Agustin Tello, Maguindanao provincial police director, said.

Tello attributed the reduction of crime volume to massive police implementation of checkpoints and law enforcement across the province due to the implementation of martial law.

“The cooperation and coordination of the police, military and local government units were also a factor in crime volume reduction,” Tello added.

He lauded the support provided by Maguindanao Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu to the local police, “especially his morale boosting and inspiration that guided the local police.”

With the pay hike now being enjoyed by police officers, Tello expects his men to perform better and remained disciplined.

Last year, internal cleansing was implemented in Maguindanao with 25 police officers being deployed to other provinces in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao after they were linked to irregularities.

About 10 other police officers under Maguindanao PNP are facing charges and under preventive suspension due to their alleged involvement in illegal drugs.

Tello said he or his representative had been conducting surprise inspections in police offices across Maguindanao’s 36 municipalities.

“This is to ensure police presence and continuous implementation of checkpoints and other police operational activities,” he said, adding that a town police chief will be relieved if found to be remiss of his responsibilities.

Maguindanao crime volume down

Honasan: No evidence SAP Go influenced frigate deal

There is no evidence that President Duterte’s Special Assistant Christopher “Bong” Go influenced military officials in the acquisition of two frigates from South Korea.

Sen. Gregorio “Gringo” B. Honasan II, chairman of the Senate National Defense Committee, issued the statement at the end of the six-hour public hearing on the multi-billion-peso Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization program and the “fake news” about Go’s alleged interference in equipment purchase.

Honasan, however, emphasized that his committee would consolidate, process, and evaluate all the statements and documents submitted to his committee.

“We will not make any premature, sweeping conclusions,” he added.

The purchase of P15.7 billion worth of warships has been clouded by controversy after Go was accused of meddling in the selection of the combat managements system (CMS) for the two frigates.

Former Philippine Navy flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado confirmed that Go never interfered in the Frigate Acquisition Program (FAP).

“Secretary Bong Go never approached me to inquire and neither did he make any form of communication to influence,” Mercado told the Senate.

Go blamed two media outfits for reporting “fake news” with his alleged interference in the frigate deal.

Aimed at Duterte

In his opening statement, Go said it was clear that the issue was aimed at destroying the reputation of the President.

“Perhaps this is their intention – to block the implementation of this important security program, and make sure that this administration will fail,” Go said.

“But we will not allow them to win because the truth is on our side. I am confident that the Senate will be a vehicle of truth than to be used to advance others’ self-serving interest,” he added.

Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar maintained there was nothing anomalous with the frigate deal, which he described as one of the “best” projects of the Navy to modernize its fleet. He lamented that the malicious report about Go’s alleged intervention “overshadowed” the importance of the country’s first ever frigate project.

“The negative effect of the malicious report released by an online entity is we have forgotten that both the Aquino administration and the Duterte administration agree that this project is one of the best and earth-shaking historical projects of the Armed Force of the Philippines and Philippine Navy,” Andanar said.

“There is really no problem in the project except for the malicious report that came out,” he added.

Due diligence

Former defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin denied that the acquisition of the CMS happened during the Aquino administration saying the previous government did not sign the contract to avoid being accused of entering into a “midnight deal”.

the previous administration did enter with an agreement with Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), the contractor for the CMS but “short of signing the contract and the notice of award.”

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed Gazmin’s statement. He said before he took over theDND, he and Gazmin met to discuss details of the frigate project with the latter telling himto “continue the project.”

“So I asked my legal team to look over it. That’s why it took us sometime – July, August, September…When I asked the legal team to go over it, and to make sure if it is correct in form and substance, they said it is okay,” Lorenzana told senators during the hearing.

Lorenzana said he signed the notice of award in Aug. 18, 2016, then signed the contract two months later, or on October 24, 2016. He also said he did not change anything from the terms of preference or the findings of the previous bids and awards team or the technical working group.

Asked by Sen. Escudero if Lorenzana had the option not to proceed with the contract with HHI, Gazmin said yes “because he had time to review the project.”

When also asked why navy officials did not check on the background of HHI during the post-qualification process, Flag Officer in Command Rear Admiral Robert Empedrad said they knew nothing about HHI’s pending case at the Supreme Court of Republic of Korea.

Relieved thru text

Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado, former Flag Officer-in-Command (FOIC) of the Philippine Navy who was relieved last December “through text” for insubordination over the frigate project”vehemently” denied allegations that he was insisting to tap Netherlands-based Thales Tacticos for the ships’ combat management system (CMS) over South Korean firm Hanwha Systems.

He said it was Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), the winning supplier of the frigates, who initially endorsed the Thales Tacticos in the bidding process.

Lorenzana claimed Mercado “usurped” his authority for defying orders of the DND.

He added Mercado showed a “deliberate attempt” to block the implementation of the project by insisting on choosing Thales over Hanwa for the ships’ weapon system.

He claimed Mercado even “threatened” to cancel the deal, even though Hanwha had already been found compliant with contract requirements. Mercado, likewise, supposedly prevented the Navy representatives from discussing the procurement to the South Korean firm.

“He was insisting on Tacticos, and said that he will work on the cancellation of the contract if Tacticos was not chosen,” Lorenzana said, recalling that the threat was made during a meeting of senior officers which he failed to attend. (With reports from Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos and Hannah L. Torregoza)

Honasan: No evidence SAP Go influenced frigate deal

Marines honor Balutan, Tan siblings

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) general manager Alexander Balutan and Lucio Tan Group of Companies executives Michael Tan and Sharon Tan, scions of tycoon Lucio Tan, were recognized by the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) for their contributions to soldiers during the Marawi siege last year.

Brig. Gen. Alvin Parreño, PMC commandant, led the recognition ceremonies for Balutan, himself a former vice commandant of the PMC, and the Tan siblings during yesterday morning’s “colors” at the Marine Barracks Rudiardo Brown, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

“The honor and recognition that we have just bestowed to our awardees signify the strong partnership we have with our stakeholders. The Corps extends our sincerest gratitude and appreciation to your unselfish support to our operating troops during the Marawi campaign,” Parreño said in his speech.

“We acknowledge that we won’t achieve our mission without your help and assistance. The Marines were able to sustain the fight even to the extent of risking their precious life because they know that they have the Filipino people by their side,” Parreño added.

Parreño, in an interview with The STAR after the ceremonies, said the PCSO had donated a drone as well as water purifying systems, among others, while the Tan Group gave the Corps thousands of liters of bottled mineral water and provided transport during the “challenging days of the Marawi campaign.”

Balutan said the recognition was timely, considering the recent controversy faced by the PCSO, referring to the P6.5-million party they held at the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel in Mandaluyong City last Christmas.

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He said the PMC recognition highlighted the fact that the PCSO is an active charitable arm of the government, rushing to give aid to those in crisis and in times of disaster.

“I’m back at the Marine Corps where I belong. I spent more than 37 years here. I spent most of my adult life here,” he added.

PCSO has a yearly calamity fund of P100 million approved by the Department of Budget and Management for natural and man-made disasters.

Duterte: West Phil. Sea, PH Rise is ours

PRESIDENT Duterte yesterday asserted in front of the Filipino-Chinese community and Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jinhua that parts of the South China Sea and the the Philippine Rise in the Pacific Ocean are owned by the Philippines.

In his speech at the 10th Biennial Convention and 20th Founding Anniversary celebration of the Chinese Filipino Business Club in Manila Hotel, Duterte took exception to criticisms that he is not doing anything about China’s assertive moves.

“In so far as the Republic of the Philippines is concerned, I am ready to put my presidency, my career as president, my life and all (on the line). That is ours,” he said.

He said China’s military installations in the disputed islands were intended for the United States, not the Philippines.

“It is really intended against those who the Chinese think will destroy them. And it is America,” he said.

As far as the Philippine Rise is concerned, Duterte assured that government has not allowed other countries to continue to exploit the area.

He said the Chinese markings on the islands were placed in past explorations by the Chinese.

He said maybe someday the Chinese will tie up with the Philippines in a joint exploration of resources, but reminded them that the area is under Philippine jurisdiction.

“Benham Rise is ours.  The whole of the China Sea, you have already claimed it, that is up to Japan.  But this Philippine Rise is ours, period. The continental shelf below is Philippine jurisdiction.  That is ours,” Duterte said.

He said attachments to the continental shelf below the sea is still considered owned by the Philippines even if its stretches all the way to Guam, a US territory.

Suspected ISIS recruiter, Filipina partner nabbed in Manila

A suspected member of international terror group Islamic State was arrested along with his Filipina partner in an apartment in Malate, Manila last week.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa presented Fehmi Lassqued alias John Rasheed and his partner Anabel Moncera Salipada, 32, of Upi, Maguindanao, in Camp Crame on Monday morning.

They were arrested on Friday afternoon at Room 409 of Casa Blanca apartment along M. Adriatico Street in Malate, Manila during a joint operation by the operatives of Regional Police Intelligence Operations Unit of the National Capital Region Police Office and the Armed Forces of the Philippines Joint Special Operations Group.

The raid was conducted by virtue of a warrant of arrest issued by Makati City Regional Trial Court Branch 139 judge Benjamin Pozon.

Dela Rosa said Lassqued is a recruiter for the Islamic State and was a former negotiator between ISIS leadership and local government officials in Syria and Turkey. He added that the suspect was also an ISIS commander at the Syria-Turkey border.

“Kahit hindi siya nakapasok dito sa ating bansa, via the internet he can recruit from far away place lalo na kung nandito na siya physically, magkakaron siya ng contact with possible recruits… Malalaman natin ‘yan kung ilan ang na-recruit niya after ng investigation,” Dela Rosa said.

The PNP said that Lassqued entered the country in July 2016 with a fake passport. He has been travelling in and out the country and took a flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Manila on July 26, 2016, and then another flight from Manila to Istanbul, Turkey on Aug. 22, 2016.

He also traveled from Istanbul to Manila on Aug. 24, 2016 then took another flight from Manila to Kuala Lumpur on July 18, 2017 and Kuala Lumpur to Manila on November 9, 2017.

Dela Rosa said Lassqued is an Egyptian national, but holds a fake Tunisian passport.

The suspect’s partner was also arrested as she was also inside the apartment during the conduct of search operations, he added.

“We will subject her to investigation para malaman natin kung sino naging contact nila dito at sino na mga na-recruit nila. Dapat malaman natin ‘yan,” Dela Rosa said.

Lassqued, meanwhile, denied that he is a member of the Islamic State.

‘Yes I deny the allegations…Maybe, I was an ISIS before,” he said.

Also presented were improvised bombs, bomb-making materials and firearms seized from the couple. A black ISIS banner was also recovered during the raid.

Dela Rosa said the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines launched the joint raid at Lassqued’s apartment in Ermita following intelligence information from their foreign counterparts.

Dela Rosa, meanwhile, assured the public that the country remains safe from terrorists.

“Ligtas pa rin. hung hindi natin ‘to nahuli, hindi tayo ligtas pero nahuli naman so ligtas pa rin tayo,” he said. —ALG/KG, GMA News

Calamity Response

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, text

Nang maTRAP ang mga residente dahil sa umapaw na ilog sa Barangay Luna, agad rumesponde at nakipagtulungan ang mga Sundalo ng 30IB, mga civilian, at iba pang mga otoridad na sama-samang iniligtas ang ilang mga pamilya mula sa baha sa Barangay Luna, Surigao City..

Makikita sa larawan, kung gaano kamalasakit ang mga sundalo. Isang sanggol ang ligtas na naitawid at nailikas mula sa kapahamakan..

5 ASG fighters slain in encounter with Marines

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Zamboanga City – Five members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) were killed, while several  others were believed wounded, in  an encounter with  government troops in a secluded sitio of Panamao town in  Sulu province  at dawn, Sunday.

Joint Task Force-Sulu Commander Brig. Gen.  Cirilito Sobejana said yesterday government troops under the Marine Battalion Landing Team 3, encountered an estimated 30 ASG members in Sitio Bud Bawis, Panamao, Sulu at 4:15 am, Sunday.

Fighting ended as morning broke at the encounter site with soldiers discovering the bodies of the four slain ASG fighters. An M14 rifle was also recovered.

“We have information from witnesses that another bandit died while the Abus were withdrawing. They also saw the group carrying and helping a number of wounded companions,” the commander of the JTF-Sulu said.

Sobejana continued:  “Our soldiers are still searching the immediate vicinity while the bulk of our troops are tracking the group of Bensio and Binda.”

The Marines were conducting operations Saturday night after receiving information that the group of ASG sub-leaders Sansibar Bensio and Habib Munap Binda, together with some kidnap victims, were in the area.

“Our troops were very careful because  of the report  that  there were kidnap victims with the Abus but upon reaching at the vicinity, our troops were immediately fired upon by the enemy, resulting to an exchange of gun fires,” Sobejana said.