AFP sees extortion as primary motive behind blast in Lamitan, Basilan

Marje Pelayo   •   August 1, 2018   •   3196

AFP Chief of Staff General Carlito Galvez Jr and WestMinCom commander Lieutenant General Arnel dela Vega

 

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is running out of resources, that’s why they resort to extorting money from the communities.

This is the main reason that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) sees behind the bombing incident at Sitio Colonia in Lamitan, Basilan on Tuesday (July 31).

According to AFP Chief of Staff General Carlito Galvez Jr., the bandit group is in dire need of money to fund their operation.

“Base doon sa information at saka sa report, humihingi sila ng P50,000 sa lahat ng mga LGUs and that single action iyon na ang ginagamit nilang panakot para lahat ng mga LGUs, kung 11 mayors iyon ay times P50,000, malaking amount ng pera iyon,” said Galvez.

But the local government of Basilan maintains not giving in to the demands of the terror group even if they say that the money is in exchange for the release of their captives.

“Secondly is to gain some support kasi nakita natin na ang Abu Sayyaf sa Basilan more than 150 na iyong nagsu-surrender and they wanted to make some very strong statement and that statement is through the bombing na ito,” Galvez further said.

Meanwhile, the government is not discounting the possibility of the ASG sowing terror elsewhere.

This prompted PNP Chief Police Director General Oscar Albayalde to tighten the security in checkpoints and the implementation of Oplan Sita across the country.

“We have to be on our toes especially so here in Metro Manila, dito sa NCR, dahil malaking impact iyan pag dito. Kaya todo ang pagbabantay  natin dito,” the PNP Chief said.

“Anything can happen anything is possible. But based on our intelligence, on our data, the probability is not that high,” said Lt. Gen. Arnel De Vega, AFP Western Mindanao Commander, when asked about the probability of the terrorist attacks.

The military, meanwhile, appealed to the public not speculate but to stay calm instead and let the authorities do their respective jobs. – Dante Amento / Marje Pelayo

Terror threats in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi declined in past 2 years – WestMinCom

Robie de Guzman   •   May 5, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The number of terrorist threats observed in the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi in Mindanao have significantly dropped in the last two years, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) chief Lieutenant General Corleto Vinluan Jr. said.

Data from the military’s Joint Task Force (JTF) Sulu showed that from July 1, 2020 to May 2, 2021, the force had 38 encounters with Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and has neutralized 260 of its members; 34 of which were killed, 42 apprehended, and 184 surrendered.

In the first quarter of 2021, JTF Sulu said ASG now only have 132 of its manpower compared to its 282 and 145 members in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

The military also observed a significant decrease in ASG’s firearms this year with only 147 left when it used to possess 330 weapons in 2019 and 155 in 2020.

The JTF Sulu further said that there was also no recorded terrorist acts perpetrated by the local group this year, noting that their last attack was the two explosions in Brgy. Walled City in Jolo, Sulu on August 24 last year.

According to JTF Sulu, it is its mission to conduct military operation to defeat ASG, and support the government peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in order to “significantly contribute to the peace, security, and development efforts of the Government in Sulu province.”

“Military action is only a small factor in combatting terrorism, the major factor here is the assistance (from the Bangsamoro Government),” Vinluan was quoted as saying in a statement released by the Bangsamoro government.

“We need your help to finally end the conflict in Sulu,” he added.

For his part, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) Chief Minister Ebrahim said the interim Bangsamoro Government has been put to place to assure that the people gets its well-deserved peace and sustainable development after years of conflict and unrest.

“When we signed the peace agreement with the national government, we knew that this transition period would not be an easy track. We also acknowledge that there are still splinter groups and extremist organizations that would provide challenges in the process,” Ebrahim said.

“We are fortunate that in this journey, we have our dear partners from the security sector to help us out in maintaining order. Troops whom we once faced at the other side of the fence – now working with us, side by side, one in building a Bangsamoro that we can be proud of,” he added.

Vinluan and the JTF Sulu commanders paid courtesy visit to Ebrahim and other BARMM officials on Monday, May 3, at the Bangsamoro Government Center in Cotabato City.

The visit was particularly aimed at providing the BARMM government an update regarding the security situation and development challenges in the province of Sulu, a stronghold of local terrorist ASG.

 

13 human trafficking victims rescued in Basilan — PCG

Robie de Guzman   •   March 26, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Thirteen suspected victims of human trafficking were rescued in Basilan, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said Friday.

In a statement, the PCG said the victims were rescued during an operation it conducted with the Regional Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (RIACAT) in Maluso, Basilan on March 24.

Based on the initial investigation, the coast guard said that the female victims, aged 21 to 40, were residents of Metro Manila, Nueva Ecija, Quirino, Capiz, Zamboanga del Norte, and Maguindanao.

The RIACAT operations occurred aboard a pre-arranged watercraft bound for Malaysia where the victims will be forced to work through illegal means.

A suspected perpetrator was arrested, the PCG said.

The victims received humanitarian assistance and were escorted to the Maluso Municipal Police Station for proper documentation.

They were then ferried to the Department of Social Welfare and Development Regional Office-XI to undergo swab test and mandatory quarantine before their transportation back to their families, the PCG said.

COVID-19 inoculation mandatory but soldiers can choose brand – AFP spox

Robie de Guzman   •   February 25, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The vaccination of military personnel against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) will be mandatory although the soldiers can choose which brand to receive, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said on Thursday.

In a virtual press briefing, AFP Spokesperson Major General Edgard Arevalo said all soldiers will be obliged to get inoculated as ordered by AFP chief of staff Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana.

The directive came even as the military has yet to ascertain where its vaccine supply will be coming from, or if they are among those who will receive the first 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines donated by the Chinese government.

“Ang Sandatahang Lakas ng Pilipinas po is not like any ordinary organizations. Tayo po ay nasa service-orientated organization. Tayo po ang inaasahan sa napakaraming mabibigat na tungkulin kagaya nga po ng pagharap sa pandemya as early as 2020. Kaya sinabi natin na hindi opsyon ang pag-ayaw. Subalit kinikilala natin yung kanilang kagustuhan ng brand na gusto nila” he said.

Military personnel who will be choosing other brands of the vaccine will need to pay for their own jabs, Arevalo said.

Those who refuse to get vaccinated will face sanctions under military rules, he added.

“We are an organization under military regulations. So, ang pagtupad sa mga regulasyon o sa mga tinatadhana ng existing legal orders buhat sa ating mga superiors just like this one from the AFP Chief of Staff, no less, will be dealt with disciplinary actions kung hindi nila susundin,” he said.

“But we are confident na hindi na tayo darating sa punto na iyon,” he added.

The AFP said all its employees and troops assigned in the medical and healthcare units will be the first to get inoculated against COVID-19.

The donated Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines from China are expected to arrive in the country this weekend. RRD (with details from Correspondent Joan Nano)

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