|MNLF commander survives deadly ambush in Cotabato|
|[GMA News] A Top Moro National Liberation Front commander survived, but his driver was killed in a gun attack on Saturday afternoon in Cotabato's Matalam town in Mindanao.|
An initial police investigation found that MNLF political affairs officer and Barangay Ilian chairman Kutin Idtug, 67, and two other companions were attacked by at least ten armed men in Barangay Marbel, also in Matalam town. Attackers hiding behind sugarcane plants suddenly emerged and opened fire at Idtug's vehicle when it passed by their position.
Matalam police chief Joseph Brian Placer said the driver and two others passengers died from multiple gunshot wounds. Idtug also sustained gunshot wounds but he is now stable at the hospital.
|Duterte expects Muslim autonomy law to end conflict in Mindanao|
|[Xinhua] Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte on Monday expressed the hope that the new expanded Muslim autonomy law will finally end the decades-old conflict in Mindanao. In the signing ceremony for the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), Duterte urged Filipino Muslims, the indigenous communities and Christian settlers living within the Bangsamoro areas "to actively participate in constructive discussions about the law in your homes, in your villages, and communities".|
"But more importantly, I encourage you to take part in the upcoming plebiscite so that you may express your sovereignty through the ballot," Duterte added.
The BOL is the result of decades-long, on-and-off peace negotiations between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MLIF) and the Philippine government. The law abolishes the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), established in 1989 after the government signed a peace deal with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
The BOL then creates the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), or simply the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. According to the BOL, the BARMM will have a parliamentary-democratic form of government, meaning that it is empowered to enact its own laws. Tribal laws will still apply to dispute of indigenous peoples within the region.
Under the BOL the new autonomous region gets a 75% share of the total national taxes collected within its territory. And the BARMM will also have an automatic allocation of the annual block grant, equivalent to 5 percent of the net national internal revenue of the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs.
On defense and security, the national government will be responsible for the defense and security of the BARMM. The Philippine National Police will also organize, maintain, and supervise a police regional office to enforce the law. The BOL also allows members of the MNLF and MILF to be admitted to the police force.
The Bangsamoro government will be headed by a chief minister and a ceremonial leader called a Wali. There will be a parliament composed of 80 members.
The plebiscite for the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region will be held within three to five months after the effectivity of the BOL or between November and January next year. After the BOL is ratified in the plebiscite, the second phase of decommissioning of some MILF combatants will begin.
|Abu Sayyaf bomb maker nabbed in Zamboanga|
|A suspected Abu Sayyaf bomb maker was nabbed in a raid on a pension house in Zamboanga City on Monday night. Benjar Idarus Engeng, alias Ben Akmad, a native of Isabela, Basilan, was arrested by operatives of the Zamboanga City police, regional police, Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine Air Force, Philippine Center for Transnational Crime and 84th Special Action Company.|
However, Engeng said he only had a replica of an IED. He said his companion, identified only as Amilhasan, made the IED to take its photo and send it to their contact in Bongao town in exchange for P30,000. He said, "There is no explosive chemical inside. I did not make it…I was only tasked to fix the wirings using glue. It will not explode."
Engeng also denied being an Abu Sayyaf militant. He said he is a former member of the Moro National Liberation Front based in Basilan.
|Stalled MILF peace deal crucial in Philippines ISIL fight|
|[Al Jazeera] 's Southeast Asian oblates may have failed at their first attempt to carve out territory here, but their defeat was by no means final.|
With the Philippine government delaying a peace deal that would give a predominantly southern region more autonomy, experts, rebels and even officials warned of possible attacks from several s that have pledged allegiance to the of Iraq and the Levant ( , also known as ISIS).
Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), told Al Jazeera, "Radical groups emerged whenever there were failures in the . Leaders with radical ideologies exploit the people's frustration at these failures."
The MILF fought decades with the government of the Christian-majority country, first for independence and then for autonomy. It broke away from the original Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1977 when the MNLF settled for autonomy after years of fighting for a separate state.
Now, the MILF is steps away from sealing a deal that will expand the autonomous region and give its government more substantial powers.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte promised to sign the deal into law after his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, failed to do so. Duterte's allies in congress have not prioritised passing the measure.
"There is consistent prejudice against the Bangsamoro people," Ebrahim said, referring to the southwestern Mindanao region that is home to several ethnic groups collectively called "Moro".
|Ex-Marawi mayor apprehended for rebellion|
|[Manila Times] The former mayor of battle-torn Marawi City was arrested Wednesday evening at a police checkpoint in Villanueva town, Misamis Oriental, two days after an arrest order was issued against him and more than 180 others for rebellion.|
Fahad "Pre" Salic is among 184 individuals charged for rebellion. Also charged was his brother, Omar Ali Solitario, likewise a former mayor of Marawi City, the PDP-Laban provincial chairman, and a commander of the Moro National Liberation Front. He remains at large.
Regional police spokesman Lemuel Gonda said Salic was arrested on Wednesday evening in San Martin village. He was en route to Cagayan de Oro City when he was flagged by members of the Misamis Oriental Provincial Public Safety Company.
The ex-mayor immediately denied involvement in the ongoing Maute attack on Marawi. He was temporarily locked up at Villanueva town jail. Salic is related to the Maute terrorist leaders, brothers Omar and Abdullah, who lead the so-called IS Ranao. Salic's wife, Rasmia, is a niece of Farhana Romato Maute, mother of the radical siblings..
In December, the two former mayors were said to have acted as government missionaries to the Maute rebels who took over Butig, Lanao del Sur, for ceasefire talks. They were said to be among a group of influential relatives of the Mautes who met with President Rodrigo Duterte in Davao City in November last year on the latter's invitation.
Duterte had tagged the two as among narco-politicians in the province.
On Tuesday, authorities arrested Cayamora Maute, father of Omar and Abdullah, along with his third wife Kongan Alfonso Balawag and two other family members in Davao City.
|Abu Sayyaf abducts former MNLF militant in Sulu|
|A Moro National Liberation Front militant-turned-soldier, who was working for peace and progress in Sulu, was abducted by the Abu Sayyaf Thursday morning. Military spokesman Jo-Ann Petinglay identified the female soldier as Staff Sergeant Anni Siraji.|
The perpetrators were thought to be members of the Abu Sayyaf. A report said she was forcibly taken by a group headed by Waltun Julhasan, a known follower of the Abu Sayyaf leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan operating in Patikul, Sulu.
The group fled with the captured soldier towards Sitio Lagaron, Patikul, Sulu, according to a military report.
Western Mindanao Command Chief Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez said it is frustrating that a Tausug soldier who wants a peaceful community and is working hard to bring progress to his home province, would be a victim of the rebels. He said, "Obviously, the Abu Sayyaf can victimize anyone, even someone from their own tribe."
|MNLF chief gets closed-door meeting with Duterte|
|[Rappler] On the eve of his birthday, President Rodrigo Duterte met with Moro National Liberation Front chairman Nur Misuari. Misuari brought along his wife, Madam Tarhata, and son Abdulkarim, to his private audience with Duterte on the night of March 27.|
Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella described it as a "closed-door meeting" and did not elaborate when the media asked about any agreements reached or decisions made. But he said he expected their talk to have been about the Mindanao peace process. Abella said, "They talked about strengthening relationships, they talked about peace, they talked about the development of the area."
Duterte previously said he had been discussing with the Muslim leader a "preparatory document" about a proposed federal system for Mindanao.
"I have been talking to Misuari, I already talked with him yesterday.... We are talking, we are crafting a sort of a preparatory document so that we can go into the process of proposing the federal structure," said the President last Friday.
Misuari has agreed to participate in the crafting of a law that will create a new Bangsamoro region. The Philippine government plans to create a panel that will engage Nur's MNLF faction, separate from the panel engaging the rival Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Misuari is facing charges of rebellion and crimes against humanity over his role in the 2013 Zamboanga siege. But he was given temporary freedom when Duterte ordered the suspension of arrest warrants against him to allow him to participate in the Mindanao peace negotiations.
|Philippines: 23 Abu Sayyaf killed since hostage beheading|
|[ABS-CBN] At least 23 Abu Sayyaf militants were killed in Sulu in a series of attacks launched by Philippine troops against the rebels following the beheading of German hostage Jurgen Kantner on February 26.|
Western Mindanao Command spokesman Carlito Galvez said four separate clashes were fought between the military and the Abu Sayyaf in Patikul and Indanan in Sulu, and in parts of Basilan. In the first three encounters, at least 14 rebels were reportedly killed, with six others injured. Nine other rebels were killed in a gun battle Sunday in Barangay lumipad in Talipao, also in Sulu.
Galvez said that soldiers also nabbed four Abu Sayyaf suspects in two separate areas in Basilan on February 27. He identified the rebels as Hamja Ummal, Asid Abdul Pagong, Kili Alvarez Sabtal, and Hamidid Pantasan. Ummal and Pagong were captured in Al-Barka town, while the two others were arrested in Tipo-Tipo.
Galvez said the suspects, who are all teenagers, had been providing vital information to the Abu Sayyaf by serving as lookouts in places where military forces frequently pass.
The military also discovered an Abu Sayyaf hideout in Al-Barka, with at least 30 makeshift bunkers and 16 foxholes.
Galvez acknowledged the help of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who he said has been instrumental in some of their successful missions.
|Abu Sayyaf bomb kills 12-year-old girl|
|[Gulf Today] A 12-year-old girl was killed and her mother seriously injured when a roadside bomb believed to have been planted by the Abu Sayyaf exploded in Mindanao. Police said the victims were gathering root crops in a village along the road in Lamitan City, Basilan when the bomb exploded on Sunday afternoon.|
Police blamed the Abu Sayyaf for the blast, saying it was intended to divert the intensified search and destroy operation launched against them in the mountains in Lamitan's neighboring town of Sumisip.
Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte confirmed the arrest in Malaysia of the son of a Maguindanao lawmaker for his alleged involvement in the bombing of a popular night market in Davao City, Duterte's hometown last September. He identified the suspect as Datu Mohammad Abduljabbar Sema, who has been detained by Malaysian authorities since last November for his alleged link to the Davao City bombing that killed 15 people and injured more than 60 others.
Sema is the son of Muslimin Sema, the head of a faction of the divided Moro National Liberation Front as well as the former mayor of Cotabato City, and Congresswoman Bi Sandra Sema of Maguindanao.
With Sema's arrest, Duterte said all suspects have been accounted for in the bombing blamed on members of the Matute Group which has pledged allegiance to the Daesh.
Secretary Delfin Lorenzana of the Department of National Defense said the government has requested Malaysia to extradite Sema back to the Philippines so he could face trial.
|Abu Sayyaf releases two hostages|
|[Tempo] A South Korean captain and a Filipino crewman abducted by the Abu Sayyaf three months ago were released yesterday. Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Jesus Dureza reiterated the government's no ransom policy, but a military intelligence report said that R25 million was paid for the hostages' release. |
Military spokesman Filemon Tan said the Moro National Liberation Front aided in the release of Korean captain Park Chung Hung and Glenn Alindajao. Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Alden Bagade reportedly turned over the hostages to MNLF representatives in Indanan, Sulu yesterday morning.
In a press briefing, Alindajao described the captives' three-month ordeal. He said that they walked endlessly from one place to another on an empty stomach and slept, most of the time, under trees in the middle of the forest. He recounted, "We were almost hopeless but I am thankful we were able to come home safely with the help of Sir (Jess) Dureza and the president for assisting us."
In October, armed men identifying themselves as Abu Sayyaf militants kidnapped the pair from a South Korean cargo ship, the first such attack on a large merchant vessel.
|Abu Sayyaf releases three hostages|
|[Gulf Today] The Abu Sayyaf released three hostages - two Indonesian crewmen of a tugboat and a Filipino businesswoman - due to pressure from what the military called the intensified "search and destroy operation" launched against them by Philippine security forces.|
Military spokesman Filemon Tan said the two freed Indonesian hostages were the last two of the seven crewmen abducted by the Abu Sayyaf from an Indonesian tugboat while sailing off the Sulu Sea on June 22. He disclosed the militants turned over the two Indonesian hostages to the Moro National Liberation Front in the town of Patikul, Sulu on Monday but admitted he was not aware that a ransom has been paid.
In a related development, an official of the National Bureau of Investigation reported that a group identified with the Abu Sayyaf freed Filipino businesswoman Clarita Belisario who was kidnapped while working at her gasoline station in the town of Linamon, Lanao del Sur in September.
Jam Dimaporo revealed that Belisario was released after her family paid $3,400 to the abductors representing the fee for her "board and lodging" while in captivity, a euphemism for ransom.
With the release of the two Indonesians, Tan said the Abu Sayyaf are still holding a total of 23 foreign hostages, composed of six Vietnamese sailors, five Malaysians, four Indonesians, one Dutch, one German and one Korean.
|Zamboanga City plans to persue cases against Misuari|
|[SunStar] The Zamboanga City government stands firm in its decision to pursue its cases against Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Chairman Nur Misuari and his followers in connection with a 2013 siege. This despite whether President Rodrigo Duterte manages to hold a planned meeting with Misuari about peace negotiations. |
City Legal Officer Jesus Carbon Jr. reiterated that the planned Duterte-Misuari meeting will not affect his city stance, though he made clear that the city government respects Duterte's actions in trying to achieve peace in Mindanao "but we also have to follow the rule of law."
Carbon said, "While we respect the actions of the President, we ought to follow the rule of law. So, it will not affect our stand as far as the criminal cases pending in Pasig are concerned."
Misuari and several of his men face charges for violation of the International Humanitarian Law and other crimes in connection with the 21-day September 2013 siege. The siege started after hundreds of MNLF followers infiltrated and besieged at least four villages in the city.