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White corn production eyed in Gensan

3 killed in buy drug bust operation

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – Three alleged drug dealers were killed in a buy-bust operation in Fatima Village Friday evening as police campaign against illegal drugs continue to step up here.

Slain in the sting operation were Julie Bustamante, Lloyd Diesta and Ron Panes.

Police Chief Inspector Maximo Sebastian of the regional special investigation and detection team in Region 12 (RSID 12) told reporters the three slain suspected drug dealers engaged police operatives and elements of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in a shootout after sensing they were being set up.

Police Chief Inspector Sebastian of the police regional intelligence unit.ABS-CBN screengrab photo from YouTube
Police Chief Inspector Maximo Sebastian of the police regional intelligence unit.ABS-CBN screengrab photo from YouTube

The encounter took place near the residence of Bustamante who was reportedly hit on the leg but died on arrival at the General Santos City District Hospital.

His other slain companions were also declared dead on arrival.

Reportedly recovered from the suspects were a .45 cal pistol and a .38 cal revolver and a hand grenade.

Also found were 9 sachets of suspected methamphetamine or shabu.

Sebastian also said the 3 were also believed behind the series of holdup and robbery incidents in the city.

He said the slain suspects are part of a bigger crime syndicate operating in the city.

The police intelligence chief also said they are ascertaining if one of the slain suspects is the same alias “Boyong” that has been a subject of massive manhunt operations by police authorities.

Police have stepped up anti-drug campaign following a strongly worded appeal by City Mayor Ronnel Rivera to clean up the city from illegal drug syndicates by December.

In his State of the City Address in August, the city mayor threatened to cut off support to the police illegal drug syndicates and unexplained killings remain unabated.

On Thursday, police also arrested two suspected drug dealers also in the same barangay. Twelve sachets of shabu were also seized from the suspects.

On October 1, a suspected drug pusher was also slain in a shootout in Barangay after he held a child hostage when cornered by police operatives. (with reports from Jojo Bacalanmo)

Bridge programs crucial to success of Bangsamoro

The government will have to set aside or look for additional funding amounting to P109.6 billion to ensure the success of the new Bangsamoro region that will be created following the submission of the draft basic law in Philippine Congress.

“The short-term implementation is crucial because this is where we are managing the high expectations of the people in the communities,” Dr. Saffrullah Dipatuan, chair of the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) said during the Philippine Development Forum held at the SMX Convention C enter in Davao City.

The additional funding requirement is on top of the P116 billion already appropriated for the different agencies under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Dipatuan said.

The proposed Bangsamoro Development Program, he added, has already been submitted to President Benigno Aquino III.

The bulk of the funding will go to short and medium term programs that are designed to jumpstart and pump-prime the Bangsamoro ‘economy’ and in “strategic interventions and investments to build a strong foundation for the new region.

Dipatuan however also said that “majority will be funded by the government but this will be determined after a pledging session with the donor agencies.”

“The Philippine government assured us that this plan will not remain a plan but will be implemented, especially for the short-term,” he said.

Dipatuan stressed there is a need for a sustained support from the government for the long-term.

Alam nila pag hindi nasustain, wala din (They know that if it won’t be sustained, nothing will happen),” he said.

Meanwhile, Aquino briefly graced the Philippine Development Forum held in Davao City where the BDP was to be presented to him. The president however thanked those who helped make the government-MILF peace process successful.

The Philippine government and the MILF signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), ending more than 4 decades of internecine war in predominantly Muslim areas in Mindanao.

The creation of the Bangsamoro region, which will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, is the key feature of the CAB..

“The value of lasting peace for a region like Mindanao ‘is beyond measure.’ For years, our countrymen in areas affected by conflict had been shackled by violence, injustice, and impunity; they were deprived of opportunities to succeed; and prosperity was seemingly reserved only for a few,” Aquino said.

Aquino called on foreign development partners to help the government in the rehabilitation and recovery of Mindanao.

MILF chair Al Haj Murad and other senior leaders of the MILF attended the forum, as well as representatives from the World Bank, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, United Nations Development Programme, United States Agency for International Development, the European Union and other donor agencies.

Army admits spike in gov’t-NPA clashes

A daily average of one encounter between government forces and communist-led New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in eastern Mindanao has been noted over the last 2 months, according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) chief Lt. Gen. Aurelio Balabad.

Balabad also added that 2 daily armed encounters have also been reported during the last ten days in eastern Mindanao which covers the Caraga Region, Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon, Davao Region and the provinces of South Cotabato and Sarangani in Region 12.

The latest was the fierce gun battle involving elements of the Philippine Army’ 27th Infantry Battalion who clashed with some 40 NPA rebels in Barangay Nomoh in Maasim, Sarangani Wednesday morning.

Three NPA rebels were killed while 11 high power firearms were recovered by government forces.

Philippine Army commanding general Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri inspecting the firearms recovered from the Wednesday clash between the NPAs and government forces. Three NPA rebels were killed in the fierce encounter.Photo by Edwin Espejo
Philippine Army commanding general Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri inspecting the firearms recovered from the Wednesday clash between the NPAs and government forces. Three NPA rebels were killed in the fierce encounter.Photo by Edwin Espejo

It was the second clash between the same platoon of the Philippine Army led by Lt. Bryan Bacaling who also engaged the NPA rebels in a running gunbattle Tuesday.

The slain NPA rebels were identified as Rendel Ryan Cagula, reportedly a resident of Bago Gallera in Davao City; Johnny Camag of Magsaysay in Davao del Sur; and Fredi Ayog of Islome in Maasim.

Rebel stronghold

Lt. Gen Baladad said 53 percent of the 4,600 NPAs throughout the country are in Mindanao with the eastern part of the island – particularly in Caraga and Davao regions – hosting the most number of NPA guerrilla fronts and armed regulars.

Lt6. Gen. Aurelio Balabad of the AFP's Eastern Mindanao Command.Photo by Edwin Espejo
Lt. Gen. Aurelio Balabad of the AFP’s Eastern Mindanao Command.Photo by Edwin Espejo

The Eastmincom chief said eastern Mindanao alone has 1,996 fully armed rebels “as of the third quarter of this year.”

Baladad also disclosed that there are 33 NPA guerrilla fronts under his area of responsibility.

He however said the AFP has emerged victorious in most of the armed clashes between government forces and the NPA rebels.

Jorge Madlos, spokesman of the National Democratic Front in Mindanao, claimed they have established 49 guerrilla fronts in Mindanao.

Balabad said the respite of fighting between the military and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has enabled the AFP to reposition their forces and focus on dismantling the guerilla fronts of the NPA.

The Philippine government and the MILF signed a peace agreement in October last year.

Balabad has two Army divisions under his command the 10th Infantry Division (ID) stationed in Mawab, Compostela and the 4th ID in Cagayan de Oro City.

Military citation

Meanwhile, Philippine Army commanding officer Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri conferred the military merit medal to the members of the platoon under Lt. Bacaling for neutralizing the NPAs.

Iriberri, who hails from Surigao City where the NPAs in Mindanao area their strongest, said proper training, community support and superior intelligence were keys to the recent success of the AFP against the communist rebels.

Cash rewards were also given to the 1002nd Brigade and the 27th and 73rd infantry battalions for recovering a total of 21 high powered firearms in less than a month of operations against the rebels.

Iriberri said they are aiming to reduce the NPAs into irrelevance by 2016.

NPA suffers heavy losses

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – Successive losses in the battlefield have put the New People’s Army (NPA) on the defensive as 3 more communist rebels were slain in Maasim, Sarangani Wednesday, November 5.

NPA rebels belonging to the Far South Mindanao Regional Command of the rebel group.Photo by Edwin Espejo
NPA rebels belonging to the Far South Mindanao Regional Command of the rebel group.Photo by Edwin Espejo

The latest NPA casualties came a day after another rebel was also killed in Barangay Lumasal as government forces launched pursuit operations against the retreating communist rebel band.

Police said 9 high-powered firearms were recovered during the encounter that resulted into the death of the NPA rebels.

Military sources said the slain rebels belonged to the same NPA unit which they encountered Tuesday.

The dead rebels are still to be identified.

This came as police authorities in Maasim identified the NPA rebel slain in the Tuesday encounter in Lumasal as one Freddie Ayog.

Ayog is reportedly a resident of nearby Barangay Nomoh.

An M-16 rifle was likewise recovered from Ayog.

Military operations are still ongoing to flush out the remaining rebels belonging to the Front 73 of the NPA’s Far South Mindanao Regional Command.

Only last month, 3 NPA rebels were also killed in Malita, Davao del Sur including Mark Bryle Garduque, said to be the platoon leader of the rebel group, in a series of running gun battles with government forces.

Garduque headed one of the NPA platoons under the Front 75 guerrilla unit of the Far South Mindanao Regional Command.

A rebel source confirmed the death of one of their top ranking commanders, including the loss of several firearms.

Capt. Ernest Carolina, spokesman of the Army’s 10th division, said 11 high-powered rifles were seized from the rebels during the October encounters in Malita.

This brought the total firearms recovered from the rebels under the Far South Mindanao command of the NPA to 21 rifles in a span of less than one month.

The spokesman of 1002nd Brigade declined to give further details of the encounter in Maasim.

He said Army Chief Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri is arriving tomorrow, November 6 and will hold a press a conference.