2 Abu Sayyaf Group leaders, 6 members arrested in Sabah

Robie de Guzman   •   May 10, 2021   •   676

MANILA, Philippines — Two alleged sub-leaders and six members of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) were nabbed in Jalan Taman Sri Arjuna, Beaufort, Sabah, a military official said Monday.

In a statement, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) chief Lieutenant General Corleto Vinluan Jr. said the joint operation that occurred around 3 a.m. on Saturday, May 8, was jointly conducted by troops from the AFP and the Malaysia’s Eastern Sabah Southern Command (ESSCOM).

The military identified the arrested persons as Sansibar Bensio, and Mabar Binda, both sub-leaders of the Eastern Sulu-based Abu Sayyaf Group;

Muayyar Binda, a certain Sansis, and a certain Firdaus, who are all under Mabar Binda; Lugah Sanchez and Bonijar Samsula, both members under the late ASG sub-leader Juhurim Hussein (Patikul-based); and Alim Sukarno, a member under Sansibar Bensio.

According to Joint Task Force Sulu commander Maj. Gen. William Gonzales, Bensio and Binda are both sub-leaders of the Abu Sayyaf Group/Kidnap-for-Ransom Group based on the eastern/second district of Sulu.

“They are involved in the series of armed confrontations with the military including the encounter on July 2011 at Sitio Tubig Magtuh, Barangay Panglayahan, Patikul, Sulu wherein the late 2nd Lt. Michael Baladad of the Philippine Marines was beheaded,” Gonzales said.

The military said the two were also involved in the encounters at Bay Sunog, Bud Bawis Complex in February 2018 that resulted in the deaths of five ASG members;  Sitio Jatih, Bud Bawis Complex in December 2019 that resulted in the rescue of two Indonesian nationals and the death of the late ASG sub-leader Hairulla Abduraja; and the encounter at Bay Takas, Bud Bawis Complex in November 2020 that resulted in the deaths of ASG member Bensio Barahama and sub-leader Hatib Munap Binda.

“Bensio was also involved in the kidnapping of foreign nationals identified as Lorenzo Vinciguerra (Swiss National), Ewold Horn (Dutch National), Samiun Bin Maneu (Indonesian National), Maharudin Bin Lunani (Indonesian National), and Muhammad Farhan (Indonesian National),” the AFP-WestMinCom said.

The group also victimized several Filipinos, including Ronnie Sandagon, Jerel Pepito, Eddie Reubal, Marcial España, Arvin Sabaduquia, Rufino Bustillo, Joseph Bani, Hajan Terong, Joshua Bani, and Michelle Tolentino Panes.

Binda, on the other hand, was also involved in the kidnapping of the Indonesian nationals mentioned above.

According to 4th Marine Brigade Commander Col. Hernanie Songano, the now-apprehended group of ASG bandits fled to Sabah where they established an ASG cell after they were forced out of the province of Sulu due to focused military operations and civil-military cooperation.

“The intensified intelligence operations and the support of the community coupled with the constant coordination between the AFP and the ESSCOM contributed to the successful neutralization of the ASG sub-leaders and their cohorts. The arrest of these terrorists is a big blow to the ASG” Vinluan said.

“My congratulations to the troops of the Joint Task Force Sulu and the ESSCOM for the aggressive measures taken to ensure that these terrorists will not be able to conduct horrendous activities anymore particularly off waters of Sabah” he added.

PH Air Force receives last batch of S-70i Black Hawk helicopters – AFP

Robie de Guzman   •   December 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Air Force has completed its fleet of S-70i Black Hawk helicopters, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said.

In a statement, the AFP said the third and final batch of choppers have been delivered and turned over to the Philippine Air Force.

The formal acceptance and turnover of five additional helicopters was held at the Clark Air Base on Friday, December 3.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and AFP chief of staff Lieutenant General Andres Centino led the ceremony, which was also witnessed by other military and government officials.

The AFP said the five helicopters were part of the total 16 units ordered by the military.

The first batch of six was delivered in November 2020 while the other five received in October this year, it added.

The S-70i Black Hawk helicopters are being used in transporting COVID-19 vaccine supplies to far-flung and hard to reach areas in the country.

These units are also being used to support various military missions, including quick response for humanitarian aid.

Duterte names Army chief Centino as next AFP chief

Robie de Guzman   •   November 12, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has designated Philippine Army chief Lieutenant General Andres Centino as the new chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Malacañang said Friday.

“We confirm that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte approved and signed the designation of LGEN Andres Centino as Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) effective November 12, 2021,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.

Centino will replace General Jose Faustino Jr. who is retiring from service as he reaches the mandatory age of 56.

“We are confident that Gen. Centino will continue the initiatives of his predecessors to bring lasting peace and development in the country while securing the State and upgrading our defense capability,” Roque said.

“We wish the success of Gen. Centino in his new role as AFP Chief,” he added.

Centino is a member of the Philippine Military Academy Maringal Class of 1988.

Meanwhile, the AFP said Centino’s designation “will prompt an upward movement in the AFP leadership that will further inspire our soldiers to surpass challenges with excellence and continue our campaign towards genuine transformation.”

“He has immense knowledge and experience in leading our troops on the ground and in supporting peaceful efforts to protect our people against various threats,” AFP spokesperson Colonel Ramon Zagala said in a separate statement.

“His integrity, management acumen and genuine desire for peace and development make him a competent leader who shall guide the AFP in fulfilling its mission while supporting national efforts to battle the current pandemic,” he added.

Prior to his appointment, Centino served as AFP deputy chief of staff for operations and infantry division commander in Northern Mindanao.

Military Black Hawk choppers deployed to aid missions in Western Mindanao

Robie de Guzman   •   November 5, 2021

Two Black Hawk helicopters acquired by the Philippine military have been deployed to the Western Mindanao, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Friday.

In a statement, the AFP Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) said its major Air Force Unit, Tactical Operations Wing-Western Mindanao (TOW-WM), has received the S70i Black Hawk Utility helicopters on November 4 at the Edwin Andrews Air Base.

These units will be used to aid in various missions, including support in combat operations and quick response for humanitarian aid, it added.

“We are very grateful that the top brass considered the deployment of these air assets which will greatly contribute to the accomplishment of our missions here in Western Mindanao,” said WestMinCom Commander, Maj. Gen. Alfredo Rosario, Jr.

Colonel Dennis Estrella, wing commander of the TOW-WM, said that the deployment of the Blackhawk helicopters will boost the capability of the armed forces in both lethal and non-lethal operations.

“Expect that with the deployment of the Black Hawk helicopters in our unit, our operations will greatly improve as these helicopters have larger capacity and more impressive horsepower allowing a faster and longer-range transport. In addition, the said helicopters have the ability to absorb high-impact velocities enabling it to withstand strong turbulent winds,” Estrella said.

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