Sunday, March 29, 2015

NPA claims 10,000 armed combatants

From the Manila Standard Today (Mar 30): NPA claims 10,000 armed combatants

The communist New People’s Army now has more than 10,000 armed combatants in 71 provinces and 800 municipalities, according to the spokesman of the National Democratic Front in Mindanao.

Jorge Madlos, also known as Ka Oris, made the statement on Sunday to mark the NPA’s 46th anniversary.

46th anniversary. About 100 female warriors stand at attention
during ceremonies marking the National People’s Army’s 46th
anniversary in Surigao del Sur. Alvin Guanzon
He said the NPA was born on March 29, 1969, with only one guerrilla front in Tarlac.

But now the group had 110 guerrilla fronts in the whole country.

“These do not include the hundreds of thousands of Militia men and women or Milisyang Bayan and other support civilian groups,” Madlos said.

“Millions of mass and civilian supporters and sympathizers support secretly while some openly support the cause to address massive injustices and the massive human rights violations all over the country.”

Madlos made his statement even as the left-leaning Alyansang Makabayan said President Benigno Aquino III’s strategy against the NPA was a stotal failure while he was moving heaven and earth to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Group secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said Aquino was not serious about foreign a peace agreement with the NPA, which he said continued to wage war against the government.

“Aquino’s peace rhetoric is selective and in the service of a narrow political agenda,” Reyes said.

Madlos claimed that the NPA now had 47 guerrilla fronts in Mindanao alone compared with only one in 1971.

“These NPA guerrilla fronts are present in more than 200 cities and municipalities, 19 provinces and 2,300 barangays in Mindanao alone and growing” Madlos said.

He said the NPA launched 400 tactical offensives in Mindanao in 2014 compared with 250 in 2010, 530 in 2011 and more than 400 in 2011 and 2012.

He said NPA rebels captured 11 prisoners of war last year but all were treated fairly and humanely.

“They were all fairly and humanely treated and all their rights were observed, and they were all eventually released,” Madlos said.

Ka Ariel Montero, spokesman of the North-Eastern Mindanao Regional Command, claimed that in the Caraga Region alone the NPA rebels were able to make nine tactical offensives in 2014, confiscating 27 high-powered firearms and 50 pieces of hand guns and killing 190 reactionary forces and wounding 120 soldiers and militias.

“Because of our victories in the Caraga Region, the AFP has deployed seven army battalions in the entire Caraga Region, two combat battalions of the PNP and deployed more than 90 [militias],” Montero said.

2 troopers hurt as Army clashes with suspected rebels in Capiz

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 30): 2 troopers hurt as Army clashes with suspected rebels in Capiz

Two members of the 61st Infantry Battalion were wounded during a clash with suspected New People's Army (NPA) fighters at Barangay Tacayan, Tapaz town, Capiz Sunday morning.

Major Ray Tiongson, 3rd Infantry Division spokesman, said the incident took place 6 a.m.

He added that the 61st Infantry Battalion was conducting peace and development activities in the locality when fired upon by 10 armed rebels.

The exchange of gunfire lasted for five minutes and resulted in the wounding of Cpl. Niel Lagat and Pvt. Raymund De Juan.

The wounded soldiers were immediately airlifted and brought to Camp Peralta Station Hospital in Jamindan, Capiz and are now in stable condition.

Tiongson said that some rebels were wounded in the encounter and this was confirmed by blood trails in the NPAs' withdrawal route.

AFP concludes month-long offensive against BIFF

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 29): AFP concludes month-long offensive against BIFF

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) concluded on Monday the month-long military offensive focused against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao which resulted in the neutralization of more than 50 percent of the brigands' strength.

"Effective today (March 30), the all-out offensive against the BIFF would be ended. After the relentless operations against the BIFF, we have achieved our objectives, including the neutralization of more than 50 percent of their ranks, the capture of bomb factories, and the seizure of their enclaves or safe havens in different Maguindanao localities," AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said.

Operations against the BIFF started last Feb. 25 when the bandits started encroaching on civilian communities in Maguindanao and North Cotabato.

"We have accounted for 139 enemies killed, 53 wounded and 12 captured. They are now splintered into small groups to evade the pursuing soldiers. They are defeated in the battlefield by our gallant soldiers, marines and policemen," Catapang said.

In the same effort, 10 troopers were killed and another 31 wounded.

"With the cooperation extended by the local government officials, residents and even our partners in peace, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the BIFF remnants have nowhere to hide," the AFP chief stressed.

Despite the cessation of focused military offensive against the bandit group, Catapang assured the public that the military continuously pursue them in their temporary hideouts inside the Liguasan marshlands and even in the mountainous areas.

"We are now entering the new phase of our operation which is peace and development. I want to emphasize that still, we will continuously deploy forces to secure communities and deny the BIFF entry into their former enclaves in Maguindanao. We will continue to hunt down the terrorists like Basit Usman and his cohorts who are now hiding outside the conflict areas," he added.

Starting this Monday, Catapang said that the AFPwill coordinate with the regional government of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the province of Maguindanao for the safe return of the residents back to their homes.

"It is very important to note that from as high as 120,000 evacuees last month, they are now down to about 90,000 people who have remained in various evacuation centers and houses of relatives. We understand the physical and emotional challenges experienced by the non-combatants who were among those who were adversely affected by the armed conflict with the BIFF," Catapang pointed out.

"Now that we have driven out the armed BIFF members and the small group of terrorists led by Basit Usman, we will focus our attention in rebuilding the affected communities. We will help the LGUs, other government agencies, and the national government as a whole in delivering public services to the people. We will support the implementation of development projects that are intended to spur the economic activities in these areas," he stressed.

President Benigno S. Aquino III has initially approved the release of PhP67 million that would be used for various socio-economic interventions for the people of Maguindanao, including the Bridge for Peace in Barangay Tukanalipao, Schools for Peace and Roads for Peace that will benefit the people.

Catapang said they are now calling on everyone to help the people in the affected communities to go back to their normal lives and support their pursuit for lasting peace.

He added that the AFP would like to see "Maguindanao as a highly-developed area where people enjoy peace, progress and prosperity that we all want for the whole of Mindanao and the entire nation."

"Rest assured that your Armed Forces of the Philippines will remain as your partners for peace and development. We will never abandon our constitutional mandate of protecting the people from any armed aggression," the AFP chief said.

NPA says ‘lack of coordination’ led to attack on Agusan governor

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 29): NPA says ‘lack of coordination’ led to attack on Agusan governor
On the celebration of its 46th anniversary, the New People’s Army (NPA) claimed responsibility for the attack on the convoy of Agusan del Norte governor Maria Angelica Amante-Matba in Nasipit town on Thursday.

In a statement, Allan Juanito, spokesperson of the NPA’s North Central Mindanao Region, said communist guerrillas under the NPA-Western Norte-Agusan Sur Command opened fire at the six-vehicle convoy not knowing the governor was there.

Juanito then apologized for the incident blaming lack of coordination for the attack on civilians.

“We earnestly express our regret to this event. It should have been circumvented should there have been prior coordination by the governor’s party with the responsible revolutionary cadres in the said territory,” the spokesperson said.

The military earlier reported that the convoy was going to the turnover of a school in the village of Camagong when they were waylaid and fired upon by members of the NPA.

A policeman was wounded in the attack and was rushed to a hospital in Butuan City.

Juanito said, “Six-convoy vehicles of Gov. Amante entered along with armed escorts in Kamagong area despite an ongoing operation by 29th IB troop and PNP-Nasipit personnel in the boundary of Carmen and Nasipit towns.”

He reminded politicians to avoid bringing armed escorts in areas identified as territories of the communist movement.

“We would just reiterate our notice to politicians and personalities entering our base areas … to refrain from bringing their arms, and if carrying such be necessary, to coordinate with the respective personnel in the territory so that a proper permit would be issued,” Juanito’s statement said.

He added, “It is also appropriate for them upon entry to investigate beforehand whether combat operations of AFP and PNP are ongoing in order to evade from being unnecessarily caught in the crossfire once an armed encounter takes place.”

Peace advocates have been calling on the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) to resume peace negotiations to address the root causes of the conflict that has caused numerous casualties and damage to properties.

In the Hague Joint Declaration in 1992, both parties agreed to tackle substantive agenda including human rights and international humanitarian law, socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

In March 1998, both parties signed the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

The government and the NDF have already formulated their drafts for the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (Caser) but have not made progress since the talks collapsed.

The NDF is asserting that the government should release political prisoners and NDF consultants that were captured by government forces as agreed upon by the previously signed agreements to jumpstart the stalled talks.

The NPA led by the Communist Party of the Philippines, which is fighting a guerrilla war for more than four decades, is known for sustaining one of the longest running communist rebellions in Asia.

Malaysia readies offshore military bases as Mindanao peace process shudders

From GMA News (Mar 29): Malaysia readies offshore military bases as Mindanao peace process shudders

Malaysia is preparing offshore military bases to intercept potential refugees from Mindanao in the event of a breakdown of the peace process between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a Malaysian news site reported Sunday.

The military bases in the Sulu Sea are to be operational by April and are meant to address a potential influx of “hundreds of thousands” of displaced southern Filipinos, The Star Online reported.
“If the peace process can’t go through in June then it means war. Twelve years of talks and because of one incident, they will have war,” it quoted defense minister
Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein as saying.

The report said Hishammuddin was referring to the Jan. 25 clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, which left 44 Special Action Force troopers and some MILF fighters and civilians dead.

Also, Hishammuddin said security forces were also preparing for the possibility of the displaced people trying to escape a war.

“If we have a wall of offshore bases, we may have a chance to stop the exodus of people,” he said, adding that Malaysia had to take precautionary measures should the tension spill over to Sabah.

PAF's S-211 to get environmental control system upgrade

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 29): PAF's S-211 to get environmental control system upgrade

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) has allocated PhP39,614,257.57 for the acquisition of spares needed for the upgrading of the environmental control system of one of its SIAI-Marchetti S-211 jet aircraft.

The environmental control system provides air supply, thermal control and cabin pressurization for the crew and passengers.

Avionics cooling, smoke detection, and fire suppression are also commonly considered part of an aircraft's environmental control system.

Pre-bid conference is scheduled for March 30 at 11 the PAF Procurement Center Conference Room, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City. On the other hand, bid opening and submission is scheduled for April 14 at 9 a.m. at the same venue.

Prospective bidders should have an experience in similar project within the last five years.

The PAF operates three to five S-211s and uses it for air defense and attack missions.

NPA leader arrested in Bicol

From the Philippine Star posted to ABS-CBN (Mar 29): NPA leader arrested in Bicol

Government security forces arrested an alleged leader of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Matnog, Sorsogon last Friday.

The arrest of Arsenio Guellas, who uses the aliases Ka Gapa and Ka Insoy, came as the Armed Forces of the Philippines braced for possible attacks by the Communist Party of the Philippines, which is celebrating its 46th founding anniversary today. The NPA is the CPP’s armed wing.

Guellas was said to be the commanding officer of the NPA’s provincial operational command in Sorsogon.

The military has been on alert since noon yesterday until tomorrow to thwart possible attacks by the rebels.

Aside from being an NPA leader, the military tagged Guellas as a member of the executive committee of the Bicol regional party command of the CPP.

“Guellas was arrested at the house of a certain Ricky Gardo in Barangay Ginablan Occidental at about 11:40 a.m.,” AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said.

A caliber .45 pistol and bullets, a magazine for an Ingram machine pistol and an improvised explosive device were seized by the Army and police troops from Guellas.
Cabunoc said Guellas faces murder and frustrated murder charges.