Friday, February 21, 2014

NPA leader killed in Calatrava battle

From the Visayan Daily Star (Feb 22): NPA leader killed in Calatrava battle
An alleged leader of the New People's Army, believed to be among those who harassed a temporary military outpost Monday in Brgy. Winaswasan, Calatrava, Negros Occidental, was found dead yesterday, the military said.

Lt. Col. Efren Morados, 62 nd Infantry Battalion commander, yesterday said the cadaver of Lorfe Bagaforo, alias Trese, vice-squad leader of the Sentro De Grabidad Platoon of the Northern Negros Front, was positively identified and claimed by his mother, Dormitiya.

Morados said Bagaforo, who succumbed to multiple gunshot wounds, is believed to have been hit, when members of the 62IB Bayanihan Team, retaliated, after being fired at by about 16 rebels Monday night in Sitio Aniya, Brgy, Winaswasan, Calatrava.

He said the sporadic exchange of fire lasted for five to seven minutes, and the rebels withdrew, leaving heavy traces of bloodstains, a live round of a M-203 grenade launcher, 17 rounds from a M-16 assault rifle, a magazine of a M-14 rifle, and a backpack containing subversive documents.

The body of Bagaforo, that was already in an advanced state of decomposition, was found in a sugarcane field in Sitio Guinpungtan, Brgy. Hilub-ang, which is adjacent to Brgy, Winaswasan, Calatrava.

No casualty was reported on the government side.

Morados said he believes three other rebels were injured, as indicated by the presence of bloodstains in the area, where the rebels had positioned themselves while harassing the 62IB Bayanihan team members.

About 30 Bayanihan teams were deployed by the 303 rd Infantry Brigade to assist the provincial government and multi-sectoral groups in addressing the concerns of residents in conflict-affected communities of Escalante City, Toboso and Calatrava.

Bagaforo's body was retrieved by Hilub-ang barangay residents headed by their village chairman, Edgar Dawlong Yangyang, who turned it over to the 62IB and the Calatrava police.

Maj. Gen. Aurelio Baladad,3 rd Infantry Division commander, in a statement, he issued, extended his sympathy to the family and friends of Bagaforo.

“It is tragic that he had taken arms against the people of Negros”, Baladad said.

“To those who might have been wounded during the encounter, we are ready to extend our help through medical assistance,” he added.

On September last year, Hergon Llorente, alias Ka Boboy, a squad leader of the NNF Sentro De Grabidad, also died in an encounter with the 62IB in Brgy. Puey, Sagay City. His body was also discovered in a sugarcane field in Sitio Vergara, Brgy. Bug-ang, Toboso, military records also show.

In successive encounters in the boundary of Toboso and Sagay City, two suspected rebels were captured by the military and police, who also recovered nine high-powered firearms, including M-16, M14 and AK-47 assault rifles, and two .45-caliber pistols.

Baladad lauded the local government officials and residents of Calatrava for this efforts in providing information that led to the successful conduct of peace and development operations in their area.

4 slay suspects nabbed in Basilan

From MindaNews (Feb 21): 4 slay suspects nabbed in Basilan

Police arrested four suspects behind the brutal killing three days ago of two septuagenarian farm owners and their five-year-old granddaughter in Basilan province.

Killed on Monday at their farmhouse in Barangay Switch Yakal, Lantawan, Basilan were Pablo Guerrero, 74, his wife, Teresa, 72, and their granddaughter, Trixie, 5.

The victims were killed while they were visiting their farm in Lantawan. They were from Barangay Boalan, this city.

First to be arrested was Rigoberto Erasga, a resident of Barangay Talisayan, this city who had been staying for two weeks at the farm of the victims.

Senior Insp. Edilberto Alvarez, Police Station 9 chief, said Erasga was arrested around 6 p.m. Tuesday in Barangay Cawit, this city.

Alvarez said Erasga was arrested following a tip-off from the suspects’ relatives, and was turned over to the police of Lantawan.

Chief Insp. Basirin Hassan, Lantawan police chief, said they arrested the other two suspects namely Ricky Toledo and Alty Falcasantos after Erasga named them as among his accomplices.

Hassan said Toledo and Falcasantos were arrested in a follow-up operation Wednesday afternoon in Barangay Switch Yakal, Lantawan.

Hassan said the fourth suspect identified as Edgar Makiling was arrested Thursday also in Barangay Switch Yakal.

The police official said criminal charges have been filed Thursday against the suspects, who were committed to the Basilan Provincial Jail.

Military to file protest before ceasefire body vs 2 MILF commanders

From MindaNews (Feb 21): Military to file protest before ceasefire body vs 2 MILF commanders

The military is set to file protest today before the Government of the Philippines- Moro Islamic Liberation Front Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) against two MILF commanders for alleged extortion and harassment of farmers.

602nd Infantry Brigade spokesperson Capt. Tony Bulao said they will file the protest against Commanders Karim and Tarzan.

Bulao said the two MILF commanders were blocking roads and demanding zakat (shares) from the produce of farmers in Barangays Tongogon and Tupig in Carmen, North Cotabato.

“We believe the hierarchy of MILF is not tolerating any misdeeds of their men who are bringing suffering to local folks, so we are bringing this protest,” the Army official said.

The alleged acts of Karim and Tarzan triggered skirmishes between MILF fighters and civilians and armed men believed to members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by Commander Teo Minanimbong.

A 30-minute gunfight erupted Thursday when MNLF fighters attempted to provide safe passage for the farmers. Two MILF fighters, a village councilor and another civilian were wounded in the incident, Bulao said.

Col. Alan Arrojado, commander of the 602nd Brigade, urged the local government and all parties involved to meet today and resolve the conflict.

MILF spokesperson Von Al Haq said they will look into the complaint, and assured a thorough investigation.

He, however, said he was not discounting the possibility that a third party could have provoked the incident “to make these fellow Moro relatives fight to each other to discredit our organization,” Al Haq said in a local radio interview.

The incident came a day after the MILF said it would file a formal complaint before the CCCH over the death of one of its commanders Monday, February 17, in Barangay Madidis, Datu Paglas, Maguindanao.

Al Haq said they have informed their counterparts in the government panel that police operatives violated the truce by targeting Yusoph Kusain a.k.a. Commander TMX.

Kusain was killed when he reportedly tried to resist arrest by police and Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission operatives.

“There was no coordination. After all the target is not a notorious criminal, he is a bona fide member of MILF, a farmer in the said town. He is not what they think he is,” Al haq said.

But police regional director Supt. Noel Delos Reyes said the police operation was legitimate and did not violate any rules of engagement.

He said the police came to Kusain’s house to serve a warrant of arrest.

AFP Bayanihan Sustains Grounds in Winning the Peace

From the Negros Daily Bulletin (Feb 21): AFP Bayanihan Sustains Grounds in Winning the Peace

"For 2013, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), supported by various sectoral stakeholders, through the Bayanihan Team efforts, has sustained and even soared in winning the peace in Western Visayas." Thus said Maj. Ray Tiongson, chief, DPAO, 3rd ID. in an emailed press release.

He said, during the recent Integration, Peace and Development Forum hosted by the Province of Negros Occidental, Maj. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, commander, 3rd Infantry Divsion, Philippine Army, that covers the Negros, Guimaras and Panay Islands, reported that "the Division was able to neutralize 66 members of the CPP-NPA-NDF, where 44 have abandoned the armed struggle and joined the mainstream society; 17 were arrested with warrants, captured and apprehended; and 5 were killed during the encounters.

Baladad said, the return of several NPA members to democratic folds and the abandonment of their camps, are indications of the waning CNN organization in the region. No less than the former rebels who said having realized that armed struggle is a futile cause and not the solution to our societal problems. They have also seen the efforts of the military, the local government units and agencies, civil society organizations, and the citizens who have been working together in the spirit of Bayanihan in addressing the issues especially in the countryside.

During the year, the 3ID also recovered 20 High Powered Firearms (HPFAs) and 41 Low Powered Firearms (LPFAs) in 2013; most of the firearms were traded for peace by the former rebels who have joined the mainstream society (8-HPFA; 29-LPFA), while others were either recovered during encounters or captured from those who were arrested or apprehended.

Aside from these, in 2013, the 3rd ID also declared the Province of Antique as Manageable Conflict-Affected and Development-Ready where CNN capabilities were degraded from further expansion of their group, and of waging isolated armed conflict in the province. There has been no record of encounter with the NPA in the last two years in the province of Antique. While the province of Aklan has been declared as insurgency-free in December 2011, the report said.

For attaining such accomplishments where Negros Occidental has the most number of captured NPA camps and NPA surrenderers, the Central Command in the Visayas based in Camp Lapu-lapu, Cebu City, led by commander Maj. Gen. John Bonafos, has awarded the Peace and Bayanihan Award to Gov. Alfredo Marañon, Jr. of Negros Occidental, for the active involvement of the province in the Bayanihan campaign.

Last December 19, 2013, the governor of Capiz, Victor Tanco was also given the AFP Peace and "Bayanihan" award as partner from the local government unit that significantly contributed to the AFP’s mission in "Winning the Peace".

MGen Bonafos said, "Winning the peace cannot be done by the AFP or the PNP alone. We need the concerted efforts of every citizen and for each to lend a helping hand for peace to reign and development to happen in this part of our country. The vigilance of the citizens in reporting the presence of lawless armed elements, coupled with intensified peace and development activities, 44 NPA camps were captured, 24 of which are in Negros, and 20 in Panay.

While Baladad said, "We are also looking forward that other provinces in Western Visayas will be soon free from communist influence. We are on the positive course as far as our `Dagyaw Para sa Kalinaw’ campaign is concerned. We will continue our efforts for this year and work even more together with other stakeholders in pursuing our goal for the region to be free from insurgency, and move faster towards development," added Baladad.

NPA rebels claim attacks on military forces in Southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner (Feb 21): NPA rebels claim attacks on military forces in Southern Philippines

Communist rebels took responsibility for attacking government troops in the southern Philippine provinces of Davao del Sur and North Cotabato that killed at least 8 infantrymen.

Isabel Fermiza, a spokesperson for the New People’s Army, said the rebel offensive was launched by the Guerrilla Front 51 Operations Command under the Mount Apo Sub-regional Command, in Digos and Makilala towns and targeted the 39th Infantry Battalion under the 10th Infantry Division.

Fermiza said rebel forces bombed an army detachment in the village of Old Bulatukan in Makilala town and ambushed troop in Goma village in Digos City.

“Eight fascist troops were killed while nine were wounded from the command detonated explosives and actual combat. The NPA confiscated one M14 rifle, several backpacks and medical kits. One Red fighter, Ka Jiboy, was martyred and two other NPA guerrillas were wounded,” Fermiza said.

“The offensives were aimed at the 39th Infantry Battalion’s forward deployment in Makilala and Tulunan towns in North Cotabato, expanding its former territorial jurisdiction which covered all towns of Davao del Sur. Arrogant and fascist to the core, the 39th Infantry Battalion swaggers as the 10th Infantry Division’s biggest battalion, in a desperate move to widen its area of abuses.”

Fermiza said government soldiers were also behind the detention of indigenous villagers, who were just hunting in the forest of Makilala town, and interrogated them for many hours until local officials pleaded for the safe release of the innocent civilians - Elorde Panggilan, Denis Panggilan, Dexter Panggilan, Ariel Panggilan, Randy Emban, Lodring Emban, Ryan Baclao, Jonel de Guzman, Wowie de Guzman, Henry Ando and Roel de Vera.

“The incident was a prelude to more abusive activities by the 39th Infantry Battalion Special Operations Teams in Makilala, ranging from psychological warfare, forced surrender, and encampment in civilian structures in all of the town’s barangays (villages). In one instance, soldiers, in a display of cowardice and desperation, took pictures of attendance sheets of a village meeting to identify leaders and members of peasant organizations,” Fermiza said.

The 10th Infantry Division has earlier declared Davao del Sur as free from rebel influence. There was no immediate reaction from army officials about Fermiza’s allegations.

The NPA has been fighting for the establishment of a Maoist state in the country.

MILF: Editorial -- In this case, enabler not arbiter

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Feb 22): In this case, enabler not arbiter

The 1987 Constitution of the Philippines, as in the past constitutions, vests the power of government on the legislative, executive, and the judiciary. The Legislative Power is vested in the Congress of the Philippines which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives, except to the extent reserved to the people by the provision on initiative and referendum. The Executive Power is vested in the President of the Philippines; and the Judicial Power is vested in one Supreme Court and in such lower courts as may be established by law.
This is the rule, nay the law, pursuant to the Constitution, and it has to be followed. However, in the case of the deliberation and passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) by Congress, special attention has to be drawn to the fact that the substance of the proposed law shall capture the essence and spirit of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and its four Annexes and the Addendum on the Bangsamoro Waters, which is a product of 17 years of negotiation between the Bangsamoro people represented by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) in which Congress is part of that equation.  The MILF did not negotiate merely with the executive branch of the Philippine government but with the GPH as a whole. 

Therefore, Congress, as representative of the people and as an integral part of the GPH, is very much a part of this process; so rather than characterize the role of Congress as an “arbiter”, the truth of the matter is that Congress is an enabler that will make the agreements of the parties for sustainable peace and development in Mindanao happen.

Someone from government is quoted to have said that the “arbiter” of all these “grey areas” in these signed agreements is Congress of the Philippines. This is not a very correct characterization. There is no arbiter or judge in this process. What we have is a negotiated settlement for peace between the MILF, representing the Bangsamoro people and the Government of the Philippines. Congress is an enabler that is willing to transform the basic agreements of the parties into a basic law. An arbiter is an impartial judge that has no interest in the outcome of what is brought to its attention. This is not applicable to this process.

We are not saying here, however, that Congress has no power over the shaping of the BBL; it has but being composed of honorable men and women, we firmly believe that their collective wisdom would ensure that a good legislation in the form of the BBL is in the offing.

This is our strong belief and wish. To repeat, we believe that Congress would pass a good legislation that would address and finally put to rest the armed conflict in Mindanao.

Mindanao CSOs to help campaign for Bangsamoro Basic Law passage and ratification

From the MILF Website (Feb 20): Mindanao CSOs to help campaign for Bangsamoro Basic Law passage and ratification

Forty-one civil society organizations in Mindanao vowed to campaign for the passage and ratification of Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in Congress and campaign for its ratification during the plebiscite. 
Under the umbrella of the Mindanao Civil Society Organizations Platform for Peace (MCSOPP), the group said in a resolution, “We continue to commit and offer all-out support to the rollout of measures leading to the establishment of the Bangsamoro, from pushing for Congressional enactment of the BBL to ensuring informed consent among the people during the plebiscite to ratify it.”

They added, ““We will do everything to help pave the way for the successful birth of the Bangsamoro entity by noon of June 30, 2016.”
The resolution was signed during the Mindanao CSO (Civil Society Organizations) Leaders Peace Summit at the Royal Mandaya Hotel on Tuesday on February 1-12, 2014.

The BBL is currently drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) chaired by Mohagher Iqbal, concurrently the chairman of Moro Islamic Liberation Front Peace Panel.

Chairman Iqbal asked the CSO leaders to fast-track consultations on the basic law so the Commission can submit the draft to Congress by March 31.

He said that BTC is going to organize a special committee that will process the feedbacks and recommendations of the consultations for consideration by the 15-member Commission during the drafting of the bill.

The event carried the theme “Developing Synergies and Enhanced Cooperation in Accompanying the Transition Towards Bangsamoro.”

Key note speaker Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Quintos Deles  informed the peace summit delegates that the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) will be signed soon, “and that both houses of Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives, will treat the proposed BBL as a priority legislative agenda.”

The CAB, the final peace truce between the Philippine Government and the MILF, will contain the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and its annexes on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities, Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing, Power Sharing, and Normalization, as well as the Addendum on Bangsamoro Waters.

“A rightful and just conclusion to the Moro rebellion must also unleash a transformative process among Mindanao’s grassroots communities,” Atty. Mary Ann Arnado, MCSOPP secretariat head, stressed.

The CSO leaders reaffirmed their strong commitment to continue accompanying the peace process between the GPH and the MILF during the peace summit.

Through consultations , the BTC with the CSOs elicit ideas and recommendations from various stakeholders to come up with in inclusive Bangsamoro basic law which is hoped to bring peace and development in the land of promise.

MILF: Sulu warmly welcomes BTC consultation

From the MILF Website (Feb 22): Sulu warmly welcomes BTC consultation

JOLO, SULU --- A day after they were jeered at in Zamboanga City, officials of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) were warmly received February 13 by no less than Sulu Provincial Governor Abdusakur “Totoh” A. Tan II and his father Vice-Governor Abdusakar M. Tan.
Groups of men and women in Jolo port held tarpaulins bearing words of welcome. Major intersections of downtown Jolo all the way to the provincial capitol in Patikul had billboards with greetings of the provincial governor.

Together with the town mayors, board members and the province’s two congressmen, the Tans joyfully shook hands with the delegation headed by BTC Chairman Mohagher Iqbal, a sharp contrast to the lukewarm and almost rude treatment they got from Zamboanga City local executives.

Native Sulu delicacies were served as breakfast for the commissioners and their staff who had to leave Zamboanga City on very early Thursday morning boat ride.

The Tausugs were not only genuinely hospitable but polished in manners when dealing with guests.

This, inspite of the fact that Sulu is the traditional stronghold of the Moro National Liberation Front whose founding Chairman Nur Misuari has openly criticized the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB).

In a multi-sectoral organized by the provincial government, there were anti-FAB statements but none were delivered harshly.


Most of the questions raised concerned about the Bangsamoro identity, the fate of the GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement of 1996 and the Bangsamoro Waters.

Iqbal explained to the large crowd at Sumadja Hall within the capitol complex that the MILF has just continued the assertion of Bangsamoro identity which was formally proclaimed by Moro ancestors in the Zamboanga Declaration of 1924. That historic document, according to Iqbal, “has demonstrated the political consciousness of our ancestors as one distinct nation, and ascribed upon themselves the proud name of Bangsamoro.”

As expected, MNLF sympathizers wanted clarifications on how the FAB would affect the agreement of 1996.

Iqbal said the FAB stands on the gains of the almost 18-year old agreement and that the 42 consensus points achieved by the Tripartite Review would probably be incorporated into the Bangsamoro Basic Law. The Annex on Power Sharing, Iqbal said, calls for the BTC to “undertake an inventory of the powers and consider the proposed recommendations from the review process” of the GPH and MNLF for possible incorporation into the basic law.

Congressman Tupay Loong of Sulu’s 1st District also stressed that he would personally see to it that the consensus points would be incorporated into the BBL so that there would be “one organic law for both the MNLF and MILF.”

In the midst of the speculations that the Sulu Sea would be “taken away” and be renamed as Bangsamoro sea, lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo of the MILF technical working group emphasized that far being dispossessed by any group the Sulu Sea would be returned to its rightful owners, the Tausugs.

He explained that the Addendum on Bangsamoro Waters secures for the Tausugs their preferential rights over the resources of their sea and their rightful share on the possible oil exploration in Mapun Island and elsewhere in the vast Sulu Sea.

Under the present ARMM organic act, neither the municipalities nor the provinces of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi gain anything from the on-going oil explorations under what is termed as Service Contract 56.

Sulu Sea and the Moro Gulf, which are now territorially delineated as Bangsamoro Waters, would always remain to be called in their original names, Sinarimbo stressed.

CPP/NPA: Kasinungalingan nina Col. Kakilala at police chief Oliquiano, lantad na

Posted to the CPP Website (Feb 20): Kasinungalingan nina Col. Kakilala at police chief Oliquiano, lantad na (Lies by Col Kaikala and police chief Oliquiano)

Samuel Guerrero
NPA Sorsogon Provincial Operations Command (Celso Minguez Command)
MALAKING kahihiyan ang sinapit kahapon nina 903rd Infantry Brigade commander Col. Joselito Kakilala at Sorsogon City PNP chief P/Supt. Aarne Oliquiano sa desisyon ng piskalya na ibasura ang kasong isinampa nila kay Bryan Gallega.

Isinaad sa resolusyon ni Sorsogon City Prosecutor Alma Zacarias nitong Pebrero 19 na walang sapat na ebidensya para sampahan ng anumang kaso si Gallega. Si Gallega ang sibilyang dinakip ng mga pulis matapos nilang makasagupa ang isang grupo ng NPA sa Barangay Cabid-an, Sorsogon City noong Enero 30. Matatandaang nag-imbento ng istorya sina Col. Kakilala at P/Supt. Oliquiano upang palabasing mandirigma ng NPA si Gallega at ang pinsan niyang si Henry Orbena na pinatay ng mga pulis.

Binatikos ng piskal ang iligal na pag-aresto kay Gallega at ipinag-utos ang pagpapalaya sa kanya.

Nauna rito, pinatunayan ng mga upisyal at residente ng Barangay Salvacion, Irosin, Sorsogon na ang magpinsang Gallega at Orbena ay mga sibilyang residente ng barangay. Gumawa rin ng sertipikasyon ang Peter Paul Philippines Corporation na empleyado nito ang magpinsan.

Sina Col. Kakilala at P/Supt. Oliquiano na lamang ang hindi nagsasabi ng totoo. Hindi sila dapat hayaang tumakas sa kanilang pananagutan sa dalawang biktima.

Self-confessed NPA leader surrenders to authorities

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 21): Self-confessed NPA leader surrenders to authorities

A young man who claims to be a member of the rebel New People’s Army (NPA) in Negros Oriental for at least four years on Friday voluntarily surrendered to authorities through the assistance of Rep. George Arnaiz of the province’s 2nd congressional district.

Rep. Arnaiz facilitated late Thursday a meeting and negotiations between “Martin” (not his real name) and officials of the 79th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, headed by Lt. Col. Harold Anthony Pascua at the solon’s residence in Datagon for his surrender.

Early Friday, “Martin”, 22, a resident of Purok Rosal in Datagon, agreed to surrender to the 79th IB but requested that his 16-year old girlfriend and an uncle accompany him to the battalion headquarters in Siaton town, about an hour’s drive south of this capital.

“Martin” had earlier told the congressman that he wanted to return to a normal life outside of the underground movement but feared retaliation if his surrender was publicized, authorities said.

Dr. Jesus Cañete of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and a lady lawyer were invited to get the sworn statement of the young man to ensure that he was given the proper treatment and his rights were not violated.

Early on, “Martin” was cooperative by giving out vital information to authorities but later allegedly flip-flopped following a call on his mobile phone, which, according to Dr. Cañete, had apparently convinced the young man to not sign the sworn statement.

Dr. Cañete clarified that the CHR does not have a role in the procedures in the surrender of an NPA member but his role was to make sure due process was observed and to prevent accusations later on of alleged human rights violations, such as arbitrary detention and the like.

Because of this, the Philippine Army and the CHR had to bring in the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Siaton to facilitate the release of “Martin” and ensure that he, his girlfriend and his uncle were in good hands when they left the premises of the 79th IB headquarters.

Insp. Juvenal Rado, Siaton PNP chief, led a team who took custody of “Martin” and his companions and brought them to the town proper where they took a public transport to an unknown destination.

“Martin”, alias Chesam and Bernie, in an interview told reporters that he joined the NPA when he was still 17 years old due to a dysfunctional family where he witnessed domestic violence as a child. He is the eldest of five siblings.

According to him, he was on AWOL (absent without leave) with the NPA since June 2013 after he was on DA (disciplinary action) status, and had worked at the poultry farm of the Arnaiz family later. He did not mention what violation he had committed in the NPA but said it was not serious enough to warrant being killed by his former “comrades”, he added.

“Martin” said nobody convinced him to surrender and that he later decided on his own to leave the NPA for good and live a normal life because of his girlfriend that he hopes to marry someday. He told the congressman he wanted to leave the rebel movement.

He said he acquiesced to the invitation of the 79th IB to “clear his name” so he can live peacefully back in mainstream society.

He claimed to have carried an M-60 machine gun for about four days only to replace a certain “Maisa” but was mostly operating as a “political guide” with the NPA’s South East Front of the Komiteng Rehiyon Negros. He also disclosed of hardships and sacrifices within the NPA.

Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Pascua stressed that this is the first time during his term as 79th IB commander that a member of the NPA has voluntarily surrendered through a political leader. Pascua had assumed command just last February 10.

Pascua hopes that other local government officials will follow the example of Rep. Arnaiz and help in convincing the remnants of the NPA to peacefully lay down their arms and return to the folds of the law.

He said that “Martin” is entitled to every government benefit as a rebel returnee provided that he submits himself to the usual processes and be documented following his surrender.

13 rebels surrender to SOLCOM after years of clashing with gov’t. troops

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 21): 13 rebels surrender to SOLCOM after years of clashing with gov’t. troops

Three communist New People’s Army rebels from Camarines Sur and Occidental Mindoro gave up and surrendered their firearms recently to Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) forces after years of clashing with government authorities.

In a report on Friday, SOLCOM commander Lt. Gen. Caesar Ronnie F. Ordoyo disclosed the three dissidents surrendered to SOLCOM troops during separate operations this week in Camarines Sur and Occidental Mindoro which are under the command’s area of responsibility.

Lt. Gen. Ordoyo said the surrender of the three rebels brought to 13 insurgents who are now under SOLCOM’s custody for the social integration program here after they have been neutralized since January this year.

Included in the list of rebel-returnees is George Geluz also known as Mario Dela Cruz and sports the alias “Mulong” as the former Secretary of the dissident Bicol Regional Party Committee.

The two other returnees into the government’s fold are Ramil C. Burigas alias Ka Jake and 39-year old Pascual Rodigues alias Adam or Arvin of Barangay Armado, Abra de Ilog, Occidental Mindoro.

Burigas abandoned the underground movement and voluntarily surrendered on Feb. 13 to SOLCOM soldiers.

He also turned over his 9mm pistol and other war items such as improvised explosive device, a six-wired blasting cap, detonating cords, electrical wires and one detonator switch.

Burigas also turned in assorted hard copies and 47 compact disk formats of subversive documents to the military authorities.

On the other hand, Rodigues yielded to government troops on Thursday at the Capitol Compound, Barangay Poblacion 9 in Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro.

Rodrigues, a self-confessed gunner of the Regional Yunit Guerilla, Southern Tagalog Regional Party Committee (RYG-STRPC) also surrendered his original shotgun with six ammunitions.

“The surrender of the rebels indicates the communist and terrorist organization has weakened and the returnees must have realized the futility of engaging in armed violence that only hampers our country’s economic development,” the SOLCOM commander said.

Lt. Gen. Ordoyo stressed that while they are focusing on securing communities, SOLCOM also encourages more returnees especially those who want to abandon the armed struggle and start a new life.

“As we continue to support national government’s thrust to maintain peace and development in the countryside, we sustain our social integration program and call on our brothers and sisters to come down and return into the fold of government and lead normal lives,” Ordoyo said.

But, the SOLCOM commanding general however said the military will continue to protect people and communities and meet force to force if the rebels resort to armed violence and terroristic acts.

He reported that government forces in fact sustain their regular combat patrol and mentioned the recent clash with NPA rebels early this week at the boundary of Barangay Salvacion and Barangay Patalunan, Ragay, Camarines Sur which is under SOLCOM’s operational jurisdiction.

He said the SOLCOM troops who were on patrol mission traded shots when about five rebels who were heavily armed suddenly fired at them.

The two minute encounter however reported no casualty from the troops.

PHL fighter jet negotiations with South Korea completed

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 21): PHL fighter jet negotiations with South Korea completed

The Philippines completed its P18.9 billion fighter jet negotiations with South Korea, the Department of National Defense (DND) announced on Friday.

This involves delivery of 12 Korean Aerospace Industry (KAI) F/A-50 "Golden Eagle" jet aircraft which the country's intends to use as a interim jet fighter.

With the successful conclusion of the negotiations, the next step is the signing of the contract, DND undersecretary Fernando Manalo said.

He added that he expects the contract to be signed by March 15 or 18.

Once this is done, delivery of the first batch of the F/A-50 will be done within 18 months time.

"Once first aircraft is delivered, we can truly state that the Philippines Air Force has truly returned to the supersonic age," Manalo said in Filipino.

The F/A-50 has a top speed of Mach 1.5 or one and half times the speed of sound and is capable of being fitted air-to-air missiles, including the AIM-9 "Sidewinder" air-to-air and heat-seeking missiles aside from light automatic cannons.

Manalo said that the F/A-50 will act as the country's interim fighter until the Philippines get enough experience of operating fast jet assets and money to fund the acquisition of more capable fighter aircraft.

As this develops, Manalo said that KAI told them that it will acquire USD5. 93 million worth of equipment from the US to install in the Philippines ordered F/A-50s.

He declined to specify these items for security reasons but said these equipment are included in the P18.9 billion contract of the jet aircraft.

Manalo also said that once the contract is signed, the Philippines will give the South Koreans an initial 15 percent of the contract.

Subsequent payments will be made once certain "milestones" are met.

Manalo also said that the DND also agreed to reduce the cost requirements for spares by USD500,000.

Earlier, DND Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the delivery of the jets could start in June 2015.

He added that both parties have reached a compromise on the delivery of spare parts to 60 days.

The F/A-50 design is largely derived from the F-16 "Fighting Falcon", and they have many similarities: use of a single engine, speed, size, cost, and the range of weapons.

KAI's previous engineering experience in license-producing the KF-16 was a starting point for the development of the F/A-50.

The aircraft can carry two pilots in tandem seating. The high-mounted canopy developed by Hankuk Fiber is applied with stretched acrylic, providing the pilots with good visibility, and has been tested to offer the canopy with ballistic protection against four-pound objects impacting at 400 knots.

The altitude limit is 14,600 meters (48,000 feet), and airframe is designed to last 8,000 hours of service.

There are seven internal fuel tanks with capacity of 2,655 liters (701 US gallons), five in the fuselage and two in the wings.

An additional 1,710 liters (452 US gallons) of fuel can be carried in the three external fuel tanks.

Trainer variants have a paint scheme of white and red, and aerobatic variants white, black, and yellow.

The F/A-50 "Golden Eagle" uses a single General Electric F404-102 turbofan engine license-produced by Samsung Techwin, upgraded with a full authority digital engine control system jointly developed by General Electric and KAI.

The engine consists of three-staged fans, seven axial stage arrangement, and an afterburner.

The aircraft has a maximum speed of Mach 1.4-1.5.

Its engine produces a maximum of 78.7 kN (17,700 lbf) of thrust with afterburner.

Army chief meets with PA-MSAB

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 21): Army chief meets with PA-MSAB

Army commander Major Gen. Hernando Iriberri met with the members of the Philippine Army Multi-Sectoral Advisory Board (PA-MSAB) during its quarterly meeting on Friday at Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

The meeting was attended by the members of the PA-MSAB led by its chairman, Dr. Jesus P. Estanislao.

Also present were advisory board members Victoria P. Garchitorena, chair of the Resource Generation Committee; Prof. Solita Collas-Monsod, chair of the Assessment and Review Committee; Mel Senen S. Sarmiento, chair of the Governance Committee; Atty. Alexander L. Lacson, chair of the Strategic Communications Committee; Samira Ali Gutoc-Tomawis; Dr. Carolina G. Hernandez; Dr. Jennifer Santiago-Oreta; Oscar S. Rodriguez; and Director Alberto A. Lim.

Senior staff officers of the PA were also present during the meeting.

The PA-MSAB is composed of representatives from key sectors of society who are willing to partner with and help the Army pursue its transformation initiatives. It provides external advice in the implementation of the Army Transformation Roadmap (ATR), hence crucial as the Army continuously realizes the visions of the ATR.

Iriberri said that the Army will continue to pursue the goals of the ATR.

“As the new CGPA (Commanding General Philippine Army) I’m 100 percent in support of the ATR. Let us work together to attain the goals of the Army Transformation Roadmap. With the guidance of the MSAB, this will be realized because we are all in this together,” he added.

Estanislao, for his part, commended Iriberri for his commitment and “expressing himself from the heart.”

The other members of the MSAB seconded Estanislao’s comment and added that they were very glad to hear the word “continuity.”

President Aquino appoints former AFP Chief Oban as Executive Director of PCVFA

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 22): President Aquino appoints former AFP Chief Oban as Executive Director of PCVFA

Former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief Eduardo Oban Jr. is the new Executive Director of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte made the announcement in an interview on state-run dzRB Radyo ng Bayan on Saturday, saying the appointment was made by President Benigno S. Aquino III last Feb. 19.

Oban replaced retired Army Gen. Edilberto Adan as VFA chief after he resigned last month.

Oban was an undersecretary of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) before being appointed as VFA Executive Director.

The President, meanwhile, has appointed Edwin Lopez as the new DOTC undersecretary.

“From the time he (Gen. Oban) has served the AFP, the President saw that he is a strategic thinker,” Valte said in a mix of Filipino and English.

“The President is confident that he will bring this skill in his new post,” she added. “He will be no stranger to material or at least the issues being handled by the VFA Commission.”

Dismissed cadet no longer included in PMA graduating class

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 22): Dismissed cadet no longer included in PMA graduating class

Despite re-investigation orders on his alleged "Honor Code" violations by Armed Forces chief-of-staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, Philippine Military Academy (PMA) cadet Jeff Aldrin Cudia will not be joining his class come their March 16 graduation.

"His current status now is administratively discharged and placed on indefinite leave. He is not included anymore in the graduating class," PMA spokesperson Major Agnes Lynnette Flores said.

Review of Cudia's case is still ongoing.

The former was recommended dismissed after being found guilty of violating precepts of the PMA's "Honor Code".

The PMA earlier stated that all trainees of the institution are duty bound to adhere to the above-mentioned precepts.

"The development of character and integrity among the cadets is a fundamental objective of the PMA," Flores stressed.

She added that the "Honor Code" and the "Honor System" are among the primary instruments in attaining this objective.

Flores said this is a unique system, which molds all the cadets to develop themselves into upright leaders of tomorrow.

"Members of the Cadet Corps, Armed Forces of the Philippines (CCAFP) are bound by the 'Honor Code' which they swore to uphold. The essence of the 'Honor Code' is that the cadets do not lie, cheat, steal nor tolerate among them those who do. The 'Honor Code' is absolute and it does not distinguish between the degree of the offense committed. Once they lied, cheated, stole or tolerated the commission of these offenses, there is only one punishment -- separation," the PMA public affairs office chief stressed.

"Cadet Cudia’s case is not an issue about being late in class. While it started as a violation of the regulations, which is coming to class late, the findings of the preliminary investigation conducted revealed a possibility of Cadet Cudia violating the 'Honor Code' which led to the opening of formal investigation by the 'Honor Committee'. While the Academy recognizes his academic performance, this does not exempt him from strict observance of the Code," she pointed out.

Flores stressed that the PMA has observed due process in the matter.

"The case folder bearing the recommendation of the PMA Superintendent for his separation from military service has been duly endorsed to higher headquarters in the Armed Forces of the Philippines for appropriate action. In line with this, the Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines has given a guidance to conduct a re-investigation of the case. As to the status of Cadet Cudia in the Academy, he was already placed on an indefinite leave while awaiting the final disposition of his case," she pointed out.

"As the breeding ground for future leaders of the AFP, PMA will continue to uphold the tenets of the 'Honor Code' which have been emplaced for generations. This code takes its roots within the heart and continues to live on long after each cadet graduates from the Philippine Military Academy. This binds the Cadet Corps with its alumni or the members of the long gray line," Flores stated.

And while saddened by the turn of events, she stressed that the PMA cannot be selective in its application of the "Honor Code".

"We are deeply saddened in seeing such great talent go. But the PMA, and the Cadet Corps, in particular cannot be selective in its application of the Code regardless of a cadet’s academic performance and even personal circumstances," she concluded.

NICA calls for more coordinated efforts vs kidnapping in Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 21): NICA calls for more coordinated efforts vs kidnapping in Mindanao

The National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) is calling for a more coordinated efforts between government agencies and the public to address the kidnapping menace, particularly in Mindanao region.

NICA Director General Ager Ontog said on Friday that the kidnapping situation in Mindanao is more complex than those in Luzon and the Visayas.

”In fact, there is now connection between terrorist groups and criminal groups that are responsible in kidnapping incidents,” said Ontog, a former police general.

The NICA chief was apparently referring to the prevailing modus operandi of kidnapping for ransom (KFR) gangs in Mindanao, turning over victims to the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group as previously reported.

”We need to have a wider perspective of the kidnapping situation,” said Ontog. ”We need to have a deeper dialogue among various agencies of government, including the intelligence community, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police and the communities affected by kidnapping.”

Ontog said he already proposed, through the PNP-Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG), for government agencies to craft a strategy to finally end the kidnapping menace.

”The kidnapping situation in Mindanao is very complex. We need more coordinated efforts among all government agencies and other partners in the community,” he stressed.

Ontog cited the significance of the peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the campaign against kidnapping in Mindanao.

”We can now launch law enforcement operations which we cannot do before,” he said.

Based on the data of the police PNP-AKG, under Senior Supt. Renato Gumban, there are at least 16 KFR groups operating in Mindanao.

Of the 16 KFR gangs, only the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group is considered as organized.

”The rest are just criminal gangs,” said Gumban.

Both Ontog and Gumban stressed that the government is working very hard to address the kidnapping menace.

Palace: Gov’t remains open to peace talks with communist rebels

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 21): Palace: Gov’t remains open to peace talks with communist rebels

Following the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Ma. Sison’s expression of willingness to continue peace talks with the government, Malacanang on Friday said that its doors remain open to the proposal.

Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio B. Coloma Jr. said in a Palace media briefing that the government remains open to all options to achieve long-lasting peace.

“Sa kabuuan, nanatili namang bukas ang pamahalaan sa lahat ng mga option na maaaring tahakin dahil ang layunin natin dito ay makamit iyong kapayapaan,” Coloma said.

He further said that this is the reason why the government is not just focused on the Bangsamoro peace agreement but on others as well.

”Patuloy na umiiral iyong mga pakikipag-usap, pakikipag-talakayan sa lahat ng mga kasapi ng ating lipunan na mayroon pang nabibinbing usapin katulad nga noong sa CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front),” he added.

Meanwhile, Coloma said that Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles has been coordinating with the Norwegian facilitator to continue the talks with communist rebels.

He added that the government wants to clarify the intention of the rebels since the proposal is different from their previous position.

‘Peace campaign gaining’

From the Visayan Daily Star (Feb 21): ‘Peace campaign gaining’

Maj. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, 3rd Infantry Division commander, said recently that the Bayanihan campaign of the Armed Forces of the Philippines continues to gain ground in Negros and Panay island in its winning the peace campaign, because of the convergence of efforts from all stakeholders in the region.

In his report, Baladad said Aklan has already been declared insurgency-free, with Antique also declared last year as Manageable Conflict-Affected and Development-Ready, because the 3ID was able to degrade the capability of the CPP-NPA-NDF of further expansion.

Not a single encounter with the NPA was recorded in Antique in the past two years, military records show.

The AFP is also preparing for the eventual turnover of the peace and order security of Negros Oriental to the local government unit, as the 302nd Infantry Brigade has successfully addressed the security threats of the NPA, with the Komiteng Rehiyonal Sentral Bisayas having moved out of the province, reports said.

The AFP recently conferred on Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. and Capiz Gov. Victor Tanco the “Bayanihan” award as partners from the local government unit that significantly contributed to the AFP mission of “Winning the Peace”.

Military records show that the 3ID was able to neutralize 66 CPP-NPA-NDF members last year, with 44 abandoning the armed struggle and joining the mainstream society; while 17 were apprehended by virtue of arrest warrants, and five were killed in encounters.

Maj. Rey Tiongson, 3ID spokesman, said 44 NPA camps, including 24 in Negros, were discovered and seized due to the vigilance of the citizens in reporting the presence of lawless armed elements, and because of intensified peace and development activities.

Tiongson said the return of several NPA members to democratic folds and the abandonment of their camps are indications of the waning rebel organization in the region.

Last year, the 3ID also recovered 20 high-powered firearms, and 41 low-powered guns, including those surrendered for availment of cash assistance under the AFP Guns for Peace program, he also said.

China claims are nonsense – military chief

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 21): China claims are nonsense – military chief

The  military chief on Thursday vowed to defend the country’s fishermen against any Chinese “terror or intimidation” in the South China Sea, the latest sign of sharpening tensions in what is a potential global flash point.

In an interview with The Associated Press, General Emmanuel Bautista, chief of staff of the Armed  Forces of the Philippines, said Chinese claims to islands just off the Philippine coast are “of course absolute nonsense. Just take a look at the map.”

China claims almost the whole of the vast South China Sea, which is believed to have significant oil and gas deposits. Beijing has been increasingly assertive in pressing its claims in the ocean against its smaller neighbors, sending navy ships into contested waters and harassing fishing fleets of nations with rival claims.

“Our fishermen will continue on fishing, assert their rights on those areas. They should go on with their lives and live their life as fishermen, not to bow down to terror or intimidation,” Bautista said, referring to an incident in which he said a fishing vessel was sprayed by a water cannon on a Chinese boat.

Asked if the Philippine military would defend the fisherman in the event of another incident, he said, “To the best we can, we will support them, especially if there is more aggression and unnecessary use of force.”

China and the Philippines, along with Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan, have overlapping claims in the South China Sea, with China and Taiwan claiming the largest swathe of the strategic waters. The United States is a military ally of the Philippines and shares many of the concerns of the small countries regarding China, but says it wants a diplomatic solution.

The United States gave the Philippines two coastguard cutters which have been turned into the country’s biggest naval vessels. Bautista said the navy is procuring two new frigates and other vessels to boost its maritime force.

Manila announced last year it has taken its claims to a United Nations-backed tribunal, which will take several years to reach a verdict. China has insisted instead on one-on-one negotiations to resolve the territorial conflicts. Such negotiations, which would give China an advantage because of its sheer size, have been rejected by the Philippines.

Bautista said that decision risked angering China in the short term, but that it was the right course of action.

“They are a big country, we are a small country. What can we do? Bring it to court, solve it through peaceful means,” he said.

The Philippine military is one of the weakest in Asia, and for much of the last 40 years has been fighting internal security threats from Muslim separatists and Communist insurgents. Last month, government negotiators announced they had a reached a peace deal with the largest separatist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Bautista expressed hope that the deal could provide a model for other conflicts in the country, allowing it to focus on external defense and disaster relief in a country prone to earthquakes and typhoons.

MILF alleges ceasefire violation after local commander dies in police raid

From GMA News (Feb 20): MILF alleges ceasefire violation after local commander dies in police raid

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has filed a formal compaint with the joint ceasefire committee after a local commander  was killed in a police operation last Monday, February 17, in Barangay Madidis, Datu Paglas, Maguindanao.
Von Al Haq, spokesperson of the MILF, said the MILF has informed their counterparts on the government panel of an alleged violation in the ceasefire agreement by security forces.
“There was no coordination. After all, the target is not a notorious criminal. He is a bona fide member of the MILF [and] a farmer in the said town. He is not what they think he is”, Al haq said.
Yusoph Kusain, alias Kumander TMX, was killed by arresting officers composed of members of the Maguindanao police, the Philippine National Police Special Action Force, the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission, and Special Project Mindanao-Khalifa Islamiya when he attempted to fight back with an M-16 rifle.
Two policemen were wounded in the clash. One of them—identified only as Police Officer 1 Acosta—has reportedly died.
Other reports and sources said Kusain was involved in a series of bombings in central Mindanao. He was also allegedly a member of the MILF-Special Operations Group and of the Al Khobar extortion group as well as being a foreign-trained bomber.
Al Haq denied all these, saying Kusain has a clean record in the organization and had never been part of any atrocities.
Police Senior Superintendent Rodelio Jocson, Maguindanao police director, a warrant of arrest had been issued against Kusain for murder and multiple murder. 
Al Haq said that under the peace agreement, the Ad-Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG), a cooperative mechanism between the government and the MILF, will respond to criminality and terrorism in areas with MILF presence.
He said AHJAG was not present during the raid and was not informed that Kusain was involved in crimes.
The AHJAG is composed of four members each from the government and the MILF. 
Law enforcement in conflict-affected areas of Mindanao is done with coordination between the PNP, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities.
The CCCH has representatives from the government and the MILF and is charged with checking on the implementation of the ceasefire between the two sides
But Police Chief Superintendent Noel Delos Reyes, regional director for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said the police operation was legitimate and no rules of engagement were violated.
“The police team went to the house of the suspect and not [to] the MILF-recognized community. He is a subject of a warrant of arrest and if you have a valid warrant of arrest [against you], no one can prevent our people from performing their sworn duty to enforce the law”, Delos Reyes said.

'Morong 43' member tagged in bus burning

From ABS-CBN (Feb 21): 'Morong 43' member tagged in bus burning

Criminal charges have been filed against a woman tagged as one of the "Morong 43" and 19 others at the Batangas provincial prosecutor's office on Thursday for burning 8 buses in Lemery town early Sunday morning.

Senior Supt. Omega Jireh Fidel, Batangas police director, said cases of arson and robbery were filed against a certain Janice Javier, who is also an alleged member of the New People's Army (NPA), and 19 others including one male suspect who was described by the witnesses through a composite image.

Fidel said Javier was positively identified by witnesses in the "rogues gallery" shown by the Lemery police.

“Nasa rogues gallery namin si Javier kasi isa sya sa 'Morong 43' na naaresto noon sa Rizal," said Supt. Isagani Fetizanan, police deputy provincial director for operations.

The "Morong 43" is a group of health workers accused of cooperating with communist NPA. They were arrested in Morong, Rizal for possession of firearms and explosives in 2010.

Several members of the "Morong 43" were tagged by police as members of the NPA. They include one Ramon/Romeo Dela Cruz who died in an encounter with the Philippine Army in Barangay Kabayunan, Dona Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan on August 9, 2013.

Batangas police also released two computerized facial images of suspected rebels tagged in the burning of buses at the Jam Liner, Inc. terminal in Barangay Palanas, Lemery town around 12:55 a.m.

“(Witnesses) clearly described the suspects because they were not wearing any facial masks when they hauled all the bus employees inside the covered area,” Fidel said.

One of the suspects was described as a skinny man, around 5 feet 7 inches tall, bearded, and between 38 to 40 years old.

The other suspect was described as a woman between 30 to 40 years old, around 5 feet 3 inches tall, and medium built and was later identified by the witnesses as Javier.

Fidel said cases against the suspects were filed at the office of Provincial Prosecutor Maria Lourdes Zapanta in Batangas City.

NPA surrenders, hands over gun

From the Visayan Daily Star (Feb 21): NPA surrenders, hands over gun

A self-confessed member of the New People’s Army operating in southern Negros Oriental, surrendered to the 79th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, based in Siaton town, recently.

Lt. Col. Harold Anthony Pascua, 79th IB commander, identified the man as Juvani Ponseca Suarez, “alias Tommy”, “Lax” and “Vivian”, 39, of Sitio Aponoy in Barangay San Francisco, Sta. Catalina town, in southern Negros Oriental.

Suarez was reportedly the second in command of Squad 3, Sentro de Gravidad Platoon of the NPA’s South Eastern Front operating in Sta. Catalina, Siaton and parts of Valencia, Negros Oriental, Pascua said.

He surrendered to government troops and police in Barangay Nagbalaye, Sta. Catalina, Sunday, and brought with him a Smith and Wesson .357 caliber revolver and five rounds of ammunition, Capt. Lito Orbita, acting Civil Military Operations officer of the 79th IB said in a press release.

Orbita said Suarez claimed that all he wants is to be reunited with his family and have a meaningful life in the community, the press release added.

Pascua attributed the surrender of Suarez to the teamwork between local officials, communities and the Bayanihan Teams doing outreach programs in far-flung sitios and barangays of Negros Oriental that, he said, awakened the members of the NPA and encouraged more of them to abandon the armed struggle.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Pascua said the Army will help facilitate the surrender of Suarez so he can receive remuneration from the government for the firearm that he surrendered, and qualify for the local livelihood programs for rebel returnees.

He said that under the “Guns for Peace” program of the Armed Forces of the Government, former rebels who lay down their arms and return to mainstream society can qualify for cash assistance in exchange for their firearms.

The provincial government has its own program where rebel returnees are provided with cash assistance for livelihood for them to start their lives anew, outside of the insurgency movement, he added.