Saturday, July 5, 2014

MILF: MNLF factions support OIC position on GPH-MILF Peace Agreement

Posted to the MILF Website (Jul 5): MNLF factions support OIC position on GPH-MILF Peace Agreement

The MNLF Council of 15, headed by former Cotabato City Mayor, Muslimen Sema , the Islamic Command Council headed by Habib Mujahab Hashim and Moro National Liberation Front Nur Misuari faction have reunited in a meeting called for by the powerful Organization of Islamic Cooperation last June 11, 2014 at Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
All the three factions expressed their support to OIC position that the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB) forged by the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is a partial fulfilment of the 1976 Tripoli and 1996 Jakarta agreements.

However, MNLF spokesman Emmanuel Fontanilla said that their peaceful struggle would go beyond the autonomy issue toward total Bangsamoro independence.

According to a Phistar report on July 3, 2014, the MNLF leaders said, “the OIC welcomed the MILF acceptance of autonomy as a solution to the Bangsamoro problem, although they express reservation on some provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB)”.

The MNLF leaders though are open to pursue collaborative efforts to build on common advocacies but urged compliance with the provisions of the 1976 agreement in Tripoli, Libya and the 1996 accord in Jakarta, Indonesia.

“The MNLF leaders hope that in the new autonomy law all the provisions stipulated in the 1976 Tripoli and 1996 Jakarta agreements shall be included in all the provisions of the CAB that strengthen and enhance self-rule in Southern Philippines,” the MNLF statement read.

The MNLF leaders also welcomed OIC initiatives to avail themselves of the opportunity to thresh out differences, if any, with MILF leaders to continue their coordination meeting held on Dec. 6, 2011 at OIC headquarters.

OIC Secretary General Iyad Madani renewed a call for the synchronization of the MILF CAB and MNLF accords during the opening ceremony of the 41st OIC Foreign Ministers Conference held at Jeddah, KSA on June 11.

Madani said the OIC secretariat spared no effort in bringing the MNLF and MILF together to establish the stand of the Islamic body on the conflict.

Soldier hurt in clash

From the Sun Star-Davao (Jul 6): Soldier hurt in clash

A SOLDIER was wounded in an encounter with alleged members of the New People's Army (NPA) in Barangay Golden Valley in Mabini town in Compostela Valley on Friday morning.

Captain Ernest Carolina, spokesperson of the Philippine Army's 10th Infantry Division (ID), identified the wounded soldier as Private First Class (Pfc.) Jaymar Mirador of the 71st Infantry Battalion (IB).

Mirador sustained two gunshot wounds in his right abdomen and right knee. The incident happened around 8:50 a.m.

Mirador was brought to a hospital in Davao City. The soldier is recuperating well, Carolina said.

Carolina said the 71st IB troops were heading towards the Barangay Hall of Golden Valley for a courtesy call as part of their peace and development immersion in the area when the rebels attacked them.

Carolina added that the troops will conduct a survey in the barangay to determine the situation and determine if residents' needs are being met.

Carolina said the 71st IB troops are hunting down the rebels who attacked them.

Bantay Bayanihan CSOs vow support for ‘Normalization in Bangsamoro’

From the Philippine Information Agency-Zamboanga Peninsula Region (Jul 3): Bantay Bayanihan CSOs vow support for ‘Normalization in Bangsamoro’

Selected Mindanao civil society organizations (CSOs) engaged in Bantay Bayanihan gathered in Davao City for a seminar-workshop for Normalization in the Bangsamoro last June 26-28.

Kathline Anne Sigua Tolosa of the Security Reform Initiative (SRI), convener and Bantay Bayanihan National Secretariat said that Bantay Bayanihan conducts parallel efforts to better understand and accompany the peace process in the light of the positive developments between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that led to the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

"In December 2013, Bantay Bayanihan network of civil society organizations underwent capacitation on the language, concept, process, and mechanisms on how best to be an oversight not only on the security sector reform, but also to the closure process of the political settlement,” she said.

Tolosa added that the activity sought to capacitate CSOs as active partners in creating an enabling environment for normalization (one of the annexes in the CAB) and that specific set of knowledge and skills relevant for CSOs to positively contribute in normalization was covered during the training.

The activity also hoped to provide a space for constructive discussion among CSOs, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police participants from Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu, Lanao del Norte, Lanao Sur and Cotabato-Maguindanao.

Through inputs, updates, and workshops, the CSOs were capacitated with the sharing of the following resource persons: Gen. Leo Ferrer of the Joint Normalization Committee (JNC) who gave updates on the CABs annex on Normalization and on Decommissioning of the MILF and the spaces for CSO engagement; Dr. Ces Noble, the Senior Research Officer of Independent Commission on Policing-UNDP who gave feedback on the Bantay Bayanihan consultation on the proposed new police force in the Bangsamoro; Kathline Tolosa of the Security Reform Initiative who shared some lessons on the DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration) from CPLA and RPA Peace Table; and Dr. Grace Rebollos of Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ) who also shared lessons from other countries experience of DDR particularly that of East Timor Leste.

Skills in CSO’s engagement with communities on Normalization were also provided by the following: Abel Moya of Pakigdait Inc. who shared some process on how to strengthen Interfaith and Indigenous Peoples Solidarity toward a Peaceful Bangsamoro: a small group reflective sharing; Miriam Suacito of Nagdilaab Foundation Inc. who shared on peace-building and facilitating dialogues and conversations, including addressing apprehensions and indifference on Normalization using the “Art of Hosting;” and Hadji Balajadia of Ateneo de Davao University who shared some concepts and methods on documentation and fact-finding.

Moreover, the participants also witnessed the Congressional Consultation: Multi-stakeholders’ Perspective on the Bangsamoro held at Ateneo de Davao University last June 26, a public consultation initiated by the Congressional Committee on National Cultural Communities and Indigenous Peoples as presided by Representative Nancy Catamco of North Cotabato’s second district.

The seminar-workshop was supported by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) and The Asia Foundation (TAF).

Bantay Bayanihan is a civil society initiative performing oversight role on the Philippine military’s Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan and is a network that aims to advance security sector reform in the country. It has been operating for more than two years and has established a firm footing in the security landscape of the local areas with more than 150 member organizations.

Army expects more rebels to surrender

From the Philippine Information Agency-Zamboanga Peninsula Region (Jul 3): Army expects more rebels to surrender

With the Gun for Peace Program of the government now, the Philippine Army has expressed optimism that more New People’s Army (NPA) rebels would surrender to avail themselves of the incentives.

Under this program, any NPA member who will surrender shall receive cash incentives for the firearms they will bring along.

It was learned that for M-16  rifle, the government will pay P58 thousand and for 1 AK, P48 thousand.

Lt. Col. Alvin Luzon, commanding officer of the 53rd Infantry Battalion based in Guipos, Zamboanga del Sur, said the local government units of Zamboanga Peninsula are very responsive and supportive of the program. “In fact they offer an area for the members of the NPA that will surrender to start their livelihoods.”

102nd Brigade Commander, Col. Ignacio Obligacion, who visited the 53rd Infantry Batallion Headquarters to personally meet the returnees, said “the government will surely support the request of the returnees to go back to school.”

He also expressed his happiness that the rebels had voluntarily surrendered without “exchanging fire with the armies. “Alam naman natin na nahihiwalay lang sila ng landas, pero kung tutulungan natin sila papunta sa tamang landas No need for fighting which is better kay sa sa mag-away-away tayo,” he said.

(We all know that the rebels were just strayed in the wrong way, but if we will help them to be in the right path, then no need for fighting which is better than clashing with each other.)

NPA rebels are reportedly operating in the provinces of Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga Sibugay in region 9.

Palace overhauls draft of Bangsamoro basic law

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 5): Palace overhauls draft of Bangsamoro basic law

Malacañang has returned the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law with so many comments and revisions that practically nothing has been left unchanged in the original document that the Bangsamoro Transition Commission submitted to President Benigno Aquino, a source told the Inquirer Saturday.

The source said the Bangsamoro Basic Law was practically “mangled” by the revisions proposed by the Office of the President.

The source is privy to the talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) but has not been authorized to discuss developments with the media.

The source said the comments and revisions, which comprised a thick pile of paper, reportedly veer away from the four annexes that are the heart and soul of the two parties’ peace agreement.

Sought for comment, MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal confirmed that the Palace has returned the draft after its review, with a thick pile of comments.

However, Iqbal told the Inquirer in a text message that “we don’t discuss the content.”

Iqbal also chairs the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.

Despite Malacañang’s review of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, Iqbal said the situation was “not hopeless.”

The Inquirer tried but failed to reach government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law, if approved by Congress, would pave the way for the establishment of a Bangsamoro autonomous region to be led by the Moro people.

The delay in the transmittal of the draft law to Congress prompted another closed-door meeting between President Aquino and MILF Chairman Murad Ebrahim in Hiroshima, Japan, last week. The President had earlier said he would certify the bill as urgent.

After the meeting, President Aquino vowed there would be a Bangsamoro autonomous region before he steps down in June 2016.

The Palace is expected to transmit the draft law to Congress when it opens after President Aquino delivers his State of the Nation Address later this month.

Military anti-terror group in Davao has drones in its arsenal

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 5): Military anti-terror group in Davao has drones in its arsenal

The commander of Task Force Davao, a military anti-terror group, said here Friday it has acquired drones for use in its counter-terrorism and disaster response operations.

Colonel Alberto Macairog made the disclosure amid suspicions raised by militant groups that the terror alert that Malacañang  relayed to Mayor Rodrigo Duterte last week was a prelude to giving the US military basing rights here.

Duterte had disclosed earlier that the US government was interested in turning the old airport here  into a launching pad for drones.

But Macairog said while TF Davao now has drones, these did not come from the US government, nor were they anywhere as sophisticated as the drones reportedly used by the Central Intelligence Agency to strike targets in such places as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. The task force’s drones are primarily for surveillance.

Macairog would also not say how many drones the task force had.

“First of all, the US is not in any way involved in our drone operations,” Macairog told a press forum at the Task Force Davao headquarters on  Friday.

“In fact, the equipment did not come from the US,” he said, adding that it was supplied by the Army headquarters.

Just the day before, some of the drones were put on display in time for the graduation of a  new batch of soldiers who trained in urban terrain operations.

The drones are about the same size as remote-controlled hobby planes and can be fitted with cameras.

A video obtained by the local ABS-CBN station here showed one of the drones flying. It appeared to be equipped with a camera and Macairog said TF Davao’s drones were similar to it.

Macairog said the US did not have a monopoly on drones.

“All countries are already using this and you can buy this from any country,” he added.
Macairog said the drones will be used mainly for counterterrorism activities and disaster response but not for counterinsurgency.

“We will not use this against the people in Davao City, not even against those who have different ideologies or religious beliefs and those who want to overthrow the government,” he said.

Emmanuel Jaldon, head of the Davao Central 911 communication and emergency response center, said the drones will be of great help in their quick response operation in times of disaster.

“It will greatly increase our quick response capability, as long as we don’t violate any law,” he said, “In times of disasters, drones can be used for rapid assessment and in knowing the extent of the damage; it will allow us to know the topography of the area and will greatly boost security.”

Militant groups earlier expressed doubt  that the public declaration of  terror threats in Davao may have been a ploy to justify drone operations in the city.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the largest public interest law firm in the US, have reported how drones are being used by the US military in targeted killings of people deemed enemies of the state without the benefit  of a court trial.

Sheena Duazo, secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) in Mindanao, has called on Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to stay firm in his stand against drones and against US intervention.

Macairog, however, said Duterte, who is currently on leave, knew about the arrival of the drones here from the Army headquarters in Manila.

Aerial drone to keep an eye on Davao City

From the Manila Bulletin (Jul 5): Aerial drone to keep an eye on Davao City

DAVAO’S EYE IN THE SKY – Photo shows the drone that is equipped with a powerful and high-definition camera, which will soon watch Davao City from the sky – especially during the conduct of disaster response, and emergency situations. (Alexander D. Lopez)

DAVAO’S EYE IN THE SKY – Photo shows the drone that is equipped with a powerful and high-definition camera, which will soon watch Davao City from the sky – especially during the conduct of disaster response, and emergency situations. (Alexander D. Lopez)

The Philippine Army (PA) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) provided the Task Force Davao (TF-Davao) with an aerial drone that will be utilized for anti-terrorism, disaster, and emergency response operations within the city.

TF-Davao Commander Colonel Macairog Alberto said the aerial drone will be used to step up the security measures for this city, and not to spy the rebel groups, as other sectors earlier speculated.

Alberto added that the aerial drone will also aid the TF-Davao in its humanitarian functions, especially during disasters and other emergency operations.

“The aerial drone is not made from the USA (United States of America) but was acquired from other sources. The US is not the only country involved in operating drones,” Alberto pointed out.

He also confirmed that City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is aware of the drone that was provided to them by the Army.

Meanwhile, Central 911 Chief Emmanuel Jaldon also said that the aerial drone will be vital during assessment of situations and emergency response.

He said the Central 911 needs the topographic assessment of areas in disaster that can be provided by the aerial drone.

The assessment of the Isla Verde area that was gutted down during the worst fire that hit this city was an example on how effective the aerial drone, Jaldon stressed.

He added that the Public Security and Safety Command Center had already recommended to the office of Mayor Duterte the procurement of a drone.

CPP/NPA: On Mayor Mario Okinlay’s death

NPA statement posted to the CPP Website (Jul 3): On Mayor Mario Okinlay’s death

Alan Juanito
NPA North Central Mindanao Regional Operations Command (Julito Tiro Command)
Bullets from a sniper team of the New People’s Army under the South-Central Bukidnon Sub-Regional Command ended the life of the rabid counterrevolutionary mayor Mario Okinlay of Impasug-ong, Bukidnon at 8:00 AM of July 2, 2014.

Okinlay’s convoy of three four-wheeled vehicles and 20 motorcycles with 50 8th IB PA troops, six police officers and civilian employees of the municipal government, as well as Lt. Col. Landingin, commanding officer of 8th IB, and Impasug-ong Chief of Police Pinohan on board were on their way home from Barangay Bontongon.

What Okinlay and the reactionary AFP flaunted as peace and development activities in Impasug-ong barrios are, in reality, an implementation of the US-Aquino regime’s counterinsurgency strategy, Oplan Bayanihan, and essentially consist of psy-war and forced surrender of civilians. He has almost completed the pulong-pulong rounds in all 13 barangays of Impasug-ong together with the 8th IB which has been conducting COPD operations in the area since October 2013. Okinlay was unmindful of CARHRIHL and the international humanitarian law. As a local tyrant of Impasug-ong, he has given the reactionary troops of 8th IB full backing to live among civilians, occupy public buildings in a number of barrios, putting up checkpoints wherever and whenever they see fit. In some barrios, they starve the civilian population by unjustly regulating rice procurement to five kilos per family per week, and violate their freedom of movement and means of sustenance by unreasonably imposing the farmers’ work schedule from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM daily.

He outrightly ignored the revolutionary movement’s reminder in 2006 to address the issues the people have raised against him. In 2013, he merely tricked the NPA unit operating in the area that admonished him for his counterrevolutionary deeds. Lately, in his fiery anti-communist tirades during mass meetings condemning the revolutionary movement, he was poised as a formidable titan fearing nobody. But Okinlay was well aware of the weight of his crimes against the revolution that, despite his notoriety in Bukidnon as a Texas-style sharp-shooter, he moved around with heavily armed escorts.

Aside from being a counterrevolutionary, the citizens of Impasug-ong endured his oppressive and exploitative rule for a long time. He has grabbed lands from no less than 50 people, promised them compensation then left the poor landowners waiting for years as they watched their lands in Impasug-ong converted to oil palm plantations. During elections, he hit back on voters who did not vote for him. There have also been cases of harassment and manhandling of civilians who opt to suffer in silence for their own safety.

The 8th IB failed dismally to protect their close ally in the local government despite the fact that their battalion headquarters have just been transferred to Impasug-ong on February 2014. They found in Okinlay a dedicated partner who acts like a rabid dog running after suspected NPA supporters. The death of Okinlay is a big slap to the face of battalion commander Lt. Col. Landingin who was with the convoy himself. For failing again, as their record proved on many occasions after successful military actions of the NPA, the 8th IB will surely vent their ire on innocent civilians.

Okinlay’s death is grieved by the oppressors and exploiters like him. On the other hand, for his many poor victims, justice has finally been served.

The message of Okinlay’s death may well serve as a warning to local officials of the reactionary government to end their active role in the AFP and US-Aquino regime’s counter-insurgent operations and campaigns. They should stop grabbing the lands of the poor, the favouring of foreign plantations and investors which deprive many poor people in the countryside of their livelihood. The must also end their oppressive practices, the suppression of tax-payers’ airing out of their legitimate demands, witchhunting of suspected subversives and persecuting their political rivals. Most of all, plunderers of the people’s money and pork barrel beneficiaries must change their ways and genuinely serve the interests of the poor who have put them in power.

Bukidnon residents condemn NPA rebels for killing mayor

From the Business Mirror (Jul 5): Bukidnon residents condemn NPA rebels for killing mayor

Residents of this farming town of Impasug-ong condemned the ambush-killing of town Mayor Mario T. Okinlay on Wednesday morning, the military said.

The military has tagged the communist New People’s Army (NPA) as responsible for the killing of Okinlay, said Maj. Christian Uy, spokesman for the Army’s Fourth Infantry “Diamond” Division based in Cagayan de Oro City.
“The Army’s 8 Infantry Battalion [IB] and the local residents here jointly denounced the killing of Okinlay, who was killed while delivering the government’s basic services to the poor farmers of Bontongon,” Uy said.
Lt. Col. Romualdo Reymund Landingin, 8th IB commander, said that the killing of Okinlay showed that the NPA rebels do not want peace and development in the largely tribal community of Impasug-ong.
He said the NPA sees Okinlay as an obstacle to the rebels’ objective of deceiving the impoverished people of Impasug-ong.
Okinlay was on his way home on Wednesday morning after an overnight stay in the remote village of Bontongon when waylaid and killed by unidentified armed men.
Uy said the military escorts had reported that three to five armed men ambushed Okinlay, who was on his motorcycle ahead of the security escorts and the main convoy of the military and police, the local government personnel and Bureau of Fire Protection personnel.
Uy said the suspects have singled out Okinlay as the main target because the armed men spared the main convoy.
Bukidnon Gov. Jose Maria Zubiri earlier called for a deeper investigation of the incident, since the NPA’s hierarchy has not issued a statement to claim responsibility for the ambush-slaying of Okinlay.
Okinlay belonged to Zubiri’s political party and has been active in the province’s peace and development endeavor through the “Hatid Serbisyo Sa Barangay” (Bring the Services to the Barangay) program of the local government.
The program aims to provide the poor farmers free consultation and medical checkup, giving of medicines, dental services, land-titling assistance, registration, feeding program, immunization of livestocks and free haircut, among others.
The local government and other stakeholders, headed by the local chief executive, also held a consultative meeting to hear the concerns and needs of the poor farmers in remote mountain villages.
Zubiri described the death of Okinlay as a great loss of the people of Impasug-ong, in particular, and the people of Bukidnon, in general.

Defense deal: An impeachment issue

From the Manila Standard Today (Jul 5): Defense deal: An impeachment issue

Militants clash with anti-riot policemen at T.M. Kalaw
Street in Ermita near the US Embassy to protest the
Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement on
Philippine-US Friendship Day. In Sta. Mesa, students
of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines burn
a US flag to rally against the defense pact. LINO

THE signing of the new US-PH military agreement may prove to be another ground for President Benigno Aquino’s III’s impeachment, Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon said on Friday.

He said the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement ushered in a “new age of American colonial expansionism” that clashed with the 1987 Constitution.

“The Philippine Constitution clearly states that our sovereign nation should pursue an independent foreign policy,” Ridon said.

“By approving the EDCA, President Benigno Aquino III may have committed another culpable violation of the Constitution apart from his liability over the Disbursement Acceleration Program,” Ridon said.

He was referring to Article II Section 7 of the 1987 Constitution that says “The State shall pursue an independent foreign policy. In its relations with other states, the paramount consideration shall be national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national interest, and the right to self-determination.”

Signed last April, the EDCA seeks to expand US military activity in the Philippines through increased rotational presence and the use of Philippine military bases.

Philippine officials had earlier revealed that under EDCA, the US military would be able to gain access to three to five Philippine military bases, including those in Fort Magsaysay and Subic.

US troops would also have rent-free access to bases, camps, facilities, roads, ports and unspecified “agreed locations” in the Philippines.

“EDCA is clearly a lopsided deal that will usher in a renewed era of American occupation in the Philippines. The Aquino regime has let this deal pass without the benefit of public scrutiny and without considering its dire ramifications for our country,” Ridon said.

“Nowhere in the agreement can one find a commitment for defense against foreign military aggression. Worse, we can’t even sue the US for violations of the terms of agreement. Not in Philippine courts, not in international tribunals. It’s a clear travesty of our sovereignty and a grave violation of our Constitution.”

Several petitions have already been lodged at the Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of the EDCA.

“We are confident that the SC will once again strike this access agreement down as unconstitutional. And when that moment comes, Aquino should be ready to pack his things and go,” Ridon said.

NPA owns up to slay of Bukdinon mayor

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 5): NPA owns up to slay of Bukdinon mayor

A sniper bullet fired by a New People’s Army (NPA) team of the South-Central Bukidnon Sub-Regional Command killed Mayor Mario T. Okinlay of Impasug-ong, Bukidnon, the NPA statement released on Saturday said.

Allan Juanito, who signed the statement as NPA spokesperson of the North Central Mindanao Region, said Okinlay was killed for allegedly leading a sustained anti-insurgency campaign in Impasug-ong since 2006.

He said the NPA has received complaint on Okinlay’s alleged sins committed against the people of Impasug-ong and the revolutionary movement in Bukidnon since 2006 by limiting families of poor farmers to buy only five-kilo rice per family.

Okinlay also supposedly imposed a dictatorial administration by limiting the movement of farmers in some areas of Impasug-ong, such as allowing the farmers to till their farm only from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the NPA statement said.

Juanito said communist rebels have warned Okinlay of his anti-people activities in the guise of peace and development activities until 2013 to no avail.

Okinlay was leading a convoy of 20 motorcycles, 50 army soldiers of the 8th Infantry Battalion led by Lt. Col. Landingan Okinlay, six police officers and employees of the municipal town of Impasug-ong when felled by a sniper’s bullet in the morning of July 2, the NPA statement said.

The allies condemned the killing of Okinlay. However, the farmers who were victims of the town mayor’s excesses feel otherwise, Juanito said.

According to Juanito, the NPA carried out the killing of Okinlay to serve notice to local officials in the region of the grim consequences of their counter revolutionary activities in cahoots with the military.

Soldier, pal killed in Isabela City

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 5): Soldier, pal killed in Isabela City

The police authorities are conducting a thorough probe to unmask the killer behind the gun slay Saturday of a soldier and a civilian in Isabela City, Basilan province.

Isabela City Police Station commander Supt. Albert Larubis said he ordered the case investigator to look into all the possible motives that could lead to the solution of the incident.

Larubis identified the victims as Private Glendon Jorolan, a soldier, and Oliver Plad, who were residents of Barangays Panunsulan and Baluno, Isabela City, respectively.

Larubis said initial investigation showed the victims were shot dead by an unidentified gunman around 1:45 a.m. Saturday while they were at the residence of Manizza Yayang in Barangay Marketsite, Isabela City.

He said the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) have recovered seven empty shells and two deformed slugs of caliber .45 pistol at the crime scene.

4th Infantry Division pursuing NPA killers of unarmed militiaman, family

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 5): 4th Infantry Division pursuing NPA killers of unarmed militiaman, family

Troopers from the Cagayan De Oro-based 4th Infantry Division are now pursuing the New People's Army (NPA) killers of an unarmed militiaman and two family members at Kilometer 8, Sitio Kauswagan, Barangay San Mateo, Butuan City last July 2.

In a statement forwarded to the AFP headquaters Friday by Major Christian Uy, 4th Infantry Division spokesperson, the incident took place around 6: 30 p.m.

He identified the victims as CAA (CAFGU Active Auxiliary) Eddie A. Toda, assigned at the 6th Agusan Del Norte CAA Company stationed at the Dulag Patrol Base, his wife Susan M. Toda and nephew Giovanni M. Balbosina, 25.

Uy said that the three were aboard a motorcycle when 10 rebels, armed with AK-47 automatic rifles, fired on them for no apparent reasons.

All of the victims sustained fatal gunshot wounds and died while undergoing treatment at the Butuan Medical Center.

Lt. Col. Adonis Ariel G Orio, 29th Infantry Battalion commander, said “The attack on CAA Toda was an act of cowardice on the part of the NPAs. He was in civilian attire and was clearly unarmed when he was ambushed. What will happen to his family now that their father is already dead? And so I urge the peace loving people of Butuan City and Caraga to condemn those who use threat and intimidation against the people especially these NPAs.

"Let us give peace a chance,” he stressed.

Training of pilots, flight crew of armed AW-109Es to be determined by suppliers

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 5): Training of pilots, flight crew of armed AW-109Es to be determined by suppliers

The Philippine Navy (PN) announced that training of pilots and flight crew of the armed AgustaWestland AW-109Es "Power" helicopters will be largely determined by the aircraft supplier.

This was disclosed by Navy public affairs office chief Cmdr. Gregory Fabic in a message to the PNA.

"We are still awaiting for the advise coming from AgustaWestland (manufacturer of the AW-109s), they are the ones determining the (training) schedule," he added.

Training is expected to take place in Cesto Calende, Italy, Fabic said.

The two armed AW-109Es are expected to be delivered within the third quarter of this year, he said.

This is part of the five helicopter order from AgustaWestland inked by the Department of National Defense last year.

Three of the planes were delivered on Dec. 8 and were commissioned on Dec. 20 last year.

The contract is worth P1.33 billion.

The AW-109 "Power" helicopter is a three-ton class eight seat helicopter powered by two Pratt and Whitney PW206C engines.

The spacious cabin is designed to be fitted with a number of modular equipment packages for quick and easy conversion between roles.

The aircraft’s safety features include a fully separated fuel system, dual hydraulic boost system, dual electrical systems and redundant lubrication and cooling systems for the main transmission and engines.

The AW-109 has established itself as the world’s best selling light-twin helicopter for maritime missions.

It's superior speed, capacity and productivity combined with reliability and ease of maintenance make it the most cost effective maritime helicopter in its class.

For shipboard operations the aircraft has a reinforced-wheeled landing gear and deck mooring points as well as extensive corrosion protection measures.

The ability to operate from small ships in high sea state enables the AW-109 to perform its mission when many other helicopters would be confined to the ship’s hangar.

Over 550 AW-109 "Power" and AW-109 light utility helicopters have been ordered for commercial, parapublic and military applications by customers in almost 50 countries.

CARAT PH: 20 years of enhanced PH-US maritime cooperation

From Rappler (Jul 5): CARAT PH: 20 years of enhanced PH-US maritime cooperation (by Agatha Alexis Bermachea)

What exercises such as CARAT make clear is that there is real continuity between operations and training in the region

MARITIME COOPERATION. CARAT Philippines is a bilateral exercise series between the Philippines' Navy and the U.S. Navy to strengthen maritime partnership, amid increasing regional tensions over territorial disputes in the South China Sea. File photo by Francis R. Malasig/EPA

MARITIME COOPERATION. CARAT Philippines is a bilateral exercise series between the Philippines' Navy and the U.S. Navy to strengthen maritime partnership, amid increasing regional tensions over territorial disputes in the South China Sea. File photo by Francis R. Malasig/EPA

In a matter of days, naval forces from the Philippines and the United States carried out training that ran the gamut of maritime operations taking place in dispersed locations across the Philippine archipelago.

Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) marks its 20th year with the Philippines, one of the original partner countries when the US Navy began the exercise in 1995. US Navy Lieutenant Commander Clay Doss from the staff of Commander Task Force 73 described CARAT as their premier navy-to-navy engagement, with the 2014 iteration including 9 partner countries in South and Southeast Asia whom they engage on a bilateral basis.

The training promotes regional maritime cooperation that contributes to the shared objectives of stability and prosperity. Each engagement is tailored to the security challenges and current dynamics of each partner country.

According to US Navy Commander Chris Van Avery of the Joint US Military Assistance Group based in Manila, the skills practiced during CARAT help both the US and the Philippines better understand each other, as well as their capabilities and limitations in disaster response.

While the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement was signed in April 2014 and CARAT Philippines began in 1995, there are aspects which are clearly complimentary as seen in the Agreement.

The guidance of Article 1 covers the “shared goal of improving interoperability of the Parties’ forces, and for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, addressing short-term capabilities gaps, promoting long-term modernization, and helping maintain and develop additional maritime security, maritime domain awareness, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capabilities” which is common. CARAT 2014 certainly addresses core areas from Article 1. (READ: PH, US warships to hold drills near disputed sea)

Operating together underway

The Guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) and the dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) set sail with Philippine Navy frigates BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF 15) and BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF 16) for the at-sea phase in waters to the west of Subic Bay. The 4 vessels sailed in formation conducting maneuvers and refining their shipboard communication procedures. They carried out an exercise where two ships would form a surface action group, with the two groups of vessels facing off to conduct mock engagements in the open ocean environment. Training proceeded to gunnery drills with ships engaging towed targets with surface fires, including the Del Pilar-class frigates utilizing their 76mm Oto Melara automatic cannons.

The at-sea portion also incorporated aviation assets from both navies, increasing the complexity and necessary coordination. The John S. McCain embarked a group of 9 Filipino shipmates led by Philippine Navy Captain Karl Decapia who joined with US Navy Captain Paul Schlise, Commodore of Destroyer Squadron 7, to lead the combined afloat staff.

They conducted a “detect to engage” sequence while operating in formation; in this case the potential threat that was being tracked in the skies was a US Navy P-3C Orion Maritime Patrol Aircraft acting as an aggressor above their colleagues below on the surface.

The aviation contingent included two AgustaWestland AW-109 "Power" helicopters embarked onboard on the Del Pilar-class frigates, 3 of which were commissioned into the Philippine Navy in December 2013. These 3 will be followed by two additional AW-109 helicopters expected to be delivered in the second half of 2014. The helicopters conducted a series of air operations where they would land, recover, and re-launch to simulate a real-world operational tempo.

One of the most important outcomes of this training was that these Philippine Navy helicopters achieved their Deck Landing Qualification onboard the John S. McCain.

In a combined response to a scenario such as a disaster relief mission, just like in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda where Ashland took part in Operation Damayan off the coast of the Visayas, this increased interoperability will provide commanders greater flexibility to respond while facing a rapidly evolving operational environment. A Philippine Navy helicopter could deliver essential supplies to victims in duress, land onboard a U.S. Navy vessel such as John S. McCain offshore to re-fuel and take on additional supplies, then re-launch to distribute the additional emergency aid to those in need.

Specialized skill training

While maneuvers at sea and key platforms from both navies constitute a major component of the exercise, the opportunity for subject matter experts to share knowledge with their alliance counterparts is an equally useful training opportunity.

The Military Operations and Law symposium was conducted ashore at Bonifacio Naval Station. This involved Philippine and US officers, including the Staff Judge Advocate General of the Philippine Navy, conducting a wide-ranging dialogue on legal issues that directly impacts how both navies operate at sea. Having a clear understanding of how an alliance partner sees key legal aspects allows for clear expectations with respect to their response to a range of scenarios.

The vital task of countering Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) remains a challenge for Filipino and US forces. The US Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 5 deploys around the Western Pacific and areas beyond to support joint forces in countering threats including IEDs with personnel who have dealt with this threat on operations including in Afghanistan.

Their Philippine counterparts have also faced this hazard, such as during Operation Darkhorse in January when they raided a location in Barangay Ganta in Maguindanao where IEDs used in bombings in Central Mindanao were produced and in neighboring Shariff Aguak as a May response successfully diffused an IED that was to be detonated in front of the Municipal Hall.

CARAT 2014 included a subject matter exchange where the session covered hook and line techniques, robot operations, and breaching charges as methods to deal with this threat. Philippine and US EOD technicians trained on Caballo Island and conducted range clearance operations on live ordnance in an effort to demonstrate explosive opening techniques, remote movement techniques, and explosive tool utilization critical to real world operations.

Another skill set practiced was combat life-saving known as tactical combat casualty care. These medical procedures, for which Marines and Navy Corpsman train to conduct in a high-intensity combat environment, can literally save lives. This training included combat casualty assessment where those first responding to an injured colleague focus on rapidly diagnosing the medical concerns and taking steps to deal with those that are most life-threatening.

While these skills are developed to respond effectively to a fellow Marine who might suffer a potentially lethal injury in combat, they are also critical to disaster relief operations.

With the severe effects of winds seen during Typhoons Pablo and Yolanda, victims of the natural disaster can suffer traumatic injuries and the military is often the entity with the right capability to reach those in far-flung areas that are often cutoff by a severe storm. Accurately assessing the medical needs of these victims and providing time-sensitive care is an important capability Filipino and US forces contribute to relief operations.

What exercises such as CARAT make clear is that there is real continuity between operations and training in the region. It is patterns of cooperation that sustain key relationships between militaries that can be leveraged when called upon in response to a crisis.

Those forward-deployed US 7th Fleet vessels such as Ashland not only conduct exercises including CARAT with their counterparts from the Philippines, they also answer the call during crises as they did in rapidly responding to Typhoon Yolanda. The ability to work together effectively in a crisis reflects how this and other exercises have strengthened cooperation these past two decades. According to Captain Schlise, "CARAT Philippines 2014 has been the most complex CARAT ever undertaken between our two navies."

[Agatha Alexis Bermachea is a senior majoring in Asian Studies at the University of Santo Tomas who recently completed an internship at the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs. Justin Goldman is an Associate Research Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.]

Online preacher Musa Cerantonio leaves Philippines to join ISIS

From Rappler (Jul 5): Online preacher Musa Cerantonio leaves Philippines to join ISIS

'This will be a fresh factor to call all radical militants to join ISIS,' says the head of Indonesia’s National Counter-Terrorism Agency, known by its Indonesian acronym, BNPT

FROM THE PHILIPPINES TO THE MIDDLE EAST. A file photo of online preacher Musa Cerantonio. Screengrab from YouTube

JAKARTA, Indonesia – One of the fiercest Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) cheerleaders and recruiter for jihad in Syria and Iraq, Musa Cerantonio, tweeted on July 1 that he would join the "Khilafah" or Caliphate and jihad in Ash-Sham, a historical name for Syria.

On July 3, he tweeted he had arrived:

     Musa Cerantonio @MusaCerantonio    

Australian born and an effective proselytizer online and on social media, 29-year-old Cerantonio is a Christian convert to Islam, an example of the complex challenges authorities face today.

Authorities from the Philippines and Australia told Rappler Cerantonio had been in the Philippines for nearly a year, sighted in Manila, Cebu and Zamboanga, pushing Muslims on social media to join the jihad.

A recent study said he was one of the two most influential voices providing “inspiration and guidance” to foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq. One in 4 foreign fighters followed Cerantonio’s Twitter account, the study added, and more than 92% of his tweets involved interaction.

Which was what happened when his account, dormant for nearly 3 weeks, tweeted praise and support for the Caliphate announced by ISIS and announced he would travel to join them.

Musa Cerantonio @MusaCerantonio  
Musa Cerantonio @MusaCerantonio

“This will be a fresh factor to call all radical militants to join ISIS,” said Ansyaad Mbai, the head of Indonesia’s National Counter-Terrorism Agency, known by its Indonesian acronym, BNPT.

More Muslim fighters have now travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight than Afghanistan in the late 80’s, and it’s worrying authorities around the world.

“ISIS will be more dangerous than Afghanistan,” Mbai told me. “We know the situation in Syria and Iraq is now very serious, and there are so many weapons. We know that ISIS had some military training for their fight to establish this Islamic Caliphate. They will be more skillfull.”

Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population, has reason to worry. Afghan veterans returned home to Indonesia and established Jemaah Islamiyah or JI, once al-Qaeda’s arm in Southeast Asia.
The Bali bombings in 2002 killed more than 200 people and was followed by annual terrorist attacks until 2005.

Numerous plots and sporadic attacks continued through the years even as authorities dismantled the terror network. Mbai is emphatic when he lumps JI with JAT, Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid, which he calls its latest evolution. He links both groups to ISIS and al-Qaeda.

“The names don’t matter, and they can change,” he said. “When they say they want an Islamic Caliphate, they are part of the same group with the same ideology.”

That ideology is spreading fast on social media, which Mbai called “the new machine to recruit militants.”

For foreign fighters, Cerantonio is among the most effective. His Facebook page is the third “most liked” among fighters, according to the same study.
[Video: How I came to Islam by Musa Cerantonio

Authorities from the Philippines and Australia told Rappler Cerantonio had been in the Philippines for nearly a year, sighted in Manila, Cebu and Zamboanga, pushing Muslims on social media to join the jihad.

He was more effective and active on Facebook, where he taunted authorities on June 27.

“Apparently, the Australian Federal Police are looking for me,” he posted. “Let’s see how well they can hunt.”

“Have fun finding me,” he wrote in another post. “I’ll be waiting for you or whichever dogs you send.”

As late as July 1, sources told Rappler Cerantonio was in the Philippines.

There’s no independent verification of his tweets arriving in “As-Sham,” but his tweets and the reaction online continue to push Muslims to join the jihad.

NPA admits killing Bukidnon town mayor

From MindaNews (Jul 5): NPA admits killing Bukidnon town mayor

The New People’s Army has admitted responsibility in the killing of Mayor Mario Okinlay of Impasugong, Bukidnon on Wednesday.

In a statement written in Cebuano sent 9:26 p.m. Friday, the NPA North-Central Mindanao Region spokesperson Allan Juanito said Okinlay was killed for his “counter-revolutionary activities in the guise of peace and development” in the barangays.

The statement said snipers from the NPA South-Central Bukidnon Sub-Regional Command carried out the operation at around 8 a.m. on July 2.

It said Okinlay and his convoy had come from Barangay Bontongon escorted by police and soldiers from the 8th Infantry Battalion when the guerrillas carried out the attack.

The rebel group accused Okinlay of aiding the military in implementing Oplan Bayanihan, the government’s counterinsurgency strategy, since 2013.

“Okinlay did not recognize the CARHRIHL (Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law) and international laws of war. Believing he was the king of Impasugong, he allowed the 8thIB to live with civilians, occupy public buildings in some barangays, put up checkpoints wherever and whenever they wanted.

“In some barrios, they made the people starve by limiting to five kilos the rice that each family may buy, and restricted the villagers’ livelihood activities, restricting their farm work from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.,” the statement said.

Juanito added that Okinlay refused to heed the “people’s issues” brought to his attention in 2006 and snubbed another warning from the NPA last year.

“In his anti-communist discourses in pulong-pulong (community meetings) that condemned the revolutionary movement, he sounded like a government that feared nothing. Okinlay knew the gravity of his offenses against the revolution that’s why…he always had a large armed escort in his trips,” the statement said.

The NPA further accused the slain mayor of grabbing lands from at least 50 people or not paying for lands that were planted to oil palm, and of persecuting those who did not vote for him.

Meanwhile, Gov. Jose Maria R. Zubiri Jr. has scheduled a peace rally on Monday in Impasugong.

4 soldiers wounded in new clashes with Sayyaf

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Jul 5): 4 soldiers wounded in new clashes with Sayyaf

Four government soldiers were wounded in fresh clashes with Abu Sayyaf militants in the southern Philippine province of Sulu where security forces are pursuing the al-Qaeda-linked group holding several kidnapped foreigners and Filipinos.

The fighting broke out Friday in Patikul, a day after the military announced the capture of an Abu Sayyaf base in the town's hinterlands. The wounded soldiers were airlifted to Zamboanga City as troops continue to pursue the militants in Patikul, a known stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf in the province.

There were no reports of casualties in the latest fighting. The military did not release the names of the soldiers. 

Just this week, two marines were wounded in clashes with militants in the town where troops recovered a huge cache of improvised explosives from the captured Abu Sayyaf base believed used by Radulan Sahiron, a senior leader of the group which is being linked by authorities to al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya.

Brigadier General Martin Pinto, commander of the 2nd Marine Brigade based in Sulu province, described the Abu Sayyaf camp as well fortified with connecting trenches and well–established firing positions and with littered with hundreds of improvised explosives.

He said the persistence of troops to capture the enemy base forced the heavily-armed Abu Sayyaf fighters to break into smaller groups and fled. But there were no indications that Sahiron was among the dead or wounded in the fighting which began on June 30, but there were reports that the Abu Sayyaf had fled with some of their kidnapped victims. The operations were still continuing in the province.

It was unknown whether the hostages were foreigners or Filipinos. Most of the hostages were kidnapped in Sabah in Malaysia and Tawi-Tawi in southern Philippines and brought to Sulu.

Balik-Baril Program? Where are the rebel returnees?

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Jul 5): Balik-Baril Program? Where are the rebel returnees?

It comes by different names and with it is billions and billions of pesos in funds and the communist rebel group calls it the “milking cow” of the government and the military officials – from Balik-Baril Program to Guns-for-Peace Program – it lures rebels to return to the folds of the law in exchange for rewards and livelihood aid for those who surrender their weapons - dilapidated, vintage or not.

Despite the corruption tag it is associated with, the Balik-Baril Program – first introduced during President Corazon Aquino’s time stands for “Bring a Rifle Improve your Livelihood,” where the government pays as such as P25, 000 for every weapon surrendered by rebels, aside from at least P18,000 in initial aid.

Formerly under the National Reconciliation and Development Program (NRDP) which was intended to coordinate and integrate efforts of the government and non-governmental organizations, and the private sectors for the rebel returnees.

The Beginning  

According to the government, although launched in December 24, 1986, it was not until 1988 that the NRDP went into full swing providing loans to rebel returnees under Balik-Baril Program. The Aquino administration said the program was so successful that it transferred Balik-Baril to Peace and Order Councils which facilitated and hastened the processing of assistance to the rebels at the lowest levels of government.

It said NRDP had greatly contributed to the substantial neutralization of the secessionist movement in southern Philippines as well as improved peace and order situation in erstwhile insurgent affected areas with over 1,800 rebel returnees from the New People’s Army; and 837 Cordillera People’s Liberation Army members, and 12,978 Muslim rebels returned to the fold of the law between 1987 to 1991. The rebel returnees were granted P53.8 million in financial assistance to start their livelihood, resettlement, and training programs. Another 1,845 subversive mass activists and 4,655 NPA sympathizers also availed of the program.

With the success of the program, the government called expanded this and called it Social Integration Program and offered rebel returnee higher cash aid of P20,000 improved emergency assistance, P50,000 livelihood fund and increased amount for the Balik-Baril component, which used to be only P18,000 on M14 and M16 automatic rifles.

Ramos regime

And in July 1992, newly elected President Fidel Ramos continued the Balik-Baril with Abu Sayyaf members in Basilan and Sulu provinces being included in the amnesty program. But many rebels had returned to the mountains shortly after receiving government aid. Others who surrendered to the military were not even members of any rebel group, but recruited and paraded as rebels for propaganda and many of the weapons they yielded were mostly defective Garand and homemade rifles. And worse, the military has no monitoring or full records and inventory of those who surrendered the past decades and in recent years.

Under President Gloria Arroyo, communist rebels accused the government of pocketing billions of pesos in Balik-Baril program, saying, military commanders paraded “fake” rebel returnees and handed them dilapidated weapons to be able to collect from the fund which was coursed through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

With the current presidency of Benigno Aquino, the Balik-Baril Program continues under the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, but it has scrapped the inclusion of the Abu Sayyaf and other terror groups such as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Mindanao.


Request of data from the Armed Forces of the Philippines related to the Balik-Baril and the amount of money spent on the program was unanswered by officials, but in 2000, the Commission on Audit released an executive summary of the annual audit report on the National Program for Unification and Development Council involved in the program showed that more than P124 million were unsettled or disallowed.

In 2011, Major Christopher Patindol, a disbursing officer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, went into hiding after being accused of pocketing some P1.4 million in Balik-Baril funds following an audit into the funds. Judge Maria Filomena Singh, of the Regional Trial Court Branch 85, issued a warrant for his arrest last year.


Following the controversy, the Armed Forces of the Philippines scrapped the Balik-Balik and launched the Guns-for-Peace Program, the same mechanism used for the Balik-Baril, but this time rebel returnees are paid much higher for the weapons they surrender - P200,000 for a machine gun; P60,000 for an M14 rifle; P50,000 for M16 rifle, and P40,000 for an M203 grenade launcher aside from other government livelihood aid and financial assistance as part of its amnesty program.

In Southern Philippines, the Eastern Mindanao Command based in Davao City said the Guns-for-Peace Program has so far attracted many communist rebels who surrendered in recent months. The 4th Infantry Division in Cagayan de Oro City headed by Maj. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, which is also under the Eastern Mindanao Command, has presented at least 98 rebel returnees to Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista and Lt.. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz III during a ceremony in May this year.

The Eastern Mindanao Command said the surrender of the communist rebels were part of the so-called "Pagbabalik-Loob," a campaign under the Guns-for-Peace that encourages NPA members to surrender peacefully and avail of the government amnesty program and eventually integrating them back to mainstream society. It said 33 returnees, including two women, were regular NPA members, while 64 belonged to the NPA's underground Barrio Revolutionary Committees or Militia ng Bayan. And 70 of them are Manobo tribesmen, to include 12 minors recruited by the NPA to fight the democratic government.

The Eastern Mindanao Command said the rebel returnees received a total of P881,750 from the Guns-for-Peace Program in payments for 93 assorted high-powered firearms they surrendered. "For the record, the 4th Infantry Division's Pagbabalik Loob (program) helped 204 NPA rebels with 201 assorted firearms return to the folds of the law safely. A total of 4.2 million pesos was released by the Eastern Mindanao Command taken from the AFP’s Guns-for-Peace Program fund.  NPA returnees are also entitled to receive another cash and livelihood assistance from the OPAPP," it said.

Cumulative data of rebel returnees in southern Philippines were not immediately available from the army.

Through the years since the Balik-Baril Program was introduced, some of the rebel returnees have been used as military and police informants, others had returned to their group and continued fighting the government, while some had been killed by their former comrades for abandoning their cause. And others, who have assumed false identities for fear of being assassinated, have live quietly with their families.

Armed Forces Chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista together with Lt.. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz III, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command, and  Maj. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, chief of the 4th Infantry Division receive surrendered members of the communist rebel group New People's Army during a ceremony in May this year. (Photos from Eastern Mindanao Command)