Saturday, December 6, 2014

Sayyaf casualties climb to 11

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Dec 5): Sayyaf casualties climb to 11

THE Armed Forces of the Philippines continued its law enforcement operations in Basilan province Friday as the number of casualties in the side of the Abu Sayyaf group climbed to 11.

The military initially reported that the Abu Sayyaf bandits led by Nurhassan Jamiri and Firudji Indama have suffered three fatalities in a clash that broke out around 6:55 a.m. Thursday.

However, Army's 104th Infantry Brigade command chief Colonel Rolando Joselito Bautista said eight more Abu Sayyaf followers were reported wounded as the troops continue the law enforcement operations.

Bautista said one of the three slain Abu Sayyaf bandits was identified as Abdullah Kalitot, who faced nine counts of murder and with a monetary reward of P.5 million for his arrest.

Bautista said Kalitot, a follower of Jamiri, escaped from the Basilan provincial jail on December 31, 2010.

Bautista said the other slain Abu Sayyaf bandit was only identified as a certain Hidzran.

He said seven soldiers were wounded during the clash. They were taken to a military hospital for treatment.

CPP/NPA: Kamatayan ni Noel Delgado, hudyat ng paglalansag sa bandidong grupo

NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Dec 6): Kamatayan ni Noel Delgado, hudyat ng paglalansag sa bandidong grupo (The Death of Noel Delgado, signals the dismantling of a bandit group)

Samuel Guerrero
NPA Sorsogon Provincial Operations Command (Celso Minguez Command)
ANG pagbaril kay Noel Delgado nitong Disyembre 1 ay parusa sa malulubha niyang krimen laban sa rebolusyonaryong kilusan at mga magsasaka sa ilang barangay sa Bacon District ng Sorsogon City. Ang pamamarusa sa kanya ay isinagawa ng mga operatiba ng New People’s Army sa Barangay San Juan kung saan siya naninirahan. Katatanggap lang namin ng ulat na namatay siya kahapon, Disyembre 5, sa isang ospital sa Sorsogon City.

Si Delgado ay dating kasapi ng NPA. Mula nang tumiwalag siya sa kilusan, napabilang siya sa isang grupong bandido na sangkot sa pagnanakaw ng kalabaw at iba pang hayop ng mga magsasaka at pagpapalayas ng mga tenante sa ilang sakahan sa Bacon District. Kasama niya sa grupo ang ilan pang dating gerilya at mga elemento ng militar, pulisya at CAFGU.
Nagpapanggap silang NPA sa pagsasagawa ng kanilang mga krimen. Ginagamit din nila ang pangalan ng NPA para makapangikil sa mga kontratista ng iba’t ibang proyektong imprastruktura sa lugar.

Tinutugis pa ng NPA ang mga kasamahan ni Delgado sa panunulisan. Sisikapin ng rebolusyonaryong Hukbo na durugin ang naturang grupo bilang tugon sa daing ng mga magsasakang kanilang pinahihirapan.

MILF/Iqbal: “Imperatives for CSOs Working for Peace in Mindanao: The BBL and Beyond --From the Lens of the Moro Rebellion”

Posted to the MILF Website (Dec 6): “Imperatives for CSOs Working for Peace in Mindanao: The BBL and Beyond --From the Lens of the Moro Rebellion”

[Written by  Mohagher Iqbal]

(Davao City, December 3, 1:30 pm)

Thank you very much for this invitation. It gives me pleasure to speak on a subject matter close to my heart.

As a rebel for more than four decades, I keep asking myself, “What lies ahead after we started a struggle that we never had the idea on how and when it would end itself. It is like travelling in the vast ocean without any land on sight. It is sheer conviction that we firmly believed in that once a struggle is started, it will move on and on until it concludes itself.

Today, after 17 long years of hard and exhausting bargaining in the negotiating table, the Parties first signed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and then followed by the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB). Now the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that translated into legal form the letter and spirit of the FAB is being deliberated in Congress. These in themselves are achievements of a lifetime that we, collectively, can be proud of.

The role of the civil society organizations (CSOs) in making these achievements happen, while I cannot exaggerate, is of common knowledge. For one, I am privy to it, because I dealt with them on countless occasions. They journeyed with us through thick and thin.  They were there when their presence was most needed.

Of course, there are few exceptions that do not deserve to be classified as CSOs. But we will not deal with them here; it belongs to another category of discussion in some other time.  Let us not spoil our day with this issue.

At this juncture, let me remind you that the role and responsibility of the CSOs have not ended with these achievements. We cannot simply sit on these laurels. We have to nurture these gains and build on them and proceed with fixed vision and purpose, because the road ahead is still plagued with complications.  Let us remember that not everybody is happy with these successes and that change, which is an antidote to status quo, is sometimes not wholesome to some, because it snaps out privileges and conservatism.

I therefore call upon the CSOs to continue journeying with us to ensure that the BBL will not only pass Congress but will also be ratified during the plebiscite and, more importantly, must be implemented on the ground. Documents are documents; they are pieces of paper --- they will not implement themselves. They need the intervention of men and women, the sincere and the committed, to implement these agreements, or even the BBL. Many a good document, agreement, or even a set of laws lying dormant in filing cabinets, because people or leaders of men did not care about them; they were just relegated to the dustbin of history. We do not want the BBL to suffer the same fate, because it was meant to solve the Bangsamoro Problem, a problem that has run through decades or even centuries and at the expense of so many lives and billions worth of properties. 

I am not a doomsayer – and will never ever be one – but I must tell you that if we fail to solve this problem through the passage and implementation of the BBL, I think the future will be very bleak. The MILF will suffer a fall-out and most probably new and more radical leaders will emerge from the horizon and carry on the torch of the struggle, whether via the legitimate way or through the improbity of a weird approach. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), while we have no love lost with the group, is borne out of the chaos and blood-letting in the Middle East, a courtesy of the Western Powers. This monster is eating the hands of those that created it, directly or indirectly.

It is on this reckoning that I urge and appeal to the CSOs to double your efforts and see to it that what we have started together; i.e., to plant the seed of peace, will continue to grow until everybody partakes of its fruit. The resolution of the problem through the BBL will undoubtedly redound to the benefits of not just the Bangsamoro people, the indigenous people, and the migrant settlers in the Bangsamoro territory, but also to Mindanao and the country as a whole.  There is no need to overstress this point. Even right now, the country has already achieved 6.4 annual growth rate for 2014, thanks to the improving peace and order in Mindanao and the growing trust and confidence of the international community.

Specifically, I stress here that it is important for the CSOs to undertake, if possible, all of the following steps:

1.    Institutionalize the participation of civil society in deliberations of the BBL in Congress;
2.    The spirit of volunteerism must be upheld at all times. This virtue is considered as a defining characteristic of the organizations that constitute civil society;
3.    Continue to bridge peoples, communities, and religious divides;
4.    Help stabilize post-conflict zone through building new institutions, educational and health infrastructures;
5.    Help build Bangsamoro capacity to increase its legitimacy;
6.    Assist in developing rule of law systems and public administration;
7.    Help capacitate the Bangsamoro to manage conflicts peacefully and promote socioeconomic development;
8.    Help develop a civil society and private sector that can represent diverse interests and challenge the state peacefully; and
9.    Finally, find diverse means to engage the Central Government through democratic and legitimate manner so that the excesses of the past including the repelling of laws that were oppressive and exploitative, like the Public Land Act No. 141 which once entitled a settler in Mindanao to apply for and own 24 hectares while a non-Christian tribe only four hectares, will never happen again. Let there be no seed of enmity once again sown in any part of Mindanao or elsewhere in the entire country.

Thank you and good day to all!“imperatives-for-csos-working-for-peace-in-mindanao-the-bbl-and-beyond-from-the-lens-of-the-moro-rebellion

MILF: MILF creates regional party for 2016 polls

Posted to the MILF Website (Dec 6): MILF creates regional party for 2016 polls

While Congress is still deliberating on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the leadership of the Moro Islamic Liberaration Front (MILF) has created a new political party for the anticipated elections in the region in 2016.
In a chance interview Friday, MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal said the MILF leadership has formed the Bangsamoro Justice Party (BJP), a regional political party for those aspiring to have seats in the Bangsamoro government, which will be created upon the passage of the BBL in Congress and its ratification through a plebiscite.

Iqbal said the MILF is now in the process of registering the party with the Commission on Elections.

“It's being registered right now. There has been a lot of engagements towards creating a truly political party that is principled. It has been a difficult process. But we are now in the process of registration,” he said.

According to the draft BBL as contained in House Bill 4994, a Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) will serve as the interim government of the region for one year upon the BBL's ratification through a plebiscite. Afterwhich, all powers will be transferred to the Bangsamoro government, officials of which will be voted by the people of the region in 2016 elections.

The new Bangsamoro entity is set to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Interested politicians

Iqbal said that as early as now, several local politicians have expressed intention to be part of the MILF's party. “There are feelers, from local politicians but I cannot disclose their names,” he said.

He also clarified that the BJP will not be affiliated with any national political party.

Asked if the BJP would be open in accepting members from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) or any other individuals outside the MILF, Iqbal replied, “Yes. On the condition that they will subscribe with the vision-mission and basic principles of the party.”

Iqbal said the MNLF might also form their own political party as the draft BBL does not limit to the MILF the leadership of the soon-to-be created Bangsamoro government.

“Well, they are welcome to join us. Otherwise, they will form their own political party and when it comes to forming the (Bangsamoro) government we can coalesce with them,” Iqbal said.

Iqbal also said several MILF leaders including himself and chairman Al Haj Murad have no intention of running for Bangsamoro government office in 2016.

“Personally, I do not want to join in the local elections. Politics is last in our mind, 'our' because I think, that's the organizational line of thinking. I think he (Murad) would be last person to be interested in running for a political party,” he said.

Bangsamoro Transition Authority

Meanwhile, Iqbal said the MILF leadership has not yet decided on the composition of the BTA, which will govern the Bangsamoro territory for one year pending the creation of the Bangsamoro government.

“There is a current series of dicussions in the MILF leadership, because there are three ways of constituting the BTA – it can be all MILF leaders which is not pragmatic, which is not fair; it can be partly MILF leadership, partly from outsiders; or it can be that only the head would come from the MILF and then the rest would come from various civil societies. There has been no decision yet by the MILF leadership,” Iqbal said. —KBK, GMA News

MILF: UNICEF, BDA, & Plan Int’l collaborate to support UN-MILF Action Plan implementation

Posted to the MILF Website (Dec 6): UNICEF, BDA, & Plan Int’l collaborate to support UN-MILF Action Plan implementation

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) and Plan International (Plan) collaborate for the implementation of the United Nations (UN)-Moro Islamic Liberation front (MILF) Action Plan, an undertaking aimed at addressing the issue on the use of child combatants in armed conflict.
Signed by UN-Philippines and MILF on July 30, 2009, the Action Plan seeks to delist the MILF from the annexes of UN Secretary General’s Report which name armed groups that recruit and use minors in armed conflict. It was in 2003 when the MILF was reported to the UN having minors among its troops.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children and Monitoring (UNCRC) states that a child is any person below the age of 18. Recruiting and using minors in the armed conflict is also considered a grave violation of child’s rights.

Part of the plan implementation is the conduct of orientations for the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) Front and Base Commanders including their troops.

In the orientations facilitated by UNICEF, BDA and Plan, the MILF forces learned the UN-MILF Action Plan, UNCRC, Child’s Rights, and Reporting Mechanism on Grave Child’s Rights Violations (GCRV). 

Other armed groups from the Philippines listed in the UNCG annex include the Abu Sayyaf Group, New People’s Army and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter.

In an orientation held at La Suerte Hall at Marawi City last month, Shree Nadarajah from UNICEF commended MILF for being the only revolutionary organization in the world which has signed an action plan with the United Nations.
Nadarajah is hopeful that the MILF will be removed from the list of armed groups using child soldiers before the establishment of the Bangsamoro government by 2016.

Serious in its commitment with the action plan, the Chairman of the MILF issued a general order directing BIAF Commanders not to admit minors and must remove from the roster any underage elements. The general order also stipulates corresponding sanction to those who will violate.

An MILF 5-Member Panel, dedicated to assist in the orientations, was created. The MILF also provides unimpeded access of UNICEF, BDA and Plan for the orientation which is still ongoing. The action plan targets to orient 31 Base Commands and 7 Front Commands all over Mindanao and the island provinces.

The UNICEF representatives enjoin the BIAF officers to heed to the action plan. The orientations likewise gain commitment of the forces.

The MILF represents the Bangsamoro people in the peace talks with the Philippine government. The Front has forged a comprehensive peace accord this year which seeks the establishment of Bangsamoro government with genuine autonomy by 2016.

Japan and Australia also hailed the MILF for being able to craft a roadmap for the development of the Bangsamoro communities-the Bangsamoro Development Plan (BDP).’l-collaborate-to-support-un-milf-action-plan-implementation

MILF: BDA delegated as coordinating unit of MILF in pre-transition period

Posted to the MILF Website (Dec 6): BDA delegated as coordinating unit of MILF in pre-transition period

In a resolution, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Central Committee (MILF-CC), has delegated the Bangsamoro Development Agency as the Development and Donor Coordinator of the MILF during the pre-transition period until the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) is established.
The resolution  was made during the MILF-CC full session held at Camp Darapanan, Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on October 15 in which the Front also affirmed the BDA as development agency of the MILF tasked to determine, lead, and manage rehabilitation and development projects in the conflict affected areas of Mindanao.

Further, the resolution stated that the Implementing Guidelines on Rehabilitation and Development Aspect of the Tripoli Agreement on Peace between the MILF and Philippine government (GPH) signed on June 22, 2001, which is part of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), provided that “The MILF shall determine, lead and manage rehabilitation and development projects in the conflict affected areas, except when public funds are involved, in which the case, Government procedures and rules will be observed.

“Whereas the Bangsamoro Development Agency was created by the MILF Central Committee as the Development Agency of the MILF under the Office of the Chairman and tasked to implement the above-mentioned MILF mandate in the GPH-MILF peace process,” the resolution stipulated.

The MILF-CC acknowledged the competence and potential of the BDA in undertaking its tasks and has been effectively manifested during its role in implementing development projects for the past several years in cooperation with local and international development partners.

The MILF CC pointed out in the resolution-that during the transition period, the role of the BDA in development programs shall be determined jointly by the MILF-CC and the BTA.

Pursuant to the mandate by the Chairman of the MILF, the Central Committee further resolved that BDA would continue in drafting and refining the Bangsamoro Development Plan which was completed and turned over to the MILF last November 2, 2014.

The BDP is an initiative of the MILF through the BDA which was supported by GPH and development partners. Guided by the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and its Annexes, the plan will provide strategic directions for the delivery and upgrade of basic services in Bangsamoro communities during and beyond the transition period.

Philippine Army intensifies community engagement

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 5): Philippine Army intensifies community engagement

MALUNGON, Sarangani  Province  --   The Philippine Army’s   1002nd Infantry (Bagwis) Brigade  of the 10th Infantry (Agila) Division  has  strengthened  its engagement  with  conflict-affected  communities,  an army official  told Philippine Information  Agency  12.

Cpt. Rey Balibagoso, civil-military operations officer and spokesperson of 1002nd Brigade said their  conduct  of   Peace and Development Outreach Program (PDOP) in conflict-affected barangays within its area of responsibility  is  aimed at promoti local security and safety based on the needs and realities of communities.

“Through the  PDOP,  the civilian agencies understand that they too have roles and responsibilities to fulfill in relation to the fight against insurgency,” Balibagoso said.

“This  program  of the Army  is  a holistic approach to address this multi-dimensional problem that required multi-faceted solution   since pure military solution is inadequate in addressing these internal security concerns,” he elaborated.

This, he explained   further,  makes  an soldier as an agent of peace serves as catalyst to converge effort of local government units, line government agencies and other sectors of the society to address issues and concerns of the people, especially the vulnerable indigenous people in the uplands.

Balibagoso  added that they have been  successful in  conducting  PDOPs  in  remote  barangays  in Lake Sebu  in  South Cotabato as  well as in  Makilala and Arakan in North Cotabato  and  have empowered these  upland  folk.

With these PDOP’s   issues  such as   ancestral  domain  were  also addressed since  they  were also  joined  by other agencies   like the  National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Needs assessment surveys  were  also conducted by the soldiers, he said,  wherein  soldiers  immersed in  the  barangays conduct house-to-house visitations, consultations, and dialogues to identify issues  and bring  these issues to the attention of civil authorities.

Livelihood trainings, peace building seminars, youth leadership summit and indigenous people leader’s forum   are also conducted  to capacitate these  communities, he said.

Balibagoso  cited an incident in Lake  Sebu where  over  a thousand  residents from remote barangays  marched to  the  town  center  to hold an indignation  rally against  the New Peoples  Army,  following a series of PDOP activities in the area.

On August  30, Blaan and Tboli residents  of  Lake  Sebu gathered  at the  town plaza  to hold  a peace  rally in support to the  peace and development campaign  of the  Philippine  Army.

 “We the IPs are peace-loving people. We do not want violent armed struggle espoused by the communist rebels. What my constituents need are basic services for health, education and livelihood,” Mayor Antonio Fungan said  in his  message  during the  rally.

Fungan emphasized  that Lake Sebu is becoming  a major tourist destination in the country; thus, he needs the help of security sector to maintain peace and order  in the area.

Balibagoso  likewise  reported  that its 27th Infantry Battalion recently deployed its Peace and Development Teams in upland barangays of T’boli, South Cotabato to conduct PDOP.

He added that  PDOP in the  area had limited  the operations of  NPA rebels and finally forced them to vacate the area.

At pre-designated constriction area, near the boundary of T’boli, South Cotabato and Maasim, Sarangani Province, particular at Sitio Tubak, Brgy Nomoh, Maasim, the 27IB encountered about 20 NPA rebels on November 4, 2014, he  said.

The  encounter resulted in death of three NPA rebels and seizure of nine  high powered firearms. There was no casualty amongthe government troops.

For the fourth quarter of 2014 alone, there were  three major encounters  with the CPP-NPA resulting in death of  eight NPA rebels and recovery of 21 high powered firearms. Only  two soldiers  were wounded in these encounters, Balibagoso noted in his  report.

“The decisive engagements between our troops and NPA rebels were the result of PDOP; the NPAs are losing their ground”, Balibagoso said.

In all areas that PDOP is being conducted, the people are enlightened that they are part of the solution. They denounced the CPP-NPA-NDF and calls for support for the government, he said.

Colonel Ronald C. Villanueva, the Commander of 1002nd Brigade said the armed lawless group of NPA supported by militant groups must spare the indigenous people in their useless and futile armed struggle.

“The solution to social problem is for all the stakeholders including the armed group to come together in the Filipino spirit of Bayanihan and work on our commonalities to attain peace and development,” he said.

5 Abu Sayyaf brigands killed, 7 wounded in Sulu clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 6): 5 Abu Sayyaf brigands killed, 7 wounded in Sulu clash

Five members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) were killed while seven others wounded in a clash as government forces continue law enforcement operations in Sulu, a military official announced Saturday.

Ensign Chester Ian Ramos, information officer of the Joint Task Force Zambasulta, said the clash broke out around 7:00 a.m. Saturday in Barangay Bagsak, Talipao, Sulu.

Ramos said the slain and wounded Abu Sayyaf brigands were followers of ASG sub-leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, whose group is based in Talipao town.

Ramos said no one was killed or wounded among the government troops who figured in the firefight against Sawadjaan’s group.

He said the clash ensued as the government forces chanced upon the group of Sawadjaan while conducting law enforcement operations.

He said the Abu Sayyaf brigands fled to different directions.

The military launched law enforcement operations after the Abu Sayyaf brigands released a German couple in October this year.

1,500 troopers now on stand-by in Samar, Leyte for possible HADR missions

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): 1,500 troopers now on stand-by in Samar, Leyte for possible HADR missions

Some 1,500 troopers of the 8th Infantry Division are now on stand-by for possible relief missions that may be needed in the aftermath of Typhoon "Ruby" which is expected to make landfall this weekend.

Major Gen. Jet B. Velarmino, 8th Infantry Division commander, said that the soldiers are equipped with mobility assets and already prepositioned in various areas of Samar and Leyte to help in disaster response missions.

An additional 300 disaster response personnel with varying rescue capabilities are on standby at the Division Headquarters in Catbalogan City, Samar and Disaster Response Task Force 8 headquarters in Tacloban City, Leyte ready to respond in areas that will most affected by "Ruby".

Velarmino is also the concurrent head of Disaster Response Task Force 8.

“The disaster response units and their complement of mobility assets, will provide the capability to move the badly injured for medical care, and to help move relief supplies to isolated areas in the aftermath of the typhoon," he said.

9th Infantry Division units in 'red alert' for 'Ruby' landfall

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 6): 9th Infantry Division units in 'red alert' for 'Ruby' landfall

With Typhoon "Ruby" threatening a large portion of the country, the Camarines Sur-based 9th Infantry Division announced that it has placed all its units in "red alert" and activated its Task Group "Sagip" to help in possible relief efforts.

Capt. Mardjorie Panesa, 9th Infantry Division spokesperson, said "Sagip" will work in coordination with with the Office of the Civil Defense Region 5.

"Sagip" is commanded by Brig. Gen. Felix J. Castro, she added.

In line with this, the deployment plan of all disaster response units of the Philippine Army in Bicol are now ready.

Army response/rescue teams along with their mobility assets and equipments will be ready and pre-positioned at their capitol/city/municipal halls for closer coordination between the local government units in their respective areas.

Aside from this, the 9th Infantry Division has organized a battalion-size rescuers and responders formation.

Water search-and-rescue teams will be utilized with the three newly acquired rubber boats and water rescue equipment in flood-prone-areas like Legazpi City, Albay; Camarines Sur, and Camarines Norte.

Joint Task Force-National Capital Region alerted for 'Ruby' impact

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 6): Joint Task Force-National Capital Region alerted for 'Ruby' impact

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced Saturday that it has alerted its Joint Task Force-National Capital Region for possible rescue and relief missions as Metro Manila is expected to be affected by inclement weather once Typhoon "Ruby" makes landfall Saturday night in Eastern Samar.

This was said by AFP Civil Relations Group commander Major Emmanuel Garcia in a message to the PNA.

"Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) plan 'Sagip Tulong' activated to support Metro Manila risk management efforts of local government units and line government agencies," he added.

Aside from this, the military has also activated the NCR disaster response task group and placed component disaster response task units from the Army, Navy and Air Force on alert.

Garcia added that ambulances, medical team, water filtration facilities, communication vans, K-9 trackers are now prepared for possible deployment in areas to be affected by "Ruby" in Metro Manila.

However, should damage to Metro Manila proved slight or negligible, he said these assets can be allocated to the Visayas to augment disaster response missions there.

Troops are also helping in repacking efforts at the Department of Social Welfare and Development's National Relief Operation Center in Pasay City.

Rebels fire on Army patrol base in Quezon province, no one hurt

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 6): Rebels fire on Army patrol base in Quezon province, no one hurt

Showing lack of compassion even in times of calamities, New People's Army (NPA) rebels fired on an Army patrol base in Tagkawayan town, Quezon province early Saturday morning.

The incident took place around 4:00 a.m. in Barangay Mapulot, Tagkawayan, Southern Luzon Command spokesperson Major Angelo Guzman said.

201st Infantry Brigade commander Col. Rhoderick M. Parayno said the rebels fired some 20 rounds of ammunition and four rifle grenades at the base.

Fortunately, no one was hurt as the rebels missed their target.

"The patrol base is on alert for humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations in the barangay," Parayno said.

Troops are now conducting clearing operations as of posting.

In Irosin town, Sorsogon Friday, NPAs detonated a landmine wounding a member of the 903rd Infantry Brigade disaster response team.

With the two NPA attacks on disaster responders, Guzman said the Southern Luzon Command will boost its security measures to provide utmost service to the Filipino people amidst the threat of typhoon "Ruby."

Philippine Army, Special Operations Command ready for typhoon 'Ruby'

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 6): Philippine Army, Special Operations Command ready for typhoon 'Ruby'

The headquarters of the Philippine Army and the Special Operations Command has activated its "Sulong Bayanihan" contingency plan for possible disaster relief and humanitarian missions that may be needed once Typhoon "Ruby" makes landfall Sunday morning in Samar.

This includes placing the 525th Engineer Construction Battalion and the entire 51st Engineer Brigade on stand-by, 7th Civil Relations Group commander Major Emmanuel Garcia said Saturday.

He added that various disaster response task units (DRTUs) are now ready for deployment.

This is aside from one battalion dedicated to relief and rescue work, Garcia disclosed.

Also organized were forward support teams for petroleum, oil, and lubricants (POL), meals-ready-to-eat (MREs),water, mobility assets and other logistics.

Garcia said that communication vans and manpack public address systems are also being readied.

He also said that Special Operations Command is also prepared to paradrop troops and supplies in isolated areas that may be severely affected by typhoon "Ruby".

PN activates action plan for 'Ruby'

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 6): PN activates action plan for 'Ruby'

With Typhoon "Ruby" threatening a huge part of the country, the Philippine Navy (PN) has activated its action plan for the impending storm.

This includes the following steps:

-Preparation and reprovisioning of all of its floating assets which took shelter so that it can be immediately deployed for rescue missions after the onslaught of the storm;

-Inter-agency coordination for the transport of relief items;

-Organization of naval task groups to support disaster response relief operations in most affected areas;

-Setting up of follow-on forces;

-Activation of Naval Task Group "Ruby" composed of naval task units; each for sealift, search-and-rescue, retrieval and relief, engineering, support and other logistics need;

-Alerted 476 sealift vessels located in different parts of the country for deployment in affected areas;

-Activation of multi-national coordinating center for aid coming from foreign military vessels;

-Prepositioning of relief items at BNS Gym;

-Coordination with different shipping lines to assist in relief and equipment transport.

DepEd affirms "No militarization in schools"

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 6): DepEd affirms "No militarization in schools"
 “Walang eskwelahan, pribado man o pampubliko, na nagpapahintulot sa pagpasok ng kahit sinumang armadong indibidwal o grupo,” according to Department of Education (DepEd)Secretary Armin Luistro

Luistro said during a dialogue Tuesday with some Lumad representatives and members of the Save Our Schools Network on the alleged military presence in some schools in Mindanao, said such prohibition was contained under DepEd Memorandum Order 221 issued last year..

DepEd Memorandum 221 entitled “Guidelines on the Protection of Children During Armed Conflict,” provides that armed persons were not allowed to enter school grounds.

“Nakalagay po diyan sa DepEd Memo na iyan ang sistema ng imbestigasyon. Kasama po diyan na hindi lang hanggang division lamang. Kasama po sa prosesong iyan ang monitoring, investigation, and action. Ang laman po ng DM 221 ay ang proseso na sinusundan natin.,” Luistro said.

“Madali lang magrevoke ng memo. Ang problema, pag ni-revoke ko yang memo, wala tayong masusundan na proseso para sa hinaing na inyong inilahad. Baka po pwede ninyong ireview ulit yung memo kasi pag ni-revoke ko po yan, lalu akong walang panghahawakan.”

He said that DepEd is one with the protesters in their concern for the safety of all persons in schools. “Napagkasunduan namin na DepEd ang mangunguna at magiging tulay para maipakita ang kanilang mga dokumento at mailahad ang kanilang mga sinalaysay na karanasan. Dahil napapaloob rin sa EO138 ang mga nasabing hinanaing, amin itong idudulog sa Inter-agency committee sa pangunguna ng Council on the Welfare of Children.”

Executive Order 138 establishes the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) as the chair of the Inter-agency Committee on Children in Armed Conflict, with DepEd as one of its member agencies.

"We maintain that schools are zones of peace so there should be no armed personnel inside school grounds as it puts our students at risk,” Luistro said during the dialogue.

He also said that military operations and engagements were not allowed inside school premises, except for civil-military activities like Brigada Eskwela and Medical Missions. “Pati nga po pulis, hindi basta puwedeng pumasok sa eskwelahan. May programa dapat yan, walang baril,” he added.

“The concerns (on military presence in schools) brought to our attention are alarming but we still need to follow a process, a proper investigation on the allegations we heard in the dialogue,” said Luistro.

He also requested members of the affected schools to submit documentary evidence like photographs, videos, or narratives of the harassment done by armed personnel on the schools for a more “swift and comprehensive investigation.”

At present no documents have been submitted to DepEd by the Save Our Schools Network.

“It's our mandate to ensure the safety and well-being of learners, teachers, and staff in our schools therefore we remind all armed persons, be they members of the military, police, or civilians, to uphold our guidelines in the interest of keeping our schools safe and peaceful,” said Luistro.

Catapang briefs NDRRMC chief on military response for 'Ruby'

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 6): Catapang briefs NDRRMC chief on military response for 'Ruby'

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang on Saturday personally briefed National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) head Alexander Pama on the possible military response for Typhoon "Ruby".

The briefing took place 10 a.m. Saturday at the AFP Command Center in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

The briefing started with the latest weather updates and followed by operational updates from the commanders of the Unified Commands who are tasked to jumpstart preparations for disaster response operations in the expected typhoon-affected areas.

It can be recalled that Catapang placed the entire AFP on "red alert" to maximize support that would be provided to local government and other agencies that handle humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations.

Soldiers were also deployed to urban centers, particularly in critical areas like Tacloban City, to support the Philippine National Police in maintaining peace and order and assisting government agencies in pre-emptive evacuations.

“Gen. Catapang has directed the area commanders to augment the police which are securing urban centers. The soldiers will help our police counterparts in maintaining peace and order, and prevent looting incidents,” AFP spokesperson Col. Restituto F Padilla, Jr., said.

He also said that military vehicles were deployed in different areas to transport troops that will conduct disaster response operations. They will also be utilized to provide possible transport assistance to government agencies.

“We advise the public not to be alarmed by the presence of military vehicles and personnel in their areas. They are deployed to help in preparations for "Ruby", particularly in helping people who need to be evacuated to safer places,” Padilla concluded.

Eastern Mindanao Command scores NPAs for irresponsible remarks

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 6): Eastern Mindanao Command scores NPAs for irresponsible remarks

Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad scored the New People's Army (NPA) for stating that civilians should not ride military vehicles to avoid getting shot at.

The rebels made this statement in wake of their recent ambush of a military ambulance which resulted in the death of four civilians and wounding of seven others at Barangay Marfil, Rosario town, Agusan Del Sur early this week.

“Such statement is a sign of irresponsibility and arrogance on the part of the NPA bandits. Our soldiers in the field are ambassadors of goodwill and you cannot deny the community to associate with them and seek their assistance,” Baladad said.

“These bandits have been indiscriminately violating the International Humanitarian Law (IHL), the very same law that they are always invoking to be observed and followed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police. Yet, the Rosario, Agusan Del Sur massacre was just another proof of their true intension not to be truly compliant to IHL and merely use it as propaganda and protection from their criminal activities where the ambush of an ambulance was only a case in point," the Eastern Mindanao Command chief stressed.

The massacre claimed the lives of four civilian including a four-month pregnant Manobo mother identified as Jocelyn Cerna, 27 and the wounding of seven others.

In an spontaneous indignation rally held last Dec. 2, about 500 barangay folks and most of whom are Indigenous People, condemned the act and urged the NPAs to spare the civilians, the woman and the children in their terroristic activities.

Cohesive efforts vs religious extremism urged

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 4): Cohesive efforts vs religious extremism urged

It’s like a venomous serpent let loose in communities of “indifferent” local authorities.

This was how the government intelligence community described religious extremism, particularly its growth from covert inception to its open propagation nowadays in some parts of Mindanao.

Religious extremism has many facets, one of which is the aspect of jihadist ideology espoused by a “misguided” sect among the world’s estimated two billion Muslims, according to experts.

Jihadist dogma teaching has surfaced in the advent of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) led by Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, a self-proclaimed Caliph trying to replicate caliphate governance exemplified by caliphs Abubakr, Omar, Usman and Ali, who were anointed by Prophet Mohammad.

ISIS ideologues intensified their campaign at the height this year of the widely-condemned attacks of Israeli forces against Palestinian Muslims including women and children, gaining sympathy from other parts of the world, especially among militant groups.

The ISIS leadership draws support from the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) of Sulu archipelago, the defiant Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Central Mindanao, and Lanao region’s Black Flag-waving militants of the Khilaffa Islamiya Movement (KIM), locally known as Ghuraba.

The outlawed Rajah Solaiman Movement (RSM), some members of which were behind the bloody Makati City bombing on Valentine’s Day of 2005, pledged allegiance to the ISIS leadership.

Last September, former President Fidel Ramos and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte disclosed the “recruitment” of some 100 youngsters in Mindanao to train and fight with ISIS forces.

Other government officials, mostly elected leaders in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) refuted the revelations, downplaying the possibility of foreigners to recruit from among young residents in the south.

ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman said there was no confirmed “recruitment” by the ISIS in Mindanao, admitting that local groups such as the ASG, BIFF and the like have been espousing extremism similar to that of Al-Baghdadi’s advocacy.

But sources from the government police intelligence community and moderate Muslim clerics in ARMM asserted that local ISIS supporters have been recruiting members either as combatants or propagators of jihadist ideology in some parts of Mindanao including the ARMM areas.

A police intelligence official said the Ghuraba group has recruited some 50 young militants for covert combat training in the jungles of Tagoloan in Lanao region late last month to “beef up” its existing core of 20 combatants.

Citing reports from residents privy to jihadist ideology, the official said the Lanao-based Ghuraba is backed by a few Arabic school operators in promoting calls for the establishment of militant Islamic state resembling the ISIS.

AFP orders troops on alert as CPP anniversary nears

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 5): AFP orders troops on alert as CPP anniversary nears

Butuan City – The higher area command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) ordered all field unit commanders to step up their combat and security operations as the founding anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) draws near.

The Northeastern and Northern Mindanao Fourth Infantry (Diamond) Division (4th ID) also ordered field unit commanders and its operational control (Opcon) unit commanders to strengthen their respective headquarters defense perimeter to avert surprise attacks by the New People’s Army (NPA), armed wing of the CPP.

The AFP is not ruling out intense tactical offensives by the NPA to mark the 45th anniversary celebration of the CPP on Dec. 26.

Maj. Gen. Oscar T. Lactao, commanding general of the 4th ID, also ordered field unit commanders to extend ample security assistance to rural businesses, government’s ongoing construction projects and key communication, power and water system facilities to prevent any saboteurs.

“Our best defense is always the best offense and our main mission is to protect our constituents,” stressed Lactao.

The top AFP area commander, who witnessed the graduation of new civilian volunteers in Loreto town, Agusan del Sur, also ordered field unit commanders to stop forced taxation allegedly being imposed on villagers and businesses by the NPAs.

Field unit commanders in Northeastern and Northern Mindanao expressed belief that the NPAs might mount terror attacks to show to the new leadership of both the Army and police that they are still “a force to reckon with.”

On Sept. 10, Lactao assumed his post as 4th ID chief while Chief Supt. David Y. Ombao took over as Police Regional Office 13 regional director last Nov. 4.

“It is already routine on their part to keep an eye on any possible terroristic activities that the armed group might carry out especially this time of the year,” said 401st Brigade commander Col. Gregory Cayetano, adding “We still hope for a peaceful Yuletide celebration”.

In another development, the regional command of PRO 13 yesterday assured the families of three abducted policemen in Surigao del Norte that the PNP will work double time and exert all efforts to rescue them.

Dead NPA amazon found floating in Bukidnon river

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 5): Dead NPA amazon found floating in Bukidnon river

Surigao City – The body of an alleged New People’s Army (NPA) amazon was found Thursday by troops in pursuit of rebels responsible for an attack in San Fernando, Bukidnon province, regional Army Public Affairs Officer (PAO) First Lt. Vergel U. Lacambra yesterday said.

The 10th Infantry (Agila) Division PAO said the body of the NPA amazon was found floating on Tigua River at Barangay Magkalungay, in San Fernando town of that same province.

“Acting on the information given by concerned villagers, the pursuing troops of 68th Infantry Battalion (68th IB) recovered the dead body and immediately brought it to the barangay hall for identification,” said Lacambra, in his statement sent to Manila Bulletin yesterday.

“Civilian witnesses disclosed that the fleeing rebels abandoned their slain comrade-in-arm as around 14 other critically wounded rebels were brought along by the fleeing rebels in their escape route of withdrawal after a fierce gunbattle with our troops the other day,” claimed the 10th ID PAO.

The troops also recovered backpacks containing personal belongings and subversive documents, empty magazines of M16 Armalite and AK 47 rifles, cooking utensils and food-stuffs,  Lacambra said.

Troops from the 68th Infantry Battalion (68th IB) are still securing the community of Barangay Magkalungay and nearby areas affected by the attack on Wednesday where four government soldiers were killed while 3 others were wounded.

The killed and wounded soldiers foiled the attempt to burn the construction equipment  used by government engineers in the area, the Army officer said.

He added that the 10th ID and 68th IB is set to extend assistance to the families of the slain rebels, who were abandoned by their group, for a decent and proper burials.

Swiss hostage escapes from Filipino extremists

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 6): Swiss hostage escapes from Filipino extremists

This Jan. 29, 2012 file photo, released by the Tawi-Tawi Provincial Police Office, shows Swiss Lorenzo Vinciguerra at an undisclosed place in the southernmost island province of Tawi-Tawi in the Philippines before heading out to a mountain forest to take pictures of the rare Sulu hornbill. (AP Photo/Tawi-Tawi Police Provincial Office, File)

This Jan. 29, 2012 file photo, released by the Tawi-Tawi Provincial Police Office, shows Swiss Lorenzo Vinciguerra at an undisclosed place in the southernmost island province of Tawi-Tawi in the Philippines before heading out to a mountain forest to take pictures of the rare Sulu hornbill. (AP Photo/Tawi-Tawi Police Provincial Office, File

A Swiss hostage escaped on December 6, 2014 from Abu Sayyaf extremists after hacking one militant commander and getting shot as he dashed to freedom, ending more than two years of jungle captivity in the restive southern Philippines, security officials said.

Lorenzo Vinciguerra, 49, made his daring escape after government forces fired artillery rounds in the jungle camp where he was being held near mountainous Patikul town in Sulu province. He hacked an Abu Sayyaf commander and ran away but was shot and wounded by other militants, security officials said.

Philippine army scout rangers later found him and brought him to safety.

“He was wounded but he’s well and recovering in a hospital,” regional military commander Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero told The Associated Press by telephone.

Vinciguerra was one of two European bird watchers seized by the militants in nearby Tawi Tawi province in February 2012. It was not immediately clear what happened to the other hostage, a Dutchman.

A Filipino guide who was with them had jumped into the sea and escaped while the militants were taking them by boat from Tawi Tawi to Jolo island in Sulu, an impoverished, predominantly Muslim province where the Abu Sayyaf has endured years of U.S.-backed military offensives.

The Abu Sayyaf was founded in the early 1990s on Basilan island, near Jolo. With an unwieldy collective of Islamic preachers and outlaws, it vowed to wage jihad, or holy war, in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation, but lost its key leaders early in combat, sending it on a violent path of extremism and criminality.

Washington has listed the Abu Sayyaf as a terrorist group and blames it for deadly attacks on American troops, foreign missionaries and tourists and civilians in the south.

The al-Qaida-inspired group still has an estimated 400 fighters split into about six factions. The mostly armed farmers still hold several hostages, including a Malaysian police officer and a Japanese treasure hunter.

Although weakened by battle setbacks, the militants have survived largely thanks to money collected from ransom kidnappings and extortion.

The military recently launched a new offensive against the militants after a new bout of kidnappings, including Chinese tourists in neighboring Malaysia’s Sabah state, which is only hours away by speedboat from the southern Philippines.

Kidnapped Swiss birdwatcher rescued in Sulu as military kills 5 Abu Sayyaf in offensive

From InterAksyon (Dec 6): Kidnapped Swiss birdwatcher rescued in Sulu as military kills 5 Abu Sayyaf in offensive

Col. Alan Arrojado, Commander of Joint Task Group-Sulu, talks with Lorenzo Vinciguerra, 49, who successfully escaped from his Abu Sayyaf abductors in the forested area of Patikul, Sulu. (Photo by JTG-SULU)

(UPDATE 2 - 3:39 p.m.) A Swiss national, one of two European birdwatchers kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf in Tawi-Tawi more than two years ago, was rescued by government troops in Sulu Saturday morning.

A message from Colonel Allan Arrojado, commander of Joint Task Group Sulu, said Lorenzo Vinciguerra, 49, was found by troops of the 1st Scout Ranger Battalion in Barangay Timpook, Patikul town.

A subsequent statement from the Armed Forces of the Philippines public information office said Vinciguerra had a "minor wound from a bladed weapon on his left cheek," without giving any more details.

Vinciguerra and Dutchman Elwold Horn, 52, were seized by gunmen from the island town of Panglima Sugala on February 1, 2012.

A Filipino companions, Ivan Sarenas, escaped during the incident.

News of Vinciguerra's rescue came as JTG Sulu reported killing five Abu Sayyaf gunmen and wounding seven others in Talipao town, also in Sulu, as government forces pressed their offensive against the militants.

The Talipao operations were against the band led by Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan.

Gunmen abduct fishermen in Zamboanga del Norte

From the Mindanao Examiner (Dec 6): Gunmen abduct fishermen in Zamboanga del Norte

A 47-year old fishermen was seized by armed men – who introduced themselves as soldiers – in the town of Sibuco in the southern Filipino province of Zamboanga del Norte, the victim’s wife said.

Rasida Dansalan, who sought help from the police, said seven men – clad in military uniform and wearing bonnet – abducted her husband Annon Dansalan before dawn Thursday in their house and his fate remains unknown.

The woman said the gunmen declared themselves as members of the army’s Bravo Company before. The gunmen fled on foot with their victim toward a swampy area.

The armed men did not say why they took the fisherman. It was not immediately known whether the gunmen were legitimate members of the military in the town.

The army has not reported anything about the abduction.

Swiss photographer kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf escapes in Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Dec 6): Swiss photographer kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf escapes in Philippines

 Photo released by the Philippine military's Western Mindanao Command show Swiss photographer Lorenzo Vinciguerra, who escaped from his Abu Sayyaf captors on Saturday, December 6, 2014 after he attacked and killed one of his guards in the southern province of Sulu where he was recovered by troops battling the rebels. And police photos show Lorenzo Vinciguerra, right, and Ewold Horn, before their kidnappings. (Text: Mindanao Examiner)

One of two European wildlife photographers kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf in 2012 in southern Philippines had escaped from his guards - after he killed one of them with a bolo - and recovered Saturday by soldiers battling the terrorist group in Sulu province, Filipino security officials said.

Marine Captain Maria Rowena Muyuela, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command, said the 49-year old Lorenzo Vinciguerra, from Switzerland, was rescued in the hinterlands of Patikul town. She said Vinciguerra managed to grab the bolo of his guard and killed him, and then escaped until he was rescued by soldiers. She said the foreigner also suffered a cut in the face during the scuffle for the bolo.

She said at least a dozen Abu Sayyaf gunmen under sub-leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan were also killed and wounded in the military operation against the terror group, blamed for the spate of kidnappings and killings. “The military, in coordination with the police, continues to intensify the conduct of law enforcement operations in order to expedite the capture of lawless elements responsible for the series of atrocities in the province,” she said.

Sulu police chief Senior Superintendent Abraham Orbita said the slain guard turned out to be Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Juhurim Hussien, who was hacked by Vinciguerra in the neck. “It was Juhurin Hussien, alright, one of the sub-leaders of the Abu Sayyaf,” he told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

The fate of his companion, Ewold Horn, 54, from Holland, is still unknown, but police said he is being held by a separate Abu Sayyaf group. Both Horn and Vinciguerra (Vinciguerre in other reports) were kidnapped by five gunmen - believed to be members of the former rebel group Moro National Liberation Front - on February 1 in the coastal village of Parangan in Panglima Sugala town in Tawi-Tawi province.

Their 35-year old Filipino guides Ivan Sadinas and Nestor Cabaluas were also taken by gunmen, but they managed to escape and reported the incident to the police. The foreigners were eventually handed over to the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu.

“Troops from Joint Task Group-Sulu while conducting an intensified law enforcement operation rescued one of the Abu Sayyaf’s kidnapped victims, Lorenzo Vinciguerra, in Patikul town,” Muyuela said. “According to Vinciguerra, he took advantage of the situation by escaping from his abductors while the military units are conducting the operation, but he was also shot and wounded by the Abu Sayyaf.”

The Philippine Army said Vinciguerra was airlifted by a military helicopter from Patikul town to a hospital in the town of Jolo where he is recuperating. No other details were made available by the military about Vinciguerre’s condition.

The Abu Sayyaf is still holding several foreign hostages and the group has threatened to kill Malaysian fish breeder Chan Sai Chuin, 32, if ransom of 3 million ringgits (P41 million) is not paid by his family. He was kidnapped along with a Filipino worker on June 16 this year from a fish farm in the town of Kunak in Tawau District. And also a 26-year old Malaysian policeman Kons Zakiah Aleip, who was seized on June 12 this year following a clash in Sabah that killed another policeman. The militants are demanding 5 million ringgits (P68.3 million).

Aside from the Malaysians, the militants are still holding a 64-year old Japanese treasure hunter Katayama Mamaito, who was kidnapped from Pangutaran Island in July 2010; and a few Filipinos kidnapped in Zamboanga, Basilan and other areas nearby. The rebels in October freed two German hostages Stefan Viktor Okonek, 71, and Henrike Diesen, 55 in Sulu after receiving P250 million ransoms from Germany in exchange for the freedom of the hostages.

The duo was heading to Sabah in Malaysia on a private yacht from a holiday in Palawan province when militants who were returning to the southern Philippines from a failed kidnapping in Sabah spotted the Germans and seized them on April 25.

The Abu Sayyaf group now has hundreds of members in the southern Philippines, particularly in the Muslim autonomous region. The military failed to stop the growing influence and violent campaigns of the militant group because it did not sustain the combat operations needed to wipe out the Abu Sayyaf in the restive region. The US military is assisting the local military in anti-terrorism operation against the Abu Sayyaf, which previously attacked and killed American soldiers in Sulu.

Philippine military honors, sends home cadavers of soldiers killed in NPA bombing

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Dec 6): Philippine military honors, sends home cadavers of soldiers killed in NPA bombing

Four soldiers who were killed by communist rebels in the southern Philippines were sent home to their grieving families on Saturday after a military service in Davao City.

The four - Corporal Ricardo Reyes, Privates First Class Rolando Dela Rosa, John Rar Pagba and Joven Campollo – were killed in a roadside bombing in San Fernando town in Bukidnon province that also sparked a 45-minute firefight that killed two New People’s Army rebels – Girlie Banlag and Alex Doongan.

Lt. Gen. Aurello Baladad, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command; and Maj. Gen. Eduardo Ano, commander of the 10th Infantry Division, let troops in honoring the slain soldiers, according to Maj. Ezra Balagtey, an army spokesman.

Balagtey also quoted Baladad as saying: “They (slain soldiers) have displayed the finest tradition of soldiery, they made the supreme sacrifice defending democracy and fighting for peace and we are ensuring that their death will be the bastion of peace and progress in Eastern Mindanao.’’

The military honor for the soldiers came a day after troops also killed 5 rebels in a clash in Compostela Valley’s Mabini town. Troops also recovered 5 automatic rifles from the slain communist fighters.

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