Saturday, December 31, 2016

Counter Terrorist Trends and Analysis (CTTA) – Volume 8, Issue 11

From S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), at the Nanyang Technology University, Singapore (Nov 29): Counter Terrorist Trends and Analysis (CTTA) – Volume 8, Issue 11

We are pleased to release this month’s issue on ‘Top IS Militants in Southeast Asia’.

For a complete copy of the report go to the following URL:

A new batch of radical jihadist leaders and key operatives has emerged in Southeast Asia, replacing a number of the Al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) old guard who have been killed (e.g.  Azahari Husin and Noordin Top), executed (e.g. Imam Samudra and Ali Ghufron) or incarcerated (e.g. Abu Bakar Bashir and Hambali). Five of the new leaders have achieved some prominence in recent years because of their jihadist activities: Bahrumsyah, Bahrun Naim and Gigih Rahmat Dewa from Indonesia, and Muhammad Wanndy and Isnilon Hapilon from Malaysia and the Philippines, respectively. They have pledged their allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the so-called Islamic State (IS), and represent the ‘fresh face’ of violent extremism in the region. Their emergence attests to jihadists’ ability at regeneration and leadership succession.

Unlike previous Southeast Asian jihadist leaders, a few of the present leaders like Bahrumsyah, Bahrun Naim and Wanndy run terror cells from overseas in Iraq and Syria. This poses a security challenge for governments in the region. While in the past they could eliminate or neutralise the top leaders operating in Southeast Asia, now they have to contend with cell leaders who operate from overseas with impunity, issuing instructions and directives, transferring funds, and facilitating travel for jihadists. Constraining them presents a huge challenge given the ease of communications via social media.

The five leaders featured in this issue are not spiritual and ideological leaders like Abdullah Sungkar (deceased) and Abu Bakar Bashir of Jemaah Islamiyah, but strategists and tacticians like Azahari Hussin and Noordin Top who masterminded terrorist operations. This partly explains why no wali (governor) has been appointed for IS enclaves in Indonesia and the Philippines. Only Hapilon has been appointed as the emir for IS Philippines. A potential emir in Indonesia, Santoso, was killed in July 2016 before he could be appointed.

Together with a few others, the five jihadi leaders have contributed to raising the threat level in Southeast Asia, as evidenced by the attacks, and discovery of terror plots and cells in the region. Militants mounted attacks in Jakarta in January, Puchong (Malaysia) in June and Solo (Indonesia) in July. In August, an IS suicide bomber attempted to kill a Catholic priest and his Church congregation in Medan (Sumatra). In the same month, militants plotting to stage a rocket attack against Singapore’s Marina Bay were arrested, and in October, three policemen were injured in a knife attack in Tangerang, near Jakarta. On 26 November, IS-linked militants in Indonesia were arrested for plotting to launch bomb attacks against the Myanmar Embassy, Parliament, the National Police Headquarters and several television stations. In the Philippines, a bomb exploded in Davao city in September while kidnappings for ransom and clashes with the armed forces have persisted. More than 400 militants have been arrested in the region. Clearly, there is an urgent need to identify and neutralise the principal leaders and members of terrorist cells and disrupt their plots in the region.

One of these militant leaders is Bahrumsyah, a key Indonesian jihadi leader appointed by al-Baghdadi as leader of IS’ Southeast Asia battalion, Katibah Nusantara, in Iraq and Syria. Jasminder Singh delves into Bahrumsyah’s background and the involvement of his combat unit in various military operations and training, manufacturing of improvised explosive devices, sniping and ideological propagation. Bahrumsyah and his battle-hardened and well-trained fighters might return to the region when IS falls in Iraq and Syria and this would have serious security implications for Southeast Asia.

Another emerging Indonesian militant is Bahrun Naim who has plotted several terrorist attacks in Indonesia. Muh Taufiqurrohman and Ardi Putra Prasetya explain Bahrun’s journey towards radicalisation, his vast networks in the jihadist community, his prominence in the cyber domain, and his quest for recognition from IS Central and the jihadi community by orchestrating terror attacks in Indonesia.

V.Arianti sheds light on one of Bahrun Naim’s subordinates, Gigih Rahmat Dewa who achieved notoriety for plotting to mount a rocket attack against Singapore’s Marina Bay. Leader of a terror cell in Batam, an island south of Singapore, Gigih also facilitated the arrival of Uighurs into Batam and aided the migration of Indonesians to Syria.

In Malaysia, Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi has emerged as a high-profile online ‘celebrity’ for IS sympathisers. He was behind the June 2016 Puchong grenade attack that occurred along with other IS-directed and IS-inspired ‘Ramadan’ attacks in several countries. Muhammad Haziq bin Jani examines Wanndy’s rise as a jihadist, his network of cells, and his threats to kill high-ranking security officials.

Another significant militant leader is Isnilon Hapilon who has been appointed emir of IS Philippines with the support of 16 militant groups in the archipelago. Hapilon is leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group faction that defected to IS in July 2014. Angelica Barangan Habulan cautions that an IS enclave in the Sulu Archipelago presents a security threat not only to the Philippines but also to Southeast Asia.

The terror attacks in Southeast Asia should be seen against the backdrop of more devastating suicide bombings and shootings in Paris, Brussels, Istanbul, Dhaka and elsewhere, resulting in thousands of casualties. In the months ahead, IS is likely to transform itself from a caliphate-building entity to a terrorist operations-based movement when it is fully routed in Iraq and Syria. This change is highlighted by Mohammed Sinan Siyech in his article which explains in some detail how IS has sowed the seeds of its own destruction. The group’s self-defeating ideology of perpetual conflict and acts of savagery makes it a dangerous movement that has to be degraded and destroyed.

Global Threat Forecast 2017

From S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), at the Nanyang Technology University, Singapore (Dec 29): Global Threat Forecast 2017 (By Rohan Gunaratna)


In 2017, the so-called Islamic State (IS) will decentralise posing a pre-eminent terrorist threat. To deter the international community against continued intervention in its heartland IS will stage attacks worldwide.


FOUR SIGNIFICANT developments will characterise the global threat landscape in 2017. First, it is likely that the so-called Islamic State (IS) will transform from a caliphate-building entity into a global terrorist movement. In a manner similar to Al Qaeda (AQ) that had dispersed from its Afghanistan-Pakistan core in 2001-2002 to conflict zones worldwide, IS will refocus on consolidating the distant wilayats (provinces) to serve as bastions of its power.

Second, death of either the IS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi or AQ leader Ayman al Zawahiri, may lead to collaboration or possible unification of the most powerful terrorist groups. In this regard, the discord between IS and AQ is a leadership dispute and not ideological in nature. Third, IS, AQ and their associates will compensate for their losses in the physical space by expanding further into cyber space. Despite government and technology firms collaborating to monitor the cyber space, the battle-space of threat groups in the virtual communities will continue to operate and grow.

The Context

There is a fourth significant development which has emerged in response to IS. This is the rise of far-right, ethno-nationalist, anti-Islamist populist movements, particularly in the US and Europe. The response of governments and their societies to these movements within their countries and ethno-nationalist challenges in the Middle East and elsewhere will determine the threat levels in the future.

Insurgency, terrorism and extremism will continue to characterise the international security landscape in 2017, exacerbated by the campaigns of the populist far-right movements. In the backdrop of intermittent threats and attacks, the new US leader Donald Trump is seeking to expand the coalition to include other partners to dismantle IS and AQ and decapitate their leaders.

Trump’s target-centric approach of eliminating the enemy and its infrastructure will replace Obama’s population-centric approach of engaging and empowering communities whilst adopting militarised responses. In the scenario that Trump and Vladimir Putin collaborate, the threat groups will suffer further loss of territory and operational capabilities.

However, the growing pool of supporters and sympathisers will replenish the losses allowing groups such as IS to fight back and recover. IS will transform into an operation-based movement. With the renewed global focus to destroy its infrastructure in Iraq and Syria, the goal of forming a caliphate will linger and live on in the cyber space and resonate among IS followers. Some will hark back at its brief history and others will strive to recreate it.

Contrary to popular opinion, IS will remain a threat as long as its ideology lives on in the cyber and physical space. IS will also continue to supplant AQ’s influence operationally and ideologically. IS, AQ and their associated groups are likely to remain potent global actors in the domain of violence and extremism. The groups will frame the fight as a response to attacks against Islam and Muslims with their apocalyptic vision in mind.

Decentralisation of Threat

IS will compensate for the loss of territory by expanding horizontally and strengthening its existing wilayats (provinces) while declaring new ones. The wilayats are considered the “Pillars of the Caliphate” by the self-declared caliph Baghdadi and he referred to Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Yemen, the Philippines, Somalia and West Africa as some of the wilayats in November 2016.

The distant wilayats will serve as bastions of IS power and future launching pads to attack enemies. However, the regional wilayats in Libya, Yemen and Afghanistan support the neighbouring IS structures. The shifting focus of IS towards its wilayats became evident when Baghdadi urged supporters of the caliphate to migrate to Libya instead of traveling to Iraq and Syria. However, the group has now been defeated and ousted from Sirte in Libya as well.

In a further demonstration of the emerging decentralised threat, his message was preceded by his associates urging supporters of the caliphate to migrate to IS wilayats and enclaves. For Southeast Asian fighters, the regional hub is in Mindanao in southern Philippines.

The global pool of foreign fighters with expertise and experience are likely to gravitate to wilayats, home countries and other countries with familial links. In addition to the persistent IS threat in Muslim minority and majority countries, the dispersal of the IS core will threaten coalitions fighting IS. Directly and through proxies, IS will target coalition equities in the Iraqi and Syrian theatre and other countries.

Multiple Coalitions Against IS

In 2015 to 2016, multiple coalitions targeting IS contributed to the group’s loss of territory. As such, with Russian airstrikes, Syrian ground forces took Palmyra in March 2016 and US-supported Kurdish and Arab groups attacked Raqqa, the de facto capital of IS in November 2016. US-supported Iraqi and Kurdish forces attacked Mosul in October 2016.

Both Raqqa and Mosul were used by the external operations wing of IS to plan, prepare and execute attacks. In his speech in November 2016, Baghdadi called for “attack after attack” in Saudi Arabia; he also urged his fighters and supporters to “unleash the fire of their anger” towards Turkey. The bomb blast and suicide bombing outside a soccer stadium in December 2016 in Istanbul that killed 29 and injured 166 is a forecast of what IS will unleash in Istanbul and elsewhere.

The overall terrorism threat landscape is unlikely to change as the ground situation in Syria will not alter dramatically in the short term. Contrary to assessments by some, IS will survive as long as the civil war persists in Syria and will remain a growing threat to the west and other countries confronting IS.

About the Author

Rohan Gunaratna is Professor of Security Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), at the Nanyang Technology University, Singapore. He is Head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, Singapore.

Is the US Losing East Asia to China?

From The Diplomat (Dec 15): Is the US Losing East Asia to China? (By Bob Savic)

In Southeast and Northeast Asia, old partners are drifting away from the U.S. and toward China.

Is the US Losing East Asia to China?

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands after a signing ceremony held in Beijing, China (October 20, 2016). Image Credit: REUTERS/Ng Han Guan
The election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency is continuing to send shockwaves in the corridors of power across East Asia. Yet even before the results of the 2016 US elections became known, the tremors of political change in the region were already evident. Arguably, the U.S. president-elect has only added fuel to the fire of America’s relations with East Asia.

The trend in emerging rifts between a number of formerly U.S.-centric East Asian states and the Obama administration had been visible, under the radar, for several years. However, in the last few weeks and months before the American elections, there was an eruption of anti-American sentiment, principally from the increasingly populist-oriented democracies of Southeast Asia.

The Philippines’ Economic and Political Pivot to China

The first major political shock came when President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines openly declared his pivot away from the country’s longstanding relations with the United States in favor of stronger ties with China and Russia. Commonly described as the “Trump of Asia,” Duterte’s outspoken style of politics, but particularly his “war on drugs,” which has led to the extrajudicial killings of over 5,000 suspects involved in the drugs trade, has rattled many Western governments, not the least being the Obama administration. As a result, Duterte has found common ground over America’s human rights criticisms and interference in other countries’ domestic affairs with the leaders of China and Russia.

Domestic considerations aside, foremost in Duterte’s pivot was more likely the need to shift geopolitical alliances in favor of ties with China, as the world’s fast-rising superpower, given the inevitable consequences this would have for closely neighboring and much weaker countries in the region. This was manifest in China’s brushing aside the recent ruling of The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in favor of the Philippines, dismissing China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea.

The other driver of Duterte’s pivot to China has been economic. Many of the Philippines’ largest business conglomerates, and certainly many of the country’s wealthy and powerful business owners, are of Chinese descent. Many had been progressively establishing strong business linkages with China long before Duterte came to power. It was no surprise, therefore, that during Duterte’s trip to Beijing, where $24 billion of infrastructure-related and other investment deals were agreed, top business leaders from all of the largest ethnic-Chinese-owned conglomerates in the Philippines among other business tycoons, were present.

Malaysia’s Defense and Security Swing to China

Shortly after the announcement of closer ties between China and the Philippines, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak followed suit with a political upset by affirming closer security ties with China. To some extent, the geopolitical shift by Malaysia was not a complete surprise. The country’s relations with the United States have long been fraught with political friction. This was particularly so under former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, widely renowned for his anti-Western and anti-Washington rhetoric.

That rhetoric was largely swept under the rug during Najib’s premiership. Yet his government’s relations with the United States were always somewhat guarded. One cause in explaining their reserved bilateral relationship may be attributable to the longstanding military-technical and military cooperation between Malaysia and Russia. This cooperation and improving relations, endorsed by Najib, persisted in spite of the downing of Malaysian passenger plane MH17 over southeast Ukraine, allegedly by Russian-backed rebels, in mid-2014.

Meanwhile, the growing corruption scandal over the state-controlled investment development firm, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which had been co-founded by Najib, coupled with the intensifying high-profile legal and regulatory pressures being applied by various U.S. authorities, are unlikely to have supported any upturn in Najib’s relations with Washington.

Not long after the scandal arose, Najib made a surprise announcement, declaring the purchase of four Chinese military naval vessels. It was Malaysia’s first such military deal with China. Its timing was controversially symbolic given the heightened tensions arising from the international spotlight on China in the wake of the PCA’s ruling against its claims of sovereignty in the South China Sea.

ASEAN’s Generally Mixed Relations With the US and China

As a matter of practice, the Association of Southeast Asian States (ASEAN) does not require its members to have a unified common foreign policy. Indeed, the principle of each state’s independent political authority is closely guarded.

For instance, Laos openly declared its close affiliation with China in early 2016. A major impetus behind this policy has been Laos’ enthusiasm to attract large-scale Chinese infrastructure investment under its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) linking Asia to Europe.

Cambodia has similarly been drawn to China given its offers of significant infrastructure investments and loans. The relationship between the two became even closer in October 2016, when President Xi Jinping visited Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen. In turn, Hun Sen has described China as his country’s “closest friend.” As a sign of their growing relations, Cambodia recently vetoed an ASEAN statement referring to the PCA ruling against China’s claims in the South China Sea. Furthermore, Beijing’s economic and international support for Cambodia in the face of a reported clampdown on opposition to the ruling party has strained Cambodia’s relations with the United States and Europe, which have seen a loss of leverage over the country’s exercise of human rights.

ASEAN’s other states have typically implemented foreign policies that tend to favor a balance of relations with global superpowers. Vietnam has been the main country in the region to vociferously oppose China’s growing influence there, particularly in light of recent clashes over a number of features where the two states have overlapping claims in the South China Sea. As a result, Vietnam’s wariness in regard to its powerful regional neighbor has spilled over into developing warmer ties with its former adversary, the United States. Having said that, Vietnam’s ongoing economic and political relationship with Russia, including in its military relations, will probably continue to underpin the country’s main foreign policy agenda, notwithstanding Russia’s growing relations with China.

Ever since Thailand’s military junta took power, political and economic relations with the United States and Europe have been increasingly problematic. As the military rolled back democracy in their constitutional re-write, the leanings toward more centrist and authoritarian forms of government, even after possible elections to be held in 2017, would see considerable power continue to be wielded by the generals. In this political vacuum, where the United States and Europe have downgraded relations with Thailand, the military government has fostered stronger ties with China, especially in relation to arms deals, but also in trade. China has become Thailand’s largest trade partner, having recently overtaken Japan.

In Myanmar, the appointment of Aung San Suu Kyi in April 2016 to the position of the country’s state counselor (de facto prime minister), in addition to her party’s overwhelming majority in parliament, has shifted the country’s fledgling democracy away from its military-dominated government’s traditional links with China and toward strong relations with the United States and Europe. Even so, Suu Kyi’s first official overseas visit, in August 2016, was to Beijing, before then visiting the United States. Her visit to Beijing was essentially in recognition of the important role that China will likely have for Myanmar’s economy. On this point, Beijing will strive to maintain influence in its strategically-positioned southern neighbor by investing extensively in BRI-related infrastructure and energy across the country, as well as fostering closer political relations with Suu Kyi’s government.

Singapore and Indonesia — ASEAN’s wealthiest and largest economies, respectively — have maintained constructive ties with the United States over many years. At the same time, both have increasingly engaged with China, especially on the economic front, while also affirming closer political ties in the context of their ongoing relations with the Washington. How this balance of relations is managed in the face of a potentially-protectionist Trump presidency amid ever expanding trade and investment relations with China, which is already their main partner in each respective economic sector, remains to be seen.

South Korea’s Foreign Policy Uncertainty

In the wake of Trump’s election victory, the typhoon of geopolitical change, which started in Southeast Asia, has begun to drift upwards into Northeast Asia, most especially in the direction of South Korea. A gathering political storm there has engulfed the country’s President Park Geun-hye, who was impeached by the National Assembly on December 9. Park has been removed from office pending confirmation of her impeachment by the Constitutional Court.

The mounting scandal embroiling many of Korea’s largest chaebols and a confidante of the president herself has involved both corruption and abuses of power. For the vast majority of the Korean population, increasingly squeezed by economic pressures, the country’s political and economic ruling elite, largely founded by Park’s late father, the military ruler Park Chung-hee, have become a symptom of the country’s decline.

By coincidence, only a few months before the uncovering of this all-consuming political scandal, Park undertook the controversial policy of stationing the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system in South Korea. Initially, most of the country supported the policy, seen as a necessity to mitigate the threat of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

However, the policy was increasingly subject to criticism by Beijing, which voiced its concerns that the system’s radar would be able to track the movements of Chinese weapons. Beijing progressively raised the levels of its warnings, including the prospect of a regional arms race that could destabilize the region.

Since China’s (and Russia’s) growing criticisms of the THAAD deployment, and in parallel with the rising political scandal, the main opposition has become increasingly vocal saying they would campaign for scrapping the THAAD deployment as one of their policy platforms during the upcoming  presidential election. If so, this would be the first occasion that a mainstream political party would have campaigned on a split with the United States over defense policy.

Furthermore, the success of the main opposition party in this year’s parliamentary elections, leading to the first loss of Park’s ruling party’s parliamentary majority in 16 years, has elevated the likelihood that a mainstream political party will be empowered to shift away from Seoul’s traditionally close cooperation with the United States on foreign and defense policies. As a sign of things to come, this has even led to members of the opposition calling for an independent policy against Washington by removing some sanctions on North Korea.


The foreign policy direction now taking root in parts of East Asia, in terms of pivoting away from the United States and toward China and even Russia, to a lesser degree, may be characterized as a case of falling dominos in parts of Southeast Asia. The Philippines and Malaysia have joined states like Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia in embracing China and holding the United States at arm’s length.

Meanwhile, in Northeast Asia, the decline of South Korea’s traditional ruling elite, tied in with a mainstream political opposition more willing to embrace a foreign policy relationship with China over North Korea, clearly sets out a more complex range of outcomes. The U.S. position in East Asia looks shakier than even before, and President Trump is not even in office yet.

[Bob Savic is a Senior Research Fellow at Global Policy Institute, London Metropolitan University and a Partner in Eurasia Corporate Services, St. Petersburg Capital Management LLP.]

New Weapons on China’s Artificial Islands Don’t Violate 'Non-Militarization' of South China Sea

From The Diplomat (Dec 30): New Weapons on China’s Artificial Islands Don’t Violate 'Non-Militarization' of South China Sea (By Steven Stashwick)

Installation may raise tensions, but China has long excluded “necessary defense” from its pledge.

New Weapons on China’s Artificial Islands Don’t Violate 'Non-Militarization' of South China Sea

Just before public attention was diverted by China’s seizure of an Unmanned Underwater Vehicle — known commonly as an underwater drone — from the U.S. oceanographic survey vessel USNS Bowditch in the South China Sea, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) revealed commercial satellite imagery of new weapons systems installed on several Chinese-occupied Spratly Islands. The images, published by CSIS’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) on December 13, appear to show anti-aircraft guns and anti-missile point defense systems on Gaven, Hughes, Johnson, Cuarteron, Fiery Cross, Mischief, and Subi reefs in the South China Sea, contested features that China has built up into large, artificial islands with extensive airfield and radar facilities over the last several years.

Many analysts believe these weapons systems explicitly violate President Xi’s September 2015 pledge that China would not militarize the Spratlys and make the South China Sea dispute more dangerous and intractable. The weapons raise two significant questions, the first political and the second military. Has China broken its pledge? And do these weapons alter the regional military balance? These weapons may be an unwelcome development from a U.S. perspective, but it did not, and they do not.

“Necessary Defense Facilities”

China’s Foreign Ministry responded to questions about the weapons in AMTI’s imagery saying “China’s deployment of necessary defense facilities on its own territory has nothing to do with the so-called militarization.” Some have framed the spokesperson’s “necessary defense facilities” phrase as a post-hoc rationalization, but it is consistent with the official Chinese position dating back before the non-militarization pledge.

In April 2015, before Xi’s September statement, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that some construction on its Spratly features was for “satisfying the need of necessary military defense.” In June, the Assistant Foreign Minister made clear that its construction projects would include “some necessary facilities to satisfy the need of military defense.”

Observers may have believed that Xi’s pledge proscribed whatever “necessary” construction for military defense those previous statements alluded to. But in October, not long after that pledge, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson again said that China’s Spratlys construction was “mainly” for civilian needs, but included a “limited amount of necessary military facilities for defense purposes only. They fit well with the security environment around relevant Chinese islands and reefs. There is no such thing of China ‘militarizing’ relevant islands and reefs.”

This statement makes China’s position clear that facilities, and presumably weapons systems, that are for “defense purposes,” on its Spratly features are not included in its definition of “militarization.” While U.S. observers may have wanted that definition to be more expansive, this installation is consistent with what China has always said it would do in the Spratlys and it cannot be accused of changing the terms of its pledge.

“Does not impact or target any country”

Since before Xi’s non-militarization pledge, official Chinese statements have insisted that its construction was only for “necessary defense” purposes and that it “does not impact or target any country.” This latter phrase may imply that China defines non-militarization defensive construction according to whether or not it can project significant military power. As long as Chinese Spratly installations lack long-range power projection capability, they both meet China’s internal definition of non-militarization and leave the military balance in the South China Sea largely unaltered.

China possesses many capable, long-range weapons systems that could easily “impact or target” its South China Sea neighbors from those Spratly bases. Long-range anti-ship cruise missiles could close straits to warships. Long-range anti-air missiles might make the airspace over much of the South China Sea inhospitable to foreign aircraft. Both conventionally-armed medium-range ballistic missiles and squadrons of fighters or bomber aircraft could attack China’s rival South China Sea claimants. While China’s larger Spratly bases could accommodate those “power projection” capabilities, and may yet in the future, they do not right now.

Some analysts dismiss arguments that weapons are ever exclusively defensive, since even those intended or optimized for defensive purposes have some offensive utility. This is true, but anti-aircraft guns and close-in weapons systems (CIWS), which AMTI believes to be the weapons captured in their imagery and installed at each of the facilities, have very limited range.

Unlike the long-range anti-air missiles that China deployed to the Paracel Islands last February with ranges over 100 nautical miles, anti-aircraft guns require targets to nearly fly overhead and cannot reach the cruising altitude of commercial jetliners. CIWS are even shorter-range weapons designed as a “last ditch” defense against incoming missiles, and would likewise require a target aircraft to fly practically overhead, and at even lower altitude to hit. Further, since these are fixed installations on immovable and relatively isolated islands, that theoretical offensive utility is vanishingly small because any potential targets would have to purposely bring themselves within those tight ranges.

“China does not intend”

It is worth revisiting Xi’s original statement on non-militarization:
Relevant construction activities that China are undertaking in the island of South — Nansha [Spratly] Islands do not target or impact any country, and China does not intend to pursue militarization.
The nearly universal framing of this statement in the United States is as a “pledge” not to militarize the Spratly Islands. But Xi’s phrase, “China does not intend,” is much less binding than the word pledge implies. Had he meant it as an unbreakable pledge, one would expect a more definitive phrase like “China will not.”

On the other hand, intentions can change with circumstances, and official Chinese statements have long countered accusations of militarization by describing U.S. naval patrols as the real “militarization” threat. One Foreign Ministry spokesperson justified China’s defensive construction as a “completely understandable” reaction to the “high-profile display of military strength and frequent and large-scale military drills by certain countries and their allies in the South China Sea,” referring to the United States.

Admiral Dennis Blair, a retired head of the U.S. Pacific Command and President Obama’s first Director of National Intelligence, has long contended that China’s South China Sea bases are not militarily significant and would be indefensible in a major conflict with the United States. These new, fixed, relatively sparse and short-range defensive systems do not alter that calculus. China’s longstanding explanations of the defensive facilities it intended to build in the Spratlys, and its exclusion of that activity from Xi’s pledge, complicates any U.S. claim that China acted in bad faith or otherwise merits some punitive response. Since Xi’s pledge sounded more aspirational than definitive to begin with, it isn’t clear what basis the United States would have to act beyond increasing its own military presence even if China did deploy significant power projection forces to the Spratlys.

Recent reports by Fox News that U.S. defense officials believe China may be staging long-range anti-air missiles on Hainan Island for eventual deployment to the Spratlys suggest a more significant change in the regional military balance that the U.S. might not accept. However, as a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman told a reporter who asked how the military facilities in the Spratlys did not constitute militarization, “I wonder how you understand the word ‘militarize.’” If military calculations begin to clash with diplomatic considerations in the South China Sea, the United States and China will finally need to agree on the fine print.

[Steven Stashwick is an independent writer and researcher based in New York City focused on East Asian security and maritime issues. He spent ten years on active duty as a Naval Officer with tours in the Pentagon and at-sea based in Japan elsewhere the Pacific. He completed graduate study in International Relations at the University of Chicago, where he focused on the impact of international rules and naval diplomacy on security and conflict escalation. Still serving in the U.S. Navy Reserve, he writes in his private capacity and does not represent official positions of the U.S. government.]

Duterte, One Step Closer to 'The Punisher'

From The Diplomat (Dec 28): Duterte, One Step Closer to 'The Punisher' (By
Eduard Merigo)

Duterte’s Presidential Office is using a comic book to back his war on drugs in the Philippines.

Duterte, One Step Closer to 'The Punisher'

Front and cover of the comic book about the war on drugs of the President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte's, distributed during the meeting of the President with the the Filipino community in Cambodia on December 13th, at Sofitel Hotel in Phnom Penh.  Image Credit: Eduard Merigo
It is Friday in a call center in the Philippines and two workers — we will call them Rick and Mark — discuss going out for a drink. Rick is hesitant, but Mark insists by saying that Mona, another colleague, will also come. Once at  the party, Rick feels insecure about talking to Mona and Mark offers him some drugs to “boost his confidence.” They both use them.

From there, Mona is raped and killed by the two friends. When police surround them days later, Rick surrenders peacefully while Mark, armed with a gun, tries to resist. Five bullets pierce his skull and body.

This is one of the stories portrayed in the comic “Ayun Kay Digong” (“According to Digong”), a  reference to the nickname of the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte. At the end of the story, Duterte looks at the readers with a stern face and declares, “Drugs are really a plague on society.”

“The campaign against drugs is the fight of every Filipino,” he adds. “Let’s help each other to end this problem.”

Inside the comic’s 16 pages are three stories showing the dangers of drug use. Two of them end with the fatal shooting of the drug peddlers or users (who are armed), and one ends with the rehabilitation of the addict.

Page 12 and 13 of the comic book tell the story of Rick and Mark.
Page 12 and 13 of the comic book tell the story of two coworkers who take drugs to “boost confidence.” Photo by Eduard Merigo.  
 Duterte’s war on drugs has caused 6,199 deaths since he first took office on June 30, according to the latest count by the Philippines National Police on December 25. Of those deaths, 4,049 were extrajudicial killings. Hundreds of thousands surrendered and dozens of thousands were arrested, packing the already overpopulated Filipino prisons. Duterte’s extreme stance against drugs, the flagship of his mandate, and against crimes and corruption resulted in Time magazine comparing him with Marvel’s vigilante character “The Punisher” in 2002. Back then he was mayor of the southern city of Davao.

In Davao, his iron fist and earthy style granted him undisputed popularity through 22 years in office. However, his links to the death squads of Davao, which reports claim have killed more than 1,400 suspected criminals since the late 1990s, prompted the first accusations of human rights violations. He has both denied and admitted to having links to death squads, and to killing criminals personally. Duterte has repeatedly urged people to take matters into their own hands and kill drug users and pushers, while at the same time condemning extrajudicial killings.

Although widely criticized by the UN, the United States, the European Union, and international human rights organizations, Duterte’s stance against corruption and drugs enjoys strong support at home. The comic is one of the products of this popularity. Margot Delos Santos, program director at the company behind it, Strawberry Field Productions, says creating the comics was their initiative. “It was a sample that we made and then we sent it to them [Duterte’s office], and they liked the idea. We like to support the advocacy of our president; drugs are something that will destroy our nation,” says Delos Santos.

According to the secretary of the Presidential Communications Office, Martin Andanar, the comic “didn’t cost the Government a single centavo.”

The comic has been distributed since October in the Philippines and in some Filipino communities abroad, particularly in countries Duterte has visited. The first time was in Brunei in mid-October, then China, and the most recent was  Cambodia, where Andanar says “they ran out of comics.” The sample edition, with the subtitle “Eradicate: Dangerous Drugs,” is intended to be  the first in a series about drug abuse in the Philippines. It is labelled an “infocomic” because its contents are inspired by real events. “It is about real life situations, so it is really easy to come up with a scenario, because this is what you see in the news. If you are in the Philippines you will see a lot of these things happening,” explains Delos Santos.

Duterte claims that there are 3 or 4 million drug addicts in the Philippines, but the Dangerous Drugs Board estimated in a survey published in October that there are 1.8 million users in a population of 100 million. Shabu (methamphetamine) is the most used drug, with 4 out of 5 drug users who seek treatment taking it, according to 2014 data from the Drug Abuse Information Network for Asia and the Pacific.

Criminality has been a major national concern for Filipinos throughout 2015 and 2016, according to Pulse Asia surveys, but not the first one. From July to November, data from the Philippine National Police show that the overall crime rate (murder, homicide, physical injury and rape, and crimes against property) has declined from 81,064 cases to 55,391. On the other hand, murder has increased from 3,950 to 5,970 in the same period.

In a recent survey of Social Weather Stations last week, 78 percent of the Filipinos interviewed were worried about becoming victims of extrajudicial killings and 94 percent considered it important to capture drug suspects alive. The same poll, however, showed that 85 percent of respondents were satisfied with the administration’s campaign against drugs.

In Cambodia, the last place where the comic was distributed, it is hard to find a Filipino who doesn’t support Duterte. On the eve of his visit, six Filipinos re-enacted the killing of a drug dealer in front of Phnom Penh’s Royal Palace in a protest that lasted a few minutes. That same day, the president met with more than a thousand compatriots that received him like a rock star.

At a restaurant in the capital, some Filipinos comment on Duterte’s mandate so far, which they think is unfairly represented in the international media. “He is the only president who has been in the position, who responded on time, who was able to really put into action what he has promised before the elections so, in that perspective, he is respected,” says English teacher Cai Delos Santos. “For Duterte, when he says stop you should stop, or otherwise he will do something that will make you stop,” adds Delos Santos, who attended the gathering with the president during his visit to Cambodia.
“Mostly the crimes are because of the drugs so this one [the comic] is just informing people that if we use the drugs we can commit a lot of crimes,” says her friend Hanna Mendoza, who is also an English teacher.

Last week, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein asked the Filipino authorities to investigate Duterte after he publicly admitted to killing  three suspected criminals when he was  mayor of Davao. Al Hussein said in a statement that Duterte’s “repeated calls for the police, military and the general public to engage in a ‘war on drugs’, bringing people in ‘dead or alive’, has fostered an environment of alarming impunity and violence.”

The president responded by calling Al Hussein an idiot and a son of a bitch, enlarging the list of international personalities he has insulted, which already includes Barack Obama and Pope Francis.

Andanar thinks that the policies of Duterte need further explanation abroad. “The local people, the domestic market understands the war on drugs, but unfortunately the international community, the international media, needs more education when it comes to the war against illegal drugs. They need more explanation,” says the secretary of the Presidential Communications Office.

In any case, the comic books are just the beginning. There will be new communication tools for the domestic public that will complement the national media, which is also undergoing some changes. The Government website is experiencing “a major face lift,” says Andanar. The office already has a hotline and a tabloid on its fourth edition called “Mula sa Masa, Para sa Masa: Masa Kasangga sa Pagbabago” (From the People to the People: People Partner for Change). In January, they will launch a Duterte app and the president has announced plans to host a television and a radio program, following a format he already used as mayor of the city in Davao.

[Eduard Merigo is a freelance journalist based in Southeast Asia]

NPA-CMC on CPP’s 48th anniv: ‘Enough for state’s deception, strengthen NPA, serve people’s war’

From the often pro-CPP/NDF/NPA online publication the Bicol Today (Dec 30): NPA-CMC on CPP’s 48th anniv: ‘Enough for state’s deception, strengthen NPA, serve people’s war’ Photo during the 48th anniversary of CPP hosted by Celso Minguez Command
SORSOGON CITY – “Sa 48 na taon dae na kita magpapalanse (in 48 years we will not be fooled),” said Ka Carlo of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New People’s Army (NPA)-Celso Minguez Command during the 48th anniversary celebration held in Sorsogon province, monday.

The gathering for the anniversary of CPP’s reestablishment on December 26, 1968 was primarily to recognize the Party’s 48 years of revolutionary struggle that has developed nationwide strength and prestige. To NPA-Celso Minguez Command, the celebration was also to charge the Duterte administration in its failed promises, especially the present regime’s failure to fulfill its promised measures for the peace talks.

“Peace talks is just part of parliament struggle according to Ka Carlo. “Nagpapalakpak kita kay pinalaya an 19 bilanggong pulitikal pero hanggang palakpak lang kita (we applaud since the 19 political prisoners were freed but we just applaude),” he said.

48th anniv: NPA troops march during their graduation rites in military training. Photo
Rotten ruling system continues

The Philippine semicolonial and semifeudal system has been wallowing in a continuing and deepening crisis according to Central Committee of CPP.

“The neoliberal policies have brought about widespread destruction of productive forces, especially of the working class who are experiencing worsening forms of capitalist exploitation in all countries, including the highly industrialized capitalist powers,” CPP central committee stated.

“The productive classes of workers and peasants are mired in poverty and socio-economic difficulties as they suffer from chronic mass unemployment, low wages, contractualization and other oppressive labor policies, landlessness and landgrabbing, environmental plunder, rising costs of living and more frequent and more destructive natural calamities. The reactionary government fleeces the people with burdensome taxes while social services continue to deteriorate amid budget cuts, rampant corruption and state neglect,” its statement added.

Foreign monopoly capitalists, big bourgeois compradors and the landlord class continue to accumulate wealth and profit. They exploit workers especially in highly oppressive labor enclaves as well as centers of so-called “business outsourcing.” In the countryside, they exact feudal land rent from land monopoly according to CPP central committee.

“They control vast tracts of plantation land operated directly by foreign-controlled agro-corporations and indirectly through so-called “contract-growing” agreements. The exploiting classes collaborate with bureaucrat capitalists to benefit from control of state funds and contracts,” CPP central committee added.

“Grabeng panlalanse, grabeng krimen an nag-agi (worst deception, worst crimes happened),” said Ka Carlo, that deception started during the regime of Cory Aquino. He added that “Ang Kasagutan sa Kahirapan ay rebolusyon”.

Celso Minguez Command of NPA in Sorsogon. Photo
Ka Carlo agreed that the Filipino people are fed-up with the rotten ruling system. They seethe with revolutionary rage. They aspire to end the system of exploitation and oppression and are ever ready to wage revolutionary struggle under the leadership of the Party.

“Without a people’s army, the people have nothing”

Raise High: flags of CPP-NDFP-NPA. Photo
Guided by Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, CPP will further consolidate and strengthen itself ideologically, politically and organizationally in order to bring forward the national democratic revolution to greater heights. Primarily, CPP will further strengthen its leadership of the people’s war by firmly directing the NPA in waging revolutionary armed struggle.

The Party and concerned commands of the people’s army are intent on urgently resolving the overdispersal of NPA units in squads or teams in some regions in the counterproductive effort of covering a wide area with limited forces – address the stark imbalance between the development of the people’s war in Mindanao, on the one hand, and the stagnation in Luzon and Visayas.

In Luzon, Bicol needs to strengthen its people’s army according to Ka Carlo. Sorsogon has bigger forces but there’s a need to balance the people’s army in other provinces in the region according to Ka Carlo.

Celso Minguez Command is willing to deploy its forces to areas with limited forces. “The hope in revolution is the New People’s Army so strengthen it,” Ka Carlo said.

Newly graduate NPA troops receive their diploma during the 48th anniversary CPP. Photo
By deploying the strength of the people’s army with the platoon as the basic unit and with front, interfront and regional centers of gravity, CPP shall increase the NPA’s capacity to exercise initiative and flexibility, have a sufficient core of Party cadres to ably lead the political and military work of the NPA, raise the morale of Red fighters and the masses, and enable them to carry out a slew of other tasks in waging agrarian revolution and base building. CPP can also accelerate the recruitment of new Red fighters and the formation of new platoons in order to cover wider areas of operation.

“At present, Rodrigo duterte opened the door of friendship in all revolutionary movements. Since then your army [Celso Minguez Command] conformed to the rules and declarations of the party to give way to the spirit of friendship. This includes the observance of ceasefire even it’s too hard for your army [Celso Minguez Command] to avoid continuous attacks of the reactionary forces that do not conform to their own ceasefire,” Ka Doy of NPA – Celso Minguez Command said.

The situation in revolutionary masses and people’s army is stiff because of continuing attacks of enemies who are hiding in Oplan Tokhang and in peace and development operations according to him.

Tambang Dance. Photo
Ka Doy added that during ceasefire and peace talks, their troops remained in active defense. Their troops did not allow and will never allow their enemies to destroy the achievements of the party and the revolutionary forces. “Pinagbuhisan ito ng talino, pagod at dugo ng lahat ng rebolusyunaryong pwersa lalo na ng masang magsasaka,” he said.

During this time of ceasefire, it does not mean that the war is already finished according to Ka Doy. “We must not think to be complacent because of ceasefire period. Avoid to fall into the trap of the enemy. This call will not only be for the people’s army or the revolutionary masses in the countryside but also to comrades active in urban,” Ka Doy asserted.

“We must handle the superiority in politics, let our NPA be felt. Support the revolutionary masses of our revolution, it will ensure our win, it will ensure our success,” Ka Doy concluded.

MILF: Pres. Duterte to announce members of reconstituted BTC

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Dec 31): Pres. Duterte to announce members of reconstituted BTC

President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to announce names of the members of the reconstituted Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) this coming January, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said yesterday in Davao City.

In a report today by Philstar, it says that the BTC,  created under Executive Order (EO) 8 signed by President Duterte in a ceremony at Malacañan on Nov. 7, is among the mechanisms under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro that will draft the enabling law that will establish and operationalize a new Bangsamoro political entity.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) crafted by the BTC during the administration of Pres. Benigno Aquino failed to pass by congress due to various contentious provisions that critics say are unconstitutional.

The BTC will have 21 members with 10 members to be appointed by the government and 11, including its chairperson to be named by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The Moro National Liberation Front under the leadership of Muslimin Sema, the indigenous peoples, sultanates and local government units in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao will be represented in the BTC.

 The commission will form an assembly that will serve as a consultative body to discuss the proposed enabling law with various stakeholders. It will also draft a proposed measure that will replace the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the Philstar also said in its report.

Dureza said the deadline to draft the enabling law is in July 2017 in time for the resumption of the regular session of Congress.

War games ‘reformat’ eyed

From The Standard (Dec 30): War games ‘reformat’ eyed

DEFENSE Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Friday that Manila could “reformat” its military engagements with the United States to appease China.

“We need to reformat the land exercises in Fort Magsaysay. Nevertheless they will continue. But those exercises fronting the [South] China Sea, we’ll transfer it to Mindanao so that our neighbors won’t get pissed off. It’s also [being] sensitive to our neighbors,” Lorenzana said.

The defense chief said the idea to move the war games was on the Philippines’ own initiative and not at Beijing’s request.

                               Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana

President Rodrigo Duterte recently renewed his attacks on the United States, telling it to “prepare for the eventual repeal or abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement” after the Millennium Challenge Corp., a US foreign aid agency, deferred a grant to the Philippines over “concerns about the rule of law and civil liberties”--clearly referring to the bloody war on drugs.

Asked if he opposed Duterte’s plan, Lorenzana said he simply explained to the President the implications of his decision.

Duterte’s rocky relationship with the US is in sharp contrast with his ties with Russia, which Lorenzana said has been wooing Manila with military offers.

After visiting Moscow earlier this month, Lorenzana said Russia is open to proposals to strengthen its military ties with the Philippines.

“They’re very aggressive in getting into a relationship with us in military terms,” Lorenzana said.

While the two countries will not be forming a military alliance, Russia is interested in student exchanges as well as hardware sales, Lorenzana said.

Russia has offered to sell the country intelligence equipment, drones and even a submarine, he said.
Highlighting the thaw between Russia and Philippine military relations, two large Russian naval vessels will be paying a goodwill visit to the country from Jan. 2 to 7, 2017.

Capt. Lued Lincuna, Philippine Navy (PN) spokesperson, said the Udaloy-class destroyer, Admiral Tributs and the Boris Chilikin-class fleet oiler, Boris Butoma, will arrive at Pier 15, South Harbor, Manila a day after the New Year.

The Russian naval delegation will be headed by the Pacific Fleet flotilla deputy commander Rear Admiral Eduard Mikhailov.

Despite Duterte’s anti-American rhetoric and its pivot to China and Russia, the US will focus on its broad relationship with the Philippines and uphold their shared democratic values, said US Embassy Deputy Press Attaché Emma Nagy.

US Ambassador Sung Kim earlier described relations between the two countries as “a rock solid alliance” with a history of 70 years of friendship.

One more Samar town insurgency free

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 30): One more Samar town insurgency free

Borongan City – The Philippine Army (PA) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) have declared the town of San Julian in Eastern Samar as insurgency-free.

The declaration was made recently by 801st Brigade Commanding Officer Col. Perfecto Remando and Eastern Samar Police chief Tranquilino Araral III during a program at the San Julian Auditorium.

The 14th Infantry Battalion (14th IB) and the regional police recommended the declaration after assessing that the town’s internal peace and security is already stable.

The declaration was witnessed by San Julian Mayor Dennis Estaron, Lt. Col. Ronnie Ebarita and San Julian Police Station Chief Aldo Mendiola.

San Julian, a fifth-class municipality with a population of 14,498, is one of 13 towns in Eastern Samar where communist rebels used to wield considerable influence.

Counter-insurgency efforts by the government have driven out the rebels from the towns.

Cash gifts for Bukidnon rebel returnees

From The Standard (Dec 31): Cash gifts for Bukidnon rebel returnees

CAMP OSITO D BAHIAN, Malaybalay City—A new batch of former rebels recently received cash remuneration from the government.

Eight former rebels received P65,000 each from the Government’s Comprehensive Local Integration Program through the Bukidnon Provincial-DILG office with the assistance of the Provincial Governor’s Office and the Philippine Army, particularly the 403rd Infantry (Peacemaker) Brigade under Col. Eric C. Vinoya.

The former rebels decided to go back to the fold due to the hardships they endured when they were in the armed movement. Also, they like to join the mainstream society and enjoy their new life together with their loved ones.

“We thank the DILG, the Province of Bukidnon and the Philippine Army for helping us in receiving this money that can help us in starting and getting our lost lives back. It took a little long but finally have it,” said one of the former rebels, who was not identified for security reasons.

“The cash assistance given was just part of what awaits the former rebels of their new found lives, the true essence of their remuneration is getting their lost lives back as they reunite with their families and communities, free from violence,” said Vinoya, Commander of the 403rd Infantry Brigade.

Blast rocks Maguindanao town, none hurt

From ABS-CBN (Dec 31): Blast rocks Maguindanao town, none hurt

An improvised explosive device (IED) exploded in the municipality of Sultan Sumagka (Talitay), Maguindanao Saturday, sometime after a gathering for peace and unity was held in the municipal gymnasium.

Nobody was reported killed or hurt in the attack.

Sultan Sumagka police chief Razul Pandulo said that while the IED has yet to be forensically examined, they determined that it was packed with nails as shrapnel and was equipped with a timer.

The IED was left in Barangay Kiladap and exploded around 12 noon.

The IED was reportedly seen by motorists at the side of the National Highway going to Talitay proper.

Authorities have yet to determine the motive and the suspects behind the bombing.

Earlier, a thanksgiving “kanduli” or gathering for peace and unity was held in the municipality’s gymnasium, which was attended by hundreds of residents.

2 Abu Sayyafs arrested in Zamboanga City

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Dec 31): 2 Abu Sayyafs arrested in Zamboanga City

THE government security forces have arrested two suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in separate law enforcement operations in Zamboanga City, the police reported Saturday.
Arrested on the strength of warrant of arrest for frustrated murder issued by a court in Basilan province were Margani Idris and Abdul Albi, according to Police Regional Office-Zamboanga Peninsula Information Officer Rogelio Alabata.
Alabata said Idris was arrested around 9:30 p.m. Friday in the village of Mampang and Albi around 10 p.m. in the village of Baliwasan.
Alabata said Idris, a “gun-for-hire” in Basilan province, is the brother-in-law of Sulu-based ASG sub-leader Yasser Igasan.
Two of his brothers namely Jahari Idris and Jubail Idris are also members of the ASG, according to Alabata.
He said that Idris and Albi are detained at the Police Station 11 for documentation.

4 members of kidnap-for-ransom group arrested in Lanao

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 30): 4 members of kidnap-for-ransom group arrested in Lanao

LINAMON, Lanao del Norte—Four members of a kidnap-for-ransom group operating in the Lanao provinces were arrested in Barangay Mantapuli in Marantao, Lanao del Sur, the police said Friday.

Senior Superintendent Faro Antonio Olaguera, the Lanao del Norte police chief, said a joint police and Army team enforced an arrest warrant against the suspects—in connection with the series of abduction in the province in recent months—on Thursday.

The group’s latest kidnap victim was a gasoline station owner here, who was taken on September 12. Clarita Belisario, 60, was later freed after her family paid ransom amounting to P750,000.

Olaguera identified the arrested suspects as Nabil Balabaga Balowa, the KFR leader, Edris Said Sultan Angne , Nohair Ali Fanda and Jalil Lagiin Ismael. Balowa was once apprehended and detained at the Lanao del Norte provincial jail but authorities were forced to release him when the family of an earlier victim withdrew the case against him.

During the operation in Marantao, the arresting team also confiscated an AK-47 assault rifle, an MK2 fragmentation hand grenade , bandolier, a wallet with a Moro Islamic Liberation Front ID tucked inside, two 57-millimeter recoiless rifles, a .45-caliber pistol, a rifle grenade, two blue polo shirts marked with CIDG, and other personal belongings, according to Olaguera.

“The suspects were brought to the Regional Intelligence Unit of the PNP Region 10 in Cagayan de Oro City while charges for kidnapping and illegal possession of firearms and explosives were being prepared against them,” he said.

IN PHOTOS | Reds celebrate Party anniversary in Davao City

From the often pro-CPP online publication the Davao Today (Dec 30): IN PHOTOS | Reds celebrate Party anniversary in Davao City


DAVAO CITY, Philippines – On its 48th founding anniversary, the Communist Party of the Philippines’ held its national peace caravan in Barangay Lumiad, Paquibato district here.

On Dec. 26, thousands of people join the celebration to witness cultural presentations, formations of New Peoples Army, and messages from local leaders and visitors.

The ceremony started with the marching of the First Pulang Bagani Battalion of the NPA in Southern Mindanao.






Arms of the NPA troops were then checked on a showcase of a tactical inspection headed by National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Porferio Tuna and NPA commander, Ka Yancy.




After the presentation of the NPA troops, the delegation proceed to the gym of Barangay Lumiad to continue with cultural presentation.









The national peace caravan is not only held in Davao City but also in different parts of Mindanao, Visayas and Luzon.

In Caraga region, peace rallies were held in seven areas: San Luis, Agusan Sur; Barangay Anomar, Surigao City; Bunawan, Agusan Sur; Bacuag, Surigao Del Norte; Anticala, Butuan City; Cayale, Tago Surigao Sur , and Boringon Marihatag Surigao Sur.

North Eastern Mindanao (contributed photo)
North Eastern Mindanao (contributed photo)
North Eastern Mindanao (contributed photo)
North Eastern Mindanao (contributed photo)
North Eastern Mindanao (contributed photo)
North Eastern Mindanao (contributed photo)
North Eastern Mindanao (contributed photo)
North Eastern Mindanao (contributed photo)
Mt Alip command front 72 of the Far South Mindanao region (contributed photo by Kath Cortez)
Mt Alip command front 72 of the Far South Mindanao region (contributed photo by Kath Cortez)
Activities are also held in Tulunan, South Cotabato, Zamboanga, and Misamis Oriental.

People clamor to end truce with gov’t—NPA

From the often pro-CPP online publication the Davao Today (Dec 31): People clamor to end truce with gov’t—NPA

Ka Joaquin, a Red fighter, said that both military and paramilitary troops are still being deployed in the communities to conduct counter-revolutionary operations. (Medel V. Hernani/

Ka Joaquin, a Red fighter, said that both military and paramilitary troops are still being deployed in the communities to conduct counter-revolutionary operations. (Medel V. Hernani/
The New People’s Army, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, said  communities across the country are clamoring to end the truce with government because the military continued to commit violations of the ceasefire declaration.
Ka Joaquin, a Red fighter, said that both military and paramilitary troops are still being deployed in the communities to conduct counter-revolutionary operations.

“In Mindanao, the Duterte administration could not deny the fact that military forces are still conducting counter-insurgency operations in communities known to be stronghold of the communist rebels,” he said.

The counter-insurgency operation that Ka Joaquin was referring to is the AFP’s Internal Peace and Security Plan, better known as “Oplan Bayanihan.”

The brains behind the Oplan Bayanihan was then Armed Forces chief of staff General Emmanuel Bautista aimed at ending the nearly 50 years rebellion of the New People’s Army.

“The COPDs, for instance, and the AFP’s Peace and Development Outreach program are legitimate operations because once they are in the communities, the people felt the culture of fear, and harassment as the military are targeting individuals perceived to be supporters of the Left,” he pointed out.

Connie Ledesma, a member of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace panel, said that due to AFP’s continued violation of the ceasefire agreement, people are clamoring to end the truce.

“The people are asking us to end the ceasefire agreement because of the military’s gross human rights violations,” Ledesma said.

Contrary to the government’s claim that the unilateral ceasefire agreements of both NDFP and the GRP were the longest to be implemented in the history of peace talks, the NDFP, on the other hand, pointed out that scores of violations have been documented in the communities where military troops were heavily deployed.

“If you read newspapers, the GRP is boasting that the ceasefire agreement is the longest ceasefire in the history of peace talks. But we are saying that there are many violations,” Ledesma said.

She also pointed out that military troops occupying schools, community centers are an outright violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

The CARHRIHL is a landmark agreement between the government and the CPP/NPA/NDF. The agreement contains  principles of human rights and international humanitarian law found in the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines and in various international instruments on human rights and international humanitarian law.

Signed at The Hague on March 14,1998, then-Chair of the NDF Peace Panel Luis G. Jalandoni said  the agreement is “founded on the interests, aspirations and concrete situation of the Filipino people, especially the workers, peasants, urban poor, women, fisherfolk, national minorities and other struggling sectors of Philippine society.”