Saturday, December 16, 2017

PH, China to bolster bilateral defense cooperation

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 16): PH, China to bolster bilateral defense cooperation

Senior defense and military officials of the Philippines and the People's Republic of China on Friday conducted talks to bolster the two nations’ bilateral defense cooperation.

Defense public affairs office chief, Arsenio Andolong, said the Philippine delegation was led by
Undersecretary for Defense Policy Ricardo A. David Jr.

David’s group met with Rear Adm. Jiang Guoping, Assistant Chief of General Staff of China’s Joint Staff Department of the Central Military Commission (CMC), and other senior CMC officials, as both sides resume the Annual Defense Security Talks (ADST).

The ADST is the bilateral dialogue mechanism between the Philippines and China, which was established under the purview of the 2004 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Defense Cooperation.

Since 2005, four ADSTs have been alternately hosted by the two countries, with the last held in Beijing in 2013.

Andolong said the 5th ADST provided both sides the opportunity to exchange views on the current regional security situation and flesh out concrete plans to cooperate in addressing security concerns mutually faced by the Philippines and China.

Specifically, the discussions underscored defense cooperation in addressing non-traditional security challenges, such as terrorism and violent extremism, as well as man-made and natural disasters.

The Philippines and China also agreed to increase cooperation in the area of training and education, not only to share expertise and best practices, but also foster friendly relations between both peoples.

The talks also emphasized the importance of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) for the region’s economic growth and development.

Along this line, both sides expressed support for the peaceful settlement of disputes through lawful, non-coercive, and transparent means.

The Philippine side likewise expressed optimism that the adoption of the Framework for the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) last August has brought the two nations closer to the long-sought conclusion of a binding and meaningful COC.

In conclusion, both sides expressed confidence that with avenues for open and substantive dialogue, such as the ADST, the Philippines and China would be able to further cooperate and manage differences towards contributing to a peaceful, stable, and prosperous region.

Friday, December 15, 2017

CPP/NDF-FSMR: Denounce Duterte’s flagrant brutality and puppetry and utter neglect for the millions of people in Mindanao

NDF-Far South Mindanao propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines Website (Dec 14): Denounce Duterte’s flagrant brutality and puppetry and utter neglect for the millions of people in Mindanao

Ka Efren Aksasato, Spokesperson
NDFP Far South Mindanao

14 December 2017

The main goal of the US-Duterte regime in re-extending the Martial Law in Mindanao is to pave the way for imperialist encroachment in the resources-rich island. As a consequence of the military rule, the Mindanaoans are defenseless against unrestrained violations of human rights, worsening poverty and grave suppression of their legitimate struggles.

The NDF-FSMR denounces Duterte’s flagrant brutality and puppetry to imperialist interests and his utter neglect for the millions of people in Mindanao.
The Marawi siege and the incessant attacks against the Moro people, the massacres of Lumads and the indiscriminate bombardments of their communities, and the extrajudicial killings of activists are blatant terrorist doings of his fascist regime.

Being a Mindanaoan president, it is Duterte’s ostensible duty to advance and defend the welfare of his origin. But in adhering to the dictates of his imperialist bosses, he chooses to inflict pain and hardships to the people of Mindanao.

Duterte has become desperately mad about his political ambitions and greed that he is obstinately setting up a fascist dictatorship to ensure his power. He certainly never learned from history that fascist aggression can never suppress the people’s desire for emancipation. Rather, brutality will beget the masses’ resistance and determination to overthrow his rule.

CPP/Information Bureau: Fascist liar Duterte will have himself to blame for rising resistance in Mindanao

CPP-Information Bureau propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines Website (Dec 14): Fascist liar Duterte will have himself to blame for rising resistance in Mindanao

Information Bureau
Communist Party of the Philippines

14 December 2017
Press Release

The imposition of a one-year martial law extension in Mindanao will heighten the people’s resistance to Duterte’s dictatorship. More and more, he is pushing people to resort to armed struggle as they suffer under his intensifying fascist rule.

The approval was based on AFP reports of “385 atrocities” committed by the NPA in Mindanao, referring to tactical offensives by the people’s army against legitimate military targets and punitive actions against destructive and plunderous companies in the island. This is similar to his previous manufactured claim of 4.7 million drug users to justify his attacks against the urban and rural poor, as well as his political opponents.

Since his martial law declaration, more than 58 activists have been killed in Southern Mindanao, 70% of which are from Compostela Valley, a center of anti-mining resistance which is now dubbed as the “valley of death.” Twelve activists, mostly Lumads, have been killed in the Caraga region. From Lianga to Alabel, thousands have evacuated to escape AFP brutality, forcing them to abandon what little they have and pushing them further into poverty. Lumads in South Cotabato are up in arms after his soldiers opened fire on their community, killing eight and wounding many, on his orders to defend his crony Consunji.

He has pulverized the entire city of Marawi, destroying properties estimated at P100 billion. He has displaced hundreds of thousands of people across the island through militarization, intense aerial bombardment and shelling to clear the way for land-grabbing and plunder by foreign companies and his family’s cronies. He now boasts of using the NPA for “target practice” of his newly-acquired attack helicopters from the US with the same callous attitude to civilian casualties when he ordered the AFP to “flatten the hills” against the people’s army.

By extending martial law, Duterte also bought himself time to ram anti-people and pro-oligarch infrastructure projects under his “Build, build, build” program in Marawi and elsewhere. His Mindanao railway project is due to start next year, fortified by the recent passage of his anti-people tax reform program.

As with all lies, the truth will explode in Duterte’s face. It is historical truth that the NPA increased almost tenfold when Marcos imposed martial law. It was martial law that pushed people from all walks of life and different political persuasions to unite and oust the dictator.

DWDD: FOCUSED OPERATION I Matapat Troopers receives 2 NPA surrenderees

DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Dec 14): FOCUSED OPERATION  I  Matapat Troopers receives 2 NPA surrenderees

KUTA SANG-AN, LABANGAN, Zamboanga del Sur (DWDD) Two (2) NPA rebels surrendered to Headquarters 53rd Infantry Battalion at Camp Sabido, Guipos, Zamboanga Del Sur on December 6, 2017.

The rebels brought along their firearms and ammunitions and formally turned it over to  Lt Col. Virgilio C Hamos Jr., Battalion Commander of 53IB.

The two high-powered firearms were: one M14 and one AK47 rifle.

The two rebels surrendered due to physical hardships, dissatisfaction on their organization’s policy and realized the futility of fighting with government forces.

They are currently under the custody of 53rd IB for proper documentation and disposition prior turn-over to the concerned government agencies for the facilitation of the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP), a program for the former rebels which include social welfare, livelihood, and health.

According to Brig. General Roseller G. Murrillo, 1st Infantry Division Commander, “This is a manifestation that the NPA organization is losing their ground.”
“Rest assured that the benefits will be facilitated by the CLIP committee for them to start and live a normal life they desire.” He added. 53IB /MCAG

DWDD: ENCOUNTER I NPA neutralized in Magallanes, Sorsogon

DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Dec 14): ENCOUNTER  I  NPA neutralized in Magallanes, Sorsogon

CAMP ELIAS ANGELES, Pili, Camarines Sur (DWDD) A member of the terror group New People’s Army (NPA) was neutralized by government troops in an encounter in Barangay Salvacion, Magallanes, Sorsogon on December 12.

According to reports, troops from the 31st Infantry Battalion were conducting security operations in the area when they chanced upon 30 members of the terror group under a certain Edwin Dematera alias Dupax of the Kilusang Sangay sa Platoon 1 (KSPN1), Kilusang Probinsiya 3 (KP3) of the Bicol Regional Party Committee (BRPC).

A 15 firefight ensued before the terrorist scampered towards different directions leaving the remains of an unknown comrade. Soldiers recovered two (2) M16 rifle, one M203 Grenade Launcher, and an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). Pursuit operations are ongoing against the fleeing NPAs.

Meanwhile, in a separate incident, another group of soldiers also belonging to the 31st IB intercepted two (2) NPA members onboard an L300 van at Barangay Calomagon, Bayan in Bulan town.

The troops were conducting monitoring operations when they spotted a vehicle with no license plate. A firefight ensued after which the rebels immediately escaped.

The soldiers thanked the community for their continued assistance and information in dealing with the NPA menace.

According to Brig. Gen. Isleta, Acting Commander, 9th Infantry Division, they encourage the remaining members of the terror group to abandon their cause and return a quiet life with their love ones.

The 9ID also vowed to continue with their intensified operations against eh NPA to maintain the peace and development in the region of Bicol.

The government has livelihood and financial assiatance waiting for surrenderees under the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP). AES/MCAG

DWDD: SHARE THE LOVE | Philippine Fleet Gives Love on Xmas

DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Dec 15): SHARE THE LOVE  |  Philippine Fleet Gives Love on Xmas

DALAHICAN, Cavite (DWDD) – “Share the Love this Christmas”

This special season of Christmas is not just an occasion but a season of joy, peace, love and great tidings.

As a part of the Philippine Fleet traditional activity, the command conducted a gift giving to the less fortunate children of Purok 7, Barangay Kapkong, Dalahican, Cavite City on  December 8, 2017. PIO PHL FLEET /MCAG

DWDD: PORT VISIT | PN Frigate in Zamboanga City

DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Dec 15): PORT VISIT  |  PN Frigate in Zamboanga City

ZAMBOANGA CITY PIER, Zamboanga City (DWDD) The Philippine Navy’s Frigate, BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (FF15) is docked at the Zamboanga City Pier in Zamboanga City.

The vessel conducted an “OPEN HOUSE” to showcase its capability as a Frigate as well as to give opportunity to the populace of Zamboanga City for a guided tour aboard ship.

The conduct of the Open House was facilitated by the Naval Reserve Center-Western Mindanao (NRCen-WM), Civil Military Operations Unit- Western Mindanao (CMOU-WM) and in coordination with all the units of Naval Forces Western Mindanao and the Municipality of Zamboanga City.

BRP Gregorio Del Pilar is under the command of Capt Ireneo D Battung and composed of about 80 crew members.

The arrival of BRP Gregorio Del Pilar is aimed to promote peace, develop friendly relations and bring the Philippine Navy and the Armed Forces of the Philippines closer to the hearts of the Zamboanguenos and of the Filipino people in general.

Recently, FF15 along with one of the PN’s Landing Docks, BRP Tarlac (LD601) participated in the ASEAN Multilateral Naval Exercises 2017 (AMNEX) held Sattahip and Pattaya Bay in Thailand last Nov. 13-22, 2017. The said exercise is a maritime security collaboration of navies in Southeast Asia Region which is in conjunction with the commemoration of the 50th ASEAN founding anniversary.

BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (FF15) is the first Del Pilar Class ship of the Philippine Navy which was commissioned last December 14, 2011. It was also the second ship named after the revolutionary general, Gregorio Del Pilar, during the Battle of Tirad Pass. NPAO/MCAG

DWDD: LOVE AND SUPPORT | AMWSLAI-Palawan Hands-over Gift for the Defenders of the Western Front

DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Dec 15): LOVE AND SUPPORT  |  AMWSLAI-Palawan Hands-over Gift for the Defenders of the Western Front

PUERTO  PRINSESA, Palawan (DWDD) Commodore Rommel Jason L Galang, the Commander Naval Forces West officially received bags of assorted good from Air Materiel Wing Savings and Loan Association, Inc (AMWSLAI) – Palawan.

 The gift  bags are intended for the Sailors and Marines stationed in the Philippine-held Island detachments at the West Philippine Sea.

This act has been a tradition of AMWSLAI-Palawan, to show their utmost appreciation to the troops assigned in the disputed areas and will spend the Christmas and New Year away from home. NFW/MCAG

DWDD: COMMUNITY RELATIONS | NFW Info Drive and Coordination with Local Fisherfolks of Macarascas

DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Dec 15): COMMUNITY RELATIONS  |  NFW Info Drive and Coordination with Local Fisherfolks of Macarascas

PUERTO  PRINSESA, Palawan (DWDD) In line with Naval Forces West’s commitment for a safe and secured fishing , as well as other economic activities within its Area of Responsibility, an information drive and coordinating meeting headed by Commodore Rommel Jason L Galang, the Commander Naval Forces West, was held today at Naval Station Carlito Cunanan, Brgy. Macarascas, Puerto Princesa City.

The activity aimed at enhancing cooperation with the local fishermen and other LGUs for a better partnership in environmental protection efforts, was attended by representatives from the local fisherfolks, City Agriculture, City Planning, City Legal Office, and the local government of Macarascas. NFW/MCAG

PRRD visits Pakistan Navy ship docked in Manila for goodwill visit

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 15): PRRD visits Pakistan Navy ship docked in Manila for goodwill visit

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte toured a Pakistan navy ship docked at the Manila South Harbor on Thursday, December 14, as part of its three-day goodwill visit to the Philippines.

President Duterte was welcomed by officials of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to the Philippines and the Pakistan Navy for an exclusive tour of the Pakistan Navy Ship (PNS) SAIF (FFG-253), one of the four F-22P or Zulfiguar-class frigates of Pakistan.

Duterte warmly greeted the crews aboard the navy ship telling them that they could drop by the country "any time for any reason."

The Chief Executive was accompanied by some of his Cabinet officials led by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana during the tour that lasted almost an hour.

The navy ship, with onboard ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) helicopter Z9EC, will stay in the country until December 17. Its three-day visit will include series of confidence-building engagements between the Philippine Navy (PN) and the Pakistan Navy personnel.

Other activities include shipboard tours, visit to national heritage and historical places in Manila, goodwill games, receptions, hosted dinner, and a gift giving at Buhay Tuluyan in Leveriza, Manila. The visit will be capped off with a send-off ceremony.

Prior to their visit here in the country, the PNS SAIF had already been to China and Thailand. Their next stop is Malaysia.

The goodwill visit aims to renew and strengthen the relationship between the Philippines and Pakistan. It also promotes friendship, cooperation and mutual understanding between the two navies through naval diplomacy.

AFP lauds Senate passage of pay hike bill for soliders, cops

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 15): AFP lauds Senate passage of pay hike bill for soliders, cops

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has expressed its gratitude to the Senate for approving on third and final reading the resolution which seeks to increase the base salary of military and uniformed personnel (MUP) starting January next year.
"We are grateful to Congress for this act of approving the resolution," AFP public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said late Thursday.

He added that the pay increase will definitely boost the morale of every soldier, airman, sailor, and marine as this translates to higher take home pay.

Sen. Gringo Honasan, chair of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security and sponsor of Senate Resolution 11, earlier said the proposed law seeks to increase the base salary of all military and police personnel.

This includes jail guards, firemen, coast guards and those under the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority and the Philippine Public Safety College.

"The President has repeatedly made promises of higher salaries to the military and the police personnel. In support of this commitment, this joint resolution, if enacted into law, would double the MUPs base pay," Honasan said in his sponsorship speech.

None of seized weapons in Marawi City from military

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 15): None of seized weapons in Marawi City from military

None of the weapons seized from Marawi City and destroyed this week showed any sign that they came from military stocks, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero said Friday.

"As for the (seized Maute Group) firearms inventoried so far, we are still to see any weapon (serial numbers) matching those in the inventory of the AFP," Guerrero said in Filipino when asked during a press briefing in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City whether AFP weapons were found among the terrorists’ arms cache.

More than 1,000 firearms of various calibers and types were seized by government forces in the battle to liberate Marawi City.

The battle began when government troops tried to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader and ISIS “emir” in Southeast Asia, Isnilon Hapilon, last May 23.

Fighting was declared after authorities confirmed the death of Hapilon and Maute Group co-founder, Omar Maute, last October 23.

Some 652 weapons were taken to the Army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City to be destroyed ceremonially early this week.

The remaining 400 are still being processed as of this posting.

Expect more action in NPA-affected areas: AFP chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 15): Expect more action in NPA-affected areas: AFP chief

With the one-year extension of martial law, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is expected to put up more checkpoints and conduct more patrols in Mindanao, particularly in New People's Army (NPA) affected areas.

This was disclosed by AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero during a press briefing Friday.

He made this comment when asked what Mindanaoans should expect now that martial law has been extended for one year in Mindanao.

"There will be less skirmishes in Marawi now that operations there have winded down but in NPA affected areas, they can expect more actions (e.g. patrols and checkpoints from) the military, it will be more intensified (in) scope and coverage," Guerrero said in Filipino.

The rationale for this is to establish visibility and presence in population centers to deter the NPAs' terroristic actions, the AFP chief added.

Aside from the communist rebels, military efforts will also focus on Sulu, Basilan, and parts of Central Mindanao where lawless elements like the Abu Sayyaf and other terrorist elements like the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and their allies are known to operate.

Martial law in Mindanao was declared on May 23 following heavy attacks by Maute Group terrorists in Marawi City. Congress, in a special joint session in July, granted the extension of martial law until December 31 this year at the President's request.

The Senate and House of Representatives, convening in a joint session early this week, granted President Rodrigo Duterte's request for the extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of writ of habeas corpus for a period of one year from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2018.

A total of 240 members of Congress voted to approve the resolution of both houses calling for martial law extension in Mindanao, while only 27 voted against it.

There was no abstention. A total of 14 senators voted in favor of the motion and four were against it, while 226 House members approved the motion and 23 rejected it.

Military told to go after terrorists’ financiers, too

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 15): Military told to go after terrorists’ financiers, too

A Mindanao lawmaker is calling on the military not to run only after terrorists, but likewise pursue operations against their financiers to completely crush rebellion and terrorism in Mindanao.

Lanao del Sur Rep. Mauyag Papandayan Jr., chairman of the House Committee on Muslim Affairs, confirmed that the groups of Isnilon Hapilon and the Maute brothers belonging to the DAESH-inspired Da’awatul Islamiyah Waliyatul Masriq (DWIM) have been recruiting new members in their province in exchange for large sums of money.
“Barangay chairmen reported to me that the remnants of their groups are recruiting new members in Lanao del Sur and they are offering money to their recruits,” he said.

He also called on the Duterte administration to run after the financiers of terrorist groups to paralyze their operations.

“We ask the military to run after these terrorists and their financiers. We are wondering where did the ISIS get financial support. The gathering of intelligence information against them should be intensified,” Papandayan said.

Papandayan is among the 270 members of Congress who voted in favor of President Duterte’s request to extend the martial law in Mindanao until December 31, 2018.

He also took the opportunity to call on various government agencies – Department of Health (DOH), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) – to fully extend assistance to the Marawi victims.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea assured Papandayan that the government is flexing its muscles to put behind bars the financiers of terrorist groups.

He also assured that the much-needed assistance will be extended to the war victims.

Maute-ISIS remnants recruiting post-Marawi siege — AFP

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 15): Maute-ISIS remnants recruiting post-Marawi siege — AFP

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) confirmed that they have monitored ‘remnants’ of the Maute-ISIS group to be recruiting new members since the five-month war in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur ended October 23.

The confirmation came days after President Rodrigo Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao was extended due to reported terrorist recruitment and existence of other lawless elements.

Marine Colonel Edgard Arevalo (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

At the Task Force Bangon Marawi press briefing in MalacaƱang Friday, AFP spokesperson Col. Edgard Arevalo said the recruitment they have monitored was being conducted in municipalities near Marawi City.

“Here we can see that they are trying to intensify their forces through their continued recruitment),” Arevalo said in the vernacular.

The new AFP spokesperson said the terrorist group is still offering financial remunerations, but did not mention any exact amount. He, however, doubts whether or not the terrorists were able to really give the promised amount.

Arevalo said their monitoring was based on the reports of citizens in the locality. “Definitely they are not recruiting in the open.”

He said that the recruitment has been happening since Marawi City was liberated. He said these recruiters are still using social media to reach out.

“There are recruitment videos. I’m sure you have come across such,” he said. “Part of our work is to communicate with Facebook that such a post — if it’s on Facebook — be barred or removed.”

“If it’s in the nature of a recruitment of a terrorist group then that could be a valid ground,” he continued.

However, Arevalo had no data yet confirming whether arrests were made against these reported recruiters.

He added that these recruiters are possibly the ones who were able to escape from Marawi city as the war was ending.

Arevalo said that these recruiters are targeting the family members of their slain members, children, and women.

“The youth is the one they prefer to recruit because these are the sectors of our society that are, could be considered vulnerable,” he said.

“They are gullible. They can be easily fooled into joining their group by making false promises,” he added.

Turaife group

Meanwhile, Arevalo said the assessment of the AFP that a certain Abu Turaife is the successor of Isnilon Hapilon who was killed by the military mid-October in Marawi City is with basis.

Hapilon, the leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group, is said to be the emir of the Islamic State (ISIS) in the Philippines.

“That is an assessment that he could be the successor of Isnilon Hapilon. It is of real basis based on our operating units in the field,” Arevalo said.

He added that based on AFP record, the Turaife group has 22 identified members.

“We cannot underestimate the group just because they only have 22 members).

“We cannot discount their ability to recruit, their mobility, the arms that they have, and their capability to conduct terrorist activities).

“After all, there is no need for a large number of people to bomb a vital installation or institution, or a public place,” he continued.

The Turaife group was cited in Duterte’s letter to the Congress as one of the reasons to extend the martial law in Mindanao. The martial law, which was declared to address the war in Marawi City, will now expire on December 31, 2018.

Firearms recovered from NPA in Tarlac and Nueva Ecija

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 14): Firearms recovered from NPA in Tarlac and Nueva Ecija

Heavy firearms were recovered by the government troops after a firefight between Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) troopersfrom the 84th Infantry Battalion of the 7th Infantry Division and New People’s Army (NPA) Wednesday in Sitio Dalipawen, Barangay Bunga, Carranglan, Nueva Ecija.


Lt Col Isagani Nato, chief of public information of NOLCOM, reported that while their soldiers were conducting combat operations, 84th IB troops encountered a group 10 NPA Communist Terrorists resulting to a fire fight that lasted for about 15 minutes.

After which, Nato said the NPA rebels withdrew towards Northeast direction, leaving behind Two (2) M16 rifles, two (2) magazines for M16 Rifle, one (1) sweatshirt and foodstuffs from the encounter site.

Moreover, he said no casualty was incurred by the NOLCOM troopers while undetermined number on the side of the NPA criminals.

In a separate incident, Nato said one (1) homemade shotgun withtwo (2) ammunitions and one (1) homemade Calibre 30 pistol were also retrieved as a result of a follow-up operation conducted last December 11, 2017 in Sitio Pantol, Barangay Sta. Juliana, Capas, Tarlac.

“This was a positive development after Ricardo David Morales, a surrenderee during the previous operation, cooperated with the 32ndMechanized Infantry Company, 3rd Mechanize InfantryBattalion. The firearms were voluntarily handed-over by Morales, which were hidden in his farm house,” said Nato.

NOLCOM will continue to provide support to Law Enforcement Operations respecting the Human Rights, ensure adherence to the Rue of Law and observance of International Humanitarian Law.

NOLCOM troops will persistently keep the enemy on the run and outbalanced by conducting aggressive, relentless and focused military operations (FMO) in identified NPA lairs in the areas of North and Central Luzon, the army added.

IPs being used by Reds to stop military offensives

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 14): IPs being used by Reds to stop military offensives

Indigenous peoples (IPs) are being used by New People’s Army (NPA) terrorists to stop the all-out military and police offensives against them.

Chief Supt. Noli A. Romana, regional director of Northeastern Mindanao Police Regional Office 13 (PRO 13) on Thursday claimed that the evacuation of the IPs in Lianga, Surigao del Sur is allegedly part of the deceptive tactics of the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) terrorists.

Romana said the “bakwits” of lumad (natives) are supported by only a few militant groups in the area in an effort to stop the all-out offensive by the military and police against the NPA terrorists.

“Our combat operations are directed against the NPA terrorists who keep on sowing violence like burning, kidnapping, harassments, extortion activities, and other hostilities in the region,” he added.

The areas of operation are far from the lumad communities so they do not need to flee from their homes and leave their livelihood, Chief Supt. Romana said.

“As the military and police have strengthened counter-insurgency operations, the NPA terrorists exploited the IPs to evacuate and call on the community and other organizations to ask the government to withdraw the operations,” he added.

The latest all-out army offensive is aimed at pursuing rebels responsible for the landmine blast in Barangay San Isidro, Lianga that killed two lumad and a soldier on Nov. 6, 2017, PRO 13 regional spokesperson Chief Inspector Renel E. Serrano said.

Military monitoring intensified recruitment by armed groups

From the Sun Star-Manila (Dec 15): Military monitoring intensified recruitment by armed groups

THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday, December 15, expressed worries about reports of intensified recruitment by armed lawless groups inspired by global terror group Islamic State.
AFP spokesperson Colonel Edgard Arevalo said the military is monitoring the "intensified" recruitment activities of Maute terror group members who survived the five-month battle with government troops in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.
"The recruitment we are monitoring is from remnants of Maute/ISIS (IS of Iraq and Syria) group. We monitored (such recruitment) in the municipalities around Marawi, the immediate vicinity of Marawi," the military spokesman told a press conference.
"They continue to intensify, in the sense that they do not stop their recruitment. They continue to encourage anyone to join their force. And of course, they continue to offer financial remunerations. They also used social media as a tool for their recruitment activities," he added.
Another group, which Arevalo said is being led by a certain Abu Turayfie, is also reportedly ramping up its membersbip.
Turayfie is believed to be the successor of purported IS emir in Southeast Asia Isnilon Hapilon, who was killed along with Maute leader Omar Maute in Marawi in October.
Arevalo said that while Turayfie's group has only 22 members, it is still deemed a "big threat" because of its capability to endanger the lives of the people in southern Philippines.
"We cannot underestimate them because they are only few. Maybe the 22 is what we could mention with certainty or report with certainty. But their ability to recruit, their mobility, the number of their weapons, and their capability to conduct terrorist activity cannot be measured by their number," he said.
"We don't need to be a large group. The point of saying is they are capable, among other reasons that they are cited (as basis) for the extension of martial law. They are among those considered as a big threat because the group of Abu Turayfie has leaning towards extremism," he added.
Arevalo said these extremist groups were targeting to recruit their relatives and "vulnerable" children. Martial law was declared in Mindanao on May 23, when fighting broke out between the Maute group and government forces in Marawi.
Combat operations were terminated on October 23, or exactly five months later.
The military, however, is still conducting clearing operations in the Islamic city. Congress on Wednesday agreed to extend martial law by another year, or until December 31, 2018, in a bid to totally eradicate the terror acts of terrorist groups like the communist New People's Army and other armed lawless groups.
To counter recruitment efforts of these armed groups, Arevalo said the government has launched several programs for the youth.
"We are countering violent extremism dialogues with the youth. We also have youth leader summit. And just recently, we concluded the education tour of Muslim youth in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Our objective is to give our fellow countrymen, especially the youth, a chance to realize what is extremism (and) how is recruitment being done by these extremists," he said.
"These are among the ways we see to promote unity and have a fruitful and mutual co-existence," he said.

Military sees ISIS-inspired Turaife group as major threat

From the Philippine Star (Dec 15): Military sees ISIS-inspired Turaife group as major threat

Abu Turaife had been described by some reports as a commander of a Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters breakaway group, which was reportedly planning to stage bombings in Cotabato. AP/Bullit Marquez, File

Following the defeat of Maute terrorists in Marawi City, the military on Friday said it is monitoring a small ISIS-inspired militant group it said is capable of carrying out deadly attacks.

Through a swift vote in Congress dominated by his allies, lawmakers on Wednesday granted President Rodrigo Duterte martial law powers across Mindanao for one more year to defeat militants operating in the insurgency plagued region.

In his letter to Congress, Duterte said that with the death of Isnilon Hapilon, the Islamic State’s point man in Southeast Asia and one of the leaders of the Marawi rebellion, Esmail Abdulmalik, who uses the nom de guerre Abu Turaife, might replace Hapilon.

Abu Turaife has been monitored to be planning bombings in the south, Duterte said
Without going into detail, Col. Edgard Arevalo, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Public Affairs Office, said the military cannot underestimate Abu Turaife’s 22-member group.
“Maybe what we could mention with certainty or report with certainty is their number, pero ‘yung kanilang (but not their) ability to recruit, their mobility, the arms they possess, and their capability to conduct terrorist activity,” Arevalo told a press conference.

“Kasama po sila sa itinuturing nating malaking banta sapagkat ang grupo po ni Abu Turaife ay may leaning towards extremism (They are considered a major threat since Abu Turaife's group leans towards extremism),” he added.

Abu Turaife had been described in some reports as a commander of a breakaway group from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. The group reportedly planned bombings in Cotabato.

The BIFF also uses the black ISIS flag as its own.

On May 23, Duterte imposed martial law in Mindanao, which was retained until yearend, after the principal Islamic city of Marawi was stormed by heavily-armed Maute extremists who pledged allegiance to ISIS.

In a rousing address to troops last October, Duterte declared Marawi liberated from pro-ISIS extremists after five months of fighting that gave state forces their first taste of urban warfare.

But the president said jihadist fighters who escaped the Marawi battle were actively recruiting to carry out future assaults.
According to Arevalo, rebels are using social media to radicalize their prospective recruits. The terrorists also allegedly us cash rewards to ramp up recruitment.

Philippines to receive more military help from Australia

From the Philippine Canadian Inquirer (Dec 13): Philippines to receive more military help from Australia 

Seeing the intensity of the war of the Philippine government’s military against the Islamic inspired Maute group, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said that Australia is ready to help by giving training Philippine troops.

The assistance offered hopes to add potential on beating the fight in the southern Philippines.

“Obviously we would be ready to support the Philippines in the same way we are supporting Iraq in advising, assisting and training,” Bishop said.

Bishop clarified that Australia had not offered to send fighting troops to Marawi City. She told reporters in Canberra that Australia has given the same support in Iraq and that “does not include troops on the ground.”

Bishop also mentioned that the US has offered help as well and if by any chance Philippines would request support from Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, the countries are equipped to help.

The Royal Australian Air Force spy planes are already operating in the area.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Military says NPA collects P460M yearly as ‘revolutionary taxes’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 13): Military says NPA collects P460M yearly as ‘revolutionary taxes’

A truck is among those burned by communist guerrillas during an attack on the site of construction of Bicol International Airport in Daraga town, Albay province, whichwould be like the drawing in top photo if finished. —MICHAEL JAUCIAN

Military officials pegged at P460 million the yearly collection that communist insurgents are getting as “revolutionary taxes” from at least two resources-rich provinces in Southern Mindanao.

Colonel Erwin Bernard Neri, commander of the Army’s 1001st Infantry Brigade, said in a press briefing in Maco town, Compostela Valley on Wednesday, at least 60 per cent of the amount come from mining companies in the province’s gold-rich towns of Monkayo, Maco, Pantukan and Nabunturan.

He said aside from the small and large-scale mining operators, the New People’s Army also collects from lowly sari-sari (variety store) owners, who pay as low as P2 per day and from big banana plantations in Compostela Valley and Davao del Norte provinces as well as politicians during election time.  Lt. Col. Esteven Ducusin, commander of the 46th Infantry Battalion based in Pantukan, said they found it difficult to follow the trail of the big amount of money that went into the NPA’s hands because of the “intricate mode of payment,” involved.

Although the military could not yet cite the particular firms or individuals who are faithfully contributing to the NPA coffers, those who refused to contribute usually suffered an attack from rebels; such as Apex Mining Co., whose facilities and heavy equipment were burned down by rebels in 2008 and 2014.

NPA-infested areas pose threats to DSWD workers

From the Sun Star-Davao (Dec 13): NPA-infested areas pose threats to DSWD workers
REACHING the Geographically Isolated and Disadvantage Areas (Gida) with high presence of New People's Army (NPA) is one of the challenges of the validation team of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD 11).

Herbert Duron, DSWD Davao Region Policy and Plans Division officer-in-charge, said there are areas in Davao Region that have yet to be covered by Listahanan due to security threats.

He said that during the validation and finalization phase where a local verification committee was organized to resolve all the complaints and appeals, there were around 12,000 who were recommended to be assessed; however, only 9,000 were assessed because of the geographical challenges.

"Those are the Gida areas that are hard to reach because rebels' presence is strong and the life of the validator is at stake," he said.

He cited for example Barangay Gupitan in Kapalong, Davao del Norte where he said that the NPA has declared it as their municipality and they could not enter there as suggested by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Duron said there were more than 700 Indigenous People (IPs) that were supposed to be validated but did not push through due to threats.

Based on DSWD 11's Listahanan as of December 2016, there were a total of 280,224 poor households with a total of 1,544,085 poor individuals recorded in the region out of the 836,567 households assessed.

Of poor households, there were 52,795 in Compostela Valley, 44,668 in Davao del Norte, 41,208 in Davao del Sur, 42,445 in Davao Occidental, 52,526 in Davao Oriental, and 46,582 in Davao City.

The Listahanan is an information system for identifying who and where the poor households are as reference to identify potential beneficiaries.

IED courier killed in shootout with Sultan Kudarat cops, military agents

From the Philippine Star (Dec 14): IED courier killed in shootout with Sultan Kudarat cops, military agents

The authorities were forced to kill the bomb courier when he pulled out a fragmentation grenade from his pocket. File photo
Lawmen killed Wednesday a tricycle driver transporting an improvised explosive device to Isulan town in Sultan from Maguindanao province.
Senior Superintendent Raul Supiter of the Sultan Kudarat provincial police on Thursday said suspect Abubakar Upam was killed in a shootout with police and military agents who tried to intercept him while driving his bomb-laden tricycle in Barangay Dansuli, Isulan.
Supiter said Upam was proceeding to the town proper of Isulan possibly from a nearby town in Maguindanao, where there is presence of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

The group uses the black Islamic State flag as revolutionary banner.

Supiter said the agents who tried to stop Upam were forced to kill him when he pulled out a fragmentation grenade from his pocket as they flagged him down while motoring through a stretch of the Cotabato-Isulan Highway in Barangay Dansuli.

“His cadaver was turned over to relatives after processing by crime scene operatives,” Supiter said.

 Responding bomb experts found an IED in the tricycle of Upam.

"We are thankful to the vigilant informants who provided information on his plan to bring an IED to Isulan,” Supiter said.

SOFREP Exclusive: Marawi Commander details what really happened in his country’s largest terrorist attack and how his men fought back

From SOFREP News (Dec 14): SOFREP Exclusive: Marawi Commander details what really happened in his country’s largest terrorist attack and how his men fought back

On May 23rd, 4th Light Reaction Company operators alongside a company of Scout-Rangers quietly approached the hideout of terrorist leader Isnilon Hapilon.  The Philippine armed services had been conducting a long-term surveillance operation on the terrorist safe house, located among a small cluster of homes along a road on the outskirts of Marawi.  The U.S. Special Forces-trained Philippine troops closed the distance, their breacher attaching what is known as a “water impulse charge” to the six-foot high front gate in order to explosively enter the structure and initiate the raid.  The concrete three-story building had been specifically chosen by the Abu Sayyaf sub-commander for its defensive features.  It was located on a road so narrow that one car could hardly pass at a time, which formed a choke point.

The 4th LRC operators initiated the explosive breach, gained entry to the safe house, and a firefight broke out on the ground floor.  While the firefight raged, Hapilon managed to escape.  What the operators did not know at the time was that they had just disrupted the planning of the most large-scale and deadly terrorist attack in their country’s history.  For months, Hapilon had been working with the Maute Group to establish themselves as an ISIS affiliate in the Philippines, a so-called “wilayat,” or a province in the ISIS caliphate.  The city of Marawi is almost entirely Muslim and combined with other social factors; the Maute Group was unopposed as they planned a massive terrorist operation which included establishing weapons caches around the city.....

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Martial Law Extended For Another Year In Southern Philippines

From National Public Radio (NPR) Website (Dec 13): Martial Law Extended For Another Year In Southern Philippines

Military trucks drive past destroyed buildings and a mosque in what had been the center of fighting in Marawi on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao on Oct. 25, days after the military declared that the battle against ISIS-linked militants was over. Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images hide caption toggle caption Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images

The Philippine Congress has extended martial law on the southern island of Mindanao for another year at the request of President Rodrigo Duterte, who says it is needed to continue the fight against armed groups in the region.

The move was overwhelmingly approved by both the Senate and House of Representatives, where Duterte and his allies hold big majorities. Duterte first imposed martial law in the Muslim-dominated south in May, and Wednesday's vote extends it through 2018.

Martial law, which extends military authority and allows for warrantless arrests and heightened surveillance, was declared in Mindanao after local militants laid siege to the city of Marawi in May. The battle that ensued between the ISIS-linked Islamists and Philippine security forces lasted five months, displaced over half a million people and left more than 1,100 people dead.

When the siege ground to an end in October, the military declared there were "no more terrorists." Duterte himself said, "Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby declare Marawi City liberated from the terrorist influence."

But in his letter to Congress asking for the extension of martial law, Duterte asserted that "the rebellion persists and a lot more remains to be done to ... bring back public order and safety in Mindanao."

The president said his request comes at the recommendation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, which both claim that the militants are regrouping and plotting new attacks.

The Marawi siege highlighted the Philippines' vulnerability to extremist violence, with some experts declaring that the country has become the weak link in terms of regional security.

Talking to reporters after the vote Wednesday, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said, "Public safety is our primordial concern; thus, we ask the public to stand behind the administration and rally behind our defenders to quell the continuing rebellion in Mindanao."

And Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana vowed that the security threats in the southern region would not spill into other parts of the country.

Those opposed to extending martial law say it is an abuse of power and fear it could lead to a declaration of martial law across all of the Philippines. Duterte has already come under fire from activists for his bloody war on drugs and general rebuffing of concerns over human rights and civil liberties.

Critics also argue that there's no constitutional basis for the extension. Main opposition party leader Sen. Francis Pangilinan told The Associated Press that major rebel attacks in the past have been quashed without declaring martial law.

"We will be in danger of becoming the monster that we seek to defeat, those who have no regard for law, order or respect for the constitution," Pangilinan said.

A June survey by the polling company Social Weather Station found that 57 percent of Filipinos who participated supported President Duterte's declaration of martial law on Mindanao, with the majority of respondents coming from Mindanao itself. However, that same survey also found that a majority of Filipinos opposed expanding the decree to the rest of the country.

Marawi still has a heavy military presence, said Saripada Pacasum of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office. During the siege, his team of disaster respondents helped get civilians to safely and recover the bodies of the dead.

"[They] are manning the checkpoints and securing the main battle area inside the city," he told NPR via Facebook Chat. Pacasum said things are slowly getting back to normal, but that many citizens are still not allowed to see their properties, including himself.

It's an abuse of power, according to Pacasum, who said his mother told him stories about when martial law was declared across all of the Philippines during the dictatorship of President Ferdinand E. Marcos. During nearly 10 years of martial law, from 1972-1981, tens of thousands of people were imprisoned and thousands killed. Filipinos were also rounded up and tortured by the thousands, according to Amnesty International.

"Our properties sequestered, many Meranaos [people of Mindanao] were killed," Pacasum said, adding that all the stories his mother told about that time were bad.

Joma sees more ‘gross’, ‘systematic’ rights abuses amid Mindanao martial law extension

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 14): Joma sees more ‘gross’, ‘systematic’ rights abuses amid Mindanao martial law extension

Communist leader Jose Maria Sison and President Rodrigo Duterte. (INQUIRER FILE PHOTOS)

The “gross” and “systematic” violation of human rights in Mindanao would certainly escalate as the military continues to take over amid the extension of martial law in the region until end of 2018, Communist Party of the Philippines (CCP) founder Jose Maria Sison said on Friday.

Sison said martial law under President Rodrigo Duterte would surpass the rate and proportions of military rule under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

“As the unnecessary and egregious martial rule by Duterte will expand nationwide, the violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the people will surpass the rate and proportions of martial rule under the Marcos fascist dictatorship,” Sison said in a statement on Thursday.

Sison, a friend-turned-critic of Duterte, believed that the president plans to destroy the CPP and its armed wing New People’s Army (NPA) before the end of 2018.

According to Sison, the President plans to achieve this by concentrating attacks on Communist rebels in Mindanao, and then in Luzon and in Visayas should when Mr. Duterte decides to expand martial law nationwide.

On Tuesday, Congress overwhelmingly authorized Duterte’s request for the extension of martial rule in Mindanao from January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018. Duterte cited the persistent threat of terrorism and rebellion in Mindanao to justify his request.

The Communist leader also revealed that some “patriotic” and “progressive” military officers were worried that Duterte “is misusing” the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) as his private armed unit.

“Military officers of the AFP who are patriotic and progressive are seriously concerned that Duterte is misusing the AFP and PNP as if these were his personal armies,” Sison said.

“They are critical of the promotion of officers on the basis of their friendship and personal loyalty to Duterte,” he also claimed.

But Sison said the progressive soldiers were most aghast by his termination of the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and National Democratic Front (NDF).

Duterte called off the peace negotiations at the time when the government and CPP panels were about to meet for the fifth round of formal talks in Oslo, and sign the drafts of the general amnesty of political prisoners, the unilateral ceasefires, and some parts of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CARES).

173 NPA rebels surrender to Armed Forces field units

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 12): 173 NPA rebels surrender to Armed Forces field units

Field units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have received more rebel surrenderees than attackers, according to the regional spokesperson and Public Affairs Office (PAO) chief of the Army’s 10th Infantry (Agila) Division (10th ID).

Capt. Jerry S. Lamosao, in a statement on Thursday ,said that some 173 members of NPA have surrendered to 10th ID through 1001st Infantry (Pag-asa) Brigade since July 1, 2017.

This file photo taken on July 30, 2017 shows guerrillas of the New People’s Army (NPA) in formation in the Sierra Madre mountain range. (AFP Photo / Noel Celis / Manila Bulletin)
The 1001st Brigade covers some parts of Agusan del Sur province and 8 municipalities in Compostela Valley (ComVal) province, 5 municipalities and 1 city of Davao del Norte province.

It has 4 combat maneuvering battalions and 1 Task Force covering the areas.

The surrenderees came about as a result of massive deployment of Community Pace and Development Support Teams in the unit’s area of responsibility (AOR) and relentless focused military operations against the NPA terrorists, Capt. Lamosao claimed.

“Most of mass surrendees were recorded in October-December this year,” he said.

The 1001st Brigade gained 64 firearms for the period.

The relentless combat operations also resulted in the recovery of 14 IEDs and 23 NPA camps and harbor areas, further claimed the 10th ID spokesperson .

Based on records from the different units of the 1001st Brigade, the NPA terrorists who surrendered are members of the regular armed group Sangay sa Partido (SP) and Milisya ng Bayan (MB), he said.

SPs are the smallest communist party branch personalities of the CPP who are conducting Ideological, Political, Organizational and Mass (IPOM) works while MBs are the “part-time” NPAs or “farmers by day, NPAs by night” who serve as security in the NPA- influenced barangays and are ready to join the regular NPA terrorists when necessary to conduct harassments to PNP, AFP detachments and vital installations, Capt. Lamosao said.

Some of the MBs are utilized as eyes and ears or guides and spotters for the NPA regulars. Others are trained to handle and fabricate improvised explosive devices (IEDs), he added.

“With the recent accomplishments, the 1001st Brigade has influenced a great deal the lives of these people, than wanting them dead. We know they are just victims of a lie that has been passed through generations which has caused confusion and division among our people. Clearly, our mission of helping establish the foundation for inclusive human and economic development in our area of responsibility has already begun. We are calling on the NPAs out there to return to the folds of the law and to their families and avail of the programs of the Government…Let’s all give peace a chance,” said Colonel Erwin Bernard Neri, commanding officer of the 1001st Brigade.

Meanwhile, Major General Noel S. Clement, commanding general of the 10th “Agila” Division, said in the same statement, “We ensure the public that 10th ID and its units will always perform their mandated task of protecting the people including those NPA members who have surrendered, respecting their human rights and securing the communities.”

Maritime council creation lauded

From the Sun Star-Davao (Dec 13): Maritime council creation lauded
PUBLIC Safety and Security Command Center (PSSCC) head lauded the passing of an ordinance forming an inter-agency council to address all the maritime and security issues, conduct search and rescue operations, and enforce laws on environmental protection in the martime waters within the territorial jurisdiction of Davao City.

PSSCC head Benito De Leon, in an interview last Tuesday, said the passing of the ordinance creating the Maritime Coordinating Council (MCC) is a good move.

"It strengthens the security of the city in guarding the coastal areas in Davao kasi yung present arrangements natin are only for the land based. So ito magandang arrangement, there is a collaborative effort among different naval forces guarding the city and identifies who is actually in charge kasi may Navy, may Maritime Police, may Coastguard. So maganda ito. I congratulate and thank the city council for passing the ordinance such as this," De Leon said.

Based on the ordinance approved by the 18th Davao City Council, MCC will be composed of concerned government agencies and non-government organizations is tasked to maintain constant and up to date city risk assessment on criminality, terrorism, maritime waters and coastal areas wthin Davao City, and to take law enforcement actions relative thereto.

The MCC will be composed of the city mayor of Davao as chair, Coast Guard District Southern Mindanao (CGDSEM) as vice chair, and Public Safety and Security Command Center as the secretariat.

Council members include Armed Forces of the Philippines Eastern Mindanao Command, Davao City Police Office, Regional Maritime Unit 11, Naval Forces of Eastern Mindanao, Task Force Davao, Central 911, Tactical Operations Group 11, Philippine Ports Authority 11, Bureau of Customs 11, Philippine Drug Enforcemetn Agency 11, Liga ng mga Barangay, Bureau of Fisheris and Aquatic Resources 11, City Agriculturists Office, and Maritime Industry Authority 11.

As mandated, the chairperson, or the city mayor or duly designated representative, shall exercise overall administrative and/or operational supervision and control to ensure and effective and efficient implementation of the policies by the Maritime coordinating council.

The MCC shall meet regularly at least once a quarter or as often as necessary at the call of the chair or by majority of the members. A majority of the members shall constitute a quorum to do business.

The budget for the MCC and its entire operations will be under the City Mayor's Office (CMO) and shall be appropriated in the annual or supplemental budget.

The MCC is also mandated to submit to the city mayor and the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) within 30 days after the end of every fiscal year, an annual report on its accomplishments under this ordinance, together with its plans and recommendations to improve and develop its capability to enforce the provisions of the ordinance and a complete accounting of transaction on funds received.

The ordinance was proposed by the committee on peace and order chair Davao City Councilor Maria Belen Sunga-Acosta.

MILF: We’re still in Zamboanga Peninsula

From the Manila Times (Dec 13): MILF: We’re still in Zamboanga Peninsula

SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao: The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Zamboanga City has belied the claim of the Peace and Order Council in Region 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula) that the group and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) are no longer in the area.

The Regional Peace and Order Council-IX (RPOC-IX) has issued a Resolution declaring that “there is no presence of MILF and MNLF communities in Region IX.”

Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG-IX) assistant regional director Pedro Cuevas Jr. and Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco are members of the RPOC-IX secretariat, which prepared the resolution that was duly adopted on June 7.

However, the liaison officer of the MILF Information Committee for Western Mindanao, who requested not to be named, said in a statement to the MILF’s Luwaran Interactive that the encounters between its members and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Basilan is proof that there are MILF members in the area.
Basilan is now one of the component provinces of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), hence it is no longer part of Region 9.

The MILF liaison officer said that the presence of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) led by the Malaysian Royal Army based in the AFP’s Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City is also evidence that there are MILF in Region 9.

“The IMT area of coverage are the provinces of Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Maguindanao, North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Bukidnon, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del sur, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Palawan,” he said.
The Western Front Command of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) of the MILF is located within Region 9, and there are base commands in the islands of Basilan and Sulu that the IMT recognizes.

Relief Web: Philippines: Marawi Conflict Snapshot (13 December 2017)

Posted to the Relief Web (Dec 13): Philippines: Marawi Conflict Snapshot (13 December 2017)

from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 13 Dec 2017 View Original

Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are starting to return to Marawi City after the end of clashes between Armed Forces of the Philippines and the non-state armed group. Affected barangays are grouped by cluster and are being cleared for phased returns. Families from barangays under clusters 1, 2 and 3 have returned.

Barangays under clusters 4, 5, and 6 are still waiting to be cleared for safe return. National government’s Task Force Bangon Marawi with the local government of Marawi have been coordinating the safe return of IDPs and providing return packages that include food packs, hygiene kits, kitchen kits and financial assistance.

A transitory site is being constructed in Barangay Sagonsongan to decongest evacuation sites and accomodate IDPs from the most affected areas.

What’s in the New Singapore-Philippines Urban Warfare Terror Training?

From The Diplomat (Dec 14): What’s in the New Singapore-Philippines Urban Warfare Terror Training?

The interaction is an example of indigenous capacity-building initiatives underway on the counterterrorism front.

What’s in the New Singapore-Philippines Urban Warfare Terror Training?
Image Credit: MINDEF Singapore

This week, Singapore and the Philippines concluded a new urban warfare training initiative that was first announced as part of the city-state’s assistance to Manila to combat the terror threat posed by the Islamic State and its affiliates earlier this year. Though details so far remain unclear about its future direction, the engagement and the cooperation that was seen within it was an example of efforts underway by Southeast Asian states to boost their collective capacities to address the threat of terrorism.

As I have consistently observed in these pages, the five-month long siege by Islamic State-linked militants in the southern Philippine city of Marawi, which ended just last month, had sparked growing terror fears in the Asia-Pacific, underscored the well-known limitations of the Philippine military capabilities, and catalyzed efforts by regional states to help boost capacity (See: “Why Has the Philippine Military Struggles in its Terror War Under Duterte?”). Though the focus in some media accounts tends to be narrowly framed in terms of military exercises, we have in fact seen instances of this across several areas, including on terrorism financing, countering radical narratives, and sharing experiences on rehabilitation and reintegration of former convicts.

One of these areas is developing expertise when it comes to urban warfare. As an example of this capacity-building that is underway, Singapore had announced in July that it would provide counterterrorism assistance to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that would include not just in terms of military assets and humanitarian assistance, but also use of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) urban training villages. Though Singapore and the Philippines have worked on other security initiatives before as part of their bilateral ties and also with other regional states on a multilateral and minilateral basis, this was a significant development because Philippine defense officials themselves have admitted that urban warfare training is an area of urgent need right now.

Last week, we saw the official start of this urban warfare training when forty soldiers from the Philippine Army (PA) had arrived in Singapore for a two-week professional exchange program. The program was conducted by the Infantry Training Institute (ITI) at the Murai Urban Training Facility (MUTF), a facility developed to boost SAF expertise in urban operations (UO) capabilities that offers a range of realistic, related training scenarios (See: “Singapore-Philippines Urban Warfare Training Kicks Off”).

So far, the publicly announced parts of the training have been focused around tactics, skills and basic missions. According to Singapore’s defense ministry (MINDEF), content-wise, the emphasis has been on information sharing on small unit tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) and individual skill sets needed to operate in a complex urban operating environment.

The exchange also culminated in both sides executing a Platoon UO mission. Though few details were publicly disclosed about that mission, MINDEF emphasized that while the Philippine Army personnel had gained an opportunity to hone their skills in urban operations, Singapore had also benefited in that knowledge about the Marawi operations would inform the SAF’ own UO training procedures for learning.

This is just the first official interaction we have seen between the two countries in terms of urban warfare training, and it will be interesting to see how things progress on this front, not just on its own but within the broader context of Singapore-Philippines ties – with both countries working up to the commemoration of the the 50th anniversary in 2019 – as well as the counterterrorism cooperation in the wider region, which Singapore will be helping shape next year given that it will hold the annually rotating ASEAN chairmanship. Singapore’s Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen noted on Facebook on Wednesday that on Singapore’s end, the SAF is prepared to do more on this front if it is requested to do so by the Philippine government.

Amnesty: Martial law extension signals more rights abuses in Mindanao

From the Philippine Star (Dec 14): Amnesty: Martial law extension signals more rights abuses in Mindanao

 London-based Amnesty International said that the extension of martial law until Dec. 31, 2018 could mean more human rights abuses in the coming months. AP/Bullit Marquez, File

An international rights group blasted on Thursday the extension of military rule in Mindanao for another year, saying that the decision is an "ominous move" that signals more human rights abuses in the coming months.

The Congress, dominated by allies of firebrand President Rodrigo Duterte, granted the leader's request to extend for the second time the prevailing martial law in Mindanao until Dec. 31, 2018.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives gave their imprimatur for the move, which the president said was needed to address the threat of terrorism and rebellion in many parts of Mindanao, a southern island which is home to around 22 million people.

READ: Kabataan rep: Martial law extension 'free pass for rights violations'

However, Amnesty International said that the extension could mean more human rights violations which were already recorded during the months-long battle of Marawi City which killed more than 1,000 people, most of whom combatants, and displaced hundreds of thousands of residents.
"The length of this latest extension, until the end of 2018, is an ominous move that almost certainly signals further abuses in the months ahead," James Gomez, Amnesty International's Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said.

He said that since military rule was declared in the region civilians in Mindanao had faced unlawful killings, destruction of their homes, ill-treatment and numerous other human rights abuses at the hands of the Philippine military and Islamic State-inspired militants.

READ: MAT: Martial law extension a danger to human rights, democracy

In a report on the siege of Marawi released last month, Amnesty said that both the Armed Forces and the Islamist fighters committed violations of international humanitarian law, some of which could amount to war crimes.

Amnesty accused the military of using torture and ill-treatment of people in their custody especially those who were trying to escape the fighting.

The militants meanwhile, according to the London-based group, committed numerous extrajudicial executions of non-Muslim residents, especially at checkpoints.

Both the military and the militants were accused of looting the deserted property of the residents. Military officials admitted in the past that some of their personnel were caught stealing and said that some had already been charged.

Amnesty said: “Violations in the battle of Marawi, in northern Mindanao, have been carried out with impunity, while there has been a disturbing rise in killings of human rights defenders and political activists across the region in recent months."

READ: Lorenzana: Rebellion still active elsewhere in Mindanao

The group said that Duterte, already accused of orchestrating a brutal anti-drugs campaign which killed between 7,000 to 12,000 people, should not use martial law as a "pretext for further violations" in Mindanao without any accountability.

It also called on authorities to take concrete steps to end violations, address those which had already taken place and prevent them from recurring.

Duterte first placed Mindanao under military rule on May 23 following an attempt by militants to transform the lakeside town of Marawi into the center of the Islamic State's caliphate in Southeast Asia.