Sunday, December 31, 2017

It was Build! Build! Build! – in the South China Sea

From the Manila Times (Jan 1): It was Build! Build! Build! – in the South China Sea

The year 2017 was “a constructive year for Chinese base building” in the South China Sea, according to Washington D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). On December 14, CSIS reported that China had completed 29 hectares (290,000 square meters) of “new real estate” on three reefs in the Spratly archipelago and three islands in the Paracels. On December 24, the Chinese newspaper Global Times confirmed both the figure and the fact that China had “accelerated construction and enhanced its military presence on South China Sea Islands and shoals over the past year as territorial tensions with neighboring countries are subsiding.”

The article also said that the “size of some South China Sea Islands will be further expanded in the future with more dredging vessels.” The new “magic island maker”—dredging vessel Tian Kun Hua—is expected to be “working on the land reclamation projects in the South China Sea region.” Tian Kun Hua is called a magic island maker because it can dredge up to 6,000 cubic meters an hour, dig 35 meters under the sea floor, and “blast through seabed rocks, suck up sand, and pump material through a pipeline over a distance of 15 kilometers” (South China Morning Post).

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque’s initial response to the news of China’s construction activities was brief: “We don’t know where these works are,” Roque said. “We continue to rely on China’s good faith. Location is material since we do not have claims on all these islands and waters in the disputed sea,” he was quoted as saying.

It is obvious that China is as determined as ever to achieve full control over the South China Sea, and that its neighboring countries appear unwilling to raise any protests. “The relationship between China and other Southeast Asia countries, such as the Philippines, has calmed in recent years, providing a golden opportunity for China to upgrade these areas,” a researcher from the National Institute for the South China Sea told Global Times.
The silence from countries with overlapping claims in the South China Sea—such as the Philippines—has apparently been an invitation to China to push on with the construction of facilities on the disputed islands, at an accelerated speed at that. And, as the Global Times article promises, more reclamation activities are to come.

Secretary Roque was hopefully speaking for himself and not for President Duterte when he implied that the Philippines was not concerned with China’s activities in the South China Sea unless these occur in areas claimed by the Philippines. The fact is that all these activities are connected as China has one big plan for its territory – a territory that counts the South China Sea region, formally under the geographical jurisdicion of Sansha City, whose administrative center is located on Woody Island in the Paracels.

China has created seven artificial islands in the Spratly island group. Of these seven, three—Subi (Zamora) Reef, Fiery Cross (Kagitingan) Reef, and Mischief (Panganiban) Reef —saw major construction activities in 2017. Very soon, they will be ready to land military aircraft and store missiles.

In the Paracels, in 2017 China engaged in construction activities in Tree, North and Triton islands. Vietnam and China have overlapping claims in the Paracels, much like China and the Philippines in the Spratlys.

Subi Reef is very close to Pagasa (Thitu) Island and thus of concern to the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Mischief Reef, on the other hand, is located within the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ), 125 and 598 nautical miles from the Philippines and China, respectively. Location is indeed material, as Mr. Roque put it, but obviously, it is more complicated than that. We have a reef on Philippine territory, a reef that has been reclaimed, furnished with airstrip, underground storage, hangars, missile shelters, and radar facilities, all planned, designed and constructed by the Chinese government without any consultation with or authority from the Philippine government. Location is material here, for the Philippines.

China of course has all the right in the world to boost its military defenses against real or potential threats, today and in the future. Unfortunately, China is pushing its national security interests in the region on the principle that might is right without due respect for the internationally recognized rights of smaller nations such as the Philippines. While engaging in diplomacy with other countries, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), expressing its commitment to find peaceful and mutually beneficial solutions to the dispute, China never stopped forging ahead with its construction on the reclaimed islands. And it will continue this construction and expansion whether or not the rest of the world will protest it. China’s “build, build, build” plan for the South China Sea is likely to continue in 2018.

144 Abu Sayyaf members surrendered, 128 killed in 2017 – military

From the Manila Times (Dec 31): 144 Abu Sayyaf members surrendered, 128 killed in 2017 – military

THE Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) reported on Sunday that 144 members of the Abu Sayyaf Group have surrendered to the government since January, its spokesman said.

Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., WestMinCom commander, said of the 144 Abu Sayyaf surrenderees, 70 were from Basilan, 53 in Sulu and 21 in Tawi-tawi.

Galvez said that the number represented 41 percent of the bandits who were neutralized in 2016, adding that “strenuous combat operations” resulted in a total of 53 encounters throughout the year.

Of the number, 20 were in Basilan, 29 in Sulu, three in Tawi-tawi and one in Zamboanga.
A total of 128 members of the Abu Sayyaf were killed while 80 were arrested in the Western Mindanao area, Galvez also said.

He added that a total of 223 firearms from the Abu Sayyaf bandits were either recovered, seized or surrendered before the Joint Task Forces under the WestMinCom.

As for the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in the Western Mindanao, Galvez said the military was able to neutralize at least 243 of the group members in Central Mindanao.

He cited a report coming from Maj. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, commander of the Philippine Army’s 6th Infantry Division or the Joint Task Force Central.

According to Galvez, a total of 182 members of the BIFF were killed during armed confrontations in the area, 24 were apprehended and three have surrendered before the government since January.

A total of 38 firearms were recovered from the BIFF bandits with a total of 44 armed confrontations registered for the WestMinCom.

“Significantly, the joint security operation and strategic alliance with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front contributed to our success in our operations,” Galvez said.

However, Galvez also reported that 26 soldiers were killed in action while fighting the Abu Sayyaf while a total of seven in military operations against the BIFF bandits in Western Mindanao.

“Ultimately, our efforts will continue to sustain our development support operations in Mindanao, through our interagency and stakeholders’ engagements and our commitment in supporting the law enforcement operations of different agencies,” Galvez said.

1 police officer dead, 5 wounded in Maguindanao blast

From GMA News (Jan 1): 1 police officer dead, 5 wounded in Maguindanao blast

A policeman was killed while five others were wounded in an explosion in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao on Sunday.

According to investigators, Shariff Aguak municipal police officers were conducting a mobile patrol when an explosion hit their vehicle.

SP04 Max Kaibat was killed while those wounded were: P03 Jalison Abdullah, P01 Archie Ansare Amelista, Ricardo Almonia, P01 Alimodin Nuphay and P01 Zainoden Abdullah.

The injured were brought to the Maguindanao Integrated Provincial Hospital while clearing operations and an investigation are ongoing.

Authorities believe members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters were behind the incident.

BIFF gunmen torch abandoned houses in Maguindanao

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 31): BIFF gunmen torch abandoned houses in Maguindanao

Maguindanao - Google Maps

Maguindanao province (outlined in red) in Mindanao (Image from Google Maps)

Islamic State-linked gunmen swooped down on a hinterland village earlier deserted by its population of indigenous people in Datu Hoffer Ampatuan town here early Sunday and torched about a dozen houses, the military reported on Sunday.

The attack was the latest atrocity committed by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) against the Teduday tribe in the province this week, according to Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, the chief of Civil Military Operations office of the 6th Infantry Division.

At around 4 a.m. Sunday, a still undetermined number of BIFF gunmen arrived in Sitio Makon in Barangay Limpogo and immediately started setting the deserted houses on fire.
Besana said at least 12 houses – all made of light materials – were razed.

He said the military pursued the gunmen and fired howitzers at them, but it wasn’t clear if they suffered any casualties.

Some 1,400 residents of Sitio Makon and nearby areas – which were part of Mount Firis – had earlier fled when BIFF gunmen started attacking them, following a major operation the military launched before Christmas.

On Christmas Day, three Teduday houses in the area were also razed.

On Dec. 29, BIFF gunmen seized six Teduday natives from Limpogo. But four of them managed to escape.

On the same day, BIFF gunmen killed Teduday leader Diego Met Dagadas in the upland village of Firis in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town.

Dagadas was coming out of his house on learning of the arrival of the BIFF gunmen, who then shot him several times.

According to slain tribal leader’s relatives, the gunmen set off an improvised explosive device beside Dagadas’ body before leaving the terror-stricken village/

The killilng of Dagadas came three days after the military launched air strikes toward the tri-boundary of South Upi, North Upi and Datu Saudi Ampatuan, killing about 10 armed men.

According to Maj. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, the 6th ID chief, the BIFF faction terrorizing the Tedudays is headed by Esmail Abubakar, alias Commander Bungos.

Besana said it was apparent that the BIFF wanted the Lumads out of Mount Firis, where Ameril Umra Kato started the group after bolting the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2008.

Senior Supt. Agustin Tello, chief of the Maguindanao Provincial Police Office, said the evacuated Teduday families were now temporary staying in the centers of Datu Unsay and Datu Hofer and were being assisted by the local governments.

As of Saturday, 285 families were housed in various evacuation sites in the adjoining towns, according to Fatima Kanakan, the director of the Office of Southern Cultural Communities in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (OSCC-ARMM).

“I hope this problem will be solved as soon as possible, the IPs are pitiful,” Kanakan said in a statement.

Lynette Estandarte, Maguindanao budget officer and focal person for the provincial relief office, said Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Toto Mangudadatu had ordered the release and distribution of 50 bags of rice for the affected families as part of the initial humanitarian assistance.

“It’s holiday, but no holiday in humanitarian work because we are talking here of lives and extending help cannot wait for another day,” Mangudadatu said in a text message.

Both Mangudadatu and ARMM Regional Gov. Mujiv Hataman vowed to provide more aid to the displaced families.

Army, Reds swap allegations of abuses

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 31): Army, Reds swap allegations of abuses

Local military and rebel groups here in Negros exchanged allegations of human rights abuse and extortion in the Negros provinces.

The Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division and the NPA’s Leonardo Panaligan Command in central Negros both aired their accusations of abuses and extortion activities.

A Christmas season ceasefire was declared by both Philippine government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army that took effect Dec. 23 to 26 and Dec. 30 to Jan. 2.

“We all know how they (CPP-NPA) deceive people in the far-flung barangays,” Capt. Ruel Llanes, Civil-Military Operations officer of the 303rd Infantry Brigade, said.

“We protect the people from them who do extortion. We don’t do such acts” Llanes added, as he referred to the alleged proliferation of solicitation letters.

Capt. Eduardo Precioso, the spokesman of the 3ID, also called it as a “desperate move” of CPP-NPA as he junked repeated accusations against the military.

“We are very effective due to the cooperation of the victims of extortion, murder, arson and other inhuman acts leading to terrorism,” he added.

A rebel spokesman, Ka JB Regalado, in a press statement, accused the 3ID and 303rd Infantry Brigade of being behind the alleged killing of nine civilians in Guihulngan City, calling the military as opportunists.

Regalado also blamed the military for the spreading of solicitation letters with the name and logo of the CPP-NPA, asking for cash and rice, and condemning the AFP for such actions.

Marawi: Rising from the rubble

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 31): Marawi: Rising from the rubble

More than two months have passed since the Philippine government declared victory over a well-armed, well-organized and highly motivated cabal of Muslim militants that laid siege to Marawi.

But the lakeside city, a centre of Islamic heritage in the insurgency-wracked southern island of Mindanao, remains half-empty.
Although the military has allowed half the city’s more than 200,000 residents to return, the devastated half – a sprawling field of debris, unexploded ordnance and booby traps – is still no man’s land.

Post-conflict assessment teams are putting together a plan to rebuild Marawi. Experts estimate it may take anywhere from 50 billion to 90 billion pesos (S$1.3 billion to S$2.4 billion, US$1 billion to US$1.8 billion), but they are not sure how long the rebuilding process will take.

A senior military official said the soonest bomb-disposal units can clear the ruins of improvised explosive devices is in April, almost a year from when the militants launched the armed conflict.

For now, the multitude whose lives have been upended by the conflict will have to wait until they are allowed to return to a city pulverised into rubble and dust.

Even then, what awaits them is more uncertainty, and the ever looming threat that the militants may soon return. Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in October that six battalions of troops would remain in Marawi amid President Rodrigo Duterte’s calls for continued vigilance.

A ‘city of streamers’

Marawi, about a three-hour ride from the nearest airport in Laguindingan town, snakes through provincial districts that are slowly getting a taste of the Philippine success story: A smooth highway, a bounty of tourists, cable TV, schools, a cement plant, a McDonald’s restaurant here and there.

About 30km from Marawi is Iligan, the nearest city and the halfway point from Laguindingan. Here, sheets of tarpaulin, at least 1m wide and 0.5m tall, line the roads every few metres or so, proclaiming the achievement of some Muslim’s son or daughter: a newly minted doctor, nurse, criminologist,engineer.

“It’s in the Maranao culture, to take pride in education, and to serve notice to other clans. People here say that if you have a child who passed a licensure exam, and you did not put up a streamer, you do not love that child,” said driver Jamil Tuano, 35, referring to the ethnic Muslim tribe that forms the bulk of Marawi’s population.

This is why Marawi is sometimes called, jokingly, “the city of streamers and tarpaulins”, he said.

Closer to the city of Marawi, shades of Islamic life fill the landscape: roadside mosques; women in hijab and niqab; men with white, rounded taqiyahs on their heads.

But there are also reminders that this was a conflict zone: trucks filled with soldiers; checkpoints everywhere; a constant traffic of vehicles with markings of aid groups and non-governmental organisations.

On May 23, about 1,000 gunmen stormed and seized large parts of Marawi in an audacious bid to turn the city into a “wilayah”, or province, of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). What followed was a war that raged for five months.

By the time the Philippine military declared victory on Oct 23, more than 1,000 militants, government troops and civilians were dead, half of Marawi lay in ruins, and about 400,000 people living in and near the city were displaced.

Ground zero

Beyond the arch that marks Marawi’s borders, life was again stirring when The Sunday Times was there for six days from Dec 12. At the Amai Pakpak hospital, among the first government buildings to be attacked by the militants, there was a constant shuffle of patients, nurses and doctors.

At the sprawling Mindanao State University (MSU), youths loitered along hallways in boisterous groups, chatting, reading, playing the guitar, or checking out someone’s motorcycle.

Inside the university’s campus, which is a city in itself, a business district buzzed with commerce. Long queues were forming in restaurants, and the marketplace was buzzing with activity.

But from across a bridge just a few paces from city hall, devastation met the eye. Referred to either as “ground zero” or the “main battle area”, this was where the fiercest fighting between government troops and the militants took place.

No one is allowed to go there, as security forces continue to sweep the ruins for booby traps and explosives.

Most of those who used to live there are now staying in overcrowded, barely liveable evacuation centres, where resentment has been festering.

“It’s very cold here at night, and we’re sleeping on a hard surface. It’s hard on the body. What we need are mattresses because all we have to sleep on are straw mats,” said Mr Riga Saadodin Panda, 21, an evacuee from Wawalayan Marinaut district, inside ground zero. He and his relatives fled their homes when the militants began herding hostages in the early days of the conflict. They were sent to an evacuation centre in nearby Saguiaran town, where they were given quarters, with over 200 other families. It is located beneath a barebones gymnasium the size of two basketball courts.

They have been there ever since, living off food rations and handouts. Some have started selling donated items like canned sardines, to buy things they need more of, such as diapers.

“We’re sick of sardines,” one evacuee was heard telling a Red Cross volunteer.

A few have been trying to eke out extra money by selling cigarettes, candies and other small items they managed to buy with cash they received from doing menial work for aid groups.

But it is the uncertainty that frustrates them most.

There has been no word on how soon they can return to their homes, or if they will be allowed to at all. Most of them do not own titles to the land they occupied, which is part of a military reservation, and they worry that the military is keen on reclaiming this land.

There has also been no assurance that the government will extend financial aid or loans to help them rebuild their homes.


Frustration has also been growing among those who have managed to return to their homes.

“Our houses were destroyed, looted. When we left, our houses had things in them. When we returned, they were empty,” said Mr Abdullah Sumndad, 45, a “sancopang Marawi”, the equivalent of a datuk.

Ms Nikki de la Rosa, deputy country manager at the World Bank-funded think-tank International Alert, said “a looming land issue will happen with overlapping themes”.

She added: “Revenge killings and clan feuding have been there. The manner by which the reconstruction process will be undertaken should consider identity-based conflict. Otherwise, that will release other sources of violence in the time that people go back to Marawi.”

Mr Francisco Lara, International Alert’s country manager, said: “The big question is really, in terms of looming sources of violence: What role can be given to clans in the rebuilding process?”

He said the government seems to be dealing with Marawi in the same way it dealt with supertyphoon Haiyan in 2013. “Is the government treating this as a natural calamity? I hope not. As much of the work has to be on how to build resilient communities to threats of extremism, not only resilient to rise up again, but able to push back.”

Mr Meher Khatcherian, a protection delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said: “In a conflict area, people need to be assured a lot more security wise, and they need to understand what kind of response is needed, to see something more clear proposed to them put in place, because they can be traumatised, because they have lost a lot, because they might be reluctant to come back to an area, because they’re afraid the same could happen to them again.”

Undercurrent of fear

Ms Norma Labao, 67, a retired teacher, was spotted pulling down the steel sheets that cover her store.

“The situation is better now, since the last week of November,” she said. She has managed to re-open her small laundry shop.

“Business has been okay, especially now that it’s always raining,” she said. She earns up to 40 pesos per kilo of clothes and bedding.

Mr Abdullah Mangotara, 32, too, has begun picking up the pieces. He has opened a new Potato Corner’s outlet, offering the fast food franchise’s fries, inside MSU. He lost the first one when war broke out.

“We lost so much. We’re back to zero. The war brought the reality that there is a risk to doing business here.” But he is staying, although he is sending his children away from Marawi “for safety reasons”.

That undercurrent of fear runs across Marawi.

Ms Labao said she is ready to leave at any time. “We hear rumours. We had to leave all of a sudden when the fighting began. Now, we are prepared. If anything happens, we’re ready to go.”

Long road to rebuilding Marawi
A boy and his sister play near a building in Marawi’s Basak Malutlut district, from where terrorist leaders Isnilon Hapilon and brothers Omarkhayam and Abdullah Maute are said to have plotted the siege of this southern Philippine city.

After the terrorists overran Marawi in May, it took the military five months to retake it, street by bloody street. Two months on, only half of its 200,000 residents have been able to return home.

The devastated half – a sprawling field of debris, unexploded ordnance and booby traps – is still no man’s land.

Philippines in 2017: Stalled peace talks with Communists

From the pro-Communist Party of the Philippines online publication the Davao Today (Dec 31): Philippines in 2017: Stalled peace talks with Communists

Peace negotiations with the Communists was notably gaining “unprecedented advances. But what went wrong?

A close contact between the government and the National Democratic Front prior to the third round of peace talks on January next year is important for the success of the negotiations, an official of the Royal Norwegian Government said. (Zea Io Ming C. Capistrano/

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Peace remains unreachable as the year ended with the negotiations between the government and Communists virtually on a stand still.

Despite two rounds of formal talks this year, President Rodrigo Duterte declared this month the Communists as terrorists, a 360-degree turn around from calling them previously as revolutionaries.

For the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), however, nowhere is the country headed to end landlessness and oppression of d majority poor, thus they opt to continue waging armed struggle.

Will they ever go back to the peace table?

In his several speeches this month, the self-proclaimed socialist President, Duterte said he could not agree to what the Communists want.

“Apparently, there you would want to have a coalition government. I do not have any problems with that, except that as I’ve said before, in many of my statements previously, I cannot give them or share with them a sovereignty which is not my own. It is not mine to give,” Duterte said.

He said when he reviewed the documents of the negotiators he saw that the Communists “want a coalition government.”

The country, he explained, “is run by a Constitution.”

Martial law in Mindanao was also extended by Congress from only 60 days to 588 days, now out to run after the Communists who were outlawed by Presidential Proclamation No. 374.

The revolutionary movement denounced the one-year extension of martial law, saying it is a “de facto” nationwide declaration.

What exactly is going on at the Palace?

Duterte is “testing the waters,” said Joaquin Jacinto, spokesperson of National Democratic Front of the Philippines Mindanao.

“Part of its deceitful strategy is to focus on Mindanao first and perfidiously work its way up to encompass the Visayas and Luzon, so that, in dividing the nation, Duterte will avoid facing the impact of a nationwide uprising against his fascist rule,” Jacinto said.

In turn, the revolutionary movement “is ready to face death” and fight against Duterte, said Jacinto.

“Revolutionaries, as well as the struggling masses, would rather face death fighting rather than bow down to Duterte’s fascist dictatorship,” he said.

The Communists also said they will help in ousting Duterte.

Member organizations of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines occupy the street along Sta. Ana Avenue in Davao for a lightning rally to show their support to the ongoing peace talks between the National Democratic Front and the government. (Earl O. Condeza/

Dream of peace

During his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July 2016, Duterte immediately offered the Communists a unilateral ceasefire.

“We will strive to have a permanent and lasting peace before my term ends. That is my goal, that is my dream,” Duterte said.

Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Maria Sison said they are “hopeful” to forge a peace agreement with Duterte.

But, after a year Duterte is apparently pursuing the other way to peace – by pounding the communist movement and calling them “enemies of the state” whom he is out to bully.

In his second SONA, Duterte admitted: “peace eludes us still.”

“So much time has lapsed, so many lives have been lost and so much destruction has been wrought but peace eludes us still. Sometimes I am almost tempted to conclude that peace might not be able to come during our lifetime,” he said.

Days before he delivered his annual speech, Duterte announced he will wage war against the Communists after the battle in Marawi is concluded.

During those times, the two parties were set for a series of backchannel talks to discuss on how to resume the talks.

On July 19, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Jesus Dureza announced the backchannel talks are canceled after an encounter between the NPA’s and members of the Presidential Security Group in the tri-boundary of Arakan, North Cotabato, Bukidnon and Davao City.

The GRP and NDFP held two successful rounds of formal talks this year: the third round of talks was held in Rome, Italy in January and the fourth round was held in Noordwijk, Aan Zee in The Netherlands in April, with both rounds facilitated by the Royal Norwegian Government.

ABOUT FACE. President Rodrigo Duterte announces the cancellation of peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front and challenges them to “another 50 years” of fighting in his speech during the Davao Investment Convention held at the SMX Convention Center in Lanang, Davao City. Duterte ends talks with the communists after a series of clashes erupted between the New People’s Army and the military, one of which included the encounter with the President Security Group. (Paulo C. Rizal/
Stalled talks

However, since May, the fifth round of the formal talks between the government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the NDFP have been stalled. The government said there was a “lack of compelling reason” to proceed.

Dureza, the government’s peace adviser, said there was “no change of situation” referring to the position of the government that the CPP should rescind its order to the NPAs to intensify attacks amid Martial Law declaration in Mindanao.

Now, what GRP peace panel chief Silvestre Bello described as a “temporary setback” has been on for seven months, growing deeper and uglier.

The cancellation of the backchannel talks in July was the first of the undetermined number of backchannel talks and meetings between the parties that were made known to the public.

On November 22, Dureza again announced the cancellation of all their planned meetings with the CPP-NPA-NDFP following Duterte’s order that there will be no more peace talks.

Dureza said there will be no peace negotiations “until such time as the desired enabling environment conducive to a change in the government’s position becomes evident.”

A day after Dureza’s announcement, Duterte signed Proclamation No. 360 formally terminating the talks with the Communists and on December 5, he signed Proclamation No. 374 declaring the CPP and the NPA as terrorist organizations.

His actions came a month after Marawi was declared “liberated from terrorists’ influence.”

NORWEGIAN AMBASSADOR Erik Førner (second from left) talks with incoming Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza (center) inside the Davao City Police Office compound on Friday afternoon, while President-elect Duterte was delivering his speech. Førner is set to talk to Duterte later today regarding the status of Kjartan Sekkingstad, the Norwegian national who is still in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf Group.(Ace R. Morandante/

360-degree turn
The government’s promise of peace was replaced with the vow to crush the communist insurgency by the end of 2018.

The NDFP said President Duterte has “clearly sabotaged the peace talks, revealing its utter contempt for peace and total disregard for genuine socio-economic reforms.”

NDFP Mindanao spokesman Joaquin Jacinto said Duterte has revealed “his true character as a puppet of US imperialism.”

“From the start, he was already an avowed implementer of neoliberal policies, ensuring profits for the business interests of big bourgeois compradors and foreign monopoly capitalists,” Jacinto said adding the government’s “Build, Build, Build” program and the new tax reform will burden the public with debt and more taxes.

In Mindanao, he said, the government has also brought death and destruction, after the crisis in Marawi and the extension of Martial Law in the island.

Human rights organization Barug Katungod Mindanao said there were 92 cases of killings of activists and 428 cases of trumped-up charges filed against members of progressive organizations, which Duterte has tagged as legal fronts of the CPP and NPA.

Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of Human Rights in Southern Mindanao region (SMR) said the killings targeted those from the peasant sector “where they have intense anti-mining struggles.”

Jay Apiag, spokesperson of Karapatan-SMR said 32 out of 63 victims of killing in Davao region. Meanwhile, Apiag added they have recorded 18 incidents of aerial bombings in communities.

REVOLUTIONARY. An estimate of 40,000 people marched from Magsaysay Park to Rizal Park in Davao City in support of the resumption of peace talks between the government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front. (Earl O. Condeza/
On and off
The peace negotiations have been on and off since the conclusion of the third round of talks last January.

The NPA terminated its ceasefire on February 10 saying the military took advantage of the ceasefire to encroach their areas.

The ceasefire declared by the NPA on August 28 was the longest in history.

Duterte then suspended talks with the Communists on February 4. On the following day, he called the CPP-NPA-NDF as terrorists after three soldiers were killed by the NPAs in an ambush in Malaybalay, Bukidnon

Government panel chief negotiator and incoming Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III converses with Fidel Agcaoili, one of the members of the National Democratic Front negotiating panel during the peace forum at the Davao City Recreation Center, on June 29, 2016. Both panels will resume the formal peace talks on August 22, 2016 in Oslo, Norway. ( file photo)

Unreasonable demands

The Communists said the fifth round of talks was disrupted by the “unreasonable demands” of the government.

NDFP’s peace panel chair Fidel Agcaoili said the government want the CPP to: “1) rescind its order to the NPA that was in the main responding to the intensified AFP military operations nation-wide before and after Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao and, 2) that the NDFP immediately sign a joint ceasefire agreement even without the necessary agreements on social, economic and political reforms in place.”

The Communists felt outrage in people being rounded up and threats against people who are deemed as anti-government.

“In light of these out and out attacks against the people and their revolutionary forces, NPA units are left with little choice but to undertake more and more tactical offensives in order to defend the masses and the people’s army by stopping the reactionary state armed forces from carrying out their onslaught,” Agcaoili said.

The NDFP negotiator also said there could be no immediate ceasefire if there were no agreements on reforms in place.

He said the demand for the NPA to stop fighting was “one-sided” citing that the Armed Forces of the Philippines continue its militarization in the countryside.

SUCCESSFUL ROUND. The Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines conclude the fourth round of talks on Thursday, April 6, 2017 at the Radisson Blu Palace Hotel in Noordwijk Aan Zee in the Netherlands. Negotiators of the government and the NDFP raises their arms with the third party facilitator from the Royal Norwegian Government. L-R: NDFP peace panel Chairperson Fidel Agcaoili, NDFP Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison, Norwegian Special Envoy to the Philippine Peace Process Elisabeth Slattum, Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza and GRP Chief Negotiator Silvestre Bello III. (Zea Io Ming C. Capistrano/

The peace negotiations under the Duterte administration was notably gaining “unprecedented advances.”

Juliet de Lima, chairperson of the NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms (RWC-SER) said: “Just four days before President Duterte cancelled the talks anew, the bilateral teams of the NDFP and the government of the Republic of the Philippines initialed draft documents reflecting substantial agreements on agrarian reform and rural development, and on national industrialization and economic development.”

The initial signing, she said, came after a series of bilateral technical meetings of the NDFP and GRP reciprocal working committees on SER held on October 26 to October 27, November 9 to November 11 and on November 16 to November 17.

During the third round of talks, the Parties signed the Supplemental Guidelines for the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) making the work of the JMC in monitoring the compliance of the two parties with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) fully operational.

The Parties came up with an Agreement on an Interim Joint Ceasefire on the fourth round of talks.

The agreement was considered a “major breakthrough” in the peace process, said GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III. The agreement directs the respective Ceasefire Committees to meet “in-between formal talks, to discuss, formulate, and finalize the guidelines and ground rules for the implementation of this agreement.”

The NDFP clarified that the signing of the agreement will not go against their principle of agreeing to a ceasefire before reforms are achieved.

Under Duterte’s leadership, the talks reached four rounds in less than a year.

And most significantly, the parties have agreed on accelerating the talks on social and economic reforms by creating bilateral teams to tackle on issues and work on proposals even outside the formal talks.

When the Marawi crisis broke out on May 23, the revolutionary movement expressed support to the government’s fight against terrorism.

But Duterte refused it saying he could not allow NPA fighters to “fight alongside with government” until a peace pact is forged.

Duterte was clear on insisting to the Communists to talk peace by stopping fighting.

The Communists, however, were not ready to sign a document on ceasefire until the substantial agreement on socio-economic reforms and political and constitutional reforms were put in place.

In its statement on the occasion of the 49th founding anniversary of the CPP on December 26, the NDFP said it is willing to resume the talks but will not “submit itself to talks of capitulation.”

AFP upgrade gains momentum

From The Standard (Jan 1): AFP upgrade gains momentum

The modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines gained momentum in 2017, as contracts for new aircraft, weapons and platforms were signed, while other items were delivered during the year.

The A-29 “Super Tucano” light attack aircraft, made by Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer Defense and Security, is one of those shiny new purchases.

Department of National Defense public affairs office chief Arsenio Andolong said the Philippines would acquire six Super Tucanos worth P4.968 billion. Funds would be sourced from the AFP Modernization Act Trust Fund. Notice to proceed for the project was issued in the first week of December, he added.

The Super Tucano A-29 was selected after a rigorous public bidding process that saw several manufacturers from different countries participate, Andolong said. The aircraft complies with the stringent technical specifications required by the Philippine Air Force, he added.

The A-29 “is a durable, versatile, and highly advanced aircraft capable of carrying out a wide range of missions” and can even operate on unimproved runways, the Defense spokesman added.

Deliveries of the A-29s are expected to commence in 2019.

The Super Tucanos are expected to augment or even replace the 10 ageing Rockwell OV-10 “Bronco” attack planes being used by the PAF in close-air support missions.

Andolong said the Super Tucanos would be turned over and operated by the PAF’s 15th Strike Wing based in Sangley Point, Cavite City.

The 15th Strike Wing is the operator of all the Air Force’s ground attack aircraft, including the venerable Broncos and assorted armed helicopters.

Sidewinders purchased

Another welcome development for the PAF is the contract signing for the AIM-9 “Sidewinder” air-to-air missiles, which will be used to arm the country’s 12 South Korean-made FA-50PH “Fighting Eagle” currently being used as fighter and attack aircraft.

Incidentally, the Mach 1.5-capable FA-50s were used as ground-attack aircraft during the five-month battle to retake Marawi City from the clutches of the Maute Group terrorists, which started May 23 and ended Oct. 23 this year.

“Notice to Proceed was issued to Diehl Raytheon of Germany last August 31. The ‘Sidewinder’ contract is worth P1,016,734,088,” Andolong added.

He declined toa give the specific number and delivery dates of the missiles for security reasons, but said the weapons “are sufficient for all of the country’s FA-50s.”

The first two FA-50s were delivered on Nov. 28, 2015, with the last two being handed over by Korea Aerospace Industries in May. The 12 South Korean-made jets are worth P18.9 billion.

Meanwhile, the AIM-9s to be acquired are “all live rounds and fresh from the factory,” meaning all its sensors, rocket motors and warheads are brand new, Andolong said.

With the delivery of the missiles, the FA-50s will now have another weapon for air-to-air combat aside from its internal 20mm cannon, making it more capable of protecting the country’s airspace against airborne threats.

The AIM-9, which was developed by the US Navy in the 1950s, is one of the world’s most reliable and successful air-to-air missiles.

It utilizes infrared homing for guidance and tracking, and has a top speed of Mach 3, or three times the speed of sound. Its warhead weighs around 20 pounds, and the missile has a length of nearly 10 feet.

Other deliverables

On the deliverables side, the Philippine Navy on May 8 took delivery of its second strategic sealift vessel (SSV), the BRP Davao Del Sur (LD-602), the sister ship of the BRP Tarlac (LD-601), which was delivered and commissioned in 2016.

The former was constructed by Indonesian shipyard PT PAL (Parser) and commissioned into service last May 31. She was named the “Davao Del Sur” in honor of Mount Apo, the country’s highest peak, which is in the province.

“It gives due recognition to the province as sanctuary of natural wonders and rarities like the country’s highest peak Mount. Apo, the most prized Philippine orchid Vanda Sanderiana, and the endangered Philippine Eagle,” Navy spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna said.

Also, the namesake takes inspiration from a former PN vessel of the same name, notable for its accomplishments during the 1980s.

“Naming the vessel after Davao Del Sur is consistent with its predecessor, BRP Tarlac (LD-601), which was also named after a province,” Lincuna added.

The ship was launched last Sept. 29. Together with the BRP Tarlac, the ships are currently the largest Filipino warships in commission. Both ships have an overall length of 120 meters, breadth of 21 meters, draft of five meters, and can carry a payload of 2,800 tons.

The vessels have a cruising speed of 13 knots, maximum speed of 16 knots, and a minimum operating range of 7,500 nautical miles. Both SSVs have a contract price of P4 billion.

The ships can carry 500 troops each, besides two rigid-hull inflatable boats, two landing craft units, and three helicopters apiece. The pair was extensively used to transport troops and their equipment during the Marawi City campaign.

The Navy also took delivery of three additional multi-purpose attack craft (MPAC) last May 22, bringing the number of MPACs in the PN inventory to nine.

However, these naval craft are not the average MPACs, as its has provisions for the Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd.’s Spike ER (extended range) missile systems, making them the first Filipino warships to be armed with these weapons.

The contract for the three ships is P270 million. The weapons are on anti-ship mode, meaning it can engage surface vessel targets, and are capable of penetrating 1,000 mm (39 inches) of rolled homogeneous armor with a maximum range of five miles.

Former Navy flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado—who was suddenly fired just after Christmas—earlier said the missiles and their launchers would arrive before Christmas. However, both Andolong and the Navy chief had yet to confirm the arrival of the weapons.

All these defense equipment and items were acquired during the AFP Modernization Program Horizon One program, which started in 2013 and ends this year.

Other equipment acquired during Horizon One are the two Hamilton-class cutters (renamed the Del Pilar-class frigates), six MPACs, 114 armored personnel carriers, three brand-new C-295 medium lift aircraft, two C-130 heavy transports, five utility versions of the Agusta Westland AW-109 helicopters, eight Westland attack versions, and five landing craft heavies.

Horizon Two will start in 2018 and end in 2022, while Horizon Three will commence from 2023 to 2028.

The last two phases involve bolstering the AFP’s external defense capabilities, and includes the acquisition of multi-role fighters, missile batteries, diesel-electric submarines, and more modern detection and surveillance systems.

Reds brace for 50th year of insurgency

From The Standard (Dec 30): Reds brace for 50th year of insurgency

THE Communist Party of the Philippines has called on its cadres to work hard to overthrow President Rodrigo Duterte as the group continued to prepare for the 50th year of the longest running Maoist insurgency in Asia.

Meanwhile, two days after the lapse of the unilateral ceasefire declared by the New People’s Army, the CPP’s military arm, members of the group snatched a police officer Thursday night in Cotabato province.

An initial report from the Cotabato Police Provincial office identified the victim as Inspector Menardo Nisperos Cui, deputy chief of Police of the President Roxas Municipal Police Station.

But the report failed to disclose the circumstances behind the kidnapping, except that the incident took place at the HMB Video Place around 10:30 p.m.

In a statement released by the CPP’s Central Committee Thursday night, the CPP said Duterte would suffer the same fate as former Presidents Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Estrada for their “fascist tyranny, all-out economic liberalization and bureaucratic corruption.”

“The entire Party and all revolutionary forces must exert vigorous efforts to unite the Filipino people in a broad united front to resist and overthrow the fascist Duterte regime as they did the Marcos dictatorship and the Estrada regime,” the CPP said.

“The Party and revolutionary forces are optimistic that with arduous struggle and relentless hard work, they can overcome Duterte’s fascist rampage and accumulate the all-rounded strength required to overthrow his fascist puppet rule and advance the revolutionary people’s war to a new and higher level.”

Duterte had earlier issued Proclamation 360 terminating the peace negotiations with the communist National Democratic Front.

He subsequently issued Proclamation 374 to proscribe the CPP and NPA as terrorist organizations under the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012.

“We are looking forward to mark the Party’s 50th anniversary next year with even bigger and more momentous victories in the ideological, political and organizational fields,” the CPP said.

The group called on its cadres to continue the protracted people’s war against the government and end the neo-liberal policies that bring false promises of reform and utter contempt for the poor.

PA determined to crush NPA forces in Panay and Negros

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 31): PA determined to crush NPA forces in Panay and Negros

By 2018, the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) is determined to crush the forces of New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Panay and Negros Islands.

Female members of the New People’s Army (NPA) hone their marksmanship skills at Sierra Madre, Dec. 29, 2017. (Czar Dancel)
“We have our marching orders to expedite the defeat of communist terrorists by the end of 2018,” said Brigadier General Dinoh Dolina, 3ID’s new commanding general.

Dolina, who replaced Majog General Jon Aying last Dec. 29, underscored the stance of the Duterte administration in ending the peace talks and classifying the NPA as a terrorist organization.

“Their spiteful assertion that they speak for the people is so deceitful and their whimsical delusion in committing violence for the last 50 years does not make their voices privileged,” Dolina added.

Six cops were killed in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental province, last July while another cop was killed in Maasin, Iloilo province, last November. It was also in Maasin where the NPA staged a daylight attack at the police station last June.

The NPA has taken advantage that three battalions under 3ID were sent to Marawi City during the war against the Maute group.

Before retiring, Aying announced that a new army battalion will be created in Panay Island to fight the NPA.

Troops, NPA clash hours before start of New Year ceasefire

From GMA News Online (Dec 30): Troops, NPA clash hours before start of New Year ceasefire

Two soldiers were hurt after troops encountered members of the New People's Army (NPA) in Tarragona, Davao Oriental hours before the ceasefires declared by the communists and government took effect on Saturday.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said teams from the 6th Scout Ranger Battalion were sent to Barangay Tubaon to reports of an NPA harassment.

As the troops were advancing to the village, the NPA members allegedly fired at them and detonated a landmine.

The AFP said the communist guerillas withdrew after a 30-minute firefight.

The military said some members of the NPA could have been wounded in the firefight based on bloodstains seen in the encounter site.

The clash took place at around 6:25 a.m., nearly 10 hours before the unilateral ceasefires declared by the communist group and the government took effect.

President Duterte has declared a ceasefire from 6 p.m. of December 30 until 11:59 p.m. of January 2. The Communist Party of the Philippines' ceasefire will also take effect at 6 p.m. December 30 until 6 p.m. of January 2.

ISIS threat continues to haunt Marawi

From the Straits Times (Dec 31): ISIS threat continues to haunt Marawi

 A local government worker uses a mobile phone during the clean-up drive inside the war-torn Marawi city, on Oct 20, 2017.

A local government worker uses a mobile phone during the clean-up drive inside the war-torn Marawi city, on Oct 20, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

Barely an hour into my stop in Marawi, I got an ominous text message. A friend warned that militants were about to storm the Mindanao State University campus in the city (MSU), where I happened to be, for another go at establishing a "wilayah" or province for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

I showed the message to Mr Saddam Marohomsalic Omar, a 19-year-old communications student at MSU I was interviewing at the time. He shrugged his shoulders. "It's nothing new," he said, adding that such rumours have been flying thick and fast since the army routed in October the last of the militants.

The latest he heard was that a rising "young star" of the dreaded Maute group was spotted praying at a mosque inside the university one morning.

The pro-ISIS Maute Group, formed in 2013 by brothers Omarkhayam and Abdullah Maute, was responsible for the Marawi siege in May. Both were killed in the conflict.

Mr Saddam assured me the rumours were all talk. Still, they were a source of unease. There has been a sense here that at any given time, a conflict will erupt and decimate the part of Marawi still left standing.

The locals said the five month-long conflict was as much about territory as it was about ideology. Although the military declared victory over the militants on Oct 23, few believe the war has ended.

"No one in the Philippines should ignore the fact that salafi jihadism, the ideology that supports violent extremism, may be here to stay," said Ms Sidney Jones, director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict.


Security forces have cut off the heads of the factions that stormed Marawi. But like the hydra, new heads are already sprouting to keep the rest of the body alive.

The military has tagged Amin Baco, an Indonesian, as ISIS' new "emir" in South-east Asia, replacing Isnilon Hapilon, who was killed just as the war in Marawi drew to a close.

But Ms Jones said Baco is too far down the ladder to be taking such a big role. "This man has no religious knowledge. There's no way that this guy will be accepted as emir by many of the other people he was with," she said.

There are other names on her list. At the top are Abu Walid and Bahrumsyah, both Indonesians.

Abu Walid "has religious credential", while Bahrumsyah has "the most military authority", she said.

Abu Walid is a former member of the Indonesian Islamist group Kompak. Last year, he appeared in a video that called on would-be fighters to go the Philippines, if they could not get to Syria to fight with ISIS. Bahrumsyah organised the first pro-ISIS rally in Indonesia in March 2014, and left for Syria two months later. He became head of Katibah Nusantra, the South-east Asian unit of ISIS, that same year. He was said to be making his way back to South-east Asia, after ISIS collapsed in Raqqa, Syria.

The militants are swimming in a fertile pond. The illegal drug trade and gunrunning remain rampant in Muslim Mindanao, providing resources for plots to disrupt and claim lives in urban areas in the insurgency-wracked southern island.

"Shadow economies" will continue to fuel violent extremism, warned Mr Francisco Lara, Philippine manager of the World Bank-funded think-tank International Alert. He said the Maute group would not have been able to mobilise 1,000 fighters and lay siege to Marawi if not for money from their drug deals and extortion rackets, and ransom from the families of their kidnap victims.

"There are signs that this scale of operation would not have occurred had those resources not been available," he said.

Security forces seized 11 kg of crystal meth, estimated to have a street value of up to 250 million pesos (S$6.7 million), as they fought their way to areas controlled by the militants in Marawi in June.

Mr Lara said the drug-fuelled "shadow economies" endure, despite President Rodrigo Duterte's crackdown on the narcotics trade.


The militants are already starting to regroup and recruit in places where they fled to after the Marawi debacle.

Colonel Edgard Arevalo, the Philippine military spokesman, said "recruitment videos" have already surfaced on Facebook.
Ms Jones said the recruitment pool is deep. "The slain militants have children, younger siblings. Who is identifying them? You have children of 800 terrorists killed in Marawi who are potential candidates as ISIS fighters."

Ms Nikki de la Rosa, deputy country manager at International Alert, said the Marawi siege had been a beacon to many youths. "There are youths who are still influenced or find the ideology of Maute legitimate in terms of everyday issues they face. Discrimination. Some are graduates of universities, but they still can't find jobs. There is a feeling of unfairness, and all that."

She said Marawi "will be a litmus test for future events that will happen in Mindanao. This is a portent of new kinds of violence that will happen in other areas".

Mr Nathan Sales, the US State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism, emphasised that the problem extends beyond the Philippines' borders. "While we rightly celebrate the fall of ISIS' stronghold in Marawi, we have to be mindful of the fact that some of the fighters who were defeated there are going to try to continue the jihad elsewhere."


But for now, the militants are not aiming for anything as lofty as a "province". Ms Jones said: "I don't think we will see anything for awhile. There has to be a period of regrouping. I don't think there's a likelihood that any other city could be taken over."

She said the same confluence of factors seen in Marawi - indoctrination, funding, control of territory and control of fighters at a time when ISIS was still well-established as a focal point - cannot be found elsewhere in Mindanao. "That's why we're more likely to see bombing attacks to say, 'We're still here'," she said.

Word was that families from rival clans gave information leading to the arrest of Omarkhayam Maute's Indonesian wife.

Professor Sorhaila Latip Yusoph, 40, who teaches communication studies at Mindanao State University, inside Marawi, said resentment among those who similarly lost everything is growing.

"I'm afraid if this government will not give just compensation to those who lost a lot of things, this might just be the beginning of many things here," she said.

IN PHOTOS: New People’s Army in Southern Tagalog celebrates Communist Party of the Philippines 49th year

Posted to the pro-Communist Party of the Philippines online publication Manila Today (Dec 31): IN PHOTOS: New People’s Army in Southern Tagalog celebrates Communist Party of the Philippines 49th year

The Melito Glor Command of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Southern Tagalog led the region’s celebration of the 49th anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in a camp in the Sierra Madre on December 29.

The group considered the conduct of the celebration activity a victory against the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), amid the government’s intensified operations against the revolutionary group following President Rodrigo Duterte’s cancellation of the peace talks, terrorist tagging and pronounced crackdown on activists. Members of the media were invited to cover the event.

The group also paid tribute to their martyrs, especially the recent 15 killed in Nasugbu, Batangas. Jaime “Ka Diego” Padilla, the new face of Melito Glor Command, decried the overkill and the international humanitarian law and rules of war violations of the AFP in the brutal killing of the 15.

Ka Diego also read the group’s message for the 49th year of the CPP.

The CPP was re-established by a handful of patriotic youth led by Jose Maria Sison in 1968 on December 26—the birth day of Communist Party of China’s foremost leader and ideologue, Mao Zedong, who to Philippine revolutionaries has successfully applied the teachings of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin to the context of a feudal society and also founded the second socialist nation in the world. Sison, the founding chairman of CPP, would further apply the teachings of the three revolutionary thinkers to the Philippine context to come to a study of Philippine society and the methods with which to unshackle the country from domination of the ruling class and foreign invaders and create a more equitable society.

The group grew on a national scale, reporting that its people’s democratic government has grown and spread mainly in the form of local organs of political power to more than 110 guerrilla fronts covering large parts of 17 regions and 71 provinces of the Philippines. Known as the longest running communist insurgency in Asia, Duterte emphasized that the communists has not won after half a century of fighting. The opposite is true for the CPP–amid the struggle to topple a more dominant power aided by US imperialism, it persists, grows stronger and has not been beaten and, in its mantra in one of the NPA’s anniversaries, #DiMataloTalo [cannot be beaten].

Si Kathryn at si Kim sa Sierra Madre

Posted to the pro-Communist Party of the Philippines online publication Manila Today (Dec 31): Si Kathryn at si Kim sa Sierra Madre

Si Kathryn at si Kim sa Sierra Madre

Sa isang kampo ng Bagong Sa isang kampo ng Bagong Hukbong Bayan sa Sierra Madre

Ipinagdiwang ng Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas ang ika-49 na anibersaryo nito noong ika-29 ng Disyembre sa kabundukan ng Sierra Madre. Sa kabila ng pagkadeklara bilang mga terorista ng administrasyon ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte ay matagumpay na itinuloy ang pagdaraos ng partido ang kanilang anibersaryo na may temang, “Ubos-kayang Labanan ang Pasistang Rehimeg US-Duterte, Isulong ang Digmang Bayan sa Mataas na Antas!”

Sinimulan ang programa sa pagbibigay-pugay sa mga martir o ang mga taong napaslang sa kanilang hanay. Para sa mga rebolusyunaryo, ang mga nag-alay ng buhay sa bayan ay mga martir ng rebolusyon, mga bayani ng mamamayan.

Sinundan naman ito ng mga kulturang pagtatanghal at mga kanya-kanyang pahayag mula sa representante ng samahan ng mga magsasaka, manggagawa, kababaihan, overseas Filipino workers, siyentista, kabataan, maralita, artista, manunulat, guro, Dumaguetan, LGBT at ng masa.

Si Kim

“Ang masa ang kaluluwa ng hukbo, kung walang masa walang hukbo.”

Ganito inilarawan ni Kim ang matinding koneksyon ng masa sa hukbong kinabibilangan niya. Para sa kanya ang armas ay sekondarya lamang at primaryo pa rin ang masa. Sapagkat para sa kanya masa ang tunay na pamilya.

Nagmula sa sektor ng magsasaka sa isang probinsya ang 24 anyos na si Kim. Isa sa pinakamatinding dahilan kung bakit nagdesisyon siyang sumali sa Bagong Hukbong Bayan ay dahil sa lubos na panggigipit ng mga panginoong maylupa sa kanilang mga magsasaka.

Bukod pa dito, bilang parte ng kabataan nakitaan niya rin ng maling sistema ang edukasyon. Nagiging instrumento lang daw ang pamahalaan para ito mapagkakitaan ng mga negosyo, kung kaya’t maraming hindi nakapag-aral. Nagbebenepisyo naman ang isang mapanupil na gobyerno na ginawang mangmang o inutil ang mamamayan sa kanilang karapatan at sistemang magbebenepisyo sa mas nakararami.

Inanyayahan ni Kim ang kapwa niya kabataan na sumapi sa Bagong Hukbong Bayan. Sila raw ang pag-asa ng bayan at magsisilbing lakas at talino nito. Walang daw ibang paraan upang makamtan ang tunay na kalayaan at demokrasya kundi ang pagtaguyod ang digmang bayan.

Si Kathryn

“Daig pa ang kapeng 3-in-1, 5-in-1 siya.”

Pagbibiro ni Kathryn, isang 25 anyos na kabataang kababaihan na apat na taon nang kasapi ng Bagong Hukbong Bayan, nang tanungin siya kung ano ang kanilang samahan. Binubuo raw ng gawaing produksyon, medikal, pandigma, kultural at propaganda ang hukbo.

Namulat siya sa kalagayan ng mga kabataan dahil sa isa sa mga mayor na usapin sa edukasyon, ito ay ang hindi makatarungang matrikula sa ilan sa mga unibersidad. Ito nga ay isa sa mga naging problema ni Kathryn kaya napilitan siyang tumigil sa pag-aaral.

Magmula doon ay unti-unti na niyang nalalaman ang kapabayaan ng gobyerno sa mga kabataan kaya sila napapariwara, mas napabubulok ng bulok na lipunan. Ang kapabayaan ng gobyerno sa mamamayan naman, kapalit ang pakinabang ng mamamayan at iilan, nagdudulot ng malawakang pagdurusa, kagutuman, maging kamatayan. Naging malinaw sa kanya ang pangangailangang baguhin ang lipunan, at hindi lamang maghanap ng pansariling kaginhawaan.

Mensahe niya sa kabataan na gamitin ang mga matutunan sa pamantasan upang maibalik ito sa bayan. Punong-puno raw sila ng enerhiya na lubos na kinakailangan upang mapaglingkuran ang sambayanan, lalo na ang masang api. Ito raw ang tamang panahon para sa kanila upang maging bahagi ng rebolusyunaryong kilusan. Nag-iwan din siya ng katanungang, “Para kanino ka dapat kumilos?”

Para naman sa kapwa niya kababaihan, nais niya ring makilala ang papel ng mga ito sa lipunan at rebolusyon. Dapat daw ay kumilos din sila at mapatunayang kaya rin nilang humawak ng armas at magtanggol ng masa.

Sapagkat masa raw ang pinakasandigan ng rebolusyon. Kahit gaano pa raw kahirap ang sakripisyo nila, masaya naman daw sila dahil napaglilingkuran nila ang masa.

Hinding-hindi rin daw sila magpapagapi sa rehimeng US-Duterte na lalong nagpapalayo sa agwat ng mahirap at mayaman. Lalo raw lumalakas ang partido dahil sa mga patuloy na sumasapi at sa kagustuhan ng mamamayan ng tunay na pagbabago.

Nagdiwang ang Melito Glor Command ng Bagong Hukbong Bayan (New People’s Army) Southern Tagalog ng ika-49 anibersaryo ng Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas sa isang kampo sa Sierra Madre. Inimbitahan ang midya para idokumento ang aktibidad. Nakadalo rin ang mga bisita mula sa iba’t ibang sektor sa pagdiriwang ngunit hindi pinahintulutang makuhanan ng larawan.

MILF: ZC Community Leaders express full support to passage of new BBL

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Dec 31): ZC Community Leaders express full support to passage of new BBL

Bangsamoro Community Leaders in Zamboanga City declared full support for the new Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), and called for its swift passage by congress as soon as possible. Like before, Moros community leaders in the city are consistently pushing for the reign of peace, and harmony long deprived of them at the onset of foreign colonialism to Moro Homeland by correcting historical injustice committed against them.
In their meeting on December 25 at Tulungatung West Coast Community in Zamboanga City, they once again expressed their unequivocal support to the GPH-MILF Implementation of signed agreement, and the immediate passage of the E-BTC drafted BBL.

Crucial issues, and concerns of the Bangsamoro living in Zamboanga City were among the agenda discussed as well as the importance of peace advocacy, and holding of forum in community particularly in Moro dominated barangays aim to empower, and enlighten every Bangsamoro in knowing their basic rights, and the Bangsamoro struggle.

Ustadz Taha Daranda, a member of Tarbiya (Education) Committee, and Officer of Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) in Zamboanaga City said that everyone must share their part in peace-building endeavor.

He quoted some verse from Noble Qur’an, “And among you there should be a group of people who invite to good and enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong, and it is they who are the successful”. [Al ‘Imran 3:104]

Imam Omar, a local member of committee on Da’wah said let us not be weary in our struggle. It is a built-in component of our life, if we stop struggling, we cannot achieve our mission in life. The Bangsamoro aspiration for right to self-determination must be sustained until it is attained, In shaa Allah!

He further said that If we are silent on our rights then those people who are hostile to Bangasamoro cause will take more advantage of it, and continue to deprive us of our rights. Be always aware of their treachery, and sweet words that designed to divert our attention, and realign our energy to other enticements so that we can divert from our original goal.

“We, the Moros in Zamboanga City must uphold our rights, and identity as Bangsamoro. We should not be tainted by their psychological maneuvers using legal maxims yet unjustified, and adopted out of their prejudices, and hostility to the Bangsamoro,“ Pah Alex, a Moro village leader said.

“The passage and implementation of Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that complies with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) will be the best antidote to radical extremism, and will correct the historical injustices committed to Bangsamoro, and from then, we can live harmoniously with dignity, and respect; and retain our customs, and tradition,” Pah alex stressed.

One peace advocate said “Let us sustain the gains of peace process by supporting the passage of a CAB- compliant BBL since it is the fruit of Bangsamoro struggle, and product protracted negotiations.

In regard to the unheard voice of some Moros in Zamboanga City on Bangsamoro issues, they are not meant that they are passive, and unmindful on Bangsamoro cause, a Moro community leader said. They will be enlightened in due time, he added.

The community engagements in Zamboanga City such as peace advocacy, for, and capacity-building activities with Moro community leaders, and residents are being conducted, and facilitating by key officers of Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI), the United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD), and other Moro NGO’s with the help of their respective counterparts in the communities who share similar vision, and commitment to the Bangsamoro cause.