Wednesday, August 23, 2017

No enough evidence to link NPA on arms search

From the often pro-CPP Davao Today (Aug 23): No enough evidence to link NPA on arms search

Photo courtesy of the New People’s Army

Police can’t rule out whether the passenger intercepted at a checkpoint on Monday, August 21, have links to the New People’s Army (NPA).

Davao City Police Office (DCPO) Spokesperson, Police Senior Inspector (PSI) Ma. Teresita Gaspan said the passenger’s bag was found to contain seven .45 pistols, and UZI submachine gun with three magazines and a silencer.

 The person of interest is estimated to be between 20 to 30 years old, but Gaspan would not go further in terms of his motives and links.

The passenger was said to come from Lipata, Surigao City and was identified by the conductor who did not return after they were disembarked for profiling at the Task Force Davao checkpoint. Gaspan said the DCPO has no other detail about him yet.

The bag was detected by a bomb-sniffing dog at around 9 a.m. on Monday, a day after the Kadayawan festival, in a checkpoint in Sitio Licanan, Barangay Lasang, Bunawan District.

Gaspan said the firearms were detected inside the baggage compartment of a Bachelor bus with plate number WOY 113, from Tacloban, Leyte bound to Davao.

The conductor already had their statements in the fiscal office for the regular filing of the case against the suspect, she said.

Except from the law enforcers on official duties, all permits to carry firearms are suspended in the whole island of Mindanao since the implementation of Martial law in May following the Marawi City siege. With this, the law enforcers have been mandated to implement stricter measures and inspections to secure the city.

BIFF offers to mediate between MILF, ISIS-linked breakaway

From the Davao Today (Aug 24): BIFF offers to mediate between MILF, ISIS-linked breakaway

BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mama (File photo/
The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) is offering help to an ongoing rift between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and several ranks supporting the Islamic state militant group (ISIS).
BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mama said they want MILF to allow them to negotiate between the two groups, as people in the community have been affected by their fighting.

“It’s not good, they are both Muslim organizations,” Mama told DavaoToday in a phone interview Wednesday, August 23.

Fishers in the communities in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao, for instance, cannot fish anymore as they are seen as targets by both sides. The fishermen usually go out before the crack of dawn, and they are often mistaken as fighters for using flashlights in the dark.

Tension reportedly rose on August 2 after a faction of the BIFF called Jamaah Mohajirin Wal Ansar (JMA) headed by Esmael Abdulmaguid or Abu Turaipe tried to raise their flag in a MILF bailwick in Datu Salibo in Maguindanao.
The JMA is a splinter group who broke away from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters faction headed by Esmael Abubakar alias Bongos.

The MILF believes the JMA faction who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State are coddling foreign terrorists who might have a hand in the Marawi crisis.
The Bongos faction, on the other hand, broke away from Kagi Karialan Animbang who replaced the BIFF founding chairman Ameril Umbra Kato who died in 2015. Kato once headed the MILF’s 105th Base Command.
A source privy to the side to the operations of the MILF also told Davao Today: “it is our mandate to quell these terrorist groups.”

Captain Arvin Encinas, chief of the Department of Public Affairs Office of the 6th Infantry Division could not give the exact figures yet on the casualties due to the clearing operations of the MILF, but gave an estimate of nine fighters on the side of the MILF have been killed.
“They can talk instead of fighting,” said Mama.

MILF’s Iqbal exhorts lawmakers on passage of Bangsamoro Basic Law

From News 5/InterAksyon (Aug 22): MILF’s Iqbal exhorts lawmakers on passage of Bangsamoro Basic Law

Duterte Iqbal handshake

President Duterte engages in a dialogue with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and other MILF officials, including Implementing Panel Chairman Mohagher Iqbal. Photograph from Malacañang Photo Bureau.

Mohaqher Iqbal, the chief peace negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), asked Congress on Tuesday to “work around the flexibility of law” in tackling the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that is aimed at ending decades of rebellion and achieve lasting peace in the Mindanao region.

Malacañang has submitted to the House of Representatives the draft BBL, which will guide the chamber in crafting the bill.

Iqbal, a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), which is comprised of representatives from the government and the Moro rebels, exhorted the House to stick with the version of the BBL as submitted by the BTC that, he said, was “reflective of the true aspiration of the Bangsamoro people.

“For the sake of just and lasting peace and development, we urge our honorable legislators to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law submitted by the BTC,” he said in a message at the launch of the book “Beyond Peace Tables: Reflections on the GPH-MILF Peace Process” authored by Dato Tengku Abdul Ghafar.

He added: “Any other proposed bill, like or similar or lesser than RA 9054 that created the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao), runs counter to the agreements of the parties and, more seriously, will only prolong the sufferings and agonies of the people.”

“I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to our esteemed legislators who are present today to look at the Bangsamoro problem as a political and not a purely legal issue,” he said, elaborating that some Philippine Constitution luminaries see the charter as a political document.

“So, the interpretation is not strictly legal but political,” he said.

He added that many, if not most, of the provisions in the expanded Bangsamoro Transition Commission’s submitted BBL are in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which is an agreement signed between the Government of the Philippines and the MILF.

“The bottom line is, as Congress goes through this legislative process concerning the proposed BBL of the BTC, we ask that our honorable legislators go by what will achieve justice, and what will achieve the purpose of justice. This means having to work around the flexibility of law,” he said.

The BBL is among the bills set by the House as a priority for passage. Several lawmakers have filed their own version of the measure.

In the recent 16th Congress, the bill was not passed for lack of time.

Passage of the bill will be seen as a major achievement for President Rodrigo Duterte, who was a mayor in a Mindanao city for 22 years and has made peace deals a priority for his government.

The submission of the bill comes at a critical time amid fears that rebel groups allied with Islamic State have been exploiting disillusionment over the failure of the previous Congress to pass the law, and have used it to recruit fighters.

The Mindanao region remains under martial law, which was declared in May 23 this year, and was extended until December 31, 2017, following clashes between government forces and the IS-inspired Maute group in Marawi City.

No need for loyalty checks in AFP despite anti-Duterte buzz created by ‘PADEM’ – military official

From News 5/InterAksyon (Aug 23): No need for loyalty checks in AFP despite anti-Duterte buzz created by ‘PADEM’ – military official

A loyalty check among members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is not necessary despite a statement circulating in social media by purportedly active members of government forces calling for the ouster of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The military’s public affairs chief Colonel Edgard Arevalo made this clear on Wednesday, August 23, in a radio interview.

The army colonel said the issues raised by the shadowy group calling themselves Patriotic and Democratic Movement (PADEM) were baseless.

“Hindi na po natin kailangang bigyang dignidad pa ang mga ganyang akusasyon sa pamamagitan ng pagsasagawa ng [We do not need to dignify their accusations by conducting a] loyalty check,” he said.

“Sigurado po tayo na ang miyembro ng AFP ay tumatalima sa ating Constitution at kumikilala sa duly constituted authority. Walang dahilan upang tanggalin ito at ang kanyang suporta sa commander-in-chief [We are sure that members of the AFP are obeying the Constitution and are acknowledging the duly constituted authority. There is no reason to remove this and to cut the support to the commander-in-chief],” he added.

Arevalo was responding to the statement issued this week by PADEM calling for Duterte to be held accountable for “betrayal of public trust and in violation of national sovereignty and democratic rights of the Filipino people.”

The group has listed 10 alleged crimes of the Duterte administration, which included corrupting the PNP and the AFP, allowing China to occupy the West Philippine Sea, and the mishandling of the Marawi City crisis.

They also vowed to work for the withdrawal of military and police support from the President, whom they accused of using government forces as his private army.

However, Arevalo maintained that the morale of the soldiers under the Duterte administration remained high and the orders given from the commander-in-chief to the military are legal and in accordance with the law.

“Tayo po ay tatalima sa anumang magiging kautusan ng ating commander-in-chief sapagkat ‘yun naman po ang nakatadhana sa ating sandatahang lakas ng Pilipinas [We will obey the orders of our commander-in-chief because that is the mandate of the Armed Forces of the Philippines],” he said in the DZRH interview.

He also said both the AFP and the PNP did not acknowledge the existence of the group, surmising it was a group whose members were pretending to be active members of government forces.

“This could be group na ina-assume ang sinasabi nilang personalidad nila or kasama sa grupo nila ang aktibong miyembro ng [who are assuming that part of their group are active members of the] AFP and PNP. Subalit [however], insofar as the AFP is concerned, wala pong ganyang grupo at hindi po ‘yan konektado sa AFP [there is no such group and it is not connected to the AFP],” he said.

He said they are verifying the identities of personalities behind PADEM and whether or not they are active members of the military and the police.

Arevalo also responded to an accusation by the group regarding the practice of favoritism in the military and violation of standards in the promotion and assignment of military officers.

“These are untrue and baseless. Meron po tayong board of senior officers, meron po tayong board of generals na sila pong nag-evaluate ng ating recommendees. At ‘yon naman po ay fino-forward lang natin sa [We have a board of senior officers, we have a board of generals who evaluate the recommendees. And that is what we are forwarding to the] commander-in-chief through the SND, Secretary of National Defense, for approval,” he explained.

As for the other issues that PADEM enumerated in their statement, Arevalo said these matters are currently being handled by appropriate government agencies such as the Department of Foreign Affairs on the West Philippine Sea dispute.

“Kung ang hinggil sa West Philippines Sea, ‘yan po hina-handle ng [On the West Philippine Sea, that is being handled by the] Department of Foreign Affairs,” he said.

“Hindi gawain ng inyong armed forces ang diplomacy o ang foreign relations. Merong po tayong kagawaran ng ating pamahalaan na siya pong nakatadhanang gumanap ng tungkulin na ‘yan [Diplomacy and foreign relations are not the tasks of the Armed Forces. We have departments in the government whose mandates are to fulfill such responsibilities.],” he added.

Arevalo also said that the Marawi crisis should be focused instead on solving the conflict and the rehabilitation of the besieged Islamic City.

“Dito po natin ituon ang ating atensyon kagaya ng ginagawa ng AFP upang matapos ang problemang ito. Umpisahan na natin ang tinatawag na reconstruction and rehabilitation sa Marawi na siya naman pong matagal na po nating hinihintay [Let us focus our attention to the Marawi crisis as the AFP does to solve this problem. And let us start the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi that we were waiting for a long a time],” he said.

Maj. Gen. Ronald Villanueva assumes command of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division (Bio data)

From News 5/InterAksyon (Aug 23): Maj. Gen. Ronald Villanueva assumes command of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division

Maj Gen Ronald Villanueva

Maj. Gen. Ronald Villanueva. Photographed by Pat Ortiz, News5 | InterAksyon

Maj. Gen. Ronald Villanueva assumed command of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division on Thursday, August 23, at Camp Evangelista situated in Barangay Patag here.

Villanueva takes over leadership of the ‘Diamond’ division from Maj. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., who has been appointed as the new chief of Southern Luzon Command.

Before taking his new post, Villanueva was the Chief of the AFP’s Intelligence Service. He was Company Commander under the 53rd Infantry Battalion in 1987; Commanding Officer of the 28th Infantry Battalion in 2003, and later led the 26th Infantry Battalion until 2005. He was commander of the 1002nd Infantry Brigade stationed in Sarangani Province from 2014 to 2016.

Villanueva has served as the Defense Group Commander of the Department of National Defense, as well as commander of the Defense Intelligence and Security Group from 2007 until 2010 before orchestrating the affairs of the Counter Intelligence Division of the AFP’s OJ2 from 2010 to 2011.

Villanueva was Chief of Staff of both the 4th and 7th Infantry Division from 2012 to 2014.

Raised within the vicinity of Camp Evangelista, Villanueva spent his grade school and high school years at Xavier University, where he also obtained his master’s degree in Business Administration.

He also has a Master’s Degree in National Security from the National Defense College of the Philippines and a Diploma in International Development and Security from the Development Academy of the Philippines.

“Camp Evangelista have been home for my family, I grew up here since my father led this division from 1988-1990. Who would have thought that someday I would be standing here delivering my remarks as division commander just like my father did 29 years ago?” he observed.

Villanueva said the existing directives and policies of his predecessor will remain in effect until he sees the need to make any change.

“As I face high expectations and challenges in this new position, I feel a strong sense of confidence having a dedicated team. We need to work harder so progress would continue unhampered, peace and order maintained. We will also continue to work with all stakeholders,” he added.

“Mission first, morale always,” Villanueva told the soldiers comprising the 4thID.

The turnover ceremony was graced by the Commanding General of the Philippine Army, Lt. Gen. Glorioso Miranda, and was attended by various local chief executives, tribal chieftains, regional directors, and guests from Northern Mindanao and Caraga Regions.

Both Villanueva and Madrigal are members of the Philippine Military Academy “Sandiwa” Class of 1985.

NPA bomb expert killed in encounter

From the Mindanao Times (Aug 23): NPA bomb expert killed in encounter

AN ORDNANCE officer of the New People’s Army (NPA) was killed in an encounter with troops from the 60th Infantry Battalion in Sitio Mambuto, Barangay Mabantao, Kapalong, Davao del Norte on Monday around 5:50 p.m.

Meanwhile, soldiers from the 73rd Infantry Battalion recovered one M14 rifle and three improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Barangay Tudok, T’boli, South Cotabato early morning yesterday.
Capt. Rhyan Batchar, spokesperson of 10th Infantry Division, identified him as Alfonzo Kambal Jr., member of Pulang Bagani Command ( PBC) 4, Sub Regional Command ( SRC4), Southern Mindanao Regional Command (SMRC), resident of Barangay Mamangan, San Isidro, Davao del Norte.

According to the report, soldiers were conducting security operations when they encountered around five NPAs led by Kambal. The firefight lasted for about five minutes before the communist rebels fled.

Government forces recovered one .45 caliber pistol.

Meanwhile, acting on a tip given by a former NPA member of GF 73 identified only as alias Ronnie, soldiers recovered one M14 rifle and three IEDs in Sitio Lawbong, Barangay Tudok around 3 a.m. yesterday.

Ronnie previously surrendered to troops of 27th IB, bringing along with him an M1 Garand rifle and M1 carbine. He will be enrolled in the government’s Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP).

Sayyafs behead former army man in Basilan province

From the Mindanao Examiner (Aug 23): Sayyafs behead former army man in Basilan province

Abu Sayyaf militants beheaded a former soldier who converted to Islam after capturing him in the restive Muslim province of Basilan in southern Philippines.

The body of the 62-year old former army sergeant Julio Pasawa, a native of Pangasinan province north of the Philippines, was recovered by authorities in Tubigan village in Maluso town following a raid by militants on August 21.

Pasawa, married to a local woman, was the second person beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf during the attack. A pro-government militia was also decapitated by the notorious group allied with the Islamic State.

Some 50 gunmen raided the village and torched houses and fought soldiers before fleeing to the hinterlands. The military repeatedly said that the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan has weakened due to continuous operations and surrender of dozens of fighters since last year.

But it was not immediately known why the military failed to detect or prevent the deadly attack in the town.

Army: Sightings of armed men not validated yet

From the Philippine Information Agency (Aug 22): Army: Sightings of armed men not validated yet

A top military officer commanding the province's sole brigade reiterates that Bohol is still insurgency-free and the reports about the sightings of armed men still need to be validated.

Speaking at the Kapihan sa PIA, 47th Infantry Battalion commanding officer Lt. Colonel Joel Malig said the units under him are currently undergoing intensified intelligence operations along with other allied units to confirm and escalate these reports into A1 information.

He explained that reports which are shared in council meetings have one intent: to make sure the communities would know about these reported sightings of armed men to engage them to help verify and add the details necessary to make positive confirmation.

"We urge the continuing support of Boholanos as we ask them to remain vigilant," he said.

Col. Malig insists that there is so much that communities can do to help keep Bohol insurgency-free.

While the sighting reports continue to be staple in peace and order councils and their meetings, 47IB clarified that they will not also downplay these intelligence reports.

Information also reaching authorities detail how other armed groups reportedly do extortion activities using the New People's Army to sow fear and thus exact money easily.

"Not all reports of armed men sighted can be NPAs, they may be goods or common bands of criminals," Col. Malig saod during the forum also attended by guests from the Philippine Military Academy.

Nevertheless, he also said that reports about sightings would continue to be validated as they could come as long as the Philippines is not insurgency free.

"The threat remains," he stressed even as the battalion commander explains that there are still provinces near Bohol which continue to struggle against insurgents.

He shared that as long as there are military operations against insurgents in nearby provinces, dispersion of these belligerent groups undermining the economies and development of a community continue to be real threats.

If the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) who were over 500 kilometers away came in to Bohol, there is no reason why the rebels from nearby islands could not, Col. Malig argued.

On this, he cited the effects of insurgency in Bohol's development.

During the times when Bohol was still haunted by insurgency problems, its poverty incidence came at 51 percent, he pointed out.

Years later, after the 2010 declaration of Bohol as insurgency-free, poverty incidence went down to 21.7 percent, with a little over seven years of peace and progress.

As the internal security operators continue to bring poverty incidence down by making sure the province remains to be insurgency-free, he also adds that Boholanos should also do the same by not allowing the rebels to sow fear in the communities.

24th ‘Wildcat” Battalion celebrates 66th anniversary

From the Philippine Information Agency (Aug 23): 24th ‘Wildcat” Battalion celebrates 66th anniversary

The 24th ‘Wildcat’ Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army celebrated with 66th founding anniversary with service for the people and for the soldiers themselves.

Lt.Col. Thomas Dominic B. Baluga, Battalion Commander, said the 66th anniversary celebration is a gift to the soldiers themselves after having been confronted by a series of combat operations. The Battalion awarded medals of valor to their front-liners in recent operations.

The soldiers were also treated to a free medical and dental check-up by the Provincial Health Office headed by Dr. Maria Cristina V. Cabrera.

As a love offering, the soldiers participated in a blood-letting activity with the Philippine National Red Cross headed by Ivy Venus. S. Avendano.

The anniversary celebration was also an opportunity for the Wildcats to recognize the support of the stakeholders with whom they have worked closely. Special tokens of gratitude were given to Gen. Angelito M. De Leon of the 7th Infantry Division, PA, for his all-out support to the Wildcats; to Governor Maria Jocelyn V. Bernos, and to the municipal mayors of Tineg, San Juan, Lagangilang, Lacub, Licuan-Baay, Sallapadan, and Bucloc.

Dr. Paulina Sawadan, a retired regional education supervisor, who has constantly lectured the soldiers about regional autonomy and Cordillera culture, was given special recognition.

The celebration was also a reunion of former infantry officials with former Brigade Commander, Gen. Loreto Rirao and former Battalion Commander, Col. Ignacio Madriaga who helped Abra in its Peace Program.

In his message, De Leon who served Abra through the Infantry related, “…Being deployed in Abra is very challenging in normal situations not only due to the NPAs but on elections which are doubly challenging. But it is good to see the developments now. And I am proud of the 24th IB because it continues to give honor to the Army and continues to look after the welfare of its people.”

The Governor also commended the soldiers for their special efforts and patience in working hard for the up-keep of peace and order in Abra. “…Like and love ko kayong lahat dahil you love your work. Dito, dati laging magulo, slowly nawawala na ang bad image ng Abra. You helped shake-off the bad image of Abra. You are giving your tomorrow for our today.”

She gave two units of 9mm pistol to the Battalion to be raffled to the soldiers as her special gift on the Wildcats 66th anniversary celebration.

PH Navy gets new radar system from US

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 23): PH Navy gets new radar system from US

The Philippine Navy's (PN) maritime domain awareness capability got a much-needed boost as it formally accepted a US-donated tethered aerostat radar system (TARS) Tuesday.

Capt. Lued Lincuna, Navy spokesperson, said the 28-meter TARS was handed over by US Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission to the Philippines, Michael Klescheski, to PN flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph S. Mercado.

The turnover ceremony took place at the Naval Education Training Command (NETC), Naval Station Leovigildo Gantioqui, San Antonio, Zambales.

TARS is a large fabric envelope filled with helium, and can rise up to an altitude of 5,000 feet while tethered by a single cable.

Specifically, the 28-meter class TARS is a self-sustained, rapidly deployable, unmanned lighter-than-air platform to be utilized by the PN to bolster its maritime domain awareness.

The NETC in Zambales was chosen to be the staging point since, as the largest real-estate property of the PN with flat terrain, it fits the minimum space of 300 ft x 300 ft open area requirement for the launching of the aerostat.

Also, as the premiere training institution of the PN, personnel here can be trained using this system as one of the new competencies.

Lincuna said TARS will enhance the PN's capability to detect intrusion in the country's territorial waters via its sensors and help in the conduct of humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations.

It also includes a weather station that provides telemetry data to the ground station for the monitoring of ambient temperature, pressure, wind speed and other pertinent parameters in the operation of the system.

Lincuna said the donation is part of the US Maritime Security Initiative (MSI) Program (2016-2020), a capacity-building assistance for Southeast Asian countries including the Philippines that aims to improve the ability of these countries to address a range of maritime challenges.

Village chief shot dead in Camarines Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 23): Village chief shot dead in Camarines Sur

A village chief was gunned down by two unidentified persons in front of his residence in the village of San Vicente, San Jose town in Camarines Sur province Tuesday evening.

Noel Briones, chief of Barangay San Vicente, was walking outside his house around 7:00 p.m. when assailants chased and shot him in the head, said Senior Insp., Ma. Luisa Calubaquib, information officer of the Bicol regional police.

Briones was rushed by his family and fellow villagers to the Naga City Hospital but died as he was being treated.

San Jose Police personnel are now searching for Briones’ assailants, who were spotted roaming outside the village chief’s house prior to the shooting incident.

Army steps up security in Basilan

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 23): Army steps up security in Basilan

The Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) is intensifying “the defense of areas that are deemed most vulnerable” to thwart another attack by the Abu Sayyaf bandits in Basilan province.

Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Westmincom chief, issued the statement on Wednesday as officials of the province agreed to strengthen the security up to the barangay level and “to keep the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Teams (BPAT) active.”
On Monday, nine people were killed while 16 others were wounded when Abu Sayyaf bandits attacked Barangay Tubigan, Maluso, Basilan.

“We have to fortify the defense of areas that are deemed most vulnerable, but to accomplish that we need your commitment because, as local government officials, you know which mechanism will work well in your respective areas,” Galvez said.

“There is a need for us to strengthen our defenses that is why I am encouraging all mayors down to the barangay chairmen to do their part in this fight against terrorism,” Basilan Gov. Hadjiman Hataman-Salliman said.

On Tuesday, Basilan and military officials discussed in a meeting security issues that need to be implemented the soonest in the entire province.

Local officials of Basilan were further encouraged to report all information obtained and to involve all sectors as security issues hamper cultural and religious development.

“Basilan is a model for counter-terrorism. We also speak highly of the province and mention the same to local chief executives in Marawi City, but our enemy wants to embarrass us that is why they continue to do actions that will put us to shame. As the Martial Law Implementor in the entire Western Mindanao area, we still want you to be on top of the situation in your respective municipalities,” Galvez added.

He vowed to support the local government, saying he considers himself a Basileño having been assigned in the province during his younger military days.

“We will help you strengthen your Barangay defenses by training those who have the capacity to fight. Do not worry, we will not leave you,” he said.

Col. Juvymax Uy, Joint Task Force Basilan commander, has encouraged the residents to joint the fight against terrorism.

“This is not solely police or a military problem; civilians have to take part in this fight. We all have to be involved, we all have to be aware, and we all have to report--this is our campaign against terror-- to make all civilians understand,” Uy said.

Rescued sailor turned over to Vietnamese officials

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 23): Rescued sailor turned over to Vietnamese officials

The Army on Wednesday turned over the rescued Vietnamese sailor to Vietnam authorities who visited the headquarters of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) in this city.

Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Westmincom chief, and Rear Adm. Rene Medina, Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) command chief, handed over Do Trung Huie to Senior Captain Pham Than Tra, Vietnamese assistant defense and armed forces attache (Dafa)), and Ngo Tuan Anh, Vietnamese Embassy third secretary, at around 10 a.m. Wednesday at Westmincom’s Laong Laan Hall.

Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, Westmincom information officer, said the Vietnamese officials and Huie are expected “to fly later Wednesday back to Vietnam where his family is waiting for him.”

“We are happy that Mr. Huie is finally going home to his loved ones,” Galvez said.

“We will exert all means to find and rescue the remaining kidnap victims who are still with the ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group),” he added.

Filipino troops rescued Huie on Sunday, August 20, on Mataja Island, Lantawan, Basilan province.

The Abu Sayyaf bandits seized Huie together with five others aboard a bulk carrier, MV/Royal 16, on November 11, 2016 near Sibago Island, Mohammad Ajul, Basilan.

The bulk carrier, which was loaded with cement, was sailing to Davao City from Vietnam when the Abu Sayyaf bandits, aboard on speed boat, hijacked the bulk carrier.

Huie’s companions were identified as Pham Minh Tuan, Tran Khac Dung, Hoang Trung Thong, Hoang Van Hai, and Huang Vo.

They were kidnapped by the group of Sulu-based Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Alvin Yusop alias Arab Puti and that of the late bandit leader Alhabsy Misaya, and Basilan-based sub-leader Radzmil Jannatul alias Kubayb.

Vo, 22, the vessel’s second mate, escaped on June 16 when government troops raided an Abu Sayyaf camp at the boundaries of Ungkaya Pukan and Sumisip towns in Basilan province.

On July 5, the decapitated remains of Thong and Hai were discovered by the residents in Sitio Compound, Barangay Tumahubong, Sumisip, Basilan.

Petinglay disclosed that there are still 18 hostages in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf bandits in the provinces of Basilan and Sulu.

Of the 18 hostages, 14 are foreigners consisting of six Vietnamese, seven Indonesians, and a Dutch birdwatcher. The remaining four are Filipinos.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Govt troops run after Abu raiders

From the Manila Times (Aug 22): Govt troops run after Abu raiders

Security forces have been deployed to Basilan to hunt down Abu Sayyaf terrorists who raided a village in the restive Muslim province, the Philippine Army spokesman said.

The Western Mindanao Command’s (WestMinCom) Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay on Tuesday said troops will not let up in their hunt for the bandits, whom authorities have blamed for a spate of deadly attacks in the province.

She added that at least nine people were reported dead and nine injured in the attack in Maluso town on August 21.
But local police, quoting wounded victims who were brought to Zamboanga City, said as many as 30 people were injured in the attack by about 50 gunmen in Tubigan village.

One victim, Marcelino Ramos, 31, said the attackers were members of groups linked to the Islamic State.

Petinglay said pro-government militia and soldiers from the 68th Infantry Battalion clashed with the terrorist who were forced to withdraw but not after they burned at least five houses and a multi-purpose hall.

She added that prior to the raid, troops captured on August 19 an Abu Sayyaf encampment in Mangalut village in Akbar town where the terrorists assemble improvised explosives.

The area, the spokesman said, was being used by rebel leader Nurhassan Jamiri.

Soldiers recovered assorted materials used in the manufacture of improvised explosives, including rifle magazines, cell phones, batteries and solar panels.

Troops chasing the terrorists, who escaped the military raid, caught up with them the next day and in a clash killed three gunmen—Omar Abdurahim, Kahim Jovel Indanan and Ekram Alam.

Five others—Abduhari Kabus, Boy Idris, Hasan Kabus, Mammang and Jaber Sali—were wounded in the fighting but they managed to escape.

Cayetano conceals facts about China ships near Sandy Cay

From Rappler (Aug 22): Cayetano conceals facts about China ships near Sandy Cay

While keeping the facts secret, Secretary Cayetano hits Justice Carpio for using the 'wrong facts' about Sandy Cay near Pag-asa Island in the disputed West Philippine Sea

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano criticized a Supreme Court (SC) justice for using the "wrong facts" when he said China is invading Sandy Cay in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Cayetano, however, refused to disclose the facts about the Chinese ships reportedly guarding Sandy Cay, a sandbar near Pag-asa Island (Thitu Island) in the disputed waters.

"We cannot go into all the facts or some of the facts, at times, because it will harm our job. My job is to protect the Philippine claim and the Philippine public," Cayetano said in an interview with reporters on Tuesday, August 22.

The Philippines' top diplomat did not want to answer questions as basic as how many Chinese ships were there, what the ships were doing, and how long they stayed near Sandy Cay.

Cayetano said: "We will tell you that we are taking the diplomatic actions, but if we tell you every step of the way, and all the facts, et cetera, it will not help, unless there is something that happens that the public has to know or that will not affect the negotiations."

Cayetano made these remarks after SC Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio described Chinese presence near Sandy Cay as "an invasion of Philippine territory."

Cayetano hits 'wrong facts'

Carpio said this after revelations made by both Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano and the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies about the Chinese ships near Pag-asa Island.

Carpio then challenged President Rodrigo Duterte and Cayetano to "vigorously protest" this – even as Cayetano said it is no longer the Philippines' strategy to file diplomatic protests against China.

According to Cayetano, "the problem with some of the press statements that came out" was that these statements "had the wrong facts" about the issue. "So wrong premise, wrong conclusion."

One of these wrong conclusions, he said, is that there is an invasion of the sandbars near Pag-asa Island.

Cayetano said: "Paano magkakaroon ng invasion kung wala namang umagaw o tatayo sa sandbar na 'yun?" (How can there be an invasion if there was no one who stole or built structures on that sandbar?)

"What's the proof?" he said. "What are the facts?"

Lumad, Marawi bakwits set off on ‘lakbayan’ for peace, self-determination

From News 5/InterAksyon (Aug 23): Lumad, Marawi bakwits set off on ‘lakbayan’ for peace, self-determination

Lumad ritual before Lakbayan

Lumad rituals observed prior to the departur of Lakbayan bound for Manila. Photographed by Alwin Padua, News5 | InterAksyon

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – An estimated 300 internally displaced persons from lumad groups in Northern Mindanao communities, and Maranao evacuees from Marawi City, are joining forces to participate in the nationwide people’s caravan of the national minorities to press their rights for self determination, call for just and lasting peace and the lifting of martial law in Mindanao.

The Higaonons, Banoa-on, Talaandig, Matigsalug, Manobos and Maranao evacuees held an interfaith prayers and offered a ritual during the send off ceremony Tuesday, August 22, at the Press Freedom Monument, here.

Datu Jomorito Goaynon, chairperson of the Lumad organization Kalumbay in Northern Mindanao, said the group are to board a ferry bound for Cebu, where protest rallies are set on August 24-25.

From Cebu, the group will travel to Masbate, then to Sorsogon, Naga City; and onward by land to Mendiola near Malacañang in Manila.

Other delegates from Visayas and Mindanao are expected to arrive in Manila on September 1.

Goaynon said the delegates from Mindanao number 1,500, but participants from different tribal groups all over the country may swell that number to about 3,000 people.

The lumad leader said they will set up camp inside the UP compound in Diliman, Quezon City, from September 1-21.

Goaynon said the ‘Lakbayan’ aims to underscore their call for respect of IPs’ and Moros’ rights for self-determination; the lifting of the military rule in Mindanao; and lasting peace.

“We wish to bring the message to President Rodrigo Duterte that there are residual issues, such as stopping extrajudicial killings and violation of the human rights in our lumad and indigenous communities,” he said.

The Northern Mindanao delegates are expected to take the same route on their way back home on September 23.

Oplan Halang-halang

From the Mindanao Times (Aug 23): Oplan Halang-halang

DCPO sees NPA involvement in seized guns

THE DAVAO City Police Office (DCPO) yesterday said the firearms seized at a checkpoint are intended for the liquidation squad of the New People’s Army (NPA) as part of its Oplan Halang Halang.

This as an investigator identified the one who was carrying the pack bag that contained the guns.

DCPO director Alexander Tagum admitted there is a “real” threat from the NPA.

“(We) should (be) alerted to the grim reality of Oplan Halang Halang of the NPAs,” Tagum said, adding that he has already disseminated his observation to all the men and women of DCPO.

Tagum said that based on their close scrutiny and examination on the recovered firearms they have arrived to the conclusion that the NPA is involved in the case.

He said the seized firearms were buried arms cache as indicated by the rust in the guns and the obvious soil patina left in the surface of the gun metal.

Tagum said that despite the absence of ammunition, the bomb-sniffing dogs detected it. This, he said, indicates gun powder residue, proving that the guns were recently fired.

Thirdly, Tagum said the courier loaded the bag in Surigao City where the NPAs are actively operating.

The DCPO chief said the number of guns – seven .45 pistols and one Ingram Machine Pistol – is enough to arm an NPA hit squad.


The DCPO also released yesterday the name of the suspect who was carrying the seized bag that contained the guns.

DCPO spokesperson Sr. Insp. Maria Theresita Gaspan identified the suspect as a certain Arnold Juayon.

“He is at large but his name was identified through the logbook that he signed at the checkpoint area,” Gaspan said.

She said the conductor, name withheld, pointed Juayon as the one who carried the bag as they reviewed the closed circuit television footages at the checkpoint area.

Gaspan said Juayon was the one who disappeared after signing the log book.

During the conduct of inspection, the suspect was no longer found when the authorities called the names of those persons who signed the logbook.

Members of the Task Force Davao seized the firearms in a checkpoint in Sitio Licanan, Barangay Alejandra Navarro (Lasang) in Bunawan around 9 a.m. on Monday.

A city-bound Bachelor bus coming from Tacloban, Leyte, with plate number WOY 113, passed by at the checkpoint and the mandatory inspection was conducted.

During the inspection, a bomb-sniffing dog sat in one of the baggage placed at the bus compartment, pointing that there could be illegal substances inside the black-colored pack bag.

Guns were found inside the bag.

Contrary to the earlier report, there were 30 persons on board the bus – 28 passengers, the driver and the conductor.

Shadowy group calls for Duterte’s ouster

From the Mindanao Examiner (Aug 22): Shadowy group calls for Duterte’s ouster

A shadowy group called Patriotic and Democratic Movement or PADEM, composed of military and police officers and members, has called for the ouster of President Rodrigo Duterte and cited 10 reasons for its action. It accused Duterte of treating the military and police as his private armies and for betraying and violating public trust.

It also urged Filipinos to join PADEM in condemning and fighting Duterte and his administration and to stage mass actions and demand the President’s ouster.

In a manifesto, Antonio Bonifacio, who claimed to be PADEM’s spokesman, called on members of the military and police to also join the people in demanding Duterte’s resignation and also his administration. It said the group is working for the withdrawal military and police support for Duterte.

“We urge all Filipinos as individuals and as groups in whatever social sector, field, institution or organization to exercise their right of assembly and expression to undertake mass actions demanding the ouster of Duterte and his administration. We call on our fellow officers and members of the AFP and the PNP to join the people in demanding the resignation or ouster of Duterte and his administration.”

“We pledge to work for the withdrawal of military and police support for Duterte and his administration in conjunction with mass mobilization of the Filipino people in millions to manifest their demand for the resignation or ouster of Duterte and his administration. Upon the change of administration, we pledge to follow the principle of civilian supremacy and support a new civilian administration, in accordance with the 1987 Constitution and the rule of law,” the manifesto, released by Bonifacio – believed to be a nom de guerre – said.

PADEM also condemned and holds accountable for gross crimes in betrayal of public trust and in violation of national sovereignty and democratic rights of the Filipino people.

It cited the following reasons as alleged crimes of Duterte:
  1. Treating the AFP and the PNP as these were his private armies and practising favoritism and violating professional and service standards in the promotion and assignment of officers;
  2. Corrupting the PNP and the AFP with a system of monetary awards for the extrajudicial killing of alleged illegal drug users and of NPA suspects;
  3. Condoning and protecting top-level illegal drug lords;
  4. Emboldening/inciting police officers to engage in extrajudicial killings of poor suspected illegal drug users and pushers by publicly telling officers to plant evidence and by guaranteeing their pardon and promotion in case of conviction;
  5. Aggravating corruption in government and criminality through the collusion of Duterte trustees and crime syndicates;
  6. Allowing China to occupy maritime features in the West Philippine Sea and to violate Philippine sovereign rights upheld by decision of the Arbitral Tribunal in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea;
  7. Bungling the operations in Marawi City and indiscriminately destroying lives and property through aerial bombings, artillery and mortar;
  8. Favoring certain Chinese businessmen and Duterte relatives and cronies in the award of projected infrastructure projects using loans from China;
  9. Betraying the sovereign rights of the Filipino people by making the Philippines a debt vassal of China and offering to China the oil and gas resources under the West Philippine Sea as collateral for Chinese loans; and
  10. Seeking to replace the partnership with the United States in matters of national security with an even more lopsided relationship with China and Russia.
Television network GMA reported that the military has reiterated its support for the administration of Duterte and strongly denied PADEM’s allegations. Military spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines, along with all the men and women of the uniformed services and all their civilian personnel, stand by the government and support Duterte, their commander-in-chief.

Padilla said the accusations and issues cited by the group are unfounded and uncalled for. “Such issues are clearly politically motivated and a matter that the AFP does not and will not subscribe to,” GMA quoted him as saying, adding, they are the constitutionally mandated protectors of the people and will stand by law-abiding citizens whenever and wherever they are needed.

“Having affirmed this, the AFP, however, will not hesitate in acting against forces who shall undermine the stability and security of our country and those who wish to destabilize our nation thru unconstitutional means,” he said.

Communist rebels had previously said that the Central Intelligence Agency is plotting to oust Duterte alongside the plan to assassinate Jose Maria Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Sison, in a statement he issued in May, said those who continue to support him assert that performance in a year is not enough basis for a final judgment and that there is more than enough time ahead for him to accomplish promises that have most impressed them, such as the eradication of the drug problem, criminality, and corruption.

He said Duterte has, in fact, pleaded that he needs three or four more years to bring about the significant changes that he previously thought would be done in six months’ time. His promised campaign against the pork barrel and other forms of corruption of the Aquino regime has not yet materialized.

“Where he has been most successful at, projecting himself as a strong leader by calling on the police and the public to kill drug addict-pushers, he has attracted the most severe and sustained condemnation by institutions, the mass organizations, the human rights formations, various churches, major mass media and respected personages in the Philippines and abroad. These detractors allege on the basis of mass media reports and police records that 7,000 to 10,000 extra-judicial killings have been perpetrated in violation of human rights and with impunity by the police and by police-directed vigilantes. The victims are overwhelmingly poor people in urban slum areas,” he said.

He said U.S. officials and the European Commission have criticized the Duterte regime and threatened to impose certain sanctions. Most recently, the representatives of 45 out of 47 governments in the UN Human Rights Commission universal periodic review of the human rights situation have urged the Philippine government to investigate the alleged extrajudicial killings.

“In turn, the Duterte regime has expressed fears that the dissenting military and police officers are engaged in a coup plot. To counter the coup threat, Duterte appointed to his cabinet more retired military officers whom he considers personally loyal to him. But the United States is still the master of the coup through its Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency in the Philippines,” Sison said.

ISIS militants attack troops in Lanao town

From the Mindanao Examiner (Aug 22): ISIS militants attack troops in Lanao town

Local ISIS militants attacked an army base on Tuesday and wounded 4 soldiers in Marantao town near the besieged city of Marawi in the southern Philippine province of Lanao del Sur, reports said.

Reports said some 50 militants were involved in the attack and also targeted the town’s police station. The military spokesperson Captain Jo-ann Petinglay did not report the casualties, but she said one of the attackers was slain in the fighting. The militants attacked the base with automatic rifles and fighting lasted about an hour.

“The gun battle yielded to the death of a terrorist and the recovery of two rocket-propelled grenades, M79 ammunition link for M60 machine gun and an M203 ammunition. The cadaver was retrieved by the operating troops in the area of engagement,” she said without further elaborating.

Despite the attack in Marantao and the fighting in Marawi City, classes at the Mindanao State University opened without any incident. Petinglay said soldiers also tightened checkpoints in the province to preempt any diversionary ploys by the Maute group to disrupt the opening of classes at the Mindanao State University.

Army, PNP brass visit wounded lawman, SDUs

From the Catanduanes Tribune (Aug 21): Army, PNP brass visit wounded lawman, SDUs

The commander of the 901st Infantry Brigade, 9th Infantry Division (PA), Col. Alden Juan Masagca, visited the province last Friday to confer with his troops – the remaining company here of the 83rd Infantry Battalion based in Lictin, San Andres – regarding the Aug. 10 ambush conducted by the New People’s Army against the local police.

In a press release, Col. Masagca condemned the communist movement’s use of the improvised explosive device in the incident as a “horrific and inhuman” action in violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) signed by the CPP-NDF-NPA and the government.

The brigade stated that the attack targeted “defenseless” policemen and surrendered drug users out to change their lives from drug addiction, adding that the SDUs are not legitimate targets and should be protected instead of being fired at and targeted with IEDs.

In expressing his unit’s profound condolences to the slain police personnel and the wounded civilians, Col. Masagca hopes this would be the right time for Catandunganons to unite against the NPA.

The 901st Brigade commander’s visit was followed last Sunday morning by that of PNP Bicol regional director Chief Superintendent Antonio Guardiola, who conducted a command conference with Catanduanes PNP provincial director Senior Superintendent Felix Servita Jr. and his chiefs of police at Camp Francisco Camacho.

The RD later visited SPO1 Marwin de Vera as well as the wounded surrendered drug users still being treated at local hospitals. De Vera appears to be out of danger despite being hit in the abdomen by a sniper’s bullet while one of the three SDUs is still being observed after he was struck in the eye by shrapnel.

Both Col. Masagca and PD Servita refused to comment on the possible effect of the ambush on the declaration of Catanduanes as a province moving towards peace and development following the significant reduction in the number of communist guerillas operating in the island......

Security threat cancels Asean meeting in Bicol

From the Business Mirror (Aug 21): Security threat cancels Asean meeting in Bicol

A credible security threat has forced the cancellation of the five-day Asean Ministerial meeting in Bicol scheduled to start on Tuesday, August 22, at the Albay Misibis Resort.

Rep. Joey S. Salceda of the Second District of Albay said the decision to cancel the Asean meeting in Albay was reached by the Asean Committee on Security.

Earlier, the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Bicol said security preparation for the five-day Asean delegates’ meeting was all set ready amid the escalating operations of the Communist New People’s Army (NPA).

Salceda said he received a letter from Ambassador Marcian Paynor that top officials of the Asean 2017 National Organizing Council (NOC) had reached a unanimous decision to recommend cancellation for the Albay conference after it received an intelligence report that the NPA has deployed 800-ready improvised explosive devices in Camarines Sur and neighboring provinces. Albay is an hour-ride from Camarines Sur.

The intensified NPA operation in Bicol resulted in an encounter with government troops in Sorsogon on August 8, where two soldiers were killed. A succeeding encounter took place in the island of Catanduanes on August 10 when heavily armed rebels ambushed two police-patrol cars in convoy escorting 10 drug surrenderees. The rebels used an improvised explosive device that followed a gunbattle with a responding police team that killed two policemen and wounded two others, including the police chief.

The Asean delegates meeting for the Albay venue has been transferred to Metro Manila.

The cancellation of the 2017 Asean conference in Albay was a sad development, Salceda said. The first Asean summit in 2015 for the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (Apec) scheduled in Albay was canceled due to bad weather.

Salceda is the proponent of both the Apec and Asean conferences in Albay.

Rebel killed in Sultan Kudarat clash

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 21): Rebel killed in Sultan Kudarat clash

A New People’s Army (NPA) guerrila was killed, while two others were captured after a clash with Army troops in Laguilayan Village, Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, over the weekend.

Reports disclosed that troops of the 33rd Infantry Battalion were conducting patrol operations following a tip from a farmer about the presence of NPAs in the area, when they engaged more or less 30 communist rebels in Sitio Tamil-tamil, a thickly vegetated area in the Daguma Mountain Range, at about 10:30 a.m.

Capt. Raul Gandionco, the leader of the troops, said that they engaged the bandits in a running gunbattle that injured one soldier.

An NPA fighter was also killed as a result of the clash.

“We recovered an M16 Rifle, a hand grenade, and improvised bombs in the encounter site. The fleeing bandits dragged the other casualties with them,” Gandionco said.

Blocking forces led by Capt. Gleneil Ambojnon also captured two suspected NPA bandits and seized a 12-gauge shot gun.

Col. Bismarck Soliba, commander of the First Mechanized Infantry Brigade, noted that the NPA rebels, believed to be under a certain Ka George, have recruited and are training minors in their encampment.

“The employment of child warriors in armed conflict is a violation of the Geneva Convention. It is also punishable under R.A. 9851, the local law that punishes IHL violations,” he said.

Communist influence has significantly dwindled in Sultan Kudarat due to better governance and the effective delivery of social services by the local government.

Maute supporters killed in Marantao attack; 4 soldiers hurt

From GMA News (Aug 22): 3 Maute supporters killed in Marantao attack; 4 soldiers hurt

One was killed while four soldiers were hurt Tuesday when armed men, believed to be supporters of the Maute terrorist group, opened fire on them in Marantao, Lanao del Sur.

GMA News' Sandra Aguinaldo reported on News To Go that the military was able to repel the attack after an hour of firefight with the help of an airstrike.

The attack delayed the opening of classes at the Mindanao State University as officials had to lock the gates for security reasons. The gates were finally opened at 9 a.m. after security officials declared the situation under control.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said the attack could be linked to the opening of classes at the MSU.

Col. Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of Joint Task Force Ranao, said more or less 20 armed men attacked the Army detachment along the highway, in front the Marantao municipal police station at around 5:20 a.m.

Brawner said the person killed belonged to the armed group.

“Ang result may isa tayong napatay sa kalaban, pero may wounded dito sa atin apat, pero slight wounds lang, mga shrapnel lang,” he said in an interview with reporters.

He said troops have recovered the body of killed enemy and firearms.

“May mga na-recover tayong mga baril tapos ‘yung patay sa kabila na-recover natin yung body. Tapos naka-recover tayo ng isang RPG, mga bala ng M60,” he said.

According to Police Superintendent Noel Lomente, Deputy Provincial Director for Operations, two other armed men were killed, including the alleged subleader identified as Nasser Imam Amboloto Lomundot, although their bodies were not recovered.

Lomente identified the wounded soldiers as Private First Class Alexis Bacaloscos, Stephyn Cabarles, Altiero Buscano and Angelito Galicia.

Brawner said the attack could be a diversionary tactic to divide the attention of government troops away from the main battle area in Marawi City.

“Ang nakikita namin na purpose nila parang diversionary tactics e, para mawala ‘yung attention dun sa main battle area, tapos possible na konektado dito sa, possible ha, we are not saying na konektado dito sa opening ng school ng MSU kasi ang lapit lang e, Marantao.," he said.

Brawner said the armed men's only intent was to harass the Army detachment and not to breach into Marawi City to join the remaining Maute group members.

The military had said that less than 40 Maute members are still in the war-torn city.

US continues to upgrade PHL’s radar technology

From the Business Mirror (Aug 21): US continues to upgrade PHL’s radar technology

Despite President Duterte’s rants against the United States, Washington continues to aid the Philippines in various, including the turn over today of a radar system to the Philippine Navy.

This is part of Washington’s support in efforts to continuously beef up the intelligence and monitoring capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Navy Spokesman Capt. Lued Lincuna said officials, led by Navy Chief Vice Adm. Joseph Ronald Mercado, will receive the Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS) from the US through US Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Michael Klescheski.

The turnover of the TARS—a self-sustained, unmanned lighter-than-air radar system—at the headquarters of the Naval Education and Training Command in Zambales, is the second donation by the US in less than a month.

Late last month the US turned over to the AFP two Cessna 208B Caravan aircraft, which Manila will use in monitoring its maritime territory.

The two aircraft, principally used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), were provided by the US government under its maritime-security initiative through the US Pacific Command.

The two aircraft are long-range patrol planes that would be used in monitoring the Sulu Sea, the West Philippine Sea and even Benham Rise. Lincuna said the TARS should enhance the Navy’s capability in ISR by “effectively detecting maritime and air traffic within the country’s coastal waters using sensors”.

“Moreover, it will also be utilized in the conduct of Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response operations,” Lincuna added.

The TARS also include a weather station that provides telemetry data to the ground station for the monitoring of ambient temperature, pressure, wind speed and other pertinent parameters in the operation of the system.

Is the Philippine Air Force Getting Bell AH-1 Cobra Attack Helicopters from Jordan?

Posted to MaxDefense (Aug 21): Is the Philippine Air Force Getting Bell AH-1 Cobra Attack Helicopters from Jordan?

MaxDefense noted that one of our regular community members has posted in another known Philippine defense page about the impending arrival of Cobra helicopters from the Kingdom of Jordan. MaxDefense has been asked several times through our community page and through private messages if this information is true, and so far we haven't come back with a definite answer to the general group members.

Also, a lot of our readers were asking MaxDefense when we posted a phrase on our previous blog entry regarding the acquisition of Elbit Systems Hermes 900 medium altitude long endurance UAVs from Israel, wherein we mentioned "another (attack) helicopter model that will arrive early next year". Did this point to the Cobras?

 So the question is, is the Philippines getting Cobras?

One of Jordan's AH-1F Cobra attack helicopters.
Photo from
Road to Cobras:

It should be noted that this is not the first time the Philippine military made interest on acquiring Cobra single-engine attack helicopters.

Among the earliest attempts was in the late 1980s when the Philippine Air Force made a requirement for attack helicopters as part of its fleet re-capitalization plans during the term of former Pres. Corazon Aquino, wherein the Bell AH-1F was eyed for acquisition. This did not materialize and instead the Philippine Air Force acquired the McDonnell Douglas (now Hughes) MD-520MG armed helicopters that the PAF continues to use to this day.

The last one was in 2009 during the time of former Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, wherein the requirement for the Philippine Air Force's attack helicopter project included the acquisition of ex-Israel Defense Forces AF-1S Tzefa attack helicopters under the PAF's then Night Capable Attack Helicopter project, which are to be refurbished before delivery. The project proceeded with a requirement for brand new helicopters wherein Asian Helicopters won with their MD-530F

Being second hand, it drew flak from several groups due to allegations of being a "midnight deal" that is being pushed in the final days of the Arroyo administration. It did not get traction during the term of Pres. Benigno Aquino III, until the PAF decided to go on a brand new route, which led to the project's awarding to AgustaWestland (now Leonardo) for their AW-109E Power armed helicopters.

There were also interests made on the twin-engine Super Cobra, the last one was back in 2006 when the defense department tried to negotiate with the US government for four to six ex-US Marine Corps AW-1W Super Cobra helicopters, which was competing with another option of larger number of second-hand MD-520. The project was also scrapped later on.

Its best to take note that the PAF's Attack Helicopter project were the Leonardo AW-109E was acquired was not a Horizon 1 phase project under the 2013-2028 Revised AFP Modernization Program, but was actually part of the older 1995-2010 AFP Modernization Program. This is because it was actually an evolution of the Night Capable Attack Helicopter and the earlier Attack Helicopter Acquisition Projects.

Filipino and American airmen around an AH-1W Super Cobra during Balikatan 2014. The PAF actually showed interest on twin-engined AH-1W Super Cobras in the past.
Photo taken from Aiirsource Military's Youtube page.

The Jordanian Donation Offer: AF-1F Cobra:

MaxDefense was initially informed by one of our community members about the possible arrival of Cobra helicopters last July 2017. The initial info is that the Kingdom of Jordan offered to donate 2 used Bell AH-1F Cobra attack helicopters to the Philippines, and Philippine Air Force officers/technical team and defense officials were able to check out the Cobras in Jordan last June 2017. MaxDefense has a photo to support the PAF inspection but has not yet receive approval to post the photo through any of our public pages.

Succeeding information that MaxDefense received from its sources confirmed that the Jordanian offer was originally for four units, but was reduced to two. The Philippine Air Force is still finalizing the acceptance of the helicopters, while defense officials are said to be negotiating with Jordanian defense officials toincrease it back to four helicopters. It still remains to be seen if this request could be approved.

It is still for clarification if the Jordanian AH-1F Cobras being offered are among those new builds they obtained in the late 1980s from the US, or ex-US Army units transferred in 2001. While Jordan received former Israeli AH-1F Tzefas a few years ago, it is highly unlikely that the units offered to the Philippines are from this batch of helicopters from Israel.

The Philippines is also not the first country to receive AH-1F Cobras as donation from Jordan. Earlier this year Kenya was reported to have received at least one and probably more AH-1F Cobras from Jordan.

A Jordanian AH-1F firing 2.75" rockets. The AH-1's advantage over existing armed helicopters in the PAF include larger munition capacity.
Photo taken from Defense Update page.

The Possible Israeli Route - AH-1F Tzefa

Aside from this, it was also mentioned to MaxDefense that the DND might also be planning, or might already be in discussion with their Israeli counterparts to provide some of its stored upgraded AH-1E/F Tzefa attack helicopters to the Philippine Air Force, probably as donation as well, considering Israel already made the same arrangement with Jordan a few years ago to help secure against ISIS-related attacks.

It is also difficult for the DND to justify a second hand purchase, considering Pres. Duterte's latest statements of acquiring only brand new units. A donation, being free, might not be affected by this instruction.

It remains to be seen though if this would materialize.

Israel's AH-1F Tzefa attack helicopter, which were retired in favour of unmanned aircraft. Israel may provide a few examples to the Philippines if an agreement is reached.
Credits to owner of photo.

Back to the Question:

So is the PAF getting AH-1 Cobras? Although the answer is still not definite 100%, as also agreed upon by our sources, the answer is closer on the "yes" rather than "no". As of our last check, the AH-1F donation from Jordan is still for approval by the PAF and AFP's senior leaders, before it is recommended for approval by higher authorities. But being a donation, MaxDefense expects the senior leaders to approve and accept the offer and fund for its transfer.

So far there's no budget allocation yet for the preparation for the helicopters, which includes training of PAF personnel with the Royal Jordanian Air Force, and transportation and delivery of the helicopters to the Philippines, among others. So until these are confirmed, its best to say that it the chances are high that the PAF is getting Jordanian Cobras but its not 100% confirmed.

Another reason why its closer to being a "yes", is that the PAF has already started requesting for queries on how to improve the helicopters for donation.

How about MaxDefense's mention of the "another (attack) helicopter model arriving next year", was it the Cobra? While the direct answer is yes, MaxDefense is also talking about the possibility of having another attack helicopter model since the PAF is acquiring more attack helicopters under the Horizon 2 phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program. And it may not necessarily be more AW-109E Power.

The only reason MaxDefense did not post about this information before was because of the lack of photographic evidence to back-up our post. But since its already out anyway, we'll just post any photograph to corroborate the information once it's allowed for public consumption.


According to our sources, the PAF has also shown interest to upgrade these Cobra helicopters if they are acquired. Among those they are looking at are upgrades on the avionics systems, and possibly the weapons system as well.

Considering that these Jordanian Cobras are not upgraded since they were received, it is highly likely to still be using avionics that are older than what the newer AW-109E Power is currently using, despite not being a purpose-built attack helicopter.

Also, the weapons systems might be a concern. The Cobra's advantages over current PAF armed helicopters is the presence of a heavy internal oscillating gatling cannon (20mm M197 3-barrel cannon) and the use of an anti-tank missile system. But the anti-tank is currently limited to the American TOW missile, which is not exactly the most modern missile in the market now, and would not be as easy to acquire than the Spike missile.

With the AFP, specifically the Philippine Navy, introducing the Rafael Spike missile including a helicopter-launched variant, it is highly likely that the Philippine Army may also want the missile for its anti-tank requirements, including a helicopter-launched one. And this means upgrade for the AH-1Fs are imminent. Take note that Israel's AH-1Fs are upgraded to fire the Spike missile as well.

An Israe AH-1S Tzefa carrying a Spike missile launcher. The PAF may also do a similar upgrade considering the PN is acquiring the same system for its upcoming AW-159 helicopters.
Photo taken from Defense Update page.

Peritent Schedules:

If the donation of Jordanian AH-1F, and hopefully any other Cobra offer from Israel are approved, it is expected that the PAF will be sending their pilots and ground crew for training in Jordan by November this year, and the helicopters delivered to the Philippines by early next year.

MaxDefense won't be discussing about the AH-1F Cobra's capabilities and other performance issues, and suggest its readers to read publicly available sources by Googling them.

MaxDefense believes that there will be more information coming out in the next few months, or even weeks, as the PAF closes its own schedules on how they will proceed with the Jordanian AH-1Fs. Until then, MaxDefense will be posting new updates once information becomes available and good for release to the public.

NPA recruiting, says Army official

From the Visayan Daily Star (Aug 22): NPA recruiting, says Army official

The commander of the 3rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, Maj. Gen. Jon Aying, has confirmed recently that the New People's Army is doing massive recruitment in Negros, but stressed he is confident that their membership does not reach 300, due to “the economics of war”.

He said recruitment would mean additional resources, but the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA is, at this time, dependent only on extortion activities.

Extortion activities of the CPP/NPA are confirmed in all levels, even the poorest of the poor in hinterland communities, and barangay captains are victimized, he said.

He also does not discount the possibility that they get their money from illegal drugs. Aying said extortion activities of the CPP/NPA had to be stopped and the only way to do it is for “the prospects to refuse the collection activity”.

Aying said that “as soon as our forces in Mindanao are back, we will teach them a lesson again; this time will be harder and more regretful for them.”

With the pronouncement of the President of additional 20,000 troops for the Armed Forces of the Philippines and additional 10,000 policemen, Aying said in three year's time, there will be enough forces for stability all over the Philippines and by then the whole nation's approach will be stronger than ever.

Aying was guest of honor at the 11 th anniversary of the 79th Infantry Masaligan Battalion, headed by Lt. Col. Roderick Garcia, at Camp Leon Kilat in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental.

Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo, meanwhile, congratulated the 79th IB, to whom he relied on in sustaining the peace in the province, in cooperation with the Philippine National Police, non-government and civil society organizations.

Through Bayanihan activities, the number of insurgents in the southeast front, from the second to the third district, has drastically declined since 2011, and this led to the declaration of Negros Oriental as conflict manageable and development-ready province.