Monday, January 16, 2017

Battle-seasoned general new chief of key Mindanao command

From Rappler (Jan 17): Battle-seasoned general new chief of key Mindanao command

Major General Carlito Galvez Jr, the new Western Mindanao Command chief, brings his rich combat and administrative experience to the critical military post   

CRITICAL POST. Major General Carlito Galvez Jr assumes leadership of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command. Photo by Richard Falcatan/Rappler

CRITICAL POST. Major General Carlito Galvez Jr assumes leadership of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command. Photo by Richard Falcatan/Rappler

A battle-seasoned general is the new chief of a critical military command in Mindanao.

Major General Carlito Galvez Jr replaced Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) chief Lieutenant General Mayoralgo dela Cruz in a change of command ceremony Tuesday morning, January 17.

Dela Cruz is moving to the headquarters in Manila to become the military's inspector general.

Galvez now heads the military command responsible for fighting local terrorist groups and protecting peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), two areas that President Rodrigo Duterte had directed the military to focus on.

The 53-year-old Galvez brings to the post a rich combat and administrative experience dealing with threat groups in one of the most violent areas in the country, as the Duterte administration strives to implement a peace deal with the MILF.
Galvez had served as the commander of the 6th Infantry Division based in Maguindanao. He was then tasked to protect the government's ceasefire with the MILF based in the province, and to deal with various peace spoilers such as the MILF breakaway group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
Galvez has open communication lines with the MILF leadership as he had served as co-chairman of the Coordinating Committee on Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) that monitors the government and MILF ceasefire, and investigates alleged violations.

Galvez had worked with MILF leaders to keep the ceasefire intact after the January 2015 Mamasapano bloodbath that killed elite cops and sparked national outrage.

Galvez also fought the Abu Sayyaf Group in Basilan when he became the youngest commander of the 104th infantry brigade from 2012 to 2013. He led military operations to prevent rogue members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) based in Basilan from reinforcing the fighters led by Habier Malik during the Zamboanga siege in 2013.

He also served critical administrative positions. Before getting the 6th ID post, Galvez was AFP deputy chief for operations and, before that, Wesmincom's deputy commander for the peace process.

Galvez is a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1985.

Left to greet Trump inauguration with protests

From InterAksyon (Jan 17): Left to greet Trump inauguration with protests

File photo courtesy of Bayan

Leftists will greet the inauguration of US President-elect Donald Trump on January 20 with protests, both to demand the pullout of American troops from the country, and “in solidarity with working people, people of color and other oppressed sectors across the US” who will also be protesting that day.

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan will also be calling for the abrogation of “unequal agreements” such as the Visiting Forces Agreement and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, which allow the increased deployment of US troops to the country and their use of local military facilities, and “a stop to US meddling in Philippine affairs.”

Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said Trump “represents the worst of US imperialist interests and poses a danger to the world.”

“His slogan of making America ‘great again’ pertains to keeping the US the number one imperialist power in the world,” Reyes said. “His election is indicative of the worsening crisis in the US. His presidency will intensify social contradictions in the US.”

He also said they will be “closely watching the outcome of Trump's relationship with … President Rodrigo Duterte,” who he urged to “maintain an independent foreign policy in relation to the US.”
He warned Duterte to “be wary of what Trump represents.”

Reyes also said protests can be expected should Trump visit the country for the East Asia Summit.

Soldier-peacebuilder is new Westmincom chief (Bio data)

From MindaNews (Jan 17): Soldier-peacebuilder is new Westmincom chief

A bemedalled soldier who is active in  peace-building activities in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao is the new commander of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom).

Major Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr., 54, commander of the 6th Infantry Division, took over the post of Maj. Gen. Mayoralgo Dela Cruz during installation rites in Zambaonga City Tuesday morning, January 17.

Dela Cruz, a member of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class 1985 was installed Westmincom chief on November 21, 2015 and will now serve as Inspector General of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Major Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. receives guests in Camp Navarro, Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City Tuesday morning, January 17, 2017, shortly before his assumption as new commander. Galvez was 6th Infantry Division before his promotion as Westmincom commander. MindaNews photo by FERDINANDH CABRERA

Westmincom has command over the 1st and 6th Infantry Divisions of the Philippine Army and the Naval Forces Western Mindanao.  Its base is in Zamboanga City which also hosts the Philippine Air Force’s 3rd Air Division in Mindanao’s lone air base, the Edwin Andrews Air Base.

Westmincom’s operates in areas where major threat groups operate: the  Abu Sayyaf  terror group in Basilan and Sulu, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao,  the Maute Group in Lanao del Sur; and the New Peoples Army in the Zamboanga region.

The government is currently talking peace with the National Democratic Front-Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA.

The Westmincom area is also where the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) operate, although both fronts have signed peace agreements with the government and are presently implementing the agreements.

Galvez, a member of PMA Class 1985, spent most of his military career in Mindanao as company, battalion, brigade and division commander.

He also graduated from the Armed Forces of the Philippines Command and Staff College Class 47 as Class President and Valedictorian, and was awarded as one of The Outstanding Philippine Soldier (TOPS) in 2007.

The new Westmincom Chief had served as Commander of 104th Infantry Brigade under the 1st ID in Basilan; Deputy Commander for Peace Process of the Western Mindanao Command and concurrent chair of the government’s Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) in the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front; Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations from August 2015; was installed as the 33rd commander of the 6th Infantry Division on September 12, 2016 and Westmincom chief effective January 17, 2017.

Galvez was the CCCH chair who worked with his MILF counterpart, the late Rashid Ladiasan, in ensuring a ceasefire to prevent an escalation of conflict following the Mamasapano tragedy in Maguindanao on January 25, 2015, which left 66 persons dead — 44 from the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police, 17 from the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, and five civilians.

While serving in Basilan, Galvez’ First Scout Ranger Battalion which operated against the Abu Sayaff in the island provinces of Basilan and Sulu, was adjudged the Best Scout Ranger Battalion for two consecutive years in 2000 and 2001 and the Philippine Army’s Best Battalion for Combat Operations in 2002.

Galvez has been awarded two Distinguished Service Stars, two Outstanding Achievement Medals, six Gold Cross Medals, eight  Bronze Cross Medals, numerous military merit and commendation medals and a Wounded Personnel Medal.

He is also a recipient of the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s  “Salamat Po” Humanitarian Award and an is Outstanding Citizen of Taguig City awardee.

Galvez is the firstborn among 12 children of Carlito Galvez Sr and Lourdes Guansing from Bustos, Bulacan.  He is married Marissa Pascua, an international flight purser of Philippine Airlines. The couple has a daughter, Mary Frances Therese.

His fields of specialty include Leadership Development, Counter-terrorism, Humanitarian Assistance, Strategic Thinking/Decision-making, Systems Dynamics Modeling, and Negotiation and Mediation (“Rido” Settlement).

Galvez completed his Masters in Project Management at the University of New South Wales, Australia in 2004,  and was a fellow at the Kennedy School of Government Leadership Executive Education at Harvard University, Massachusetts.

Galvez was also a Fellow at the Asian Institute of Management Bridging Leadership program, took a course on Leadership and Values at the University of Asia and the Pacific, Negotiation and Mediation at the National Security at the National Defense College of the Philippines,  and Leadership and Laws by the Australian Defense Course Program.

He also took an Infantry Officer Advance Course in Fort Benning, Georgia; attended a Military Operation Research Symposium in Singapore, Comprehensive Crisis Management Course in Hawaii and Rules of Engagement at the Institute of International Humanitarian Law in San Remo, Italy. Galvez also attended the United States Eisenhower Fellowships Multination Program in 2006.

AFPMBAI donates 11 units of entertainment sets to Army units

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 17): AFPMBAI donates 11 units of entertainment sets to Army units

In line with efforts to improve the welfare and morale of troopers in the field, the Armed Forces of the Philippines Mutual Benefits Association Incorporated (AFPMBAI) formally turned 11 sets of entertainment packages to the Philippine Army (PA) on Monday.

Col. Benjamin Hao, PA spokesperson, said each entertainment package includes a 32-inch LED TV, a karaoke with amplifier and two-way bass reflex speaker.

Recipient Army units were the headquarters of the 7th Infantry Division, the 603rd Infantry Brigade, the 7th and 34th Infantry Battalions, the 4th Mechanized Infantry Battalion and the 1st Cavalry Squadron of the Mechanized Infantry Division, the 3rd and 10th Regional Community Defense Groups of the Army Reserve Command, the 15th Field Property and Accountability Office, and the Property Accountability Office and General Support.

Brig. Gen. Librado B. Moog, AFPMBAI Executive Services Division head , representing the donor institution, said they will continue to provide assistance to soldiers as part of their commitment to improve the welfare of the AFP troops.

11 senior PA officials receive star- rank promotions

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 17): 11 senior PA officials receive star- rank promotions

Eleven senior officers of the Philippine Army (PA) were donned their star ranks during short ceremonies held Monday in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

Five were promoted to the rank of major generals and six were promoted to brigadier generals effective Dec. 29, 2016, PA spokesperson Col. Benjamin Hao said.

Promoted to Major Generals were Joselito M. Reyes, the Army Inspector General; Rhoderick M. Parayno, the Commander of the 2nd Infantry Division; Jon N. Aying, the Commander of the 3rd Infantry Division; Paul T Atal, the Commander of the 5th Infantry Division; and Herminigildo C. Aquino, the Commanding General of the Army's Training and Doctrine Command.

Promoted to Brigadier Generals were Earl D. Baliao, the Deputy Commander of the 6th Infantry Division; Bienvenido Datuin Jr, the Deputy Commander of the 4th Infantry Division; Roseller G. Murillo, the Commander of the 101st Infantry Brigade; Roy T. Devesa, the Commander of the 503rd Infantry Brigade; William A. Alunday, the Commander of the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade; and Arnold F. Fernandez, the Commander of the 52nd Engineer Brigade.

PA Chief Lt. Gen. Glorioso V. Miranda led the ceremony. He advised the newly promoted generals that the new rank they received is an additional accountability that they need to internalize as part of their service, not only to the Army, but also to the whole nation as well.

Galvez assumes command of WMC Tuesday

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 17): Galvez assumes command of WMC Tuesday

Major Gen. Carlito G.Galvez, Jr., formally assumed leadership of the Zamboanga City-based Western Mindanao Command (WMC) Tuesday morning.

Galvez replaced Lt. Gen. Mayoralgo M. Dela Cruz, who will assume as the Inspector General, Armed Forces of the Philippines in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Prior to his designation, Galvez was the commander of the 6th Infantry Division.

He previously served as the Deputy Commander for Peace Process of the WMC from July 02, 2014 to October 01, 2015.

Galvez is a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1985 and hails from Bulacan.

He is married to Marissa Galvez and has a daughter named Mary Frances Therese Pascua Galvez.

Pres. Duterte visits wake of fallen Army officer

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 17): Pres. Duterte visits wake of fallen Army officer

President Rodrigo Duterte visited last Monday night the wake of Capt. Clinton Capio, the first soldier killed in action this year, at the Libingan ng mga Bayani Mortuary in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

Accompanied by National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, President Duterte expressed sympathy and condolences to the wife of the fallen military officer.

The President also extended financial assistance to the bereaved family of Capio.

Capio from Baguio City is an elite Army Special Forces officer who was killed on January 12 following a nine-hour encounter with the Abu Sayyaf bandits in Basilan.

Capio’s four other comrades were injured when they reportedly encountered 60 to 80 Abu Sayyaf terrorists under commander Furuji Indama in Barangay Cabcacan, Simisip town in Basilan. Two ASG militants were killed.

The Army’s operation against the Abu Sayyaf is in line with the directive of the President to eliminate the bandit group known for kidnappings and beheadings.

On his way out of the chapel, the President was greeted by many Army soldiers, most of them belonging to the Special Forces of the Philippine Army.

He briefly talked to the soldiers, assuring them of his full support as they perform their duties to the nation.

He asked them to continuously help in the government’s fight against illegal drugs and corruption and maintain peace and order in the country to sustain economic growth.

The President also assured the soldiers that his communication line will always be open in case they need help.

No compelling reason yet to declare martial law, says AFP

From ABS-CBN (Jan 16): No compelling reason yet to declare martial law, says AFP

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte salutes to the soldiers upon his arrival at the North Luzon Command (NolCom) Headquarters in Camp General Servillano Aquino in San Miguel, Tarlac City on December 11, 2016. Ace Morandante, Malacanang Photo

 The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday said it does not see any compelling reason for President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law.

AFP spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said the military has not yet made any recommendation to the president to declare martial law, noting that government troops are able to fulfill their mandate.

Padilla added, a declaration of martial law is a political decision.

Duterte on Saturday threatened to impose martial rule in support of his deadly war on drugs, three decades after the nation brought down a dictatorship via a "People Power" revolt.

"If I wanted to, and it (the illegal drugs problem) will deteriorate into something really very virulent, I will declare martial law if I wanted to. No one will be able to stop me," Duterte said in a speech on Saturday night.

The 71-year-old former prosecutor said the aim would be "to preserve the Filipino people and the youth of this land".

Duterte won elections in May last year on a pledge to wipe out illegal drugs, promising an unprecedented crackdown to stop the Philippines from becoming what he termed a narco state.

Duterte has raised the prospect of imposing martial law previously.

 However, Saturday's comments were the most direct threat.

Martial rule would allow Duterte to use the military to enforce civilian law and detain people at length without charging them.

The Philippines last endured martial law during the 20-year rule of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was accused of plundering billions of dollars from state coffers and overseeing widespread human rights abuses.

Marcos declared martial law in 1972, invoking the threats of crime and a communist insurgency, and officially lifted it in 1981.

His rule ended in 1986, when millions took to the streets in the largely bloodless military-backed "People Power" revolt.

A new constitution drawn up in 1987 in an effort to avoid another dictatorship specified a single six-year presidential term.

 It also said the president could impose martial rule for just 60 days and only to stop an invasion or a rebellion.

Congress can revoke the measure within 48 hours while the Supreme Court can review its legality.
But Duterte, speaking to local businessmen in his southern home town of Davao city, warned he could ignore the 60-day limit.

 "The 60-day (limit) will be gone," he said.

"And I'd tell you now, if I have to declare martial law, I will declare it -- not about invasion, insurrection, not about danger. I will declare martial law to preserve my nation –- period," he said.

RP-US ties remain ‘solid’ — envoy

From the Daily Tribune (Jan 17): RP-US ties remain ‘solid’ — envoy

US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim assured President Duterte that the relationship between Washington and Manila remains to be “solid.”

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the America’s top diplomat reaffirmed their country’s commitment as traditional allies to the Philippines despite Duterte’s frequent brickbats against the US.

Ambassador Kim reiterated the commitment of the US to the bilateral relationship with the RP which he described as ‘solid,’” Abella said, describing Duterte’s meeting with the ambassador in Davao City late Sunday evening.

“Furthermore, he also discussed US-RP military cooperation, particularly in the fight against terrorism, and the extent of US assistance to Mindanao,” he added.

Duterte frequently accuses the US of causing the scores-old rebellion of the Moro people in the Southern Philippines.

Abella further said that the US vowed to maintain its defense and security assistance to the Philippines.

“Citing cooperation in law enforcement, Ambassador Sung Kim stressed that the US will continue to provide support, including intelligence exchange and in maritime security,” he said.

On Saturday, Duterte surprisingly thanked the Americans for their assistance in monitoring terrorist activities through drone cameras that helped in the identification and arrest of the perpetrators of the deadly Davao City blast last September that killed 15 individuals and injured some 70 people.

Meanwhile, Duterte has declined US President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration in Washington DC on January 20.

Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar said that he and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon will be Duterte’s proxies for the said event.

“Customarily, the head of mission or the ambassador is the representative of our country. Because this is totally a domestic event, Americans will be there to celebrate the inauguration,” Andanar said.

237 new recruits beef up Army battalions in Mindanao

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 15): 237 new recruits beef up Army battalions in Mindanao
Camp Bancasi, Butuan City – In line with the campaign of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) under its development support and security plan “Kapayapaan,” 237 new recruits in the Army were deployed on Saturday in Northeastern Mindanao  (Caraga Region 13) and Northern Mindanao (Region 10).
The deployment of the new soldiers will beef up the strength and capability of the battalions that are conducting Community Support Programs (CSPs) in Caraga region and Northern Mindanao region, according to Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. Madrigal Jr., commanding general of the Northeastern and Northern Mindanao Fourth Infantry (Diamond) Division (4th ID), yesterday.
“Carry out the professionalism of a Filipino soldier and always be guided about our policy – maintain discipline at all times and do not violate human rights,” emphatically stressed by the 4th ID, during the send-off ceremony on Saturday.
Several local chief executives and officials from the different provinces, cities and municipalities in two regions also participated in the send-off ceremony, where some of them delivered their respective messages.
“To all our stakeholders, in front of you are the new soldiers that are ready to serve and fulfill their duty with the best of their abilities. They represent the new generation set of soldiers who will serve as partners for positive change and are active partners for the achievement of lasting peace and prosperity for our Country,” Madrigal said.

US, Philippine forces to exchange experts

From the Manila Times (Jan 16): US, Philippine forces to exchange experts

THE United States and Philippine militaries will conduct “subject matter expert exchanges” at Clark Air Base in Pampanga starting today up to January 25, according to the Pacific Air Forces (Pacaf).

Upon the invitation of the Philippine government, the US Air Force, US Army and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) service members will also conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, Pacaf said.
Security officials have recommended a “reduced” number of joint military exercises between the Philippines and the US since President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of a “military and economic separation” from Washington as part of an “independent foreign policy.”

On its website, Pacaf said the exchanges would focus on capability related to the US Air Force’s ground-based satellite imagery system known as “Eagle Vision.”

The system provides “real-time, mission-critical imagery” acquired from commercially available satellites and is a key component of the US Pacific Command’s foreign humanitarian assistance response.

In addition to improving humanitarian and relief capabilities of both nations, the exchanges will promote increased interoperability between US and Filipino forces and strengthen the military relationship between the two long-time allies, Pacaf said.

Headquartered at the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Pacaf is one of nine US Air Force major commands, and is the air component of US Pacific Command.

Pacaf, which consists of 46,000 members including active duty personnel, Air National Guard, reserves and civilians, is tasked to provide air and space power to “promote US interests in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.”

Sinulog: PH Navy opens warship Andres Bonifacio to public

From Rappler (Jan 16): Sinulog: PH Navy opens warship Andres Bonifacio to public

The Cebuano chief of the Philippine Navy, Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado, is a devotee of Santo Niño

NEWEST WARSHIP. The Philippine Navy acquired BRP Andres Bonifacio from the US Coast Guard. Photo by Rappler

NEWEST WARSHIP. The Philippine Navy acquired BRP Andres Bonifacio from the US Coast Guard. Photo by Rappler
The Philippine Navy's newly acquired warship, BRP Andres Bonifacio, was opened to the public on Monday, January 16, for a 2-day open house in Cebu, coinciding with the celebration of the Sinulog Festival.
BRP Andres Bonifacio is docked at the Cebu International Port and will be open from 9 am to 4 pm until Tuesday, January 17, according to an advisory from the Philippine Navy.
The warship, acquired from the US Coast Guard, arrived in Cebu on January 13 as part of the Philippine Navy's nationwide tour to recruit potential navy officers.
Led by its commanding officer Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado, a Cebuano and devotee of Santo Niño, the navy participated in a string of activities in the festival and is involved monitoring the security of the event, an annual crowd-drawer.

On January 15, the Philippine Marine Drum and Bugle Team (MDBT) performed at Cebu City Sports Complex after the Holy Mass as a tribute to Santo Niño.

The MDBT will also perform at the Terraces of Ayala Center Cebu on Monday and at the Activity Center of SM City Cebu on Tuesday.

Graduating cadets of Philippine Military Academy “Salaknib" Class of 2017 are also onboard the warship to prepare them for their integration in the Philippine Navy Officers Corps.

Duterte awaits meeting with Joma Sison

From Rappler (Jan 16): Duterte awaits meeting with Joma Sison

The meeting between President Rodrigo Duterte and CPP founder Jose Maria Sison will largely hinge on the success of the 3rd round of talks that begin this week

NDF TALKS. CPP founder Jose Maria Sison and chief presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza during the first round of talks in August in Norway. File photo

NDF TALKS. CPP founder Jose Maria Sison and chief presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza during the first round of talks in August in Norway. File photo

President Rodrigo Duterte is awaiting significant progress in the talks between government negotiators and the communist National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) so he could finally meet in person exiled Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria "Joma" Sison, he said in a speech over the weekend.

"Dureza and Bebot Bello are there, nasa (in) Rome sila ngayon (right now).... I said, "Sige (okay), I will just wait for awhile. When you’re ready, it’s either I will go to somewhere in a third country where I can talk to Sison," Duterte said in Davao City Saturday night, January 14, referring to chief presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza and government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III.
"After that, if there’s something that is really official and substantial, then we can announce to the world that we have this agreement," Duterte added.
The meeting between Duterte and Sison will thus hinge largely on the success of the 3rd round of talks that will begin later this week, January 19-25, in Rome.
In the previous Aquino administration, there was also an attempt to consider a meeting between then president Benigno Aquino III and Sison, possibly in Vietnam, to fastrack negotiations, according to a Rappler source privy to the talks then. The talks collapsed under the Aquino administration over disagreements on how to break their deadlock.
During the 3rd round of talks in Rome this week, Bello is aiming to sign the already delayed bilateral ceasefire agreement and complete the draft on the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms or CASER. (READ: Gov't panel to meet Duterte before critical 3rd round of talks)
Communication lines between Duterte and his former professor Sison have been open since the campaign period, with the 2 occasionally having televised Skype calls or private mobile phones conversations. The NDF panel was also invited to a dinner in Malacañang.
The two camps are currently deadlocked on the joint ceasefire deal, an agreement that the government is hoping to sign to guarantee a prolonged ceasefire between the military and the New People's Army (NPA). The NDF is stalling as it protests the delayed release of political prisoners. (READ: Gov't in backchannel talks to protect ceasefire with Reds)
After releasing 22 high-profile NDF consultants and granting pardon to 4 convicted NDF members, Duterte said he will not allow further releases until the NDF signs the bilateral ceasefire deal that will put in place common rules for the military and the NPA.
The NDF said it is willing to sign an agreement but it will only be effective when the President fulfills his promise to release the remaining political prisoners.
The releases and the joint ceasefire deal were the 2 agreements during the 1st round of talks in August 2017 that were meant to put in place a conducive environment for the panels to discuss reforms, particularly on the country's socio-economic policies, political systems, and the Constitution.

Dela Rosa: 'Narco general' is 'boss' of suspect in Korean kidnapping

From Rappler (Jan 16): Dela Rosa: 'Narco general' is 'boss' of suspect in Korean kidnapping

The PNP chief also calls on the public to stop using the term 'Tokhang for ransom,' saying it 'hurts' the police force

KIDNAPPING CASE. PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa (right) says SPO3 Ricky Sta Isabel has since surrendered to the NBI, which is under Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II (left). File photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

KIDNAPPING CASE. PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa (right) says SPO3 Ricky Sta Isabel has since surrendered to the NBI, which is under Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II (left). File photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Ronald dela Rosa on Monday, January 16, said a retired police general with alleged ties to the drug trade was the one who helped another cop get a post in the anti-narcotics group.

The cop that Dela Rosa was referring to is Senior Police Officer 3 (SPO3) Ricky Sta Isabel, who is accused of being behind the kidnapping of South Korean businessman Ick Joo Yee in Angeles City back in October 2016.

"[Sta Isabel] has a 'boss' who wants to sabotage the war on drugs so he made sure to put him in the anti-illegal drugs group. This 'boss' is a saboteur," Dela Rosa told reporters in Camp Crame. (READ: Manhunt while in Crame: The confusion over SPO3 Sta Isabel)

Dela Rosa said the retired official was among the so-called "narco generals" earlier named by President Rodrigo Duterte. However, he refused to divulge this retired general's name.

The 5 retired and active police generals accused by Duterte of having ties to the illicit trade include retired Deputy Director General Marcelo Garbo, retired Chief Superintendent Vicente Loot, Director Joel Pagdilao, Chief Superintendent Edgardo Tinio, and Chief Superintendent Bernardo Diaz.

The PNP chief said Sta Isabel once tried to join the Anti-Kidnapping Group but was rejected.

Sta Isabel, who has been in the police force for more than two decades, denies the allegations against him. He is currently being investigated by the police.

But top police officials insist they have evidence against Sta Isabel – among them, security footage from the abduction showing a van owned by Sta Isabel's wife. The policeman is supposedly the one who uses the van.

Despite having no warrants issued against him, Sta Isabel has surrendered to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

There are at least 8 more suspects in the kidnapping of Ick, including several current and retired policemen. Dela Rosa said two are active cops while another is a retired officer. The retired policeman is a barangay (village) captain in Metro Manila but has since reportedly fled to Canada. Again, Dela Rosa declined to name these policemen.

Sta Isabel and his cohorts supposedly used the police's ongoing war on drugs as a cover-up for the kidnapping. The case has been labeled an example of "Tokhang for ransom."

"Tokhang" is the police's knock-and-plead operation to make drug personalities surrender even without warrants of arrest.

Dela Rosa on Monday said it was unfair for people to use the term "Tokhang for ransom" because it "hurts" the police force.

"Don't associate the [kidnapping] with Tokhang because the intention here is to bring down our war on drugs. Instead of us winning the war on drugs, the public's trust is lost because of the use of the word 'Tokhang.' That's not Tokhang," said Dela Rosa, who conceptualized "Oplan Tokhang" back when he was Davao City police chief.

Dela Rosa has led the police in Duterte's popular but controversial war on drugs. Police have accounted for more than one million drug personalities in 6 months, most of them through "Oplan Tokhang."

But over 6,000 deaths have been linked to the anti-drug campaign – more than 2,000 of these during police operations. The rest are called "deaths under investigation" or summary-style executions with supposed links to illegal drugs.

Chilling reason why PH, NDF talks moved from Oslo to Rome

From Rappler (Jan 16): Chilling reason why PH, NDF talks moved from Oslo to Rome

It's the first time that the formal peace negotiations will be held outside Norway    

COLD OSLO. Negotiators of the Philippine government and National Democratic Front of the Philippines find Oslo too cold for the 3rd round of talks. Photo courtesy of OPAPP

COLD OSLO. Negotiators of the Philippine government and National Democratic Front of the Philippines find Oslo too cold for the 3rd round of talks. Photo courtesy of OPAPP
The 3rd round of formal talks between the Philippine government and the communist National Democratic Front (NDF), to be held from January 19 to 25, moved venues from Norway, the 3rd country facilitating the talks, to Rome in Italy.

"I don’t know why they transferred venue. Siguro mapalapit doon sa (They might want to go near the) Pope para magrasyahan ang (to get graces for the) [talks]…," President Rodrigo Duterte said in jest over the weekend. (READ: Gov't in backchannel talks to protect ceasefire with Reds)

Duterte expressed hopes that the 3rd round will move the talks forward "substantially" so he could plan a possible meeting with exiled Communist Party of the Philippines Jose Maria Sison. (READ: Duterte awaits meeting with Joma Sison)

But really, why hold talks in Rome and not in the country that is arranging and paying for the talks?

The reason is chilling. It's too cold in Oslo this time of the year and the negotiators have not forgotten the last time they froze in the deep winter of the Scandinavian country. It dipped to as low as negative 23 degrees when they were there in February 2011 for formal talks under the previous Aquino administration.

"Talaga namang ang lamig lamig sa (It's really cold in) Oslo this time around. It's the only reason. We both agreed in October [to hold the 3rd round of talks in Rome]," said Fidel Agcaoili, chief negotiator of the communist National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

"We need to meet January or February kasi (because) [the last round was in] October. Mawawala ang (We will lose the) momentum e. Pero huwag naman sa (But please not in) Oslo," Agcaoili added.

It will drop to as low as negative 8 degrees Celcius on January 19 when the talks will start, a big change from Manila's 30-degree-Celcius weather. Rome will be considerably warmer than Oslo at 1 degree Celsius at worst.

The negotiators have discussed moving the venue as early as the 1st round of talks in August 2016 when a number of the newly released NDF consultants fell sick while the negotiations were ongoing in Oslo. At least one NDF consultant was brought to the hospital.

They apparently tried to pitch holding the talks in Greece or Spain, but the Norwegian facilitators of the talks opted for Rome supposedly because of better relations with the country.

The negotiators are expected to return to Oslo for the next round of talks.

PH files diplomatic protests vs China over West PH Sea

From Rappler (Jan 16): PH files diplomatic protests vs China over West PH Sea

Foreign Secretary Yasay says he filed the little-known protests due to Chinese activities on Scarborough Shoal and its reported installation of weapons on reefs-turned-islands in the Kalayaan Group of Islands

QUIET ACTIONS. Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr says the government is protecting Philippine interests in the West Philippine Sea. File photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

QUIET ACTIONS. Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr says the government is protecting Philippine interests in the West Philippine Sea. File photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler
Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr said he has filed at least 3 diplomatic protests against China following the Asian giant's actions in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
The separate diplomatic protests were filed over Chinese activities on Scarborough Shoal and its reported installation of weapons on reefs-turned-islands in the Kalayaan Group of Islands (Spratlys).
"In my watch, I do recall having issued 3 or 4," Yasay told Pinky Webb of CNN Philippines on Monday, January 16. It is not clear when these low-key diplomatic protests were filed, however.

Yasay was responding to questions about the actions that the country has taken to protect claims in the West Philippine Sea, especially in light of a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies that Beijing appeared to have installed weapons on islands in the disputed territory.

The revelation is a surprise considering Yasay's repeated statements that the Philippines will not protest China's activities in the West Philippine Sea as the country seeks to forge better relations with the military superpower.

"You see these are things that I wouldn't even want to discuss here. But I just would like to assure the Filipino people that when we take action and engage China in this dispute, we don't want to take such aggressive provocative actions. That will not solve the problem. We cannot engage China in a war," Yasay said.

Scarborough Shoal

The administration of President Rodrigo Duterte was able to talk to China to allow Filipino fishermen back in Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal, the site of a tense standoff between Manila and Beijing in April 2012 that resulted in the Chinese Coast Guard's occupation of the rocky sandbar off the coast of Zambales province.

"I have issued a lot of note verbales as far as the Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal is concerned. But let's just do it very quietly. The first and foremost thing we must remember is we have to talk. We have to assert ourselves when we talk and make sure that we will not be repeating the same things that can only serve to heighten tension," Yasay said.

Yasay did not state what Chinese actions in Scarborough he protested, but there were previous reports that the Chinese Coast Guard continues to challenge Philippine patrols over the area
Yasay believes that better relations between the 2 countries stopped China from also turning Scarborough Shoal into one of its artificial islands.

"We continue to talk with China. As you can see what is happening in Scarborough, any fear about converting the area into an artifical island has been stopped. Our fishermen have free access to that area," Yasay said.

Installation of weapons

China has reclaimed 7 other reefs that are now believed to be full-fledged military outposts because of the construction of runways and and the installation weapons, including missiles.

Yasay said a separate note verbal was filed to protest the reported installation of weapons on China's artificial islands.

"Whenever there are reports about the buildup of weapons systems in the area during our watch, we make sure that the interests and rights of the Philippines are properly addressed and protected," Yasay said.

He said the government is particularly worried about Mischief (Panganiban) Reef, which, like Scarborough Shoal, is inside the country's 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

"Our problem really is Mischief Reef because these facilities have been completed long before President Duterte assumed office and there's nothing we can do about it," Yasay said.

The previous Aquino administration took China to court over its activities in the West Philippine Sea. The UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration dismissed China's sweeping claims over the disputed seas, but Beijing refused to recognize the ruling.

Reds own up to killing of tribal leader, brother, kin

From InterAksyon (Jan 16): Reds own up to killing of tribal leader, brother, kin

Members of an NPA squad in Mindanao

Communist rebels in eastern Mindanao acknowledged killing late last month a tribal leader and his brother, who they described as "notorious warlords", adding that they had acted in "self-defense" when they were attacked.

A statement from the NPA's Comval Davao East Coast Sub-Regional Operations Command, dated January 6 and posted on the Communist Party of the Philippines website ( said guerrillas from the unit were serving an "order to disarm the fanatic paramilitary group MANADU or the Mandaya Ancestral Defense Unit when they were attacked by its notorious leaders on the evening of December 30, 2016 in Sitio Calatagan, Brgy. Poblacion, Caraga, Davao Oriental."

"Acting in self-defense, the NPA fought and killed notorious warlord Cupertino Banugan, his brother Ramon and a relative, Dodo Banugan," the statement by the unit's spokesman Roel Agustin, said. "The Red fighters also seized two high-powered rifles."

Agustin said four guerillas were wounded in the firefight.

Agustin said the incident did not violate the unilateral cease fire declared by the rebels alongside that declared by the government because "fascist enemy forces like the Banugans, who wreak havoc on the lives of the peasant and Lumad masses and are forcibly entering guerilla zones and guerilla bases, are legitimate targets of the people's army."

He said the rebel cease fire grants allowance for the NPA to undertake "active defense against provocative interference of military and paramilitary forces in guerilla zones" and that "the killing of the Banugans should serve as a warning to other warlords and fascist fanatic groups who abuse and terrorize the masses and rule with impunity in peasant communities."

Agustin claimed Cupertino "used his title as the tribal chieftain to usurp 14,000 hectares of land owned by the Iligan, Bayon, Silat, Tibay and Panin clans of Caraga."

He allegedly extorted agrarian rent from the poor Mandaya peasants, collecting "10 percent from the gross sale of abaca and other products of the farmers, including marijuana," and deducting "10 percent from any economic project established in his turf."

Aside from this, he was accused of collecting thousands of pesos "from each of the 300 families who were victims of Typhoon Pablo" and "amassed at least two million pesos yearly from his extortion activities," Agustin said.

He also accused Cupertino and his armed group of assisting the military in its operation in Caraga.

"It is also common knowledge among the Mandaya communities of Caraga that Cupertino and Ramon Banugan were responsible for the murder of Romeo Mapando, Modesto Lagungan and Male Lagungan," Agustin said. "They also tried to kill Julieto Bayon and Bitoy Usto."

"Most of the victims were Caragan residents who were unjustly dispossessed of their lands and tried to oppose the Banugans' despotic rule," he added.

Duterte, US Ambassador Sung Kim have 40-minute dialogue in Davao

From InterAksyon (Jan 16): Duterte, US Ambassador Sung Kim have 40-minute dialogue in Davao

US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim (L) greets President Rodrigo Duterte ((C) during the traditional New Year's Vin d‘Honneur at the Malacanang Palace, January 11, 2017. (Philippines News Agency/Avito Dalan)

US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim had a brief talk with President Rodrigo Duterte during the launching of the Philippines’ chairmanship in 2017 of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Davao City.

According to Malacanang, the 40-minute conversation between Duterte and Kim was productive and they openly exchanged ideas.

Kim reiterated the US’ commitment to its solid relationship with the Philippines.

They also discussed military cooperation and both countries’ fight against terrorism.

Kim said the US will continue to provide support to the Philippines in terms of exchanges in intelligence and maritime security.

Alliance with Malaysia, Indonesia reduces radius of terrorist groups

From the Mindanao Timesn (Jan 16): Alliance with Malaysia, Indonesia reduces radius of terrorist groups

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte publicly called out members of the Maute Group and said that his intelligence network has already identified the members of the group responsible for terrorist activities in Mindanao.
Speaking before the business community at the Marco Polo Davao, Duterte announced to the nation that his newfound allies are already watching every move of the terrorist group.
Mr. Duterte said his new alliance with Malaysia and Indonesia reduces the radius of safety perceived by the terrorist group suspected to be the perpetrators of last year’s atrocity in the city.
The President’s statement comes amid news that Malaysian authorities already have Datu Abduljabbar Sema, son of Muslimin Sema, in custody for his alleged role in the Sept. 2 Roxas Night Market bombing, which killed 15 and injured 69 others.
President Duterte said he and his fellow heads of state have even coordinated naval pursuit protocols for terrorists such as the Abu Sayyaf Group, which is being suspected of being responsible for a spate of kidnappings along the Malacca Strait.

 Duterte even joked to the businessmen to “avoid being kidnapped,” since he has authorized the shooting of boats being pursued by naval boats.
“Kaya wag talaga kayong magpa-kidnap,” Duterte said, to the laughter of amused business leaders.
Last year, Duterte visited both countries to work out partnerships in maritime security during a marathon goodwill visit that lasted weeks at a time.

“It was very easy for us,” President Duterte said about apprehending the culprits, citing existing measures such as CCTV systems scattered around the city.
Following the Davao blast, foreign countries have warned their citizens from travelling in the city, with business establishments suffering the setback.
But Duterte assured the businessmen that they will still enjoy the benefits of a healthier business climate.
“I will demand the other LGUs (local government units) do what we do in (Davao),” he said, referring to the three-day processing period that fast-track application in the city. “Just look to Davao.”
President Duterte was in town to swear in the officers of the influential business group, Davao City Chamber of Commerce of Industry, Inc. (DCCCII). He was the keynote speaker of its 49th annual installation rites.
Duterte and DCCCII have maintained friendly ties, even with certain local laws that are deemed unfriendly to the business, such as the vehicle speed-limit, the anti-smoking and the required installation of CCTVs for businesses with capital of at least P3 million.

 Recalling the group’s friendship with President Duterte, former DCCCII President John Gaisano said the group always approached the administration of then-Mayor Duterte whenever they needed to clarify certain policies that could affect the sector.

The group was among those who rallied for Duterte to run for the highest elected post.

 DCCCII officers swore into the new officers were Antonio Dela Cruz, Chair; Capt. Ronald Go, President; Sofronio Jucutan, EVP; Fredrick “Dicky” Puyod, VP for Industry; Wifred T. Teves, VP for Trade and Commerce; Teresita Pascual, VP for Agribusiness; Belinda Torres, VP for PSV; Yvonne Cabada, Corporate Secretary; Alvin Pinpin, Corporate Treasurer Bonifacio T. Tan, Trustee; Antonio Ajero, Trustee; Arturo Milan, Trustee; Joan Romero, Trustee; Jennifer Sazon, Trustee; and Ricky Tagabucba, Trustee.

Bello hopes bilateral ceasefire agreement signed in 3rd round of talks

From MindaNews (Jan 16): Bello hopes bilateral ceasefire agreement signed in 3rd round of talks

The government (GRP) peace panel will “strive hard” to have the bilateral ceasefire agreement with the National Democratic Front (NDF) signed during the third round of formal peace negotiations on January 19 to 25 in Rome, Italy, its chief negotiator said.

GRP peace panel chair and concurrent Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III told reporters at the launch of the Philippine chairmanship of the ASEAN 2017 at the SMX Convention Center Davao Sunday that they hope to settle with the NDF the “definition of terms,” for  acts considered as hostile and violative of the ceasefire.

Two panels each declared a unilateral ceasefire shortly before the start of the first round of formal pace talks in Oslo, Norway in late August. They gave themselves 60 days from the end of the first round to forge a bilateral ceasefire agreement but no agreement was signed within 60 days or even during the second round of formal peace talks in October.

“The problem with unilateral ceasefire is that it lacks the definition of terms. You do not know what constitutes the hostile act, you do not know what constitutes a violation of the ceasefire. In bilateral agreement, there is definition of terms to know what hostile act will constitute a violation,” he said.

The two peace panels will also tackle the Comprehensive Agreement on Socioeconomic Reforms (CASER) in the third round of talks.

But he said they are not rushing on the signing of CASER because it is the most contentious among the agreements that will be signed by the GRP and NDFP.

Described as the “heart and soul” of the peace negotiations, the CASER contains the most contentious issues such as  agrarian reform, national industrialization, and foreign policy.

In a press release issued by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP) on Saturday, Bello expressed optimism that major breakthroughs will take place next week.

“We are prepared to sign side and other agreements while we are discussing contents and provisions of the major substantive agenda,” Bello.

He added that draft documents will be submitted on Monday to President Rodrigo Duterte.. The government panel will leave for Rome, Italy on Tuesday, he said.

Among these draft documents are the draft CASER, comprehensive agreement on political and constitutional reforms (CAPCR) and comprehensive agreement on end of hostilities and disposition of forces (EOHDOF).

“We are all set and ready to engage the NDF in the discussion of all substantive agenda including supplemental agreements needed to proceed and arrive at a peaceful negotiated political settlement to end the armed conflict in the country,” Bello said.

He emphasized that the GRP panel is doing all it can “in the spirit of true reconciliation and genuine quest for just and lasting peace.”

He said t the GRP panel is ready to sign side and other agreements while discussing contents and provisions of rhe major substantive agenda.

Bello explained that government is all set to sign a supplemental agreement on the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) which will include an expanded role for the  Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC).

“And we are challenging the NDF to formalize the unilateral ceasefire with a bilateral ceasefire agreement to give our communities and combatants a more secure environment for the peace process,” Bello added.

GPH, MILF still looking for a new Malaysian facilitator

From MindaNews (Jan 16): GPH, MILF still looking for a new Malaysian facilitator

The government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF ) peace implementing panels are still “in the process of looking” for a new Malaysian facilitator, contrary to a report that someone has been named, government’s peace implementing panel chair Irene Santiago said.

“Tan Sri Zakaria Bin Abdul Hamid is not the new Malaysian Facilitator. The GPH and MILF Implementing Panels are still in the process of looking for the new Third Party Facilitator,” Santiago said in a January 14 letter e-mailed to MindaNews by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

MILF peace implementing chair Mohagher Iqbal told MindaNews Sunday that they are still waiting for the name of the new facilitator. He said the MILF is “closely working with the GPH implementing panel to clarify the issue around the third party facilitator.”

Irene Santiago, chair of the government’s peace implementing panel shows the two-page joint statement she signed with MILF’s peace implementing panel chair Mohagher Iqbal on August 14, 2016 after the launch of the implementation phase of the GPH-MILF peace process in Kuala Lumpur. MindaNews file photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

A VERA Files report that MindaNews published on January 13 said the Philippines and Malaysia had agreed on a new facilitator, Tan Sri Zakaria Bin Abdul Hamid,  who is supposed to be the third Malaysian to act as facilitator in the GPH-MILF peace process, replacing Tengku Datuk Abdul Ghafar Mohamed who passed away on Sept. 2, 2016.

“It is true that I as the chair of the GPH Implementing Panel and MILF Implementing Panel Chair Mohagher Iqbal reaffirmed the participation of Malaysia as Third Party Facilitator in a letter dated 4 January 2017 addressed to the Director of the Malaysian Secretariat of the GPH-MILF Peace Process,” Santiago said.

But Santiago added that the VERA Files report left out “a crucial statement in the second paragraph of such letter reiterating that upon consultations with the Parties’ principals, the request for a new Facilitator supersedes the Parties’ prior acknowledgment of Tan Sri Zakaria Bin Abdul Hamid as Third Party Facilitator.”

The joint letter of Santiago and Iqbal on January 4 said they “welcome a new nominee” for the role of facilitator.

According to VERA Files, Malaysia officially informed Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza of the appointment of Zakaria as the new GPH-MILF Peace Process facilitator in a letter dated Oct. 18, 2016.

Barely a month later, however, President Rodrigo Duterte and Prime Minister Najib Razak agreed to do away with the post of facilitator.

Tengku Datuk Abdul Ghafar Mohamed, Malaysian facilitator in the GPH-MILF Peace Process with Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza on August 14, 2016 in Kuala Lumpur. Tengku passed away on September 2, 2016. MindaNews file photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim told MindaNews last month that they wee “surprised” to read reports that Duterte and Najib had agreed during the former’s visit to Malaysia in November that there would be no more facilitator since the peace process is on its implementing phase.

Murad said the facilitator “is still very important even in the implementing phase.”

“There are so many of the infrastructure of the peace process which is tied up to the facilitator – the ICG (International Contact Group), the IMT (International Monitoring Team)  – all these are tied up with the facilitator so … we tried to inquire from Malaysia what really transpired and then they told us that it was taken up during the one on one meeting with the President (Duterte) so after assessing the situation, we decided to write a letter to the President and to the Prime Minister appealing to both that the facilitator shall not be  terminated because we explained the relevance of the facilitator in the implementing process.”

The GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) provides under Section 12 of  Article VII that the facilitator stays until the exit agreement is signed.

“At the end of the transition period, the GPH and MILF Peace Negotiating Panels, together with the Malaysian Facilitator and the Third Party Monitoring Team, shall convene a meeting to review, assess or evaluate the implementation of all agreements and the progress of the transition.” It also provides that an exit document “officially terminating the peace negotiation may be crafted and signed by both Parties if and only when all agreements have been fully implemented.”

Murad said the President agreed to reinstate the facilitator role during a meeting in early December in Davao City, in the presence of Dureza.

In that meeting, Murad said it was agreed that the implementing panels “will jointly request Malaysia for the appointment of a new facilitator.”

Santiago and Iqbal jointly wrote the Malaysian Secretariat on January 4, 2017 to request for a new facilitator.

Civilian shot by soldier over a parking spot in Davao City

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jan 16): Civilian shot by soldier over a parking spot in Davao City

Police arrested an army soldier accused of killing a man during a quarrel over a parking spot in the southern Philippine city of Davao.

The soldier, Pfc. Alfredito Pripania, 37, is assigned with the 10th Infantry Division under the Eastern Mindanao Command. Police said the victim, Chris Ventic, 21, was shot on Sunday following a spat over at a parking area.

It was not immediately known whether Ventic’s family would file a criminal case against the serviceman.
The army has not commented on the killing.