Wednesday, February 15, 2017

NDF consultants hopeful Duterte will resume peace talks

From Rappler (Feb 15): NDF consultants hopeful Duterte will resume peace talks

Motions filed by the Office of the Solicitor General to cancel the bail of NDF consultants are 'premature,' according to their lawyers

HOPEFUL. (L-R) Rachel Pastores of the Public Interest Law Center, Edre Olalia of the National Union of People's Lawyers, Niki Gamara, and Cristina Palabay of KARAPATAN during a press conference in Quezon City on February 15, 2017. Photo by Darren Langit

HOPEFUL. (L-R) Rachel Pastores of the Public Interest Law Center, Edre Olalia of the National Union of People's Lawyers, Niki Gamara, and Cristina Palabay of KARAPATAN during a press conference in Quezon City on February 15, 2017. Photo by Darren Langit

Consultants of the communist National Democratic Front (NDF) remain hopeful that President Rodrigo Duterte will resume talks even as local courts begin the process of potentially cancelling the bail of rebels-turned-consultants.

NDF lawyer Edre Olalia said on Wednesday, February 15, that the motions of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) were "premature" because the talks have not been formally terminated. He claimed Duterte has not even met with the government negotiators to make a final decision on the status of the talks.

Duterte is also expected to discuss the peace talks with Cabinet secretaries nominated by the Left, along with chief government negotiator Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.

Olalia asked: What happens if the consultants are arrested and the negotiating panels decide to go back to the peace table? (READ: Immigration put on alert over NDF consultants)

Rey Casambre of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, also an NDF consultant, said he sees signs that Duterte will change his mind about scrapping the talks.



Another NDF lawyer, Rachel Pastores, said the gains in the 3 rounds of negotiations should weigh most heavily in deciding the future of the talks. She noted the progress that panels have made in discussing the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER), considered the heart and soul of the peace process because it aims to resolve the root causes of conflict.

Pastores said the panels have agreed "in principle" on the free distribution of land, for one. She also cited willingness by the NDF panel to discuss the proposed bilateral ceasefire agreement.

Duterte scrapped the talks and the immunities of the NDF consultants days after the communist armed wing New People's Army (NPA) terminated its 5-month-old unilateral ceasefire because of supposed ceasefire abuses by the military.

The military also reported alleged ceasefire abuses by the communist rebels.

The OSG has since filed motions to cancel the bail of the consultants. Pastores, meanwhile, said they have filed comments to oppose the OSG motions against Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, Tirso Alcantara, and Alan Jazmines.

It is too late for Concha Araneta Bocala, whose bail was cancelled by a local court after she failed to appear in her arraignment last week. Bocala, who comes from a landed family in the Visayas, is the tagged leader of the NPA in Western Visayas.

http://www.rappler.com/nation/161576-ndf-consultants-hopeful-duterte-will-resume-peace-talks

Defense chief rejects wholesale valor award to 42 SAF

From Rappler (Feb 15): Defense chief rejects wholesale valor award to 42 SAF

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana says a few of the elite cops who helped kill the country's top terrorist, Zulkifli Bin Hir or Marwan, may be deserving of the award. But not all.   

AFTER EXODUS. Policemen man the highway leading to barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25, 2015. Rappler file photo

AFTER EXODUS. Policemen man the highway leading to barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25, 2015. Rappler file photo
 
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has joined calls to oppose President Rodrigo Duterte's decision to grant wholesale the rare Medal of Valor (MOV) to a total of 42 police Special Action Force (SAF) troopers who died in Mamasapano in 2015.
 
Lorenzana said a few of the elite cops who dedicated their lives to kill the country's top terrorist, Zulkifli Bin Hir or Marwan, may be deserving of the award, but "not all." He echoed protests of valor awardee retired Marine Colonel Ariel Querubin and retired General Ramon Farolan.

"I do not agree that they will all be given the award. The medal is never given en masse. It is an individual award for someone who distinguishes himself conspicuously, at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty," Lorenzana told reporters.

"I am sure that there are some who may be deserving, but definitely not all of them. As I said initially, there are vital criteria for the MOV and dying is not one of them," Lorenzana said.

Valor awardee, retired Colonel Ariel Querubin, has also spoken out against the wholesale distribution of the award. He said officers have been demoralized.
 
"I dread that there’ll come a time na balewala na ang magsuot niyan (that wearing it will not mean anything anymore)," Querubin said.

"We are not opposing that they be given awards. Huwag naman (But please not the) valor," Querubin said. He blamed the National Police Commission (Napolcom) for making the recommendation.

Police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Dionardo Carlos said the police valor award is different from the military's because separate bodies vet prospective awardees. But Querubin said the prestige should be the same because the police patterned its criteria for its awardees from the military.`
 
The SAF, the elite unit of the Philippine National Police, dedicated its operations to hunting down Marwan. They succeeded on January 25, 2015, but it came at a huge cost: at least 67 were killed – 44 SAF troopers, 18 Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels, and 5 civilians.

It was the biggest crisis faced by the previous Aquino administration. It threatened to break the peace talks with the MILF and caused a rift in the relationship of the military and the police, which traded blame for the bungled operations.

President Benigno Aquino III already gave 2 SAF troopers the valor award. Duterte granted the request of the families of the rest of the slain cops – who were previously given the 2nd highest combat award – for the valor award to be given to them posthumously, too.

Palace Spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte's decision should be respected.

But Lorenzana said the valor award cannot be given wholesale. "The act must have required a risk of life and have displayed personal bravery or self-sacrifice so extraordinary as to set the individual apart from his comrades," Lorenzana said. (WATCH: Soldier killed in Zambo given highest military honor and READ: The legend of the soldier woh said: 'Fire on my location')

In a strongly worded column published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, retired General Ramon Farolan said there are only 40 awardees in the military.

"In the entire AFP history, there have only been 40 awardees. Then in one fell swoop, 42 SAF members get the same medal. It would surely land us in the Guinness Book of World Records," Farolan said in his column.

"This action sets a bad precedent and would open a floodgate for indiscriminate awarding of the MOV. This cheapens the award and might weaken the institution and system of AFP awards," Farolan said.

http://www.rappler.com/nation/161587-lorenzana-rejects-wholesale-valor-award-saf

NDF consultants hopeful Duterte will resume peace talks

From Rappler (Feb 15): NDF consultants hopeful Duterte will resume peace talks

Motions filed by the Office of the Solicitor General to cancel the bail of NDF consultants are 'premature,' according to their lawyers

HOPEFUL. Lawyer Rachel Pastores of Public Interest Law Center (left), Atty. Edre Olalia of National Union of People's Lawyers (2nd-L), Niki Gamara (2nd-R) and Cristina Palabay of KARAPATAN (Right)during a press conference in Quezon City Wednesday, February 15. Photo by Darren Langit

HOPEFUL. Lawyer Rachel Pastores of Public Interest Law Center (left), Atty. Edre Olalia of National Union of People's Lawyers (2nd-L), Niki Gamara (2nd-R) and Cristina Palabay of KARAPATAN (Right)during a press conference in Quezon City Wednesday, February 15. Photo by Darren Langit

Consultants of the communist National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) remain hopeful that President Rodrigo Duterte will resume talks even as local courts begin the process of potentially cancelling the bail of rebels-turned-consultants.

NDF lawyer Edre Olalia said on Wednesday, February 15, that the Office of the Solicitor General's (OSG) motions were "premature" because the talks have not been formally terminated. He claimed Duterte has not even met with the government negotiators to make a final decision on the status of the talks.

Duterte is also expected to discuss the peace talks with Cabinet secretaries nominated by the left, along with government negotiator Secretary Silvestre Bello III.

Olalia asked: What happens if the consultants are arrested and the negotiating panels decide to go back to the peace table? (READ: Immigration put on alert over NDF consultants)

Rey Casambre of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, also an NDF consultant, said he sees signs that Duterte will change his mind about scrapping the talks.



Another NDF lawyer, Rachel Pastores, said the gains in the 3 rounds of talks should weigh most heavily in deciding the future of the talks. She noted the progress that panels have made in discussing the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Eocnomic Reforms (CASER), considered the heart and soul of the peace process because it aims to resolve the root causes of conflict.

Pastores said the panels have agreed "in principle" on the free distribution of land, for one. She also cited willingness by the NDF panel to discuss the proposed bilateral ceasefire agreement.

Duterte scrapped the talks and the immunities of the NDF consultants days after the communist armed wing New People's Army (NPA) terminated its 5-month-old unilateral ceasefire because of supposed ceasefire abuses by the military.

The military also reported alleged ceasefire abuses by the communist rebels.

The OSG has since filed motions to cancel the bail of the consulants. Pastores meanwhile said they have filed comments to oppose the OSG motions against Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, Tirso Alcantara, and Alan Jazmines.

It is too late for Concha Araneta Bocala, whose bail was cancelled by a local court after she failed to appear in her arraignment last week. Bocala, who comes from the landed family in the Visayas, is the tagged leader of NPA in Western Visayas.

http://www.rappler.com/nation/161576-ndf-consultants-hopeful-duterte-will-resume-peace-talks

WATCH | NPA rebels attack troops on relief mission in Surigao

From InterAksyon (Feb 16): WATCH | NPA rebels attack troops on relief mission in Surigao



Military vehicles used in relief operations in quake-stricken areas of Surigao del Norte. (TV5 video grab)

A military convoy was shot at by communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels Tuesday evening while returning to Surigao City after delivering relief goods to an earthquake-stricken village of San Francisco town in Surigao Del Norte province.

No casualty was reported on the government side in the brief five-minute firefight between soldiers and eight rebels who fired upon the convoy at about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The convoy consisted of a platoon of the 30th Infantry Battalion with civilian partners from local government units and non-government organizations.

The military learned that the attackers belonged to the NPA’s guerilla front community 16, which Col. Rico Amaro, batallion commander of the 30th Infantry Division, described as rebels responsible for atrocities such as extortion and terrorism in the area.

The attack came despite a unilateral ceasefire declared by the NPA’s North Eastern Mindanao Command over the weekend in Surigao del Norte and Agusan del Sur to allow the delivery of relief goods to areas stricken by the magnitude 6.7 earthquake that hit Surigao City on Friday (Feb. 10) and left six people dead and more than a hundred individuals injured.

The attack also added to the anxiety of residents who have been feeling the effects of continuous aftershocks.

Residents appealed to the NPA not to hamper the relief operations.

The military on Wednesday condemned the attack on the relief convoy.

Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. Madrigal, commander of the Army’s Fourth ID in Camp Evangelista in Cagayan De Oro City, said “We condemn in the strongest terms possible the recent harassment of NPA on our soldiers who were assisting the civilian volunteers in the delivery of relief goods to the earthquake-stricken residents in the village of Linunggaman, San Francisco, Surigao Del Norte.”

He said the attack waged by the NPA rebels showed that the “terrorists” could not be trusted at all.

“The NPA deceived the entire nation when they attacked the soldiers when they (NPA) even declared a 'unilateral ceasefire' so that the relief goods could be delivered smoothly to earthquake-stricken villages in Surigao Del Norte,” Madrigal said in a statement released Wednesday.

The LGUs and the national government had estimated damage to properties at about P650 million and restoration works went in high gear this week in a bid to bring back normalcy in the lives of the people.

Classes in Surigao City and nearby areas are scheduled to resume on February 20 after government engineers assess the damage to schools.

WATCH THE NEWS5 VIDEO REPORT BY JENNY DONGON BELOW:

[Vdeo report]

http://www.interaksyon.com/article/137094/watch--npa-rebels-attack-troops-on-relief-mission-in-surigao

Solgen files motion to cancel bail for NDF consultants Tiamzon couple

From InterAksyon (Feb 15): Solgen files motion to cancel bail for NDF consultants Tiamzon couple



Benito and Wilma Tiamzon board a bus at their inquest earlier in March 2014 file photo. INTERAKSYON.COM

The Office of the Solicitor General has filed a motion to cancel the bail of spouses Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, consultants of the National Democratic Front in the peace talks.

The OSG motion paves the way for the arrest of the consultants following successive actions by the government - on orders of President Duterte - effectively scuttling the seven-month talks, which just concluded their third round in Rome. A meeting in The Hague is scheduled in the third week of February.According to Solicitor General Jose Calida, the OSG motion was based on the Supreme Court decision that allowed the temporary release of the NDF consultants, who were facing charges in courts around the country.

The SC decision, Calida pointed out, imposed conditions on the provisional liberty and made it clear their freedom was being allowed solely for the purposes of the peace talks.

Therefore, once the negotiations are terminated, the SC order stated that the bail bond is automatically deemed cancelled.

Calida said that since Duterte had cancelled the peace talks, the provisional liberty for the NDF consultants is no longer allowed.

The consultants should be immediately returned to prison or be considered fugitives, added Calida.

http://interaksyon.com/article/137084/solgen-files-motion-to-cancel-bail-for-ndf-consultants-tiamzon-couple

China warns US against fresh naval patrols in South China Sea

From InterAksyon (Feb 16): China warns US against fresh naval patrols in South China Sea



Guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG 73) operates in the South China Sea as part of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) of the US Navy on October 13, 2016. (Courtesy Diana Quinlan/US Navy/Handout via REUTERS/File photo)

China's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday warned Washington against challenging its sovereignty, responding to reports the United States was planning fresh naval patrols in the disputed South China Sea.

On Sunday, the Navy Times reported that US Navy and Pacific Command leaders were considering freedom of navigation patrols in the busy waterway by the San Diego-based Carl Vinson carrier strike group, citing unnamed defense officials.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said tension in the South China Sea had stabilized due to the hard work between China and Southeast Asia countries, and urged foreign nations including the US to respect this.

"We urge the US not to take any actions that challenge China's sovereignty and security," Geng told a regular news briefing on Wednesday.

The United States last conducted a freedom of navigation operation in the area in October, when it sailed the guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur near the Paracel Islands and within waters claimed by China.

Dave Bennett, a spokesman for Carrier Strike Group One, said it did not discuss future operations of its units.

"The Carl Vinson Strike Group is on a regularly scheduled Western Pacific deployment as part of the US Pacific Fleet-led initiative to extend the command and control functions of the US 3rd Fleet," he said.

"US Navy aircraft carrier strike groups have patrolled the Indo-Asia-Pacific regularly and routinely for more than 70 years," he said.

China lays claim to almost all of the resource-rich South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion worth of trade passes each year.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also claim parts of the waters that command strategic sea lanes and have rich fishing grounds, along with oil and gas deposits.

The United States has criticized Beijing's construction of man-made islands and build-up of military facilities in the sea, and expressed concern they could be used to restrict free movement.

http://interaksyon.com/article/137095/china-warns-us-against-fresh-naval-patrols-in-south-china-sea

NPA ‘recruits’ girl, 13

From the Mindanao Times (Feb 14): NPA ‘recruits’ girl, 13

AN ARMY official said the New People’s Army (NPA) is recruiting children to augment its dwindling number of combatants.
 
This, as a rebel returnee who surrendered revealed that the communist armed group is recruiting children as young as 12 years old.
Capt. Rhyan Batchar, the spokesperson of the army’s 10th Infantry Division, said the NPA recently recruited a certain Rea, a 13-year-old Davao Regional Athletic Association (DAVRAA) athlete.
 
Davis was separated from her family when communist guerrillas recruited her last Jan. 30 in Buso, a mountain barangay of Mati City, Davao Oriental.

Batchar said they only knew of Davis’ recruitment when the girl’s mother sought their help.

The mother said she went to the neighboring town and was gone for a week. When she returned home, she learned that the NPA recruited her youngest daughter.

Accordingly, the girl was reportedly taken by Evelyn Hermocilla, who goes by the aliases Kara and Riza, said to be a leader of Section Committee 18, Sub-Regional Committee 2 of NPA’s Southern Mindanao Regional Command.

The mother pleaded to the NPA to return her daughter but to no avail.

She said Hermocilla refused to return the girl “because she doesn’t want to go home.” Hermocilla reportedly told the mother that the girl threatened to commit suicide should she be forced to return to her family.

Residents reported seeing the girl crying while traveling with the NPA. They said the girl wanted to go home but was prevented by the rebels.

In connection with the incident, a total of 101 families in four areas of Buso were evacuated last Feb. 8 to avoid NPA atrocities and recruitment. Based on the Mati voluntary evacuation report from Councilor Gingging Tiago, the affected sitios were Kasunugan, Tampat, Cabucanan and Kawitan.

The army, under Col. Reuben Basiao of the 701st Infantry Brigade, and the barangay, under village head Lolito Andan, returned the evacuees to their communities two days later as military assured their safety.

During the ceremony, Basiao appealed to the residents to cooperate to hasten the recovery of the young Davis.

Rebel returnee identified as ka Junnie told reporters that they were recruiting teenagers as young as 12 to pump new blood for the armed group.
 
Ka Junnie, a Lumad from Davao Oriental, said he joined the underground movement about seven months ago as he was convinced that the armed group was waging war to achieve a “real” government.

He was assigned to the Guerilla Front 15 operating in the areas of Manay and Caraga, both in Davao Oriental.
 
Ka Junnie was among the rebels that clashed with the troopers of the 67th Infantry Battalion led by the 2Lt. Victor Alejo who died during the encounter earlier this month in Manay.

Based on the records of 10th Infantry Division, 13 NPA guerrillas already surrendered to the authorities.

http://mindanaotimes.net/npa-recruits-girl-13/

ARMY: Commuters held, forced to listen to lecture by NPA

From the Mindanao Times (Feb 15): ARMY: Commuters held, forced to listen to lecture by NPA

 EIGHTY commuters and drivers were held for about an hour by the members of New People’s Army (NPA) at Sitio Upper Wayawayan, Barangay Don Mariano, Lupon, Davao Oriental around 8:50 a.m. yesterday.

Capt. Andrew Linao, the civil-military operation (CMO) officer of 701st infantry Brigade, told TIMES yesterday that the rebel group stopped motorcycles passing through their checkpoint along Maragusan road heading toward Mati City.
 
The checkpoint was manned by around 40 armed men, according to witnesses. The victims were brought to a nearby chapel.

Inside, they were allegedly forced to listen to a lecture on the unilateral ceasefire and how government troops continue to commit violations to international human rights law. Accordingly, President Duterte also failed to fulfill his promise to release all 400 political detainees.
 
The lecture was conducted by an alias Bukawi. After about an hour, they were released.

Linao said they immediately sent troops to the area after receiving the report. The armed men were no longer around.

Earlier, Maj. Gen. Rafael Valencia, the commander of 10th Infantry Division, said that before and after the lifting of the ceasefire of the New People’s Army they had monitored the rebels conducting lectures and training to the community to urged them to enter inside as an additional force to the movement.

Valencia said 973 NPA numbers were recorded before the ceasefire but now they are still validating if how many recruits were taken by the rebel group.
 
Meanwhile, the Eastern Mindanao Command, lament the NPAs conduct of road block disturbing the economic activity of the area and the use of children and women and a chapel as part of their diversionary act against pursuing troops after some of their group encountered a patrolling troops of 28IB in Bgy New Visayas, Lupon Davao Oriental.
 
The condemnable acts are manifestation of the gross disregard of the NPAs of Human Rights especially that of the children and the elderly.

http://mindanaotimes.net/army-commuters-held-forced-to-listen-to-lecture-by-npa/

Relief convoy ambushed in Surigao

From MindaNews (Feb 15): Relief convoy ambushed in Surigao

Suspected New People’s Army rebels fired on Army soldiers escorting a relief mission of TV network ABS-CBN in San Francisco town in Surigao del Norte Tuesday night, 4th Infantry Division spokesperson Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez said.

Martinez said the rebels fired five shots at the soldiers aboard a military truck in Sitio Huwat Baboy, Barangay Linongganan at around 8:30 pm Tuesday.

He said the truck led the five-vehicle convoy.

“The rebels fired from 75 meters on a high ground and the KM450 blast protection plate was hit by two bullets,” he said.

Martinez said nobody was hurt among the soldiers and the ABS-CBN crew.

But Ka Oto of the NPA Northeastern Mindanao, speaking over Radyo Bombo Butuan denied it was their group that ambushed the relief convoy.

Earlier, the NPA in Surigao del Norte declared it will observe a ceasefire in deference to the 6.7-magnitude earthquake last February 10 that hit the province and caused damage to several homes and infrastructures.

In her post on Facebook, ABS-CBN reporter Chiara Zambrano said the van of their “Operation Sagip” developed engine trouble and lagged several hundred meters behind the convoy.

“It was a blessing in disguise,” she said.

She said the TV network was bringing relief goods to Malimono town, Surigao del Norte.

http://www.mindanews.com/top-stories/2017/02/relief-convoy-ambushed-in-surigao/

Mindanao Regional Peace and Order Councils hold meeting with DILG chief

From the Mindanao Examiner (Feb 15): Mindanao Regional Peace and Order Councils hold meeting with DILG chief

In a bid to respond to issues affecting peace and order in Southern Philippines, the Mindanao cluster of the Regional Peace and Order Councils (RPOC), comprising of council chairpersons and vice-chairpersons, held its first meeting on Wednesday at the Sultan Kudarat Provincial Capitol in Isulan town.

Major concerns have been discussed in the meeting, including illegal drugs, illegal gambling, terrorism, and insurgency. The meeting was presided by Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael Sueno and was also attended by Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Secretary Sueno said the RPOC meeting was aimed at synchronizing measures on how to restrain criminality, or any issue that affects the peace and order situation in Mindanao.

Sultan Kudarat Governor Sultan Pax Mangudadatu who is also the chairman of the Regional Peace and Order Council in Region 12, delivered the welcome remarks during the opening of the meeting.

The RPOC chairpersons presented the security situations in their respective regions based on reports from local officials specifically on illegal drugs, illegal gambling, terrorism, and insurgency.

“We want to provide safe and secure atmosphere that is conducive to the region’s residents and investors,” said Gov. Hataman, who took his oath of office as the RPOC chairperson before President Rodrigo Duterte in MalacaƱang in January.

Aside from the ARMM, other regions in the Mindanao RPOC cluster are Regions 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula); 10 (Northern Mindanao); 11 (Davao Region); 12 (Soccskargen); and 13 (Caraga).

Resource persons from the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines also presented the current peace and order situation on the island as per reports from their field units. Supt. Ireneo Dalogdog talked on illegal drugs and criminality while Maj. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., of the Western Mindanao Command, discussed insurgency.

The RPOC plays a vital role in maintaining peace and order in every region in the country and keeps the members abreast of the prevailing conditions, issues, and concerns affecting the peace and order in their respective areas of jurisdiction.

http://mindanaoexaminer.com/mindanao-regional-peace-and-order-councils-hold-meeting-with-dilg-chief/

Negros Oriental governor mulls 'local version' of peace process with NPA-NDF

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 15): Negros Oriental governor mulls 'local version' of peace process with NPA-NDF

Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo wants a localized version of the peace process even as negotiations failed between the Philippine government and the New People’s Army/National Democratic Front (NPA/NDF).

Degamo said he is calling on all stakeholders to a meeting if only to sustain the gains in the anti-insurgency campaign achieved during his term.

He said since the declaration of Negros Oriental as a conflict manageable and development ready province, the scenario has not changed until today because basic services are brought to where they are needed in the hinterland barangays.

During Degamo’s incumbency, several rebels have returned to the fold of the law as a result of Bayanihan activities jointly conducted with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (PNP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), medical missions conducted five times a month and aside from the provision of water system, electricity, farm to market roads and livelihood programs.

Degamo said he understands the direction of the national government but says he wants to preserve the peace in this part of the country.

It is for this reason that Degamo has suggested the holding of a meeting with non-government organizations, people’s organizations, civil society organizations and other stakeholders with the Philippine Army and the PNP at Camp Leon Kilat in Tanjay, Negros Oriental, the home of the 79th Infantry Batallion.

The meeting would attempt to discuss the peace process to be facilitated by the Oriental Negros Children’s Advocate Network (ONCAN) headed by Marieta Jambora.

Degamo reiterated statements made during the declaration of a conflict manageable and development ready province that “we can't win this war and armed struggle with bullets; we only need to talk and present programs that will uplift the quality of lives of our people.”

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=964090

Misamis Oriental exec taps military to man checkpoints

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 15): Misamis Oriental exec taps military to man checkpoints

Provincial Governor Yevgeny Vincente Emano on Wednesday tapped the Army’s 58th Infantry Battalion (58IB) to man the security checkpoints of the province's east and western districts here.

Emano made the formal request to Lt. Col. Francis Carandang, the commander of the Claveria - based 58IB in Misamis Oriental, to conduct the security checkpoint in the towns of Magsaysay in the province’s east district and in the town of Luga-it in the province’s west district.

The town of Magsaysay is the bordering town of Misamis Oriental and Agusan Del Norte in the east district, while Lugait is the bordering town of Misamis Oriental and Lanao Del Norte in the west district.

After the request, Emano extended a PHP100,000 meal allowance intended for 10 government troops who would be assigned at the military checkpoints.

Each army personnel assigned at the checkpoints would get PhP10,000 monthly meal allowance.

“While there is no immediate threat to the peace and order of Misamis Oriental, the installation of the army checkpoints would serve as deterrent, particularly among terror groups who intend to sow terror in the province,” Emano said.

The checkpoints would also double as agricultural quarantine of the provincial agricultural department, he said.

Emano said that he made the request because the provincial government and the provincial police command could not provide round-the-clock personnel to man the checkpoints in the east and west districts of the province.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=964242

Army exec identifies 4 NPA rebels killed in Masbate clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 15): Army exec identifies 4 NPA rebels killed in Masbate clash

An Army official in Bicol has identified the four New People’s Army rebels who were killed in an early morning encounter with government troopers in Barangay Pangle, Aroroy, Masbate on Monday, said a report reaching Camp General Simeon Ola, headquarters of Police Regional Office in Bicol or PRO5, Wednesday.

The report quoted Capt. Joash Pramis, spokesman of the Division of Public Affairs Office of the 9th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, who identified the communist guerrillas as Luis Gonzaga, alias “Jaypee,” alleged to be an NPA commander operating in the northern part of Masbate; Jerome Verano “alias Ruben;” Marko Tugbo, “alias Frank;” and one alias “Erwin,” said to be another ranking rebel leader in the province.

Lt. Col. Red Cabanizas, commander of the 2nd Infantry Battalion, in an interview, said a scout platoon led by 1st Lt. April John S. Del Rosario was conducting the patrol operation in Barangay Pangle at 6:30 a.m. when the encounter with the government troops occurred.

Pramis said the government soldiers on patrol engaged a 20-man band in a 20-minute firefight. He believed more rebels were wounded though they managed to get away as bloodstains were traced in their escape route leading to the forested portion of Aroroy.

Recovered from the scene were assorted firearms including two M14 and two M16 rifles; an M203 rifle; an improvised explosive device or IED; a rifle grenade and a hand grenade.

Also found were three bandoliers for M14, M16 and M203, loaded with ammunition; an VHF Icom radio; detonating switch and wire; and four backpacks containing personal belongings and subversive documents.

Cabanizas said the government soldiers initially brought the bodies to the police station in Aroroy town as police waited for the families of the four NPA rebels to claim them.

“The dead rebels will be given decent burial,” he said.

Aroroy Mayor Arturo Virtucio has offered to help shoulder the funeral expenses of the communist guerrillas.

Pramis added the bodies were already brought to St. Lawrence Funeral Homes in Barangay Jaboyoan in Aroroy town proper.

It was the second reported encounter in the province following the aborted talks between the government and Communist Party of the Philippines and NPA, its armed wing, early this month.

On February 6, Cpl. Mark Alfred Repol of the 93rd Division Reconnaisance Company was reported by police authorities in the Masbate as wounded in an encounter in Barangay Amotag, 21 kilometers away from the poblacion of Aroroy.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=964336

Military condemns NPA attacks against government troops in Surigao

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 15): Military condemns NPA attacks against government troops in Surigao

The military has condemned the communist New People’s Army (NPA) for attacking government soldiers on relief operations in the earthquake-stricken village of San Francisco in Surigao Del Sur Tuesday evening.

In a statement released Wednesday, Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. Madrigal, commander of the Army’s Fourth Infantry Division here, said that “we condemn in the strongest terms possible the recent harassment of NPA on our soldiers who were assisting the civilian volunteers in the delivery of relief goods to the earthquake-stricken residents in the village of Linunggaman, San Francisco, Surigao Del Sur.”

He said that the attack waged by the NPA rebels showed that the “terrorists” could not be trusted at all.

“The NPA deceived the entire nation when they attacked the soldiers when they (NPA) even declared a 'unilateral ceasefire' so that the relief goods could be delivered smoothly to earthquake-stricken villages in Surigao Del Norte,” Madrigal said.

A platoon of the 30th Infantry Battalion in a convoy with civilian partners from local government units and non-government organizations was harassed by members of the New People’s Army after they have distributed relief goods in the communities affected by the recent magnitude 6.7 earthquake.

No casualty was reported in the incident.

Madrigal said that he has ordered all military units in Surigao Del Norte and Surigao Del Sur to cease combat operations in the hinterlands in order to come down from the hills and assist the LGUs in the rescue and retrieval operation in earthquake-stricken areas.

He said that the military is also on top of the efforts of the LGUs to restore the normal operations of the local government units and the activities of the people of Surigao.

The 6.7 magnitude earthquake struck the northeastern city of Surigao and the province of Surigao Del Norte Friday last week, which resulted in the death of six people and injuries to more than 100 individuals.

The LGUs and the national government had estimated damage to properties at about PHP 650 million and restoration works went high gear this week in a bid to bring back normalcy in the lives of the people.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=964318

DILG complete PhP15-M PAMANA projects in Zamboanga Sibugay

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 15): DILG complete PhP15-M PAMANA projects in Zamboanga Sibugay

The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) through its Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program has completed the construction of 150 housing units for the members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

PAMANA is the national government's convergence program that extends development interventions to isolated, hard-to-reach and conflict-affected communities, ensuring that they are not left behind.

The housing project worth PhP15 million was constructed through the Provincial Planning and Development Office (PPDO) in the nearby town of Tungawan.

Eng’r. Venancio Ferrer III, PPDO chief, said the housing projects were built in three barangays namely Taglibas (50 units), Looc Laboan (50 units), and Linguisan (50 units).

Governor Wilter Palma told the Philippines News Agency that the housing project will be a big help to the beneficiary-MNLF members who are into farming and fishing as the way of livelihood.

“They live along the coastal area that seems to threaten the life of their family. With the housing project, they can live safely, comfortably, peacefully and harmoniously,” Palma said.

The completed housing projects are soon to be turned over to the identified beneficiaries.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=964221

Tactical control of Army engineering brigade moved to Cagayan de Oro

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 15): Tactical control of Army engineering brigade moved to Cagayan de Oro

The tactical control of the Army’s 52nd Engineer Brigade has been transferred to the 4th Infantry Division (ID) in the wake of the Surigao quake last week.

Philippine Army Chief Glorioso Miranda said Wednesday that the transfer took effect last Monday.

He said the 4th ID could best judge where to send the 52nd Engineer Brigade in times of emergencies, such as what happened to Surigao last Friday.

A 6.7-magnitude earthquake struck the northeastern city of Surigao and the province of Surigao del Norte Friday night, leading to the death of six persons and damaging properties estimated at PHP650 million.

The 4th ID has ordered all combat units assigned in Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur to stop all their combat operations and come down from the hills to conduct rescue and retrieval operations in coordination with local government units.

Miranda said the move also became necessary after the jurisdiction of the 52nd Engineer Brigade got smaller after the government decided to reactivate the 54th Engineer Brigade to take care of military infrastructure support in western Mindanao.

After the new brigade was activated, the Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon-based 52nd Engineer Brigade has retained control of only five battalions -- the Engineer Support Battalion, the 512th Engineer Construction Battalion (General Santos), 524th Engineer Construction Battalion (Maguindanao), 534th Engineer Construction Battalion (Davao del Norte), and the 544th Engineer Construction Battalion (Agusan del Sur).

Last Monday, Brig. Gen. Arnold Fernandez relinquished his post as commander of the 52nd Engineer Brigade to take command of the newly activated 54th Engineer Brigade.

Col. Dionisio Baudin, Fernandez’s classmate at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) ’86, was the new 52nd Engineer Brigade replacing Fernandez.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=964304

28 NPA rebels neutralized in eastern, southern Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 15): 28 NPA rebels neutralized in eastern, southern Mindanao

The 10th Infantry (Agila) Division of the Philippine Army on Wednesday reported on the neutralization of 28 New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in eastern and southern Mindanao.

Speaking before reporters during the regular AFP-PNP press conference at the Mandaya Hotel in Davao City, 10th ID chief information officer Captain Rhyan Batchar said military operations will continue in their areas of operation.

The 28 NPA rebels were neutralized by the Army since the intensified military operations commenced on February 1, Batchar added.

Of the total number of rebels neutralized, 19 surrendered to different units of the Army; eight were captured; and one was killed.

Government troops also recovered 12 high-powered firearms and 14 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) during the series of military encounters with the rebels in the provinces of Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental and Sarangani, Batchar said.

He said three government troops under the 10th ID were also abducted by the rebels; two in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat and one, a member of Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) in Davao Oriental.

Four civilians were also forcibly taken by the NPAs during the period – two from Agusan del Sur and another two from Compostela Valley.

Batchar also reported of the increased activities of the NPAs the region, including the forced recruitment of civilians in the countryside.

“NPA recruitments started during the unilateral ceasefire. They benefited from the declaration of ceasefire by recruiting new members in the countryside,” Batchar said.

He pointed out that the eight NPA members captured in Sarangani province were all new recruits.

“The eight NPAs are now undergoing inquest procedure. They were charged with frustrated murder case,” he added.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=964255

Relief goods constantly being flown to quake-hit areas -- NDRRMC

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 15): Relief goods constantly being flown to quake-hit areas -- NDRRMC

As the government starts to mobilize assets and resources needed by quake survivors of Surigao City, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) announced it is constantly flying relief goods to the affected areas via Air Force Lockheed C-130 "Hercules" cargo planes.

This was disclosed by NDRRMC executive director Ricardo Jalad on the agency's update on its relief operations at 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Supplies, which will augment existing Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) stocks in the CARAGA Region, include the following:

-10 units of generator sets;

-150 pieces of solar lamps;

-30,000 pieces of high-energy biscuits;

-5,000 pieces of mosquito nets;

-500 dignity kits;

-5,000 blankets;

-3,250 pieces of brown rice bars;

-130 rolls of laminated sacks;

And 5,000 pieces of plastic pieces.

Jalad said these items were airlifted to Butuan City's Bancasi Airport last Feb. 12 and 13 by C-130s of the Air Force's 220th Airlift Wing.

On Tuesday, C-130s also transported DSWD and Department of Health personnel to Butuan City for deployment in quake-affected areas.

Aside from these individuals, several CAMPOLAS kits (cotrimoxazole, amoxicillin, mefenemic acid, paracetamol, oral rehydration solutions, lagundi, vitamin A, skin ointment), family kits, hygiene kits, family tents, mobile kitchen, and additional laminated sacks, high-energy biscuits, and plastic mats were airlifted on the same day.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=964121

Troops recover IED in Davao Oriental clash as 3 rebels surrender anew

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 15): Troops recover IED in Davao Oriental clash as 3 rebels surrender anew

Troopers from the 28th Infantry Battalion have recovered an improvised explosive device (IED) following a day-long firefight with New People's Army (NPA) rebels in Lupon town, Davao Oriental Tuesday morning.

In the same day, three rebels formally surrendered to authorities in Davao Occidental and Davao Del Norte.

Capt. Rhyan Batchar, 10th Infantry Division spokesperson, said the clash took place 8:45 a.m. when troops from the 28th Infantry Battalion encountered around 40 NPA rebels in Purok 2, Barangay New Visayas, Lupon, Davao Oriental.

Two MG-520 attack helicopters provided air support to the engaged troops.

No soldier was hurt while blood stains were visibly seen in the encounter area indicating that the NPA suffered casualties.

The soldiers recovered 40 backpacks, medical paraphernalia, subversive documents and several personal belongings left by the fleeing NPA rebels.

At around 5 p.m., pursuing troops of 28th Infantry Battalion discovered an IED, blasting caps and food stuffs left by the blocking forces of the NPA in Purok Linao, Barangay Don Mariano Marcos, Lupon, Davao Oriental.

Meanwhile, three NPA members, one of them bringing along a high-powered rifle turned themselves in to the folds of law.

Alias "Alas", 29, team leader of NPA Guerrilla Front 71, voluntarily submitted himself with his Garand rifle to the 73rd Infantry Battalion in Malita, Davao Occidental.

While alias "Aldren", 26; and alias Omar, 46, who are both members of NPA PulangBagani Company 4, submitted themselves to the 60th Infantry Battalion.

The three surrendered rebels revealed that hardships and starvation brought about by the relentless combat operations of the military encouraged them to return to the folds of the law.

A separate report had reached the 10th Infantry Division that a group of 30 NPA belonging to Guerrilla Front 18 blocked and held 80 civilian commuters at around 8:50 a.m. of the same day at Purok Upper Waywayan, Barangay Don Mariano Marcos, Lupon, Davao Oriental.

The civilians were reportedly brought inside a chapel, subjected to communist propaganda and later released after an hour.

The same group of NPAs later abducted CAFGU Active Auxiliary (CAA) Rene Doller, assigned at Ligadan Detachment, Barangay Don Enriquez Lopez, Mati City.

CAA Doller was onboard his XRM motorcycle when flagged by the NPA at the same vicinity.

The NPAs burned the victim's motorcycle before fleeing the area.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=964250

200 newly graduated enlisted troopers join 3rd ID ranks

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 15): 200 newly graduated enlisted troopers join 3rd ID ranks

As the government intensifies its campaign against the insurgents, the Capiz-based 3rd Infantry Division formally welcomed 200 new enlisted troopers to its rolls during short ceremonies on Monday.

Lt. Col. Ericson Rosana, 3rd Infantry Division public affairs office chief, said these soldiers were also entrusted their service weapons on the same date.

These troopers are members of Candidate Soldiers Classes 410 and 411-2016.

Rosana said these 200 enlisted personnel have successfully completed the six months rigid Candidate Soldier Course and Jungle Warfare Mountain Operation Course held at the Division Training School in Camp General Macario Peralta Jr., Jamindan, Capiz.

The training that kicked-off last Aug. 1, 2016 aimed to provide the candidate soldiers with the basic knowledge and skills of soldiery, to develop their character worthy to become members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and to prepare them to perform duties as riflemen and automatic riflemen of the infantry squads.

Gabriel C. Cablas, received the Commander, 3rd Infantry Division Award for graduating Number 1 besting 104 others in Class 410 with a General Point Average of 89.29 percent in all evaluated subjects both academic and non-academic in the said training.

Kenneth D. Pedrosa topped the Class 411 besting 94 others. He also received the Commander, 3rd Infantry Division Award who garnered a General Point Average of 90.05 percent in all evaluated subjects both academic and non-academic courses.

The new soldiers will be assigned in the different battalions in Western and Central Visayas and the Negros Island Regions to perform peace and development works in the countryside and likewise add to the unit’s strength in these areas.

The Chief of Staff, 3ID Awards went to Reymar Q. Atillano and Joven D. Buyco for Graduating Number 2 in Class 410 and Class 411 respectively.

Recipients of the Commandant, 3rd Division Training School Awards were Justine Glariosa and Erwin M. Verdadero for graduating Number 3 in Class 410 and Class 411, respectively.

For obtaining the highest rating in Physical Fitness Test throughout the duration of the training, the Physical Proficiency Awards went to Marvin P. Licos for Class 410 and Jeorem S. Sison for Class 411.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=964212

U.S. Ambassador Sung Y. Kim opens Education USA Fair

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 15): U.S. Ambassador Sung Y. Kim opens Education USA Fair

The US Embassy in Manila on Wednesday said EducationUSA, the U.S. government’s official source on U.S. higher education, welcomed 1,400 students, parents, and educators to its annual higher education fair on Tuesday, at the Philippine Sofitel Plaza.

Representatives from 20 U.S. colleges and universities attended the fair and met with prospective Filipino students. Ambassador Sung Kim opened the event with a ceremonial ribbon cutting.

The fair was free and open to the public and offered an opportunity for students, parents, and administrators to interact with university representatives and to learn about the U.S. college application process.

EducationUSA provides free advising services to prospective international students in over 170 countries who want to study in the United States.

EducationUSA helps students navigate the five steps to U.S. study—research, financing, completing the application, obtaining a student visa, and preparing for departure—and offers resources and tools for each part of the process.

There are more than 4,500 accredited higher education institutions in the United States and an adviser can assist students as they narrow their options, define their priorities, and plan their college careers.

The program does not offer scholarships, but can assist students in locating scholarship opportunities as they consider their options for funding a degree.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=964279

Government firm on 'no-ransom' policy -- Palace

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 15): Government firm on 'no-ransom' policy -- Palace

"The Government stands firm on our no-ransom policy."

This was stressed by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella Wednesday after a German hostage held by the bandit group Abu Sayyaf (ASG) appealed to authorities to heed his captors' ransom demand to prevent his impending execution.

"The Government stands firm on our no-ransom policy. The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) has been directed to continue and intensify its military operations," the Palace official said.

"The government will continue efforts to safely rescue all hostages held by these terrorists. It is also working closely with the concerned local governments as well as other sectors to facilitate the safe rescue of Mr. Jurgen Kantner," Abella added.

Kantner's appeal was contained in a video posted on social media.

In the video, he asked authorities to heed his captors' PHP30-million ransom demand to prevent them from beheading him later this month.

The 70-year old German national said his execution has been set for February 26 at 3 p.m..

"If the money is not in the hands of the pirates at this time, they will behead me," Kantner said.

Kantner was kidnapped by the ASG bandits while his yacht "Rockall" was cruising off Sulu waters last November.

His companion, 56-year-old Sabine Mertz, was allegedly raped and killed by the bandits.

But despite Kantner's appeal, the AFP said the government is maintaining its policy against negotiating with terrorist groups and giving in to ransom demands.

On Tuesday, AFP public affairs office head Col. Edgard Arevalo said that payment of the ransom will further embolden the terrorists and give them more funds to buy the loyalty of the communities they are hiding in.

In the same vein, he said the government does not pay ransom or negotiate with terrorists.

Arevalo likewise stressed the military will exert all efforts to rescue Kantner from his ASG captors.

"We will exert all efforts to rescue him (Kantner), especially that we now have continuing operation against the ASG which has been yielding good outcomes, so we are still positive that we will be able to rescue him," Arevalo said.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=964287