Thursday, April 20, 2017

BIFF members killed in clash with militiamen in North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 21): 3 BIFF members killed in clash with militiamen in North Cotabato

Three members of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), including an escapee from the North Cotabato District Jail last January, were killed in a clash with members of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) in a remote village here Thursday, police said.

Chief Inspector Donald Cabigas, Pikit town police chief, identified the slain BIFF members as Tarzan Buntasil, Kensem Dungandong and Rusman Salik Mohammad, who escaped from the provincial jail last January 4.

Cabigas said the clash, which erupted at about 1 p.m. in Barangay Bualan, was triggered by cattle rustling, where one of the suspects took two cows owned by a relative of a militiaman.

During pursuit operations, the militiamen, who are under the 38th Infantry Battalion, clashed for two hours with the armed men later identified as BIFF members.

"The two cows were owned by Cafgu siblings Ariel and Constantino Wacan," Cabigas told reporters.

Police and government forces recovered several high powered firearms from the slain BIFF fighters. The two cows were also recovered.

Bualan village chairperson Ali Piang said several families have fled to safer grounds during the clash but slowly returned home.

Soldiers and police were placed on heightened alert for possible retaliatory attacks by the BIFF.


Abu Sayyaf bandits abduct MNLF integree in Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 21): Abu Sayyaf bandits abduct MNLF integree in Sulu

Suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) have abducted a former Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who was integrated into the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Patikul, Sulu, military officials disclosed Friday.

Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of Joint Task Force Sulu, said SSgt. Anni Siraji of the Army’s 32nd Infantry Battalion was forcibly taken by about seven persons at around 9:30 a.m. Thursday while he was heading to Barangay Igasan, Patikul, Sulu.

A native of Sulu, Siraji joined the AFP through the integration program of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the government and the MNLF.

Sobejana said his command immediately dispatched a platoon of soldiers to conduct a pursuit operation “at the general area where the abductors fled.”

“The recent abduction incident involving our soldier should not be a reason for us to back out but should further motivate us to continue our relentless and sustained focus military operations against the ASG and the rescue of all kidnap victims,” he said.

He said Patikul town is “one of the main target areas of military offensives for three months now, as it was reported to be a known stronghold of the bandits.”

Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, said the abduction "is a desperate attempt of the ASG to pressure the military to slow down its offensive against them."

“It is frustrating that a Tausug soldier, who wants a peaceful community and is working for it really hard so that an influx of progress will come to his home province, will have to be a victim of the bandits. Obviously, the Abu Sayyaf can victimize anyone, even someone from their own tribe,” Galvez said.

He urged the residents in Sulu to collectively help the military to end the menace of the ASG.

“I firmly believe that as long as we are together on this, we will be able to disallow these bandits to continue creating havoc and fear to everyone,” he said.

“For now, we will continue to hunt the perpetrators and the rest of the Abu Sayyaf. We will not stop until we get our soldier back to his family,” he added.

The military claimed that they are making a headway in the offensive against the ASG following President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to crush the bandit group in six months starting January.

Around 50 ASG members have been killed while 17 others have surrendered in the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi since January this year.

Search for “armed men” in Olango continues

From the Cebu Daily News (Apr 21): Search for “armed men” in Olango continues


Government troops continue to search for two armed men spotted along the beach lines of Barangay San Vicente on Olango Island on Thursday afternoon.

Barangay captain Cyrus Eyas said the sightings and the presence of government troopers created fear especially among residents of Sitios Basdaku and Baskural where the two armed men were reportedly seen.

At least 25 families from Sitio Basdaku evacuated to the nearby Sta Rosa Elementary School at 9 p.m. on Thursday and spent the night there.

They started returning to their homes at 5 a.m. on Friday.

“The residents were very scared,” said Eyas.

He raised the possibility that the two were members of the bandit group Abu Sayyf Group members who were being hunted down in Inabanga town in Bohol after engaging the government troops in intense gunfire last week.

Inabanga is located across Olango Island and is a little over an hour travel by pumpboat.

“We suspect that the two were looking for medicines and food,” said Eyas.

But he admitted that the search for the two armed men will not be easy because the two could be hiding in the 1,100-hectare of mangrove forest at the bird sanctuary in San Vicente.

There is even possibility that they may have already left the island on Thursday night.

A female resident who lives near the boundary of Sitios Basdaku and Basrukal claimed seeing two armed men about 1 p.m. on Thursday.

The resident, Eyas said, was supposed to respond to the call of nature when she saw the two men about 20 meters away.

The two wore jackets and were bringing backpacks and long firearms. A piece of cloth covered their faces except for the eyes.

“One man appeared to be weak because he was being supported by his companion while walking,” said Eyas.

Alarmed, the female resident immediately reported what she saw to village officials in the barangay hall.

Eyas said they then called for police assistance.

Two hours later, around 20 government troopers from the Philippine Navy, Philippine Army and Special Weapons and Tactics arrived Barangay San Vicente around 3 p.m.

Bursts of gunfire were heard shortly after arrival.

Abu Sayyaf abducts Tausug soldier

From MindaNews (Apr 21): Abu Sayyaf abducts Tausug soldier

A Tausug soldier was abducted by suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf at the height of the military operations against the terrorist group Thursday morning, the Western Mindanao Command (WesMinCom) said.

Staff Sergeant Anni Siraji, an integree of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) into the Armed Fores of the Philippines (AFP) was “forcibly taken by about seven persons at 9:30 a.m. when on the road to Igasan in Patikul, Sulu.

The WestMinCom said the perpetrators are believed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf.

Siraji is from the 32nd Infantry Battalion under the Joint Task Force Sulu.
Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu said Siraji’s abduction “should not be a reason for us to back out but should further motivate us to continue our relentless and sustained focus military operations against the ASG and the rescue of all kidnap victims.”

WestMinCom chief Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr., said it was “frustrating that a Tausug soldier who wants a peaceful community and is working for it really hard so that an influx of progress will come in his home province, will have to be a victim of the bandits. Obviously, the Abu Sayyaf can victimize anyone, even someone from their own tribe.”

Galvez called on Sulu residents to “join us in this fight” to prevent the Abu Sayyaf from “creating fear and havoc.”

“For now, we will continue to hunt the perpetrators and the rest of the Abu Sayyaf. We will not stop until we get our soldier back to his family,” Galvez said.

All operating troops were immediately alerted and tasked to conduct pursuit and blocking operations.

Patikul town is one of the main targets of the military offensives since January as it is reported to be a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf, the WestMinCom said.

Soldier abducted by Abu Sayyaf terror group in S. Philippines

From Xinhua (Apr 21): Soldier abducted by Abu Sayyaf terror group in S. Philippines

A soldier was abducted by suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits in southern Philippines on Thursday, the military said.

The Philippine local media reported that the Western Mindanao Command identified the soldier's name is Anni Siraji and he has been helping the government in the peace and development efforts in Sulu province.

The military said Siraji was snatched by seven armed men believed to be the members of the Abu Sayyaf. A platoon of soldiers was immediately dispatched to look for Siraji, while security checkpoints were also put up in areas where the terrorists might take him.

Abu Sayyaf is one of the smallest and most violent terror groups operating in southern Philippines notorious for kidnappings, bombings and attacking civilians and the army.

NDFF/ILPS-Sison: Trump violates the Afghan people’s sovereignty and targets the civilian population with MOAB

ILPS anti-US propaganda statement posted to the National Democratic Front Website (Apr 19): Trump violates the Afghan people’s sovereignty and targets the civilian population with MOAB

By Prof. Jose Maria Sison, Chairperson
International Coordinating Committee
International League of Peoples’ Struggle

April 20, 2017

The International League of Peoples’ Struggles (ILPS) condemns in the strongest terms the latest US attack in Afghanistan using the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat. The April 13 air strike was completely unjustified. It was done with complete disregard for the national sovereignty of the Afghan people and with disproportionate force against the civilian population.

Its sole purpose was patently to showcase US imperialism’s weapons for mass destruction and capacity to cause carnage with impunity in violation of international law. As in the earlier air strike against Syria on April 5, US President Donald Trump issued the orders, making himself a war criminal, wantonly violating the sovereignty of another country and destroying the lives and property of the people.

The GBU-43/B bomb (Massive Ordinance Air Blast) dropped by a US cargo plane on an alleged Daesh stronghold in eastern Afghanistan is nicknamed MOAB or the “mother of all bombs” by the US military. The MOAB weighs 21,000 lbs and has a one-mile blast radius. It has to be delivered by a huge plane, like the C-130 Hercules, primarily the MC-130E Combat Talon I or MC-130H Combat Talon II variants,which are easy target for states like Iran and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that have good air defense systems. It can be used in a cowardly and expensive way against countries that do not have such systems.

The MOAB was developed in the lead up to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 but was never used in combat due to the costliness, vulnerability and potential scale of collateral damage it could do in densely populated areas. The MOAB’s intensive blast wave can obliterate anyone caught within its blast radius and ignite the oxygen in underground spaces, like tunnels or caves. So US military commanders wanted to test it’s power in the tunnels, bunkers and base camps dug into Afghan mountains, many of which were built by the Mujahidin funded by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) during the war against Soviet social imperialism.
The avowed purpose was clearly to test and demonstrate the raw power of this ordinance on the flimsy pretext of targeting a small militia of the ISIS in a geographically isolated corner of Afghanistan rather than the Taliban which is by far the more formidable fighting force in the country. The few scores of ISIS fighters reportedly killed by the MOAB posed absolutely no threat to the US to justify such a gigantic attack. The attack was in fulfilment of Trump’s campaign promise to “bomb the shit out of them” and to “go after their families”.

But another obvious purpose is to boost the stocks of the US weapons makers. They are applauding Trump. Most elated is the Alabama-based Dynetics, Inc. which was commissioned to manufacture the MOAB at the cost of $16 million per monstrous piece. The whole military industrial complex is eagerly expecting to divvy up the $639 billion US military budget for 2018, ten per cent more than what they got last year.

It is not just the military expenditure that is rising. Air strikes by US and US-backed Afghan forces increased by 50% in 2016 killing 590 civilians – almost double the number they killed in 2015. Not only are these air strikes by US forces becoming more frequent, they are also targeting more populated areas of the country. Altogether 11,000 civilians were killed in Afghanistan last year, of whom 3,512 were children.

After nearly 16 years of trying to subjugate the entire Afghan population and prop up a puppet government with no success in sight, US imperialism is now raising the threshold of violence in the country – exemplified by the MOAB explosion last week. This is against a people already brutalized by over three decades of imperialist aggression, first by Soviet social imperialism followed by the US.

True to the plundering character of monopoly capitalism, the overriding interest of the US and other imperialist powers is to dominate and control Afghanistan because of its strategic position between the huge oil and gas resources of Central Asia and the large fuel consumers China and India. Afghanistan itself has potential sources of strategic raw materials such as coal, gas, oil, copper, gold, silver, zinc, lithium and others.

It was the CIA that organized, trained and funded Afghan jihadists as a surrogate force to overthrow the pro-Soviet government in Kabul and then later to kick out Soviet troops. Some of these jihadist groups eventually gave birth to the Taliban which, together with Osama Bin Laden, became the excuse for the US to invade the country in 2003 in the name of waging a “war on terror”. But after 16 years of US occupation, the Taliban now controls 15% more territory than it did in 2015 while the US-backed Afghan government controls no more than 60 percent of the country. Despite the most advanced weaponry and extreme brutality of US imperialism, Afghanistan is proving to be the graveyard of empires.

The ILPS calls on all-freedom loving peoples of the world to condemn the escalation of war and indiscriminate violence by the US and US-led forces in Afghanistan and the entire region. The ILPS calls on all its member organizations and allies to issue statements of condemnation and carry out mass actions against the latest acts of US aggression which are creating more tension and disorder in the world.

We are hopeful that the people of Afghanistan will eventually achieve national and social liberation by having a revolutionary party of the proletariat, a people´s army and a broad united front of anti-imperialist and democratic forces. While they take their destiny into their own hands, the people of Afghanistan need the support of the world proletariat and people against imperialism, our common enemy.

NDF/ILPS-Sison: ILPS condems Trump’s escalation of wars, calls on the people to fight US imperialism

ILPS anti-US propaganda statement posted to the National Democratic Front Website (Apr 19): ILPS condems Trump’s escalation of wars, calls on the people to fight US imperialism


By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chairperson, International Coordinating Committee
April 19, 2017

The International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) condemns the escalation of wars of aggression by the US on a wide range of theatres under the new US President, Donald Trump, very early in his presidency.

Before becoming president, Donald Trump called the war in Iraq as a “big, fat mistake” and vowed not to go into military misadventures abroad like Bush and Obama had done before him.

And yet only four months into his presidency, Donald Trump has already embarked on military misadventures abroad committing one war crime after another. In March alone, more than 1,000 civilians died as a result of air strikes by the so-called US-led Coalition in Iraq and Syria.

Barely a month after his inauguration, not satisfied with the aggression long carried out by Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, Trump authorized the Navy SEALs to attack a village in Yemen killing an eight-year old girl and 24 other civilians including women and children. The operation complete with air strikes from helicopter gunships razed houses to the ground where families cowered in fear.

Trump bombed Yemen in just one week in March more than Obama had done in a year. Five million people in Yemen are on the verge of starvation because the US and its allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are blocking all land routes, airports and the coasts preventing food supplies from coming through. This is virtual genocide and a serious war crime that is largely being ignored by the western media.

Trump has escalated coalition air strikes in Iraq where a growing pattern of high civilian casualties has been reported. A bombing raid on March 27 in Mosul killed around 200 civilians. Amnesty International has charged the US military of failing to take the necessary precautions to prevent civilian deaths in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.

Trump has approved the relaxing of the rules of engagement by the US military in Somalia that is bound to result in the increase of civilian casualties. The US has been conducting a shadow war against so-called Islamists since 2007 in the strategically-located country at the Horn of Africa using Ethiopia as proxy. Obama had regularly used drones from US bases in neighboring Djibouti to strike at al-Shabab militants.

On April 5, Trump ordered 59 Tomahawk missiles to be fired into a Syrian airbase based on a false pretext, killing scores of civilians in a nearby village. One month before that, US drones fired Hellfire missiles and dropped a bomb on a mosque in West Aleppo where 200 people were praying killing 40 and injuring another 120.

But there has not been an uproar in the UN and from the “international community” especially from the “civilized countries” of the West that are quick to condemn Assad of “war crimes” that he has not even committed. No attention has been paid to the evident false flag operation of the CIA-directed White Helmets and jihadists who simulated a chemical attack and murdered children in the process. Neither has there been concern about the US attacking a sovereign state, with a mutual defense treaty with the nuclear power Russia.

Trump approved the dropping of the most powerful non-nuclear bomb available in the US military arsenal on a complex of caves and tunnels in Afghanistan supposedly being used by ISIS terrorists. This is the first time that the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, known as the “mother of all bombs,” has been used in combat. The bomb is capable of devastating the area around its landing of a radius of more than 1.6 km.

Trump praised the US military for a “very successful” mission. He further confirmed that he himself authorized the US military he called “the , greatest military in the world” to do their job. Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai called it an “inhuman act, a brutal act against an innocent country, against innocent people, against our land, against our sovereignty, against our soil and against our future.”

Trump has boasted of sending what he calls an “armada” of battleships to intimidate the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and has threatened to make a preemptive nuclear strike against that country. The US Navy strike group is composed of the nuclear-powered flagship aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, two destroyers and a cruiser accompanied by submarines.

The DPRK has responded by saying that it is prepared to counter the US war provocations and has focused its nuclear sight not only on enemy bases in South Korea and the Pacific but also in the US mainland. It celebrated the 105th birthday anniversary by highlighting the people’s resistance to US imperialism and displaying the all-round achievements of the DPRK, including its nuclear capabilities for self-defense and deterrence.

Russia and China have dispatched intelligence-gathering vessels from their navies to chase the US Navy strike group to monitor the fleet’s movements and to send a clear warning to Washington against any precipitate action. Any kind of US aggression against the DPRK with the use of massive conventional or nuclear weapons has grave implications and consequences, especially to China, which has a treaty of mutual aid and cooperation with the DPRK and which would also suffer not only from nuclear fallout but also the flood of refugees from the DPRK.

Trump is now flagrantly running counter to his electoral campaign promise of avoiding the high cost of aggressive wars and making America First by reviving and protecting US manufacturing. His actions show that he is completely in the pockets of the military-industrial complex (in fact he is an investor in Raytheon missiles) and is pliant in the hands of the so-called deep state that is at the service of his own class, US monopoly bourgeoisie.

All these saber-rattling and bellicose actions coming from the US are not a sign of strength and confidence but of an imperialist power on a steep decline and in desperation in an increasingly multipolar world. Such a moribund imperialist power can become more reckless and aggressive in the use of naked force in a vain attempt to retain its hegemonic position.

In recent decades, after the end of the bipolar world of the Cold War, US imperialism has proven itself as the super-terrorist power, killing and wounding millions of people and destroying their homes, livelihood and social infrastructure. It has devastated countries in Eastern Europe (Yugoslavia), Central Asia (Afghanistan), the Middle-East (Iraq and Syria) and North Africa (Libya). It has subverted elected governments in Asia, Africa and Latin America, bullied small nations everywhere, destabilized whole continents and violated many of the universally accepted norms of conduct in international relations.

The ILPS condemns the imperialist policies and actions of the superterrorist US and its demagogic, deranged and destructive president. The US is culpable for the violation of the national sovereignty and democratic rights of peoples, the wanton plunder of their human and natural resources and the rise of state terrorism and imperialist wars of aggression. The ILPS calls on all its member-organizations, allies and the broad masses of the people of the world to fight and defeat US imperialism through various possible and necessary forms of revolutionary struggle.

CPP/NPA-Ifugao: Pagpupugay kay Leonardo “Ka Zola” Manahan

NPA propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines Website (Apr 15):
Pagpupugay kay Leonardo “Ka Zola” Manahan

NPA-Ifugao (Nona Del Rosario Command)

15 April 2017

Pinakamataas na pagpupugay ang iginagawad ng NDRC-NPA kay LEONARDO ‘Ka Zola’ MANAHAN na namatay noong 14 April, sa edad na 48 taon, nang dahil sa malubhang pagkakasakit. Si Ka Zola ay nirerespeto bilang isang namumunong kadre ng Partido at magiting na mandirigma ng Bagong Hukbong Bayan. Nakilala siya sa mga alyas na Ka Nante, Ka Ugis, at Ka Emil, sa panahong nanilbihan siya sa iba’t-ibang larangang gerilya ng Ilocos-Cordillera.

Si Ka Zola ay nagmula sa uring peti-burgesya. Lumaki siya sa piling ng kanyang mahal na lola habang ang kanyang nanay ay namasukan bilang katulong at iba pa para buhayin siya. Namasukan din si Ka Zola sa iba’t ibang trabaho para makapag-aral ng kolehiyo sa University of the East (UE) sa Maynila.

Siya ay naorganisa sa hanay ng Kabataang-Estudyante. Naging mahusay siyang lider-masa at propagandista sa loob ng League of Filipino Students(LFS) at College Editors’Guild of the Philippines(CEGP). Gumampan siya bilang kalihim ng seksyon sa Polytechnic University of the Philippines(PUP) at kasapi ng Pambansang Kawanihan ng Kabataan at Estudyante. Dito siya nakilala bilang ‘Tolayts’ at ‘Dario’.

Taong 2003 nang sumampa si Ka Zola sa Bagong Hukbong Bayan sa larangan ng North Ilocos Sur- South Ilocos Norte-Western Abra. Nahuli siya sa labanan at ikinulong ng kaaway noong 2005 pero nanatiling matatag ang kanyang paninindigang magrebolusyon. Pagkalaya sa kulungan, nailipat si Ka Zola sa Western Mountain Province kung saan may panahong namuno siya bilang Kalihim ng Komite ng larangan.

Noong 2010-2016 ay naging Kagawad siya ng Komiteng namumuno sa Sub-Rehiyong kinapalooban ng Western Mountain Province, at siya ang itinalaga ng Komite na maging Political Officer ng yunit ng NPA na nagsisilbing Sentro de Grabidad ng Sub-Rehiyon. Mula 2013 hanggang sa pagkamatay niya ay nanilbihan din si Ka Zola bilang miyembro ng Komiteng Rehiyon, at nitong huling bahagi ng 2016, siya ang itinalaga ng Komite na maging Kalihim ng Larangan sa Ifugao.

Maaalala ng mga kasama si Ka Zola bilang kasamang laging handang magpaliwanag ng mga prinsipyo at konsepto. Ikinalulugod ng mga kasama ang kanyang mga kwento ng iba’t-ibang mga karanasan mula sa pagkilos niya sa urban hanggang sa iba’t-ibang sonang gerilya. Damang-dama ng bawat elemento ang kanyang pagmamalasakit sa kanila-lagi siyang handang magpayo, makipagkuwentuhan at makipagbiruan. Aktibo din siya sa gawaing pangkultura lalo na sa pagpapalaganap ng mga rebolusyunaryong kanta.

Kaya niyang umangkop sa estilo at katangian ng iba’t-ibang kasama para mahikayat silang magbukas ng kanilang mga iniisip at binabagahe. Ganun din namang magiliw siya sa pakikitungo sa masa. Lagi siyang aktibo sa pakikipagtalastasan, pagpopropaganda at ahitasyon sa kanila.

Magiit makipagtunggalian si Ka Zola, tumataas at madiin ang boses na animo’y nasa debating club siya. Pero ito ay dahil sa kanyang kagustuhang matalas na matukoy ang tamang linya o maabot ang tamang pagsusuri. Minsan din ay mabigat siyang mamuna dahil gusto niyang ipatimo sa mga kasama ang kanilang pagkakamali.

Kahanga-hanga ang katangian ni Ka Zola na magpursige sa pagrerebolusyon at sa armadong pakikibaka kahit pa man nangahulugan ito ng maraming sakripisyo: bihira niyang makapiling ang mga mahal sa buhay, matagal din niyang pinagtiyagaang bawiin ang lakas ng braso niyang natamaan sa labanan, pinagtiisan niya ang ma-opera para sa luslos na nakuha din niya sa pagiging hukbo. Hindi niya iniinda ang hirap ng paglalakad kahit pa sinumpong siya ng gout. Nakakahawa ang positibong aktitud ng kasama maski sa mga gawaing teknikal.

Huwaran at hamon ang buhay ni Ka Zola sa atin, lalo na sa kabataan, na ialay ang sarili sa armadong pakikibaka. Inspirasyon siya ng lahat ng hukbo at rebolusyunaryo na magpanatili at magpakahusay pa.

Hindi na natin maririnig pang muli ang pag-awit at paggitara ni Ka Zola. Wala na siyang maidadagdag pa sa mga dati niyang pagbabalita, pangaral, kwento, kantiyaw, at biro sa atin. Pero ang ipinundar niya sa rebolusyon ay mananatili, lalakas at lalawak pa sa patuloy na pagkilos at pag-aarmas ng bawat hukbo at masang lumalaban.

CPP/NDF-SM: Oppose Lapanday-PNP collusion, install landless tillers in Tagum City now!

NDF-Southern Mindanao propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines Website (Apr 19): Oppose Lapanday-PNP collusion, install landless tillers in Tagum City now!

Rubi del Mundo, Spokesperson
NDFP Southern Mindanao

19 April 2017

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines in Southern Mindanao Region condemns the brazen complicity between the PNP and the landlord comprador Lorenzo-owned Lapanday Foods Inc. (LFC) to thwart the GRP’s own land reform own machinery and deprive peasants just ownership over their lands. The NDFP also challenges GRP Pres. Rodrigo Duterte to pave the way for the immediate occupation of the farmer-beneficiaries and make good on the promise of his peace panel to jointly sign the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-economic Reforms and distribute lands freely nationwide.

Not content in using terror and scare tactics when the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries, Inc. (MARBAI) first occupied their lands last year, LFC has currently deployed around 700 company guards and conscripted paramilitary Lumad groups to fortify the banana plantation on April 18. The guards were clearly in combat mode, ready to violently foil peasants, their families and supporters who only have their ranks to protect them from any fierce dispersal.

Yesterday’s events clearly showed that landed gentries such as the Lorenzos can get away with shielding their greedy business interests by using the PNP to counteract the peasants’ militant action and undermine the GRP’s own Department of Agrarian Reform. Acting on the orders of LFC and with tacit approval from the duplicitous PNP Chief Ronaldo dela Rosa, PRO 11 Police Chief Superintendent Manuel Gaerlan bald-facedly defied the DAR order to disarm LFC’s company guards and ignored the DAR’s installation activity.

The PNP has been a consistent private mercenary of the LFC in countervailing the peasants’ struggle. Its personnel did nothing when armed guards of the Lorenzos indiscriminately fired at the peasants and severely wounding nine of them last December 13. The PNP stood idly by as the peasants were forcibly evicted from their own lands on December 31. Different farmers organizations and advocacy groups who came to support the peasants of MARBAI were blocked, interrogated, harassed—some were even forced to go back to their towns—by PNP and AFP troops around the region.

It would be a test of sincerity on the part of the Duterte regime who expressed willingness to sign a jointly-approved program on land reform and socio-economic reforms with the NDFP by exercising its political will to give lands to the long dispossessed peasants like MARBAI. It should not only empower DAR to implement land distribution in Southern Mindanao and but also elsewhere in the country. It should also punish despotic landlords like the Lorenzos who have long impoverished and made peasants and peasant workers heavily indebted due to onerous contracts such as Agri-Venture Agreements.

We hail the landless tillers of Madaum for waging a bold struggle against the perceived powerful landlord to smash the fetters of feudal exploitation perpetuated against them for decades. We, are likewise, calling on all revolutionary forces, allies and well-meaning GRP officials to stand with the peasants and mobilize all forms of support to defeat the fascist posturing of the Lorenzos and ensure a peaceful installation of the landless tillers.

The revolutionary government in Southern Mindanao warns the Lorenzos, their armed groups and the PNP to desist from exercising or abetting violence against the just demands of the landless tillers. The People’s Democratic Government is ready and able to defend the peasants in the event that the situation should result to anything other than their ownership of the land.

Armed Force Western Command now in full alert

From Update Philippines (Apr 20): Armed Force Western Command now in full alert

Armed Forces of the Philippine Western Command (WESCOM) is now on heightened alert. The military command also activated Joint Task Unit Coron to make sure its area of responsibility is free from any terrorist activities.

Joint Task Unit Coron is composed of the Marines, Navy, Air Force, Philippine National Police and Philippine Coast Guard personnel to oversee security operations in the area purposely to prevent kidnapping activities.

WESCOM said it is now on heightened alert to ensure that peace and security, and the Palaweños are protected from terrorist acts. “WESCOM is now intensifying target hardening on probable targets for kidnap for ransom.”

“Maritime Patrols on sea lanes of communication and mobility corridors have been intensified to deter KFRG from conducting kidnapping activities especially in known tourist destinations. Random checkpoints,mobile patrols and AFP visibility in places of convergence have been initiated for public safety,” WESCOM said.

It is also coordinating with the resort owners, national police and Philippine Coast Guard “for collaborative and synergestic actions to deter KFRG incidents in the province.”

“We call on the people of Palawan to remain vigilant, calm and are encourage to report any suspicious looking individuals to the nearest AFP and PNP stations for appropriate action. The key to a secure and safe Palawan is the collaborative and synergistic actions of all stakeholders,” WESCOM said.

US Army posthumously awards Filipino Scout

From Update Philippines (Apr 20): US Army posthumously awards Filipino Scout

United States Army Pacific (USARPAC), April 19, posthumously awarded the Purple Heart medal to Filipino Scout Private First Class Adriano Alagon died while serving with the Philippine Scouts during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. He served under the 14th Engineer Battalion, Philippine Scouts.

US Army Pacific commander General Robert B. Brown and Commanding General and USARPAC Command Sgt. Maj. Bryant Lambert presented the medal to Elisea Alagon Jamoralin, daughter of Alagon.

“Brown presented Jamoralin with a replacement Purple Heart medal to replace the original that was lost during the turmoil and chaos of post-World War II Philippines,” USARPAC said.

United States Army Pacific photo

Russian guided missile cruiser arrives in Manila

From Rappler (Apr 20): Russian guided missile cruiser arrives in Manila

The Russian Navy makes its second goodwill visit to the Philippines this year   

Naval Group of Russia's Pacific Fleet Makes Port Call in Philippines' Manila

From Sputnik News (Apr 20):  Naval Group of Russia's Pacific Fleet Makes Port Call in Philippines' Manila

According to a spokesman for the Pacific Fleet, a group of warships from Russia's Pacific Fleet on Thursday arrived at the port of Manila.

Tugboats escort the Russian Navy guided missile cruiser Varyag, upon arrival for a goodwill visit, at Pier 15, South Harbor, Metro Manila, Philippines April 20, 2017

A group of warships from Russia's Pacific Fleet on Thursday arrived at the port of Manila, where the ships' crew will conduct a meeting with the leadership of the Philippine Navy, a spokesman for the Pacific Fleet Vladimir Matveev said.

"Today, a group of the Pacific Fleet's warships, comprising the flagship of the Pacific Fleet, the Guards missile cruiser Varyag and the Pechenga tanker arrived at the port of Manila (the Philippines). Within the framework of the visit, the sailors of the Pacific Fleet will meet with the representatives of the Philippine Navy's leadership and with the Russian ambassador to the Philippines," Matveev said.
According to the official, the naval mission of Russian warships in the Asia-Pacific region started on April 1 and is aimed at enhancing naval ties with countries in the region.

He added that Varyag and Pechenga had already paid a visit to the South Korean port of Busan earlier this month.

Army in Albay has a new commander

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 20): Army in Albay has a new commander

The former deputy commander of the Philippine Army’s 901st Infantry Brigade in Albay has become the unit’s commanding officer.

Colonel Alden Juan C. Masagca was installed as the new commanding officer of 901st IB based in Villahermosa village in Daraga town, 2nd

 Lieutenant Rachelle C. Villaluz, 901st IB spokesperson, said.

Masagca was the former deputy commander to Brigadier General Claudio Yucot, who retired from service on April 16.

Masagca is a member of Philippine Military Academy’s “Sinagtala” class 1986, Villaluz said.

PNP readies signal jammers for Asean meetings in Bohol

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 18): PNP readies signal jammers for Asean meetings in Bohol


The Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7) has secured mobile phone signal jammers in time for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) trade ministers’ meetings which starts today in Bohol.

But Chief Supt. Noli Taliño, director of PRO-7, was tight-lipped on whether or not they would use the jammers which prevent cellular phones from receiving signals from base stations.
“It will all depend on the situation as the meetings progress. I can’t give you the details for now,” he said in a phone interview on Tuesday.

Policemen were deployed on Panglao Island in Bohol by batches starting last Monday, April 17.
Taliño said at least 3,200 policemen will secure the participants of the Asean trade ministers’ meeting in Cebu.

“We expect the full deployment of policemen by Wednesday,” he said.

Despite the gunfight between government troopers and armed men believed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf in Inabanga town, Bohol, last April 11, Taliño said the delegates have nothing to worry about their security.

“We must remember that the tension is confined in Inabanga town. Bohol is generally peaceful,” he said.

Taliño said some participants of the Asean meetings expressed their desire to move around the province and visit local tourist spots after the event.

The PRO-7 director said all the delegates and participants will be escorted by policemen until they leave Bohol.

 The Asean meetings on Panglao Island, Bohol, is from April 19 to 22.

The same security measures the police used during the Asean meetings in Cebu will be used in Bohol.

Taliño said the areas near the venue of the Asean meetings in Bohol have been declared “no-sail, no-fly zones” during the duration of the event.

Taliño said their counterparts in the Philippine Coast Guard, the Maritime Police and the Philippine Navy are guarding the shores of Bohol, while members of the Philippine Air Force are monitoring the skies.

Less than 300 delegates are expected to join the Asean trade ministers’ meetings in Bohol.

“I’m asking our people to be vigilant and alert at all times. If you notice suspicious-looking persons and unusual events, report it immediately to the police,” said Taliño, who is currently in Bohol to monitor the Asean meetings and the ongoing operations to locate and arrest the remaining members of the armed group that entered Inabanga last week.

Last April 11, armed men engaged government troopers in a gunfight in the mountain village of Napo, Inabanga town, Bohol province.

At least six suspected ASG members, three soldiers and one policeman were killed.

Army, police step up security amid bomb threats in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 20): Army, police step up security amid bomb threats in Maguindanao

Police and military forces in Maguindanao province have intensified security measures along the highways following attempts by lawless groups to set off roadside bombings against government forces and civilians.

Senior Supt. Agustin Tello, Maguindanao police provincial director, said Thursday that joint police and soldiers from the Army's 601st Infantry Brigade have taken measures in a bid to foil the attempt of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) to hurt combatants and civilians.

Tello said the steps were taken after the Tacurong City bombings that left 16 injured. He also cited an intelligence information that the BIFF will stage more bomb attacks.

On Wednesday morning, suspected BIFF elements set off an improvised bomb along the national highway in Barangay Nabundas, Datu Shariff Saydona town, about 10 kilometers from the Maguindanao police provincial headquarters here.

Tello said the target of roadside bombing were government forces who regularly patrol the area, a known bailiwick of the BIFF, a breakaway armed group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

But BIFF spokesperson Abu Misri Mama denied his group had a hand in the bombings against soldiers or against civilians.

Tello said the police and soldiers are bent on securing civilians and commuters along major thoroughfares in Maguindanao.

Pres. Duterte’s visit boosts Bohol’s fight vs ASG

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 20): Pres. Duterte’s visit boosts Bohol’s fight vs ASG

President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to Bohol on Wednesday has sent a strong message that boosts the province’s consolidated effort in hunt for the remaining Abu Sayyaf members on the loose after last week's clash in Inabanga.

Governor Edgar Chatto said the President’s visit boosted the morale of the soldiers and the police in Bohol, as well as the entire Boholano community that faces the challenge of capturing the remaining eight ASG members led by Inabanga native, Joselito Melloria.

Melloria has survived and fled to the hinterlands of the town after the encounter with government troops on April 11.

Chatto said President Duterte’s visit to Bohol sends a strong message to those who have tried to sow terror in peace-loving Bohol and the entire nation.

The President was briefed that a concerned citizen has offered a PHP100,000 bounty for each of the ASG survivors, but the Chief Executive raised the bounty to PHP1 million each, or just for information that would lead to the capture of the bandits.

He was also informed of the initial leads that the intelligence branch of the Bohol Provincial Police obtained on Tuesday afternoon.

Chatto also said that during the closed-door meeting at the multi-purpose hall of the Philippine Ports Authority here, President Duterte ordered the military and police to exert all efforts to capture the bandits “dead or alive”.

This was reiterated by the President during an interaction with the media after the meeting.

Chatto thanked the President for standing by Bohol in this trying time and for being concerned with the security of the province and the country.

The governor noted that President Duterte made a last-minute decision in the wee hours of Wednesday to drop by Bohol in the afternoon, diverting from his official itinerary, just to get a thorough briefing on the Inabanga clash and to ensure that security arrangements are in place for the ongoing ASEAN meeting in Panglao.

The President arrived with Cabinet secretaries in tow and stayed for a few hours, during which he tackled the Inabanga incident with Chatto, Inabanga Mayor Josephine Socorro Jumamoy, National Police Chief Ronald dela Rosa, National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Undersecretary for Defense Operations Cesar Yano, Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Gen. Eduardo Año, and interior department officer-in-charge Catalino Cuy.

Peace-keeping groups came in full force for the closed-door meeting where they tackled the Inabanga incident, according to Chatto.

The ASEAN coordination group was also there, led by retired Chief Supt. Josephus Angan, consultant of the ASEAN National Organizing Council. Angan represented Ambassador Marciano Paynor Jr., presidential chief protocol officer and secretary general of the National Organizing Council for the ASEAN 2017 summit.

From the Bohol side, Police provincial director Felipe Natividad, 302nd Infantry Brigade commander Col. Arnulfo Matanguihan, and Tagbilaran City Vice Mayor Jose Antonio Veloso joined Chatto and Jumamoy in the meeting.

The cabinet secretaries who came with the President also attended the meeting, among them Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr., Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, and Cuy.

President Duterte stayed for a few hours in Bohol and left with his Cabinet secretaries, after seeing that security arrangements are in place.

Dela Rosa stayed in Bohol for a few more hours and proceeded to Barangay Ulbujan in Calape to visit the family of slain SWAT team member, PO1 Rey Anthony Nazareno, and confer honors on him.

Members of the Presidential Management Staff who came a day earlier had already visited the Nazareno family, bringing a bouquet of flowers and financial assistance from Malacañang.

Bato returned to Tagbilaran for dinner with the governor at the People’s Mansion and left in the evening via Cebu.

All set for PHL-US military exercise in Eastern Visayas

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 20): All set for PHL-US military exercise in Eastern Visayas

It’s all system go for the conduct of “Balikatan” (shoulder-to-shoulder) military exercise between the Philippines and the United States in this city and in Guiuan, Eastern Samar with the arrival of foreign troops.

Lt. Col. Miguel Ceballos, chief of the Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Division civil military operations confirmed that US soldiers would continue to arrive to this city this week for the formal opening of Balikatan 2017 on May 2 in Ormoc and May 8 in Guiuan.

“This year’s Balikatan has no actual military exercises. They are here purely for humanitarian works,” Ceballos said on Thursday.

US troops and Filipino soldiers of the Army’s 546thEngineering Construction Battalion will rehabilitate school buildings and health centers in two areas badly hit by super typhoon "Yolanda" in 2013.

Soldiers will also participate in medical missions and first aid training in the month-long “Balikatan” exercise.

Ceballos said that US troops would stay inside army camps after daily activities as part of security protocol.

“Balikatan” 2017 in Ormoc City is the first in Eastern Visayas region.

Troops confirm private armies-rebels ties in Samar

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 20): Troops confirm private armies-rebels ties in Samar

The Philippine Army confirmed the conspiracy between the New People’s Army (NPA) and private armed groups in perpetrating violence and extortion in Samar province.

Major Gen. Raul Farnacio, the Army’s 8th Infantry Division commander, said on Thursday that private armies are typically composed of “moonlighting” members of communist rebels.

The army official disclosed that aside from extorting businessmen and politicians in Samar province, lawless groups has been receiving financial support from rich politicians as payment for “neutralizing” political rivals.

Some politicians regularly supply food to private armies and rebels, said Farnacio. They are also provided with high powered firearms, handguns, grenades, communication equipment, and medical treatment for the wounded.

“Whether they call it extortion or protection money, the fact remains that it comes from those in power. This all boils down to money because they have to sustain their operations,” he said.

This money makes some private army and NPA leaders in Samar wealthy, Farnacio said.

Task Force Cagasmas, a group of army and police directed to disband the private armies, has identified 132 private armies in Samar with concentrations in Calbayog City, Sta. Margarita, San Jorge, Gandara, and Matuginao towns.

The official admitted that it’s very challenging to disband private armed groups because of protection, but this is possible with the full cooperation of residents.

2 freed soldiers given more time with family to recover from trauma

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 20): 2 freed soldiers given more time with family to recover from trauma

The 10th Infantry Division is giving the two soldiers released by the New People’s Army (NPA) more time with their families to help them recover from physical and psychological trauma.

Capt. Rhyan Batchar, 10th ID spokesperson, said they are glad that the NPA "has come to their senses and decided to release the two abducted soldiers."

Batchar noted the communist rebels "treacherously" abducted Sgt Solaiman Calocop and Pfc Samuel Garay of the 39th Infantry Battalion last February 2 while the peace talks were ongoing and the unilateral ceasefires still in effect.Batchar said the released soldiers were immediately brought to the Matanao municipal hall and presented to Mayor Vincent Fernandez.

The two were later brought to Camp Panacan Station Hospital in Davao City for physical and medical evaluation and debriefing, he added.

Abu Sayyaf member surrenders in Basilan

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 20): Abu Sayyaf member surrenders in Basilan

A member of the dreaded Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) has surrendered to the military in the island province of Basilan, the Western Mindanao Command ( Westmincom) announced on Thursday.

Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Westmincom chief, identified the Abu Sayyaf surrenderee as Nasser Sagap alias Sinbad, 20, a resident of Barangay Limbu Upas, Tipo-Tipo.

Galvez said Sagap is known to be under the group of ASG leader Furuji Indama.

Galvez said Sagap surrendered to the troops of the 18th Infantry Battalion under the Joint Task Force Basilan at around 2 p.m. Wednesday in Barangay Bohe Pahu, Ungkaya Pukan.

He said Sagap turned over a caliber .30 M1 Garand rifle with one clip and four rounds of ammunition.

“This only manifests that our troops are already gaining grounds with the combat operations launched by the units and the growing support of the local government and the people in Basilan. The Abu Sayyaf bandits are now compelled to leave their bailiwicks as we work closely with the local government and our partners to turn the strongholds of the Abu Sayyaf into peaceful communities,” Galvez said.

“We want to work for peace without the use of arms and prevent bloodshed and in this light, we are encouraging other Abu Sayyaf bandits, as Filipinos, to lay down their arms and join the government in working for a peaceful and progressive Mindanao,” he added.

Last week, 11 Abu Sayyaf members from the southernmost province of Tawi- Tawi also surrendered to the military. A rehabilitation program is being prepared for them.

Seventeen Abu Sayyaf bandits have surrendered to the government since January.

Galvez said the ageing and most senior leader of the Abu Sayyaf, Radullan Sahiron, has also sent surrender feelers to the military.

PHL Navy gets view of modern technology with foreign warship visits

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 20): PHL Navy gets view of modern technology with foreign warship visits

The Philippine Navy gets a view of modern warship technology and a unique training opportunity with the visit of foreign warships, such as the missile-guided cruiser Varyag, a Navy officer has said.

"It's a training opportunity. We can also view their technology as part of our modernization," Navy fleet staff for maintenance and repair, Capt. Leo Ramon Miado, said on the sidelines of the Varyag's arrival ceremony at Pier 15, South Harbor, Manila on Thursday morning.

The Varyag and her escorting tanker, the Pechenga, both of which belong to the Russian Pacific Fleet, are here for a goodwill visit until April 24.

This is the fourth visit of Russian warships in the Philippines since the arrival of missile cruiser Admiral Tributs and her tanker Boris Butoma last January.

The Varyag is the third ship of the Slava-class of guided-missile cruisers built for the Soviet Navy serving the Russian Navy.

She was launched in July 1983 and commissioned on Oct. 16, 1989, and is commanded by Capt. Alexsei U. Ulyanenko.

The Varyag has a displacement of 11,490 tons and has a length of 611.5 feet and a draft of 27.6 feet. Its propulsion system consists of four COGOG gas turbines, with two shafts giving it a top speed of 32 knots and a range of 10,000 nautical miles.

It is armed with a variety of anti-ship, anti-aircraft and anti-submarines missiles and gun systems.

Attack versions of AW-109 now a reliable platform for anti-ASG ops

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 20): Attack versions of AW-109 now a reliable platform for anti-ASG ops

The attack version of the AgustaWestland AW-109 "Power" helicopter is now becoming a reliable ground support aircraft for the military engaged in flushing out Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits and other lawless elements.

On April 11, Philippine Air Force attack (PAF) AW-109s provided covering fire for troops engaged with the band of ASG sub-leader Muanmar Askali alias "Abu Rami" invaded Sitio Ilaya, Barangay Napo, in Inabanga, Bohol.

In the said operation, the AW-109s conducted several airstrikes, demoralizing the bandits who were then forced to retreat from their enclaves leaving four of their members, including Askali, along with four high-powered firearms.

The attack versions of the AW-109s was also used in the series of airstrikes against the Maute Group in Lanao Del Sur early this year, causing severe casualties among the brigands.

The aircraft was also utilized in maritime patrols off Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi waters, foiling several ASG piracy attacks in the past months.

The first two PAF attack AW-109s were commissioned on Aug. 17, 2015 while the remaining six were formally accepted for PAF service on Dec. 5 of the same year.

The Philippines signed an eight-unit attack AW-109E order with AgustaWestland in 2013 for PHP3. 44 billion.

The eight attack AW-109es will remedy the dwindling number of MG-520 attack helicopters primarily used for close-air support missions.

Two attack models are also being operated by the Philippine Navy aside from the three units dedicated for utility and recon purposes.

The naval AW-109s were delivered in 2013 and 2015 and is worth PHP3.4 billion.

The AW-109 "Power" is a three-ton class eight seat helicopter powered by two Pratt and Whitney PW206C engines.

The spacious cabin is designed to be fitted with a number of modular equipment packages for quick and easy conversion between roles.

The aircraft’s safety features include a fully separated fuel system, dual hydraulic boost system, dual electrical systems and redundant lubrication and cooling systems for the main transmission and engines.

The AW-109 has established itself as the world’s best selling light-twin helicopter for maritime missions.

Its superior speed, capacity and productivity combined with reliability and ease of maintenance make it the most cost effective maritime helicopter in its class.

For shipboard operations the aircraft has a reinforced-wheeled landing gear and deck mooring points as well as extensive corrosion protection measures.

The ability to operate from small ships in high seas state enables the AW-109 to perform its mission when many other helicopters would be confined to the ship’s hangar.

Over 550 AW-109 "Power" and AW-109 light utility helicopters have been ordered for commercial, parapublic and military applications by customers in almost 50 countries.

ASG leader Radullan Sahiron tired of life on the run

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 20): ASG leader Radullan Sahiron tired of life on the run

One of the hunters of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) leader Radullan Sahiron has confirmed the willingness of the bandit chief to surrender due to old age, fatigue and incessant military pressure.

This was disclosed by Joint Task Force commander Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana in an interview Wednesday.

"There is no definite date yet for his surrender but he has expressed willingness to surrender and as reported to us, he is weak, tired and weary due to their constant movement from one place to another as our focused military operation against them is unceasing due to our constant rotation of our forces," said Sobejana in Filipino.

Sobejana declined to identify the ASG chief's emissary but said the latter is a close and respected friend of the bandit chieftain.

He also declined to give additional details as efforts are still ongoing to ensure that Sahiron's surrender will materialize.

"We believe that once Radullan surfaces (and surrenders), his followers and other (leaders) will follow," the military official added.

Should this develop, 70 percent of the ASG problem will be solved, the Joint Task Force Sulu commander stressed.

One of the conditions set by the ASG leader is that the Philippine government will not turn him over to the US government.

Sahiron is the leading figurehead of the ASG in Sulu after most of the founding leaders of the group were killed.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has set a USD1 million reward for the capture of Sahiron.

Sobejana said that one of the conditions they set is that the ASG chief should also convince his followers to surrender also.

The total number of surrendered Abu Sayyaf members has reached 16, following the order of President Rodrigo Duterte to finish off the bandit group in six-month period. The deadline will lapse on June 30.

There are over 40 Abu Sayyaf members who have been killed in the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi since January.

Syrian female 'ISIS member' still in PHL -- DOJ

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 20): Syrian female 'ISIS member' still in PHL -- DOJ

One of the two suspected members of terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) who were arrested by authorities last month is still in the country, a Department of Justice (DOJ) official said Thursday.

Justice Undersecretary Erickson Balmes confirmed that Syrian national Rahaf Zina remains in the country as the Bureau of Immigration is arranging her flight back home with the assistance of the Syrian Embassy.

BI spokesperson Ma. Antonette Bucasas-Mangrobang said Zina is still in the country due to “airline ticket problem”, though she did not provide details on the matter.

“She has yet to be deported due to airline ticket problem (and) it is not the bureau who procures the ticket,” Mangrobang noted.

It will be recalled that the BI Board of Commissioners led by its chief, Jaime Morente ordered the deportation of Zina last April 11 saying her “presence in the country poses risk to public interest.”

The order also directed the inclusion of Zina’s name in the BI’s blacklist with the remarks of being “undesirable and or undocumented.”

Morente said Zina failed to present a valid passport or travel document for her stay in the country when she was nabbed by immigration authorities along with Kuwaiti national Husayn Al-Dhafiri last March 25 in Taguig City.

Al-Dhafiri was already deported to Kuwait last April 14.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II previously said that based on information provided by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, Al-Dhafiri who also goes by the alias Warsh Al-Kuwaiti and Abu Muslim Al Kuwaiti has links to terrorists.

Aguirre said the information they received also showed that Zina is a widow of slain ISIS commander, Abu Jandal Al-Kuwaiti.

DFA checking report of alleged Chinese harassment of PHL fishers

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 20): DFA checking report of alleged Chinese harassment of PHL fishers

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is checking into reports that the Chinese coast guard had harassed Filipinos fishing in the disputed West Philippine Sea, also called South China Sea.

“We are currently verifying this report with our security agencies,” said DFA spokesman Robespierre Bolivar in a statement.

Some fishermen in Mariveles, Bataan were reportedly harassed by Chinese coast guard.

Several countries have made competing claims over the West Philippine Sea, including China, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.

Bolivar said there are mechanisms set up to tackle issues related to the sea row.

“With the current positive momentum in Philippine-China relations, we have mechanisms in place where the Philippines can raise such issues,” he said.

These include the bilateral consultation mechanism, which is meant to tackle issues of concern in the West Philippine Sea, he added.

Bolivar earlier said the West Philippine Sea would be among the important topics to be discussed by the leaders of ASEAN members when they meet here next week.

The Philippines will host the 30th ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings from April 26 to 29.

PNP-HPG deploys 426 personnel to provide security convoy for ASEAN summit delegates

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 20): PNP-HPG deploys 426 personnel to provide security convoy for ASEAN summit delegates

The Philippine National Police Highway Patrol Group (PNP-HPG) is deploying 426 personnel to provide security for the heads of states who will attend the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Summit next week.

The PNP-HPG will also provide security to the spouses of the respective heads of states and ministers, as well as for the city tours to be conducted.

PNP-HPG spokesman Senior Insp. Jem Delantes on Thursday said that they will prepare 12 convoy packages for the heads of states.

The PNP-HPG will provide 82 convoy security package for the safe movement of the heads of states, spouses, ministers and parliamentary assembly members.

For the spouses of the heads of states, there will be 11-convoy package, 10 for the ministers and nine for the city tours.

The PNP-HPG will spearhead the security in the convoy of the delegates who will attend the ASEAN Summit.

Delantes said that under the task group diplomatic delegates convoy security, about 426 PNP-HPG personnel will be deployed in the convoy of the delegates and heads of states for the ASEAN Summit.

He added that a convoy will also be deployed for other delegates who would either travel in Metro Manila or attend other meetings.

Likewise, the PNP-HPG also appealed to the public to cooperate with the security measures to be implemented, especially in the routes where the convoy of the delegates will pass.

AFP verifying reports PHL fishers harassed off Union Bank

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 20): AFP verifying reports PHL fishers harassed off Union Bank

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is verifying reports that alleged members of the Chinese coast guard have harassed Filipino fishermen fishing off Union Bank last week.

"We are still validating that story. We also heard that but it's hard to give an official statement without getting first the facts and verifying the alleged incident. In coordination with other agencies particularly the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), we will validate it and thereafter take the proper actions," said AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Eduardo Año on Thursday.

Año said Union Bank, a submerged feature, is near Gaven Reef, a feature holding some Chinese structures.

Reports said that the incident took place somewhere off Mariveles, Bataan.

The harassed fishermen came from La Union.

4 PNP officers promoted to star rank

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 20): 4 PNP officers promoted to star rank

Four officers of the Philippine National Police (PNP) were promoted to the start rank (Chief Superintendent).

The rank of Chief Superintendent is equivalent to Brigadier General in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

PNP chief Director General Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa led the conferment of rank ceremony Thursday for the newly-promoted officers.

Dela Rosa administered the oath to the four new police generals, including PNP Public Information Office (PIO) chief and spokesman Chief Supt. Dionardo Carlos.

Aside from Carlos, also promoted were Chief Supt. Jose Briones of the Police Regional Office in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (PRO-ARMM), Chief Supt. Lito Petallano of the PRO5 (Bicol Region) and Chief Supt. Debold Sinas.

Troops find abandoned Abu Sayyaf camp in Basilan

From the Philippine Star (Apr 20): Troops find abandoned Abu Sayyaf camp in Basilan

Troops found the abandoned camp while on a tracking operation against the bandit group. Westmincom, released, file
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — Government troops seized an Abu Sayyaf camp during operations Sunday in the hinterland of Sumisip town in Basilan, a military official said Thursday.
The ground forces also recovered assorted war materiel and camouflage attire belonging to the Abu Sayyaf group in the nearby town of Maluso on the same day, said Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr.
He said the elements of the 68th Infantry Battalion under Joint Task Force Basilan chief Col. Juvymax Uy were on a tracking operation when they discovered the Abu Sayyaf lair at Barangay Cabcaban, Sumisip town Sunday afternoon.
Galvez said the troops reported the camp was hastily abandoned by the Abu Sayyaf militants who detected the approaching soldiers.
The government troops initially encountered the Abu Sayyaf in the same area on April 11. Eight militia members were killed and 11 others — six soldiers and five militiamen — were wounded in the clash.
The soldiers described the abandoned camp as having three guard posts and 38 bunkers.
Separate forces, composed of Army Rangers and militia also recovered a single-shot rifle, a shotgun, assorted ammunition, a radio transceiver, and battle dress attire (BDA) uniforms belonging to the Abu Sayyaf at uphill Barangay Abong Abong, Maluso town.
Galvez said soldiers from the 15th Special Forces Company also stumbled on an arms cache while tracking down the Abu Sayyaf militants along the mangrove area of Langas Island off Maluso town last Tuesday.
They found an M16 rifle with a magazine, and an M1 Garand with an ammunition clip and a bandolier wrapped in a sack.
Locals told the troops they noticed two people bringing the sack with the suspicious items.
According to Uy, the civilians also said one of the two had his arm wrapped with a bandage.
The military suspects that the two suspects were among the followers of Abu Sayyaf group sub-leader Furuji Indama, who was himself wounded in the encounter Tuesday last week at Barangay Cabcaban.

Upwardly mobile Philippine terror group

From the Asia Times (Apr 20): Upwardly mobile Philippine terror group

The Abu Sayaff Group bids to extend its kidnapping-for-ransom racket into new central region tourist areas outside of its usual southern stronghold

Soldiers distribute pictures of a member of extremist group Abu Sayyaf Isnilon Hapilon, who has a US government bounty of US$5 million for his capture in the southern Philippines. Picture taken February 1, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Marconi B Navales

Soldiers distribute pictures of a member of extremist group Abu Sayyaf Isnilon Hapilon, who has a US government bounty of US$5 million for his capture in the southern Philippines. Picture taken February 1, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Marconi B Navales

Abu Sayyaf Group, the Philippines most lethal and disruptive terror organization, is expanding its reach across the island nation. The expansion comes in apparent response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s military drive to eliminate the group entirely within this year.

It’s an increasingly important government imperative since ASG openly affiliated with Islamic State, raising the prospect the Islamist group could shelter and support fighters fleeing or returning from the battlefields of Iraq and Syria. ASG finances itself through kidnapping-for-ransom activities that have often targeted Western nationals.

Duterte has sought public support for both his peace initiatives and counterinsurgency campaigns to prevent ISIS from joining forces with local Islamist groups, many of which have fought against Manila for decades. Dozens of small armed groups have recently declared their allegiance to ISIS’ global jihadist cause.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (C) raises a clenched fist with military top brass as he visits troops in Nanagun, Lombayanague in Lanao del Sur in Mindanao island on November 30, 2016. Photo: AFP / Richel Umel

Earlier this month, the Philippine defense establishment was caught off-guard when for the first time in ASG’s history it’s fighters launched a week-long surprise attack in the central Philippines – an upward migration to a traditionally peaceful region outside of the group’s volatile and wild southernmost stronghold in the Sulu peninsula.

Security officials reported that around 11 heavily armed ASG members sailed from Sulu and landed in the early dawn on the central island of Bohol in apparent search for possible kidnapping targets. The central island region, including Bohol and Cebu provinces, is home to several sites and destinations popular with foreign tourists.

A week before ASG’s attack, the US embassy in Manila had warned its nationals to in the region be vigilant when traveling in the central region due to heightened risks of possible ASG kidnapping activities in Cebu and Bohol. The Australian foreign ministry also recently released a travel advisory on the rising risks to its nationals in the Philippines.

A file map of Abu Sayyaf’s past kidnapping-for-ransom areas.
Renowned for its kidnapping-for-ransom activities, and more recently piracy in the Sulu Sea, ASG’s head-on attack with government forces was staged well outside its traditional areas of operation. The gun battle reportedly killed six ASG fighters and four government soldiers near the once peaceful village of Napo Bohol’s Inabanga town.

The fighting displaced around 3,200 villagers who fled their home to avoid being caught in the crossfire. Many have stayed in evacuation centers due to fears of possible indiscriminate ASG reprisals.

Those fears seem justified. ASG sub-leader Muammar Askali, also known as Abu Rami, the son of a police officer who was previously a teacher in Sulu, was shot and killed in the firefight. Rami was believed to be responsible for beheading kidnapped Western tourists whose relatives failed or refused to pay ransom money for their release.

He is held responsible for the kidnapping of two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Filipina on Davao City’s Samal Island in September 2015. Rami’s group later beheaded Canadians Robert Hall and John Ridsdel when ransom negotiations failed. Norwegian Kjartan Serkingstad and Filipina Maritess Flor were freed after a huge ransom was paid to Rami’s group.

Abu Sayyaf kidnapping-for-ransom hostages Canadian national Robert Hall (R) and Norwegian national Kjartan Sekkingstad (L) before their release. Photo: Handout via Reuters

While Rami’s death has been trumpeted by security forces as a win in the fight against terrorism, some Sulu residents will view his demise with a measure of remorse. The Philippine Inquirer, a local English newspaper, quoted a local source saying that Rami had used some of his ransom money to feed impoverished communities where he resided.

Rami was reportedly being groomed to eventually take-over ASG’s leadership, which could explain his daring maneuver to expand the group’s franchise to Bohol.

Government sources say that Rami’s group had collected at least US$12 million since it accelerated and expanded its kidnap-for-ransom activities beginning in 2012. Those funds have reportedly afforded ASG’s leaders and top operatives increasingly luxurious lifestyles in one of the sprawling country’s most impoverished regions.

Philippine defense officials claim to have killed 116 ‘terrorists’ in the country’s restive southern regions since Duterte handed down last year a June 2017 deadline to eradicate ASG. His government has deployed 10,000 battle-tested soldiers to Basilan and Sulu in pursuit of that still elusive goal.

Abu Sayyaf, with links to the Islamic State, has been involved in frequent acts of piracy in the Philippines and has beheaded captives when ransom demands have not been met. File image: Interpol.

Indeed, ASG’s apparent recent expansion to the central Philippines has sent a dangerously different message that, rather than being contained, the terror group is instead expanding its kidnapping-for-ransom franchise into new regions popular with Western tourists and retirees.

Last week, 11 alleged ASG members surrendered to security officials in the southernmost province of Tawi-Tawi after government forces overran their remote secret hideouts. Tawi-Tawi’s southernmost town is situated just 30 kilometers from Malaysia in a maritime region that has recently become a globally recognized piracy hotspot.

But while government forces claim certain successes in known ASG-infested areas, it’s increasingly unclear where the shadowy terror group might strike next.