Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Five Reasons Why the World’s Longest Communist Revolution is Still Going Strong

From the News Lens (May 2): Five Reasons Why the World’s Longest Communist Revolution is Still Going Strong 

Ka (Comrade) Kathryn, a young NPA combatant in Southern Tagalog who has become the face of a new breed of red fighters. Photo Credit: KODAO Productions

Why you need to know: The war in the Philippines is far from over, explains Michael Beltran

The New People’s Army (NPA) is showing no signs of slowing down. The armed component of the world’s longest-running communist revolution celebrated its 48th anniversary on March 29.

NPA is led by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and was founded a year after the party in 1969. Since then, each president has vowed to quash the rebel forces while the CPP has attributed a nearly 50-year long struggle to support peasants.

The National Democratic Front (NDF), CPP’s political alliance, has been engaged in peace negotiations with the government since the start of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term. Despite some hurdles along the way, the talks have reached unprecedented milestones. The main mission of the talks is to resolve the armed conflict — namely the widespread poverty and injustice.

There have been temporary ceasefires during the talks but armed encounters between the rebels and military have persisted. Being in the spotlight, the NPA has had a unique opportunity to further open up to the public, and public figures are responding. Environment Secretary Gina Lopez said last week that she “loved the NPA, ” which she described as “nice people” that she wanted to work with to safeguard environmental concerns.

According to the CPP, guerrilla fronts have been established in most of the country’s rural areas since 1977, a vast majority of the landscape. By 2013, CPP leadership had declared that the NPA operates in 71 out of 81 provinces.

This number doesn’t come as a surprise. It’s not uncommon for folks in far-flung areas to occasionally share tales of meeting the armed revolutionaries.

NPA spokesperson Ka (the Filipino prefix for “comrade”) Oris has said that the number of tactical offensives increases by the hundreds each year. This is especially true in Mindanao — the southernmost region of the country and a perceived stronghold for the rebels.

Communist parties and revolutionary armies are certainly not passé in the Philippines. A hundred years after Vladimir Lenin led the October Revolution, an armed struggle for liberation and establishing socialism is still very much a thing of the present in the Philippines. Here are five reasons why:

1. Persistent reasons to carry on the fight

Aside from the chokehold American imperialism has on the country, feudalism reigns over the nation’s countryside. There are 13,000 hectares of agricultural land but seven out of 10 farmers are without any land of their own.

Landlordism in its barest and most backward stature is very much at the heart of these feudal systems. I have seen farmers harvesting only once a year, living off sweet potatoes the rest of the time. Their farming tools and methods have been inherited from the Spanish era 400 years ago and do not produce nearly enough for them to avoid hunger.

I have seen sacks of rice and vegetables placed down in front of landlords by tenants who in return receive what amounts to spare change. I have seen flowers, fruits and even children offered in a festive manner to landlords as forced tribute. Land monopolies, landlessness and a destitute peasant class have crystallized the conditions for armed uprisings.

The nation has shown increasingly alarming displays of social inequality. According to the World Bank in 2015, the Philippines has the highest unemployment rate in Southeast Asia. In the last six years, the net worth of the 40 richest Filipino families grew from 14 percent to 24 percent of the GDP, and the total income of the 25 richest individuals in 2016 is equivalent to that of 76 million Filipinos.

It doesn’t take much for marginalized, impoverished and hungry Filipinos to see that “history needs a push.”

2. Strong revolutionary tradition

Contrary to the laid back and hospitable nature of Filipinos, our history is one of constant conflict. Filipinos have been fighting foreign intervention and local elites ever since Magellan arrived in 1521.

Throughout the 300-year Spanish colonial period, more or less 200 revolts of various sizes and aims broke out. The 1986 revolution led by Andres Bonifacio took this a step further by establishing a national network of rebels.

The Spanish were replaced by the American occupation in the early 1900s and early Marxists in the country established the first communist party in 1930. By World War II and the Japanese takeover, the CPP had established an anti-colonial force in the Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapon (People’s Anti-Japanese Army), or HUKBALAHAP.

The re-establishment of the CPP in 1968 quickly led to the formation of the NPA a year later. Youngblood of the new CPP took inspiration from the “unfinished revolution” of Bonifacio for national liberation and democracy.

Photo Credit: Boy Bagwis of Pinoy Weekly Full battle gear: Pulang Bagani Battalion kicks off the CPP anniversary in DAVAO.

3. Self-governing in the mountains

One nation, two states — the status of belligerency endorsed by European Parliaments in the 1990s means there are two sovereign entities at war with each other. Essentially, the communists have their own standing army, defined “red areas,” laws, officials and social platforms. The virtual non-existence of any governing body to address concerns of the people coupled with the injustices of feudalism led the CPP to oversee and manage affordable basic services and social systems in the countryside as best it can. Most farmers in these areas identify as part of the People’s Government rather than the one headed from the Presidential Palace in Manila. These are also places where the people make the rules and the government follows.

A few years back, the CPP released a video showcasing a municipality run by the rebels holding an independent election for their town's leader outside of the Philippine government’s mandate.

Areas managed by people's governments over the years have also built social structures to facilitate everyday concerns. Ways on how to improve irrigation are carried out along with increasing food production and security. Literacy programs are also part of the NPA’s tasks while the health and marriage of people are taken into account as well.

Other than the Vatican, the Republic of the Philippines is the only state in the world where divorce is illegal. But the revolutionary movement has its own marriage guidelines that include same-sex unions and divorce.

4. A wealth of supporters

Despite the cancelation of the ceasefire between the NPA and the Duterte administration in February, the two parties say that negotiations can continue even during times of combat. But the truce was still in effect Dec. 26, 2016 — Mao Zedong’s (毛澤東) birthday and the anniversary of the CPP. A communist Christmas if you will, as the occasion was widely and seriously marked in guerrilla fronts nationwide.

During the latest anniversary celebration, the CPP invited the public and their sympathizers to the guerrilla zones, especially a particular one in Mindanao where a grand commemoration would be held. Government officials, nuns and priests, scholars, foreign delegates, artists and farmers were among the 15,000-strong crowd, enjoying music, dance and a festive atmosphere to the theme “People’s War is for People’s Peace.”

This was just one of the guerrilla fronts; another notable one took place in Southern Tagalog, not so far from Manila and drew in over 1,000 people. Ka Diego, a spokesman for the region, and Ka Kathryn, a vocal and iconic persona, called on young people to join the NPA and led the celebrations.

Photo Credit: Altermidya 15,000 attended last year's CPP anniversary on Dec. 26.
5. The Communist Party doesn't stop

Numerous tactical offensives since the start of the year have punished military troops of the government. It has become a common news story to feature NPA units having conducted raids on enemy camps, burning the heavy equipment of maligned large-scale mining companies and so on.

In the cities, NPA members and supporters organized parades of masked men calling on the people to join the revolution. Two parades were held in the past month — unusually frequent for an underground and illegal organization.

Every president since the inception of the NPA has had their own counter-insurgency program with the promise of eradicating the guerrillas. None have really come close to wiping out the movement. The increased rebel activity and capacity to fight over the past few years affirm this. Just one provincial formation of the NPA in northeastern Mindanao successfully launched 181 strikes and operations against military troops.

Winning battles is one thing but the red fighters are apparently even winning the hearts and minds of some of their enemies. Two prisoners of war held by the NPA for three months were recently freed and their reaction was surprising to many. They thanked the guerrillas “for giving us a second chance at life.” “You did not hurt us and freed us without a single scratch,” they said.

Photo Credit: Altermidya

The war is far from over. No doubt the communists know this. At this rate and with both parties at the negotiating table, the tide may finally turn in their favor.


Pag-asa, Kalayaan islands ours; all PH activities there legal – DFA

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 2): Pag-asa, Kalayaan islands ours; all PH activities there legal – DFA
This July 20, 2011 file aerial photo, taken through the window of a closed aircraft, shows Pag-asa Island, part of the disputed Spratly group of islands, in the South China Sea located off the coast of western Philippines.  Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday, April 6, 2017, that structures should be built on all of the nine to 10 islands, reefs and shoals held by the Philippines in the Spratly Islands.  Duterte said he may visit one of the islands, Pag-asa, to plant a Philippine flag on Independence Day. He said money has been budgeted to repair the runway on Pag-asa, home to a small fishing community and Filipino troops.   (AP Photo/Rolex Dela Pena, Pool, File)

Pag-Asa Island (AP Photo/Rolex Dela Pena, Pool, File)
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has maintained that Pag-asa Island and the Kalayaan Island Group are part of Philippine territory and any activity in them are perfectly legal.

The pronouncement on Tuesday was in response to Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua who claimed that the occupation of and any activity on the islands by the Philippines were illegal.

Foreign affairs spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar said the “Pag-asa Island and the larger Kalayaan Island Group are a municipality of Palawan.”

Bolivar further said, “Any visit of activity we undertake there are part and parcel of our Constitutional mandate to ensure the safety, well-being, and livelihood of our citizens living in this municipality.”

Residents in the area are mostly Filipinos, according to Bolivar.

On Monday, Zhao was asked by reporters on the April 21 incident where a C-130 aircraft bearing Philippine secretary of defense Delfin Lorenzana and the top military brass was reportedly harassed by the Chinese military as the plane headed for Pag-asa Island.

The Chinese envoy to the Philippines said that it was common practice to warn aircraft that “intrude” in their territory.

He was further quoted as saying that the Philippine occupation of Pag-asa Island as well as the construction of structures on the island were illegal, although he assured Filipinos that China — as a policy — would negotiate to resolve the matter peacefully

President Duterte previously directed the defense secretary to repair and upgrade existing facilities and structures on Pag-asa Island as he ordered the military to occupy Philippine-inhabited islands and reefs on the West Philippine Sea to assert the country’s sovereignty over them.


Informant gets P1.1-M for death of Abu leader

From the Visayan Daily Star (May 2): Informant gets P1.1-M for death of Abu leader

An informant got richer by P1.1 million for the neutralization and death of Abu Sayyaf leader Joselito Milloria in Bohol last week.

Maj. Gen. Jon Aying, 3rd Infantry Division commander, who supervises Army units stationed in Negros Island Region, Western and Central Visayas, including Bohol, said the reward of P1 million, which came from President Rodrigo Duterte, and a counterpart of P100,000 given by Governor Edgar Chatto, was recently received by the informant, whose identity he has withheld for security reasons, from the AFP Central Command.

The discovery of the presence of Abu Sayyaf bandits in Bohol, led to a series of armed skirmishes between ASG bandits, troopers of the 47 th Infantry Battalion, 33rd Division Reconnaissance Company and the police, and led to the death of six terrorist group members, including the two ASG leaders.

Aying attributed their successful campaign against ASG bandits to timely information relayed to them by Boholanos.

President Duterte ordered the military and police to “finish the game” and hunt down the ASG remnants. A police official and her lover, a member of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group, were also intercepted by 3ID troopers at a checkpoint, following the death of Milloria and two others.

The series of encounters in Bohol also caused alarm to nearby island provinces that are known tourist destinations.

Aying allayed fears about spillover of violent extremism to other areas of the Visayas, including the Negros Island Region, saying that they have not received such reports, as of this time.

“But still, we are working hard to verify if there are really vulnerable people or communities. If there are, then we have to apply our approach in preventing violent extremism,” said Aying, who led the celebration of the 43rd founding anniversary of the 3rd Infantry Division here, with Maj. Gen. Harold Cabreros, Army vice-commander, as guest of honor and speaker.

Aying also stressed that there is no ASG supporter or collaborator in their areas of operation.

Cabreros commended the 3ID troops, under the leadership of Aying, for a job well done.


Army awardee describes clash with ASG

From the Visayan Daily Star (May 2): Army awardee describes clash with ASG

It was a fierce gunbattle with nobody wanting to surrender and ready to fight until death.

That was how 1Lt. Richard Paul Gobway of the 33rd Division Reconnaissance Company, described yesterday their running gunbattle with remnants of the Abu Sayyaf bandits, led by Joselito Milloria, in Clarin town, who had earlier also figured in the encounter with 47 th Infantry Battalion in the neighboring town of Inabanga, Bohol.

Gobway, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class 2015, and three other DRC troopers, including Sgt. Remegio Bayoneta, PFCs Leo Dumayac and Jay Abisado, were conferred yesterday with Gold Cross Medals, by Maj. Gen. Harold Cabreros, Army vice commander, who was assisted by Maj. Gen. Jon Aying, 3rd Infantry Division commander, during the 43rd founding anniversary of the 3ID, here.

The Gold Cross Medal is the third highest medal for bravery of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Gobway said he thanked the Lord for giving him and his men a second chance to live, as none of them was even injured in what he called the “fiercest gunbattle” he had experienced up to now.

The encounter in Clarin town, almost two weeks after the death of ASG leader Muammar Askali, alias Abu Rami, on April 11 in the neighboring town of Inabanga, Bohol, also claimed the life of Joselito Milloria and two other ASG bandits, with all six bandits accounted for by the Philippine military troops.

Milloria assumed leadership of the ASG stragglers, following the death of Askali and several of his men.

Gobway said the running gunbattle took place at a distance of about 10 meters.

He also thanked 3ID families and relatives for their prayers, as they were unhurt in the series of running gunbattles.

Aying, admitting that Abu Sayyaf bandits are seasoned fighters, said the training that 3ID soldiers have acquired also proved that they are effective against any threats from the New People's Army, ASG members, and other lawless groups. Due to the proximity of combat, Gobway, who is an Ifugao, figured in a hand to hand combat with Milloria, whom he subdued, resulting in the death of the latter.

Gobway also became emotional and teary-eyed when asked for his reaction to being awarded the Gold Cross Medal.

“I am thankful to God that he has given me a second life but I am saddened that we lost an officer and two other soldiers in the encounter,” he said.


China And The U.S. Are Fighting For Influence Over The Philippines

From Forbes (May 2): China And The U.S. Are Fighting For Influence Over The Philippines

Eight months ago Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte called his former American counterpart Barack Obama a son of a whore. Throughout much of last year, after his June 30 inauguration, the notoriously outspoken Duterte told the United States in just slightly less coarse language to quit helping his Southeast Asian country with military aid. He resented Washington, a former colonizer of the Philippines, for criticizing his deadly anti-drug campaign.

Now look who current U.S. President Donald Trump just invited to the White House.

Duterte hasn’t accepted the invitation and has hinted at taking a pass. He's busily making friends with China, Washington’s chief political and military rival in Asia. China pledged $24 billion in aid to the largely impoverished Philippines in October. Washington never offered such a wide-reaching package, some Filipinos argued then. Beijing and Manila still dispute tracts of the South China Sea, a reason Duterte's predecessors preferred the United States. Boats from both Asian countries intensively fish the 3.5 million-square-kilometer sea. The two governments hope to strike oil or gas under the seabed.

Duterte likes China so much he may have let Chinese vessels explore off the Philippine archipelago’s Pacific Ocean continental shelf last year. Only Manila claims sovereignty to that tract. Following a few flaps over maritime sovereignty in March and April, China on Monday docked three warships on a goodwill visit to Duterte’s hometown Davao. The president suggested the two countries might jointly patrol the Sulu Sea where the Philippines is trying to squelch the Abu Sayyaf terrorist-slash-Muslim-rebel group.

The U.S. president who just passed his 100th day in office hasn’t come out with a solid policy on the South China Sea, analysts in Asia say. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hinted in January at an eventually stiff anti-China stance, but Trump is trying to work with China now on containing the North Korea threat. Beijing claims about 95% of the resource-rich sea, covering parts of exclusive economic zones normally controlled by Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam as well as the Philippines. China has the region’s strongest military, which it’s prepped to deploy on some of the sea’s islets that it has landfilled over the past half-decade, a Washington-based think tank says.

In defending the invitation to Duterte against critics of his anti-drug campaign, the White House said Sunday it hoped to solidify an Asian alliance against North Korea. Washington may ultimately try sustain a military protectorate relationship in effect with Manila since colonization ended in 1946. Duterte scaled that back last year by canceling joint South China Sea patrols that irritated Beijing. The arrangement gives Washington a Southeast Asian base to monitor and resist China’s expansion.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (C, wearing cap) disembarks after visiting the guided missile frigate Changchun berthed at the Davao international port on May 1, 2017. (MANMAN DEJETO/AFP/Getty Images)

China’s growing influence in the Philippines – something that Duterte’s predecessors strongly resisted – makes it hard if not impossible for a U.S. president to stick the archipelago in its back pocket again. “I would not anticipate that Duterte will seek assistance from the United States going forward,” says Carl Baker, director of programs at the think tank Pacific Forum CSIS in Honolulu. That’s even after Duterte said last month he would improve structures on nine Spratly Island features his country controls but that China claims. “I think he is pretty confident that China is not going to protest too strongly to the efforts being undertaken to make the existing features more habitable.”

The two superpowers may end up living with each other’s bids to influence Manila. Southeast Asian neighbors Indonesia and Vietnam already play both sides with little incident. You never know when you might need one more than the other.

“I think for both sides, China and the U.S., as long as the Philippines is not a source of challenges for either of them, they will be fine,” says Jay Batongbacal, director of the Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea at the University of the Philippines. Tolerance would break down, he says, only “if the Philippines is seen as causing trouble. The way China views, it’s the Philippines that causes trouble in the South China Sea. From the American perspective, it’s more of the Philippines trying to draw it into the South China Sea against China.”


Pag-asa is ours, PH says amid China remarks

From Rappler (May 2): Pag-asa is ours, PH says amid China remarks

Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua says it is 'illegal' for the Philippines to occupy disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) islands

The Philippines on Tuesday, May 2, asserted its ownership of Pag-asa Island in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) after China said it is "illegal" for Filipinos to occupy it.

"Pag-asa Island and the larger Kalayaan Island Group are a municipality of Palawan," Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Robespierre Bolivar said in a statement on Tuesday.

Pag-asa Island is found in Kalayaan, a town created by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1978, which is now home to around 180 Filipinos with their own mayor.

Still on the town of Kalayaan, Bolivar added, "Any visit or activity we undertake there is part and parcel of our constitutional mandate to ensure the safety, well-being, and livelihood of our citizens living in this municipality."

Bolivar was reacting to a statement made by Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua on the sidelines of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's inspection of 3 Chinese warships docked in his hometown, Davao City.

Referring to the disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea, Zhao said on Monday, May 1: "We view the occupation by the Philippine side of those islands as illegal. And so the buildings on it are also illegal."

China earlier criticized the Philippines after Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana led security officials in visiting Pag-asa Island.

Duterte on Monday had defended the Philippines' plans to improve facilities in Pag-asa Island, saying it is part of the government's duty.

Still, despite the dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea, Duterte is bent on boosting ties with the Asian giant and moving away from the Philippines' traditional ally, the United States.

On Monday, Duterte said his trip to 3 Chinese warships "is part really of confidence-building and goodwill – and to show that we are friends."


U.S. senator threatens to block weapons sale to PNP

From Rappler (May 2): U.S. senator threatens to block weapons sale to PNP

Senator Benjamin Cardin also says he is 'deeply disturbed' by the invitation of President Donald Trump for President Rodrigo Duterte to visit the White House

US Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland threatened to block the sale of certain US weapons to the Philippine National Police (PNP) as a consequence of the "barbaric" actions of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

Cardin, along with US Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, also promised to support human rights groups in the Philippines.

"Later this week, I will introduce bipartisan legislation along with Senator Rubio and several other colleagues to make it clear to President Duterte that there will be consequences for his barbaric actions, including preventing certain US weapons from being sold to the national police and supporting human rights and civil society organizations in the Republic of the Philippines," Cardin said in a statement on Monday, May 1.

A bipartisan law is one supported by both the Democratic and Republican parties.

Cardin is a Democrat while Rubio is a Republican.

The proposed bipartisan legislation comes as Duterte's war on drugs has killed at least 7,000 people, from both legitimate police operations and vigilante-style killings.

Recently, controversies related to the war on drugs have again hounded the PNP.

In a rare move, 7 witnesses named a Manila policeman, Police Officer 3 Ronald Alvarez, as allegedly behind drug-related summary killings in a poor community, according to an exclusive report by Rappler.

The PNP is also under fire for a secret detention cell uncovered in Manila, linked to alleged police abuses.

'Deeply disturbed'

The reported human rights abuses in the Philippines prompted another criticism from Cardin, this time against the invitation of US President Donald Trump for Duterte to visit the White House. (READ: Duterte 'can't promise' to accept Trump invite)

The senator said: "I am deeply disturbed by President Trump's cavalier invitation to President Duterte to visit the White House. This is a man who has boasted publicly about killing his own citizens."

He explained that "ignoring human rights will not advance US interests in the Philippines or any place else," and in fact will have an opposite outcome.

"The President should immediately rescind this invitation to the White House," Cardin said.

Cardin, 73, is a ranking member of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

As early as September 2016, he has criticized Duterte's war on drugs.

In November 2016, Duterte ordered the PNP to cancel the purchase of assault rifles from a US firm. This, after Reuters reported that Cardin wants to stop the sale of more than 26,000 assault rifles to the Philippines due to alleged human rights abuses.

In the same month, however, PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said the PNP has "the blessing of the President to continue the transaction as long as it's not barred."

LOOK: PH, US soldiers build classrooms in Guiuan

From Rappler (May 2): LOOK: PH, US soldiers build classrooms in Guiuan

The school building, which doubles as an evacuation center, is among the community infrastructure projects being undertaken by Philippine and US soldiers in line with the 33rd Balikatan

NEW SCHOOLBUIILDING. US Armed Forces engineers build classrooms in Guiuan, Eastern Samar. Photo by Jazmin Bonifacio

NEW SCHOOLBUIILDING. US Armed Forces engineers build classrooms in Guiuan, Eastern Samar. Photo by Jazmin Bonifacio

EASTERN SAMAR, Philippines – Residents of Surok village in Guiuan town are looking forward to a new school building that will also provide safe shelter for them in times of disaster.
The construction of the two-classroom school building is under the Humanitarian Assistance Program of the 33rd Balikatan (Balikatan 33-2017), the annual Philippines-US military exercises.
US military engineers, with members of the Philippine Army, are building the classrooms, which also serves as an evacuation center, said Guiuan Mayor Christopher Sheen Gonzales.

"We do have so many reasons to be thankful to the US Armed Forces here and the Philippine Army. The school project in barangay Surok is more than just providing better learning environment for our students here but rather ensuring the safety of the children and the community itself in times of disasters," he said.

In 2013, Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) flattened Guiuan. Gonzales called the disaster a wake-up call that steered the local government into disaster-preparedness.

BALIKATAN 2017. US soldiers work on an evacuation site in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, as part of the Balikatan exercises. Photo by Jazmin Bonifacio
Surok village chief Gloria Ecleo said: "The education of our children here is the only thing we have. And today was different because we knew that somebody thought we were that important."

"We are so grateful for this project this will be of great help to us here in our village and this will really improve the lives of our children and also those from nearby villages," Ecleo added.

Surok village has a population of 1,487 or 368 households.

First Lieutenant Martin Meehan, commanding officer of the US Marines Engineering, Alpha Company, told Rappler that the project is part of the humanitarian component of Balikatan 33-2017, to help restore the village's structure that was destroyed by Yolanda.
Meehan praised the members of the US Marines and the Philippine Army who are part of the project, saying they will learn from each other and improve interoperability among the two countries' militaries for better cooperation when future disaster strikes.

The first Balikatan under the Duterte administration will focus on humanitarian assistance and disaster response and counter-terrorism.

The Guiuan schoolbuilding project is among the community infrastructure projects in Panay, Leyte, and Samar being undertaken by Philippine and US soldiers ahead of the Balikatan from May 8 to 19.

PMA cadet dies a month after start of training

From Rappler (May 2): PMA cadet dies a month after start of training

The 19-year-old cadet dies just days after being rushed to the hospital because of a bleeding ulcer  

 DEATH. PMA cadet Erwin Christian Vergara dies due to hypovolemic shock, barely a month after he was admitted to the PMA. Photo from Facebook

DEATH. PMA cadet Erwin Christian Vergara dies due to hypovolemic shock, barely a month after he was admitted to the PMA. Photo from Facebook

A 19-year old cadet of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) died on Monday, May 1, barely a month after he was admitted at the country's premier military school.

In a phone interview on Tuesday, May 2, Colonel Shiela Marie Jardiolyn, PMA resident physician, told Rappler that cadet Erwin Christian Vergara died at the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center (BGHMC) due to "hypovolemic shock secondary to upper gastrointestinal bleeding secondary to bleeding peptic ulcer."

Jardiolyn said Vergara was first admitted to the PMA emergency unit on April 25 when he complained of dizziness, weakness and blood in his feces.

Upon knowing that Vergara's blood hemoglobin count dipped to 5.8 – below the normal count of 13 – Jardiolyn said they "immediately evacuated" Vergara to BGHMC, where he had undergone 7 blood transfusions.

Jardiolyn ruled out hazing or foul play over Vergara's death, noting that the cadet had already been "complaining of on-and-off abdominal pains for three years," according to his medical examination before entering the PMA.
She said the parents already arrived to inspect Vergara's remains on Monday night.

On Tuesday, May 2, his body was brought to his hometown in Alcala, Cagayan.

PMA spokesman Lieutenant Coloner Reynaldo Balido promised to further investigate Vergara's death.
Vergara, a former student of Cagayan State University, was among the 293 plebes who entered the PMA last April 1 after passing both the written and medical examination.

He died halfway into the so-called "Beast Barracks" summer training before they are incorporated into the academy.

The PMA cadets would have to finish their training until the end of May before they are incorporated into the academy.

But even though Vergara has not been incorporated into the PMA, his family will be given financial assistance, said Balido.

Meanwhile, his friends and relatives from Cagayan expressed to social media their grief on his passing.

They described Vergara as "friendly" and "fun to be with."

Last year, another PMA plebe died of heat stroke. Then 19-year-old Cadet John Benedict Margin from Binangonan, Rizal, died in May 2016 during the Joint Field Training Exercises at Marine Base Gregorio Lim in Ternate, Cavite.

Margin was incorporated into the academy a week before his death.

Duterte eyes joint exercise with China “in Mindanao, maybe in the Sulu Sea”

From MindaNews (May 2): Duterte eyes joint exercise with China “in Mindanao, maybe in the Sulu Sea”
Coming soon: joint military exercises between the Philippines and China, in Mindanao.

President Rodrigo Duterte has agreed to have joint exercises with China “here in Mindanao, maybe in the Sulu Sea.”

Duterte gave this response when asked by reporters if he was looking at joint exercises with China, after his visit to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s navy flagship-destroyer Chang Chun at the Sasa international port here on Monday afternoon.

President Rodrigo Duterte (right) speaks to officers of Chang Chun (DDG 150), a guided missile destroyer of the China People’s Liberation Army Navy on May 1, 2017. Chang Chun and two other warships of China are on a three-day goodwill visit in Davao City. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

“Yes, I said I agree. We can have a joint exercise here in Mindanao, maybe in the Sulu Sea,” Duterte replied.

No follow-up question, however, was asked after Duterte responded to the query.

Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan II welcomed the President’s announcement. He told MindaNews in a text message on Tuesday: “Pag sinabi ni Presidente, papayag kami. Alam naman namin lahat ng gagawin ng Presidente ay makakabuti sa Mindanao” (If the President says so, we will comply. We all know that whatever the President does is for the good of Mindanao).

His father, the former Governor Abdusakur Tan, described it as a “bright idea.”

“That is a bright idea. We want the Chinese to come to Sulu.” He recalled the good relations between the Sultanate of Sulu and China and that in fact there is a Sultan of Sulu buried in China, Sultan Batara who died in 1417. “He was invited by the Emperor of Cathay. He died there and is the only foreign monarch buried in Chinese soil,” the elder Tan said.

“Very impressive”

The President was clearly impressed by what he saw inside China’s flagship destroyer.

“Very impressive. It’s clean and even the carpeting, it’s all carpeted inside and it’s like a hotel actually,” Duterte said.

President Rodrigo Duterte salutes officers of Chang Chun (DDG 150), a guided missile destroyer of the China People’s Liberation Army Navy as China’s Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua (in blue) watches. The flagship destroyer Chang Chun and two other warships of China are on a three-day goodwill visit in Davao City. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

“I will try to make something like this … it has to be as beautiful as this. Ito carpeted, wala kang — hindi na kailangan — anti-slide ha.” He meant the floor is not slippery because it is carpeted.

“Wala kang makitang oil (You won’t see grease). It’s all carpeted after carpet. Oo. Napakaganda. (Yes. It’s so beautiful). Inside, it’s like a luxury hotel,” the President added.

Asked if the goodwill visit of China’s flagship destroyer and two other warships here is the start of a series of cooperation between the Philippines and the Chinese military, Duterte said yes. He said it is part of the “confidence-building and goodwill and to show that we are friends.”

President Rodrigo Duterte says he has agreed to oint military exercises with China “in MIndanao, maybe in the Sulu Sea.” MIndaNews photo by FERDINANDH B. CABRERA

“That’s why I welcomed them here and I was the one who asked, ‘you show me your warships,'” the President said.

A day before boarding the Chinese warship, Duterte was criticized for his Chairman’s Report on the recently-concluded ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Summit which allegedly toned down security concerns over China’s “reclamation activities and apparent militarization” in the South China Sea and for not mentioning the landmark UN arbitral ruling the Philippines won against China.

Duterte before the ASEAN Summit, had said he would not raise the issue of the UN arbitral ruling because “it is not an issue here…. it’s only between China and the Philippines.”


GRP, NDF working for consensus on truce, ‘contentious’ socioeconomic provisions — Bello

From MindaNews (May 2): GRP, NDF working for consensus on truce, ‘contentious’ socioeconomic provisions — Bello

The government and the National Democratic Front are finding ways to arrive at a consensus on a bilateral ceasefire and “contentious provisions” on the proposed Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), Labor Secretary and GRP peace panel chair Silvestre Bello III said Monday.
In an interview at the sidelines of the 2017 National Labor Day Celebration at the People’s Park in Davao City, Bello said their respective committees exchanged drafts and held informal bilateral meetings in the country to discuss the contentious provisions as pointed out during the fourth round of talks last April 3 to 7 in the Netherlands.

“Ang report sa akin ni (The report to me by) Nani Braganza, who is chairman of the committee on CASER, mukhang magkakasundo na sila (It seems they are agreeing) and they will submit it to the panel for final approval maybe by May 27 to June 1,” Bello said in an earlier interview at the opening of the Labor Day Job Fair at the Gaisano Mall of Davao.

He said the draft CASER will be presented in the fifth round of talks in Noorwijk aan Zee, The Netherlands on May 26 to June 2, 2017.

During the April 3-6 talks in The Netherlands, the committees exchanged their respective comparative “color-coded matrices” identifying both contentious and acceptable provisions of the CASER drafts submitted by both parties.

The parties agreed on the following schedules: exchange comments on the contentious provisions of National Industrialization and Economic Development (NIED) drafts on May 2; meeting of the NIED bilateral teams on May 4; submission of reports of the bilateral teams to the reciprocal working committees and submission of GRP’s comparative color-coded matrices on Environmental Protection and Rights of the Working People and Livelihoods to the NDF on May 19; exchange of draft minutes of the fourth round of the bilateral meetings of the reciprocal working committees on May 20.

On ceasefire, Bello said, “Same with CASER, they may arrive at a consensus on the definition of terms and parameters, including, among others, the entity who will act as the “referee” between government and communist forces and the collection of taxes.”

“The President wants the collection of revolutionary taxes stopped but the other side said their forces will go hungry without the taxes,” he said.

He said it is necessary for both parties to work on development programs to address the concerns.

The GRP and NDF panels signed an agreement on Interim Joint Ceasefire, which will take effect upon the approval and signing of the ground rules. It will be effective until a permanent ceasefire agreement is forged as part of Comprehensive Agreement on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces.

The interim joint ceasefire “aims to provide a conducive environment for the GRP and NDFP negotiations, encourage the forging of a more stable and comprehensive Joint Ceasefire Agreement and provide an enabling environment for the eventual and early signing of CASER.”

The GRP and NDF panels directed their respective ceasefire committees to “discuss, formulate and finalize the guidelines and ground rules for the implementation of the agreement, including rules governing the presence of armed units and elements of both parties in local communities, the creation of buffer zones, the prohibition of hostile and provocative acts, and ceasefire monitoring and verification mechanisms.”


Davao police kill man, yields explosive, grenades

From the Mindanao Examiner (May 2): Davao police kill man, yields explosive, grenades

Police killed a suspected militant in a firefight before sunrise Tuesday in Davao City in southern Philippines, officials said.

Officials said an improvised explosive assembled from a 60mm mortar and several grenades and a hand gun were also recovered from the slain man in the village of Maa. The man’s companion escaped on a motorcycle.

It was not immediately known whether the man was a member of the Abu Sayyaf or the Maute jihadist group tagged as behind a deadly bombing in Davao City’s night market last year.

Senior Inspector Maria Teresita Gazpan, a police spokeswoman, appealed to the public to stay vigilant and report to authorities suspicious persons in their community.

Just recently, communist New People’s Army rebels also attacked a factory of the Lapanday Foods Corporation in Davao City that left 2 persons injured. The rebels said the raid was a punishment for alleged land grabbing by the company.


Soldier, wife shot in Zamboanga City

From the Mindanao Examiner (May 2): Soldier, wife shot in Zamboanga City

Motorcycle gunmen shot and wounded a government soldier and his wife in an attack in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines, police said Tuesday.

Police said Staff Sergeant Randy Rayteran, a member of the Philippine Marines, and wife Analisa Anicu, were on their way home on a motorcycle when one of two gunmen shot them with a .45-caliber pistol in Guiwan village. The duo just came from from their store in Tumaga village when the gunman shot them. The assailants fled after the shooting.

Rayteran, although wounded, managed to drive his motorcycle to safety and sought help from civilians who brought them to the hospital. The soldier told police investigators that the attackers were both using bonnet to hide their faces.

Police were investigating the shooting. Gun attacks are not uncommon in Zamboanga where hired killers are actively operating.


Chinese warships impress PH officials

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 2): Chinese warships impress PH officials

DAVAO CITY --  Top defense officials were impressed with the Chinese warships which made a goodwill visit to Davao City.

“These are like U.S. warships, but newer.” Says Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana who accompanied President Rodrigo Duterte in visiting the lead ship of the three-vessel group which docked in Davao yesterday (April 30) and is set to leave tomorrow (May 2).

The Presidential party came on board the People’s Liberation Army Navy guided-missile destroyer Chung Chun who is part of PLAN’s Task Group 150. The other visiting vessels include the guided-missile frigate Jin Zhou and the replenishment ship Chao Hu.
Walang pinagkaiba, parehong bagong technology.” (No difference, they had the same new technology) says Lorenzana comparing the vessels to American warships whom he also visited.

The defense secretary also brushed aside fears that the Chinese warships are a show of force for many Filipinos as the two countries are involved in a dispute over islands and reefs in the South China Sea.

“The visit is to foster deeper understanding between two countries and cooperation.” Lorenzana said.

Meanwhile he added that the Philippines will soon have a modern warship within the term of President Duterte.

The Philippines have placed orders to South Korea for two modern frigates as part of its modernization program.

Philippine Navy chief Vice-Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado said the visit gave them the opportunity to look at recent technologies particularly those used by other navies.

Vice-Admiral Mercado said the weapons of the Chinese warships are more state-the-art than what he have seen in the recent visit of Russian warships.

“We were able to look at their weapons. It educates us. If we are to purchase, at least we know what weapons we will acquire.” Vice Admiral Mercado said.

The Chinese destroyer and frigate are armed with anti-ship and air defense missiles complemented by sophisticated radars.

Meanwhile President Duterte noticed the interiors of the Chinese warships likening it to a hotel.

“It’s very impressive.” The President said.


President Duterte inspects Chinese warship docked in Davao City

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 2): President Duterte inspects Chinese warship docked in Davao City

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, visited China's Navy flagship destroyer Changchun docked at Sasa Port in Davao City saying it would be the start of a greater cooperation with the Chinese military particularly against piracy.

Changchun is one of the three Chinese navy vessels that arrived in Davao City. In an interview with reporters, the President described China's warship as "very impressive" and comparable to a hotel.

"It’s clean and even the carpeting, it’s all carpeted inside and it’s like a hotel actually," he said.

Asked by the members of the press if his visit will be the start of a series of cooperation with the Chinese military, he said, "Yes, part really of the confidence building and goodwill and to show that we are friends."

He said he welcomed the Chinese navy vessels and he was the one who asked for the warships to come to the Philippines.

At the same time, the President said he agreed to a joint military exercises with China in Mindanao possibly in the Sulu Sea.

The President also discussed his phone call with United States President Donald Trump echoing the concern of other leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) about the devastating effects of war in the Korean Peninsula.

"Sinabi ko lang na we are as concerned and I supposed that you have the persuasive power, you are showing it to him. There has to be a sense somewhere," he said of his discussion with Trump.

He said the US could not scare North Korean leader Kim Jong-un with firepower and the greatest chance of getting some dialogue between America and North Korea would be through China.

The President also clarified that the Philippines is not distancing itself from the US but there was some rift before because of differing views between him, former US President Barack Obama and the US State Department.

But things have changed, he said, adding that he is already friends with the newly elected US President. "There’s a new leadership. He wants to make friends and he says that we are friends. So why do you have to pick a fight?", the President said. 


US turns over EOD to PNP

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 2): US turns over EOD to PNP

United States (US) Embassy regional security officer Lon Clyde Fairchild, Jr. and Department of State's Bureau of Diplomatic Security Antiterrorism Assistance (DS/ATA) resident program manager Ronald Dizon formally turned over the post blast investigation and explosive incident countermeasure kits to Philippine National Police - Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) Explosive Ordnance Disposal Canine (EOD/K9) Group during the first Anniversary of the EOD/K9 Group held at the PNP Multi-purpose Hall, Camp Crame, Quezon City on April 24, 2017.

The DS/ATA’s EOD/K9 recognizes that a well-trained EOD/K9 with an experienced handler is an excellent tool in locating explosive devices. To develop this capability in the Philippines, DS/ATA began assisting the PNP in early 2007 with the establishment of an EOD/K-9 facility for the PNP National Capital Region Police Office.

The facilities include kennels, a veterinary clinic and billeting for EOD/K9 handlers. Six bomb detector dogs were granted by DS/ATA in 2008 to the PNP EOD/K9 Group and in 2015, twenty-two additional bomb detector dogs were granted. DS/ATA trained 22 handlers who are now assigned to Mindanao and the National Capital Region.

To develop the PNP’s bomb disposal and investigation capabilities, DS/ATA provided a post blast investigation and explosive incident countermeasure training and equipment to critical areas in Mindanao; in particular to Zamboanga, Davao, General Santos, South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

DS/ATA-trained bomb technicians and investigators are now able to respond quickly to bombing incidents and improvised explosive device (IED) threats, preventing the loss of lives. DS/ATA-trained and equipped EOD/K9 units also provided IED Awareness Training to PNP units, local schools, and civic groups in at-risk areas of Mindanao.

The US government has donated P19 million worth of explosive ordnance devices (EOD) and was received by PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa.


Army medics, partners team up for operation tuli in Surigao

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 2): Army medics, partners team up for operation tuli in Surigao

SURIGAO CITY, Surigao del Norte -- Soldiers of the 30th Infantry Battalion (30IB), Philippine Army who are conducting Peace and Development Outreach Program (PDOP) in the city together with stakeholders spearheaded an “operation tuli" (circumcision) on Monday here.

The activity is in line with the annual operation tuli of the Surigao Health Specialists Incorporated and the army troopers.

A total of 155 young boys benefited the free circumcision, and free haircut was also rendered by the soldiers to civilians that catered 50 beneficiaries on the same activity.

The said activity is a convergent efforts of the 30IB with the Surigao Health Specialists Inc, City Government of Surigao, Surigao Doctors College, Riverside Parts Master Inc, Natures Spring and Surigao del Norte Medical Society.

It can be recalled that soldiers were deployed in different barangays to gather issues and concerns of the people in order to address it to concerned agencies.

One of the issues brought up by PDOP is the lack of financial capability of the parents in sending their sons to private doctors for circumcision.

Civil Military Operations Officer 2Lt. Jonel Castillo said the PDOP is a tool of the Army in helping the agencies address different concerns of the people in a community which is seldom reached by basic services. “Thus, it also strengthens our linkages and partnership with other stakeholders in order to attain a long and lasting peace in our communities,” Castillo said.

Meanwhile, 30IB Commanding Officer Col. Rico Amaro said they will continue performing such kind of civic action activities with the stakeholders. “It shows the sincerity of our soldiers in serving our fellow Surigaonons to ensure the delivery of basic services to the communities,” said Amaro.

Eastern Mindanao youths seek to strengthen Peace

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 2): Eastern Mindanao youths seek to strengthen Peace

In their desire to become an agent of peace, more than 80 youths from areas in Eastern Mindanao recently came together for the Eastern Mindanao Youth for Peace Congress 2017.

Coming from various Youth for Peace (YFP) organizations in Northern Mindanao, Southern Mindanao, Central Mindanao and Caraga Regions, they converged at the Felis Beach Resort in Davao City from April 27 to 30 to tackle discussions based on the theme, “Harmonizing Peace Initiatives for a Better and Reliable Youth for Peace Network in Eastern Mindanao”.

Youth for Peace Eastern Mindanao head organizer Kenneth E. Tagaro explained that the activity was aimed at giving a boost to efforts of sustaining cooperation and network of the youth sector with civic and government entities seeking to promote peace in Eastern Mindanao areas.

Tagaro was hopeful that the activity would eventually lead leaders of various youth organizations especially those at the grassroots level to pursue peace-building initiatives for fellow youths at the peripheral areas in their respective communities.

Some of the topics tackled during the youth congress were Community Journalism, Establishing and Managing Youth Councils, Linking Action Plan with Local Government Units (LGU) Programs and Activities and Counter Violent Extremism. Participants were expected to put their ideas together to craft a Youth for Peace (YFP) Regional Advocacy Plan and to set up the YFP Eastern Mindanao Coordinating and Monitoring Council.

They were also seen to draw up a Coordinating and Monitoring Mechanism. On top of the series of discussions, participants got involved with workshops of Peace Communication, Community Development, Organizational Development and Youth Development.


Plot to bomb Davao City foiled; suspect killed in shootout

From the Philippine News Agency (May 2): Plot to bomb Davao City foiled; suspect killed in shootout

Police authorities thwarted a plan to bomb this city after killing an alleged terrorist who possessed an improvised explosive device before dawn Tuesday along Magtuod road, Barangay Maa here.

Senior Superintendent Alexander Tagum, Davao City Police Office (DCPO) director, said the suspect, whose identity is still being withheld, was killed when he tried to shoot it out with DCPO's joint intelligence and SWAT teams when flagged down at a checkpoint at around 3 a.m.

His companion, however, escaped.
Tagum said the explosive device, fashioned from a 60mm mortar shell, is similar to the one used in the Roxas night market bombing in September last year.

Senior Inspector Maria Theresita Gaspan, DCPO spokesperson, said the suspect disembarked from a motorcycle and pulled out a cal. 28 pistol when accosted by the police.

Police operatives also confiscated from the possession of the suspect a hand grenade, detonation cord and two pieces of blasting caps.

Tagum said they are tracking the companion of the suspect.

He added that they have informed other nearby provincial police offices to help track the suspect’s companion.

Gaspan noted that police authorities were placed on alert after receiving information Monday evening that a group allegedly out to bomb the city boarded a gray Toyota pickup and a black Honda XRM in the vicinity of Bangkal, this city.

This prompted the DCPO director to deploy operating teams to track down the group.


DND amenable to President Duterte's announcement of joint-naval drills with China

From the Philippine News Agency (May 2): DND amenable to President Duterte's announcement of joint-naval drills with China

The Department of National Defense (DND) is fine with President Rodrigo Duterte's announcement that he is willing to allow Philippine Navy (PN) ships to conduct naval maneuvers with their Chinese counterparts.

"The DND welcomes every opportunity to forge stronger defense ties with other countries, especially given the fact that we now face threats which necessitate responses on an international scale," DND public affairs office chief Arsenio Andolong said in a message to the Philippine News Agency Tuesday.

He also added that it also is customary for various armed forces to train together to become familiar with each other.

"Having joint military exercises with other countries will benefit us since these will expose our troops to new doctrines and new technology. These will also allow us to assess how our own doctrines fare against our foreign counterparts," Andolong pointed out.

Earlier, the Chief Executive said he is amenable to having PN ships conduct naval drills with its Chinese counterparts especially in Sulu and Mindanao waters.

Duterte made this announcement after visiting the three Chinese naval ships in Sasa Wharf, Davao City Monday.

The visiting Chinese ships as the guided-missile destroyer Chang Chun (DDG-150), guided-missile frigate Jin Zhou (FFG-532) and Type 903 replenishment ship Chao Hu (890).


PHL reasserts rights over Pag-asa Island

From the Philippine News Agency (May 2): PHL reasserts rights over Pag-asa Island

The Philippines on Tuesday reasserted its sovereignty claims over the larger Kalayaan Island Group, including Pag-asa island, thus, any visit or activity in the area is legal.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar stressed that Pag-asa Island and the larger Kalayaan Island Group are a municipality of Palawan.

“Any visit or activity we undertake there are part and parcel of our Constitutional mandate to ensure the safety, well-being, and livelihood of our citizens living in this municipality,” he said in a statement.

Bolivar was responding to the remarks of Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua who claimed that Philippine occupation or activity on the islands were illegal.

Pag-asa Island is the largest of the islands which is part of the Kalayaan Island Group (Spratlys) in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Apart from the Philippines and China, several countries including Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam have made competing claims over parts or all of West Philippine Sea.


Informants, gov't troops receive reward for operation vs ASG members in Bohol

From the Philippine News Agency (May 2): Informants, gov't troops receive reward for operation vs ASG members in Bohol

Three Bohol citizens were rewarded by the government for tipping authorities on the whereabouts of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members, resulting in the death of Joselito Melloria alias "Abu Alih" and three others.

The three civilians whose names have been withheld for security reasons, were rewarded by the Duterte administration after helping joint elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) in locating rebels who were hiding in the caves of Barangay Bacani, Clarin, Bohol.

This after President Rodrigo Duterte himself went to Bohol weeks earlier to attend a security briefing during the ASEAN Meetings there and promised reward money to those who can point to the whereabouts of ASG members trapped in the said area.

Personnel of the PNP and AFP involved in the operations were also remunerated for their efforts.

A total of PHP4 million cash reward, as promised by the President, was given through the AFP Central Command.

The tipsters turned in information to the Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) and Light Reaction Company (LRC) after noticing foot trails leading to one of the caves.

Government troops attacked the caves and an encounter ensued between opposing sides, which resulted in the death of Abu Alih and the recovery of his M16 rifle with an attached M203 grenade launcher.

An ASG member was also spotted buying bread in another part of town, giving the authorities an idea on the possible entry points of the rebel group’s hideout. 

The rebels hiding in Barangay Bacani were reportedly remnants of the 11-man ASG bandits under subleader Moammar Askali alias "Abu Rami", who was killed on April 11, 2017 in Barangay Napo, Inabanga town.

Rami was responsible for the beheading of several hostages, including foreigners.

"Tip lang ang ibigay mo sa pulis pati military,” President Duterte said, following Abu Rami’s neutralization. “No questions asked. Do not even give your name. Sabihin mo lang saan sila at gobyerno na ang bahala.”


PAF Attack AW-109s up for maintenance

From the Philippine News Agency (May 2): PAF Attack AW-109s up for maintenance

In line with efforts to ensure the airworthiness of all its available aircraft, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) is allocating the sum of PHP31,420,483.23 for the acquisition of spares needed or the maintenance of the hydraulics, aviation, and airframe systems of its brand-new AgustaWestland AW-109 "Power" attack helicopters.

The said aircraft are in the thick of the fight against lawless elements and terror groups in Mindanao, supporting the older McDonnell Douglas MG-520 "Defender" attack helicopters and Rockwell OV-10 "Bronco" light bombers in their closed-air support missions.

Pre-bid conference, in a bid bulletin posted at the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System, will be on May 5, 1 p.m. at the PAF Procurement Center Conference Room, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

Submission and opening of bids is on May 23, 9 a.m. at the same venue, PAF bids and awards chair Brig. Gen. Nicolas Parilla said.

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 that year.

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