Wednesday, May 17, 2017

‘Kin’ of Abu Sayyaf member nabbed in Silay

From Sun Star-Bacolod (May 18): ‘Kin’ of Abu Sayyaf member nabbed in Silay

AN ALLEGED relative of an Abu Sayyaf member and his companion were arrested for illegal possession of firearms, ammunition, and explosive at Barangay E. Lopez, Silay City, Negros Occidental on May 15.
Senior Inspector Ramil Robles, deputy chief of Silay City Police Station, identified the suspects as Absner “Abu Rafi Ben” Kudarat, 29, and Saldy “Starring” Abebolah, 25, both natives of Isabela, Basilan and presently residing at Hacienda San Diego, Barangay E. Lopez.
Personnel of Police Provincial Maneuver Company headed by Superintendent Frederick Mead arrested both suspects after they received reports that Kudarat was threatening neighbors when he is drunk.
During the apprehension, police seized from Kudarat a .45 caliber, a magazine with six live ammunition and a hand grenade while Abebolah yielded a homemade .357 caliber revolver and 12 live ammunition and fired cartridge.
Both were charged for violation of Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Law while Kudarat was charged separately for illegal possession of explosive.
Robles said Kudarat revealed during the interrogation Tuesday, May 16, that he is a relative of a member of the Abu Sayyaf, but his statement is still subject for confirmation. “We are validating the information since he is not from here,” the police deputy said.
Robles said Kudarat has been staying in the province for some time now since his partner lives in Silay City. However, the police cannot yet confirm if both suspects are involved in crimes.

Jose Maria Sison: Duterte Regime Is Mixed Up and Vulnerable

Opinion piece by Jose Maria Sison posted Telesur TV (May 16): Jose Maria Sison: Duterte Regime Is Mixed Up and Vulnerable

President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, walks with rebels from the New People

President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, walks with rebels from the New People's Army, or NPA. | Photo: Reuters

President Duterte cannot be underestimated, the chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines says.
As he is about to finish the first year of his six-year term of office in June, Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is being assessed and evaluated by a broad spectrum of commentators in terms of performance and fulfillment of promises. His trust rating in poll surveys is still relatively high but this has begun to erode noticeably from the 80 percent peak of his popularity upon his election by a plurality vote of 38 per cent or 16 million of the electorate in May last year.
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Those who continue to support him assert that performance in a year is not enough basis for a final judgment and that there is more than enough time ahead for him to accomplish promises that have most impressed them, such as the eradication of the drug problem, criminality, and corruption.

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

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

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A publicly known group of retired and active military officers called the Magdalo has backed up the motion to impeach Duterte from office. Knowing that the motion would not prosper against Duterte’s “super-majority” in Congress, the group claims to lay the ground for the eventual prosecution and trial of Duterte before the International Criminal Court under the Rome Statute. But most threatening to the Duterte regime is a secret movement among military and police officers who are probably linked to the “yellows” (pro-Aquino political opposition) and are complaining against the system of giving cash rewards to police officers and vigilantes for accomplishing murder missions. They avert that such reward system is corrupting the armed services and destroying their reputation and professional standards.
Filipino Youth Stage Musical Against Duterte's Deadly Drug War
They are emboldened to wage an anti-Duterte campaign because U.S. officials and the European Commission have criticized the Duterte regime and threatened to impose certain sanctions. Most recently, the representatives of 45 out of 47 governments in the U.N. Human Rights Commission universal periodic review of the human rights situation have urged the Philippine government to investigate the alleged extrajudicial killings. In turn, the Duterte regime has expressed fears that the dissenting military and police officers are engaged in a coup plot. To counter the coup threat, Duterte has appointed to his Cabinet more retired military officers whom he considers personally loyal to him. But the United States is still the master of the coup through its Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency in the Philippines.

Aside from the vulnerability of the regime to charges of mass murder, the crisis of the Philippine ruling system and the world capitalist system is ever worsening to the detriment of the Filipino people. The deterioration of the economy is underway to undermine and isolate the regime in the forthcoming year. Foreign exchange remittances from overseas contract workers are slowing down. The export of raw material and semi-manufactures has plunged amidst the global depression.

Credit from Western sources is tightening. The foreign exchange reserves are decreasing. The peso is being devalued in view of a large public debt. Portfolio investments have been flowing out since 2014. While the debt-driven and import-dependent service sector is growing, agriculture and manufacturing have declining shares in the gross domestic product. The prices of staple food and other basic commodities are rising, while regular employment and real wages are decreasing. Social services are becoming more expensive and the public utilities are breaking down.

But President Duterte cannot be underestimated. He describes his government as “inclusive” by mixing up Cabinet members from different political and economic persuasions. He is known for his political skills at talking or acting in the style of the Left, Center and Right, whichever serves him best from moment to moment. He has appointed some patriotic and progressive elements to his Cabinet while surrounding them with an overwhelming majority of Rightists and an increasing number of retired military officers.

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He has released political prisoners of high caliber, although he has held back from releasing all political prisoners who are being held in violation of the GRP-NDFP Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, CARHRIHL. When patriotic and progressive mass organizations hold protests in front of the presidential palace, he invites the leaders for discussion and expresses support and sympathy. In a recent symbolic act, he went out of the palace to meet and mingle with the peasant protesters who demanded land reform. He denounced the landed oligarchs and expressed support for the protests.
Neglected and Shamed, Filipino Poor Seize and Redistribute Homes, Demand Jobs
To gain support from the reactionary armed forces, he has used strong words against the New People’s Army whenever he visits military camps and casualties in funeral parlors and hospitals and he has arrived at an all-out war policy against the revolutionary movement. But keenly aware of the popular demand for a just and lasting peace, he has manifested willingness to continue the peace negotiations between the Government of Republic of the Philippines, GRP, and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, NDFP.

The NDFP, which represents the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army and 16 other revolutionary organizations, continues to consider the peace negotiations as the way to test and find out what Duterte means by wishing to be the first Left president of the Philippines, agreeing to negotiate social, economic and political reforms to address the roots of the civil war and pursuing an independent foreign policy in a multipolar world. The patriotic and progressive forces and the broad masses of the people support the peace negotiations.

Only a few but powerful who may be described as the pro-U.S., ultra-Right wish to spoil the peace negotiations. They wish to precondition the peace negotiations with a cease-fire that is protracted and indefinite, push the revolutionary forces towards capitulation and pacification and lay aside the substantive agenda of social, economic and political reforms. They wish the Commission on Appointments of Congress to remove from the Duterte Cabinet the patriotic and progressive elements who are in positions to help in the implementation of agreed reforms in the peace negotiations.
The NDFP is observing whether Duterte has the political will and the leadership to direct the GRP Negotiating Panel to come to terms with its NDFP counterpart on social and economic reforms band then on political and constitutional reforms before the end of hostilities and the disposition of the armed forces of both sides can be negotiated.

The Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms, CASER, is the “meat” of the entire peace negotiations. The NDFP has demanded national industrialization and genuine land reform. The Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms determines what authority and how all the reforms shall be implemented. The NDFP has offered to co-found with the GRP the Federal Republic of the Philippines in order to override the current existence of two governments, one reactionary, and the other revolutionary, which are belligerent forces in the civil war that started in 1969.

So long as the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations are moving forward from one round of formal talks to another, we can watch unfold the positions of the Duterte government and NDFP and whether or not the two sides can make the necessary comprehensive agreements to put into effect the reforms that are necessary for a just and lasting peace. The fifth round of formal talks shall be held in Noordwik aan Zee in the Netherlands from May 27 to June 2, 2017. The focus shall be on the demand for the release of nearly 400 political prisoners listed by the NDFP in accordance with CARHRIHL, the further negotiation of CASER and the question of a cease-fire.

[Prof. Jose Maria Sison is Chairperson of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle and Chief Political Consultant, National Democratic Front of the Philippines.]

400 soldiers pulled out of Sulu, deployed in Davao City

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 17): 400 soldiers pulled out of Sulu, deployed in Davao City
GOING AFTER BIFF  Army troops arrive in Pikit, North Cotabato province, on Feb. 25, 2015, after Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr., Armed Forces chief of staff, ordered an “all-out” operation against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters whose members have been attacking communities in the province since last week. Government forces have killed 73 Moro rebels, including one described as “foreign-looking” who may be among terror suspects sought by the United States, the military said on Monday, March 10. JEOFFREY MAITEM/INQUIRER MINDANAO

A battalion of soldiers had been pulled out of Sulu and reassigned here to beef up the city’s security amid recent attacks conducted by suspected terrorists and communist rebels, the city information office said Wednesday.

The CIO said on Friday, around 400 members of the 16th Infantry “Maglilingkod” Battalion, led by Lt. Col. Daren Comia, arrived in the city to “help boost Davao City’s measures against peace and security threats, including terrorists.”

The additional soldiers will help the Task Force Davao, which has about the same number of men, secure the city’s periphery against the New People’s Army (NPA) which launched a series of attacks in April.

In September 2016, 15 people also died when suspected terrorists set off a bomb at the Roxas night market.

“We are thankful for the added security,” Mayor Sara Duterte said of the arrival of more soldiers.

Clash between soldiers, NPA rebels reaches Laguna nat’l highway

From Philipopine News (May 17): Clash between soldiers, NPA rebels reaches Laguna nat’l highway

Clash between soldiers, NPA rebels reaches Laguna nat’l highway

An ongoing battle between New People’s Army (NPA) rebels and government soldiers on Wednesday has reached a national road, prompting local officials to set road blocks to keep civilians off the encounter site.

As of 6 p.m., Supt. Chitadel Gaoiran, spokesperson of the Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon (Calabarzon) police, said the firefight has reached the national highway in Luisiana town in Laguna.

“It’s on the national highway already so we prohibit vehicles from passing,” Gaoiran said in a text message.

Just an hour earlier, Rommel Palacol of the Laguna Action Center, said the encounter between the rebels and the police occurred in Barangay Bulajo in the adjacent town of Cavinti.

“Roads are blocked and vehicles coming from Pagsanjan (Laguna) and Lucban (Quezon) are asked to re-route,” Palacol said. He said there are reports of “casualties” on the government’s side.

Gaoiran said the ongoing battle on Wednesday began around 12 noon on the boundary of Barangay Kalangay and Mahabang Parang in Lucban. This involved members of the 5th Maneuver Platoon of Quezon Police Public Safety Company.

So far, police reported certain Police Officer 2 Leonida and Police Officer 1 Tayaba wounded in the clash.

NPA ‘to continue offensives’ vs gov’t forces after Quezon, Laguna clashes

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 18): NPA ‘to continue offensives’ vs gov’t forces after Quezon, Laguna clashes

Lucban and Luisiana, Quezon -- Google maps

A New People’s Army command in Southern Tagalog has vowed to continue their tactical offensives against state security forces, paramilitary units and private armed guards of big businesses operating in the region after a series of armed encounters that started in Lucban town in Quezon and ended in Luisiana town in Laguna on Wednesday.

Jaime “Ka Diego” Padilla, spokesperson of the New People’s Army (NPA) Melito Glor Command in Southern Tagalog, said in a statement that the rebel forces would also continue attacks against businesses engaged in the destruction of the environment and livelihood of the people.

Padilla challenged President Duterte to scrap the military’s counter-insurgency program, Oplan Kapayapaan, for serving as an “instrument of war against the people” and in the destruction of the environment.

Padilla said their offensives were retaliation against the “continued military operations against the people and the revolutionary forces.”

Padilla claimed that at least 28 soldiers, policemen and members of paramilitary groups were wounded in the series of attacks that started in Lucban Wednesday noontime.

Major Gen. Rhoderick Parayno, commander of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, said Padilla’s figures were lies.

“It’s obvious that the NPA press release is full of twisted facts. Foremost are the numbers presented,” Parayno said in an online interview.

Citing reports from civilians residing near the encounters site, Parayno said the escaping rebels were carrying three wounded comrades.

Police report said two cops sustained minor gunshot wounds in the 30-minute firefight in the boundary of Barangay Kalangay and Mahabang Parang in Lucban.

A few hours later, a band of NPA rebels in military uniform ambushed Army soldiers in the nearby town of Luisiana in Laguna province. Police report said two military vehicles, one of them a V-150 Armored Personnel Carrier tank, were traversing the Cavinti-Luisiana road when a landmine exploded. Five Army soldiers and two civilians were wounded in the blast.

Authorities said the attacks have been aimed at intimidating big companies that have refused to give in to the rebels’ demand for revolutionary tax.

7 hurt as NPA rebels set off landmine, ambush Army tank in Laguna

From the Philippine News Agency (May 17): 7 hurt as NPA rebels set off landmine, ambush Army tank in Laguna
Five Philippine Army personnel and two civilians were wounded after New People’s Army (NPA) rebels ambushed two military vehicles by setting off a landmine in Luisiana town in Laguna province on Wednesday afternoon.

Supt. Chitadel Gaoiran, spokesperson of the police in Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon (CALABARZON), said the clash in Luisiana, which is believed to be a continuation of an earlier encounter with the insurgents in Lucban, Quezon at noon, started around 3 p.m. on the boundary of villages San Antonio and San Jose.

Initial police reports said two military vehicles, one of them a V-150 Armored Personnel Carrier tank, were traversing the Cavinti-Luisiana road when a landmine exploded. This prompted the gun battle between the government forces and the rebels, believed to be “prepositioned” in the area prior the blast.
Sergeants Marvin Bagaboro, Zaldy Lebantino, Teejay Antonio, Jeff Ray Gatlabayan of the 202nd Infantry Battalion, and Domingo Garcillas, a member of the Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit were wounded. Two civilians whose identities were not immediately known were also hurt.

The damage on the vehicles is still undetermined.

Meanwhile, motorists in the vicinity likened the scene to a coup d’etat. Others also noted several police checkpoints set up in Luisiana and Cavinti towns.

Major Gen. Rhoderick Parayno, commander of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, said the communist guerillas who detonated the improvised explosive device were wearing Army uniforms.

Citing reports from civilians residing near the encounter site, Parayno said the escaping rebels were carrying three wounded comrades.

Parayno also said soldiers engaged another group of NPA rebels in Lucban town late afternoon. The firefight was still ongoing at around 6:45 p.m.

2 NPA rebels surrender in Zamboanga del Sur

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (May 17): 2 NPA rebels surrender in Zamboanga del Sur

EXTREME hardships and false promises have pushed two New People’s Army (NPA) rebels to surrender to the government troops in the province of Zamboanga del Sur, the military reported Wednesday, May 17.

Lieutenant Colonel Virgilio Hamos, Jr., Army’s 53rd Infantry Battalion commander, identified them as Rey Anthony Dungog alias "Ka Mark," 19, and Alvin Ladra Calibo alias Ka Jason, 24, both belong to the Main Regional Guerrilla Unit of the NPA’s Western Mindanao Regional Party Committee.

Hamos said that Second Lieutenant Maverick Rey Mira facilitated the surrender of the two, who are residents of the village of Balagon, Siay, Zamboanga Sibugay. Dungog and Calibo surrendered on Tuesday, May 16, to the troops in Guipos, Zamboanga del Sur.

Hamos said they cited extreme hardships, hunger and unfulfilled promises as among the reasons why they decided to leave the NPA and surrender to live a peaceful life.

He said they joined NPA after they were enticed that they will receive P10,000 monthly, which turned out to be a false promise.

He said they will facilitate the enrollment of the two NPA surrenderees to the government’s Comprehensive Local Integration Program.

 He said each of them will receive livelihood training and cash assistance to help them reintegrate to the mainstream of the society once their application will be approved.

Army soldier wounded in Kalinga clash with NPA

From the Manila Bulletin (May 17): Army soldier wounded in Kalinga clash with NPA

Camp Bado Dangwa, La Trinidad, Benguet – A Philippine Army soldier was wounded in an encounter with New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Sitio Saltan, Barangay Balbalasang, Balbalan, Kalinga province Monday morning.
PFC Castro Fagronob Nestor, sustained a gunshot wound and was transported to the Western Kalinga District Hospital, where he was last listed in stable condition.

The Alpha Coy 501 IB, 503rd Brigade of the Philippine Army (PA), under the command of 1st Lt. Noel Orven Baldonado was on routine patrol when they encountered the NPA rebels, which triggered the skirmish.
The military has yet to confirm whether or not the rebels suffered casualties.

The Balbalan municipal police station and the Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB) have established strategic checkpoints in Sitio Camadayan, Poblacion, Balbalan, Kalinga to plug any possible withdrawal points of the withdrawing communist armed group.

‘NPA raid on outpost was a holdup’ – Cordillera police

From News 5-InterAksyon (May 18): ‘NPA raid on outpost was a holdup’ – Cordillera police

The Police Regional Office-Cordillera gives presents updated data on peace and order at the Regional Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee meeting at the Baguio City Police Office. (photo by Aldwin Quitasol, News5-InterAksyon)

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — Police in the Cordillera region denied one of their outposts in Benguet province had been raided by the New People’s Army, choosing to describe the incident as a holdup because the rebels are supposedly “non-existent.”

Hours after the Jessica Carino Command of the New People’s Army in Benguet emailed a statement on the raid mounted by one of its units on the police substation in Barangay Loo, Buguias town, the Police Regional Office-Cordillera emailed its own statement condemning what it called a “robbery with intimidation” that victimized one officer and two village watchmen.

“The Police Regional Office-Cordillera strongly condemns the unfortunate incident involving our policemen and 2 BPAT (Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team) members who were merely implementing municipal ordinances in the area and refutes the news published by the Jennifer Cariño Command New People’s Army-Benguet, which has long been believed to be a non-existent group based on the joint AFP-PNP (Armed Forces of the Philippines-Philippine National Police) Intelligence Committee,” the email said.

The spot report on the incident from the Buguias police said Senior Police Officer 1 Leonardo Calos and the two watchmen were disarmed and robbed by four unidentified armed suspects onboard a passenger van.

The gunmen took Calos’ 9mm service pistol, four loaded magazines, his wallet with P15,000 in cash and various identification cards, the report said.

No one was harmed in the incident.

In its earlier statement, the NPA command called the raid on the outpost a “punitive action” for alleged “crimes committed … against the people and the revolutionary movement,” including the torture and murder of their comrade Antonio Licawen in 2005, the detention and torture of young hitchhikers after a rebel raid in 2006, and other abuses such as extortion from motorists and localbusinessmen.

“The Buguias police force are also involved in the sale of illegal drugs and other anti-social activities such as the operation of bars,” the rebels claimed.

Local execs seek military presence to repulse NPAs from entering town

From the Philippine News Agency (May 18): Local execs seek military presence to repulse NPAs from entering town

In this photo taken Nov. 23, 2016, members of the New People's Army communist rebels with face painted to conceal their identities, stand in formation during ceremonies before a news conference held at their guerrilla encampment tucked in the harsh wilderness. AP/File photo

SULTAN KUDARAT, Philippines - Local officials on Thursday recommended the setting up of military detachments in hinterland barangays in Kalamansig town to prevent infiltration by communist rebels.

Personnel of the 6th Marine Battalion, a unit of the 1st Marine Brigade, twice foiled since April two attempts by New People’s Army guerrillas to intrude into farming enclaves in upland barangays in Kalamansig.
Mayor Ronan Garcia said on Thursday the presence of Marines and militiamen in the areas in Kalamansig the NPAs from nearby towns have lately been pestering can deter the group’s expansion there.
Garcia is the presiding chairman of the inter-agency, multi-sectoral Kalamansig municipal peace and order council.

The NPAs first showed force in Barangay Hinalaan in Kalamansig last month.
They attacked Marine servicemen sent to check their presence in Barangay Hinalaan, whose residents they reportedly forced to shell out “protection money” at gunpoint.

A Marine was killed while several others were wounded in the encounter.

Barangay leaders said the exchange of gunfire waned only when the rebels ran out of ammunition and scampered away carrying their dead and wounded companions.

Another group of NPAs again appeared at nearby Barangay Sangay in the same town on May 15, sparking another encounter with responding Marines.
Barangay officials have since been asking for more military outposts in strategic spots to forestall the return of NPAs trying to establish enclaves in their villages.

“Life would become so difficult for us here if we allow them to come in,” a Lumad barangay official, who requested anonymity for security reasons, said in Filipino.

The Marines recovered from the scene of the May 15 encounter in Barangay Sangay two rifles, an M-16 and an M-14, left as the rebels fled in haste.

Villagers are apprehensive the NPAs, led by a certain Mac-Mac, could return and harass them again if they don’t see heavy military presence in the surroundings.

Personnel of different units of the 1st Marine Brigade are popular for their sustained humanitarian missions in Muslim, Christian and Lumad communities in Sultan Kudarat’s seaside Lebak, Kalamansig and Palimbang towns and in Datu Blah Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

Usage of battle-tested commanders paying off in gov't campaign vs ASG

From the Philippine News Agency (May 18): Usage of battle-tested commanders paying off in gov't campaign vs ASG


The deployment of battle-tested commanders in the government's ongoing campaign against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) terrorists is certainly reaping good results as the lawless elements are now being forced away from their traditional hunting grounds.

This was stressed by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo Wednesday when asked what other factors have so far contributed to the ASG decline in Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.

He cited the case of Joint Task Force Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, military units engaged in the campaign against the ASG, who are now being commanded by battle-hardened commanders in the guise of Brig. Gens. Cirilito Sobejana and Custodio Parcon, respectively.

Both men are known for competency and bravery in the field, aside from being recipients of the country's highest military decoration, the Medal Of Valor which is equivalent to the US Congressional Medal of Honor and United Kingdom's Victoria Cross.

Due to the leadership exhibited by the two men, ASG bandits in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi are now having a hard time operating in their former hold-outs as military units in the areas are always conducting tracking and pursuit operations against the lawless elements.

Arevalo said brilliance of these officers and bravery of their men are backed up by the whole-hearted support of AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Eduardo Año who has committed all available military assets and resources to eliminating the terror group.

Western Mindanao Command data indicated that from Jan. 1 up to May 17, a total of 81 ASG bandits were killed, with the surrender of another 50 brigands, apprehension of 18 and capture of 70 high- and low-powered weapons from the terror group's members.

Arevalo said the number of surrendered ASG terrorists is unprecedent as this is the first time the terrorists have opted to surrender en masse.

The AFP public affairs office chief said that the surrendered bandits are also claiming that their finances are going low due to their inability to kidnap new victims and ransom them, crimping on their ability to acquire weapons, food and other supplies.

This lack has caused the morale of the ASG members to plummet making them prone to surrenders.

Benguet NPA raids police station, calls it ‘punishment’ for crimes vs people

From InterAksyon (May 17): Benguet NPA raids police station, calls it ‘punishment’ for crimes vs people

 NPA rebels are seen at their camp somewhere in the Cordillera. INTERAKSYON FILE PHOTO BY ALDWIN QUITASOL

Another police facility was raided by suspected communist rebels, with the victim this time a sub-station in Brgy. Loo in Buguias, Benguet.

The raid at about 9pm Tuesday (May 16) was done “without even firing a single shot,” according to the Jennifer Cariño Command of the New People’s Army (JCC-NPA-Benguet), which owned the raid through a statement e-mailed to media.

According to the NPA, the police station was quickly overrun by the rebels unit, which seized a 9mm Bereta firearm with four magazines, an M14 magazine, one hand grenade, holsters, pouch, two VHF radios and military uniforms. “The comrades faithfully observed all regulations of the New People’s Army Rules on Engagement and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAHRIHL),” read the statement.

The NPA said its latest attack is a punitive action for the “crimes committed by the Philippine National Police (PNP) against the people and the revolutionary movement.”

It singled out the Buguias police force, whose members, claimed the NPA, “are notorious for committing crimes against the masses. They randomly stop motorists plying the highway in order to extort bribes. Most of these motorists are gardeners bringing their vegetable harvest to market. The bribe money extorted by the police adds to the already heavy burden of the gardeners struggling under the high prices of farm inputs and fluctuating prices of their produce. The Buguias police force are also involved in the sale of illegal drugs and other anti-social activities such as the operation of bars.”

The NPA-Benguet command said the Buguias police tortured and killed their comrade Ka Antonio “Ka Leyap” Licawen, in 2005, in Barangay Bad-ayan, even though he was injured and had already surrendered to the police.

The NPA command added that the Bugias police are also responsible for torturing a group of youth who were hitchhiking along Halsema Highway in 2006, after the successful NPA raid on the Civilian Auxiliary Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) detachment in Cabitin, Mankayan.

“The New People’s Army stands firm in its commitment to protect the interests of the people and serve revolutionary justice on those who commit crimes against them. The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police are primary targets of the NPA’s military operations as they are the instruments of the fascist ruling state in maintaining their exploitation and repression of the masses,” the NPA stressed.

Goods, school supplies given to 1,000 residents, students

From the Mindanao Times (May 17): Goods, school supplies given to 1,000 residents, students

AROUND 1,000 residents and children of Barangay Dominga, Calinan District benefited from the distribution of relief goods and school supplies on Sunday.
Capt. Alenel Valles, civil-military operations officer of 3rd Infantry Battalion, said a town hall meeting was also initiated to address the issues and concerns of the community affected by recent encounters between the government forces and NPA rebels.

Valles said the activity was supported by the Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.

The 3rd Infantry Battalion, under the leadership of Lt. Col. Raymund Dante Lachica; Calinan police headed by Chief Insp. Nolan Raquid, and Barangay Dominga officials headed by chair Ivy Marie L. Lumandas, spearheaded the distribution of relief goods and school supplies.
Last Wednesday, around 86 families evacuated due to fear of being caught in the crossfire between government security forces and communist rebels in barangays Dominga and Dalagdag, both in Calinan District.

Lachica said that around 1:18 p.m. of May 6, soldiers conducting a clearing operation encountered more or less 10 New People’s Army rebels believed to be members of Andoy Platoon, Pulang Bagani Command 1 under alias Banakon.
The firefight lasted for about five minutes before the rebels withdrew. On May 10, around 12:57 a.m., security elements of 3rd IB again clashed with the same group.

Islamic State threatens Muslim scholars

From the Mindanao Examiner (May 17): Islamic State threatens Muslim scholars

Islamic State militants have threatened ulama or Islamic scholars who attended a recent anti-terrorism summit in Cotabato City in southern Philippines, officials said.

Officials said local militants, who are members of the Dawlah Islamiya, tried to prevent ulama and religious leaders from attending the summit conducted by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in an effort to curb or combat terrorism.

“To those who have Ulama relatives, warn your parents, brothers, and children not to attend the said summit because if something happens to them along the way or in the end, don’t tell us you were not warned,” a statement released by the Dawlah Islamiya said.

ARMM Interior Secretary Noor Hafizullah Abdullah confirmed the threat, but said the summit held from May 12-14 was a big success with hundreds of ulama and religious leaders and other stake holders attended the event.

Abdullah said because of the threat they are now seriously considering holding more anti-terrorism and anti-illegal drugs forums and summits in 5 provinces under the autonomous region. He said the summit is an initial step of the ARMM government to enlist the support of Islamic scholars to combat terrorism.

“The decision to bring down the issue at the local government level came after the Dawlah Islamiya, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, issued a statement threatening the ulama who recently attended the three-day summit against terrorism in Cotabato City,” Abdullah said.

He said that ARMM’s 116 municipalities and two cities – Lamitan and Marawi – will soon conduct summit against terrorism and illegal drugs to prevent and combat the rising threats of terrorism, as well as to strengthen the role of the local governments in promoting peace and security.

“The summit would synchronize measures on how to restrain criminality, terrorism and illegal drugs, which affect the peace and order situation in the region. The local governments must be at the forefront of this battle and must have a major role in combating terrorism. The summit will help confront terrorism and extremism at the municipal level,” Abdullah said.

He said the local governments play a vital role in the fight against terrorism and illegal drugs because local chief executives and officials could help prevent violence in their respective areas.

“With close coordination, mutual support and cooperation at all times can help put an end to terrorism. I can see that the local governments in the region are very active in this fight in order to have peaceful and progressive communities. Liliit ang mundo ng mga teroristang grupo kapag nakita nila na lahat ay nagtutulungan to fight terror acts,” Abdullah said.

For his part, ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman said: “Islamic scholars can contribute largely to the advocacy against terrorism by educating people about the true teachings of Islam, most especially on the principles of justice, compassion, peace, and harmony. The national government considers terrorism as an urgent and critical national security threat.”

2 Sayyaf militants killed in Sulu fighting

From the Mindanao Examiner (May 17): 2 Sayyaf militants killed in Sulu fighting

Two Abu Sayyaf militants were killed in a brief clash Wednesday in the southern Filipino province of Sulu, the military said.

Army Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command, said the fighting erupted in Sandah village in the town of Patikul, a known lair of the notorious group allied with the Islamic State.

She said troops from the 10th Infantry Battalion recovered the bodies of the slain militants, including three M16 automatic rifles. Petinglay, quoting a report from Brigadier General Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu, said: “We were also able to recover the remains of the two Abu Sayyaf bandits who are still yet to be identified. Fortunately, no one was hurt from among our soldiers.”

Petinglay said two militants – Musa Jamil Alsid, 19, and Mohammad Waddang Udding, 20, – also surrendered on Tuesday to the 2nd Special Forces Battalion under Lieutenant Colonel Gaspar Panopio in Talipao town. They turned over one M16 automatic rifle to the military. “Both Alsid and Udding are undergoing custodial debriefing,” she said.

Security forces are battling Abu Sayyaf militants in Sulu, one of 5 provinces under the Muslim autonomous region. The group is still holding about 2 dozen hostages, mostly foreign seamen kidnapped at sea in Basilan and Sabah in Malaysia.

3 warring Maguindanao clans end feud, sign peace accord

From the Mindanao Examiner (May 17): 3 warring Maguindanao clans end feud, sign peace accord



Three Muslim warring clans end feud on May 17, 2017 following a peace deal in Maguindanao province in southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photos by Rhoderick Beñez)

Three Muslim warring clans end feud on May 17, 2017 following a peace deal in Maguindanao province in southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photos by Rhoderick Beñez)
Three warring Muslim clans ended a bitter feud that lasted over a decade following a peaceful settlement of the conflict on Wednesday at an army base in Maguindanao province in southern Philippines.

The peace deals between the feuding families of Abo and Mamalakat; Taaral and Mamaco; and Pacasma and Wadia was made possible through the joint efforts of Buldon town Mayor Abolais Manalao, the 37th Infantry Battalion and 603rd Infantry Brigade under Colonel Jesus Sarsagat.

All clan members, mostly from Iranun families, peacefully ended their rifts in Islamic religious rites and signing of peace pact that put an end to 15 years of violence that stemmed from a land conflict and personal issues, according to security officials.

They said family leaders and members of the 6 clans exchanged handshakes and embraced each other after swearing to the Holy Quran before Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu and Major General Arnel Dela Vega, commander of the 6th Infantry Division, as well as other local and military officials as witnesses.

The conflicts involving Abo and Mamalakat and Taaral and Mamaco started from a land dispute while Pacasma and Wadia was triggered by personal issues, said Dela Vega. “Do not bring back the past animosities to prevent the conflict to escalate,” he told clan members.

The warring clans also surrendered weapons – four automatic rifle, a Barrette sniper rifle and a 12-gauge shot gun to finally put an end to their conflicts. Clan members will be given a livestock in exchange for the weapons as part of the livelihood program of the Department of Agriculture.

CMO personnel undergo training on radio broadcasting

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 16): CMO personnel undergo training on radio broadcasting

At least 57 civil military operations office (CMO) personnel of the 1st Infantry (Tabak) Division, Philippine Army underwent a 4-day training on radio broadcasting organized by the Division Public Affairs Office (DPAO) on May 10-14 at Our Lady of Fatima Shrine here.

DPAO chief Major Richard Enciso said the training gave the participants not only theoretical but also practical skills and tools in broadcasting.

During the training, Enciso said participants were taught the practical skills of broadcasting—including listening, recording, interviewing, on the spot anchoring and media ethics.

Lecturers who were recognized experts in the field of broadcasting were tapped as resource persons to share their knowledge and expertise on the topic.

Some of the participants are managing programs at the radio broadcasting facilities of the Philippine Army, while others are handling radio programs in private stations.

“Through the training, the participants will enhance their communication skills to effectively communicate the AFP programs and services to the public,” he added.

Participants underwent practical sessions at DXRM radio station in Ramon Magsaysay town where each participant made a 3-minute talk.

They also conducted field interview with some key stakeholders during the opening of Brigada Eskwela in the following schools, namely: Zamboanga del Sur National High School, Pagadian City Science High School, and Kawit Elementary School.

“Nalipay kami nga nakapailawom ning maong pagbansaybansay aron among mapalambo ang among kahibalo sa pagpangutana ug aron epektibo kami nga makapahibalo sa programa sa gobyerno ngadto sa mga katawhan (We are grateful for this training for us to develop interviewing skills and to make us effective in communicating the programs of government to the people),” Sgt. Rhey Floren of the 1st Field Artillery battalion, Army Artillery Regiment said.

Government troops arrest most wanted NPA commander

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 16): Government troops arrest most wanted NPA commander

KUTA SANG-AN, LABANGAN, Zamboanga del Sur - - Combined troops of the 102nd “Igsoon” Brigade of the Army’s 1st Infantry (TABAK) Division, together with elements of the Philippine National Police Provincial Office, Ozamis City arrested Rommel Salinas alias Venco/Beto/Carlos/Doming/Artem/Mark, secretary SECOM, SENDONG Western Mindanao Regional Party Committee in Barangay Gango, Ozamis City at about 6PM on Thursday, May 11.

Rommel Salinas, who was the most wanted New People’s Army (NPA) commander in Western Mindanao was arrested by virtue of five warrants of arrest for the following crimes docketed: CC# 9707 for Destructive Arson issued by RTC, 10th judicial Region, Br 32; CC# 9552 for Murder issued by RTC, 10th Judicial region, Br 29, CC# 9705 for Frustrated Murder issued by RTC, 10th Judicial Region, Br 32, CC# 9600 for Attempted Murder issued by RTC, 10th Judicial Region, Br 32 and CC# 9708 for Robbery in Band issued by RTC, 10th Judicial Region, Br 30.

Salinas, who did not put up a fight, was with two companions identified as Bishop Carlo Morales of the Philippine Independent Church, his wife Maria Teotifina Morales, with their driver, Sadome Dalid. They were on board an IFI maroon Starex with plate number NR 151010 when arrested.

 Brigadier General Rolando Joselito D. Bautista, commander of the 1st Infantry (TABAK) Division, Philippine Army said the NPA in Zamboanga Peninsula and elsewhere were involved in numerous atrocities nationwide especially in Mindanao, particularly arson, extortion, killings and abduction.

Salinas being a front secretary of the NPA is reportedly involved in numerous high profile crimes against the people and humanity.

“Best coordination work from community, LGU, PNP and the Army led to the capture of the ranking CPP-NPA leader in Western Mindanao,” said BGen Bautista.

President Duterte: Offer for safe homecoming of CPP's Joma still stands

From the Philippine News Agency (May 17): President Duterte: Offer for safe homecoming of CPP's Joma still stands

The offer for the safe homecoming of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding leader Jose Maria Sison still stands.

This was emphasized by President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday as the new round of peace negotiations between the Philippine Government and the CPP’s political wing, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), is set to take place on May 27 to June 1 in Noordwijk, The Netherlands.

”My offer to Sison stands. He can come here in peace. I will guarantee his safety,” said Duterte, adding that he would even "underwrite for Joma’s hospitalization."

”Hindi ko siya aarestuhin (I will not arrest him),” Duterte said..

It may be recalled that last April, the President offered Sison to come home, citing his serious medical condition. Sison, Duterte’s former professor, has been in exile in The Netherlands since 1987.

”Pag ang tao may sakit (If a person is sick)…it's not good to be oppressive, kulung-kulungin mo pa…ipagamot mo na lang (why confine him if you can give him a medical treatment),” Duterte said.

”We do not fight people who are helpless, not healthy anymore. It ain't that way, it's not,” he stressed.

Army hunts rebels as soldier killed in Samar clash

From the Philippine News Agency (May 17): Army hunts rebels as soldier killed in Samar clash

The Philippine Army is tracking down a group of armed rebels behind the killing of an army corporal in a clash on Tuesday in the outskirt of Matuguinao, Samar.

The 15-minute firefight took place in remote Mahayag village in Matuguinao town, the Philippine Army reported Wednesday afternoon.

“A pursuit operation is being conducted to apprehend the rebels. Army units in nearby areas were ordered to conduct checkpoints along possible entries and exits of withdrawals of the enemy and to verify possible accommodation of wounded enemy in nearby hospitals,” said 1st Lt. Cherry M. Junia, chief of the Philippine Army 8th Infantry Division public affairs office.

The 43rd Infantry Battalion based in Lope de Vega, Northern Samar clashed with about 20 NPA rebels around 9:45 a.m. on Tuesday. Killed during the encounter was Corp. Renjie Ada.

Junia said there were undetermined number of casualties on the enemy’s side.

The 15-minute firefight erupted when soldiers chased a group of communist rebels asking for food and medicines from villagers.

Matuguinao, a 5th class farming town is about 105 kilometers north of this city. Most of its 20 villages are infested by rebels due to poor road networks and thick forest.

Samar is known to be one of the hotbeds of armed rebels in the country. Several encounters between the army and NPA had been reported in Samar in the past years.

Legazpi City signs MOU as partner city of USAID's projects

From the Philippine News Agency (May 17): Legazpi City signs MOU as partner city of USAID's projects

The top officials of this city, Albay province and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on Wednesday led the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) after Legazpi City has been selected as one of the partner cities of USAID-funded development projects.

“Today marks the day that Legazpi City joins our USAID partner cities,” said Dr. Susan K. Brems, mission director of USAID-Philippines.

She said the MOU would form the basis of the partnership “for us to pursue together inclusive and resilient economic growth”.

Albay Governor Al Francis Bichara, Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal and Brems signed the MOU to start the implementation of development projects to hasten urban development in secondary cities outside of Metro Manila such as Legazpi City.

Brems said that the MOU was an “expression of solidarity of the American people” whose taxes contribute to development assistance elsewhere in the world.

“Under the administration of President (Rodrigo) Duterte, we have reaffirmed and validated the framework for our bilateral assistance,” she said.

She added this means adopting and focusing on the “priorities of the Duterte administration,” said Brems.

Brems explained this was the reason why the development project was being referred to as the “partnership for growth with equity”.

Signing of the MOU formally makes Legazpi City part of a five-year flagship project of USAID in the Philippines called “Strengthening Urban Resilience for Growth with Equity” or SURGE.

Jeremy Gustafson, director of the USAID Office of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, in a multisectoral forum held on Tuesday in this city, said the component activities of the project include such areas as climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction.

He said SURGE falls under USAID’s Cities Development Initiatives or CDI, whose approach was to “provide a multi-faceted package of assistance under the broader Partnership for Growth”.

USAID believes that Legazpi City is in the “forefront of progress” with regards to disaster risk reduction and the building up of resilience, Brems said.

She said this was significant since the Philippines was particularly vulnerable to what she referred to as “climate insult,” whether it’s a typhoon, earthquake, flood or drought.

Bichara said the SURGE project was a collaboration along a path that Albay has already started and which would conform to his vision of Albay moving as one with no one being left behind.

“Everybody should be able to feel the progress that we are making and that the development (projects) will make a difference in the lives of every Albayano,” he added.

Rosal said the MOU signing ceremony attested to the US and Philippines’ “long and enduring friendship and solidarity”.

He said it also affirmed a “lasting partnership and commitment to the improvement and betterment of the world we live in”.

2nd Negros Geographical Battalion activated in Negros Oriental

From the Philippine News Agency (May 17): 2nd Negros Geographical Battalion activated in Negros Oriental


The commander of the 3rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army on Wednesday said that the arrival of the 2nd Negros Island Geographical Battalion would complement ongoing efforts by existing government security forces here to keep the peace.

Maj. Gen. Jon Aying, 3rd ID chief, announced this during the activation of the 2nd Negros Island Geographical Battalion at ceremonies Wednesday afternoon at the Ninoy Aquino Freedom Park in Dumaguete City, the capital of Negros Oriental.

A day ahead of Wednesday’s ceremonies, the 1st Negros Island Geographical Battalion was also activated in Negros Occidental.

Headed by Maj. Eugie Villan, the 2nd Negros Island Geographical Battalion of 600 members will be temporarily based at Camp Leon Kilat in Tanjay, Negros Oriental, where the 79th Infantry Battalion is also based.

The priorities of both territorial battalions are to ensure the security resiliency of Negros Island and the whole of the Visayas under the control and supervision of the 3rd Infantry Division.

The four “serious enemies” of security that Maj. Gen. Aying highlighted were the insurgency threat posed by the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army, the threat of the extremist terror groups like the Abu Sayyaf, the proliferation of illegal drugs and the vulnerable targets of these three social problems.

“It is very glaring that we have already been attacked by the Abu Sayyaf Group in Bohol and it is a must that we must be able to be resilient or have that capacity to insulate us from Mindanao-based violent terrorism and extremism”, he said.

Aside from the anti-terror threat, the other tasks of the battalion in Negros Oriental will be to help fight the insurgency as posed by the Communist New People’s Army, to help fight criminality, especially the President’s war on drugs.

Maj. Gen. Aying lauded Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo for his consistent stand against all kinds of security threats and continued support to efforts of government security forces to keep the peace.

As a sign of gratitude for this, Maj. Gen. Aying said it was but fitting to give Gov. Degamo full military honors prior to the opening program of the activation of the 2nd Negros Island Geographical Battalion.

PHL has good jungle warfare school: US mily official

From the Philippine News Agency (May 17): PHL has good jungle warfare school: US mily official

The Philippines has a very good jungle warfare school in Ternate, Cavite, a ranking American military official involved in the anti-terrorism phase of this year's "Balikatan" exercises, has said.

In an interview Tuesday, US Joint Task Force commander Brig. Gen. John Jansen said he has observed American and Filipino troops perform counter-terrorism drills in Fort Magsaysay, Palayan City, Nueva Ecija and Ternate, Cavite a few days ago.

"They train to a very high level that brings in the kind of capabilities that you need to be able to locate, identify, track, close with and do the things that need to be done relative to terrorists," Jansen said.

Drills include clearing a town infested with terrorists and disarming improvised bombs and explosives left by lawless elements.

"You’ve got a very good jungle warfare training school down there. In fact, we think we have a very good jungle warfare training school in Okinawa, Japan. It’s very tough, they put you out there with a bottle of water and a Kaybar knife. They put you out there and pick you up in seven days kind of thing. Our Marines say that yours is tougher here, down there in Ternate," he added.

This year's "Balikatan" exercises began last May 8 and winds up on May 19.

US forces can respond within 24 hours should calamities strike PHL

From the Philippine News Agency (May 17): US forces can respond within 24 hours should calamities strike PHL

American forces can deploy units to help the country's military forces within 24 hours in case a massive disaster hits the Philippines.

This was bared US Exercise Director, CPX-STAFFEX (Command Post-Staff Exercise) Combined Exercise Control Group "Balikatan" 33-17 Major Andrew Merz in an interview Wednesday.

The latter was held at the Command and General Staff College (CGSC) Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Participating were 75 US military personnel along with 40 CGSC students.

Serving as obsevers were members of the Australian and Japanese militaries.

"In an actual disaster, the US will send several diffrent type of teams down almost immediately within 24 hours, so not only with the USA send their teams, there will be also a joint humanitarian assistance team to start coordinating with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for the initial response," he added.

Merz added the US military will take a supporting role in this event and will provide suppot that is not readily available like lift support.

In Wednesday's "Balikatan" drills, he said that US forces are focused on providing their AFP counterparts with general tactics, techniques and procedures that can be used in a range of operations including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) and counter-terrorism.

Scenarios played in the STAFFEX's were HADR, which include responses to a "Category 5" typhoon which battered the Eastern Visayas, with a bit of counter-terrorism involving a hijacking incident.

These stimulated events are designed to test the AFP crisis action planning team on how quickly they can resolve the terrorist scenario so they can move on with their HADR missions.

China to host first bilateral meeting with PHL on South China Sea issue

From the Philippine News Agency (May 17): China to host first bilateral meeting with PHL on South China Sea issue

China will host the first bilateral consultation mechanism meeting with the Philippines on the South China Sea issue in Guiyang, Guizhou province on Friday, according to Chinese Foreign Ministry Affairs.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying announced that representatives from both countries will tackle issues reached between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on South China Sea or West Philippine Sea.

"The two leaders once again reached important consensus on properly resolving the South China Sea issue through dialogue and consultation, which serves the fundamental interests of China, the Philippines and people in the region as well as peace and stability of the South China Sea and beyond," Hua said.

Aside from working on the implementation of relevant consensus reached between Presidents Xi and Duterte, Hua said China is committed to maintain the long-term development of bilateral relations as well as peace and stability in the South China Sea.

"It is also in line with the responsibilities that must be shouldered by China and the Philippines as regional countries. The two sides will have friendly dialogues and consultations on the South China Sea-related issues," she said.

The bilateral meeting will be co-chaired by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin and Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana.

The Philippines-China relations has been rejuvenated following President Duterte’s four-day state visit in Beijing in October last year upon invitation of President Xi.

Last weekend, President Duterte returned to China for the first Belt and Road Forum on International Cooperation. On the sidelines, he and the Chinese leader held bilateral meeting.

The Philippines-China relations hit snag after the Philippines filed an arbitration case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague in Jan. 22, 2013 to contest China’s ‘nine-dash line’ claim on South China Sea.

A month after President Duterte took his oath as President in June last year, the UN-backed arbitration court released its judgment in favor of the Philippines.

However, President Duterte decided to temporarily shelve the PCA verdict to allow the resolution of the maritime dispute through peaceful dialogues and consultations.

President Duterte's decision was warmly welcomed by China, resulting in USD 24 billion worth of investment pledges and infrastructure projects and signing of trade and people-to-people agreements.

Aside from bilateral meeting, China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries is set to hold 14th Senior Officials’ Meeting on the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).

Hua said senior officials from the 10 ASEAN member states and the representative of the Secretary-General of the ASEAN will attend the meeting upon invitation.

"The meeting will focus on the development of China-ASEAN relations and regional cooperation of East Asia and lay a groundwork for such high-level meetings within this year as China-ASEAN Leaders' Meeting and Foreign Ministers' Meeting,” Hua said.

The high-level talks will be co-chaired by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin and Chee Wee Kiong, Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Singapore and coordinator of China-ASEAN relations, on Thursday.

Hua said the 21st Joint Working Group Meeting on Implementing the DOC will be held back-to-back before the high-level meeting.

"China will continue to have an in-depth exchange of views with the ASEAN member states on implementing the DOC, promoting maritime cooperation and conducting consultations on the COC (Code of Conduct)," Hua said.

She also announced that the 23rd China-ASEAN Senior Officials' Consultation will be held on Friday with Liu and Kiong as co-chairs.

Aside from the Philippines and Singapore, other ASEAN members include: Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam also have respective claims to parts of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea territory.

Sulu military units in a roll, 49 ASG bandits killed in span of 4 months

From the Philippine News Agency (May 17): Sulu military units in a roll, 49 ASG bandits killed in span of 4 months

Military units, tasked to neutralize the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Sulu, have been on a roll killing 49 and wounding 42 of the bandits since Feb. 21 to May 17 this year.

This was revealed by Joint Task Force Sulu head Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana in an interview Wednesday.

Numbers of surrendered ASG during January up to May has been placed at 14, he added.

This brings to the number of surrendered bandits to the ZAMBASULTA (Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi) to 49 while arrested lawless elements were placed at 22 as of this posting.

"We will sustain this effort and by June 30, if they are not totally eliminated, at least the threat (they can project) will be reduced to an insignificant level," Sobejana disclosed.

Also recovered during this period were 94 firearms which included one .50 caliber machinegun and a 60mm mortar.

During Armed Forces of the Philippines chief-of-staff Gen. Eduardo Año's assumption-of-command ceremonies last December, he pledged to eradicate the ASG threat by June this year.

He also placed the remaining number of ASG bandits in his area of operation to around 80 to 120.

As this develops, Sobejana said his troops have killed two more ASG bandits during an encounter in Patikul Hill, Patikul town, Wednesday 7 a.m.

He added that troops encountered an estimated 15 of the bandits, triggering a five-minute gunfight which resulted in the death of two ASGs, bringing the number of slain lawless elements to 49, and immediate retreat of their companions.

Sobejana said they have recovered the bodies of the slain bandits and are in the process of identifying them as of this time.

Cordillera leaders call for GRP-NDF permanent ceasefire

From the Philippine News Agency (May 17): Cordillera leaders call for GRP-NDF permanent ceasefire

The top local executives and civic leaders of the Cordilleras on Wednesday ended their historic joint meeting of the Regional Development Council (RDC) and Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) with an appeal to both the Philippine government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) to agree to a permanent ceasefire and enable the full development of their communities.

In a joint statement signed after the two-day conference held in Baguio City, officials and members of the Cordillera Administrative Region RDC and RPOC declared their “commitment of support to the call to end violence and to the attainment of permanent ceasefire” with communist guerrillas.

Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan, chair of both the RDC and RPOC, explained that the attainment of just and lasting peace is a key foundation to realize inclusive growth and sustainable development in the Cordilleras.

"We believe that this will be realized through continuing peace negotiation, sustainable socio-economic reforms, and recognizing our right to self-determination through an autonomous regional government,” Domogan pointed out.

Aside from Domogan, other top local officials who participated in the joint RDC-RPOC conference include Governors Cresencio Pacalso of Benguet, Pedro Mayam-o of Ifugao, and Bonifacio Lawasan, Jr. of Mt. Province.

Also in attendance were officials of national government agencies that include the NEDA, DILG, DAR, DPWH, DepEd, DOE, DOLE, DOST, TESDA, DSWD, DOT, NCIP, PMS, PIA, AFP and PNP as well as community leaders from the private sector and non-government organizations.

The historic conference was held upon the request of the government panel negotiating peace with the NDF as part of their nationwide consultation-workshops on proposed social and economic reforms being discussed with communist guerrillas.

The consultation-workshop, held at the Albergo Hotel, also sought to solicit inputs from the local officials and community leaders of the Cordilleras regarding concerns on the proposed joint ceasefire agreement with communist rebels.

“The series of workshops is part of the government panel’s nationwide consultations with relevant stakeholders to collect inputs, test the validity of its positioning and encourage buy-ins for the on-going peace negotiations,” explained former Agrarian Reform Sec. Hernani Braganza, the panel member supervising the discussions on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) and joint ceasefire agreement.

The outputs of the consultation-workshop in the Cordilleras, according to Braganza, will be included as inputs to the fifth round of formal peace negotiation with the NDF scheduled in The Netherlands from May 27 to June 1, 2017.

One of the major inputs during the workshop was the Cordillerans’ declaration of support for a new agrarian reform program that will respect the Indigeneous People’s right to their ancestral domain.

The participants were also amenable to the other provisions of the draft Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) submitted by GRP to the NDF, provided the reforms will not be implemented in conflict with traditions and culture of the Indigenous Peoples of the Cordilleras.

The local executives and community leaders maintained that any ceasefire agreement with the NDF must contain provisions prohibiting extortion activities and attacks on the civilian populace by communist guerrillas including destruction of private property and abduction.

Braganza noted that aside from CASER and joint ceasefire, the GRP and NDF panels will also discuss their respective positions on the proposed Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms (PCR) on the next round of talks in The Netherlands.

“At the moment, discussions were being conducted extensively on CASER since forging an agreement on social and economic reforms is acknowledged by parties to be central to reaching unity and peace,” he explained.

“We will also focus on the joint ceasefire since forging a bilateral ceasefire is considered to be of parallel importance to provide an enabling environment for reforms to take place,” he added.

The government and the NDF had previously conducted four rounds of formal peace negotiations under the term of President Rodrigo Duterte, achieving breakthroughs in CASER discussions, ceasefire agreement and implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHR-IHL).

For CASER, both panels had agreed to accelarate the discussion through formation of bilateral teams that meet regularly in Manila in between formal rounds of peace negotiation. The discussions intend to flesh out an agreement on free land distribution for a proposed agrarian reform program.

During the fourth round of peace talks held in Noordwidjk Ann Zee in The Netherlands last March, both panels also agreed to sign a joint ceasefire agreement that will provide cessation of hostilities pending the signing of a final peace agreement. The terms of reference (TOR) of the joint ceasefire is now under discussion in Manila.

The third round of peace talks, held in Rome last January, produced an agreement providing supplementing guidelines for the operationalization of the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) of the CARHR-IHL.

The CARHR-IHL was signed by the government and the NDF in 1998, but it was only under the term of President Duterte that it was made fully operational.

The agreement recognized the need to apply human rights principles when responding to the armed conflict. It obligated both parties to promote the respect of and adherence to international humanitarian law among its forces. It emphasized the urgency of protecting the civilian population.

PNP will receive 23,000 new firearms from China -- Dela Rosa

From the Philippine News Agency (May 17): PNP will receive 23,000 new firearms from China -- Dela Rosa

The Philippine National Police (PNP) will receive 23,000 new firearms from China.

This was confirmed on Wednesday by PNP chief Director General Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa after China promised to give 23,000 units of M4 carbine rifles to the PNP.

Dela Rosa said the new firearms from China will serve to fill up the supposed earlier order of firearms of the PNP from the United States, but was blocked by two US lawmakers.

The PNP chief said the situation now is even better because the government will not anymore spend money such that the thousands of guns needed by the PNP will be given for free.

"Kung matuloy yon, okay pa rin, pero we need more kasi we are 75,000 eh 23,000 lang ang ibibigay so malaki pa rin ang kakulangan, pero malaking tipid na rin yan galing sa China kapag natuloy," he said.

However, Dela Rosa clarified that China did not ask for anything in exchange for the donation of firearms.

Dela Rosa was included in the official delegation of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte during his state visit in Beijing, China on May 14-15, 2017.

Surrendered ASGs say morale of remaining comrades plummeting due to constant military offensives

From the Philippine News Agency (May 17): Surrendered ASGs say morale of remaining comrades plummeting due to constant military offensives

Surrendered Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits are painting a grim picture of their comrades who are being constantly targeted by constant military offensives in Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi since last January.

The same brigands, who opted out of the fight, are also the ones providing the military critical information regarding location and composition of still active ASG bands, thus giving government security forces ample time to hunt and target them, said Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo on Wednesday.

"These men (ASG surrenderers) are also the ones who gave us the information that 20 ASG bandits were killed in Basilan (during last week's FA-50PH bombing raid)," he said in Filipino.

Western Mindanao Command data indicated that from Jan. 1 up to May 17, a total of 81 ASG bandits were killed, with another 50 surrendering, apprehension of 18 and captured of 70 high and low powered weapons seized from the brigands.

Arevalo said the number of surrendered ASG terrorists is unprecedent as this is the first time the terrorists have opted to surrender en masse.

This is attributable to the intensified military offensives against them, he added.

The AFP public affairs office chief said the surrendered bandits are also claiming that their finances are going low due to their inability to kidnap new victims and ask for ransom, crimping on their ability to acquire weapons, food and other supplies.

This lack has caused the morale of the ASG members to plummet making their prone to surrender.

Also, constant government success in the anti-ASG campaign is convincing many people to cooperate with authorities further constricting the bandits ability to gain supplies and support in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

During Armed Forces of the Philippines chief-of-staff Gen. Eduardo Año's assumption-of-command ceremonies last December, he pledged to eradicate the ASG threat by June this year.