Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Hostages in Philippine town forced to fight, loot, become sex slaves: army

From Reuters (Jun 27): Hostages in Philippine town forced to fight, loot, become sex slaves: army

Civilians held hostage by Islamist militants occupying a southern Philippine city have been forced to loot homes, take up arms against government troops and serve as sex slaves for rebel fighters, the army said on Tuesday.

Citing accounts of seven residents of Marawi City who either escaped or were rescued, the military said some hostages were forced to convert to Islam, carry wounded fighters to mosques, and marry militants of the Maute group loyal to Islamic State.

"This is what is happening inside, this is very evident," military spokesman Jo-Ar Herrera told a news conference.

"These are evil personalities."

Their accounts, which could not be immediately verified, are the latest harrowing accounts to come out of a conflict zone that the military has been unable to clear for five weeks, as well-armed and organized rebels fight off soldiers with sniper rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.

Some escapees say bodies of residents have been left in the streets, some for weeks, and civilians are distressed by government air strikes and artillery bombardments that have reduced parts of Marawi to rubble.

The protracted seizure has worried the region about the extent the Islamic State's agenda may have gained traction in the southern Philippines, which is more used to banditry, piracy and separatism than radical Islam.

The rebels' combat capability, access to heavy weapons and use of foreign fighters have raised fears in the mainly Catholic country that the Marawi battle could just be the start of a wider campaign, and it could be presented by Maute as a triumph to aid their recruitment.

President Rodrigo Duterte, reappearing in public after a week-long absence, said he was deeply saddened by the crisis and promised Marawi would be rebuilt.

He said he had cousins who were members of the Maute group, one of which had been killed, and his decision to declare martial law on Mindanao was justified, because he was aware of exactly what the extremists would do.

"I know the deployment of snipers and where they hid their firearms. I already had the complete picture and I knew that would be a long fight," he said in a speech.

Duterte said he understood why Muslim separatists had fought the government, but could not comprehend Islamic State's radical doctrine.

"What's painful for me, a fractured ideology entered. All that they want is to kill and destroy, how can we live with that?" he said.

Heavy clashes broke out on Tuesday as the battle entered its sixth week, with intense bombings by planes on a shrinking rebel zone.


The government ruled out negotiations after reports that Abdullah Maute, one of two brothers who formed the militant group carrying their name, wanted to trade a Catholic priest hostage for his parents arrested this month.

The military said on Saturday Abdullah Maute had fled.

Taking advantage of a short truce to mark the Eid al-Fitr Islamic holiday, eight Muslim leaders met briefly on Sunday with Maute. The Philippine Daily Inquirer said he had asked for his father, Cayamora Maute, and influential businesswoman mother, Farhana Maute, to be freed, in a swap for Father Teresito "Chito" Soganub.

But presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said deals with militants were against government policy, and anyone trying to bargain had no authority to do so.

The military's public relations machine has been insisting that the rebel leadership was crumbling, saying top commanders had escaped or were killed in action, and the group was fraught with infighting. Military officers, however, accept they lack solid proof.

The army said there were reported sightings of the departure from the battle of Isnilon Hapilon, Islamic State's anointed Southeast Asian "emir", which Abella said showed he was not committed to his cause.

"It would be a clear sign of his cowardice," he said.

"It may only be a matter of time before they disintegrate."

Fighting has raged in the town since an operation to arrest Hapilon went wrong on May 23, leading to the government losing not just Hapilon, but control of Marawi.

Official figures show 70 servicemen, 27 civilians and 290 militants have since been killed and 246,000 people displaced.

Duterte said seeing Marawi bombed was too much to bear.

"Do not think I am enjoying my life now," he said. "I do not watch TV anymore, I turn it off or I transfer to cartoons."


Where Is the Philippines’ Air Force Modernization Under Duterte?

From The Diplomat (Jun 21): Where Is the Philippines’ Air Force Modernization Under Duterte?

Despite delays, there are some signs of progress on key projects.

After decades of neglect, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has been engaged in an ambitious military modernization program over the past few years.

As I have detailed previously, the Armed Forces Modernization Act initiated under former president Benigno Aquino III and continued under Rodrigo Duterte divides military modernization into three horizons and phases which run up to 2028 (See: “What’s Next For Philippine Military Modernization Under Duterte?”).

Amid this, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) has detailed its own plan for its modernization called Flight Plan 2028, a 14-year plan designed to last from its inception in 2013 up till 2028, which details the approach to building its capability to defend the country from not just internal threats, but increasingly external ones as well.

But like other services, the PAF has seen several delays prevent it from getting what it needs to realize this goal for various reasons including specific procurement requirements. Under the First Horizon (2013-2017), the Aquino administration had approved several projects, including close air support (CAS) aircraft, long-range patrol aircraft (LRPA), FA-50 munitions, and anti-submarine warfare helicopters.

Yet several of the contracts were only signed towards the end of his single six-year term and remain incomplete as of today, even though defense officials have pledged that they will eventually be.

Despite these issues, some inroads are still being made. A case in point was last week, when AFP’s public affairs chief Arsenio Andolong told IHS Jane’s that the PAF’s longstanding CAS requirement had finally progressed, with Brazil’s Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano selected as the lowest bidder (the list of prospective offerings had previously included Aero Vodochody of Czech Republic, offering the L-39NG, Textron Aviation-Beechcraft of the United States and the AT-6 Wolverine, and Korea Aeropace Industries with the KA-1 Woongbi light attack aircraft).

The approval is a major step forward, especially considering that this is the fourth time DND has had to launch a bid for CAS aircraft in two years. With the bid now approved, Andolong said it will now move towards post-qualification evaluation and then contract negotiations which may be finalized by the end of 2017.

The six new CAS aircraft, which had been initially costed for 4.96 billion pesos ($99 million), are expected to replace the PAF’s aging Boeing (Rockwell) OV-10 Bronco turboprop attack planes. Those planes have been used in the AFP’s fight against Islamic State-linked militants in the southern part of the country, which has recently been in the headlines following an outbreak of conflict in Marawi.


What's Behind the Resumed Vietnam-Philippines South China Sea Activity?

From The Diplomat (Jun 27): What's Behind the Resumed Vietnam-Philippines South China Sea Activity?

Manila and Hanoi resumed naval personnel interaction on a feature in the disputed waters.

On June 22, Vietnam and the Philippines conducted the third iteration of their naval personnel interactions on Southwest Cay in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. In doing so, both sides have effectively resumed an intra-ASEAN confidence-building activity in the disputed waters even amid the recent changes in dynamics in the South China Sea.

Until the inauguration of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Vietnam and the Philippines had been significantly strengthening their maritime collaboration as well as their broader relationship for several reasons, including China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea. The two sides had come up with mechanisms from hotlines to working groups to facilitate confidence-building, and the relationship was elevated to a strategic partnership in 2015 under Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino III (See: “Philippines, Vietnam to Ink Strategic Partnership by End of 2015”).

One of the string of agreements reached during this time in the maritime realm was a 2012 protocol for bilateral naval exchanges on Southwest Cay, currently occupied by Vietnam, and Northeast Cay, occupied by the Philippines. At the time, the interaction between the two countries was hailed as an example of intra-ASEAN confidence building in the South China Sea at a time of heightened tensions.

This was especially the case given the history of the struggle between the two ASEAN states to control the two features, which lie only a few miles from each other. Both Southwest Cay and Northeast Cay were initially occupied by the South Vietnamese government following their transfer from France. But they were subsequently occupied by the Philippines, after which the South Vietnam government reoccupied Southwest Cay, leaving Manila with just Northeast Cay.

Under the new initiative, both Manila and Hanoi had agreed to rotate naval personnel exchanges between their respective features, with a series of confidence-building measures including sports activities as well as substantive information sharing.

The idea was to both improve ties between the two sides but also send a clear signal that fellow ASEAN claimants can narrow their differences and behave in ways that are in accordance with regional confidence-building measures such as the Declaration on the Conduct on the South China Sea (DoC) inked between ASEAN and China back in 1992, even if China continued to violate the DoC and drag its feet on a legally binding CoC (See: “Beware the Illusion of China-ASEAN South China Sea Breakthroughs”).

The first of these exchanges were conducted in Vietnam-controlled Southwest Cay back in June 2014, shortly after China had placed an oil rig inside Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The second iteration occurred in late May 2015 in Philippine-controlled Northeast Cay, following the alternating pattern both sides initially agreed to.

But, interestingly, no interaction was held in 2016. Assuming that both sides would have held it around May or June 2016 (which would be consistent with the timing of the two previous ones) it would have been rather awkward timing. The exchange would have occurred right around the transition from Aquino to Duterte, who was inaugurated on June 30 following his victory in the Philippine presidential election in early May.

This is especially the case given the starkly different note Duterte had struck from Aquino both on the South China Sea as well as on ties to Beijing and Washington, even though officials continued to stress that there was more continuity than has often been acknowledged (See: “The Truth About Duterte’s ASEAN South China Sea Blow”).

On June 22 of this year, both sides effectively resumed this interaction. According to the Philippine Navy, the “third personnel interaction” consisted of the usual mix of confidence-building activities including sports, such as football, volleyball and tug-of-war; visits, such as to a lighthouse and a pagoda; and substantive information-sharing in areas including search and rescue, maritime security, disaster prevention, and communication enhancement between the two features.

In official statements, both defense establishments emphasized the continuity of the interaction in the context of their wider cooperation. But as with many other developments of this ilk, the timing of the resumption this year will be read in the context of other events in the South China Sea and in their relationships with China.

As I noted in a piece last week, Sino-Vietnamese tensions in the South China Sea still continue to flare up from time to time, and Hanoi remains wary of Beijing’s continued assertiveness (See: “Nixed China-Vietnam Meeting Highlights Illusion of South China Sea Calm”).

And though China and the Philippines have been keen to emphasize constructive steps they have taken, including the start of bilateral consultations in the Duterte era in May, both sides have thus far made little headway in resolving thorny questions. Defense officials have said that Manila is quietly continuing many of the previous efforts it took to safeguard its South China Sea claims.

To be sure, one ought not to overstate the significance of a single interaction, either within the Vietnam-Philippine bilateral relationship or the broader strategic dynamics of the South China Sea. But the resumption of this Philippines-Vietnam naval personnel exchange is certainly an interesting development that bears careful watching, even if it does not generate as many headlines as the flashpoints that periodically occur.


MILF: UNYPAD Collects Donations From Its Chapters For Humanitarian Assistance In Marawi City

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jun 25): UNYPAD Collects Donations From Its Chapters For Humanitarian Assistance In Marawi City

Volunteers gathered at the BDA Office, Cotabato City to repack relief supplies for distribution to Evacuation Centers in Iligan City, Lanao Del Norte and Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. (Photo courtesy: United Bangsamoro Humanitarian Assistance-UBHA)

The United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD) have collected food and non-food items from its various chapters nationwide intended for the affected families of the ongoing firefights between government forces and the ISIS-inspired Maute and Abu Sayaff Terror Group in Marawi City. These initiatives were in response to the United Bangsamoro Humanitarian Assistance (UBHA) calls to help the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the City.

Yusoph Lumambas, Secretary-General of the UNYPAD said that they have instructed their provincial and city chapters to donate both cash and in-kind. “The Office of the Vice President for Internal Affairs headed by brother Tu Alid Alfonso has sent memo asking our chapters and its communities to give and share their assistance to the IDPs of Marawi and Lanao del Sur areas,” said Lumambas.

Lumambas also disclosed that some Overseas Bangsamoro-Filipino Workers (OB-FW) have channeled their donations to UNYPAD and turned-over them to UBHA which was entrusted to collect, repack and distributes the relief supplies in the evacuation sites in Marawi and Iligan City and other municipalities of Lanao del Sur with the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) who chairs the UBHA steering committee.

UNYPAD-North Cotabato Provincial chapter with the help of Local Government Unit of Pikit municipality have gathered twenty one (21) sacks of rice and immediately handed them over to UBHA relief center at the BDA Office, Tamontaka, Cotabato City.

Dr Anwar Saluwang, the Deputy Sec. Gen. of UNYPAD who turned-over the cash donated by the OB-FW to UBHA said that they have dispatched volunteers coming from Cotabato City State Polytechnic Collge (CCSPC)-BS in Community Development interns at the UNYPAD to help in the repacking of relief supplies at the BDA office.

“Not only that, the UNYPAD Cotabato City Chapter also instructed their members to volunteer in the repacking activities of BDA,” Saluwang said.

He said further that some cash received from various chapters of the organization will be given to UNYPAD Marawi and Ranao Chapter whose officers and members were also displaced by the Marawi clash since May 23.

The Luzon Cluster of UNYPAD chaired by Kamim Macmod had also collected relief supplies together with community leaders in Manila, and to be distributed after the Eid’l Fitre congregational prayer.

On the other hand, another Moro foundation, the Al-Balagh Foundation based in Cotabato City donated sacks of rice to UBHA. They have also distributed relief supplies directly to other evacuation centers in Lanao del Sur.

Meanwhile, on Friday, June 23, the leadership of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has turned-over 300 bags of rice to UBHA.

Mohammad Ameen, MILF Central Committees’ Head of Secretariat said that it is an additional humanitarian effort of the MILF aside from the ‘peace corridors’ that had been tasked to facilitate the rescue of civilians trapped in the war zone.

The UBHA was formed in response to the Marawi Crisis that centralizes the collection of donation from the Bangsamoro people, CSOs, NGOs, Schools, and do the identification of ‘bakwits’ in the evacuation areas and the distributions. 

They have already distributed 6000 complete packs of both food and non-food relief goods in the identified target evacuation centers in the cities of Iligan and Marawi and Lanao del Sur Province last May and in the month of Ramadan 1438H or June 2017, and are still collecting donations.

Mr. Badrudin Mamendig, Provincial Chairman of UNYPAD North Cotabato Cluster-2 Provincial Chapter poses upon arrival at the BDA Office, Tamontaka, Cotabato City during the hand-over of the 21 bags of rice on June 12, 2017.


MILF: New BBL Draft Reflects The Interest Of All Bangsamoro Sectors: BTC Chair Jaafar

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jun 26): New BBL Draft Reflects The Interest Of All Bangsamoro Sectors: BTC Chair Jaafar

The new draft Bangsamoro basic Law (BBL) recently completed and signed by members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) is truly democratic and reflective of the interest of the people, not only of the Bangsamoro but also of the indigenous people, Christians and other stakeholders, BTC Chair Ghazali Jaafar said.

"This is a truly democratic BBL. It represents the interest of all the stakeholders in holders in area -- of course, the Muslim Bangsamoro people, the non-Bangsamoro indigenous community, the Christians, traditional leaders, women, youth," he told ANC on Tuesday (June 20).

Jaafar said some provisions of the previous BBL have been included in the new draft because they are considered necessary.

He also clarified that the Bangsamoro police force will be a separate entity from the Philippine National Police (PNP).

"In order for the Bangsamoro government to effectively operate to protect themselves, it has to have security, of course, in consultation with our consultant or expert on the issue of security. We believe we did some very significant improvement. These consultants are retired generals in PNP and lawyers," he said.

Meanwhile, long time peace advocate Fr. Eliseo Mercado Jr. also told ANC that he hopes Congress takes the proposed draft seriously.

"The first challenge the government has to face is to reconcile the new draft of BBL ... with the MNLF track, because they are also submitting to the Presdident the amendatory law," Fr. Mercado told ANC, citing proposed amendments to the 1996 Final Peace Agreement.

"Hopefully this time, with this reconciled proposed legislation, Congress will be able to act appropriately," he added.

In a latest development, the Office of the President has informed the leadership of BTC that the schedule of submission of draft BBL is moved to July 10.


MILF: ICRC - Humanitarian Assistance Still Needed As War Continues In Marawi City

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jun 27): ICRC: Humanitarian Assistance Still Needed As War Continues In Marawi City


“The situation is far from over. Fighting is ongoing, and civilians who are trapped or are displaced continue to face challenging situations. There is still a need to support more than 200,000 displaced people with food, drinking water, sanitation facilities and health care in the coming weeks,” said Roberto Petronio, Head of the ICRC sub-delegation in Mindanao in a press statement released on Friday, June 23.

This story of griming images of people fleeing from the war zone and those inside evacuation centers was conveyed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as the armed clashes continue in Marawi City between Government troops and ISIS-inspired Maute group backed by Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) now in its 34th day as of this writing.

An evacuee Casamudin Riga, 51 years old trader from Barangay Marinaut, Marawi City describes their situation inside the evacuation center “As very unpleasant – it’s humid during the day, but it’s too cold at night. As evacuees, we don’t have much choice. I’m just grateful because at least my family is complete and we’re safe. We hope that we can return to our homes soon, and start again.”

ICRC said that in the first week of the clashes, they tried to intervene for the safe evacuation of civilians trapped by the fighting. However due to the fast-changing security situation, a humanitarian ceasefire had not been possible.

This neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian organization said that they will continue to focus on areas more difficult to reach such as the east and west sides of Lake Lanao and will continue its dialogue with the parties involved in the fighting to emphasize the protection of civilians.

“Looking forward, the future needs of the displaced families will include support for their return to Marawi City, while those who cannot go home need temporary relocation or settlement”, Petronio stressed.

The ICRC and Philippine Red Cross team has been very active in providing assistance to the traumatized IDPs since the conflict broke-out in mostly Moro-Meranaw inhabited Muslim City of Marawi.


NDF/Sison: Peace Negotiations Between Duterte Regime and Revolutionary Forces Head for the Rocks

Propaganda statement by Jose Maria Sison posted to the National Democratic Front Website (Jun 26): Peace Negotiations Between Duterte Regime and Revolutionary Forces Head for the Rocks

By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
NDFP Chief Political Consultant
Source: TelesurTV.Net

Despite Duterte’s avowal of trying to develop an independent foreign policy, pro-U.S. die-hards have their way in sabotaging peace negotiations.

By all major indications, the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) headed by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and the revolutionary forces represented by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) are heading for the rocks, despite the strong clamor for these negotiations by the public and a broad range of peace advocates and despite the patient and efficient third party role of the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG) as facilitator.

For more than a year, since May 16, 2016, Duterte has not fulfilled his promise to release more than 400 NDFP-listed political prisoners through general amnesty or the prosecutors’ withdrawal of the false charges of common crimes against them. The promise to release all political prisoners encouraged the NDFP to agree to an acceleration of the peace negotiations on social, economic, political and constitutional reforms in order to address the roots of the now 48 years of civil war between the GRP and NDFP.

But after four rounds of formal talks (two in Oslo in 2016, one in Rome in January 2017 and one in Noordwijk, Netherlands in April 2017), the GRP has steadily backed out of its promise to release all political prisoners and Duterte himself has publicly expressed regrets for having released from prison a mere 19 of them in August last year. These are NDFP political consultants who are protected by the GRP-NDFP Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and should never have been arrested and imprisoned at all. Worst, President Duterte has twice threatened (in February and May 2017) these consultants with rearrest and shoot-to-kill orders while they were engaged in the peace negotiations abroad.

In the course of the four rounds of formal talks, the GRP negotiating panel has given the highest priority to discussions on a prolonged and indefinite bilateral ceasefire in a vain effort to obtain quickly the capitulation and pacification of the revolutionary forces and the people. The GRP has blatantly shown diminishing interest in the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and in the sequenced forging of comprehensive agreements on social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and on the end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

Duterte retains in his cabinet rabid exponents of U.S.-instigated neoliberal economic policy, like Director General Ernesto Pernia of the National Economic Development Authority, Secretary Carlos Dominguez III of the Finance Department and Secretary Benjamin Diokno of the Department of Budget and Management. He has allowed his “supermajority” in Congress to remove Gina Lopez from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources because of her opposition to the plundering and polluting operations of mining companies.

Duterte has shown a lack of sustained interest in genuine land reform and national industrialization proposed by the NDFP. He has demagogically used the slogan of change only to stick to the status quo and further entrench the interests of the United States and other foreign monopolies and the oligarchy of big compradors and landlords. He prefers continuing the export of raw materials, semi-manufactures, and cheap labor and taking onerous foreign loans to sustain import-dependent consumption and infrastructure building and to cover the ever growing chronic trade deficit and balance of payments.

The NDFP has offered to co-found the Federal Republic of the Philippines with the GRP, provided there are guarantees for political and economic sovereignty, people’s democracy, respect for human rights, development, social justice, patriotic culture and independent foreign policy against foreign dominance, dynasticism, warlordism and other forms of local reaction. But the Duterte regime appears convinced that it alone can proceed to establish an authoritarian regime or even a fascist rule by capitalizing on its supposed “iron hand” success against illegal drugs and by shifting now to an “anti-terrorist” campaign that paves the way for a Marcos-type nationwide martial law, adoption of a new constitution and its ratification by local assemblies run by barangay captains to be appointed by Duterte and controlled by his Kilusang Pagbabago (Movement for Change).

Despite Duterte’s avowal of trying to develop an independent foreign policy in a multipolar world, by approaching China and Russia and reducing the overwhelming U.S. hegemony over the Philippines, pro-U.S. and reactionary die-hards like defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana, national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon and armed forces chief of staff Eduardo Año have their way in perpetuating U.S. dominance over the Philippine military and in sabotaging GRP-NDFP peace negotiations by waging an all-out war policy under Oplan Kapayapaan against the revolutionary forces and people since February 2017 after deviously continuing Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan.

Lorenzana, Esperon and Año are hell-bent on escalating offensive campaigns against the New People’s Army and other revolutionary forces and using the peace negotiations to obtain the capitulation and pacification of these forces under the guise of a prolonged and indefinite bilateral ceasefire agreement, which puts aside substantive negotiations and comprehensive agreements on social, economic and constitutional reforms. Such ceasefire agreement is supposed to be coupled with socio-economic dole outs from the GRP and foreign entities and prevent the basic socio-economic reforms demanded by the people.

The so-called security cluster in the Duterte cabinet has Duterte practically on the cusp of its hands on national security issues. Longtime Washington resident Defense Secretary Lorenzana has been able to put U.S. military forces at play in the air and ground surveillance and bombing of Marawi City, resulting in indiscriminate mass destruction of civilian lives and property and the displacement of more than 300,000 people in Marawi and nearby areas. The irony in the Marawi tragedy is that U.S. military intervention has been justified at the highest level of the Duterte regime by the special operations of the CIA-directed and Islamic state (Daesh)-affiliated Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups.

Duterte himself has become insecure, despite his current obeisance to the United States and his own security cluster. He himself has acknowledged that he faces threats of assassination or coup. It seems to be beneficial to Duterte that the United States and his own security cluster are egging him on to include the revolutionary forces led by the Communist Party of the Philippines as among the “terrorist” targets of the reactionary state to rationalize a Mindanao-wide and then nationwide proclamation of martial law. But this will make Duterte even more vulnerable to a “soft” coup by the pro-U.S. retired and active generals around him or to a popular broad united front against his regime. When he becomes more of a liability than an asset to the United States, even the pro-U.S. officials around him are likely to turn against him and cooperate with anti-Duterte forces within and outside of the reactionary armed forces and police.

A newly-elected president in the Philippines usually obtains in his first year of office a high popularity and trust rating from the mercenary opinion poll survey firms. Subsequently, his reputation deteriorates as his promises remain unfulfilled, problems are aggravated and projects fall short of targets and are afflicted by corruption, The Duterte regime is already reeking with corruption even before it can fulfill its promise of punishing the big crooks in the previous Aquino regime. However, Duterte is now most liable for gross human rights violations for the thousands of extra-judicial killings in his Oplan Tokhang against illegal drugs and for the indiscriminate bombings and artillery fire on communities in his all-out war policy against the revolutionary forces and in his campaign against the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups in Marawi and other Bangsamoro groups elsewhere.

The socio-economic and political conditions in the Philippines and in the world are not favorable for the Duterte regime to abandon peace negotiations with the NDFP and to pursue authoritarian ambitions. Having a growth rate of the gross domestic product at around 7 per cent or even higher is not a true measure economic and social development. It merely obscures in vain how the exploiting classes appropriate for themselves the social wealth created by the working people. Poverty is widespread because of extreme forms of exploitation in an underdeveloped economy. Mass unemployment is actually rising, incomes of the working people are plunging and taxes and prices of basic commodities are soaring. The use of authoritarianism and state terrorism will only serve to inflame further the Filipino people’s resistance.

The Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines have publicly expressed their readiness to fight and defeat the all-out war policy of the Duterte regime. At the same time, they are still willing to pursue the peace negotiations with the GRP even under conditions of the severest fighting in the civil war in order to rouse and rally the people along the patriotic and progressive line, explore further how to serve the interest of the people and forge the comprehensive agreements for a just and lasting peace against the oppressive and exploitative forces of foreign monopoly capitalism, domestic feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism.


CPP/NPA-Cagayan: NPA raids MIG safehouse in Baggao, Cagayan

NPA-Cagayan propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines Website (Jun 25): NPA raids MIG safehouse in Baggao, Cagayan

Ester Falcon, Spokesperson
NPA-Cagayan (Henry Abraham Command)

25 June 2017
Press Release

Operatives of the Henry Abraham Command-NPA raided a safehouse of the Military Intelligence Group at 9 pm last night, June 24, at Barangay San Jose, Baggao, Cagayan. Two military were killed and an unconfirmed number were wounded after a ten- minute firefight ensued.

Also raided was the house of Dexter Remudaro, a retired army. His house has been used as an intelligence safehouse of the 17th IB.

In a statement sent to Bombo Radyo Tuguegarao, the NPA said the MIG unit was punished for actively spying on activists and revolutionary forces. They are also responsible for the 2006 abduction and deaths of peasant activists Joey Javier and Arthur Orpilla, who were leaders of Kagimungan, a Cagayan farmers organization. In 2014, they were also involved in the abduction of a farmer activist from Barangay Asinga Via.

The safehouse was a few meters away from a PNP station. No police responded upon hearing of gunshots.

US, PH create brand new joint maritime exercise

From Update Philippines (Jun 27): US, PH create brand new joint maritime exercise

In the past few years, United States Navy and Philippine Navy were conducting Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Philippines every month of June. CARAT is a series of US Pacific Command-sponsored, US Pacific Fleet-led bilateral exercises held several times annually with Southeast Asia nations to strengthen relationships and enhance force readiness.

CARAT Philippines 2016 focused on combined operations at sea, amphibious landings, diving and salvage, maritime domain awareness, and community service events.

However, after the Philippine government under the Duterte administration announced last year that CARAT and Amphibious Landing Exercise (Phiblex) with US Navy will be scrapped, Philippines and US navies this year launched a brand new maritime exercise named Maritime Training Activity Sama-Sama (together).

The inaugural activity was conducted June 19 to 25 with events mostly held in vicinity of Cebu. CARAT Philippines involved activities in West Philippine Sea.

“Sama Sama is a bilateral maritime exercise between U.S. and Philippine naval forces and is designed to strengthen cooperation and interoperability between the nations’ armed forces,” the US Navy said.

US assets deployed for MTA Sama-Sama were Independence-class littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4), Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport USNS Millinocket (T-EPF 3), and a P-8 Poseidon aircraft.

Del Pilar-class frigate BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15), BRP Agta, an AW109 helicopter, and a BN-2 Islander aircraft, a Philippine Marine company and other naval staff represented the Philippine Navy.

National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenza said in November last year that military exercises between US and Philippines will focus on counterterrorism, humanitarian response, engineering projects, and civic action. Moreover, activities with amphibious landing exercises, which were intended for external offensives, will be lessen.


PH military in process of developing airborne patrol, surveillance capabilities

From Update Philippines (Jun 27): PH military in process of developing airborne patrol, surveillance capabilities

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is in the process of developing its airborne patrol and surveillance capabilities, with this, National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana welcomes assistance from allies in this field.

“We welcome any technical assistance that our allies can provide while the Armed Forces of the Philippines is in the process of developing such capabilities,” Secretary Lorenzana said.

Australian Defense Force is deploying its two AP-3C Orion surveillance planes for Marawi City operations for two weeks effective upon a mutually agreed date by Australia and Philippine military officials.
In line with the development of AFP’s airborne patrol and surveillance capabilities, the DND-AFP is now in the process of acquiring 2 Long-range Patrol (LRP) aircraft under the First Horizon of AFP Modernization.

“The leadership of the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines will pursue the implementation of the approved projects which are not yet contracted or completed under the First Horizon (2013-2017) of the Revised AFP Modernization Program (RAFPMP),” DND previously said.

“Projects such as the CAS (Close Air Support) aircraft, LRPA and FA-50 Munitions are still in various stages of procurement,” it added.


NPA owns ambush on planter

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jun 27): NPA owns ambush on planter

The Roselyn Pelle Command Northern Negros Guerilla Front of the New People's Army yesterday claimed responsibility for the ambush of a sugar planter in Brgy. Minapasok, Calatrava, Negros Occidental, on June 22.

Cecil Estrella, Roselyn Pelle Command spokesperson, in a two page statement sent to the media yesterday, said the movement successfully enforced the death penalty imposed by the revolutionary court on sugar planter Roberto “Bebe” Lumayno, who had a pending warrant of arrest since 2013.

Estrella alleged that punitive action against Lumaynowas in answer to residents'cry for justice against alleged threats, killings and widespread land-grabbing in Toboso, Calatrava and Salvador Benedicto towns in Negros Occidental.

The revolutionary movement is also calling on others involved in land grabbing and the use of armed goons to intimidate farmers to put a stop to their operations, Estrella said.

The NPA is also calling on all those who have cases for threatening residents and killings to surrender to the revolutionary movement so they can be given the opportunity to change, Estrella added.

Lumayno, 67, and his driver, Danilo Braga, 45, residents of Brgys.Minapasok and Marcelo, Calatrava, were on board a white Isuzu D-max pick-up vehicle, when they were ambushed by the NPA positioned inside a sugarcane field.

Both victims succumbed to multiple gunshot wounds.

Senior Supt. Rodolfo Castil Jr., Negros Occidental OIC police director, said the NPA did not have right to take the life of two people, there is a proper justice system that must be followed to seek redress.

He said the police will take action to ensure justice is attained by the family of the two killed.


11 Coast Guard officers linked to P27M in anomalous purchases – COA

From Rappler (Jun 27): 11 Coast Guard officers linked to P27M in anomalous purchases – COA

The officers, including retired Rear Admiral Cecil Chen, allegedly violated the Government Procurement Reform Act

The Commission on Audit (COA) named 11 Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) officers implicated in irregularities concerning the procurement of P27.06 million in office supplies.

Those named in Annex C of the 2016 PCG audit report released last Friday, June 23, were the following:

Former PCG chief Rear Admiral Cecil Chen (retired)
Commodore Athelo Ybañez
Commodore Pablo Gonzales
Captain Teotimo Borja
Captain Juancho Marano
Captain Roben de Guzman
Captain Julius Caesar Victor Marvin Lim
Commander William Arquero
CDR Jude Thaddeus Besinga
CDR Wilfred Burgos
CDR Ferdinand Panganiban

The 11 were designated as Special Disbursing Officers (SDOs).

According to COA, they obtained cash advances ranging from P600,000 to P2 million. These funds were meant for buying "commonly used goods," such as office supplies, paint, or other related items.

COA's auditors, however, found the officers made purchases totaling P27,059,817.50 without public bidding.

The cash advances and purchases violated Republic Act No. 9184 – the Government Procurement Reform Act – as well as COA Circular 97-002, which limits the spending of cash advances to at most P15,000 for each transaction.

State auditors also found other evidence of fraudulent activity, noting that "liquidations totaling P12,279,924.37 were tainted with irregularities/anomalies such as (a) cash/sales invoices/official receipts were either disowned or claimed as fake by the supposed suppliers/dealers; and (b) the alleged suppliers' establishments could not be located."

The SDOs issued certifications to skirt the requirement for public bidding as well, saying the purchases were for emergencies. The items purchased, however, were not of that nature and ranged from typewriting paper, pens, and printer toners, as well as cleaning materials like scouring pads and toilet bowl cleaners.

COA added, "Considering that the bulk of purchases were made without the benefit of public bidding and were supported with fake or spurious receipts and/or the establishments cannot be located, the aggregate amount of P27,059,817.50 is considered irregular expenditure."

Suppliers also wrote back to COA, saying the supposed receipts or sales invoices with their names on it were either fake, issued for a different transaction to a different customer, similar but had the incorrect serial numbers, or involved items unavailable at the supplier's stores.

The combined values of these particular transactions, 229 in all, were worth P9.075 million.

Additional verification showed 13 other establishments did not exist in the addresses provided in the liquidation documents. These made up 76 transactions with a total amount of P3.205 million.


Terrorists used water route to beat Philippine offensive – army

From Rappler (Jun 27): Terrorists used water route to beat Philippine offensive – army

Military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jo-ar Herrera says the route was discovered following the arrest of a man who used a boat to smuggle ammunition into the battle zone and ferry wounded terrorists out

STANDING GUARD. Soldiers hold their position near the shoreline of Lake Lanao in Marawi City on Thursday, June 22,2017. Photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

STANDING GUARD. Soldiers hold their position near the shoreline of Lake Lanao in Marawi City on Thursday, June 22,2017. Photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

Terrorists occupying parts of a southern Philippine city used a water route to bring in ammunition and evacuate wounded fighters, helping them withstand a five-week military offensive, the army said Tuesday, June 27.

The extremists fighting under the black banner of the Islamic State (ISIS) group have remained holed up in pockets of Marawi, weathering daily air and artillery bombardment and deadly urban street battles.

Military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jo-ar Herrera said the route was discovered following the arrest of a man who used a boat to smuggle ammunition into the battle zone and ferry wounded terrorists out.

The military was able to cut off the "logistical and medical highway" across Lake Lanao, he said, adding that boat patrols on the lake have been bolstered.

"We found out that this man... is the one facilitating the entry of ammunition. He is also the person bringing wounded fighters from the main battle area toward the south of Lanao Lake," Herrera told reporters.

"This is good news because we have now blocked this highway."

Marawi, the most important Muslim city in the mainly Catholic Philippines, is located on the shores of Lake Lanao on Mindanao island.

Hundreds of local terrorists attacked the city on May 23.

The government described the attack as a rebellion aimed at setting up an ISIS province in the area – part of what it said was an attempt to carve out a caliphate in Southeast Asia.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law across Mindanao to quell the rebellion. But 5 weeks of fighting have failed to fully drive out the members of the Maute group, who have been joined by fighters from Indonesia, Malaysia and as far away as Chechnya.

Nearly 400 people have been killed, including 290 militants and 70 troops, according to official figures. Most of Marawi's 200,000 residents have fled and much of the city is in ruins.

Herrera said the military was still trying to confirm reports that a key leader of the attack, veteran Filipino militant Isnilon Hapilon, had been able to escape the military encirclement.

Up to 120 terrorists remain holed up in parts of four districts of Marawi, the military said, as air strikes and artillery shelling continued Tuesday.

The terrorists are also holding around 100 hostages, including a Roman Catholic priest they abducted early in the seige.


MILF open to help resolve Marawi crisis

From MindaNews (Jun 27): MILF open to help resolve Marawi crisis

A top official of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said the group is open to play a role in resolving the Marawi crisis if called upon “in the greater regard of civilian interests.”

“It is not impossible, especially if the civilian interest is at stake. If there is a request, the MILF leadership will probably consider the idea,” Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the MILF peace implementing panel, said in a phone interview.

But Iqbal said they are yet to receive a formal request for their involvement in finding a solution to the siege by Islamic State-inspired Maute group which is now on its fifth week.

On Sunday, Abdullah Maute reportedly told emissaries, who took advantage of an Eid’l Fitr ceasefire to see the militants’ leaders, that they will only leave Marawi if the MILF intervenes.

Maute also offered to swap their hostages, in particular Fr. Teresito Suganob, with the freedom of their parents, Cayamora and Ominta who were arrested on separate occasions.

The militants are said to be unwilling to deal with government on laying down the terms of disengagement.

But Iqbal clarified that the MILF has never been involved in efforts to resolve the siege of Marawi, although there have been informal overtures like those relayed through the news media.

Early in the crisis, the MILF condemned the militants’ occupation of Marawi and the alleged atrocities they committed.

The MILF and government have been cooperating in maintaining a humanitarian and peace corridor to ferret out civilians trapped in the fighting. This effort has so far rescued close to 200 individuals.

In the past, the parties have a long history of cooperating alongside negotiations for a political settlement to end the Moro rebellion. The parties forged a peace pact in 2014.

Chief among these cooperative efforts was driving out in 2005 scores of suspected terrorists lurking in various rebel strongholds in Southwestern Mindanao using the Ad-hoc Joint Action Group mechanism.

The same mechanism was used to rescue high profile kidnap victims like Irish missionary priest Michael Sinnot who was abducted from the Missionary Society of Saint Columban house in Pagadian City in 2009.

Iqbal acknowledged the “sensitivity of the issue” which could give the MILF some difficulties in mapping out an action should the group be tapped.

“We know the stand of the government regarding the Maute group. We also know how the group regards the government,” Iqbal explained.


Military unaware of ISIS prisoner swap demand

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jun 27): Military unaware of ISIS prisoner swap demand

The Philippine military said it was not aware of a deal offer by the local ISIS group in the besieged city of Marawi for a prisoner swap – a Catholic priest for the release of at least a dozen fighters, including the parents of the militant leaders facing rebellion charges.

Militants are holding Fr. Chito Suganob and dozens of civilians since May 23 after they launched a daring raid in Marawi and now they wanted Cayamora and Ominta Maute freed in exchange for the priest. The demand was reportedly relayed by Abdullah Maute, one the militant leaders, to a group of ulama sent by the government to talk to the militants.

Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, a military spokesman, said they have no information about the demand.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said it is up to the government to decide on the sensitive matter. But Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said the government does not negotiate with terrorists.

The Western Mindanao Command also did not issue any statement on the ISIS demand and it was not immediately known whether Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza is involved or secretly negotiating with the militants for the freedom of the hostages.

The militants also demanded that they be allowed to withdraw from Marawi. This was the same demand they made last month through Suganob who appealed on President Rodrigo Duterte to immediately withdraw thousands of soldiers from Lanao del Sur province.

Suganob made the appeal in a video that surfaced on Facebook and the 5-minute clip went viral on social media. In the video, Suganob, the Vicar General of the Marawi prelature, said militants seized him, along with other church workers, including children and adults, mostly Christians, when members of the Maute group attacked the city.

Behind the ruins of buildings destroyed in fierce clashes and the sound of sporadic gunfire, Suganob made an emotional appeal to Duterte to save all of them, saying, the militants are ready to die for their religion. He asked Duterte to stop military assaults, both in air and on the ground, and for security forces to quickly leave Marawi and Lanao del Sur, one of 5 provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.

Below is the transcript of Suganob’s appeal:

“Mr. President, I was taken as a prisoner of war together with one MSU female professor – the Mindanao State University – two lady church workers, two male teachers of Dansalan College Foundation Incorporated and five female teachers of Dansalan College Foundation Incorporated, along with us are about 200 carpenters, household helpers, children and youth and ordinary Christian settlers and other Subanon tribes with us as captives and as prisoners of war.

Mr. President, we are in the midst of this war, we are asking your help to please give what your enemies are asking for – this simply am not asking for anything just to withdraw your forces away from Lanao del Sur and Marawi City and to stop the air strikes, your air attacks and to stop the canons.

Mr. President, from out heart, please consider us. You know it is hard Mr. President from time to time we hear bursts of gunfire from the ground of your enemies, heavy firearms from your side, it’s hard. And Mr. President, we do not ask for anything, we just ask that you leave this place peacefully, do not give so much attack, the city in my background is ruined like this and Mr. President if you are in our place, you will really consider us because you’ll hear the outburst of gunfire and everything, bombs and canons. We are victims and Mr. President, if you have a good heart for us considering, Mr. President, about 240 prisoners of war are asking your good heart, please consider us, we want to live another day, we want live another month, we want to live few years, and in your heart, we know you can make something, they do not ask anything Mr. President after all this is their place give them the land and Mr. President, you are attacking from your heart, do not use violence because your enemies they are ready to die for their religion, they are ready to die and their laws will be followed in this place.

Mr. President you are from Mindanao, you know the conflict in Mindanao, you know the problems and I hope Mr. President you understand them. I am also saying these things Mr. President because you know the history; they have the right to live here, they have the right to their own laws be respected and Mr. President, you cannot use force because they have their commitments, they will die for this, they are ready to die for this, Mr. President we ask you please consider us, we are in the midst of war, we are victims, do not be happy Mr. President that we are the collateral damage of war, we are already victims of heavy gunfire for seven days.

Mr. President, if you want me to kneel before you just to have your heart in favor of our families, who are crying out there in different places, for our relatives and for those other 240, Mr. President we will do that. So Mr. President, I am asking you consideration.”

There were no signs troops were pulling out from the city as clashes continue without letup. The army claimed nearly 300 militants had been killed since the fighting began. But over a dozen civilians, mostly Christians, had been killed by militants as ground troops, backed by army tanks and air force planes, were searching for jihadists hiding in buildings and houses.


400 soldiers wounded in month-long Marawi crisis

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 27): 400 soldiers wounded in month-long Marawi crisis

Some 400 government troops were wounded in the month-long battle in the Islamic City of Marawi since the armed conflict broke out last May 23, a military doctor said here.

In an interview last Monday, Col. Jonna Dalaguit, head of the Army Station Hospital at Camp Evangelista here, said that only 77 soldiers are now confined at the Army hospital while the rest were confined at three other hospitals in Cagayan De Oro City.

She said that some soldiers who were slightly wounded were treated as outpatients while others opted to return to their units in Marawi City to continue to fight.

The wounded soldiers and police officers came from the 1st Infantry Division, the 52nd Mechanized Company, the Philippine Marines, the Special Operations Command, the Field Artillery Battalion, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) and the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF).

Dalaguit said that although the nearest hospitals from Marawi City are located in Iligan City, the wounded were brought to Cagayan De Oro City because of better medical facilities here.

For instance, Camp Evangelista Station Hospital has 100 beds and enough surgeons, Orthopedic physicians, anesthesiologists and nurses compared to the public and private hospitals in Iligan City.

“The wounded are either airlifted or being brought in military ambulances,” Dalaguit said.

Dalaguit’s medical personnel also monitor the health conditions of all patients in the three other hospitals in Cagayan de Oro City even though they are being treated by civilian doctors.

The Camp Evangelista Station Hospital team is being augmented by medical personnel flown in from the AFP Medical Center and the Philippine Army General Hospital in Manila.


Army, police hunt killers of village chief, 3 others

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 27): Army, police hunt killers of village chief, 3 others

Joint police and military personnel have launched a manhunt against a group of gunmen who killed four village officials, including a village chair Tuesday afternoon.

Senior Inspector Rustom Pastolero, police station 3 head, identified the victims as village chair Mokamad “Max” Pasawilan of Barangay Tamontak 1, Cotabato City, councilman Unting Pasawilan, village watchman Jhonny Pasawilan Manisi and Barangay Treasurer Anday Pasawilan Manisi.

Pastolero said village chair Pasawilan and councilman Pasawilan were killed on the spot while Johnny and Anday were rushed to the Cotabato Regional and Medical Center but were declared dead upon arrival by attending doctors.

Motive of the attack remained unknown as of posting.

According to Pastolero, the victims were at the chairperson’s house on Datu Omar Road, Barangay Balabaran, Cotabato City when unidentified gunmen arrived and opened fire on them at about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

”They were talking under a tree when the gunmen arrived and opened fire on them,” Pastolero said.

Quoting witnesses, Pastolero said the suspects fled toward the eastern portion of the village.

Responding police officers recovered several empty shells for .45 cal. Pistol and M-16 Armalite rifle.


Bomb threat turns out to be simulation exercise

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 27): Bomb threat turns out to be simulation exercise

A bag left unattended at the Cebu Ports Authority on Tuesday disrupted the inter-agency meeting in preparation for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) 2017 Senior Economic Officials Meeting next week.

Top police officials and Public Safety Battalion personnel were among the members of inter-agency group preparing the security measures for the Asean meetings in Cebu.

The members of the group were asked to vacate the Social Hall of the Cebu Ports Authority.

“They told us to move out, so we hastened to the nearest exit,” said Cebu City Councilor Dave Tumulak, deputy mayor on police matters, who was among those attending the meeting.

Police Regional Director Noli Taliño later explained that the unattended bag was part of a simulation exercise to test the security preparedness of the agencies involved in the ASEAN gathering next week.

Talino was dismayed, however, over the slow response of the nearest police station with a bomb squad.

Contents of the bag placed beside the garbage bin near the Social Hall were found to be electronic air fresheners.

Around 300 delegates are expected to attend the ASEAN senior officials meetings next week.


Prisoner swap talks not sanctioned by gov't — AFP spokesman

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 27): Prisoner swap talks not sanctioned by gov't — AFP spokesman

The decision of local religious leaders to negotiate with Maute Group terrorists regarding the release of certain hostages is not sanctioned by the government, said Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla on Tuesday.

He issued this statement in wake of reports claiming that Abdullah Maute, one of the leaders of the lawless elements responsible for wrecking havoc in Marawi City, is open to swap Father Chito Suganob in exchange for the release of his parents, Cayamora and Ominta "Farhana" Maute, who were arrested earlier this month.

"Government's policy not to negotiate with terrorists remains. Hence, the local religious leader led talks with the terrorists last Sunday is one that was not sanctioned by government, the military and our political leaders," Padilla said.

"Any demands made inside therefore hold no basis. Let us continue to remind the public that the gravity of their (terrorists and their supporters) offense is immense and they must all be held accountable for all their actions," the military official stressed.

Conflict in Marawi City started when government security forces attempted to arrest Abu Sayyaf Group leader Isnilon Hapilon, the ISIS "Emir" in Southeast Asia, last May 23.

As of this posting, the number of terrorists neutralized by military operations are placed at 290, with the number of government troops killed in action at 70 and 27 civilians executed.

Number of firearms recovered from the lawless elements are placed at 347 with the remaining hostages placed at 150 to 200.

Number of still active Maute Group terrorists are placed between 100 to 120.


Iloilo lauds 8 Alsa Masa members for fighting NPAs

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 27): Iloilo lauds 8 Alsa Masa members for fighting NPAs

The Iloilo provincial government through its Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) on Tuesday recognized eight members of the Alsa Masa who fought with the troops from the 61st Infantry Battalion in its encounter with the members of the New People's Army (NPA) last June 30 in Leon town.

Provincial Director Teodora Sumagaysay, in an interview with the Capitol Press, said that these Alsa Masa members were given certificates in recognition of their bravery in fighting the rebels and protecting their fellowmen in their community specifically in Barangay Lampaya, Leon, Iloilo.

To recall the troops of the 61st IB encountered with the members of NPA in Leon last Tuesday as part of its pursuit for the rebels who raided the Maasin town police station last June 18.

Sumagaysay mentioned that the members of PPOC was considering to give cash incentives to these eight "Alsa Masa" members.

However, Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Sr. expressed his wish to provide them with livelihood program so it would be lasting.

Sumagaysay said that the office of the governor has yet to identify the livelihood to be provided to them.

The awarding of certificates to the Alsa Masa members was conducted Tuesday morning at the Iloilo Provincial Capitol board room.


US Embassy, UP-IIS host ‘iftars’ in honor of Ramadan

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 27): US Embassy, UP-IIS host ‘iftars’ in honor of Ramadan

In culmination of the holy month of Ramadan, the United States (U.S.) Embassy in the Philippines has partnered with the University of the Philippines (UP) Institute of Islamic Studies (IIS) in hosting two simultaneous iftar activities on Wednesday.

One at IIS in Quezon City and the other at the Santa Elena Evacuation Center in Iligan City serving 1,140 Marawi evacuees. The two communities shared food and fellowship, and strengthened their resolve in solidarity with victims of the Marawi siege.

Following Maghrib, the sunset prayer, U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) Michael Klecheski joined UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan, Dean of the IIS Macrina Morados, students, professors, government officials and civil society members to break the fast.  

Klecheski conveyed his sympathies to Marawi residents who are still affected by the conflict, noting the charity and generosity of the Muslim community during the siege. “Muslim communities sacrificed their own safety to protect fellow Muslims and non-Muslims alike, giving free food, water, and shelter to those in need,” he said.

Meanwhile, Tan thanked the U.S. Embassy for its support and highlighted its upcoming joint endeavors.

In Santa Elena, Iligan City, U.S. government exchange alumni and UP-IIS alumni organized an iftar for about 1,140 Marawi evacuees. The volunteers in charge of the event included alumni of U.S. government-sponsored programs such as Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) and Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (K-L YES). Launched in 2013, YSEALI is the U.S. government’s signature program to strengthen leadership development and networking in Southeast Asia.    

Through a variety of programs and engagements, YSEALI focuses on critical topics identified by youth in the region and seeks to build the leadership capabilities of youth in the region, strengthen ties between the United States and Southeast Asia, and nurture an ASEAN community. The Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program, funded by the U.S. Department of State, provides scholarships for secondary school students from countries with significant Muslim populations to spend one academic year in the United States.

The U.S. Embassy in the Philippines collaborates with universities across the country to empower communities through cultural and educational outreach programs. (U.S. Embassy)


NPA attacks Baggao town, 2 civilians hurt

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 27): NPA attacks Baggao town, 2 civilians hurt

BAGGAO, Cagayan - Two civilians were wounded in an attack perpetrated by alleged members of the New People’s Army (NPAs) operating here.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) here reported that some 30 members of the NPA attacked Sunday night the home of retired army soldier, Dexter Remodaro, who was not at home when the incident happened.

Police records revealed Vilma B. Raguingan and Jeraise Raguingan who were inside the house during the attack sustained bullet wounds.

Police Regional Office-2 director, Chief Supt. Robert Quenery, condemned the atrocity committed by the NPAs not only for the household of the veteran Army soldier, who has been enjoying the fruits of his labor in the service of his country, but also for the people of Baggao who only want to live peacefully.

“Violence has no place in Cagayan Valley whose people only wanted to live in peace and harmony,” Quenery said.

Earlier this year, the NPAs have been relatively active in region 2 following their attack at the Police Station of Maddela in Quirino province on April 29.

The NPAs, during the incident, killed one policeman and carted away 10 fireams.

On May 4, 2017, barely a week later after the Quirino attack, a group of communist rebels attacked the Amulung Police Sub-station here and took away another four long firearms belonging to the station.

Government forces are now conducting hot pursuit operations against the attackers, who fled towards the mountainous parts of this town.


Tagalog News: 4CMO Battalion may bago ng commander

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 27): Tagalog News: 4CMO Battalion may bago ng commander

Pormal ng umupo bilang bagong Civil Military Operations (CMO) officer ng 4th CMO Kasaligan Battalion si Lieutenant Colonel Rico Amaro na nakabase dito sa lungsod.

Sa ginanap na Change of Command Ceremony kamakailan, pormal ng tinanggap ni Lt. Col Amaro ang kanyang bagong tungkulin at responsibilidad bilang commanding officer ng Kasaligan Battalion.

Si Lt. Col. Amaro ay dating battalion commander ng 30th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army na nakadestino sa Surigao del Norte.

Ayon kay Lt. Col. Amaro, ipagpapatuloy niya umano ang nasimulang mga makabuluhang proyekto at inisyatibo ng dating CMO officer na si Lieutenant Colonel Manuel Valdez IV, na ngayon ay madedestino na rin sa 4th Infantry Division headquarters sa Cagayan de Oro City.

Anya, mas paghuhusayan pa niya ang kanyang tungkulin sa bagong posisyon, at kasama ng kanyang mga tauhan sa CMO battalion ay mas lalo pa nilang patatatagin ang magandang relasyon sa komunidad na kanilang sinasakupan maging sa mga ahensiya ng gobyerno.

Binigyang-diin din ni Lt. Col. Amaro na palagi siyang tutugon sa mga issues and concerns na maaaring maibahagi rin sa kanya ng mga media partners upang umano ay agaran ding matugunan ang mga concerns ng mga tao sa ibat-ibang barangays na sikop nila at maipagpatuloy ang mga peace and development efforts ng 4th CMO Battalion.

Ipinahayag naman ni Lt. Col. Valdez ang kanyang lubos na pasasalamat sa suporta at dedikasyon ng kanyang mga tauhan sa CMO Battalion sa kanilang mga naging operasyon. Samantala, binati rin ni 4ID asst. division commander Brigadier General Cristobal Zaragoza ang bagong CMO officer at sinabing kampante siya na magagampanan ng mabuti ni Lt. Col. Amaro ang mga serbisyo na inaasahan sa kanya.


Former rebels receive cash, livelihood assistance in AgSur

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 27): Former rebels receive cash, livelihood assistance in AgSur

Three former rebels in Agusan del Sur received cash and livelihood assistance from the government thru the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Caraga on June 23, 2017 in Patin-ay, Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur.

According to 2Lt. Romel Arnado, Civil-Military Operations (CMO) Officer of 26th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army, of the three former rebels, two surrendered to 26IB while the other one surrendered to 3rd Special Forces Battalion.

Arnado added that the three received from DILG and DSWD the P50,000.00 livelihood assistance and P15,000.00 cash assistance.

The names of the beneficiaries under the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) were not disclosed for their safety/security especially when they go back to the mainstream society.

“The government wanted to help them cope with the normal life in their respective community and with the livelihood assistance given to them will be a good start. They can also avail of the other programs of the government when they need to,” expressed Arnado.

Also, 26IB commanding officer LTC Rommel Pagayon encouraged other members of the New People's Army (NPA) in the province to surrender and be part of the mainstream society.

“The 26IB and 401st Brigade, Philippine Army with the guidance of Col. Andres Centino is very willing to accept the former rebels who would want to surrender. You are safe with us, and the government has programs and services intended for you,” he underlined.

During the turn-over ceremony, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other government agencies also witnessed said activity.


70 policemen from C. Luzon sent to Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 27): 70 policemen from C. Luzon sent to Mindanao

Some 70 personnel from the Regional Public Safety Battalion 3 were sent to Mindanao on Tuesday to augment the ground troops as fighting continues between government forces and the Maute group in Marawi City.

Police Regional Office 3 (PRO3) director Chief Supt. Aaron N. Aquino, in a send off ceremony held on Tuesday at the PRO3 parade ground here, said the contingents would be sent to Cagayan de Oro City as augmentation force to complement the troops.

"They are among the best and skilled personnel who have undergone tactical and combatant training," Aquino said.

He said the deployment of police personnel is a continuing program of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and is line with the “Tour of Duty of PNP Personnel Deployed in Armed-Conflict Areas, Counter- Insurgency Operations and other Similar Serious Threats to National Security".

"I am sure that you will all do well, bear in mind that as police officers, we always place duty and honor above our own personal concerns. As your regional director, I am extremely proud of you because I am in no doubt that you will be able to carry out our mandated tasks of ensuring and maintaining public security and safety,” Aquino said.

The troops will remain deployed in Mindanao until the situation normalized.

Meanwhile, he asked the public to be extra cautious in believing and sharing in social media and spreading through text messages unverified reports circulating over the internet purportedly coming from police units as this might cause unnecessary panic and fear.

He also encouraged the reporting of any suspicious persons, activities, and unusual occurrences in public or any untoward incidents and crime situations through the nationwide emergency hotline 911 and/or PRO3 TOC 0917-623-5700.

"Let us stay strong and united against terrorism and other lawless activities for a safer place to live, work and do business," he added.


Army Division to hire 500 new soldiers

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 27): Army Division to hire 500 new soldiers

The Philippine Army’s 1st Infantry “Tabak” Division on Tuesday announced the opening of Candidate Soldier Course that seek to enlist 500 new soldiers into the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera, 1st Infantry Division spokesperson, said the registration for candidate soldier starts on Thursday, June 29, until August 1. The training starts October 1, this year.

The basic requirements to be enlisted into the service are as follows: 18 to 26 years old; five feet and above in height; Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA)-authenticated birth certificate with Official Receipt (OR); parents’ marriage contract with OR; Form 137, Transcript of Record, Diploma with dry seal (high school and college); 2x2 pictures with name tag; valid identification cards; and, must attain a score of 45 and above in the AFP Service Aptitude Test (AFPSAT).

Herrera said that interested and qualified applicants can register at the following placed: Gate 2 of the 1st Infantry Division in Upper Pulacan, Labangang, this province; 101st Infantry Brigade, Busbus, Jolo, Sulu; 102nd Infantry Brigade, Sanito, Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay; 103rd Infantry Brigade, Campo Ranao, Marawi City; and, 104the Infantry Brigade, Isabela City, Basilan.

Herrera said applicants must also passed the physical fitness exam aside from the written test.

Those who will qualify and successfully complete the Candidate Soldier Course will be assigned with the 1st Infantry Division, the premier unit of the Philippine Army.

AFP now starting to negate Maute sniping capability

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 27): AFP now starting to negate Maute sniping capability

Government forces are starting to negate the sniping threat posed by the remaining Maute Group remnants in Marawi City.

This was bared by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo in a briefing late Monday in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

"(They still have snipers but) we have gradually negated that advantage and now we have the momentum and the tempo of the operations," he added.

For operational and security reasons, the military official did not reveal their tactics in dealing with Maute Group snipers.

The AFP earlier said that these anti-sniping operations has so far accounted for an estimated 90 to 100 Maute Group snipers in the past few weeks of operations.

Conflict in Marawi City started when government forces attempted to arrest Abu Sayyaf Group leader Isnilon Hapilon, the ISIS "Emir" in southeast Asia, last May 23.

As of this posting, the number of terrorists neutralized by military operations is now at 290 with the number of government troops killed in action at 70 and 27 civilians executed.

Number of firearms recovered from the lawless elements are placed at 347 with the remaining hostages placed at 150 to 200.

Number of remaining active Maute Group terrorists are placed between 100 to 120, Arevalo said.


Ammo stash found in Marawi relief items

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 27): Ammo stash found in Marawi relief items

Eastern Police District (EPD) operatives on Tuesday are now tracking down the suspect who allegedly smuggled 159 9mm rounds into relief packages intended for victims affected by the ongoing fighting against Maute Group terrorists in Marawi City.

EPD commander Chief Supt. Romeo Sapitula identified the suspected ammunition smuggler as a certain "AJ".

The latter was tagged by Mohaimen Mutalib, a resident of Reliance St., Barangay Highway Hills, Mandaluyong, as the person who tried to place the above-mentioned ammunition into the relief packages which the former organized to help Marawi City residents severely affected by the almost six weeks of fighting.

Incidentally, Mutalib is a native of Marawi City, hence his decision to organize his own relief drive.

Fighting in the city started when government security forces tried to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, the ISIS "Emir" in southeast Asia, last May 23.

Sapitula said the 9mm rounds were found inside a plastic box, containing some clothes, by Mutalib while checking the donations, prompting the latter to report the matter to the police.

Aside from the bullets, also found were a holster and some ammunition clips.

Police are still investigating on whether "AJ" intended to smuggle weapons or other related items as well.


Gov't does not deal with terrorists – Palace

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 27): Gov't does not deal with terrorists – Palace

Malacañang on Tuesday reiterated the government’s policy not to negotiate with terrorists amid reports that the leaders of the Maute Group has offered to release a catholic priest in exchange for their parents who are in government custody.

“Government’s policy not to negotiate with terrorists remains,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a Palace briefing.

“The local religious leader-led talks with the terrorists last Sunday is one of that was not sanctioned by government, the military and our political leaders. Any demands made inside, therefore, hold no basis,” he said.

Abella’s statements came in the wake of reports that several Muslim leaders met on Sunday with Abdullah Maute, one of two brothers leading the siege of Marawi.

The meeting supposedly happened during the military-enforced 8-hour ceasefire to allow residents to celebrate the Muslim feast of Eid al-Fitr.

During the meeting, the extremist leader reportedly offered to release Fr. Chito Suganob in exchange for the freedom of his parents, Farhana and Cayamora, who were arrested by government authorities this month.

According to the same reports, the terror leader also said his group might consider leaving Marawi City if the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) acts as mediator.

“All possibilities are, of course, being considered,” Abella said on the MILF proposal.

However, the Palace official reminded that whatever the outcome, everyone responsible for the rebellion in Mindanao should all be held accountable.

“Let us continue to remind the public that the gravity of their --- of terrorists’ and their supporters’ -- offense is immense and they must all be held accountable for all their actions,” Abella said.

Conflict in Marawi City likely to end within next 2 weeks - DND chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 27): Conflict in Marawi City likely to end within next 2 weeks - DND chief

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that they are looking to end the conflict in Marawi City within the next two weeks.

He made this statement during an interview with DZRH radio Tuesday.

Also, the DND chief assured all affected Marawi City residents that the government would do everything in its authority to help them get back to their feet, including the repair of their homes, which might have been damaged in the course of the fighting, and infrastructures destroyed in the series of clashes with Maute Group terrorists.

"This won't take long, the fighting may be over in one or two weeks," Lorenzana said in Filipino.

He also admitted that there was a bit of pressure among troops as President Rodrigo Duterte was scheduled to deliver his second State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) this coming July 24 and it won't look good if there were still fighting and killings during that time.

"It won't look good (during the SONA) if the Marawi City clash is still ongoing and killing still taking place," Lorenzana stressed.

And despite fanatical resistance from the remaining terrorists, whom the DND chief sees fighting to the death, the defense official said that they were still urging the lawless elements to surrender peacefully as they had no hope in winning the battle.

Conflict in Marawi City started when government security forces attempted to arrest Abu Sayyaf Group leader Isnilon Hapilon, the ISIS "Emir" in Southeast Asia, last May 23.

As of this posting, the number of terrorists neutralized by military operations are placed at 290 with the number of government troops killed in action at 70 and 27 civilians executed.

Number of firearms recovered from the lawless elements are placed at 347 with the remaining hostages placed at 150 to 200.

Number of still active Maute Group terrorists are placed between 100 and 120.


Navy's latest SSV delivers 600 tons of relief supplies for affected Marawi residents

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 27): Navy's latest SSV delivers 600 tons of relief supplies for affected Marawi residents

Some 600 of relief supplies, for persons displaced by the ongoing operations against the remaining Maute Group terrorists in Marawi City, has been transported by the BRP Davao Del Sur (LD-602), according to Philippine Navy (PN) spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna.

This took place during the ship's humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission last week, Lincuna said in message to the PNA Tuesday.

The BRP Davao Del Sur is the sister-ship of the BRP Tarlac (LD-601), the country's first strategic sealift vessel which was delivered and commissioned last year.

Aside from the relief supplies, which came from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the BRP Davao Del Sur also carried assorted heavy equipment for rehabilitation and the Armed Forces' mobile kitchen which is now being used for ongoing relief operations.

The BRP Davao Del Sur is currently conducting another HADR mission as of this posting.

Lincuna refused to give details for operational and security reasons.

"(She is) somewhere down south to support HADR but (I cannot) divulge (exact area) for security reasons," he added to the PNA.

She arrived in the Philippines last May 14 after a five-day journey from PT PAL shipyard in Surabaya which started on May 9.

BRP Davao Del Sur is also a Makassar-class landing platform dock like her sister ship BRP Tarlac.

She was commissioned last May 31, the Navy's 119th founding anniversary.

Its delivery completed the two-unit SSV procurement project with an approved budget contract of PHP4 billion sourced from the AFP Modernization Act Trust Fund.

Just like the BRP Tarlac, the PN's latest SSV will serve as a floating command-and-control ship especially in the conduct of humanitarian assistance and disaster response and will also serve as a military sealift and transport vessel.

The ship has an overall length of 120 meters,breadth of 21 meters, draft of five meters and can carry a payload of 2,800 tons.

She has a cruising speed of 13 knots and maximum speed of 16 knots and a minimum operating range of 7,500 nautical miles.

BRP Davao Del Sur can carry 500 troops, two rigid-hull inflatable boats, two landing craft units and three helicopters.

Her first major mission was the Benham Rise operation where she transported the diving team which planted the Philippine flag in a shallow portion of the territory last June 12.

The ship and her crew departed Pier 13, Manila South Harbor last June 8 with around 100 divers headed by Army Scout Ranger Major Christoper Constantino.

The military officer and his team strapped a fiber-class laminated Philippine flag 57 meters below the surface.