Wednesday, January 1, 2020

PNP: No serious threats from terror groups in Mindanao

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 1, 2020): PNP: No serious threats from terror groups in Mindanao (By Aaron Recuenco)

According to a security assessment of the Philippine National Police (PNP), threats from extremist groups affiliated with and sympathetic to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have been significantly reduced over the past two years.



PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac (SCREENSHOT / PNP / MANILA BULLETIN)

PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said police and military forces managed to gain control of the areas where threat groups like the Maute Group usually operate.

Banac made the statement after martial law was lifted at midnight on Wednesday, ending its two-year implementation in Marawi City that was first declared in May 2017 when Maute gunmen laid siege to the area.

“The state of lawlessness that prompted the declaration of martial law in Mindanao has been significantly contained since the IS-Maute rebellion was decisively crushed in October 2017,” Banac said.

Government forces recovered the entire downtown of Marawi City after five months of intense gun battles and mortar and air strikes.

But it came with a great price as the entire city was reduced to rubble, and two years later, no significant rehabilitation has been made.

“During that period, government gained a solid foothold in some influenced and threatened communities where it effectively established military and police presence,” Banac said. “In the process, the enemy was denied mass base support and room to maneuver and expand, rendering it immobile to some extent.”

The attack in Marawi City occurred a few months after President Rodrigo Duterte dared the Maute Group to attack the area amid prior intelligence reports about the siege plot.

Two year after martial law, Banac said what remains are the perennial peace and order spoilers in the traditional trouble spots in the island provinces of Western Mindanao and some small localities in Central Mindanao.

“The PNP shares the wisdom of the Defense and Interior departments and the AFP that martial law need not be further implemented in Mindanao,” Banac said. “We express our sincere appreciation and thank the public for their patience and understanding, and for continued support and cooperation during the martial law period and beyond.”

Banac added that the PNP remains alert and vigilant to prevent the occurrence of crimes and respond to any call for assistance.

NBI zeroes in on involvement of 2 groups in Mindanao explosions

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 1, 2020): NBI zeroes in on involvement of 2 groups in Mindanao explosions (By: Consuelo Marquez)



National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Dante Gierran. INQUIRER.net file photo / CATHY MIRANDA

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Wednesday said they are closely monitoring the alleged involvement of Dawlah Islamia Terrorist Group and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) following separate explosions in Mindanao.

“There were circumstances, even before the series of incidents, pointing to Dawlah Islamia Terrorist Group and BIFF elements who could be responsible thereof,” NBI chief Dante Gierran said in a text message.

“Our men in ARMM [Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao] NBI continuously monitoring the group together with counterparts in other LE [law enforcement] painstakingly making elicitations to identify the perpetrators for the purpose of pressing charges against those responsible,” he added.
At least 21 people were injured in separate explosions in provinces of Cotabato and Maguindanao last week.

Probe, final report in January

The Department of Justice (DOJ) said the NBI will conduct further investigation into separate bombings in Mindanao, noting that the latter’s preliminary report is still “inconclusive.”

“The NBI submitted to the DOJ last week a preliminary report on the Cotabato/Maguindanao bombing incidents before Xmas, but their initial findings were still inconclusive,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said in a text message.

“They are presently conducting further investigation to determine if the perpetrators had any link with known terrorist groups operating in Mindanao,” he added.

Guevarra noted that they are seeking a progress report from the NBI next month after the latter failed to identify the perpetrators behind the bombing incidents.

“Unfortunately, they have not identified the perpetrators yet. The NBI field operatives are still working on it. I will give them another month to complete their probe and submit a final report,” he said.

https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1208229/nbi-zeroes-in-on-involvement-of-2-groups-in-mindanao-explosions

BIFF behind Mindanao blasts?

From the Philippine Star (Jan 2, 2020): BIFF behind Mindanao blasts? (By Evelyn Macairan)

MANILA, Philippines — The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is verifying reports that members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) were behind recent explosions in Mindanao that left 22 people, including six soldiers, wounded.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the NBI submitted its preliminary report on the bombings in Cotabato City, North Cotabato and Maguindanao on Dec. 22, but the findings were inconclusive.

“They are conducting further investigation to determine if the perpetrators have any link with known terrorist groups operating in Mindanao,” Guevarra said.

He said NBI Director Dante Gierran cited prior incidents pointing to the BIFF or Dawla Islamiya as the perpetrators.

Gierran said NBI agents in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and other law enforcement agencies are monitoring the BIFF.

The NBI’s initial findings support the statement of the Western Mindanao Command that the BIFF was behind the explosions.

Guevarra said he is giving the NBI until the end of this month to come up with its final report.

“I will give them another month to complete the probe and submit a final report… We expect a progress report,” he said.

The wounded soldiers are members of the 62nd Reconnaissance Company of the 6th Infantry Division. They were among the 16 persons hit in the explosion near the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Cotabato City. Three others were wounded in the blasts in Libungan, North Cotabato and two in Upi, Maguindanao.

The BIFF denied allegations its members perpetrated the bombings, saying they could not get past the checkpoints in Cotabato City.

Martial law expires but Mindanao remains peaceful –DND, AFP

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 1, 2020): Martial law expires but Mindanao remains peaceful –DND, AFP (By Martin Sadongdong)

The Department of National Defense (DND) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) assured the people in Mindanao that peace and stability on the island will prevail despite the non-extension of martial law which officially expired at 12 midnight on Dec. 31, 2019.



Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo (MANILA BULLETIN)

“Upon the recommendation of the security sector, the President has decided to allow martial law to lapse and not ask for another extension anymore,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Tuesday night.

“The security sector believes that the objective of the martial law has been achieved,” he added.

Lorenzana said that the rebellion in Marawi City and other areas in Mindanao “have been effectively stopped.”

“For those who have openly issued statements of support for the extension of martial law, let me assure you that the AFP will continue to safeguard the hard-earned peace and stability in the region,” Lorenzandwa stated.

Meanwhile, Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesperson, said the military is confident of an “improved security climate” in Mindanao.

Despite the lapse of martial law, Arevalo noted that Proclamation No. 55 is still in effect.

Proclamation No. 55 was signed by President Duterte on September 4, 2016 declaring a state of national emergency on account of lawless violence in Mindanao after militant groups bombed a night market in Davao City on September 2, 2016. The attack killed 15 people and injured at least 70 others.

“Our people can then be assured that the Armed Forces of the Philippines will deploy to suppress any and all forms of lawless violence to prevent them from spreading and escalating not only in Mindanao but elsewhere in the Philippines,” Arevalo said.

President Duterte first declared the martial law in Mindanao on May 23, 2017 when Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)-inspired Maute terrorist group attacked Marawi City, Lanao del Sur in an attempt to establish a caliphate in Mindanao.

It ended after two years and seven months or 953 days of effectivity.

Initially, the martial law in Mindanao was only valid for 60 days but Duterte asked the Congress to extend it until the end of 2017.

Since then, two more extensions were granted by the Congress for the entire 2018 and 2019.


New Caliph, Same Old Problems//Baghdadi’s Legacy Looms Large Over the New ISIS Leader

Posted to Foreign Affairs (Jan 1, 2020): New Caliph, Same Old Problems//Baghdadi’s Legacy Looms Large Over the New ISIS Leader (By Asaad Almohammad)



Rubble from the fighting between ISIS and the Philippine government forces, Marawi City, the Philippines, May 2018Rouelle Umali / Xinhua / eyevine​ / Redux

The Islamic State, also known as ISIS, is down but not out. In March 2019, U.S.-backed Kurdish and Arab forces captured the group’s last territorial stronghold in the Middle East, the town of Baghuz in eastern Syria. Seven months later, the organization’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, killed himself after U.S. special operations forces trapped him in a dead-end tunnel.

But ISIS didn’t die with him. In November, Russell Travers, the acting director of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, testified to Congress that over the last year ISIS carried out a number of centrally coordinated transnational attacks and propaganda campaigns, indicating a degree “of enhanced connectivity.” Even after Baghdadi’s death, Travers said, the group “remains robust and—in some areas—is expanding.”

The man upon whom ISIS’s continued resurgence now depends is Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi. Little is known about Baghdadi’s successor, whose real identity remains a mystery. (Qurashi is a nom de guerre.) U.S. State Department officials have both described him as a “nobody” and conceded that “nobody knows his background.” But to reunite what remains of the militant organization and build on the momentum of the last year, Qurashi will have to resolve two festering problems that bedeviled his predecessor: an ideological dispute that threatens to tear ISIS apart from within and a rapidly expanding network of global branches and affiliates that presents a raft of challenges to centralized control.

DOCTRINE AND DEBATE

The new caliph didn’t inherit a unified or ideologically coherent organization from Baghdadi. He inherited one that is deeply divided over the doctrinal issue of takfir, or excommunication. The dispute is wide-ranging, but it centers on a single question: whether Muslims who excuse coreligionists who commit “polytheistic” acts—such as voting in elections, which is considered an expression of loyalty to a sovereign other than God—can be declared unbelievers.

One faction within ISIS—the Hazimis, or “extremists”—contends that excusing such acts is itself heretical, making it permissible to kill the excuser. Another faction, the so-called moderates, opposes this interpretation. Its members warn that the extremists’ approach is untenable, since it would cast masses of Muslims outside the faith, including a great many jihadis who differ over how to interpret takfir and when to use it. Internal ISIS documents leaked by dissenters on both sides of the takfir debate show that Baghdadi struggled to resolve this tension in his final years.

In late 2015, ISIS’s Department of General Security—a body charged with managing a broad range of internal and external security issues—proclaimed that it planned to rid the organization of extremists. But in early 2016, one of ISIS’s most important scholars, Turki al-Binali, claimed that the issue of “extremism” within the organization remained unresolved. In an effort to mediate between the factions, ISIS issued two reports in mid-2016. In one, the group prohibited discussing the nature of takfir, and in the other, it asserted that the organization’s most pressing problem was not the overuse of takfir but rather excessive moderation.

The new caliph didn’t inherit a unified or ideologically coherent organization from Baghdadi.

By May 2017, ISIS’s top leadership had denounced the extremists within their ranks in an official ruling that simultaneously brought the organization closer to the extremist interpretation of takfir. This awkward compromise angered the more moderate ISIS scholars, who publicly voiced their disagreement with the ruling. In September 2017, ISIS leadership backtracked, withdrawing the May ruling on takfir. But this concession to the moderate camp didn’t silence the growing chorus of dissent. After Baghdadi’s death, for instance, moderates went as far as questioning the legitimacy of Qurashi, whose stance on takfir remains unknown, in two essays published through the dissident Al Wafa Media Agency.

The doctrinal debate over takfir had real-world repercussions. Rancorous infighting over the issue weakened ISIS during a crucial period of its decline in 2018 and 2019, causing friction at all layers of the organization, from scholars to foot soldiers, and even defections. As a result, some of ISIS’s rank and file came to see the organization’s religious scholars as “the foundation of the problem,” as the ISIS dissident Abu Abd al-Malek al-Shami put it, prompting ISIS’s Delegated Committee—the group’s top governing body—to imprison many of the scholars involved in the takfir debate.

Even now, those on both sides of the dispute remain convinced that the other side has corrupted the organization. Which of the two factions is stronger, and how Qurashi will approach the debate, remains to be seen. But left unresolved, the issue is likely to undermine his authority as well as his ability to coordinate the group’s dozens of global branches and affiliates.

THE CENTER WILL NOT HOLD

Qurashi inherited control of a transnational entity that extends from West Africa to Southeast Asia. At the beginning of 2014, the group was known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and had a formal presence in just two countries. Today, ISIS has branches as far north as Azerbaijan and as far south as Mozambique and Mindanao in the Philippines. In May 2019, the organization added a branch in Pakistan to its already expansive roster of subsidiaries and affiliates. ISIS’s rapid global advance was one of Baghdadi’s crowning achievements, but it also introduced a number of political, cultural, and linguistic challenges to centralized control.

A deluge of recent videos of militants around the world pledging allegiance to Qurashi and ISIS reveals the depth of loyalty that the organization’s branches and affiliates still feel toward their central command. And according to the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, ISIS leadership likely still orchestrates the transnational attacks and propaganda campaigns carried out by its branches and subsidiaries.

ISIS’s rapid global advance was one of Baghdadi’s crowning achievements.

But with new branches and affiliates have come new problems of coordination. When the organization first expanded into West Africa in 2015, ISIS sought to partner with the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram. But despite swearing loyalty to Baghdadi, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau refused to abide by ISIS’s norms, producing deep strife within the West African organization. In 2016, Baghdadi was forced to replace Shekau with Shekau’s spokesperson Abu Musab al-Barnawi. Barnawi’s selection is believed to have cemented ISIS’s relationship with its West African affiliate. But it also split the group in two, as Shekau absconded with soldiers who remained loyal to him. Similar coordination issues are likely to arise in Africa and elsewhere as ISIS’s central leadership moves to reconsolidate after Baghdadi’s death.

To manage this ever-growing network, the new caliph will likely seek to empower the Department of General Security. According to Benjamin Bahney and Patrick B. Johnston, two political scientists at the RAND Corporation, this entity is “the glue of the ISIS organization from top to bottom.” It is the crucial link between the organization’s leadership and its specialized departments, which coordinate everything from propaganda production to the creation of sleeper cells. During Baghdadi’s tenure, it maintained cohesion between the organization’s senior leaders and helped keep the center in sync with a rapidly expanding list of affiliates in geographically dispersed territories.

As the new ISIS leader, Qurashi has the power to shape the future of his organization. But Baghdadi’s legacy and the challenges he faced during his tenure still loom large. To rebuild ISIS into a potent organization with global reach, Qurashi will need to both mend the internal ideological rift and command ISIS’s branches and affiliates—all while avoiding the fate of his predecessor.

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/west-africa/2020-01-01/new-caliph-same-old-problems

Philippines bracing for more violence, bombings

Posted to the New Straits Times (Jan 1, 2020): Philippines bracing for more violence, bombings



Security personnel standing outside the ruins of a church in which two bombs were detonated, killing 20 people in Jolo, Mindanao, on Jan 27 last year. -AFP

MANILA: The year 2019 started with a bang in the Philippines with a series of suicide bombings in Sulu.

In late January, two explosions inside a church in Jolo claimed 20 lives and left dozens injured.

The second explosion occurred near a military detachment, also in Sulu. One of the bombers, identified as Norman Lasuca, was a local who was allegedly trained by an Abu Sayyaf faction.

In Indanan, Sulu, a woman feigning pregnancy detonated a bomb, killing herself in the process. Security forces were able to neutralise potential bombers reported to be plotting to cause chaos in the area.

The military said five suicide bombers in Sulu were under the care of Hajan Sawadjaan, one of Abu Sayyaf’s leaders tagged by the United States as the new emir of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia.

Last year, Beijing and Manila were almost involved in a diplomatic crisis after an incident along the Reed Bank on the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), in which a Chinese vessel rammed into a Filipino boat with 22 fishermen on board on June 9.

President Rodrigo Duterte, a staunch supporter of China, labelled the sinking a “little maritime accident”.

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana admitted that China’s activities in the disputed sea were beyond the Philippines’ defence capabilities.

While terrorism and sea disputes continue to threaten the nation’s security, the real challenge comes from enemies closer to home .

Lorenzana said the New People’s Army (NPA) and the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines had infiltrated all sectors of society and government.

“We need to have a better strategy to defeat them.”

One strategy was the formation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, with Duterte and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr as co-chairmen.

Lorenzana said he did not see any new challenges when asked on expectations for the coming year.

“What do I expect next year? More of the same thing. Our enemies will remain the same: NPA, IS-affiliated terrorists and the West Philippine Sea disputes.”

https://www.nst.com.my/world/region/2020/01/552495/philippines-bracing-more-violence-bombings

Fighting cross-border terror in Sabah

Posted to the New Straits Times (Jan 2, 2020): Fighting cross-border terror in Sabah (By Datuk Seri Akhbar Satar)



We are not a developing nation if our citizens do not feel safe within our borders.

FOR many years, the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone) became a target of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), a regional terrorist organisation based in the Philippines.

The Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) is the main enforcement authority for Esszone.

The government had embarked on a programme to significantly upgrade the land, sea and air defence capabilities of the Malaysian armed forces in Esszone.

Early last year, security forces in Sabah were on the lookout for 18 individuals over suspected involvement in cross-border crime and terrorism in the state’s east coast.

In October, the families of three Indonesian fishermen, who were abducted in the waters off the east coast of Sabah on Sept 23, received calls from the kidnappers demanding ransom payments.

The security forces viewed the incident seriously and increased patrols in national waters, especially in Esszone.

Kidnapping for ransom had become a trend on Sabah’s porous borders.

It appeared that ASG had made kidnapping its main business, with Malaysia as its main source of income.

However, the rate of kidnappings in the Sulu archipelago has gone down lately.

Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu confirmed that kidnappings in Esszone had declined following cooperation among Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines in combating criminal- and terror-related activities in the area.

However, ASG may have shifted from kidnap-for-ransom activities to tobacco smuggling to fund its operations.

Since smuggling illegal tobacco is considered low risk and profitable, kidnapping activities in the ESSCOM was reduced.because the latter is considered low risk.

TOBACCO SMUGGLING

The illegal cigarette trade is a lucrative business.

ASG could also be funded by local organised crime gangs and it used Malaysia as a base to fund its activities.

With vast amounts of money in its possession, it is a small price to pay for crime syndicates to splash on lowly-paid law enforcers.

A corrupt officer can expect massive returns on investment - i.e. RM2.5 million from a 12m container that contains 10 million sticks or 500,000 packets of illegal cigarettes, which cost about US$100,000.

One way to fight crime syndicates is to cut off their main source of funds or financiers.

Law enforcement agencies should be aware of the terrorists’ new strategy in financing their activities.

EFFECTIVE SOLUTION

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Omar Mammah said they received intelligence that indicated kidnap-for-ransom groups and Abu Sayyaf militants were attempting to commit cross-border crimes, thus it was about time that Esscom brought about more effective solutions to the dilemma.

If not, this terrible trend will continue again.

Due to an insufficient budget, the agency could not be equipped with technology.

Apart from that, Sabah’s tourism market may perform worse this year if there are more beheadings.

By paying a ransom, we are not finding a permanent solution, but only encouraging further kidnappings and blackmail by the militants.

NEED FOR MORE RADAR EQUIPMENT, PATROLS AND SPECIAL BOATS

In tackling the issue, border enforcement officers should be well equipped.

It is hoped that more modern radar devices could be installed at selected islands and security could be tightened at sensitive areas through regular patrolling.

There is also a need for special boats to better monitor encroachment of foreign boats on Sabah waters.

It is learned that the Royal Malaysian Navy is expected to acquire new assets, including 18 fast interceptor craft (FIC) and three maritime operation helicopters, which cost more than RM400 million.

According to Admiral Tan Sri Mohd Reza Mohd Sany, FIC would provide a boost to the country’s maritime security.

They will be placed on the east coast of Sabah.

Make sure the new assets are suitable and follow proper procurement procedures.

Over the last few years, hundreds of millions of ringgit were lost due to poor procurement and fraud.

It was reported that the Defence Ministry had raised the issue of questionable purchases of military assets to the anti-graft authority

PROFESSIONAL HOSTAGE NEGOTIATOR

There is a lack of expertise in hostage negotiation.

Even with well-trained enforcement officers, the chances of the nation’s borders being breached still exist.

When borders are breached and a kidnapping occurs, we need trained negotiators.

They need to be well-versed with techniques that could make the militants change their mind.

Thus, it is time that the police or Esscom formed a hostage negotiation unit.

SECURITY IS NON-NEGOTIABLE

We have to be serious in preventing kidnappings and apply new security strategies to overcome the issue in the long term.Such incidents have a high possibility of recurring because the current strategy does not seem to work.

We should maximise Esscom’s force to prevent future kidnappings and let the professionals tackle the issue without any political interference, allowing them to choose the right assets, deploy the right strategy and avoid procurement fraud.

This is because political interference partly hinders enforcement officers from doing their job professionally.

RESTRUCTURING ESSCOM

The Defence Ministry is taking a proactive action by restructuring Esscom to ensure it plays a better role.

However, it is even more important to upgrade its equipment.

When changing the agency’s structure, it is important for the government to consider forming a single entity border patrol unit.

INTEGRITY OF OFFICIALS

Finally, the issue of integrity of law enforcement officers needs to be addressed.

Background screening and rotation of officers are need to be carried out to prevent corruption, which threatens national security.

We are not a developing nation if our citizens do not feel safe within our borders.

Instead, what is needed is a coherent long-term policy and a blueprint to combat terrorism, including in Esscom.

We want to ensure the safety of Sabah folk and tourists, who use the state’s waters, as well as those residing near Esszone.

[The writer holds a professional chair at HELP University’s Institute of Crime and Criminology]

https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2020/01/552636/fighting-cross-border-terror-sabah

Joma Sison: Word war better than shooting war

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 1, 2020): Joma Sison: Word war better than shooting war

LUCENA CITY—Exiled rebel leader Jose Maria “Joma” Sison said the spiteful word war between the government and communist rebels was better than a shooting war to advance the cause of peace.

“Tit for tat polemics between the two sides can unfold their respective positions,” Sison, Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder, said in an interview via Facebook on Tuesday from his base in Utrecht in The Netherlands.

“At any rate, the word war cannot be any more harsher than the shooting war,” he added.

“The word war and the shooting war can cool down to the extent that reforms are being agreed upon to address the roots of the armed conflict and the basis for just peace is attained,” Sison explained.

He once said that peace negotiations can only be held between enemies and not friends.

Though President Rodrigo Duterte again invited the communist rebels for another round of peace negotiations after he officially shut the door to the possible resumption of the peace talks early this year, the tough-talking former city major continues to hurl cruel words against the communist insurgents and its leaders, particularly Sison.

In Mindanao on Monday, Mr. Duterte said their rebellion had been “nothing but plain banditry and devoid of ideology.”

Mr. Duterte, however, reiterated his desire for a face-to-face meeting with Sison in the country.
Repeatedly rejected

“I’m going to ask him, what do you really want? What do you want, you want to destroy a country? [Do] you really think you can destroy the Philippines? Except that you’re bandits,” Mr. Duterte said.

Sison had repeatedly rejected Mr. Duterte’s invitation for him to come home.

Just last week, Sison said the Duterte administration was “going downhill to hell.”

Sison accused the government of committing mass extrajudicial killings in its bloody drug war and has worsened the conditions of underdevelopment, high unemployment, low incomes, soaring prices of basic commodities and mass poverty in the country.

The recent continuous offensives between the government forces and the Maoist-inspired New People’s Army (NPA) guerillas, the CPP’s armed wing, were also posing threats to the resumption of the peace talks next month or early February.

Sison said Mr. Duterte’s offer of resuming peace talks was allegedly motivated by “desperation” for failing to crush the NPA rebels and not out of sincere desire to find a lasting peace to end the decades-long communist rebellion.—DELFIN T. MALLARI JR.

Solon reminds military: Make sure media releases adhere to facts, truth

From GMA News Online (Jan 1, 2020): Solon reminds military: Make sure media releases adhere to facts, truth

House Committee on Public Information chair Ron Salo on Wednesday reminded the military that their media releases must be based on facts and the truth, amid the Philippine Army's admission that the photo of supposedly surrendering rebels they released was "manipulated."

In a statement, Salo said that a sound crowd analysis of the manipulated photo was enough basis for an internal investigation and slapping possible sanctions to those behind it.

"The netizen’s outrage is understandable and justified. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s order for an investigation is both prudent and commendable," he said.

Netizens last week tagged as "manipulated" the pictures the military released regarding the supposed surrender of members of New People's Army.

Philippine Army's 9th Infantry Division has admitted that its line unit manipulated a picture, but there was no intention to mislead as it was only done to protect the identities of the "former rebels."

Joma optimistic of truce success, talks revival

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 1, 2020): Joma optimistic of truce success, talks revival (By Ryan Rosauro)

BUTUAN CITY—Despite starting off on shaky grounds and encountering several kinks, the unilateral and reciprocal ceasefire between government and communist rebels could end up successful and boost the prospects for reviving the stalled peace negotiations.

This was the assessment of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison who spoke to Mindanao reporters via Skype on Monday.

“I think, on the whole, the ceasefire will be successful. I don’t foresee any action (by government) to spoil the ceasefire. There might be isolated incidents, but not something systematic,” said Sison, who is also chief political consultant of the CPP’s political arm, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines which is engaged in peace talks with the government.

The ceasefire’s start was marred by New People’s Army (NPA) attacks against government troops in Camarines Norte and Iloilo.Military offensives

There was also NPA accusations of military offensives in Agusan del Sur at the onset of the 15-day truce that commenced on Dec. 23, and the delayed submission by government of the written ceasefire orders by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the police.

The latest kink was the supposed hostile act by the Army in Surigao del Norte that led to the cancellation of a Dec. 31 event belatedly commemorating the CPP’s 51st founding anniversary in Gigaquit town.

Sison said the success of the ceasefire, which is ending on Jan. 7, will brighten the prospects for reviving the stalled negotiations.

He revealed that by the second or third week of the month, another informal meeting is expected between the parties to prepare for the formal resumption of the peace process, most likely in Oslo.

Reiterating it is too early to come home, Sison said he is ready for a one-on-one meeting with President Duterte in Hanoi.

“That idea even comes from them,” Sison disclosed. —RYAN ROSAURO

https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1208268/joma-optimistic-of-truce-success-talks-revival

Hataman proud of Lamitan City’s transformation

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 1, 2020): Hataman proud of Lamitan City’s transformation (By Ellson Quismorio)

Deputy Speaker and Basilan lone district Rep. Mujiv Hataman sounded like a proud father over the achievements of Lamitan City in recent years as it has finally overcome its image as a violent place.



House Deputy Speaker and Basilan lone district Rep. Mujiv Hataman (ARMM Bureau of Public Information via Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)

“Not so long ago, Lamitan City entered the national limelight as a stage for war and terrorism. But now, it is the hallmark and prime example of human resilience overcoming great adversity,” said Hataman.

“In 2016, for the first time in the 29-year existence of the now-dismantled Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Lamitan City was the very first recipient of the Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG) in the whole region,” the House leader noted.

Hataman served as governor of the ARMM, which has been replaced by the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARRM).

Lamitan, one of two Christian settlements in the predominantly Muslim province of Basilan, won the coveted award from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) for the next three years.

“And year after year since then, Lamitan City has earned the SGLG distinction. The Basilan provincial government and the Municipalities of Maluso and Sumisip followed suit. We hope that more LGUs in BARMM will be recognized next year,” Hataman added.

It can be recalled that on June 2, 2001, some 40 to 60 members of terrorist group Abu Sayyaf entered Lamitan and took over a church and a hospital. Priests, medical staff, and patients were taken hostage in what has been referred to as the Siege of Lamitan.

There were a handful of casualties from the terrorists, responding government forces, and civilians. Thousands were forced to flee from the fighting.

Fast forward to 2019 and some 28 of BARMM’s local government units (LGUs), including Lamitan, earned the SGLG award.

The award was given in recognition of the LGUs’ progress and performance on the following governance areas: financial administration; disaster preparedness; social protection; peace and order; business-friendliness and competitiveness; environmental protection; and tourism culture and the arts.

“The awards are well-deserved. We are glad that all the reforms we initiated and the hard work we put into it have really resulted in great things for our region. This award is for every Moro who dreamed of a better homeland and labored to get there,” Hataman said.

6th CRG-CRS-AFP: Piliin natin ang tamang landas upang makamit ang buhay na tahimik at mapayapa

Posted to the 6th Civil Relations Group-Civil Relations Service-Armed Forces of the Philippines (6th CRG-CRS-AFP) Facebook Page (Dec 31, 2019): Piliin natin ang tamang landas upang makamit ang buhay na tahimik at mapayapa.

#AFPyoucanTRUST
#TeamWESCOM
#Team6CRGPalawan
See Translationsupporting Team AFP at Western Command General Headquarters, AFP.


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5th CRG-CRS-AFP: 46IB RCSP Team naka-recover ng Improvised Anti-Personnel Mine sa panahon ng Ceasefire

Posted to the 5th Civil Relations Group-Civil Relations Service-Armed Forces of the Philippines (5th CRG-CRS-AFP) Facebook Page (Dec 31, 2019): 46IB RCSP Team naka-recover ng Improvised Anti-Personnel Mine sa panahon ng Ceasefire

H E A D Q U A R T E R S
8TH INFANTRY (STORMTROOPERS) DIVISION, PHILIPPINE ARMY
DIVISION PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE
Camp General Vicente Lukban, Catbalogan City, Samar

P R E S S R E L E A S E

46IB RCSP Team naka-recover ng Improvised Anti-Personnel Mine sa panahon ng Ceasefire

CAMP GENERAL VICENTE LUKBAN, CATBALOGAN CITY – Isang improvised Anti-Personnel Mine ang narecover ng Retooled Community Support Progam (RCSP) Team ng 46th Infantry (Peacemaker) Battlion, 8th Infantry Division sa Brgy. Beri Calbiga, Samar nitong umaga ng Desyembre 28, 2019.

Isang sumbong mula sa sibilyan ang nakaabot sa RCSP team na naka-deploy sa Brgy. Beri na merong nakitang ilang armadong kalalakihan tatlong daang metro mula sa barangay.

Bilang tugon agad itong isinangguni ng RCSP team sa opisyales ng barangay at pinuntahan ang nasabing lugar at doon narecover ang isang improvised Anti-Personnel Mine na isiniksik sa damohan sa tabing daan.

Ang pinag-ambangan ng nasabing improvised Anti-Personnel Mine ay sa natatanging daang-tao papasok at palabas ng barangay. Hindi na nila isinaalang-alang ang mga sibilyang madadamay tulad ng ginawang pag-ambush sa Borongan noong December 13, 2019 na ikinamatay ng tatlong sibilyan at ikinasugat na labinlimang katao kabilang na ang isang taong gulang na sanggol.

Dito rin sa nasabing barangay inambush ang tropa ng 46IB gamit ng Teroristang NPA ang parehong improvised Anti-Personnel Mine na ikinasawi ng anim na sundalo at ikinasugat din ng anim noong nakaraang Abril 26, 2019 nang madaling araw.

Ito ay malinaw na patunay na hindi seryoso ang CPP-NPA-Terrorist sa usapang pangkapayapaan. Walang balak na sundin ang pinagkasunduang Ceasefire na ang tanging hangad lang nila ay makapinsala ng mga sundalo nakatalaga sa barangay na natakdang magbakasyon para sa New Year’s Break.

Ayon kay Major General Pio Q DiƱoso III AFP, Commander, Joint Task Force Storm “Magkaisa po tayo. Ang laban na to ay hindi lamang laban ng kasundaluhan at kapulisan kundi laban na rin ng mga mamamayan kontra sa mga Teroristang CPP-NPA.”

“Hinihikayat ko ang ating mga kababayang maging mapagmatyag at ipagbigay alam agad sa kasundaluhan at kapulisan o sa mga opisyal ng barangay kung merong mapansin kahina-hinalang mga tao o pangyayari. Nang sa gayon, maiwasan o mapigilan natin ang nakaambang sakuna. Nawa’y salubungin natin ang bagong taon ng mapayapa at puno ng pag-asa.” dagdag pa niya.

(pics credit to 8ID DPAO)



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1st CRG-CRS-AFP: ‘Join us not go against us’– Governor Tubban

Posted to the 1st Civil Relations Group-Civil Relations Service-Armed Forces of the Philippines (1st CRG-CRS-AFP) Facebook Page (Dec 30, 2019): ‘Join us not go against us’– Governor Tubban

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TABUK CITY, Kalinga ─ “We want a community with rebels joining us to use their intelligence and not bullets and guns to reform the government,” highlights the message of the Provincial Governor Ferdinand Tubban as read by Provincial Legal Officer Ken Martinez during the Indignation Rally against Communist – Terrorist Groups on December 26, 2019.

Tubban recalled that while Christmas is a season of joy and family get together, history tells that this season is, unfortunately, also a season feared by families of uniformed personnel. “If you look up reports from way back, this is the month when rebels celebrate their founding anniversary with killings and ambushes of police and army officers,”

“This day, we are here to tell them (insurgents) that we do not want a community where there are people saying they want peace but their action contradicts their intention,”

The Provincial Governor said that they want a community where these rebels come down from the mountains and join the state to fight real problems such as poverty, mal-education, and underdevelopment.

“The communist rebels in the Philippines recruit many of the bright minds from the best educational institutions only to die in battle or lose their chance to utilize their God-given gifts to their communities and families.”

They should just join the government and utilize their talents for the next generation and uphold the rights of all and not only theirs.

The Governor further elaborated that the Philippines is stuck while many Southeast Asian countries already solved their problems on communism and they are now using their resources and military power to guard their territory from external powers.

“The Philippines use much of its resources to protect its people from its own people,” Tubban underscored.

Moreover, Tubban reiterated that whether we like it or not, communism is dying and children will soon wake up and learn that there is no longer a true communist country or communist ideology because countries are characterized by capitalism and free market, businesses and exchanges.

The Governor adds that the real battle is the preparation of children’s future against global competitions.

“We need to unite to create a solid and well-developed community, able to withstand the effects of economic shocks to secure our existence for a brighter tomorrow,” Tubban encouraged.

“Let us beseech and beg our friends and loved ones still in the mountains to come down. Let us help them see the reality that the past is no longer the present. Having a better life is not fighting against the government because we are the government,” the Provincial Governor concluded.





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1st CRG-CRS-AFP: Duterte to NPAs: Surrender and help the country

Posted to the 1st Civil Relations Group-Civil Relations Service-Armed Forces of the Philippines (1st CRG-CRS-AFP) Facebook Page (Dec 31, 2019): Duterte to NPAs: Surrender and help the country

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DAVAO CITY – President Duterte renewed his call to members of the New People’s Army (NPA) to surrender weeks after he expressed his interest to reopen peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

In his speech during his visit to the earthquake-affected families at the M’lang National High School in the municipality of M’lang, Cotabato on Monday, Duterte said members of the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist movement,could make themselves “useful” if they surrender and contribute to the development of the country, particularly in the booming construction industry.

He said many of the skilled workers such as electricians, plumbers, and construction workers would want to work in the Middle East for higher salary, leaving the construction industry here with insufficient manpower to complete private and government projects.

“Kailangan ko kayong mga NPA. Hindi sa patayan, wala akong makuha kung patayin kita, may mas silbi kayo sa bayan kung magtulungan tayo (I need you NPA, not in the killing. I will get nothing if I kill you. You will be of use to the country if we help each other),” he said.

Duterte claimed several members of the NPA have surrendered since he assumed the presidency on June 30, 2016.

The President promised to provide them with house and lot, employment, and free education at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) when they decide to return to the fold of the law.

“Maraming nag susurrender, maraming talaga ang bumababa. Magsama na lang tayo, may pera ang gobyerno. Pagdating ninyo dito sa baba, pagawaan ko kayo ng mga condo, tapos mag aral kayo sa TESDA (Many have surrendered, many have come down. Let’s join together, the government has money. When you get here, I will build you condo, and then you study at TESDA),” he said.

The GRP cancelled the November 25 to 27, 2017 peace talks, with Proclamation 360 of President Rodrigo R. Duterte “for lack of sincerity” on the part of the communist. The President subsequently signed Proclamation 374, designating the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and NPA as terrorist organizations.

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1st CRG-CRS-AFP: Rebel-returnees surrender teaching paraphernalia, NPA docs to PNP Cagayan

Posted to the 1st Civil Relations Group-Civil Relations Service-Armed Forces of the Philippines (1st CRG-CRS-AFP) Facebook Page (Dec 31, 2019): Rebel-returnees surrender teaching paraphernalia, NPA docs to PNP Cagayan

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TUGUEGARAO CITY, Cagayan, Dec. 30 (PIA) - - Two rebel-returnees from Piat town, in this province, surrendered some teaching materials and other significant documents of the New Peoples Army (NPA) to the Philippine National Police (PNP) Cagayan today, Dec. 30.

'Ka Rudy' and 'Ka Jerry', not their real names and who are both from the Henry Abraham Command of the NPA, returned to the fold of the law early this year. The two, however, did not surrender any document and firearms at the time of their surrender, according to the Cagayan Police Provincial Office.

Police Colonel Ariel Narag Quilang, PNP Cagayan officer-in-charge, said the two rebel-returnees, who later became their assets, decided to voluntary surrender the said materials today which they used when they were still part of the movement.

Among the surrendered documents include books and various reference materials on communism and rebellion, movement-produced newspapers, teachings written on a manila paper, among others.

Quilang said the two rebel-returnees' voluntarily surrender of the materials was attributed to the recently conducted Cagayan Indignation Rally and the intensified campaign of the PNP and other concerned agencies to End Local Communist and Armed Conflict in the province.

Alias Ka Rudy revealed that the surrendered paraphernalia were used in teaching NPA doctrines among newly recruits especially the youth sector.

On the other hand, the provincial director added that the PNP Cagayan is committed to support Executive Order No. 70 to attain a peaceful, safe, and communist- and terrorist-free Cagayan.

"We are on the process of creating Municipal Task Force to End Local Communist and Armed Conflict. As of now, 26 mayors have already signified their support to pass an executive order and we are just waiting for the three other mayors," Quilang said.

"Our local chief executives and local officials are very supportive and committed to end local insurgency. Actually, all of them already passed an ordinance declaring NPAs as Persona Non Grata in their locality," he added. (ALM/MDCT/PIA-2)

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Kalinaw News: Local leaders attest no ceasefire violations of 4ID troops in Caraga

Posted to Kalinaw News (Jan 1, 2020): Local leaders attest no ceasefire violations of 4ID troops in Caraga



CAMP EVANGELISTA, Cagayan de Oro City – In view of the recent allegation of the New People’s Army (NPA) on the possible ceasefire violations committed by the diamond troopers, the municipal mayor and two barangay captains in the town of Ezperanza, Agusan del Sur attest on Tuesday, December 31, 2019 that there were no ceasefire violations committed by the government troops.

Nicolas Marino, NPA spokesperson in North Central Mindanao Regional Committee (NCMRC) accused the troops of 26th IB for allegedly attacking NPA forces near the village of Brgy San Vicente, Ezperanza, Agusan del Sur last Sunday, December 29, 2019 in the recent publication of Inquirer.net, Philippine Daily Inquirer Online by Jigger J Jerusalem dated December 30, 2019.

The allegation was directly refuted by the local chief executives on its untruthfulness by executing a PNP blotter and a certification made by Hon. Leonida P. Manpatilan the municipal mayor of Ezperanza, Agusan del Sur, Hon Eskelito S Buscada the Barangay Captain of Brgy San Vicente and Hon Oliver M Tipunan the Barangay Captain of Brgy Tagbalili both in the municipality of Ezperanza, Agusan del Sur where the alleged ceasefire violation occurred.

Mayor Manpatilan certified that there were no offensive military operations in her jurisdiction and that the military personnel were confined to their respective camps and patrol bases in observing the protocol on the national ceasefire starting on December 23, 2019.

This was also confirmed by the two brgy captains Hon Buscada and Hon Tipunan. Both of them testified through a PNP blotter with entry number ‎2019-12-719 and ‎2019-12-720 on December 31, 2019 around 1:50 o’clock in the afternoon that there were no combat operations conducted by the troops of 26th IB in their barangays.

It can be recalled that the 15-day unilateral and reciprocal ceasefire was announced by the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on December 22, 2019. The ceasefire will be implemented nationwide from 12:00 o’clock in the morning of December 23, 2019 until 11:59 o’clock in the evening of January 7, 2020.

Meanwhile, MGen Franco Nemesio Gacal, the Commander of 4ID said, “The allegation made by the NPA was fabricated, purposely to mislead the community and the general public. Our local chief executives had already spoken and attested on the untruthfulness on their accusations, we will not allow them (NPA) to ruin our peaceful communities.

“All military units under 4ID will strictly observe and abide the implementation of ceasefire but will remain steadfast on the possible actions of peace-spoilers who would inflict terror and atrocities to the peaceful communities in Regions 10 and Caraga, I urge everyone to give peace a chance, for us to achieve insurgency free and progressive communities,” Gacal ended.

Kalinaw News: Secretary of National Defense Statement on the Termination of Martial Law in Mindanao

Posted to Kalinaw News (Jan 1, 2020): Secretary of National Defense Statement on the Termination of Martial Law in Mindanao



At midnight 31 December 2019, the Martial Law in Mindanao will end after two years and seven months or 953 days of effectivity.

Martial law was first declared on 23 May 2017, a day after the ISIS-affiliated Maute Group attacked Marawi with the objective of establishing a caliphate in Mindanao. It was extended from 24 July to 31 December 2017. Two other extensions were granted by Congress for the entire years of 2018 and 2019.

Upon the recommendation of the security sector the President has decided to allow martial law to lapse and not ask for another extension anymore.

The security sector believes that the objective of the martial law has been achieved. The rebellion in Marawi, Lanao del Sur and other areas in Mindanao have been effectively stopped. They are confident that they can maintain the current peace and order in Mindanao and that an attack similar in scale to Marawi cannot be waged by the remnants of the Mautes or by any other terrorist groups in the future.

I would like to thank Congress for approving the extension of martial law three times.

I would also like to thank the people of Mindanao for their whole-hearted support for martial law and their full cooperation during its implementation.

For those who have openly issued statements of support for the extension of martial law, let me assure you that the AFP will continue to safeguard the hard-earned peace and stability in the region. The present number of troops will remain as is wherever they are and will continue to collaborate with the LGUs to sustain peace and stability.

Lastly, I would like to commend the DOJ, DILG, as well as members of the AFP, PNP, NBI, PCG and other law enforcement agencies for their professional and excellent implementation of martial law in Mindanao.

I would also like to express my heartfelt appreciation to the SOLGEN for defending the declaration and extensions of martial law at the Supreme Court, and the latter for upholding the same.

May we all have a peaceful and prosperous 2020. Happy New Year!

Delfin N. Lorenzana
Secretary of National Defense