Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Army to NPA in Western Visayas: Observe Lent

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 31): Army to NPA in Western Visayas: Observe Lent

The Philippine Army in Western Visayas urged members of the New People’s Army (NPA) to renounce violence and armed struggle in the season of Lent.

“Together with all the stakeholders, we call on the remaining NPA members in the region to go back to their families and spend a week of peace and freedom in our democratic society,” Maj. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, said in a statement.

Guerrero also instructed field commanders to closely coordinate with other law enforcement agencies, particularly the Philippine National Police, in ensuring the safety and security of the people and in securing vital installations and places frequented by tourists.

On Sunday, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said the population of the NPA is declining as the development projects of the government are now gaining momentum in the countryside, an official said on Sunday.

So far, the rebel strength all over the country is placed at 4,000.

"We can foresee their downfall as long as development will come in and we will have economic growth and prosperity to every Filipino. In the years to come, the NPA will be irrelevant as foreseen by the Internal Peace and Security Program 'Bayanihan' strategy," said AFP spokesperson Brigade General Joselito Kakilala.

The military’s strategy aims to beat the rebels by developing depressed countryside communities to remove a mass base for the NPAs.


BIFF finance officer falls in Cotabato City

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 31): BIFF finance officer falls in Cotabato City

The military's 6th Infantry Division has announced Tuesday the arrest of an officer of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF)in his residence in Cotabato City Monday night.

In a statement, Capt. Joann Petinglay, 6th ID spokesperson, identified the arrested BIFF official as Agdulgani Esmael Pagao, alias "Abdulayman Pagao," the group's finance officer.

Petinglay said the operation was carried out by the combined elements of 5th Special Forces Battalion, Intelligence Support Group, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, 6th Military Intelligence Group, 1st Mechanized Infantry Battalion, JSOU1, and Cotabato City Police Office.

Pagao was arrested at Campo Muslim in Barangay Mother Bagua, Cotabato City based on a search warrant issued by Judge Bansawan Z. Ibrahim dated March 30, 2015.

Seized from Pagao was a caliber .45 pistol with ammunition, two loaded magazines, and a fragmentation grenade. He did not resist arrest.

Petinglay said the arrest of Pagao marked another accomplishment of the government through excellent coordination with the different law enforcement agencies.

She said rebel group is expected to weaken as its sources of funds fell to government hands.

Task Force Central, a police-military composed tasked to neutralize lawless elements in Maguindanao, has slowed down its law enforcement operations although it is yet to arrest Filipino bombing expert Abdul Basit Usman and another Malaysian suspected terrorist hiding with him in the marshland.(


Army condemns BIFF attack on military ambulance carrying wounded fighters

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 31): Army condemns BIFF attack on military ambulance carrying wounded fighters
The Army's 6th Infantry Division on Tuesday condemned the ambush and killing of a military ambulance driver by suspected Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao on Sunday.

Maj General Edmundo R. Pangilinan, 6th ID chief and commander of Task Force Central, said the slain Army ambulance driver was transporting wounded infantrymen from the Army-BIFF encounter in Shariff Saydona to the Maguidanao provincial hospital when ambushed in Barangay Elian, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

“It only shows that these bandits do not observe and respect the International Humanitarian Law (IHL),” he said in a statement released by the Division Public Affairs Office on Tuesday.

A band of BIFF fired at the ambulance as it hurriedly transporting wounded soldiers. The medical team was able to fire back at the bandits while bringing the wounded soldiers to a safer area.

The driver-fatality, identified as Staff Sgt. Robert E. Espia of Forward Support Medical Platoon of Task Force Central, was hit while driving an ambulance. On board the ambulance were two wounded elements of the 34th Infantry Battalion.

The soldiers were also killed in a separate clash in Barangay Pamalian, Shariff Saydona Mustapha, Maguindanao. Thirteen BIFF were reported killed, including three commanders.

One of them was allegedly the hit squad leader of the BIFF who pinned down at least seven soldiers in separate occasions in Maguindanao.

The slain soldiers were identified as Cpl Faizal A. Julmain and PFC Marlon E. Marino of 34th Infantry Battalion and PFC Vincent Q. Gulla of 1st Mechanized Battalion.

The series of encounters last Sunday was evident that some members of the BIFF were still in the operation area.

On Monday, AFP Chief of Staff General Gregorio Pio P. Catapang announced the conclusion of the month-long all-out offensive against the rebel group BIFF.

However, the government forces will still continue pursuing the scattered members of the BIFF to prevent the group from regrouping and reorganizing in conducting terror activities in Mindanao.

A send-off ceremony was also held in 6ID for the four soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice during the recent clash.


AFP recognizes 9 units for complying with transformation roadmap

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 31): AFP recognizes 9 units for complying with transformation roadmap

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday recognized the Public Affairs Office and eight other units that are on-track in taking initiatives towards the completion of the journey towards the realization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Transformation Roadmap.

These awardees are part of the second group of AFP offices and units that was conferred with Plaques of Recognition.

This set of awardees followed the first wave of military offices and units which received recognition on March 9 for their exemplary efforts of making AFP a better organization by following the points set by the AFP TR.

The AFP Office for Strategic Studies and Strategy Management (OSSSM) listed the following on second set of awardees: Office of the Ethical Standards and Public Accountability (OESPA); AFP Educational Benefit System Office (AFP EBSO); Public Affairs Office (PAO); AFP Peace and Development Center (AFP PDC); AFP Bids and Awards Committee (AFP BAC); Office of the Adjutant General (OTAG); Office of the Legislative Affairs (OLA); Dean, Corps of Professors (COP); and Office of the Chief Chaplain Service (OTCCHS).

These offices and units were recognized for making steps towards genuine transformation and reform through crafting of their respective strategy maps and performance scorecards.


Army commander visits 6th Infantry Division

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 31): Army commander visits 6th Infantry Division

Philippine Army (PA) commander Lt. Gen. Hernando DCA Iriberri paid a visit to the officers and enlisted personnel of the Maguindanao-based 6th Infantry Division on Monday.

Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, 6th Infantry Division spokesperson, said Iriberri's visit was connected withsituation updates on the ongoing joint law enforcement operations of Task Force "Kampilan" against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Aside from that, the PA commander also decorated the military personnel who were wounded in Sunday's clash with BIFF splinter groups.

He also led the inauguration of the new and refurbished facilities of the 6th Infantry Division -- the Kampilan Water Station, SM Transient Quarter, and Presidential Cottage.

Iriberri also decorated deserving officers and enlisted personnel who risked their lives in the conduct of law enforcement operations against the BIFF.


US admiral says China ‘creating great wall of sand’ in sea

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 31): US admiral says China ‘creating great wall of sand’ in sea

The commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet says China is using land reclamation to create “a great wall of sand” in disputed areas of the South China Sea, causing serious concerns about its territorial intentions.

Admiral Harry Harris Jr. told a naval conference in Australia on Tuesday that competing territorial claims by several nations are increasing regional tensions and the potential for miscalculations.

Harris said there is particular concern about what he called “unprecedented land reclamation currently being conducted by China” to buttress its territorial claims.

He said China “is creating a great wall of sand” with dredges and bulldozers over the course of months.

Harris said the rapid pace and scope of China’s construction of man-made islands “raises serious questions about Chinese intentions.”


AFP now in 'blue alert' for Holy Week

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 31): AFP now in 'blue alert' for Holy Week

With the Holy Week rush now in full swing, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang on Tuesday placed all military units in "blue alert".

"Blue alert" refers to having 50 percent of available troops and their supporting equipment in stand-by at camps nationwide for possible deployment.

"We are now in 'blue alert' for Holy Week, it means that half of our available troop strength must in camps in case there is a need for them," Catapang said in Filipino.

Earlier, AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said that units based in non-threat areas can grant leave to their personnel wanting to go home this Holy Week.

However, this condition cannot be applied to provinces and areas with intact threat groups like the New People's Army (NPA) and other lawless elements.

Areas in the Philippines known to be hosting NPA groups include Masbate, Sorsogon in Southern Luzon and Kalinga in Northern Luzon, Leyte, Eastern and Northern Samar in the Visayas and CARAGA Regions and Compostela Valley in Mindanao.


Concrete bridge rising at site of Mamasapano incident

From the Philippine Star (Mar 31): Concrete bridge rising at site of Mamasapano incident

BRIDGE OF PEACE. Major Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan of the 6th Infantry Division, Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad and Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (3rd from left) and other officials walk through the iconic timber footbridge in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, to be replaced with a P10 million concrete structure. Philstar.com/John Unson

The military and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front jointly launched on Tuesday the construction of a concrete footbridge over a river near the scene of the deadly January 25 encounter between police commandos and secessionist rebels.

The P10 million worth bridge project in Barangay Tukanalipao in Mamasapano, Maguindanao is an infrastructure thrust of Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and his public works secretary, Hadji Emil Sadain.

The project will be bankrolled by Hataman's office with savings generated in recent quarters by the ARMM’s Department of Public Works and Highways.

Hataman, Sadain, Budget Secretary Florencio "Butch" Abad, Armed Forces chief Lt. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, senior MILF officials Von Al-Haq and  Toks Ebrahim jointly officiated the symbolic launching of the project, in the presence of villagers and Mamasapano Mayor Benzar Ampatuan.

Al-Haq, who is spokesman of the MILF's military wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, said they are grateful to the ARMM government for having embarked on various infrastructure projects needed to address poverty and underdevelopment in Barangay Tukanalipao and surrounding peasant enclaves.

Al-haq said the police-MILF encounter in Mamasapano’s adjoining Barangays Tukanalipao, Pidsandawan and Inog-og could be a "blessing in disguise," something providential and meant to show to the national government the grinding poverty besetting the local communities.

He said the MILF will not disengage from its diplomatic dealings with government despite the "Mamasapano incident," which hogged the headlines and challenged the group's compact with Malacañang.

Al-Haq said the MILF is ready to help the Hataman administration implement its infrastructure projects in Mamasapano.

"Creating war is easy while building peace is a lengthy effort. All it takes to start war is just one shot, just one shot," Al-Haq said.

Also present in the activity were Major Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan of the Army's 6th Infantry Division, Col. Melquiades Feliciano of the 601st Brigade, officials of the ARMM regional police office and Brig. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. of the government’s ceasefire committee, which helps enforce all interim GPH-MILF security agreements in flashpoint areas in Mindanao.

Catapang, in a speech before the launching of the concrete footbridge, urged local folks to put closure to the Mamasapano fiasco.

Catapang lauded the ARMM leadership and the local communities for helping one another overcome the impact of the January 25 hostilities between Special Action Force commandos and MILF guerillas.

At least 44 SAF operatives, 17 MILF members and five innocent civilians were killed in the incident.

"Tapusin na natin ang issue ng Mamasapano. Mag move on na po tayo," Catapang said.

Laisa Alamia, ARMM's regional executive secretary, said Catapang and Abad's involvement in the launching of the concrete footbridge can help convince local folks that President Benigno Aquino III will not let the Mamasapano incident affect the now 18-year bilateral GPH-MILF peace initiative.

Also present in the event were representatives from the office of Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu led by provincial engineer Abdulrahman Asim.

Hataman, Sadain, representatives of the 6th ID and Engineer James Mlok of Maguindanao's 2nd District Engineering Office launched last week more than P40 million worth of infrastructure projects in Mamasapano.

The ARMM government and the 6th ID also started last week the construction of a P400,000 worth mosque in Barangay Tukanalipao.


Tukalinapao Bridge in Mamasapano to be completed within 6 months

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 31): Tukalinapao Bridge in Mamasapano to be completed within 6 months

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang on Tuesday said it will take at least six months to complete the Tukalinapao Bridge in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao.

The bridge, which will replace the rickety bamboo footbridge spanning the river and the cornfields where 44 Special Action Force members were killed during the operation which neutralized Malaysian bomber Zulkipli bin Hir last Jan. 25, is worth Php10-million.

"(Contractors) said it will take them six months as they need to put up the foundation first. It needs to be completed before the rainy season. Actually, once the foundation is constructed, the railings and steel portion of the bridge can easily be set up," Catapang said in Filipino.

He also assured the military is more than capable of securing the bridge as attested by the serious beating the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters sustained during the month-long law enforcement operations against the BIFF.

Around 151 BIFF men were killed, 65 wounded and 12 captured on the campaign which started Feb. 25.

Ten soldiers were killed while another 33 were hurt in the said campaign.

"Violence has stopped because they have realized that we are stronger than them and they will have a hard time (should they initiate hostilities anew).

Catapang on Monday terminated the law enforcement operations against the BIFF but said pursuit operations will continue against the bandit splinter groups.

Aside from the bridge, the government is planning to set up various development projects in Mamasapano, including an irrigation system.


3 rebels slain in clash on NPA’s 46th anniversary

From the Philippine Star (Mar 31): 3 rebels slain in clash on NPA’s 46th anniversary

Three suspected New People’s Army guerrillas were killed while another was captured following a firefight that occurred during the NPA’s 46th founding anniversary in Bukidnon Sunday.

Soldiers belonging to the Army’s 4th Infantry Division were on patrol in Barangay Manibugao when they encountered a band of rebels, said 1/Lt. Lorefel Judaya, deputy spokesman for the Army’s 66th Infantry Brigade. The military has yet to identify the fatalities.

Judaya said the rebels belonged to the Guerrilla Front 4-B of the NPA North Central Mindanao regional command.

He said they were investigating the arrested rebel, who suffered injuries in the firefight.

In Agusan del Sur, 30 insurgents raided a sawmill in Barangay Manat in Trento town and burned two trucks, two engines and a chainsaw.

The sawmill, reportedly owned by a barangay official, was said to be operating without a permit. Police placed the damage at P800,000.

2 soldiers hurt in Capiz encounter

Meanwhile, two soldiers were wounded in another encounter with suspected NPA guerrillas in Tapaz town in Capiz Sunday.

Cpl. Niel Lagat and Pfc. Raymund de Juan, both of the Army’s 61st Infantry Battalion (IB), were airlifted to the 3ID Station Hospital at Camp Peralta in Jamindan town following a firefight in Barangay Tacayan,  Major Ray Tiongson, spokesman for the Army’s  3rd Infantry Division, said.

Lt./Col. Victor Llapitan, chief of the 61st IB, said the troops were checking reports about the presence of armed men in the area when they encountered the rebels.

Llapitan said the armed men were extorting money from the villagers. He believes there were rebels who were killed or wounded in the clash.

Ex-rebel nabbed for murder

In Laguna, an alleged former NPA official tagged in the murder of a court employee in Oriental Mindoro was captured in Sta. Rosa City Sunday.

Allan Alarzar, 39, surrendered after authorities cornered him in his hideout in Barangay Sto. Domingo at around 11:30 a.m.

Alarzar’s arrest was based on a warrant issued by Pinamalayan Judge Recto Calabocal for three counts of murder, Senior Superintendent Florendo Saligao, Laguna police director, said.

Alarzar was tagged in the killing of Paquito Umbao, an employee of the Pinamalayan court, on Oct. 30, 2011.

Saligao said the suspect was a former official of the communist group operating in Oriental Mindoro before he engaged in contract killing.


Return to your homes, AFP chief tells evacuees

From the Philippine Star (Mar 31): Return to your homes, AFP chief tells evacuees

Representatives from the police, military, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao launch the start of the construction of a concrete footbridge in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. Philstar.com/John Unson

Armed Forces chief Lt. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang on Tuesday urged evacuees dislocated by the government's law enforcement operation against the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) to start returning to their homes.

Catapang said evacuees driven away from their farming enclaves by the four-week face-off between different military units and the BIFF can now return to their homes since the Armed Forces had suspended its tactical offensives against the group.

Catapang, in a message before the launching of a footbridge project, said the government will, however, continue to initiate small-scale, commando-style operations against remnants of the group.

Army and Marine combatants took over the BIFF's eight hideouts in Maguindanao's neighboring Mamasapano, Salibo, Datu Unsay, Sharif Saidona and Datu Saudi towns in operations that started last March 1.

"We shall now have focused military operations," he said.

Catapang said smaller units of Army Rangers will continue the hunt for remaining members of the BIFF.

"This will prevent collateral damages and dislocation of civilians," he said.

READ: Concrete bridge rising at site of Mamasapano incident

The office of Hataman has since been spending more than P1 million a week for the food of the evacuees, whose houses and farms they abandoned for fear of getting trapped in the crossfire.

"Pwede na pong bumalik ang mga civilians sa kani-kanilang mga lugar," Catapang said.

Catapang said the Armed Forces had effectively weakened the BIFF in its all out law enforcement operation against the group.

The government's anti-BIFF campaign, which started four weeks ago, involved more than a dozen Army and Marine units and combatants from the 1st Mechanized Brigade.


Military operations to continue until BIFF leader Kato bagged

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 31): Military operations to continue until BIFF leader Kato bagged

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang on Tuesday vowed to continue arresting and neutralizing ranking Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) until BIFF commander Ameril Umbra Kato is apprehended.

Catapang airred this in the wake of the neutralization of military units of Cmdr. Bisaya during an encounter in Datu Unsay, Maguindanao last Sunday and arrest of Abdulgani Ismael Pagao, BIFF 4th Division deputy commander, at Campo Muslim Barangay Holy Mother Bagua, Cotabato City Monday night.

Aside from this, Pagao is also the financial and spiritual leader of the entire BIFF, whose strength is now placed at less than 200 fighters.

"(The neutralization of these two) shows that the leadership of the BIFF is now on the decline. The next thing we will do is to expedite the location and arrest of Kato," Catapang said in Filipino.

Pagao did not resist arrest when the law enforcers served the arrest warrant issued by Executive Judge Bansawan Z. Ibrahim.

A loaded caliber .45, caliber M-1911A1 pistol, and a fragmentation grenade were seized from the suspect.

Pagao was turned over to the Criminal Investigation Detection Group for inquest proceedings Tuesday.

As this develops, the AFP chief said that they were still conducting searches against Filipino terror-bomber Basit Usman and hoped to nab the latter before the rainy season in June.

Catapang also classifies the BIFF strength on the decline with these recent arrest and heavy casualties inflicted on them by the military during the month-long focused military operations against them.

The campaign, which started on Feb. 25, so far caused the death of 151 BIFF men, wounding of 65 and capturing of 12 other BIFF men.

Ten soldiers were killed while another 33 were hurt in the campaign.


Palace says President Aquino already answered most of Makabayan bloc's 20 questions

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 31): Palace says President Aquino already answered most of Makabayan bloc's 20 questions

President Benigno Aquino III has already answered most of the 20 questions asked by the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives regarding the Mamasapano incident, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda on Tuesday said.

"If anyone looks at the questions posed by the Makabayan bloc, most of them have been responded one way or the other by the President," Lacierda said in a press briefing in Malacanang.

"The question is: ‘Why you are asking these questions again? Perhaps you're not… You don't want the answers the president gave, one reason, or you are not satisfied with the president's statement or there is a line that you want the president to state, to say," he said.

Lacierda said the Palace would leave it up to the leadership of the House to decide on the 20 questions.

Lacierda said since the Makabayan bloc were members of the House of Representatives, “it’s up to go through and the House leadership to go through the procedure.”

”I think the processes, the deliberations on the request to the 20 questions should first be addressed to the House leadership,” Lacierda said in a press briefing in Malacanang.

The Palace official, however, emphasized the commitment of the President “to uncovering the truth” behind the Mamasapano incident that left 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers dead.

Lacierda said the President has already stated in a number of occasion the role of the President in the Oplan Exodus where the Chief Executive has already own up full responsibility.

”The President and his spokespersons have already stated in a number of occasion the role,” Lacierda said.

Lacierda said the President has even explained already the role of then suspended Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima on the Mamasapano incident.

”He wants those questions recorded as part of in aid of legislation. Let’s go to the process but what is that process? Let the House leadership determine that process in uncovering and in making sure that the statements of the President are also reflected in their House report,” Lacierda said.

The House leadership has approved the resumption of its own inquiry into the Mamasapano incident on April 7 and 8.

”Again, this is a procedure where the House should work itself out mindful of the separation of powers and the respect for the co-equal branches of government,” Lacierda said.

The Makabayan bloc insisted that the President should be invited to the House probe.

Most of the questions of the Makabayan congressmen were centered on the role of Purisima in the planning and execution of the Oplan Exodus on January 25.

As to the next PNP chief, Lacierda urged the public to just wait for the next announcement of the President for the next PNP chief.

Purisima resigned amid questions on his role in the mission to arrest Zukifli bin Hir ‘alias’ Marwan and Basit Usman despite his preventive suspension slapped by the Ombudsman.


AFP urges UN to ‘immediately’ act on PHL protest vs. China

From GMA News (Mar 31): AFP urges UN to ‘immediately’ act on PHL protest vs. China

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has urged the United Nations to immediately act on the Philippines' diplomatic protest filed against China over the latter's reclamation activities in South China Sea.
A report on radio dzBB on Tuesday quoted AFP chief of staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang as saying the UN should decide on the matter for the military to "move on" to other duties, such as the country's fight against global terrorism and global climate change.
Catapang said that while the case is pending, the military will refrain from any action that may further escalate tension.
On Monday, Catapang confirmed that China is indeed building structures in Areas One, Five and Seven on the West Philippine Sea where the Mabini Reef (Johnson South Reef), Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef) and Kennan Reef (Chigua Reef) are located.
Catapang said these three areas are within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.
Defense capabilities
Meanwhile, while waiting for the resolution, Catapang stressed the need for new equipment to improve the country's defense capabilities.
He noted that China's defense capabilities are far more advanced than those of the Philippines.
Beijing is currently undertaking land reclamation on seven disputed features in the South China Sea, including in areas that Philippine officials say are within Manila's territory.
A latest surveillance photo of Burgos Reef (Gaven Reef), according to Philippine defense officials, showed that China has constructed a building as large as the Mall of Asia in Pasay City—Manila’s biggest shopping mall.

AFP to continue operations against BIFF leader Kato

From the Philippine Star (Mar 31): AFP to continue operations against BIFF leader Kato

The military is set to continue its operations to arrest Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters commander Ameril Umbra Kato. John Unson

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced on Tuesday that neutralization operations for Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) commander Ameril Umbra Kato will continue despite the end of an all-out offensive against the rebel group.

The military ended its offensive against the group last Monday, citing that the BIFF leadership has declined.

READ: AFP ends offensive vs BIFF without getting Usman

AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang said that the military is set to expedite the location and arrest of Kato.

According to a report, the government troops were able to neutralize military units of Commander Bisaya during an encounter last Sunday in Datu Unsay, Maguindanao.

The military also arrested BIFF 4th Division deputy commander Abdulgani Ismael Pagao on Monday night and was turned over to the Criminal Investigation Detection Group.

The AFP also vowed to continue its operations against local terrorist Basit Usman, who was one of the targets of Oplan Exodus or the Mamasapano operation which led to the death of 44 police commandos.

The military started the all-out offensive last February 25 to protect local communities who were being affected by the BIFF's attacks.

A report from the AFP showed that 164 BIFF members were killed, 64 bandits were wounded and 12 others captured since the operations started.

Ten soldiers were killed while 31 others were injured during the encounters.


Security forces collar senior BIFF leader in Maguindanao

From InterAksyon (Mar 31): Security forces collar senior BIFF leader in Maguindanao

Combined elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police have arrested a ranking BIFF leader in Cotabato City.

Lt. Col. Harold M. Cabunoc, Chief, Public Affairs Office, AFP, informed journalists that Abdulgani Esmael Pagao was arrested in Campo Muslim, Brgy Mother Bagua, Cotabato City at about 8:30pm Monday.

"He did not resist arrest when the law enforcers served the arrest warrant issued by Executive Judge Bansawan Z. Ibrahim," said Lt. Col. Cabunoc.

A loaded caliber .45 M1911A1 pistol and a fragmentation grenade were confiscated from Pagao.

He was turned over to the PNP's Criminal Investigation and Detective Group for inquest proceedings.

Pagao is considered the second ranking BIFF leader arrested by government troops since the start of the law enforcement operations against the BIFF in February 2015.
Another leader, Commander Bisaya, was killed in a clash with the Army troops in Datu Unsay town on March 29.
Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr, AFP Chief of Staff, ended the "all out offensive operations" against the BIFF at 12 noon on Monday (Mar 30).

However, calibrated law enforcement actions against the bandits using small unit patrols will continue.


Philippine troops capture terror leader

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Mar 31): Philippine troops capture terror leader
Security forces raided a hideout of the terrorist group BIFF in southern Philippines and captured its deputy leader, officials announced on Tuesday.

Officials said policemen, backed by soldiers, stormed the hideout late Monday in Cotabato City and captured Abdulgani Pagao. The terror leader was unable to fight back to fight back after being subdued by the raiders.

Security forces also recovered a .45-automatic caliber pistol and a hand grenade from Pagao.

Officials did not say how security forces managed to tracked down Pagao, but his arrest was not made public immediately because of the on-going operation aimed at weakening the BIFF capability to launch terror attacks.

Pagao was handed over to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and is being interrogated while police are preparing criminal charges against him.

"This (arrest) is part of our (military and police) continuing efforts against terrorism and lawlessness and the capture of Pagao will definitely reduce the capability of the BIFF to sow terror.This is a significant accomplishment of the AFP and PNP intensified law enforcement operations in Maguindanao," Capt. Maria Rowena Muyuela, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command, told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

The military said the operation against the BIFF is continuing, but not as intense as it was a month ago when security forces launched an all-out war that killed over 100 gunmen in different towns in Maguindanao, one of five provinces under the troubled Muslim autonomous region in southern Philippines.

The BIFF, founded by Ameril Umra Kato, broke away with the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front after accusing its leader Murad Ebrahim of abandoning its pursuit of Muslim independence in Mindanao. The MILF has signed a peace deal with the Aquino government last year.


Monday, March 30, 2015

Editorial: Infrastructure is key

Editorial in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 31): Editorial -- Infrastructure is key

MINDANAO is rich in natural resources yet businesses generally avoid investing in many parts of the island, for reasons of security. No wonder the conflict-affected provinces in Mindanao are among the poorest in the country, many with minimal infrastructure and very few private-sector investment.

The connection between conflict and poverty is nowhere more evident than in the 2012-2013 Philippine Human Development Report. Sulu had the lowest human development index (HDI) of 0.216, followed by Maguindanao, 0.3; Tawi-Tawi, 0.31; Zamboanga, 0.353; Agusan del Sur, 0.354; Davao Oriental, 0.356; Sarangani, 0.371; Zamboanga del Norte, 0.384; and Lanao del Sur, 0.416. The common denominator of these provinces is conflict. The report noted that Sulu’s HDI was almost as bad as those of the poorest African countries.

The HDI measures human development by averaging three basic measurements: health, education and standard of living. Ideally, the HDI should be close to 1. In comparison, provinces in Luzon dominated the top performing provinces in the report: Benguet, 0.849; Batanes, 0.789; Rizal, 0.734; Cavite, 0.709; Bulacan, 0.699; Bataan, 0.698; Laguna, 0.695; Nueva Vizcaya, 0.678, and Ilocos Norte, 0.641. The HDI index in Metro Manila was 0.634.

Prof. Toby Melissa C. Monsod, the coordinator of the 2012/2013 Philippine Human Development Report, observed that aside from the conflict in Mindanao, the poor HDI rankings of provinces in the South had been due to a failure to have “connective infrastructure.” She cited as proof the overlapping public investments, many small projects with little or no development significance dotting towns and cities, such as waiting sheds, entrance arches and multipurpose pavements, resulting in “duplicative infrastructure and programs in disregard of scale, synergy and the conscious integration of larger markets.”

It is not that the government has no plan for developing Mindanao. In fact, there is a roadmap for Mindanao that was based on the Roadmap for Transport Infrastructure Development for Metro Manila and Surrounding Areas, which the Aquino administration completed with help from the Japan International Cooperation Agency. The roadmap includes short-, medium- and long-term strategies and investment programs for the development of the transport infrastructure sector to serve as a guide in the development of policies, prioritization and design of transport programs and projects, according to Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan.

Perhaps the problem is in the implementation, which has been taking too long for many public infrastructure projects due mainly to funding problems. A case in point was the recently relaunched extension of the South Luzon Expressway to the province of Quezon, which was promised by the deposed strongman Ferdinand Marcos, approved during the term of President Fidel Ramos, and broke ground during the administration of President Gloria Arroyo.

Last week, the head of the country’s biggest conglomerate reiterated that building more infrastructure in Mindanao was the key to finding a long-term solution to its peace and order issues. San Miguel Corp. president Ramon Ang recalled an early investment he made in a cement plant in Batangas, which suffered from attacks by the New People’s Army in the early 1990s. Although Batangas, Cavite, Laguna and Quezon are progressive provinces today, Ang said these were considered “no man’s land” at that time.

The government solved that, not by signing a peace treaty, but by building more roads, Ang said. The same can be true for Mindanao, he said. If the government and the private sector develop the area, then the economic status and the life of the people there would improve. “If you look at them now, [you will see that] they are having a hard time because infrastructure is lacking. The government should bid out ports, airports and other infrastructure in Mindanao, and the private sector should be the one to construct them,” he said.

It is difficult to imagine why much of Mindanao is in such a sorry economic state. It has the resources that can easily draw investments, particularly in agriculture and tourism. All previous studies point to the lack of basic
infrastructure—schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, seaports, airports—and of electricity as the main issue. If the government can’t do these due to budgetary constraints, then it should tap the private sector. There is this mechanism called the public-private partnership, which, sadly, has been moving much too slowly.


MILF ‘to be hit’ if it blocks arrest of members involved in Mamasapano, lawmaker warns

From GMA News (Mar 29): MILF ‘to be hit’ if it blocks arrest of members involved in Mamasapano, lawmaker warns

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) “will be hit” if it blocks the arrest of members believed responsible for the killing of 44 police Special Action Force troopers in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25, a lawmaker has warned.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez on Sunday urged the MILF to heed President Benigno Aquino III’s advice for the group to step aside and let the government bring those responsible for the Mamasapano tragedy to justice.

Rodriguez, chair of the House ad hoc committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), said the government will make good on its word to seek justice for the fallen police commandos even as it remains committed to pushing ahead with the peace process by passing the BBL.

“The president said they (MILF) have to step out of the way because we're going to arrest [those responsible for the Mamasapano clash]. Certainly, the full force of the law will be used to implement the [case that will be filed by the Department of Justice] and the warrant of arrest that will be issued by the court. They have to step aside. Otherwise, they will be hit along the side,” he said in an interview with dzBB.

In a nationwide address last month, Aquino warned the MILF against getting in the way of the government’s manhunt for suspected terrorist Abdul Basit Usman, one of the targets of the Mamasapano police operation. He also said he was counting on the MILF's assistance in seeking justice for the police commandos who died in Mamasapano and in the manhunt for terrorist bomb maker Basit Usman.

"Sa mga kasapi at liderato ng MILF: Mula pa noong umpisa, tinuturing ko kayo bilang mga kapatid sa paghahangad ng kapayapaan. At hanggang ngayon, umaasa ako na tutulong kayo na hanapin ang hustisya. Kailangang panagutin ang lahat ng may sala, lalo na kung totoong may mga sugatan at hindi makalaban na tuluyan pa ring pinatay," Aquino said.

Law enforcement operations against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, whose members are believed to have also been involved in the clash and are hiding Usman, have been ongoing since February.

More than 100,000 residents of Maguindanao have been affected by the operations and thousands have had to flee to evacuation centers.

Own sanctions

But MILF chairman Al Haj Murad, in an interview with GMA News on March 19, was adamant that members found to have been involved in the Mamasapano clash would not be surrendered to the government but would instead be sanctioned under the group's own regulations and under Shariah Law.

The MILF has completed its own investigation on the deadly Mamasapano clash where over 60 people, including 44 police Special Action Force (SAF) commandos, were killed. The clash occurred despite the peace deal signed by the government and the MILF in March last year.

While the DOJ has yet to wrap up its own probe on the incident, Rodriguez said the Moro group will have to let the government arrest the concerned MILF members because they are Filipino citizens.

“They (MILF) will have to follow the warrant of arrest. And they already know that the government is going to implement it. There's no more coordination [needed]. Sasagasaan talaga sila, if that is needed. There [will be] no compromise when the cases have already been filed,” he said.

Asked what the consequence will be if the MILF refuses to heed the arrest warrant for its men, Rodriguez said: “Then they will be hit. Anybody who will stop the warrant of arrest, they can be neutralized by the government.”

Perception of weakness

The lawmaker said the government would have to put its foot down and enforce the warrant of arrest because it would be perceived as weak if it does not.

“We are a government. Ano ba tayo, are we just a government that cannot implement its own order?” he said.

Once the DOJ files cases against those involved in the clash, Rodriguez said the MILF cannot cite the ongoing peace process to arrive at a compromise with the government.

“It (arrest warrant) may compromise it (peace process), what can we do?” he said. “After the DOJ files the case, the court issues the warrant of arrest, the full force of the law should be implemented by all law enforcement agencies of our government.”

Updates from De Lima, Ferrer

For its part, the House independent minority bloc called on Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel Ferrer to provide Congress with an update on government efforts.

In a press conference last week, bloc leader Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez pointed out that the government has yet to move to arrest the individuals who killed the SAF troopers more than two months after the incident occurred.

The MILF has finished its own report on the Mamasapano massacre and has submitted copies of it to the government. Therefore, the government can no longer claim [it] has yet to identify the killers of the SAF 44,” he said.

According to the lawmaker, the bloc will ask the House to investigate the government’s slowness in prosecuting the killers of the 44 SAF troopers even if Congress is on recess.

“We have a lot of questions to ask to a lot of people. To the best of our ability, the bloc will do everything we can to help ensure justice for the SAF 44 as soon as possible,” Romualdez said.

The MILF has insisted that its fighters acted in self-defense, disengaged when a ceasefire was declared, and has denied involvement in acts shown in a viral video of an armed man shooting a wounded SAF trooper and looting the body.

"It is a known fact that there are other armed grounds in the area, including the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and private armed groups. Any of these groups could have entered the encounter site after the MILF pulled out of the areas after a ceasefire was affected, as was in fact witnessed by the withdrawing 105BC (Base Command) men," it said in its investigation report, a copy of which was sent to the Senate.


Makabayan bloc readies 20 questions in case PNoy attends House probe on Mamasapano clash

From GMA News (Mar 30): Makabayan bloc readies 20 questions in case PNoy attends House probe on Mamasapano clash

Makabayan bloc wants PNoy to attend Mamasapano hearing

House members under the Makabayan bloc on Monday, March 30, present a letter requesting President Benigno Aquino III to attend the House of Representatives' hearing on the January 25 Mamasapano incident after the Holy Week. Xianne Arcangel

Although House leaders aren’t keen on inviting President Benigno Aquino III to the resumption of the House of Representatives’ hearings on the Mamasapano clash next week, the progressive Makabayan bloc isn’t giving up hope that he will show up and answer the 20 questions its members have prepared for him.
In a letter dated March 30, the seven-member bloc asked Reps. Jeffrey Ferrer and Jim Hataman-Salliman, chairs of the two House committees investigating the bloody Jan. 25 police operation, to invite Aquino to the hearings scheduled on April 7 and 8 to shed light on a number of issues surrounding the incident, such as the extent of the United States’ involvement and his knowledge about the covert police mission.

“In light… of the findings of the Senate committee on public order and the Philippine National Police Board of Inquiry, it is necessary for the House of Representatives to investigate further into significant issues raised but not completely resolved by the said bodies… An analysis of both the Senate and BOI reports will lead to the conclusion that it is only the President himself who will be able to shed light on these matters,” the group said.

The progressive bloc is composed of party-list representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Isagani Zarate from Bayan Muna, Emmi de Jesus and Luz Ilagan from Gabriela, Terry Ridon from Kabataan, Fernando Hicap from Anakpawis and Antonio Tinio from ACT-Teachers.

Ferrer chairs the House committee on public order and safety while Hataman-Salliman heads the House committee on peace, reconciliation and unity.

The 20 questions posed by Makabayan bloc to the President generally revolve around the following issues: the reason behind Aquino’s decision to allow then-suspended PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima to call the shots in the Mamasapano police operation, details and the rationale of the decisions on the day the mission was carried out on Jan. 25, and the extent of United States’ involvement in the operation.

Invitation a no-go

More than 60 people, including 44 police commandos, were killed in a clash between the Special Action Force (SAF)and various armed groups on Jan. 25, despite existing ceasefire mechanisms between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. has earlier ruled out inviting Aquino to the probe, saying the President has already sufficiently explained his role in the police operation.

Ferrer has also thumbed down the prospect of extending an invitation to Aquino to show up at the hearing, but said he will respect the Makabayan bloc’s decision to ask for the President’s presence.
“I will respect their decision if they will be the one to invite the President, but as for the committee on public order and safety, the issue has already been resolved,” he said in a text message.

Although the chances of inviting Aquino to the hearings are slim, Tinio said he is hopeful the President will take the initiative to show up, saying he owes it to the people to answer the lingering questions on the Mamasapano debacle.

He said lawmakers will extend the courtesy accorded to Aquino should he appear at the hearing.

"Kami naman sa House, batid namin ang posisyon ng Pangulo at makatitiyak siya na irerespeto namin ang kanyang posisyon bilang Presidente at Chief Executive kung siya ay pupunta upang sagutin ang aming mga katanungan," Tinio said.

20 questions

The questions which the Makabayan bloc wants Aquino to answer are the following:

1. Why did you authorize or allow the participation of then PNP Chief Alan Purisima in Oplan Exodus even though you were fully aware that he was already suspended at that time?

2.  If he were only an "expert adviser," why did you say that you ordered him to coordinate with PNP OIC [Deputy Director General Leonardo] Espina and AFP Chief of Staff [General Gregorio Pio] Catapang and that he did not follow said order?

3.  Why didn’t you, as the commander-in-chief, direct Espina and Catapang to support the SAF, instead of delegating the task to a suspended official?

4.  When you let a suspended official head an operation, received reports from him, and ordered the SAF director [Director Getulio] Napeñas to report to him, did you not violate the chain of command?

5.  Did you not violate the suspension order issued by the Ombudsman against Purisima when you allowed the latter to head the operation?

6.  What did you and Purisima talk about during the January 9 meeting at Bahay Pangarap, after Napeñas left and before Purisima told Napeñas, "Sabihan mo na ang dalawa [referring to Sec. Mar Roxas and PNP OIC Gen. Espina] kapag andun na. Ako na ang bahala kay Catapang"?

7.  How many times did you text Purisima and other officials about the operation on Mamasapano? What are the contents of these messages, if any? Was there an instance that you made voice calls to Purisima and other officials on the matter? We also request for the transcripts of these voice calls.

8.  You said that you were irked at Purisima because you could not make sense of his conflicting texts.  Why did you not call him to clarify matters?  Why did you not call other officials such as Gen. Catapang and AFP generals involved in the rescue or even Sec. Roxas or Gen. Espina to know what was happening?

9.  You were aware of the probability of "pintakasi," that the SAF troopers will be attacked by any and all armed locals in the area.  Why did you not order coordination with the CCCHH even just hours before the operation was launched?

10. WESTMINCOM Commander [Lt. Gen. Rustico] Guerrero testified that you were getting updates throughout the day at his headquarters in Zamboanga. Who were the officials updating you and what was the information they gave you?

11. With all the updates/information you receive[d] in the morning about the SAF engagements, why did you not get a sense of urgency to mobilize necessary forces and resoruces to reinforce and rescue the SAF commandos?

12.  What were your orders to Guerrero or Catapang, if there were any? Did you issue any pronouncement to them or any one to consider the peace process with the MILF in implementing the rescue operations?

13.  Were you aware that the CCCHH was working towards a ceasefire in the middle of the fighting?  When were you informed of this?

14.  Did you give any orders to stand down?  Did you not give order/s to Catapang and/or Pangilinan not to fire the artillery in Mamasapano, Maguindanao where the 55th SAC were engaged with the MILF and other armed locals in consideration of the peace talks with the MILF?

15.  Why was there no air support during the Mamasapano operation? Were you aware that two helicopters and two airplanes could have provided air support to the SAF were deployed to secure you in Zamboanga?

16.  What can you say about Napeñas's statement that you left them hanging ("iniwan kami sa ere") and that this is the highest form of betrayal? Gen. Napeñas claims that the agreement in the Han. 9 meeting was “time on target.” Did you expressly disapprove “time on target coordination” and ordered Director Napeñas to coordinate with the AFP one day or more before the operations?

17.  Why did you say, in response to a question after your first speech on Jan. 28, that Purisima was “involved up to the point in time, directly, that he was ordered suspended by the Ombudsman,” when facts show he was actively involved in the planning and actual execution of Oplan Exodus while suspended?

18.  Why did you allow US intervention - from the planning, funding, training, ISR, and during the very conduct of the operation and the subsequent evacuation, as is obvious from the presence of six Americans at the tactical command post? Why did you find it necessary to work with the US, but not with DILG Sec. Mar Roxas, PNP [OIC Director General] Espina or AFP Chief Gen. Catapang?

19.  What is your legal basis for allowing this intervention by the US military in a PNP   law enforcement operation - a purely internal matter – even though this is not covered by the MDT, VFA, and EDCA?

20. What was the extent of the participation of the Joint Special Operations Task Force - Philippines in the Mamasapano operations?


On the front line: Volunteer troops in times of crisis

From Rappler (Mar 30): On the front line: Volunteer troops in times of crisis

A group of men and women volunteers can serve as the country's first line of defense during times of crisis

READY RESERVE. Members of the NCR Regional Community Defense Group, Army Reserve Command, salute the Philippine Flag in a seminar on Project Agos.

READY RESERVE. Members of the NCR Regional Community Defense Group, Army Reserve Command, salute the Philippine Flag in a seminar on Project Agos.

In the event of a national crisis or calamity, there is a group of men and women already in the field and ready to respond. They aren’t super heroes and they don’t have special powers. They are, in fact, normal people who have volunteered to defend the country and help the people, if called upon to do so.

The men and women of the Armed Forces of the Philippine Reserve Force are mandated to augment the regular military force during times of national emergencies like a foreign invasion or government collapse. Yet, little is known about them, even within the military organization. Many of the 100,000 volunteers nationwide come from humble backgrounds while others have corporate day jobs. One thing they share in common is a desire to be of service to their country. 
"Reserves" are often the last group to be called into active duty in the event of a war or coup. But in times of disasters, the roles reverse. 
According to Brigadier General Marcelo Javier Jr, Commanding Officer of the 15th Infantry Division (Ready Reserve), Reserves act as the first line of defense in their communities during a disaster. 
“Where are the camps? Along EDSA and other roads. When the big one hits the electric posts will go down. You will have to clear that first. And before you clear that, it will take days, at least hours to clear that,” said Javier. 
Javier, who is also a Director in the Philippine Red Cross Muntinlupa Branch, believes citizens cannot solely rely on the government to help each of them when disaster strikes because the government and the military will need to deal with big problems like ensuring peace and order and saving lives. 
Inform and educate
But how can ordinary volunteers with little to no training in disaster preparedness and response help save lives? One way is by being community organizers and educators.
TOP DOWN. Maria Ressa talks to officers and troops of the NCR Regional Community Defense Group, Army Reserve Command at Fort Bonifacio.
TOP DOWN. Maria Ressa talks to officers and troops of the NCR Regional Community Defense Group, Army Reserve Command at Fort Bonifacio.
On Sunday, March 29, Rappler’s civic engagement arm, MovePH, in partnership with the NCR Regional Community Defense Group of the Army Reserve Command conducted an orientation for 250 Reserve troopers on how to use social media to better inform and educate the public about how to prepare for a disaster.
Rappler CEO Maria Ressa introduced Project Agos, Rappler’s platform for disaster information management and multi-sectoral collaboration for disaster preparedness.
Ressa talked about how the government, the military, and the public can collaborate for top-down decision making and bottoms-up civic action through Project Agos. She also demonstrated how social media can be used to spread good ideas and build stronger networks that would be useful in times of crisis.
Zak Yuson, Head of Civic Engagement at Rappler, Jed Alegado, Agos Campaign Manager, and Philip Fortuno, Community Development Specialist, dived deeper into how social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and the Project Agos Alert Map are being used to improve communication and coordination for crisis response. 
Speaking on behalf of the participants, Javier said that learning how social media works is essential for performing their duty as Reserves to be “forward deployed” and always capable and available to help the public in times of crisis. 
MovePH and the NCR Regional Community Defense Group, led by Col Corleto S. Vinluan Jr, will continue to train officers and members of the Reserve Force as well as cadet officers of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) in different universities in Metro Manila. The collaboration is part of a long-term partnership between MovePH and the Armed Forces of the Philippines for its ongoing disaster risk reduction and management and climate change adaptation (DRRM-CCA) program, which is supported by the Australian Government.  
Preparedness stars at home
For Javier, his years of training in crisis management has led him to one conclusion: preparedness starts with the family. Javier is a staunch advocate of “pre-incident planning” where each member of the family knows what to do during a disaster. 
Each member of the family should be given a specific task relative to their capability. He advises every family to divide themselves into teams responsible for either food, shelter, search and rescue, and security. 
On a larger scale, neighbors on a street should also plan and act together before, during and after a disaster to pool food and ensure the safety of their community. Acting alone will not ensure survival, Javier said, only cooperation and having proper systems in place will. 
“When the big one hits, government will have a very difficult time to respond because of mobility problems. A lot of streets will be blocked. People will be in chaotic mode. What you need is leadership in chaos. For us in the Reserves, we consider this as a primary mission. Like it or not, in the event of an emergency, people will look up to you and ask, ‘what are we supposed to do?’ We can tell them, ‘this is what you’re supposed to do before the disaster, then people will just move towards their individual assignments.” said Javier. 
“Government has the mandate to protect the people, but the citizen has the responsibility to preserve his life,” he added.


Military kills BIFF's Kumander Bisaya in Maguindanao – report

From GMA News (Mar 30): Military kills BIFF's Kumander Bisaya in Maguindanao – report

A top leader of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Usop Abeh Salih also known as Kumander Bisaya, was killed by security forces in Maguindanao province on Sunday, GMA News' Jun Veneracion reported.
Jun Veneracion     
JUST IN: Sources say military validating reports that Cmdr. Bisaya, one of BIFF top leaders, was killed in an encounter in Maguindanao.

AFP: NPA ‘running out of cadres,’ will go back to peace talks soon

From GMA News (Mar 29): AFP: NPA ‘running out of cadres,’ will go back to peace talks soon

The New People's Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, is running out of fighters and will have to go back to negotiations, the spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said Sunday, the 46th anniversary of the NPA.

Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala said that development programs in the provinces and continued operations against the NPA have isolated the rebel group from potential recruits.

According to the AFP's Eastern Mindanao Command last week, there has been a "significant decrease" in the number of NPA fighters in its area, where around 53 percent of the estimated 3,000 members are.

"Na-degrade na 'yung capability nila, tapos na-degrade na 'yung influence sa mass base and they ran out of mass bases, ano. Expected na they will be isolated from the mass bases, that’s their eventual demise," he said, adding the military can "easily hit them in the mountains without collateral damage among civilian communities."

Kakilala said that this, along with government development projects like bridges, schools, and roads, will make the NPA "irrelevant" by addressing economic issues that contribute to the insurgency.

"We are isolating them from the communities. Eventually they will run out of cadres," he said, adding one of the objectives of the military's Internal Peace and Security Plan-Bayanihan is to get the CPP-NPA-National Democratic Front to abandon its armed revolution and to go back to peace negotiations.

"We are optimistic on that. There is no way out but to talk peace with our government. Probably they will start the ball running right now, but probably the next administration will pursue that angle. But if they won't talk peace, they will really be irrelevant because development will come in... They will become irrelevant na," he said.

In January, NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison hinted that peace negotiations might resume this year.

"Kung magpakatino ang rehimeng Aquino at OPAPP [Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process], posible pang matapos ang comprehensive agreement on economic reforms at agreement on truce and cooperation bago matapos ang term ni Aquino," he said then.

Sison said a "special team" composed of representatives from both parties has been working on the agenda of fresh peace talks since last September.

In April last year, the Philippine government ended its peace negotiations with the NDFP after a 22-month impasse, citing the lack of "sincerity and political will" on the part of the party and its affiliate groups – the NDF and the New People's Army.


Medical and dental mission by US and RP Air Force

From the Bohol News Today (Mar 30): Medical and dental mission by US and RP Air Force

A medical and dental ‘balikatan’ is set to be held here by the United States (US) and the Philippine Air Force.
City Mayor Baba Yap recently met with the advance parties of of the medical and dental ‘balikatan’ with the representatives of the US and Philippine Air Force (PAF). The ‘balikatan’ will be conducted in Tagbilaran City in the month of August this year.
At least 15 groups will be joining the medical and dental mission here who earlier joined the mission conducted in the Luzon including Ilocos, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija and recently in Dumaguete City.
Tagbilaran City and some Bohol towns will be the fifth area which the medical and dental mission will be conducted here especially that the province was hit by magnitude 7.2 earthquake in 2013.
To be included in the medical and dental mission this coming August is the repair of the damaged school buildings in the province.

Photo: New aircraft

From the Manila Standard Today (Mar 31): Photo: New aircraft

Members of the Air Force take a look at one of the three newly acquired aircraft inside Villamor Air Base on Monday. Danny Pata