Thursday, June 25, 2015

NPA losing members, says Army

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 25): NPA losing members, says Army

The New People’s Army has apparently run out of funds and could no longer keep its promise of providing at least P2,000 to families of its members, a military official said Thursday.

Lt. Col. Ronnie Babac, commander of the 73rd Infantry Battalion based here, said they found this out when at least six New People’s Army rebels – five of them teenagers – separately yielded in Sarangani province following days of military offensives against communist rebels there.

Babac, the 73rd IB commander, said two of those who surrendered in Malapatan and Alabel towns between June 19 and 23 amid the “relentless conduct of peace and development operation” there were teenage girls, aged 18 and 19.

He would not disclose the full identities of the surrendered rebels as of yet and identified them only by their aliases Dindin, 19; Lovely, 18; Junex, 19; Arman, 19; Noli, 18; and Michael, 22.

Babac said that in an initial investigation of the six, who were residents of Sarangani, they told authorities they had grown tired of the pledges of their leaders that their families would receive at least P2,000 in cash assistance per month.

“That was the promise made when they entered the NPA. None of their families got any amount though,” he said.

Babac said the NPA’s failure to keep its pledge of providing monthly support to families of rebels would drive others to surrender.

“We are also tirelessly encouraging our deceived brothers to take the opportunity provided by the government’s integration program,” he said.

Babac said unlike the NPA’s promise, the government has not failed to live up to its promise.

“The six surrenderees are now being processed for their benefits under the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) initiated by the Local Government of Sarangani, under which, they will be receiving cash and livelihood assistance,” Babac said.

Military recovers 2 unexploded IEDs in Surigao del Sur town

From GMA News (Jun 25): Military recovers 2 unexploded IEDs in Surigao del Sur town

Militiamen recovered two improvised bombs in an area of Madrid, Surigao del Sur earlier this week, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said Thursday.
According to a press release from the military, members of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit under the Army 36th Infantry Battalion brought the unexploded bombs, which they found in a populated area in Barangay Hinapuyan on April 22, to the nearest military detachment.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines said the IEDs were planted by the New People's Army. It added the Eastern Mindanao Command has recovered 54 unexploded IEDs, 12 of which were planted along roads, since the year began.
On April 1, an IED explosion in San Miguel town killed a civilian and left seven injured. Another explosion on April 20 left two wounded along the national highway in Makilala, North Cotabato, the military said.

Governor wants Cafgu despite Army assurances

From Rappler (Jun 26): Governor wants Cafgu despite Army assurances

Residents fear that the civilian armed force may be used for the elections next year

 SECURITY ISSUE. Is Zamboanga del Norte secure enough? Photo by Gualberto Laput

SECURITY ISSUE. Is Zamboanga del Norte secure enough? Photo by Gualberto Laput

DIPOLOG CITY, PhilippinesDespite repeated pronouncements by the military here that Zamboanga del Norte is peaceful, the governor is determined to organize a civilian armed force to help combat insurgency “and other forms of lawlessness.”

In a letter to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, the provincial board, Governor Roberto Y. Uy had asked for authority to create a Special CAFGU Active Auxiliary (SCAA) unit. On June 15, the provincial board passed a resolution requesting Brigadier General Gerardo Barrientos, commander of the Army’s 1st“Tabak” Division based in Pagadian City, to allow Uy to organize a SCAA unit for Zamboanga del Norte.

In his letter certified as urgent, Uy said he intended to use the SCAA to achieve peace and order and provide security residents.

Board Member Crisologo A. Desierdo, Sangguniang Panlalawigan’s Majority Floor Leader, told Rappler that the provincial leadership wanted to organize its own SCAA because “there is shortage of military and police forces to effectively protect the province.”

But this contradicts the Army’s assessment that the province does not face any major or immediate security threat. The 101st brigade, tasked to secure Zamboanga del Norte and part of Misamis Occidental, is under the Army’s 1st Division.

“Zamboanga del Norte remains peaceful,” said Captain Jason Mararac, 101st Brigade’s Civil Military Operations chief.

The mixed messages from the provincial government and the Army’s 101st Brigade have caused anxiety among residents. Local media have repeatedly asked both the military and Uy to come up with a common declaration on the matter.

Nabalaka ang katawhan nga gamiton lang ang SCAA karong eleksyon (Residents fear that the new SCAA will just be used in next year’s elections),” said a news story published by The New Nandau Today.

The military is allowing big private companies and local government units to organize SCAA units for their security, so that soldiers can focus on major security threats.

SCAA units will be trained and armed by the Army, but their salaries, uniforms and other expenses will be shouldered by the company or local government units that organize them.

NPA rebels kill ‘Bagani’

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Jun 25): NPA rebels kill ‘Bagani’

GOVERNMENT forces have launched pursuit operations against a group of New People’s Army (NPA) rebels responsible in the killing of an unarmed “Bagani” in the province of Davao del Norte.

Lieutenant Colonel Roberto Banagan, commander of the Army’s 60th Infantry Battalion, said the pursuit operation is in coordination with the police of Kapalong, Davao del Norte.

Bunagan identified the victim as Roger Bato, 31, of Kapalong municipality. Bato was a Bagani -- a tribal warrior responsible for the security of their community and ancestral domain.

Bunagan said Bato was with two other persons attending their farm at Sitio Tagbalyaw when around 40 NPA rebels arrived and opened fire, resulting in the victim’s death.

Bato’s companions, whose identities were withheld, escaped unscathed.

Feature: From a revolutionary to a peaceful citizen

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 23): Feature: From a revolutionary to a peaceful citizen 

Maayo ang propaganda pero kutob lang sa teorya, dili sa aktwal. (The propaganda is good but only in theory not in actual scenario),” a former armed rebel said.

Adrian (not his real name) is one of the 24 rebels who recently surrendered to the battalions of the 1003rd Infantry Brigade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Adrian surrendered last June 6 in New Corella to the 60th Infantry Batallion.

He was a platoon commander in the New People’s Army Guerrilla Front 33, whose territory expands from New Corella, Tagum City, Asuncion, Nabunturan, Mawab, Laak and part of Agusan.

Adrian started his revolutionary life at the age of 14. His parents were against it. “Dili jud sila mutugot na mo-apil ko pero ninglabaw akong kaugalingong desisyon (They really did not allow me to join (the revolutionary group) but my personal decision prevailed),” he said.

He said he was trained together with a number of new recruits on armed combats with lectures on the force’s political agenda.

“Dasig kaayo ko atong panahona kay na-awhag ko sa ilang mga propaganda (I was really motivated that time because I was persuaded by their propaganda,” he said.

Adrian said that their team was the ones, who threatened businessmen in their area to pay revolutionary taxes.

“Pag dili sila magbayad, magmando sa amoa ang kahitasan na daoban ilang mga sakyanan (If they (businessmen) won’t pay (taxes), those at the top will command us to burn their vehicles),” he said.

Incidents of ransacking and burning of company vehicles were apparent in the local news last year. He said he was part of those people, who did those ground works for the NPA.

He defended that they were just following orders from their leaders. “Nagahulat lang kami sa mando sa taas. (We just await instructions from the top.)”

“Sa amo pud, diri man pud nagikan ang pagkaon sa among pamilya (For us, this (revolutionary tax) is the source of our family’s food.”

Adrian is now 31 and has a family with four kids. He said that at first, the provisions to his family were given as agreed on time. He however did not disclose the amount given to his family.

“Pero sa kadugayon, putol-putol na ang suporta. Naa usahay na tagtulo ka bulan tas kulang ang ginahatag. (However, as time passed by, the support (financially) were not given regularly. There were times that it comes every three months but still lesser (than the agreement).”

He said that these circumstances increased his scepticism in the revolutionary group. “Kaming mga nasa ubos na ang-ang sa kadre, gigamit lamang tas sila nga naa sa taas hayahay kaayo ang ilang kahimtang pati ang ilang pamilya (We, who are in the bottom level of the cadre, were being used and those at the top are living comfortably, including their families).”

“Sa kadako sa among area, pila gud na ka milyon ang makolekta nila? Pero kulang man ang gihatag sa among pamilya. (With the big area within our jurisdiction, how many millions were being collected (from the businesses)? But they gave less than what had been agreed to our families).”

His voice was strained as he said that they were the ones who battled the army to sustain the revolutionary movement but then he realized that they were just being seen as assets ready to be disposed.

Adrian recalled that his troops were even killed during armed battle and he also said that he killed a number of military forces. “Dili na malikayan kay panagsangka man. Ang girila nagapangita jud na ug panagsangka. (This could not be avoided since it is an encounter. Guerillas seek for encounters).”

He said that he could barely visit his family. “Sila na ang moadto sa amoa kung asa mi naka-asyn. (They (families) are the ones who visited us wherever we were assigned.)

He relayed that their families would visit them every three months or six months, depending on the encounter, which happens weekly or monthly.

Adrian said that his struggles in the revolutionary group with the finances and their actual practices led him to go back to the Philippine government.

But he said it was not easy. “Pagkabalo nila na mu-surrender ko, gi-dayban ko ug upat ka tao. (When they knew that I was going to surrender, four persons attacked me.)”

Adrian identified the persons as his colleagues in the revolutionary government. He even reminisced that one of them put a gun on his wife.

Good thing, he said that he escaped and now, his family was secured by the army.

“Sukwahi sa gina-ingon bahin sa army, pero naa man juy uban na abusado sa una, pero wala jud mi katilaw ug kulata sa army. (Contrary to what they (NPAs) said about the army, however there were really abusive army in the past, but we never experienced brutality in the army (when we surrendered.)”

Adrian said that he saw that the changes implemented by the Philippine government now to bring development in the countryside.

He said that in his stint in the revolutionary government, he too recruited a number of people to join the revolutionary force because of the abuses of the army and the lack of development in their area.

“Na inganyo nako sila tungod kay na inganyo pud ko. Karon ang uban lider napud sa mga hukbo sa Luzon ug Visayas. (I persuaded them because I too was persuaded. Now, some are leaders of the groups in Luzon and Visayas.)

Adrian said that if he could, he want to tell them to stop from being used by the revolutionary government run by their leaders, who are enjoying the fruits of their bloody encounters in the ground.

“Karon na ning-surrender nako, sana matabangan pa sa gobyerno akong pamilya na ilang matilawan ang wala nila natilawan tong naa pa ko sa kalihokan. (Now that I already surrendered, I hope that the government will help my family that they may experience what they never experienced when I was still active in the revolutionary.)”

Adrian also has one wish to the government. And that is to be a member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“Buot pud nako maging army. Gusto nako matabangan sila na ipakaylap sa mga tao nga nindot lang sa propaganda ang kalihukan pero dili sa aktwal ug ginagamit lang ang mga ubos na element sa mga pipila ka lideres sa hukbo.” (I also desire to be an army. I want to help them spread to the people that the revolutionary government is good only in its propaganda but not in the actual scenario and the low elements were just being used by a number of leaders in the forces.)

Rebel-surrenderee to join army

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 25): Rebel-surrenderee to join army

Following the request of a rebel-surrenderee to enter the Philippine Army, 1003rd Infantry Brigade Commander Col. Harold Cabreros said in a recent interview that they are actually working for his special enlistment in the military force.

Adrian (not his real name) one of the rebel-surrenderees who pledged back their allegiance to the country during the Serbisyo Caravan of the Association of Regional Executives of the National Agencies (ARENA) expressed his desire to be a member of the military.

Adrian was a platoon leader in the New People’s Army Guerrilla Front 33, who surrendered to the 60th Infantry Battalion last June 6 in New Corella.

“Pwede naman silang (rebel-surrenderees) maging member ng army (They can be a member of the army),” Col. Cabreros said.

Cabreros stressed that it is not the intention of the government to ruin the lives of the rebels instead help them start new lives from being a part of the revolutionary armed groups.

He illustrated an example of a certain wounded woman-rebel, who was captured by the army during an encounter.

“We called her amazona and the army treated her and even sent her to school. Now, she’s a member of the military and already a Corporal,” he said.

Cabreros said that Adrian will still have to go through a process and certain qualifications before its enlistment in the army.

“But it is possible for him to be enlisted since maganda naman yong ginawa niya, especially in surrendering an M16.”

Army launches Peace Book

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 25): Army launches Peace Book

1003rd Infantry Brigade Commander Col. Harold Cabreros together with partner organizations on Tuesday at Tagum Cooperative Social Hall the Peace Book project.

Col. Cabreros said that the Peace Book project is a part of the Quest for PEACE program of their brigade, which is an acronym for Political stability, Economic prosperity, Agrarian emancipation, Cultural and religious recognition; and Educational advancement.

He stressed that the Peace Book project will help students, especially those indigenous people who are in Grade 3 to continue their studies through providing them with their needs.

“Initially, we will start with Grade 3 pupils because we found out during our needs assessment that most of the students in the IP communities will just finish Grade 2 and will no longer enrol in Grade 3,” Cabreros said.

He added that most of those, who drop out, wanted to go schooling but were hindered by poverty. “They would rather buy food with the money they have than pay it for schools expenses,” he said.

Cabreros stressed that they had accounted more than 300 children with this state in Talaingod alone. “We will start with our indigenous children in Talaingod and hopefully, we could expand with the help of more partners,” he said.

As a launching of the Peace Book Project, the Tagum Cooperative and the Rotary Club of Tagum Golden Laces were the first partners of the 1003rd Infantry Brigade.

Cabreros disclosed that the partnership will include but not limit to adopt a pupil program, books and school kits distribution, book reading session, feeding activity, medical outreach and cleaning drive.

He said that in their study on the adopt a pupil program, one pupil will only spend around P1,500 for the whole school year.

“With the assistance of the Department of Educatoin, we will endorse the pupil to its sponsor and this will be like a fostering program for the child’s education,” he said.

He said that companies, who want to be a partner of the said program, can contact their brigade for details.

Now, it’s a 5-way race for top PNP post

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 26): Now, it’s a 5-way race for top PNP post

It is fast developing to be a five-way race for the top post in the Philippine National Police.

As he was promoted to three-star rank on Thursday, Deputy Director General Danilo Constantino, the PNP’s No. 4 man, disclosed that he was “interviewed” by President Benigno Aquino III last week in a casual meeting where PNP issues were discussed.

“It’s true that we were summoned by the President but we don’t know if it was really an interview because that was just a casual conversation,” the police official said on Thursday.
Aside from Marquez and Constantino, other police generals being rumored to be contenders for the post of PNP chief are: Deputy Director General Marcelo Garbo, the deputy chief for operations; Director Benjamin Magalong, chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group; and Chief Supt. Raul Petrasanta, suspended police regional director of Central Luzon.

Earlier, Mr. Aquino said he has been talking with top police officials who are probable replacements for Director General Alan Purisima and officer in charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, who is schedule to retire next month.

Constantino said the President asked him about the Jan. 25 Mamasapano incident, which left 44 police commandos, and the alleged factions between police officials within the PNP.

Constantino said the issue of retirement was also brought up during the discussion.

“There was also a question about retirement. Maybe he wants to know if our birthdays are after the 2016 elections,” Constantino said. He is scheduled to retire in July 2016 upon reaching 56.

The police officer declined to comment on his chances to land the top PNP post, saying it would be too presumptive.

Asked on how the conversation ended, Constantino said the President wished him “good luck.”

Earlier, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said the selection process was limited to police officials who will retire after the 2016 elections.

This would disqualify Garbo, who is technically next in line to Espina.

Garbo will be retiring in March 2016, or two months before the presidential elections next year.

Espina, who was at Constantino’s donning of ranks, said Garbo was such a “good person that he was considered one of the contenders for the post of PNP chief.”

“He’s one good guy, very hardworking and silent, very jolly. We both love our policemen,” the PNP officer in charge said.

According to Constantino, he has been working with Garbo since 2010 and he has been a “very big influence” in his career.

Petrasanta, who is facing complaints before the Ombudsman and is currently serving his preventive suspension, is perceived to be Aquino’s personal choice for PNP chief.

For his part, Magalong has remained mum on the issue of his being one of the contenders.

Meanwhile, Espina maintained that the selection of the next PNP chief is the sole prerogative of the President.

“You learned that there were police officials interviewed, Constantino included. The President by operation of the law has the sole prerogative to choose among all generals of the PNP,” Espina said.

He said all contenders for the post are very competent. The President also consults with him from time to time on the matter, he added.

However, he declined to comment on why the selection process seems to be taking long.

Espina said the 2016 elections are a serious matter and will need the mobilization of the entire PNP to watch out, especially for election-related violence.

“We have to have a strong police force, and the military of course,” Espina said.

3-star general emerges as dark horse in PNP race

From the Manila Standard Today (Jun 26): 3-star general emerges as dark horse in PNP race

A newly-promoted police general who was summoned by President Benigno S. Aquino III to  Malacanang  may emerge as the dark horse in the race for the top post in the Philippine National Police.

Police Director Danilo   Constantino,  former regional commander in the Visayas  who was promoted to a three-star rank, is    now the chief of the directorial staff.

He was the fourth man in PNP hierarchy to be  interviewed by Aquino at the Palace recently.

In and out. Police deputy director general Danilo Constantino (left) and
retiring PNP office-in-charge Leonardo Espina share a light moment before
the formal  pinning of ranks  at Camp Crame.  LINO SANTOS

Constantino admitted he and his PMA classmate Director Ricardo Marquez, the current chief of the directorate for operations went to Malacanang on the order  of the President.

“It’s true that we were summoned by the President but we don’t know if  it  was really an interview because that was just a casual conversation,” Constantino told reporters during talks with PNP Officer-in-Charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina in Camp Crame.

He revealed that he was the first one who  talked with the President; he  declined to disclosed what was discussed during the  meeting with the President.

Constantino, a member of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class 1982 was promoted to deputy director general along with three other senior police officials   Thursday.

 Constantino said the meeting with Aquino centered on some issues relating to the Mamasapano  operations that claimed the lives of 44 police commandos and the supposed factions in the PNP which he did not elaborate.

He said that the retirement issue was also discussed  with the President. “There was a question about retirement. Maybe he (President) wants to know if our birthdays are after the 2016 elections.”

However, Constantino brushed  aside presumptions of him being picked to the PNP top post.  “Its too presumptive. Of course, I would be elated  if I were  considered.”

Constantino  will be  retiring in July next year, before Deputy Director General Marcelo Garbo bows of  service in March 2016, the crucial pre-requisite in the selection process for the next PNP chief.

Interior Secretary Mar Roxas emphasized that the selection process has been limited to those whose retirement date is beyond the 2016 elections.

By that requisite, Garbo is technically disqualified since his retirement comes two months before the 2016 presidential elections.

Other contenders to the PNP top post include Director Benjamin Magalong, head of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and suspended police Regional-3 commander Chief Supt Raul Petrasanta.

Navy beefing up Batanes forces

From the Manila Standard Today (Jun 26): Navy beefing up Batanes forces
Move comes amid frequent poaching in fish-rich area

The Philippine Navy  has  deployed more troops in Batanes Island  and peripheral waters  in a move to  ward  off foreign poachers in the  fish-rich  area, Navy Chief Vice Admiral Jesus Millan said on Thursday.

The  number of  personnel was increased as we heighten collaboration with other agencies in monitoring illegal activities in our waters, Millan said, referring to  the  Philippine Coast Guard,   Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and Local Government Units (LGUs).

Millan said the increased deployment in Batanes has nothing to do with the recent incident with a Taiwanese fishing vessel which figured in a  tense standoff with a Philippine Coast Guard ship in Balintang Channel in Itbayat, Batanes.

Millan declined to provide the exact number of navy personnel sent to  Batanes but said its task was primarily to secure the present facilities and other vital installations in the Island.

Last June 16, a Philippine Coast Guard ship figured in a two-hour standoff  with  Taiwan’s Coast Guard off the coast of Itbayat, Batanes.

A month prior to the incident, the PCG encountered another Taiwanese vessel resulting in  a four-hour standoff. The PCG had five encounters with Taiwan, the most serious incident of which resulted  in  the death of a Taiwanese fisherman that strained relations between the two countries.

Millan said that apart from securing Batanes, “we have navy personnel deployed in strategic areas nationwide   for their roles to secure mission essential facilities used for monitoring activities in maritime domain.”

Millan  said the increased presence in Batanes was based on the guidance of AFP Chief Staff Gen. Gregorio Catapang. Similar units have also been deployed in Zambales, considered as the gateway to the West Philippine Sea where certain islets and territories are disputed by China and other neighboring countries,

Millan also stressed  the need to improve  the system and procedures in accordance with the military’s development, a strategic program embodied in the modernization efforts to fortify the country’s territorial integrity.

PNoy eyes expanded VFA pact with Japan

From the Manila Standard Today (Jun 26): PNoy eyes expanded VFA pact with Japan

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III wants an expanded cooperation with Japan and a Visiting Forces Agreement with it similar to that with the United States, an official said Thursday.

“In his interview with the Japan National Press Club last June 5, the President emphasized the importance of expanding cooperation with Japan, which is one of the Philippines’ two strategic partners,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a text message to reporters.

“The DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs] and the DND [Department of National Defense] are now discussing with their Japanese counterparts the feasibility of forging such a Visiting Forces Agreement,” Coloma said.  

“It will be recalled that the VFA with the United States was submitted and ratified by the Senate.  Hence, any similar agreement will have to undergo the same process,” he said.

Coloma made his statement even as the Defense Department on Thursday confirmed that the country was interested in acquiring P-3C “Orion” maritime patrol and surveillance aircraft from Japan.

“We are interested in acquiring them [P-3Cs], especially if they become excess defense articles as we can acquire them at a very reasonable price that is advantageous to the government,” Defense spokesman Peter Paul Galvez said.

Japan is in the process of replacing its P-3Cs with its homegrown Kawasaki Heavy P-1 patrol aircraft, which has twice the range of the “Orion” that is pegged at 2,380 nautical miles.

The Japanese military is known to operate 70-plus units of the P-3Cs.

Coloma made his statement after he was asked if MalacaƱang would ask Congress to speed up the ratification of the VFA with Japan.

The relations between the Philippines and China  plunged to their lowest when the Philippines sought arbitration in January 2013 to try to declare as illegal China’s massive claim over the South China Sea, including the areas within the resource-rich waters that fall under Manila’s territory.

China claims “indisputable sovereignty” over 90 percent of the waters, where undersea gas deposits have been discovered in several areas.

Earlier in Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Aquino jointly declared that the relationship between their two countries had entered the stage of “Strengthened Strategic Partnership,” in which they will cooperate for shared principles and goals even as they expressed concern about the large-scale reclamation in the South China Sea by China.

Revolutionary Moro group calls for intensified armed struggle

From the pro-CPP online propaganda publication Bulatlat (Jun 25): Revolutionary Moro group calls for intensified armed struggle

“We should open our eyes to the two-pronged (double-bladed) approach to the peace negotiation. President Benigno Aquino III, who takes his cue from the US counterinsurgency and anti-terror program, is using the all-out offensives as an excuse to force the MILF to succumb not only to a compromised exit agreement, but to a watered-down version of the BBL.”

Jihad Al Kursi (Photo by M. Macaspac/Pinoy Weekly)

Jihad Al Kursi, MRLO spokesperson (File photo by M. Macaspac/Pinoy Weekly)

The revolutionary group, Moro Resistance and Liberation Organization (MRLO) reaffirmed its resolve to continue waging armed struggle for the right to self-determination, warning that the Moro people becomes vulnerable, as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front “leaves the revolutionary path.”

“MRLO believes that the only way to stop the attack on our Moro brethren is for the Moro people to return to the revolutionary way of addressing the conflict, through armed struggle,” said MRLO spokesperson Jihad Al Kursi, in an emailed statement.

The MRLO said the peace talks, which should have been “a venue to express the genuine demands and democratic interests of the Moro people on self-determination, had been reduced to a constitutional issue.”

Al Kursi said the MILF decommissioning means “the MILF has left the revolutionary path to attain self-determination against the national oppression being carried out primarily by the US-Aquino regime.”

“The MILF’s laying down of arms is also a symbol of its depriving the Moro people of defense against military attacks and plunder of ancestral lands and resoures,” Al Kursi said.

Al Kursi said it is haram, or “unacceptable” for Muslim leaders and revolutionaries “to watch their fellow brethren die,” and to turn their backs and allow the killings of their ummah, or Muslim community.


MRLO, an allied organization of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), [3] marked its 10th year of founding on June 20. Al Kursi said MRLO leaders and members successfully celebrated the anniversary on June 16, on the same day of the symbolic decommissioning of the MILF’s armed wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Force (BIAF).

The anniversary took place in an NDFP guerrilla zone in the hinterlands of Central Mindanao. It was held before the start of fasting for the month of Ramadan, to give respect to Muslims, said Al Kursi.
In July 1999, the NDFP and the MILF agreed to form an alliance to defend common territories in Mindanao. The MRLO statement did not mention any dissolution of the alliance.

Decommissioning vs. ‘All-out offensives’

Al Kursi stressed that even as the MILF disarms, there is no corresponding redeployment of government forces, which have not withdrawn from Moro communities. Government troops, the MRLO said, continue to conduct operations, and violate human rights under the “US War on Terror” policy.

The MRLO condemned the “all-out offensives” conducted in Central Mindanao early this year, which displaced more than 100,000 residents, wounded several civilians and destroyed houses, mosques and farmlands.

The “all-out offensives” followed the January 25 Mamasapano encounter, which killed 44 elite cops, 18 MILF rebels and several civilians, as police commandoes went after alleged terrorists wanted by the US government.

MRLO said the hunt for alleged terrorists Zulkifli Bin hir, alias “Marwan” and Abdulbasit Usman “shows the Aquino regime’s disregard for the peace talks, just to please its imperialist master.”

The controversial operation triggered congressional and senate investigation, and exposed President Aquino’s accountability, for allowing suspended Police Chief Alan Purisima to lead it, and for allowing the participation of US troops.

“Instead of addressing the controversy arising in the Mamasapano tragedy, President Aquino’s apologists and attack dogs launched an anti-terror tirade against the MILF bordering on anti-Moro hysteria,” Al Kursi said.

The statement added that some lawmakers branded the MILF as “coddlers of terrorists” to discredit its sincerity as party to the peace talks and in leading the future Bangsamoro government.

Tied down

The MRLO statement said that the Moro peoples’ right to self-determination, which is supposed to be reflected in the Bangsamoro political body, has been overtaken by business interests of President Aquino’s allies, and issues of constitutionality.

“The formation of the new political body was cunningly subjected to the executive and legislative processes,” said Al Kursi. “After almost a year of deliberation, the provisions in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which should reflect the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), have been taken out.

“We should open our eyes to the two-pronged (double-bladed) approach to the peace negotiation. President Benigno Aquino III, who takes his cue from the US counterinsurgency and anti-terror program, is using the all-out offensives as an excuse to force the MILF to succumb not only to a compromised exit agreement, but to a watered-down version of the BBL,” Al Kursi said.

Al Kursi said the new Bangsamoro government will just become a mere “facilitator” of the economic policies and development plans of the national government, having disregarded the right to self-determination and self-governance, and the protection of ancestral lands.

“The newly-drafted Bangsamoro Development Plan clearly shows how the MILF has claimed the development plan of the US-Aquino regime as its own, such as the opening up of Bangsamoro lands and resources to Aquino’s allied businessmen through the Public-Private Partnership. They are also already planning to put up plantations and mining by foreign investors in the Moro communities,” said Al Kursi.

No normalization

The MRLO refuted government claims that the MILF-BIAF members would be able to return as ordinary citizens and have productive lives under the normalization process.

“As long as the policies of plunder and repression of the peoples’ human rights continue, there is no certainty of leading normal lives for citizens who fight for their legitimate rights and welfare,” said Al Kursi.

The MRLO called on the Moro people to “destroy the counterinsurgency program of the US-Aquino regime which aims to wipe out those who fight for their legitimate interests and welfare.”

Under the normalization annex [4] of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the MILF will decommission its forces “so that they are put beyond use.”

The decommissioning will be implemented in four phases: the first part was the June 16 symbolic turnover of 75 arms by BIAF fighters, who were then given financial assistance. The second phase targets decommissioning of 30 percent of MILF forces, as the BBL is expected to be ratified; another 30 percent of MILF forces will be disarmed in the third phase, and the balance follows in the fourth phase.

The Independent Decomissioning Body (IDB) composed of foreign and local experts oversees the process.

US envoy reiterates US support for peaceful end to PHL-China dispute

From GMA News (Jun 25): US envoy reiterates US support for peaceful end to PHL-China dispute

From United States Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg on Wednesday reiterated the US' support for a peaceful settlement to the maritime dispute between the Philippines and China.

Goldberg, who was in Cebu City on Wednesday, stressed this in an interview on RGMA's Barangay 99.5 RT where he also supported the Philippines' efforts to bring the case before an international tribunal.

"What we’ve objected to is any unilateral action any cohesive action, intimidation," he said.

The Philippines and China have had a territorial dispute in a part of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), and has brought the case before an international arbitration body.

In Wednesday's interview with GMA News' Bobby Nalzaro, Goldberg also belied claims US military exercises with the Philippines were related to the South China Sea row.

He said the US had been conducting military exercises for 70 years with allies including the Philippines.

"It’s not (aimed at) any country per se, but it does ... show our determination to stay with our ally," he said of the military exercises.

Goldberg also expressed hopes questions about the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and US will be ironed out.

The envoy was in Cebu Wednesday to show support for the campaign for equal rights for the LGBT community in Cebu. GMA News (Jun 25): US envoy reiterates US support for peaceful end to PHL-China dispute.

Military recovers 2 unexploded IEDs in Surigao del Sur town

From GMA News (Jun 25): Military recovers 2 unexploded IEDs in Surigao del Sur town

Militiamen recovered two improvised bombs in an area of Madrid, Surigao del Sur earlier this week, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said Thursday.
According to a press release from the military, members of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit under the Army 36th Infantry Battalion brought the unexploded bombs, which they found in a populated area in Barangay Hinapuyan on April 22, to the nearest military detachment.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines said the IEDs were planted by the New People's Army. It added the Eastern Mindanao Command has recovered 54 unexploded IEDs, 12 of which were planted along roads, since the year began.
On April 1, an IED explosion in San Miguel town killed a civilian and left seven injured. Another explosion on April 20 left two wounded along the national highway in Makilala, North Cotabato, the military said.

‘Beijing cannot invoke UNCLOS provision on military activities’

From the Business World (Jun 25): ‘Beijing cannot invoke UNCLOS provision on military activities’

SUPREME COURT Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio said that Beijing cannot invoke a provision in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that exempts military activities from the jurisdiction of the arbitration case.

A Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force Lockheed P-3C Orion patrol aircraft prepares to take off as part of a joint training exercise with the Philippines at Antonio Bautista Airbase in Puerto Princesa on the western Philippine island of Palawan on June 24. -- AFP

Mr. Carpio was responding to a recent statement by international law expert H. Harry L. Roque, Jr., who said seeking relief from the tribunal to counter Chinese reclamation would boomerang on Manila because it could invoke the exemption on arbitrating law enforcement activities under Article 298 (b) of UNCLOS.

The senior justice said in an earlier lecture that the Philippines should seek a provisional remedy from the arbitration panel because China has been violating UNCLOS provisions on the protection of marine environments.

But Mr. Roque said on Tuesday that this action could backfire, providing Beijing with an opening to claim the activities as part of law enforcement and invoke the reservation clause under UNCLOS, leading the tribunal to possibly allow the acts.

Speaking at a Thursday forum at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, the senior justice said Beijing could not make the move without being inconsistent, because it has stated before the tribunal that reclamation works in the South China Sea are for civilian functions.

He recalled that China’s comprehensive position paper rejecting arbitration before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) did not invoke the said provision on military activities.

“Discussion of any issue not included in this comprehensive position paper is speculative and pointless,” Mr. Carpio said. “Clearly, China does not want to invoke military activities as a purpose of its reclamation.”

He noted that some reclamation works are being done in submerged reefs classified part of the high seas -- waters beyond coastal states’ exclusive maritime claims and considered “global commons.”

UNCLOS, he cited, reserved these waters for peaceful purposes.

“If China says reclamations are for military activities, it will immediately be incurring violation of UNCLOS,” he said. “That’s why China has been very careful. It has always said they are for civilian purposes.”

Sought for comment, Mr. Roque maintained: “Provisional might give credence to Chinese view. We can’t underestimate China.”

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, enclosing it in its unprecedented nine-dash line and infringing on five other countries’ maritime claims. Manila has lodged the arbitration case with the ITLOS in hopes of invalidating Beijing’s claim.

The Philippines is planning to buy a spy and surveillance plane from Japan as it faces growing pressure from China, which has conducted reclamation activities on areas being claimed by both Manila and Beijing.

The Department of National Defense is exploring the possibility of purchasing a P-3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft from Japan through an Excess Defense Articles deal, spokesperson Peter Paul Galvez on Thursday said.

Under the arrangement, the military can buy the plane at a very “low” and “reasonable” price as agreed by both nations.

The Philippines saw the capability of a P-3C Orion when Japan successfully flew one during its joint naval drill with the Philippines and the United States on the South China Sea.

The P-3C Orion, which is manufactured by the American company Lockheed Martin, is described as “the ultimate submarine finder.”

The aircraft can fly for 16 straight hours with its fuel capacity of 62,560 pounds (28,376.7 kilograms), allowing it to support high-altitude reconnaissance and low-altitude missions.

The military plane is worth $45 million (P1.8 billion).

PNP allocates P1.3 billion for 20,482 Basic Assault Rifles

From Ang Malaya (Jun 25): PNP allocates P1.3 billion for 20,482 Basic Assault Rifles

The Philippine National Police is allocating PhP 1,325,185,400.00 for the procurement of 20,482 units of 5.56mm Basic Assault Rifles. The PNP is using the General Appropriations Act 2014 and 2015 as bases.

“Our operating units generally use these rifles such as our Public Safety Forces, Special Action Force, Special Weapons and Tactics and our police stations for special operations,” PNP Spokesperson Chief Superintendent Wilben Mayor said.

Bidding is open to all interested local or foreign bidders.

Bidding will be conducted through open competitive bidding procedures using a nondiscretionary “pass/fail” criterion as specified in the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act (RA) 9184, otherwise known as the “Government Procurement Reform Act”.

Long Range Patrol Aircraft project still on, amid talks on Japanese P-3C

Ang Malaya (Jun 25): Long Range Patrol Aircraft project still on, amid talks on Japanese P-3C

After reports surfaced that at least four Japanese P-3C “Orion” surveillance and maritime patrol aircraft will be transferred to Philippine military, Department of National Defense Undersecretary for Modernization Fernando Manalo said the long range patrol aircraft (LRPA) acquisition project is still on.

However, Manalo, in a state media report, clarified that the bidding process for the two brand-new LRPA is suspended pending the approval and signing of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program.

He noted that that the LRPA project is a separate project from the P-3C.

Reports say that Philippines is set to receive four Japanese P-3C “Orion” surveillance and maritime patrol aircraft in a span of one year.

This is after “the Japanese have become more open to such a possibility, something which dovetails quite well with our own thrust to have access to equipment and technology available in our neighbors,” Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said.

Rappler Talk: Leading the PNP post-Mamasapano

From Rappler (Jun 25): Rappler Talk: Leading the PNP post-Mamasapano

Espina saw through what is arguably the most gruesome encounter in police history – the bloody clash between 44 Special Action Force troops and Muslim rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao

[Video interview: Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, officer in charge of the Philippine National Police]

Rappler talked to Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, officer in charge of the Philippine National Police.

Espina saw through what is arguably the most gruesome encounter in police history – the bloody clash between 55 Special Action Force troops and Muslim rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. All this, despite being an officer in an interim position after the preventive suspension of PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima.

Espina will retire on July 19 as he turns 56, the mandatory retirement age for both police and military officials.

How will Espina see the PNP through until the very end of his career as a police officer? Watch Rappler's interview with Espina here.

Philippines pushes for Japanese arms in spite of China's aggressive acts

From InterAksyon (Jun 25): Philippines pushes for Japanese arms in spite of China's aggressive acts

The Philippines said Thursday it wants to acquire defense equipment from Japan, as the two allies strengthen defense ties in the face of China's increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea.

Manila was particularly keen on the P-3C Orion surveillance plane flown by Japanese pilots during recent joint exercises over disputed waters also claimed by Beijing, a Department of National Defense spokesman said.

"Yes, we are interested in getting a P-3," Peter Paul Galvez told reporters.

"Naturally, we are looking if it will become an excess defense article, then we can get it at a very low price," he added without giving further details.

Cash-strapped Manila has been strengthening military ties with better-equipped allies such as Japan and the US as tensions have flared with regional superpower China.

Beijing is locked in disputes with several neighbors over its claims to almost the entire South China Sea, where it has started reclaiming land, as well as with Japan over islands in the East China Sea.

The Philippines has conducted naval exercises with Japan and is now pushing for an agreement to allow large-scale joint military exercises similar to those it holds annually with the US.

It has also asked a United Nations tribunal to reject China's claims to most of the Sea, a move angrily rejected by Beijing which says the world body has no authority in the matter.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III visited Japan earlier this month where he discussed closer defense relations, including the transfer of military equipment for his country's poorly equipped armed forces.

The US-designed P-3 plane, which was first released in the early-1960s, serves mainly as a maritime patrol aircraft.

Galvez also said the Philippines was also interested in Huey helicopters, adding these would be easy to "absorb" as the military already has several of the aircraft.

The cash-strapped Philippines has relied on donations of military equipment from its allies such as the US and Australia in the past.

China says PH trying to 'rope in' others to sea dispute

Posted to ABS-CBN (Jun 25): China says PH trying to 'rope in' others to sea dispute

A Japanese Navy man stands beside a P3-C Orion surveillance aircraft as they prepare to take flight for a search and rescue exercise with members of Philippine Navy. Photo by Romeo Ranoco, Reuters

China's military on Thursday accused the Philippines of trying to "rope in" other countries to the dispute over ownership of the South China Sea and stir regional tension after Japan joined a military drill with the Philippines.

According to Japanese and Philippine officials, a Japanese surveillance aircraft, with three Filipino guest crew members, this week flew at 5,000 feet (1,524 m) above the edge of Reed Bank, an energy-rich area that is claimed by both China and the Philippines. It was accompanied by a smaller Philippine patrol aircraft.

Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun, who asked about the exercises, said that bilateral military cooperation between countries should benefit regional peace and security and not harm the interests of third parties.

"Certain countries are roping in countries from outside the region to get involved in the South China Sea issue, putting on a big show of force, deliberately exaggerating the tense atmosphere in the region," he told a monthly news briefing.

"This way of doing things will not have a beneficial effect on the situation in the South China Sea."

The exercise by Japan and the Philippines comes as Manila conducts separate drills with the U.S. military that began last week.

China claims most of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims

Japan worries that China's domination in a region through which much of its sea-borne trade passes would isolate it. Tokyo is also locked in a dispute with Beijing over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.

A Japanese P3-C Orion plane is pictured in flight in Puerto Princesa. Photo by Romeo Ranoco, Reuters

However, China and Japan have been gradually rebuilding ties after Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held ice-breaking talks in Beijing last year.

Yang said that China and Japan had resumed discussions last week about setting up an air and maritime communication mechanism, designed to reduce the risk of accidents and misunderstandings.

Both countries agreed to step up preparatory talks on setting up this mechanism, he added.

Japan may consider South China Sea patrols - military

Posted to ABS-CBN (Jun 25): Japan may consider South China Sea patrols - military

Japan's military may join US forces on patrol in the South China Sea, the nation's top uniformed officer said in an interview published Thursday, as Tokyo seeks a greater security role.

China's recent moves to build artificial islands have created "very serious potential concerns" for Japan, Katsutoshi Kawano, chief of the Joint Staff of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (SDF), said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

"We don't have any plans to conduct surveillance in the South China Sea currently but depending on the situation, I think there is a chance we could consider doing so," the admiral was quoted as saying.

Kawano did not specify what actions by China might trigger the Japanese to consider starting patrols, the journal reported, and any activity by Japan's military beyond its borders would likely raise concerns at home.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pushed for what he calls a normalization of the officially pacifist nation's military posture.

But because he was unable to muster public support to amend the pacifist constitution imposed by the United States after World War II, Abe opted instead to re-interpret it.

He wants to loosen restrictions that have bound the SDF to a narrowly defensive role for decades and proposed legislation that would allow the military greater scope to act.

This week Japan and the Philippines flew patrol planes near disputed South China Sea waters.

Beijing is reclaiming land to build islands in the South China Sea, with facilities it says will be used for both civilian and military purposes.

The sea is a busy shipping lane, where the United States says Beijing has built 2,000 acres (800 hectares) of artificial islands. China claims almost all the South China Sea.

Parts of the sea are also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

Kawano said he hoped to see more military cooperation with South Korea, an area that has suffered because of disagreements between Tokyo and Seoul over wartime history, the journal said.

The two neighbors have exchanged warmer words in the past few days as they marked 50 years of ties.

"Once the relations are normalized on political levels, I believe movements will emerge on our (military) levels," Kawano was quoted as saying.

He also said Japan would also like to conduct more joint exercises with Australia and India.

Abe has long criticized what he describes as China's attempts to change the status quo by force, mindful of Japan's own territorial dispute with Beijing over islands in the East China Sea that are the destination for Chinese boats and planes.

Tribal warrior, binira ng NPA sa Davao Norte

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jun 25): Tribal warrior, binira ng NPA sa Davao Norte

Pinatay diumano ng mga rebeldeng New People’s Army ang isang natibo habang nagsasaka ito sa bayan ng Kapalong sa Davao del Norte province.

Sinabi ni Capt. Alberto Caber, ang tagapagsalita ng Eastern Mindanao Command, na halos 40 mga rebelde ang dumating sa Barangay Suason kamakalawa ng tanghali at niratrat si Roger Bato, 31.

Dalawa umano sa kasamahan ni Bato ang nakatakas. Hindi pa mabatid ang dahilan o motibo sa pagpatay kay Bato o kung ito ba ang isang espiya o asset ng militar sa lugar kung kaya’t binanatan siya ng mga rebelde.

Hindi naman agad makunan ng pahayag ang NPA ukol sa naganap at hindi rin sinabi ni Caber kung paanong natukoy na mga rebelde nga ang pumaslang sa biktima na isang warrior ng tribong Bagani.

Sinabi naman ni Caber na patuloy ang paghahanap ng mga sundalo sa naturang gupo ng mga armado upang papanagutin sa kanilang krimen.

Zambo Sur police nab NPA rebel

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): Zambo Sur police nab NPA rebel

PAGADIAN CITY, Zamboanga del Sur – The authorities have arrested a suspected member of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the nearby town of Mahayag, this province, a top police official announced Thursday.

Senior Supt. Sofronio Ecaldre, provincial police director, identified the arrested NPA suspect as Roger Najini, a member of the NPA’s Western Mindanao Regional Party Committee.

Ecaldre said Najini was arrested Wednesday at Purok 1, Barangay Pugwan in the nearby Mahayag municipality.

He said Najini has standing warrant of arrest for murder with no recommended bail issued by a court of Sindangan, Zamboanga del Norte.

WESCOM chief expresses concern over China’s reclamation in West Philippines Sea

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): WESCOM chief expresses concern over China’s reclamation in West Philippines Sea

Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command (AFP-WESCOM) commander Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez expressed concern Thursday over the effect to the ecosystem of China’s massive reclamation activities in the disputed West Philippines Sea.

Speaking before the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) regular meeting, Lopez said the China’s “alarming” building of a series of man-made islands in the resource-rich waters has “changed the ecosystem in this part of the region.”

Over 300 hectares of coral reefs have been buried in the Philippine-claimed features, endangering the fisheries sector and food security for the entire region, according to the Philippine fisheries bureau.

“Well it’s massive, it’s open book,” Lopez quipped to the local media.

As for the Philippine government, Lopez said it doesn't initiate any development or constructions in the disputed areas unlike China’s that are nearly completion.

“We are working on the policy of the government that no development whatsoever, so that we can still maintain the moral high ground, and we do not want to weaken the case we have filed before the international court,” he said.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Spokesman Charles Jose said July 17 that China's reclamation and construction activities "purely intended to change the character and the status quo of features," and thus it has contravened the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea.

Manila is set to defend its historic case against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands on July 7 to 13.

While Lopez believes the separate Philippine’s naval drills with Japan and the United States are deemed to increase interoperability among the three countries, he however cleared out it has nothing to do with the simmering territorial row.

“It has nothing to do with West Philippine Sea. It’s a training activity between our navy and the Japanese navy, [as well as with the US Navy],” he said.

Army, PNP in Negros Oriental meet for APEC 2015

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): Army, PNP in Negros Oriental meet for APEC 2015

Officials of the Philippine Army and the Philippine National Police (PNP) on Thursday met to discuss security measures for the upcoming staging of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) 2015 activities in Cebu in Region 7 or the Central Visayas region.

Col. Allan Martin, commander of the 302nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army based in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental, explained that while the APEC 2015 events are to be held in Cebu, nevertheless, they have to prepare a security plan to accommodate tourist influx from the APEC meetings.

Martin said there is a possibility that some of the participants to the APEC 2015 meetings in Cebu will be bringing their families with them and they might want to visit other places in the region, such as Negros Oriental and nearby Siquijor.

He also disclosed that during the APEC 2015 meetings in Cebu, the brigade will be deploying personnel there to beef up security.

On August 22 to September 6, 2015, the Third Senior Officials’ Meeting and Related Meetings of the APEC 2015 will be held in Cebu, the APEC 2015 website said.

Meanwhile, Col. Martin disclosed that the provincial Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Council (JPSCC) has not yet convened for the 2016 elections.

The provincial JPSCC will begin its regular meetings by January 2016 to discuss salient points in preparation for the May 2016 presidential and national polls, said Col. Martin.

Army gives livelihood project to CAFGU men

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): Army gives livelihood project to CAFGU men

The Philippine Army made a stride in organizing the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) with the provision of livelihood project to uplift its members' economic condition.

The CAFGU is considered a force multiplier and a regular unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Ryan Bonite, 22, a resident of far-flung village in Tigaon town, is among the 4,000 CAFGU members being alleviated by the formation of a multi-purpose cooperative that the Army’s 22nd Infantry Battalion started last year.

Bonite said before his enlistment into the CAFGU battalion, his life was nothing but full of misery with no hope in sight to end the gnawing poverty his farming family experienced every day.

He graduated from high school in their village but, he said, his educational attainment could not land him any decent job.

More so, his pockets were always empty to even afford him to leave their village to apply for a job in the town center.

“Any where I turned, it seemed to be I am on a dead end and cursed to live in abject poverty in my lifetime,” Bonite said.

He said his life started to make a different turn when a friend encouraged him to join the CAFGU in 2012 -- and then he made it when he passed the basic military training.

Mark Joseph Ronato, 27, another member of the same CAFGU battalion, tells the same story as that of Bonite.

His enlistment has turned his life around from hopelessness to something to hope for.

Both of them and the rest of the CAFGU members now look forward that every end of the month they receive remuneration from the government, which somehow makes a big difference from their previous situation of nothing to look forward to in any day of the month.

As CAFGU members, Bonite and Ronato perform their duties for the AFP for 15 days and the rest of the days of the months, they are free to work on their farms or do work for their families.

They are receiving Php4,500 and make both ends meet with their work outside the AFP.

“The CAFGU is part of the regular reserve force and not a paramilitary unit convened only for counterinsurgency. It is integrated into the military chain of command and is subject to all applicable military laws, rules, and regulations,” according to Herman Joseph S. Kraft, assistant professor of Political Science of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.

Since the CAFGU belongs to the AFP Reserve Force, the government and the AFP reject the characterization of the CAFGU as either a militia or paramilitary unit, Kraft added.

Lt. Col. Andrew Costelo, the commanding officer of the 22nd IB, said CAFGU members belong to CAFGU Active Auxilliary (CAA) who were selected and screened from the communities and must have clean records.

“CAAs are composed of courageous civilian volunteers who signified to be part of the territorial forces in securing their local communities against the lawless elements that foster threat in their locality. Hence, they are part-time soldiers who act as force multiplier to the regular Army forces in the region. Majority of the said group belongs to the poor families in their respective communities,” Costelo said.

He said the battalion leadership fully understands the implication of the small allowance the CAFGU members receive so that they devised a way for them to earn additional income and support to their families.

1Lt. Joash Pramis, civil military operations officer, said they have transformed the CAFGU into a multi-purpose cooperative registered as Valor Multi-purpose Cooperative.

Pramis said the cooperative started with about Php500,000 capital collected as membership fees from the members of the CAFGU battalion.

He said the cooperative provides members of cheaper basic commodities and soft loans with low interest at 2.5 percent and deductible from their monthly allowances.

Ronato said the cooperative has weaned him away from loan sharks whom he used to run to whenever he is in dire need of cash since he sends a sibling to college.

Master Sergeant Candido Gapang, chairman of Valor Multi-purpose Cooperative, said they started the cooperative in the first week of September last year.

Gapang said they had to go through the learning process wherein they had to temper the expectations from the members of getting immediate benefits in terms of dividends.

He said that through values formation they were able to put the frame of mind of the members to the proper cooperative orientation which fueled the success of their operation so far after almost a year in operation.

Pramis said that aside from the cooperative development, the CAFGU battalion is implementing livelihood programs in coordination with government agencies that provide livelihood training and income-generating skills to CAFGU members and their families.

He said 213 CAFGU men and their family members have been given training in organic fertilizer making, organic farming, cooking, and food processing.

“The Army leadership not only inculcates sense and direction to the life of CAFGU members but it aslo fully changes their way of life. They turn idle life into a meaningful one, incapable individuals to productive members of the society and dreams into reality,” Costelo said.

He added that “uplifting and changing one’s life is harder than fighting our enemies in the battlefield. Here in our battalion, we just not teach how to win over our enemies but more on winning life’s challenges.”