Saturday, December 26, 2015

AFP wants to turn Metro green in 2016

From the Manila Standard (Dec 27): End Sea Dispute

MAJORITY of Filipinos agree that it is important to foster “strategic partnerships” with Japan and Vietnam and even approved of joint military exercises with the Japanese, but a majority also want a peaceful settlement of ongoing maritime disputes in the West Philippine Sea.

China’s intrusions in the West Philippine Sea, or South China Sea, remained the Filipinos’ top foreign policy concern, but they are also worried about bombings and bomb threats initiated by foreigners and the growing influence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria on the local Muslim community.

This was the result of The Standard Poll survey on Philippine foreign policy, conducted among 1,500 biometrically-registered Filipino voters from 76 provinces and 38 cities from Dec. 4 to 12.

Seventy percent of the respondents agreed it is important for Manila to have a strategic relations with Tokyo while only 23 percent disagreed. The remaining seven percent said they don’t know enough to have an opinion.

The survey was conducted only days after Japan agreed to transfer defense equipment, including large maritime patrol vessels, to the Philippines at the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Summit late November.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the equipment transfer months after Tokyo and Manila held joint military exercises in the South China Sea last May.

The Philippines’ strategic partnership with Japan dates back to 2011 when President Benigno Aquino III and then prime minister Yoshihiko Noda announced the improved cooperation during Aquino’s first visit to Japan.

Manila later publicly backed Abe’s proposal to revise its constitution and allow the Japanese government to send Self-Defense Force overseas.

Sixty-two percent of survey respondents also approved of the joint military exercises with the former enemy that occupied the country from 1941 to 1945 while only 31 percent disapproved.

Fifty-six percent of respondents also agreed on the importance of having a strategic relations with Vietnam, which also has similar partnerships with the United States and Japan. Only 37 percent disagreed while seven percent said they did not have an opinion.

The strategic partnership agreement with Vietnam was also signed by President Benigno Aquino III and Vietnam President Truong Tran Sang at the sidelines of the Apec summit in Manila two weeks before the survey.

Respondents’ positive view of the country’s strategic partnerships with Japan and Vietnam reflected Filipinos’ continuing concern with Beijing’s activities in the South China Sea.

Twenty-seven percent of respondents said they considered China’s activities the most important foreign policy concern while 18 percent said they were concerned about the threat of war or disorder in other countries, including the Middle East.

A growing number of Filipinos have also expressed concern at the growing influence of ISIS in the country with 15 percent of respondents saying it is one of the country’s top foreign policy concerns and 24 percent said they were worried about bombings by jihadists.

More specifically, 64 percent were “very concerned” at the possible entry of ISIS in the country through the Abu Sayyaf group while 31 percent said they were “somewhat concerned.” Only four percent said they were “somewhat not concerned” and one percent “not at all concerned.”

The respondents expressed their concern only days after the military reported on Nov. 27 that an Indonesian terrorist was killed along with seven Filipino jihadists in a four-hour battle with security forces in Central Mindanao.

A few days later, a Malaysian jihadist, known to be part of a terrorist group in Malaysia, was killed in an Abu Sayyaf camp in Basilan.

The survey was conducted while the military and Malacañang repeatedly denied that there was any evidence to suggest that ISIS already had a presence in the country, although Kuala Lumpur had already asked Filipino officials for assistance in capturing jihadists who fled Malaysia.

AFP wants to turn Metro green in 2016

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 27): AFP wants to turn Metro green in 2016

Public asked to raise 1M fruit tree seedlings for planting in vacant lots

WITH the help of the public, the Armed Forces of the Philippines aims to transform Metro Manila from a concrete jungle into a forested area of sorts next year.

Under a program it launched earlier this month, the AFP is targeting the propagation of one million seedlings from fruit seeds to be planted later on in vacant lots throughout the metropolis.

With “Race to 1,000,000 Seedlings” set to begin in January, the military has encouraged the public to pitch in by raising seedlings from fruit seeds in their backyards for the next six months.
The AFP’s Civil Relations Service (CRS) will be leading the effort, utilizing social media to urge participants to post their experiences on Facebook or Twitter to inspire others to join the cause.

“This project also aims for participants to make it a habit to always save the seeds of fruits they eat. We look forward to a future when every resident in Metro Manila would always plant seeds of fruits they eat, and reuse plastic bags as poly bags,” said Lt. Col. Marlowe Patria, the AFP-CRS’ 7th Civil Relations Group chief.

According to him, the program was part of the military’s efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change and high gaseous emissions in the metropolis.

Maj. Gen. Joselito Kakilala, AFP-CRS chief, said that Metro Manila was chosen since it has one of the highest pollution levels in the country due to millions of vehicles emitting pollutants daily.

He added that they wanted the advocacy to start at home so that awareness of the effects of climate change would be instilled not only in adults but also in the youth.

“While Filipinos have yet to face the impending consequences of this issue which has emerged as a new threat that the AFP has to deal with, climate change should be tackled seriously in order to prepare the organization,” Kakilala said.

After six months or after the one million seedlings target is achieved, participants and stakeholders will plant the seedlings within the next six months in vacant areas to be specified by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The AFP will also check on the newly planted seedlings to ensure that there will be one million trees added to Metro Manila’s thinning tree cover.

Volunteers in ‘Freedom Voyage’ reach Pag-asa Island

From the Philippine Star (Dec 27): Volunteers in ‘Freedom Voyage’ reach Pag-asa Island                

Student-volunteers on the Freedom Voyage of the Kalayaan Atin Ito (KAI) Movement yesterday reached Pag-asa Island in the disputed Spratlys in the West Philippine Sea.

Led by former Marine captain Nicanor Faeldon, the 46 volunteers set foot on the island without any hitches, except for an attempt by a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessel to block the motorboat they were riding.

“We have landed here at Kalayaan town in Pag-asa Island,” said volunteer Mariel Ipan in a text message to her colleagues who were monitoring their movement from a base camp in Puerto Princesa City in Palawan.

The Western Command (Wescom), which secures the West Philippine Sea, issued an order to its troops in Pag-asa to allow the student-volunteers to come ashore and mingle with civilian residents. However, it prohibited them from entering declared military areas.

“They were cleared to disembark in the island town. There’s no prohibition at all except at the naval station,” said Vera Joy Ban-eg, a KAI convenor.

She added that no Chinese ship or vessel prevented the group from entering the island.

The group will stay for three days in Pag-asa, an island town located 12 nautical miles from Zamora (Subi) Reef that China has transformed into an artificial island. They are expected back in mainland Palawan on Dec. 30.

Pag-asa is the second biggest island in the Spratly archipelago and is also near Itu Aba, which is being occupied by Taiwanese forces.

The Philippines, China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei have claims in the area.

Analysis: All is not quiet on the Spratlys front

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 25): Analysis: All is not quiet on the Spratlys front

CANBERRA—The entire Christian world celebrates Christmas with the universal message of peace on Earth as the seas across the Asia-Pacific churn with rising tensions over territorial disputes in the Spratly chain of islands.

On Christmas Eve, BBC News reported hostile communication exchanges between China’s Navy and Australia’s Air Force, which was then conducting a freedom-of-navigation flight over the South China Sea—a flash point of the conflict between China and its neighbors over rival claims on these territories.

This column is not intended to dampen the Christmas spirit now pervading Christendom. It is meant merely to present the reality on the ground that should deflate false hopes that all is quiet on the Pacific front as China and other countries in the region, including the Philippines, ramp up the tensions over their respective claims.

BBC published the following radio recording of the message of a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) pilot to the Chinese Navy: “China Navy, China Navy. We are an Australian aircraft exercising international freedom of navigation rights, in international air space, in accordance with the international civil aviation convention and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Over.

According to BBC, it recorded the flight’s audio from an RAAF AP-3C Orion surveillance aircraft early on Nov. 25. It said the message was repeated several times by the RAAF pilot, but no response was heard from the Chinese Navy.

China claims practically the entire South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion in world trade passes each year, in the face of opposing claims from Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan and the Philippines. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang has said that Beijing “resolutely opposes any country using freedom of navigation and overflight as a pretext for harming China’s national sovereignty and security interests.”

Although the Department of Defense in Canberra confirmed that the flight took place between Nov. 25 and Dec. 4, the government, to date, has never publicly acknowledged that Australia has conducted a “freedom of Navigation” exercise in the region. “A Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion was conducting a routine maritime surveillance patrol in the region as part of Operation Gateway from Nov. 25 to Dec. 4,” the Defense Department said.

It added: “Under Operation Gateway, the Australian Defense Force conducts routine maritime patrols in the North Indian Ocean and South China Sea as part of Australia’s contribution to the preservation of regional security and stability in Southeast Asia.”

At least one China analyst in the United States says that the Australian flight was not surprising given recent discussions about freedom-of-navigation exercises in America.

 “The attitude of Australia might be read by the Chinese government as taking sides,” said Nong Hong, executive director of the Institute for China-America Studies, a Washington-based center set up by a Chinese government think tank. “If Australia is sending aircraft to test freedom of navigation, it will be read by China as: ëAre you really thinking that China has created trouble for freedom of navigation? If not, then [why conduct the flight] at this time?”

But Nong does not believe that such flights will affect the relationship between Australia and China, and points out that the South China Sea will not play a major role in general relations. “Between China and Australia, we have other areas for a very positive and neutral relationship,” he said.

Nevertheless, China’s foreign ministry has indirectly accused Australia of “creating trouble.”

The Chinese spokesperson said Beijing had made its position clear: “I’d like to reiterate that freedom of navigation in the South China Sea is out of the question. Countries outside the region should respect other countries’ sovereignty instead of creating trouble.”

In answer to a question about American concerns over a growing arms race in the region, Nong said: “Some countries have been playing up tensions in the South China Sea with the purpose of creating chaos, so as to get involved and interfere in China’s affairs in the South China Sea.”

5 rebels surrender to Army's 10th ID units

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 27): 5 rebels surrender to Army's 10th ID units

Five New People's Army (NPA) fighters decided to take advantage of the ongoing Yuletide truce by surrendering themselves and their weapons to the Philippine Army's 10th Infantry Division units in Compostela Valley last Dec. 23 and 24.

This was disclosed by Capt. Rhyan Batchar, 10th Infantry Division public affairs office chief, in a statement forwarded to the PNA on Sunday.

Batchar said the surrenderers were identified only by their aliases for security reasons. One of them was a certain "Jerwin," allegedly a team leader of Guerrilla Front 20, who also surrendered a .45 caliber pistol and two hand grenades to troopers of the 25th Infantry Battalion who took him into custody.

The other returnees were identified as Dave, 22, and Reyboy, 23, members of Guerrilla Front 71, who also surrendered two .38 caliber revolvers to 73rd Infantry Battalion troops; and Javier, a member of the NPA's SECOM 15. and Soy, an operative of SECOM 18.

Batchar said the five rebels decided to return to mainstream society while the government is implementing a suspension of offensive military operations starting midnight of Dec. 23 and ending on midnight of Jan. 3, 2016.

All five are now currently undergoing interviews by their custodial units.

EastMinCom hopeful rebels will reconsider peace

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 27): EastMinCom hopeful rebels will reconsider peace

The Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) hopes that members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) will return to the path of peace as it celebrated its 47th founding anniversary on Saturday.

"The wish is for the (CPP) to tread along the peaceful path to change through the democratic space being provided to them, to heed the call of the people for just and lasting peace and join the mainstream Filipino society," EMC public affairs office chief Capt. Alberto Caber said.

In the same vein, he is also hoping that the rebels would realize that the armed struggle it is pursuing has only brought untold sufferings and miseries to the people.

"EastMinCom also wishes for the Filipino people to strongly assert their rights and desires for peace and an end to terror and violence brought about by the armed struggle being carried out by the (CPP's) armed wing: the New People’s Army," Caber added.

This wish comes in the context of the National Democratic Front (NDF)-Mindanao’s propaganda on what the rebels have done in Mindanao, particularly in the countryside, for the whole year of 2015; all significantly hampering, if not countering the government’s delivery of services and causing insecurities to the communities.

"The wish is for CPP to stop creating an environment which is detrimental to the security of the people in Eastern Mindanao and other parts of the country, by secretly or discreetly mobilizing them for the armed struggle through deception, threats, intimidation and manipulation," Caber added.

Aside from this, he is also asking the rebel group to stop from demonizing the government and its efforts to uplift the lives of the people.

US embassy warns towards Sayyaf, BIFF threats

From The Times (Dec 27): US embassy warns towards Sayyaf, BIFF threats

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – American citizens have been alerted against traveling to areas in Mindanao as well as in Palawan, southern Negros Island and the resort island of Boracay, citing threats by the Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

“The United States embassy would like to alert US citizens residing in, or traveling to, the Philippines to recent statements by Philippine security officials regarding an increase in the Terrorist Threat Level to Level III (High) in seven cities and nine provinces across the country due to persistent reports of kidnapping for ransom plots and potential bombings by the Abu Sayyaf and BIFF members,” the embassy said yesterday.

The separatist BIFF rebels warned of more attacks following the three-day military operations against local jihadist factions.

“The embassy wishes to remind all US citizens to review your personal security plans, remain aware of your surroundings, including local events, and monitor local news stations for updates. Be vigilant and take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security.”

The US embassy also pointed out that Philippine security officials indicated that cities under the increased terrorism alert are Zamboanga, Marawi, Isabela, Kidapawan, Dipolog, Dapitan and Cotabato.

Philippine security officials were also quoted to have further indicated that provinces under increased terrorism alert are Sultan Kudarat North Cotabato, Maguindanao, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Sulu.

The areas in Palawan, southern Negros island and Boracay island in Aklan have also been placed in the same situation by the US embassy.

The embassy also said Philippine officials in several of the areas have announced increased security measures.

Malacañang said government forces will hunt down the BIFF rebels.

Quoting military spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the BIFF’s “lightning raids and harassment are still expected following losses incurred” in military operations conducted during the last few weeks.

“They intend to show that they are not yet a spent force following recent debacles,” Padilla said.

Padilla, however, said the Armed Forces of the Philippines had determined these activities were localized and focused ongoing military operations against the BIFF.

Government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer added the BIFF’s sporadic attacks across the three provinces of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato “indicate an attempt to gain momentum for their bid to destabilize the situation in these areas and garner attention for themselves and their flagging cause.”

Ferrer asked the leaders of the BIFF to reconsider their violent ways and take heed of the people’s desire for peace and normalcy in their lives.

MILF: People's Organizations from conflict affected areas in Mindanao celebrate successes on dev't initiatives

Posted to the MILF Website (Dec 26): People's Organizations from conflict affected areas in Mindanao celebrate successes on dev't initiatives

People's Organizations from conflict affected areas in Mindanao celebrate successes on dev't initiatives

People's Organizations (PO) implementing Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) facilitated community-based projects convened to celebrate their successes on development initiatives through POs Convention.

Around 36 POs assisted by The World bank for the Mindanao Trust Fund – Reconstruction Development Project (MTFRDP) and Programme for Local Economic Development through Enlightened Governance and Grassroots Empowerment (PLEDGE) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for the Community Development in Conflict-Affected Areas in Mindanao (CD-CAAM) Program showcased the outcome of their community projects and local products produced.

The event, held at El Bajada Hotel in Davao City on December 17-18, 2015, also provided the participating organizations the opportunity to share the strategies and initiatives undertaken to surmount challenges as well as the lessons learned in their undertaking to help develop their respective communities.

Representatives from the donor agencies, government entities, Moro Islamic Liberation Front thru the BDA, non-government organizations and other stakeholders who played significant roles in the success of the projects implementation joined the POs in the celebration.

The venue was in festive mood with the POs and BDA staff wearing their vibrant cultural attires. Booths were also mounted where the POs exhibited their local products.  

Since 2006, the MTF has been providing development interventions to conflict affected communities across Mindanao such as water system projects, roads, post harvest facilities, and fishing equipments.

The POs adopt Community Driven Development approach in the project implementation wherein the community members decide, plan abd help one another for the project implementation.

The BDA staff facilitated the various capability-building trainings for the POs. Part of the knowledge product imparted to the project implementers was the Values Transformation Training (VTT).

PLEDGE is one of the component projects of the MTF. The Program encourages adding value to raw materials produced by the community rather than selling those directly to the traders. 

The program, which basically aims to increase income of the local producers and generate employment with product development, was piloted in Barangay Koronadal Proper in Polomolok, South Cotabato.

Now on its third year of implementation and currently in exptension phase, CD-CAAM has served around 130 beneficiaries. The program is supported by JICA with ICNet as service provider.

BDA, the development arm of the MILF, is mandated to lead, manage and determine rehabilitation and development in conflict affected areas in Mindanao

The agency also facilitated the crafting of the Bangsamoro Development Plan, a blueprint that will guide in the  comprehensive development of Bangsamoro communities within and outside the proposed autonomous Bangsamoro political region. (Source:BDA)

MILF: BDA SouthMin, Biwang Radio Research Network conduct Values Transformation and Basic News writing Training

Posted to the MILF Website (Dec 26): BDA SouthMin, Biwang Radio Research Network conduct Values Transformation and Basic News writing Training

BDA SouthMin, Biwang Radio Research Network conduct Values Transformation and Basic News writing Training

The Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) Southern Mindanao (SouthMin) Region and Biwang Radio Research Network (BRRN) jointly sponsored the conduct of Values Transformation and Basic News writing Training participated by 30 young professionals of Biwang Province.

The activity, held at Sitio Bayang, Barangay Malisbong, Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat on December 21-23, 2015,  was aimed to equip the participants with Islamic values and skills in writing news articles which are part of the initiatives to capacitate the potential young Bangsamoro leaders.

BDA SouthMin Regional Manager Mohalikin D. Piang handled the lecture-workshop on  Basic News Writing. He also shared the mission, vision and accomplishments of the BDA. 

He said the Bangsamoro needs volunteer writers who can portray success stories on Muslim individuals and groups particularly on the peace advocacies. “We need to tell the country that we are peace-lovers and we are working hard towards achieving peaceful society,” he explained.

Jamil Udda, BDA staff, facilitated the Values Transformation Training highlighting the essence of adopting Islamic values in building peaceful homes and communities.  He delved on how Islam can be applied in the daily life of every person.

“The purpose of VTT is to transform the Bangsamoro youth into responsible, peace-loving and just persons,” Udda said.

Provincial Political Committee Chairman of Biwang Province Datu Kingboy Bayang expressed his appreciation and gratitude to the training. He also committed to support the second phase of the activity.

Prof. Mohamad Taha Abdulgafor, member of the BDA Board of Directors, imparted his knowledge on good goverance. He discussed the fundamentals of good governance such as Ashura, vicegerency, accountability, justice and equity.

Other Political Committee staff graced the affair to show their support to the activity.

Biwang province in Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) political set-up is comprised of towns of Maasim, Kiamba and Maitum in Sarangani Province, Palimbang in Sultan Kudarat and Lake Sebu and T'boli in South Cotabato.

BDA is the development arm of the MILF. It  is mandated to lead, manage and determine rehabilitation and development in conflict affected areas in Mindanao. The agency has Central Management Office in Cotabato City and seven Regional Management Offices across Mindanao and the island provinces.

People's Organizations from conflict affected areas in Mindanao celebrate successes on dev't initiatives

Madlos pessimistic about peace talks

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 27): Madlos pessimistic about peace talks

A top communist leader in Mindanao on Saturday has expressed pessimism over calls by various sectors for a fresh round of talks with the government in a bid to end one of Asia’s longest insurgencies, accusing the latter of insincerity by violating even its self-imposed ceasefire with the rebels.

Jorge Madlos, alias Ka (Comrade) Oris, National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) spokesperson in Mindanao, said the military continues conducting offensives under the cover of “peace and development operations” even as the government and rebels had declared separately a 12-day lull in fighting that started Dec. 23 in deference to the Christmas and New Year’s Eve festivities throughout the predominantly Christian nation.

“I’m not optimistic with the proposal,” Madlos said, referring to appeals for an extended ceasefire with government troops than could well reach up to next year’s elections

The rebel spokesperson said the military has been violating its own ceasefire by launching attacks and operations against rebel-held areas in Surigao del Sur province in Mindanao, forcing the rebels’ armed wing, New People’s Army (NPA), on the defensive.

Ceasefire violations

The military has also accused the rebels of violating their own ceasefire by staging attacks against government troops in Surigao, Bukidnon and Davao on Tuesday, just hours before the temporary truce was to take effect.

“It’s worrisome that even in this very day of the supposed NDF-GPH (Government of the Philippines) ceasefire, there are reports of attacks by the military. The NPA is left with no other option but to defend itself,” Madlos told the Inquirer by mobile phone.

Madlos also slammed the military for using law enforcement operations against the Magahat-Bagani Force, a Manobo militia tagged in an attack of a lumad (indigenous people) community in Surigao del Sur over three months ago as a pretext in deploying and moving troops deep into the forests where the NPA operates, thereby risking possible clashes with the rebels, “when in fact, Magahat members are just hiding in Army barracks.”

“The military should keep good of its word,” Madlos said.

The rebel spokesperson said the government should also show it is for peace by ensuring the military would not violate even a short-lived ceasefire.

“It’s a mockery of peace,” Madlos said.


Madlos said a military atrocity was unfolding in Surigao even as the rebels were celebrating the 47th year of the founding of its political umbrella, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

He said these attacks and other similar operations by the government’s Oplan Bayanihan failed to cripple the revolution, “even as the military poured 60 battalions or 60 percent of the entire troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”

“Excluding troops from police, CAFGU (Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit) and its paramilitary allies, the AFP has launched its most vicious and brutal terrorist tactics to coerce the people into abandoning their armed and unarmed resistance,” Madlos said in a statement.

He said communist guerrilla bases in Mindanao have grown in the last five years, despite relentless government offensives.

“The armed struggle in Mindanao has continued to move forward, with 46 guerrilla fronts now in five Mindanao regions, from 40 when the US-Aquino regime came to power in 2010. These guerrilla fronts encompass 2,500 villages, up from 1,850 in 2010,” he said.

Madlos said the NPA has conducted 500 “tactical offensives” in Mindanao this year, killing at least a battalion-size (roughly 300 men) of soldiers, police and other government troops.

For the military, this year’s CPP anniversary was “a highlight of the NPA’s almost half a century of criminalities, human rights violations and other lawless activities.”

“In order for the CPP-NPA-NDF to project their existence, sowing threat is paramount for them to pursue their armed struggle. However, in a civilized society they already lost their ‘ideology’ because they shifted to banditry,” said Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez, spokesperson of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division based in Cagayan de Oro City which has jurisdiction over government troops in Surigao provinces.


In Lucena City, even with the prevailing self-imposed ceasefire by the NPA, the military and police in Quezon province remained on full alert against possible attacks by the rebels as they celebrated the 47th founding anniversary of the CPP on Saturday.

“The NPA are noted for not following their own declared Somo (suspension of military offensive) that’s why we are on active defense mode,” Brig. Gen. Erick Parayno, commander of the Army’s 201st Infantry Brigade, said via phone on Saturday.

Parayno said all AFP units in the province would remain on active defense mode. “While we are not on offensive, we have to maintain a defensive posture,” he said.

Municipal police stations, particularly those in remote areas, were also placed on full alert against any attack by communist rebels, said Senior Supt. Ronaldo Ylagan, chief of the Philippine National Police in Quezon.

Magahat’s warning re ambush of media and politicians: not just text but video

From MindaNews (Dec 27): Magahat’s warning re ambush of media and politicians: not just text but video

A Lumad paramilitary group that has been repeatedly accused of sowing terror in several towns in Surigao del Sur, including the September 1 killing of a director of a Lumad school and two others in Lianga town, did not just send a text message warning media, it also issued a videotaped message warning “media ug politico” that they would be ambushed if they attend the 47th anniversary celebration of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on December 26, a Mindanao celebration usually held in their province.

The 61-second video clip, uploaded ahead of the reported warning via text message addressed only to the media, shows two armed, masked men claiming to be from the Magahat paramilitary group, one of them delivering the warning to all, particularly the media and politicians.

Erlinda Pagalan, a bakwit from Sitio Han-ayan, Barangay Diatagon in Lianga, Surigao del Sur share with a grandchild a small space at the evacuation site in Tandag City on Thursday (1 October 2015). MindaNews photo by H. Marcos C. Mordeno

Erlinda Pagalan, a bakwit from Sitio Han-ayan, Barangay Diatagon in Lianga, Surigao del Sur share with a grandchild a small space at the evacuation site in Tandag City in this photo taken  on 1 October 2015.  At least 3,000 persons were displaced  when the paramilitary group, Magahat-Bagani attacked their village on September 1, killing three persons, including the director of a Lumad school. MindaNews photo by H. Marcos C. Mordeno[

Magahat’s disbandment has been repeatedly sought by various sectors and personalities, including the governor of Surigao del Sur, the Bishop of Tandag, and the senators who conducted a probe on Lumad killings here on October 1 and 2 – Aquilino Pimentel III and Teofisto Guingona III.

The video clip was posted and “shared with public” at 12:53 a.m. on December 23 on the Facebook account of Arthur Jimentez Tariman, convenor of the Victims of Injustice, Criminality and Terrorism in Mindanao (VICTIM), a group that claims to have been collating a list of Lumad victims allegedly killed by the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the CPP and National Democratic Front (NDF).

Tariman’s group brought three Lumad leaders to Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ main headquarters, for a press conference in mid-September where they said the military had nothing to do with the Lumad killings, and blamed the NPA instead.

“Kaming mga pwersa sa Magahat, usa ka mahinungdanong pagapasabot sa tanan, labi na sa mga media ug politico nga dunay planong muapil sa anibersaryo sa Partido Komunista sa Pilipinas. Among giawhag kung kinsa may mutambong sa anibersaryo, among apilon sa pag-ambush kay mao na nagpasabot nga linya sila sa NPA (We, the forces of the Magahat, have an important message to all, especially to media and politicians who plan to attend the anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Those who will attend, let it be known that we will ambush you because you are following the line of the NPA), the armed, masked man on the left side of the screen, said.

Screen grab fromScreengrab from videotaped warning of Magahat as posted by Arthur Jimenez Tariman, convenor of the Victims of Injustice, Criminality and Terrorism in Mindanao (VICTIM), a group that claims to have been collating a list of Lumad victims allegedly killed by the New People’s Army.

Screengrab from videotaped warning of Magahat as posted by Arthur Jimenez Tariman, convenor of the Victims of Injustice, Criminality and Terrorism in Mindanao (VICTIM), a group that claims to have been collating a list of Lumad victims allegedly killed by the New People’s Army

“Walay politico o media nga magtungas aron dili maapil sa gyera sa NPA batok armadong lumad sa Magahat. Wala pa mi makabalos sukad nagdaghan gipapamatay sa Lumad kinsa sa pahimuslanon ug pagadaug-daug sa New People’s Army. Dili maglabot-labot ang kasundaluan ug kapulisan kay amo ra kining pakigbangi Lumad kontra NPA. Ayaw ninyo ni ibalewala kining among tingog nga dinaug-daug nga mga lumad. Kinabuhi ang gikuha kinabuhi pud ang bayad” (No politician or media should attend so they will not be part of the war between the NPA and the armed Lumads of Magahat. We have not avenged the killing of our fellow Lumads who were taken advantage of and oppressed by the New People’s Army. The military and police should not get in the way because this is a war of the Lumad against the NPA. Do not ignore the voices of the oppressed Lumad. Life taken should be paid for by another life), he added.

“Unholy alliance”
The Senate Committees on Justice and Human Rights, and Cultural Communities’ probe on Lumad killings on October 1 and 2 in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur, ended with the Bishop of Tandag still waiting for answers to critical questions about the “apparent unholy alliance between the military and the paramilitary which the military vehemently denies.”

Tandag Bishop Nereo Odchimar told the Senate hearing that he is “baffled” why, despite the military’s denials of an alliance, Marcial Belandres, one of the leaders of the Magahat-Bagani and principal suspect in the October 2014 killing of Manobo teacher Henry Alameda and Aldren Dumaguit, was among three persons presented as Datus in a press conference in Camp Aguinaldo on September 15. Belandres was among the three Lumads brought to the camp by Tariman.

Tariman testified before the Senate hearing in Tandag on October 2 that they had a list of 357 Lumads allegedly killed by the NPA.

In his intro to the videotaped message of the Magahat, Tariman said, “the Magahat upped the ante vs NPA and Communist supporters” and followed it with a five-paragraph press release purportedly coming from “PIA-13,” naming Magahat leader Bobby Tejero as source of the warning.

Tejero, his brother Loloy and Garito Layno were charged on September 7 along with 20 John Does, with multiple murder, arson, robbery, grave coercion and grave threats for the September 1 attack in Lianga, Surigao del Sur that killed Emerito Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev) and Lumad leaders Dionel Campos and Bello Sinzo.
The 61-second videotaped message did not identify the person who spoke as Teje
ro but merely said “kaming mga pwersa sa Magahat” (we, the forces of the Magahat). But the wearning delivered was consistent with Tejero’s as posted by the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) in Caraga region or what Tariman cited as “PIA-13.”

The Facebook account of PIA Caraga posted Tejero’s warning, based on a text message it received, on its Facebook account at 2:44 p.m. on December 21.

PIA Caraga regional director Abner Caga told MindaNews Saturday night that before this Facebook posting, Tejero was interviewed by two local radio stations.

The PIA Caraga posting quoted Tejero as saying their (politicians and media) “mere presence in the area is a manifestation of their declaration of support to the CNN organization and a betrayal to the people. We will not hesitate nor show mercy.”
The military refers to the “CPP-NPA-NDF” as “CNN.

The PIA Caraga posting added that the Tejero brothers and Layno “were former NPA rebels and fulltime guerilla warriors for 25 years” and that “they learned the art of killings from the NPAs.”

Tejero was quoted as saying, “as a former guerilla warrior & familiar w/ the area, I know that the CNN cannot guarantee their safety.”

The PIA posting was not accompanied by a video clip from the Magahat.

At 6:57 p.m. also on December 21, PIA Caraga posted this: “In the same development, Magahat leader Bobby Tejero conveyed the message that he & his group have no quarrel/conflict with the people of Caraga & to the other lumad communities. He assured the Caraganons that they will never do any acts that will injure/harm any civilians unlike what the CPP-NPA-NDF (CNN) rebels are doing.”

“Our only enemy are the NPAs & anyone who supports them & not the military & the PNP who are hunting us unrelentlessly. We promise to the people of Caraga that we will continue to fight for as long as their presence is still in our communities,” Tejero was quoted as saying,

The PIA Caraga post added: “Also, Tejero is asking the support of the people to fight ‘with us, & help us destroy the true enemy – the CNN rebels who are exploiting the lumads & benefiting (from) the resources especially the mining companies. This time, the CNN rebels will suffer what they have trained us for.’”

Text message
A similar warning, sent as a text message in Cebuano, was passed on to reporters in Davao City on December 24, purportedly warning “all media in Mindanao.” (see other story)
In English, the message reads: “Good day to all media in Mindanao. We are informing the media attending the anniversary of the CPP/NPA/NDF that we will ambush you because … you are following the NPA line. That is why media should not go there so they will not be included in the war. War of the NPA against the Lumad Magahat. … the military and police are not included because this is our conflict (with the NPA).”

The text message was not sent to reporters directly by the message sender who claimed to be Tejero. MindaNews checked with reporters in Davao City who received a text message but they said the message was just forwarded to them. In Cagayan de Oro, reporters did not receive text messages allegedly coming from Tejero but learned of the alleged threat through social media.

Lerma Alingalan of TV-5 Davao said she received the text message at 9:30 p.m. on December 24 from a member of a people’s organization who told her it was also forwarded to them.

NUJP Statement

In a statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned in the strongest terms the Magahat’s threat. It cited the threat sent via text message.
It said that notwithstanding the charges filed against Tejero and company, he and the other suspects in the Lianga murders “not only continue to operate brazenly in Surigao del Sur, they often do so together with the military,” hence “any threat from Bobby Tejero and the Magahat against not only the media but anyone else should be treated seriously.”

“That he can actually feel confident enough to threaten the media so brazenly can only mean one thing — that Bobby Tejero and the Magahat either believe they can do so and get away with it, or they have been assured that they can do so and get away with it,” the statement added.

“It is a shame that we have to remind our own government and the forces under its command, who are supposed to be our protectors, that journalists and the work they do are protected by our Constitution and our laws,” the NUJP said, adding it serves notice “that we will hold government and its security forces accountable for any harm arising from Tejero’s threat that may befall our colleagues who cover the rebel anniversary.”
No celebration of the CPP’s 47th anniversary was monitored in Surigao del Sur on December 26.

No statement has been issued by the revolutionary group but the last time no celebration was held in Surigao del Sur was in 2012, in the aftermatch of superytphoon Pablo which badly hit the Davao and Caraga regions on December 4 that year.

Curfew along Sabah's east coast extended

From The Star Online (Dec 26): Curfew along Sabah's east coast extended

File pic of marine police patrolling the Semporna waters in July 2014

File pic of marine police patrolling the Semporna waters in July 2014

KOTA KINABALU: The dawn to dusk sea curfew in Sabah's east coast will be extended from Sunday untill Jan 12 amid continuing threats from cross-border kidnap for ransom groups linked to Abu Sayyaf.
Sabah Police Commisisoner Datuk Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman said that the 7pm to 5am curfew that will cover seven districts from Tawau to Beluran in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone) was extended in view of the security situation and the well-being of the people in the area,
"We want to ensure kidnap threats by terrorist groups from the southern Philippines can be avoided because of information on attempts to kidnap-for-ransom (KFR) and of the Abu Sayyaf group still trying to intrude and commit other cross-border crimes," he said in a statement here Saturday.
He said the curfew would enable the authorities to monitor movement of boats, as well as curb human trafficking, drug and firearm smuggling. 
He said all district police chiefs in Esszone have been given the authority to issue permits to any applicants for fishing activities or for any emergency needs.
Jalaluddin claimed that since the implementation of the curfew in July 2014, resort operators and people in the coast were more secure.

Sayyaf gunman kills soldier

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Dec 27): Sayyaf gunman kills soldier

A GUNMAN believed to be a member of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) shot and killed a soldier on Christmas Day in the province of Sulu.

Brigadier General Alan Arrojado, Joint Task Group Sulu commander, identified the victim as Private Bryan Aquino Sanoy, a member of the Philippine Army.

Sanoy was shot by a motorcycle-riding gunman around 9:30 a.m. Friday in the village of Asturias, Jolo, Sulu.

Arrojado said Sanoy, who was hit twice, was rushed to the hospital by responding policemen but he didn't make it alive.

Davao police on 'double red alert'

Posted to ABS-CBN (Dec 26): Davao police on 'double red alert'
MANILA - Police in Davao provinces have raised the "double red alert" due to threats of terrorism.

Authorities are closely monitoring churches, parks, markets, bus terminals, airports and other public places.

Plainclothes police have been deployed to conduct surveillance.

Davao City police spokesperson C/Insp. Milgrace Driz urged the public to report any suspicious person or object to their office.

 -- Report from dxAB Davao

Military punctures communists’ boast

From The Standard (Dec 27): Military punctures communists’ boast

The military  on Saturday said  that the half-century existence of the Communist Party of the Philippines was  laden with crimes perpetrated by its armed wing even as leaders of the communist group boast  expanding  reach in Northern Mindanao.

Both contending forces traded accusations and counter-claims on the eve of the 47th anniversary of the CPP Saturday with the communist front citing strategic achievement that the military claimed was full of deceit to advance their cause.

Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos, spokesman of the National Democratic Front-Mindanao, claimed that the guerilla fronts established from 40 during the first year of President Benigno Aquino’s regime, have risen to 46 in five regions in Mindanao, citing that “not one was dismantled despite the ferocity of the attacks” under the government’s counter-insurgency program “Oplan Bayanihan.”

In a statement, Madlos said that NPA rebels in Mindanao have expanded in the southern island despite facing   60 percent of the military strength.

Madlos said that “from the more than 200 towns and cities where [the rebels] operate, from only 1,850 villages in 2010,” they have expanded to 2,500 villages, with a number of “organs of political power” established up to the “municipal level.”

He  cited the rebels mass base growth from 120,000 in 2010 to the current 200,000 that the military disputed  countering  that the strength of the NPA has dramatically reduced  to about 6,000 as a result of the intensified anti-insurgency operations nationwide.

Madlos said that growth occurred despite the military deployment of about 60 battalions or more that 60 percent of the total strength of the AFP, not including the police and various militias organized by the military, such as the BULIF, Alamara, Gantangan, Bagani, Magahat and the Calipet group.

Fighting in Northern Mindanao, particularly in  tribal  areas in Caraga, Surigao del Sur and Surigao del Norte and Bukidnon has increased following the reported atrocities committed by the NPA and the military’s retaliatory attacks to restore peace and order in the region.

So far, several dozens of lumad leaders have been killed by NPA  but the CPP  said it was  the military that was  responsible for the killings.

Capt. Jose Patrick Martinez, spokesman of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, said the CPP/NPA/NDF to project their existence, sowed threat which I was  paramount for them to pursue their armed struggle, in a civilized society they already lost their “ideology” because they shifted to banditry.

The  NPA’s glaring banditry, Martinez said, was the recent exploitation of two minors and students of the Tribal Indigenous Filipino People School in Surigao del Sur and the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development Inc., who were saved  with the help of local authorities and officials.

“Their parents have pursued and filed cases against Madlos including Genasque Enriquez,” Martinez said.

“Based on the accounts of the two minors, they have been radicalized by their teachers in TRIPFPSS and ALCADEV and forced to hold firearms and kill people,” he added.

 Martinez said that NPA top leaders such as Jorge Madlos a.k.a Oris, Myrna Sularte a.k.a Malaya, and their cohorts are all facing multiple charges of murder, frustrated murder, kidnapping, exploitation, illegal possession of explosives and firearms and other forms of criminalities.

With the NPA shifted to banditry, the military recorded a down trend on NPA Initiated Violent Incidents from 168 NIVIs in 2011 down to 153 NIVIs in 2012 and dwindled further to only 119 NIVIs towards the ends of 2015.

“This can be attributed to the NPA being captured/apprehended with the help of the civilians (most of them are NPA victims) and have surrendered because of realization of futility of armed struggle. Record shows that a total of 269 NPA have surrendered and apprehended in 2015 alone,” he cited.

MGen Oscar T. Lactao, Commander of 4th Infantry Division, said, “The de-romanticized existence of the NPA is  irreversible. Even if they will fight another decade or century, they will not win the war because people no longer believe in their failed ideology.”

Hunt for BIFF raiders stepped up

From The Standard (Dec 27): Hunt for BIFF raiders stepped up

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao—The military here has condemned the atrocities carried out by the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters  in three areas in Central Mindanao on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day even as it vowed to intensify its manhunt against the bandits.

Capt. Joanne Petinglay, spokesperson of 6th Infantry Division, said pursuit operations against the bandits would continue. She also appealed to peace-loving citizens to help authorities thwart destabilization attempts.

On Thursday, about 300 BIFF simultaneously attacked Christian villages in Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat and three communities in Datu Abdullah Sangki town in Maguindanao, killing eight civilians they took as hostages when government forces responded.

Four BIFF rebels were also killed when government forces chased the attackers in the mountains of adjoining towns of Esperanza and Abdullah Sangki. Four firearms of slain bandits were recovered by pursuing forces.

Army bomb disposal teams also defused four improvised bombs left by BIFF in and around the area where the civilians were killed.

Lt. Colonel Ricky Bunayog, 33rd Infantry Battalion Commander, said around 300 men carried the attacks and are now the subject of massive manhunt.

“We already warned the civilians in areas identified to be vulnerable to BIFF atrocities, I hope they will cooperate with the security sectors,” Petinglay told Radio DXMS-AM.

Almost simultaneously, separate band of BIFF attacked Barangay Simsiman, Pigcawayan, North Cotabato on Christmas Eve.

Led by Commander Alamada Abonawas, the BIFF fired a rifle grenade toward the house of Robert Lerado, village councilman of Barangay Simsiman, killing him on the spot, raising the death toll to 13, nine civilians and four BIFF.

After attacking villages in the borders of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat, the BIFF also stormed the village of Malagakit, also in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato, firing at a Catholic chapel where a midnight mass was ongoing. Churchgoers scampered for safety but nobody was hurt.

Also on Dec. 24, at around 9 p.m., another group of BIFF stormed a detachment of 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion in Barangay Dapiawan, Datu Saudi Ampatuan in Maguindanao. No casualty was reported.

Colonel Bunayog said government forces had difficulty retrieving the remains of slain farmers due to improvised bombs planted by BIFF before fleeing.

“One of the field commanders of the BIFF was killed that is why they were so brutal on civilians,” Bunayog said.

Bunayog said the fatalities were all civilian farmers and not paramilitary troops as claimed by the BIFF.

Capt. Petinglay said the national highways linking Cotabato City to Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato City to Davao remained passable and safe.

Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, chief government peace negotiator, in a statement, expressed solidarity with the families of the slain civilians.

“We commiserate with the families of the nine civilians who were summarily executed by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters  in separate incidents over the last few days,” she said.

“The BIFF’s sporadic attacks indicate an attempt to gain momentum for their bid to destabilize the situation in these areas and garner attention for themselves and their flagging cause,” Ferrer said.

Ferrer said she felt sad that the soldiers had to cancel celebrating the holiday season to respond to situations. “We pray for the safety of our soldiers who, instead of humbly celebrating the holiday season in their remote posts, have been mobilized to prevent the hostile group from wreaking more harm on the populace.”

Ferrer said prayers are offered for strength and safety of civilians who are exposed to the danger of ongoing hostilities.

Ferrer also asked the BIFF “to reconsider their violent ways and take heed of the people’s desire for peace and normalcy in their lives.”

NPA releases Alex Boncayao Brigade member on Christmas Day

From Rappler (Dec 26): NPA releases Alex Boncayao Brigade member on Christmas Day

The Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade had been accused of being behind the 2012 murders of two people

On Christmas Day, December 25, members of the New People's Army (NPA) released a member of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade in Moises Padilla town.

Cirilo Bagnoran, 42, was freed by the Leonardo Panaligan Command of the New People's Army (NPA) at their detachment in Barangay Macahagay in Moises Padilla, 15 days after he was abducted in La Castellana town.

On December 10, 50 or so members of the NPA attacked the cock farm where Bagnoran works. The farm, at Hacienda Jamandre, Barangay Robles in La Castellena town, is owned by RPA-ABB leader Rene "Maco" Europa.

Europa was able to escape the NPA attack.

Both Bagnoran and Europa are tagged in the 2012 murders of Cristie Florendia and Elmer Macurba in different Negros towns.

Ka Heneroso Silong, chief of the People's Court of the NPA, said that the release of Bagnoran came after the latter was acquitted from all criminal charges. Bagnoran’s acquittal, he added, went through a process.

Bagnoran, an investigative team found out, was not part of the killings since he was confined at a hospital. He also did not receive any compensation from a politician to kill Florendia.

Bagnoran would later say in a media interview that he would be leaving the RPA-ABB since it is one of the conditions of his release. He also insisted that the NPA did not hurt him during his time in captivity.

Early this week, Bagnoran's wife, Mildred, and their children had sought the help of various government agencies and non-governmental organizations to help facilitate his release.

A serious illegal detention complaint against the NPA was filed by Bagnoran's family before the Commission on Human Rights on Monday, December 21.

On Tuesday, the family met with Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr to ask for his help. The governor also called on the rebels to release Bagnoran in the spirit of Christmas.

Pay for permit to campaign, Reds tell candidates

From Rappler (Dec 26): Pay for permit to campaign, Reds tell candidates

Thinking of campaigning in rebel-held areas? Better pay up, the National Democratic Front says.

PAY UP? The NDF says candidates who want to campaign in areas they control must pay. Photo by Edwin Espejo/Rappler

PAY UP? The NDF says candidates who want to campaign in areas they control must pay. Photo by Edwin Espejo/Rappler

Candidates in next year’s general elections should set aside funds if they wish to campaign in rebel-held territories, the National Democratic Front (NDF) said Saturday, December 26.

Speaking on the occasion of the 47th foundation of the Communist Party of the Philippines, NDF Far South Mindanao spokesman "Ka Efren" said the permit to campaign (PTC) will give candidates access to rebel strongholds and to assert rebel authority in areas where “organs of political power” already exist.

In many areas in Mindanao and throughout the country, Ka Efren said they have established “parallel” governments and claimed they have earned the right to impose fees and other “revolutionary taxes".

Ka Efren declined to give “tariffs” of rebel PTCs, but candidates for provincial governors in Mindanao are said to have paid up to P1 million in past elections.
Candidates for senators in previous elections are also said to have contributed considerable amounts to the coffers of the Maoist-inspired rebel movement.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) had earlier warned candidates against succumbing to the extortion activities of the communist rebels.

Increased rebel strength

Ka Efren meanwhile said the rebels in Far South Mindanao were able to form more new platoons. “We have increased our armed strength by 20%,” he said without disclosing the exact figure of their total armed strength.

From only 3 guerrilla fronts 5 years ago, Ka Efren said they now have 3 sub-regional committees, each with 3 to 5 guerrilla fronts.

A guerrilla front has at least one company of fully armed New People’s Army rebels, the armed wing of the CPP.

He added that they were able to launch more than 70 tactical offensives resulting in the slaying of AFP troops equaling close to a company of soldiers. Each AFP company has at least 120 elements.

NDF Mindanao spokesperson Jorge Madlos earlier said there are now 46 guerrilla fronts throughout Mindanao – up by 6 from last year’s total.

Madlos said this forced the AFP to deploy 60% of its combat units in Mindanao.

The CPP-NPA is strongest in the Davao and Caraga regions while also showing increased guerrilla activities in northern and central Mindanao and the Socsksargen area.

The CPP was re-established on December 26, 1968 when the breakaway faction lead by University of the Philippines professor Jose Maria Sison repudiated the old Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas headed by Luis Taruc and Jose Lava.

Three months later, the CPP established the New People’s Army.

From a ragtag guerrilla army with 35 vintage rifles, the communist-led NPA has expanded nationwide and are operating in at least 70 of the country’s 82 provinces.

The AFP, however, claims it has reduced the armed strength of the NPA from a high of 20,000 in the 1980s to less than 4,000.

The CPP has been mum on the exact number of its guerrilla army, but former CPP chairman Jose Ma. Sison said the NPA has regained the strength it lost during the 1990s.

At its height, the CPP-NPA and its political arm were said to have 8,000 fully armed guerrillas.

Communist Party lost 'ideology', now 'bandits' – Army officials

From Rappler (Dec 26): Communist Party lost 'ideology', now 'bandits' – Army officials

Major General Oscar Lactao, commanding general of the 4th ID, describes the NPA as terrorists involved in crime and human rights violations

LONGEST INSURGENCY. The Communist Party of the Philippines marks its 47th year. Photo by Edwin Espejo/Rappler

LONGEST INSURGENCY. The Communist Party of the Philippines marks its 47th year. Photo by Edwin Espejo/Rappler 

On the 47th anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), military officials from the 4th Infantry Division (ID) described followers as bereft of idealism and dismissed them as nothing more than bandits and terrorists.

The 4th ID of the Philippine Army has operational jurisdiction over Northern Mindanao, including the provinces of Surigao del Sur and Del Norte, Agusan provinces, Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental and Camiguin, which currently hosts the biggest presence of the New People’s Army (NPA).

The CPP is waging among the longest running communist insurgencies in Asia, if not the world.

Major General Oscar Lactao, commanding general of the 4th ID, described the NPA, the armed wing of the CPP, as terrorists involved in crime and human rights violations.

“In order for the CPP-NPA-NDF to project their existence, sowing threat is paramount for them to pursue their armed struggle. However, in a civilized society they already lost their ‘ideology’ because they shifted to banditry,” Lactao said.

Lactao said that National Democratic Front (NDF) Mindanao spokesperson Jorge Madlos or "Ka Oris" and Myrna Sularte or "Maria Malaya" and their sympathizers face charges of multiple murder, frustrated murder, kidnapping, exploitation and illegal position of firearms, explosives and ammunitions.

The NPA had over 40,000 members in the 70s but membership has reportedly dwindled to just over 4,000, particularly in Surigao, Agusan and Bukidnon.

Radicalized minors

Captain Joe Patrick Martinez, 4th ID spokesperson, said that recently, two minor students of TRIFPSS (Tribal Indigenous Filipino People School in Surigao del Sur) and ALCADEV (Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development Inc), were saved from NPA exploitation with the help of local authorities and officials.

“Their parents have pursued and filed cases against Jorge Madlos, including Genasque Enriquez, Secretary General of Kahugpungan sa Lomadnong Organisasyon sa Caraga (Kasalo) and 11 others, in violation of RA 9208 or the Anti-Human Trafficking in Persons Act and RA 7610 or the Child Abuse and Exploitation Act before the provincial prosecution sub-office in Lianga, Surigao del Sur last December 18, 2015,” he said.

Based on the accounts of the two minors, they were radicalized by their teachers in TRIPFPSS and ALCADEV and forced to hold firearms and kill people by the NPA terrorists.

Enriquez was once the third nominee of KaTribu partylist.

Lactao said that because of the NPA's shift to banditry, there has also been a downward trend in NPA Initiated Violent Incidents (NIVIs).

“Comparative data show that in 2011 there were 168 NIVIs and this began to dwindle to 153 in 2012, and before 2015 ends, there have been only 119 NIVIs recorded,” he added.

Martinez said that this can be attributed to the NPAs being captured with the help of civilians. Some have surrendered because they supposedly realized the “futility” of armed struggle. Records show that a total of 269 NPA members have surrendered and have been apprehended in 2015 alone.

“The decreasing efforts and deromanticized existence of the NPA is irreversible. Even if they will fight another decade or century, they will not win the war because people no longer believe in their failed ideology,” Lactao said.

Lactao thanked residents of Northern Mindanao for their trust and confidence in the Army, "especially in giving timely and relevant information for us to address the insurgency situation."

He added, "We urge you to continue the same support in 2016 for us to finally reach our goal of having a peaceful Northern Mindanao that is ready for further development.”

The CPP has been mum on the exact number of its guerrilla army, but former CPP chairman Jose Ma. Sison claims the NPA has regained the strength it lost during the 1990s. Asserting its influence, the National Democratic Front said candidates in next year’s general elections should set aside funds if they wish to campaign in rebel-held territories.

GPH panel chair calls on BIFF to ‘reconsider violent ways’

From MindaNews (Dec 26): GPH panel chair calls on BIFF to ‘reconsider violent ways’

Following the killing rampage staged by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters the past few days that left nine civilians killed, the chair of the government’s peace panel negotiating a truce with Moro rebels has called on BIFF leaders “to reconsider their violent ways and take heed of the people’s desire for peace and normalcy in their lives.”

Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, in a press statement released through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), said that BIFF’s attacks in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato “indicate an attempt to gain momentum for their bid to destabilize the situation in these areas and garner attention for themselves and their flagging cause.”

Reports said the BIFF, who claimed it was part of their jihad (struggle), also suffered four casualties in the Christmas eve attacks.

Lt. Col. Ricky Bunayog, commanding officer of 33rd Infantry Battalion, said BIFF members led by a certain commander Sukarno Sapal first attacked their detachment in Sitio Manilong, Barangay Banaba around 3:45 a.m., leading to a three-hour exchange of gunfire.

While the firefight was going on in Barangay Banana, other members of the BIFF also initiated separate attacks in the villages of Paitan, Sagasa and Takal in Esperanza town, Sultan Kudarat province, he said.

The three villages are close to the border in Maguindanao where the first attack was launched.

Abu Misry Mama, spokesperson of one of three factions of the BIFF, claimed responsibility for the simultaneous attacks, but stressed that their victims were not farmers but members of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographic Unit (CAFGU).

Bunayog said that in Barangay Paitan, two farmers were killed when the rebels happened to pass by the victims’ farm.

He added that at around 5 a.m. Thursday in Sitio Sabaduan, Barangay Kauran in Ampatuan town, five farmers were killed when members of the BIFF captured them while they were about to spray chemicals in their rice field.

He said the farmers proceeded to their rice farm despite the advice of government soldiers to cancel agricultural activities because of the ongoing tension and firefight in the nearby villages.

“They were shot one-by-one at point blank after they were captured,” Bunayog said.
The BIFF rebels reportedly killed a barangay councilman in Barangay Simsiman in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato Thursday night, and killed yet another farmer elsewhere.

“We commiserate with the families of the nine civilians who were summarily executed by the [BIFF] in separate incidents over the last few days,” Ferrer said, adding that they are praying for the “strength and the safety of the civilians who find themselves exposed to the danger of ongoing hostilities.”

She lauded soldiers who, instead of celebrating Christmas, were mobilized to the prevent more BIFF attacks.

ABS-CBN news team cheats death in Marawi City ambush

From MindaNews (Dec 26): ABS-CBN news team cheats death in Marawi City ambush

The ABS-CBN news team from Iligan City was ambushed by motorcycle-riding gunmen in Marawi City shortly past noon Saturday. No one was hurt but its crew cab sustained damage after it was fired upon, according to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP).

The team was led by Ronnie Enderes, outgoing chair of the local NUJP chapter.

In a telephone interview, Enderes told MindaNews that they were in Marawi to follow up a story on the bombing of transmission towers Friday evening. He was with cameraman Emilito Balansag and driver Garry Montecillo.

Enderes said that on the way back to Iligan, they noticed two motorcycles following them, with two men on each. The driver sped up but the motorcycles kept chasing them. Upon reaching Banggolo, the central part of the city, they were fired upon twice.

“None of us were hurt but we could not describe our trauma after the incident,” he said.

Caliber .45 pistols were reportedly used by the attackers.

Enderes said he is thankful of the safety training conducted by the NUJP as it helped them survive hostile situations.

“The NUJP reminds the Aquino Administration that incidents like this are a shameful reminder of the culture of impunity that has become the norm rather than an aberration in a democracy such as ours,” the NUJP said in a statement. “The NUJP calls on authorities to quickly investigate the incident and arrest the perpetrators so they may be brought to justice,” it added.

Armed group threatens media against covering CPP anniversary

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 26): Armed group threatens media against covering CPP anniversary

An armed group based in Mindanao threatened members of the media who will cover the 47th Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) anniversary today, Dec. 26.

The threat was reportedly sent through a text message from a certain Magahat Bagani's leader, Bobby Tejero.

Tejero warned journalists against covering the event otherwise they will be ambushed if they attend the CPP's anniversary somewhere in the hinterlands of Mindanao.

He said the media practitioners who would cover the event only showed they were supporting the communist movement, thus, they are enemies of the Magahat Bagani which is said to be an anti-communist lumad group.

Tejero was one of those accused of murdering a school head in Surigao and two other lumad leaders several months ago.

Tejero and two other leaders of Magahat Bagani identified as Loloy Tejero and Garilo Laylo were charged of the killings.

Tejero's text message reads:
Tejero’s text read:
“Maayong adlaw sa tanang media sa mindanao,among ipahibalo nga kung kinsa man ang magtambong sa anibersaryo sa CPP/NPA/NDF nga taga media among apilon ug ambush.Kay kun mutambong sa maong anibersaryo nagpasabot nga linya sa NPA,mao ng kinahanglan walay magtungas nga media arun dili maapil sa gira.
Gira nga NPA batok sa armadong lumad MAGAHAT..walay labot ang kasundalohan ug mga police ky amo ra kining bangi TRIBU bersus NPA.daghan salamat!!#Nagpahibalo Bobby Tejero commander sa MAGAHAT..
Palihog ipakalat sa tibook mindanao (Good day to all media in Mindanao. I am informing those in the media who will be attending the anniversary of the CPP-NPA-NDF, we will not spare you from our ambush because those who will attend means you are with the NPA and so media need not go there so you will not be included in the war. The war of the NPA versus the armed lumad MAGAHAT...the Army soldiers and the police are not included in this war because this is a war between us the tribe and NPA. Many thanks!!! )." Tejero ended his text message with a call to spread the information in Mindanao.

Meanwhile, the Military and Police were informed of the threat but the spokesperson of the 10th Infantry Division, Alberto Caber, said he knows nothing of the information.

NPA breaks Christmas truce —Army

From GMA News (Dec 26): NPA breaks Christmas truce —Army

The Philippine Army has accused the New People's Army of breaking the holiday truce after an alleged attack in Kitaotao, Bukidnon last Wednesday night.
Col. Jesse Alvarez, commander of the Philippine Army's 403rd Infantry Brigade, said an undetermine number of communist rebels fired rifle grenades at houses in Barangay White Kulaman in Kitaotao town around 7 p.m. on December 23.
"While we are observing SOMO (Suspension of Military Operations), still our troops securing far-flung communities are on heightened alert in anticipation of NPA attacks and atrocities. We call on the CPP-NPA to be sincere in their ceasefire pronouncement, and spare the lives of innocent civilians especially during this yuletide season," Alvarez said in a statement.
Alvarez said troops from the 2nd Special Forces Company fired back at the suspected rebels, who immediately retreated.
No one was hurt in the incident, the Army official said.
The Communist Party of the Philippines on December 15 announced that its holiday ceasefire declaration will take effect at 12:01 a.m. of December 23, 2015 and will end at 11:59 p.m. of Jan. 3, 2016.
President Benigno Aquino III, meanwhile, approved the military's holiday ceasefire from 12:01 a.m. of Dec. 23, 2015 until 11:59 p.m. of Jan. 3, 2016.
The Philippine National Police also declared a Christmas truce from midnight of Dec. 23, 2015 until midnight of Jan. 1, 2016.

BIFF threatens more attacks

From the Philippine Star (Dec 26): BIFF threatens more attacks


Soldiers hoist the Philippine flag on a former camp in Basilan of the Al-Qaeda linked and now ISIS-inspired Abu Sayyaf group, whose fall into the hands of the military hurt its ally, the equally notorious BIFF in Central Mindanao. Facebook

The outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) on Saturday warned of more attacks after a three-day rampage that left eight innocent people dead in response to government’s crackdown on local jihadist factions.

Four BIFF members were confirmed killed in its incursions, met with heavy resistance from soldiers and armed villagers.

Abu Misry Mama, BIFF spokesperson, said their harassment of peasant enclaves and military detachments in Central Mindanao the past three days were also meant to show their continuing opposition to the presence of state forces in Moro-dominated areas in the region, now a hotbed of Islamic militancy.

Authorities are still trying to figure out if the BIFF was behind the bombing Thursday night of two more power relay pylons of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), one in Gandamatu in Ramain town in Lanao Del Sur and the other in Barangay Aroman in Carmen, North Cotabato.

An NGCP spokesperson, Melfrance Capulong, said still unidentified bombers first toppled down their Tower 25 in Ramain using home-made explosives at past 10:00 p.m. on Christmas eve.

Capulong said another group destroyed about 20 minutes later NGCP’s Tower 95 in Carmen using improvised explosive devices.

The two towers carry high tension power transmission cables that connect dozens of towns in Central Mindanao to state-run hydroelectric plants in Lanao del Sur and in Bukidnon provinces.

Bombers have destroyed more than ten NGCP towers in North Cotabato and Maguindanao in one attack after another in the past eight months.

Mama told reporters the attacks BIFF forces pulled off in the adjoining provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat from between Wednesday until Friday dawn was to disprove assertions they have been weakened tactically by military offensives early this year.

ISIS-inspired groups

BIFF commanders had said their deadly maneuvers this week were partly in retaliation for recent government offensives against Mindanao-based jihadist groups sympathetic to the Independent State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Eight young members of a local Islamist group displaying the iconic black ISIS flag in their hideout in Barangay Butril in Palimbang town in Sultan Kudarat were killed by pursing combatants of the 1st Marine Brigade last month in an operation initiated on the behest of local folks threatened by their presence.

The Al-Qaeda-linked and now confessed ISIS-inspired Abu Sayyaf also suffered fatalities in a military offensive in Albarka town in Basilan more than a week ago, which resulted to the government’s takeover of its enclave in the municipality.

BIFF leaders have overtly been expressing allegiance to ISIS whenever they talk to journalists.

A barangay councilor was the last fatality, from among eight, in the BIFF’s three-day rampage in Central Mindanao this week.

The victim, Robert Latosa, an incumbent barangay councilor in Simsiman in Pigcawayan town in North Cotabato, was killed when BIFF gunmen shot his house with a 40 millimeter shoulder-fire grenade Thursday night.

Another group of BIFF bandits also opened fire on a Catholic chapel in nearby Barangay Malagakit in the same town several minutes later.

The shooting frenzy sent worshipers running for their lives and caused panic among villagers preparing for their traditional Noche Buena celebration.

BIFF bandits also fired automatic weapons at a detachment of an Army mechanized unit in Datu Saudi, Maguindanao just as soldiers and armed villagers in Barangay Malagakit were trading shots with the group that attempted to intrude into their villages.

More attacks expected

The police and military are both anticipating more incursions by the BIFF in other parts of Central Mindanao.

Highly-placed Army intelligence sources had told The STAR military units are now closely monitoring isolated barangays in Midsayap and Aleosan towns, both in North Cotabato, due to mounting threats of attacks.

Army officials in the two towns have confirmed receiving text messages from beleaguered barangay officials, warning of possible BIFF attacks soon in retaliation for the deaths of four bandits in an encounter with soldiers last Thursday in Datu Abdullah Sangki town in Maguindanao.

The Army’s 602nd Brigade and its component battalions in North Cotabato have enlisted the help of local officials and religious leaders in Aleosan and Midsayap in guarding against movements of the BIFF in the two towns.

BIFF gunmen attacked a detachment of the Army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion (IB) in Datu Abdullah Sangki before dawn Thursday, provoking a firefight that lasted for more than an hour.

Another group of bandits also harassed an hour later a peasant enclave in nearby Ampatuan town, also in Maguindanao, killing five unarmed farmers on their way to their farms.

The bandits appeared from one side of the road and opened fire at the victims, who were carrying knapsack sprayers and farming tools.

About 30 minutes later, BIFF bandits shot dead two more farmers in a secluded barangay in Esperanza town in Sultan Kudarat province, not far from where the five farmers were killed haplessly.

The commanding officer of the 33rd IB, Lt. Col. Ricky Bunayog, and local officials in Datu Abdullah Sangki said villagers saw fleeing bandits carry four dead companions as they fled after attacking a military detachment in west of the municipality just before sunrise Thursday.

Three BIFF bandits, initially identified only as Salik, Tato and Tangan, were shot and wounded by responding soldiers from nearby detachments also in Datu Abdullah Sangki