Wednesday, November 30, 2016

NPA rebels: The next generation

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 29): NPA rebels: The next generation

NEWRED FIGHTERS New People’s Army regional commander and spokesperson Jaime Padilla, or Ka Diego, and Ka Katryn, her face painted to conceal her identity, meet journalists at an NPA encampment tucked in thewilderness of Sierra Madre in Southern Luzon. —AP

NEW RED FIGHTERS New People’s Army regional commander and spokesperson Jaime Padilla, or Ka Diego, and Ka Katryn, her face painted to conceal her identity, meet journalists at an NPA encampment tucked in the wilderness of Sierra Madre in Southern Luzon. —AP

SIERRA MADRE—In the late-night hours and amid the chirp of crickets, Katryn welcomed a huddle of exhausted local journalists in cheerful spirits like she was home. “Coffee?” she asked with a comforting smile.

Comrade Katryn is her nom de guerre, however, and for her, home is a rebel encampment concealed in the rain-soaked wilderness of Sierra Madre, the country’s longest mountain range situated in Luzon.

Katryn, 24, walked away from her family two years ago to join one of the world’s longest-raging Marxist rebellions.

Mostly in their 20s and 30s, a few dozen guerrillas of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) lugged M16 rifles and grenade launchers on a southern Luzon plateau where red hammer-and-sickle flags adorned a makeshift hall.

Most wore mud-stained boots while cooking over wood fires or guarding the peripheries of the encampment, just 3 kilometers from the nearest Army base.

Maoist fighters

They’re part of a new generation of Maoist fighters who reflect the resiliency and constraints of an insurgency that has dragged on for nearly half a century through six Philippine presidencies, while Cold War-era communist insurgencies across much of the world have faded into memory.

They are driven by some of the same things as their predecessors, including crushing poverty, despair, government misrule and the abysmal inequality that has long plagued Philippine society.

“The NPA has no other recruiter but the state itself,” a young rebel, Comrade May, told The Associated Press (AP).

May joined the NPA two years ago after her fiancé died of kidney failure because his family was too poor to afford expensive dialysis treatment.

A lowly paid factory worker, May couldn’t do anything. Government hospitals overwhelmed by swarms of indigent patients failed to give her fiancé immediate care.

“His family gave up and reserved the remaining money for his coffin,” said May, who now serves as a medic for fellow guerrillas and destitute villagers beyond the government’s reach.

Middle-class family

Katryn came from a middle-class family that could afford a car, a house and education. She wanted to become a journalist, but got profoundly disaffected by a government and laws that she said could not protect the working class, including her father who lost his job as an engineer for joining a trade union.

She said she went underground as an activist and bid goodbye to her father, her mother, who was a former teacher, and a life of modest comforts. “It was difficult. I cried,” she said.

Now adjusted to rebel life, Katryn said she’d stay for good. She agreed to face news cameras with just a dash of red and blue paint—the colors of the revolution—to camouflage her identity.

Comrade Diego

The rebellion’s longevity is best personified by Jaime Padilla, or Comrade Diego, who was introduced as the new NPA commander and spokesperson in a region that has seen the ebb and flow of the insurgency.

Now 69, he took up arms when then dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972, supposedly to quell the spreading communist insurrection that began four years earlier.

Donning a newly designed ceremonial khaki uniform topped by a Mao cap, the folksy rebel leader with a ready smile gave an upbeat assessment of the rebellion.

The military, however, says it has largely beaten back the NPA guerrillas in most of the provinces south of Manila where Padilla’s rebel forces are based.

Battle setbacks, surrenders and infighting have weakened the rebel group, which is blacklisted as a terrorist organization by the United States.

3,800 fighters

A confidential government assessment obtained by AP says the guerrillas had declined to 3,800 fighters with more than 4,500 firearms in the first half of the year, with about 700 of the country’s 42,000 villages affected by the insurgency.

The NPA “remains as a threat to national security due to its stance of not abandoning the armed struggle,” the report said.

“It’s true that the armed struggle has gone through ups and downs, that’s a part of history,” Padilla told AP.

But he added that the rebellion “will not disappear because of the fundamental needs of the people. The problems have persisted, and that’s the platform of the rebellion.”

In a dilemma

Founded in 1968, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) which oversees NPA operations has held peace talks with six Presidents, including Rodrigo Duterte, whose rise to power in June sparked rebel optimism due to his searing anti-US rhetoric, populist stance and appointments of several left-wing Cabinet members. Both sides declared separate and indefinite ceasefires in August.

But the guerrillas found themselves in a dilemma after Mr. Duterte was accused of gross human rights violations in his war on drugs which has left a large number of poor suspected drug users and dealers dead.

Some of the slain suspects were rebel followers who were never involved in drugs, Padilla said.
Mr. Duterte’s recent decision to allow Marcos’ burial at Libingan ng mga Bayani, a heroes’ cemetery, his walking back on his angry threats to scale down Philippine engagements with the US military and rebel allegations of military violations of its own ceasefire have dampened the optimism.

About a month ago, Padilla’s rebel command offered to provide security to Mr. Duterte, calling him a patriot and suspecting that American forces may covertly take steps to kill or oust him over his anti-US stance.

After Marcos’ burial at Libingan, the CPP denounced Mr. Duterte for showing “gross disrespect and insensitivity to the Filipino people’s sufferings under the brutal martial law rule” and urged him “to reverse this historical wrong” or risk facing mounting protests and political isolation.

Ready for peace and war

But Padilla said the guerrillas would remain sincerely engaged in Norway-brokered peace talks that have given them respite from decades of fighting that is estimated to have left about 40,000 combatants and civilians dead.

“While in a ceasefire, we continue to consolidate our ranks, our recruitment of our forces from the mass bases who are ready to revolt,” he said.

“We can talk to (the government) at the table to resolve the people’s problems,” he said. “We’re always prepared for any breakup and continue our armed struggle.”

3 Abus killed in Sulu clash with Scout Rangers

From the Manila Bulletin (Nov 30): 3 Abus killed in Sulu clash with Scout Rangers

Patikul, Sulu — Three  members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) were killed, while several others were wounded in a 25-minute  encounter with soldiers of the 11th Scout Ranger Company at  Capual Island in the town of  Omar in this  province.

Col. Jesus Manangquil, the newly installed commander of Joint Task Force Sulu, said the soldiers encountered  about  30 ASG about  3:45 p.m. Monday and engaged them in a firefight for about  25 minutes that resulted in the death of  the three ASG members, and wounding of countless others.

According to Manangquil, the soldiers, as well as local residents, saw the bandit group carrying away the dead bodies of two more comrades. Government troops did not incur any casualty.

The soldiers also recovered three pump boats (two Junkung type double engine and one single engine wooden boat) one Garand rifle, ammunitions, a solar panel and motor vehicle battery, Improvised Explosive Device components.

The three pump boats were turned over to the Naval Task Group Sulu for proper disposition.
“The successful military operation was a result of the cooperation of the people of Sulu in our campaign against the ASG and their evil deeds,” Manangquil said.

“Our soldiers are motivated by a strong public and stakeholders’ support and are determined to  finish off the  ASG and to recover  all the  hostages at the hands of the ASG,” he added.

Manangquil vowed that they “will not stop until the scourge of the ASG will be finally put to a complete stop.”

“We will prevail as we have a reinvigorated cooperation of the people of Sulu who are suffering due to the existence of these barbaric bandits,” Manangquil underscored.

3 Updates On The Thwarted US Embassy Bomb Plot

From the International Business Times (Dec 1): 3 Updates On The Thwarted US Embassy Bomb Plot

PNP arrests prime suspect, questions two persons of interests for bomb scare near US embassy


Parts of an improvised Explosive Device (IED) found near the U.S Embassy is presented to the members of the media during a press conference at the Manila Police District (MPD) headquarters in Metro Manila, Philippines November 28, 2016. Reuters/Romeo Ranoco

The ongoing investigation on the thwarted bomb plot near the United States embassy in Roxas Boulevard, Manila has resulted to the capture of the prime suspect of the crime. Two men were invited for questioning regarding the incident that happened on Monday.

Here are three updates on the US Embassy bomb scare.

1. Prime suspect for bomb plot arrested

The Philippine National Police (PNP) arrested on Wednesday the prime suspect who allegedly installed an improvised explosive device (IED) some 200 meters from the US Embassy on Monday.

The man was identified as 34-year old Rayson Kilala also known as Rashid Kilala, The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported. His address is listed as no. 092 Barangay Bagumbayan in Bulakan, Bulacan, in which town he was also arrested through the joint efforts of the Manila and Bulacan police.
2. Two persons of interest subjected for questioning

Meanwhile, the Manila Police District is investigating two persons who may be involved in the failed bombing attempt in the embassy. According to CNN Philippines, NCR Police Office (NCRPO) Chief Supt. Oscar Albayalde clarified the two are labeled as “persons of interest” and not suspects pending the result of the probe. The two, whose names were not identified, were placed under police custody. Both were reported to be natives of Marawi City.

3. Incident could be linked to Davao city night market bombing

Authorities are looking into the possibilities that the recent bomb plot was related to the bombing in the Davao City night market on Sept. 2. The deadly attack claimed the lives of 15 people and wounded 71 others. Three of the 10 suspected terrorists behind the incident were arrested. They were linked to the armed Islamist Group, Maute Group which has ties with the Abu Sayyaf.

The IED that was discovered inside a box, contained a blasting cap, detonator, a cellphone and a 9-volt battery. The 81-millimeter mortar was described as similar to one use in the Davao city night market, a signature of the Maute Group. It was found by a street sweeper in a trash can along the boulevard at past 7 am.

Authorities had immediately safely denoted the bomb shortly after it was confirmed an explosive device.

Philippines' Fight Against Muslim Insurgents Is Hitting A New And Sticky Blockade

From Forbes (Nov 30): Philippines' Fight Against Muslim Insurgents Is Hitting A New And Sticky Blockade

Philippine President Duterte campaigned on the idea he could solve one of his country’s stickiest, oldest and most violent political problems. He would make peace with two Muslim separatist groups on the giant southern island Mindanao but use force against a third that’s usually seen as a pack of bandits without political cause. Now, after five months in office, the ever enigmatic Duterte says he wants to negotiate with that bandit group, Abu Sayyaf. Abu Sayyaf has pledged allegiance to ISIS and is known for kidnapping and beheading foreign tourists.

Talks with Abu Sayyaf as well as the Maute Group, another rebel front inspired by ISIS, would be synced with a military campaign aimed at stopping more attacks like the Maute seizure of a town hall last month, Philippine media reports indicate. Battles with national armed forces to get them out of the town itself killed 11 rebels. If the negotiations worked, they would bring an all new level of security to Mindanao. It’s the country’s breadbasket and a major source of minerals. Stronger security after 45 years of strife would give Mindanao a chance jump ahead economically, easing higher-than-average poverty among its 21 million people.

But the talks probably won’t work. They might not happen at all. For one thing, Abu Sayyaf makes money for itself and a network of locals in the Sulu Sea islands west of Mindanao from kidnapping ransom. The group estimated at 400 people has easily rebuilt after attacks by government troops since it formed in 1991. It has matched Duterte’s stepped-up military campaign with a night market bombing in September and, last month, the kidnapping of two German tourists – one shot to death.

This photo taken on September 5, 2016, Philippine soldiers standing guard next to an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC), inside a military camp in Jolo, Sulu province, in southern island of Mindanao, as they prepare for an operation against the extremist Abu Sayyaf group. (MARK NAVALES/AFP/Getty Images)
“The Abu Sayyaf Group has clearly not responded to the president’s call for negotiated settlement,” says Jay Batongbacal, associate law professor at the University of the Philippines. “I don’t believe that they will, at least not with any sincerity. For them, this is all business.”

Duterte says talks might ease the desperation of Muslim groups. “The ISIS is really dangerous,” the president told a law school alumni association in Metro Manila on Nov. 26, as quoted by local media. “That is why you have to use your head. Do not drive them to despair because that is precisely what happened in Africa.”

6 wounded govt. troopers in Marawi City ambush in stable condition

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 30): 6 wounded govt. troopers in Marawi City ambush in stable condition

Six wounded soldiers who were flown to the Army hospital here Wednesday morning were now in stable condition, the military said.

Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez, Army's 4th Infantry Division (4ID) spokesman, identified the wounded soldiers as Corporal Vincent Paniza, Private Frist Class James Gonzales, Sergeant Jesus Garcia, Corporal Rodel Genova, Corporal Edward De Leon, and Staff Sergeant Eufrociho Payumo Jr.

Martinez said that the wounded soldiers, most of them members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG), arrived at the 4ID headquarters in Camp Evangelista early Wednesday morning, and now in stable condition while recuperating in the military infirmary.

“They were well taken care of by our attending physician,” he told reporters in an interview in Camp Evangelista Wednesday morning, referring to the six soldiers.

He said that the confined soldiers sustained shrapnel wounds while those who were airlifted from Marawi and brought to a private hospital here Tuesday were said to have gunshot wounds.

Martinez said that the convoy of PSG personnel and members of the Malacanang media was ambushed in the roadside of Matampay, in Marawi City, Tuesday morning.

The PSG were the advanced party of President Duterte, who were scheduled to visit the town of Butig in Lanao Del Sur Wednesday where an ongoing firefight between the government troopers and the terror group of the “Maute Gang” still rages.

Cops prepare charges vs MILF members in murder of Maguindanao town vice mayor

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 30): Cops prepare charges vs MILF members in murder of Maguindanao town vice mayor

Police in Maguindanao said Wednesday investigators are preparing charges against two men believed to be members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the murder of Vice Mayor Anwar Sindatok of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao last Sunday.

Supt. Nixon Muksan, Maguindanao police director, said MILF leaders are helping the police in the identification of the perpetrators.

Von Al-Haq, speaking for the BIFF's Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, confirmed to reporters early these week that some of its members were indeed involved in the murder of Sindatok. He refused to reveal names.

Al-Haq said the suspects belonged to the MILF’s 118th Base Command under the command of Imam Wahid Tundok.

Sindatok, elected as number one councilor, assumed the office of the vice mayor after elected Vice Mayor Anida Dimatukom took the post of her husband, Mayor Samsodin, who was killed in an anti-drug police operation in Makilala, North Cotabato.

Muksan, citing police reports, said Sindatok received two visitors he personally knew and offered them coffee at 7 a.m. on Sunday.

They had a brief talk, then one of the two suspects pulled a cal. 45 pistol and shot Sindatok at close range. Also killed was Sindatok's relative-escort.

The Dimaukom couple were publicly named by President Duterte as among the narco-politicians of Maguindanao. The couple vehemently denied the charges.

The mayor was killed during police anti-drug operation in North Cotabato after intelligence reports he allegedly was transporting a huge amount of illegal drugs along with nine others.

According to Muksan, the police sought the help of local religious leaders to help in bringing justice to the victims and prevent clan wars.

By operation of law on succession, No. 2 Councilor Bailon Dimaukom, wife of Association of Barangay Chairperson president Zaiton Dimaukom and elder brother of Mayor Dimaukom.

Police and elements of 34th Infantry Battalion are deployed in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town to serve as peacekeepers.

President Duterte sees no need to declare unilateral ceasefire

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 30): President Duterte sees no need to declare unilateral ceasefire

President Rodrigo Duterte is not declaring another ceasefire with the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, saying, “The (existing) unilateral ceasefire remains."

“No. I am not declaring a unilateral ceasefire. Sa komunista (With the communist?)? It remains, it is holding and I’m happy,” the President told reporters shortly after visiting wounded soldiers in Camp Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro City.

It may be recalled that last August 25, Mr. Duterte declared a ceasefire with the NPA to attain peace in the country. The President has also ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to avoid offensive operations against the NPA rebels.

The declaration of the unilateral ceasefire was a move based on a consensus with all the commanding generals of the AFP, including Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

“As president, my main task is to seek peace for my country. I am not a president who would enjoy waging war against citizens of this republic. It pains me to see people dying for an ideology. Pwede naman pala mapag-usapan ng mapayapa (That we can talk about this peacefully). Just like now,” he emphasized.

The government’s unilateral ceasefire was responded by the NDF during the resumption of the talks last August.

While the existing unilateral ceasefires of the government and NPA are holding, government peace panel Chairperson Silvestre Bello III is hopeful these would lead into the final signing of the bilateral ceasefire which was initially expected to happen on December 10.

Bello, however, hinted on Wednesday that the bilateral ceasefire would not happen on December 10 because there is no consensus yet between the GRP and NDF committees working on the bilateral truce. He said the two committees are working on the definition of terms and conditions.

“But what is important is patuloy ang pag-uusap (we continue to talk),” Bello told reporters during Wednesday’s Kapehan sa Dabaw at the Royal Mandaya Hotel.

Earlier, Atty. Angela Librado, a member of the GRP panel and head of the committee working on the bilateral ceasefire, said there is no assurance the bilateral ceasefire will be signed by December 10 supposedly coinciding with the World Humanitarian Day.

According to her, the first deadline for the bilateral ceasefire was on October 26 but this has lapsed because of an impasse for lack of consensus on the definition of terms.

“There are definitions and terms that have to be agreed on. If these things are ironed out then we can discuss the bilateral ceasefire,” she said.

The GRP panel has already prepared its guidelines based on the exchanges made during the Oslo meeting but there are things that have to be ironed out and revised, Librado said. Among these is the definition of what would constitute hostile acts because both parties have different definitions “and we have to reconcile that otherwise, we won’t be able to come up with a bilateral agreement.”

Librado said it is not a simple issue of defining terminologies as they have to make sure it will reflect the interest of those who would be affected so there must be consultations.

“If we can’t finalize and don’t agree on terms and provisions of course there will be no bilateral ceasefire but we are positive things could work out well. It could be December 10 or maybe later but a bilateral ceasefire agreement would be signed,” she stressed.

Army exec reiterates zero tolerance to illegal drugs policy

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 1): Army exec reiterates zero tolerance to illegal drugs policy

A top official of the Philippine Army in the region reiterated his call to soldiers in Eastern Visayas not to tolerate illegal drugs among their ranks.

“If there is an internal cleansing in the Philippine National Police (PNP), we, at the military has internal cleansing too. That is why I advise soldiers to never get involved in illegal drugs trade and never use illicit drug because we will dismiss them,” said Major Gen. Raul Farnacio, commander of the Army’s 8th Infantry Division here.

The statement came after three soldiers in the region were dismissed from service after they were caught using illegal drugs. One of them, a corporal, was caught in a buy-bust operation in Calbiga, Samar.

The arrested soldier claimed that there are 14 of his comrades who are drug users too.
“I hope that this action will serve as warning to soldiers to never get involved in illegal drugs because we will never tolerate them,” Farnacio stressed.

In the national level, the Armed Forces of the Philippines formed the Task Force Noah mandated to conduct intelligence and counterintelligence operations on military personnel suspected to be involved in illicit drugs.

Task Force Noah is an interagency effort with the PNP, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, National Bureau of Investigation.

The team is also tasked to conduct random drug testing among military personnel and civilians working in Army camps.

Suspects in planting of improvised bomb near US Embassy arrested

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 1): Suspects in planting of improvised bomb near US Embassy arrested

Two suspects behind the planting of an improvised explosive device along Roxas Boulevard near the US Embassy were arrested Thursday.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa presented the suspects before mediamen at the Philippine National Police Headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City. They were identified as Rayson Kilala Sakdal alias "Rashid" and Jiaher Guinar, members of Ansar Khalifa (AKP).

In two separate operations Wednesday, police arrested Guinar, 30, around 2:35 a.m. in Bagong Silang, Caloocan City and recovered a caliber .45 pistol and a fragmentation grenade from his possession. Sakdal was arrested around 9:30 a.m. in Barangay Bagong Bayan, Bulacan, Bulacan.

Dela Rosa said the two admitted to planting the IED to seek the recognition and monetary support of the Islamic State (IS).

He added that Luneta Park was the initial target of the group but instead transferred the IED near the US Embassy.

Authorities are now hunting down the three other members of the Ansar Khalifa who were with the two suspects in the attempted bombing.

The IED was recovered by authorities inside a trash bin on Monday. It is made of 81 MM mortar and similar to the one used in the bombing of a night market in Davao City last Sept. 2 that claimed the lives 15 persons and injured 70 others.

The suspects are facing charges of conspiracy to commit terrorism.

PHL under 'terror alert level 3'

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 1): PHL under 'terror alert level 3'

Terror alert level 3 was raised nationwide after the arrest of two suspected terrorists allegedly behind the foiled bombing attempt near the United States Embassy in Manila last Monday.

In a press conference in Camp Crame, Quezon City on Thursday, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa said that because of the "full alert status", the public should expect a stricter implementation of security measures, especially on the conduct of "random and mobile checkpoints".

Dela Rosa also advised the public to be "alert, vigilant and observant" but not to "panic".

The PNP chief said the public has nothing to be worried about even if the terror alert level 3 is raised nationwide.

Dela Rosa also issued directives to the regional police directors to intensify security measures in highly-urbanized cities.

Meanwhile, Dela Rosa presented to mediamen two of the five suspects in the attempted bombing.  The two suspects were identified as Rayson "Rasid" Kilala Sakdal and Jiaher Guinar.

Dela Rosa said Rasid is a returnee to the Islamic faith and a religious preacher in Bulacan. He was the one who placed the IED inside a trash bin while Guinar was assigned as the trigger man.

Rasid himself admitted that their first target was Luneta Park but they were "bothered by their conscience" and instead planted the IED near the US Embassy.

The suspects' three accomplices transported the IED from Central Mindanao to Metro Manila, Dela Rosa said.

He said the two suspects are members of the Ansar Khalifa terror group, which has direct links with the Maute terror group that is now the center of military operations in Butig, Lanao del Sur.

The PNP is now hunting down the three accomplices of Rasid and Guinar who are believed to have returned to Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.

(Feature) Great Plebeian's namesake ship BRP Andres Bonifacio arrived in Guam on 153rd birthday anniversary of Filipino patriot

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 30): (Feature) Great Plebeian's namesake ship BRP Andres Bonifacio arrived in Guam on 153rd birthday anniversary of Filipino patriot

While her namesake patriot might not have visited Guam in his lifetime, the BRP Andres Bonifacio (FF-17), the third Hamilton-class cutter of the Philippine Navy, did better as she arrived at the above-mentioned island at around 8 a.m. Wednesday, or on the hero's 153rd birth anniversary.

This was disclosed by PN spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna in an interview with the Philippine News Agency.

He said the ship will be staying in Guam for three days for reprovisioning and refuelling before making her voyage to the Philippines where she is expected to arrive at Manila's South Harbor on Dec. 8.

With her arrival, BRP Andres Bonifacio is expected to boost the Navy's capability to conduct "territorial patrols" within the nation's exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

"FF-17 is a significant addition to the Navy's inventory of ships in order to boost the conduct of territorial patrol missions within our EEZ," Lincuna said.

Hamilton-class cutters have a gross tonnage of 3,250 tons, a length of 378 feet, beam of 43 feet, and draft of 15 feet.

Its propulsion systems consist of two diesel engines and two gas turbine engines, giving it a top speed of 29 knots and a crew of 80 officers and enlisted personnel.

The ship has cruising range of 14,000 miles and has a sea and loiter time of 45 days.

The BRP Andres Bonifacio is formerly the USCGC Boutwell which was retired from US Coast Guard service last March 16 and handed to the PN last July 21.

She is the second ship to bear the name of the Katipunan founder who was born on Nov. 30, 1863 and was executed on May 10, 1897 by pro-Aguinaldo factions in Maragondon, Cavite for the alleged crime of sedition and treason.

Bonifacio is also well noted in Philippine history for having lead the "Cry of Pugad Lawin" on Aug. 23, 1896 which officially started the Filipino Revolution in Luzon.

The first BRP Andres Bonifacio (PF-7) was commissioned by the PN on July 27, 1976 and decommissioned on Sept. 30, 1993.

The first BRP Andres Bonifacio was the lead ship of the Andres Bonifacio class frigates of the PN which consist of the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-8), BRP Diego Silang (PF-9) and BRP Francisco Dagohoy (PF-10).

These ships, during their time, were the largest and most heavily-armed frigates of the PN.

The above-mentioned vessels weigh 2,800 tons with a full war load, have a length of 311 feet, a cruising speed of 18.2 knots and armed with one five-inch automatic cannon.

The latter weapon is the largest weapon ever mounted in a PN ship even with the arrival of the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar class frigates.

These ships were formerly used by the US Navy as Barnegat-class small seaplane tenders.
These vessels were former naval vessels of the South Vietnamese Navy.

When South Vietnam collapsed in 1975, these four vessels fled to Subic Bay in the Philippines where they reverted to the control of their former operator, the United States, which then sold them to the PN at friendship prices.

These four ships formed the backbone of the Philippine Fleet and served loyally for 17 years until lack of spares and obsolescence prompted their decommissioning in 1993.

AFP recaptures old Butig municipal hall, clearing of Maute Group bandits now at 80 percent

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 30): AFP recaptures old Butig municipal hall, clearing of Maute Group bandits now at 80 percent

Military troops have successfully retaken the old Butig municipal hall from the clutches of the Maute Group around 9:20 a.m. Wednesday.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said that operations are still ongoing to recover the portion of Butig town being held by the enemy.

"We have successfully retaken the (old Butig municipal hall) so far, if we are going to talk about the 100 completion of the task in fully retaking and recovering that portion of Butig they are occupying, we are still at 80 percent," he added.

Military units are now clearing the building of improvised explosive device left behind by the bandits.

Troops are now clearing these battlefield hazards, Arevalo stressed.

The terrorists opted to withdraw from their positions in the old Butig municipal hall amid overwhelming military superiority.

The bandits have retreated to their fallback positions in deserted areas of the town where military troops are now engaged in flushing them out.

As of this posting, 61 Maute Group members were killed while 35 government troops were wounded in action in the now five-day operation.

Visayas lauds troop efforts in retaking abandoned Butig municipal hall from Maute Group

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 1): Visayas lauds troop efforts in retaking abandoned Butig municipal hall from Maute Group

As government finally retaken the abandoned Butig municipal hall from the clutches of the Maute Group, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Ricardo Visaya on Wednesday lauded the heroism and sacrifice made by military units conducting the dislodgement operation against the bandits in Lanao Del Sur.

"It was not without the cost of life and limb of the lawless terrorist Maute Group, and the sweat and blood of our soldiers. But it has to be so to ensure that our people will live peacefully knowing that their soldiers are there to protect them," he said.

As of this posting, Maute Group dead now stands at 61 and 12 wounded with government troops wounded in action at 35.

"In order to fully defeat the enemies of the State, we need the support and cooperation of our people. We exhort them to be vigilant and resist the influence of terrorists and lawless groups," Visaya said.

Operations against the Maute Group are now on its fifth day with 85 to 90 percent of Butig already cleared of the brigands.

It started last Nov. 26 when the bandits, fearful of ongoing operations against them, decided to hole up in Butig.

The AFP offensive is headed by the 103rd Infantry Brigade which is now reinforced by armor, artillery, and air units.

The abandoned Butig municipal hall is the same one whom the terrorists tried to capture last February only to be foiled by government troops.

Butig town cleared of Maute Group terrorists, says AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 1): Butig town cleared of Maute Group terrorists, says AFP

The besieged town of Butig in Lanao del Sur province has been cleared of terrorists from the Maute Group, says Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla.

"Based on the report of the 103rd Infantry Brigade, (Butig town) has been 100 percent cleared of the (Maute Group) and that clearing and fixing of the damaged inflicted on the municipality is now ongoing before allowing the return of residents who evacuated," Padilla said in Filipino. The 103rd Infantry Brigade is the lead military unit in the almost six-day dislodgement operations against the bandit group.

Prior to this, the town will be turned over to the local government unit, he added.

Death toll for the almost six-day fighting has been placed at 61 for the Maute Group and 35 wounded for government troops.

Padilla said they are still verifying whether the terrorist group have sustained additional casualties during Wednesday night's operation.

Earlier, government forces have recaptured the old Butig municipal hall Wednesday (Nov. 30) following the withdrawal of Maute Group bandits holed up there in wake of the AFP's overwhelming superiority.

The offensive against the terrorists started last Nov. 26 when the bandits, fearful of ongoing operations against them, decided to hole up in Butig.

The abandoned Butig municipal hall is the same one the terrorists tried to capture last February only to be foiled by government troops.

As this develop, the AFP spokesperson vehemently denied reports claiming that the roadway bombing incident in Marawi City which wounded nine troopers, including seven members of the Presidential Security Group advance party last Nov. 29, was staged.

Padilla added that it is "against the principle of every soldier to wound or hurt a fellow comrade-in-arms."

He added the AFP remains apolitical and committed to upholding its mandate of protecting the country and people against all form of threats.

DWDD: VISIT | PRRD Meets WIA Soldiers at Polymedic Medical Plaza, CDO

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Nov 30): VISIT | PRRD Meets WIA Soldiers at Polymedic Medical Plaza, CDO
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[Video: Visit to Wounded-in-Action Presidential Security Group (PSG) and Soldiers 11/30/2016]

DWDD: VISIT | PRRD Meets WIA Soldiers Confined at 4ID Station Hospital

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Nov 30): VISIT | PRRD Meets WIA Soldiers Confined at 4ID Station Hospital

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Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID), Patag, Cagayan de Oro City (DWDD) – President Rodrigo R Duterte flew to Cagayan de Oro to visit and award troops who are recuperating from wounds sustained during the almost week-long military offensive operations in Butig.

He was also visited members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) who were hurt during an unfortunate roadside bombing while enroute to the area of 103rd Infantry Brigade.

Aggressive Military operations continue to date against the Local Terrorist Group with government troops now securing much of the Municipality of Butig.

Troops are currently completing the necessary clearing operations in the outskirts of the area. To date, troops have reported 61 killed and 12 wounded on the LTG side and 35 wounded troops. The AFP wounded figure includes those hurt during the roadside Improvise Explosive Device incident. RTVM / MCAG

[Video: Visit to the Wounded-in-Action Presidential Security Group (PSG) Personnel and Soldier 11/30/2016]

DWDD: TALK TO MEN | PRRD Meets Troops in Butig, Lanao Del Sur

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Nov 30): TALK TO MEN | PRRD Meets Troops in Butig, Lanao Del Sur

103rd Brigade TCP, Butig, Lanao Del Norte (DWDD) – President Rodrigo Roa Duterte visits Troops at the Forefront of Fight in Butig, Lanao Del Sur 2016.

PRRD along with a few advisers visited troops of the 103rd Infantry Brigade who are at the forefront of the fight against members of a local terrorist group (LTG) known locally as the Maute Group.

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The Maute group late last week laid siege and sowed terror in the municipality of Butig as troops advanced to accost their leaders and members who have committed criminal acts in the areas of Lanao, Maguindanao and portions of Cotabato.

The group is also behind the recent Davao Night Market bombing last September.

The President was accompanied by the Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenza, the Vice Chief of Staff AFP Lt Gen Glorioso Miranda, and the Commanding General, Philippine Army Lt Gen Eduardo Ano.

They were met by Commander Western Mindanao Command, LTG Mayoralgo de la Cruz, MGen Barrientos, Commander of the 1st Infantry Division and Col Rosseler Murillo, Commander, 103rd Infantry Brigade.

Following a closed door briefing and meeting with security officials, PRRD met the troops and local officials. He encouraged the troops to persevere and do their work with the guarantee of his all out support. He also mentioned that as the President of the Republic, he has in mind the welfare of all the people and the entire nation and very much wants peace to reign all over the land but not at the expense of peace loving citizens. RTVM / MCAG

[Video: Talk to Men of the 103rd Brigade Tactical Command Post (TCP) (Speech) 11/30/2016]

DWDD: VICTORY | AFP Retakes Butig from Maute Terror Group

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Nov 30): VICTORY | AFP Retakes Butig from Maute Terror Group


BUTIG, Lanao Del Sur (DWDD) – Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Ricardo Visaya expresses his elation that our troops have successfully retaken the old municipal hall of Butig from the Maute terror group.

According to AFP Public Affairs Office Chief Marine Col Edgard Arevalo, the success  was not without the cost of life and limb of the lawless group, and the sweat and blood of our soldiers, but it has to be so to ensure that our people will live peacefully knowing that their soldiers are there to protect them.

Arevalo added that in order to fully defeat the enemies of the state, they need the support and cooperation of our countrymen and exhort them to be vigilant and resist the influence of terrorists and other lawless groups.”

In a report by AFP Western Windanao Command (WESMINCOM) spokesman Major Filemon Tan Jr., President Rodrigo R Duterte visited troops in a Tactical Command Post in Lumbayanague.

As of the latest, 85% to 90% of the poblacion has been retaken, while clearing operations are still ongoing. The government has sustained 35 Wounded in Action (WIA) while the Maute terror group sustained 61 members killed and 12 wounded. AES / ALS / MCAG

DWDD: LOCAL INTEGRATION | CLIP of DILG Awards Former Rebels in Misamis Oriental

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Nov 30): LOCAL INTEGRATION | CLIP of DILG Awards Former Rebels in Misamis Oriental

 misamis-oriental-provincial-map npa-cadres-3

CLAVERIA, MISAMIS ORIENTAL (DWDD) – Two (2) former members of New People’s Army (NPA) who surrendered to 58th Infantry Battalion received a total of ₱166,000.00 Fire Arm Cost Remuneration from the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) of the Province of Misamis Oriental on 28 November 2016 at Provincial Training Center, Cagayan de Oro City.

In a simple awarding ceremony, Hon. Gerardo Sabal III, Board Member, Misamis Oriental handed the checks to the former rebels assisted and witnessed by Provincial Director Edward P Bagwani of DILG, Mrs Emelia P Andea, Head of PSWDO, COL ERIC C VINOYA INF (GSC) PA, Commander of 403rd Bde and LTC FRANCIS P CARANDANG INF (GSC) PA, Commanding Officer, 58IB .

Aside from the Cost Remuneration of their Fire Arms the awardees also received their immediate cash assistance worth ₱15,000.00 each last 28 July 2016 at Office of the DILG Misamis Oriental, Cagayan De Oro City.

The DILG Director Bagwani said the implementation of CLIP in partnership with the local government units (LGUs), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), PNP, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and civil society organizations (CSOs) demonstrates the commitment of the government to pursue lasting peace and development amid the stalled peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). CLIP is being spearheaded by the DILG as part of the government’s peace and development efforts across the country.

The rebels laying down of firearms and becoming part of a peaceful society will have corresponding to aid in bringing back to their normal lives. CMO 58IB, 4ID / MCAG

DWDD: GOODWILL VISIT | BRP Ramon Alcaraz to Visit Vietnam

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Nov 29): GOODWILL VISIT | BRP Ramon Alcaraz to Visit Vietnam


The Philippine Navy (PN) will send-off its BRP RAMON ALCARAZ (FF16) for a port visit to Cam Ranh, Vietnam from Dec. 2 to 12, 2016. Onboard are around 300 PN personnel composed of   Naval Task Force 80 (NTF 80) comprise of surface warfare students, medical team, Naval Special Operations Team, and other port visit directorate members, with Helicopter Detachment Afloat (AW109).

The purpose of the visit is to celebrate the 40th year of diplomatic relationship between the two nations and maintain ties between and among the Philippine Navy and Vietnam People’s Navy (VPN).Both Navies maintain the strong partnership in the field of maritime security and law enforcement.

DWDD: ONE WITH NATURE | AFP to hold 2nd Climate Change Summit

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Nov 29): ONE WITH NATURE | AFP to hold 2nd Climate Change Summit

Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, DWDD — The second Armed Forces of the Philippines Climate Change Summit will be conducted at the AFP Theatre and Museum in Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City on December 2, 2016.

The summit, themed, Filipino catalysts: Preparing for a sustainable environment (Arming ourselves to face the challenges of climate change) aims to discuss the possible solutions in addressing climate change. It will be spearheaded by the Civil Relations Service (CRS) of the AFP.

Around one thousand participants coming from the different sectors of the society such as the government agencies, civil society organizations, and private institutions are expected to take part in the said event.

Marine Colonel Temoteo Ferdinand Blasco, Media and Civil Affairs Group Commander CRS AFP said, “If there is one vital issue that Filipinos should understand it is climate change.  It is already happening and we should be part of the solution in addressing this problem for our future generations,”

In line with this, the organizers not only aspire to promote awareness and establish possible solutions, but also intend to institutionalize the roles of these sectors in addressing climate change.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines believes that a strategic, multi-stakeholder approach is the best framework to ensure that the summit achieves its goals, thus, the main aim of the event is for every Filipino citizen to be one with nature.

DWDD: 77th Anniversary | “Kaisa ng Sambayanan sa Pagsusulong ng Tunay na Pagbabago Tungo sa Mapayapa, Maunlad at Maginhawang Pilipinas”

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Nov 28): 77th Anniversary | “Kaisa ng Sambayanan sa Pagsusulong ng Tunay na Pagbabago Tungo sa Mapayapa, Maunlad at Maginhawang Pilipinas”

dnd-logo  snd-delfin-lorenzana

CAMP GEN EMILIO AGUINALDO, Quezon City (DWDD) – The Department of National Defense (DND) is celebrating this month their 77th Anniversary.

Officials and employees of the Defense Department joined various activities in connection with their anniversary, like: tree planting, bloodletting and Fun Run, led by Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana.

As part of DND’s support with changes being instilled by the government, this year’s theme is “Kagawaran ng Tanggulang Pambansa: Kaisa ng Sambayanan sa Pagsusulong ng Tunay na Pagbabago Tungo sa Mapayapa, Maunlad at Maginhawang Pilipinas.”

A simple program will be held today, November 29, 2016, at the Armed Forces of the Philippines Commissioned Officers’ Club in Camp Gen Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

The National Defense Act, also know as Commonwealth Act No.1, was enacted in 1935 and the Department of National Defense was established four years after in November 1, 1939, through Executive Order No. 230 by President Manuel Luis Quezon. PAS / DND / MCAG

DWDD: NEUTRALIZED | 2 ASG Killed during Maritime Patrol at Zambo City

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Nov 28): NEUTRALIZED | 2 ASG Killed during Maritime Patrol at Zambo City


BARANGAY MUTI, Zamboanga City (DWDD) – Philippine Navy (PN) component composed of intelligence, fast crafts and naval special operations personnel, together with police forces, had an encounter with the members of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) under ASG sub-leader Marzan Ajijul, while conducting maritime patrol in the vicinity of Sitio Niyog-Niyog, Barangay Muti, Zamboanga City around noontime today.

The joint elements of PN and PNP sighted motorized pump boat around the said area with 2 suspected ASG conducting extortion activities to small scale fishermen when they were intercepted.

The 2 ASGs resisted when confronted and opened fire that made the joint element to return fire. The firefight lasted for about fifteen minutes that resulted to the neutralization of the 2 ASG members and the recovery of a Cal.45 pistol, hand grenade, and a heat sealed crystalline substance, suspected to be “shabu.” Also recovered is the watercraft utilized with markings “Irsan” with 13 Horsepower Single Engine onboard.

There are no casualties on the government side.

The PN will continue conducting intensified maritime patrols together with other maritime agencies in order to address the illegal activities victimizing our fishermen and commercial vessels. NPAO / MCAG

DND: All-out war vs Maute

From The Standard (Dec 1): DND: All-out war vs Maute

Defense chief prods Duterte to ‘finish’ them

DEFENSE Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Wednesday urged President Rodrigo Duterte to wage an all-out offensive against the terrorist Maute group, after the Chief Executive hinted that he was open to talking peace with them.

“I will push for sustained and all-out operations against the Maute. They have been committing crimes with impunity,” Lorenzana told Manila Standard. “We need to finish them.”

Lorenzana warned that the Maute group’s connection to the Islamic State was an imminent threat to the already fragile security situation in the country.

He said if the international coalition made headway in its military offensive in Iraq, the Islamic State could transfer to the Philippines.

Various militant groups in Mindanao, including the Maute group and the Abu Sayyaf, were reportedly courting the jihadist group for recognition as a ‘wilayat’ (province) in Southeast Asia.

Lorenzana said that their recent acts suggests that they have already established connections with the global terrorist organization, contrary to their earlier position last August that they weren’t much of a threat.

“They’ve always said they support IS, and they fly their flag. With those indications, you can come to the conclusion that maybe that connection is already there,” Lorenzana said in Filipino.

On Wednesday, Duterte warned the Maute group, saying that they should not force him to declare war against them.

“Do not force me because I might be provoked to do something drastic,” Duterte said in his speech before troops at the Tactical Command Post in Lumbayanague, Lanao del Sur, some five kilometers away from the war zone in Butig town.

 SIGNATURE GESTURE. President Rodrigo Duterte and  military men do his signature clenched fist  during his visit to  Lumbayanague town, Lanao del Sur on Nov. 30, 2016. Toto Lozano

“When the time comes that it’s going to be a war against terrorism and drugs, I will tell you now that I can be harsh... as harsh I can ever be,” he added.

In an interview with reporters at Camp Evangelista Station Hospital in Cagayan de Oro City, Duterte said the Maute group should stop waging war on the government.

“For the Maute, I said I do not want to declare war against Filipinos, but I told them that they have to stop. I hope we will not reach that point that we have to go to war. So I am doing everything to prevent war,” Duterte said.

“I don’t want to go to war, but do not force my hand into it,” he added.

Duterte said that he hoped to have a “middle ground” with the Maute group, whom he cited in previous speeches were provoked by “Moro nationalism.”

“It’s very easy to start a war. But how to stop it and to heal the wounds, it would be hard. I wish we could have a middle ground,” Duterte said.

The President said he tried sending feelers to the Maute group but to no avail.

“I have long opened [communication lines with them]. This problem cannot be resolved through sheer courage alone. But there is always a time when I have to protect everybody,” Duterte said.

Despite threats to his security, the President pushed through with his visit to Lanao del Sur Wednesday, when he landed at the Tactical Command Post in Lumbayanague, a mere five kilometers from the war zone in Butig.

Nine soldiers, including members of his security group were injured Tuesday with two in critical condition on Tuesday after an improvised bomb exploded near a presidential convoy in Marawi City.

On Tuesday, Duterte suggested he could “befriend” the Maute group to avoid conflict.

He also urged them to abandon their “losing cause” and talk with the government.

“How could you be a Maranao? You’re a Tausug… and you take orders form outside just to fight for what? Won’t this end?” he said.

It has long been against official policy to negotiate with terrorist groups. The Maute group was behind the Davao City night market bomb attack that killed 15 people in September.

On November 24, the group occupied the abandoned town hall of Butig in Lanao del Sur and reportedly raised the black flag of IS. The Army has sent elite troops to flush out the group.

Officers want longer tenure for AFP chief

From Malaya Business Insight (Dec 1): Officers want longer tenure for AFP chief

A GROUP of junior officers wants President Duterte to do away with the “revolving door” policy in the designation of the AFP chief.

The officers said the successor of AFP chief Gen, Ricardo Visaya should have at least three remaining years in service so that he would have time to pursue long-term programs and reforms in the 125,000-strong military force.

“Change has come and since change has indeed come, now is the right time the way the President chooses the chief of staff. No more revolving door policy,” the group said in a manifesto, referring to Duterte’s battle cry.

Visaya had only five months in the service left when he was appointed by Duterte as AFP chief on July 1. Visaya, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1983, is due to reach the mandatory retirement age of 56 on December 8 but will relinquish his post a day earlier.

Malacañang has not announced who Duterte’s second AFP chief will be.

Rumored to be among the top contenders are three-star generals -- Army chief Lt. Gen. Eduardo Año, Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, and AFP vice chief Lt. Gen. Glorioso Miranda. All three are retiring late next year.

Año and Miranda belong to PMA Class 83 and Guerrero, Class 84.

Two-star generals are also among rumored contenders. They would be under Class 85 and up.

The officers said   an AFP chief will need at least three years in the office so he can pursue long-term goals. He said AFP chiefs serving for several months aspire only for short-term programs.

They  said there is need to have an AFP chief who will serve for a few years because of the peace process, referring to the ongoing peace talks with the communist-led National Democratic Front.

AFP, police tag Maute in Marawi explosion

From Malaya Business Insight (Dec 1): AFP, police tag Maute in Marawi explosion

THE military and the police yesterday pointed to the Maute group as behind the explosion last Tuesday in Marawi City, which hit a convoy carrying President Duterte’s advance party.

They also said the attack was meant to divert the military’s focus from operations against the group in Butig town in Lanao del Norte.

However, they differed on what hit the convoy which was carrying members of the Presidential Security Group.

The military said it was an improvised explosive bomb (IED) left on the roadside but the police said it was rifle grenade fired by Maute group members apparently on ambush position at a highway.

The explosion wounded seven PSG personnel and two soldiers from the 65th Infantry Division, who were in the convoy along with members of Radio Television Malacañang and local troop escorts preparing for Duterte’s visit Wednesday.

Maute members are being pursued by the military in Lanao del Sur after around 70 of them occupied the old and abandoned municipal hall in Barangay Bayabao, Butig town last Saturday.

Yesterday, government forces gained control of the building. At least 61 Maute criminals have been killed in the five-day military operation to dislodge them from the building. Operations are ongoing to clear the area of unexploded bombs.

Senior Supt. Agustin Tello, chief of the Lanao del Sur Police Provincial Office, said three to five members of the Maute group hid among the houses along the highway and fired a grenade launcher as soon as the military convoy passed.

He said the rifle grenade, which was “shoulder-fired,” hit the side of one of the Army trucks.

He said
is “no evidence” to support the presence of an IED.

“It was fired, parang shoulder fired, kaya na strike yung gilid ng sasakyan. Isang explosion lang ang nangyari. Yan ang theory namin kasi sa side tumama, hindi sa ilalim,” Tello said.

“Parang hit and run, baka yun ginawa nila. Mga three or five lang sila. May mga bahay doon so hindi basta maka-exchange of fire, kasi baka may tamaan na civilians,” he also said.

But he said there is no evidence the Maute knew there were PSG men in the trucks. He said the Maute members would hit any military truck they see.

Col. Generoso Ponio, deputy commander of the 103rd Brigade based in Lanao del Sur, said the IED was fashioned from a 60-mm mortar -- a trademark of the Maute group.

“There is no other group,” said Ponio citing findings of Explosive and Ordnance Disposal personnel on the bomb.

He said the IED was similar to the bomb used by the Maute in the September 2 Davao City bombing that left 15 people dead and scores injured.

The bomb in the Davao City bombing was made from 60-mm and 81-mm mortars. Eight Maute group members are already in the custody of authorities for the bombing. Some of them have confessed participation in the attack.

When told of reports that a rifle grenade was used in the Marawi City bombing, Ponio maintained that what was detonated was an IED.
Ponio said the Maute group detonated the IED to divert military focus from the operations in Butig and to “inflict casualties” on soldiers.

Lt. Col. Benedicto Manquiquis, spokesman of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, said: “The Maute Group is our suspect. The bomb used (in the Marawi roadside bombing) was similar to the one they used in the Davao City bombing.”

“This is a diversionary tactic  because of the focused military operations  against them in Butig,” he also said.

The military has said troops were on a convoy of military trucks when the IED went off a road in Barangay Matampay at around 10:45 a.m., hitting the lead vehicle.

Col. Edgard Arevalo, chief of the AFP public affairs office, said forces of the Army’s 103rd Brigade retook the old municipal building around 9:20 a.m.

Military officials said the Maute group took control of the building in response to military operations days earlier. Government troops moved to dislodge the group from the building and the fighting spread to other barangays in Butig.

“We have successfully retaken the (old) municipal building... If we are going to talk about the entire, 100 percent completion of the task of fully retaking and recovering that portion of Butig that they occupied, we are 80 percent complete,” said Arevalo, quoting from a report of Col. Roseller Murillo, commander of the 103rd Brigade.

Asked if they recovered any enemy body at the site, Arevalo said: “None yet. That will be part of the clearing operation that we are saying. We have to scour the area, we have to clear the area.”

The Maute Group, which has links with the Abu Sayyaf and the Southeast Asian regional terrorist network Jemaah Islamiah, has pledged allegiance t to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. It has around 200 to 300 men, according to the military.

Ambush in Marawi City? Residents have doubts

From Rappler (Dec 1): Ambush in Marawi City? Residents have doubts

The military laments all the talk about a staged ambush that wounded 9 soldiers, including President Duterte's security. 'It is difficult to sacrifice the lives of soldiers for a scenario like that,' says a colonel.

DOUBTS. Marawi City residents flock to the ambush site a day after the incident. Rappler photo

DOUBTS. Marawi City residents flock to the ambush site a day after the incident. Rappler photo

A day after the Marawi City ambush that wounded 9 soldiers, most of them security officers of President Rodrigo Duterte, residents and motorists gathered at the site to share their stories and version of what happened – or did not happen.

Some of the residents do not believe military and government reports that an improvised explosive device (IED) was detonated along the main highway of Barangay Emie Punud, leading to a firefight between soldiers and alleged rebels on Tuesday, November 29.

Abitaleb Campong, 38, said he was inside his house nearby when he heard Tuesday morning a loud bang which was followed by a spray of bullets. "Parang 79 [caliber] pumutok. Mga baril pumutok. Ang mga sundalo nagpaputok," Campong said. (It sounded like a caliber 79. And then gunshots were heared. The soldiers fired the shots.)

"First time 'yan.... Parang gawa-gawa ng mga sundalo. Sila ang pumutok e (That is the first time [an ambush happened here]. I think the soldiers made it up. They were the ones who fired)," Campong added. The reported IED blast happened in a residential area.

The military said this sentiment was "painful" to hear, a form of "propaganda" amid intensified government operations against the Maute terrorist group in the area.

President Rodrigo Duterte himself on Wednesday visited the soldiers who were confined in a hospital in Cagayan de Oro City.

Emil Disamburun, 45, shared Campong's doubts, although he lives farther down the city. "Kung may ambush, 'yung sa taas may [sundalo] na. Wala. Walang taong nakita dito," he said. (If there was an ambush, there would have been soldiers up there. We didn't see people there.)

The blast site is located at the bottom of a hilly side of the highway.

Marawi City has its share of ambush incidents, but they don't happen in barangay Emie Punud, according to Disamburun. "Panahon pa ni Marcos ang last na ambush dito," he said. (The last ambush incident in this area happened during the time of Marcos.)

SITE. The reported ambush happened along the main highway in Barangay Emie Punud.

SITE. The reported ambush happened along the main highway in Barangay Emie Punud

The sentiments echoed what was posted on Facebook Tuesday night by Drieza Abato Lininding that has since been shared more than 3,000 times as of this story's posting.

Accidental firing?

Lininding, a known Duterte supporter who describes himself as an "activist," said his team visited the houses near the ambush site to verify the incident.

Based on his interviews, residents believe that one of the soldiers in the convoy may have accidentally fired his M203 service firearm, causing confusion that might have prompted other soldiers to open fire.

In an interview with Rappler, Lininding said the military here would stage bombings and then blame them on Muslim rebels. "Our fear is that this is part of a larger scenario to declare martial law in Lanao area," he said.

Military officers, however, dismissed this talk as part of efforts to discredit soldiers who are in the middle of an all-out offensive against local terrorists and kidnappers.

AWARD. President Rodrigo Duterte visits the members of the Presidential Security Group injured in an ambush in Marawi City a day before his visit to Lanao del Sur. Contributed photo

AWARD. President Rodrigo Duterte visits the members of the Presidential Security Group injured in an ambush in Marawi City a day before his visit to Lanao del Sur. Contributed photo
Military reports showed that the incident happened before 11 am on Tuesday.

A convoy of the Presidential Security Group and Radio TV Malacañang (RTVM), along with local troop escorts, were on their way to Marawi when an IED exploded along their path, the military said.

The government troops were then fired upon by "armed suspects," the military said.

The 7 members of the PSG who were wounded were identified by the police as the following: Captain Zamora, Staff Sergeant Damaso, Corporal Inova, Corporal De Leon, Seargeant Garcia, Private First Class Gonzalez and Private First Class Panisa. Two other Army soldiers were also hurt.

A staff of the government RTVM channel, who was part of the convoy, attested to the ambush. He said they were forced to go the other way when they heard the blast. The military said the soldiers were immediately brought to the 103rd brigade headquarters then airlifted to a Cagayan de Oro hospital to be treated.

Colonel Rosseler Murillo, brigade commander, lamented how the residents were doubting the incident. "Alam natin na totoo ang ginagawa natin kasi ang hirap isakripisyo ang buhay ng sundalo para sa ganoong scenario lang," Murillo said. (We know that it is true. It is difficult to sacrifice the lives of soldiers for a scenario like that.)

One of the soldiers was seriously injured.

"They are very active sa mga ganoon kasi (in propaganda because) they are losing this battle," said Murillo, citing what he said is the close relationship among families in the area.

"Wala namang ibang fact e (There is no other fact). It was an ambush deliberately planned kung sino ang dadaan doon na (for whoever was passing there that was a) marked vehicle of the military," said Murillo.

The military launched an offensive against the Maute group that pledged allegiance to the foreign terrorist group Islamic State (ISIS) that has sought to establish a caliphate in the Middle East.

In Butig town, a few hours' drive away from Marawi City, the Maute group occupied the abandoned town hall and raised the black flag of the ISIS.

On Wednesday, the same day that Duterte visited the army camp in Lanao del Sur, the military said it had driven the group out of the town hall.

WATCH: Duterte in Butig town, Lanao for Command Conference

From Rappler (Dec 1): WATCH: Duterte in Butig town, Lanao for Command Conference

Watch President Duterte's speech November 30 in Butig town in Lanao del Sur.

President Rodrigo Duterte. Photo from Malacanang PPD

President Rodrigo Duterte. Photo from Malacanang PPD

President Rodrigo Duterte visits Butig town in Lanao to meet with military officials there. The military has been in a running battle with the local terror group Maute since the weekend and has reportedly flushed them out of the area. The Watch!

RED BOOK MEETS FACEBOOK | Revolution bridges generations in Melito Glor Command

From InterAksyon (Dec 1): RED BOOK MEETS FACEBOOK | Revolution bridges generations in Melito Glor Command

Jaime 'Ka Diego' Padilla, spokesman of the NPA's Melito Glor Command, and Ka Katryn. (photo by Bernard Testa,

In a New People’s Army camp in the Sierra Madre, invited journalists saw young guerrillas armed with MacBook Pros, one of them managing the Facebook account of RED BOOK MEETS FACEBOOK | Revolution bridges generations in Melito Glor Command, new spokesman of the Melito Glor Command.

If Padilla, 69, is the familiar face of the revolution, young cadres like the social media savvy college graduate Ka Katryn, 24, are the new.

Ang old dog mahirap turuan ng bagong tricks (It is hard to teach an old dog new tricks),” Ka Diego said, admitting it would be difficult to navigate the world of social media without his young comrades.

Two generations decades apart bound together in the almost half-century armed struggle in the countryside, the old, the link to history, the young giving new blood to the movement.

Almost 50 years since the longest armed struggle in Asia was launched, the faces -- and technologies -- of the revolution may have changed, but the causes that drive their struggle, such as genuine land reform, nationalist industrialization, social equity, said Ka Diego, have not.


[Video report]

GRP, NDF unveil ‘peace talks’ agenda

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 1): GRP, NDF unveil ‘peace talks’ agenda

TUGUEGARAO CITY, Cagayan - - Officials of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) recently revealed the substantive agenda of the on-going peace negotiations in a symposium hosted by the Archdiocese here.

Benito Tiamzon, member of the NDF panel, said the peace negotiation is anchored on four major agenda to include human rights and international humanitarian law, socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

Wilma Tiamzon, another member of the NDF panel, said there were several peace negotiation attempts since 1986, however, none were successful.

The two members expressed their optimism that the Duterte administration will be sincere enough to come up into a fair and serious negotiation that will benefit both parties that result in the attainment of lasting peace and development in the country.

“We are passionate in dealing with the government negotiators as we want peace in the country. We are pushing for several development programs that the government should adhere and implement in order for us to end violence and eradicate poverty and injustices which are the root causes of armed conflict and insurgencies all over the country,” Wilma Tiamzon said.

Included in the development program that the NDF wants to pursue with the government are land reform, cooperativism, agricultural modernization, and national industrialization.

On the government side, Labor secretary Silvestre Bello III said the GRP panel members push the peace talks process forward to attain its objective with sincerity from both parties.

Bello said one of the four major agenda laid by the NDF, the human rights and international humanitarian law concern, was already done while the three remaining agenda are on table discussion.

Bello, however, said that nothing will go wrong should the peace negotiations fail as long as both parties will believe and trust each other and be sincere in adhering to the agreements shared and signed by each other.
The first peace talks in the present administration has just concluded in Oslo, Norway while the next level of negotiation will in January next year will be conducted in Rome, Italy.

Bello said the next panel of negotiation will not only cover the other peace agenda items but also the implementation of a bilateral ceasefire from both sides.

“We need to have the bilateral ceasefire to lower the level of violence while the GRP and the CPP-NPA-NDF are having peace negotiations,” Bello added.

The symposium on peace talk was participated in by students from different tertiary schools, farmers from various towns, government employees, non-government organizations, youth representatives, church workers from the Roman Catholic, Aglipayan and non-sectarian religious organizations.