Monday, March 28, 2016

NPA spots chance to expand in Luzon, Visayas by clashing with AFP troops

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 29): NPA spots chance to expand in Luzon, Visayas by clashing with AFP troops

Engaging military forces in a sustained guerrilla war in Mindanao offers an opportunity for the expansion of New People’s Army units in Visayas and Luzon, according to a senior communist leader.

In a statement issued for the 47th founding anniversary of the NPA on Tuesday, National Democratic Front-Mindanao spokesperson Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos said that 68 of the military’s 113 battalions have been operating in Mindanao.  Of the 68, 34 are in communist hotspots while the other 34 are in Moro areas, according to Madlos.

“And while the enemy has concentrated 60 percent of the AFP’s forces in Mindanao, it gives much leeway for the regions in Luzon and in the Visayas to significantly advance the armed struggle,” Madlos said.

Madlos noted that the concentration of military operations in Southern and Northeastern Mindanao regions “opens the perfect opportunity” for the other guerrilla formations in the island to “make headway in their expansion and consolidation work and in their overall effort to advance the revolution within their territories.”

However, Madlos admitted that the military focus in the area has also affected the communist movement and Moro armed groups and their communities.

“Brutal campaigns and military operations have been launched almost simultaneously against revolutionary forces led by the Party, NPA and the NDF and, at the same time, against Moro armed groups that continue to wage armed struggle,” Madlos said.

Madlos said that this has “inflicted immeasurable suffering” on the communities and revolutionary forces most especially in the countryside.

“It has been the standard procedure of these operations to perpetrate massacres with impunity, murders, burning of houses and schools, indiscriminate shelling, bombings (with the use of helicopters and bomber planes), forcible evacuations and other despicable forms of brutalities,” he claimed.

Despite the persisting military operations, Madlos asserted that the NPA has expanded and has been operating in 2,500 communities covering 200 towns in 20 provinces in Mindanao.

“The population influenced by the revolution increased to several millions, wherein 200,000 are directly organized, while tens of thousands are covered by the people’s revolutionary governments in numerous communities and barangays and some at the municipal level,” Madlos said.

The communist leader added there has been a growth in the recruitment of “people’s militias” who have been participating in direct military actions, intelligence work and logistical support.

Madlos also claimed that at least 500 tactical offensives were launched in Mindanao in 2015, which doubled the 250 attacks reported in 2010.

“Over the last two months of 2016 alone, the NPA in Mindanao launched more than a hundred TOs (tactical offensives), most of which were directed against detachments and regular troops of the AFP,” Madlos said.

He added that the NPA has also stepped up its “punitive measures” against plantations and large-scale mining owned by multinational corporations that allegedly “grabbed ancestral lands from the Lumad, monopolized lands and deprived the peasantry the opportunity for agrarian reform.”

“These corporations have also tremendously exploited the workers, and have wantonly plundered the natural resources and extensively damaged the environment,” Madlos said.

NPA suspects kill retired soldier

From the Visayan Daily Star (Mar 29): NPA suspects kill retired soldier

Four suspected New People's Army assassins struck yesterday and killed a former member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Brgy. Guinpana-an,Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental.

The victim identified by the Moises Padilla police as Armando Secuya, 61, succumbed to multiple gunshot wounds. He was shot at close range, by two of the four unidentified suspects, who carried . 45 caliber pistols, Police Office 1 Erald Gesu-an, case investigator, said last night.

Secuya, who used to be a member of the AFP, is the husband of Guinpana-an kagawad Emmy Secuya.

Investigations of the Moises Padilla police showed that Secuya was standing at a waiting shed at Purok 3 in the barangay, when he was confronted by two of the four suspects, at about 3:15 p.m. yesterday.

Without any provocation, the two gunmen took turns in shooting Secuya, while two others acted as look-outs.

Testimonies of witnesses showed that while fleeing from the crime scene, the suspects shouted “Mabuhay ang NPA”.

Moises Padilla policemen, who responded to the crime scene, recovered 17 spent shells, three live ammunition and two deformed slugs of a .45 caliber pistol.

Based on accounts of witnesses, Gesu-an described the suspects to be in their early 30s, dark-skinned and strangers to the place.

The New People's Army is marking its 47th founding anniversary today.

Both the police and military personnel assigned in Negros Occidental have been placed on red alert status, in anticipation of NPA terroristic activities, usually being conducted on or before their anniversary, as shown in Army records in the past years.

Indonesian crew taken hostage by militants

From SBS (MaR 29): Indonesian crew taken hostage by militants

Ten Indonesians have been taken hostage by hardline Islamic militants who have already made demands for ransom, the government says.

Ransom demands have been made over 10 Indonesian crew members taken hostage by Islamic militants in Philippine waters.

The crew were on a tugboat and barge flying Indonesian flags and carrying 7000 tonnes of coal when hijacked.

It is not known exactly when or where the boats were overrun, only that the owner of the vessels discovered what had happened on March 26 via a call from someone claiming to be from the Abu Sayyaf Group - a band of militants from the southern Philippines.

The hijackers have since contacted the owner twice demanding ransom, Indonesia's foreign ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said on Tuesday.

The group is known for its kidnap-for-ransom and extortion ventures, with the former in particular being its main source of funding since its creation in 1991.

It has been linked to numerous kidnappings, including the 2011 hostage taking of Australian Warren Richard Rodwell, released more than 15 months later after a payment of about $A94,000.

Abu Sayyaf has also been tied to larger deadly attacks, including on a wedding in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines in November 2011 in which three people were killed.

Months earlier five people died when an improvised explosive was detonated outside an elementary school in Jolo, also in the south of the country.

Mr Nasir said the Indonesia's foreign ministry was continuing to communicate and co-ordinate with various people, including the foreign minister of the Philippines.

"The priority at the moment is the safety of 10 Indonesians taken hostage.

"The company so far has conveyed the information on this to the family of 10 crews taken hostage," he said.

The vessels - tugboat Brahma 12 and barge Anand 12 - were on their way from South Kalimantan to Batangas in the southern Philippines when captured.

The abandoned tug has since been found by Philippine authorities.

The barge and the 7000 tonnes of coal remain in the hands of the kidnappers whose location is unknown.

Indonesian envoy confirms ship hijacked, crew held in southern PH

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 29): Indonesian envoy confirms ship hijacked, crew held in southern PH
The Indonesian Embassy in Manila has confirmed that an Indonesian vessel has been hijacked in the Philippines and its crew is being held hostage.

“The latest news said it’s true that an Indonesian-flagged vessel has been hijacked and its crewmen have been kidnapped,” embassy spokesperson Basriana said via text message on Monday.

READ: Abu Sayyaf bandits snatch 10 Indonesians off Sulu – military

However, Basriana could not confirm whether the hijacking of the Indonesian vessel involved Abu Sayyaf militants, a group of Islamic extremists that has become notorious for a series of deadly attacks over recent decades, reported.

The embassy was still coordinating with the Indonesian Consulate General in Davao and other relevant authorities in the Philippines to gain deeper insights into the situation, Basriana said.

News circulating in the media said the southern Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf group had taken over the Indonesian-flagged vessel and taken 10 Indonesian crewmen hostage.

Previously, an Indonesian sailor from North Sulawesi, Papae Cleon Clevy, wrote about the incident on his Facebook account, leading to the statement circulating among Indonesian seamen.

“It’s confirmed that one tugboat named Brahma 12 is under arrest by Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines, the vessel is from Banjarmasin with coal cargo,” Papae wrote.

In a previous post, Papae uploaded a screenshot of the Facebook page of Peter Tonsen Barahama, the captain of the Brahma 12.

A circulating port clearance document stated that the tugboat departed for the Philippines from Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan, on March 15, carrying coal and 16 crewmen. The ship was reportedly hijacked on Saturday.

Separately, Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said the ministry was still digging for more information about the incident.

“We’re still trying to find out the information,” Arrmanatha said, adding that he had heard the news from journalists.

The National Counterterrorism Agency’s (BNPT) deradicalization director Irfan Idfris said the agency had sought information from the police.

The latest information claimed the crewmen were being held on land and the captors were demanding a ransom of 50 million pesos.

Abu Sayyaf Demands US$1mil Ransom For Indonesian Crew Taken Hostage

From the Malayasian Digest (Mar 29): Abu Sayyaf Demands US$1mil Ransom For Indonesian Crew Taken Hostage

Two Indonesia-flagged vessels were taken hostage at the weekend by Abu Sayyaf militants in the Philippines, said a Foreign Affairs Ministry (Kemlu) official on Tuesday (March 29), confirming earlier media reports of the capture.
The Straits Times understands that the militant group, based in the southern Philippines, has demanded US$1mil (RM4mil) for the release of one of the vessels and its crew.
“It is confirmed that tugboats Brahma 12 and Anand 12 carrying 7,000 tonnes of coal and 10 Indonesian crew members were captured,” said Kemlu spokesman Armanatha Nasir,
“The exact time (of the incident) is not clear but the owner of vessels found out about it on March 26 when they were contacted by a person who claimed to be from the Abu Sayyaf.”
The Brahma 12 has since been released and is now under the care of the local authorities in the Philippines, but the Anand 12 and its crew of 10 remain in the hands of the “pirates” at an unknown location, said Armanatha, without explaining why the former was released.
The Straits Times understands that Abu Sayyaf has demanded US$1 million in ransom for Anand 12 and its crew.
The incident occured on Saturday after the two vessels left Sungai Puting, in South Kalimantan, for Batangas in southern Philippines.
According to Armanatha, the hostage-takers had contacted the owner of the Anand 12 twice since Saturday to demand a ransom in exchange for the release of the vessel and crew.
He did not elaborate on the course of action being taken by the authorities but added that the priority of Kemlu is “the safety of the 10 Indonesian crew members being held hostage”.
Kidnapping as well as beheadings, bombings and extortion are the modus operandi of the Abu Sayyaf, based in the southern Philippines.
The Straits Times

DOST’s R&D experts tapped by DND to build military drones

From the Manila Bulletin (Mar 27): DOST’s R&D experts tapped by DND to build military drones

Research for building drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is now in the line of fire of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

But the DOST’s Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD) has made it clear that research and development (R&D) for UAVs does not include making of war materials.
PCIEERD Executive Director Dr. Carlos Primo David confirmed last Friday that the program of possible drone building opened up after Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin approached the PCIEERD for a possible partnership.
“Anything that will keep our troops safe,” said David as an assurance of the PCIEERD’s readiness in conducting R&D on drones for various applications, including potentially for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
However, David emphasized that the discussion is still in progress and that the PCIEERD has a limitation on its R&D, with reservation on the making of firearms and explosives.
He said that his view is that the military has many community activities for which a drone would come in handy.
He said a UAV Consortium is presently being formed, as he invited the academe, the private sector, and other interested parties to join.
The PCIEERD head also called on other government agencies to partner with the DOST so that every research could be tailored according to their needs.
David said sometime in April, DOST-PCIEERD will sign a Memorandum of Agreement with the DND for the UAV program under planning, a two-year tie-up that is open to renewal as the need demands.

Army official: Balikatan exercises not directed to China

From the Philippine Star (Mar 28): Army official: Balikatan exercises not directed to China

Filipino Scout Rangers march during ceremonies at the 119th founding anniversary of the Philippine Army in suburban Taguig, south of Manila, Philippines on Tuesday, March 22, 2016. Under the administration of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, the Philippine military continues to it's modernization program as it deals with major security concerns, including Communist and Muslim insurgencies and South China Sea territorial disputes involving China, the Philippines and four other governments. AP/Aaron Favila

The Balikatan joint military drills are not directed to any country despite China's aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea, a military official clarified on Monday.

Balikatan 2016 Assistant Exercise Director Maj. Gen. Rodolfo Santiago said that China should not be threatened by the Balikatan exercises between American and Filipino troops.

"If they will be invited as observers, they would see that this is not directed at anyone because what we do is practice a generic scenario that does not address any of the threats so even China should not be threatened by what we are doing," Santiago said in an interview with ANC's Headstart.

One of the exercises includes a scenario wherein Filipino troops will try to recapture a territory that has been occupied by foreign forces.

Santiago clarified that the recapturing scenario is part of the defense exercise of Filipino forces.

"Any type of aggression from any other country would involve seizing of an island and therefore as part of our defense. In fact, we are assuming that we lost the island so we have to retake it," Santiago said.

About 10,000 troops from Australia, the Philippines and the US will participate in the Balikatan exercises from April 4 to 15. Japanese forces have also been invited as observers in the joint military drills.

Santiago noted that this is the one of the biggest Balikatan exercises as five unit commands – the Western Command in Palawan, the Northern Luzon Command in Tarlac, the Central Command in Cebu and Panay, the Southern Luzon Command in Lucena and the Joint Task Force in Manila – are involved this year.

American troops joining the joint military drills are expected to start arriving in the Philippines today.

Army augments security in Canlaon

From the Sun Star-Bacolod (Mar 28): Army augments security in Canlaon

THE Philippine Army has augmented security in Canlaon City, Negros Oriental, following a series of shootings that has claimed three lives and injured another.

Superintendent Frankie Lugo, city police chief, said the Army pulled out some of their troops in Guihulngan City, considered a stronghold of the New People’s Army (NPA), to boost the security forces in Canlaon.

The NPA will celebrate their 47th founding anniversary on Tuesday, March 29.
Lugo said the “main effort of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is concentrated on Guihulngan” for the rebel group’s anniversary, but could not ignore the Canlaon shootings.

He said the Canlaon shootings may be aimed “to make a scenario” and divert the attention of authorities, as he considered the incidents “alarming.”

Lugo said that Senior Superintendent Harris Fama, acting director of the Negros Oriental Police Provincial Office, has ordered him to look deeper into the shootings.

He also said that Fama directed him “not to be impulsive” to avoid a repeat of the ambush incident in Candoni, Negros Occidental, perpetrated by the NPA last month.

The attack claimed the lives of two policemen and injured two others, as well as a civilian.

On March 22, Tuesday, three men were shot dead in Sitio Inatito, Barangay Bucalan, Canlaon city.

Police identified the fatalities as Juvy Mahusay, 44, of Barangay Patun an, and William Arquil, 57, of Barangay Bantayanon, all in Calatrava, Negros Occidental; and Anthony Tuso, 32, of Barangay Palampas, San Carlos City, also in Negros Occidental.

Lugo said the victims were killed by unidentified men around 8 p.m., but the incident was only reported to the police on Wednesday, March 23.

He added that the victims were going around the hinterland village to sell solar panels. They were last seen in Guihulngan City on Monday, March 21.

“They have markings on their hands indicating that they were tied but we never recovered the ropes,” Lugo said.

Residents saw about 30 armed men in the barangay after the incident, Lugo said.

On March 23, another man was injured after he was shot by his neighbor, a suspected NPA member, in Barangay Budlasan.

The victim was identified as Danilo Proponio, 38, of Sitio Gusa.

Lugo said the victim was walking with the suspect, identified as Lane Jipulan of Guihulngan City, near his house when he was shot.

The NPA believed that the victim is an informant of the police and military, he added.

On March 14, suspected NPA members also gunned down a village watchman in Barangay Bucalan.

Maximo Cortado Jr., 57, was killed by 11 assailants while his relative, Mario Sanchez, was unharmed after he was told by the suspected rebels to run away.

Noy’s housing units ‘hellish’

From The Standard (Mar 27): Noy’s housing units ‘hellish’

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III’s close allies in Congress have demanded that the Palace account for the anomalous P18.6-billion housing projects as they condemned the “hellish, inhumane, and uninhabitable” shelters for military soldiers and policemen.

Magdalo Reps. Gary Alejano and Francisco Ashley Acedillo, close allies of the President, protested the “squatter treatment” accorded the men in uniform.

Alejano said the soldiers and policemen defied the order to occupy the multibillion-worth of hellish units even if the National Housing Authority threatened to revoke the awarded housing units if they continued to refuse to occupy the shelters.

Magdalo Reps. Gary Alejano and Francisco Ashley Acedillo
“The multibillion, substandard housing units do not have access to social services, transportation, resulting in a burdensome life and a hellish residential environment for the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police personnel and their families,” Alejano said.

“But the soldiers and cops are being forced to occupy the multibillion substandard units or the awarded units would be revoked. Is that how you treat the soldiers and cops who risk their lives for all of us?” Alejano said.

In an interview with The Standard, Alejano said the Magdalo lawmakers did ocular inspections and found that substandard design and construction of the units were the same in Baras, Rizal; Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon; Zamboanga; Bacolod; and Bulacan, with each province supposed to house 10,000 units.

He cited the case in Rizal where there were 2,000 units constructed but only 180 turned up to accept and occupy the units. There were 140 from the military and 40 from the PNP.

The same low occupancy rate was noted in other provinces, Alejano said.

“The communities where our military soldiers and policemen are being relocated did not have access to transportation, public markets, schools, hospitals and churches,” Alejano lamented. “The areas are so isolated, the families felt they were not secure.”

“The reason for the very low occupancy rate at less than 10 percent is because the units are not livable. It is hellish to live there. The government would only make their lives miserable and our soldiers and policemen would not be able to carry out their jobs if they would worry about the families they leave behind. There is no drainage, no water, no power, not even a playground for children,” Alejano said.

“While the men and women in uniform were deployed to areas risking their lives fighting for all of us, their wives and husbands are left behind queuing to fetch water,” Alejano said.

“The substandard AFP and PNP housing units bastardized the sacrifices rendered by our gallant soldiers and policemen,” Alejano said.

Alejano said the P18.6-billion project was started in 2012 by the NHA that was placed under the Office of the President.

“The NHA is mandated to implement the AFP-PNP Housing program, a flagship program of President Aquino that seeks to provide permanent housing and security of tenure to low-salaried military and police whose need for housing must be addressed immediately,” Alejano said.

He said some 120,000 soldiers from the AFP and 150,000 from the PNP were supposed to be the target recipients of the housing projects.

“Of the 67,000 units constructed and completed in phases one and two of the four phases, less than 6,700 soldiers and police opted to occupy the houses because of the hellish residential environment. All the rest are vacant and fast deteriorating. Some P18.6 billion in public funds all going to waste,” Alejano told The Standard.

“The foundation and walls [of the housing units] were not completely filled in with cement, the septic tank easily unearthed because of the thinness of the concrete cover and other pertinent issues related to poor construction,” according to Alejano.

“The men and women of AFP and PNP deserve better housing conditions given their commitment, dedication and loyalty to protect and defend the Filipino people from harm,” according to Acedillo.

The lawmaker-allies filed House Resolution 2466 urging Congress to investigate the National Housing Authority as to where it brought the P18.6-billion budget for Aquino’s housing flagship program.

They said they were incensed but were not surprised to find that only less than 10 percent of the 67,000 soldiers and policemen who were awarded the housing units chose to occupy the uninhabitable and substandard houses.

Alejano described the housing units as “bahay kalapati,” or pigeon coops, where there is no proper ventilation and elbow room to move around the house.

He said there was a provision for an attic but that the loft was too low the occupant had to bow low to get to move around the attic. The unit has a floor area of only 22 square meters and is made of light materials.

“Worse, the units are not equipped with water and power amenities,” Alejano lamented.

“As guardians of peace and protectors of democracy, the provision of decent housing is a small price to pay for the freedom we currently enjoy,” Acedillo said.

Alejano said the 22-sq. m. substandard units are being paid for by the soldiers and police for P150,000 to P200,000 at P150 to P200 in monthly amortization, payable over 30 years.

Alejano said the NHA has failed to consult the end-users considering that the soldiers and policemen can easily afford even five units with monthly amortization of P1,000.

“The NHA obviously failed to consult our soldiers and policemen being the end-users because they were being treated like informal settlers who needed subsidy and preferably be provided with free housing. But these men and women in uniform are salaried state enforcers who deserve to be treated with respect and provided with decent housing that they can easily afford,” Alejano said.

The AFP top brass informed the Magdalo lawmakers that the transfer to the completed units was hampered by the soldiers still assigned to the field and have yet to find time to relocate their families.

The soldiers, the AFP leadership said, also needed some money to improve on their units particularly in making sure the provisions for power and water were fixed.

Alejano demanded that the NHA identify the developers that constructed the multibillion substandard housing units.

Alejano said they have raised their concerns with the NHA in October but that the agency has yet to give proper answers to their queries.

‘The Big One’ is one of war games’ scenarios

From the Manila Times (Mar 28): ‘The Big One’ is one of war games’ scenarios

THE feared “Big One” or the powerful earthquake that may strike Metro Manila (National Capital Region or NCR) will be among the scenarios that would be undertaken in the annual military exercise between the Philippines and the United States, an official of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP disclosed on Sunday.

Capt. Celeste Frank Sayson, Exercise Balikatan 2016 spokesman, said this is part of the command post exercise (CPX) or table top exercise to “test” how top AFP officials would react if the powerful earthquake hit the NCR.

“All [the] AFP generals will be placed in a certain room, there will be two opposing forces there. They will do the simulation and since this is a military exercise, we will see how our generals [react] when a crisis happens,” Sayson explained.

For instance, he said, if the the earthquake directly strikes the West Valley Fault, the scenario is how the AFP will deliver its array of forces, how would it react to situation, how they would it coordinate with the President and what will be the command and control mechanism.

“Then of course we are expecting the arrival of allied countries like America. Because of bilateral relations through the MDT, we can invoke that they help us in any force of crisis,” Sayson added.

The MDT is the Mutual Defense Treaty signed by the Philippines and the United States in 1951.

The CPX, which will start on March 28 to 31, will carry out several other scenarios.
Sayson did not disclose what these other scenarios are.

Last year, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) successfully staged the first-ever synchronized earthquake drill in Metro Manila.

Following what was dubbed as “Shake Drill,” Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum is positive that the awareness of Filipinos on the “Big One” has greatly increased.
The West Valley Fault, which cuts across the NCR, with more than 12 million people, and outlying provinces, can shift anytime based on its seismic history.

Sayson said that since military and civil authorities would automatically be the first responders, the Armed Forces must be fully aware of the contingencies.

“Will the AFP pull out its forces in Northern Luzon Command to help? Is it going to pull out the Southern Luzon Command to help because a vast majority of its forces have moved forward to a certain part of the Philippines? So there are many ifs because this is a military planning,” he pointed out.

Meanwhile, Sayson said the US forces and their war materiel to be used in the war games will start arriving on Monday in several undisclosed locations in the country.

DWDD: MODERNIZED NAVY II Three Additional Vessels for the Philippine Navy Arrive

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Mar 28): MODERNIZED NAVY II Three Additional Vessels for the Philippine Navy Arrive

Roxas Boulevard, Manila – Three Landing Craft Heavy (LCH) vessels that will add up to the growing fleet of the Philippine Navy (PN) arrived in Liloan, Cebu, Philippines from Australia on Mar. 26 at around 10:30 in the morning.


 LCH 3, 4 and 5 are the decommissioned vessels of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) formerly named as Her Majesty’s Australian Ship (HMAS) BALIKPAPAN (L126), HMAS WEWAK (L130) and HMAS BETANO (L133). They were transported by a cargo ship from NTG Shipping traversing the waters from Darwin, Australia via Cairns, also of Australia, before heading to the Philippines.
 They will be moved from Cebu to the PN shipyard in Cavite in the middle of May in preparation for their christening and commissioning tentatively scheduled on May 25, 2016 in time for the PN anniversary celebration.
 With their capability of moving large amounts of cargo, personnel and equipment, these vessels will bolster the PN’s humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operations. They will also be useful in transporting troops from one operational area to another especially during amphibious operations.
 Correspondingly, the PN initiated necessary preparations and other training activities last year to ensure the competent crewing of these ships which will be validated once they assume their posts. The operational readiness training is deemed to be dynamic and adaptable to changes. At present, more or less 30 PN personnel are assigned aboardship while the vessel will undergo minor repairs and refurbishment.
These three LCH vessels amounting to approximately PhP 270M in total are the supplementary assets procured by the government in conjunction with the two vessels of the same kind that were donated by the Australian Government and subsequently turned over to the PN on July 23, 2015.
 The acquisition of additional capabilities of our Navy further translates into offering better service to our maritime nation as we continue to protect our country, step up commitment for HADR and our continuing pledge to provide assistance to our Filipino people in all corners of the archipelago.  These new assets are manifestations of our Navy’s optimum readiness to perform its tasks and the ability to adapt vis-a-vis the emergent operating environment. 

DWDD: SUCCESSFUL TRACK DOWN II Another NPA Died as Armed Engagement Ensued Anew

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Mar 28): SUCCESSFUL TRACK DOWN II Another NPA Died as Armed Engagement Ensued Anew

CAMP EVANGELISTA, Cagayan de Oro CityAnother NPA died as encounter sparked again between the troops under 401st Infantry Brigade and the NPA remnants at the hinter area of Brgy Bangonay, Jabonga, Agusan del Norte at around 3:30 in the afternoon yesterday, March 27, 2016, one AK47 rifle recovered.
The troops were tracking down the same NPA group they’ve encountered a few days ago in the outskirts of Jabonga and Kitcharao towns of Agusan del Norte.
It can be noted that this is already the 20th armed engagements since last month that resulted to the death of a total of three NPA members, recovery of one M14 and six AK47 rifles, four Landmines, four handheld radios, 17 rounds of 60mm and five rounds of 81mm mortars, and NPA belongings including subversive documents with high intelligence value.
MGen Benjamin R Madrigal Jr., Commander of 4th Infantry Division lauded the troops who have been very successful in tracking down the NPA remnants’ location. He said, “I congratulate our gallant soldiers who fought bravely and are fully motivated in accomplishing their mission. I also thank the concerned civilians who are giving timely and relevant information about the NPA’s location and activities.”
“However, we are saddened about the death of these three Filipinos. They could have been alive by now, living peacefully with their family, if only George Madlos and Myrna Sularte (NPA leaders in Caraga region) and their cohorts did not deceived them to join this non-sense armed struggle.”
“We urge the remaining NPA in this area to finally come to a decision to reflect, think for the future of their family, and go back to mainstream society. This is the only way we could start building everyone’s dream that is to have a peaceful community that is conducive for development.” MGen Madrigal concluded
The body of the said NPA was immediately turned over to the local officials and PNP for identification and to give a decent burial.
Pursuit operation in the area is still ongoing to track down the remaining NPA.

DWDD: ARMY EXTENDS SYMPATHY II To Explosion Victims at Kalilangan, Bukidnon

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Mar 28): ARMY EXTENDS SYMPATHY II To Explosion Victims at Kalilangan, Bukidnon

CAMP OSITO D BAHIAN, MALAYBALAY CITY (DWDD) –  A explosion incident transpired at Pud-ong Hill, Sitio Kibaritan, Barangay Malinao, Kalilangan, Bukidnon killing three minors and injuring another yesterday, March 25, 2016 around 1 o’clock in the afternoon.

Kalilangan Bukidnon Map

The victims were identified as Delmar W Copresos, 15 years old, Regie W. Copresos 11 years old, while Roldmar W. Copreros, 13 years old was rushed to Bukidnon Provincial Hospital based at Kalilangan but unfortunately was declared dead on arrival Loyd P. Nanggaska, 13 years old, managed to run but got injured and was admitted at the said hospital. All fatalities were residents of the said sitio.

According Lieutenant Colonel Peter Edwin R Navarro, Commanding Officer of 1st Special Forces Battalion, prior to the incident, dissemination and dialogue were conducted by Land Warfare Center, Training and Doctrine Command and Division Training School (DTS) of 4th Infantry Division informing the residents that the said were off limits the civilians because it serves as the impact zone for firing high and low caliber weapons including mortars and 90RR weapons.

Lieutenant Colonel Navarro also stated that the 4th Infantry (Diamond) Division through the 403rd Infantry (Peacemaker) Brigade has extended necessary assistance and their deepest sympathy to the families now grieving for the loss of their loved ones. “We are supporting the investigation being conducted by the local police and will cooperate in any way deemed necessary. Whatever the result of the investigation by the PNP, the 4ID will abide by it. We are now conducting joint investigation in coordination with the Municipal Police Station of Kalilangan to determine the facts of the incident. We will also enhance security measures in order to prevent the same incident from happening again in the future”. CMO 403IBde / MCAG

DWDD: ARMS TO FARMS II Former NPA Rebels Reap Fruits of Labor in Bukidnon

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Mar 28): ARMS TO FARMS II Former NPA Rebels Reap Fruits of Labor in Bukidnon

Impasugong, Bukidnon (DWDD) – Former NPA rebels working in the Arm to Farm program of the Army’s 8th Infantry Battalion received another bountiful blessing today, March 27, 2016, as they harvest the mushrooms in their pilot organic farm in Impasugong, Bukidnon. These rebels were among those who participated in the recently conducted Mushroom Production Seminar in the said Army battalion last March 5, 2016. This crop has been added to the organic farm’s various agricultural production components which include vegetable gardening, goat raising, swine production, poultry and inland fishery.

The Arm to Farm program is a convergence program of the 8th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, the Department of Agriculture, the Local Government Unit of Impasugong, Bukidnon and the DILG-Bukidnon. It is aimed at providing agricultural based livelihood opportunities for former NPA rebels as well as the local residents in conflict-affected communities in Bukidnon. It is anchored at the IPSP Bayanihan’s “winning the peace” advocacy which endeavors to resolve local issues that breed conflict and insurgency. Moreover, the Arm to Farm program provides a shelter and a learning institution for former NPA rebels as they are reoriented and guided back to the mainstream society as they live a normal and peaceful life.

CPT ELEAZAR P ELARMO (QMS) PA, focal person of the 8th Infantry Battalion’s Arm to Farm advocacy, has stated the significance of the Arm to Farm program in the government’s effort to win the peace in the province of Bukidnon. “It is always important for us to find better ways to promote peace and help the local government units here in the province of Bukidnon strengthen and empower their communities by resolving local issues that create division and conflict among the people. The Arm to Farm program is a very promising effort that works on the attainment of these goals. It signifies our unit’s true commitment as a dependable partner in peace building and progress, particularly here in this beautiful province.” says CPT ELARMO. CMO 8IB / MCAG

NDF: The NPA in Mindanao has Sustained the Advance of People's War

From the National Democratic Front Philippines Website (Mar 28): The NPA in Mindanao has Sustained the Advance of People's War

[Message of the NDF-Mindanao on the occasion of the 47th Founding Anniversary of the New People’s Army (NPA)]

The National Democratic Front-Mindanao joins the rest of the Filipino people in rendering its highest salute and conveying its congratulations to all the Red fighters and commanders of the New People’s Army (NPA) on its 47th founding anniversary on March 29, 1969. We also salute all the revolutionary martyrs who sacrificed their lives in the interest of advancing the armed struggle for national liberation and genuine democracy.

It is only fitting that we pay due importance to this auspicious day because the NPA, one of the foremost weapons of the people’s democratic revolution, continue to carry out its primary tasks and has reaped significant victories. This army has grown in size and strength and has frustrated the ill-intent of the US-Aquino III regime to crush the real people’s army and the entire revolutionary movement before the end of its term.

From almost nothing, the NPA was founded in Central Luzon in 1969 and it spread throughout the country. In Mindanao, the first NPA unit was established in 1972 in the boundary areas of Misamis Oriental and Agusan del Norte. From 1972, NPA forces in Mindanao spread and continued to increase in size and strength in the face of the brutal attacks of the Dictator Marcos’s OPlan “Nip-in-the-bud”, Cory Aquino’s and Ramos’s Oplan Lambat Bitag, Estrada’s Oplan Mamamayan and Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya. Currently, the US-Aquino III regime’s OPlan Bayanihan faces definite failure and a huge defeat. It is defeated because it has utterly failed to crush a small and weak guerrilla force, which has stood its ground and grew even stronger despite the enormity of the size and strength of the regular armed forces of the reactionary state.

Its revolutionary victories have been concretely attained through the implementation of its tasks in waging the armed struggle, base building, launching agrarian revolution, advancing anti-fascist and anti-imperialist struggles, and conducting political and ideological study courses, including cultural work.

Even with the brutal onslaughts of the US-Aquino III regime’s OPB against the revolutionary forces in Mindanao, the guerrilla fronts in the island, from beginning of the regime in 2010 up until this year, increased to 46, which covers the five regions of the NPA in Mindanao. Many among these fronts have company-sized forces, and not even one was decimated.

Guerrilla front-building attained its successes because of the determined effort to establish and widen bases that serve as maneuver areas of NPA units. In all of the six years under the US-Aquino III regime, the number of barrios where the NPA operates increased from 1,850 to more than 2,500 at present, covering more than 200 municipalities in 20 provinces in the whole of Mindanao. The population influenced by the revolution increased to several millions, wherein 200,000 are directly organized, while tens of thousands are covered by the people’s revolutionary governments in numerous communities and barangays and some at the municipal level.

Generally, in Mindanao, the NPA has increased its strength. From the start of the US-Aquino III regime, it has grown to more than a hundred fulltime NPA unit formations from squad, platoon to company. Not one of these platoons was destroyed in battle by the enemy. The NPA has been able to sustain numerous recruits because of the breadth and depth of established guerrilla zones and bases.

People’s Militia units in barrios and communities, which are the direct reserved forces of fulltime NPA units, have grown by the thousands in Mindanao. Many among them directly participate in military actions. They have also been mobilized in intelligence work, transport of supply, and other military support to fulltime units of the NPA.

Guerrilla units in squads, platoons and companies, together with thousands of People’s Militia, launched more intensified tactical offensives (TOs) against enemy regular and paramilitary units of the butcher AFP. In 2010, the NPA was only able to launch 250 tactical offensives in the entire island. In the next five years, this has become more intensified and frequent, and in 2015, more than 500 TOs were launched by the NPA in Mindanao. Over the last two months of 2016 alone, the NPA in Mindanao launched more than a hundred TOs, most of which were directed against detachments and regular troops of the AFP.

We have combined annihilative and attritive military actions, through which, if we add up the number of casualties within the armed troops of the AFP, PNP and the paramilitary, we have wiped out one battalion each year in the past six years. From these tactical offensives, we have confiscated thousands of firearms of various calibre. These firearms, including those given by allies and those we bought from different sources, served as additional weapons in our effort to build more platoons and companies spread across the 5 regions of Mindanao.

It is also the NPA’s task to launch military actions to impose punitive measures against large-scale mining and plantations owned by multinational corporations (e.g. SRMI, PGMC, Dole, Del Monte and SumiFru) that have grabbed ancestral lands from the Lumad, monopolized lands and deprived the peasantry the opportunity for agrarian reform. These corporations have also tremendously exploited the workers, and have wantonly plundered the natural resources and extensively damaged the environment.
The task of defending the interests of the Filipino people and that of launching tactical offensives to gradually weaken and destroy the reactionary army of the ruling classes have only been resounding successes because of the strong and broad support of the people.

Mass support for the NPA has become ever stronger given that part of its central task is to wage genuine agrarian reform in the countryside. Victories in terms of land reform, benefitting hundreds of thousands of peasants and agri-workers in Mindanao’s countryside, have been achieved in the rural areas at varying levels and coverage in every region. The struggles were in the forms of reduction of land rent and farm implements, reduction of usury, increase in wages, and increase in the price of agricultural products. Also launched were medical services and cultural campaigns.

These victories also stem from the NPA’s persevering work in raising the political consciousness of its Red fighters and commanders. NPA units have regular basic political education that is outlined in the PADEPA course, which includes among others the Short Course on Philippine Society and Revolution, Special Mass Courses, and The Basic Rules of the NPA, etc. This high political consciousness determines the NPA’s voluntary service towards the greater masses of the people and a firm adherence to a steel discipline among its members. This sets apart the NPA from the mercenary forces of the AFP, PNP and paramilitary whose service is acquired because they are paid to suppress the people and protect the insatiable interests of the big bourgeois compradors, the landlord class and the imperialists.

The absolute leadership of the Communist Party makes certain that the People’s Army firmly abides by the correct political line of the People’s Democratic Revolution and is able to adhere to strong discipline in its boundless service to and defense of the people’s interests. In order to carry this out, from within NPA units in the entire country including Mindanao, Party Branches within the platoon and Party Committees within the company, guide the politico-military tasks of the unit and in undertaking mass work, alliance work and political work within the ranks of the reactionary army. And above all, we have also firmly laid the political foundation of Party members within the units of the army by implementing studies on Party courses, particularly the Basic Party Course, the Intermediate Course and the Advanced Course.

The continuing advance of the people’s war in Mindanao and the ongoing armed resistance of armed groups among the Moro people remain a thorn, deterrent against the exploitative economic interests of the ruling classes in Mindanao. Thus, in this last stretch of the US-Aquino III regime, its OPB military suppression campaign has become more brutal and virulent in its desperate attempt to realize its dream of crushing the revolutionary movement in Mindanao and make sure that it protects the interests of local ruling classes and its imperialist masters.

Currently, of the total 113 AFP battalions in the country, 68 are deployed in Mindanao. Thirty-four (34) battalions are deployed to focus against the NPA while 34 are also deployed to Moro areas. Brutal campaigns and military operations have been launched almost simultaneously against revolutionary forces led by the Party, NPA and the NDF and, at the same time, against Moro armed groups that continue to wage armed struggle.

The particular focus of OPB’s campaign and military operations is Eastern Mindanao, which comprise of NPA regions in Southern Mindanao, where 12 to 13 AFP battalions are deployed, and in North Eastern Mindanao, where 8 AFP battalions are deployed. While they concentrate on these two NPA regions, they have also launched almost simultaneous ‘containing’ operations in the regions of North Central Mindanao, Western Mindanao and Far Southern Mindanao.

The concentration of a huge number of AFP forces in SMR and NEMR, which total 21 battalions all operating with unspeakable viciousness against the people and the entire revolutionary forces, has inflicted immeasurable suffering upon the people, especially towards peasants, Lumad and other underprivileged sectors of society. It has been the standard procedure of these operations to perpetrate massacres with impunity, murders, burning of houses and schools, indiscriminate shelling, bombings (with the use of helicopters and bomber planes), forcible evacuations and other despicable forms of brutalities.

Mercenary butcher AFP troops, together with its paramilitary forces, committed these atrocities not only to destroy the revolutionary forces but, above all, to protect the investments of imperialists and local ruling classes, such as large-scale mining, plantation, energy projects and others that adversely impact the environment and tramples upon the interests of the Lumad, Moro, peasants and workers.

In tandem with this blatant fascism, they have also launched psywar campaigns, such as the so-called “Peace Caravan”, parading of “surrenderees”, and the COPD. These have been used to openly deceive the people into believing that their terroristic measures have succeeded in depriving the NPA of its mass base. It peddles the lie that the revolution has weakened so that next it can declare as “conflict-manageable and ready for development” areas it has attacked, such as Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Sur and other areas. This will pave the way for the implementation of billions-worth of PAMANA projects, which, clearly, is only a source of corruption for both MalacaƱang and OPAPP.

The regime somehow dreams that with the concentration of their forces on a few regions, particularly on Eastern Mindanao, in the entire country, it will be victorious in crushing these priority regions. But it is mistaken because while it focuses on SMR and NEMR, this opens the perfect opportunity for NCMR, FSMR and WMR to make headway in their expansion and consolidation work and in their overall effort to advance the revolution within their territories. And while the enemy has concentrated 60% of the AFP’s forces in Mindanao, it gives much leeway for the regions in Luzon and in the Visayas to significantly advance the armed struggle.

Whatever setback that befalls the NPA is but temporary, only fleeting. The foremost, dominant development is still the continuing advance of the armed revolution and, in general, the people’s democratic revolution. The NPA is invincible because it is the army of the people.

And as reality has shown, NPA units have courageously and heroically launched counter-attacks through tactical offensives in order to preserve itself, defend the interests of the people and consolidate the victories of the revolution, and to inflict more casualties upon fascist AFP troops and the paramilitary. Moreover, the people of Mindanao bravely openly resisted and daringly unmasked AFP, PNP and paramilitary forces and militantly protested against its many human rights abuses in the entire country. These violations have been widely exposed and opposed after the September 1, 2015 massacre in Han-ayan, Lianga, Surigao del Sur. The reactionary regime has been criticized with strong condemnation from various sectors in society, including the Catholic and Protestant churches.

Thus, on the 47th founding anniversary of the NPA, we must firmly hold on to our victories and look forward towards a bright future for the revolution. The interests of the people reside upon us. Together with them on our side, the last brutal leg of the US-Aquino III regime’s OPB will surely fail and be defeated. And it is certain that we can also defeat the next counter-revolutionary campaign plan of the next regime that will take replace the reactionary Aquino III administration. We are confident that the advance of the people’s democratic revolution will be sustained because we hold and fight for the aspirations of the people for real liberation, democracy and just peace.

Long live the New People’s Army!

 Long live the Communist Party of the Philippines!

 Long live the united front and the Filipino people!

(Sgd.) Ka Oris
Spokesperson, NDFP-Mindanao
March 29, 2016

NDF: NDFP Renders Highest Honors to Ka Roger

From the National Democratic Front Philippines Website (Mar 28): NDFP Renders Highest Honors to Ka Roger

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) again renders the highest honors to Ka Roger on the 47th anniversary of the New People’s Army (NPA). Ka Roger was an exemplary NPA Commander and the Spokesperson of the Communist Party of the Philippines. We also take this occcasion to honor the martyrs and heroes of the New People’s Army in all the 47 years of its service to the Filipino people in their revolutionary armed struggle against US imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism. We extend warmest congratulations to our people’s army for its many achievements and in a very special way at this time when the NPA is launching numerous tactical offensives against the reactionary regime’s military and paramilitary forces.

It is a most opportune moment to recall and celebrate the life, and outstanding service rendered by Ka Roger as the Filipino people march in his honor as his remains are laid to his resting place in his hometown. We likewise pay our respects to his family who joins in honoring his great legacy and memory.

For many years, from the time of the Marcos dictatorship, Ka Roger was loved by the people as he was known as the voice, the face and spirit of the revolutionary movement. He was an excellent communicator. He broadcast the line of the people’s movement most effectively, explained the various issues, even the most difficult ones, in the simplest and very undestandable way. Coming from the toiling masses and immersed in their situation, life and struggles, he understood their deepest feelings and aspirations. He was a favorite of media people. They loved to call him up and interview him.

His memory and inspiration lives on among the masses and the entire people. His life and service are imprinted in the hearts of the masses, in the entire people who unceasingly struggle for genuine land reform and national industrialization, for freedom and independence, and a just and lasting peace!

Long live the revolutionary spirit and inspiration of Ka Roger!

 Long live the Filipino people!

 Long live the Philippine Revolution!

Luis G. Jalandoni

CPP lauds NPA on 47th anniv, urges intensified armed struggle

From the Daily Tribune (Mar 29): CPP lauds NPA on 47th anniv, urges intensified armed struggle

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has called on the New People’s Army (NPA) to intensify its tactical offensives to seize more weapons to arm more guerrilla formations nationwide.

In its editorial for the March 21, 2016 issue of Ang Bayan entitled “Intensify people’s war with Aquino exit and installation of new puppet regime,” CPP stressed in its message released on March 21 that “with the coming reactionary elections set to end the old puppet regime and start a new one, the task of intensifying the people’s war across the country is clear to the NPA and all revolutionary forces.”

The message was issued as the NPA celebrates its 47th anniversary on March 29.

“The people’s wrath over the Aquino regime’s six years of rotten, criminal, fascist and puppet rule is interminable. Drive the momentum of tactical offensives across the country to greet the new puppet regime to be installed and affirmed by US imperialism through the May elections,” CPP goaded the NPA.

The party emphasized that the offensives should be carried even within the very seat of Aquino’s political power.

“Under the new puppet regime, the people are bound to confront efforts to pave the way for greater US military intervention (in collusion with rising militarism in Japan), changes to the 1987 constitution to make it more congruent with the interests of foreign big capitalists and put the Philippines under the US Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and other issues of national freedom,” the Ang Bayan editorial stressed.

“The new regime will serve as implementor of policies that are set to cause further exploitation and greater hardship to the workers and peasants, youth and students, teachers and ordinary employees, small professionals and other exploited classes and sectors. Whoever among the candidates wins, he or she will don the masks of ‘pro-poor,’ ‘anti-corruption,’ ‘anti-crime’ and promoter of ‘clean government’ and ‘service to the people,’” CPP argued.

“In fact, they all represent the interests of big foreign capitalists and big compradors and are involved in the criminal operation of bureaucrat-capitalists that employ state power to serve their businesses and interests. Let us immediately rip the mask of the incoming regime and not allow it to deceive the people. Intensify the armed struggle together with strengthening the democratic mass struggle. Combine tactical offensives from all sides with rising street marches,” the party said.

Abu Sayyaf member nabbed in Zamboanga Sibugay

From ABS-CBN (Mar 29): Abu Sayyaf member nabbed in Zamboanga Sibugay

An alleged member of the Abu Sayyaf Group was arrested in an operation by the military and police in Barangay Kulambugan, Roseller Lim town in Zamboanga Sibugay Monday afternoon.

Police identified the suspect as Tago Pingli, who is wanted for kidnapping and serious illegal detention.

He was allegedly involved in the kidnapping of Tito Bautista in Zamboanga City in 2008.

Report from the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) showed that before the arrest, the suspect was monitored on board a public utility van.

Pingli is also associated with the Waning and Abral Abdulsallam kidnap for ransom group, police said.

No bail was recommended for his release.

Indonesian tugboat crew kidnapped in Tawi-Tawi?

From Malaya Business Insight (Mar 29): Indonesian tugboat crew kidnapped in Tawi-Tawi?

TEN Indonesian crewmen of a Taiwanese tugboat were kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf group off Tawi-Tawi, military sources said yesterday.

One of the sources said the Abu Sayyaf has relayed its ransom demand to the Taiwanese employers. He said one of the kidnapped crewmen called up the landline of his employers and informed them they are being held captive by the Abu Sayyaf.

The source could not say how much ransom is being asked and when the kidnapping took place but said the military learned of the incident only yesterday afternoon.

He said the tugboat came from Indonesia and was on the way to Manila when it was hijacked.

“They were intercepted while passing Tawi-Tawi,” he said.

Another source said the tugboat was found at Languyan island yesterday afternoon.

It was moored, meaning it has crew,” the second source said.

Military units in Western Mindanao have been alerted. The victims may be brought to either Basilan or Sulu, both bailiwick areas of the Abu Sayyaf.

AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said he has not received information about as incident as of 8:30 p.m.

The Abu Sayyaf is holding several foreign and Filipino kidnap victims in Sulu. The military intensified its operations against the Abu Sayyaf in November after the group beheaded a Malaysian captive in Sulu.

Gov’t insists on opening Ligots’ bank accounts

From Malaya Business Insight (Mar 29): Gov’t insists on opening Ligots’ bank accounts

GOVERNMENT prosecutors have asked the Sandiganbayan Second Division to junk the opposition of former Armed Forces of the Philippines comptroller Lt. Gen. (ret.) Jacinto C. Ligot and his family to the presentation of banking officials who will present documents and testify on the financial transactions of the respondents in their P55.6 million ill-gotten wealth forfeiture case.

In a 12-page comment, assistant special prosecutors Edgar S. Martho and Anna Leah Y. Tiongson-Mendoza argued that the objection of the Ligots invoking confidentiality of their bank records has no legal basis.

“Under existing laws and relevant regulations, respondents’ bank deposits and investment accounts subject of this case cannot be extended the privilege of confidentiality,” the prosecution said.

Aside from Ligot, also named co-respondents are his wife Erlinda; children Paulo, Riza, and Miguel; brother-in-law Edgardo Yambao; and Gilda Y. Afonso-Velasquez, cousin of his wife.

Government lawyers sought the issuance of subpoena on officials of Metrobank and Citicorp Financial Services and Insurance Brokerage Phil., Inc. (CFSI) regarding the dollar placements of Ligot.

 Based on the prosecution’s figures, the CFSI account no. 5274901001 held P52.525 million in the name of Velasquez.

The respondents have sought refuge under the provisions of RA No. 1405 or the Bank Secrecy Law, claiming their bank records are “absolutely confidential in nature.”

Their lawyers cited RA 1405 which recognizes only four exceptions under which disclosure of bank records may be allowed. These are if the depositor issues a written permission, if the bank deposit is a subject of an impeachment case, upon an order of a competent court in a case against a public official concerning bribery or dereliction of duty, and in case where the money held is the subject matter of litigation. They said none of these   grounds are present.

The prosecution, however, noted that aside from the Sandiganbayan, access into the Metrobank and Citicorp accounts by the Anti-Money Laundering Council were earlier allowed by the Makati Regional Trial Court branch 61 and the Court of Appeals.

“Clearly, the inquiry on the bank accounts of the respondents was in line with the exception provided (in the law) and within the term ‘order from competent court’,” it said.

Army helps poor youth to graduate

From the Visayan Daily Star (Mar 28): Army helps poor youth to graduate

A scholar from a formerly rebel-affected community in Siaton town, Negros Oriental, was among the 1,773, who graduated from the Negros Oriental State University main campus in Dumaguete City, recently.

Marlon Hiyog, 27, of Sitio Quadra, Barangay Mantiquil, Siaton, was assisted by the 79 th Infantry (Masaligan) Battalion of the Philippine Army, based in Camp Leon Kilat, Tanjay City, Negros Oriental, in realizing his dream of completing an Information Technology education, a press release from the Army said.

He is the son of Marcos and Pacita Hiyog, both poor farmers. What differentiated him from other youth in the community was his interest to finish college despite of extreme poverty. Marlon worked on bars as dishwasher on weekends, and talked to everyone he knows to accept him as housekeeper just to earn some cash and have a place to stay in Dumaguete. One of the places he used to stay in was with his teacher, who knew his sacrifices and referred him to the Little Children of the Philippines as a scholar, the press release said.

Bayanihan Teams that were conducting immersion activities after an armed engagement between the NPAs and members of the 79 th IB in Sitio Quadra March 2013, learned of Marlon, and his dedication and commitment to finish college and land a job to provide a better life for his family, became an inspiration not only to his fellow youth but also to the government troops.

The BTAs became inspired by his story and the unit looked for someone to support Marlon's dreams. He was introduced by the unit to Marit Cabugon for his monthly allowance and cash support for other school needs, aside from the scholarship for tuition provided by the Little Children of the Philippines. From then on, he managed to stay in Dumaguete and reduced his time for night jobs to concentrate more on his studies, the press release said.

Now that he has graduated, Marlon aspires to be employed in any government office as a software specialist, and jumpstart a better life for himself and his family.

The Masaligan Battalion continues to uphold the primacy of education and mainstreamed programs of scholarships to deserving students from NPA-infested communities, with the goal of uplifting the living conditions and sustaining development through education, for lasting peace, the press release added.

Army presents 64 IEDs recovered after operation vs. BIFF

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 28): Army presents 64 IEDs recovered after operation vs. BIFF

An outlawed Moro armed group has been manufacturing improvised explosive devices aimed at killing or wounding combatants and non combatants alike in Maguindanao and nearby provinces, the military here said today.

It was clearly evident when the Army's 6th Infantry "Kampilan" Division through its Task Force Central presented to the media on Monday various improvised explosive devices (IEDs) recovered, disposed and defused by Army bomb experts.

Capt. Joann Petinglay, speaking for Task Force Central, said the IEDs were manufactured and dispersed by the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

The Geneva-banned war materials were recovered during the more than one month operations against the BIFF in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao.

It started when the outlawed group torched two heavy equipment of a private construction company dredging portions of the town for the flood control project.

When the Army responded, a full blown shooting war erupted and lasted until mid-March, leaving five soldiers killed and 35 others injured, mostly by IEDs.

Civilians near the clash area claimed more than 50 BIFF were killed in the operation but the Army would not confirm nor deny the report.

But an Army junior officer said the number of fatalities could be that high since the Army used air and ground assaults against the BIFF who were armed with dangerous Barret sniper rifles.

With the number of IEDs recovered, Petinglay said, the BIFF clearly aims to inflict more injuries, not only against government forces but also civilians.

“This is a manifestation that the BIFF will sow more terroristic activities in the area, with utter disregard for the safety of the civilians,” Petinglay said.

She said soldiers of the Joint Task Force "Kampilan" will continue to intensify its operations to clear the area IEDs “so that people in the community can go back with their normal lives.”

At least 3,000 individuals from several villages of Datu Salibo remain in evacuation sites and hoping the Army would give the green light soon for them to return home and rebuild their lives.

At 8 a.m. today, the Army bomb disposal unit will dispose by detonation all the confiscated, recovered and unserviceable high explosives in a disposal area in Barangay Semba, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

“We would like to inform the public, especially those living near Barangay Sema, and Cotabato City that a series of explosions will be heard beginning this morning,” Petinglay said.

She reiterated earlier appeals for the public to remain vigilant to ensure ill motives of BIFF will not succeed.

Balikatan joint exercise returns to PHL

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 28): Balikatan joint exercise returns to PHL

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) began the first phase of Exercise Balikatan 2016 on Monday, conducting preliminary work on five different school buildings and community medical engagements in Panay and Palawan leading up to information exchanges and live training events over a 12-day period.

In the following weeks U.S. forces will join in the AFP as they work shoulder-to-shoulder during these engagements and throughout the exercise.

Balikatan is an annual Philippine-U.S. military bilateral training exercise that is a signature element of the Philippine-U.S. alliance focused on a variety of missions to include humanitarian assistance, maritime lawenforcement, and environmental protection.

BK 16 will take place in the Philippines on April 4 to 15. The opening ceremony is scheduled to take place April 4, followed by several training events throughout the12-day exercise, and the closing ceremony is scheduled to be held April 15.

During BK 16 Philippine and U.S. service members will conduct humanitarian civil assistance (HCA) projects throughout Panay. Preliminary work on community infrastructure projects begins at the end of March.

It will demonstrate cooperation and interoperability between the Philippines andthe U.S., consistent with the Mutual Defense Treaty and Visiting Forces Agreement, as we continue our commitment to train, share information and provide support to each other through a range of military operations.

Throughout BK 16 AFP and U.S. forces will work together to enhance maritime law enforcement throughout the Philippines in order to meet annual training requirements, and enhance techniques, tactics, and procedures as a critical part of interoperability of our forces.

Military service members from both countries will also conduct combined simulation supported events and operational events in three main commands of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (Western Command, Northern LuzonCommand, and Sothern Luzon Command), and other major Philippine military camps such as Crow Valley, Fort Magsaysay, Clark Air Field, Subic Bay, Palawan and Panay to improve their ability to work together, partnering incapabilities and plan follow-on operations.

One of the main operations for this year’s exercise will be the implementation of a joint rapid reactionforce as part of the distributed operations in the vicinity of Panay, demonstrating the partnered capability in rapid response.

BK16 is the 32nd iteration of the annual exercise. This year, the Philippines and the United States have invited a number of personnel from other regional partner nations to attend a portion of the exercise. Mutual forces from the Philippines, United States and Australia will participatein all major exercise events including the simulation supported event (SSE), operational event (OE) and humanitarian civic assistance (HCA). The AFP has invited the following nations to observe BK 16 activities: Brunei,Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, India, Japan, South Korea, and Timor-Leste.

“Balikatan” in Filipino means "shoulder-to-shoulder" and characterizes the spirit of the exercise and the Philippines-U.S. alliance.

AFP verifying report of Abu Sayyaf abduction of Taiwanese tugboat crew

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 28): AFP verifying report of Abu Sayyaf abduction of Taiwanese tugboat crew

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is still verifying reports that 10 crew members of a Taiwanese tugboat were reportedly kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) while passing off Tawi-Tawi waters.

"The AFP through the WMC (Western Mindanao Command) has received initial information on the missing crewmen of a certain foreign owned vessel in the Zambasulta area. We could not yet confirm this information and at the moment, in the process of validating it," AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said.

"We shall issue a statement once there is certainty that the said incident actually occurred. In the meantime, all our forces are on alert ready to assist if necessary and help ascertain the incident," he added.

Reports claimed that the privately-owned tugboat had just come from Indonesia and headed for Manila when attacked by the bandits.

The tugboat was found moored at Languyan Island, Tawi-Tawi province on Sunday.

Military: MILF joins govt forces in combat as ASG camp falls in Basilan

From InterAksyon (Mar 28): Military: MILF joins govt forces in combat as ASG camp falls in Basilan

Reports reaching Manila indicated that more than 30 fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) joined government forces and militiamen on Sunday in flushing out more than 70 armed elements of the outlaw Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) from their camp in Sitio Bohe, Barangay Macalang, Al-Barka, Basilan.

Brig Gen. Demy Tejares, commander of Joint Task Force "Zambasulta" (Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi), said Monday that this was the result of the renewed offensive against Abu Sayyaf that started Friday last week and has so far killed three Abu Sayyaf men with seven government troopers wounded.

During Saturday's continuation of clearing operations, Tejares said the remains of another suspected terrorist was recovered within the hastily abandoned ASG camp.

According to Maj. Filemon Tan, spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), the Abu Sayyaf camp was situated just five kilometers from an MILF containment area.

"The MILF also has a temporary camp in the area. Some ASG members are believed to loiter there. Apparently the MILF has become fed up by the ASG presence, and were the ones to put their foot down and say the ASG has to go," Tan said.

Militiamen from different towns, such as Sumisip, Al-Barka, Akbar, and Tuburan joined the operation.