Wednesday, August 3, 2016

PMA exam set on August 21

From the Philippine Information Agency (Aug 3): PMA exam set on August 21

The Philippine Military Academy (PMA) will be conducting the PMA Entrance Examination on August 21 in 37 examination centers nationwide including Central Visayas.

In Cebu, the test centers are Cebu Eastern College and Southwestern University in Cebu City and Holy Name University in Bohol while in Negros Oriental, the venue is Negros Oriental State University.

The PMA Entrance Exam is the first stage in the selection process for cadetship in the premier leadership training school in the country.

Those who pass the exam will enjoy a full government scholarship and will not pay any single centavo during the entire duration of their training in the Academy where they will earn a Bachelor of Science Degree.

Furthermore, the PMA cadets will also enjoy a monthly salary, initial clothing allowance, and the support for the services in connection with their stay in the Academy.

They are also commissioned as 2LTs and Ensigns in the Armed Forces of the Philippines upon their graduation.

The PMA is at the forefront of the AFP modernization program because its graduates are the ones to lead the Armed Forces in the years to come.

As such, cadets are at the receiving end of the state-of-the-art training facilities and equipment such as mode classrooms, new cadet barracks (student dorms), computer rooms, simulation rooms and fitness center.

The PMA Hospital Requirements for admission in the PMA are the following:
  1. Natural-born Filipino citizen
  2. Minimum 5 feet for both male and female
  3. Physically fit and of good moral character
  4. Single and has never been married 
  5. High school graduate

Grade 12 senior high (K12) may take the exam provided that they will graduate before April 1, 2017 with no administrative or criminal case, must pass the PMAEE, and should have been born from April 1, 1995 to April 1, 2000.

Successful applicants will compose the PMA Class 2021 who will be officially be received in the Academy in an Oath-Taking Ceremony and Reception Rites on April 1, 2017.

Those who are interested may download the Application Forms from

Applicants can also apply online in the said website.

For more information, call (074) 447-3686, (074) 447- 2632 local 6751, 6752, Smart – 0928-559-7651, Sun Cellular- 0943-705 6890, Globe – 0917-896-4299, or write the Office of Cadet Admission, Philippine Military Academy, Fort General Gregorio H del Pilar, 2602, Baguio City

Army conducts free medical check-up, hair cut in AgSur barangay

From the Philippine Information Agency (Aug 3): Army conducts free medical check-up, hair cut in AgSur barangay

As part of its community relations activities, the 42nd Civil Military Operation (CMO) ‘’Panaghiusa’’ Company, 4th CMO Battalion, 4th Infantry Division, Philippine Army recently conducted its ‘’Libreng Gupit Program’’ in Barangay Awa, Prosperidad, this province.

This is in partnership with the Municipal Health Office headed by Dr. Felma Caybot, MHO II for their free consultation and free check-up to all the residents of Purok 3-C in the said barangay.

It was learned that the said activity is aimed to entice the relationship of military among civilian populace.

Some 60 individuals have availed of the free haircut and 94 in medical check-up with the total of 154 individuals that successfully received the aforementioned services being brought by the 42nd CMO company.

“We are so happy and overwhelmed with the appreciation and active participation of our constituents that resulted to a very harmonious and successful event.

We also look forward to continue what transpired during this activity,” said 42nd CMO company commanding officer Capt. Edwin Fuertes.

NPA rebel dies in Surigao Norte town clash

From the Philippine Information Agency (Aug 3): NPA rebel dies in Surigao Norte town clash

A New People's Army (NPA) rebel was killed after government security forces clashed with a group of NPA rebels at the back of the municipal hall in Malimono town in Surigao del Norte on Aug. 1, 2016.

30IB Bravo Company Commander 1st Lt. Ken Enciso identified the victim as Junard Quinto Casoy, 37 years old, married, and a resident of Barangay Hanagdong, Malimono.

Enciso said the combined troops of the Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB) and the Philippine Army’s 30th Infantry Battalion (30IB) responded from a complaint of a concerned citizen on extortion activities being done by the NPA thru their couriers in Barangay San Isidro and Barangay Binucayan in the said municipality.

Also, 30IB Civil Military Operations (CMO) officer Lt. Ryan D. Layug narrated that a barangay chairman of the said town disclosed that due to fear, the barangay council was able to pay a revolutionary tax. He also confirmed that several sari-sari stores have closed due to extortion activities of the NPA.

On his part, 30IB commanding officer Lt. Col. Rico Amaro said that they will continue to reach out with the NPA brothers and sisters and convince them to live a peaceful life.

“We however will not tolerate criminal acts, together with the PNP and the vigilance of our community through proactive support and reporting of concerned citizens we can prevent future extortion activities of this group," said Amaro.
Recovered in the encounter site were the body of an NPA member, one AK-47, two IEDs (Improvised Explosive Device), gallons of rice, and magazines and ammunitions.

Tabak Division hosts Regional Youth Leadership Summit

From the Philippine Information Agency (Aug 3): Tabak Division hosts Regional Youth Leadership Summit

Some 56 youth leaders from the provinces of Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga del Norte,  Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, and Misamis Occidental participated in the Regional Youth Leadership Summit (YLS) held at Farmers’ Haven, Barangay Dao, this city on July 29-31.

Major Richard Enciso, newly-installed Division Public Affairs Office (DPAO) chief said the event was organized by the 1st Infantry (Tabak) Division, Philippine Army which aims to promote a culture of peace, enhance leadership qualities, and strengthen nationalism among the participants.

The army official said during the 3-day activity, series of workshops and lectures on leadership skills, values, spiritual enlightenment, team building and other topics that support the commitment of the AFP in youth development were discussed.

He said the YLS is a priority program of the AFP designed to shape the future of our youth and at the same time, to instill in their minds and hearts the spirit of patriotism, nationalism, and social responsibility.

“Ang 1st Infantry (Tabak) Division sa pangunguna ni MGen. Gerardo F. Barrientos ay nagpapatupad sa programa ng AFP sa mga kabataan dahil sila ay magiging pinuno natin sa hinaharap,” Enciso said.

(The 1st Infantry (Tabak) Division under the leadership of MGen. Gerardo F. Barrientos implemented this program for the youth because they are our future leaders).

During the summit, Enciso said the Tabak division have teamed up with the  1st Field Artillery Battalion, Army Artillery Regiment and 1st Cavalry Squadron, Mechanized Infantry Division, Philippine Army. Troopers performed capability demonstration and provided static display of equipment to the participants for them to explore, familiarize and have a glance of the unit facilities and resources.

Suspected Abu Sayyaf drug supplier nabbed in Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 4): Suspected Abu Sayyaf drug supplier nabbed in Sulu

A man, suspected to be one of the illegal drugs suppliers of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group, was nabbed in a joint police-military operations in Talipao, Sulu province.

In a statement, Major Filemon Tan, Western Mindanao Command spokesperson said Thursday the suspect identified as Sidimar Abduhadi was arrested on Aug. 2 around 8:40 a.m. at the suspect's home in Barangay Tinga.

Abduhadi fought it out during the operations, leaving one police wounded.

Recovered from the suspect were a .38 caliber revolver loaded with two rounds, a spent .38 caliber shell and seven heat-sealed sachets of "shabu," and assorted drug paraphernalia.

Tan said the wounded officer is undergoing treatment at the Integrated Provincial Health Office in Jolo.

MILF: BLMI, UNYPAD conduct Community Orientations on Sustaining the Gains of the Peace Process

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (Aug 1): BLMI, UNYPAD conduct Community Orientations on Sustaining the Gains of the Peace Process

The Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) in partnership with the United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD)-Western Mindanao recently held community orientations in some parts of Zamboanga Peninsula and Zamboanga City to provide updates and encourage residents to sustain the gains of the GPH-MILF Peace Process.

Aside from its inherent tasks to capacitate and enhance the potentials of Bangsamoro leaders, the BLMI is also responsive to the desire of the Moro people to be apprised of the latest development pertaining to the peace process and encourage them to participate in peace building endeavors.

Mr. Tirso Tahir, Chief of Research Unit of the BLMI together with Officers of UNYPAD and some peace advocates in Zamboanga Peninsula visited various Moro remote villages in a bid to update them with the new peace track after the ascendancy of President Rodrigo Duterte who assured the MILF to continue the peace process and correct the ‘historical injustices’ committed against the Bangsamoro people brought about by centuries of colonialism.

During the course of conversations, many issues and concerns were brought out such as the fate of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) under Duterte Administration, the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and the proposal by Pres. Duterte to shift from unitary form to Federal form of government.

After a thorough discussions, many if not all of the community leaders expressed their optimism that the new administration will succeed in it peace and development agenda for Mindanao.

“Political will, sincerity and continuity of the peace process were among the key factors identified to succeed in putting closure to the Moro Question”, one community leader said.

“Changing the negotiation landscape is imprudent”, he also said.

The outreach activities were initiated to reach out remote Moro villages so that the people can be enlightened and empowered accordingly.

MILF, MNLF begin harmonization of agreements

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Aug 2): MILF, MNLF begin harmonization of agreements

Delegations from the MILF and MNLF met over the weekends (July 30-31) in Cotabato City to technically begin the process of harmonizing the major agreements entered by them with the Government of the Philippines.

Convening for the first time, the Joint Technical Working Group (JTWG) began its work a month after the two Moro liberation fronts announced its creation during the signing of a joint statement held in the MILF’s administrative base in Camp Darapanan in the town of Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

Speaking in behalf of the MILF TWG, Prof. Abhoud Syed Lingga emphasized that the group’s task is to make recommendations that would help the leadership of the two Fronts in making decisions.

In trying to reach out a consensus, Lingga appealed to the members of the JTWG to be always conscious that the “prime consideration is the best interest of the Bangsamoro and Islam.”

In the June 29, 2016 joint statement, the two Fronts have agreed to organize the JTWG whose task would be “finding common ground between the 1976 Tripoli Agreement/1996 FPA on the one hand, and the 2014 CAB on the other, as a means of harmonizing the two peace tracks.”

The same task was stipulated in Resolution No. 2/42-MM on Question of Muslims in Southern Philippines during the 42nd Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers held in Kuwait City, State of Kuwait on May 27-28, 2015.
Aside from Lingga, the other delegates from the MILF included Abdulmalik Mantawil, Edward Guerra, Atty. Lanang Ali, Jr. and Abdullah Cusain. Another member, Atty. Shah Elijah Alba, was unavailable during the meeting.

The MNLF delegation was headed by its Vice-Chairman Hatimil Hassan. He was joined by Atty. Firdausi Abbas, Atty. Bayan Balt, Atty. Dalidig Sumndad, Atty. Omar Sema, Atty. Anwar Khalid Maliawao, Abdul Sahrin, Abebakrin Lukman, Romeo Sema, Ustadz Abdulmumin Mujahid, Ali Babao, and Bainon Karon.

MILF: FBSCO conducts Orientation-Dialogue on Federalism, BBL in Datu Odin Sinsuat town

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (Aug 3): FBSCO conducts Orientation-Dialogue on Federalism, BBL in Datu Odin Sinsuat town

The Federation of Bangsamoro Civil Society Organizations, Inc. (FBCSO) conducted Orientation-Dialogue on Federalism, BBL, and other relevant issues in Barangay Kurintem, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao last July 31, 2016.

The event was attended by Non-Government Organizations (NGO’s), Peoples Organizations (PO’s) and community leaders.

The Bangsamoro Center for Empowerment and Governance, Inc. (BCEG), a member of FBCSO was the leading convenor of the program.
FBCO background and overview was presented by Barudin Anak who also represented an organization.

He said that FBCO is mainly confined in Central Mindanao but some organizations in Western Mindanao, Southern Mindanao and Eastern Mindanao are also members.

Sheik Moidjoddin Talusob, Corporate Secretary of FBCSO and Executive Director of Kalilintad Development Foundation, Inc. (KDFI) gave orientation on the role of Civil Society Organizations. “We need to be patient for whatever we encountered in our services to the communities because this is the reality of being human”, Shiek Talusob said.

Abdullah Salik, Jr. of FBCSO and who represented the FASTRAC discussed the features of Federalism that President Rodrigo Duterte is pushing to replace the current unitary form of government.

He also delved on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that the 16th Congress of the Philippines failed to pass.

Nasser Pulindao, Deputy President of FBCSO discussed the peace track between GPH and MILF that took the parties 17 years to come up with an agreement marred by an on and off armed confrontations between the military and the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF).

Pulindao urged the members’ organization to stay foot in serving humanity by giving accurate information to communities as part of their support to the government and the MILF Peace Process.

The said orientation-dialogue was an input-sharing as a way to let the participants understand the status of members’ organizations in the community specifically in the first district of Maguindanao and the municipalities of Lebak and Kalamansig in Sultan Kudarat province.

The activity was attended by organizations from the Municipalities of Datu Odin Sinsuat, Datu Blah Sinsuat, Upi, South Upi, Talitay, Datu Anggal Midtimbang, Talayan, Guindulungan and from the two municipalities of Sultan Kudarat.

Other FBCSO activities had already been set.

MILF: GPH, MILF Peace Panels to meet in KL to resume peace talks

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (Aug 3): GPH, MILF Peace Panels to meet in KL to resume peace talks

The Government of the Philippines (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Peace panels will meet in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia within the next two weeks and resume peace talks, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said in a television interview yesterday, a Philstar report said.

Dureza said they were instructed by President Duterte to go to Kuala Lumpur within the next two weeks to re-launch the peace engagement with the MILF.

Earlier, Duterte said he would be spending 10 days in Mindanao to focus on building the framework for the Bangsamoro peace process, which will include the MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

”I have to fix the Mindanao issue. I will look at the framework. I have to travel to Cotabato to talk again to hurry up and I will travel to Jolo to talk to (MNLF founding chairman) Nur (Misuari),” Duterte said, Philstar quoted him saying.

Pres. Duterte said that he is willing to give Misuari a safe-conduct pass for the talks in Jolo.

Zamboanga City Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar upon learning of the safe-conduct pass to be issued to Misuari, assured the families of the victims of the 2013’s MNLF siege that city officials would continue to seek justice for the victims.

During the visit of Pres. Duterte in Zamboanga City recently, Salazar conveyed to him the feelings and sentiments of thousands of displaced victims affected by the three-week siege in the city.

MILF: Development Catalysts of BDA-GSKP strengthen Team Building

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Aug 4): Development Catalysts of BDA-GSKP strengthen Team Building

The Development Catalysts (DCs) of Bangsamoro Development Agency-General Salipada K. Pendatun Municipality (BDA-GSKP) through it’s Youth Development Program (YDP) started to strengthen its Team Building Program last July 28, 2016 at Amaya Beach Resort, Kusiong, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

Abdulrahim Abdullah, Municipal DCs of GSKP said that “the activity was joined by over 100 participants composed of DCs and YDP members.”

Abdullah explained, “The activity while it aims to strengthen not just the camaraderie and teamwork of the DCs but mainly brotherhood and sisterhood as Muslims. It simultaneously enhanced the Youth Development Program (YDP) of the agency in the municipality.”

Abdullah also said, “The activity is composed of lectures and games that were all related to the BDA and its mandate – ‘to determine, lead and manage relief, rehabilitation and development in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao (CAAM),’ with direct bearing on the mantra of the agency –‘building people who will build the nation,’ as fruit negotiation pursuant to the Humanitarian, Rehabilitation and Development aspect of Government of Republic of the Philippines-Moro Islamic Liberation Front (GRP-MILF) Peace Agreement of 22 June 2001.”

“YDP is among the 8 major programs of BDA that focuses on developing the youth with priority focus on their personalities and values transformations in order to better prepare them as real agents of sustainable change for true peace and holistic development despite the centuries of colonization, oppression and all other forms of injustices in this originally Muslims-dominated island of Mindanao”, he further said.

“This activity gradually builds the moral and spiritual inclination and ascendancy of the youth more than our DCs which ensures a better, if not, best change for the Bangsamoro”, Abdullah pointed out.

Hashim Manticayan, BDA Program Operations Head (POH) lectured about YDP. He encouraged the participants to exert their utmost efforts to help the BDA in its development interventions in accordance with its mandate.

Manticayan also discussed in detail the vision, mission, objectives and work plan of YDP and thoroughly discussed the rationale behind the inclusion of YPD in the major program of BDA.

As part of rationale of YDP, he reminded the participants that the legitimate struggle of the Bangsamoro for freedom and self-determination is a long process, a generation-to-generation struggle, because the oppressors are bent to accelerate their evil motives that include the destabilization plot against the weak, minority and marginalized Muslims.

“Their worst motive is so evident in Mindanao which is proven by the divide and rule tactics which also include the usurpation of our lands and the wanton exploitation of natural resources of the Bangsamoro”, Manticayan stressed.

“Thus, it justifies the need to continuously strengthen the youth at the same time enhance our DCs in support to the development intervention of the agency in order to ensure the sustainability and further strengthen the legitimate struggle of the Bangsamoro in the most diplomatic and civilized way”, Manticayan pointed out.
Guiamaludin Sampulna, BDA Provincial DC in Ligawasen area emphasized the importance of sustaining the activity taking into account its effectiveness and uniqueness in the sense that it gains the full participation and cooperation of the participants.

Sampulna also explained that “holding similar activity is among the major plans of BDA in Ligawasan considering that GSKPP is also part of the area”.

Abdulrasheed Ambil, BDA-CenMin Regional Manager (RM), expressed his deep thanks and gratitude to the leadership of BDA-GSKP for conducting the activity.
RM Ambil also emphasized the strong support of the BDA-CenMin Regional Office in the conduct of the activity.

The participants who were inspired by RM Ambil’s message expressed their thanks and gratitude to the organizers and the BDA officials who were on hand to lend support to the activity.

Development Catalysts are pool of volunteers of BDA that are tasked to undertake development interventions and other related activities of the agency in accordance with its mandates.

NDF: Red salute to Ka Wendell M. Gumban, communist, Red fighter, UP alumnus

Propaganda statement posted to the National Democratic Front Website (Aug 2): Red salute to Ka Wendell M. Gumban, communist, Red fighter, UP alumnus 

Press Statement | Rubi del Mundo, Spokesperson, National Democratic Front of the Philippines, Southern Mindanao Region

The National Democratic Front in Southern Mindanao gives its highest honors to Wendell “Ka Joaquin” M. Gumban, communist, Red Army officer and University of the Philippines alumnus who was martyred along with Sario “Ka Glen” Mabanding during a firefight against the 66th Infantry Battalion-AFP on July 23 in Sitio Pong-pong, Brgy. Andap, New Bataan, Compostela Valley.

Ka Joaquin, 30, joined the national democratic movement as a member of the Kabataang Makabayan during his college days at the University of the Philippines in Diliman. He was recruited to the Communist Party of the Philippines shortly after and became the secretary of the Party organ that consolidated the Philippine Collegian, UP’s student publication. Later, he became a member of the leading Party organ assigned in the university. In 2010, he was tasked to do full-time work in the trade union movement before joining the New People’s Army in Mindanao in late 2011.

He became a valuable part of the Party’s consolidation work in the Red bases and expansion work in the guerilla zone. As a political instructor of an NPA unit, he contributed to the expansion of guerrilla units and political consolidation of Red fighters.

As a communist, Ka Joaquin wrestled with his petty bourgeois origin and struggled to live in the spirit of simple living and hard struggle. He overcame the limitations of his frail frame, weak eyesight, even an unfamiliar dialect, to serve the Lumads and peasants of Southern Mindanao. Brilliant and daring, Ka Joaquin is an inspiration to the intellectual youth. He chose not the life of comfort that he could have otherwise led, but the life of selfless service and sacrifice at the bosom of people’s war.

The revolutionary forces in the region, the Red Army and the Communist Party celebrate the life of Ka Joaquin for his significant contribution to the people’s war and for his unwavering belief that a youthful intellectual’s place—as are all exploited classes in our society—is in the revolution.

NDF/NPA: POW Ongachen video message: NPA rehabilitates drug users

NPA propaganda statement posted to the National Democratic Front Website (Jul 31): POW Ongachen video message: NPA rehabilitates drug users

Press Release | RIGOBERTO F. SANCHEZ, Spokesperson, Regional Operations Command, New People’s Army, Southern Mindanao Region

[Video clip: Chief Inspector Arnold Ongachen video by the New People's Army]

In a recent video clip released by the NPA in Southern Mindanao, Prisoner of War Police Chief Inspector Arnold Ongachen described the Red Army’s campaign of rehabilitation of drug users and appealed to the AFP to cease their so-called rescue operations and make way for the resumption of the peace negotiations.

POW Ongachen said that during the first few days of his custody, he noticed that there were people also being held by the Red fighters. He later found out that these were drug users being rehabilitated by the NPA.

Ongachen was arrested by the NPA last May 29, 2016 during its raid on the PNP station in Gov. Generoso, Davao Oriental.

Rigoberto F. Sanchez, spokesperson of NPA-SMROC, said that the rehabilitation drive is part of the NPA’s campaign to rescue the poor who have fallen victims to drug abuse. “The NPA’s drug campaign complies with our revolutionary justice system, which adheres to our class analysis. We differentiate poor drug users who are clearly victims of drug abuse from those who are perpetrators of the rampant drug trade. It has long been the policy of the Red Army to rescue these victims and rehabilitate them through political education.”

He added that the revolutionary movement understands that the problem of the rampant drug menace is rooted from the basic problems confronting the Filipino people—the historic imperialist dominance over the Philippine’s domestic feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism. “It is well in the interest of the ruling class that Filipinos, especially the youth, fall victim to drug abuse in order to desensitize them from the ills of society and pull them away from the revolution.”

Meanwhile, Sanchez said, the NPA takes a firmer stand against syndicates and protectors of the drug trade. “We undertake punitive action against big politicians, individuals and armed forces such as the AFP and the PNP who are involved in this menace. As in the case of the PNP in Gov. Generoso in Davao Oriental, we launch tactical offensives against drug trade protectors to dismantle their network of operation.”

POW Ongachen also called for the AFP to cease their military operations in communities. The arrested police chief inspector, who is still currently being investigated for his involvement in the drug trade in Gov. Generoso and in the province of Davao Oriental called for the AFP to “make way for the peace talks so that we would know and understand why our fellow Filipinos are taking up arms against our government.”

Sanchez added that even during the Duterte government’s shortlived unilateral ceasefire that ended yesterday, July 30, AFP troops in the region were still conducting widespread combat operations in clear violation of their Commander-in-Chief’s order. “While the NPA in the region is still committed in the peace process in accordance with the directives of the national leadership and the CPP, we are bound to defend the Red army and the people from the attacks of the AFP, PNP and paramilitaries,” he concluded.

Below is the complete transcript of POW Ongachen’s video message:

I am PCI Arnold S. Ongachen, chief of police of Gov. Generoso Municipal Police Station. According to them, the attack was undertaken because of reports of the worsening drug problem in Gov. Generoso and that it is one of their tasks, the anti-drug campaign.

On the first 5 days of my custody, I noticed other people who were also being held in custody by the NPA. I later found out that they were shabu users that the NPA are trying to rehabilitate from drug addiction. The NPA feed and take care of these addicts until they are able to overcome their addiction.

The NPA take care of me, they do not harm me. Since my arrest, I have never experienced even a slap in the hand because they adhere to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and the International Humanitarian Law or CARHRIHL, and they also have the 3 Directives and [8] Points of Attention, in which the 8th Point is “Never harm a Prisoner of War.”

At first, I thought they were criminals. But when they took me in one of the communities, I noticed that the masses love the NPA and entrust their houses to them. We keep transfering houses in the community and all the people there respect the NPA.

What I am asking from the AFP is to cease their military operations and make way for peace talks that has long been the clamor of our countrymen. I hope that we give peace talks a chance so that we would know and understand why our fellow Filipinos are taking up arms against our government. This is a long standing problem that most of us do not understand.

Military: we will leave if NPA leaves

From MindaNews (Aug 3): Military: we will leave if NPA leaves

The military is willing to pull out its troops in the Lumad communities but the New People’s Army (NPA) should also do the same, said Maj. Gen. Rafael Valencia, commander of the 10th Infantry Division.

He told a joint press conference of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police Wednesday that that pulling out their troops should be done simultaneously with NPA rebels leaving the Lumads communities behind, so that the tribal people who have been allegedly displaced by militarization can go back to their communities.

“Whoever demands to stop militarization, they have to be realistic. NPAs should leave and the Army will also leave. We are willing to go back to our home units if there are no more NPAs in the barangays… The NPA is causing trouble in the mountains,” he said.

Valencia said he feared the NPAs would continue driving a wedge between the people and the government if the military is the only one who leaves the communities.

“He who is the cause of the cause is the cause of them all,” Valencia borrowed the words of President Rodrigo R. Duterte to point out that military operations continue due to the presence of the NPA in the hinterland communities.

He said the NPA’s activities in the mountains bring the people away from the government while noting that the military intends to bring them closer to the government by conducting community outreach programs.

At least 300 Lumad “bakwits” from Talaingod and Kapalong in Davao del Norte and Bukidnon have been staying for more than a year at the Haran Evacuation Center, a facility run by the United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP) here.

Lumads claimed that they left their homes due to the several human rights violations committed by the military and a paramilitary group called “Alamara.” They claimed that violations include, among others, vilifications, harassments, and military encampments inside Lumad school campuses.

Valencia denied the allegation of the NPA that they did not heed the Duterte’s ceasefire declaration with the communists.

For his part, Maj. Gen. Rey Leonardo B. Guerero, Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) commander, said that military and NPA encounters have continued after Duterte lifted last Saturday the unilateral ceasefire with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army- National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP).

“This only shows that the military will abide by the decision of the commander in chief. With the lifting of the ceasefire, we will pursue our mandate to our people in the barangays. We will have immersion activities in the barangays, this being the essence of our campaign at the EastMinCom,” he said.

Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao told MindaNews that military presence in the communities and schools of Lumads are clear violations of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

The IHL is a “set of rules which seek, for humanitarian reasons, to limit the effects of armed conflict. It protects persons who are not or are no longer participating in the hostilities and restricts the means and methods of welfare.”

“Remember that AFP as state actors are mandated to observe the prescribed protocols that they are not allowed to camp or station in populated areas… The very purpose of the AFP is to secure the entry and operations of mining, logging, and agribusiness plantations. The very purpose of the AFP’s encampment in communities is to suppress any opposition,” Casilao said.

He added that the NPA was established “as an army of the peasant class who belongs to the poorest and the exploited class to struggle against a government that allows its instrumentalities – AFP, courts, PNP – in justifying the injustices committed.”

MNLF, MILF hold key meeting on past peace agreements with PHL government

From Business World (Aug 3): MNLF, MILF hold key meeting on past peace agreements with PHL government

THE Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) met for two days in Cotabato City to begin “harmonizing the major agreements entered by them with the Government of the Philippines,” according to a report on Tuesday on the MILF’s Web site.
The two groups formed a united front at the height of their rebellion in the early 1970s, during the Marcos dictatorship. The MILF broke away a decade later.

In a joint statement on June 29, the two groups agreed to organize a Joint Technical Working Group (JTWG) whose task would be “finding common ground between the 1976 Tripoli Agreement/1996 FPA (Final Peace Agreement), on the one hand, and the 2014 CAB (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro) on the other, as a means of harmonizing the two peace tracks.”

The 1976 and 1996 agreements were forged between the MNLF and the Marcos dictatorship and Ramos administration, respectively. The 2014 pact, on the other hand, was an agreement between the MILF and the second Aquino administration.

Following that statement at the MILF’s Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, the JTWG convened for the first time a month later on July 30 and 31.

Abhoud Syed Lingga who represented the MILF’s technical working group, said the “prime consideration” in their coordinated efforts is “the best interest of the Bangsamoro and Islam.

Drug lords seeking refuge in Marawi City – PNP

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 3): Drug lords seeking refuge in Marawi City – PNP

The Philippine National Police (PNP) is now coordinating with the military for possible joint operations in the wake of intelligence reports that a lot of drug lords are now seeking refuge in Marawi City and nearby areas.

Director General Ronald dela Rosa, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said the drug lords even sought the protection of various armed groups in Marawi City and Lanao del Sur area to protect them.
“Right now, we were informed that a lot of drug lords form Luzon, Visayas, and some parts of Mindanao are now in Marawi City, they are now hiding there,” said dela Rosa in a press briefing at Camp Crame.
“They may be seeking safe haven there, in Marawi City and Lanao del Sur area,” he added.
Dela Rosa would not name the groups whom he said are now coddling the drug lords but the area is known to be infested with a lot of extortion and extremist groups.
There are some areas in Lanao del Sur, on the other hand, which are considered as territory of some Muslim rebel groups.
But Dela Rosa would not name specific groups whom he said are providing security for the illegal drug lords.
“If they would coddle them, then we will request the Philippine Air Force to bomb your place,” warned Dela Rosa.
The PNP chief said they received reports of the migration of the drug lords amid the intensified anti-illegal drugs campaign of the PNP.
“If you cannot account these drug lords in Manila, Visayas, and some parts of Mindanao, they are actually in Marawi,” said Dela Rosa.
Government troops themselves are having difficulty operating in the Marawi City and nearby areas due to the presence of rebel groups and a lot of heavily-armed groups.
Dela Rosa, however, would not discuss the intelligence report they received further but warned that they will remain relentless in hunting for them.

A Debate on the New Philippine Administration

From the Council on Foreign Relations  Asia Unbound blog (Aug 1): A Debate on the New Philippine Administration

Over email, Professor Richard Javad Heydarian of De La Salle University in Manila and CFR Senior Fellow for Southeast Asia Joshua Kurlantzick discussed some of the potential effects—both positive and negative—of the administration of new Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte holds up a copy of his speech as he speaks before the lawmakers during his first State of the Nation Address at the Philippine Congress in Quezon city, Metro Manila, Philippines, July 25, 2016. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

Richard Javad Heydarian: By many indicators, Rodrigo Duterte is emerging as the Philippines’ most powerful president since the fall of the Marcos dictatorship three decades ago. Fresh into office, and after months of aggressive campaign rhetoric, the new president enjoys excellent trust ratings, has amassed super-majority support in the Philippine Congress, and is set to appoint a majority of Supreme Court justices in coming years. The Ombudsman office, which has been waging a relentless campaign against corrupt officials, also enjoys close and cooperative relations with Duterte.

From a maverick candidate, who galvanized nationwide support and gained notoriety internationally, Duterte has seemingly transformed into a more statesmanlike, unifying figure. Or at least, that is how a growing number of Filipinos are coming to see him, despite his unorthodox style and still colorful language, which tends to estrange the polite society. Less than a month into office, Duterte sits confidently atop the Philippine state, relishing an unprecedented amount of political capital, potentially granting him enough space to overhaul the Philippine political system—although this will require a constitutional amendment, which is not easy to pass. Much of this is a reflection of his leadership dynamism, but also profound public yearning for meaningful change. A month into office, Duterte has already instructed his allies in the Congress to form a Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution, paving the way for a federal form of government with both parliament and a president, if the changes to the constitution pass. Duterte plans to finalize the transition before the end of his term. Many experts, however, doubt whether such move is necessary or even desirable, since federalism could further empower local political dynasties and exacerbate regional divides, not to mention weaken the Philippines’ already fragile state institutions.

Joshua Kurlantzick: Richard, I agree with you about the desire for change, since the previous Aquino administration clearly failed to make serious inroads into inequality, and to convince most voters that the political and economic system works for anyone but elites. This despite strong GDP growth, a more stable macroeconomic environment than the Philippines had enjoyed in decades, and an overall high level of political stability.  But is it actually true that Duterte has more political capital than any other leader in recent memory? After all, he was just inaugurated president, and new presidents always have a fairly high degree of political capital in their early months in office. He won a race with multiple candidates and only with a plurality of votes, and it is very early in his relations with Congress. Also, what’s the hard evidence to show he’s suddenly become a more statesmanlike figure?  I’ll quote from this Sydney Morning Herald article on Duterte’s State of the Nation speech:

“Mr Duterte shrugged off alarm over the rising body count in his first state of the nation address to parliament, declaring that drugs were drowning his country and human rights were no excuse to shield criminals. ‘Double your efforts. Triple them if need be,’ the tough-talking former provincial mayor said in a message to police.”
Is this statesmanlike? Or worryingly undermining the rule of law?

Heydarian: More than nine out of ten Filipinos, latest polls show, have expressed confidence in the new Filipino leader. This is the highest  figure enjoyed by any Filipino president in modern history, although it is very early in Duterte’s term. Six out of ten Filipinos, another poll shows, expressed high confidence in Duterte’s ability to fulfill most of his campaign promises. Yet, these numbers could be more a reflection of high public expectations and an ephemeral “benefit of the doubt,” which can significantly diminish in the medium-run if Duterte fails to fulfill his wide-ranging promise of political transformation.

Nonetheless, Duterte has yet to roll out a coherent and feasible national vision.  During his recent first State of the Nation address, the new president promised a more caring, responsive and, above all, effective government. Though entertaining, and in many ways unorthodox, it ultimately evinced lack of proper organization and policy clarity in the new government.

Kurlantzick: The lack of organization and policy clarity—that is a major concern. In his time as mayor of Davao, Duterte, despite policies that encouraged extrajudicial killings and other potential violations of human rights, also was known for courting advice from a wide range of experts and actually rolling out detailed policies on a wide range of issues. How could he not have a clear, detailed vision in the SONA, when it was his best, first chance to show the country how he actually plans to transform his big rhetoric into policy? How does he plan to really get constitutional change, if it is so hard to do so with a constitutional amendment?

Heydarian: Duterte dedicated the bulk of his speech to defending his relentless war on organized crime, which has provoked growing opposition from the liberal media, human rights groups, and the Catholic Church for his seeming toleration for abuses by security forces. “Human rights must work to uplift human dignity,” Duterte exclaimed. “But human rights cannot be used as a shield or an excuse to destroy the country—your country and my country.” He explained his peace and security agenda to the conflict in Mindanao, calling upon Moro Islamic rebels in the south to unify under the banner of a multi-ethnic, inclusive society. Duterte has also promised more political autonomy for the Muslim-majority regions in the south through a modified version of his predecessor’s proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which faced stiff opposition in the Philippine Congress and did not pass by the time Aquino left office.

Kurlantzick: My understanding is that even a modified BBL is still going to face strong opposition in Congress. What is the evidence otherwise—especially if there are new rounds of violence in the south? Also, aren’t some of Duterte’s own appointees known for being highly skeptical of a southern peace deal, or have poor relations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)? I am noting Zachary Abuza’s piece here, in which he writes that:

“Duterte immediately selected Jesus Dureza as his advisor on the peace process. Duereza held the same position in the cabinet of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo from 2001 to 2003. Duereza had a terrible reputation as a back-channel wheeler dealer.”
Abuza further notes:

“Secretary of Agriculture Emmanuel Piñol had cut his teeth as an elected official in North Cotabato, where some of the most fierce fighting between the government and the MILF, and later the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, has taken place. North Cotabato has always been contested space between Christian dominated eastern Mindanao and lands claimed by the Bangsamoro. Piñol has been a leading critic of the BBL and a hardline Christian advocate within Congress, opposing the peace process.”

How do you reconcile these cabinet officials’ backgrounds with movement toward peace in the south and some kind of BBL? Are you saying that, because these officials are so close to Duterte, if he wants to push for a revised BBL, they will be more effective interlocutors with the MILF this time, simply because Duterte is a stronger leader?

Heydarian: In Philippine politics, personality, trust, and political will matters. We saw how this helped previous President Aquino’s efforts to rekindle peace talks, which were unfortunately undermined by Mamasapano tragedy, and undermined similar efforts by his less trusted predecessors. As far as Duterte is concerned, he is not only the first president from Mindanao, with intimate understanding of the conflict in the region, but he has nurtured his close ties with various rebel leaders. Among Muslims in the Philippines, Duterte is right now highly popular. And there is a growing sense that if there is any president who can end the conflict in Mindanao, it is him. But of course, the challenge is to translate this unique political capital into actual gains in peace negotiations.

So far, there is no indication that any of his cabinet members are going to use their posts to come out now against peace in the south.

He also hopes to revive Mindanao’s economic fortunes by containing terrorism, ending insurgencies and brining in massive infrastructure projects, likely with the help of China and Japan. Meanwhile, Duterte dedicated only few lines to external security concerns, particularly the South China Sea disputes.

Eager to re-open communication channels with the Chinese leadership, Duterte has adopted a “keep it quiet” pragmatic policy in the aftermath of a landmark legal victory against China in the South China Sea. No less than former President Fidel Ramos is expected to serve as Duterte’s special envoy to China. For Duterte, who is more focused on domestic security challenges, sometimes the best form of communication is calibrated silence. There is, however, a huge risk that China will take advantage of the Philippines’ recalibration under a new leadership to expand its presence across disputed waters and renege on any provisional deal with the Duterte administration.

Kurlantzick: I think to say that Duterte’s so far low-key approach to the South China Sea runs a risk of allowing China to further entrench its gains in the South China Sea is kind of a major understatement. The Philippines got a significant victory from the tribunal in The Hague in July. Sure, Duterte can leverage this victory to help make gains in negotiations with China. There’s nothing wrong, I think, with bilateral negotiations, as long as other Southeast Asian nations are informed, and both the Philippines and China know they can’t negotiate away areas that are claimed by Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, and Vietnam. But there’s little evidence from the past—in the South China Sea, the East China Sea, or elsewhere—that China responds to calibrated silence by being willing to make deals.

Zamboanga on 'wait and see' mode over safe conduct pass for Nur

From the Philippine Star (Aug 2): Zamboanga on 'wait and see' mode over safe conduct pass for Nur

Zamboanga City Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar and Rep. Celso Lobregat inspect rehabilitation work in Rio Hondo, one of the areas in the city that was affected by the 2013 siege in this file photo. ROEL D. PAREÑO, file

The Zamboanga City government said it will stand by its residents in calling for justice over the bloody siege of the city in 2013.
Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar made the statement in response to an announcement by President Rodrigo Duterte that he will give a safe conduct pass for Moro National Liberation Front founding chairman Nur Misuari, whose faction of the MNLF was involved in the siege.
Salazar said the city government will wait to see if the national government to issue Misuari the safe conduct pass.
Duterte, in a press briefing on Monday, said he is scheduled to meet with Misuari in Sulu and has ordered the military and police to allow the fugitive and his followers to come out once the safe conduct passes are issued.
Misuari, who has been in hiding in his enclave in Indanan, Sulu, is wanted and has a standing arrest warrant for rebellion, violation of the International Humanitarian law, genocide and other crimes against humanity.
The city government tagged Misuari “as the brains behind the 2013 Zamboanga siege.”
Around 200 suspected Misuari followers who were captured inside the battle zone are detained in Taguig while the cases against them are being tried.
Salazar said the city’s legal team will peruse whatever order will be issued regarding the supposed safe conduct pass.
However, she stressed: “we are also with the people in our struggle and our aspirations for justice following the siege.”
She added that she brought Misuari up during Duterte’s brief stopover in the city on July 21. Salazar said she also conveyed to the president the feelings and sentiments of thousands who were affected by the three-week siege.

Rody gives self 10 days to focus on Mindanao

From The Standard (Aug 3): Rody gives self 10 days to focus on Mindanao

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte said he would be spending 10 days in Mindanao to focus on building the framework for the Bangsamoro peace process, including the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front.

At the same time, Duterte ordered Peace Process Adviser Jesus Dureza to head to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, within the net two weeks to relaunch peace talks with the MILF.

“I have to fix the Mindanao issue. I will look at the framework. I have to travel to Cotabato… and I will travel to Jolo to talk to [MNLF founding chairman]
Nur [Misuari],” the President said during a media briefing on Monday.

“I told the military and the police, you might want to consider letting them out just for a day,” Duterte said, referring to Misuari, who faces arrest for the 2013 Zamboanga siege.
President Rodrigo Duterte
Palace sources told the Manila Standard that Duterte will be flying to Mindanao on Thursday to talk with the Moro rebels and to speed up work on a framework for peace.

In a television interview, Dureza confirmed that the President ordered him to relaunch talks with the Moro rebels.

“He has already directed our government panel, my office, to go to Kuala Lumpur within the next two weeks,” Dureza said.

“We’re preparing already for that particular trip. We still have to make a lot of preparations along that line. But yes, it’s not just the CPP-NPA-NDF [Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front] that we need to deal with. We’ll work on another very important meeting in KL with government and the Bangsamoro sector,” he added.

On Sunday, the MILF and MNLF agreed to “harmonize” their respective peace deals with the government to come up with a common stand and streamline efforts that could lead to lasting peace in Mindanao.

Technical working groups of the MILF and MNLF met in Cotabato City over the weekend to review the provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB) of 2014 in relation to the Final Peace Agreement (FPA) of 1996 and the Tripoli Accord of 1976.

The MILF group was led by professor Abhoud Syed Linnga, while the MNLF team was headed by Vice Chairman Hatimil Hassan.

Muslimin Sema, who heads the largest faction of the MNLF, said the meeting fleshed out the joint communiqué he forged with MILF Chairman Hadji Murad Ebrahim on July 29 to harmonize the salient provisions of the CAB and the FPA into a concrete document that may guide the Duterte administration in addressing the “historical injustice” among the Moro people.

During Monday’s media forum, Duterte reiterated that he is willing to give Misuari a safe conduct pass for the talks.

“When you talk to the rebel, you have to give them a safe conduct pass, or at least a sense of security to face you and talk to you about what’s bugging the country,” he said.

“If I won’t talk, how do I fix this thing? Once the talk starts, I will give everybody a safe conduct pass,” he added.

Efforts to release Indonesian hostages should be conducted carefully: Minister

From Antara News (Aug 3): Efforts to release Indonesian hostages should be conducted carefully: Minister

The efforts to secure the release of 10 Indonesian citizens abducted by an armed group in the Philippines should be conducted carefully, according to Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi.

"Taking into account the on-field situation until last night, a careful approach was necessary," Marsudi stated at the State Palace here on Wednesday.

The safety of Indonesians has been a top priority in any attempt to free the hostages.

The minister had reported the current situation regarding the hostages to President Joko Widodo.

"We continue to communicate with the families of the hostages. We assure the families on the governments commitment to ensure the release of the hostages. Due to on-field difficulties, the government has yet to secure the release of the hostages soon," the minister pointed out. 

Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu had earlier stated that seven Indonesian sailors were being held on Panamao Jolo Island, Southern Philippines, while three others are in Lapac Island, some 64 kilometers away.

The hostages were crew members of vessels transporting coal from Indonesia to the Philippines.

Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Wiranto urged the Indonesian people to give him time to settle the problem.

"Let me work optimally to handle the case," the minister emphasized.

Meanwhile, President Joko Widodo and Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe discussed counterterrorism cooperation during a bilateral meeting.

"With regard to countering radicalism, extremism, and terrorism, Indonesia is always in the forefront," Foreign Affairs Minister Marsudi stated after attending the bilateral meeting between Indonesia and Sri Lanka here on Wednesday.

Marsudi said Sri Lanka assessed that Indonesia, the largest Muslim country, had succeeded in spreading the message of tolerance and promoting moderate Islam among its people.

Prime Minister Ranil hopes Sri Lanka and Indonesia will strengthen cooperation in the fields of extremism, terrorism, and counterradicalism.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung, Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumardi, and Secretary of State Pratikno accompanied Widodo during the bilateral meeting.

Duterte confirms US to give $32-M for military assistance

Fro the Asian Journal (Aug 2): Duterte confirms US to give $32-M for military assistance

Human rights-related issues avoided during meeting with Kerry 

Duterte confirms US to give $32-M for military assistance

President Rodrigo Duterte confirmed that the United States expressed commitment to offer $32-million in military assistance, as discussed with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during his visit to the Philippines last week.

Speaking before members of the Presidential Security Group at the Malacañang Park on Sunday, July 31, Duterte announced that the U.S. is willing to financially support the Philippines in its war against drugs, terrorism and crime, and its stand on issues such as of climate change and maritime security.

“The money? Oh, 32, ‘Ah, I give you, $32 million,’”  Duterte said, quoting what Kerry said.

The $32-million financial aid (P1.5 billion) will help to enforce lawful “training and services” including the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

Duterte, upon the juncture, consequently told Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to come up with a wish list for the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“So I asked Delfin Lorenzana, ‘What’s your priority?’ We did a god job in Sulu; I’m impressed. So buy more,” added Duterte, in reference to the military operations in Mindanao and the need to buy more weapons.

On the other hand, Kerry opened up the issue on human rights violations, which are being questioned as the killings of alleged drug suspects continue throughout the country.

However, Duterte abruptly told Kerry that he has “a job to do” and insisted to “go to another topic.”

As of press time, 3,213 individuals allegedly involved with drugs have been arrested, while 239 have been killed by the Philippine National Police (PNP), according to GMA News.

Last Wednesday, July 27, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella clarified that “there was no alarm” shown after Duterte informed Kerry  about “the way he has been handling the war against crime and especially the narcotics plague.”

Before meeting with the president, Kerry said, “I made it very clear that civil and human rights must be protected, even as we work together to keep our society safe.”

Aside from issues of drugs, terrorism, crime and maritime security, the two also discussed motorcycles and hunting.

“First, it was a courtesy call, it was a very interesting meeting because they share common interests,” the presidential spokesman commented.

Interview: Zachary Abuza on ISIS in Asia

From The Diplomat (Aug 3): Interview: Zachary Abuza on ISIS in Asia

A closer look at the threat Islamic State poses to the Asia-Pacific.

The deadly attack on a bakery in Bangladesh drew new attention to the threat of the Islamic State – and terrorism in general – in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. What is the true extent of the Islamic State’s presence in this region, far from its base in Iraq and Syria? How ready are regional governments to handle the terrorist threat? In collaboration with Consensus NetThe Diplomat interviewed Zachary Abuza, a Professor at the National War College in Washington, DC, to talk about these issues. A Chinese language version of the interview will be published by Consensus Net.

The Diplomat: After the deadly Islamic State-linked attack in Dhaka, Bangladesh earlier this summer, how worried should Asia-Pacific states be about the group’s presence and influence in the region?

Zachary Abuza: On July 1, a group of Bangladeshi militants claiming allegiance to the Islamic State stormed a restaurant in a high end part of Dhaka, killing some 20 civilians — hacking many of them to death — and two policemen before the siege was put down. But it was not the first attack in Bangladesh; indeed some 30 secular activists, religious minorities, and foreigners had been killed in the past year.

The problem is understanding who is actually behind the attacks. The media wing of ISIL [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] seemed to have been caught off guard, failing to propagandize or immediately take credit. The problem with such attacks, including the January attack in Jakarta or July attack in Kuala Lumpur, is who to ascribe the violence to. All of the attacks were done by groups or individuals claiming allegiance to the Islamic State, though without clear command and control. Ascribing all attacks to ISIL is both inaccurate and something that plays into their own media narrative. Their command and control is simply not that strong.

But governments in the Asia-Pacific have plenty of reasons for concern. First, while harder for law enforcement and intelligence services to break up, “lone wolf” or self-radicalized groups, tend to be more amateurish. For example, while the July 2016 grenade attack on a pub in Kuala Lumpur was the first terrorist attack in the city, it had a small casualty toll and Malaysian police have broken up the cell. That said, we need to expect more lone wolf attacks, for no other reason than the fact that senior ISIL leaders have called for them. As an ISIL spokesman said in a May 2016 speech, “The smallest action you do in the heart of their land is dearer to us than the largest action by us, and more effective and more damaging to them.”

Second, there are roughly 300 Southeast Asian militants currently fighting alongside ISIL and Al Nusrah in Iraq and Syria — and they will start to return home. This will improve the tactical effectiveness of the militants. For example, in the January siege in Jakarta, only two of the eight had had small arms training, and that was back in 2010, before a five year period of incarceration. So with better trained militants, even lone wolf or self-organized but inspired attacks can increase in their lethality.

Third, ISIL’s propaganda is ubiquitous. Sharply produced, and tailor made for smartphones, it has an ability to attract followers. The online recruitment has hastened the scope of recruits and the speed of radicalization, in particular the time between radicalization and the act of violence. ISIL’s propaganda is “multi-channel.” It is not just a deluge of beheading videos and violence. They have channels for religious questions, for women, and other social issues.

How prepared are governments in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to combat homegrown terrorism with links to the Islamic State? How is the U.S. addressing the potential for such attacks in its cooperation with regional states?

The governments of Southeast Asia have been far more proactive in dealing with the rise of ISIL since mid-2014 than they had been with the threat posed by al-Qaeda and their regional affiliate, Jemaah Islamiyah. Since 2014, there has been stepped up intelligence sharing and cooperation, with Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore taking the lead.

The Philippines, however, has seen a significant setback in its security situation. Since the Mamasapano incident in January 2015 that derailed the Moro peace process, the security situation in Mindanao has worsened. There are now at least six groups that have pledged bai’at [allegiance] to the Islamic State. While individually none pose a serious threat, since January 2016, ISIL has made some attempts to unify the groups under a single leadership. With the killing of the Indonesian terrorist Santoso, who headed the Mujahideen Indonesia Timur, only groups in the southern Philippines control physical space. They will continue to attract recruits and followers from the region.

In Bangladesh, it is very evident that the government has been far less proactive in dealing with the growing threat of religiously-inspired militants. The death of some 30 individuals since 2015 provoked little reaction from the government. The July 1 attack should have provoked a stronger response than it did, and it seems like the government is only starting to come to terms with the problem as the negative fallout impacts the country’s lucrative garment sector.

What is the U.S. perspective on the counterterrorism activities of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)? How does the U.S. expect the SCO to contribute to international counterterrorism actions?

Terrorism is a transnational threat as groups intentionally operate across jurisdictions. As such, any effective counterterrorism requires international cooperation. I am unaware of the current U.S. position on the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, since its failed bid in 2005 to gain observer status. The U.S. supports international cooperation on countering all forms of violent extremism, based on the rule of law and international norms.

China often accuses the U.S. of a “double-standard” on terrorism, while the U.S. criticizes China for its policies toward the Uyghur minority group. Given those divides, is there room for meaningful counterterrorism cooperation between the two sides?

Yes, the U.S. at times does have a double standard when it comes to terrorism. But I would argue that that has hurt the U.S. inordinately. When we fail to live up to our ideals and commitment to the rule of law, it undermines our cause and the ability to reach out to partner states and moderate Muslims around the world.

China has had fairly repressive policies toward its Uyghur minority, including bans on people from attending mosque, wearing hijabs, or growing beards. More importantly, its policies have been overly militarized. While getting tough may seem like a good idea, it drives people further underground (or overseas) where they are forced to take up even more extreme tactics and network with individuals and groups that they otherwise wouldn’t associate with. Many in America understand that China does have a group of committed separatists, and that China has the right to defend its territorial integrity, but worry that Beijing’s current policies are exacerbating the situation.

So yes, the two countries do not see eye to eye on the issue of terrorism. And yet there is room for cooperation. Chinese citizens, for example, have been kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf in the southern Philippines, while terrorist attacks have impacted regional trade and investment. Uyghurs — Chinese citizens — have been involved in terrorism in Thailand and Indonesia. So regional law enforcement cooperation is absolutely essential.

With the Islamic State’s territory in Iraq and Syria dwindling, while the group’s attacks abroad increase, what will the next phase of the fight against ISIL look like?

The majority of terrorism analysts that I read and follow assume that with ISIL’s loss of territory in Iraq and Syria there will be significant bleed out, i.e., militants will start to return home. As I said above, if this happens, it could be very serious. Malaysian police have the ability to detain people who have traveled abroad to fight with ISIL. Right now, Indonesian authorities do not, though they are currently amending their counterterrorism law which would enhance their preventative detention powers.

Some people will clearly slip back in; the region’s borders are simply too porous. However, the real concern is that there will be more lone wolf attacks. As ISIL loses ground, it will need a sturdy barrage of attacks or else it will look weak in the eyes of both its enemies and supporters.

Indonesia proposes trilateral security operations on land

From the Jakarta Post (Aug 3): Indonesia proposes trilateral security operations on land

Indonesia proposes trilateral security operations on land

Close talks -- Newly appointed Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto (left) talks with Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati prior to their inauguration as new Cabinet ministers at the State Palace in Jakarta on July 27.(AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)

Indonesia has proposed coordinated security operations with Malaysia and the Philippines to pursue militants who have taken Indonesian and Malaysian sailors hostage. The operations would stretch into Philippine land territory, a senior minister has said.

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto said joint land operations would complement the implementation of the joint sea patrols that the three countries have agreed to in their effort to tackle piracy and to prevent other hostage-taking incidents from occurring in the future.

"[The militants] launched their attacks at sea before they brought their hostages to land. What will happen if we don't have cooperation on the ground?" Wiranto said on Tuesday.

He admitted it would not be easy to carry out joint security operations on land as it would collide with the Philippines’ jurisdiction. Therefore, he said a comprehensive agreement on the plan should be first concluded to ensure the harmonious and well-coordinated implementation of operations among related countries.

Wiranto said he had conveyed the idea to Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu, who later delivered it to his Malaysian and Philippine counterparts during the two-day trilateral defense minister's meeting on maritime security in Bali, which ended on Tuesday.

During the meeting, the defense ministers of the three countries signed a document on standard operating procedures (SOPs) for trilateral maritime cooperation, marking the official start of coordinated joint sea patrols between the three countries to secure regional waters.

The push for stepping up security cooperation has come on the heels of the abduction of three Indonesian sailors in Malaysia’s Sabah waters in early July, less than a month after the kidnapping of seven Indonesian crew members by Abu Sayyaf militants in the waters off the southern Philippines. The July incident marked the fourth abduction of its kind this year.

Indonesia: Steps to conquer Abu Sayyaf abduction agreed

From Anadolu Agency (Aug 3): Indonesia: Steps to conquer Abu Sayyaf abduction agreed

Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines agree to implement emergency assistance in effort to halt snatching by Daesh-linked group

A trilateral meeting in Indonesia to tackle piracy in the neighboring waters of Sulu has resulted in six agreements to combat kidnappings by a notorious Daesh-linked group.
In the past four months, more than 20 Indonesian and Malaysian sailors have been kidnapped in the Celebes and Sulu seas, many of whom remain captive by Abu Sayyaf militants in the Philippines' troubled south.
Speaking to media, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said the defense ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines had agreed to implement "emergency assistance" which will enable each country to assist the other during disturbances that harm citizens' security.
"We hope the agreement between the defense ministers of the three countries is immediately able to be implemented in the field to avoid future abductions," quoted her as saying Wednesday.
Marsudi, who spoke to reporters after a briefing with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, said the three countries would conduct joint military patrols in the waters and hold joint exercises.
They will also intensify the exchange of intelligence information, communicate through a "free hostage" hotline and implement a system that would allow for the early detection of contingency situations.
Tuesday's trilateral meeting was the third by the ministers to tackle piracy and hostage-taking in the waters, while combating the threat of terrorism, transnational crime, and the trafficking of people and narcotics.
At least 10 Indonesians are believed to remain in Abu Sayyaf captivity in the island province of Sulu.
The Abu Sayyaf is among two militant groups in the Philippines south who have pledged allegiance to Daesh, prompting fears during the stalling of a peace process that Daesh could make inroads in a region torn by decades of armed conflict.

DVIDS: 25th ID Soldiers Participate in Knowledge Exchange with Armed Forces of the Philippines

From the Defense Video Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS) (Jul 29): 25th ID Soldiers Participate in Knowledge Exchange with Armed Forces of the Philippines

25th ID Soldiers Participate in Knowledge Exchange with Armed Forces of the  Philippines

Photo By Sgt. Erin Sherwood | U.S. Army Lt. Col. Darren Musico, Commander of the 25th Infantry Division exercise Salakinib discusses operations with his Filipino counterparts of the 7th Infantry Division, Armed Forces of the Philippines. The knowledge exchange exercise is part of Pacific Pathways, a three month long event where troops practice joint operations with their Filipino counterparts. (Photo by Pfc. Jakeson Fortuna, 7th Infantry Division, Armed Forces of the Philippines.)

Soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division recently participated in a knowledge exchange with the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The exchange was part of an ongoing series of combined exercises with partner nations throughout the Pacific Rim called Pacific Pathways.

Pacific Pathways began in 2014, allowing the U.S. Army to practice deployments at a tactical, operational and strategic level, enhancing readiness and ability across the Pacific.

“It’s been an enlightening experience for me,” said Capt. Joseph Perez, battle captain for the 25th ID. “Many of our processes are the same, it’s just a different way of doing things. It has also been fun working with a new culture and learning about the Armed Force of the Philippines.”

The subject matter exchange centered on daily workshops for Soldiers and their Filipino counterparts. Topics discussed include roles of specific sections; discussion of structure and how it relates to command; and standard operating procedures for different mission sets.

“I have been working with (Perez) to learn about processes as well as other mission command systems so we could share what they have and what we have in order to accomplish future joint missions," said Capt. Kim Ilao, operations officer for 7th Infantry Division, Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The learning is mutual for U.S. and Filipino troops.

“As a staff they are very flexible and capable of working around issues that may be showstoppers for us," said Perez.

“We are adjusting and restructuring quite a bit," said Brig Gen. David Diciano, Commander of 7th Infantry Division, Armed Forces of the Philippines. “I’ve observed that soldiers are sharing a lot of discussions and experience. I hope that we will continue this exchange in the weeks to come.”

Editorial: Impulse control

Editorial in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 3): Editorial: Impulse control

The new administration’s priority policy to forge a peace agreement with communist rebels is not only sound; it is long overdue. It is unfortunate, then, that last weekend the prenegotiations reached an impasse, and the two men most responsible for the new rapprochement exchanged words and acted on impulse.

The road to peace is long and tortuous; the parties must pace themselves, and not exhaust their reserves of goodwill prematurely.

President Duterte made a dramatic gesture during his first State of the Nation Address (Sona) last July 25, declaring a unilateral ceasefire in government operations against the New People’s Army. Two days later came news that the NPA had attacked government forces in Davao del Norte. In response, the President gave the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF, or CNN in government shorthand) an ultimatum: Respond with a ceasefire of your own by 5 p.m. on Saturday (July 30) Manila time, or face the consequences.

When the deadline came and went, Mr. Duterte revoked his declaration. “Let me now announce that I am hereby ordering for the immediate lifting of the unilateral ceasefire that I ordered last July 25 against the communist rebels,” he said through a statement. The truce lasted five days.

Part of the reason why peace talks between the government and communist rebels restarted was the personal relationship between the President and the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines, Jose Ma. Sison. Mr. Duterte, a self-described socialist, had once been a student of Sison’s; he also has pronounced left or left-of-center sympathies. He famously offered leftists serving in Congress or their allies a maximum of four seats in his Cabinet; right after the election he welcomed the possibility of Sison, living in exile in the Netherlands, finally coming home. “Yes, he is welcome. I am happy with the statement that he is coming home. I would very much want to talk to him about resolving the insurgency problem.”

They may need to talk sooner, and more often, than most people anticipated. Soon after Duterte lifted his ceasefire order on Saturday night, Sison let loose. He scored Duterte for imposing conditions on the CPP-NPA-NDF. “Kailanman ay hindi pwedeng utusan ni Duterte ang rebolusyunaryong grupo na sumunod sa kanyang gusto” [Never can Duterte order the revolutionary group to follow what he wants]. He belittled the original ceasefire declaration, calling it “fictitious” and “defective.” He said: “Sabi rin ng Southern Mindanao Command ng NPA na nonexistent ang ceasefire  ni Duterte sa AFP and PNP. Hindi sila sumusunod sa ceasefire order ng kanilang Commander in Chief” [The NPA’s Southern Military Command also said that Duterte’s ceasefire was nonexistent in the AFP and PNP. They were not following the ceasefire order of their Commander in Chief]. Not least, he got personal: “Volatile ang character ni Duterte at may asal butangero” [Duterte’s character is volatile and he acts like a hoodlum].
As today’s pop culture-savvy generation would say: Shots fired.

We do not know if the President knew that the communist rebels were ready to announce their own ceasefire at 8 p.m. on Saturday—that is, three hours after his deadline—and chose to ignore the possibility anyway. (His Cabinet has rightist or right-of-center members, too.) We do not know if the President understands that Sison in the Netherlands does not have complete control or even influence on the communist insurgency he started. We do not know if the President had sufficiently prepared the armed services before declaring the ceasefire, to ready them for the possibility of rogue encounters. We trust that decisions were made based on reasoned discussion and not impulse.

But the greater burden of responsibility lies with Sison. A unilateral ceasefire is an imperfect tool but a clear signal; it is no small thing. But Sison in exile argues as though the responsibility were all the government’s. He criticizes the issuance of a Somo (suspension of military operations) only on Tuesday, as though the few hours’ difference between the President’s Sona and the Somo were material. He attributes no good faith to government forces, even though in the five days of the truce only government militiamen had been killed or injured. Above all, he insults his former student, never a seemly exercise. The road to peace is hard; bitter feelings make the journey even longer.