Wednesday, August 17, 2016

House’s Makabayan bloc seeks amnesty for NPA guerrillas, supporters

From the Business Mirror (Aug 17): House’s Makabayan bloc seeks amnesty for NPA guerrillas, supporters

THE Makabayan Bloc is asking the House of Representatives to urge President Duterte to grant a general, unconditional and omnibus amnesty to all citizens charged and convicted of crimes in relation to the insurgency waged by the New People’s Army (NPA).

In House Resolution 198, seven lawmakers said such amnesty should also cover acts committed in conjunction with the pursuit of their political beliefs.

The resolution was introduced by Party-list Reps. Carlos Isagani T. Zarate of Bayan Muna, Antonio L. Tinio and France L. Castro of ACT Teachers; Emmi A. de Jesus and Arlene D. Brosas of Gabriela; Ariel B. Casilao of Anakpawis and Sarah Jane I. Elago of Kabataan.

In seeking the grant of a general amnesty, the lawmakers said Section 19, Article VII of the Constitution expressly provides that the President shall have the power to “grant amnesty with the concurrence of the majority of all the members of Congress.”

They stressed that many Filipinos have been arrested, imprisoned, charged or convicted for acts or omissions punishable under the Revised Penal Code or special laws in connection with the rebellion waged by the NPA or for other crimes in pursuit of their political beliefs.

“Presently, the human-rights group Karapatan recorded a total of 519 political prisoners, 42 of whom are women, 125 have illnesses of varying degrees, 40 are elderly, nine are couples and 129 have been in prison for more than 10 years,” they said.

Karapatan also reported “that nearly all the charges filed against these political prisoners are fabricated charges of common crimes.”

Twenty-one of these prisoners are peacetalks consultants of the National Democratic Front (NDF) who should have been long freed on the basis of the 1995 Philippine government-NDFP Joint Agreement for Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig).

“There is now an openness and goodwill between the government of President Duterte and the NDF for the resumption of the long-stalled peace process to tackle the root causes of the nearly five-decade old armed conflict in our country… In order to promote an atmosphere conducive to the attainment of a just, comprehensive and enduring peace, and, in line with the peace and reconciliation initiatives of President Duterte, there is a compelling need to declare a general, unconditional and omnibus amnesty in favor of Filipinos who have been arrested, jailed, charged and/or convicted for acts or omissions punishable under RPC and/or special laws in connection with the rebellion waged by the NPA or for other crimes in pursuit of one political belief related to its activities,” they added.

“The proposed amnesty, which excludes those crimes against chastity and rape, should restore to the grantees their civil and political rights suspended or lost adversely by virtue of any executive, administrative or criminal action or proceedings against the grantee,” the Makabayan lawmakers added.

They explained the proposed amnesty is necessary for the general interest of the Philippines and the Filipino people for a just and lasting peace.

NPA rebels wounded in fierce gun battle with gov’t troops

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 17): NPA rebels wounded in fierce gun battle with gov’t troops

Butuan City – An undetermined number of New People’s Army (NPA) rebels was believed to be critically wounded during a fierce gun battle with government troops in the hinterland of Sitio (sub-village) Linao-linao, Barangay (village) Lower Olave, in Buenavista town, Agusan del Norte province.

In the initial firefight, PFC. Albert Adaya of the Army’s 23rd Infantry Battalion was wounded in action and immediately evacuated to the advance command post (ACP of the 4th Infantry (Diamond) Division at Camp Bancasi here for medical treatment.

Based on a report from the Civil Military Operation (CMO) of the Army’s 23rd Infantry Battalion (23rd IB), the gun battle erupted at 8:45 a.m. on Tuesday. A running gun battle ensued after the initial gunfight, police and military reports said.

Initial reports received here from police and military said combat maneuvering troops of the Bravo Company of the 23rd IB were securing the unit’s Peace and Development Teams (PDTs) who were assisting villagers on their projects through “Bayanihan” approach when they engaged an undetermined number of heavily armed members of the guerilla-Front Committee 4-A of the CPP-NPA Northeastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NMRC).

Two gunship helicopters of the Philippine Air Force’s (PAF) Tactical Operations Group (TOG) were also dispatched to extend air cover to the operating troops of the 23rd IB in Linao-linao area.

Battle-tested soldier returns to lead peace in south Luzon

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 18): Battle-tested soldier returns to lead peace in south Luzon

Lt. Gen. Ferdinand Quidilla DELFIN T. MALLARI

A battle-tested Army senior officer, who led his men in the fight against communist rebels in southern Luzon 30 years ago as a young lieutenant, is back on the region’s frontline, this time to carry out President Duterte’s peace initiatives.

“It was considered a badge of honor to be assigned to Southern Tagalog and Bicol [during those days]. The fighting here was intense,” Lt. Gen. Ferdinand Quidilla said on Monday when he took over the military’s Southern Luzon Command (Solcom).

The post was previously held by Gen. Ricardo Visaya, who was appointed Armed Forces chief of staff by the President in July, and Maj. Gen. Romeo Gan, head of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, in an acting capacity.

Peace talks between the Duterte administration and the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines are expected to formally resume on Aug. 22 in Oslo, Norway.

In his command speech, Quidilla recalled his first stint as head of the Army’s 74th Infantry Battalion, based in Quezon province’s Bondoc Peninsula, then one of the most active guerrilla fronts in the country, in 2002. It was the peak of the military campaign against the New People’s Army.

With his new post as top military officer in Southern Tagalog and Bicol, he said he would continue to implement the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan as one of the core programs of the government’s national security strategy.

Launched in 2010, the IPSP Bayanihan is a multisectoral approach to end insurgency in the country, with emphasis on “noncombat operations.”

Solcom will pursue the “rehabilitation and reconstruction of conflict-affected areas,” combining focused military operations and support for community-based peace and development efforts, Quidilla said.

He directed his subordinates to review and study the history of communist insurgency in Southern Tagalog and Bicol.

“Identify the conflict-prone places in your respective areas. Study the data intensively to find ways … to make us all more efficient in attaining the objectives of the IPSP Bayanihan,” he said.

Solcom covers 15 provinces in two regions, with a total population of 15 million.
Quidilla, a native of South Cotabato province, was replaced as head of the 9th ID by Maj. Gen. Manolito Orense.

Visaya, Gan, Quidilla and Orense belong to the Philippine Military Academy’s “Matikas” Class of 1983.

Soldiers, cops get P5,000 allowance

From the Philippine Star (Aug 18): Soldiers, cops get P5,000 allowance

President Duterte pins a medal on Supt. Reynaldo Arino of the Special Action Force as PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa and Interior Undersecretary Catalino Coy look on during the PNP’s 115th anniversary celebration at Camp Crame yesterday. BOY SANTOS

More than 250,000 soldiers and policemen are set to receive P5,000 in additional allowances next month in place of the raise in pay President Duterte had promised them.

Duterte promised personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) a raise, but the annual budget submitted for 2017 does not include any increase in salaries.

Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said that the matter can be remedied if Duterte issues an executive order mandating an across-the-board increase in the allowances of soldiers and policemen by September.

“We hope the President would sign the EO that we have drafted soon so we could immediately effect the increase in the allowances of soldiers and policemen,” he said. Diokno said the increase in the salary of soldiers and policemen will hopefully be in effect by 2018.

He spoke at a press conference for the government’s social development summit in Davao City yesterday.

Diokno said there is still a problem in the budget for the pension of AFP retirees, which has remained much bigger than the actual allocation for the existing salaries of the military personnel.

“The problem has always been there since the time of former president (Fidel) Ramos and has remained uncorrected by the succeeding administrations,” he said.

However, there will be no pay raise for teachers and nurses yet as soldiers and policemen have to be prioritized, Diokno said.


Meanwhile,  27 policemen received awards  yesterday during the 115th Police Service Anniversary celebration at the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
President Duterte led the celebration of more than a century of commitment and dedication of police officers.

The PNP celebrates Aug. 17 as Police Service Anniversary in commemoration of the joint founding anniversaries of the Insular Constabulary established in 1901 and the Integrated National Police organized in 1975, both forerunner organizations of the PNP.

The 115th Police Service Anniversary is celebrated with the theme: “Hamon ng Pagbabago, Pinag-ibayong Serbisyo.”

Leading the individual awardees is Police Senior Supt. Valeriano de Leon from Police Regional Office 11. He received the Medalya ng Kasanayan and achievement award being the Best Senior Police Commissioned Officer for Administration.

Supt. Reynald Ariño from Special Action Force received the Medalya ng Kasanayan and achievement award for being the Best Senior Police Commissioned Officer for Operations.

Other individual awardees were Insp. Lito Pirote from Anti-Illegal Drugs Group – Best Junior Police Commissioned Officer; Senior Police Officer 1 Mhay Rubio from PRO 3 – Best Senior Police Non-Commissioned Officer; Police Officer 2 Jonathan Robles from PRO 3 – Best Junior Police Non-Commissioned Officer.

Other awardees are non-uniform personnel Rosana Tupaz from PRO 6 – Best Non-Uniformed Personnel (Supervisory Level); and Mary Jeanne Nadres from Directorate for Plans – Best Non-Uniformed Personnel (Non-Supervisory Level).

Unit awardees are: Police Regional Office 2 – Best Police Regional Office, award received by Chief Supt Gilbert Sosa, Regional Director of PRO 2; Special Action Force – Best National Operational Support Unit, award received by Chief Supt. Benjamin Lusad, director of SAF.

Information Technology Management Service – Best National Administrative Support Unit, award received by Chief Supt. Edwin Jose Nemenzo, Director of ITMS; Bulacan Police Provincial Office – Best Police Provincial Office, award received by Senior Supt. Romeo Caramat Jr., acting provincial director of Bulacan PPO; Iligan City Police Office – Best City Police Office, award received by Senior Supt. Leony Roy Ga, city director of Iligan CPO.

Sta. Rosa City Police Station – Best Component City Police Station, award received by Supt. Giovanni Martinez, chief of police of Sta. Rosa CPS; Nagcarlan Municipal Police Station – Best Municipal Police Station, award received by Chief Insp. Leopoldo   Ferrer Jr., chief of police of Nagcarlan MPS; Regional Public Safety Battalion 13 – Best Regional Public Safety Battalion, award received by Supt. Chito Bersaluna, acting battalion commander of RPSB 13;
Pangasinan Provincial Public Safety Company – Best Provincial Public Safety Company, award received by Supt. Virgilio Pascua Jr., company commander of Pangasinan PPSC; Zamboanga City Public Safety Company – Best City Public Safety Company, award received by Supt. Areston Limos, company commander of Zamboanga CPSC; Women And Children Protection Desk PRO 11 – Best Women And Children Protection Desk, award received by Chief Insp. Jacqueline Antero, chief of WCPD PRO 11; Regional Police Human Rights Desk PRO 3 – Best Regional Human Rights Desk, award received by Supt. Hercules Ileto, chief of Regional Human Rights Desk PRO 3.

Police Strategy Management Unit PRO COR – Best Police Strategy Management Unit, award received by Chief Supt. Robert   Quenery, DRDA of PRO COR; and Regional Special Training Unit PRO 2 – Best Regional Special Training Unit, award received by Supt. Jojo de la Cruz, chief of RSTU PRO 2.

President Duterte presented Special Awards to Police Regional Office 5 – unit with most members of private armed groups neutralized during the election period (PRO level), award received by Chief Supt. Melvin Ramon   Buenafe, Regional Director of PRO 5; Cebu Police Provincial Office – unit with most number of firearms accounted, seized, recovered and surrendered during the election period (PPO/CPO level), award received by Senior Supt. Jose Macanas, acting provincial director of Cebu PPO; Police Regional Office 13 – unit with the least number of election related violent incidents during the election period, award received by Chief Supt. Rolando Felix, regional director of PRO 13.

Regional Special Operations Task Group, Pangasinan – Best Regional Special Operations Task Group, award received by Chief Supt. Marlou Chan, deputy director, DIPO-Eastern Mindanao; Rizal Police Provincial Office PRO 4A – unit with most number of confiscated, seized, recovered and surrendered loose firearms, award received by Senior Supt. Adriano Enong, provincial director of Rizal PPO; and  Criminal Investigation and Detection Group – unit with the notable accomplishment in the campaign against illegal drugs, award received by Chief Supt. Roel Obusan, acting director of CIDG.


President Duterte honored one of the fallen soldiers killed in an encounter in Midsayap town, Cotabato upon his body’s arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport yesterday afternoon.

The remains of Petty Officer 3 Darwin Espallardo of the Navy arrived on board Cebu Pacific Air flight 5J 858 at 3:40 p.m. from Zamboanga City.

Present to receive the body were his widow Cleofe and son Dwyndy ll, and Navy officers and enlisted men, as well as Naval Intelligence Group Capt. Caesar Valencia.
Duterte arrived at the tarmac one hour and 10 minutes after Espallardo’s remains landed. He comforted the widow and son of the fallen soldier.

Espallardo, from Legazpi, Albay was killed along with Corporal Jose Miravalles and Private First Class Jaypee Duran, both of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division Recon Company when they were about to serve search warrants against a certain Commander Madrox, reportedly a leader of a Moro “lawless” group in Barangay Nabalawag in Midsayap, Cotabato at 4:30 a.m. last  Aug. 14.

Madrox was also killed in the ensuing encounter, according to reports.
He was known for operating a drug ring which has distributors in remote villages in  Cotabato’s Midsayap and Aleosan towns.

Espallardo was given a meritorious medal and medal of valor.

The Espallardo family will receive P250,000 cash assistance, livelihood, housing assistance, as well as college scholarship from the government.

Duterte promised the family that they will receive the benefits within a week

Malaysia oil tanker believed to have been hijacked near Indonesia

From Fox News (Aug 17): Malaysia oil tanker believed to have been hijacked near Indonesia

Malaysian and Indonesian maritime authorities are searching for a fuel tanker with 10 crew members that has disappeared in an apparent hijacking.

Malaysia's Maritime Enforcement Agency chief Ahmad Puzi Kahar said Wednesday that the MT Vier Harmoni was suspected to have been hijacked after leaving a port in Malaysia's southern Johor state and taken to waters off the Indonesian island of Batam, which is south of Singapore.

Indonesia's western naval command and its coast guard said they also were searching for the tanker but there was no indication so far it had entered Batam.

Vier Abdul Jamal, chief executive of the ship's owner Vierlines Asia Group, said the Indonesian-flagged vessel has 10 Indonesian crew on board and is currently chartered by another company.

The charterer and the harbor master where the vessel was loaded lost contact with Vier Harmoni on Tuesday evening and its tracking device is not active, he said.

The vessel, which has an experienced captain, could be hijacked, sunk or suffering engine problems, he said.

The Malaysian maritime agency said the tanker was carrying 900,000 litres of diesel and left from Tanjung Pelepas port in Johor.

Ahmad Puzi, the agency's chief, said "internal problems" might be behind the disappearance.

The 53-meter (175 foot) long Vier Harmoni was built in 2014.

Indonesia has suffered a series of kidnappings of its seamen this year by Abu Sayyaf militants based in the southern Philippines. Those incidents, which occurred off Borneo in waters that border Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, involved the militants abandoning the vessels and demanding ransoms for the kidnapped men.

Confront Abu Sayyaf, IS as unified force, Asean told

From Free Malaysia Today (Aug 17): Confront Abu Sayyaf, IS as unified force, Asean told

These terror groups have become a threat to the region, says terrorism expert Aruna Gopinath.


KUALA LUMPUR: Asean should confront terror groups Abu Sayyaf and Islamic State (IS) as a unified force because these groups have become a common threat to the region, said an expert on terrorism.

Associate Professor Aruna Gopinath, the desk officer on Southeast Asian Studies at the Centre for Defence and International Security Studies at the National Defence University, said there was a need for the regional grouping to unanimously decide on action to be taken against these militant groups, especially Abu Sayyaf which has been recognised by IS as “a caliphate in the region”.

Asean must decide whether there was a need for a military offensive against the Philippine terrorist group, she told Bernama.

“We believe in the Asean non-interference policy but this is a common threat now as Abu Sayyaf is not just attacking Malaysia. It’s going everywhere from Thailand to Singapore, and we don’t know what their next move is,” she said.

Touching on the non-interference policy, Aruna said negotiations could only take place when “you are able to talk to somebody, but when diplomacy fails, the ultimatum is war”.

“I believe that if these people (Abu Sayyaf) are not cooperating, we should go on the military offensive,” she said in commenting on the recent increase in the spate of abductions by the group.

In July last year, Abu Sayyaf senior leader Isnilon Hapilon was seen on social media taking an oath of allegiance to IS.

The IS has also declared the Philippines as a caliphate in a video released last June in a move seen as an attempt by the group to recruit more fighters from neighbouring countries in the region.

Abu Sayyaf came into the picture after they split up with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which was then led by Hashim Salamat, following the MILF’s acceptance of autonomy for the Bangsamoro.

“The group (Abu Sayyaf) tentatively came to power in 1991 led by Abdul Razak Janjalani. They said they were going to carry out the separatism ideology in a very aggressive manner,” said Aruna, whose research has focused on the conflict in Mindanao.

She said the militant group then started killing a lot of non-Muslims, especially Christians, and insisted on separatism and “thought they could get separated faster through killing, but the government never gave in”.

Abu Sayyaf, which was reported to have started with about 100 followers, today has more than 400 members.

Meanwhile, a political analyst at the International Islamic University Malaysia, Dr Maszlee Malik, said the Abu Sayyaf/IS matter had gone beyond the security issue.

“We are in a state of a war of civilisation and propaganda, a war of values and cultures. So, when such a thing happens, we must stand together as one and fight this unwanted barbaric trend that’s coming to our soil.

“It should be a collective effort among civil society, people of conscience fighting this extremism and terrorism because with IS recognition of Abu Sayyaf, the militant group is now trying to export its sentiments (to this region),” he said.

Maszlee said IS had at least 6,000 channels in the social media, including Twitter, Telegram, WhatsApp and YouTube, and in various languages to promote its propaganda and beliefs.

“The IS issue must be viewed in a bigger picture. Failure to do so, could result in a very wrong conclusion.

“If we look at the discourse or narrative that is being used by IS and the way it recruits members, it is all on injustice towards Muslims, regardless of where it happens,” he said.

Maszlee said this propaganda would definitely tempt Muslims to subscribe to its fight, “but what it fails to understand is that if the group goes deeper, it will cause more trouble to Muslims all over the world.

“You cannot eliminate one wrong with another. So for simple logic, simple thinking, people cannot understand the underlying facts beneath the propaganda. They (IS) are using simplistic propaganda to attract the younger generation, the youths,” he added.

Two Kidnapped Seafarers Escape Abu Sayyaf

From the Maritime Executive (Aug 17): Two Kidnapped Seafarers Escape Abu Sayyaf

Image courtesy Lt. Ron Villarosa / facebook    

Early Wednesday morning, local residents on the island of Sulu, Mindanao found an Indonesian seafarer trapped in fishing nets in a mangrove swamp. Mohammed Sayfan, 28, had just escaped after months of captivity at the hands of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group.

Local police forces said that Sayfan fled when the militants threatened to behead him; Abu Sayyaf has built a reputation for killing prisoners when ransoms go unpaid.

A military spokesman said that a second hostage, identified only as Ismail, was found in the same area Wednesday afternoon.

Media reports did not indicate whether other hostages had been harmed. Both men were crewmembers of the tugboat Charles, which was boarded by Abu Sayyaf members in late June. The terrorists abducted a total of seven seafarers and let another six go. The attack was part of a months-long string of Abu Sayyaf tug hijackings off of Sabah, Malaysia, near the maritime boundary with the Philippines.

The Sulu Archipelago has been the home base of the Abu Sayyaf Group for decades, especially the larger islands of Sulu, Jolo, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi.

On Monday, Philippine forces in Basilan said that they had stormed a final Abu Sayyaf stronghold in Tipo-Tipo, known as Hill 355. The operation cleared the last of the militants' bases in the municipalities of Tipo-Tipo, Baguindan and Bohe-Piang, an area of roughly 50 square miles. The success adds to a joint assault last Sunday to clear Baguindan and Hill 440.

"[Army forces] finally seized the enemy’s stronghold at Brgy Silangkum, Tipo-Tipo, Basilan Province. The hill is the ASG’s last stronghold after the terrorists went on the run from the relentless military operation that started in July," said Lt. Ron Villarosa, Public Affairs Officer of the Fourth Special Forces Battalion in a statement. "A total of ten enemy bunkers, four tunnels, several foxholes and two Improvised Explosives Devices (IEDs) were seized on Hill 355."

Lt. Villarosa said that the operation was carried out with intelligence from local volunteers.

The description of the operation mirrors earlier attempts to eradicate Abu Sayyaf on Basilan. In 2002, the Philippine military, aided by hundreds of American troops, swept through the island; however, analysts suggested that the terrorist group was able to reconstitute itself as soon as troop levels were drawn down. Large-scale military deployments with thousands of personnel followed again in 2006 in another attempt to overrun the group's bases and win over the local populace. In 2007, the Philippine military claimed to have reduced the group's strength on the island to 200 fighters; the number is still estimated to be small, but the group remains enough of a threat that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has called on the military to wage an all-out campaign to "destroy" Abu Sayyaf.

Indonesian sailor says pirates were about to behead him when he swam out to sea in flight

From the Japan Times (Aug 18): Indonesian sailor says pirates were about to behead him when he swam out to sea in flight

A government doctor checks Indonesian hostage Mohammad Safyan after he escaped from Abu Sayyaf captors, in Jolo, Sulu, in southern Philippines Wednesday. | REUTERS

An Indonesian tugboat crewman escaped from his Islamist militant captors in the Philippines on Wednesday by swimming out to sea after the militants threatened to cut his head off, a Philippine army spokesman said.

Members of the Islamic State-linked Abu Sayyaf group captured the Indonesian, Mohammad Safyan, 28, and six other Indonesian seamen from their boat as it was passing off southern Philippine islands on June 23.

Residents of Jolo island spotted Safyan floating off the shore after he escaped under cover of darkness, an army spokesman, Maj. Filemon Tan, told reporters.

“We were told he managed to escape by running and swimming to the sea,” Tan said, adding that Safyan had said the militants were about to execute him when he escaped.

Nine hours later, soldiers, who were sent back to the area where Safyan had evaded his captors, found a second Indonesian crewman, Ismail, chief officer of the same tugboat.

He was immediately brought to a clinic for a medical checkup, Tan said. No details were given on how he escaped.

Abu Sayyaf rebels operating in Muslim areas of the largely Christian Philippines have developed a reputation as ruthless kidnappers.

They have increasingly been turning their attention to vessels passing through busy shipping lanes in the Sulu Sea as security along coasts has been tightened.

The rebels, who have vowed allegiance to Islamic State, recently beheaded two Canadians they kidnapped from a beach resort after a ransom deadline passed.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte last week ordered the army to destroy the militants, saying if not, the Philippines risked being “contaminated” by Islamic State.

Indonesian authorities have said piracy in the area, a major sea lane for the world’s top thermal coal exporter, could reach levels previously seen in Somalia.

Analysts say $40 billion worth of cargo passes through the waters a year, including supertankers from the Indian Ocean that cannot use the crowded Malacca Strait.

The rise of hijackings at sea has prompted Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia to try to coordinate maritime patrols.

Tan said the Abu Sayyaf were holding 15 foreign hostages, including a Norwegian, a Dutch, five Malaysians and eight Indonesians. Eight Filipinos were also held in the group’s jungle stronghold.

Abu Sayyaf threatens to behead Filipino hostage

Anadolu Agency (Aug 17): Abu Sayyaf threatens to behead Filipino hostage

Hostage calls on officials in majority Muslim Sulu province to pay $21,530 before 2 p.m. on Aug. 24

Abu Sayyaf threatens to behead Filipino hostage

Suspected Daesh-linked militants in the Philippines south have released a video threatening to behead a Filipino hostage unless a ransom demand is paid by Aug. 24.
In a two-minute video clip released Wednesday, the hostage -- in his early 20s -- appeals to local officials in the majority Muslim island province of Sulu to pay ransom of 1 million pesos ($21,530) to the Abu Sayyaf and rescue him.
“I am Patrick James Almodovar,” he says in the local Tausug dialect in the video, also reported by a local television station.
“To Governor Totoh Tan and Mayor Kerkar Tan and to my relatives, I am appealing for your help to free me from my captors and they are asking one million pesos and if they don’t get what they are demanding, they will behead me exactly at 2 in the afternoon.”
According to the Mindanao Examiner, Almodovar’s kidnapping had not been reported and security forces did not immediately respond to the video.
On Tuesday, the military confirmed that an elementary school teacher was abducted by suspected Abu Sayyaf members in Liang village in Sulu’s Patikul town.
Last month, Abu Sayyaf militants seized Levi Gonzales, his pregnant wife and their companion in another village in Patikul.
The group has reportedly threatened to behead Gonzales, a technician, if the telecommunications company he works for does not pay a 1 million peso ransom.
Earlier this year, the group beheaded two Canadian hostages after ransoms failed to be paid. It has threatened to decapitate a Norwegian captured with them in September if a 300 million peso ($6 million) ransom demand is not met.
Since 1991, the Abu Sayyaf -- armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles -- has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortions in a self-determined fight for an independent province in the Philippines.
It is notorious for beheading victims after ransoms have failed to be paid for their release.
The Abu Sayyaf is among two militant groups in the south who have pledged allegiance to Daesh, prompting fears during the stalling of a peace process between the government and the country's biggest Moro group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, that Daesh could make inroads in a region torn by decades of armed conflict.

Uniformed personnel to get 20 kilos of rice per month

From the Philippine Star (Aug 17): Uniformed personnel to get 20 kilos of rice per month

Starting September through the next 12 months, all uniformed personnel will receive a rice allowance of 20 kilos per month.

Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno yesterday said the rice allowance is a non-salary benefit that President Duterte has promised to all uniformed personnel.

The beneficiaries include the entire 130,000 servicemen of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP); 150,000 in the Philippine National Police (PNP); 22,729 from the Bureau of Fire Protection and 8,835 from the Philippine’s  Coast Guard. 
Diokno did not say how much the rice allowance will cost the government. Most likely, the rice allowance would be sourced from the National Food Authority.

Diokno stressed this is a new benefit on top of the promised doubling of salaries of the uniformed service that Duterte committed to during the camp tours he has been doing over the past weeks.

“Definitely, it (doubling of salary) will happen but not this year,” Diokno said. “Because it involves a huge amount but we are looking for ways and means to fulfill the President’s promise.”

Diokno said he has submitted a recommendation to Duterte to start increasing the take-home pay of uniformed military and police personnel later this year or early next year.

“We will be able to fulfill the President’s promise of doubling their compensation starting in January 2018. Otherwise, it could take six years or until 2022 (when Duterte’s term ends),” he said.

Diokno made a distinction between take-home pay and basic pay.

He said the increase would be in take-home pay and in the form of allowances like hazard pay and other incentives that are not subject to income tax.

“To me, what is more important is the amount of take-home compensation,” he said.
Diokno pointed out an increase in basic salary is taxable.

Two weeks ago, addressing soldiers in Cebu City, Duterte said, “By December, you’d have doubled your salaries. The increase will start this August. Look at your pay check, it will be there.”

Last Thursday, Diokno told a Senate hearing that the administration would not be able to increase the salaries of soldiers and policemen by 100 percent by December.

This prompted Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, a former Navy officer, to accuse Duterte of making an empty commitment and raising false hopes among the men and women in uniform.

Trillanes said soldiers are expecting a bigger take-home pay “when they go to the ATMs at the end of this month.”

While Diokno talked of take-home pay, Duterte referred to base pay in the budget message he submitted to Congress on Monday.

However, the President, unlike in his talks with soldiers, did not commit to a specific timeline.

“I promised to increase the salaries of our policemen, soldiers and other uniformed personnel. And I will fulfill this promise. We will pursue a law that increases the base pay of uniformed personnel but reforms the pension system of retirees,” Duterte said.

In his budget message, Duterte again reminded government workers to cut red tape and make life easier for people dealing with them.

“If you do your work well and serve the people faithfully, you will be rewarded. But if you engage in corrupt activities, make it hard for our people to access services, or just waste time until the clock strikes five, you will be dealt with accordingly,” the President said.

Ifugao NPA warn vs ‘overdone’ war on drugs

From InterAksyon (Aug 17): Ifugao NPA warn vs ‘overdone’ war on drugs

Communist rebels in Ifugao warned local government units and law enforcers in the province against replicating the “overdone” campaign that has led to hundreds of deaths around the country, either in police operations or vigilante-style executions.

“Clearly, these deaths did not undergo the due process of the reactionary law. This fact, by itself, leads us to the very familiar tragedy of EJKs (extrajudicial killings). These are executions. This is Purge Anarchy, Philippines-style,” Ka Wigan Moncontad, spokesman of the New People’s Army’s Nona del Rosario Command in the province, said in a statement Wednesday.

He said the failure of President Rodrigo Duterte to recognize “that drug abuse is not the disease” but “a symptom of severe poverty” that has led to “this misguided program (that has) resulted in equally rampant extrajudicial killings,” with the “general population” targeted this time.

In Ifugao, the rebel spokesman said, local governments have been implementing “even in the laidback terrains of Ifugao” Oplan Kulkughummangan, their version of Oplan Tokhang (Toktok-Hangyo or “knock and appeal”), in which police go house to house to convince drug suspects to give themselves up, which has “resulted in the surrender of around 250 individuals as of July.”

Moncontad pointed out that most of the poor who have been drawn into drug use, particularly the youth, “see it as a way to forget their dire conditions,” while small-time peddlers see an “easy, but very dangerous” source of income.

Even in Ifugao, he said, the “majority are impoverished farmers and gardeners who are forced to try their luck outside their ili (community)” and, “away from the guidance of custom and their traditional leaders and structures, they are exposed to bad influences such as drug abuse.”

The class origins of the victims of drug-related killings, Moncontad said, prove the campaign to be “very anti-poor and anti-people.”

“For the police, the poor are dispensable,” he said. “These are small-time users and pushers but they are the ones being hunted. The drug lords, most certainly among the ruling elite of landlord-bourgeois comprador class, make billions of pesos from victimizing the poor but get away from their crimes.”

To decisively solve the problem, Moncontad said, “the Duterte regime to go beyond chasing drug users and pushers and to not limit itself to a mere anti-drug campaign. Instead, it should address poverty and its root causes.”

NDF consultant doesn’t have enough money to pay for bail

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 16): NDF consultant doesn’t have enough money to pay for bail

A local court here is ready to release the detained former head of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in Northern Mindanao so that he could participate in the resumption of peace negotiations between the government and the insurgent group in Oslo, Norway next week.

But Alfredo Mapano said he no longer has funds to pay the P100,000 bail set by Cagayan de Oro Regional Trial Court Judge Florencia Abbu for his temporary release, after he posted a similar P100,000-bail in a Malaybalay, Bukidnon court where he was facing charges of murder, frustrated murder and carnapping.

“I cannot afford to pay more. The bail of P100,000 was already paid to the courts in Malaybalay. There is no money for the court in Cagayan de Oro,” said Mapano, who is still languishing at the Misamis Oriental Provincial Jail where he has been detained for the past eight years.

Mapano said the bail money (paid in Malaybalay) was raised through donations from the National Democratic Front (NDF), his friends and family.

His counsel Francisco del Castillo said they were hoping Abbu would not raise the issue of bail bond payment because the Supreme Court has already directed the courts to give appropriate priority for the motion for temporary liberty.

Del Castillo said they have already paid P100,000 bail to the courts in Malaybalay and that should have also been enough also for the court in Cagayan de Oro.

“We will be filing a motion before the Solicitor General seeking clarification of the matter, “Del Castillo said.

Mapano is an expert on political and constitutional reforms, and had experience in implementing ceasefires, being a previous member of the Reciprocal Working Group of past peace negotiations.

Mapano was visiting his wife and three children in Cagayan de Oro when he was arrested on August 1, 2009

Cebu court allows Tiamzons to post bail

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 17): Cebu court allows Tiamzons to post bail

Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army chief Benito Tiamzon (left) and his wife, Wilma (right).  INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army chief Benito Tiamzon (left) and his wife, Wilma (right). INQUIRER FILE PHOTO
The Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 29 in Toledo City has allowed Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, the alleged top leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), to post bail in time for the resumption of peace talks between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Philippine government in Norway.

The Tiamzon couple were among the 22 NDFP consultants who will participate in the peace talks in Oslo Aug. 20-27.

In a 10-page order, Judge Ruben Altubar set the couple’s bail at P100,000 each for charges of illegal possession of firearms for their temporary liberty.
“Their provisional liberty shall only be for the purpose of their attendance and participation in the formal peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway, commencing in August 2016 up to six months thereafter, or as soon as the peace negotiations are concluded or terminated, whichever is earlier,” Altubar said.

The couple were also required to provide the court contact information both in the Philippines and in Norway and to report to the Philippine Embassy in Norway.

The bail bond will be deemed terminated after their role in the peace talks is over.

The couple may post bail at the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 32 which had earlier allowed them to post bail and participate in the peace negotiations while on trial for multiple murder case.

The Tiamzon couple have been detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City, following their arrest in Cebu in April 2014.

Altubar took into consideration the Aug. 6 decision of the Supreme Court which rejected the request of the Duterte administration to release all NDFP leaders who would attend the peace talks.

The high tribunal said it did not have jurisdiction on the other NDF consultants who were facing various charges in various courts.

Instead, the Supreme Court asked the lower courts to give “utmost priority” to hearing similar motions and manifestation “in view of the grave importance of peace to the Filipino people.”

The Tiamzon couple have also been charged with murder and frustrated murder at the  RTC in Laoang town, Northern Samar, and  kidnapping and serious illegal detention at the RTC in Quezon City, Branch 216. These courts, however, are likely to grant bail to the couple as well.

Joma thanks Duterte for releasing jailed NDFP consultants for peace talks

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 16): Joma thanks Duterte for releasing jailed NDFP consultants for peace talks
 National Democratic Front (NDF) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison talks to Philippine media at the NDF office in Utrecht. Photo by Kristine Angeli Sabillo/

National Democratic Front (NDF) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison talks to Philippine media at the NDF office in Utrecht. Photo by Kristine Angeli Sabillo/

Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison thanked President Duterte on Tuesday, for assuring the rebel group that all consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the CPP’s political wing, would join the peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway next week.

Once more, I am grateful to President Duterte for his good acts to move forward the peace negotiations between his government and the NDFP,” Sison told the Philippine Daily Inquirer through an online chat on Tuesday.

Sison acknowledged the President’s help in the release of jailed NDFP consultants protected by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).

In a statement, the government’s chief peace negotiator, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, said Mr. Duterte gave the assurance to NDFP representatives during a meeting in Malacañang on Monday.

Mr. Duterte, during that meeting, had instructed the Bureau of Immigration and the Department of Foreign Affairs to process the documents of the consultants so they could travel to Oslo in time for the start of the formal peace talks, Bello said.

The NDFP has been demanding the release of detained communist leaders before the resumption of the talks, saying they were covered by provisions of JASIG signed by rebel leaders and government officials in 1995.

The peace talks will resume in Oslo on Aug. 22.

Sison said he and Mr. Duterte would continue to communicate during the negotiations. “We intend to perform our respective parts in order to make the talks successful and beneficial to our people,” he said.

Sison noted that he and Mr. Duterte, his former student, remained friends despite what he described as a previous communication “glitch.”

Sison and Mr. Duterte had traded words after the CPP failed to reciprocate a unilateral ceasefire declared by the President during his State of the Nation Address last month.
The word war escalated and threatened to derail the talks, until the government assured the CPP that the peace negotiation would go on as scheduled this month.

Sison, who has been living in exile in Utrecht, The Netherlands since 1987, said his and Mr. Duterte’s friendship “has a strong basis in previous cooperation of long duration and in a common desire to serve the national and democratic rights and best interests of the Filipino people.”

“Furthermore, we have plenty of mutual friends who help maintain our friendship,” Sison said.

Abducted Indon sailor escapes from Abu Sayyaf custody

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 17): Abducted Indon sailor escapes from Abu Sayyaf custody

One of the seven Indonesian sailors the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) seized almost two months ago off the Philippine coast escaped execution and dashed to freedom early Wednesday in Sulu.

Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) spokesperson, said Mohammad Sofyan, 28, escaped around 7:30 a.m. in Luuk, Sulu.

Tan said Sofyan managed to escape while being taken by the Abu Sayyaf bandits to the mangrove area in the boundary of Barangays Bual and Bato-Itum, Luuk, “when his captors declared that they will behead him.”

Tan said the residents in the area have safely recovered Sofyan who was trapped in a fishnet and floating in the shore of Barangay Bual, Luuk.

He said the residents immediately brought Sofyan to the Municipal Police Station of Luuk and was later taken to the Sulu Provincial Police Office for processing and other documentation prior to eventual turnover to his family.

Soyfan, a crew member of the Tugboat Charles, was abducted off the high seas near the Philippine border last June 23, along with six other crew members of the tugboat.

The other crew members who are still in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf bandits are Ferry Arifin; Mohammd Mahbrur Dahri; Edi Suryono; Mohammad Nasir; Robin Piter; and, Ismail.

The Tugboat towing a barge called Robby 152 was en route to Indonesia from the Philippines when the Abu Sayyaf bandits aboard a speed boat intercepted and seized the victims.

Tan said that the troops of the Joint Task Force Sulu were directed to scour the area and used all available assets to possibly locate the remaining kidnap victims and conduct operations to rescue them.

NDFP peace consultant for Visayas gets temporary liberty

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 17): NDFP peace consultant for Visayas gets temporary liberty

Maria Concepcion “Concha” Araneta-Bocala, peace consultant for Visayas of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) has been granted temporary freedom on Wednesday paving the way for her joining the resumption of talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP-NDF) in Oslo, Norway.

Bocala, who is also the spokesperson of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) regional committee in Panay Island, was released from prison in Iloilo City after posting bail with the total amount of Php400,000 for her four criminal charges on illegal possession of explosives and ammunition, murder and two rebellion charges.

The peace talks in Oslo, Norway is set on August 20-27.

Bocala will immediately fly to Manila tomorrow to process other legal documents and visa for her Norway trip.

Bocala said that the peace talk will revolve on topics about socio-economic reforms, political reforms and disposition of forces.

She pointed out that she will bring before the attention of the peace panel issue such as high unemployment and push for subsidy for farmers, free education for students, minimum wage increase, improved social services, free hospitalization and medicines, among others.

Bocala was arrested in August 2015 in Molo, Iloilo City by joint forces of the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG-6).

After the peace talks, Bocala is expected to return to the country and to report directly to the court.

GPH peace panel optimistic on accelerated, thorough discussions with NDF

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 18): GPH peace panel optimistic on accelerated, thorough discussions with NDF

The government peace panel is committed to a thorough but accelerated peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front (NDF) as both panels head to Oslo, Norway to begin talks on August 22.

“We take cue from the President (Rodrigo Duterte). Our efforts are geard towards that direction (thorough discussion but in an accelerated way),” Librado said at Wednesday’s AFP-PNP Press forum at Royal Mandaya Hotel.

The GRP panel gets inspiration, openness and guidance from the President that the talks could sustain within his six-year term given his full commitment to achieve a just and lasting peace.

In the resumption of talks in Oslo, Librado said both panels are expected to fast track the remaining three substantive issues namely the socioeconomic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

The panels will discuss the affirmation of previously signed agreements; accelerated process for negotiations, including the timeline for the completion of the remaining substantive agenda; reconstitution of the (JASIG) list; Amnesty Proclamation for the release of all detained political prisoners subject to concurrence by Congress; and the Mode of Interim ceasefire.

While they are looking at a very short timeline, Librado said President Duterte wants a thorough discussion.

Lawyer Antonio Arellano, who is the newest member of the government panel, emphasized on sustained peace negotiations, saying the government under the Duterte administration cannot afford to be a failed state.

Arellano is optimistic there are enough solutions to issues which are expected to be raised during the negotiations, under existing laws.

He said the Oslo talks on August 22 is somehow a beginning of new negotiations given that the peace talks with communist movement have been stalled several times.

The resumption of the GPH-NDF peace negotiations is getting support from various sectors.

The League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) gave its full support to the resumption of the peace negotiations with all armed groups in the country as one of the priorities of the Duterte administration.

LCP noted that the "protracted people's war" being waged for more than 46 years has resulted in the displacement of tens of thousands of rural folks specifically the Indigenous Peoples, fisherfolk, farmers and farm workers, and the rural poor.

They cited Duterte’s determination to end the armed conflict by addressing its root causes of poverty, injustice, lack of opportunity for the poor, and exploitation of the basic sectors perpetuated by the elite/oligarchs.

Even Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chair Jose Maria Sison lauded the President’s acts of goodwill to move forward the peace negotiations between his government and the NDFP by making possible the release of the JASIG-protected NDFP consultants from prison and graciously meeting the NDFP lawyers and consultants together with his negotiators and other officials last Monday.

“Despite a previous glitch in our communications, President Duterte and I remain good friends. Our friendship has a strong basis in long standing cooperation and in a common desire to serve the national and democratic rights and best interests of the Filipino people. Furthermore, we have plenty of mutual friends who help maintain our friendship,” Sison said in a statement.

Sison said they are both inspired by the principles and objectives of Kabataang Makabayan and driven by the patriotic desire to continue the unfinished revolution of Andres Bonifacio. BAYAN and the producers of the film TIBAK (Kabataang Makabayan) have notified us of the plan to give us the Gawad Supremo soon in honor of Bonifacio.

Sison also committed to get in touch with Duterte during the Oslo talks. “We intend to perform our respective parts in order to make the talks successful and beneficial to our people,” he added.

Pres. Duterte to visit Mindanao soldiers wounded in fight vs illegal drugs

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 18): Pres. Duterte to visit Mindanao soldiers wounded in fight vs illegal drugs

Showing his compassion for government forces who offered lives in defense of Filipino people, President Rodrigo Duterte will visit infantrymen wounded during government anti-drug operations in North Cotabato last week.

It will be Pres. Duterte's second visit to this camp in his first 50 days in office to propagate his determination and commitment to get rid the country of illegal drugs.

The 6th Infantry Division public affairs office said the President will arrive at past 12 noon to personally convey his compassion and sympathy to wounded soldiers at Camp Siongco Hospital.

He is expected to pin wounded personnel medal to at least eight soldiers slightly hurt when Moro lawless elements fired rifle grenades to approaching lawmen in Barangay Nabalawag, Midsayap, North Cotabato on Sunday dawn.

Five of the injured were identified as Sgt. Arinio Grafil, Cpl. Diocesar Espanola, Pfc. Romnick Clerigo, Privates Normel Grande and Edgar Gegone, all of the 6th Division Reconnaissance Company.

The President has already condoled with the family of Navy Intelligence officer Darwin Espallardo who died during the anti-drug raid and whose remains were brought to NAIA 3 Wednesday afternoon.

Espallardo, along with Army Corporal Jose Miravalles and PFC Jaypee Duran, both of 6th ID, were killed in the ensuing fire fight against the group of Moks Masgal, alias "Commander Mabrook."

Masgal, a former Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leader, was engaged in illegal drug activities in North Cotabato and Maguindanao.

The President is expected to reiterate his commitment to totally get rid the country of illegal drugs.

Indonesian abducted last June escapes Abu Sayyaf captors

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 17): Indonesian abducted last June escapes Abu Sayyaf captors

An Indonesian, one of seven crew members of a tugboat who were abducted by suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf last June, escaped from his captors Wednesday morning.

This was confirmed by Western Mindanao Command spokesperson Maj. Filemon Tan.

Mohammad Safyan, a crew member of the tugboat M/T Charles, was rescued by local residents at about 7:30 a.m. at the shoreline of Barangay Bual, Luuk town in Sulu. He was immediately brought by the residents to the municipal police station.

Reports from ground units disclosed that 28-year-old Safyan escaped from his kidnappers at the mangrove areas of Barangays Bual and Bato-Itum, both in Luuk, after the bandits threatened to behead him.

Sayfan was seen by residents trapped in the fishnets in the area.

The Indonesian will be brought to the Sulu provincial police office for processing and documentation before he is turned over to his family.

According to reports, the M/T Charles was traversing Indonesian waters near the country’s border with the Philippines when armed men fired at the boat and seized seven crew members.

Troops of the Joint Task Force Sulu were directed to scour the area and use all available assets to rescue the remaining victims.

Palace welcomes Joma Sison’s statements to President Duterte

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 17): Palace welcomes Joma Sison’s statements to President Duterte

Malacañang on Wednesday welcomed the remarks of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Ma. Sison thanking President Rodrigo Duterte for assuring the release of jailed National Democratic Front (NDF) consultants ahead of the formal resumption of formal peace negotiations.

Communication Secretary Martin Andanar said that Sison’s remarks just showed that the idea of having a peaceful resolution between the Philippine government and the CPP-NPA has become larger than the personalities involved in making this peace deal happening.

“The conflict between the government and the CPP has been going on for 40 years. The positive statements coming from Joma Sison is a welcome development because it means that there is a greater chance for the two sides to agree in Oslo, Norway,” Andanar said during the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum held at the Café Adriatico in Malate.

The Palace official also said that even if President Duterte and Joma Sison had harsh exchanges of words during the past few weeks, talks between members of the government peace panel and their counterparts from the CPP-NPA have never stopped.

“Patuloy naman itong planong magkaroon ng peace talks by Aug. 20-27 in Oslo. So abangan natin kung ano mangyayari. (Plans to hold the peace talks on Aug. 20-27 in Oslo are on. So, let us see what happens.) But I am very, very positive that our GPH panel will come home with good news,” Andanar said.

Earlier Wednesday, Sison released a statement thanking President Duterte for assuring that all consultants of the NDFP will join the peace negotiations in Oslo next week.

The assurance was made by the President during his meeting with NDFP lawyers at Malacañang Palace Monday evening.

“Once more I am grateful to President Duterte for his acts of goodwill to move forward the peace negotiations between his government and the NDFP,” Sison said.

According to NDF lawyer Edre Olalia, the group has requested the release of 22 NDF jailed consultants.

The list includes Benito Tiamzon, Alan Jazmines, Concha Araneta Bocala, Adelberto Silva, Ruben Saluta, Jaime Soledad, Kennedy Bangibang, Loida Magpatoc, Reynante Gamara, Alfredo Mapano, Emeterio Antalan and Leopoldo Caloza.

Also included are Wilma Austria, Eduardo Sarmiento, Ernesto Lorenzo, Pedro Codaste, Porferio Tuna, Tirso Alcantara, Eduardo Genelsa, Ariel Arbitrario, Renato Baleros, Sr. and Edgardo Friginal.

PAF to give Rio silver medalist Diaz a heroes' welcome

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 17): PAF to give Rio silver medalist Diaz a heroes' welcome

For winning the country's first Olympic silver medal in 20 years, A2WC Hidilyn F. Diaz will be given a heroes' welcome and promoted one rank higher Thursday morning.

This will take place at the Philippine Air Force (PAF) Gymnasium, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City, said PAF spokesman Col. Araus Robert Musico.

"It's the PAF way of recognizing her (Diaz's) achievement," he added.

Diaz will also be pinned the chevrons of her new rank of A1WC which is the PAF's way of recognizing her achievement.

Before the donning of chevrons, Diaz, in a motorcade, will tour around Villamor Air Base, and thereafter the Olympian will make a short call to PAF commander Lt. Gen. Edgar Fallorina who is expected to give some tokens to the silver medalist.

"(It's a simple welcome effort) back after her outstanding display of athletic skill (at the Rio Olympic Games)," Musico said.

The 25-year-old Diaz, a native of Zamboanga City, won her silver medal in the women’s 58kg class event which won by Chinese Hsu Shu-ching of Chinese Taipei via a record-breaking fashion.

In the snatch event, she tallied 88 kg but recovered in the clean and jerk lift, successfully lifting a 112 kg lift in her second attempt, for a total of 200 kg, against Hsu.

Her silver medal won Sunday (Brazil time) was the Philippines' first Olympic medal in 20 years and the first ever for a Filipina.

The last time the Philippines won a medal in the Olympics was in 1996 when Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco competed in the light-flyweight category in boxing in the Atlanta Olympic Games.

Andanar sees successful peace talks with Moro rebels under Duterte administration

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 17): Andanar sees successful peace talks with Moro rebels under Duterte administration
Presidential Communications Office (PCO) Secretary Martin Andanar on Monday expressed optimism that the peace talks with the Moro rebels in Mindanao will yield good results under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

”Malaki ang chance of the peace talk na maging successful,” Andanar told the media during the weekly Kapihan sa Manila Bay at the Café Adriatico in Malate.

Andanar called on the Filipinos to remain optimistic that decades-long struggle in Mindanao will come to an end under the present administration.

”If we become pessimistic, and who else will carry the torch of optimism?,” Andanar said.

”As a matter of fact, our president, wala na siguro pangulo na makakaintindi ng problema ng mga kapatid na Muslim kundi ang ating Pangulong Duterte coming from Mindanao and having also the bloodline of Muslims,” he added.

Andanar said President Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza was working hard to reach out all the rebels group in Mindanao, particularly the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

”Maraming mga backchanneling na ginagawa si Sec. Dureza para magkita ang government at MILF. But the fact that MILF became open, the fact na pumayag sila na dagdagan ang panels from 15 to 21, these are good signs that we are moving forward,” Andanar said.

Last weekend, the GPH and the MILF peace negotiators agreed on the substantive aspects of the peace and development roadmap that was recently approved by President Duterte.

”We should not look back because the sins of the past might slow us down. So just have to look forward and build on the confidence won in the Kuala Lumpur a few days ago,” Andanar said.

Andanar said the peace process with the MILF was also inclusive with the inclusion of the other groups “who felt they were marginalized in the last Bangsamoro peace talks” under former President Benigno Aquino III.

”There is more reason na maisama ang mga Lumads. We can call this a more inclusive Bangsamoro transition committee,” he said.

Under the Aquino administration, the GPH and the MILF signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in March 2014 but an enabling Bangsamoro Basic Law was not approved in the last 16th Congress.

Andanar is hoping the new Bangsamoro political entity that will replace the current Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao will be finished before the 2019 mid-term elections.

President Duterte not to raise WPS issue in Laos ASEAN Summit

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 18): President Duterte not to raise WPS issue in Laos ASEAN Summit

President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday that he has no plans to raise the West Philippine Sea territorial dispute in the 28th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit set from Sept. 3 to 8 in Vientiane, Laos.

”I will bring only the issue when we are together face to face (with China) because if we quarrel them now and you claim sovereignty, make noise here and there, then they might not even want to talk,” President said in a media interview at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

President Duterte underscored the importance of maintaining good relation with China.

”We maintain good relation to China. Let us not create an environment where we can sit down and talk directly and that’s the time that I would say we proceed from here,” the President said.

He added that war is not an option in settling the territorial dispute in the WPS.

”Can we declare a war? It is not an option. And I would not be stupid to do that. It would only be a massacre for all. May be many for us, some of them, but war is not an option nowadays,” the President said.

The President said he would rather let former President Fidel V. Ramos, his appointed special envoy to China, prepare the peaceful means to settle the dispute.

Last month, the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, Netherlands decided in favor of the Philippines’ arbitration case filed against China’s massive reclamation activities in the disputed WPS.

China has refused to honor the verdict of the United Nation’s arbitral tribunal.

President Duterte condoles with family of fallen navy

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 18): President Duterte condoles with family of fallen navy

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) before 5 p.m. Wednesday to condole with the family of PO3 Darwin Espallardo of the Philippine Navy.

A member of the Naval Intelligence Security Group, Espallardo was among the anti-narcotics operatives who died in the recent drug trafficking operation in North Cotabato.

They had a firefight with rebels led by a certain Commander Madrox who were apparently involved in large-scale drug trafficking.

Espallardo's remains arrived at NAIA Terminal 3 at around 3:30 p.m. He is survived by wife Cleofe and only-son, 16 year-old Dwyndyll John.

Duterte said the government would shoulder all the expenses needed in Espallardo's burial.

Aside from Php 250,000 which Duterte said he would hand in about a week, the government would also shoulder Dwyndyll John's education until he finished college.

Duterte said he's also flying to Cotabato to see the other casualties of the incident.

"Sometimes we win. Sometimes we lose," he said about the recent fight.

"Drug problem must be destroyed," Duterte emphasized, adding that he would not stop the fight against drugs until the last day of his administration.

"I will not stop until I'm satisfied that the interest of the Filipino people is fully protected," he noted.

The president explained that he's doing this because people elected him. "They want a drug-free, graft-free government, they will get it," he remarked.

With regard to human rights issues thrown at the President, Duterte said he ordered investigation for those killed by policemen in every drug-related encounters.

He also explained, "If I'm a citizen of the Philippines and my daughter, for instance, is killed by a drug addict, I would kill him."

"As a President, I cannot accept that (scenario)," he said.