Friday, November 25, 2016

Coup fears eased amid anti-FM protests

From The Standard (Nov 25): Coup fears eased amid anti-FM protests

THOUSANDS of protesters joined the “Black Friday” rally at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila Friday to voice their opposition to the burial of former President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani two weeks ago.

The Palace said Friday it was not alarmed about any possible destabilization attempts, even after President Duterte issued an order restricting soldiers to their barracks in the wake of massive anti-Marcos rallies in various parts of the country.

BLACK FRIDAY. Protesters, clad in black, march under light rains Friday to mount what they expect would be the largest expression of outrage thus far against former President Ferdinand Marcos’ burial on Nov. 18 at the Libingan ng mga Bayani—with President Duterte reacting, quoting English writer Evelyn Beatrice Hall ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it’—an endorsement of the principle of freedom of speech. Lino Santos

Former senator Rene Saguisag, and former Bayan Muna Party-list lawmakers Satur Ocampo and Neri Colmenares joined multi-sectoral groups as protesters, all wearing black, came separately from Taft Avenue and Liwasang Bonifacio and gathered at the grandstand.

A spokeswoman for the police, Kimberly Molitas, said there were no untoward incidents as of 5 p.m.

Various youth groups led by Anakbayan, Kabataan Party-list, League of Filipino Students, National Union of Students of the Philippines, and College Editors Guild of the Philippines also marched to Mendiola before proceeding to the anti-Marcos protest at Luneta Park.

Mass actions were also held at the University of the Philippines Diliman and Katipunan, UP Manila, Polytechnic University of Manila, and the University Belt along Morayta and Mendiola.

“Today youth and students and people from all walks of life unite to hold the Duterte regime accountable for giving a hero’s burial to a dictator, plunderer, and human rights violator. Today we link arms to denounce Duterte’s unholy alliance with the Marcoses,” said Anakbayan National chairman Vencer Crisostomo.

Protest centers were also set in various major schools and roads in Metro Manila. The groups marched to Mendiola noon before heading to Luneta Park later in the afternoon.

The mass actions caused traffic congestion along the University Belt on C.M. Recto Avenue and other main roads in Metro Manila.

“We strongly condemn the Duterte regime for burying Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. This only exposes the prevalent fascist mindset in the state which sings praises to a dead dictator and sees nothing wrong with massive human rights abuses, repression of civil liberties, and state terror,” said Crisostomo.

Crisostomo cited a report by rights group Karapatan that documented 16 cases of political killings and another 16 cases of frustrated murder since Duterte came to power on June 30.

The same report mentions over 13,000 victims of forced evacuations of civilian communities under Duterte, many of which are farmers and minorities.

“What’s worse, military operations are now disguised as part of ‘peace and development’ and the ‘war on drugs.’ The continuation of Oplan Bayanihan tramples on the essence of the peace talks between the Duterte regime and the NDFP and the unilateral ceasefire declared by both sides,” said Crisostomo.

“No genuine change came after the EDSA uprising, allowing ruling elites like the Aquinos, Ramos, Estrada, Arroyo, and now Duterte to make political accommodation with the Marcoses and pave their return to power. State fascism and human rights abuses continue up to this very day,” said Crisostomo.

“No change will come under the Duterte regime if it continues to lavish praise on the Marcoses and persists in looking up to the dead dictator’s fascist ways as role model. Real justice for the victims of Martial Law can only be secured by fighting a rotten system that organizes fascism and rights abuses against the people,” Crisostomo added.

The Marcos family earlier asked the people to unite amid the ongoing series of protests following the burial of the former president, which took the public by surprise a few days after the Supreme Court decided to allow the burial at the Libingan.

“Let my father’s burial be the first day amongst many days of our continuing to work for the unity and the progress of our country,” said Marcos’ namesake and only son former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

The senator said it was his father’s fervent wish that when he came to the end of his days, that he be buried in a simple soldier’s ceremony.

“This was in keeping with his idea that he was but a soldier doing his duty, a citizen serving his country. We have waited 27 years to fulfill that wish that he left us with. But we are here today and we are able to grant him that wish,” he said.

On Nov. 8, the Supreme Court voted 9-5 to junk the petitions seeking to bar the interment of Marcos at the Libingan because of the state-sanctioned human rights violations that occurred during his 21-year rule.

President Rodrigo Duterte said that Marcos, who served the country for more than three decades, should be buried at the Libingan, not because he is a hero but because he was a soldier.

“The issue about Marcos’ burial at the Libingan has created division amongst our people. Almost all Ilocanos have bad feelings about that,” he said. “If you don’t want to call him a hero, then just think of him as a soldier.”

Duterte said it is important to settle the matter soon because it has been simmering for a long time.

The Supreme Court decision was a fulfillment of the promise Duterte made in February while he was campaigning in Marcos’ home province of Ilocos Norte, where he won in the race for the presidency with more than 100,000 votes, or 39 percent of all votes cast.

He said allowing the burial for the former president would help unite the country.

“I think that’s reading too much. We are just simply saying that the military should have not have been outside, and that we don’t want them [the military] to be obstacles to public demonstrations,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a press briefing.

Abella denied that the order restricting soldiers to barracks was part of ‘loyalty checks’ to suppress any possible destabilization attempts.

“It’s exactly the opposite. I think [the President] entrusts the public to be able to handle themselves properly and is allowing for them to go to public protests,” he said.

On Thursday, a security expert warned that the planned indignation rallies by anti-Marcos forces, were part of a larger scenario--the destabilization of the incumbent administration.

The expert, who spoke on condition he would not be identified, said authorities were cautiously conducting an in-depth assessment of events preceding the interment of Marcos on Nov. 18.

Previous destabilization efforts during past administrations needed the support of the military.

Upon returning to the country following his attendance to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Peru, Duterte directed the Armed Forces of the Philippines personnel to avoid mingling with the crowd during rallies.

“Consistent with these valued principles, let me assure you that while protest actions are being staged, our military forces will remain confined in their camps,” Duterte said.

To prevent any critical movement, Duterte said that only a lean number of police personnel will be kept in protest centers.

“Their role shall be limited to traffic enforcement and the basic policy standards. They are prohibited from carrying long firearms,” he added.

PNP National Capital Region Police Office Director Oscar Albayalde said the police would exercise “maximum tolerance” in dealing with the protesters.

On Friday, the Communist Party of the Philippines demanded that Duterte reverse the “historical wrong” of burying President Marcos in the heroes’ cemertery.

In a statement, the CPP rejected Duterte’s legal justification of his order to give Marcos a hero’s burial.

“Duterte can propound a thousand legal questions and he would not get to the meat of the matter because the issue of exalting Marcos as a hero is way beyond the realm of what is legal or not,” said the CPP.

“By exalting Marcos with a hero’s burial, Duterte showed utter insensitivity and disrespect to the tens of thousands of victims of cruel suppression by the US-backed Marcos dictatorship and the collective suffering of the Filipino people under its rule of unmitigated plunder,” the communist group added.

The CPP likewise urged the protesters to demand the Duterte regime to reverse the historical wrong it committed against the people and demand an end to all the legacies of martial law.

“By protesting the hero’s burial of Marcos, the Filipino people, especially the younger generation, are demonstrating how they have not forgotten the brutalities and crimes of the Marcoses,” they added.

Duterte again defended his decision and blamed two Aquino presidents who did nothing about the issue during their terms.

“We cannot have a different interpretation because it simply says that a soldier and a former President are qualified to be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani,” Duterte said in a media briefing at Zamboanga City.

“I am trained to follow simply the law. It was a simple matter of amending the law and they [the Aquinos] had about...12 golden years to do it,” he said.

Duterte earlier described the clash over the burial of Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani as a “fight between two families” and blamed President Corazon Aquino and her son President Benigno Aquino III for doing nothing to change the rules governing the Libingan.

But the leftist farmers group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) on Friday accused Duterte of “subverting history and conniving with the Marcoses.”

“Today’s broad peoples’ protests should serve as a warning to the government to heed the public outcry against historical revisionism. President Duterte should stop his ‘dangerous liaison’ with the Marcos family or face wider public outrage and protests,” said Joseph Canlas, KMP chairman.

“This is beyond the issue of burial per se. This is about giving justice to all the victims of Martial Law and correcting the historical wrong that those who usurp political power, plunder the national coffers and violate human rights can get away scot-free and even rise back to power and to Malacanang,” the peasant leader added, referring to former senator Marcos.

“Imelda, Imee, Bongbong, Irene and all the living Marcos heirs are without remorse of their family’s plundering of more than $10 billion in taxpayers’money. The Marcoses and their cronies including Eduardo ‘Danding’ Cojuangco Jr., continue to enrich themselves from their ill-gotten wealth. The P75-billion coco levy fund has yet to be returned to small coconut farmers, more than 40 years after Marcos exacted the levy,” said Canlas.

A House leader on Friday defended President Duterte’s move to allow the burial of former president Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei said Duterte wants the nation to “forget the hate” that divided the nation for so long and this is why he is reaching out to all political forces in the country in an attempt to consolidate a united front in the fight against crime, drugs, corruption and poverty.

No bilateral ceasefire yet; NDF, GRP can’t agree on revolutionary tax, other issues

From the often pro-Communist Party of the Philippines online publication the Davao Today (Nov 25): No bilateral ceasefire yet; NDF, GRP can’t agree on revolutionary tax, other issues

The second round of talks between the government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines opened Thursday, October 6 at the Holmenfjord Hotell in Oslo, Norway. (Zea Io Ming C. Capistrano/ file photo)

The second round of talks between the government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines opened Thursday, October 6 at the Holmenfjord Hotell in Oslo, Norway. (Zea Io Ming C. Capistrano/ file photo)
The government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines have yet to achieve consensus on various points before signing a bilateral ceasefire agreement.
In a press conference in Malacañang on Tuesday, GRP negotiator for the NDF and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said among the issues that the two panels have not agreed upon are the definition of a hostile act, buffer zones, and who constitutes the monitoring team that for the implementation and compliance with the ceasefire.

“What is considered as a hostile act? When you look at it, it seems easy, it’s easy to talk about but it gets difficult. There are many ramifications like is the collection of revolutionary tax considered a hostile act?” Bello said.

Bello said because of these remaining issues, the signing of a joint bilateral ceasefire by December 10 seems impossible.

“But we are still hoping, we are still not giving up that by December 10 we will be signing a joint bilateral permanent ceasefire. That is what you should not forget about, a permanent ceasefire which will eventually lead to the cessation of hostilities,” Bello said.

In the August 26 Joint Statement of the GRP and NDF, the ceasefire committees of both Parties were tasked to “reconcile and develop their separate unilateral ceasefire orders into a single unified bilateral agreement within 60 days” from August 26.

Meanwhile, Bello said he met with NDF chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili last week where he said he was able to bring up the issue of the signing of the bilateral ceasefire.

“We had occasion to meet and explain to him about the difficulty of getting a final signing of the bilateral because of the definition of terms. But we had a gentlemen’s agreement that we may make some announcements regarding the unilateral ceasefire,” he said.

Bello said he is aware that the CPP’s declaration of ceasefire is indefinite.

“But for the sake of our public, maybe it is best that we have an announcement that we are extending the ceasefire so that our countrymen will have peace of mind, so that is very possible,” Bello said.

No need for extension

In a statement on Oct. 30, Agcaoili said Bello sent a letter to him on Oct. 20 proposing both Parties to “simultaneously declare their renewed commitment to their respective unilateral indefinite ceasefire” in view of the fact that the two sides could not meet on the October 26th, the deadline to work out a bilateral ceasefire agreement.

But Agcaoili said there was no need for the NDFP to make such a simultaneous declaration with the GRP. He said the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army’s declaration of interim ceasefire, which took effect on August 28, will remain valid during the course of the peace negotiations “until superseded by a ceasefire agreement to be issued jointly by the NDFP with the GRP within the next 60 days or until a notice of termination of this ceasefire declaration takes effect 10 days after receipt of said notice by the GRP Negotiating Panel from the NDFP Negotiating Panel.”

Mil ops in Caraga

Meanwhile, the NPA said the Army continues to launch “military operations”, particularly in Caraga region despite the ceasefire declaration of President Rodrigo Duterte a week ahead of the Communist’s interim ceasefire.

“The AFP continue to conduct counterinsurgency operations in the barrios of Caraga in perpetuation of its brutal campaign Oplan Bayanihan. The AFP troops continue to encamp, go in and out of barrios under the guise of implementing “peace and development outreach programs”, supposedly providing security for the Pamana projects and implementing the government’s anti-illegal drugs campaign,” said Ariel Montero, regional spokesperson of the NPA in north eastern Mindanao.

Montero described the AFP’s activities as “provocative”, “combat actions” which he said could sabotage the ongoing peace talks.

Montero said the government troops conduct peace and development programs and civil military operations in “not less that 70 barrios” in northeastern Mindanao.

He said the army is also putting up CAFGU detachments in barrios in the towns of San Miguel, Carmen, Cantilan and Cagwait in Surigao del Sur.

Montero said the deployed troops uses the barangay gymnasiums, halls, day care centers including civilian homes.

“They conduct intelligence operations against the people in the barrios especially those they believe to be sympathizers of the revolutionary movement and relatives of NPA members,” he said.

Army using Oplan Tokhang vs NPA

Montero added that the soldiers are using the anti-drug campaign Operation Tokhang against known members of progressive mass organizations “to compel them to quit.”

NDF panel member Benito Tiamzon said similar activities of the AFP occur in other parts of the country, particularly in Panay, Eastern Visayas and Sorsogon.

In Masbate, Tiamzon said soldiers are reportedly using Oplan Tokhang going house-to-house to question residents.

“Instead of asking about drugs, however, the military has been interrogating residents about the New People’s Army,” he said.

Read: NDF slams gov’t ‘disinformation on ceasefire agreement

Montero said: “COPD troops composed of 29th IB, 36th IB, 30th IB and 75th IB PA troops have been deployed in the barrios of Surigao del Norte and Agusan del Norte,  and 3rd SFB  and 26th IB troops have been deployed in not less than 16 barrios in the cities of Bayugan  and Esperanza, Agusan del Sur.”

Montero said there were many instances when the NPA had the opportunity to attack the government troops.

“But the NPA strongly adheres to the guidelines prescribed by the CPP and National Operations Command of the NPA on the ceasefire,” he said.

PDOP to continue

During the celebration of 10th year anniversary of the Eastern Mindanao Command here on August 26, Army commander Lt. Gen Rey Leonardo B. Guerrero said that the declaration of ceasefire will help them in the implementation of Peace and Development Outreach Program in far flung communities.

“Now that a ceasefire with the CPP-NPA is in effect, we expect that the implementation of the government’s peace and development programs in the countryside will be able to proceed much faster providing the much needed services to even the remotest barangay,” he said during the ceremony.

PDOP program promotes partnerships of efforts between the Philippine Army and the Provincial Government and its Local Government Unit’s (LGUs).

Guerrero said the soldiers’ immersion in the communities helps in clearing areas of NPA presence. He said for the past 10 years, a total of 150 barangays was cleared of NPA allowing the declaration of five provinces and one city as “conflict manageable and development-ready areas.”

After a decade, Guerrero said that in the area covered by EMC, NPA members reduced by 115, while number of NPA firearms reduced by 177.

“This reduction of NPA is from the effective barangay immersions supported by the members of the community,” he said.

‘Pull out troops’

Meanwhile, the NPA challenged Duterte to order the pull-out of military troops from civilian communities.

“We challenge the Duterte government to ensure that the AFP abide by the declared ceasefire of the GRP and pull out military troops from civilian communities. As such, the peace talks will advance and steps to resolve the root causes of civil war in the Philippines will continue.

In a press conference on July 29, Duterte said that the pull out of the military from the mountains “is out of the question.”

He said he has already told Agcaoili about it during the start of the talks.

“It is not an issue at all,” Duterte said at the headquarters of the 60th Infantry Battalion, in Barangay Doña Andrea, after he visited the wake of Panggong Komanod, a Cafgu Active Auxiliary killed by the NPA’s on July 27.

“Ang may-ari nitong lupa dito lahat, Republic of the Philippines, the people of the Philippines. The spokesman is me because I am the elected leader of this nation (The land here is owned by the Republic of the Philippines, the people of the Philippines),” he said.

Rebels say army presence in Northern Mindanao endangers truce

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 26): Rebels say army presence in Northern Mindanao endangers truce

Communist rebels on Tuesday threatened to end their unilateral ceasefire with the Duterte administration if the military continues to deploy troops to the rural areas, particularly in northern Mindanao.

The unabated fielding of soldiers, as well as policemen, is clearly a counterinsurgency move and defeats the purpose of the cessation of hostilities which the rebels announced in deference to the resumption of peace negotiations with the government, said Ka Allan Juanito, spokesperson of the New People’s Army for north central Mindanao.

In a statement, Juanito noted the military presence in 78 barangays in 22 towns in Agusan del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon provinces, as well as the cities of Butuan, Gingoog, Malaybalay and Valencia.

The soldiers, he said, were carrying out surveillance missions in rural communities in the guise of delivering medical and dental services, and conducting census tasks. They were also questioning civilians, he added.

Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez, spokesperson of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, acknowledged that soldiers were stationed in some communities but their presence was requested by local government officials and covered by memorandums of agreement or understanding with them. The division covers Caraga and northern Mindanao regions.

Martinez said the memorandums indicated the specific roles of the troops to help implement infrastructure projects and address the socioeconomic needs of the residents. The military assistance, in terms of manpower, resources and technical expertise, would benefit the local governments as it would mean savings in funds, which could be used for other purposes, he said.

“So far, we have not received any report of violations,” Martinez said.

Jalandoni: AFP has been violating ceasefire

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 26): Jalandoni: AFP has been violating ceasefire

Luis Jalandoni, peace negotiator of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). (AFP PHOTO / NOEL CELIS)

The military has allegedly been violating the ceasefire declared unilaterally by President Duterte and communist rebels could respond by terminating their own truce, according to Luis Jalandoni, senior adviser to the peace negotiating panel of the National Democratic Front.

The ceasefire has been holding for more than three months, the longest between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.

Speaking at a peace forum at the Baguio City Hall, Jalandoni said AFP violations “would bring grave danger to the peace talks” in spite of progress already made to reach a “just and lasting peace.”

If AFP violations continue, the rebels could terminate their own ceasefire after a 10-day notice, he said.

“The responsibility lies with President Duterte himself to rein in the military,” Jalandoni said.

Jalandoni said Mr. Duterte was clear in his ceasefire declaration that “the AFP should be friendly to the revolutionary forces…and that there should be no fighting to be carried out by the military.”

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, the head of the government panel, said unilateral ceasefire declarations are hard to enforce because the two sides do not have common terms of references which would define, among others, a buffer zone between soldiers and rebels and identify hostile acts.

New Visayas Army chief’s goal

From the Manila Bulletin (Nov 25): New Visayas Army chief’s goal

Iloilo City Map (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

Iloilo City Map (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

The new commander of the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) vowed to pursue efforts to peace in the Visayas.

“We shall perform our collective roles as protectors of the people, peace builders and social workers,” said Major General Jon Aying.
Last November 24, Aying replaced Major General Harold Cabreros as commander of the Army command that covers Panay, Negros, Cebu, Bohol, Guimaras, and Siquijor Islands.
Cabreros was promoted to Army vice commander.
In his inaugural address, Aying said the long-term goal of defeating the communist insurgency can be achieved through a program dubbed as “Seven Angels of Change.”

MILF: Sugoda Buayan Royal House holds consultation on Bangsamoro peace process

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Nov 25): Sugoda Buayan Royal House holds consultation on Bangsamoro peace process

The Royal House of Sugoda Buayan held a consultation last Saturday (Nov 19) on the Bangsamoro peace process aimed to strengthen unity among the members of the royal house and the Muslim communities and elicit recommendations towards the realization of the Bangsamoro right to self-determination.

The activity entitled Consultative Assembly of Sugoda Buayan Traditional Leaders with the theme: Unity and Solidarity for Peace, was held at the covered court near oval plaza in General Santos City gathered more than two hundred participants from General Santos City and the provinces of South Cotabato, Saragani and municipality of Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat.

Lawyer Suharto Ambalodto briefed the audiences on the federal form of government which the Duterte administration mulls as the solution to decades long conflict in Mindanao.

The participants recalled how the Moro sultanates existed as free nations prior to the creation of the Philippine republic citing the important role of the sultanates in defending the land and its people against Spaniards.

National Commission on Muslim Filipinos Field Director Shariah Lawyer Guialil Kanda said the Sultanates were the “pillars of the Bangsamoro.”

The participants cited the importance of consulting the sultanates in crafting the enabling law that will be lay down the foundation for the establishment of the desired Bangsamoro autonomous government.
Datu Mabaning Samama of the Royal House of Biwang said if the autonomous government will be established, it should be attuned to the Adet Betad of the Bangsamoro people. He also said how important support for the plans of the Duterte administration in finding lasting solution to Mindanao problem.

Sugoda Buayan Royal House Rajah Muda Marvin Ingkong urged the Muslim communities of Socsargen to strengthen unity and solidarity and continue the support to the Bangsamoro peace process.

Sultanate of Maguindanao Sultan Salem Mastura with members of the royal house graced the affair.

Bae Labi hanena Tito, Bae Labi sa Sugoda Buayan, said Malaysia can be a model for a federal system of government the country may adopt.

CPP: CPP chides Bello, no bilateral ceasefire amid Oplan Bayanihan offensives

Propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Website (Nov 24): CPP chides Bello, no bilateral ceasefire amid Oplan Bayanihan offensives

Information Bureau
Communist Party of the Philippines

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today rebuked Secretary Silvestre Bello, GRP negotiating panel head, for baselessly claiming that a bilateral ceasefire may possibly be signed by December 10 when in fact there are no negotiations for such an agreement with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

“Bello is conjuring the illusion that a bilateral ceasefire is already in the works in the hope of drawing away attention from the fact that the GRP, so far, has failed to meet its obligation to release political prisoners en masse through a presidential amnesty proclamation,” said the CPP.

NDFP Negotiating Panel Chief Fidel V. Agcaoili earlier said “the GRP is negotiating with itself” in response to Bello’s claims that drafts of the bilateral ceasefire agreement have been exchanged between the two panels.

“The failure of the GRP to release all political prisoners in accordance with the August 21-26 Oslo talks, discourages the revolutionary forces from pursuing negotiations to forge a bilateral ceasefire agreement,” said the CPP.

“Worse, the GRP has yet to rein in the soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) which continue to conduct armed suppression operations in the countryside among the barrios in the guerrilla zones and revolutionary areas,” said the CPP.

“To put it realistically, a bilateral ceasefire agreement is most likely not to be forged before or around December 10,” added the CPP. “The longer the GRP takes to fulfill its obligation to release all political prisoners, the prospects of such an agreement ever being forged become ever dimmer.”

The CPP reiterated its demand for the GRP to “end its Oplan Bayanihan armed supression operations and pull out all its troops from the barrios which continue to carry out hostilities against the people and violate their civil and political rights.”

“If the Duterte regime will continue to turn a deaf ear to the clamor for it to end Oplan Bayanihan, it might just force the hand of the revolutionary forces to defend the rights and welfare of the broad masses within the guerrilla zones and defend the peace talks against its fascist saboteurs in the AFP,” added the CPP.

CPP: Demand an end to all the legacies of martial law–CPP

Propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Website (Nov 24): Demand an end to all the legacies of martial law–CPP

Information Bureau
Communist Party of the Philippines
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today extended its support for the protest actions set for tomorrow at Luneta to demonstrate the people’s indignation over the hero’s burial given by the Duterte government to erstwhile dictator Ferdinand Marcos last week.

The CPP urged the protesters to demand the Duterte regime to reverse the historical wrong it committed against the people and demand an end to all the legacies of martial law.

“By protesting the hero’s burial of Marcos, the Filipino people, especially the younger generation, are demonstrating how they have not forgotten the brutalities and crimes of the Marcoses,” said the CPP.

“Beyond recalling Marcos’ crimes of the past, they must also unite to fight all the brutal legacies of martial law which persist and continue to cause grave suffering against the people,” said the CPP.

“The fascist ideology promoted by the US imperialists and the Marcos regime remains deeply ingrained among the officials of the AFP serving as its guiding dogma in committing abuses and
violations of the people’s rights in the countryside.”

“The Filipino people must demand the Duterte regime to reverse the historical wrong which it committed by exalting Marcos with a hero’s burial,” said the CPP. The CPP said various organizations and personalities calling for the digging-up of Marcos’ remains from the Libingan ng mga Bayani “must vigorously demand as well the Duterte regime to end to all the legacies of martial law.”

The CPP said that “among the starkest hallmarks of martial law are the hundreds of political detainees who remain in prison and the continuing armed suppression of people’s resistance, especially in the countryside.”

“The people must demand Duterte to prove himself not a Marcos by fulfilling his promise to release all political prisoners en masse through an amnesty proclamation,” said the CPP.

“They must also demand Duterte to end Oplan Bayanihan, the military’s current war of suppression, which is being waged relentlessly in the countryside, despite the ceasefire declarations unilaterally issued by Duterte and by the CPP,” added the CPP.

“The CPP urges the protestors in Metro Manila and other cities demonstrating against the hero’s burial of Marcos to unite with the people in the countryside who continue to suffer under martial law conditions with the presence of armed soldiers of the AFP who maraud and ravage their communities with the aim of suppressing the struggle of the peasant masses for genuine land reform and the minority people for self-determination.”

CPP: Beyond the realm of what is legal

At the same time, the CPP rejected Duterte’s legal justification of his order to give Marcos a hero’s burial insisting it is in accordance with the law for Marcos to be interred at the Libingan ng mga Bayani because he was a former president and soldier.

“Duterte can propound a thousand legal questions and he would not get to the meat of the matter because the issue of exalting Marcos as a hero is way beyond the realm of what is legal or not,” said the CPP.

“It is a question of whether one sides by the dictator who protected the interests of foreign big capitalists, the big bourgeois compradors, the big landlords and bureacrat capitalists through the brutal suppression and exploitation of the people.”

“Indeed, by exalting Marcos with a hero’s burial, Duterte showed utter insensitivity and disrespect to the tens of thousands of victims of cruel suppression by the US-backed Marcos dictatorship and the collective suffering of the Filipino people under its rule of unmitigated plunder,” added the CPP.

Critical equipment being installed on BRP Davao Del Sur, says Navy spokesman

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 26): Critical equipment being installed on BRP Davao Del Sur, says Navy spokesman

Navigational, deck and engineering equipment are being installed on the Philippine Navy's second strategic sealift vessel (SSV), the BRP Davao Del Sur, which is being constructed at the PT PAL (Persero) shipyard in Surabaya, Indonesia, Navy spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna said Saturday.

"I don't know the exact percentage of completion but for sure she will be (home in the Philippines) by May 2017," Lincuna said in an interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

The BRP Davao Del Sur (LD-602), launched last Sept. 29, is the sister ship of the BRP Tarlac (LD-601), currently the largest Filipino warship in commission.

BRP Tarlac was commissioned during short ceremonies at Pier 13, Manila South Harbor last June 1.
She arrived in the Philippines last May 14 after a five-day journey from PT PAL's shipyard in Surabaya.

Like her sister ship BRP Tarlac, BRP Davao Del Sur is a Makassar-class landing platform dock.

Its delivery to the Philippines, tentatively scheduled middle of next year, will complete the two-unit SSV procurement project with an approved budget of PHP4 billion sourced from the military's Modernization Act Trust Fund.

Just like the BRP Tarlac, the Navy's latest SSV will serve as a floating command-and-control ship, especially in the conduct of humanitarian assistance and disaster response. It will also serve as a military sealift and transport vessel.

The ship has an overall length of 120 meters, breadth of 21 meters, draft of five meters, and can carry a payload of 2,800 tons.

She has a cruising speed of 13 knots and maximum speed of 16 knots and a minimum operating range of 7,500 nautical miles.

BRP Davao Del Sur can carry 500 troops, two rigid-hull inflatable boats, two landing craft units and three helicopters.

Police, military personnel shun housing projects

From the Business Mirror (Nov 24): Police, military personnel shun housing projects

The government may be forced to spend more for the refurbishment of unoccupied houses primarily constructed for the police and army personnel, according to the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC).

In a news statement, Vice President and HUDCC Chairman Maria Leonor G. Robredo said only 8,397 houses of over 60,738 houses built for the police and military are currently occupied.

HUDCC said many of the unoccupied units have become dilapidated over time due to nonuse.
“While a few housing projects have been successful, the conditions of most of the houses in the sites I visited simply weren’t acceptable for the families of our soldiers and the police,” Robredo said. 

During a technical working group (TWG) meeting convened by the Department of National Defense  last month, National Housing Authority (NHA) General Manager Manuel Escalada Jr. said NHA would explore combining units to make the houses more livable.

The TWG also discussed the possibility that a portion of the unoccupied houses could be provided as housing grants to the families of soldiers and the police who are wounded or killed in action.

“We need to fill the gaps and fulfill the original objective of providing our soldiers and the police with decent and affordable homes for their families,” Robredo said.

The HUDCC said many opted not to occupy the units, even if they were required to do so after 30 days of construction, because they did not agree with the design and size of the lots.

The vice president said the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and the NHA raised their concerns even during the design phase of the project, but the previous administration still went ahead and constructed the units.

Each row house that was constructed was only about 22 square meters. These were on 40-sq-m lots in 65 barangays in 34 provinces nationwide.

The program began five years ago under Administrative Order  9, Series  2011, with a total budget of P20.78 billion to provide homes for “low-salaried” soldiers and police and their families across various barangays in Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao.

Soldiers and policemen had to pay an amortization of only P200 per month for the first five years. This will increase to P1,330 per month by the 25th year. With the low payment terms, HUDCC said many soldiers and the police take the houses for granted.

“The past administration pushed through with the design, however, since many soldiers and the police expressed their interest, nonetheless, given the affordability of the units compared to housing from the private sector,” HUDCC said.

Police Senior Superintendent Wilfredo Cayat said there was a mismatch in the location of the housing sites vis-à-vis the needs of the police.

The agency said there are sites that lack applicants while other sites do not have enough houses to meet the number of applications.

In August, Robredo said the absence of occupants and sheer number of units built could turn the NHA housing program for military and police personnel into a “white elephant.”

‘No big Caraga military moves’

From The Standard (Nov 24): ‘No big Caraga military moves’

The Armed Forces of the Philippines on Thursday denied any massive military deployment in the Caraga region.

Philippine Army Commanding General Eduardo Aṅo said the deployment of troops in Caraga is related to the Internal Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan of the AFP.

“There is no such thing as massive deployment in Caraga. We are just crafting our next IPSP Bayanihan campaign plan. We are just continuing what we have started, especially the Bayaniha team activities,” he said.

The rebel New People’s Army recently threatened to end the unilateral ceasefire in the region because of the alleged military movement.

NPA North-Central Mindanao Spokesperson Ka Allan Juanito said the military’s deployment in the hinterland areas is a clear counter-insurgency move of the AFP.

However, President Rodrigo Duterte, in a separate press conference here, said that since the declaration of the unilateral ceasefire at the start of his term, he had not restricted the military from deploying their troops in the hinterland.

He asked the Army to continue their work in securing the country, but noted “it did not conclude that it will lead to any encounter.”

Duterte said his only mandate to the government’s troops is to never initiate any contact of violence and to never fire a shot against the communist rebels.

“The soldiers and the police should be anywhere and everywhere as long as they do not initiate any contact of violence,” he said.

The President said the unilateral ceasefire “does not deprive us of the territorial jurisdiction.” He also told the military to never prohibit the rebels from enlisting members “since it is not against the law.”

However, the NPA should also consider allowing the military to continue their civil military activity, like the IPSP Bayanihan, he added.

Duterte said he will allow the rebel groups to conduct a plenum or assembly even in Davao’s downtown areas, and he will make sure that nothing will happen as long as the peace talks will not collapse.

“I do not want (the peace negotiations) terminated or cancelled or whatever. But certainly, I cannot order my military to withdraw from anywhere to everywhere,” he said.

CPP debunks Bello: No ceasefire deal will be signed by December 10

From GMA News (Nov 25): CPP debunks Bello: No ceasefire deal will be signed by December 10

The Communist Party of the Philippines has debunked claims by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, head of the government negotiating panel (GRP), that a bilateral ceasefire agreement may be signed by December 10.

“[A] bilateral ceasefire agreement is most likely not to be forged before or around December 10,” the CPP said in a statement issued Thursday, adding that no negotiations for the agreement occurred between the two parties.

On Tuesday, Bello said they would still target to sign the ceasefire agreement by December 10 despite some drawbacks.

“Hindi pa nagkakaroon ng consensus kaya medyo hindi natin siguro ma-attain ‘yung December 10. But we are still, we are not giving up na by December 10 magkakaroon pa rin tayo ng signing of the joint bilateral permanent ceasefire," Bello said during a press briefing in Malacañang.

"‘Yun ang huwag ninyong kalimutan, permanent ceasefire which will eventually lead to the cessation of hostilities,” he added.

The CPP, however, said the GRP’s failure to set political prisoners free discouraged them from pursuing negotiations to sign the bilateral ceasefire agreement.

“Bello is conjuring the illusion that a bilateral ceasefire is already in the works in the hope of drawing away attention from the fact that the GRP, so far, has failed to meet its obligation to release political prisoners en masse through a presidential amnesty proclamation,” the CPP said.

“Worse, the GRP has yet to rein in the soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) which continue to conduct armed suppression operations in the countryside among the barrios in the guerrilla zones and revolutionary areas,” the CPP added.

As long as the GRP fails to meet its obligation to release all political prisoners, chances for the bilateral ceasefire agreement to be signed “become ever dimmer,” the CPP said.

Meanwhile, the CPP reiterated its call for the government to pull out Oplan Bayanihan armed suppression groups and their troops in rural areas.

“If the Duterte regime will continue to turn a deaf ear to the clamor for it to end Oplan Bayanihan, it might just force the hand of the revolutionary forces to defend the rights and welfare of the broad masses within the guerrilla zones and defend the peace talks against its fascist saboteurs in the AFP,” the CPP said.

Can Duterte Bring Peace to the Philippines?

From The Diplomat (Nov 25): Can Duterte Bring Peace to the Philippines?

Forging peace in Mindanao is a far more challenging task than many appreciate.

Can Duterte Bring Peace to the Philippines?

Moro (Islamic) Liberation Front (MILF) rebels take up position at a guard post at Camp Darapanan rebel base in Maguindanao province, in the southern Philippines (March 12, 2015).
Image Credit: REUTERS/Erik De Castro
Following the May 2016 election of Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to the Philippine presidency, there was considerable fanfare that he would be able to deliver a lasting peace in Mindanao. Duterte’s heart is very clearly in the right place on the peace process. He knows the Bangsamoro have been marginalized and betrayed by the Manila elite in the past. But good intentions are not enough and the peace process is still in a state of limbo. Duterte’s strongman tendencies and sudden, irrational piques, which have formed the core of his policymaking process, do not bode particularly well.

The Parallel Peace Processes

To understand the peace process in Mindanao, one has to see it as two separate peace processes, run in parallel and often at odds with each other, between two groups over the same territory. In 1996, President Fidel Ramos signed a peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which paved the way for the group’s founder Nur Misuari to become the governor of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

There were four problems. First, the ARMM was never as large as the MNLF anticipated because the majority of eligible territories did not vote for inclusion during the plebiscite. Second, Misuari proved to be a thoroughly corrupt and incompetent administrator. Third, the ARMM never had true fiscal or political autonomy. Finally, large numbers of MNLF combatants did not accept the peace process and defected to the rival Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which immediately became a much larger and effective fighting force. By 1999, the MILF controlled vast swaths of Mindanao.

In 1999, President Joseph Estrada launched an offensive against the MILF, capturing the capital of their proto-state, and the MILF had to reorganize into nine separate and fairly autonomous base commands. In 2001 President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo implemented a unilateral cease fire and began back channel negotiations with the MILF. In 2003, on the eve of peace talks that were set to demarcate MILF camps, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) launched an offensive capturing key MILF camps, effectively opening the highway from Cotabato to Davao; the communications links broke the MILF’s hold on the civilian population. In 2007, negotiators for the MILF and Arroyo Administration concluded the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), which would have enlarged the ARMM territories.

But the weakness of these agreements was that no one had really figured out how to reconcile them with the 1996 Accord with the MNLF, which by this point had broken into a number of distinct factions that claimed the mantle of leadership. Misuari was then under house arrest for his 2001 insurrection in protest of the government’s failure to implement the 1996 Accord. Another faction had a wait-and-see approach with the MILF peace process. But most of those in Sulu and Tawi Tawi, who remained loyal to Misuari, were calling for Tripartite Talks to be held under the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) auspices; i.e. they were pushing for the OIC to hold the Philippine government’s feet to the fire for its poor implementation of the 1996 Accord. The Philippine government stalled, telling the MNLF to wait for the outcome of the talks with the MILF. This of course upset the MNLF’s pride and inflated sense of Tausug chauvinism.

Yet, the Arroyo cabinet — and in particular the AFP — rejected the MOA-AD. Hardline members of the MILF went on a rampage, attacking Christian villages. But their offensive could not be sustained for more than a month; the protracted peace process had weakened the MILF’s military capabilities. In mid-2008, the Philippine Supreme Court ruled the MOA-AD as unconstitutional; the peace process was dead.

Several commanders, under the leadership of Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato, broke away and founded the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). While the BIFF had its own camps, the reality is that, tied by kinship, they largely still live amongst their former MILF comrades. The BIFF has continued to reject the peace process and has engaged in sporadic terrorist attacks. The MILF was able to rein in several other commanders, though it still engaged in occasional skirmishes. But for the most part, the leadership was still committed to a negotiated settlement.


The peace process restarted in 2011 with a secret meeting in Tokyo between President Benigno Aquino III and MILF chairman Ebrahim Murad. In October 2012, the two sides concluded the Framework Agreement Bangsamoro (FAB). The FAB did several things, including establishing a timetable for disarmament, setting up a representative government for the Bangsamoro, allotting resources and fiscal revenue, demarcating the territory that would or could be included in the Bangsamoro, and outlining the process toward full implementation of the peace agreement.

In March 2014, the two sides signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the peace agreement. Immediately the 15-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission (eight appointed and chaired by the MILF, and seven appointed by the government), had to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the implementing legislation. This was concluded by April 2014, but the draft was rejected by President Aquino. Over 70 percent of the BBL was redrafted by Malacanang, ostensibly so that it would withstand constitutional scrutiny.  The peace process almost collapsed in mid-2014, and the impasse was broken after the MILF made significant concessions. The legislation was submitted to Congress in September 2014 with broad bipartisan support.

The BBL process had a very tight timeline for implementation. The BBL had to be passed by the end of the first quarter of 2015, so an interim government could be appointed, elections organized and a plebiscite held for inclusion into the new autonomous territory, the Bangsamoro. It was essential that all of this be completed by May 2016, as the Bangsamoro had to supplant the existing ARMM government.  They could not just abolish the existing ARMM government and framework and depose a democratically elected leader; so the existing ARMM governor and his administration had to not stand for re-election.

Though the FAB/CAB process was a bilateral agreement with the MILF, both parties always had their eyes on the MNLF. The greatest obstacle to peace came from intra-Moro rivalry. So the Bangsamoro was a very creative process that sought Tausug inclusion: By establishing a parliamentary form of government with regional constituencies, the MNLF would have a large seat at the table. Though the MILF dominates the Maguindanao and Maranao heartland, they have almost no organization in Sulu, Tawi Tawi, or even Zamboanga. Thus the Bangsamoro would provide for meaningful MNLF participation. Yet ego, Tausug chauvinism, and a fear that the MILF, which had set up a legal political political party, was going to outmaneuver it led to continued opposition by Misuari’s faction.

The Mamasapano Incident

In the midst of Congressional deliberations, the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police (PNP) launched a botched counterterrorism operation in MILF-controlled territory, bypassing the existing ceasefire and anti-terrorism/crime mechanisms. Some 44 SAF troops were killed in the day-long skirmish against MILF and BIFF troops. It was a tactical operation with strategic consequences.

The peace process was immediately stalled, as both houses of Congress, the PNP, AFP, Philippine Human Rights Commission, and the MILF all held hearings and issued their reports/findings. Leaked video of the Mamasapano incident, which showed MILF or BIFF combatants executing wounded SAF personnel, further escalated the situation.

The Mamasapano hearings became even more politicized coming at the start of an election year, with a number of leading senators grandstanding and using the incident to buttress their presidential campaigns. No politician stood to gain by being a friend of the Moro or the peace process. Just the opposite: candidates stood to gain by being a hardline nationalist and defender of state sovereignty.
In short, the congressional and government panels all found the MILF culpable for the incident, labeled a “massacre.” Most politicians began to call for the immediate disarming of the MILF as a precondition to the resumption of talks.

Even after the hearings on the peace process resumed, the BBL was never put to a vote; a quorum was never reached. Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. tabled his own alternative bill that gave the MILF even less than was offered in the 1996 Accord with the MNLF; it was a non-starter.
Nonetheless, the MILF continued to publicly state that they were committed to the peace process and would remain bound by the CAB; no one in the Philippine government or Congress seemed willing to take them at their word.

Enter Duterte

Rodrigo Duterte was the only presidential candidate who actually spoke about the plight of the Moro during the campaign and he was only one of two candidates to visit the MILF at their headquarters, where he pledged support. His victory was greeted with optimism by the MILF, and chairman Murad called him “a true son of Mindanao.”

But the optimism soon faded. Duterte’s immediate circle of advisers, mainly Christians from Mindanao and avowed opponents of the MILF peace process, alarmed the MILF. Duterte’s choice as the head of the Office of the Presidential Advisor on the Peace Process (OPAPP), Jes Duereza, had been in charge under the Arroyo Administration, and is deeply mistrusted by the MILF.

More important than personnel was Duterte’s policy. His team immediately set off alarm bells within the MILF by saying that there would be no need for the BBL because of the president’s goal to amend the constitution and implement a federal system if government. The MILF was apoplectic, calling it a “non-starter.” They argued that federalism would not address many of the core issues in the BBL, including transitional justice and acknowledgement of the Moro’s “ancestral domain.” The MILF demanded that the BBL be implemented, ahead of any move toward federalism, and they warned that without a BBL, they had no legal obligation to disarm.

The Duterte administration quickly backtracked, but their commitment to the passage of the BBL remains questionable. In short, doing so would require too much political capital, which Duterte needs for any constitutional amendment for federalism.

The Complexity of the Two Peace Processes

I have grave concerns that Duterte even comprehends the complexity of the peace process.  In July he still insisted there could be parallel tracks, rather than a unified peace process. On August 2 he stated that he could “give the BBL” to the MILF and “give Sulu to Misuari.”

On August 13, the two peace panels met in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. On September 2, the peace panels met to discuss specifically how they could get an implementing law passed in Congress.

Meanwhile the Nur Misuari wing of the MNLF publicly endorsed federalism as a solution. From the start of his presidency, Duterte had reached out to Misuari, an old friend. Duterte made clear that an arrest warrant for Misuari, for a 2013 revolt that led to the death of 200 people in Zamboanga, would not be acted on. Indeed, on November 2 a court suspended Misuari’s outstanding arrest warrant and he flew to Manila, where he met the president in Malacanang. Misuari endorsed the peace process in principle, and federalism specifically, as well as Duterte’s war on drugs, which had left some 4,700 people gunned down without any due process.

Duterte’s outreach to Misuari is justified by a need for inclusivity. That was the pet concern that his running mate Bongbong Marcos used to derail the BBL in the senate.

Through an Executive Order, signed on November 7, the BTC has been expanded to 21 –11 chosen by the MILF and 10 chosen by the government. The government’s side will include three seats for the MNLF faction headed by Muslimin Semma. Misuari has refused to participate in the BTC because it is “an MILF body.” Misuari reiterated his willingness to speak with the government, but not the MILF because, in his words, “These are all traitors; that’s why I can’t accept them.”

So at present, this is where Duterte’s government is on the peace process: It has created a second peace panel to renegotiate RA9054 to “enhance” autonomy under the ARMM with Nur Misuari. Meanwhile the GPH-MILF panels, with the enlarged BTC (with the MNLF Sema faction in it), will draft a new BBL that will ultimately establish the Bangsamoro, a new autonomous political entity that will replace the ARMM.

These parallel tracks are completely at odds with one another. Reaching out to Misuari and temporarily perhaps waiving his arrest warrant is likely to be a huge mistake. To say that the MNLF was not part of the Aquino administration’s negotiations with the MILF is nonsense. Mus Semma’s faction was very involved and held frequent consultations with the MILF, culminating in a unity pact. The Misuari faction had every opportunity to get involved, but didn’t because of ego, pride, and Tausug chauvinism. Reconciliation is unlikely to happen any time soon.

Misuari’s narcissism and delusions of grandeur should not be taken lightly. Every time he has not gotten what he wanted, he has launched a half-baked military action. He is a Tausug chauvinist and cannot accept the fact that the MILF is a much larger force, which is poised to negotiate a better deal for the Moros, and he loathes Mus Semma, who ousted him in 2001, describing him to me in 2007 as “a traitor who should be hung.” His public assertions that the spate of kidnappings by the Abu Sayyaf were actually the work of the Malaysian government is not going to garner the support of the government in Kuala Lumpur, which has been facilitating the peace process.

The enlarged BTC will have to redraft the BBL. And this is going to get very ugly. The government is likely going to say that what was originally submitted to Congress in the fall of 2014 will not get passed by Congress in 2016-17. They will demand major concessions from the MILF. It is hard to see how the MILF can swallow a further watering down of the BBL; they already made major concessions in the bill in mid-2014. For example, will the government demand a total surrender of arms as a precondition for passage, rather than a phased-in disarmament? What if Congress rejects the block grants that had been slated for the Bangsamoro?

And this will not be a fast process. The goal of the current BTC is to get a BBL passed and implemented in time for the 2019 elections; that is a long time for things to go wrong.

The most important thing is Murad’s ability to maintain command and control of his forces. While the leadership has repeatedly and publicly stated its continued commitment to the peace process, and emphasized that it remains bound by the CAB, I just am not convinced that Murad can maintain command and control. His greatest challenge is managing dashed expectations and hopes for a peace dividend. Without a peace process, there are no major development “arms to farms” projects, nor are there funds flowing for DDR projects, nor is there any legal requirement for the MILF to disarm. In mid-November the MILF leadership appealed to different base commands to stop the intermittent internecine war between them. Such squabbles seem likely to continue.

Deteriorating Security Situation

The stalled peace process with the MILF is taking place in the context of a rapidly deteriorating security situation across the southern Philippines. A slew of “Black Flag” groups have declared their allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS), including Ansarul Khilafah Philippines (AKP), Darul Islam Sabah, Ansar al-Shariah, Ma’rakah al-Ansar, and al-Harakatul al-Islamiyyah. In addition there are loosely organized cells of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) stretching from Zamboanga, through Basilan, Sulu and Tawi tawi.

These are all very small groups – really no more than cells – and individually none poses a serious threat.  The good news is that the feared ISIS “province” designation in the southern Philippines was never declared. But there are three reasons for concern: First, there have been attempts by ISIS to get these cells to coalesce under a unified leadership. ISIS declared the Abu Sayyaf’s Isnilon Hapilon as “Sheikh Mujahid Abu Abdullah al-Filipini.” This is the first time that other Southeast Asian militants have accepted the leadership of a Filipino.

Second, while there are ISIS cells across Malaysia and Indonesia, with the defeat of the Mujahideen Indonesia Timur (MIT) in Indonesia, none control territory; only the groups in the southern Philippines do, which gives them added influence. That rear base area to train and regroup is essential. The ISIS attack in Jakarta in January 2016 demonstrated how much more training and professionalism ISIS cells actually need.

Third, most of these groups operate within territory that the MILF control, or could control, but until there is a durable peace process, they really have no incentive to be a responsible stakeholder and to police the territory. Just the opposite — it makes a degree of strategic sense to maintain ties to these groups as a force multiplier should the peace process completely break down. For example, Abdullah Macapagar’s unprecedented interview with French TV, in which he made clear that several Black Flag groups were operating in his territory, sent a very clear message to both the Philippine government and the MILF leadership. The presence of these groups in MILF territory gives them a certain leverage at the negotiating table, but poses two risks: First, it will be fodder for Congressional opponents of the BBL. Second, giving the Black Flag groups the time and space to grow makes them more viable, and harder to stamp out.

The sad thing is that in the early to late 2000s regional governments saw Mindanao as a threat not just to Philippine security, but to regional security. That perception changed under Aquino as peace and stability took root with the success of the MILF peace process, making them responsible stakeholders. That is not true today. Southeast Asian governments once again look to the southern Philippines as a font of regional instability. One only has to look at the Indonesian and Malaysian responses, including demands for the right of hot pursuit, to the spate of maritime kidnappings by the Abu Sayyaf that have imperiled regional trade.

Stagnating Capabilities of the PNP and AFP

The devolving security situation in the southern Philippines is compounded by the stagnating capabilities of the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines, who are not up to the growing challenges. Duterte’s call for the end of the U.S. Special Forces in Zamboanga or the end of military exercises, though probably not to be acted on, does not help. The 4,700 extrajudicial killings under Duterte’s war on drugs have already led U.S. Congress to put a hold on the sale of new assault rifles for the PNP, and cuts in training programs. The U.S. Special Operations contingent is down to just over 100 personnel and they are there largely in an intelligence function, with far less training than in the past. And most importantly, there is much less oversight.

But AFP is riddled with other structural problems, including the rapid turnover of leadership in what are often under one year tenures. The AFP has constantly broken up U.S. trained units. Under Duterte, and in the name of the war on drugs, there is less accountability for security forces than at any time since the Marcos era. There is total impunity, which is exactly what exacerbated the insurgencies in the past. Finally, the AFP remains riddled with endemic corruption.

An estimated $7.3 million was paid to the Abu Sayyaf in ransoms in the past 16 months to free foreign and local hostages. While that has allowed the Abu Sayyaf to recruit and rearm, that money is not theirs alone. It is shared with the community, including the security forces, who continue to profit from the ASG’s existence, and have no incentive to ever deal with what is a small and localized threat, a poorly-led gang of thugs with no ideology or provision of social services.

Peace is imperative, both for Philippine and regional security, but at present, Duterte’s shoot from the hip approach pales in comparison with the holistic negotiating strategy of the Aquino administration. And his gambit toward his old friend Misuari seems more like a scheme by those who are out to undermine the MILF peace process. And given Duterte’s closeness to the Marcos clan, in general, and to his former running mate Bongbong, in particular, this may be exactly what is happening, despite his stated commitment to peace.

[Zachary Abuza is a Professor at the National War College in Washington, DC, where he specializes in Southeast Asian security and politics. The views are his personal opinions, and do not reflect the views of the National War College or Department of Defense.]

Philippines' Rodrigo Duterte urges Abu Sayyaf to stop kidnappings, start talks

From the Straits Times (Nov 25): Philippines' Rodrigo Duterte urges Abu Sayyaf to stop kidnappings, start talks

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte appealed to Abu Sayyaf rebels on Friday (Nov 25) to end their campaign of piracy and kidnapping and start direct talks with him.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte appealed to Abu Sayyaf rebels on Friday (Nov 25) to end their campaign of piracy and kidnapping and start direct talks with him. PHOTO: REUTERS

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte appealed to Abu Sayyaf rebels on Friday (Nov 25) to end their campaign of piracy and kidnapping and start direct talks with him, offering an olive branch towards a brutal Islamist group he previously vowed to destroy.

Only a few months ago, Duterte said there could be no peaceful solution for dealing with the Abu Sayyaf. But with 10,000 troops in the southern Philippines unable to curtail the hostage-taking and with civilians in the line of fire, he said all-out war was not the answer.

"I can be nasty, I can be a bad boy but am talking about the nation. I can do it even now," Duterte said of wiping out the Abu Sayyaf, after visiting soldiers wounded while fighting its militants.

"I can bomb the hell out of them ... but what would it bring us? You kill 20,000, you wipe out, blast it to kingdom come. Would it bring us peace if I use force?"

"If you want to talk I can go to them anywhere. I can go alone. Let us give our people a chance."
Abu Sayyaf, entrenched in its island strongholds of Jolo and Basilan, is holding 22 captives, most of them foreigners, demanding tens of thousands of dollars for their freedom.

It beheaded two Canadian captives earlier this year, prompting international condemnation.

Duterte has launched a nationwide peace process with Maoist rebels and secessionist armed groups with the eventual goal of introducing federalism in the Philippines.

But he has said that process could not include Abu Sayyaf militias because they were ruthless enemies of the state who killed innocent people for money.

On Friday, he said talks could happen if the rebels halted their illegal activities. "I will build a hospital in Basilan, don't kidnap the workers, allow them to work but if you can really stop it for a while, we'll talk," he said.

Abu Sayyaf, which means "bearer of the sword", has become a source of major concern also for Malaysia and Indonesia, with crew of their commercial ships among those being kidnapped.

The group was founded with a separatist, Islamist ideology, but has found a lucrative business in kidnapping, which it publicises via harrowing video clips posted online of kneeled captives pleading for their lives.

Security experts say its strengths are its small size and its financial resources, which enable it to buy modern equipment and support among impoverished local communities.

Duterte awards medals, gives financial aid to soldiers

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Nov 26): Duterte awards medals, gives financial aid to soldiers

ZAMBOANGA. President Rodrigo Duterte converses with one of the wounded soldiers as he gives financial aid during a visit on Friday at Camp Navarro General Hospital. (Bong Garcia)

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Friday, November 25, awarded medals and provided financial aid to 21 soldiers wounded in the continuous offensive against the Abu Sayyaf bandits in the island provinces of Basilan and Sulu.

Duterte awarded the medals when he visited them at Jolo Station Hospital (JSH) in Jolo, Sulu and Camp Navarro General Hospital (CNGH) of the Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) in Zamboanga City.

Twelve of the 21 wounded soldiers were admitted at the JSH while the remaining nine at CNGH. Each of them received P100,000 in cheque, P10,000 cash, and a Glock pistol.

Nine of the 21 awardee-soldiers of military merit medals were the following: Staff Sergeant Peter Ugsod, Sergeant Amilkhaidar Tagayan, Sergeant Julbasar Julhasirin; Corporal Randy Ivan Gusman; Corporal Roel Clavo, Private First Class Elmer Dela Cruz, Private First Class Reynante Malen, and Civilian Active Auxiliary Emar Akalul.

They are admitted at CNGH. The others who rank and names were not available were confined at the JSH.

Duterte said the focus military operations (FMO) will continue against the Abu Sayyaf bandits in the provinces of Basilan and Sulu.

The FMO was launched to flush out the Abu Sayyaf bandits and rescue the hostages that are still in captivity.

Abus mulling attacks on Negros tourist spots?

From the Philippine Star (Nov 24): Abus mulling attacks on Negros tourist spots?

Police and the military have intensified security at top tourist destinations in the Negros Island Region following reports that Abu Sayyaf bandits are planning to stage kidnappings.

Lt. Col. Roderick Garcia of the Army’s 79th Infantry Battalion said they received information that the bandit group has been inquiring about the beach resorts and their locations in Negros Oriental.

Senior Superintendent William Señoron, Negros Occidental police director, said Philippine Navy assets and personnel have been deployed in Sipalay City, known for its white sand beaches and diving sites mostly owned by foreigners.

State security agencies, including the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine National Police, will meet next week to discuss security plans.

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Señoron said they would invite resort owners to the meeting.

 Philippine Navy assets and personnel are currently stationed at a port in Sipalay City.

Tourist police officers backed by members of the regional public safety battalion are currently deployed at Sipalay resorts.

Photo: 3rd Inf Div Change of Command

Posted to the Visayan Daily Star (Nov 25): Photo: 3rd Inf Div Change of Command


Army chief Lt. Gen. Eduardo Año ( right) turns over the 3ID command saber from Maj. Gen Harold Cabreros to Brig. Gen. Jon Aying, in a ceremony held at Camp Macario Peralta in Jamindan, Capiz, yesterday.

Duterte: I'm ready to talk to Abu Sayyaf

From Rappler (Nov 25): Duterte: I'm ready to talk to Abu Sayyaf

Previously, Duterte said he refuses to talk peace with the Abu Sayyaf as it would be 'like slapping the nation'

CONFLICTS IN MINDANAO. President Rodrigo Duterte says he's willing to talk to the Abu Sayyaf. File photo by Richard Madelo/Presidential Photo

CONFLICTS IN MINDANAO. President Rodrigo Duterte says he's willing to talk to the Abu Sayyaf. File photo by Richard Madelo/Presidential Photo

President Rodrigo Duterte is ready to talk to bandit and terrorist group Abu Sayyaf.

Pati (Also) Abu Sayyaf, I’m ready to talk to them. I’m ready to open the borders,” he said during a visit to a military hospital on Friday, November 25, in Zamboanga City.
“I’m ready to talk about opening the borders down south, no problem,” he added.
The President seemed to connect the opening of borders with the time when free trade flourished, also a time when there was not much violence and conflict.
Kasi may trade pa noon, wala masyadong gulo noon (There was trade there before, not much violence),” he said.
Free trading of goods used to flourish along the southern border leading to Malaysia and Indonesia. Zamboanga, for instance, used to be a free port where goods from places like Sabah would come in.
Previously, Duterte said he refuses to talk peace with the Abu Sayyaf as it would be “like slapping the nation.”
The idea of including the bandit group in Mindanao peace talks was suggested to Duterte by Moro National Liberation Front chairman Nur Misuari.
Duterte has slammed the Abu Sayyaf for mutilating and killing in the name of Allah and called their beliefs “despicable."
The terrorist group continues to hold Indonesians, Malaysians, and Filipinos hostage in their stronghold in Sulu. Duterte admitted that other heads of state, including Indonesian President Joko Widodo, have brought up the need for “drastic” action against the Abu Sayyaf.
“They are calling for a drastic action. The suggestion is, they’ll just blow you up. If you are in their waters and you are Filipinos, wala akong magawa (I can’t do anything). That is piracy. That is crime against humanity in any country,” he said.
He was referring to his suggestion to Indonesia and Malaysia that they “blow up” Abu Sayyaf kidnappers or other pirates who enter their waters and try to escape through Philippine waters.
Civilian lives
Asked what other measures he would implement to eradicate the Abu Sayyaf Group, Duterte said if he wanted to be a “bad boy”, he would conduct a “full blast invasion” in Sulu.
“I can call on the Armed Forces of the Philippines to go all-out war, invade mo na lang ang Sulu (just invade Sulu). But I cannot do that because there will be huge losses of civilians which is really what matters most,” he said.
Duterte said peace talks with communists has “freed up” more government troops for the campaign against the Abu Sayyaf.
“I can do more if I want to, if it’s just a matter of stopping it…Lalo na kasi bakante na ang sundalo sa Luzon, pati Visayas (Especially since soldiers in Luzon and Visayas are free) because we’re having talks with the communists in Olso,” he said.
Fighting between government troops and the Abu Sayyaf continues to inflict casualties on both sides. Several times, Duterte has visited wounded soldiers to express his support and loyalty to them.