Saturday, January 28, 2017

NPA executes member in own drug war

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 26): NPA executes member in own drug war

The New People’s Army has executed, as part of its own war on drugs, a paramilitary member and a suspected supplier of drugs to CAFGUs in the hinterlands of Davao City.

In a statement, NPA southern Mindanao regional spokesperson Rigoberto Sanchez said that the NPA killed Alberto T. Sablada and Neptali Alfredo Pondoc in two separate operations last January 16 and 23, respectively.

NPA members killed Sablada in the afternoon of January 16 in Brgy. Saloy in Calinan, while Pondoc was slain in his “farm-turned-drug den” in Taboan, Malabog, in Paquibato District.

The NPA said that Sablada was an organizer of the Alamara militia, which has been accused of human rights violations against peasants and indigenous peoples in the region, allegedly as a part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines counter-insurgency campaign.

Sablada was also identified as one of the culprits in the April 15, 2002 massacre of Apolio “Tatay Poloy” Enoc, a peasant leader; and Rosha Icatan, Charles Bayanban, Edgar Bias, Jaimae Daculo and Warlito Bayanban in Sitio Pangyan, Tamugan, Marilog district, Sanchez said.

Meanwhile, Pondoc reportedly supplied drugs to AFP detachments from as far as Diwalwal, Compostela Valley; Panabo in Davao del Norte; and Paquibato and Calinan in Davao City.

His farm, in fact, sits in between two AFP detachments in Sitio Binaton and Sitio 24 and he supplied drugs to CAFGUs and cadre man of both detachments,” the NPA said.

Pondoc has a warrant of arrest from the GRP reactionary police in Calinan, according to the spokesperson.

Red fighters also confiscated various drug paraphernalia such as weighing scales and other equipment in Pondoc’s farm.

Sanchez said that the killings were in line with the stipulations of the unilateral interim ceasefire that was issued by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the National Operational Command of the NPA.

Part of the ceasefire reads: “While ceasing offensive military operations, the NPA will continue to enforce policies and laws of the people’s democratic government, perform appropriate functions of governance, and mobilize the people and resources in territories under its authority, including: maintaining peace and order including suppression of criminal groups such as drug traffickers and operators of the drug trade and large-scale gambling, private armies and private armed groups of warlords, local tyrants and vigilante groups, as well as spies.”

However, Sanchez decried the evolution of the PNP’s anti-drug campaign into an anti-people drug war.

Authorities have used the drug war allegedly as a mask to “encroach” on NPA territories.

“Similarly, AFP units smokescreen their offensive military operations, as what happened on January 21 in Makilala, North Cotabato, with claims of “anti-criminality” operations in order to wantonly subvert their ceasefire order and engage the Red army in armed combat,” Sanchez said.

Special envoy elated with GRP-NDFP peace talks devt

From the often pro-CPP online publication the Davao Today (Jan 27): Special envoy elated with GRP-NDFP peace talks devt

Royal Norwegian Government Special Envoy Elisabeth Slattum signs the ground rules for the conduct of the meetings of the reciprocal working committees on social and economic reforms, one of the gains of the third round of talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. (Zea Io Ming C. Capistrano/
The third party facilitator for the peace talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front lauded the success of the third round of talks held here.
“It is our hope as third party facilitators that the Philippine peace process will be a bright spot in an otherwise bleak world in 2017,” said Elisabeth Slattum, Special Envoy of the Royal Norwegian Government to the Philippine peace process.

Slattum cited the gains of the peace process including its progress in discussing social and economic reforms as she congratulated both panels on Wednesday evening at the closing ceremonies of the talks.

Both Parties have already exchanged their complete drafts on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms which is deemed as the “heart and soul” of the peace process. The parties have started discussing agrarian reform and rural development and sees a completion of the unified draft within this year.

On Wednesday morning, the peace panels also signed the ground rules for the conduct of the meeting of the reciprocal working committees on SER.

“The parties have also exchanged drafts and started comparing notes on the agenda of political and constitutional reforms so the parties are making headway toward addressing the roots of the conflict,” Slattum added.

Among the other gains are: the signing of the supplementary guidelines for the full operationalization of the Joint Monitoring Committee; continuing discussions on bilateral ceasefire and release of political prisoners; and the scheduled meetings in February in Netherlands and in April for the fourth round of talks in Oslo, Norway.

Slattum described the parties as both “constructive and solution-oriented.

“And it is very clear to us as third party facilitators that both sides are genuinely committed to working towards achieving peace,” she said.

However, Slattum warned that there will be setbacks in a peace process.

“Despite the good atmosphere and the willingness and commitment of both sides, it is important not to forget that there will be setbacks along the way. I have yet to witness a peace process where there have not been ups and downs, a peace process that has not been messy, where there have been no clashes on the ground or violations of ceasefire, or publicly expressed frustration,” she said.

Slattum reminded the Parties to deal with the challenges through dialogue.

“This is the only way to move forward here at the negotiations table,” she said.

NDFP peace panel chairman Fidel Agcaoili said while they have basis for “forging ahead in the peace negotiations,” outstanding issues remain including the recent killings of a farmer and indigenous people leader, militarization in the communities and the non-release of political prisoners.

Agcaoili also raised the issue of the death of political prisoners in detention while stressing the need for their immediate release.

For his part, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza reiterated that the road to peace is not smooth.

“There will be humps and bumps along the way but it is very important that we keep the course together,” he said.

He added that the week-long negotiations was “never before done in the past.”

Herbert Bautista and Isko Moreno getting ready for the bigger roles

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 28): Herbert Bautista and Isko Moreno getting ready for the bigger roles

They have show business blood in their veins. And in politics, their lives also looked like they were intertwined.

Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista is “Bistek” to most, while former Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno will always be the Tondo, Manila street scavenger who would rise to become one of the hottest matinee idols of the 90s.

Herbert Bautista (left) and Isko Moreno (right) CREDIT: Rocky Nazareno / Manila Bulletin

Herbert Bautista (left) and Isko Moreno (right) CREDIT: Rocky Nazareno / Manila Bulletin
Not far apart in age – Bautista is 48 while Moreno is 42, both served distinctly as councilors of their respective cities for years, with enough sterling records that allowed them to move up the so-called political hierarchy.

Bautista is on his third term as mayor, while Moreno ran roughshod over his opponents for the vice mayoral post for three elections, before an attempt for a mayoralty run in 2016 was scuttled by former President Joseph Estrada’s decision to run for another term as Manila’s Chief Executive.

Their paths would have crossed in the May 2016 senatorial race, but Bautista reportedly dropped out at the last minute and opted to run for a final term, winning by a landslide.

Spurned by Estrada, Moreno chose to gun for a Senate seat, but ran under his real name Francisco Domagoso to give honor to his father Joaquin. An “Isko Moreno” would have been a shoo-in for the Senate, but lack of name recall for a “Francisco Domagoso” did him in the final tally.

Another thing that sets them apart was that Bautista came from a middle-income family from Cubao, while Moreno was the only child of a Manila North Harbor stevedore and had to claw through Tondo’s harsh life before he was discovered by a talent manager at age 19, paving the way for his entry into show business.

Now, they have found their paths in life crossing again.

In this special feature by The Manila Bulletin, Bautista and Moreno explain their new roles in the peace negotiations being held between the Philippine Government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) that could end 48 years of communist insurgency in the Philippines.

Bautista is an adviser of the GRP peace panel for local governments, while Moreno was personally picked by Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Founding and NDF Chief Political Consultant Chairman Jose Maria Sison as observer and consultant on the urban poor.

Bautista was in the first round of the talks in Oslo. Moreno came into the NDF circle in the second round, also in Norway.

But in the third round held here, the two actors—who have lent some showbiz flair to these talks with overseas Filipinos frequently seeking selfies with them—find themselves on opposite sides of the fence.

They’re not exactly chummy here. You don’t see them sharing a table, or engaging in small talk at the hotel lobby. Yet they’re not hostile to each other either.

They’re no fence sitters either. No junket here for them. They’ve actively participated in the discussions and debates in these talks, according to sources in the the GRP and NDF peace panels.
In our talk with Bautista and Moreno, they only have respect for each other’s advocacy.

The Manila Bulletin brings you exclusive interviews with Bautista and Moreno, and lets you decide how these matinee idols of the 90s have, indeed, come to their own – more than just the comic or matinee idol they used to be.

(Video credit:  Rocky Nazareno / Manila Bulletin)

Army monitors rebels' recruitment

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 27): Army monitors rebels' recruitment

The unilateral ceasefire being observed by government forces and the New People's Army in the Negros Island Region appears to be holding with no violation as of this time, except that the Philippine Army has monitored the continued recruitment activities of the rebels in hinterland areas.

In his briefing during the Peace and Order Council meeting at the Provincial Capitol in Bacolod City, Capt. Eduardo Precioso, 303 rd Infantry Brigade Civil Military Operations officer, reported that they have recorded 26 non-violent activities of the NPA in the region, including recruitment activities, mostly in northern Negros.

Precioso said they also monitored the consolidation of armed rebels in Escalante City, Himamaylan City, as well as in Hinobaan, Negros Occidental, and ideological political organizational activities in the areas of Santa Catalina in Negros Oriental.

Because of the unilateral ceasefire, that they strictly observe, they cannot do anything, except monitor them, he added.

Maj. Gen. Jon Aying, 3 rd Infantry Division commander, said earlier that they will let it pass, as they are giving primacy to the peace process. But he said they will not allow any intimidation of communities.

The National Democratic Front Negros also expressed its support to the ongoing peace negotiations.

The 303 rd Infantry Brigade reported that the NPA still has 203 armed members in Negros, and possesses 237 firearms. This was strongly disputed by rebel priest Frank Fernandez.

Top Abu Sayyaf leader hurt in airstrike – defense chief

From Rappler (Jan 28): Top Abu Sayyaf leader hurt in airstrike – defense chief

Isnilon Hapilon, who has pledged allegiance to ISIS, is seriously wounded in a military operation in Butig, Lanao del Sur, says Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana   

LOYALTY TO THE ISLAMIC STATE. Senior Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon swears allegiance to ISIS

LOYALTY TO THE ISLAMIC STATE. Senior Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon swears allegiance to ISIS

A top leader of an Islamic militant group who is on the United States' list of "Most Wanted Terrorists" has been wounded in military airstrikes, the Philippine defense minister said on Saturday, January 28.

Isnilon Hapilon was indicted in Washington for his involvement in the 2001 kidnapping of 3 Americans in the Philippines, and has a $5-million bounty on his head from the US government.

The 50-year-old militant is a senior leader of the Abu Sayyaf, a notorious kidnap-for-ransom gang based in the southern Philippines, and security analysts say the Islamic State (ISIS) group has recognized him as its leader in Southeast Asia. (READ: Filipino millennial joins ISIS in Syria)

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Hapilon was "seriously wounded" in military air strikes on Wednesday in the mountain town of Butig, Lanao del Sur, 800 kilometers (500 miles) south of Manila.

"As of (Friday, Hapilon) is still being carried by 4 men in a makeshift stretcher moving northeast of Butig," Lorenzana told Agence France-Presse.

"Troops are in hot pursuit supported by ground artillery and air support."

Lorenzana added the military offensive killed 4 of Hapilon's companions including an Indonesian he identified as having the alias Mohisen.

The Abu Sayyaf, a loose network of militants formed in the 1990s with seed money from Al-Qaeda, preys on vessels in the waters between Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines and has earned millions of dollars from kidnappings-for-ransom.

Hapilon was involved in the kidnapping of 3 Americans from a resort in the western Philippine island of Palawan in 2001, according to the US.

The militants later beheaded one captive in their stronghold in Basilan island in the strife-torn south while another hostage died in the crossfire with soldiers during a rescue operation in 2002. The third American was freed.

Hapilon has pledged allegiance to ISIS, which has endorsed him as "amir for Southeast Asia," according to a 2016 report by the Jakarta-based think-tank Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict. (READ: ISIS makes direct contact with Abu Sayyaf, wants caliphate in PH)

"Southeast Asians in Syria have pledged their loyalty to him," the report said.

Hapilon was based in Basilan but Lorenzana said this week that he had moved to Lanao del Sur province, 300 kilometres (180 miles) east, in a bid to establish an ISIS presence there.

Lorenzana added Hapilon was "trying to rally" into cooperation the Maute group, another gang which had pledged allegiance to ISIS.

Abu commander wounded in Lanao del Sur assault

From the Philippine Star (Jan 27): Abu commander wounded in Lanao del Sur assault                          

Government troops have launched air strikes and ground assaults that reportedly wounded one of Southeast Asia’s most-wanted militant suspects who is trying to establish a new base for an alliance backing the Islamic State group, officials said yesterday.

Intelligence reports showed the assaults killed at least four militants, possibly including a Malaysian, and reportedly wounded the main target, Isnilon Hapilon, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.
He said Hapilon apparently managed to flee from a camp in the mountainous hinterlands of Butig town in Lanao del Sur.

“Army troops are still in hot pursuit,” Lorenzana said.

Air strikes targeted Hapilon’s group on Wednesday and Thursday. Hundreds of troops, backed by artillery fire, then began pursuing him and other militants from the so-called Maute group in Butig, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Ano said.

Hapilon, who is on the US Department of Justice list of most-wanted terrorists worldwide with a reward of up to $5 million for his capture, moved to Butig from his stronghold in southern Basilan a month ago to look for a base for his new militant alliance, Año told the AP.
Hapilon, an Arabic-speaking Islamic preacher known for his expertise on commando assaults, has been indicted in the District of Columbia for alleged involvement in attacks on Americans and other foreigners in Mindanao.

He organized an alliance called Dawlatul Islam Wilayatul Mashriq, which is now believed to include at least 10 small militant groups including some Abu Sayyaf factions, the Maute and two other groups established by Malaysian and Indonesian militants. They all use black IS-style flags, according to counterterrorism officials and documents. 

Napeñas confirms US role in Mamasapano raid

From the Philippine Star (Jan 28): Napeñas confirms US role in Mamasapano raid

A small group of Americans “provided real-time intelligence primarily for force protection” during the Mamasapano raid two years ago, retired Special Action Force (SAF) chief Getulio Napeñas said yesterday to dispute claims by former president Benigno Aquino III that the US played no role in the disastrous police operation.

In a television interview, Napeñas said US personnel were involved in tracking down the SAF commandos’ principal target, Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, before and during the operation.
“It was only they who had that capability. We did not have it,” he said. President Duterte on Tuesday claimed the SAF raid in Mamasapano was an operation of the US Central Intelligence Agency.

The SAF killed Marwan. Two other targets escaped. The police commandos lost 44 men when they encountered Muslim guerrillas mostly belonging to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front while withdrawing from Pidsandawan.

Superintendent Michael John Catindig Mangahis, who was in charge of monitoring the movement of at least eight SAF teams from Zamboanga City and other parts of Mindanao to Maguindanao in the evening of Jan. 24 up to the next day, mentioned the presence of six Americans in an affidavit.
Mangahis gave the sworn statement to the PNP board of inquiry that investigated the operation and to the House of Representatives special committee on the draft Bangsamoro basic law headed by then Cagayan de Oro City congressman Rufus Rodriguez.

Mangahis said he saw “six American nationals” with Napeñas at the latter’s tactical command post (TCP) in Shariff Aguak town on the eve of the raid.

According to knowledgeable local officials, the town was about 10 kilometers from the general target area of SAF troopers.

Mangahis said aside from Napeñas, he saw then SAF deputy commander Supt. Noli Taliño, Supt. Richard dela Rosa, Supt. Abraham Abayari, Senior Insp. Lyndon Espe and a Police Officer 2 Belmes.

“I met them (US nationals) only at the TCP, but I do not know them. I saw them the following day as pilots of the helicopter that helped in evacuating our wounded personnel in the hospital,” he said.

Aquino, who was in Zamboanga City at the time of the SAF raid, was reportedly provided with real-time information about what was going on in Mamasapano.

During the separate House and Senate investigations into the Mamasapano carnage, Napeñas briefed lawmakers in closed-door sessions on the participation of the Americans.

Sources said the US team monitored the operation using a small King Air plane equipped with surveillance equipment, and not a drone as civilians and local officials in Mamasapano had reported.

The Americans focused their monitoring on the SAF team that raided the hut where Marwan and his two aides were believed hiding and did not keep track of the support group that had encountered Muslim guerrillas.

The raiding team lost nine men. The 36-man back-up contingent was wiped out, save for one survivor.

The Mamasapano debacle derailed the passage by Congress of the draft Bangsamoro basic law, which the Duterte administration is now trying to salvage.

8 ex-BI execs charged for deporting alleged terrorist

From the Philippine Star (Jan 28): 8 ex-BI execs charged for deporting alleged terrorist                          

The Office of the Ombudsman has filed graft cases against three former Bureau of Immigration (BI) commissioners and five other former officials of the agency for allowing the deportation of a suspected international terrorist sentenced by a local court to serve four to six years in prison.

In two separate charge sheets filed before the Sandiganbayan on Jan. 23 but released to the media only yesterday, former BI acting commissioner Teodoro Delarmente was charged with two counts of violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Charged with one count of the same offense were former BI associate commissioners Roy Almoro and Jose Cabochan, as well as former BI executive assistant and chief of staff Alejandro Fernandez, former legal aide Richard Perez, former civil service unit acting chief Wendy Rosario, former warden Noel Espinoza and former security escort Marcelino Francis Agana.

Section 3 (e) of RA 3019 prohibits a public official from giving unwarranted benefit, advantage or preference to any party or causing any party, including the government, undue injury.
Based on the information of the cases, Delarmente, Almoro and Cabochan, Fernandez and Perez, approved on May 5, 2005 a summary deportation order for Vietnamese-American Vo Van Duc, who was being held at the BI Detention Center after being convicted by the Pasig City regional trial court of illegal possession, manufacture and disposition of firearms and explosives. He was sentenced to serve four to six years in prison in the Philippines.

The ombudsman said the SDO allowed Van Duc to “avoid service of his sentence.”

The ombudsman also said that Delarmente, Rosario, Espinoza and Agana also allowed Van Duc to leave his detention cell on three occasions in April and May 2005 by issuing medical passes “without the BI physician’s recommendation for outside treatment or hospitalization.” The passes allowed Van Duc to stay in an apartelle.

The ombudsman set Delarmente’s bail at P60,000 while the other respondents’ bail was set at P30,000 each.

Van Duc reportedly received a 12-year sentence for hurling bombs into the Vietnamese embassy compound in Bangkok, Thailand in 2001.