Monday, January 30, 2017

‘Bomb civilians, ASG told’

From The Standard (Jan 31): ‘Bomb civilians, ASG told’

THE Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Furuji Indama has ordered his followers to bomb and kill civilians who do not cooperate with them, the military said Monday after two children were killed and three others were wounded in a blast in Al-Barka, Basilan on Sunday.

Lt. Col. Franco Alano, spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command, said the explosion went off at around 11 a.m. in Barangay Danapah killing Niyadz Pising, 2, and Ombek Akbar, 5.

Alano also identified the three wounded as Pamiya Pising and Salmiya Akbar, both 4 years old, and Suraima Akbar, 25.

“The wounded were airlifted to Zamboanga City for medical treatment. We’re praying for their safety,” Alano said in a phone interview.

The commander of the Western Mindanao Command, Maj. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. vowed to hunt down the perpetrators.

“This savagery and killing innocent civilians, including children is unacceptable,” Galvez said.

He said the ASG is killing civilians with their bombs especially “those who are not sympathetic to them” and refused sanctuary to them.

Alano said that last year, a similar attack was staged on Dec. 2 in Barangay Bohe, where two children perished.

On Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte said Isnilon Hapilon, the number two man in the Abu Sayyaf, is not the head of the terror group representing the Islamic State (ISIS) in the Philippines, which granted him the title of “Emir of Southeast Asia.”

“The greatest danger now that mankind is facing is really extremism,” Duterte said in a midnight press briefing.

“And [Hapilon] was already given the blessing to be the leader of ISIS. I don’t know if it covers Malaysia and Indonesia. But he is now the top honcho of the ISIS here. He is somewhere in Lanao and we have a full time military operation there,” he added.

Earlier, the military said Hapilon was gravely wounded and in need of a blood transfusion.
On Friday, Duterte  threatened to call off the ongoing peace talks with Moro rebel groups should they provide refuge to ISIS terrorists in their territories.

Hapilon has been the figurehead of a handful of ISIS followers from different groups such as the Abu Sayyaf based in Basilan and Sulu, the Maute Group based in Butig, Lanao del Sur; the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters based in Central Mindanao, and Ansar al-Khilafa Philippines.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who was with Duterte in the joint command conference of the AFP and PNP, said Hapilon serves as the conduit to the ISIS “to find out if Central Mindanao is conducive to the establishment of an organization [provincial caliphate].”

Duterte said that he will engage in an all-out war against these terrorist groups, as he worked to contain the threat in Lanao del Sur, the stronghold of the Maute group.

“I have ordered a full-press military operation.  I said to the military and the police, you embargo the place, you contain them in that area alone, Lanao,” the President said.

“I have also asked the Armed Forces to use all available assets and all the weaponry that’s at our disposal.”

Lorenzana said that they are preventing the Maute group and Hapilon’s cohorts from leaving Butig.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines has bombed and captured three terrorist camps in Butig, Lanao del Sur during focused military operations there since Wednesday last week.

AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla made this announcement Monday, as he said pursuit operations continue against an estimated 150 Abu Sayyaf and Maute Group bandits holed up in the area.

He said all these camps were bombed and afterwards combed by ground troops.

Padilla declined to give specifics on what items or materiel were found there, adding that they will do so once they have completed the mission.

Some 15 terrorists were killed, eight were wounded, including Hapilon who was severely wounded in the air and artillery strike on Jan. 25.

Among the 15 terrorists claimed killed is an Indonesian terror suspect identified only as “Mohisen,” and two other local terrorists identified as Sahl Num and one alias “Sadat.”

Padilla, however, declined to comment on whether ground units have already cornered the wounded terrorist leader and his remaining followers.

The AFP spokesperson said the military will continue to allocate men, equipment and other resources to ensure that the threats posed by these groups in Mindanao are totally eliminated.

The ongoing offensive is part of AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Eduardo Año’s plan to eliminate the threats within six months.

Army turns table on NPA, says Reds attacked troops in Mindanao

From GMA News (Jan 31): Army turns table on NPA, says Reds attacked troops in Mindanao

The Philippine Army on Tuesday turned the tables on the New People's Army and accused the rebel group of violating its own ceasefire when it attacked government troops disaster response operations and community support activities in northern Mindanao on Monday.

Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez, spokesman of the Army's 4th Infantry Division, said alleged communist rebels launched separate "deliberate and coordinated attacks and harassments" against the troops in Bukidnon, Surigao del Norte, and Agusan del Norte on January 30.

Martinez said in Barangay Concepcion, Valencia City, Bukidnon, alleged NPA elements lobbed two hand grenades to troops undertaking relief operations in the area but the greandes did not explode.

"This could have caused undue casualties and further misery to the civilian flood victims thereat," said Martinez. Parts of southern Philippines was hit by floods due to rains in the past few weeks.

Likewise, separate attacks were also made on soldiers undertaking community support activities at a village in Surigao City and three villages in Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte early Monday morning.

Just about after midnight, around 10 alleged NPAs attacked the troops of the 30th Infantry Battalion who were supporting the local government in its "Bayanihan" efforts, the Army spokesman said.

He said the troops managed to push the rebels to withdraw out of the community while three soldiers were slightly wounded.

A third attack, meanwhile, happened at around 1:30 a.m., against the troops of 29th Infantry Battalion who were deployed in Barangay San Isidro and in Barangay Mahayahay, all in Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte.

An hour later, at around 2:30 AM, a fourth attack was launched in Barangay Hinimbangan, another community in Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte, Martinez said.

There were no casualties on the part of the government troop in these areas, he added.

There were reported damages on civilian properties due to the indiscriminate strafing and the explosion of a hand grenade allegedly thrown by a rebel near the civilian houses, Martinez said.

The attacks happened a day after alleged NPA rebels abducted one soldier of 30IB while he was with the civilians doing a civic-action and clean up activity in Barangay Budlingin, Alegria, Surigao del Norte. The soldier is unarmed and in civilian attire when he was taken by the rebels, the Army said.

The Army statement came a week after the NPA accused the military of violating a unilateral ceasefire for attacking an NPA unit in Makilala, North Cotabato.

The Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA-National Democratic Front declared its unilateral ceasefire in August 2016 to reciprocate the declaration of the government to pave way for the peace talks.

Maj. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr, commander of the Army's 4th Infantry Division, said the military has faithfully abided by its ceasefire declaration and continues to fully support the peace process.

"On the other hand, These tactical offensives by the NPA's are inconsistent with their ceasefire declaration and could imperil the ongoing peace negotiations. These acts of violence also add further misery and suffering to the affected communities," he said.

Soldiers report skirmishes with NPA in 7 areas

From Rappler (Jan 31: Soldiers report skirmishes with NPA in 7 areas

The military's report since Sunday: 2 soldiers killed, 3 wounded and one abducted

FIRST SHOT. A fatal encounter in Makilala, North Cotabato was the first to break the 5-month-old ceasefire between the military and the NPa. Photo from AFP's 10th Infantry Division

FIRST SHOT. A fatal encounter in Makilala, North Cotabato was the first to break the 5-month-old ceasefire between the military and the NPa. Photo from AFP's 10th Infantry Division

The Philippine military reported a series of encounters with the communist New People's Army (NPA) in at least 7 areas since Sunday, January 29, prompting questions about the status of the 5-month-old ceasefire between the 2 armed groups.

At least 2 soldiers were killed, one was abducted, and 3 were wounded in separate incidents in Luzon and Mindanao, the military said.

Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lieutenant General Rey Guerrero has ordered units to be on alert but reminded troops that ceasefire remains in place.

The military headquarters said it has reported these alleged ceasefire abuses to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

Government peace negotiator Hernani Braganza said they are coordinating with the National Democratic Front (NDF), the group representing the rebels in talks with government, to verify the incidents.


At least 7 incidents were detailed in press releases separately issued by Army units on the ground.
  • In Surigao del Norte on Sunday at 3:30 pm, the military said NPA rebels abducted a soldier who belongs to the 30th infantry battalion. He was in a civlian attire when he was taken because he was leading a forest clean up drive, the military said.
  • In Barangay Mat-i in in Surigao City hours later at 1 am on Monday, January 30, three soldiers from the 30th Infantry Battalion were reportedly wounded after a 15-minute firefight with NPA rebels
  • In Echague, Isabela in Northern Luzon at 8 am on Monday, 2 soldiers were killed after an ambush at the boundary of Benguet and Mabbayad villages.
  • In Valencia City in Bukidnon, alleged NPA rebels lobbed hand grenades to troops undertaking relief operations. No one was hurt as the grenades did not explode
  • In Kitcharao, Agusan Del Norte, the military claimed the NPA rebels attacked troops of 29th IB and later strafed at residences. No soldier was hurt but they reported damage to properties.
  • In Alabel, Sarangani, the military reported a 2-hour firefight between the rebels and the 73rd IB troops who were securing a Road Project by Jargon Construction Company. Hours later, a passenger van was also burned in nearby Kiamba town.
  • In Monkayo, Compostela Valley, rebels allegedly raided the Musahamat Plantation and carted away guns, construction equipment, and mobile phones.
Peace talks

The 5-month-old ceasefire was first broken in Makilala, North Cotabato while talks were ongoing in Rome on January 25. (READ: Soldiers, NPA break ceasefire in Cotabato clash)

Braganza said they are verifing if NPA rebels were really involved in the incidents that happened only days after both camps celebrated significant accomplishments in Rome.

"The ceasefire continues to hold based on our agreement during the 3rd round of talks. We agreed to meet again in Utretch to discuss the possiblity of signing a bilateral ceasefire agreement," Braganza said.

"There are incidents on the ground but we don't know who are really involved. We are trying to verify," Braganza said.

The military and the NPA separately issued in August 2016 unilateral indefinite ceasefire declarations in support of the peace talks revived by President Rodrigo Duterte.

But situtation on the ground has grown untenable as both camps complained about each other's activities.

NDF chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili had previously floated the "talk while fighting" scenario, where talks will continue even as fighting resumes on the groud. (READ: PH, NDF talks: Both sides need to make painful compromises)

The government peace panel, which wants to keep the ceasefire, has been pushing for a bilateral ceasefire deal that will impose common rules for the 2 armed groups. They failed to accomplish this in Rome.

But the NDF agreed to discuss the joint deal during a scheduled side meeting in February to be held in The Netherlands.

After N. Cotabato clash, NPA doubts if peace panel, Duterte in control of AFP

From the often pro-CPP online publication the Davao Today (Jan 30): After N. Cotabato clash, NPA doubts if peace panel, Duterte in control of AFP

A spokesperson of the Regional Operations Command of the New People’s Army in Southern Mindanao expressed doubt if President Rodrigo Duterte and the government peace panel are really in control of the Armed Forces of the Philippines following the AFP-NPA skirmish in Makilala, North Cotabato.

“The revolutionary forces are wondering whether the GPH panel, and indeed Pres. Duterte, have either the control of their armed forces to effectively implement its proposed bilateral ceasefire or the political resolve to investigate and punish the insidious saboteurs to the peace process,” NPA spokesperson Rigoberto Sanchez said in a statement Monday.

NPA said that at least 100 state security and law enforcement forces were deployed in Matalam town and continued to militarize the civilian communities.

“A bilateral ceasefire agreement would be pointless in the face of relentless and outright attack operations by AFP and PNP troops against units of the NPA,” he said.

According to Sanchez, combined elements of the Army’s 71st Infantry Battalion, paramilitary group and the PNP’s Special Action Force launched an offensive operation on Jan.26 in Sitio Emilda, Baranngay Taguranao, Matalam, North Cotabato.

He said that around 6 a.m, at least 50 government troops assaulted an NPA unit in its guerrilla camp some three kilometers away from the community. Sanchez said the NPAs safely withdrew from the clash site leaving three troops from the government killed in a 45-minute firefight.

“This reality of the AFP and PNP’s outright non-compliance alarmingly puts the commitment of the GRP in the peace process into serious question,” the NPA spokesperson said.

The government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines has recently concluded the third round of talks in Rome, Italy last Jan. 25.

Another meeting between the peace panels will be held next month while the formal round of talks is scheduled in April.

Detained NDF consultants set for release before April

From the often pro-CPP online publication the Davao Today (Jan 31): Detained NDF consultants set for release before April

The third round of peace talks between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the Philippine government ended successfully in Rome, Italy last January 25, 2017. (L-R) NDFP peace panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili, Royal Norwegian Government Special Envoy Elisabeth Slattum, GRP peace panel member Hernani Braganza and GRP peace panel chairperson and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III. (Zea Io Ming C. Capistrano/
A member of the peace panel said there is a possibility for the government’s release of three remaining detained consultants before it resumes peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines  in April.
“We are positive because according to the chairperson, he said he will facilitate the release of the three consultants remaining immediately after this round,” said Atty. Angela Librado-Trinidad in an interview in Rome during the closing ceremony of the third round of talks.

The three prisoners are the NDFP consultants Eduardo Sarmiento, Emeterio Antalan and Leopoldo Caloza.

Librado-Trinidad said they are now working on the process of releasing “all political prisoners starting off with the 200 through different modes.”

She said they hope to use the other modes which could speed up the process of releasing prisoners
The modes could either be through bail, recognizance, pardon or other legal modes “acceptable to both parties,” Librado-Trinidad said.

Based on the Joint Statement signed by both Parties on Jan. 25, the GRP, with the assistance of defense lawyers, “shall expeditiously process the release of all political prisoners listed by the NDFP starting with the 200 qualified prisoners either through bail, recognizance, pardon or other legal processes in compliance with the CARHRIHL and to allow them to participate in activities and mechanisms of the peace process.”

The government panel also committed to file manifestations in support of the motions to extend the temporary liberty the NDFP consultatnts and staff who were granted bail and released in August last year.

According to the NDF, there are still 392 political prisoners languishing in various detention cells in the country.

In his closing statement, NDF peace panel chair Fidel Agcaoili emphasized the need to release the prisoners as a matter of compliance to the previously signed agreements between both Parties, including the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.

“We have said it before and we say it again. The release of political prisoners is not simply a goodwill measure on the part of the GRP nor is it a precondition. It is a matter of redressing an injustice,” Agcaoili said.

“It is a matter of compliance with the CARHRIHL. It is also a question of trust, of palabra de honor,” he said.

Agcaoili said the government panel and President Rodrigo Duterte promised to release the political prisoners “not just once, but several times.”

He said Duterte even recognized that the prisoners were facing “trumped up charges”. “It should only be simple rebellion,” Agcaoili said.

Agcaoili said there are already 14 political prisoners who have died in prison, 13 under the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III and one under the Duterte administration.

“Also among the detainees are more than a hundred ailing, elderly, long-held and women detainees whose releases has been promised,” he said.

After the third round of talks, the Parties agreed to continue to study the issuance of an amnesty proclamation which the NDFP said is the “most expeditious way” of releasing the prisoners.

Mamasapano operation not US-led: Napeñas

From ABS-CBN (Jan 31): Mamasapano operation not US-led: Napeñas

[Video report]

Former Special Action Forces chief Getulio Napeñas on Tuesday dared former President Benigno Aquino III to prove his innocence in relation to the failed Mamasapano operation.

Speaking to ANC's Headstart, Napeñas said the President never instructed him to coordinate with then Armed Forces chief of staff Gregorio Catapang about the Mamasapano operation.

He said taking a lie detector test would show "who is telling the truth."

Napeñas also challenged Aquino to execute a waiver to reveal the contents of his cell phone on January 24-25, 2015.

The SAF director also insisted the Mamasapano operation was not a US-led operation, since law enforcers have been running after Marwan from 2010 to 2015.
He said the Americans helped in only 4 aspects - real time intelligence to locate Marwan, the setting up of a tactical command post in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao, medical assistance right after the incident and the FBI investigation.

"If you are asking if may combat troops doon mismo sa bakbakan, wala. Violation yan. Wala din namatay na foreigner or Amerikano. Walang foreigner o Amerikano na combat troops on the ground dahil ako mismo violation yan. Hindi ko i-a-allow yan."

Aquino earlier insisted the botched anti-terror mission was not his fault, blaming instead Napeñas who allegedly lied to him and disobeyed orders to secure cooperation from the Philippine Army.

The Ombudsman on Tuesday filed criminal cases against former national police chief Alan Purisima and Napenas for the botched operation last January 25, 2015 which led to the deaths of over 60 people, including 44 SAF commandos.

10,404 Cops promoted to next higher rank

From Update.Ph (Jan 31): 10,404 Cops promoted to next higher rank

10,404 Police Commissioned Officers (PCO) and Police Non-Commissioned Officers (PNCO) were promoted to next higher rank during a simultaneous mass oath-taking and pinning of ranks, January 30, throughout the country. Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa led the event at PNP National Headquarters in Camp Crame.

According to PNP, from a total of 11,528 available promotions, 1,067 PCO and 9,337 PNCO applicants passed the examination and interviews for the 2nd Semester CY 2016 Regular Promotion Program and were found qualified for promotion effective December 31, 2016.
“To the promotees you know to serve, you know very well to serve. Kung kayo ay sindikato, kayo ay pinapatamaan ko. Kung kayo ay matino kayo yung ineencourage ko na tumulong para malinis itong PNP,” PDG dela Rosa said.

2 soldiers killed in Isabela ambush

From Rappler (Jan 30): 2 soldiers killed in Isabela ambush

Brigadier General Paul Atal says the troopers were on their way 'to facilitate a meeting of a Technical Working Committee' when they are ambushed at around 8:00 am on Thursday at the boundary of Benguet and Mabbayad villages in Echague town in Isabela province

Two soldiers were killed while several others were injured in an ambush allegedly perpetrated by members of the New People's Army (NPA) on Monday, January 30.

In a statement, Brigadier General Paul Atal, commander of the 5th Infantry Division, said the troopers were on their way "to facilitate a meeting of a Technical Working Committee" when they were ambushed at around 8:00 am on Thursday at the boundary of Benguet and Mabbayad villages in Echague town in Isabela province.

Atal has yet to reveal the identities of those who died.

The group was with Benguet village chairman Rafael Guinanoy, village secretary Joji Ferrer and village councilor Rudy Acasio and on board a motorcycle and a multicab.

It was not clear in the statement if there was an exchange of fire between the government troops and the alleged NPA rebels.

But in a text message, Lieutenant Colonel Martin Diaz told Rappler that they are still checking if the troop responded to the ambush.

Meanwhile, Atal said he already conveyed his sympathy to the families of the soldiers "who were killed while serving and protecting the people within the Command’s Area of Responsibility."

“We are deeply saddened by this loss. We extend our deepest sympathy to the bereaved families. We will ensure that these families receive full assistance during this difficult time," Atal said.

He said the 502nd Infantry Battalion and the Philippine National Police's (PNP) – Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) have launched an investigation into the ambush for possible filing of charges.

Atal also said they are conducting a hot pursuit operation against the perpetrators.

Eastmincom alerts troops after NPA attacks ‘peace and development teams’

From InterAksyon (Jan 31): Eastmincom alerts troops after NPA attacks ‘peace and development teams’

The military’s Eastern Mindanao Command ordered all its units to be on the alert as it condemned what it called violations by the New People’s Army of the rebels’ unilateral ceasefire in the Davao and Caraga regions.

An Eastmincom statement Tuesday accused the rebels of attacking military “peace and development teams” in Mat-i, Surigao City and San Isidro, Mahayahay and Hinambangan in Kicharao, Agusan del Norte late Monday night and early Tuesday.

Three soldiers were wounded in the Surigao incident, it said.

“These atrocities ran contrary to the spirit of the peace process especially in the delivery of basic services to support far-flung communities,” Eastmincom said. “These PDTs are stationed in depressed communities to facilitate the delivery of basic government services in collaboration with different government agencies.”

The statement also cited the killings of Albert Sablada, an alleged organizer of the Alamara militia, on January 16, and alleged drug dealer Neptali Alfredo on January 23, both in Davao City, and the abduction of Private First Class Erwin Salan of the 301st Infantry Brigade in Alegria, Surigao del Norte on January 29.

“Let us condemn these atrocities which target our soldiers who are performing non-combat missions,” Lieutenant General Rey Leonardo Guerrero said in the statement.

“These tactical offensives by the NPAs are inconsistent with their ceasefire declaration and could imperil ongoing peace negotiation,” he said as he urged the rebels “to show sincerity in their peace talks with the government by directing their armed members to immediately desist from committing atrocities.”

The rebels have also accused the military of violating the government’s unilateral ceasefire by occupying hinterland communities and gathering intelligence through the deployment of the PDTs, which they consider combat units.

The rebel ceasefire declaration places the NPA on “active defense” against government forces entering areas they claim to control.

Warship Bonifacio leaves Davao

From the Mindanao Times (Jan 31): Warship Bonifacio leaves Davao

THE Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas (BRP) Andres Bonifacio (FF17) yesterday left the city after its three-day exhibit and recruitment activity in the city.
Iligan City is the next destination of the warship.
Public Safety and Security Command Center chief Ret. Gen. Bentio de Leon, on behalf of Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, represented the city during yesterday’s send-off ceremony.
Coming from General Santos City, the ship arrived last Saturday morning at the Sasa wharf for the recruitment activity and exhibit of its new security assets and resources. The ship has 102 Philippine Navy officers and enlisted personnel.
Capt. Brendo J. Casaclang, the ship’s commanding officer, told reporters in a press conference inside the ship that the BRP Andres Bonifacio is a very significant addition to the floating assets of the Philippine Navy.
“This is a very significant… in maintaining and sustaining the conduct of naval operations, especially in our territorial defense operation,” Casaclang said.
The ship will also conduct naval operation along the sea waters especially in the southern part of the country where kidnapping incidents are usually reported.
Casaclang said the ship will also join in protecting the exclusive economic zone of the country.
“This ship is capable of conducting search and rescue and disaster response,” he said. “This ship is for strategic deployment which means they could be deployed anywhere in the country wherever it is needed.”
In its port-to-post visit in major cities of Mindanao, the ship is opened to the public who are interested to see first-hand its armaments and machinery.
Also currently onboard the ship are 45 cadets of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Salaknib Class of 2017 who are undergoing sea phase training and will be joining the Philippine Navy after graduation.
The BRP Andres Bonifacio is the third Gregorio Del Pilar-class frigate of the Philippines navy.
From 1967–2016, the 378-feet was a Hamilton-class high endurance cutter of the United States Coast Guard named USCGC Boutwell (WHEC-719). The U.S. decommissioned the cutter in early 2016 and the Philippines acquired it under the Excess Defense Articles and the Foreign Assistance Act.
The warship was formally received by the Philippine Navy on July 21, 2016, and commissioned to service on the same day at the USCG base at Alameda, California. The ship arrived in Manila on Dec. 9. 2016.
Casaclang said the ship needs repainting and more armaments will also be added.

Change of command marks new leadership, vows sustained and strengthened peace

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 30): Change of command marks new leadership, vows sustained and strengthened peace

A new leadership was ushered in at the 67th Infantry Agila Battalion of the Philippine Army as Lt. Col. Jacob Thaddeus Obligado took over command of the battalion from Lt. Col. Michele Anayron.

During the Change of Command Ceremony at the Battalion’s headquarters in Barangay Salingcomot in Baganga town on January 27, 2017, the new Battalion Commander has vowed to sustain the feats and gains the unit has achieved over the past years.

Lt. Col. Obligado said his leadership will take off from the army’s existing and new strategies on peace campaign – the Internal Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan which has now been replaced by the Development Support and Security Plan Kapayapaan – a new campaign wherein the Armed Forces of the Philippines will sustain the peace and internal stability of the country “through sustained military operations to defeat terrorist, support to law enforcement in the campaign against illegal drugs and organized crimes, and actively contribute to peace promotion and nation-building.”
In his message, he talked about several crucial elements in the pursuit of permanent and lasting peace.

“These imperatives are respect for human rights, international humanitarian law and the rule of law.Our first imperative is our commitment that soldiers are duty-bound to serve the community’s rights and the laws of the land. It is our responsibility to fulfill these obligations,” he said, stressing that these will be the army’s advocacies to their stakeholders.

For Lt. Col. Obligado these imperatives, once abided not only by the soldiers but also the community,will lead to good citizenship.

“A good citizen will always abide by the laws of the land and will not be a headache to the government and community,” he said.

He also emphasized the stakeholders’ active participation in the peace efforts.

“The stakeholders engagement means that we cannot perform our tasks and accomplish our mission without the community’s involvement and participation and I can see how Lt.Col. Anayron performed these tasks through participation, collaboration and coordination of all the stakeholders,” he said.

Outgoing Commander Col. Anayron is noted for his initiatives not only in addressing the insurgency problem in his area of responsibility but also in introducing development programs in the communities, which have been accomplished through partnership with all stakeholders – a strategy adopted by his predecessors which he further strengthened and sustained.

Among the celebrated community development projects that he helped to initiate is the construction of four classrooms in Sitio Sunlon, Barangay San Isidro and Sitio Casunungan, Barangay Mahanub, in Baganga town, through partnership with ABS-CBN Sagip Kapamilya Foundation.

He also facilitated the establishment of livelihood projects in some barangays and partnered with various donor organizations that provided sewing machines and bakery set to local schools’ Alternative Learning System Program.

In his message, Col. Anayron bid his “Agila sons and daughters” farewell, saying that the past two years of being assigned to this unit, which has been distinguished for its many accomplishments, has been a blessing.

“I was given the opportunity to command a unit that was trained and transformed into a model Peace and Development Outreach Program-operating unit of the army,” he said, citing one of his predecessors who started this innovation, Col. Reuben Basiao, the new Commander of the Army’s 701st Brigade.

He also cited the Provincial Government and all local government units, as well as the community, for their support in the military’s peace campaign.

“The LGUs knew and understood the internal security problem which enabled them to adopt a holistic approach to address it and master the art of maximizing the use of the military as one of their partner agency,” he said.

He capped his message by thanking the top officials of the Provincial Government, First District Representative Cong. Corazon N. Malanyaon and Gov. Nelson L. Dayanghirang, whose participative governance enabled the military to make headway in peace and development in the province.

Cong. Malanyaon lauded the leadership of the outgoing commander and welcomed the new commander, committing her all-out support to the endeavors of the Philippine Army in ensuring the security and welfare of the province’s constituents.

Governor Dayanghirang also expressed his thanks to Lt. Col. Anayron for his awe-inspiring leadership. He cited his efforts in reaching out to previously hard-to-reach areas and the Army’s active involvement in the implementation of the Provincial Government’s flagship program Nagkakaisang Lingkod-Bayan ng Davao Oriental Barangay Outreach Caravan.

Witnessed by officers and men of the battalion and stakeholders in peace and development, the Change of Command Ceremony was presided over by 10th Infantry Division Commander Major General Rafael C. Valencia, who wished both officers the best in their new respective assignments.
“In the implementation of the AFP’s new campaign, I am fully assured that Jake’s ingenuity, initiative, vast experiences and charisma, shall be again of great help in working with other peace and security stakeholders towards meeting these ends. Jake, under your leadership, I entrust   67th IB, the morale and welfare of the Agila troops and their dependents, and the peace and security of various areas within your battalion’s area of responsibility. Give and make the best that you can.  The command will always be here to support, direct, supervise and guide you,” said Major General Valencia.

The 67th Infantry Battalion operates in Davao Oriental’s first district and three other municipalities at the province’s boundaries, namely: Linging, Surigao del Sur; Trento, Agusan del Sur; and Compostela, Compostela Valley Province.

News Feature: Army Special Forces’, CAFGUs’ tale of gallantry in Basilan

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 29): News Feature: Army Special Forces’, CAFGUs’ tale of gallantry in Basilan

ISABELA CITY, Basilan – The deafening sound of gunfires as these pass through soldiers flat on the ground amongst bushes and grasses  remained the only cover to escape death, have lasted for nine hours.

Flashes of images of the grueling ordeal of the army’s Special Forces and militiamen during the hours of battle on January 12, 2017 that killed an officer and wounded others have lingered in the minds of the gallant soldiers.

This prompted Capt Anthony Andrew Abay, commanding officer of the 15th Special Forces Company to have some thirty army soldiers and CAFGUs to undergo stress debriefing.

“I understand that we are all brave and fearless. But as humans, we all have our breaking points if we do not deal with the emotional and psychological trauma,” Capt. Abay said.

He added that the aim of the activity is for soldiers to be able to express themselves and release tensions, pressures, and the stress that they have experienced last Jan 12.

As he explained, one could sense that he is holding back his tears as he encouraged his men to share their stories and feelings.

“This is not a sign of weakness, but an opportunity to become a better and stronger soldier,” he said, as he began to share some of his last moments with Army Captain Clinton Capio who died on his side.

The soldiers also have their own stories to tell. In small groups, facilitators listened to every soldier’s tale, be they on the battleground or about their struggle to provide for their families.

For the whole day of January 22, the soldiers have unveiled themselves to a team of facilitators from the Nagdilaab Foundation Inc, Child Fund Philippines, Department of Education-ALS, the City Social Welfare and Development Office of Lamitan City, the Claret Samal Foundation Inc., and the Philippine Information Agency-Basilan.

Uniquely, CAFGUs have their own stories to tell. Serving the military for about fifteen days with some four thousand pesos in allowance, this could already help bring food on the tables of their families. After the 15-day duty, these militiamen will have to find other means of living, until summoned by the AFP for another duty.

CAFGUs are the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit of the armed forces who are irregular auxiliary forces of the AFP. According to Republic Act 7077, these reservists will be utilized only for the defense of their respective localities and will not be employed outside their localities.

Just like the gallantry of the soldiers of the 15th and 19th Special Forces Companies of the Philippine Army, the CAFGUs have fought side by side with the same passion to protect the civilians from terror and lawlessness, knowing that they could be killed during the nine-hour fierce battle with the Abu Sayyafs.

All were hopeful that the Jan 12 may never repeat itself. All, too, wished that peace may finally be achieved soon so that no more families would be displaced, no more children would lose their fathers, no more wives could lose their husbands, no more mothers would weep for the death of their sons, and no more nations could lose their beloved soldiers.

14 PA senior officers given star rank promotions

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31): 14 PA senior officers given star rank promotions

A total of 14 Philippine Army (PA) senior officers were given star rank promotions during simple rites in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City Monday.

Out of the said number, one was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general, three were promoted to the rank of major generals and 10 were promoted to the rank of brigadier generals effective Jan. 30, said PA spokesperson Col. Benjamin Hao.

Promoted to Lieutenant General was Donato B. San Juan, the Superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy.

Major Generals were Ronald C. Villanueva, the Chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP); Noel S. Clement, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, AFP; and Raul M. Farnacio, the Commander of 8th Infantry Division.

Brigadier Generals were Francisco V. Delfin, the Commander of the 303th Infantry Brigade; Rolando C. Manalo, the Commander of the 902nd Infantry Brigade; Bonifacio C. Cebrian Jr, the Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, AFP; Manuel Trece S. Robles, the Commander of the 53rd Engineering Brigade, Noel S. Buan, Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Materiel Development; Ricardo A. Nepomuceno, the Commander of the 1003rd Infantry Brigade; Macairog S. Alberto, the Commander of the 1001st Infantry Brigade; Carlomagno L. Tabo, the Deputy Chief of the Intelligence Service of the AFP; Erwin A. De Asis, Commander of the Army Artillery Regiment; and Mario G. Lacurom, the Commander of the 803rd Infantry Brigade.

AFP condemns series of unprovoked NPA attacks on military units

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31): AFP condemns series of unprovoked NPA attacks on military units

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Tuesday strongly condemned the series of unprovoked New People's Army (NPA) attacks which resulted in the death of two soldiers, wounding of three and abduction of one during the past two days.

These rebels attacks took place in Echague, Isabela, Surigao City and Surigao Del Norte, AFP public affairs officers chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said.

The first incident happened Sunday when around 15 NPA rebels abducted an unarmed and civilian-clad Pfc. Erwin Salan of the 30th Infantry Battalion.

The victim and some civilian volunteers just came a civic-action activity in Barangay Budlingin, Alegria, Surigao Del Norte when snatched by the rebels.

"He is on a legitimate, non-military activity intended to help preserve a tourist spot which is the source of livelihood for the locals of Algeria, Surigao," Arevalo said.

On Monday, around 8:45 a.m., a trooper from the 86th Infantry Battalion was killed and the other wounded but later died while undergoing treatment when ambushed by NPA rebels in Echague, Isabela.

"The unarmed victims on-board a motorcycle were waylaid while they were on their way to Department of Environment and Natural Resources Office in San Isidro to follow up a tree-planting project," he added.

Also on Monday noon, an estimated 10 NPAs attacked the troops of 30th Infantry Battalion who were supporting the local government unit in Sitio Brazil, Barangay Mat-i, Surigao City with their "peace and development" activities.

"Three soldiers were wounded. More could have been killed or wounded where if not for the prompt action of the troops who managed to push the rebels to withdraw out of the community," Arevalo said.

The AFP public spokesperson officer called this series of attacks very disturbing and said they have reported the incidents to the appropriate authorities.

"We have reported these unfortunate incidents to the Office of the Presidential Assistant on the Peace Process. While we adhere to the primacy of the peace process, we demand the release of Pfc. Salan. We urged them to stop attacking the soldiers," he added.

Arevalo said these attacks violate the NPA's declaration of their own ceasefire.

"Those acts are actually assault to the communities and its people who sought for the assistance of the Army in improving their lives," he added.

WATCH | Military in hot pursuit of wounded Hapilon, Maute Group

From InterAksyon (Jan 31): WATCH | Military in hot pursuit of wounded Hapilon, Maute Group

Truckloads of military troops continued to pour in the mountains of Butig, Lanao del Sur in pursuit of wounded Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Isnilon Hapilon and his men and the Maute Group, which provided him sanctuary and formed an alliance with the terror group.

According to a News5 source, Hapilon is still in Butig and being brought around on a stretcher after he was seriously wounded when he was hit by shrapnel on the right arm in an airstrike on January 25.

Hapilon is being nursed by medical student Hafidah Romato Maute, one of the inmates who escaped from the Lanao del Sur jail in August last year.

Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Eduardo Año on Sunday said that Hapilon needs blood transfusion and may die if not immediately given medical attention.

Two weeks have passed since Hapilon and his men - based in Basilan - had traveled to Butig “at the behest” of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, reportedly to explore the possibility of making Central Mindanao IS' new haven in Asia.

To date, at least 15 jihadists have been killed and seven wounded in the continuing intensified military operations against the terrorists.

General Año said the deaths were caused by artillery barrages and FA-50 airstrikes, though he did not rule out the possibility that in coming days, the government troops might be involved in actual, on-ground firefights.

As this developed, elements of the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group raided a compound inside the Mindanao State University in Marawi City where members of the Maute Group are believed hiding.

Two improvised explosive devices were seized in two separate unoccupied rooms and 10 men were rounded up.

The 10 men and the owner of the house, Monawera Macadindang, were invited for questioning and were later released.


[Video report]

2 wounded as 2 warring groups clash in Basilan

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 30): 2 wounded as 2 warring groups clash in Basilan

Two persons, including a child, were wounded in a clash Monday between two warring factions in the province of Basilan, officials disclosed.

Col. Cirilo Donato, Army’s 104th Infantry Brigade commander, disclosed the clash broke out around 8 a.m. Monday in Barangay Baungis, Lantawan, Basilan.

Donato disclosed the protagonists were a group of relatives of Hasim Jalil, a militiaman, and that of Poly Hallang.

Senior Supt. Nickson Muksan, Basilan police director, disclosed the clash broke out following a shooting incident that injured two persons, including a child.

Muksan identified the victims as Ruayda Hallang, 25, and Haira Hallang, 15. They were rushed to the hospital.

Muksan did not say whether the perpetrators belong to the Jalil group but that the victims were shot by unidentified gunmen armed with high-power firearms.

He said the fighting stopped when policemen of Lantawan police station in coordination with the Army Special Forces initiated police intervention.

He said the troops also initiated measures to ensure the protection of the civilians in the area.

Suspected NPA members storm resort, burn staff house in Batangas town

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 30): Suspected NPA members storm resort, burn staff house in Batangas town

Suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) stormed the security detachment of Costa del Hamilo Inc. (CDHI) offsite office compound at Hamilo Coast, Barangay Papaya, Nasugbu, Batangas Sunday evening.

In a report reaching the Police Regional Office (PRO) 4A, Batangas Provincial Police Office Director Senior Supt. Leopoldo Cabanag said some 30 suspected NPA members clad in Philippine Air Force (PAF) uniforms and in full battle gear stormed the detachment of CDHI, in-charge of securing Pico de Loro Resort at 7:35 p.m. Sunday and burned the staff house and the driver’s quarter.

He said the armed men gained entry to the resort by posing as escorts of a woman introducing herself as inspector of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

They then disarmed the security personnel, ransacked the building and torched the staff house and the driver’s quarter.

The armed men commandeered a Silver Toyota HiAce, with plate number YZ0620), a Maroon Mercedes-Benz with plate number UTW433 and a Green Mercedes-Benz with plate number UNU800 and fled through the resort’s back gate.

The three vehicles were found abandoned at sub-village Damulag, Latag Village in Nasugbu town at 3:00 a.m. Monday.

No one was hurt from the incident.

Retired Rear Admiral Antonio Habulan, assistant vice president for security of CDHI said they are cooperating with the town’s police personnel which are investigating the case.

Habulan said their main concern at the moment is the safety of their personnel.

"CDHI remains alert and are fully committed to the utmost security and well-being of our people at all times," Habulan said.

The Pico de Loro was visited on Jan. 19 by 16 Miss Universe candidates along with then Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach who were transported by a yacht from Manila for their glam photo shoots and beach-side cultural reception.

Only HADR equipment can be stocked in PHL bases under EDCA

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 30): Only HADR equipment can be stocked in PHL bases under EDCA

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) maintains that only equipment and materials intended for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) missions may be stockpiled in military facilities ear-marked for the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the US.

This was disclosed by AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla in a press briefing Monday.

This was in wake of claims that American tanks and weapons are being stockpiled in the above-mentioned facilities.

Earlier, the Department of National Defense (DND) said the United States will start building some facilities that can house troops and their equipment in Basa Air Base, Floridablance, Pampanga; Antonio Bautista Air Base in Puerto Princesa, Palawan; and Lumbia Airfield in Cagayan De Oro, in relation to EDCA-related activities.

Construction is expected to be done within the year.

"(These claims) were checked by the AFP and it was found out that there was no confirmed incident of this nature and EDCA, like what was announced, is geared for the preparedness (of our forces) to respond to HADR situation faster," Padilla said in Filipino.

"And if they are constructing warehouses or storage areas of equipment or items, these should be oriented for HADR (like generator sets, rubber boats, or shelter-type materials, and water purifiers)," he added.

The AFP spokesperson said construction of fuel depots are allowable in EDCA as this will allow aircraft to refuel and do repeated missions transporting relief goods and saving lives in times of calamities.

PH, NDF talks: Both sides need to make painful compromises

From Rappler (Jan 30): PH, NDF talks: Both sides need to make painful compromises

Government and NDF negotiators begin talks on CASER, the 'heart and soul' of the peace process that seeks to draw a roadmap to address widespread poverty in the Philippines   

3RD ROUND. Negotiators of the government and the communist National Democratic Front of the Philippines are in Rome for the 3rd round of peace talks. Photo from OPAPP

3RD ROUND. Negotiators of the government and the communist National Democratic Front of the Philippines are in Rome for the 3rd round of peace talks. Photo from OPAPP

Negotiators representing the Philippine government and rebels behind Asia’s longest-running communist insurgency began in Rome difficult talks on proposals to radically reform the country’s social and economic policies in hopes of addressing poverty.

The hardest part of the negotiations begins. It will require painful compromises from both camps, if the talks are going to be successful under President Rodrigo Duterte.
The peace talks also need widespread public support or risk suffering the fate of peace deals that were only rejected in the end. The deals will require passage of new laws in Congress and amendments to the 1987 Constitution.
Land reform, national industrialization
The National Democratic Front (NDF) envisions to draw a roadmap to providing more jobs, looking out for the welfare of the working class, improving the economy and, ultimately, making the country capable of standing on its own without aid from the US and Japan, in particular. (READ: Duterte's talks with NDF: The meat of the matter)
Land reform and national industrialization are the two key issues the two panels began discussing in Rome and will be the focus of meetings to be held in Manila or in neighboring countries in the succeeding months. (READ: PH, NDF make significant headway in talks despite clashes)
The NDF is pushing for new policies to spur an agricultural revolution nationwide. It wants to break up plantations that escaped earlier laws on land reform, and then distribute them to farmers who will be given generous government support to ensure that they earn profits. The New People's Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), could find a new role as enforcers and implementors of agrarian reform.

The NDF is also proposing policies to ease out foreign firms from key industries, particularly mining, while shifting government priorities to pour money into developing the country’s own capability to extract its rich natural resources and process them into finished products. It believes in the country's potential to be a global player in the steel industry, for example.
These are capital-intensive ventures that the NDF said could be financed by, among others, reducing military spending and imposing higher taxes on the rich.
Ban US forces, review trade agreements
This is not all. The NDF wants to ban US military forces in the Philippines at a time when the two countries are implementing a new agreement allowing the military superpower to build facilities inside Philippine military bases.
It wants to review international trade agreements for possible amendments, suspension or termination. It wants to ban open-pit mining, monocrop production for export, and logging for export.
All these, among others, are detailed in the September 2016 NDF draft for the talks on the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms or “CASER." Rappler obtained the 18-page draft from the NDF.
CASER is the jargon that represents the “heart and soul” of the peace talks, the agreement that is supposed to address the root causes of conflict. It is the second of the 4 substantive agenda or themes to be negotiated before a final peace deal is achieved.
If CASER talks succeed, the armed struggle is supposed to end. CASER is the reason why the government has agreed to release political prisoners and the rebels agreed to an unprecendented ceasefire – to make the environment conducive for the difficult talks ahead.

But critics of the NDF proposals have dismissed them to be utopian and thus unrealistic, casting doubts on the talks that have been on and off for the last 3 decades.

The panels will have to prove them wrong.

Finding the middle ground
ROAD TO COMPROMISE. File photo of chief government negotiator Silvestro Bello III (right) and NDF panel head Fidel Agcaoili in Mindanao. File photo by Manman Dejeto/Rappler
ROAD TO COMPROMISE. File photo of chief government negotiator Silvestro Bello III (right) and NDF panel head Fidel Agcaoili in Mindanao. File photo by Manman Dejeto/Rappler

The government panel said the talks will be successful under the leadership of Duterte, a former student of CPP founder Jose Maria Sison who serves as NDF's chief political consultant.
Duterte had referred to himself as a socialist and has turned the US into a punching bag while warming ties with China and Russia.
But the devil is always in the details.
Separate interviews with Duterte's chief negotiator, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III and his counterpart in the NDF, Fidel Agcaoili, before CASER talks started in Rome show differences on how the two panels intend to implement these policies.
"They have their own version and we have our own. We have to blend," Bello told Rappler.
The questions are: How far is Duterte willing to meet the rebels on these issues, and is the NDF willing to give up some demands in order to reach a compromise?
This is the difficult task that the Norwegian facilitator of the talks, Ambassador Elisabeth Slattum, reminded the two panels during the 3rd round of talks in Rome.
“A peace process is not a zero-sum game where you have one winner and one loser. A successful peace process is one where both parties come out on the winning side. Neither side will be perfectly content,” Slattum said.
“Both sides will have to make painful concessions along the way. And both sides will have to show a great deal of courage because some of the decisions that they will have to make will not be popular,” Slattum said.
Sison's wife, Julie de Lima, leads the NDF in the CASER talks. She faces veteran government negotiator and former agrarian reform secretary Hernani Braganza, and human rights lawyer Efren Moncupa.
The challenges are compounded by government policies that the rebels oppose and an ambitious timeline that they have imposed upon themselves. (READ: War on drugs, Marcos revival hurting talks – NDF)
The two panels agreed they could complete talks on CASER within the year. The NDF also demanded the immediate implementation of agreed reforms – the implementing laws should be passed, for example – before it could sign a final peace deal.
Land reform
The rebels rejected the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform (CARP) law signed into law by the late president Corazon Cojuangco Aquino and later extended by his son, former president Benigno Aquino III, because of provisions that allowed plantation owners to escape distribution by converting agricultural land to real estate, sugar land, and land for export crops.
Key to their contention is the continued tension in the distribution of Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac that was run by the Cojuangco-Aquino family. It is one of the sugar plantations that Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano, one of the nominees of the NDF to the Duterte Cabinet, declared he will audit to make sure that farmers really own and occupy the land distributed to them. (READ: Agrarian reform chief 'Ka Paeng': Hope for the farmers)
"The essence is destroying the structure of feudalism so that peasants can be liberated from serfdom and allow them to earn their own income so they become consumers of finished products made by local industries," Agcaoili told Rappler.
Bello acknowledged that certain issues will be difficult. "For example, they would advocate for free distribution of land. That is not possible. That is not land reform. We have to negotiate that," he said.
Bello said free distribution of land may be possible if it involves land owned by the government. "When you talk about arable land owned by land owners, you cannot do that. It will be confiscatory."
National industrialization
The NDF also wants the country to take control of running key industries, particularly mining. "Imbes na hinahayaan mo ang Amerikano (Instead of allowing the Americans), Canadians, and now the Chinese, to get our natural resouces and bring them sa kanilang bansa (to their countries) because they need it for their industries. And then they sell us whatever [end product they produce out of it]," said Agcaoili.
"Why can't we do that? The moment we can do that, we offer jobs," he added.
Critics of the NDF find this proposal extreme, citing the lack of funds and local expertise to develop very technical industries such as mining.
Agcaoili argued this is precisely why the Philippines should focus on developing foreign partnerships that will facilitate technology transfer and will agree to help the Philippines develop its own capability. He cited how China supposedly purchased old steel mills – importing it lock, stock, and barrel – to grow its steel industry to now become one of the world's biggest.
Bello said the proposals have been studied and there are "approaches to this proposition," but he did not elaborate.
Key to this, Agcaoili added, is the need to veer the Philippines away from its traditional trade allies, or ending treaties with the US while grasping "other opportunities" offered by BRICS countries Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
"I don't think it will be a difficult issue after we have listened to our President's position" said Bello.

But it is easier said than done. The local big players, who may have the capability to develop these industries, are the same oligarchs that the rebels are protesting against because they are not necessarily the most responsible ones.

Public support
The panels know the peace talks cannot be confined to the negotiating table. The general public will ultimately have to support the final peace deal between the Duterte government and the NDF. (READ: Norwegian facilitator 'cautiously optimistic' about PH, NDF talks)
“The peace process needs the patience, support, and involvement of the Filipino people,” said Slattum.
Slattum brings into the talks her experience in peace negotiations between the Colombian government and FARC rebels that led to a historic peace deal meant to end the longest-running armed insurgency in the West. Colombian voters, however, rejected the Norway-facilitated peace deal, which had to be renegotiated before it was ratified by the Colombian Congress.
The proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which was meant to implement a final peace deal between the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), suffered a similar fate earlier. What should have been Aquino's legacy of peace crumbled when lawmakers rejected the BBL following public outrage over the death of elite cops in a poorly executed operation inside MILF territory.
It will benefit the talks if negotitators heed these hard lessons.

Mixed message as Philippine military says no U.S. armory moves

From Reuters (Jan 30): Mixed message as Philippine military says no U.S. armory moves

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures while speaking during a late night news conference at the presidential palace in Manila, Philippines January 30, 2017. REUTERS/Ezra Acayan

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures while speaking during a late night news conference at the presidential palace in Manila, Philippines January 30, 2017. REUTERS/Ezra Acayan

The United States is not creating weapons stores or armories in the Philippines, military officials said on Monday, contradicting President Rodrigo Duterte who has complained of a U.S. breach of a defense pact that could stoke regional tension.

Duterte on Sunday accused the United States of stirring up trouble by building permanent arms depots in his country, including delivering tanks, and threatened to respond by scrapping a security treaty between them.

The volatile leader, who has made no secret of his disdain for the U.S. troop presence in the Philippines, said the United States could drag his country into a conflict with China over the South China Sea, something he said would not let happen.

Military spokesman Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla said the president's concern had been looked into and the U.S. military's activities were to help the Philippines to better handle natural disasters.

"There was no confirmed incident of this nature," he told reporters, referring to the accusations that arms were bring brought in.

"They are not allowed under the military agreement."

Padilla said only rubber boats, generator sets and materials for building shelters would be stored in Philippine facilities.

Another senior general, who declined to be identified because he is not authorized to speak to media, said the United States had yet to bring in any materials for upgrades to bases, which the two countries would both use.

"These facilities, like runways, are to be used jointly," the second general said, adding U.S.-built warehouses would be owned by the Philippines.

It was not the first time Duterte and his military have given conflicting messages about their decades-old alliance, which is one of Washington's most important in Asia at a time when China's economic and military power is expanding.

Duterte's comments came after the Pentagon gave the green light for upgrades and construction of barracks, runways and storage facilities this year under a 2014 Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

The defense agreement covers rotational deployment of U.S. ships, aircraft and troops at five bases in the Philippines, and the storage of equipment for humanitarian and maritime security purposes.

The second general, who is involved in the country's military activities with other nations, said the agreement would ultimately help the Philippines to protect its extensive maritime borders.

"Our air and naval capability to cover these disputed areas are less than 50 percent, so we need our allies to help and inform us about developments in the South China Sea," he added.

Duterte accuses US of possibly stationing nukes, building ‘permanent’ bases in Philippines

Business Insider (Jan 29): Duterte accuses US of possibly stationing nukes, building ‘permanent’ bases in Philippines

rodrigo duterte

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte accused the United States on Sunday of risking regional stability by building permanent arms depots in his country, and threatened to respond by scrapping a security treaty between them.

Duterte, who has made no secret of his disdain for the U.S. troop presence in the Philippines, said Washington was bringing weapons into three provinces of his country to store permanently, which he said was a dangerous breach of a defense deal between them.

"They're unloading arms in the Philippines now ... I'm serving notice to the armed forces of the United States. Do not do it, I will not allow it," Duterte told a televised news conference.

"Provisions of the Visiting Forces (Agreement), there shall be no permanent facilities. A depot is by any other name a depot. It's a permanent structure to house arms."

He added: "I do not even know if there is a nuclear tip (missile) now, that they are unloading."

phillipines soldiers marching navy reuters RTX1ZK3Z      

Members of the Philippine Navy take part in a parade during the 80th founding anniversary of the Armed Forces of the Philippines held inside Clark Air Base, formerly a U.S. base, in Angeles city, Pampanga province, north of Manila December 21, 2015. Romeo Ranoco/Reuters 
His comments come after the Pentagon gave the green light to build warehouses, barracks and runways this year under a 2014 Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the two longtime allies.

If U.S. arsenals were built in the Philippines, Duterte said he would consider a review of treaties "and maybe ultimately abrogate, since it is an executive order."

EDCA allows the expansion of rotational deployment of U.S. ships, aircraft and troops at five bases in the Philippines as well as the storage of equipment for humanitarian and maritime security operations.

Duterte has repeatedly threatened to tear up security deals with the United States, while also giving guarantees those would be honored, muddying the picture in a relationship that prior to his election was one of Washington's most crucial Asian alliances.

He also chided the United States for pressuring the Philippines to enforce a ruling last year by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that invalidated most of Beijing's claims to the South China Sea.

Duterte has done the opposite and has sought to create warm ties and secure investment from China rather than confront it. In a stunning about-face in Manila's foreign policy, he has put the arbitration award on the back burner.

phillipines anti trump protests associated press AP_17020245534648      

Philippines citizens have protested the election of US President Donald Trump. Bullit Marquez/Associated Press 
He said Washington was putting regional stability at risk and its actions could put the Philippines in "extreme danger" because of the posturing between the United States and China.

"You are egging us ... egging us (on) to force the issue of arbitral judgment," he said, referring to the United States.

"The missiles of China are pointed at the American expeditions," he said, referring to its naval patrols. "A depot would serve as a supply line."

Duterte said he had an "urgent" message to China, asking it to help provide precision-guided missiles so Philippine troops could fight Islamic State-linked militants in the south.

He said the court ruling on the South China Sea would be discussed with China when the time was right.

"I made a commitment to President Xi Jinping, I made a solemn commitment that we will talk about this arbitral award during my term. When, I really do not know, but we will talk hard," he said.

What's wrong with Philippine cops?

From Rappler (Jan 26): What's wrong with Philippine cops?

A retired law enforcement specialist with the US Air Force who is now based in the Philippines discusses what's 'fundamentally wrong with the way our policemen think'

We finally have a new police chief. And in a year, we're going to have a new president. There are a lot of big issues and problems for them to deal with, but I'd like to add one more thing to the already full plate. I'd like to ask "What's wrong with our police force?"

On any given day, Philippine newspapers carry stories about crimes committed by cops. Not just minor misdeeds, but serious criminal acts, like kidnapping, extortion, and murder.

In my personal observation, this has been the norm since I first set foot in the Philippines in 1981. I was, at that time, a law enforcement specialist with the US Air Force, so I had a personal interest in observing the way the local police worked.

In the Philippines, incidents of crime and violence involving policemen are usually treated as individual acts of misbehavior, and are attributed to the idea that there are a few "bad apples" in every barrel.

Terms like "scalawags" and "erring policemen" are commonly used to describe cops who have broken the law. The fact is, these events are commonplace and indicate a much deeper problem, as well as a complete refusal of the senior leadership to treat the situation with the seriousness it deserves.

Fundamental problem

There is something fundamentally wrong with the way our policemen think. There is clearly a difference, in their minds, between the official "by the book" way and the "this is how we really do it" way. The average policeman truly seems to believe that anything goes; that planting evidence, gunning down cellphone snatchers, and protecting other crooked cops, is accepted and even condoned within their institution.

Consider the all too common reports about a group of cops who abduct a person, usually under the pretense of making an arrest. The poor guy is often taken to the police station first, and then carted off to a private residence, where he is either robbed or held for ransom. In other cases, he may actually be held right at the police station and forced to pay the officers so they won't file a particular charge against him.

Think about how this actually works. A policeman, or a group of policemen, makes an arrest, brings the subject to the station and locks him up, and then conducts business-style negotiations with the subject or his relatives, ending with the payment of "bail" and the release of the subject. All going on right inside the police station.

To make matters worse, when a policeman is actually arrested for this crime, the official charge is usually "unlawful detention", which makes it sound more like an error in procedure than a kidnapping...which is what it really is.

This happens because supervisors are not supervising. Procedures already exist to prevent this kind of activity, but they are not being followed, and they are not being enforced. Officially, locking a person up in a police station's detention cell involves more than one person, and a bit of paperwork. At the very least, there is always supposed to be a blotter entry and an incident report, and that means that the station commander or shift supervisor must be involved.

Formality and procedure

In addition, no policeman should have the authority to release an arrested person on his own. If a mistake has been made, or if release is warranted for some other official reason, a senior officer must always authorize it, and the situation must always be fully documented. Formality and procedure exist as a form of check-and-balance, designed to prevent activities such as unlawful detention and extortion by lone-wolf policemen. But in the informal world of Philippine police work, individual cops are allowed to operate so independently that supervisors rarely bother to question their activities.

The bottom line here is pretty simple. The only policemen who have the freedom to engage in criminal or abusive activity are those who are not being properly supervised. If station commanders and shift supervisors would require proper documentation, and monitor their people’s activities, most criminal behavior by policemen would simply not be possible. Supervisors have the power to completely eliminate this problem.

This is not a situation where rogue policemen are out of control. It's a situation where unsupervised policemen are simply not being controlled. Contrary to the common view of policemen as completely independent operators, a cop's day should be filled with assignments and tasks. Even on routine patrol, a policeman has duties that should keep him busy.

A properly supervised patrolman doesn't have time to sit and read the newspaper, let alone time to engage in kidnapping or extortion. If cops are kept busy doing the job they are paid to do, and if supervisors stay on top of their people, crimes committed by lawmen will drop dramatically, almost overnight. This requires active supervision by the leadership at all levels.

Police 'culture'

The relationship between a supervisor and his subordinates is not supposed to be a buddy-buddy relationship, and supervision involves more than just being present in the office. A professional supervisor corrects mistakes and violations, and reprimands improper behavior. As a matter of fact, every time an on-duty policeman is found to have been involved in kidnapping or any other criminal activity, his supervisor must automatically share in some degree of responsibility – simply because the crime could not have been committed if the supervisor had been supervising properly.

This police "culture" will not be changed by values formation seminars, bible studies, or appeals for honest behavior. It will change only when the entire police leadership corps declares, with one voice and without a wink or a nod, that it is unacceptable.

I write this article as a former police supervisor myself. And I can honestly say that, during my entire career, there was never more than a few minutes on any given day that I did not know where my people were and what they were doing. As their supervisor, that was my job.

An important note to keep in mind though – the main reason policemen should be kept busy is not to control cop-crime. That's actually just a side benefit. The real reason is because there is so much work that needs to be done, and policemen are being paid by the taxpayers to do it. A full day of active, productive work is not too much to ask in exchange.

[Michael Brown is a retired member of the US Air Force, and has lived over 16 years in the Philippines. He writes on English, traffic management, law enforcement, and government.]