Thursday, February 2, 2017

Explosion rocks Lamitan hospital

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 3): Explosion rocks Lamitan hospital

An explosion rocked an abandoned building at the Lamitan District Emergency Hospital in Lamitan, Basilan on Thursday night, police said.

Lamitan, Basilan (Google Maps / MANILA BULLETIN)

Police Chief Inspector Allan Benasing, the chief of the Lamitan City Police Station, said the explosion occurred at about 9:00 p.m., February 2, while there was no electricity around the city.

Benasing said part of the ceiling and roof of the abandoned building was destroyed as a result of the explosion said to be caused by a grenade thrown by an unidentified suspect.

Based on the post-blast investigation conducted by the Explosives Ordnance Unit (EOD), an MK2 fragmentation grenade was the one used by the culprit.

Benasing is not discounting the possibility that Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) fighters under Nurhassan Jamiri was behind the incident.

Fortunately, no one was either killed or hurt in the explosion.

Police is still investigating the incident.

Duterte mulls terminating ceasefire with NPA

From Rappler (Feb 3): Duterte mulls terminating ceasefire with NPA

(UPDATED) President Rodrigo Duterte considers the option a day after the communist rebels ended their own ceasefire with government

TALKING SECURITY. President Rodrigo Duterte holds a press conference after a joint AFP-PNP command conference on January 29, 2017. Photo by Ace Morandante/Presidential Photo

 TALKING SECURITY. President Rodrigo Duterte holds a press conference after a joint AFP-PNP command conference on January 29, 2017. Photo by Ace Morandante/Presidential Photo

President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday night considered the option of immediately terminating government's ceasefire with the communist New People's Army (NPA) in the face of rebel attacks, Rappler learned on Friday morning, February 3.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said lifting the 5-month-old ceasefire with the guerrillas "is one of the options the President was toying with last night in the face of offensives launched by the CPP/NPA." Duterte was in Davao Thursday night.

Asked if the President has issued any official order on it, Lorenzana said his department was still "awaiting word from the Palace."

A Malacañang official however confirmed that the President indeed decided on the lifting of the ceasefire Thursday night, February 2, and has in fact issued the order to Armed Forces chief of staff General Eduardo Año.

The order was for the military to "lift the ceasefire immediately," the official who spoke on condition of anonymity said.

On Friday afternoon, however, Año told Rappler: "No orders given yet but we shall abide by whatever the President says."

Rappler earlier obtained a text message sent to military commanders Thursday night about the plan of the President to lift the ceasefire. "PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) will lift the ceasefire tonite. CSAFP (Chief of staff, AFP) instruction is to consolidate all BTA/forces and go on offensive ASAP." BTA refers to Bayanihan Team Activities that are conducted by soldiers in communities for their "people-centered" projects but which the NPA describes as counter-insurgency operations.

The planned termination comes after the NPA lifted its own ceasefire on February 1, which is effective after 10 days.

6 soldiers, 1 NPA rebel killed

Armed clashes between the military and the NPA have occurred in the past two weeks, with the 2 armed groups accusing each other of committing ceasefire abuses and claiming they were only forced to fight back.

Duterte is scheduled on Friday afternoon to visit the wake in Davao City of one of the 6 soldiers killed in clashes with NPA rebels. (READ: Soldier killed in NPA attack was newly engaged)

The first firefight to break the 5-month-old ceasefire happened in Makilala, North Cotabato, where an NPA rebel was killed in government operation against supposed "extortionists." It happened while talks were ongoing in Rome. (READ: Soldiers, NPA break ceasefire in North Cotabato)

A week later, beginning on Sunday, the military claimed coordinated attacks from the NPA. At least 6 soldiers were killed including a junior Army officer belonging to the Philippine Military Academy Class of 2016.

Armed Forces spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla claimed the NPA used excessive force against 3 soldiers in Bukidnon, citing a report from the police that a total of 76 bullets were used to kill them.

"This excessive use of force was unwarranted and is clearly a violation of the rights of these individuals. In the rules of war, this is not acceptable and we condemn this. We are saddened by the developments on the ground," Padilla said.

The military also reported that 3 soldiers were abducted in Sultan Kudarat and Surigao Del Sur.
In a statement Thursday night, National Democratic Front chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said they will recommend the immediate release of the NPA's "prisoners of war" after "due investigation" that they did not commit human rights violations.

Reinstating the ceasefire

Chief peace adviser Jesus Dureza and Defense Secretary Lorenzana earlier recommended that the government should hold its ceasefire with the NPA as a goodwill measure for the ongoing talks.
Peace negotiators also vowed to work to reinstate the ceasefire. The military reiterated this call noontime on Friday.

Peace negotiators have scheduled a February 22-25 side meeting in Utrecth, The Netherlands to discuss a possible joint ceasefire deal.

The 4th round of talks is scheduled in April in Oslo, Norway.

3 soldiers killed in Bukidnon clash; lieutenant dies in DavOr ambush

From MindaNews (Feb 3): 3 soldiers killed in Bukidnon clash; lieutenant dies in DavOr ambush

Three Army soldiers were killed in a clash with communist guerrillas in Bukidnon only hours after the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army announced the termination of their unilateral ceasefire declaration.

Ka Allan Juanito, NPA spokesperson for North Central Mindanao, said the soldiers, who belonged to the 8th Infantry Battalion were intercepted by a rebel unit at around 5pm in Sitio Kalib, Barangay Kibalabag, Malaybalay City last Feb. 1.

Juanito said the soldiers were aboard two motorcycles and armed with three caliber .45 pistols.
“The soldiers tried to resist and pulled out their guns prompting our guerrillas to fire first in self defense,” he said in a statement.

The NPA official said they identified one of the soldiers as Pat Olango, of Barangay Cugman, Cagayan de Oro City through his identification papers.

Capt. Patrick Martinez, spokesperson of the 4th Infantry Division said they are withholding the names of the soldiers pending notification of their families.

Martinez said the soldiers were conducting Bayanihan Team Activity in Kibalabag for a month, and were returning to their headquarters to attend to some matters and get their food allowances.

He said the NPA waylaid the soldiers as they were returning back to the village.

“Our soldiers recovered the bodies around midnight. The bodies bore multiple gunshot wounds,” he said.

The NPA also burned two equipment of fruit giant Del Monte Philippines and a dump truck owned by a Bukidnon landowner.

On Wednesday, the CPP-NPA said it was terminating the unilateral ceasefire because the government “has complied the non-compliance by government with its obligation to amnesty and release of political prisoners,” and has “treacherously taken advantage of the unilateral declaration of interim ceasefire to encroach on the territory of the people’s democratic government.”

It said the unilateral ceasefire ends on 11:59 pm of February 10.

Also on Wednesday, the NPA ambushed troops of the 67th Infantry Battalion in Manay, Davao Oriental leading to the death of 2Lt Miguel Victor Alejo and the wounding of Pvt Peter Sumatin, the Eastern Mindanao Command said.

The incident occurred in Sitio Paliwason, Barangay Lamboh, Manay.

The EastMinCom said the soldiers were responding to reports that armed men were extorting money and forcibly collecting foodstuff from store owners and farmers in the area.

The slain lieutenant was a member of Philippine Military Academy “Sinag-Lahi” Class of 2015.

The NPA in Southern Mindanao refuted the military’s claim that soldiers came for an anti-crime operation.

In a statement dated February 2, the rebel group said the soldiers “were already deployed for combat operation in the villages of Kayawan, del Pilar and Kapasnan in the hinterlands of Manay town. The next day, February 1, the AFP troops interrogated several masses in the community on the whereabouts of the Red fighters.”

“At midday, while maneuvering to evade the enemy’s four-column combat operation, the NPA unit was fired upon by the scout platoon of the 67IB. Immediately, Red fighters maneuvered to retake the initiative and engage the enemy. Killed in the encounter was 2Lt. Victor Alejo, while another enemy troop was severely wounded. As the Red fighters safely withdrew from the clash site, the 67th IB soldiers waylaid two civilians in their frenzied shoot-out after the firefight,” the statement added.

On Wednesday, the CPP-NPA said it was terminating the unilateral ceasefire because the government “has complied the non-compliance by government with its obligation to amnesty and release of political prisoners,” and has “treacherously taken advantage of the unilateral declaration of interim ceasefire to encroach on the territory of the people’s democratic government.”

It said the unilateral ceasefire ends on 11:59 pm of February 10.

TRADOC welcomes 47 new Second Lieutenants

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 3): TRADOC welcomes 47 new Second Lieutenants

CAPAS, Tarlac -- A total of 47 graduates of Officer Preparatory Course Class 66-2016 were recently declared as 2nd Lieutenants (2LT) by the Philippine Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).

The newly graduates, composed of 36 males and 11 females, were declared as Second Lieutenants effective January 27, 2017.

TRADOC Commander Major General Herminigildo Francisco Aquino congratulated the new 2LTs reminding them to always stay strong in body, sound in mind and impeccable in character.

For his part, Philippine Army Major General Harold Cabreros welcomed the new 2LTs to the Philippine Army Officer Corps.

In his speech, Cabreros emphasized the importance of teamwork and unity to the fulfillment of their Army Transformation Roadmap.

“Remain faithful to the oath you have taken this day, and be the best leaders that you can be. God bless and protect you as you begin your journey of leadership. I expect to hear good news from your class very soon,” he added.

PA, youth org rally for 'zero waste'

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 3): PA, youth org rally for 'zero waste'

The Philippine Army’s 17th Infantry Battalion based here and the Youth for Peace-Cagayan recently initiated the ‘zero waste’ program through a clean-up operation here in line with this year’s National Zero-Waste Month celebration.

Lieutenant Colonel Rembert R. Baylosis, 17th IB-commander, said the activity aimed to build awareness and educate the youth on ‘zero waste’ and to support the Ecological Solid Waste Management law.

Baylosis said the clean-up drive was participated in by young leaders from the different schools in Gonzaga, Sta. Ana and this town.

The young leaders are all members of the Youth for Peace-Cagayan, a youth organization organized by the 17th IB through the leadership of Baylosis and Lieutenant Colonel Leopoldo Acerden of the 12th Civil Relations Team.

Baylosis said the youth organization was created to help the government promote environmental awareness and encourage public participation in the development of national and local integrated, comprehensive and ecological waste management programs.

Baylosis lauded the initiative of the youth leaders for collaborating with them in a bid to rally the zero-waste campaign and to take part in reducing the volume of toxic waste generated that may pose a substantial threat or potential danger to human health or the environment.

GRP panel chair regrets that the NPA has decided to withdraw their unilateral ceasefire

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 3): GRP panel chair regrets that the NPA has decided to withdraw their unilateral ceasefire

The Government Panel Chair Secretary Silvestre Bello III expressed regret ove the New People's Army's withdrawal from the unilateral ceasefire effective February 10, 2017.

In a statement, Secretary Bello said that "The last six months have given us a glimpse of the sort of peace that could emanate from the cessation of hostilities brought about by the re-opening of formal negotiations and the declaration of unilateral ceasefires by the Government of the Philippines (GRP) and National Democratic Front (NDF)."

He noted that violent clashes between the parties have gone down; displaced peoples and communities, particularly indigenous peoples, have begun returning to their homes; and economic investments and vital services have begun to flow into conflict-affected areas.

He added that "Beyond these, our law enforcers have also been able to focus their attention to other serious criminal and terrorist threats."

"The Government Panel negotiating peace with the National Democratic Front firmly believes that the unilateral ceasefire declared by both parties in August last year was instrumental in moving the peace process forward. The ceasefire has also provided our people the opportunity to participate in the bigger peace table, enabling them to voice out their positions on the ongoing negotiations," Secretary Bello added.

He emphasized that  despite the NPA’s withdrawal of their ceasefire declaration, the Government Peace Panel has recommended to the President that it stands by the unilateral ceasefire.

Bello said that "We look forward to meeting with our NDF counterparts for the fourth round of talks in April and to discuss the possibility of a bilateral ceasefire agreement on February 22, as agreed upon during the third round of talks held in Rome."

"It is our belief that such ceasefire agreement would set the ground rules on cessation of hostilities that could minimize, if not eliminate, the armed violence that affects communities, " he added.

"In the meantime, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) shall continue to provide protection and relief from the potential renewal of violence resulting from the NPA's recent declaration."

Moreover, Bello said the GRP Panel shall also "endeavour to continue the peace-building and development efforts in conflict areas with local government units at the forefront, supported by national agencies in the delivery of basic services to our people."

"Finally, we encourage all Filipinos to add their voices to the growing clamour of those directly affected by violent conflict, for continuing the ceasefire, and the chance to actively participate in the discussion for socio-economic and political reforms vital to the success of a final political settlement," Secretary Bello concluded. (OPAPP)

President Duterte to decide on ceasefire; firm on non-release of political prisoners

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 2): President Duterte to decide on ceasefire; firm on non-release of political prisoners

President Rodrigo Duterte is setting aside his decision for now on the lifting of the government’s unilateral ceasefire, saying, “I will decide in the fullness of God’s time.”

“So, nag-withdraw kayo (New People's Army) sa ceasefire. So am I supposed to do the same? Gaya-gaya, puto maya (So you withdrew from the ceasefire. So am I suppose to do the same? Imitate you? Just go ahead,” he said.

This was the reaction of the President on the decision of the New People’s Army (NPA) withdrawing its unilateral ceasefire effective on February 10.

The NPA cited the non-release of the political prisoners and the continued occupation of the military in their so-called territory.

While he has not decided on the ceasefire, the President also asked some sectors not to press him on amnesty and release of political prisoners because there are other branches to consider like Congress.  He said he has to consider the military’s side.

Speaking before some more or less 2,000 delegates to the 38th Philippine Association of Water Districts National Convention on Thursday at SMX Convention Center here, President Duterte said he cannot as yet release all political prisoners.

“Now they want 400 released. My God, that is already releasing all. Para na akong nag-amnesty, which is usually given after a successful negotiation. Kaya ang sabi ko huwag nyo akong ipitin (that’s why I said do not press me) because the military might not like it and then the military would oust me, would kill me, you have nobody talking to you," he said.

“Pag ang military magalit, hindi naman na hindi sila sang-ayon sa akin (If the military gets angry, it’s not that they are not amenable to me), but they would always support you if they think you are right,” he said.

The President said all that he was asking is a document which says that “we are now in a ceasefire mode, signed by the government of Oslo who’s offering their good offices for us to negotiate.”

“Eh 400 is 400. It is already as if the talks are over and there is a successful formula,” the President pointed out.

He said it was too much to ask reminding the other side that “this is a country that is not authoritarian."

“I head the Executive Department but I consult people and military especially in the matters. Of course, nobody stood up right on my face to say it is not good,” he said.

The President was even thankful to the Norwegian government for offering their good offices for the peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

The Royal Norwegian Government (RNG) is the third party facilitator of the peace negotiations.

NPA rebels harras air force detachment in Nasugbu, Batangas

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 2): NPA rebels harras air force detachment in Nasugbu, Batangas

Hours after the New People's Army (NPA) declared Wednesday (Feb. 1) it is terminating its five month-old ceasefire with the government, the rebels harassed a Philippine Air Force (PAF) detachment around 8:15 p.m. Wednesday in Sitio Buntog, Barangay Bulihan, this town.

Batangas Provincial Police Director Senior Superintendent Leopoldo Cabanag said the rebels fired at the Buntog Patrol Base manned by 30 personnel from the 730th PAF Combat Group.

No one was hurt in the incident and the rebels escaped after firing around 15 to 20 rounds.

The incident came two weeks after NPA rebels also stormed the security detachment of Costa del Hamilo Inc, the security agency of Pico de Loro Resort in Hamilo Coast, Barangay Papaya, also in Nasugbu, Batangas.

Termination of ceasefire offers mixed feelings among stakeholders

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 2): Termination of ceasefire offers mixed feelings among stakeholders

Local officials have expressed mixed feelings about the New People’s Army (NPA) declaration to terminate the unilateral interim ceasefire effective Feb. 10, 2017.

Misamis Oriental Governor Yevgeny Vincente Emano on Thursday said that he was saddened and “I fear of a renewed armed confrontation between the NPA rebels and the government troopers in the remote villages in the province.”

A renewed armed confrontation would mean displacing people, which would have an impact on the local government unit’s vigorous campaign to develop the local tourist industry, Emano said.

Emano, who worked hard to promote Misamis Oriental as the tourist destination in Mindanao, said he could not, but expressed the apprehension about the impact of the province’s tourism industry once armed hostilities erupt anew in the province.

Bukidnon Governor Jose Maria Zubiri, however, said that the termination of the unilateral interim ceasefire would have no effect on the peace and order situation in his province.

Prior to the declaration of the unilateral ceasefire in August last year, the military has reported a series of attacks and harassments against multinational and plantation companies in Bukidnon.

Bishop Felixberto Calang, of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) and one of the conveners of the Phil. Ecumenical Peace Platform, said he still hopes that the peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front would continue in spite of the setback.

He said that during the time of former Pres. Fidel Ramos, no ceasefire was observed by both parties and yet peace talks had continued.

“What is important right now is for us to see that there is no cessation of the talks even if it seems difficult, at the moment, to realize a cessation of hostilities,” Calang said in an interview Thursday.

He said that the process being undertaken at present by both sides “is an adjustment from the original sequencing of the agenda.

The cessation of hostilities is supposed to be tackled at the end when the roots of conflict are resolved. This also means that greater confidence building measures are needed to be worked out, Calang said.

Calang was referring to the released of the political detainees, stopping of militarization of communities, and discontinuation of the “Oplan Kapayapaan” (Operation Peace) as among the confidence building measures.

SOLCOM observes unilateral ceasefire, SOMO 'unless terminated by President'

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 2): SOLCOM observes unilateral ceasefire, SOMO 'unless terminated by President'

Amid the pronouncement of a New People’s Army (NPA) official in Mindanao on the lifting of its unilateral ceasefire effective February 10, a top official of the Southern Luzon command (SOLCOM) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said SOLCOM has remained “committed…to oberve unilateral ceasefire and suspension of military operations or SOMO will remain in effect unless terminated by the President.”

Lt. Gen. Ferdinand F. Quidilla, commanding general of Southern Luzon Command (Solcom) based in Camp Guillermo Nakar, Lucena City, said Thursday, "we remain committed to the order of the Commander-in-Chief President Rodrigo Duterte to observe unilateral ceasefire and suspension of military operation or SOMO will remain in effect unless terminated by the President."

Maj. Virgilio Perez, SOLCOM information officer, said Quidilla has directed all AFP units in Southern Luzon to remain on red alert status.

“Quidilla’s directive is to be vigilant to preempt any threat against lawless armed groups amid the pronouncement of a certain Jorge "Ka Oris" Madlos, NPA spokesperson, that they are lifting their unilateral ceasefire effective February 10,” said Perez.

Quidilla said the statement of Madlos has yet to be confirmed by their national organization (Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-and NPA) or if his statement has been officially recognized.

"Chief Peace Negotiator Fidel Agcaoili, in his statement Wednesday, said there has been no orders from CPP-NPA leaderships to revoke its unilateral ceasefire hence the unilateral ceasefire remains in effect," said the SOLCOM chief.

Quidilla gave assurance to the community in his area of responsibility, particularly in Southern Luzon, that includes the Bicol Region, that they will continue to heed the call of the people for a just and lasting peace.

He said Quezon province and the provinces of Sorsogon and Masbate in Bicol have remained as their priority areas in Southern Luzon.

"We will continue to assist civil authorities in the delivery of basic services and in securing the communities," he added.

NPA abduction, killing of unarmed military personnel show they are not interested in peace talks -- EMC

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 3): NPA abduction, killing of unarmed military personnel show they are not interested in peace talks -- EMC

The New People's Army (NPA) decision to abduct and kill soldiers, going about their unlawful business, demonstrate the former's disregard for the ongoing peace talks.

These were the sentiments of Eastern Mindanao Command (EMC) head Lt. Gen. Rey Leonardo B. Guerrero after receiving reports that two troopers from the 39th Infantry Battalion were abducted Thursday and another three, from the 8th Infantry Battalion, who were earlier reported missing, were found riddled with bullets in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon Wednesday afternoon. 
These incidents took place shortly after the NPAs announced that they will be terminating their unilateral ceasefire, which took effect last August, effective 11:59 p.m. of Feb. 10.

 The abduction incident took place in Purok 7, Barangay Telafas, Columbio, Sultan Kudarat morning of Feb. 2. An estimated 10 rebels abducted two unarmed soldiers from the 39th Infantry Battalion who were aboard a motorcycle heading for Makilala, North Cotabato. Guerrero said the whereabouts of the two are still unknown as of posting. In the second, another NPA band abducted three unarmed personnel of 8th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Manalog, Malaybalay City who were on their way to obtain their subsistence allowance last Feb. 1. At about 5 p.m. on the same day, the lifeless bodies of the three soldiers were found along the road at vicinity Sitio Kalib, Barangay Kibalabag, of the same city.  They were positively identified by the government security troops who responded to the scene.
With these developments, all EMC units are ordered to be on active defense mode.

Medal of Valor awards for 42 troopers of 'SAF 44' await Pres. Duterte's signature

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 3): Medal of Valor awards for 42 troopers of 'SAF 44' await Pres. Duterte's signature

The awarding of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Medal of Valor for the remaining 42 Special Action Force (SA) troopers who gallantly died in the Mamasapano massacre is just waiting to be signed by President Rodrigo Duterte, the Office of the Executive Secretary bared Friday.

In a statement, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said “that considering the acts of heroism amid gallantry demonstrated by all of the SAF 44, the remaining 42 will also be awarded the PNP Medal of Valor.”

Earlier, President Duterte vowed to award the prestigious Medal of Valor, the highest award that can be given to a policeman, to all members of the so-called SAF 44 during his meeting with the relatives of the slain elite troopers last January 24 in Malacañang.

The President ordered PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa to conduct a thorough review on the matter and furnish him with the result by the end of January.

“Look into it. Give me the result probably at the end of the month. If you think as a soldier that the 44 deserved the Valor, then recommend it and I will give it to them, all of them, the 44,” Duterte said.

On January 25, 2015, close to 400 elite SAF troopers entered the town of Mamasapano in Maguindanao to serve arrest warrants to two suspected terrorists -- Malaysian Jemaah Islamiyah leader Zulkifli bin Hir also known as Marwan and Filipino bomb maker Abdulbasit Usman.

They were able to kill Marwan but the operation triggered an intense firefight between two units of the police commandos and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

The clash led to the massacre of 44 SAF troopers who were trapped in two Mamasapano villages.

Of the 44, only two were awarded the Medal of Valor by then President Benigno Aquino III, while the rest were awarded the PNP Distinguished Conduct Medal.

The two Medal of Valor awardees were Senior Inspector Gednat Tabdi and Police Officer 1 Romeo Cempron.

With this development, the 42 remaining members of the SAF 44 are now set to receive the same awards and benefits of an awardee pending final approval by President Duterte.

Under Republic Act 9049, a Medal of Valor awardee gets a monthly gratuity of PHP20,000 separate and distinct from any salary or pension.

In the event of death of the awardee, the same shall accrue in equal shares and with the right of accretion to the surviving spouse until she remarries and to the children, legitimate or adopted or illegitimate until they reach the age of 18 or until they marry.

The remaining 42 SAP troopers are:

Sr. Insp. Ryan Ballesteros Pabalinas
Sr. Insp. John Garry Alcantara Erana
Sr. Insp. Max Jim Ramirez Tria
Sr. Insp. Cyrus Paleyan Anniban
Insp. Joey Sacristan Gamutan
Insp. Rennie Tayrus
SPO1 Lover L. Inocencio
PO3 Rodrigo F. Acob Jr.
PO3 Virgel S. Villanueva
PO3 Andres Viernes Duque Jr.
PO3 Vitoriano Nacion Acain
PO3 Noel Onangey Golocan
PO3 Junrel Narvas Kibete
PO3 Jed-In Abubakar Asjali
PO3 Robert Dommolog Aliaga
PO3 John Lloyd Rebammonte Sumbilla
PO2 Amman Misuari Esmulla
PO2 Peterson I. Carap
PO2 Roger C. Cordero
PO2 Nicky DC Nacino Jr.
PO2 Glenn Berecio Badua
PO2 Chum Goc-Ong Agabon
PO2 Richelle Salangan Baluga
PO2 Noel Nebrida Balaca
PO2 Joel Bimidang Dulnuan
PO2 Godofredo Basak Cabanlet
PO2 Franklin Cadap Danao
PO2 Walner Faustino Danao
PO2 Jerry Dailay Kayob
PO2 Noble Sungay Kiangan
PO2 Ephraim G. Mejia
PO2 Omar Agacer Nacionales
PO2 Rodel Eva Ramacula
PO2 Romeo Valles Senin II
PO1 Russel Bawaan Bilog
PO1 Angel C. Kodiamat
PO1 Windell Llano Candano
PO1 Loreto Guyab Capinding
PO1 Gringo Charag Cayang-o
PO1 Mark Lory Orloque Clemencio
PO1 Joseph Gumatay Sagonoy
PO1 Oliebeth Ligutan Viernes

Besides awarding them the Medal of Valor, President Duterte also assured their families that he would set “a day of remembrance” for the troopers.

“I will set a day. It will be known as ‘A Day of Remembrance’ for the SAF 44,” Duterte said.

2 ASG bandits bagged, numerous weapons seized in Sulu ops

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 3): 2 ASG bandits bagged, numerous weapons seized in Sulu ops

Operatives from Joint Task Force Sulu, conducting pursuit operations against Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits in Luuk town, Sulu have successfully arrested two of its members and recovered assorted weapons and other war materials Thursday afternoon.

The incident took place 4:30 p.m. at Sitio Kanjawali, Barangay Kan Kulak in the above-mentioned town, said 1st Infantry Division spokesperson Lt. Col. Benedicto Manquisquis.

The ASG members were nabbed by troopers from the 32nd Infantry Battalion.

Seized from the two were two fragmentation grenades, an M-16 automatic rifle with five short magazines and 20 pieces of 5.56mm ball ammunition, .30 caliber Browning automatic rifle with five magazines, two bandoleers, one backpack, one pair of combat boots, assorted battle dress uniforms and personal belongings and documents with high intelligence value.

Manquisquis identified the arrested bandits as Maijung Salyin, of Barangay Tandu, Luuk town and Nasser Ongah, Barangay Kambing, Kalingalan, Caluang, Sulu.

Pursuit operations are still ongoing as of this posting.

Jihadists invade Mindanao’

From The Standard (Feb 2): Jihadists invade Mindanao’

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday confirmed the presence of Islamic State jihadists trying to spread extremism in war-torn Mindanao.

In a speech before newly promoted officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Duterte expressed alarm over verified reports not only from the military but local officials claiming that Indonesian and Malaysian jihadists, along with their Middle East counterparts, have already entered Mindanao through the country’s southern backdoor.

“Now I’ve heard, not only from your report, but from the politicians who are there that there are about four to six Arabs… lecturing. They’re the most dangerous. Political officers are dangerous for us,” the President said. “We cannot just afford to allow them to spread [extremism].”

In the same speech, Duterte revealed that an Indonesian emissary had been sent to Manila to press him for action on the continued spate of kidnappings on the high seas by Islamic militants operating in the Philippines.

“There was a new report that an Indonesian was kidnapped, so a special emissary was sent by the [Indonesian] central government. And [the message was] urgent: What are we doing?” Duterte said after a late Monday night meeting with the visiting official.
PHOTO OP. President Rodrigo Duterte, commander in chief of the Armed Forces, poses Tuesday with newly appointed military officers after their oathtaking ceremony at Rizal Hall of Malacañang.
In November, the Philippines agreed to allow Malaysia and Indonesia to conduct hot pursuit of pirates in the country’s territorial waters as part of joint efforts to stop piracy and kidnapping.

“So I reminded him that we have this agreement. We have this understanding. Put it into practice and allow more ships,” Duterte said.

Over the weekend, the President admitted he could not control the ISIS problem and threatened to call off the ongoing peace talks with Moro rebel groups should they provide refuge to the Abu No. 2 leader, Isnilon Hapilon, who has been the rising figurehead of a handful of ISIS followers based in Basilan, Sulu and Central Mindanao.

The military has reported the death of several foreign jihadists in recent operations.

Hapilon recently left his lair in Basilan and moved to Central Mindanao to find out if the area is conducive to the establishment of a provincial caliphate for the ISIS.

Security officials said the homegrown terrorist groups had been uniting and evolving into just one group called Dawlatul Islamiyah Waliyatul Masrik or DIWM, and had chosen Hapilon as their sole leader in their aggressive efforts to be recognized by the ISIS.

Duterte called on Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to contain the fighting inside Marawi City and Lanao del Sur.

“I told Delfin Lorenzana, we have to contain the fighting. We cannot afford to allow it to spread, there are many who will die,” he said. “I said limit the fighting inside Marawi.”

On Wednesday, the Western Mindanao Command said at least five Abu Sayyaf gunmen were killed in fighting in Barangay Pugad Manual, Panamao, Sulu.

Lt. Col. Franco Alano, spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command, said the soldiers encountered the group of Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Alhabsy Misaya at 8 a.m.

Nine other bandits were wounded, as were to soldiers on the government side.

“Government troops are now in pursuit of the said terrorist group while other military units cordoned the area to restrict the movement of the fleeing terrorists,” Alano said.

The military has been carrying out an all-out offensive against the terror group in Sulu and Basilan upon orders of President Duterte.

Some of the terrorists led by Hapilon had reportedly been scouting for base in Central Mindanao particularly in Butig, Lanao del Sir.

The military has also been conducting all-out offensive in Butig against Hapilon and his supporters, the Maute Group led by brothers Omar and Muhammad.

Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Eduardo Ano said Haiplon was badly wounded and was on the run as the military keeps up the attack with close air and artillery support.

Tillerson, Trump and the South China Sea

From The Diplomat (Jan 28): Tillerson, Trump and the South China Sea (By Amitai Etzioni)

“The world should now get used to a president and administration that speak first and (maybe) think later.”

The reactions to statements by Secretary of State Nominee Rex Tillerson and the White House, that the U.S. would prevent China from accessing its own artificial islands in the South China Sea, show the difficulties foreign leaders and commentators have had in adjusting to the Trump administration.

The reactions include an op-ed in the state-run China Daily saying: “Such remarks are not worth taking seriously because they are a mish-mash of naivety, shortsightedness, worn-out prejudices, and unrealistic political fantasies. Should he act on them in the real world, it would be disastrous.” The more hawkish Global Times warned “Tillerson had better bone up on nuclear power strategies if he wants to force a big nuclear power to withdraw from its own territories”

These statements reveal that those who made them or those for whom they speak still think that we are in a world in which a statement by the White House or the Secretary of State reflects a worked-out policy, and is the result of deliberations and careful wording. Instead, the world should now get used to a president and administration that speak first and (maybe) think later. President Donald Trump has already built a record of statements that reflect a momentary sentiment or peeve or imagined facts, but not a thought-out policy.

Moreover, these statements are all written on ice. As soon as the sun rises, they melt away and can be replaced not merely by some modification but by a rather different position altogether. Thus, one day Trump criticizes the intelligence community and accuses them of being behind a smear campaign against him. Next, he claims that the rift between him and the CIA was made up by the “dishonest” media. For much of the campaign, and even after the election, he criticized the Iraq War. Then, at his speech to the CIA, after saying we should have taken Iraq’s oil, he says “maybe we’ll have another chance.” One moment, he says that Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia should be allowed to develop nuclear weapons, but then only a few moments later he says: “Biggest problem, to me, in the world, is nuclear, and proliferation.” No one should be surprised if he states tomorrow that China can have all the islands it wants because protecting them would cost too much or some other random thought.

One further notes that the key foreign policy players Trump appointed do not agree with him and each other on the main issues at hand. Should the U.S. reduce its overseas entanglements and commitments and focus on America first or make new commitments and expand its existing commitments? In the latter case, should the U.S. treat the South China Sea islands as if they are territories captured by China and snapped away from U.S. allies, and are of major military importance, or should they been seen to be of little import? Until the Trump foreign policy team meets and has a chance to see if they can agree on at least the major contours of the policy they are to follow, one best not view the early swaggering statements as anything more than a declaration that “we are more aggressive than [former U.S. President Barack] Obama.”

Once the principal players get together, they will face the following facts: The main islands that are under discussion are the Spratly Islands, which are claimed by several other countries, including the Philippines, which filed a claim against China with the Permanent Court of Arbitration. The Court ruled that China’s artificial islands should only be considered rocks or low-tide elevations under the Law of the Sea, and thus that China is not entitled to the territorial waters that it claims. However, since then the Philippines elected a new president, Rodrigo Duterte. He reached an agreement with China that allows Philippine fishing boats to operate around a disputed shoal. Is the U.S. going to insist on using its forces to promote the rights that the Philippines no longer claims? And how would this be achieved? China is sending fisherman – not warships. Would the U.S. intercept them and send them to Gitmo? Fire at them?

As I see it, the islands are of very little military value. They are like broken-down aircraft carriers that are marooned and are sitting ducks which would be wiped out in a case of war in a matter of minutes. Tetsuo Kotani, who specializes in maritime security at the Japan Institute of International Affairs, notes that even with anti-ship defenses, military installations on disputed islands would duplicate capabilities that China already has in Hainan: “They’re basically just sending a political message. I’m not sure what other role those troops could play.”

There is another way to look at the world according to Trump. It is known as the madman theory of war. Accordingly, if one party acts irrationally, other more leveled-headed parties will yield. There is also considerable agreement that such a “policy” is a very risky one. Sooner or later, someone will not yield and a clash will ensue.

Granted, China is not ready to take the U.S. on militarily. Hence, China is extremely unlikely to try and do so if Trump’s administration really sends its warships to prevent China from accessing the contested islands. However, it has other ways to hit back, above all by indirectly helping North Korea to develop its missile and nuclear program.

One cannot but hope that, once the Trump foreign policy team starts meeting, it will realize that core U.S. interests do not lie in dealing with the South China Sea islands, but in working with China to curb the nuclear buildup of North Korea, climate change, and jihadists, and to build a stable and growing world economy.

[Amitai Etzioni is a University Professor and Professor of International Relations at The George Washington University. His book, Foreign Policy: Thinking Outside the Box, was recently published by Routledge for Chatham House’s series “Insights.”]

Can China Patrols Help Duterte in the Philippines’ Terror War?

From The Diplomat (Feb 2): Can China Patrols Help Duterte in the Philippines’ Terror War?

The controversial president makes a surprising suggestion about Beijing patrolling neighboring waters.

Can China Patrols Help Duterte in the Philippines’ Terror War?
Image Credit: Flickr/US Navy
Since assuming the Philippine presidency last June, Rodrigo Duterte has developed a reputation for making headlines with his off the cuff statements on foreign policy, especially as they relate to the United States and China (See: “The Limits of Duterte’s US-China Rebalance”).

On Tuesday, Duterte once again raised eyebrows and made headlines when told members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that he had asked China if it could patrol the waters near the Philippines to help the Southeast Asian state tackle transnational threats ranging from piracy to terrorism.

“And by the way, I also asked China if they can patrol the international waters without necessarily intruding into the territorial waters of countries,” Duterte said in remarks at an oath-taking ceremony of Philippine military officers at the presidential palace.

“We would we glad if we have their presence there,” he added. He clarified that these patrols could be done by Chinese coast guard vessels and noted the example of Beijing’s anti-piracy patrols off the coast of Somalia.

Duterte’s comments understandably triggered much head-scratching. To be sure, Manila does face some serious threats around its waters, particularly the one million square kilometer tri-border area in the Sulu-Sulawesi Seas between the southern Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia. As I have detailed before, the area has become a hub for transnational organized crime and terrorist threats, with groups like the Abu Sayyaf Group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and others engaging in kidnappings, militancy, trafficking, and other illicit activities (See: “Confronting Threats in the Sulu-Sulawesi Seas: Opportunities and Challenges”).

The threats have only been rising. This month, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said in its annual report that the number of maritime kidnappings had hit a ten-year high last year, with the Sulu Sea specifically highlighted as an area of concern. And worries about growing links between the Islamic State (IS) and local militant groups in the Philippines have only grown, with Duterte, the first president to hail from the country’s south, joining a chorus of voices arguing that it could look to set up a caliphate in the region.

But it is also true that despite these challenges, maritime Southeast Asian states have traditionally dealt with them largely individually or among themselves rather than with extraregional actors. In addition to sensitivities because some of the surrounding waters are at the center of lingering interstate disputes – be it the Sabah issue between the Philippines and Malaysia or tensions in the South China Sea – there is also a suspicion among some countries about meddling by outside powers.

That’s partly why we have seen indigenous, interstate initiatives led by littoral states in recent years progress much more than those involving extraregional actors. The chief example here is the Malacca Straits Patrol (MSP), a set of maritime and air patrols as well as intelligence sharing efforts undertaken by Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand since the mid-2000s to crack down on piracy. But there is also the case of the nascent Sulu Sea trilateral patrols between the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia which holds promise (See: “The Other Sea That Dominated the 2016 Shangri-La Dialogue”). Duterte himself made a reference to these patrols in his remarks, revealing that he had just told a visiting special emissary from Indonesia to put the existing agreement into practice.

By contrast, efforts involving outside powers have often been discussed or carried out privately and publicly but have not gained as much steam. This is not just limited to China. As I have noted before, a case in point is the Regional Maritime Security Initiative (RMSI), a proposal launched during the George W. Bush administration which was initially meant to be a voluntary partnership between states to promote information-sharing and early warning to counter maritime transnational threats (See: “America’s New Maritime Security Initiative for Southeast Asia”). Media reports that the then-U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) chief Admiral Thomas Fargo had said that U.S. special forces and marines would patrol the Malacca Strait led to angry responses by both Malaysia and Indonesia, eventually leading to the initiative’s demise.

China has made several proposals of its own about how it intends to help Southeast Asian states contend with security threats, including patrols as well as exercises. Though these tend to be viewed as part of a zero-sum competition between the United States and China, Chinese interlocutors say they view such interactions as not only a way for Beijing to exert a growing security role in the region, but also to ease concerns about its maritime assertiveness (though it is precisely this assertiveness that can prevent these initiatives from taking off) (See: “Can China Reshape Asia’s Security Architecture?”).

Within the region, these Chinese proposals have been met with mixed feelings. That attests to the diversity of the subregion, the cautious approach that these countries take in calibrating their engagement with major powers while preserving their autonomy and security, and lingering anxieties about China’s rise more specifically.

This is not to say that some sort of maritime cooperation between Southeast Asian states and outside powers is impossible. Indeed, there is already some of this going on, even though they often do not make the headlines. For instance, last June, in the midst of the 2016 Shangri-La Dialogue and in between the bilateral phases of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercises that Washington does with the Malaysian and Philippine militaries, the U.S., Philippine, and Malaysian navies conducted a coordinated multilateral training activity in the Sulu Sea. The interaction, which had long been in the works, was a good example of how Washington could help facilitate existing cooperation already occurring between regional states in the Sulu Sea including the Philippines while also multilateralizing its own exercises.

The cancellation of CARAT Philippines under Duterte announced last year as well as his continued pursuit of diversification of Manila’s alignments away from Washington may make him wary of considering greater cooperation with the United States despite the fact that it is the more obvious choice, and may also account for why he is approaching China instead (See: “How Much Will Duterte Wreck the US-Philippines Alliance?”). But as has been the case with his predecessors, he could also have a change of heart further down the line as the Philippines’ relationships with both Beijing and Washington under new president Donald Trump evolve.

As for Duterte’s latest initiative for Chinese patrols, this could end up being the latest in a string of them that make the headlines but do not end up taking off at all. But if it does end up gaining steam, that will depend not just on what Duterte wants, but how the other neighboring states perceive this as well how Beijing responds in line with the capabilities it has as well as its willingness to do so.

Other countries will no doubt want to have a say in the extent to which external powers are patrolling their waters, which have already become a concern in China’s case with respect to the South China Sea in particular.

In the context of the China-Philippines relationship, this is all quite new. The Philippine military is used to turning to its longstanding ally the United States, as well as its allies and partners, for new opportunities in confronting challenges. Over the past few decades, China has been considered a security threat or challenge even as previous governments have engaged on other areas like economic and people-to-people ties, largely due to lingering disputes in the South China Sea.

Under Duterte, there is some nascent security cooperation underway, including between the two coast guards following the signing of an agreement during his visit to Beijing last October. But it is nowhere near the kind of collaboration or level of trust that would have paved the way for Chinese patrols of surrounding waters as Duterte called for.

Of course, that could all change. If it does, we will likely hear more specifics, including where and how these patrols occur as well as who they involve. As is often the case with new patrol proposals, whether or not they will materialize will depend on the specifics; precisely the kind missing from Duterte’s remarks this week.

Briton plotted to join Abu Sayyaf jihadists

From ABS-CBN (Feb 3): Briton plotted to join Abu Sayyaf jihadists

LONDON, United Kingdom - A British supermarket worker was convicted Thursday of preparing to fight with Philippine jihadists Abu Sayyaf.
Ryan Counsell, 28, was found guilty of preparing for acts of terrorism, notably having a bomb-making manual and buying various military-style clothes and equipment.

Counsell had booked to fly on July 13 last year to the southern Philippine port of Zamboanga, the closest city to Basilan island, a stronghold of Abu Sayyaf, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.

Abu Sayyaf is listed as a banned terrorist group in Britain, the jury at Woolwich Crown Court in southeast London heard.

He had bought military equipment to "engage in combat or support an extremist group", the court was told.
Jurors heard how Counsell had spent almost £900 ($1,130; 1,050 euros) on "heavy-duty, military-style boots, combat trousers, camouflage clothing, knee and elbow pads, a monocular scope, rifle magazine pouches and a cheek pad to be attached to the stock of a rifle".

He had a bomb-making manual and documents providing "practical advice for someone wanting to travel to Syria to join Islamic State".

Counsell, from Nottingham in central England, had a copy of the Al-Qaeda terror group's online magazine Inspire, which contained an article titled "Make a bomb in the kitchen of your Mom".

The material demonstrated that Counsell had a "profound and enduring interest in extremist Islam, jihad and the propaganda of Islamic State and similar groups", a lawyer for the state Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) told the court.

Counsell claimed his planned trip to Zamboanga was for charitable relief work in an aid camp.

The married father-of-one said he watched terrorist videos because he wanted to learn more about propaganda.
"Ryan Counsell meticulously planned his attempt to join a terrorist organisation which is responsible for atrocities across the Philippines," Sue Hemming, head of the CPS counter-terror division, said after the verdict.

"He attempted to conceal his plan but prosecutors were able to successfully demonstrate his true intent to the jury."

Counsell will be sentenced on March 3.

CPP-NPA is still a terrorist group, U.S. says

From ABS-CBN (Feb 3): CPP-NPA is still a terrorist group, U.S. says

Ron Gagalac@rongagalac 15 hours ago
US State Dept: CPP-NPA is a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, it continues to meet the criteria for such designation.
The U.S. State Department on Thursday said it still considers the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), a foreign terrorist organization (FTO).
U.S. State Department deputy spokesperson Mark Toner, in a message to ABS-CBN News, said "the CPP/NPA is a designated FTO and it continues to meet the criteria for such a designation."

The declaration placed uncertainties on the reported plans of the Philippine government to push for the delisting of the group's founding chairman, Jose Maria Sison, from the list of international terrorists to pave the way for his intent to come back to the Philippines to meet with President Rodrigo Duterte without being arrested.

The delisting was one of the recommendations agreed upon by the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) during the peace negotiations in January.
The Duterte administration believes there is reason to delist Sison, since he is party to the ongoing peace negotiations.

Toner offered no explanation on why the CPP-NPA continues to be designated as an FTO.

U.S. State Department sources said delisting a person or group designated as an FTO entails a "very deliberate process" that will take time for Washington to approve.

The CPP-NPA was first designated as a terrorist organization in August 9, 2002. According to the U.S. State Department, the NPA is a Maoist group formed in 1969 with the aim of overthrowing the government through protracted guerrilla warfare.

Sison, the NPA's founder, allegedly directs CPP and NPA activity from the Netherlands, where he lives in self-imposed exile.

Although primarily a rural-based guerrilla group, "the NPA had an active urban infrastructure to support its terrorist activities and, at times, used city-based assassination squads" the U.S. State Department said.
It added that the CPP-NPA has a history of attacking U.S. interests in the Philippines.

It said that in 1987, the CPP-NPA killed three American soldiers in four separate attacks in Angeles City. In 1989, the CPP-NPA issued a press statement taking credit for the ambush and murder of Col. James Nicholas Rowe, chief of the Ground Forces Division of the Joint U.S.-Military Advisory Group.

FTOs are designated by the U.S. Secretary of State in accordance with Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). FTO designations play a critical role in the fight against terrorism and are an effective means of curtailing support for terrorist activities, the U.S. government said.

Duterte to Reds: Do not coerce me, military might not like it

From the often pro-CPP online publication the Davao Today (Feb 2): Duterte to Reds: Do not coerce me, military might not like it

President Rodrigo Duterte (Rene B. Lumawag/Presidential Photo)

President Rodrigo Duterte broke his silence on the decision of the Communist Party of the Philippines’  termination of its unilateral ceasefire declaration.

In his speech during the 38th National Convention of the Philippine Association of Water Districts, Duterte said the revolutionary forces should not coerce him as he had already “conceded too much, too soon.”

“Huwag n’yo akong ipitin because the military might not like it. And then the military would oust me, would kill me, you have nobody talking to you,” Duterte added.

“’Pag ang military magalit, hindi naman na hindi sila sang-ayon sa akin, but they would always support you if they think you are right,” Duterte said.

Duterte reiterated that he has already released communist top leaders, including the Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, whom he described as the “ideologues”.

Duterte said releasing the almost 400 political prisoners is similar to having him grant them amnesty. He said amnesty usually comes after a successful negotiation.

“Now they want 400 released. My God, that is already releasing all. Para na akong nag-amnesty, which is usually given after a successful negotiation,” he said.

“It is already the talks are over and there is a successful formula. So what is there to show?” he said.

The CPP Central Committee and the National Operations Command of the NPA announced on Wednesday morning the termination of their unilateral ceasefire effective 11:59 pm on Feb. 10.

The CPP and NPA cited two reasons for terminating their ceasefire, including the failure of the government in its “obligation to amnesty and release all political prisoners” under the previously signed agreements – Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.

The communists said the release of the prisoners is “a matter of justice and in fulfillment of the promise of President Duterte.”

“The unilateral ceasefire declaration was issued on the mutual understanding with the GRP that such releases will take effect within 60 days of August 28. Such was the context why the GRP panel approached the NDFP towards the end of October seeking an extension of the CPP/NPA’s declaration with a promise that around 200 political prisoners were set to be released,” it said.

The CPP and NPA also said the government took advantage of the ceasefire to “encroach” their territories.

“Across 164 municipalities and 43 provinces, the GRP’s armed forces have occupied at least 500 barrios which are within the authority of the revolutionary government,” it said.

Duterte had previously announced that he will not grant the release of all political prisoners unless he sees a bilateral ceasefire signed by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the CPP’s political wing which engages in the peace negotiations with the government peace panel.

“I’m just asking for a document which says that we are now in a ceasefire mode, signed by the government of Oslo who’s offering their good offices for us to negotiate. Now, if you ask too much, this is a country that is not authoritarian,” he said.

Duterte explained that he has to consult other agencies, including the military.

“Of course, nobody stood up right on my face to say it is not good. But during our talks, on our coffee time relaxed moments, they would make suggestions. And you can get vibration of what they want,” he said.

“Mahirap iyang akala ninyo ako lang kasi nanalo ako, tapos ako na. Hindi ako diktador ah (It’s difficult when you think that because I won, it will just me who will decide. I am not a dictator). And I have to be very, very careful. There is Congress to consider, which is a co-equal body,” he said.

But Duterte did not mention whether he will reciprocate the decision of the CPP and NPA. He said he will decide “in the fullness of God’s time.

Duterte reaffirms role of military in drugs war

From the Business World (Feb 3): Duterte reaffirms role of military in drugs war

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte on Thursday reiterated his intention to involve his military in a leading role in his deadly drug war, while vowing to kill more traffickers and addicts.

This handout photo from the Presidential Photographers Division (PPD) taken and released on February 2, 2017 shows Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte holding a list of government officials who are allegedly involved in the drug trade during a speech in Davao City in the southern island of Mindanao. -- AFP
“I’m taking in the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and raising the issue of drugs as a national security threat so that I will call on all the armed forces to assist,” Mr. Duterte said, while promising to kill more “son of a bitch” drug addicts.

His comments were the first following a report from Amnesty International that the killings in the drug war, in which more than 6,500 people have died in seven months, may amount to crimes against humanity.

They were also the clearest signal of Mr. Duterte’s plans for the drug war, after he admitted this week the police force that had taken the leading role was “corrupt to the core” and said they would no longer be allowed to take part.

Mr. Duterte’s moves against the police he had entrusted as his frontline troops came after a series of scandals emerged over the past month in which police were caught committing murder, kidnapping, extortion and robbery using the drug war as cover.
In one of the highest-profile cases, anti-drug officers kidnapped a South Korean businessman then murdered him inside the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters as part of an extortion racket, according to an official investigation.

Then Amnesty on Wednesday accused police of systemic human rights abuses in the drug war, including killing defenseless people, fabricating evidence, paying assassins to murder drug addicts and stealing from those they killed.

It also said police were being paid by their superiors to kill, and documented victims as young as eight years old.

“The police are behaving like the criminal underworld that they are supposed to be enforcing the law against,” said the human rights monitoring group which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977. Amnesty further warned of possible crimes against humanity and added that the International Criminal Court may need to investigate.

However, Mr. Duterte was unrepentant on Thursday as he launched a profanity-laced tirade against his critics and rejected charges of human rights abuses.

He resumed his tirades against the United States, now under the leadership of Republican Donald J. Trump, and threatened not to send an ambassador there.

Mr. Duterte also warned that Washington’s “picking fights” with Beijing would put his country in harm’s way. “I went to China. Now you keep on pushing us. Assert, assert, assert... It will create friction. So I go out and picking fights? What do you think will happen to this country? It’s massacre. Where is the battleground? The Republic of the Philippines,” he said.

White House Spokesman Sean Spicer in his comments last month signaled a sharp departure from years of cautious US handling of China’s assertive pursuit of territorial claims in Asia. “The US is going to make sure that we protect our interests there,” he said when asked if Mr. Trump agreed with comments by his secretary of state nominee, Rex Tillerson. On Jan. 11, Mr. Tillerson said China should not be allowed access to islands it has built in the contested South China Sea.

Mr. Duterte also vented his ire at the European Union, the National Democratic Front, and the Catholic Church.

At length, he congratulated the country’s water districts on this occasion, being the 38th National Convention of the Philippine Association of Water Districts in Davao City.

Mr. Duterte cited the Davao City Water District (DCWD), among other agencies, saying the district has embarked on tapping the surface water of Tamugan River. He expressed hope that DCWD and its partners will be able to deliver bulk water to a much wider area in Davao City.

NPA recruitment continuing

From the Business World (Feb 3): NPA recruitment continuing

THE Philippine Army reported that it has monitored the continued recruitment activities of the New People’s Army (NPA) in hinterland areas.

At the recent Peace and Order Council meeting in Bacolod City, Captain Eduardo Precioso, 303rd Infantry Brigade’s Civil Military Operations officer, said they have recorded 26 non-violent activities of the NPA in the region, including recruitment activities, mostly in northern Negros.

Mr. Precioso said they have also monitored the consolidation of armed rebels in various areas, putting the estimated number of armed members in Negros at 203, with 237 firearms in their possession.

Priest-turned-rebel Frank Fernandez disputed the numbers. -- The Freeman

4 soldiers killed, others missing in NPA attacks

From the Business World (Feb 3): 4 soldiers killed, others missing in NPA attacks

THE military’s 8th Infantry Battalion reported that New People’s Army (NPA) members abducted and killed three soldiers in Barangay Kibalabag, Malaybalay City on Wednesday afternoon. Civilian witnesses reported the incident after hearing gunshots while one among them saw three individuals lying on the ground. Authorities found the three who turned out to be soldiers who went missing earlier that day.

In Manay, Davao Occidental, the military said NPA members waylaid a police and military team who were verifying the reported extortion activities of the rebels in two villages, resulting in the death of a soldier, 2nd Lt. Miguel Victor Alejo. Village officials complained to the police about the NPA extortion activities, prompting the two government law enforcement units to team up and check on the situation.

In Columbio, Sultan Kudarat, armed men abducted two soldiers early morning yesterday. Based on the military report, soldiers in plain clothes were on their way to the town from their detachment when the armed men, suspected to be NPA members, grabbed them. Residents reported the incident to the town police. The captives are believed to have been brought to the mountainous area within the boundary of Columbio and Matanao, Davao del Sur.

NDF: NDFP panel tells GRP panel that they could “talk while fighting”

Propaganda statement posted to the National Democratic Front Philippines (NDFP) Website (Feb 1): NDFP panel tells GRP panel that they could “talk while fighting”

National Democratic Front of the Philippines
Negotiating Panel
NDFP Media Office
Press release

 February 1, 2017

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) today assured the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) that the recently announced termination of the NDFP’s unilateral ceasefire does not mean the termination of the peace negotiations.

NDFP panel chair Fidel Agcaoili gave this assurance as he formally notified the GRP of the termination of the revolutionary forces’ unilateral ceasefire declared on 28 August 2016.

In a letter addressed to GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III, Agcaoili reminded him that both of them have had the experience of “talking while fighting,” especially during the time of President Fidel Ramos.

Photo: JonB / Altermidya

Agcaoili said they succeeded in forging 12 agreements, including the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, the first item in the substantive agenda, which was drafted and signed under Ramos’ term and later approved in the third month of the Estrada regime.

Another important accord signed during Ramos’ time was The Hague Joint Declaration, which is the framework agreement of the peace negotiations that defines the purpose and objective of the talks, the principles guiding the peace negotiations, the items in the substantive agenda and the modalities of the negotiations. According to The Hague Joint Declaration, the peace talks’ guiding principles are national sovereignty, democracy and social justice, and the items in the substantive agenda are human rights and international humanitarian law, socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

Still another was the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) which assures persons involved in the peace negotiations of exemption from harrasment, surveillance and arrest.
Agcaoili said the termination was prompted mainly by the failure of the GRP to amnesty and release close to 400 political prisoners, and its use of the unilateral ceasefire declaration as a cover for state security forces to engage in hostile actions, provocations or movements, surveillance and other offensive operations in the guise of peace and development, civil-military, peace and order, anti-drug operations and humanitarian missions.

MILF: Editorial - Well-taken appeal!

Editorial posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Feb 1): Editorial - Well-taken appeal!

 Thank you, Mr. President, for your frankness regarding the issue of terrorism! Your style of telling what is in your heart resonates to us, because that is also our way to deal with people especially like you who is the highest official of the land.
This explains why there is quickness in the re-engagement in and continuation of the GPH-MILF peace process under your administration.

President Rodrigo Duterte issued a statement appealing to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) not to coddle terrorists, otherwise he will be forced to order an attack on their camps.

This quotation below is part of his statement made at Camp Siongco in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao on January 27.

            “I am pleading, do not allow the Maute and the other terrorist groups to seek refuge in your camps, otherwise mapipilitan ako sabihin sa Armed Forces na pasukin ninyo,” Duterte said in a speech before soldiers in Maguindanao.”

To many people, the statement carries something that that should not be said at all to a “partner in peace”.  We don’t buy that since we know well the attitude of the president.

 By the way, since May 2002 the MILF and the government have been cooperating with each other in “isolating and interdicting” of kidnap-for-ransom groups and other criminal gangs operating in or near MILF areas or communities in Mindanao. Terrorism, without stating, is on top of the list, because there is yet no crime called “terrorism” in probably in all criminal or penal codes in the world today.

The cooperation is mainly through the government and MILF Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG), in tandem with the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH). So many success stories are attributed to the AHJAGs and CCCHs; in fact, kidnapping in Central Mindanao is zero since five years ago, mainly through their efforts.

 In this campaign, the MILF has given everything possible, subject to provisions of agreements signed with government. If the Mamasapano incident happened in January 2015, it was because the Philippine National Police (PNP) grossly violated the terms of these agreements especially the need for “prior coordination” even if the targets are high valued. We were attacked under cover of darkness; we only defended ourselves.

  Certainly, in this campaign, we can only do as much as we can, which is limited, because we are not yet clothed with legal authority and our resources are scarce.

But once the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is enacted into law and the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) is established, which the MILF leads, it would entirely be a new kind of ball game.  The sorry part of it, however, is that until now the appointment papers of the commissioners-nominees to the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) are not yet released by the government.

By the way, if the MILF agrees to combat these kidnapping, drug trafficking, and “terrorism”, the utmost consideration is because they are against the teachings of Islam. Other considerations are mere secondary.

 Terrorism is a menace and is an insult to man’s dignity and rationality. Allah says in the Qur’an: “…

Whosoever kills an innocent human being, it shall be as if he has killed all mankind, and whosoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind…” (Chapter 5, Verse 32)
The ISIS is declared by Muslim learned men (ulamas) worldwide as not an Islamic organization. Abubakar Al-Baghdadi, so-called leader or caliph, was once a prisoner of the United States in Iraq, but upon the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2009, the successor of Osama bin Laden, Baghdadi was released by the US for “unclear reasons”.