Wednesday, February 8, 2017

NPA officer linked to Army slay nabbed

From the Manila Times (Feb 8): NPA officer linked to Army slay nabbed

A community organizer and alleged officer of the New People’s Army (NPA) linked to the murder of an Army lieutenant in Cadiz City, Negros Occidental seven years ago was arrested by operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) on Tuesday night.

Army Capt. Eduardo Precioso, 303rd Infantry Brigade Civil Military Operations chief, said Rowena Quilop Navarro, allegedly a finance officer of the NPA, was nabbed on San Juan Street, Bacolod City

Navarro ’s arrest was by virtue of an arrest warrant for murder issued by Cadiz Regional Trial Court Judge Renato Muñez, for the killing of 1Lt. Archie Polenzo in March 2010.

Precioso said Navarro was also arrested in 2010 for arson but was released from jail after posting bail.
The suspect was again issued an arrest order for murder in 2011 but her lawyer, Archie Baribar, claimed the operatives nabbed the wrong person.

“The name specified in the arrest warrant is Rowena Navarro but the one they arrested is Rogina Navarro-Quilop,” Baribar said adding it was “a case of illegal arrest.”

But Precioso insisted that “Rowena and Rogina are one and the same person.”

Clarissa Sinco-Lagatan, chairperson of human rights group Karapatan in Negros Occidental has confirmed they have a member by the name of Rowena Navarro- Quilop.

Troops, NPA clash in Zamboanga del Sur

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Feb 8): Troops, NPA clash in Zamboanga del Sur

A CLASH between the government forces and the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels took place in the province of Zamboanga del Sur, the military said Wednesday, February 8.
Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) information officer Jo-ann Petinglay said the clash occurred around 1:15 p.m. Wednesday in the village of Mati, Tigbao, Zamboanga del Sur.
Petinglay said it lasted for about seven minutes after which the NPA rebels, belonging to the Sandatahang Yunit Panggubatan Kara of the NPA’s Western Mindanao Regional Party Committee, fled to different directions.
The information officer said the clash ensued when the troops chanced upon the NPA rebels following receipt of intelligence report about the presence of the rebel group in the village of Mati, Tigbao,
She said the troops have recovered four units of mobile phones, ammunitions for AK-47 rifle and caliber .45 pistol, medical kits, and backpack with personal belongings and documents of high intelligence value.
Petinglay added the troops are tracking down the fleeing NPA rebels.
The military continues to assist the police and the local government units in the intensified conduct of law enforcement operations to expedite the arrest of NPA members in Zamboanga del Sur.
“We will not allow the NPA to create fear and havoc in any of the communities under Wesmincom area of operations, we will make them want to surrender and go back to the folds of the government,” Wesmincom Chief Carlito Galvez Jr. said.

1 dead, 2 injured in Capiz encounter

From the Sun Star-Iloilo (Feb 8): 1 dead, 2 injured in Capiz encounter

A SOLDIER of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) was killed while two others were hurt in an encounter between the AFP and New People’s Army (NPA) in Tapaz, Capiz, Tuesday, February 7.
Corporal Ricky Bill Fariñas was killed while Sergeant William Viado and Private First Class Donald Lisbo were hurt when an improvised explosive device blasted during the combat operation initiated by 61st Infantry Battalion (IB) to NPA’s campsite in Tacayan village, Tapaz, Capiz around 6:15 a.m.
“When the ceasefire was lifted, we initiated offensive operations against the NPA.
While we were heading towards the objective of the operation, we did not know that there was an improvised explosive device and when it was activated, our (soldiers) were hurt,” 61st IB Commander Leonardo Peña told the Philippine News Agency-Iloilo.
Fariñas died on the spot while Viado and Lisbo were rushed to Dr. Ricardo S. Provido Sr. Memorial District Hospital in the town of Calinog, Iloilo for treatment.
Peña said they were already expecting an encounter with the NPA since the area is “very influential.”
“Actually, we received series of reports about the (campsite) of NPA in that area during the time of ceasefire, but we cannot initiate offensive operations since it was prohibited and we respected the unilateral ceasefire,” said Peña.
President Rodrigo Duterte lifted the government’s unilateral truce with NPA on February 3, two days when the NPA announced that it will end its ceasefire on February 10.
The president said he tried to extend peace with the communist rebels but many soldiers were still killed.
Peña said the killing of one soldier will not stop them from initiating future combat operations against the NPA. “We will continue the operation.” said Peña.

Joma Sison asks: Why terminate peace talks?

From the often pro-CPP online publication the Davao Today (Feb 8): Joma Sison asks: Why terminate peace talks?

Founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines Jose Maria Sison (left) meets Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr (right) during the third round of the GRP-NDF peace talks in Rome, Italy. (Zea Io Ming C. Capistrano/
The founding chairperson of the Communist Party of the Philippines, Jose Maria Sison is clueless why the Philippine government had to terminate peace talks despite the advances it made since the formal resumption last year.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, the 78-year old Sison wrote: “One more important question for everyone: Why terminate the peace negotiations when the third round of formal talks in Rome was successful and scheduled the fourth round in Oslo for April 2-6?”

Sison addressed his post to NDF legal counsel Atty Edre Olalia who previously explained to the media the issue surrounding the order to rearrest NDFP consultants who were granted temporary liberty through bail to join the peace talks last year.

On Wednesday, the CPP Central Committee and the New People’s Army National Operations Command announced the termination of its unilateral ceasefire effective on Friday, Feb. 10.

President Rodrigo Duterte reciprocated by lifting the government’s own ceasefire declaration immediately on Friday, Feb. 3.

Duterte followed then announced the termination of the talks on Saturday, Feb 4. He also called the CPP, NPA, and NDFP as terrorist organizations reacting to the killing of soldiers even while the unilateral ceasefire is still standing.

Duterte also ordered the rearrest of the Communist negotiators.

But Sison said it should be noted if Duterte made the proper formal notice of termination of the JASIG and the peace negotiations. He also urged everyone to read the Joint Statement signed by both parties during the third round of talks in Rome, Italy last January 25.

“You should also consider in the first place, whether Duterte made the proper formal notice of termination of the JASIG and the entire peace negotiations. Is it done with ranting the termination by Duterte in a press conference and then by Dureza following it up by putting the so-called announcement of termination on the Joint Stationery of the Office of the President and OPAPP,” Sison said.

Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza on Tuesday submitted a formal notice terminating the JASIG which was addressed to Sison and NDFP peace panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili.


During the opening of the third round of talks, Sison said the two panels can negotiate “in a non-adversarial way and overcome any obstacle by addressing the root causes of the armed conflict.”

Sison also cited that the unilateral ceasefire by both parties can easily be turned into a “more stable bilateral ceasefire upon the release of all political prisoners by the GRP in compliance with the CARHRIHL.”

Initial gains

Among the gains of the talks were the signing of the supplemental guidelines on the Joint Monitoring Committee and the ground rules for the meetings of the reciprocal working committees on social and economic reforms.

These documents were seen to aid the acceleration of the negotiations and the operationalization of the CARHRIHL or the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and the International Humanitarian Law, the first major agreement signed by both Parties in 1998.

Both parties have already exchanged their complete drafts on CASER “more or less 10 days” before the opening of the talks in Rome.

According to the Joint Statement, the RWCs on SER have tackled the first four parts comprising the CASER draft.

For the first part, the RWCs on SER reaffirmed their April 2004 agreement on the Preamble and the Declaration of Principles. However, unresolved provisions and new insertions from the NDFP will be submitted to the negotiating panels for resolutions.

The RWCs discussed on the Bases, Scope, Applicability (Part 2) and they have identified points of agreement, while the Part 3 entitled Desired Outcomes was made.

The RWCs have also started discussing Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (Part 4).

The committees agreed “in principle,” to the free distribution of land to farmers and farm workers as part of the governing frameworks of CASER.

‘Federal Republic of the Philippines’

The parties exchanged full drafts of the tentative Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms.

The parties have exchanged views on the proposed federal form of government.

In his closing statement read by NDFP senior adviser Luis Jalandoni, Sison is optimistic that the Parties can be ready for the founding of the Federal Republic of the Philippines.

“When the fourth round of talks comes, the goal of finishing the unified drafts of the CASER and CAPCR shall be in sight,” he said.

Sison said they are hoping that before the year ends the comprehensive agreements will be ready for approval.

NPA liaison officer killed by CIDG after resisting arrest in Davao

From GMA News (Feb 8): NPA liaison officer killed by CIDG after resisting arrest in Davao

[Video report]

An alleged liaison officer of the New People's Army was killed after supposedly resisting arrest by operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Davao City, GMA News' Tek Ocampo reported in "Balita Pilipinas" on Wednesday.

The CIDG-11 was supposed to serve an arrest warrant against Berdan Ramos, 40, for attempted homicide when he allegedly opened fire at the arresting officers.

Authorities recovered a caliber .38 revolver, live ammunition, and an improvised explosive device.

Davao City PNP chief Senior Superintendent Michael John Dubria said authorities tried to bring Ramos to the hospital but was declared dead on arrival.

"He violently resisted the operating troops and then there was a shoot out. He was injured and he was immediately brought to the hospital but on the way he was... when he arrived he was pronounced dead on arrival," Dubria said.

NPA assassin nabbed

From the Sun Star-Baguio (Feb 8): NPA assassin nabbed

CAMP Bado Dangwa -- After almost two years of hiding, a member of the New People’s Army was nabbed by authorities in Parapad, Ambiong, La Trinidad, Benguet February 8.
Police arrested Jacinto Faroden who was charged for the crime of frustrated murder by virtue of a warrant of arrest issued by Judge Joseph Patnaan, Presiding Judge, RTC, Branch 35, First Judicial Region, Bontoc, Mt. Province who recommended bail bond of P200,00for his temporary liberty.
Digbay is listed No. 70 in the Periodic Status Report on Threat Groups (PSRTG) for the 4th Quarter of 2016 and also included in the watch list of Kilusang Larangang Guerilla (KLG) Marco operating in Mt. Province.
 It can be recalled the suspect together with his other companions who are still at large waylaid SPO3 Wilfredo Degay while driving along the provincial road at Sitio Dugo Brgy. Poblacion, Sagada, Mt. Province on February 21, 2015.
With him during the ambush was his niece who was unharmed.
Currently, the Police Regional Office- Cordillera is steering a Regional Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Council (RJPSCC) Meeting with the different Law Enforcement Agencies to discuss regarding the suspension of Offensive Military/Police Operation and the ongoing clash between the AFP and NPA in the other areas of Mindanao.
PRO - COR in a statement urged all armed rebels to lay down their arms, to abandon the armed struggle and return to the comfort of their families and assist the police and other law enforcement agencies in protecting and serving the country instead.

Norway: All peace processes go through challenging phases

From GMA News (Feb 8): Norway: All peace processes go through challenging phases

Norway, the peace broker between the Philippine government and communist guerillas, on Wednesday said it is coordinating closely with both parties even after President Rodrigo Duterte terminated the talks this month.

Duterte last week lifted the government's six-month old truce and said that he is scrapping the peace talks as he accused the rebels of violating their own ceasefire, killing six soldiers and abducting two others in fresh fighting.

“We are in close dialogue with both parties. We know from experience that all peace processes are going through challenging phases,” Guri Solberg, Norwegian Foreign Ministry communication adviser, told GMA News Online via e-mail.

Solberg did not say if Norway received a formal notification from Manila stating that talks have been officially terminated.

Despite the scrapping of the negotiations aimed at ending more than four decades of communist insurgency, rebel leaders said they still want to participate in the talks.

Rebel adviser Luis Jalandoni said the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front would like to proceed with a previously scheduled dialogue on Feb. 22-25 in Oslo even without a ceasefire mechanism in place.

Duterte branded the rebel group as terrorists for killing six military men.

He also threatened to jail anew 17 rebel leaders who were freed last year to act as consultants for the CPP-NPA-NDF peace panel, but Jalandoni said a 1995 agreement with the government grants its members immunity from arrest.

Duterte also rejected the insurgents' demand to free 400 political prisoners and told the military to prepare for war against the rebels.

‘Conspiracy’ in peace talks collapse seen

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 8): ‘Conspiracy’ in peace talks collapse seen

Militant youths set protests on Feb. 10, 23, vs scrapping of peace talks when social justice reforms are on table; ROTC revival slammed

Youth protesters from the National Union of Students of the Philippines, League of Filipino Students and the Anakbayan will again stage protests, this time against the sudden cancellation of the peace talks between the Philippine government and the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, at a time when socio-economic reforms are being discussed. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO BY REM ZAMORA

Youth protesters from the National Union of Students of the Philippines, League of Filipino Students and the Anakbayan will again stage protests, this time against the sudden cancellation of the peace talks between the Philippine government and the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, at a time when socio-economic reforms are being discussed. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO BY REM ZAMORA

 Militant youth leaders have urged President Rodrigo Duterte to resume negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, questioning the timing of the peace process’ failure now that the socioeconomic roots of armed conflict are being tackled.

When Duterte scrapped the peace talks out of frustration with the communists’ demands, negotiators were discussing the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms, a vital document aimed at resolving economic grievances and societal inequalities in the country.

To express their dismay with the cancellation of the peace talks, from Anakbayan, the League of Filipino Students, the National Union of Students of the Philippines, and the College Editors Guild of the Philippines have announced that student groups will launch protest actions and walkouts on Feb. 10 and 23.

Anakbayan National Secretary-General Einstein Recedes said in a briefing that Duterte seemed to have succumbed to his emotions, all the while being egged on by the United States, the military, and the elite oligarchy.

“All-out war will not address landlessness, unemployment, and contractualization,” Recedes said, adding that “human rights violations will only increase without resolving the roots of conflict.”

“Whose interest are you pursuing? The interest of the public or the interest of the few in the ruling class?” he asked.

Recedes appealed to Duterte not to “listen to the saboteurs,” saying the President had been “too irritable and sensitive.”

“There is no fundamental change yet. You can’t just make the NPA (New People’s Army) surrender,” he said.

LFS national spokesperson JP Rosos said his group “is condemning the decision and pronouncements of the Duterte regime.”

Elaborating on the purported US connection, Rosos noted that Duterte’s move to scrap the peace talks came the day after the State Department said it still considered the Communist Party of the Philippines and armed wing New People’s Army to be a “foreign terrorist organization.”

Rosos called this an “attempt to prevent the resolution of the ongoing revolution by America and the ruling class” in order to continue “plundering the riches of the Philippines and profit off the Filipino people.”

At the same time, the youth leaders also denounced the plan to make the Reserved Officers Training Corps course mandatory for senior high school pupils.

“They want our country to be a garrison state and we are heading towards that,” Recedes said, adding that students and parents should be worried about the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ “vast record of human rights violations.”

He said that the program would be aimed at indoctrination and the promotion of fascism, and not discipline and nationalism as claimed by proponents. He added that students would be subject to violence and brainwashing.

NUSP national spokesperson Mark Lim said requiring ROTC, currently an optional course for college students, would instill “blind obedience and militaristic thinking” in students.

He also pointed to several incidents of violence against ROTC cadets, such as the 2001 murder of Mark Chua, a cadet from the University of Santo Tomas who exposed irregularities in the program. Chua’s death prompted the removal of the ROTC program’s mandatory status.

All-out war vs NPA ‘misguided, imprudent’ — think tank

From GMA News (Feb 8): All-out war vs NPA ‘misguided, imprudent’ — think tank

With no formal termination of the peace talks between the government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), an independent think tank on Wednesday described the declaration of an all-out war with the New People’s Army (NPA) as “misguided and imprudent.”

In a news release, the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) stressed that the all-out war should not have been declared because both panels have not yet decided to completely end the peace negotiations.

“[W]ith both GRP and NDFP officials expressing hints of not entirely sealing the doors to continue the peace talks, all the more is the reason for the armed forces to hold its fire,” CenPEG said.

Prof. Bobby Tuazon, director of CenPEG’s policy studies, said the GRP and the NDF panels should proceed with pushing for a bilateral ceasefire agreement as they have scheduled on February 22 in the Netherlands.

Tuazon said a bilateral ceasefire agreement would lessen armed conflict between the two parties.

“It was fine that both panels earlier declared unilateral declarations of ceasefires as a confidence-building measure to resume the talks. These ceasefires, however, were silent on mechanisms and clear provisions on how both sides will enforce their respective declarations,” the news release read, quoting Tuazon.

Moreover, the bilateral ceasefire will operationalize the Joint Monitoring Committee, which the CenPEG said is critical “because the peace talks involve national forces and center on the important agenda of social, economic, political, and constitutional reforms that may eventually be implemented nationwide.”

“The bilateral ceasefire committee can immediately assign the JMC to probe and resolve reports of ceasefire violations especially those that unfortunately happened since August,” the group added.

Respect agreements
Meanwhile, Prof. Temario Rivera, CenPEG chair, stressed the importance of recognizing and following earlier signed agreements and not putting the results of the earlier rounds of peace talks to waste.

“[The government] must respect all earlier agreements on the peace process and allow all NDFP consultants to participate in the resumption of negotiations without fear of arrest or harassment,” Rivera said.

“As a clear signal of its readiness to resume talks, the CPP-NPA-NDF can put all its armed units on a defensive mode and not to engage government forces unless attacked first,” he added.

Some breakthrough achieved during the previous rounds of peace talks included the agreement on the framework for the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms and a Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms.

“This level of talks is unprecedented and it would be unfortunate to allow the gains go to waste,” Tuazon said.

Meeting point
For his part, political analyst Prof. Ramon Casiple said both panels should come in a "meeting point" so that the peace process may resume and a bilateral ceasefire may be achieved.

“Meeting point ay magrelease ng gobyerno ng ilang [political prisoners], hindi lahat, lalo na ‘yung maysakit, matanda,” Casiple said in a Balitanghali interview on Wednesday.

“‘Yung kabilang panig naman, the only way na makabalik sa table ay pumayag sila sa bilateral ceasefire. Hindi na papayag ang gobyerno sa talking while fighting,” he added.

The NDFP has consistently demanded to the government to release some 400 political prisoners still languishing in prisons across the country.

They claimed, however, that the government has failed to grant this demand, causing them to terminate its unilateral ceasefire.

FAST FACTS: The JASIG in the peace talks

From Rappler (Feb 8): FAST FACTS: The JASIG in the peace talks

What is the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) all about in relation to the failed peace negotiations?

PROTECT. The Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) serves a protection for individuals involved in the peace talks.

PROTECT. The Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) serves a protection for individuals involved in the peace talks.

The administration of President Rodrigo Duterte was poised to be the “friendliest” with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) given the positive developments in the peace talks.

However, on Saturday, February 4, Duterte announced the termination of negotiations after he cancelled the ceasefire with the CPP’s armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).

The self-proclaimed “leftist” president tagged the people behind Asia’s longest-running insurgency as "spoiled brats" and the NPAs as “terrorists.” (READ: Duterte: Communist rebels are terrorists)

The obliteration of what was supposed to be a flourishing relationship reached a new low on Tuesday, February 7, when the Duterte administration terminated the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).

What is the JASIG anyway? How important is it in the big picture of the peace talks? Here are some highlights

JASIG ‘protects’ people involved in peace talks

JASIG is an agreement signed by the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) in 1995. (FAST FACTS: The CPP-NPA-NDF and the Oslo talks)

It essentially guarantees the immunity and safety of individuals involved in the peace talks.

They are subject to “free and unhindered passage” across the Philippines and also outside the country in relation to their responsibilities in the negotiations. In addition, they are also immune from “surveillance, harassment, search, arrest, detention, prosecution and interrogation or any other similar punitive actions.”

Guaranteeing immunity and safety not only prevents untoward incidents that may jeopardize the negotiations, but also protects negotiators and consultants, among others, from any threat that may affect the way they carry out their responsibilities.

The JASIG likewise allows parties involved to freely go to their constituents on the ground to consult and discuss the terms of the peace talks.

JASIG-protected people have ‘safe conduct passes’

Before anyone can invoke the joint agreement, they need to be identified and duly accredited by their own party first.

Among those who can be covered by the joint agreement are negotiators, consultants, and members of staff and security of each party. They are given identification documents or the safe conduct passes.

Aside from an identifying number, safe conduct passes also bear the official seal of the issuing party and include these details: name, sex, photo, birthday and birthplace, height, hair and eyes color, distinguishing physical features, designation or duty in the negotiations, and period of validity.

In 2014, however, CPP top leaders Benito and William Tiamzon were arrested even when they were supposedly protected by the JASIG at the time. The Left claimed their arrest was a violation of the joint agreement because after talks hit a snag in 2013, no "special notice of termination" that would have served to lift the joint agreement was issued.

Following this, members of leftist organizations said the JASIG has turned into a “bounty list” for the government.

2012 computer glitch

Then government chief negotiator in 2012, Alex Padilla, said the Tiamzons were not granted immunity because the verification process in that year failed. (READ: CPP chief, wife not covered by ‘immunity')

During the peace talks held in the Netherlands in 2012, the file containing the names of “underground” individuals protected by the JASIG was corrupted. This file supposedly included the Tiamzons.

Only one list that included 34 members of the NDFP negotiating panel was verified and eventually covered by the joint agreement.

What happens now?

At least 20 consultants were temporarily released in August 2016 as part of the formal resumption of the peace talks – an effort of the administration to end the conflict that has claimed thousands of lives. (READ: WHO'S WHO: Political prisoners released for Oslo peace talks)

Prior to the resumption of the peace talks, the NDF has constantly called out the imprisonment of its consultants over alleged trumped-up charges. The arrested consultants, they claimed, were protected by the joint agreement.

As the freedom granted by the courts to some freed consultants was expiring, the Philippine government, in a joint statement after the 3rd round of talks, said that it has committed to “file immediately the necessary manifestations in support” of extending the temporary liberty for the duration of the peace negotiations.

However, things now look very different as Duterte – after he declared the cancellation of the peace talks – also said he now wants to put back behind bars NDF consultants who were released.

NDF legal consultant Edre Olalia said a legal process has to be followed before they can be put back in jail. This process involves the issuance of court orders. (READ: NDF: No basis to arrest released communist rebels)

"Only the courts which granted them temporary liberty by virtue of cash bails can act or order whether or not they can be validly rearrested, if at all, and not by the unilateral action of the police nor the military, much less even by the mere instructions of the GRP President," he said on Monday, February 6.

It will also take 30 days for the termination of peace talks to take effect. Will the 3 rounds of negotiations both parties engaged in the past 6 months amount to nothing?

Suspected NPA official arrested in Bacolod

From the Sun Star-Manila (Feb 8): Suspected NPA official arrested in Bacolod

AN ALLEGED high-ranking New People's Army (NPA) was arrested Tuesday evening in Bacolod City, a military official confirmed Wednesday.

Lieutenant Erickson Rosana, Public Affairs Officer of the 3rd Infantry Division, said Rowena Navaro Quilop was arrested around 6:40 p.m. in the vicinity of San Juan Street, Barangay 10, Bacolod City.

She is facing murder charges before the Cadiz City Regional Trial Court.

The operation was conducted by joint teams from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), Bacolod City Police Office-Intelligence branch, and the regional special operations team.

Rosana said Quilop is the deputy secretary in the regional finance bureau of Komiteng Rehiyong-Negros, a sub-group of the NPA.

Quilop was detained at the CIDG regional office in Camp Alfredo Montelibano Sr. in Negros Occidental.

Suspected NPA official arrested in Negros

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 8): Suspected NPA official arrested in Negros

An alleged high-ranking regional officer of the New People’s Army has been arrested by authorities in Negros Occidental on Tuesday night, the military said.

Joint police and military team apprehended Rowena Navaro Quilop, alias Jhea, past 6 p.m. in San Juan Street, Brgy. 10 in Bacolod City, Lt. Col. Erickson Rosana, public affairs of Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, said on Wednesday.

Quilop is reportedly the deputy secretary of the Regional Finance Bureau of the Komiteng Rehiyonal – Negros.

The suspected communist rebel, who was facing murder charges, was brought to Negros Occidental Provincial Police Office.

Alleged NPA leader nabbed in Bacolod

From GMA News (Feb 8): Alleged NPA leader nabbed in Bacolod

An alleged official of the New People’s Army (NPA) was arrested by joint military and police personnel on Tuesday night in Bacolod City.

Lt. Col. Erickson Rosana, public affairs officer of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, identified the suspect as Rowena Quilop, alias Jhea, allegedly the deputy secretary of the regional finance bureau of Komiteng Rehiyong-Negros.

He said Quilop was nabbed around 6:40 p.m., Tuesday, in San Juan street, Brgy. 10, Bacolod City based on warrant of arrest issued by Regional Trial Court 6th Judicial Region, Branch 60, Cadiz City for murder.

The suspect was brought to Negros Occidental Provincial Police Office for booking and documentation.

Last Monday, Ariel Arbitrario, a National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant, was arrested by elements of Task Force Davao at a checkpoint in Davao City. With him then was Roderick Mamuyac, a labor organizer.

Arbitrario was detained at the Compostela Valley Provincial Jail in Tagum City while Mamuyac has been freed after the Nabunturan, Compostela Valley Regional Trial Court dismissed the murder charges filed against him.

Arbitrario was allowed to post bail and released last year so he could participate in the peace talks with the government.

The arrest came after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the termination of peace talks and the arrest of political prisoners who were released to join the nogotiations between the Philippine government and the NDFP.

Explosion, fire hit military base in Tarlac

From Rappler (Feb 8): Explosion, fire hit military base in Tarlac
(UPDATED) The military is still investigating the incident, but a spokesman assured the public that the camp was not attacked

FIRE AT THE BARRACKS. Fire hits a military barracks in Camp Aquino in Tarlac. Photos courtesy of Paul Dizon

FIRE AT THE BARRACKS. Fire hits a military barracks in Camp Aquino in Tarlac. Photos courtesy of Paul Dizon
An explosion, then a massive fire, hit the the barracks of soldiers belonging to the Army Suppport Command at Camp Servillano Aquino in Tarlac Tuesday night, February 7, causing panic among neighboring residents.
Ricardo Caisip, 77, said he was shaken awake by the loud explosion at the headquarters of the military's Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom). On Wednesday morning, he discovered that a shrapnel hit the roof of his house in Sitio Apalang in the city's Barangay Armenia.

Caisip said the bullet pierced the corrugated iron roof of his house and fell on the floor.

The military was alerted of the fire at 10:30 pm, according to Nolcom spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Alan Macatingrao. Fire out was declared before midnight.

There was no immediate estimate of damage.

The police said the explosion that preceded the fire hurt the commanding officer's wife, who was brought to the Nolcom hospital.

The Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, the Bureau of Fire Protection, and the Chinese Volunteer Fire Brigade of Tarlac City assisted in putting out the fire.

The military said it is still investigating the incident, but Armed Forces public affairs officer Colonel Edgard Arevalo assured the public that the camp was not attacked.

Arevalo said there may have been a failure in observing safety measures in handling ammunition inside the camp.

Photos of the fire were circulated on social media by residents of Tarlac on Tuesday night, with some posts linking the explosion to a "viral" police memo detailing an alleged Abu Sayyaf threat in another region, the Cordillera, which turned out to be a hoax.

Others linked it to the cancellation of the ceasefire between the military and the communist New People's Army.

AFP to hold 'localized peace talks' with communist rebels

From Rappler (Feb 8): AFP to hold 'localized peace talks' with communist rebels
'I'm sure there are so many NPA who want to go back to the mainstream. Let's give them the chance. Hindi naman lahat ng NPA gusto makipaglaban,' says AFP chief Eduardo Año

LOCALIZED TALKS. Despite the failed negotiations between the government and communists, the Armed Forces of the Philippines is set to engage in 'localized peace talks' with rebels in communities. Photo by Camille Elemia/Rappler

LOCALIZED TALKS. Despite the failed negotiations between the government and communists, the Armed Forces of the Philippines is set to engage in 'localized peace talks' with rebels in communities. Photo by Camille Elemia/Rappler
After the government announced it was scrapping its negotiations with communist rebels, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced on Wednesday, February 8, that it is set to engage in "localized peace talks."
AFP chief General Eduardo Año made the statement at his confirmation hearing on Wednesday, as he responded to questions from Senator Gregorio Honasan II.

He said this is not a new initiative as the military has done this even before the resumption of peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF) under the Duterte administration.
Asked about the prospects of having localized talks, Año told reporters after the hearing: "Yes, that is one alternative – localized peace talks. In fact, there are some local NPA commanders who are willing. Even during the ongoing peace negotiations, some of our commanders are talking to these NPA commanders. But we cannot disclose their identities."

"So kahit wala nang peace negotiations, kung i-a-allow, puwede tayo makipagusap sa local (So even if there are no peace negotiations, if it will be allowed, we can talk with them at the local level)," he added.

The AFP chief expressed confidence that not all members of the New People's Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), favor the group's decision to end the ceasefire with the government.

"I'm sure there are so many NPA who want to go back to mainstream. Let's give them the chance. Hindi naman lahat ng NPA gusto makipaglaban (Not all NPA want to fight)," Año said.

The AFP chief was apparently referring to the military's Internal Peace and Security Plan or Oplan Bayanihan, a strategy it adopted in dealing with the NPA during the administration of then president Benigno Aquino III.

Under Oplan Bayanihan, the AFP sought to convince rebels to give up their arms and return to mainstream society by offering them livelihood programs.

Who decided on ending ceasefire with gov't?

Referring to Jorge "Ka Oris" Madlos, who announced the termination of the NPA ceasefire with the government on February 1, Año said he was not sure if this was based on the decision of CPP founder Jose Maria "Joma" Sison, or CPP top leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon.
"'Yung decision ni Jorge Madlos (Regarding Jorge Madlos' decision), we don't even know if it's the decision of the Tiamzons or Joma. But it was Madlos who talked to the media and made the announcement. Hindi lahat ng NPA pabor doon sa ginawa niya (Not all members of the NPA favor his move)," the AFP chief said.

The government responded by lifting its ceasefire with the NPA by midnight of February 3, the same day President Rodrigo Duterte ordered it.

The Aquino administration had also pursued localized peace talks with communist rebels, after negotiations with the NDF got bogged down by what the government called the latter's "unrealistic demands."

These demands included the release of NDF consultants covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), and the scrapping of the Conditional Cash Transfer program and Oplan Bayanihan.

At the time, the names of the consultants were contained in a floppy disk kept by a third party, which was discovered to be corrupted and impossible to encrypt. The NDF pushed for the reconstitution of the list but the Aquino administration opposed it.

Duterte to meet with Leftist Cabinet officials on peace talks

From Rappler (Feb 8): Duterte to meet with Leftist Cabinet officials on peace talks
NAPC lead convenor Liza Maza says the fact that President Rodrigo Duterte has called for a meeting with them next week shows that 'there is always room for optimism' as far as the peace talks are concerned

PEACE TALKS. Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza meets with the CPP-NDF-NPA. Photo from Dureza's Facebook page

PEACE TALKS. Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza meets with the CPP-NDF-NPA. Photo from Dureza's Facebook page

Leftist Cabinet officials are hopeful the peace negotiations between the government and communist rebels will resume, as President Rodrigo Duterte has called for a meeting with them on the issue next week.

National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) lead convenor Liza Maza said on Wednesday, February 8, that Duterte informed her, Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, and Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano that they would discuss the scrapped peace talks.

Maza said Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, chief government negotiator in peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF), will join the meeting, which will be held sometime next week.

"I think the fact that he (Duterte) said we will talk about it, there is always room for optimism. Like I said, never say die. I think our role there is, the President knows our position on the peace talks, is for it to continue to give voice to our countrymen who are hoping for peace," Maza said before attending the housing summit at the National Housing Authority.

Mariano, Maza, and Taguiwalo earlier issued a statement urging the government and NDF to pursue the negotiations. They see the current talks as the most productive one compared to previous administrations, especially in terms of setting common ground on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER). (READ: Leftist Cabinet members: Continue peace talks for benefit of the poor)

Duterte terminated the peace talks with the NDF on Saturday, February 4, after he lifted the government's ceasefire with communist rebels. This followed the announcement of the New People's Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), that it was canceling its ceasefire with the government.

The President has also terminated the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), supposedly paving the way for the arrest of NDF consultants who were temporarily released from government detention to participate in the peace talks.

Despite the scathing remarks of Duterte, who branded communist rebels as "terrorists" and "spoiled brats," Maza said the Leftist Cabinet officials continue to have a good working relationship with the President.

"As of now, the responsibilities vested upon us as heads of agencies and as Cabinet members, we continue to fulfill. In the final analysis, it is the President's call, his political decision if we will stay or not," said Maza.

Army engineer acquitted of P9.5-million graft case

From Rappler (Feb 8): Army engineer acquitted of P9.5-million graft case

The Sandiganbayan rules that Gopilan only hired the contractors as suppliers and not as builders   

ANTI-GRAFT COURT. Facade of Sandiganbayan in Quezon City. File photo by Jansen Romero/Rappler

ANTI-GRAFT COURT. Facade of Sandiganbayan in Quezon City. File photo by Jansen Romero/Rappler 

The Sandiganbayan acquitted retired brigadier general Cesar Gopilan of graft charges in connection with irregularities in the military's P9.5-million school building project in 2002.

The anti-graft court said the prosecutors failed to show proof that Gopilan, who was then chief engineer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), hired two contractors to build the school without public bidding or a written contract.

In an 81-page decision by the 5th Division dated January 25, 2017 and released to media on Wednesday, February 8, the court said the evidence from the prosecutors only showed that the contractors were hired to supply construction materials, and not to construct the schools.

The disbursement vouchers presented for the supply of materials, according to the court, were supported by necessary documents required by law.

In the information filed by the Ombudsman in 2005, they alleged that Gopilan conspired with private defendants Elmer Aytona of Edibok Construction and General Merchandise, and Jorge Javier of J. Javier Construction Trading by awarding them the contract to build the school without going through public bidding.

However, the court said there was no evidence that the two companies were hired, or that the two companies actually built the school.

Noting the lack of any receipts or documents connecting the two companies to the actual construction, the court asked: "If there were indeed such extra work done by the accused Aytona and Javier, how were they paid for their work?"

Insufficient evidence
"Weighing all the evidence offered, the prosecution has failed to prove, substantiate or carry on the required burden of proof, as to warrant a guilty verdict in this case. The evidence of the prosecution is insufficient to prove beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of all accused," the court ruled.

The prosecutors alleged that Edibok Construction was hired to build 34 school buildings, while J. Javier Construction was hired to build two, both at P250,000 per structure.

The AFP's program was under the PGMA School Building Project.

Aytona's Edibok was allegedly paid P8.5 million while Javier's J. Javier Construction Trading received P500,000.

However, the prosecutors alleged, the schools were found to be poorly built and some were even incomplete.

The court said it cannot penalize the defendants for the poor construction of the buildings when there was no proof they were the builders.

"The Court has to look squarely on the evidence vis-à-vis the alleged act or acts complained of as constituting the offense in this case. It follows the basic tenet guaranteed under the Constitution that in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be informed of the nature and cause of the accusations against him. To do otherwise would be tantamount to a denial of the accused’s right to due process," it pointed out.

Also included in the information is the accusation that instead of using good lumber, the builders used coco lumber which resulted in the poor construction.

Still, the court said, the defendants cannot be faulted because the "problem or purported irregularity devolves on the construction itself and not for the supply of the subject materials."

"The accused cannot be convicted for acts which were not alleged in the Information. The rule is that a variance between the allegation in the information and proof adduced during trial shall be fatal to the criminal case if it is material and prejudicial to the accused so much so that it affects his substantial rights," the Sandiganbayan said.

Apart from Gopilan, Aytona and Javier were also acquitted of the charges.

Following the acquittal, the bail bonds they posted will be released and the hold departure orders against them will be lifted.

Everyone loses in China-US conflict - Beijing

From InterAksyon (Feb 8): Everyone loses in China-US conflict - Beijing

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at a meeting with ASEAN counterparts (Reuters file)

Beijing has played down the prospects of conflict with the United States over the South China Sea in the wake of aggressive rhetoric by Donald Trump's administration, saying both sides would lose.

China asserts sovereignty over almost all of the resource-rich region despite rival claims from Southeast Asian neighbours and has rapidly built reefs into artificial islands capable of hosting military planes.

The islands are considered a potential flashpoint and recent comments from White House spokesman Sean Spicer and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have raised the temperature.

But Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on a visit to Australia that war would benefit no-one.

"For any sober-minded politician, they clearly recognise that there cannot be conflict between China and the United States," he said in Canberra through an interpreter late Tuesday, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

"Both will lose and both sides cannot afford that."

Spicer last month said the US "is going to make sure we protect our interests" in the South China Sea while Tillerson said China's access to the islands might be blocked -- raising the prospect of a military confrontation.

Wang said the US-China relationship had defied "all sorts of difficulties" over decades and pointed to more recent statements by US Defence Secretary James Mattis that it was important to give priority to diplomatic efforts, ABC said.

On a trip to Japan last week, Mattis said Beijing "has shredded the trust" of regional countries with the military fortification of islands it controls, but balanced the message with a call for disputes to be settled through arbitration and diplomacy.

Deep engagement

After scheduled strategic dialogue talks with Wang, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Wednesday said Beijing was keen for a close relationship with the Trump government.

"Beijing certainly welcomes a deep engagement with the United States," she told Sky News.

"They are looking forward to an era of cooperation, they see opportunity with the new administration to deepen the connections and as he (Wang) said, the United States and China have too much to lose for there to be conflict between them.

"My impression was that China is looking forward to engaging positively with the United States," she added.

Under President Barack Obama's administration, Washington insisted it was neutral on the question of sovereignty over the South China Sea islets, reefs and shoals.

But, while calling for the dispute to be resolved under international law, the US supported freedom of navigation by sending naval patrols through Chinese-claimed waters in a move supported by Canberra.

"We did discuss the South China Sea," said Bishop. "China is now deeply engaged in negotiations, discussions, consultations with the other claimants.

"Hopefully we'll continue to see both sides working very hard for peace and prosperity in our region."

China's island building programme in the South China Sea has irked neighbours -- many of whom also have claims to parts of the sea -- and caused global concern.

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Tuesday Manila expects China to try to build on a reef off the coast of the Philippines, adding this would be "unacceptable" in the flashpoint waterway.

Bishop urged Beijing to "play a responsible role, committed to the international rules-based order which has provided so much opportunity for peace, prosperity and stability" in its dealings in the South China Sea.

PH seeks US, China help to combat sea pirates

From InterAksyon (Feb 8): PH seeks US, China help to combat sea pirates

Agence France-Presse file photo of Somali pirates. The Philippine coastguard commander says a Somalia-like situation has not yet happened in the Sibutu Passage, a crucial sealane between Sabah and the southern Philippines, "but if it escalates into a full-blown piracy area, that would be scary because they will avoid that route. They will use other routes and shipping costs will rise." AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE FILE

The Philippines is seeking US and Chinese help to guard a major sea lane as Islamic militants shift attacks to international shipping, officials said Wednesday.Manila does not want the Sibutu Passage between Malaysia's Sabah state and the southern Philippines to turn into a Somalia-style pirate haven, coast guard officials said.

The deep-water channel, used by 13,000 vessels each year, offers the fastest route between Australia and the manufacturing powerhouses China, Japan and South Korea, they added.

In the past year Abu Sayyaf gunmen from the southern Philippines have boarded ships and kidnapped dozens of crewmen for ransom in waters between Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, raising regional alarm.

Indonesia has warned the region could become the "next Somalia" and the International Maritime Bureau says waters off the southern Philippines are becoming increasingly dangerous.

"If shipowners will skirt that area just to avoid kidnap at sea activities by these terrorists, for sure, it will have an additional cost," Philippine Coast Guard chief Commodore Joel Garcia told AFP.

"It's not just the concern of the Philippines or Indonesia and Malaysia, but of the international shipping community."

Manila plans to ask its longstanding defence ally the United States to hold joint exercises in waters off the southern Philippines to address the problem, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told AFP on Tuesday.

And Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte last week urged China to launch patrols off the piracy-plagued waters, citing Beijing's dispatch of a naval convoy to the Gulf of Aden in 2009 to protect Chinese ships from Somali pirates.

Duterte made the comments a day after meeting a special envoy from Indonesia who wanted to know what Manila, which has one of the weakest naval forces in the region, plans to do to address the threat.

Garcia said details of the possible sea patrol cooperation with China would likely be discussed at a meeting between the two countries' coast guards in Manila next week.

Lorenzana said Manila plans to "talk to the ministry of defense of China on how to operationalize this joint patrol" off the southern Philippines.

Garcia said rising incidents of piracy around the 29-kilometre-wide (18-mile) Sibutu Passage threaten to push up overall shipping costs, including insurance for vessels, cargo and crew.

Diverting ships to Indonesia's Lombok Strait would be more expensive and voyages would take longer, said Filipino coast guard spokesman Commander Armando Balilo.

The Filipino coast guard recorded 12 piracy or kidnapping incidents in the passage in the last six months alone, on top of four unsuccessful attempts by gunmen to board vessels.

"It (a Somalia-like situation) has not happened, but if it escalates into a full-blown piracy area, that would be scary because they will avoid that route. They will use other routes and shipping costs will rise," Balilo said.

China says United States should 'brush up on' South China Sea history

From InterAksyon (Feb 8): China says United States should 'brush up on' South China Sea history

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. (REUTERS/File photo)

The United States needs to brush up on its history about the South China Sea, as World War Two-related agreements mandated that all Chinese territories taken by Japan had to be returned to China, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in Australia.

China has been upset by previous comments from the new US administration about the disputed waterway.

In his Senate confirmation hearing, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said China should not be allowed access to islands it has built there. The White House also vowed to defend "international territories" in the strategic waterway.

However, last week US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis suggested that diplomacy should be the priority in the South China Sea.

In comments carried on the foreign ministry's website late on Tuesday, Wang said he had a "suggestion" for this American friends. "Brush up on the history of World War Two," Wang was quoted as saying during a visit to Canberra, Australia.

The 1943 Cairo Declaration and 1945 Potsdam Declaration clearly state that Japan had to return to China all Chinese territory taken by Japan, Wang said.

"This includes the Nansha Islands," he added, using China's name for the Spratly Islands.

"In 1946, the then-Chinese government with help from the United States openly and in accordance with the law took back the Nansha Islands and reefs that Japan had occupied, and resumed exercising sovereignty," Wang said.

"Afterwards, certain countries around China used illegal methods to occupy some of the Nansha islands and reefs, and it's this that created the so-called South China Sea dispute."

China is committed to having talks with the parties directly involved, and in accordance with historical facts and international law to peacefully resolve the issue, and that position will not change, Wang said.

Countries outside the region should support the efforts of China and others in the region to maintain the peace and stability of the South China Sea, and not do the opposite, he added.

China sets great store on Mattis' comments stressing diplomatic efforts in the South China Sea, as this is not only the position set by China and Southeast Asia but also the "correct choice" for countries outside the region, Wang said.

China claims most of the South China Sea, while Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei claim parts of the waters that command strategic sea lanes and have rich fishing grounds along with oil and gas deposits.

NPA officer killed

From the Mindanao Times (Feb 8): NPA officer killed

Suspect refuses to give up as cops serve arrest warrant

AN ALLEGED regional supply officer of the New People’s Army (NPA) was killed in a police shootout in Barangay Ma-a, Talomo District around 5:30 p.m. on Monday.

Glenn Ramos, alias Berdan, 40, reportedly refused to give up when joint operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) XI and the Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) team of the Davao City Police Office (DCPO) arrived to serve a warrant of arrest in his house at Purok 4, Don Julian Village, Ma-a.

Ramos was facing attempted homicide case before Municipal Trial Court in the Cities Branch 6 judge Nanette Gustilo Lemana.

According to the police report, the authorities were about to serve the warrant of arrest against Ramos. But the alleged NPA officer fired upon the officers. A gunfight ensued.

After the shootout, the suspect was brought by the team to the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) for medical treatment. However, he was declared dead on arrival.

Police recovered in the crime scene a .38 caliber revolver with five live ammunitions, fired cartridge cases, one fragmentation grenade, one improvised explosive device (IED) with electrical wire, two cellular phones, 29 pieces of 7.62mm live ammos and 5.56mm blank ammos.

The recovered items were brought the CIDG XI.

Capt. Rhyan Batchar, spokesperson of 10th Infantry Division, confirmed that Ramos was an NPA officer.

But Chief Insp. Johanna May Lagundi, CIDG XI chief of operation, said they are still on the process of validating the information that Ramos was an NPA member.

DCPO director Sr. Supt. Michael John Dubria also told reporters in a separate interview at the conference room of the Public Safety and Security Company (PSSCC) that he could not categorically pinpoint that Ramos was a member of the underground movement that President Rodrigo Duterte recently branded as terrorist group.

Ramos is the first NPA officer killed in action after President Duterte ended the peace talks with the communist group.

President Duterte also ordered those temporarily-freed officers of the National Democratic Front-Philippines to give up.


In yesterday press conference at the PSSCC, authorities still consider the NPA as a threat in the city.

Government officials are doing proactive measures to ensure the safety of the city from any possible threats.

“We want to be assured that such threats will not come in the city but will be interdicted outside,” PSSCC chief Benito De Leon said.

De Leon said there will be more police amd military patrols in the city.

Brig. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, the commander of Joint Task Force Haribon, said they have already deployed additional troops in certain areas to strengthen the number of the security force.

They have also deployed additional Explosive Ordnance Disposal and K9 units to respond immediately on possible threats.

Gapay said that during the ceasefire the NPAs took advantage to consolidate their forces.

They continued to do atrocities, such as extortion and arson, in some parts of the region, Gapay said.

He said that it is possible that the NPA may have an alliance with other local terrorist groups since they have similar ways in doing activities.

“They are similar in doing extortion, abduction, burnings, and attack,” he added.

Based on the records of the 10th Infantry Division, there were already 42 atrocities attributed to the NPA since August last year.

Capt. Rhyan Batchar, the division spokesperson, said the incidents included nine attacks, one ambush and abductions of five civilians and one soldier.

Also, he blamed the rebels for the series of torching incidents involving buses, heavy equipment and passenger vans. They were able also to record one coercion incident, two disarming incidents and murder of two civilians.

Photo: ARIEL Arbitrario, captured National Democratic Front (NDF) consultant

Posted to the Mindanao Times (Feb 8): Photo: ARIEL Arbitrario, captured National Democratic Front (NDF) consultant

ARIEL Arbitrario, a consultant of the National Democratic Front (NDF), is held at the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, after he was arrested at the Task Force Davao checkpoint in Barangay Sirawan, Toril District Monday morning. President Rodrigo Duterte has terminated the peace negotiation and told temporarily-freed NDF consultants to surrender. BING GONZALES

Photo: Anti-communist fliers

Posted to the Mindanao Times (Feb 8): Photo: Anti-communist fliers

A COUPLE passes by at the posted fliers that branded the communist group as “terrorists, extortionists, anti-peace and plague of the society” along San Pedro Street. President Rodrigo Duterte recently terminated the peace negotiation with the communist group. BING GONZALES

KISSA AND DAWAT: The 1974 Battle of Jolo, narratives and quest for social conscience

From the MindaViews section of MindaNews (Feb 8): KISSA AND DAWAT: The 1974 Battle of Jolo, narratives and quest for social conscience (Bu Noor Saada)

Yes narratives, plural, because the February 1974 battle of Jolo was not just a narrative of one or a narrative of victors. Because it was not undertaken by a lone group or it is a question of win-loss mentality. Between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) locked in tight combat with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) were tens of thousands of civilians. We will never know how many died and were maimed exactly.

The Tausug has a term for innumerable, “mataud tuud!” (too many) and it came down to us as such – too many destroyed, too many dead, too many burned, too many maimed, too many scarred for life, too many orphaned and widowed, too many in diaspora and never to return again, because their pre-1974 Jolo was shattered forever.

This year, aside from their narratives, it is also worth discovering what and where Uncle Sam, our big brother, stands on this issue. Thanks to WikiLeaks, official diplomatic cables are now available to us.

The victims’ narratives
I was born in Tulay, Jolo, Sulu, in 1972 and was barely two years old when the Battle of Jolo occurred in seven bloody days in February 1974. It was roughly seven bloody days of destruction, death and displacement at a scale unimaginable. It was because of this war that our family was forced to seek refuge in Tawi-Tawi. As I was growing up, the horrors and agonies of that war was repeated in stories from my grandparents, parents, uncles and aunties, and elders cousins.

Fazlur-Rahman Abdulla, the head of the Sulu Action Coordinating Center (SACC) in his Facebook post remembers the “families fleeing to the hinterlands and others staying at pier for days. The port of Jolo was fortified with soldiers and civilians wait for navy ships to transport them to Zamboanga.”

Warina Ismuraji, Coordinator for Western Mindanao of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), recalls her family’s dangerous route around town in the midst of an active battle, seeking temporary shelters, until they left the town proper and found refuge among relatives in an adjacent municipality.

Former National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) Secretary Atty Mehol Sadain wrote and posted a short poem in his Facebook account.

The Aftermath of the Battle of Jolo
February 7, 1974

The day Jolo burned was the day
Our martyrs rose from their graves
The day we rose from our slumber
The day we saw the last of the fires
The day we found in our hearts
The fervor of the old days
The wailing of the dead
From the depths of the earth.
The day Jolo burned was the day
We re-ignited the blaze in our hearts.

His brother, Said Sadain Jr., wrote about his so-called “Jolo-caust” experience and this was published by MindaNews. Please follow this link to read –

The world needs to know violence was brought to our shore, as OBYA-ARMM Executive Director Amir Mawallil wrote in his latest article. In the beginning it was the Spaniards, then a succession of one colonial after another. The Spaniards, the Americans and the Japanese have left, but the violence remains and has become a culture, a stereotype and a prejudice against a peaceful people seeking their proper place under the sun. Heart-breaking but true.

The MNLF narrative – Fighting neo-colonialism
The MNLF narrative on the Battle of Jolo is published in their website. You can read them in full here –

For the MNLF, Jolo joins a succession of military genocides in Pata, Patikul, Indanan and Maimbung. In their website, they argue, “the two-day continued Philippine Navy (PN) battleships bombardments from the sea, and the Philippine Air Force (PAF) jet fighter planes, T-28 ‘Tora-Tora’ warplanes and helicopter gunships bombardments and machine-gun firing from the sky led to the burning of the central Tulay mosque, Chinese Pun Tai Kung temple and the entire commercial town of Jolo, killing more than 20,000 Muslim, Christian and Chinese civilians with countless material losses.” It was the military, not them who destroyed Jolo.

The AFP narrative – Protecting Martial Law
There is no doubt that the secessionist movement down south was further complicated by the Martial Law regime. For the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), it was to put down a rebellion against the State. There is a short account on the Battle of Jolo, particularly one against the MNLF stronghold in Sibalu Hill, from the perspective of the Philippine Air Force (PAF), “By dawn, wave upon wave of F-5 and F-86 fighters, as well as T-33 jets and C-47 gunships, took off for Jolo every minute – bombarding the enemy camp accurately and relentlessly. After each sortie – some pilots flew three sorties during that attack – the aircraft would dart back to Mactan to reload. Before the morning was over, helicopters landed at Sibalu Hill to extricate the Marines that narrowly escaped a massacre.” Additional information can be read online here –

The American Narrative
The American view regarding the Battle of Jolo comes in the form of leaked diplomatic correspondence which was classified by June 2005. One cable bearing the canonical ID: 1974MANILA01682_b dated 1974 February 13, 09:35 (Wednesday) bears the title “JOLO CITY DESTROYED IN MUSLIM REBEL ATTACK”. The WikiLeaks page is available here –

In this particular correspondence from the US embassy in Manila to the 13TH AF, Commander in Chief US Pacific Command and the Department of State, they were aware of the then South Western Command (SOWECOM) head General Admiral Espaldon’s preferred “policy of attraction” going on for the past five months, a period of rebel returnees getting back to the mainstream and given access to government resources and local positions.

However, as of January 1974, there was an increasing number of government forces on Jolo Island in preparation for a major offensive because the MNLF had started taking over other towns. By late January, the skirmishes between these forces were becoming more frequent and closer than ever before.

By February 4, AFP forces landed in Jolo to retake areas from MNLF control and by February 7 the MNLF had attacked the Army’s main post defending the airport. An American observer based in Zamboanga learned from AFP sources that between February 7 and 9, in a period of three days, the airport was lost to and retaken from the rebels twice, in a cat and mouse duel, I suppose!

On February 11, the AFP was strong enough to hold back the MNLF forces and made possible the visit of then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and chief of staff General Espino. The Americans knew napalm was used by the PAF. The Embassy knew napalm bombing “may have added to fire, which quickly destroyed most of the town. Government officials have claimed that rebels set torch to the city”.

Napalm is an incendiary weapon considered as “effective against fortified positions, like bunkers, caves and tunnels, as well as vehicles, convoys, small bases and structures. It clings to whatever it touches, creating a large, hotly burning area around the target. This feature also decreases the need for accuracy when dropping napalm bombs.”[1] Earlier during the Vietnam War, the American dropped around 388,000 tons of napalm during 1963 -1973 period [2] It was only in 1980 that the United Nations banned the use of incendiary weapons on civilians.

The local police, under the command of town mayor, was found to have fired on the government’s air forces rather than the rebels, and together retreated to the interior where they were sought by the AFP. The mayor’s son was among those dead and led the attack from the MNLF side.

As of February 13, 1973, what the embassy knew then from the AFP intelligence chief General Paz are the following:
40,000 persons were made homeless in Jolo.
18,000 of these refugees were transported by Coast Guard boasts to Zamboanga.

Initial government relief efforts were in the form of funds, nutribuns and clothing. Ah … the popular nutribun that was used to feed students in public schools!

The Embassy’s comments regarding the Jolo battle: The confusing political situation and polarization would benefit consolidation for the MNLF and flare up discontent in other areas. If so, it will isolate the AFP and reduce its local support.

Back then as it is now, the local belief is that the government is bent on military solution to the insurgency, because the government’s development benefits have not really trickled down. The promises, too, did not materialize.

A few days ago, the incumbent Defense Secretary, Delfin Lorenzana, was quoted to have reiterated the “all-out-war” policy. Have we not learned lessons from the Battle of Jolo in 1974 and other similar operations?

43 years after – the quest for social conscience
Four decades after the Battle of Jolo, the military solution is still the government’s default policy. This default has come to symbolize something – a phrase to explain what you can’t defeat or do not fully understand; a routine military work with no relevance to overall goal of nation-building; a term to justify internal corruption; a palliative balm to sooth the majority of the people momentarily; a knee-jerk response to the media when you can’t think of anything substantial at the time of interview; and a government action gone berserk by killing its own people.

Under the current government, with the President hailing from Mindanao and claiming Moro blood and affinity, it has accommodated the different MNLF factions and pushed the latter back in the peace process. This is good for the meantime to keep the relative peace and order situation. But in the long haul, the Battle of Jolo reminds us, that undelivered promises are just a stick away from mayhem of the 1974 magnitude.

Those seeking violent redress of their grievances, the Battle of Jolo provides us a classic lesson – does the end justify the means? Imagine a crude version of napalm bomb can yield this destruction: “A 2,500-square-yard area could be engulfed in flame by a single bomb. However, dropping napalm from high-speed aircraft was not so accurate. This resulted in a large number of innocent civilians suffering serious harm.”[2] In the Vietnam War where napalm effects were documented, “Napalm is the most terrible pain you can imagine … water boils at 100 degrees Celsius (212°F). Napalm generates temperatures of 800 to 1,200 degrees Celsius (1,500–2,200°F).” [3] That was 20th century technology. Imagine now the capacity for destruction of 21st century technology!

There is no doubt that there is money to be made and interest to be protected in war. This is an aspect of the Military Industrial Complex that continues to fuel local obsession with conspiracy theory. Then and now, the war in Mindanao has become a microcosm of global anti-terror war, complicating what is already one of the longest protracted conflicts in the world!

We cannot depend largely on leaders. The Battle of Jolo was led by them on both sides. We need a social conscience that will not provide refuge for violence and destruction. The Mindanao Problem is not just a program of the Moros, it is a Filipino Problem. Since we have created this country and insisted on its unity and included those peoples who have been lukewarm from joining since Day One, it behooves the majority to show social conscience.

In the online Cambridge Dictionary, it says, “If you have a social conscience, you worry about people who are poor, ill, old, etc. and try to help them.” The Oxford Living Dictionaries views it this way, “a sense of responsibility or concern for the problems and injustices of society”. This is the mindset and the attitude we need. This is not dependent on leaders; this is dependent on a critical mass of Filipinos to complement the peace-loving and conscientious Moros from within! It is only then that sustainable peace and inclusive change are possible.

[1] “How Napalm Works” ,
[2] Napalm in Vietnam War”,[3] “Napalm Survivor Tells of Healing After Vietnam War”,

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Noor Saada is a Tausug of mixed ancestry – born in Jolo, Sulu, grew up in Tawi-tawi, studied in Zamboanga and worked in Davao, Makati and Cotabato. He is a development worker and peace advocate, former Assistant Regional Secretary of the Department of Education in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, currently working as an independent consultant and is a member of an insider-mediation group that aims to promote intra-Moro dialogue)