Sunday, February 12, 2017

Duterte's security team launches own website

From the Philippine Star (Feb 13): Duterte's security team launches own website

The Presidential Security Group, the lead agency providing security to the president and vice president, recently launched a website with a .com domain name. PSG photo

The team in charge of President Rodrigo Duterte's security recently launched its own website hoping to better communicate with government agencies.

Brig. Gen. Rolando Joselito Bautista, commander of the Presidential Security Group, said at a ceremony last week that the website will serve as a channel between the Office of the President's events management arm, the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces.
The PSG is the agency in charge of providing security to the president and vice president, as well as their immediate families.

As the digital version of the PSGTroopers magazine, the website is expected to have news, photos, videos and updates on the team's projects and operations with other government agencies locally and abroad. It also aims to strengthen its credibility by having an online presence.

The site, however, is notably outside the domain that usually marks government-run online properties.

Col. Michael Aquino, chief of staff of the PSG, said readers can also expect information on security matters involving the presidency.   

"The more credible information you disseminate online, the stronger your organization will be," Aquino added.

"This website would be an efficient platform to disseminate what we do—that we are not only here to to ensure the safety and security of the Commander in Chief and the President but also assist him and the Filipino in positively changing as well as uniting this country," Bautista said.

Bautista said, meanwhile, that the PSG has worked hand in hand with the president's projects such as his fight against illegal drugs and corruption since the start of the new administration. also launched related social media accounts with the handle "PSGTroopers."

Soldier, NPAs hurt in Ifugao clash

From the Philippine Star (Feb 13): Soldier, NPAs hurt in Ifugao clash

A soldier and several communist guerrillas were hurt in fresh clashes in remote Asipulo town in Ifugao Sunday evening.
The Philippine Army’s 54th Infantry Battalion said a soldier, whose name is being withheld, was wounded in a gunfight with communist rebels that lasted for more than an hour at Barangay Namal in Asipulo at around 6 p.m. Sunday.
Army Capt. Jefferson Somera, civil military operations officer of the 54th IB, said government troops seized an M653 assault rifle and a magazine from the guerrillas of the Ifugao-based Nona del Rosario Command of the Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Committee (ICRC).
Government forces believe the New People's Army fighters, who were caught unaware when they closed in, suffered more casualties based on blood stains in the encounter area.
Retreating rebels who might have taken their wounded comrades away managed to evade the pursuing government troops under cover of darkness, Capt. Somera said.
Army Lt. Col. Nicolas Quemado Jr., battalion commander, lauded his soldiers and told them to remain vigilant.
"Our troops only responded to a tip given by civilians that a group of rebels was conducting banditry in their community causing fear among the tribe, the military commander said, adding, "this is part of our mandate to secure the people, and we are committed to do it."
Even after nightfall,  government troops undertook clearing and pursuit operations tracking the fleeing rebels towards nearby Mount Capan.

Government Arsenal turns over pistols to Navy

From Update.Ph (Feb 9): Government Arsenal turns over pistols to Navy

Small Arms Repair and Upgrade Unit of the Government Arsenal has turned over to representatives of Philippine Navy 60 units of Refurbished/Repaired Cal. 45 Pistol.

The turn over event was held February 8.
Government Arsenal is a civilian line bureau of the Department of National Defense (DND) located at Camp General Antonio Luna, Limay, Bataan.

It is tasked to produce basic weapons, ammunition and other munitions for the use of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, and for the sale and export of products in excess of AFP/PNP requirements.

Opinion: Medal of Valor

From the Reveille column by Ramon Farolan in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 13): Medal of Valor

More than 25 years ago, a young captain assigned with the Army’s Special Forces carried out a stunning nighttime operation against a numerically superior group of some 200 rebels located at Sitio Manipulon, Murcia, in Negros Occidental Province. The results of the raid set a new standard in the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ counterinsurgency efforts that, to this date, has not been duplicated in terms of enemy killed and firearms recovered.

On April 6, 1990, Capt. Arturo B. Ortiz led five teams of the 606th Special Forces Company, Philippine Army along with a number of Cafgu troops in a raid against a large NPA training camp in Negros Occidental. Under cover of darkness, Ortiz led his troops on a grueling 11-hour cross-country march, scaling a 1,000-foot high cliff, enabling his units to infiltrate the enemy position while avoiding booby traps and claymore mines. Aware that air support and artillery fire would be futile due to the dense forest cover, Ortiz instructed his men to move as close as 10 meters from the enemy periphery before launching the surprise attack. Moving from one team to the other, he directed their line of fire that spared the women and children in the encampment.

For this outstanding performance of duty, Captain Ortiz was awarded the nation’s highest military honor, the Medal of Valor (MOV). His citation reads: “The two-hour gun battle resulted in 84 terrorists killed with 22 dead bodies counted, including 17 recovered on site, 8 captured, and several others wounded and missing as reported by the Negros Regional Party Committee. Recovered from the enemy were 33 assorted firearms, 21 rifle grenades, several hand grenades, five ICOM radios, and other enemy equipment. By this display of exceptional courage and high degree of leadership, Capt. Ortiz distinguished himself in the field of combat in keeping with the highest tradition of Filipino soldiery.”

The Medal of Valor is the highest military honor that can be bestowed on members of the AFP for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. It is not an award that is easily granted. To date, there have been only 40 MOV awardees: 27 from the Philippine Army, 8 from the Philippine Marines, 3 from the defunct Philippine Constabulary, and 2 from the Philippine Air Force.

Each award is thoroughly screened and is vetted through several layers of command before it reaches the major service commander. From here, the papers go to the AFP chief of staff, the secretary of national defense, and finally, the Office of the President, for approval. Only the president can authorize the award and the whole process usually takes anywhere from nine months to a year, even longer. In the case of Captain Ortiz, his MOV was awarded nine months after his successful mission. The award is so prestigious that even the president as commander in chief may choose to salute the MOV holder, the only individual given this rare honor.

Lt. Gen. Arturo Ortiz, who retired from military service as the 53rd commanding general of the Philippine Army, graduated with PMA Class 1979. He is presently the president of the Association of AFP MOV awardees.

Incidentally, one of the most attractive sites at the Philippine Military Academy is the view of a pine-covered mountainside stretching all the way to distant Mount Santo Tomas from the back of Lim Hall. The hall, named in honor of Brig. Gen. Vicente Lim, the first Filipino to graduate from West Point, houses the offices of the PMA superintendent, the dean, corps of professors, and the commandant of cadets.

The centerpiece of the building is the Hall of Valor, featuring the framed photos of PMA MOV awardees, with their respective citations. It is a sanctuary for those in search of heroism and inspiration, and each time I visit the Academy, I make it a point to stop even for a few brief moments at the Hall of Valor. I always leave the place with a feeling of deep pride and respect for the achievements of this select group of PMAyers, some of whom paid the supreme sacrifice in the performance of duty. Let me add that there are other military personnel, some officers with different sources of commission, as well as enlisted men, who have been honored with the MOV in recognition of their bravery and heroism under enemy fire.

Last week, Malacañang approved the award of the MOV to 42 members of the PNP’s Special Action Force (SAF) who were killed in the Mamasapano action two years ago. Two from the same group were earlier awarded the medal posthumously.

The grant to the other 42 SAF troopers was one of the requests of family members during a meeting with the President last month.

The sudden mass conferment, in response to family pleas, has drawn widespread criticism from both AFP and PNP elements. General Ortiz has forwarded to me a few of the comments that he received:

The MOV must not be given wholesale. It is a singular act of exceptional and uncommon heroism by a soldier that sets him apart from the rest. It must not be trivialized, abused, demeaned, or devalued. Otherwise, the medal loses its honor and prestige.

This action sets a bad precedent and would open a floodgate for indiscriminate awarding of the MOV. This cheapens the award and might weaken the institution and system of AFP awards.

In the entire AFP history, there have only been 40 awardees. Then in one fell swoop, 42 SAF members get the same medal. It would surely land us in the Guinness Book of World Records.

The MOV should not be trivialized and all soldiers and men in uniform should stand against this.

The AFP leadership and concerned authorities should do something to restore, protect, and preserve the honor and prestige and integrity of the MOV, revered and considered sacred by the AFP. Wholesale award of the MOV to the SAF 44 is too much.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and AFP Chief of Staff Eduardo Año have expressed similar concerns about the grant of the award. We can honor the memory and sacrifices of the SAF troopers in ways that do not diminish the value and prestige of the Medal of Valor.

Talaingod IP leader: AFP’s ‘all-out war’ vs. NPA may target us, too

From the often pro-CPP Davao Today (Feb 12): Talaingod IP leader: AFP’s ‘all-out war’ vs. NPA may target us, too

Datu Kailo Bontulan. (Earl O. Condeza/
A Lumad leader from Talaingod, Davao del Norte, said the government’s all-out war against the New People’s Army, the armed-wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, would target them too.

“Dakong kabalaka sa mga Lumad, possible kami na pud mga Lumad target sa all out war (We, the Lumad are worried that we will be targeted of [the government’s] all-out war),” Datu Kailo Bontulan said during the peace rally held at the Freedom Park Friday.

“They [the military] will just stay in our barrio and search for our leaders and kill them,” he said.

It can be recalled that last Feb. 7, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced the government’s all-out war against the NPA.

Lorenzana’s announcement came after President Rodrigo Duterte labelled the Communist Party of the Philippines, National Democratic Front of the Philippines, and the NPA as “terrorists.”

“Soldiers (have started) preparing for the inevitable armed conflict with NPA,” Lorenzana said.

He, however, clarified that the government troops would “only target the armed component.”

But Bontulan belied Lorenzana’s claim, pointing out the military’s record of human rights abuses when they were deployed in IP communities.

“The killings happened in the mountain, it will not reach here, it happened in the past but no soldier would admit that they are killing civilians,” Bontulan said.

The Lumad leader expressed hope that the government would resume talks with the Communists, saying that IPs were the usual “victims of the armed conflict.”

“We hope that the peace talks will resume, that is what Digong [Duterte] said during election period that he wanted peace here in the country,” Bontulan said.

“That is why the peace talks should resume because that is what the Lumad are hoping for,” he added.

Apart from Bontulan, various groups also supported the calls on the resumption of the peace talks between the government and the communist group.

Exodus for Justice and Peace Jurie Jaime said that he was still hopeful for the talks to resume.

“As a peace watchdog, we want the peace talks to resume because the interest of the people is anchored here,” he said. “It is true that the church serves as the reminders if it will not be watched.”

“We still hope that they will continue to talk peace and we pray for both parties to seriously sit again to talk. The people here love peace,” Bishop Hamuel Tequis of the United Church of Christ said.

Armed clashes escalate after cancellation of talks

From the often pro-CPP Davao Today (Feb 13): Armed clashes escalate after cancellation of talks

New People’s Army. ( file photo)
Clashes between the government troops and the New People’s Army escalated over the weekend following the lifting of the ceasefire by both the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines.
The military offensives resulted to the evacuation of almost 100 families in Sitio Tangis and Sitio Kindag in Barangay Datal Anggas, Alabel, Saranggani province since Saturday.

The Kahugpongan sa Lumad sa Halayong Habagatang Mindanao or Kaluhamin said six aerial bombs were dropped in Sitio Tangis since Saturday.
It said that the Army “abducted and tortured” civilians in the area. It said victims identified as Renel Mancal, Meon Salda, Fausto Barro, and Garson Barro were forced to guide the military in their operations.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Socsargends also reported that there is a food blockade in Barangay Datal Anggas.
The military said on Sunday that a series of armed encounters occurred between government troops and the NPAs in Sarangani and Compostela Valley provinces on February 11, where a soldier was hurt.

The first incident occurred around 10:30 a.m., after troops of the 73rd Infantry Battalion engaged in a two-hour firefight with the NPAs belonging to Guerilla Front 71 in Sitio Tangis, Barangay Little Datal Anggas, Sarangani.

The Army withheld the name of the soldier pending notification of his family. It said the wounded trooper was immediately airlifted to Panacan, Davao City for medical attention.

Three more consecutive firefights ensued between the soldiers and the NPA in Barangay Bollucan, Laak, Compostela Valley Province.
The firefights occurred between the troops of 60th Infantry Battalion and the NPA’s Front 34 and Pulang Bagani Company 4.

At 10:40 am, the troops engaged in a gunbattle which lasted for one hour. The Army said they dispatched Simba fighting vehicles, resulting to another 40-minute gunbattle against the withdrawing NPAs at around 11:50 am.

“The troops involved in the first encounter pursued the NPA in the same area which resulted into a 30-minute encounter,” the 10th Infantry Division said in a statement.

On Friday morning, Feb. 10, the 60th IB also launched an offensive against the NPA in Laak, Compostela Valley.

On February 6 and 8, firefights also ensued between the 73rd IB and the NPAs in Sitio Kisoy, Barangay Little Baguio, Malita, Davao Occidental and in Sitio Dulid in Barangay Datal Anggas, Alabel, Sarangani, respectively.

“These latest incidents involved the employment of MG 520 attack helicopter and 105mm howitzer which delivered fire support to the engaged troops. Ground forces are now conducting clearing operations to determine and assess the effectiveness of the fire support while searching for possible enemy casualties,” the Army said.

The 67th IB were also attacked by the NPAs in Daw-an, Barangay San Jose, Caraga, Davao Oriental early morning Saturday.

“The troops on board three KM450 military trucks were attacked with an improvised explosive device by the NPA,” the military said, adding that no soldier was hurt in this incident.

The CPP and the NPA lifted their unilateral ceasefire effective Friday, February 10 while the government’s ceasefire was lifted on February 3.

President Rodrigo Duterte also terminated the talks with the Communists last week sparking concerns from various organizations that the “all out war” against the NPAs wiill result to human rights violations.

Surigao quake prompts NPA to declare ceasefire

From the often pro-CPP Davao Today (Feb 13): Surigao quake prompts NPA to declare ceasefire

The New People’s Army in Northeastern Mindano declared a unilateral ceasefire in Surigao del Norte and Agusan del Norte following the severe damage brought by the 6.7 intensity earthquake on Friday night, Feb. 10.

In a statement, Ariel Montero, NPA regional spokesman said the temporary ceasefire covers the areas of the NPA’s Front 16. The ceasefire started on Saturday and will end at 11:55 pm on February 20.

“This ceasefire is being declared to give the Red fighters of the NPA in Front 16, all government agencies, including the police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and non-government organizations, the opportunity to inspect the areas affected, especially the mountain areas, for damages resulting from the earthquake,” said Montero.

Montero added they hope the ceasefire will help in the delivery of immediate aid and rehabilitation of the properties and livelihood of the affected residents.

“On our part, the NPA in Front 16 has been on active defense posture since 6:00 am of February 11, 2017 to assess and help the masses in the far-flung areas affected by the earthquake,” Montero said.

“We hope that this ceasefire declaration will be reciprocated by the 30th IBPA and other concerned AFP troops and the Philippine National Police in Surigao del Norte,” he added.

According to the Surigao del Norte, Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office, the earthquake which occurred at 10:03 pm claimed at least eight lives and more than a hundred were injured.

As of 4:00 pm on Saturday, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology recorded 101 aftershocks.

“Based on preliminary intensity reports, the strongest ground shaking was felt at PHIVOLCS Earthquake Intensity Scale (PEIS) VII (Destructive) in Surigao City,” Phivolcs said in its website.

Municipalities of Pintuyan in Southern Leyte, and San Francisco and Malimono in Surigao del Norte also experienced PEIS VI or very strong ground shaking at PEIS VI, while the municipalities of Mainit and Placer in Surigao Del Norte, Libjo and San Jose in Dinagat Island, San Ricardo, Limasawa and San Francisco in Southern Leyte and Mandaue City felt the shaking at PEIS V or strong ground shaking.

President Rodrigo Duterte visited Surigao City on Friday evening and promised P2 billion for rehabilitation.

The Eastern Mindanao Command also directed all Disaster Response Unit to assist in Surigao City.

“At present troops under 402nd Infantry Brigade were deployed in the area as initial response in the disaster. Being the lead agency in Search Rescue and Retrieval (SRR) which falls under the thematic Area Disaster Response, the command directed all unit commanders involved in SRR to coordinate with different Local Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council for synchronization of effort and initiatives,” said Major Ezra Balagtey, Public Information Officer of Eastmincom.

NPA declares 'localized ceasefire' after Surigao quake

From CNN Philippines (Feb 12): NPA declares 'localized ceasefire' after Surigao quake


Rebels in Surigao have declared a "localized ceasefire" to give way to relief efforts following a magnitude 6.7 quake on Friday night.

According to Ka Oto, spokesperson of the New People's Army Guerilla Front 16, the ceasefire took effect on 6 a.m. yesterday and will be in place "until affected areas recover" from the quake.

State of calamity

A state of calamity was declared in Surigao City on Saturday following Friday's tremor.

The City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (CDRRMC), under recommendation of the local Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council declared the state of calamity as "untold damage to real and personal properties" was caused by the quake.

The statement from the CDRRMO said seven people died from the quake, while 120 were injured. It added the number was "still increasing."

The statement says "under R.A. 10121 and NCCC Memorandum No. 04, Series of 1998, the Sannguniang Panglungsod, upon due recommendation by the local Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, is authorized to declare the city under a state of calamity when:
  • at least 20 percent of the population is affected and in need of assistance;
  • when major roads and bridges are destroyed and impassable disrupting the flow of transport and commerce; and
  • there is disruption of lifelines such as electricity and water system.
The state of calamity was declared after field verification determined that the city met the prescribed guidelines.

Multiple towns affected

At least 11 towns were affected by the quake, which also damaged the provincial capitol, two major bridges, and other infrastructure.

Read: 6 dead, over 100 hurt in magnitude-6.7 Surigao quake

The earthquake also forced the closure of Surigao City domestic airport, officials said. All flights were canceled due to a damaged runway. The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines said the airport might be closed until March 10.

City officials have implored residents to remain calm as aftershocks are still expected.
In a media briefing today, NDRRMC spokesperson Nina Marasigan said that power was back in Surigao City.

However, some areas were still without electricity as aftershocks are still expected.

Rescue ops underway

President Rodrigo Duterte "is on top of the situation," Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo said in a Satuday press briefing after she met with officials at the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

"The DSWD Regional Office has prepositioned 8,258 family food packs to geographically hard-to-reach areas," Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said in a statement.

He also said the DSWD has a stockpile of over 14,000 family packs and over P2.8 million of fund on standby.

Relief and rescue operations are underway, officials said.

Duterte is set to arrive in Surigao today to inspect damage wrought by the quake.

Opinion: NPA undertook military operations at height of peace talks

Opinion piece by Roberto D. Tiglao in the Manila Times (Feb 13): NPA undertook military operations at height of peace talks

Including raid on Henry Sy’s Pico de Loro resort in Nasugbu

THE communist New People’s Army (NPA) undertook 18 armed attacks against government forces in February alone, or at the height of the peace talks, according to information in the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) publication Ang Bayan.

I don’t know if President Duterte was even aware of this, as he had not pointed to these attacks as the reason why he terminated the peace talks. Rather, it was the cold-blooded killing of three Army soldiers February 28 in Malaybalay, Bukidnon, and the communists’ demand to free 400 of their comrades, captured and presently in jail, which he said convinced him to end the peace talks.

Top communist negotiator Luis Jalandoni, scion of a Negros landlord clan who has been living in the Netherlands for the past 30 years, said the soldiers were killed by government assassins in order to derail the peace talks.

The CPP, however did boast of the 18 attacks against government forces, euphemistically calling these ” active defense” in its February 7 edition of Ang Bayan.

“Various units of the NPA launched more than 18 armed actions all over the country in compliance with the directive of its National Operations Command to undertake active defense to defend the welfare of the citizens and of the revolutionary forces,” the party publication said in Filipino (my translation).

‘BRING IT ON’: NPA’s Ho Chi Minh look-alike spokesman ordering Red fighters to attack the military, and even ‘warlord private armies’.
Only a fool, though, would call the following attacks as made only in “active defense” which I quote verbatim, translated from the Pilipino:

• “The NPA Eduardo Dagli Command in Batangas harassed a detachment of the Philippine Air Force February 1 at Sitio Buntog, Barangay Bulihan, Nasugbu.”

• “The NPA Celso Minguez Command in Quezon ambushed a patrol of the 31st Infantry Batallion in Trece Martires, Casiguran, February 6. Two soldiers were wounded.”

• “The NPA’s Napoleon Tumagtang Command in Southern Panay attacked troops of the 82nd Infantry battalion and the 3rd Infantry Battalion that were conducting operations in Baragnay Boloc, Tubungan, Ilioilo and Barangay Osorio III in San Remigio, Antique.”

• “Red fighters harassed troops of the 8th Infantry Battalion camped at Barangay Concepcion, Valencia City, Bukidnon.”

• “Red fighters February 2 captured and declared prisoners-of-war two soldiers of the 39th Infantry Battalion at Telefas, Columbio, Sultan Kudarat.

Quite obviously, the NPA acted as if there were no peace talks at all. There could be only two explanations for this.

First, the “peace talks” are merely a tactic for the communists to keep the Republic’s military cooped up in their camps, unable to undertake operations against the NPA, while the latter expands its recruitment and areas of operations. In past peace talks, the NPA recovered areas they had lost when there were no peace talks, and executed barangay officials who had cooperated with the government.

Second, the peace negotiators, mainly Jose Sison, Fidel Agcaoili, and Jalandoni who have lived in the Netherlands for over 30 years have no influence or control at all over the NPA, or the party leadership in the Philippines, which continue their programs for expanding their territory while their comrades abroad make fools of government negotiators. Without any role in the revolution, Sison et al’s existence and lives in that social-welfare advanced country, are justified only if they pretend to be undertaking the noble pursuit of peace.

Pico de Loro attack

The biggest incident that not only exposes the peace talks as a huge deception by the Communist Party, but the NPA as a threat to the country’s image as a safe place for tourists and investors was the NPA’s attack January 29 at the tycoon Henry Sy’s Pico de Loro resort, which is just two hours from Makati and a favorite weekend escape for the rich from the polluted metropolis. Strangely, the broadsheets did not report it.

Following is the communist newspaper Ang Bayan’s account (translated form Filipino) of this attack in its February 7 edition, which it described as intended to “punish Henry Sy”:

“The NPA confiscated forty-one arms, including 14 M-16s and 20 shotguns, thousands of bullets, magazines, and communications equipment in two raids to punish the Selective Security Agency and 3-I Security Agency on January 29, 6:30 to 7.45 in the evening at Barangay Papaya, Nasugbu (location of Pico de Loro, with these agencies those guarding the resort–RDT)
“The Red fighters of the NPA’s Eduardo Dagli Command of Batangas disarmed the guards and armed goons of Henry Sy at Hacienda Looc. The NPA, however, made sure that guards and employees of the security agencies were not harmed.
“The attack was part of the NPA’s step to punish Henry Sy and his guards for the violent grabbing of lands at Hacienda Looc. These guards have several times aimed their guns at farmers living in this land. The guards have also prevented fishermen from fishing in the waters of Hamilo Cove and driving farmers away from Henry Sy’s lands at Barangay Calayo and Barangay Papaya.”

The number of NPA attacks appears to be more than the 18 claimed in the Ang Bayan article. NPA spokesman “Ka Oris” says it is 30, in the following statement issued February 11 with which he announced—in a tone of intrepidity, I would say—the CPP’s declaration of all-out war on President Duterte’s administration:

“Starting today, the Unilateral Declaration of Interim Ceasefire is now completely terminated. All NPA commands and territorial units, as well as people’s militia and self-defense units, can now take the full initiative to defend the people and advance their interests, especially in the face of the declaration of all-out war of the Duterte regime.

“Since February 1, we eagerly waited for the GRP’s positive response to widespread clamor for it to implement its CARHRIHL obligations (primarily the release of all political prisoners) which could have preempted the termination of the CPP and NPA’s unilateral ceasefire. Contrary to the hopes of the people, however, GRP Pres. Duterte displayed intransigence and arbitrarily cancelled all peace negotiations, playing to the AFP line of an ‘all-out war’ against the CPP and NPA.

“Over the past ten days, responding to orders to carry out active defense, NPA units carried out almost 30 military actions to defend the rights and welfare of the people, primarily against AFP troops occupying barangays and conducting strike operations. In its active defense posture, NPA operations were launched exclusively against paramilitary groups and uniformed personnel conducting combat, intelligence and psywar operations within the territories of the revolutionary government. A case in point is the February 1 encounter between the NPA and troops of the 8th IB which had been occupying Barangays Kibalabag and Manalog, 36 kilometers from the center of Malaybalay City, Bukidnon.

“No longer restricted by the active defense policy, the NPA, from hereon, must frustrate the all-out war of suppression of the AFP by launching tactical offensives against any legitimate military target, including active troops of the AFP and PNP, paramilitary or AFP-supported armed vigilante groups, intelligence operatives, and warlord private armies in detachments, camps or operations within and beyond the NPA guerrilla zones.

“The NPA remains open to peace talks while fighting rages in the countryside. At the same time, the revolutionary masses welcome the call for tactical offensives that will strengthen the people’s army and advance the people’s war towards genuine and just peace.”

“Bring it on,” Ka Oris is defiantly telling Duterte.

E-mail: tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.comFB: Bobi Tiglao and Rigoberto Tiglao

More clashes in 3 provinces between soldiers, communist rebels

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 13): More clashes in 3 provinces between soldiers, communist rebels

Clashes between government soldiers and communist guerrillas continued in parts of Mindanao following President Duterte’s declaration of an end to peace talks with leaders of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the underground umbrella organization of leftist militant groups.

The clashes took place in the provinces of Sarangani, Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental on Saturday, according to an Army spokesperson.

Capt. Rhyan Batchar, speaking for the Army’s 10th Infantry Division, said a soldier was wounded in a clash with New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in the village of Little Datal Anggas in Alabel town, Sarangani, that lasted for at least two hours.

Batchar said the wounded soldier, who has not been identified, was airlifted to the military hospital in Panacan here.

He said three separate gunfights also took place between soldiers under the 60th Infantry Battalion and communist rebels in the village of Bollucan in Laak town, Compostela Valley.

Batchar said the first gunfight in Laak lasted for about an hour. Soldiers backed by armored personnel carriers pursued the rebels and engaged them in a second clash. The third clash came when soldiers caught up with some of the rebels.
In Davao Oriental, Batchar said a brief clash took place when NPA rebels ambushed three military trucks in the village of San Jose in Caraga town on Saturday. No casualty has been reported.

Batchar said the military had sent MG520 attack helicopters and fired cannons at the rebels’ direction.

He said soldiers are conducting clearing operations to check if the artillery round has been accurate.

Peace with Reds still possible

From the Philippine Star (Feb 13): Peace with Reds still possible

President Rodrigo Duterte may still pursue peace with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) even if peace negotiations with the group have folded. photo

President Duterte may still pursue peace with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) even if peace negotiations with the group have folded.

“In due time this will be resolved because this is no longer about ideology but about the Filipino people,” the President said, referring to conflicts in Mindanao, including the one with the communist rebels.

The interest of the people, he added, should be above anything else even when ideologies remain respected.

In his visit to Surigao City yesterday, Duterte said he remained hopeful that things would look up for the earthquake victims and for all in Mindanao “once peace will prevail in the island.”

“I tried everything, I walked the extra mile, released prisoners, released their leaders so they can go to Oslo (Norway) to talk, and now they want 400 prisoners who fought the government under a rebellion released. This will (be) only given after a successful talk. What is there to talk about if I would release them?” the President added.

Yesterday, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) condemned the New People’s Army (NPA), the communists’ armed unit, for recruiting children to cope with its dwindling number of combatants.

The Army 28th Infantry Battalion reported that Rhea Liza Davis, a 13-year-old Davao Regional Athletic Association (DAVRAA) athlete, was recruited by the rebel group and eventually separating the girl from her family.

Leonila Davis, the girl’s mother, sought military help after efforts to recover her child failed.

The younger Davis was reportedly taken by Evelyn Hermocilla, who goes by the aliases Kara and Riza, on Jan. 30 in Buso, a mountain barangay of Mati town in Davao Oriental.

Hermocilla, who belongs to Section Committee 18, Sub-Regional Committee 2 of the communists’ Southern Mindanao Regional Command, allegedly refused to return the girl despite Leonila’s pleadings.

Some residents reported seeing the girl crying while traveling with an armed group.

In a statement, the Army said 101 families from Kasunugan, Tampat, Cabucanan and Kawitan, all smaller communities of Barangay Buso, were forced to evacuate last week as people feared a forced NPA recruitment.

Colonel Reuben Basiao, 701st Brigade commander, and Buso chairman Lolito Andan appealed for help in recovering the girl as they distributed food packs to the displaced families.

Duterte also went to Butuan City yesterday to posthumously award Sgt. Marlon Balais a bronze anahaw leaf medal for his meritorious services to the nation. Balais, a scout leader of the 29th Infantry battalion, was killed in a firefight with NPA rebels in Agusan del Norte.

Also killed in the clash was Jerson Beto, a grade 11 student, and small-scale miner Pepito Tiambong.

The encounter happened a week after Duterte terminated the peace talks with the communist rebels and labeled them a terrorist group. The President decided to scrap the peace negotiations after the communists insisted on their demand to free more than 400 rebel leaders whom they claim to be political prisoners.

Duterte rejected the demand, which he described as tantamount to granting amnesty. Communist rebels then called off the unilateral ceasefire and stepped up attacks against government forces in various parts of the country.

Former president and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada is backing Duterte’s declaration of war against the NPA although he continues to hope that peace negotiations would resume.

He said the communists have all the reasons to fear Duterte’s wrath because the President never backs down from a fight.

“They should fear President Duterte. Let us see if the President will still give them a chance,” Estrada said when asked about the NPA going head-to-head against Duterte.

The CPP, in a statement, said an all-out war would fail and that defeating the NPA is only a Duterte pipedream.

“Other regimes before him have tried and failed,” the CPP said.

The NPA was tagged as a foreign terrorist organization by the US State Department and as a terrorist group by the European Union Common Foreign and Security Policy. Its estimated strength has since dwindled to less than 3,000.

Estrada said Duterte was right when he suspended the unilateral ceasefire in reaction to the atrocities and ceasefire violations committed by the NPA in the past weeks, but stressed that he supports another round of peace talks.

He recalled his days when, as president, he ordered the Moro Islamic Liberation Front camps and territories wiped out during his war against terrorism, noting that he gave the group enough opportunities to talk with the government.

“I talked to them for about three months then in the fourth month, they burned down Kauswagan (Lanao del Norte). Many innocent civilians, mostly children were killed, and they even beheaded six soldiers,” Estrada said.

Estrada said the MILF raid on Kauswagan was the last straw.

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs, said they are not affected with the collapse of the government’s talks with the NPA, adding that the administration’s negotiation with the Moro people is distinct.

He welcomed the recent announcement of new members of the expanded Bangsamoro Transition Commission – a body that will draft the new Bangsamoro enabling law as part of the implementation process of the southern peace pact or the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed between the Philippine government and the MILF in March 2014.

PNP claims 15 NPAs killed in Cagayan

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 13): PNP claims 15 NPAs killed in Cagayan

Tuguegarao City, Cagayan — Police reported yesterday the killing of 15 New People’s Army (NPA) rebels and wounding of five soldiers in the latest encounter between government troops and the communist guerrillas in this province last Friday.
Chief Superintendent Eliseo Rasco, regional director (RD) of the Police Regional Office-2 (PRO-2), said the encounter happened in the remote village of Balani in Sto. Niño municipality, this province as soldiers were on hot pursuit of the rebels behind an ambush of army troopers in the same town last Wednesday.

But Randy Malayao, consultant of the National Democratic Front (NDF), denied Rasco’s claim that 15 NPA members had been killed, calling it “an imagination.”
What is clear is that the NPA ambush in Sitio Lagum, Barangay Lipatan, Sto. Niño, last Wednesday resulted in the death of Private First Class (PFC) Roel Tabuada, an element of the Charlie Company of the army’s 17th Infantry Battalion and native of Tuao, this province.

Apart from the military fatality, five other soldiers were wounded – Sergeant (Sgt.) Antonio Abarriao Jr., Pfc. Recher Bas¬yagon, Sgt. Johndick Padua, Corporal Orly Camarao and one Villamor Bumussao.

Rasco said his men on the ground have witnesses, who had seen the NPA rebels carrying their 15 slain comrades and a number of wounded combatants while escaping through Barangay Balani.
It was also learned that Crispin Apolinario, spokesman of the NPA’s Danilo Ben Command, had called for a localized ceasefire with the government troops through a radio interview over the weekend.


Meanwhile, villagers in Isabela condemned the NPA over the killing of two soldiers on the road in Barangay Mabbayad, Echague town.

Corporals Daryl I. Camangeg and Virgilio E. Herrera, both members of the 86th Infantry Battalion, 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, were riding a motorcycle as advanced party to facilitate a meeting in promoting peace and order when they were ambushed by the rebels in Echague, Isabela.
In a recent manifesto, residents and barangay officials in Echague said that such move done by the NPA rebels belonging to the Benito Tesorio Command was against the development of the people in the countryside as well as against the will of God.

In another development, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has urged the NPA not to attack soldiers who are helping in search and retrieval operations for victims of the quake that shook Surigao del Norte on Friday night.
“Allow the soldiers every opportunity to help the victims of the earthquake… We urge you not to attack our soldiers; or in any other ways disrupt the AFP’s rescue and rehabilitation activities for our people (in Surigao del Norte),” AFP Public Affairs Office (PAO) chief Marine Colonel Edgard Arevalo said.

Major General Benjamin Madrigal, Jr., the 4th Infantry Division Commander, has deployed his men to assist the victims of the quake and conduct initial damage assessment for the use of national and local governments.


Meanwhile, former President and incumbent Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada expressed hope that peace negotiations between the government and the communist rebels would continue despite recent encounters.

In a press release issued on Sunday, Estrada said President Duterte was right when he suspended the unilateral ceasefire in response to the atrocities committed by the NPA in the past weeks.

The mayor also backed the government’s declaration of an all-out war against the NPA. He said the communists have all the reasons to fear Duterte’s wrath because the President never backs down from a fight.

“Hopefully, hopefully, dahil NPA naman ’to eh, hindi naman MILF. Iba ’to. Ang mga NPA, ang problema naman nila mga land reform lang talaga,” he said when asked if he supports another round of peace talks with the communist rebels.

He said he remains hopeful that both parties would return to the negotiation table.

Troops arrest 6 NPA 'new recruits' in Sarangani

From GMA News (Feb 12): Troops arrest 6 NPA 'new recruits' in Sarangani

Troops on Sunday arrested six suspected new recruits of the New People's Army in pursuit operations in Alabel, Sarangani.

Captain Rhyan Batchar, spokesperson of the Philippine Army's 10th Infantry Division, identified the arrested suspects as Simeon Salda, Jun Moda, Claude Palbe, Garzon Palbe, Rene Ompao and Sabelo Colano.

Batchar reported that the six new recruits were arrested by members of the Army's 73rd Infantry Battalion (IB) in Sitio Tangis, Barangay Datal Anggas in Alabel.

The six suspects were arrested in pursuit operations launched by the military against rebels following a series of encounters in the province from Wednesday to Saturday.

Batchar said five firearms including an M16 rifle, two garand rifles and a carbine file were seized from the six suspected members of the NPA's Guerrilla Front 71.

Meanwhile, the military spokesman said troops from the 60th Infantry Battalion recovered two improvised explosive devices, a blasting machine, detonating switch and wires in Barangay Bollucan, Laak town in Compostela Valley.

He said the explosives were left by fleeing NPA members on Saturday.

The Philippines: a new source of grass roots for ISIS?

From Asia Times (Feb 12): The Philippines: a new source of grass roots for ISIS?

An Islamic 'vilayet' in Mindanao could well become a sanctuary for South Asian jihadis, and a place to recruit, network, train and and brainwash a new generation of recruits

According to well-informed sources in Iraq, the self-proclaimed “caliph” of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is worried about the future of his organization in Syria and Iraq. The terror group has been ejected from strategic cities such as Ramadi, faces an uphill battle in Mosul, and is on the verge of a major confrontation with Kurdish militias in its own de facto capital, Raqqa.

Donald Trump is seemingly very serious about waging an all-out war on ISIS. Fearing for the worst, al-Baghdadi is searching for new territory and new recruits. The Far East is certainly on his radar and one incubator might be the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The region comprises five predominantly Muslim provinces in the island of Mindanao and includes the island chain of Basilan part of the Philippines , a part of the Philippines that is made up of five predominantly Muslim provinces including Basilan and other islands of the Sulu Archipelago, which is already an incubator for Asian jihad.

Basilan is the birthplace of the Abu Sayyaf Group, a terrorist organization well-known to the first generation of global jihadists. Its founder, Abdurajik Janjalani, hailed from Basilan’s capital, Isabela City. Janjalani studied Arabic and Islam in Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Libya, and traveled to Afghanistan in the 1980s to help fight the Soviets. He met Osama Bin Laden, who gave him US$6 million to set up a Salafist cell in the Philippines. The Filipino group carried out its most famous operation — the worst in the country’s history — in 2004, when it bombed a passenger ferry off Manila Bay, killing 116 people.

The group’s current leader, 51-year-old Isnilon Hapilon, pledged his allegiance to al-Baghdadi back in 2014. He now commands the Islamic State of the Philippines and goes by the name “Abu Abdullah al-Filipini.” Hapilon has yet to declare an official province, or vilayet, on the island of Mindanao, which according to Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines’ president, is already becoming a magnet for terrorists.

This claim was first made by one of his predecessors, Fidel Ramos, who said: “At least 100 of our young Filipino Muslims have already infiltrated Iraq to undergo training to return and be jihadists or militants.” In January 2016, Hapilon claimed that four ISIS battalions were now ready in the Philippines, composed of Filipino and Malaysian jihadis who have also created a Shura Council and elected him as its leader.

In early 2016, an ISIS propaganda video made the rounds. It was shot at a training camp in a Filipino jungle. The film was aimed at recruiting Filipino Muslims into the so-called “Soldiers of the Caliphate of the Philippines.”

Since then, a handful of other Filipino organizations have sworn allegiance to ISIS, including Katibet Ansar al-Sharia (headed by Abu Anas al-Muhajir), Market al-Ansar (Abu Harith al-Filipine), and Ansar al-Khalifa (Abu Sharifah). Most are amateurish sub-groups. The only real ISIS vehicle in the Philippines, apart from Abu Sayyaf, is the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

A Philippine police wanted poster from 2006 includes Isnilon Hapilon (bottom right) among Southeast Asia’s most dangerous Islamist militants. Photo: AFP /Philippine National Police

Muslim strife has long been a reality in the Philippines. In 1971, more than 70 Filipino Muslims in Cotobato were massacred by a right-wing, quasi-Catholic paramilitary group, prompting Muammar al-Gaddafi of Libya to provide Filipino Islamic secessionists with arms and military bases in Tripoli. He even personally raised their issue at the Organization of Islamic Co-operation, prompting it to express, “serious concerns” about the “plight” of Filipino Muslims.

Since 9/11, several terrorist attacks have rocked Southeast Asia, including the Bali bombings of 2002 and 2005, and a spate of attacks in Jakarta. The first known Filipino-related ISIS operation dates to October 2013, when one man, Abu Ahmad Shiko, was killed by Syrian government forces, and two months later, another two were killed in battles in the Damascus countryside.

In November 2014, a Filipino militant was caught on camera helping ISIS comrades behead 18 Syrian soldiers. One month later, it was reported that ISIS had tried to recruit students at the Western Mindanao State University, offering an attractive monthly stipend of 70,000 pesos (or US$1,400). ISIS carried out its first operation inside the Philippines in April 2016, in what became a 10-hour gun battle in Basilan between police and troops under the command of Isnilon Hapilon, Islamic State’s “emir” in the Philippines. Fifty-two soldiers were wounded and 19 killed, as opposed to 13 terrorists.

If Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi were to head east, he might well galvanize such jihadist groups as exist across Asia. What they lack is one unifying spiritual leader, and are divided by small rivalries and lack of funds, forcing them to rob, loot, and kidnap to make a living. Given the amount of lawlessness in places such as Mindanao, a vilayet might very well be declared not too far from now. If it is, this ISIS pocket will automatically transform into a sanctuary for Asian jihadis – both those returning from the deserts of Syria and Iraq and those heading the other way to join ISIS. Mindanao would be to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi what Kabul and Peshawar were to Osama Bin Laden back in the 1980s – a place to recruit, network, train, and brainwash an entire generation of fresh recruits.

Editorial: A stronger defense structure will help

Editorial in the Manila Bulletin (Feb 11): Editorial: A stronger defense structure will help


Secretary of Defense Delfin Lorenzana has been giving a lot of thought to the South China Sea (SCS) lately. In a recent interview with an American news agency, he said he does not see the United States starting a war with China over the SCS as President Trump, he said, is a businessman and he knows that if war breaks out, business will suffer.

In another interview – with a French news agency – Lorenzana expressed fear that China is likely to build military facilities on Scarborough Shoal, which is only 150 miles from the Zambales coast and therefore within the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Lorenzana said China is likely to build facilities on Scarborough – which we call Panatag or Bajo de Masinloc – as It would give China a military outpost at the easternmost part of the South China Sea which it claims to be part of China. With a base on Scarborough, he said, China would have effective control of the maritime area it claims with its Nine-Dash Line.

In 2012, then President Benigno S Aquino III issued Administrative Order No. 29 renaming South China Sea waters within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone as “West Philippine Sea.” The area claimed includes, aside from Scarborough, the Spratly islands, the Reed Bank, and Mischief Reef west of Palawan. We call these the Kalayaan islands.

While the Philippine government claims all this areas in the “West Philippine Sea,” the name does not appear in any international map. China certainly does not recognize it, as it conflicts with its own Nine-Dash-Line map. In any open conflict, we could not defend our claim against those of other countries.

Over the years, the Philippines has had to rely on the US for help, but under our Mutual Defense Treaty, the US is committed to come to the Philippines’ defense in case of an attack only on a “metropolitan territory” or “island territories… in the Pacific.” Thus far, the US has limited its interest in the South China Sea to ensuring that it remains open to international navigation.

The Arbitral Court in the Hague ruled last year that China’s claims to most of the South China Sea have no legal basis and ordered that Scarborough Shoal, as a traditional fishing area, remain accessible to fishermen of all nations. But the Arbitral Court has no capacity to enforce its decisions, so if China – as Secretary Lorenzana fears – starts building a military outpost on the shoal, the Philippines could do nothing about it.

Under President Duterte, the Philippines has adopted a policy of closer, friendlier relations with China. We may have won in the Hague court, but we are not asserting our claim, not at this time anyway. We have no means to do this, not with our present defense capability, and not with our present uncertainties with the US.

Secretary Lorenzana can only speculate on possibilities in the South China Sea under present conditions which are constantly changing. He mentioned in his interview with the US news agency that he would ask for an increase in the Philippine defense budget – from the present 1.5 percent of the GNP to 2.5 percent. The present Philippine defense budget, he said, is only half of what most of our neighbors currently spend.

In the face of the challenges in the South China Sea, even doubling the defense budget would hardly make a difference. But a stronger Philippine defense structure would be an improvement on the present situation and deserves the full consideration of our government.

Canada blacklists tag Philippines with third highest number of ‘terrorists’

From the Asia Pacific Report (Feb 12): Canada blacklists tag Philippines with third highest number of ‘terrorists’

Wanted terrorists: This undated poster released jointly by the Philippine military and the US Embassy in Manila shows terrorist leaders wanted by authorities for alleged murders, extortion and kidnappings with corresponding rewards for their capture. Image: Inquirer News

Blacklists developed by the Canadian government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) have tagged the Philippines as having the third highest number of individual terrorists behind Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

The DFAIT list of more than 1800 identified individual terrorists, and a separate list for groups, was released by Canada’s Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions last week and posted under the office’s anti-terrorism financing page.

About 68 Filipinos were identified on that February 2017 DFAIT list, with the Philippine total behind the 113 of Saudi Arabia and the 88 of Iraq.

The listed Filipinos are affiliated with local rebel groups like the National Democratic Front (NDF) and Abu Sayyaf, which were identified by the Philippine government as terrorist organisations.

On the list is Jose Maria Sison of the National Democratic Front (NDF). The NDF group was negotiating a peace deal with the Philippine government until President Rodrigo Duterte ordered government negotiators on February 4 to pull out of the talks.

Another person on the list is Mukhlis Saifulla, one of the suspects in the bombing of the Light Railway Transit couches on 30 December 2000.

Also on the list is Julkipli Salim Salamuddin, an Abu Sayyaf member arrested in 2003 for a bombing incident in Zamboanga City that killed three, including an American green beret (special force) officer.

Some Filipinos detained

Some of those Filipinos identified in the list have been detained, like five of them who are members of the Rajah Solaiman Movement

The DFAIT also has a separate list of terrorist groups. Those from the Philippines made part of the list include the Abu Sayyaf group, the New People’s Army/Communist Part of the Philippines, the Southeast Asian group Jema’ah Islamiyah that has operations in the Philippines, and the Rajah Solaiman Movement.

The lists’ release comes at a time Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had called for the end of peace negotiations between the government and the NDF, as well as his orders to pummel the Abu Sayyaf group.

In the list of individuals, Yemen was ranked fourth with 43 terrorists. Syria (36) and Russia (33) were fifth and sixth.

Other countries included in the DFAIT terror list (individuals) is the United Kingdom (26), France (23), Turkey (10), and even the United States (seven).

US President Donald Trump earlier banned the entry of nationals from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen to the US as part of his administration’s anti-terror campaign.

But among the groups listed, three Filipino groups who were earlier identified to be linked with ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) were not in the DFAIT list: the Ansarul Khilafa Philippines, the Maute group, and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
Maute group tagged

Duterte tagged the Maute group, allegedly led by Abdullah Maute, as behind the September 2, 2016, bombing of a night market in Davao City (President Duuterte’s hometown) that killed 14 and injured 70 people.

The Canadian terrorism database has included notorious terrorists like Ibrahim al-Asiri, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Nasir al Whuayshi, as well as Hasan Izz-al-Din and Abdul Rahman Yasin (both tagged by the American Federal Bureau of Investigation as among the most wanted terrorists). Among the groups included in the list were ISIS, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Boko Haram.

The lists were posted on the anti-terrorism financing page of the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions. Last year, though not related to terrorist financing, the Philippines was on the receiving end of the world’s largest online bank hacking incident that saw the Bangladesh central bank lose US$81 million to casino operators based in Manila.

Some money had been recovered and returned to the Bangladeshi government, while a Filipino-run remittance company and a commercial bank are being investigated.

[Roy Abrhamn Narra and Carlo Casingcasing are graduate journalism students of the University of Santo Tomas. This story was reported as part of the course “Global Journalism Practice and Studies” at UST.]

‘Don’t attack soldiers on rescue missions’

From the Philippine Star (Feb 12): ‘Don’t attack soldiers on rescue missions’

“We urge you not to attack our soldiers or in any other way disrupt the rescue and rehabilitation activities for our people,” said Col. Edgard Arevalo, chief of the Public Affairs Office of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). File photo

The military has appealed to the communist New People’s Army (NPA) for a temporary truce to allow the troops to help out in search and rescue operations in Surigao del Norte following last Friday’s devastating earthquake.

“We urge you not to attack our soldiers or in any other way disrupt the rescue and rehabilitation activities for our people,” said Col. Edgard Arevalo, chief of the Public Affairs Office of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

A powerful earthquake struck Surigao del Norte late Friday, particularly the capital Surigao City, killing at least six people and injuring more than 120 others.

Disaster and rescue officials had appealed for help as they continuerd to search for survivors.

However, the NPA, which has guerrillas operating in Surigao del Norte and the nearby province of Surigao del Sur in the Caraga region, ordered its members to continue operations against the government.

The NPA went on the offensive after announcing the end of a self-declared ceasefire earlier this month.   

The government then dropped its ceasefire declaration with the rebels, and President Duterte scuttled the peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the NPA.

Duterte ordered the military to prepare “for the inevitable conflict” with the NPA following the termination of peace negotiations.

Skirmishes between government troops and the NPA erupted across the country starting last week after Duterte announced all-out war against the communist rebels.

Late last month, NPA rebels kidnapped a soldier in Alegria town in Surigao del Norte.

Three policemen were also snatched by the rebels during a raid at a police station in Malimono town in July last year.

“Allow the soldiers every opportunity to help the victims of the earthquake,” Arevalo said,
addressing the NPA rebels in the region.

The troops who were earlier ordered to run after the NPA have been diverted to humanitarian and disaster response operations in the quake-stricken provinces, Arevalo said.

However, Jorge Madlos, alias “Ka Oris,” the titular head and spokesman of the NPA in Northern Mindanao, issued an order to continue the offensive against government troops nationwide.

He said the NPA fighters are no longer restricted by its active defense policy and arenow ready to take on the AFP in all-out war.

“Starting today, the unilateral declaration of interim ceasefire is now completely terminated. All NPA commands and territorial units, as well as people’s militia and self defense units, can now take full initiative to defend the people and advance their interests, especially in the face of the declaration of all-out war of the Duterte regime,” Madlos said in a statement.

AFP chief Gen. Eduardo Año has alerted the troops deployed for humanitarian and disaster operations to be on alert for possible NPA attacks.

“Continue to carry out your duties and be ready to embark on the task of assisting local and national governments. But be on the look out for those who might be out to sabotage your rescue and rehabilitation efforts,” Año told the troops.

Last Friday’s tremor prompted Maj. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., commander of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division covering the Caraga and Northern Mindanao areas, to mobilize the troops for search and rescue operations in Surigao City.

Military trucks were also used to transport much needed supplies for the earthquake victims.
The quake left a significant number of buildings and infrastructure damaged.

Roads in the city had visible cracks and a bridge connecting the towns of San Francisco and Malimono collapsed.

Rescue teams were checking for possible casualties in several villages in the city.

The city’s airport was temporarily closed due to deep cracks in the runway, while a major port in Lipata district in the city was briefly closed.

The Surigao provinces suffered power outage due to the tremor.

“Other casualties are yet to be confirmed. We have initial reports of casualties but in order not to duplicate accounting we are withholding this,” Arevalo said.

Lt. Col. Rico Amaro, commander of the Army’s 30th Infantry Battalion whose unit has operational jurisdiction over the Surigao provinces, is closely coordinating the Army’s disaster response with the local government units.

A crisis meeting was held yesterday at the provincial capital between city disaster officials and the military led Col. Franco Nemesio Gacal, commander of the 402nd Brigade.

Additional troops are now on standby in the event of a manpower shortfall in other quake-devastated areas.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) said they will provide additional manpower to assist in search and rescue operations in Surigao City.

Director Camilo Pancratius Cascolan, chief of the PNP Directorate for Operations, said the PNP is ready to provide additional manpower and equipment in the Caraga region.

Cascolan said Caraga regional police under Chief Supt. Rolando Felix is taking the necessary steps to assist the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and the AFP in the search and relief efforts.

“The regional director has coordinated with NDRRMC for specific actions being undertaken with the AFP in the area,” Cascolan said.

PNP spokesman Senior Supt. Dionardo Carlos said policemen from the Surigao del Norte police have been deployed for rescue operations and to prevent looting in the affected areas.