Friday, March 3, 2017

Expert doubts Beijing to demilitarize S. China Sea

From the Daily Tribune (Mar 4): Expert doubts Beijing to demilitarize S. China Sea

While Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. emerged strong with his remark that China should demilitarize in the disputed South China Sea, a senior official of a Washington-based think tank group said it’s likely impossible for Beijing to dismantle its installed weapon systems in the area.

At a press conference on Thursday’s closing reception of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) international conference “US-Asean Relations: Charting the next 40 Years,” CSIS Southeast Asia program senior adviser Ernest Bower said “China is not going to walk that back just because they are asked to do it by a group of Asean foreign ministers.”

“It’s great if they would (dismantle their weapons systems) but that’s not going to happen,” he noted.

Yasay earlier had said some foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) had expressed “grave concerns” over China’s militarization in the region.

When asked by if there’s a possibility for them to appeal China’s demilitarization and further dismantling of weapons installed in the area, Yasay answered “yes.”

Bower said Yasay’s response was correct, but it does not follow that China would readily comply

“I think it’s the right answer but I don’t know, it doesn’t seem very likely,” he noted.

Zhu Feng, executive director to China Center for Collaborative Studies of theSouth China Sea, for his part, said: “China’s claim in the Spratlys (Panatag) is very legitimate.”

He maintained that Beijing has historical claims over the strategic waterway similar to what the Chinese Foreign Ministry has repeatedly and consistently said.

On dismantling of weapons in the area, Zhu stressed: “No, it’s impossible.”

“You know why? Because China now is getting bigger, he said.”

The shoal also commands the northeast exit of the sea, so a Chinese military outpost there could stop other countries’ navies from using the waterway.

China’s nine-dash line claims at least 90 percent of the South China Sea.

A UN-backed tribunal, however, ruled last year that the so-called “nine-dash-line” had no legal basis.
It affirmed that Panatag Shoal is within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone, based on the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The Duterte administration has shelved the ruling for the meantime, supposedly for future use when Manila engages China on the “contentious issues.”

Bower, however, said he hopes that Manila’s legal victory would be put into use.

He also warned that “to squander that opportunity to use such as a high level international legal standard would seem to put the country’s national security and its sovereignty at risk rolling the dice.”

Earlier, Yasay said China has promised not to construct in the disputed islands.

Referring to the state visit of President Rodrigo Duterte to Beijing last October 2016, Yasay said both leaders have “agreed that China has indicated, insofar as I understand it, that they have desisted from building on this (Panatag Shoal).”

According to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, “China’s position is consistent and clear and is subject to no change” including on building structures on Huangyan Dao (Panatag Shoal).

Recent satellite imagery, however, appears to show China is completing structures intended to house surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) on a series of artificial islands in the South China Sea, a Washington think-tank said last week.

According to images published by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, the structures are being installed on Fiery Cross Reef, Mischief Reef and Subi Reef in the Spratlys.

The AMTI, which is part of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said China appears to have begun construction on the buildings between late September and early November 2016.

“This indicates they are not reactions to the political cycle in Washington, but rather part of a steady pattern of Chinese militarization,” the group wrote.

China has already installed HQ-9 SAMs on Woody Island, but these are only covered by camouflage netting, AMTI said.

The new structures would provide the SAMs with better protection from seawater and the elements.   

People’s revolution to end 22 years of mining pillage

NPA propaganda statement posted to the National Democratic Front Website (Mar 3): People’s revolution to end 22 years of mining pillage  

Melito Glor Command
New People’s Army-Southern Tagalog

The 3rd of March 2017 marks the 22nd year of environmental plunder under the Mining Act of 1995. Under the act, large-scale, foreign, and destructive mining has spread like wildfire throughout the country.

In the Southern Tagalog region, mining corporations have rampantly ravaged the lives of numerous people, particularly small farmers and indigenous people.

The Rio Tuba Nickel Mines Corporation and its joint venture, the Coral Bay Nickel Mining Corporation, in Bataraza, Palawan has caused massive environmental damage in Mt. Bulanjao and its surrounding communities. Tremendous water contamination of heavy metals, such as nickel and hexavalent chromium, in the river systems around Mt. Bulanjao has affected numerous communities in the periphery of the mines. It has also caused erosion that has significantly affected the rice paddies and other forms of livelihood of local small farmers and indigenous people’s communities. The company has also illegally encroached in the remaining primary forest areas of Mt. Bulanjao to expand their mining activities. The people, on the other hand, remain silenced due to the company’s use of Philippine Marines and CAFGU (Civillian Armed Forces Geographical Unit) elements as their special security forces. Both companies are affiliated with the controversial Taganito Mining Corporation in Surigao del Norte.

The island of Mindoro is also a victim of mining pillage. An example of which is the Intex Mining Corporation in Naujan, Oriental Mindoro. Intex Mines is notorious for occupying Mangyan ancestral lands in the mountain areas of Naujan and exploiting them as a cheap source of labor. The mines have also caused irremediable environmental damage by contaminating river systems and deforesting primary secondary forested areas.

On the other hand, along the boundary area of Quezon and Camarines Norte, the VL Mining Company has laid waste on the Mt. Cadig area with their heavy metal mining and quarrying operations while being safeguarded by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Their mining operations have caused flash floods that wash out crops of small farming communities.

Let previous mining disasters such as the Marcopper mining disaster in Marinduque, persistent river pollution cause by Atlas Mines in Toledo City, Cebu, and the Rapu-rapu Mine leakage in the province of Albay serve as a reminder of how big a disaster these mines may cause to the environment and especially to the people.

Moreover, mining corporations continue to overstep our national sovereignty and patrimony in such that instead of our resources being utilized by the Filipino citizens, they are being used by big bourgeois compradors to rake in profits in the billions. The Mining Act of 1995 is a manifestation of the reactionary government’s connivance with these compradors and their ignorance of the people’s interests.

It is in this spirit that the Melito Glor Command New People’s Army – Southern Tagalog calls to oust all large-scale, foreign mining corporations out of the country. It is high time that people unite to intensify the people’s democratic revolution. This is the only way in which we can ensure genuine national industrialization that shall pave the way for a nationalized mining system and to ensure that the people will utilize what is reaped from our land.

Maguindanao Sultanate back fight vs terrorists

From The Standard (Mar 4): Maguindanao Sultanate back fight vs terrorists

Descendants of the Sultanate of Maguindanao assembled here in a three-day summit that started Thursday to support President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign to combat extremism.

This, after Duterte called on Muslim leaders to go against extremism as the Islamic State was trying to gather connections in the Muslim sectors here in Mindanao.

Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenza were expected to make a dialogue with the descendants of the Sultanate of Maguindanao, official sources said.

The group is led by Sultan Abdulaziz Salem Mastura Kudarat V, the 25th Sultan of Maguindanao.

Lawyer Suharto Ambolodto, a descendant of the Sultanate, said the event was expected to gather the Masturas clan Maguindanao.

According to the invitation, the government is gathering support from the traditional local leaders to go away from the calls of the extremist group.

Videos of the Islamic Group calling for support of Islam in Mindanao have been circulating online that pushed Duterte to call on the Islamic community to never intertwine the thought of entering the terrorist group.

The authorities have identified several terrorist groups in Mindanao such as the Jemaah Islamiyah, Maute, Abu Sayyaf and Ansar Al-Khilafah among others.
However, the military has claimed that Mindanao is free from the Islamic State group.

Duterte ready to resume peace talks with NDF but …

From MindaNews (Mar 4): Duterte ready to resume peace talks with NDF but …

Exactly a month after lifting the unilateral ceasefire he declared last year in relation to the peace process with the National Democratic Front (NDF), President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said he was ready to resume peace talks and declare a ceasefire again but first “magstorya tag kinasingkasing” (we must have a heart-to-heart talk).

He said he also wants the New People’s Army (NPA) to release all the soldiers and civilians they are holding captive, and to stop demanding revolutionary taxes. He pointed to reports that the NPA burned heavy equipment of companies that did not meet their demands.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte answers questions from members of the media at Camp General Edilberto Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro City on March 3, 2017 after visiting the wake of Sgt. Marzon Morales and PFC Oshin Rosala and the soldiers wounded in clashes with the New People’s Army in Misamis Oriental. ALBERT ALCAIN/Presidential Photo

Duterte on February 3 lifted the unilateral ceasefire in response to the February 1 announcement of NPA spokesperson Jorge Madlos that they would lift their unilateral ceasefire effective 11:59 p.m. of February 10.

Madlos explained they were terminating their unilateral ceasefire because government had “not complied with its obligation to amnesty and release all political prisoners” and that it had “treacherously taken advantage of the unilateral declaration of interim ceasefire to encroach on the territory of the people’s democratic government,” claiming the AFP had occupied at least 500 villages nationwide “which are within the authority of the revolutionary government.”

Hours after Madlos’ announcement, however, three soldiers were killed by the NPA in Malaybalay City while a junior officer was killed in Manay, Davao Oriental.

On February 4, Duterte announced he was ending the peace talks and on February 5 told reporters in Cagayan de Oro City where he visited the wake for soldiers slain by the NPA that he was classifying his former professor Jose Ma. Sison, chief consultant of the NDF, as a “terrorist,” and the group he represents as a “terrorist organization.”

Back in Cagayan de Oro on Friday, March 3, this time to visit yet another wake and the wounded as a result of clashes with the NPA in Misamis Oriental, Duterte said in Cebuano that he was ready to talk to the NDF “but not the killers” and was ready to end the war because it brings so much pain to Filipinos.


Bedside chat. President Rodrigo Duterte gives wounded soldiers a pep talk in Camp Evangelista Station Hospital in Cagayan de Oro City Friday night, 03 March 2017. The wounded soldiers figured in clashes with the New Peoples Army in Misamis Oriental and Northern Mindanao. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

“Andam ko basta sabot gani ug tinarong. Andam ko mag ceasefire usab. Pero tinarong nga istorya unya kanang tinuod” (I am ready but there must be sincerity in the talks. I am ready to resume the ceasefire again. But let us be sincere and true), Duterte said, adding that when there was still a ceasefire, “my soldiers were killed.” Duterte was referring to the February 1 killing of four soldiers by the NPA in Bukidnon and Compostela Valley, just hours after Madlos announced the ceasefire would be lifted February 10.

“Andam ko mag ceasefire basta tungo sa kapayapaan” (I am ready for a ceasefire towards peace,” he said.

The NDF had earlier announced that the NPA would release its captives but urged a suspension of military operations in the areas where the captives would be release.

In a statement on February 23, Joaquin Jacinto, NDF Mindanao spokesperson said they will release the three soldiers, one policeman and two paramilitary personnel who were arrested and detained by the NPA in four regions in Mindanao.

Jacinto said the release “shall be carried out as a gesture of goodwill for the resumption of the peace talks” and in response to the request of the families, loved ones and concerned sectors in society.

To be released are PFC Edwin Salan, captured in Alegria, Surigao del Norte on January 29; Sgt. Solaiman Calucop and Pfc Samuel Garay, captured in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat on February 2; PO2 Jerome Natividad, captured in Talakag, Bukidnon on February 9; and paramilitary members Rene Doller and Carl Mark Nucos, who were captured in Lupon, Davao Oriental on February 14.

But Jacinto said their actual release “can only be realized if and when the Armed Forces of the Phlippines, the Philippine National Police and the local government units give their full and undivided cooperation.”

Jacinto called on Duterte, who as Davao City mayor had accepted from the NPA their captive soldiers and police as well as paramilitary personnel and local officials “to direct the AFP to implement a suspension of military operations, and the PNP a suspension of police operations in areas which the NDF in the region concerned will specify and announce soon.”

The Regional Operations Command of the NPA in Far South Mindanao on February 14 released proof of life audio messages and photos of Calocop and Garay.

In a press statement on February 23, the NDF-North Central Mindanao Region said it was ready to begin talks with the Local Crisis Committee of Bukidnon on the release of Natividad.

In a statement on March 1, the NDF – Far South Mindanao Region said until the military stops its operations, Calocop and Garay will remain in captivity.

BTC to hold first session on draft Bangsamoro Basic Law next week

From MindaNews (Mar 3): BTC to hold first session on draft Bangsamoro Basic Law next week

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) that will draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will have its first session on March 5 and 6 in Cotabato City, with only four months left to July, the target for submission of the draft to Congress.

But Ghazali Jaafar, 1st Vice Chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and chair of the 21-member BTC is confident they can craft and submit the draft before President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 27.

Jaafar told MindaNews that the first session will focus on the adoption of house rules and “mag-strategize kami re crafting of the new BBL.”

Ghazali Jaafar, chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission says he is confident the 21-member commission will be able to submit the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law before President Rodrigo Duterte delivers the second State of the Nation Address on July 27, 2017. MIndaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

He told MindaNews in an earlier interview that his confidence that they would meet the deadline stems from the fact that they have a working draft — the “agreed version” submitted by the first BTC to Congress on September 10, 2014 — or what became House Bill 4994 and Senate Bill 2408.

The BBL is the legal expression of the political agreement, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) that government (GPH) and the MILF signed on March 27, 2014, to pave the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro, a new autonomous political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

After the committee hearings on HB 4994 and SB 2408, the House of Representatives’ Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL under Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and and Senate Committee on Local Governments under Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., crafted their own versions — HB 5811 and SB 2894 — bearing the same title, “Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region” (BLBAR) which the then 15-member BTC said “watered down” the “agreed version” of the MILF and the government (GPH).

The MILF-led BTC, then composed of eight members from the MILF and seven from the GPH, as well as the MILF and GPH peace panels worked for the reinstatement of the provisions of the “agreed version” that were removed under the BLBAR versions but did not succeed. Deliberations were also delayed due to frequent absences of Representatives during the deliberations in the House (sessions were adjourned several times due to lack of quorum), and the slow progress in the Senate deliberations (Marcos’ committee filed its own version only in mid-August 2015).

Congress under the Aquino administration adjourned in February 2016 without passing a Bangsamoro law.

President Duterte, the 16th President of the Philippines and the first Mindanawon to lead the nation, had repeatedly vowed to address the historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro. He vowed to push for the passage of the BBL and the shift to a federal system of government.

On November 7, 2016, Duterte issued EO 8 reconstituting the BTC to allow for its expansion from 15 to 21 (11 from the MILF, 10 from the GPH and the Moro National Liberation Front faction formerly chaired by Muslimin Sema, now by Yusoph Jikiri).

President Rodrigo Duterte poses with the 21 members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) at the launch Friday, February 24, 2017 of the expanded body that will draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO
But the composition of the expanded BTC was announced only on February 10, three months and three days after Duterte signed EO 8. The BTC was officially launched here on February 24, with President Duterte telling the Commissioners to “navigate the hindrances and obstructions” and “hanapin ninyo ang daan hanggang patungo sa kapayapaan” (find a way to peace).

Jaafar told MindaNews that in their last sit-down meeting with President Duterte at the Matina Enclaves here on December 2, the President told them that as soon as the BTC Commissioners are appointed, it is necessary that the newly-crafted BBL will be submitted to him “later part maybe of June or early part of July.”

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III on Tuesday told MindaNews that the BTC “should now start working” and work “double time” so they can submit the draft within schedule, adding that passing a “bill into law is easier than (shifting from) old Constitution to new Constitution.”

Jaafar said they expect President Duterte to certify the bill as urgent. He said they expect that by 2018 the law will be passed and ratified by the people in a plebiscite in the proposed Bangsamoro core territory and thereafter, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) shall have been appointed by President Duterte to run what would be a ministerial form of government until the election of the first set of officials of the Bangsamoro government.

No peace talks as long as NPA rebels ‘full of hate,’ says Duterte

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 3): No peace talks as long as NPA rebels ‘full of hate,’ says Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte announces that he will suspend the peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF) as he answers queries from members of the media while visiting the grave of his mother Soledad ‘Nanay Soling’ Duterte at the Davao Catholic Cemetery in Davao City on Feb. 4, 2017.(Presidential photo by KARL NORMAN ALONZO)

The government cannot resume peace talks with communist rebels while their hearts are full of hate, President Rodrigo Duterte said Friday night.

Duterte his decision to scrap peace negotiations last month was partly based on an attack by the New People’s Army (NPA) on three soldiers. which happened even before the rebels terminated their unilateral ceasefire.

The soldiers had 76 gunshot wounds, which Duterte said showed the communist rebels’ level of hatred. That was why he got so angry.

“How can you do that to a Filipino?” he said. “You know, that indicates hatred. If they are like that, you are full of hate. Then we cannot talk about peace.”

One bullet should be enough to bring down your enemy, he said.

Duterte made his statements to reporters after his visit to the wake in Cagayan de Oro of two slain soldiers.

The soldiers, who belonged to the 58th Infantry Battalion of the 4th Infantry Divsion were killed in combat with communist rebels in Misamis Oriental earlier in the week. Four other soldiers from the same unit were injured in that clash.

The National Democratic Front, the Communist Party of the Philippines, their allies, and other interest groups have been exhorting the President to return to the negotiating table, asking him not to waste the gains achieved in three rounds of discussions.

Duterte had said that he would only resume the peace talks if there would be a “compelling reason” to do so.

Commenting on another issue, his war on drugs, he said never ordered law enforcers to murder people. What he told them was to protect themselves if the suspects threaten them.

“But if they resist with violence, you place in danger the life of a police, you have no right to do that,” he said.

Police officers, he pointed out, need not kill suspects because drug cases are non-bailable.

Record high female grads at PMA

From the Philippine Star (Mar 4): Record high female grads at PMA

The Philippine Military Academy (PMA) will send off a record high number of women to the Armed Forces on March 12. ANDY ZAPATA

The Philippine Military Academy (PMA) will send off a record high number of women to the Armed Forces on March 12.

PMA public affairs officer Lt. Col. Reynaldo Balido said 63 of the 167 members of the graduating class are women, the highest number since the PMA began accepting females in 1993.

The women have also shown impressive performance while in the country’s premier military officer training institution, with several among the top 10 in their classes.

In 1999, Arlene de la Cruz, a former Mathematics major at the University of the Philippines in Baguio, emerged number one, the first-ever female cadet topnotcher. She died in a mysterious car accident in 2008 in Bataan.

Last year, female cadet Christine Mae Naungayan Calima from Bolinao, Pangasinan graduated salutatorian.

Seven other female cadets graduated with Naungayan while 14 of their female “mistahs” or batchmates would graduate on March 12.

In 2015, Caroline Jhoy Ramirez Nacional , 22, from Maitum, Sarangani placed fifth in the graduating class.

Also in the top 10 of the 2014 graduating class was Liza Jumawid Dango from Bulua, Cagayan de Oro City.

Again in 2013, an Igorot (Kankanaey) lass from Beckel, La Trinidad, Benguet – Maryam Dinamling Balais – was salutatorian.

She was quoted as saying then that “the PMA is no longer a man’s world.”

“PMA training is never difficult for women,” she enthused while encouraging more Filipino young women to join the academy.

Four of the 19 graduating females in 2013 were in the top 10, including Joselyn Dimapilis Advincula from Tagaytay City (No. 5), Vanessa Pascual Factor from Antipolo City (No. 8), and Marila Agrabio Maniscan from South Cotabato (No. 10).

The 2013 PMA class “Pudang Kalis” had the largest number of females in the top 10 since the PMA opened enrollment to women.

In 2012, in fourth place of the graduating class was Angeline Osorio Esmeria from Taguig City.

In 2011, Baguio lass Janice Matbagan landed sixth in the graduating class.

Karen Padayao from Ormoc City, Leyte, placed ninth in the 2010 graduating class.

Again in 2009, 22-year-old Cynthia Forteza from Urbiztondo, Pangasinan landed in ninth place.

In 2008, Me-ann Singson of Ligao City in Albay landed third in the graduating class.

For this year, PMA will announce the top ten graduating cadets on Monday.

President Duterte is expected to formally welcome the PMA “Sanggalang ay Lakas at Buhay Para sa Kalayaan ng Inang Bayan (‘Salaknib’ or Iluko of defense)” class to the military fold.

Duterte’s Wars Aren’t Working for the Philippines

From The Diplomat (Mar 3): Duterte’s Wars Aren’t Working for the Philippines

The beheading of a German hostage is the latest sign that his assaults on drugs and criminality have seen few gains.

The great misconception of Rodrigo Duterte’s rule in the Philippines is that a ruthless attitude to resolving this country’s myriad problems might actually work. He tried that with drug dealers, with disastrous and unwarranted results for thousands, before suspending operations.

Duterte also promised to eliminate the Abu Sayyaf Group, indicating their end would be even swifter and nastier than his eradication of drug dealers after militants began “slaughtering people like chickens.”

“Kill them, destroy them,” Duterte told the police and military last October, adding his country had the ability to finish the group off within a week.

That was an optimistic outlook even for the Abu Sayyaf – a low-grade terrorist outfit with a liking for soft targets – and not enough to save 70-year-old Jurgen Kantner, who was killed after being held for three months by the Islamist militants.

Kantner was beheaded after the deadline for payment of a $780,000 ransom had passed. His wife, 59-year-old Sabine Merz, was shot dead when the couple’s boat was hijacked.

Among those killed in the past year were two Canadians and an 18-year-old local. The beheadings and kidnappings occurred around Duterte’s home town of Davao, where he used his record as mayor to run for the presidency in last year’s election.

Kantner’s death rekindled fears that militants fighting with Islamic State in the Middle East were returning home to create havoc and lick their wounds following a series of defeats in Syria and Iraq. In this case, that’s unlikely.

The Abu Sayyaf has been on the expansion trail and sworn allegiance to Islamic State, also known as Daesh. But kidnap and ransom, along with banditry, has always been their stock in trade, as opposed political point scoring or fighting for a caliphate. According to risk analysis firm Stratfor, the Abu Sayyaf and their leader Isnilon Hapilon, made $7 million in 2015 alone from kidnap and ransom.

Duterte and his men insisted they did everything they could to try and save Kanter. “Up to the last moment, many sectors, including the armed forces of the Philippines exhausted all efforts to save his life,” said presidential peace advisor, Jesus Dureza. “We all tried our best but to no avail.”


Put simply, the ransom was not paid. Like the Canadian hostages, Kanter was killed, while other Western hostages have been released under previous administrations in Manila when negotiations with the Abu Sayyaf were very difficult but possible.

It’s a major failure that comes barely a month after Duterte suspended anti-drug operations following the murder of a kidnapped South Korean businessman allegedly by anti-drug police, inside the national police headquarters, who got it wrong.

A 117-page report titled License to Kill by Human Rights Watch is also warning Duterte’s war against alleged drug dealers and the use of extrajudicial killings could amount to crimes against humanity, as defined by the International Criminal Court.

“Our investigations into the Philippine ‘drug war’ found that police routinely kill drug suspects in cold blood and then cover up their crime by planting drugs and guns at the scene,” Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, said. “President Duterte’s role in these killings makes him ultimately responsible for the deaths of thousands.”

In the final analysis, Duterte has so far failed to eliminate the Abu Sayyaf as he promised. In fact, he’s barely dented their operations and he has failed to secure the release of the too many hostages, local and foreign, being held.

One exception is an eight-year-old boy, who spent six months in captivity and was freed after an alleged payment was made by his family.

Given the carnage that followed Duterte’s assumption of office in June, people were right to fear him and his election promises. He kept his word with his bloody crackdowns. But those who backed him under the belief that heavy handed and deadly tactics would resolve some dreadful issues plaguing the Philippines would be right in thinking they got it wrong.

Communities helping ASG kidnappers – ARMM gov

From the Manila Times (Mar 4): Communities helping ASG kidnappers – ARMM gov

SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao: Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Mujiv Hataman told Muslim leaders to stop pretending that the terror acts of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) are without the knowledge of their host communities.

Hataman aired the call as he condemned the ASG’s recent beheading of German hostage Juergen Kantner in Sulu as an act against the teachings of Islam and against the moral values of the Moro people.

The regional governor said this was the latest of a series of brutal, terrorist attacks meant to strike fear in the hearts of the people.

“Our condemnation against these acts have, time and again, fallen on deaf ears,” he said in exasperation.

He called on his fellow Moros to cooperate with law enforcers by giving the necessary information on the whereabouts of the terrorist group, following fighting in Sulu between the military and the terrorists that resulted in five ASG men killed on Thursday.

Hataman, who has jurisdiction over five provincial governors and two city mayors, urged local officials to assert their mandates and authorities to stop terrorist activities.

“We call on the local government units to assert their authority and to exert all efforts to clamp down on terrorist groups within their jurisdiction,” the ARMM regional governor said.

“We are counting on the local government units to assist and help the military and coordinate with each other. Our joint effort in maintaining peace and order is crucial in ensuring that the welfare and rights of the people are not compromised,” he added.

Hataman said the regional government was committed to support local governments with whatever means necessary to stop terror.

Kantner was reportedly held hostage by men loyal to Muammar Askali, also known as Abu Rami, an ASG commander in Sulu.

The German was kidnapped almost two months ago when he and his wife, Sabine Merz, were cruising in their yacht through an area controlled by the Abu Sayyaf. Merz was reportedly killed when she tried to fight back with a shotgun.

Hataman, who hails from Basilan province, another ASG lair, pointed out this was not the first act of terror committed by the ASG.

“This will not be the last if we continue to turn a blind eye and deaf ear to the crimes of those who betray our faith and our people,” Hataman warned.

He appealed to all ARMM residents to join forces and stop the ASG brutalities.

“Let us work together to end this culture of fear and impunity in which the ASG thrives – a culture in which the next murderous act could be the death of our families, our friends, or ourselves,” Hataman warned.

Fourth Quarter 2016 Social Weather Survey: Net trust rating of countries: "Very Good" +59 for United States; "Good" +37 for Australia and Japan; "Neutral" +9 for China and Russia

From the Social Weather Stations (Mar 2):

The Fourth Quarter 2016 Social Weather Survey findings on public trust in selected countries are in the March 2, 2017 issue of BusinessWorld.

The survey background and supporting charts are posted below.

BusinessWorld (BW) is the media partner of SWS in polling, for exclusive first publication by BW, the SWS Indicators of Governance and the Economy. The original SWS report will be posted in the SWS website two days following the BW publication.

Survey Background

The December 2016 Social Weather Survey was conducted from December 3-6, 2016 using face-to-face interviews of 1,500 adults (18 years old and above) nationwide, 600 in Balance Luzon and 300 each in Metro Manila, Visayas and Mindanao (sampling error margins of ±3% for national percentages, ±4% for Balance Luzon, and ±6% each for Metro Manila, Visayas and Mindanao).

The area estimates were weighted by National Statistics Office medium-population projections for 2016 to obtain the national estimates.

The Social Weather Survey items on public trust in selected countries are non-commissioned. These items were included on SWS's own initiative and released as a public service. The specific countries included in the surveys are based on their relevance to foreign affairs.


SWS employs its own staff for questionnaire design, sampling, fieldwork, data-processing, and analysis, and does not outsource any of its survey operations.


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Duterte to fly to Russia on May 25

From Rappler (Mar 2): Duterte to fly to Russia on May 25

During the highly-anticipated visit, Duterte is set to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin for the second time

MEETING PUTIN. President Rodrigo Duterte and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during their bilateral meeting at the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Summit in Lima, Peru on November 19. File photo by Robinson Niñal Jr/Presidential Photo

MEETING PUTIN. President Rodrigo Duterte and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during their bilateral meeting at the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Summit in Lima, Peru on November 19. File photo by Robinson Niñal Jr/Presidential Photo

A date has apparently been set for President Rodrigo Duterte's much anticipated visit to Russia.

Duterte himself revealed the date for his trip during a speech on Thursday night, March 2, in Mactan, Cebu.

"Sabi man ng Russia (Russia said), we have everything you need, just come here. So I'm going there with Lactao, May 25," said the President.

He was referring to Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Central Command chief Army Major General Oscar Lactao.

Duterte then said he is looking forward to meeting beautiful Russian women.

"Maganda yung mga Russians. 'Yun naman ang puntahan mo," he said, eliciting laughter from his audience. (The Russians are beautiful. That's what you go there for.)

He also said he intends to have a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he met for the first time in November 2016 during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Peru.

Duterte has described Putin as his "idol."

Government-to-government deals, mostly to do with military cooperation and economic partnership, are expected to be signed during the visit.

The visit was arranged during May, one of the hottest months in Russia, because the 71-year-old Duterte is averse to cold climates.

In December of last year, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr flew to Moscow to discuss the trip and planned agreements.

Taiwan navy, air force to train in disputed South China Sea

From InterAksyon (Mar 3): Taiwan navy, air force to train in disputed South China Sea

Taiwan's Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan attends the International Maritime and Defense Industry Expo in Kaohsiung in this Sept. 16, 2016 fIle photo. REUTERS

Taiwan's navy will step up regular patrols around the South China Sea and conduct joint training with the air force in response to China's growing military power in the disputed waterways, the island's defense minister said on Thursday.

Beijing, which claims almost all the South China Sea, has regularly flown military jets over the waters and recently sailed its first aircraft carrier around Taiwan in what it called routine drills.

"Looking ahead at the transformation of China's strategy and its investment in new weapons equipment, our military will practise new reforms in our training," Taiwan Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan told a parliamentary session.

"The navy, during its regular South China Sea patrols, will conduct joint training with the air force in protecting fishermen and supply transports, and in humanitarian rescue drills to expand the combat readiness of our sea and air patrols."

Taiwan deploys regular supplies to Itu Aba, its sole holding in the South China Sea, the energy rich waters that are also claimed by China, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei.

Feng's remarks come ahead of China's new defense budget for 2017, to be unveiled on the weekend at the annual meeting of the Chinese parliament. The figures are closely watched around the region and in Washington for clues to China's intentions.

Self-ruled Taiwan is increasingly concerned over China's military threat. Beijing has never renounced the use of force to take back what it deems a wayward province.

The Chinese Defense Ministry added in a later statement that Chinese air force jets on Thursday flew to the southeast of Japan's Miyako island, which sits to Taiwan's northeast, to carry out joint drills with Chinese warships.

The need for China to practise these drills in bigger air and sea space, particularly in the Pacific Ocean to Taiwan's east, represents "an increase in threat", Feng said.

Army strike forces to deploy vs drugs

From the Mindanao Times (Mar 3): Army strike forces to deploy vs drugs

THE MILITARY is ready to provide strike forces in the fight against illegal drugs.

“A platoon-size strike force (will) be made available to the regional offices of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) as the need arises,” said Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año.

On Tuesday, the AFP and PDEA signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA), forging cooperation in anti-drug operations in the country.

Año and PDEA Director General Isidro Lapeña signed the agreement employing the AFP in anti-illegal drug operations.

Under the agreement, the PDEA will be the force employer, while the AFP will be the force provider in the anti-illegal drug campaign.

Ano told TIMES that the AFP will support the PDEA through the newly created AFP Task Force Noah led by Brig. Gen. Tabo.
“The PDEA shall be the lead agency in all the operations and we shall provide intelligence targeting higher level of drug syndicates and in cases where drug syndicates have large private armed groups,” he said.

Brig. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, the commander of Join Task Force Haribon, said there is no specific guideline on the measure yet but he vowed to support it.
On Tuesday, President Rodrigo Duterte announced that he would again use the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the fight against illegal drugs amid reports that drug dealers are back on the streets.

Meanwhile, the Davao City Police Office (DCPO) has yet to receive any directive from the higher officials pertaining to the possible resumption of the PNP’s anti-illegal drugs campaign, Oplan Tokhang.

But DCPO spokesperson, Sr. Insp. Catherine Dela Rey, told TIMES that the DCPO is ready if the Oplan Tokhang would resume.

Duterte says I am ready to talk

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 3): Duterte says I am ready to talk

President Rodrigo Duterte said in his visit to 4th Infantry Division at Camp Evangelista, Cagayan de Oro City on March 3 that if there can be peace in this land we will flourish.

“So I am ready to talk. I don’t want to make war. The fact there is a war going on between our own people fighting each other, there is no sense to it,” the President said in a media interview.

Duterte also said he is not happy to see people die and saddened with Filipinos killing Filipinos.

“I will do everything to avoid Filipino killing his own,” said Duterte.

He told the press corruption must stop and he is ready to fire corrupt government officials even if they are CESOs or civil service eligible.

“I promise you no corruption, no drugs, no criminality,” said President Duterte. He also clarified, “But I did not say that I’m going to kill the plunderer.”

In terms of illegal drugs, Duterte said it has created chaos in the country and it starts will dysfunction of the family.

Meanwhile, Private First Class Vincent Niño L. Lopez expressed his gratitude for the support extended by the President. Lopez sustained wounds in the military’s combat operations against the New People’s Army (NPA) in Sugbongcogon town.

In his visit, the President awarded Wounded Personnel Medal to 2Lt Daniel F. De Guzman, Sgt Josua G Delawan, Pfc Jeneses E Andam, Pfc Marquin R Variacion, Pfc Lopez, Private Ramon B Balibagon and Private Regie Joy D Duyan.

Likewise, the President visited the wake of two soldiers who were killed by the NPA at arm encounters and awarded the Military Merit Medal with Bronze Spearhead Device the fallen soldiers namely Corporal Marzon R Morales and Private Oshin C Rosala for gallantry in action.

The casualties are part of the troops who have been conducting combat operations against members of the Guerrilla Front 4-B of the NPA in the mountain ranges of Misamis Oriental this week.

The President also gave cash assistance to the family they have left behind.

Four slain Kalinga cops to receive posthumous Pamanang Lingkod Bayani award

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 3): Four slain Kalinga cops to receive posthumous Pamanang Lingkod Bayani award

The Civil Service Commission (CSC) will honor the four slain policemen in Kalinga with the posthumous Pamanang Lingkod Bayani Award and will give PHP100,000 financial assistance to their beneficiaries.

The four killed policemen, identified as Police Officer 3 Cruzaldo Lawagan, PO2 Juvenal Aguinaldo, PO1 Vincent Tay-od and PO1 Charles Ryan Compas, all of the Kalinga PNP Provincial Public Safety Company based in Lubuagan in Kalinga province, will receive the award soonest, according to Annette Paredes, CSC-Cordillera chief human resource specialist.

In a statement, Paredes said she has linked up with the Kalinga provincial police and the provincial government to help them finalize the documentation prior to the awarding rites slated for the slain policemen.

It could be recalled that the four policemen were killed in action in a shootout with a nationwide-topnotch wanted gang leader, Willie Sagasag, after they tried to serve an arrest warrant on him on the killing of Kalinga Judge Milnar Lammawin.

She also cited the bravery of three other policemen identified as Police Senior Inspector Edward Liclic (team leader), Police Officer 1 Ferdie Diwag and PO1 Ferdinand Asuncion who were wounded and being treated at the Lubuagan District Hospital.

USAID to wrap up Be Secure project in Iloilo

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 3): USAID to wrap up Be Secure project in Iloilo

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will be closing its four-year Water Security for Resilient Economic Growth and Stability (Be Secure) project in Iloilo come July this year.

In a statement, USAID said that a “close out” activity to showcase the project’s important achievements in providing water security sanitation and climate resilience will be held in Iloilo this coming March 10.

It will also serve as venue for USAID to recognize its partners, specifically local government units, water districts, academe and other stakeholders who made significant contributions to the success of the Be Secure’s works in Iloilo.

In an interview Friday, USAID Be Secure Project Climate Resiliency team leader Elisea Gozun said that the Be Secure project in Iloilo has provided significant, effective and sustainable contributions in terms of water security and climate resiliency.

She mentioned that among the highlights of its accomplishments were downloading of the climate projections in Iloilo City, production of hazard maps for rainfall and temperature, training of people in water auditing, introduction of septage treatment for sanitation and conduct of vulnerability assessment of water resources of Iloilo.

In the academe, USAID was also able to promote the water demand management, which is now being incorporated in the curriculum of Central Philippine University (CPU).

Gozun said that the projects were able to mobilize and educate stakeholders and improve their capacities for integrating climate change into local planning.

The USAID Water Security for Resilient Economic Growth and Stability (Be Secure) Project is a four-year activity that seeks to promote good governance and build capacity for long-term water security, improve access to water and wastewater treatment services, and build more resilient communities.

It focuses on delivering increased sustainable access to water supply and wastewater treatment services and increased resilience to climate-related water stress and hydrologic extremes.

The project started in July 2013 and operates in six focal areas namely Basilan, Iloilo, Leyte, Maguindanao, Misamis Oriental and Zamboanga Provinces.

President Duterte pays tribute to fallen Army soldiers in Misamis Oriental

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 3): President Duterte pays tribute to fallen Army soldiers in Misamis Oriental

President Rodrigo Duterte arrived at the Loyola Chapel inside this Army Camp past 6:00 p.m. Friday to pay his last respects to two soldiers killed in the line of duty and condole with their families.

The slain soldiers were identified as Cpl. Marzon Morales, and Pvt. Oshin Rosala, all of the 58th Infantry Battalion, based in Claveria, Misamis Oriental.

The soldiers were killed and four others were wounded in a running gunbattle with the communist New People’s Army (NPA) in Sugbongcogon, Misamis Oriental last Monday.

President Duterte first talked to Aiza, the grieving wife of Morales, inside the Chapel where the President extended financial assistance and awarded a posthumous medal to the fallen soldier.

After talking with the widow, he proceeded to the coffin of Rosala and talked to the surviving mother. Rosala was still single.

The President also gave the posthumous medal to Rosala’s mother and extended to her financial assistance.

From the chapel, Duterte went to the Army Station Hospital to confer the military wounded medal to the four soldiers identified as Private First Class Marquin R. Variacion, Private First Class Vincent Nino L. Lopez, Private Regie Joy Duyan and Private Ramon B. Balibagon.

Three other wounded soldiers who were earlier confined in the Army hospital were also conferred the military wounded medal.

Military officials said that the wounded government troopers were already in stable condition.

President Duterte arrives in Misamis Oriental airport to visit slain, wounded soldiers

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 3): President Duterte arrives in Misamis Oriental airport to visit slain, wounded soldiers

President Rodrigo Duterte and his party arrived and landed in Camp Evangelista about 5:52 Thursday afternoon and went directly to visit slain soldiers whose remains lie at the Loyola Chapel inside the Army camp.

Military officials said that Duterte would confer posthumous medals to the slain Army soldiers and extend financial assistance to survivors before visiting the wounded personnel in the Army hospital at Camp Evangelista.

The two fatalities and four wounded were victims in a running gunbattle in the hinterlands of Sugbongcogon in Misamis Oriental last Monday.

The two killed were Corporal Marzon Morales and Private Oshin Rosala.

Wounded were Private First Class Marquin R. Variacion, Private First Class Vincent Nino L. Lopez, Private Regie Joy Duyan and Private Ramon B. Balibagon, all of the Army’s 58th Infantry Battalion based in Claveria, Misamis Oriental.

President Rodrigo Duterte arrived in this regional airport around 5:30 Friday afternoon on board a private aircraft.

Duterte, clad in checkered polo shirt and wearing rubber shoes, then boarded the presidential chopper, which flew to Camp Evangelista accompanied by two helicopter choppers as escorts around 5:40 p.m.

58 tribesmen in Bukidnon complete computer literacy training

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 3): 58 tribesmen in Bukidnon complete computer literacy training

Fifty-eight members of the Manobo and Pulangihon Indigenous Peoples (IPs) in Bukidnon completed the Basic Computer Literacy (BCL) training there, a report reaching here Friday said.

Capt. Norman Tagros, Army's 403rd Infantry Battalion based in Bukidnon, said that the 31 days of lectures and practical exercises about computer literacy culminated successfully on Thursday afternoon.

He said that the BCL program was part of the Philippine Army’s outreach educational project to provide basic education modules to the IPs in Northern Mindanao.

Tagros said that the IPs live in the hinterlands of Northern Mindanao and education and the advancement of technology seem alien to them.

The BCL was one of the Philippine Army’s programs that became popular among the IPs when it was launched last January 20, 2017 with 52 IP students.

Tagros said that the computer facilities of BCL were donated by the “Tuloy Foundation, Inc. and the “Pinoy Batang Bayani” (The Filipino Child’s a Hero).

He said that the BCL’s other stakeholders include the Department of Education – Alternative Learning System (DepEd-ALS), TESDA, BUSCO Sugar Milling Company, and the Local Government Unit.

Cops probe Catbalogan City explosions

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 3): Cops probe Catbalogan City explosions

The Philippine National Police (PNP) will form a special task force to investigate two separate explosion incidents that injured two persons in Catbalogan City in Samar province early Friday morning.

PNP Eastern Visayas Regional Director Chief Supt. Elmer Beltejar said a Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) will be formed to investigate the blasts that hit residences of local government officials.

“By creating the SITG, we are committed to identify the perpetrators to give justice to the victims and for disturbing the peace of the community,” Beltejar said.

The police regional chief appealed to the public to support the PNP in its investigation for the immediate identification and subsequent arrest of the suspects.

According to police reports, the first blast occurred 1:30 a.m. in Canlapwas village that injured Faith Rosales, 17 and her neighbor BJ Bernate, 6 after being hit by splinters.

Witnesses told the police that a riding in tandem threw a homemade explosive devise at the house of Ma. Elfa De Jesus, Canlapwas village chief.

Rosales was waiting for a motorcycle ride near the village chief’s house while Bernate was asleep a few meters away from the explosion site.

Both suffered slight injuries in their arms and were brought to Samar Provincial Hospital for treatment.

In a separate incident, suspects launched a grenade attack around 1:50 a.m. at the house of Lucio Pacle in Silanga village, also in Catbalogan. Pacle is the municipal administrator of nearby Hinabangan town in Samar.

Nobody was hurt in the second explosion, but Pacle’s car was badly damaged.

Citing accounts of witnesses, police said that suspects were on board a black single motorcycle clad in black jackets and bonnets.

The police don’t discount the possibilities that these two blasts were done by same suspects, according to Beltejar.

Catbalogan, the capital of Samar province, is approximately 100 kilometers north of Tacloban City.

The explosion rocked the small city a month before hosting the United Cities and Local Government Asia-Pacific executive bureau meeting on April 5-7, 2017.

The international event will be joined by 300 local chief executives and other key officials from 19 countries.

10 ASG bandits killed in 2-hour Sulu clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 3): 10 ASG bandits killed in 2-hour Sulu clash

Joint Task Force Sulu units, , killed 10 Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) terrorists during a two hour-long firefight in Barangay Igasan, Patikul town, Sulu Friday morning.

Col. Cirilo Sobejana, Joint Task Force Sulu commander, in a message to the Philippine News Agency, said the clash that took place at about 9 a.m. also resulted in the wounding of an undetermined number of ASG terrorists.

Sobejana said government troops encountered about 120 ASG terrorists led by Radullan Sahiron, triggering an intense gunbattle.

"Firefight lasted for 2 hours. The said encounter resulted to the death of at least 10 ASG members including two close relatives of Radullan Sahiron and the wounding of several others," Sobejana added.

Meanwhile, government casualties were placed at 18 wounded of which the military official said were non-life threatening.

Joint Task Force Sulu troopers are relentlessly pursuing the withdrawing ASG members. Troops are supported with strike helicopters, artilleries and armor assets," Sobejana stressed.

He added that all killed ASG were confirmed and that their names were in his possession.

Military units in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi are conducting intensified operations against the bandits in wake of the beheading of German Juergen Kantner last Feb. 26.

Around 31 hostages are believed to be still in the clutches of the terrorist group.

Defense chief Lorenzana vows ‘full force of the law’ vs ASG

From the often pro-CPP online publication the Davao Today (Mar 2): Defense chief Lorenzana vows ‘full force of the law’ vs  ASG

Following the beheading of German national Juergen Kantner on Sunday by the Abu Sayyaf Group in Sulu, the Department of National Defense has vowed once again to go after the ASG with the “full force of the law.”

In a statement to the press, DND Sec. Delfin Lorenzana through DND Public SEDir. Arsenio Andolong, apologized to the family and loved ones of Kantner, along with the promise of retribution.

“What we can assure them and the whole world is that we are going after these animals with the full force of the law. Make no mistake, they will feel the wrath of the entire Filipino nation through the might of its armed forces,” Lorenzana said in a press conference on Thursday.

The Army, however, has already deployed 8,000 soldiers since August of last year to the areas of Basilan and Sulu, the bailiwick of ASG’s operations.

When asked why foreign nationals continue to be abducted despite the concentration of the Army in areas where the ASG operate, Andolong said many of these victims had been “persistent” despite advisories by the government.

“Most of them were in the area and naging target. Despite the advisories by the governments some of them are persistent in going there kaya na-tiempohan sila. Most of them were in the [areas of Basilan and Sulu] and became targets. Despite the advisories by the governments, some of theme are persistent in going there that’s why the [ASG] chanced upon them), Andolong said.

Andolong cited the case of Mr. Kantner, who had already been abudcted once by Somali pirates in 2008 but had been freed after his ransom had been paid. Kantner was then sailing in his boat, the Rockall when he was abducted by Somali pirates.

“Itong nangyari kay Mr. Kantner, from what I understand, naging maswerte na sila at hindi sila hinabol eh, but I cannot go much farther than that” (What happened to Mr. Kantner, from what I understand, is that they were already lucky because they were not chased. But I cannot go much further than that), Andolong said.

Kantner was sailing in the same boat along the waters of Southern Philippines when he as abducted. His boat was found drifting on Nov. 7 of last year, with the body of his wife, Sabine Merz.

Kantner’s body ​​was yet to be found. Andolong said it could be the ASG ​w​as not yet able to dispose ​of ​the body.

“From what I understand, they are on the move and I think that it’s problematic on their part to dispose of the body,” Andolong said.

There are currently 31 hostages, 12 of which are Vietnamese, six are Filipinos, seven Indonesians, a Dutch and five Malaysians.

Andolong also called on the communities to stop supporting the ASG and cooperate with the government’s efforts to eliminate the group.

“The secretary is calling on the public, the community leaders to stop supporting these terrorist bandits, because from what we do understand may mga ibang tumutulong sa kanila (there are some who are helping them),” Andolong said.

“Without going into the details, yun’ ang problema. May mga support structures din sila among the public. That has to be addressed,” Andolong added.

14 soldiers wounded in clashes with Abu Sayyaf

From Rappler (Mar 3): 14 soldiers wounded in clashes with Abu Sayyaf

The troops reportedly encounter the group of Abu Sayyaf top leader Radullon Sahiron    

File photo of Filipino soldiers in Sulu

Up to 14 soldiers were wounded in clashes with the Abu Sayyaf Group on Friday, March 3, as the military intensified operations after the beheading of a German hostage.

Army spokesman Colonel Benjamin Hao said troops from the 32nd Infantry Battalion encountered a group of over a hundred under Abu Sayyaf top leader Radullon Sahiron in the vicinity of Kan Udong in barangay Igasan of Patikul, Sulu.

The military claimed Sahiron has linked up with sub-leaders Sawadjaan and Almuher Yadah as pressure from the military has supposedly limited their movements.

The local terrorist group beheaded German hostage Juergen Kantner on Sunday, February 26, after the deadline it set for a P30-million ($600,000) ransom lapsed.

President Rodrigo Duterte has apologized to Germany for failing to stop the beheading.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana vowed there would be no let up in operations against the Abu Sayyaf.

"Make no mistake. They will feel the wrath of the entire Filipino nation through the might of its armed forces," Lorenzana said in a statement.

16 soldiers wounded in clash with Abu Sayyaf: sources

From ABS-CBN (Mar 3): 16 soldiers wounded in clash with Abu Sayyaf: sources

At least 16 government soldiers were wounded in yet another encounter with Abu Sayyaf bandits in Sulu.

ABS-CBN sources say the wounded soldiers, who belong to the Army’s 32nd Infantry Battalion, clashed with the bandits past 9 a.m. today in Barangay Igasan in Patikul town.

The sources said the group of bandits could be led by Radullan Sahiron and Hatib Hadjan Sawadjaan.

Citing military commanders on the ground, Col. Benjamin Hao, Public Affairs Office chief of the the Philippine Army, said there are reports that the grandson of Sahiron, a minor, was part of the fight and was killed.

Other sources said at least 5 bandits were killed.

The gun battle was said to be still ongoing, as of writing. Enemy casualties have yet to be reported.

On Thursday, 11 soldiers were also wounded in an encounter with the Abu Sayyaf in Indanan, Sulu.

The military launched fresh offensives against the Abu Sayyaf following the beheading of Jurgen Kantner, 70, on Sunday.

The German was beheaded after the group’s demand for P30 million was not met.

Kantner, 70, was abducted from his yacht in waters off the southern Philippines in November with his female companion, Sabine Merz, was found dead on the vessel with a gunshot wound.

The Abu Sayyaf has been kidnapping foreigners and locals for decades and holding them for ransom in the southern jungles.

They are believed to still hold at least 19 foreigners and six Filipino hostages.

The group, formed from seed money provided by a relative of Al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden in the 1990s, also carried out the bombing of a ferry in Manila Bay in 2004 that claimed 116 lives in the country's deadliest terror attack.

Despite numerous military operations over the years, the Philippine government has failed to destroy the group.

The Abu Sayyaf benefits from the support of local communities, the lure of ransom money and even collusion with corrupt local officials.

NPA on Mayor Sara’s peace offer: NDF still the negotiating entity

From the often pro-CPP online publication the Davao Today (Mar 2): NPA on Mayor Sara’s peace offer: NDF still the negotiating entity

The New People’s Army in Southern Mindanao Region says it would gladly discuss any matter that Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte would like to take up with the revolutionary movement. ( file photos)
The New People’s Army in Southern Mindanao emphasized that although it welcomed the talks with Mayor Sara Duterte, it stands by the national leadership of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines as the negotiating entity in the peace process.
NPA Southern Mindanao Spokesperson Rigoberto Sanchez issued a statement Wednesday to draw a clear line of its upcoming talks with the city’s local chief executive.

This as Sanchez slammed the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Davao region for requesting an augmentation force that will be deployed in Davao City.
“To make certain its all-out war is sustained, the AFP in the region has already beefed up its infantry. ​Their arrival mocked the public statement made by GRP Mayor Sara Duterte to talk with the NPA in the wake of the tactical offensives in Calinan last week,” he said.

Sachez said the NPA’s tactical offensives against state security forces in Davao region has resulted to 20 fatalities. He added that the communist fighters have also foiled a score of military assaults in Davao Oriental, Davao del Norte, Davao City and North Cotabato, respectively.

“By its own account after two day-engagement, the AFP launched massive airstrikes and artillery bombardment in the two separate incidents. More than a total of 500 families in Bansalan and Asuncion towns have been displaced due to the AFP’s indiscriminate shelling,” Sanchez said.

Meantime, the NPA said that it would “abide by their duty to defend the masses and the revolutionary movement by launching punitive actions against the AFP, PNP and their paramilitaries who are deaf to the call for peace by carrying on with a futile all-out war.”

Misamis Oriental mountain ranges off limits to tourists

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Mar 3): Misamis Oriental mountain ranges off limits to tourists

AN OFFICIAL of the Provincial Government of Misamis Oriental said the province is closely coordinating with the local government units of towns considered high-risk due to the on-going military operations.

The Provincial Tourism Office (PTO) on Wednesday, March 1, issued travel advisory for trekkers and other outdoor sports enthusiasts to avoid travel to Claveria town and Gingoog City in light of renewed fighting between the military and the New People's Army (NPA).

 PTO head Yvonne Waga said local and foreign tourists must temporarily refrain from visiting Mt. Sumagaya and Mt. Lumot in Claveria and Mt. Balatukan in Gingoog City.

Waga advised tourists to wait until the suspension is lifted. However, tourist destinations in the coastal areas of the province remain safe, she said.

Waga said tourists can also visit the waterfalls in Salay town during daytime but advised them to take extra precautions. The towns of Salay, Claveria and Gingoog City are areas with known NPA presence.

"So it's better to stay away from these areas momentarily. We'll just pray that soonest possible time, the military combat operations will be over," Waga said.

Captain Joe Patrick Martinez, spokesman of the 4th Infantry Division, likewise urged tourists not to venture to the mountain ranges of the province. "It is better to be safe than sorry. Di natin alam ang current engagement area so we cannot advise them (tourists) na bumalik kaya ipagpaliban po muna ang pag-akyat sa bundok (we cannot identify the areas of engagement so it is better to refrain from trekking into the mountains)," Martinez said.

Martinez said tourists can go back once the military declares the areas cleared of the threat group.

AFP lies through teeth to justify rights abuses—Karapatan

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 3): AFP lies through teeth to justify rights abuses—Karapatan

Karapatan on Friday said that Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is lying through its teeth to justify its human rights abuses.

“As attacks of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) intensify against rural communities all over the country, their concoction of make-believe stories and alibis to cover up the rights abuses continue,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said in a statement.

According to the human rights group, the 73rd Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army (IBPA) dropped six bombs at Sitio Tangis in Sanrangani and in its nearby areas after a reported encounter between the AFP and the New People’s Army (NPA) last February 11.

The next day, AFP confronted and illegally arrested eight civilians who were all from Kaolo tribe, planting guns in their huts and accusing them of being members of the NPA. Palabay said that the farmers only knew of the trumped up charges against them three days after their arrest, which also makes the case for arbitrary detention.

“Unfortunately, this is the story of many political prisoners in the country, mostly from the peasant sector,” Palabay said.

“There is a long list of military ploys that have caused the endangerment of civilian communities,” she added.

Karapatan cited several claims of AFP, such as having a run-in with the NPA, but a resident who lived across the alleged encounter site in Maddela, Quirino Province attested that there was no such confrontation, and that Gilbert Buyucan, Barangay (village) Captain of Cabua-an was taken hostage by the NPA, but the latter himself denied such allegations.

“In the AFP’s record of rights abuses, including trumped-up cases against leaders and members of progressive organizations, there is no doubt that they have become notoriously prolific in manufacturing fictitious narratives that could rival the storytelling of fiction authors,” Palabay said.

“Their acting may have earned them standing ovations from those who benefit from their fascist attacks, had it not meant injustice … against the people,” she added.

Karapatan earlier claimed that the military involvement in President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs will only worsen the human rights abuses.

READ: Military involvement in drug war to worsen rights abuse—Karapatan

And with this, “rights abuses sugarcoated with lies to put the blame somewhere else will continue to be fed to the public,” Palabay said.

“As violations heighten, so will the deceitful excuses to justify the unjustifiable,” she added.

Police hunt suspects in Cotabato City grenade attack; 3 injured

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 3): Police hunt suspects in Cotabato City grenade attack; 3 injured

Police are hunting down two men believed to have lobbed a hand grenade inside a residential apartment here Friday morning.

Chief Inspector Carlo Jurenario, police station 2 chief, said the blast at around 1 a.m. injured a father and his two daughters. Police refused to identify the victims for security reasons.

The father is an employee of the local government of Matanog, Maguindanao.
Jurenario said two men riding tandem on a motorbike passed by the victims' house along Santos Street and tossed the grenade.

The victims sustained injuries from broken window panes.

Jurenario said the family is yet to provide information on possible motive of the attack and who could be the perpetrators.

Investigation is still going on, he added.

New marksman rifles in the pipeline for PHL Army

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 3): New marksman rifles in the pipeline for PHL Army

Additional long-range marksman rifles are in the pipeline for special units of the Philippine Army (PA).

This was confirmed by Army spokesperson Col. Benjamin Hao in an interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

He declined to give the specific number of long-range markman rifles that are to be acquired but stressed it will be sufficient for all PA special units.

"We can't say (the exact number) as they are still undergoing study and the procurement process," Hao added.

The Army spokesperson disclosed that these new rifles will augment the Barrett sniper rifles that are in use.

Long-range marksman rifles provide Army units with the capability to neutralize terrorists or lawless threats at a distance beyond the range of the standard M-16 or M-4 rifles being used by Filipino military personnel.

These weapons are capable of engaging targets 800 meters to 5 km.