Saturday, April 15, 2017

Duterte faces turning point in push for safer Philippines

Nikkei Asian Review (Apr 16): Duterte faces turning point in push for safer Philippines

Manila signs historic truce with Maoist insurgents, but peace remains challenge

Representatives from the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front shake hands after signing a historic truce.

After reaching a long-awaited truce with communist rebels, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte faces a crucial test of whether he can establish lasting peace with a group that has carried out various kidnappings and terror attacks over the past five decades.

Government representatives and the National Democratic Front signed the interim cease-fire agreement April 5, following three days of negotiations in the Netherlands brokered by the Norwegian government.
"We hope this prevents further hostilities and unnecessary loss of lives on the ground," Philippine presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement welcoming the deal.

For years, communist rebels have cast a shadow over Philippine domestic politics and public security. Admirers of Mao Zedong founded the Communist Party of the Philippines in 1968. The New People's Army, its militant arm, was created the following year. The NPA clashed with government forces, killing many soldiers and police officers.

Amid a crackdown by then-President Ferdinand Marcos, who declared martial law in 1972, the nation's leftists came together to form the NDF. The communist movement is said to have included 25,000 members at its peak.

The NPA shocked the world by kidnapping the chief of Mitsui & Co.'s Manila branch in 1986, as well as Japanese and American aid workers in 1990. The U.S. and other countries designated the group as a terrorist organization and imposed sanctions. The Philippines attempted peace talks under the presidencies of Fidel Ramos in the 1990s and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in the 2000s. But armed strikes by the NPA and resulting casualties snuffed such efforts.

Duterte unilaterally announced a cease-fire with the communists in July during his state of the nation address. "Let us end these decades of ambuscades and skirmishes," he said. "We are going nowhere. And it is getting bloodier by the day."

Peace talks resumed in August. Though the discussions were interrupted by armed clashes, a scrapping of the cease-fire and other incidents, the two sides finally forged an agreement in their fourth round of talks.

Duterte's conciliatory approach is rooted in his sympathy for leftist ideas. The president has said he is not a communist, but that he was exposed to socialist ideologies as he grew up due to his humble background. He was a student of Jose Maria Sison, the founder of the Communist Party and still an influential figure. Duterte has appointed several leftists to his cabinet.

But it is unclear whether the truce will last. Duterte during negotiations demanded that the NDF scrap its "revolutionary tax" -- a practice of extorting cash from companies and wealthy individuals -- as well as release captured soldiers and police officers and also halt land seizures. He insists the two sides can return to fighting if the rebels do not comply. A new cease-fire is supposed to take effect once guidelines and ground rules are agreed upon. But discussion on the revolutionary tax and other conditions has been postponed.

Until the cease-fire takes effect, military operations against the NPA will continue, military spokesman Col. Edgard Arevalo said Thursday. The communists ultimately wish to create an independent state, and many do not believe they are ready to compromise with the government. Some members of the military are also thought to have reservations about peace with the NPA, a group that has killed many of their colleagues.

Duterte sees better public security as key for national development. The idea underpins his commitment to a deadly war on drugs. The president also is considering peace talks with the Philippines' armed Islamic insurgents, who are responsible for a number of terror attacks.

Authorities verifying presence of armed men in Negros Occidental town

From Rappler (Apr 15): Authorities verifying presence of armed men in Negros Occidental town

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, Philippines – Authorities are still verifying the reported presence of armed men in Barangay Inayawan, Cauayan town.

This came 3 days after government troopers clashed with suspected members of Mindanao-based Abu Sayyaf in Bohol on April 11. The gunfight killed 3 soldiers, a police officer, and 5 terrorists.

Chief Inspector Ruben Pajarito, Cauayan town police chief, said Saturday, April 15, that residents initially claimed that some armed men alighted from a pump boat Friday night.

Responding to the report, the police and the army discovered that the pump boat was owned by a 70-year-old American citizen from Bacong town in Negros Oriental.

The foreigner, along with his 12-year-old daughter, took a respite at the village after they encountered engine trouble.

Authorities remained on full alert as some of the locals alleged that armed men were seen in the area.

Pajarito stressed there was no presence of a terrorist group in the town as there was "no initial contact" with the residents. He said they believed that the armed men seen by the locals were communist rebels.

Lt John Tumamao, head of the Bravo Company of the Army's 79th Infantry Battalion based in the town, echoed the assessment of the police.

He added that New People's Army (NPA) still has some influence in the town.

The police and the army told the public not to panic, as authorities assured them there's nothing to worry about. They also urged residents to report to authorities if they notice any suspicious persons or activities.

VACC calls for military upgrade to fight Sayyaf

From the Manila Times (Apr 16): VACC calls for military upgrade to fight Sayyaf

THE Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) has called on the government to upgrade military equipment following last week’s clash with members of the Abu Sayyaf group in Bohol.

In a statement, VACC founding chairman and president Dante Jimenez said the Abu Sayyaf terrorists “had gone that bold” as to pursue terrorism outside of their bases and usual areas of operation in Basilan and Sulu, targeting areas where local and foreign tourists thrive.

“This bold maneuver is alarming. Reports have it that they have reached as far as Manila to sow terror, “ Jimenez said.

He noted that Abu Sayyaf bandits are known to use powerful speedboats in crossing the sea from Western Mindanao to kidnap local and foreign tourists.

“Based on reports on the firefight incident in Bohol, the bandits numbered about around 60 Abu Sayyaf terrorists who arrived in the town of Inabanga on board three speedboats before they were intercepted and neutralized upon the tips provided by local residents,” Jimenez said.

“The pump boats used by the ASG reportedly have a speed of 40 kilometers per hour (kph) against the Philippine Coast Guard’s patrol craft that allegedly have maximum speed of 20 kph only. This is a wake-up call to upgrade our watercraft and weaponry,” he added.

Jimenez lauded the “heroic display of courage and effective intelligence” by the Philippine military, police, and Coast Guard operatives, who killed the Abu Sayyaf members in a fierce battle in Barangay Napo, Inabanga town, Bohol province on April 11.

The incident left three soldiers, a policeman and five Abu Sayyaf bandits killed.

“We commend the government troops for their display of courage and military capability in successfully thwarting the threat posed by the Abu Sayyaf elements, who are poised to sow terroristic activities like kidnap-for-ransom in Cebu, Bohol and other parts of the Visayas, according to the intelligence reports,” Jimenez said.

“Without the information from the residents of Barangay Napo, Inabangan town, Bohol and the timely interception by the government troops, the Abu Sayyaf bandits could have perpetrated incalculable terror and destruction on human lives against the innocent public and local and foreign tourists,” he added.

The clash came after the United States and Australian embassies warned their citizens about possible kidnappings by “terrorist groups” in the central Philippines.

Bohol is a major tourist destination, where foreign tourists swim with whale sharks and marvel at tiny primates called tarsiers, go on cruises aboard boats on crystal-clear rivers and frolic at white-sand beaches.

PAF looking for F-27 engine assembly

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 16): PAF looking for F-27 engine assembly

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) has allocated the sum of PHP32,650,000 for the acquisition of one engine assembly needed for the maintenance of one of its Fokker F-27 "Friendship" transport aircraft with tail number 259.

Pre-bid conference is scheduled for April 21, 1 p.m. at the PAF Procurement Center Conference Room, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

While submission and opening of bids is on May 5, 9 a.m. at the same venue.

The F-27 Friendship is a turboprop aircraft designed and built by the defunct Dutch aircraft manufacturer Fokker.

The PAF presently has three F-27s in its fleet.

Many aircraft have been modified from passenger service to cargo or express-package freighter roles.

Palawan disaster official shot dead by suspected rebels

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 15): Palawan disaster official shot dead by suspected rebels
A disaster official of the Palawan provincial government was shot dead Friday night in Brooke’s Point town by unidentified assailants claiming to be members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

A spot report from the Brooke’s Point police said the victim Gibert Baaco, 44, was attacked by five suspects, two of them women, after he and his family finished their dinner in their residence at Barangay (village) Barong Barong.

The police report said the victim was in his living room loading his handgun when he sensed the intruders and tried to run outside his house but was gunned down as he reached his main door. The victim died on the way to the Leoncio General Hospital. The attackers ransacked the victim’s house and left with two high power firearms owned by the victim.
The victims was head of the provincial government’s Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRM) and its emergency paramedic and rescue unit Rescue 165.

Palawan governor Jose Alvarez, in a text message, expressed doubts that the perpetrators were communist rebels.

“We were all shocked. He was having dinner with his family when they (attackers) barged in pretending to be NPAs, but you know who,” Alvarez said. He did not elaborate who may be the other possible suspects in the attack.

NPA foils military attack in Holy Week encounter

Posted to the often pro-CPP online publication the Davao Today (Apr 14): NPA foils military attack in Holy Week encounter

New People’s Army  ( file photo)

The New People’s Army said it thwarted military operations launched by the Philippine Army in Marihatag and San Agustin, Surigao del Sur since April 5 until the April 10.

This, as the NPA in the region took the active defense stance as they ordered all NPA units in their area not to launch offensives during the Holy Week from April 13 to April 16.

“The NPA will carry this out in respect of the Christian communities’ observation of the sacred Holy Week and for the orderly conduct of activities related to this celebration,” said Ariel Montero, spokesperson of the NPA North Eastern Mindanao Region command.

He said two Army were killed and four were wounded during the attack against the NPA-Front 19 on April 7.

“Red fighters struck them three times within one day in Barangay Mahaba, Marihatag, Surigao del Sur. This happened last April 7, 2017 at 1:30 and 2:00 in the afternoon and at 11:00 in the evening,” Montero said.

Meanwhile, the military claimed it killed two NPA members in an encounter in Barangay Mahagsay, San Luis town in Agusan del Sur Thursday afternoon.

Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez in a statement said troops under the 26th Infantry Battalion also recovered firearms along with the dead bodies of the guerrilla fighters around 3:30 pm on Holy Thursday.

The military said the firefight lasted for 30 minutes. Martinez said they recovered a CCZ 550 sniper rifle, 50 rounds of M60 ammunition, war materiel, 34 sacks of rice, and 10 backpacks which contain personal belongings, and subversive documents.

Armed men sighted in Negros Occidental town; military, police on alert

From ABS-CBN (Apr 15): Armed men sighted in Negros Occidental town; military, police on alert

The Philippine National Police and the Philippine Army are on alert after receiving information about the presence of alleged armed men in Sitio Capaclan Barangay Inayawan, Cauayan, Negros Occidental Friday night.

Cauayan Police Chief, Chief Inspector Ruben Pajarito said they received the information through their intelligence report. He said the number of alleged armed men who got off the boat was undetermined.
The PNP and the Philippine Army were not able to penetrate the area as there were stone barriers. But they said they conducted a check point at the nearest barangay.

Pajarito believes that this was not made by a terrorist group.

Authorities have informed the people in coastal barangays to cooperate with them and immediately inform them if they notice any suspicious person or activity.

The PNP and the Philippine Army assured the public that there is nothing to worry about in terms of safety and security of residents in Cauayan.

Authorities not sure yet if armed group in Cauayan were Abu Sayyaf

From ABS-CBN (Apr 15): Authorities not sure yet if armed group in Cauayan were Abu Sayyaf

[Video report]

The Philippine Army couldn't confirm if the armed men allegedly seen in Cauayan, Negros Occidental, on Friday night were members of the Abu Sayyaf group.

First Lieutenant John Tumamao, commander of the bravo company of the 79th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, said on Saturday that soldiers have been hearing different stories from locals.

According to Tumamao, some residents claimed to have seen armed men passing by a river in Sitio Capaclan, while others weren't sure whether the men they saw were carrying firearms or were just backpacks.

READ: Armed men sighted in Negros Occidental town

He added it is also possible that the gunshots heard by some residents in Barangay Inayawan came from New People's Army rebels.

But what has worried residents was the white pump boat found near the shore in Inayawan.

On board the boat were American national Frank Blaskis, 74, and his 12-year-old daughter. Blaskis allowed the coast guard to check his boat and cargo.

But the suspicion that armed men boarded his boat or that they were on two other boats believed to have arrived at the same time with him angered Blaski.

Blaskis explained that he and his daughter were from Bacong in Negros Oriental and that they were traveling to Iloilo but were forced to seek shelter in Cauayan due to huge waves.

He also denied hearing gunshots and seeing armed men upon arriving in the area.

Village chief Sanderson Sumugot Jr. said barangay officials could not establish a link between Blaskis and the two other boats reportedly used by the armed men.

The coast guard who inspected the pump boat did not see anything suspicious. Blaskis and his daughter later returned to Negros Oriental.

Government forces continued to patrol the town and the neighboring areas as intelligence reports are being validated.

Authorities advised residents to remain calm and to cooperate and coordinate with local police and the military.

Most residents in Inayawan were not able to sleep Friday night after reports that members of the Abu Sayyaf who clashed with government forces in Bohol may have reached their place.

Members of the Philippine Coast Guard on Saturday inspect a white pump boat in Cauayan, Negros Occidental that some residents believe was used to transport armed men to the town. Yasmin Pascual-Dormido, ABS-CBN News

Where does the military stand with Duterte?

From the Thought Leaders section of Rappler (Apr 15) Where does the military stand with Duterte? (By Glenda M. Gloria)

In the last 9 months, the military has been acting like the adult in its complex relationship with the commander-in-chief

Don’t worry, Mr President, we got your back.

This was one of the many online posts shared in the last quarter of 2016 by retired generals who not only support President Rodrigo Duterte but also constantly assure him of solid backing for anything he wants accomplished.

A formidable network of retired police and military generals volunteered for Duterte in the 2016 presidential campaign. Nearly all did their tour of duty in the Davao region. Nearly all benefitted from the largesse he distributed as mayor. Nearly all adhere to his quick-fix solutions to crime, and are immensely awed by how he can be both charming and ruthless, both a friend to communists and a violator of the very rights the rebels are espoused to defend, both a man who lives a Spartan life and a Don Juan who could hang out with women, and both a tough disciplinarian and a generous patron who gives them goodies on special occasions, visits them when they’re wounded, and protects them even when they’re wrong.

He is, in many ways, one of them.

But he is, in a lot of ways, too, not like them.

Fast and furious boss

Duterte the commander-in-chief has no patience for details and planning, which are core to any security force. Where the soldier speaks in measured words, if at all, the President uses language as his instant weapon against people he dislikes and ideas he discards.

Duterte the commander-in-chief sees no wisdom in deliberation, preferring to act on instinct. In contrast, the military is seldom whimsical, rarely moving without a plan of attack – however flawed.

The commander-in-chief scorns the lumbering bureaucracy and its time-honored protocols; the military finds refuge in them.

It’s an odd relationship. Made more so by the top brass’ 6-year exposure to Benigno Aquino III, the president who loved drilling down to the last decimal point of a fighter jet’s cost and studying coordinates in a map during long briefings and powerpoint presentations.

Shooting from the hip, President Duterte has shooed away American troops from Mindanao, ordered the armed forces to occupy disputed territories in the Spratlys, and vowed to raise the Philippine flag there – only to take these statements back, or have his alter egos clarify them. Rather than scratch their crewcut heads over the Chief's incoherent pronouncements, the officers have learned to dance with them: they sit it out and tell the public that unless formalized, they’re not treating presidential outbursts as orders.

While the defense-military leadership, for example, refused to get dragged into the police’s war on drugs, they had to calibrate their position after the President abolished the anti-illegal drugs unit in the Philippine National Police and ordered the soldiers to get involved. The military agreed to create a task force of 500 men to join the effort from a distance – clearly a mere token to save the President’s face.

Indeed for the last 9 months, the military has been acting like the adult in this relationship. In the words of a proud retired general whose deputies are now at the helm: “They’ve shown so far that the AFP is not a ‘second-the-motion’ institution.”

SALUTE. In this file photo, President Duterte visits the wake of slain Captain Clinton Capio at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Fort Bonifacio on January 16, 2017. File photo courtesy of Malacañang

Duterte in their hearts

Where does the military stand with Duterte? And where does the military stand with him?

In his first months as president, Duterte courted the armed forces aggressively, visiting camps practically every week and promising them more equipment and higher salaries.

For sure, the President knows where he stands among the enlisted men: in their hearts.

Why would it be elsewhere? He visits every wake of every slain soldier. More than handing out abuloy to grieving families, Duterte comforts them with his presence, listens to their heartaches, and promises them help.

The wounded are his priority as well, as he prefers visiting them in hospitals and listening to their battlefield stories than having to suffer the slow grind of governance in Malacañang.

“These visits matter to us,” an Army major told us, praising Duterte for “being authentic and real.”

Things are not as simple as that, however, between this strong leader and his battle-scarred troops.

Three key questions crop up nowadays in the context of Duterte’s unusual first year in office as president and commander-in-chief.

1. Will Duterte face mutiny?

It is unwise to even mutter the word “destabilization” under a strong and popular president.

The last time we saw the military turn restless was under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whose assumption to the presidency involved the armed forces – during the EDSA 2 revolt and the 2004 elections that she was accused of rigging with the help of loyal generals. When the military takes a role in a political transition, such as in the case of Arroyo or the coup-prone Cory Aquino, it’s like, in the words of former president Fidel V Ramos, a toothpaste coming out of a tube – one has to give it some time to settle.

In Duterte’s case, he won fair and square in the last elections; the military, save for his retired old friends strutting on the golf courses, had no hand in his victory.

But what could cause agitation in the future? A presidential mishandling of heart-and-soul issues for the armed forces: peace talks with the communist guerrillas; coziness with China vis-a-vis disputed territories; unrealistic deadlines in fighting terror; and favoritism in military promotion.

Duterte has so far played his cards well in the peace talks with the communist guerrillas. The President has deftly handled the warring sides, giving them just enough dose of love and punishment.

On our maritime dispute with China, he’s pretty much been deferential to the military despite his courtship of the Asian giant.

Promoting his favored officers in the military will take a bit of time, however, since Duterte’s friends have long retired from the service. But even then, the armed forces has proven to be a slow burn on this matter. If they could live for 6 years with a Voltaire Gazmin who overtly placed his favorites in key positions in the hierarchy, certainly they could live with another Gazmin in the future. For now, they’re in a good place with the professional tandem of Delfin Lorenzana and Eduardo Año.

But the quiet, methodical and efficient Año is retiring in October. Will the next chief be as firm and clever as he is?

STEADY, UNFAZED. File photo of Armed Forces chief General Eduardo Año. Rappler photo

2. What if Duterte declares martial law?

The President will not declare martial law nationwide if he thinks and feels the military will be half-hearted about it. This is not the officer corps of a bygone era. It has 3 decades of indoctrination on civilian supremacy over the military (rule of law, non-partisanship, human rights). Its senior members entered the institution just as Ferdinand Marcos was on his knees, about to be booted out of power. They’re on social media, they’re connected with the rest of the world, they’ve seen leaders come and go.

And in the battlefield such as Sulu, they can see through the BS – because they know from the trenches that the Abu Sayyaf is ultimately not, cliché as it may sound, a military problem.

“How do you solve a problem like Sulu?” asked an Army colonel who, at the time of our interview, was with fellow elite forces who had just finished their assignment in the troubled island province. “Kill all politicians? Provide injectables to women so they don’t have to give birth to more Abu Sayyaf?”

They know the utter helplessness of the situation in Sulu, where, in the words of an Army captain, every soldier – “his fatigues, his boots, his equipment” – is a “walking peso sign” and where kidnappers are the biggest employers and providers in a land ravaged by corrupt politicians.

This is not to romanticize the AFP as an ultra-professional institution that’s beyond temptation or abuse. But Duterte will have to do more than visit dead soldiers’ wake to earn blind loyalty from the senior officer corps. “He can charm the AFP over time but not overnight,” quipped a former chief of staff as he reminded us of Hugo Chavez and the late Venezuelan leader’s tumultuous ties with his own army, which he eventually got to control. (READ: Duterte to military: I need you in leading the country)

For now, the military hierarchy has perspective that their commander-in-chief sometimes lacks. Left unchecked, however, and given the power dynamic in an institution that's mandated to obey orders, the officer corps will in due time learn to speak Duterte's language, embrace his shoot-before-thinking style, believe that the Abu Sayyaf can be crushed by brute force alone, accept drugs as a national security problem, and probably even be convinced that military control of the bureaucracy would finally make change come.

Between now and that time, however, is a lot of unpredictable factors under a constantly vexed presidency.

3. What would make the military withdraw support from Duterte?

The answer is a no-brainer: the civilians. Quite frankly, it’s fruitless to even think about it now. "We don't disagree that there's a problem, that he is somewhat a problem," says a general. "But he is the commander-in-chief."

The military will know when it’s needed. Or when it’s not.

The AFP, after all, has brought down two previous commanders-in-chief – Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Estrada – and mounted botched mutinies against two female presidents: Corazon Aquino and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

It waited for decades before it decided to move against Marcos. Already politicized, it didn’t have that patience with Estrada, whom it helped oust barely two years into his presidency.

But those were different times.

This is a leader and commander-in-chief who had seen those times but whose presidency has been shaped by the vast and fast changes of the modern world.

Will the military be swept away by the populist wave that's weaponized by an online movement? Or will the officer corps stay the course in its long, painful, and bloody road to reform?

Duterte should know the answer lies largely with him – every major step he makes and how Filipinos will dance to it. The top brass, aware of its place in history, will take it from there.

Abu Sayyaf seek refuge in Lumboy, Inabanga

From the Sun Star-Cebu (Apr 15): Abu Sayyaf seek refuge in Lumboy, Inabanga

RESIDENTS of Barangay Lumboy in Inabanga, Bohol were evacuated after reports that members of the Abu Sayyaf Group sought refuge inside their houses.

A resident said that when he returned at 9 p.m. Friday, April 14, he saw a lot of blood on the wooden bench in his backyard.

"Daghan kaayog dugo. Makapuno og usa ka baso (There was a lot of blood. About a glassful," he told SunStar Cebu.

Authorities, meanwhile, continue to distribute relief goods to families displaced by the fighting in Bohol.

[Video report: Ongoing relief effort]

The clash between government forces and Abu Sayyaf last April 11 resulted in the killing of five bandits, one policeman, and three soldiers.

‘Overkill’: CPP says of AFP ops vs. Abu Sayyaf in Bohol

Posted to the often pro-Communist Party of the Philippines online publication the Davao Today (Apr 15): ‘Overkill’: CPP says of AFP ops vs. Abu Sayyaf in Bohol

The Communist Party of the Philippines called the military operations against a score of Abu Sayyaf members in the tourist province of Bohol an “overkill.”

“The news stories regarding the supposed arrival and presence of members of the Abu Sayaff criminal bandit group in Bohol island smacks of a US yarn,” the CPP said in a statement on Friday.

The CPP’s statement came as it received reports that 1,200 residents have forcibly evacuated after the Philippine Air Force dropped nine bombs in Barangays Napo, Calenti and Banahao in Inabangan.

The CPP also noted the United States’ involvement in the recent operations against the ASG. This as the communist group was suspicious of the travel advisory issued by the US Embassy on Sunday.

The US travel advisory warned its citizens against traveling to Cebu and Bohol because of possible “kidnapping.”

“The U.S Embassy has received unsubstantiated yet credible information that terrorist groups may attempt to conduct kidnappings in Central Visayas which includes both Cebu and Bohol provinces. U.S citizens are advised to carefully consider this information as you make travel plans and to review personal security plans, avoid large crowds, and gatherings and remain vigilant at all times,” the US Embassy in Manila said.

But the CPP said “(T)his story is typical of the tall tales spun by the US Central Intelligence Agency and their conspirators within the Philippine defense and security establishment.”

“The tall tale of the presence of the Abu Sayaff in Bohol likely forms part of a US plot to strengthen its foothold and increase the presence of its troops in the Central Visayas region. It broke out just a week prior to the ASEAN ministerial meeting scheduled later this month in Cebu. It is no secret that the US military has long been eyeing to establish facilities in the Mactan air field,” it added.

The CPP further claimed of conspiracy between the AFP and the US military, pointing out that Abu Sayyaf has “long been collaborating with the AFP and the US military.”

It said that Abu Sayaff was formed by “a group of armed men recruited by the US military to join the Taliban group which waged a CIA-hatched ‘jihad’ against the then Soviet-supported Afghanistan government.”

“For more than fifteen years now, the AFP has been downplaying the strength of the Abu Sayaff and making claims it can easily wipe out the criminal bandit group. The Abu Sayaff bandit groups, however, repeatedly reemerges depending on the need of the US and AFP. Military officials now claim it can wipe out the Abu Sayaff in its operations planned up to June 2017,” the CPP said.

“It has been used to carry out terrorist bombings and other dirty jobs for the CIA to justify its ‘war on terror’ and the presence of US foreign troops in the country,” the CPP said. “Its bandit activities, mainly kidnapping-for-ransom, had been lucrative for the Abu Sayaff ringleaders and their AFP handlers.”

Alleged Abu Sayyaf member arrested in Jolo

From ABS-CBN (Apr 15): Alleged Abu Sayyaf member arrested in Jolo

JOLO, Sulu — A suspected member of the Abu Sayyaf group was arrested by combined units of police and military troops here Saturday.

Senior Superintendent Mario Buyuccan, director of Sulu Philippine National Police, identified the man as Samla Salihuddin.

Buyuccan said government forces were supposed to serve an arrest warrant for terrorist leader Alden Bagadi, who was sighted at Salihuddin’s residence in Zone 3, Barangay Tulay, Jolo.

Buyuccan said Bagadi was able to elude arrest. Authorities, however, recovered two M16 rifles, a number of ammunition, two sachets of shabu, and military paraphernalia inside Salihuddin’s house. They also seized a motorized banca from Salihuddin's property.

Bagadi has a standing arrest warrant for multiple murder.

Salihuddin, now facing charges of illegal possession of firearms and drugs, is currently undergoing tactical interrogation.

MNLF-IIO: The most meaningful flag in the world

Posted to the Moro National Liberation Front-International Information Office Facebook page (Apr 15): The most meaningful flag in the world -- supporting the Moro National Liberation Front

No automatic alt text available.

MILF: ‘Bangsamoro Enabling Law first, federalism follows’: Moro Women leaders

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Apr 15): ‘Bangsamoro Enabling Law first, federalism follows’: Moro Women leaders

With a conviction that establishing the envisioned autonomous government would address the Bangsamoro issues, 32 Moro women leaders urged the Philippine government to pass the Bangsamoro Enabling Law (BEL) first before the state will be shifting into federalism.

The women leaders coming from different regions of Mindanao which comprise the Women Organization Movement in the Bangsamoro (WOMB) gathered in General Santos City from April 8 to 9 to participate in a workshop aimed to draw up a one-year strategic plan related to WOMB’s advocacy on the proposed Bangsamoro law.

The activity, supported by The Asia Foundation, provided an avenue to the delegates to assess the strengths and opportunities of WOMB in legislative lobby and advocacy works, as well as share updates from the different communities where they came from.

The participants brainstormed on how they can effectively advocate to the public, particularly to the lawmakers, the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

The passage of BBL, now called BEL, is stipulated in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro that was signed by the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2014.

If passed by the Philippine Congress and ratified through a plebiscite, the enabling law will pave the way for the establishment of Bangsamoro autonomous region with more fiscal and political powers.

In the 16th Congress under the previous administration, the lawmakers failed to pass the BBL which was drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC).

In the roadmap to peace of the Duterte Administration, two tracks are being pursued to address the Bangsamoro question; the passage of Bangsamoro enabling law by Philippine Congress and shifting to federalism which requires amendment of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

At present, the BEL is being drafted by the expanded Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC). There are representatives from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in the BTC who would work for the inclusion of the provisions of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the Philippine Government and the MNLF.

The women leaders agreed they will strengthen advocacy and solidarity and pitch the call for support to the passage of the Bangsamoro law through fora, focus groups discussions, peace rally, peace campaign and other peace advocacy initiatives.

They also saw the need to promote the beauty of Islam and share the Bangsamoro history to the public.

Patricia M. B. Ruivar from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process gave updates on the Bangsamoro Peace Process and Peace Tables. Professor Raby Angkal shared the highlights of the Bangsamoro struggle and the peace process.

Ustadza Pindaulan Balambag gave lecture on Islamic Ibadah and Values Transformation and Personal Values Clarification. She was joined by Ustadza Jihan Batiting who gave inputs on The Role of Faith in Developing Islamic Values.

Noraida Chiu, the lead convener, urged fellow Moro women leaders to help one another and maximise their efforts for the success of their endeavours that would be their “gift for the Bangsamoro people."

MILF: Bangsamoro stakeholders craft sustainability plan for Tahderiyyah and Madaris

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Apr 15): Bangsamoro stakeholders craft sustainability plan for Tahderiyyah and Madaris

Bangsamoro stakeholders gathered in a workshop at EM Manor Hotel in Cotabato City crafted a sustainability plan for the Tahderiyyah (kindergarten) and Madaris (Islamic schools) Education on April 10-13, 2017.

Key officials of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) Tarbiyyah Committee, Political Committee, Social Welfare Committee and Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) from the central, regional and provincial levels participated in the activity.

“We are drawing up a plan on how we will be able to implement the First Strategic Plan on Bangsamoro Education and Culture Development with or without the proposed Bangsamoro government,” Sheikh Norden M. Husain, Technical Working Group Member of the Tarbiyyah Central Committee, said in an interview by Luwaran.

Husain and his team presented to the participants the First Strategic Plan on Bangsamoro Education and Culture Development that will provide a “balanced and quality education for all” in the Bangsamoro communities.

He said the Bangsamoro education shall have Arabic and English as medium of instruction delivered in equal proportion from kinder to post graduate levels.

The strategic plan on Bangsamoro education outlined the policy direction and strategy towards its realization which could easily be reached should the Bangsamoro government will be established.

In the envisioned Bangsamoro government, there will be Bangsamoro Ministry of Education that will be comprised of seven bureaus. The agency will be the lead implementer of the draft strategic plan.

The workshop participants shared their inputs on how the Madaris stakeholders in the communities could initiate undertakings to impart their support in developing the Madaris within and outside the Bangsamoro territory.

The BDA also presented the accomplishments of Tahderiyyah Program which has been implemented since 2008 with the support of the UNICEF. The program imparts the values and teachings of Islam while developing the learning competencies of young children to make them school ready.

MILF: KPI, DPMC hold Persuasive Public Speaking Training

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Apr 15): KPI, DPMC hold Persuasive Public Speaking Training

The Kalinlintad Peacebuilding Inc. (KPI) in partnership with Datu Ibrahim Paglas Memoril College  (DPMC)  conducted a “Persuasive Public Speaking Training” on April 11-12, 2017 at DPMC Hall attended by 30 participant from Bangsamoro Muslim communties and   religious  leaders.

Some women members of prominent Toasmasters International  who  served as resources persons were Baby I. Dalgan, Acrema M. Balayanan and Noraida A. Datumanong.

They unselflessly shared their knowledge and skills  to the participants.

Nasser Polindao and Mohaliden M. Bayanan  acted as facilatators.

Professor Esmael A. Abdula, Executive Director of KPI and BLMI Steering Committee member, said  that the training on Persuasive Public Speaking  is vital for Bangsamoro Community and Muslim Religious Leaders to inform,educate  and communicate important issues  to their constiuent s  that may lead to just , dignified peace and development in Moro homeland .

Zukarno P. Hadjinor, Associate Dean of DPMC said  that  this  institution (DPMC)  welcomes such kind of activity and  is willing to help to capacitate Bangsamoro Leaders.

Hadjinor told  the participants that Abdula is among the founding organizers of  DPMC.  Back in 2003, the organizers along with Abdula really worked hard to establish  this Institurion that any program, and or activities initiated and led by him is very much welcome.

NDF/Sison-ILPS: In Solidarity with the Korean People against US Imperialism on the 105th Birth Anniversary of the Great Leader Kim Il Sung

Sison propaganda statement posted to the National Democratic Front Website (Apr 15): In Solidarity with the Korean People against US Imperialism on the 105th Birth Anniversary of the Great Leader Kim Il Sung

By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
International League of Peoples’ Struggle

April 15, 2017

We, the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) share with the Korean people and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) the boundless joy of celebrating the 105th birth anniversary of the great leader Kim Il Sung. In his lifetime, Comrade Kim Il Sung led the Korean people in achieving great revolutionary feats in fighting and defeating the Japanese colonialists and subsequently the US imperialists and achieving national and social liberation.

Under his direction, the Korean Worker’s Party founded the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Upon the basic completion of the people’s democratic revolution, he guided and mobilized the Korean people to carry out the socialist revolution and construction. The Korean people have achieved great advances in socialist construction in the social, economic, political and cultural fields.

Despite the barbaric and destructive US-led war of aggression against Korea and the ceaseless embargo and provocations, Comrade Comrade Il Sung succeeded with the Korean people to make gigantic advances in socialist revolution and construction in a planned and timely way. These have been won under the principle of self-reliance against constant threats, economic sanctions and war provocations from US imperialism.

Comrade Kim Il Sung has bequeathed a shining heritage of resolute and militant struggle for national independence, democracy and socialism not only to the Korean people but also to the world’s proletariat and people. The brilliant victories have inspired the toiling masses in their struggle for a new society free from exploitation and oppression.

In the spirit of proletarian internationalism, Comrade Kim Il Sung gave exemplary fraternal support to the Cuban and Vietnamese peoples in their revolutionary struggle against US imperialism. He supported the oppressed peoples in Asia, Africa and Latin America in their struggle for national independence and democracy. He was an outstanding stalwart of the non-aligned movement that espoused the right of the peoples to self-determination and to an independent course of development.

We, the ILPS, extend our militant solidarity with the Korean people in their fervent desire to have a peaceful reunification of the north and south and in their heroic struggle against the continuing sanctions, threats and provocations of US imperialism and its reactionary agents. We support the right of the DPRK and the Korean people to self-defense against aggression, to develop their nuclear capability in defense of their national independence and to counter the bullying and threats of a preemptive nuclear strike from US imperialism.

We, the International League of Peoples’ Struggle, express our highest admiration and deepest respect for the memory of the Great Leader Comrade Kim Il Sung on the occasion of his 105th birth anniversary. Together with the Korean people, we cherish his memory that has inspired the revolutionary proletariat and people in their struggle for a new and better world.

Long live the memory and legacy of Comrade Kim Il Sung!
Long live the struggle for national liberation, democracy and socialism!
US imperialism must get out of south Korea!
The Korean people will prevail and achieve peaceful reunification!
Long live the international solidarity of peoples!

CPP/NPA: Pahayag Hinggil sa isinagawang Reyd sa hinihinalang drug lord at gunrunner

NPA propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines Website (Apr 15):
Pahayag Hinggil sa isinagawang Reyd sa hinihinalang drug lord at gunrunner (Statement concerning the raid on a suspected drug lord and gunrunner)

Salvador Luminoso, Spokesperson
NPA-Palawan (Bienvenido Vallever Command)

15 April 2017

Isang reyd sa bahay ng hinihinalang drug lord at gunrunner ang inilunsad ng mga elemento ng Bagong Hukbong Bayan-Palawan noong ika-14 ng Abril alas-otso ng gabi sa barangay Barong Barong Brookes Point Palawan.

Naisagawa ang reyd dahil sa natanggap na ulat na sa gabing iyon magaganap ang malaking bentahan ng shabu sa bahay ng kilalang pinuno ng rescue 165 sa ilalim ng provincial government na si Gilbert S. Baaco o mas kilalang GSB. Bilang aksyon sa ulat, kagyat at mabilisang isinagawa ang reyd subalit nakatunog si GSB at agad na nakapagpaputok ng baril kaya’t napilitang magpaputok din ang mga kasama na naging sanhi ng kanyang agarang pagkamatay.

Nakuha sa pag-iingat ni GSB ang labing walong(18)baril na kinabibilangan ng: (6) pirasong shotgun, (9) na pirasong 9mm, 2 pirasong m4-bushmaster, at isang regular na M16. Aabot naman sa 500 rounds bala ng 5.56×45mm, 100 rounds para sa 9mm, 20 rounds at isang magasin para sa cal.45 at iba pang mga bala para sa cal. 38 at cal.40.

Si Gilbert S. Baaco ay matagal nang nasa watch list ng Bienvenido Vallever Command dahil sa mga ilegal na aktibidad nito na malayang naisasagawa dahil sa tabing ng rescue 165 at bilang pinuno din ng PDRRMO sa ilalim ng pamahalaang JCA. Lantad sa mga mamamayan ng Palawan ang mga krimen nito tulad ng mga pagpatay na tipong tokhang sa mga kasamahan din nilang nais nang tumiwalag. Ganundin sa mga sibilyan na hinihinala nilang nagsusumbong sa kanilang mga ilegal na gawain.

Ginagamit ni GSB ang titulong rescue 165 upang abusuhin, takutin ang mga mamamayang gustong palayasin ng JCA sa kanilang mga lupain sa ngalan ng development. Siya din ang namumuno sa pananakot sa mga nagpoprotestang mamamayan na nagpapahayag ng kanilang karaingan sa pamahalaan. Sa maikling salita, mas kilala si GSB ng mga Palaweño bilang “the untouchable” o “little governor”.

Sa nangyari, inulan ng tawag at text mula sa masa ang pamunuan ng BVC para batiin ang kanilang hukbo sa matagumpay na pamamarusa sa notorious na kriminal, druglord at gunrunner na si Gilbert S. Baaco.

Mabuhay ang CPP/NPA/NDF!

 Mabuhay ang Sambayanan!

 Mabuhay ang Rebolusyon!

LOOK: How Air Force supported Bohol offensives last week

From Update Philippines (Apr 15): LOOK: How Air Force supported Bohol offensives last week

Military photo

Philippine Air Force 220th Airlift Wing provided support during the Barangay Napo, Inabanga, Bohol crisis when members of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group planned an attack, April 11, 2017. C-130, C-295 and F-27 aircraft were utilized to provide assistance to troops in battle.

“It was also used to ferried JSOG and PNP personnel and supplies to the area,” the Air Force said.

Joint Special Operations Group (JSOG) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is composed of specialized units from the various major services of the military, including the Philippine Army’s Light Reaction Regiment, the Philippine Navy’s Naval Special Operations Group, and a Special Operations Wing from the Philippine Air Force.

JSOG is at the forefront of the current intensified anti-terrorism campaign.

“Also, later that day, another C-130 aircraft ferried the ground support equipment of the FA-50PH aircraft to Mactan later that day, to support the air strike mission. All other airlift assets were placed on alert and operationally ready,” it added.

“Indeed, the 220th Airlift Wing has enabled our Air Force to quickly spread its operations. Consequently, contributing to the neutralization of the lawless elements and subsequently led to the surrender of the remaining ASG members,” Air Force added.

The Bohol military offensives resulted to the killing of at least 6 terrorist including leader Muammar Askali also known as Abu Rami.

Military photo

Military photo

Duterte: PH ready to send troops to Bahrain in event of attack

From Rappler (Apr 15): Duterte: PH ready to send troops to Bahrain in event of attack

'If you want [our] soldiers under your command, I'm willing to send you one battalion, one regiment, one division to protect you. Just say the word,' President Rodrigo Duterte recalls telling King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa

The Philippines is ready to send troops to Bahrain if the oil-rich kingdom comes under attack, President Rodrigo Duterte said on Friday, April 15.

Duterte said in a forum with Bahraini businessmen that he made this commitment to King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa when they had a meeting at Sakhir Palace on the occasion of his state visit. (READ: PH, Bahrain ink agreements to boost trade, investments)

Speaking before the Capital Club of Bahrain, a prestigious private business and social club composed of top Bahraini CEOs and businessmen, Duterte said his pledge reflected the Philippines' deep appreciation and debt of gratitude to Bahrain for hosting and looking after Filipino workers, estimated at around 60,000.

"We are, maybe far away, thousands of miles, but one of our most important national interest is really the kindness and accommodation that you have extended to my brother Filipinos. That is why I said to His Royal Highness, that that national interest is very important. And I committed to stand by you at all times," he said.

"And I said that if you need us, you just call. And if you want even, if things break loose – I pray to God that it will remain fundamentally on the side of the Middle East, peaceful – but if there's a violent activity going on, we will be ready to help you," he added.

Duterte quickly added that Philippine soldiers are "experienced and disciplined," many trained under the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).

"If you want to deploy us here, we will agree because of our national interest and the lives of Filipinos here. If you want [our] soldiers under your command, I'm willing to send you one battalion, one regiment, one division to protect you. Just say the word. And if the other countries say, 'What are you doing?’ I'll say, 'It is on our national interest,'" he said.

Last month, Bahraini authorities dismantled a 14-member "terrorist" cell that has planned attacks on senior figures and security forces in the Gulf country, Gulf News reported.

Home to the US Fifth Fleet, Bahrain has been witnessing continuous unrest since 2011, when protests inspired by the Arab uprisings emerged demanding an elected government, the report said.

Bahrain is the second leg of Duterte's 3-nation Middle East tour. The President said going to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Qatar was his personal decision, based on the contribution of these countries to the Philippine economy through the employment of Filipino workers.

"Job opportunity – that by itself is a debt of gratitude. We want to repay you... We don't have the resources, we don't have the oil, but we can offer our lives to you," Duterte told the Bahraini businessmen.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that there are about 760,000 Filipinos in Saudi Arabia, around 60,000 in Bahrain, and 250,000 in Qatar. (READ: Saudi OFWs raise problems before 'Tatay' Duterte)

Duterte arrived at the Bahrain International Airport late on Wednesday, April 12, after a two-day state visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, from April 10 to 12.

The last leg of his Middle East tour is Qatar.

DSWD sends initial aid to locals affected by armed ops against suspected terrorists in Bohol

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 14): DSWD sends initial aid to locals affected by armed ops against suspected terrorists in Bohol

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), through its Field Office (FO) in Region VII, has extended initial assistance to locals affected by the ongoing joint operation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) against alleged members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Inabanga, Bohol.

Based on reports from the Central Visayas Field Office of the DSWD, residents from Barangay Napo sighted armed men around 5amyesterday aboard two motorbancas on a nearby river and immediately alerted the police force about the situation. Some 593 families from 11 barangays in Bohol are currently affected by the armed conflict.

Some 150 family food packs (FFP) were already distributed to the displaced locals and another 100 were set to be delivered to the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO) of Bohol.

The DSWD also maintains some 11,000 FFPs prepositioned in its warehouse in the province. Repacking of goods is also ongoing in the National Resource Operations Center (NROC) and regional office.

Moreover, the DSWD FO-VII maintains its coordination with the provincial government to assess the situation and to provide any assistance needed to help the affected locals.

For her part, DSWD Secretary Judy M. Taguiwalo urged the public to closely coordinate with authorities about any unusual activities in their area.

“We urge all citizens to remain vigilant and to report any unusual or suspicious activities or incidents we witness or hear of to the authorities. This is particularly intended for those who are traveling to other places for the Holy Week. We need to prioritize the safety of our communities at all times, and we should all be watchful against any suspicious behaviour, packages, bags or vehicles,” reminded the Secretary. (DSWD)

800 families affected by armed conflict incident in Samar province return home

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 15): 800 families affected by armed conflict incident in Samar province return home

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) provided assistance to some 837 families in Calbiga, Samar who evacuated due to fear of being caught in the crossfire between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

The families, who were from 15 hinterland barangays, journeyed last April 4 to seek for temporary refuge at the municipal covered basketball court because of the continuing presence of Community Service Groups (CSG) of the 87th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army in four upland barangays of the municipality.

Based on reports from the field, included in the mass evacuation were 933 children, 35 pregnant women, six persons with disability, and 112 senior citizens which immediately caused concern to the DSWD administration because of the huge number of vulnerable individuals exposed to unsanitary and unsafe conditions.

The local government tried to move the displaced locals into evacuation centers. However, the community residents declined the offer and rallied for the pull out of the military in their barangays, which the local government granted through negotiations with the displaced families and the People’s Surge, an alliance of disaster survivors in the region. The civilians said that they would be fine so long as the military pulls out of their communities.

The Department, through its Field Office in Region VIII, extended “pabaon” packs over the weekend to the affected families comprised of six kilos of rice, canned goods, packs of instant coffee, bottled water, and non-food items such as malong and blankets.

In addition, the local government of Calbiga provided transportation assistance to the displaced locals for their return to their homes.

Meanwhile, DSWD Secretary Judy M. Taguiwalo said that the Department will continue to monitor the situation of the affected families and ensure their safety as they go back to their own barangays.

“We will continue to assess the needs of the displaced families and provide appropriate interventions to them if still needed because most of the individuals displaced by the incident are part of the vulnerable sector. The Department will ensure their safety and we hope that similar incidents like this will not happen in the future,” said Sec. Taguiwalo.

“The focus of our attention during incidents of armed conflict is the plight of civilians who are always the most affected. We appeal to both armed parties to ensure that civilians are not caught in the crossfire, especially children and senior citizens who are most vulnerable,” she said.

Feuding Maranaw families in Lanao del Sur reconcile, ending 20-yr clan war

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 15): Feuding Maranaw families in Lanao del Sur reconcile, ending 20-yr clan war

MALABANG, Lanao del Sur -- Warring Muslim clans in Maguindanao reconciled Friday, ending two decades of armed hostilities involving family members.

The settlement of the "rido" (clan war) and reconciliation of the Balindong and Montaner clans came after years of efforts to convince elders of both sides to amicably settle their misunderstanding and sign a peace covenant "for the sake of their children".

Col. Jesus Sarsagat, chief of the Army's 603rd Infantry Brigade, and Lt. Col. Ruben Aquino, commanding officer of the 6th Infantry Battalion, initiated the "bridging" early this year until both sides agreed to smoke the pipe of peace.

The deep-seated animosity involving the Balindong and Montaner clans was triggered by misunderstanding over politics and territorial issues.

More than two dozen supporters and clan members from both sides have perished in sporadic skirmishes that spanned 20 years.

Ending their animosity and to ensure both sides abide by the Army-led peace pact-signing, elders and influential clan members swore before the Holy Qur'an, with Lanao del Sur Vice Governor Mamintal Adiong Jr. and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Regional Vice Gov. Al Rashid Lucman and other provincial and regional officials serving as witnesses.

Maj. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, chief of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, lauded the efforts of his subordinates and local officials of Malabang, Lanao del Sur.

"Nobody wins in a rido, both parties are losers, failure to live in the existence of peace," Vice Governor Adiong said in a speech before the signing.

Sarsagat said the incoming generations of both clans would suffer the pain of the conflict if it remains unresolved.

"The effect will be a long-term suffering of the orphans as their parents pass away due to nonsense killings," he said.

“We are thankful to the leaders of the two clans for putting closure to a vendetta that has dragged on for many years,” dela Vega said.

3 civilians died in war vs. ASG

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 15): 3 civilians died in war vs. ASG

Three civilians, all senior citizens, died as a result of an assault against the suspected members of the Abu Sayaff Group (ASG) by the government troopers on April 11, 2017 in sitio Ilaya, barangay Napo of this town, about 75 kms northwest of capital Tagbilaran City.

A couple identified as Constancio Petalco, 65, and his wife, Crisanta Doblas Petalco, were among the casualties following the air strike against the terrorists on that fateful day (April 12, 2017), Napo barangay chairman Columbus Estoce told DYTR in interview.

Capt. Jojo Mascariñas, spokesman of the 302nd brigade, also confirmed this to PNA on Saturday in his text to this writer.

He said that Constancio Petalco was the uncle of Joselito Melloria, a resident of the barangay who married a Muslim woman, whose unnamed father was one of the ASG leaders.

A relative of the senior couple (Petalco), Ronila Sabijon Kudemus lamented in her facebook post. “Unsa man mo wala geapil ag gehostyaged ug report?? Namatay aqong uyuan uban sa iya asawa …asag hustisya ani?? Kung nagol mis fallen comrades misamot kroon huhuhu. RIP TIYO ug TIYA.” (Why no report on hostage persons? My uncle died with his wife, where’s justice? If we’re worried about the fallen comrades, we are most worried).

Inabanga Communications and News Service (ICoNS) posted in its website Municipality of Inabanga that the couple’s corpse “were finally laid to rest” on Thursday at Cawayan Public Cemetery.

It added that “Four bodies from the armed group, 3 from the encounter last Tuesday and 1 who was found in a shallow grave Thursday morning, were also buried at the back of a separate cemetery,” But it did not mention the identities of the other four dead bodies and the one found in a shallow grave.

“The relatives accompanied by Napo Barangay Captain Bobot Estose paid Mayor Roygie Jumamoy a visit to discuss how to claim the bodies. Yesterday, relatives and friends of the elderly couple visited the lady mayor again and asked assistance on the burial. The surviving children, Sally and Marlon Petalco who will be arriving soon, together with other immediate relatives agreed among themselves to bury the bodies urgently considering they are already in advanced state of decomposition. Anymore delay will threaten the health of personnel handling the decaying cadaver.”

“The government will facilitate and shoulder all documentary requirements and expenses that will be incurred in laying down the elderly couple to rest. A financial assistance will also be given to the beneficiaries,” it said.

Icons, an official media office of this town, said that the Philippine National Police (PNP) “has not yet issued a statement” of the circumstances surrounding the death of the elderly couple, “considering their connection, involvement and presence in the target area.”

The PNP is also expected to issue statement on the identities of four other casualties from the armed group.

Giant TV network ABS-CBN reported that the relatives of Petalco couple were “killed in Tuesday's crossfire between government forces and the Abu Sayyaf group saying further that the two victims were mistakenly identified as terrorists.”

The couple reportedly “failed to heed government orders to evacuate Barangay Napo, Inabanga town, Bohol, because they were slow to move and old. Constantina also has joint problems.”

ABS-CBN also reported that “Lieutenant Colonel Jose Dodjie Belloga Jr., commander of the 47th Infantry Batallion, said the couple were considered part of the Abu Sayyaf because they refused to clear the premises.”

"Iyong mga naiwan sa loob, sa amin, are considered supporters or kasama ng ASG," ABS-CBN quoted Belloga as saying.

Meanwhile, a certain Beatriz Labandero, 80, a resident of barangay Liloan Norte, a neighboring barangay where the gunbattle ensued to crush the terrorists, has died allegedly for heart attack during the air strikes by two airplanes on Tuesday, according to Jimmylito Logronio, her grand son, said in interview.

Logronio family is one of the families that evacuated to the town’s gym for safety upon advice by their barangay and town officials.

Kag. Leticia Son of barangay Liloan Sur said that their barangay is now considered as no man’s land. She said the residents of 223 households evacuated to town’s gym while others at nearby barangay Nabuad’s covered court.

She said that some were forced to leave home because of fear but they wanted to return to their respective homes to check their belongings, farms and animals. But the problem is that, she said, the authorities still barred them from going home as of this writing.

On the AFP’s side, those killed in action (KIA) include 2nd Lt. Estilito Saldua Jr.; Cpl. Miljune Cajaban; and Sgt. John Dexter Duero; and PNP’s Rey Anthony Nazareno, new graduate of Special Weapons and tactics (SWAT) in Bohol.

Wounded was Cpl. Cris Jude Porlas. Recovered from the area were high-powered firearms, three M16 rifle, one (1) M4 Carbine and one mortar cartridge, police said.

Mascrinas said that government troops had retrieved instruments of what appeared to be bomb-making gadgets and high-powered guns from the terrorists’ lair following the clearing operations in the area.

These included one M4 rifle; two M16; a rifle; one .45 Norinco .45 caliber; one M204 bullet; one 81mm mortar catridge; two short housing magazines; three detonating cords; one galva tester; one Icom radio; and one flashlight.

Also recovered were two remote control radio; 49 blasting caps; one blasting cap with cord attached; two remote control radio; two surgical forceps; one plastic container; one switch board; five Korans; one electric soldering iron; 27 pieces glue stick; eight Improvised explosive assembly devices; one electrical cutter; one scissor; one small screw driver; one LED component; 22 pieces silicon SCR; four relay 12-volt; eight slide switches; 86 red lights’ 46 resistors; three cellphone batteries; two pressure clip; 10 Christmas light bulbs; three pump boats; and five dead bodies.

Troopers have not identified yet the Abu Sayaff fatalities here so far.

Eastmincom heightens alert to counter diversionary operation of ASG bandits

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 14): Eastmincom heightens alert to counter diversionary operation of ASG bandits

Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) placed its whole forces under heightened alert since Thursday in the aftermath of the encounter between government troopers and Abu Sayyaf members in Inabanga, Bohol on Tuesday.

Major Ezra Balagtey, chief of public information officer of Eastmincom told reporters here that the heightened alert level would cover the whole duration of the observance of Holy Week.

The move is also aimed to counter any diversionary operations that the terror group might undertake after suffering heavily during the Bohol encounter.

“The alert level was raised to prevent the ASG to conduct any diversionary act within the command’s area of operations,” Balagtey said.

Aside from the Abu Sayyaf, the communists New People’s Army are also threatening communities in Mindanao, he added.

“We will also prevent the NPA to take advantage of the situation and conduct atrocities while communities are busy in celebrating the Holy Week,” he said.

The Tactical Operations Group 10 of the Philippine Air Force based in Cagayan de Oro City, which is under the command of Eastmincom, had provided support to the operations of the government troopers against the Abu Sayyaf in Bohol, Balagtey said.

Two aircraft and other personnel were dispatched to Inabanga, Bohol and are presently providing additional capability to the government forces pursuing the remnants of terrorists in the area, he added.

“The naval forces of Eastmincom in Mindanao were likewise dispatched with some of its personnel and equipment to provide the additional naval capability to the central command of the armed forces last April 12 as the conduct of pursuit operations continue,” he said.

Troops of Eastmincom on the ground are also coordinating with various local government units and the Philippine National Police during the implementation of the heightened alert.

“Proper coordination with LGUs and other law enforcement agencies will allow Eastmincom units to establish mechanisms within their respective areas of jurisdiction to strengthen security measures,” Balagtey said.

Securing communities, installations and infrastructures are the main concern of Eastmincom in Mindanao, he added.

Aging Abu Sayyaf leader plans to surrender

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 14): Aging Abu Sayyaf leader plans to surrender

A top military official disclosed that Abu Sayyaf one-armed and senior leader Radullan Sahiron plans to surrender to the government.

“Radullan Sahiron is contemplating to surrender because he is old,” Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) said.

Galvez told the Philippines News Agency that one of the conditions of Sahiron is for the government “not to turn him over to the U.S. government” when he surrenders.

Sahiron is the leading figurehead of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in the province of Sulu after most of the founding leaders of the ASG were killed.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has set a million reward for the capture of Sahiron.

“We see that not only those in the lower ranks of the ASG are expressing their desire to surrender because they're​already feeling ​the heat of the military operation. And they also feel the sincerity of the President to accept people who wanted to surrender,” Galvez said.

Galvez said they were employing “non-lethal” approach in addressing the problem of the Abu Sayyaf. Among which is to open a rehabilitation program.

He said they are replicating this approach from their military counterparts in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Galvez said the same tactic was used in “decimating” the networks of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).

He said the rehabilitation for the Abu Sayyaf is not just open to the least members.

“Even hardcore members are allowed to be rehabilitated. Alternative options are open to them. We might resolve the problem of the Abu Sayyaf Group peacefully,” he said.

“We know the story of the prodigal son...We should not closed​ the door for those who want to have a new beginning,” Galvez said.

The total number of surrendered Abu Sayyaf members has reached 16, following the order of President Rodrigo Duterte to finish off the Abu Sayyaf in six-month period. The deadline will lapse on June 30.

There are over 40 Abu Sayyaf members who have been killed in the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi since January.

On Thursday, April 13, Galvez presented to the local media the 11 Abu Sayyaf bandits, including two sub-leaders, who surrendered to the government in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi.

Ben Saudi Sariol, one of the 11 surrenderers, said they decided to surrender to the military as the offensive against the Abu Sayyaf have intensified in recent months.

“We just want a peaceful life. We want our children to go to school, and earn a decent living. We feel much safer​now,” Sariol said in Tausug dialect.

Ben, along with his father Berong Sariol and nine other relatives, surrendered to the troops under the Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi at the Marine Barracks Domingo Deluana in Barangay Sanga-Sanga, Bongao, Tawi-Tawi on Tuesday night.

They also surrendered their firearms to the military.

Galvez said they would provide small amount to the surrenderers for livelihood.

“The rehabilitation of the ASG is open. We know there also people who are ready to surrender,” Galvez said.

Galvez said the military was coordinating with other government agencies to come up with a program to rehabilitate the surrendered members of the Abu Sayyaf.

Terror threat in Negros Oriental is real

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 15): Terror threat in Negros Oriental is real

Ranking police and military officials in the Visayas on Saturday confirmed that the threat posed by the notorious kidnap-for-ransom Abu Sayyaf Group is for real in Negros Oriental and nearby areas like Apo Island, Sumilon Island and Siquijor.

But they assured that security forces and assets were in place to thwart any possible attacks by the Mindanao-based group, following the April 10 incident in Inabanga, Bohol where suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits and a joint team of police and military forces clashed, leaving nine people dead.

Lt. Gen. Oscar Lactao, commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Central Command (CentCom) in the Visayas and Chief Supt. Noli Taliño, regional director of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Regional Office-7 (PRO-7), called on Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo Saturday morning at the Capitol to discuss security measures.

During a confidential briefing attended by members of the Joint Task Group Deter and Joint Task Force Leon Kilat and some mayors, the military disclosed vital information that would aid local officials here in their target-hardening measures.

The briefing included information such as timeline of events that led to the Inabanga encounter, suspected Abu Sayyaf leaders, sample pictures of the “jungkong” boat the bandits normally use, the route that the group led by Abu Sayyaf leader Muammar Askali, alias Abu Rami, took from Sulu to Inabanga, Bohol, possible and vulnerable target areas, the sighting of another of the group’s sub-leader, Alhabisi Misaya recently in the region, and many other essential information.

The group led by Abu Rami, who was one of those killed in the Inabanga encounter, took only more than three days to reach Bohol since it departed Indanan, Sulu on April.

The group had made a quick stop over in Lazi, Siquijor before it went to Bohol.

While the police and military have already thwarted possible terror acts/kidnapping by the Abu Sayyaf in Bohol, PNP and AFP officials were saying that there was a likelihood the other members of the threat group would carry out their terrorist activities in the region, especially during the summer with the influx of tourists coming to the different islands.

In the same briefing, recommendations were made to strengthen and reinforce target-hardening measures to prevent a repeat of the Inabanga, Bohol incident here.

Topping the list of recommendations is the “adopt a whole government approach” to combat terrorism, which Governor Degamo reiterated to the mayors present in the security briefing and to all the other stakeholders.

The cooperation of the local government units, even down to the barangays, was highly stressed considering that they were the ones who could monitor the arrival and presence of suspicious persons in their communities, Degamo said.

Also, the governor underscored that the public must also do their part by informing the nearest authority, whether it be the police or any barangay official, of sightings of unidentified persons and boats, and of unidentified persons in their barangays.

“I am calling, especially the people living in the coastal communities to report doubtful or unusual activity to the authorities immediately,” Degamo said.

Degamo appealed that despite the “prevailing threat” here, there was no reason for the public to panic. And instead of circulating unverified messages, these should instead be coursed through the authorities to avoid causing undue public alarm, the governor said.

He was referring to unverified messages being circulated through text or social media since last week regarding the presence or the sightings of armed men believed to be Abu Sayyaf in Negros Oriental.

“By doing so (forwarding false/unverified information), you unknowingly become instruments of the evil desire of some individuals to sow fear in the minds of the peace-loving, innocent people”, Degamo said.

Gov. Roel Degamo has reiterated his appeal for close coordination with the civilian populace to thwart possible attacks by threat/terror groups in the province. He also assured the public that if they hear the sound of helicopters flying here, it is routine reconnaissance and there is nothing to be alarmed about.

In fact, the PN a few days back flew its latest aircraft on a recon mission covering Negros and Siquijor Islands.

Meanwhile, for his part, PRO-7 regional director Chief Supt. Taliño, said the alleged sightings of armed men in Negros Oriental and Siquijor were still subject to confirmation, that was why the cooperation of all stakeholders was necessary.

Taliño explained that while Negros Oriental is not under his jurisdiction because it belongs to the Negros Island Region PNP Region 18 Office, still, the province is covered by an inter-agency security plan especially in Central Visayas because of the proximity of the islands.

What happened in Bohol was a classic coordination of the civil and military authorities and the community, he stressed.

For his part, CentCom chief Lt. Gen. Lactao lauded the establishment of Joint Task Force Leon Kilat but he had to see for himself how it is actually organized.

Lactao said he was happy to have seen it “first-hand” how the Task Force Leon Kilat has mapped out its strategic operational plans to counter these terror threats.

Speaking in Filipino, Lactao said that Apo Island, in fact, would have been the more vulnerable target of the Abu Sayyaf, perhaps because of the target-hardening measures employed by the task force, “it is a difficult target (and) it becomes more expensive for them”.

The CentCom commander and the PRO-7 regional director and party proceeded at noon time to Siquijor, as part of their visits to areas most likely targeted by the Abu Sayyaf.

Lactao said during the briefing that the Secretary of the Department of National Defense had earlier inquired from him about the current state of the Visayas following the Inabanga, Bohol encounter.

Meanwhile, Task Group Deter commander Capt. Jorge Ibarra of the Philippine Navy also disclosed during the briefing that air and sea assets as well as ground troops were in place to secure the more vulnerable areas here.

In fact, a Navy helicopter had done a reconnaissance mission in the south of Negros and in neighboring islands recently.

Continuous seaborne and maritime patrols werebeing done by the Coast Guard and the Navy while ground troops, consisting of police personnel and Army soldiers, were deployed in Apo Island, Dauin, and other possible target areas, he added.