Tuesday, May 16, 2017

BRP Tarlac deploys for Balikatan

From Update Philippines (May 15): BRP Tarlac deploys for Balikatan

The decision to hold Civil-Military Activities from the Sea (CMA-S) off Casiguran town, Aurora has nothing to do with the country’s decision to highlight its jurisdiction of the resource-rich Benham Rise.

Assets used by Philippine and US troops in Monday’s CMA-S activities off Barangay Dibacong, Casiguran town include the brand-new strategic sealift vessel, the BRP Tarlac (LD-601), AgustaWestland AW-109 “Power” combat utility helicopters, landing craft utilities, and rigid-hull inflatable boat for the Filipino side and the USNS Sacagawea (T-AKE-2), a Lewis-and-Clark class dry cargo ship, the Bell Boeing V-22 “Osprey” tilt-rotor aircraft, Sikorsky UH-60 “Blackhawk”, and Boeing C-47 “Chinook” helicopters.

These assets were used to bring relief goods, aid, medical and dental care and other necessaries which are instrumental in stabilizing the typhoon devastated community of Dibacong, Sayson pointed out.
This was stressed by “Balikatan” Philippine spokesperson Major Frank Sayson Monday during the sidelights of the CMA-S activities which was held off Barangay Dibacong which was hypothetically devastated and isolated from help by a “Category 5” typhoon.

The latter event is one of the key features of the 33rd iteration of the “Balikatan” exercises which started May 8 and will end on the 19th.

This year’s maneuvers are heavy on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions as per the request of the Philippine government.

Sayson said the area was selected by planners for the CMA-S exercises as it is one of the most easily isolated areas in the country in the event of major calamity as roads leading to it are cut down the mountains and could be easily blocked by debris, making it the ideal location for the exercise.

He said that aid and resupply to Dibacong could only be done through air and sea hence Monday’s exercises centered on using naval and air assets of American and Filipino to relieve the hypothetically devastated area.

He also said the above-mentioned operations are seamless as they are inter-service in nature.

Prior to the exercise, Sayson said US subject matter experts briefed their Filipino counterparts on various tactics and strategies which can expedite in providing relief aid to the typhoon devastated community.


LOOK: 4 PH Coast Guard ships welcomed in Indonesia

From Update Philippines (May 16): LOOK: 4 PH Coast Guard ships welcomed in Indonesia

PCG photo

Philippine Coast Guard’s Ilocos Norte-class search and rescue vessel BRP Nueva Vizcaya (SARV-3502), San Juan-class search and rescue vessel BRP Pampanga (SARV-003), Parola-class multi-role response vessel BRP Tubbataha (MRRV-4401), and tug boat TB Habagat (TB-271) were all welcomed in Port of Benoa, Bali, Indonesia May 15.

Philippine Coast Guard’s vessels are in Bali, Indonesia for the biennial Marine Pollution Exercise (MARPOLEX) with Indonesia and Japan from May 15 to 17.

“The exercise is the 21st bilateral exercise on maritime pollution between the Philippines and Indonesia since its establishment in 1986,” PCG said.

PCG photo

PCG said Japan Coast Guard has been actively participating in the said event since 1995 together with the PCG and Indonesia’s Directorate General of Sea Transport (DGST).

“The conduct of this biennial exercise is a commitment of the Philippines, Indonesia and Japan in the implementation of the ASEAN Oil Spill Response Action Plan and the Sulawesi Oil Spill Network Response Plan,” PCG said.

PCG photo

PCG photo


How Significant is the 2017 US-Philippines Balikatan Military Exercise?

From The Diplomat (May 16): How Significant is the 2017 US-Philippines Balikatan Military Exercise?

Though Duterte has certainly been a damper on Balikatan thus far, officials also have a point about its enduring relevance.

How Significant is the 2017 US-Philippines Balikatan Military Exercise?

Image Credit: Flickr/US Pacific Command
On May 8, the United States and the Philippines kicked off the 33rd iteration of their biggest annual bilateral exercise known as Balikatan, the first one held since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte took office last June (See: “What to Expect From the 2017 US-Philippines Balikatan Military Exercise”). Balikatan 2017 will last until May 19.

As Balikatan 2017 has been playing out, media attention has largely been on the fact that the exercise has been “scaled down” and refocused on fields like humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) and counterterrorism, with usually more visible live-fire components downplayed. Balikatan has been one of the early victims of Duterte’s desire to rebalance Philippine foreign policy, which has meant less dependence on its traditional ally the United States relative to newer partners like China and Russia and has led to the cancellation of some bilateral drills and the refocusing of others (See: “The Limits of Duterte’s US-China Rebalance”).

The change is no doubt a damper for the Balikatan exercises, and that is clear to close observers. As I have observed previously, it bucks the trend of expansion we have seen during the past few iterations under Duterte’s predecessor Benigno Aquino III, whether it be in terms of numbers, such as the doubling of the size of the war games in 2015, or specific firsts, be it Ash Carter becoming the first ever U.S. defense secretary to observe the Balikatan in 2016 or the involvement of two M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) units which were being deployed for the first time (See: “What Will The Biggest US-Philippines Military Exercise Look Like Under Duterte”).Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

But at the opening ceremony of Balikatan 2017 last week, both U.S. and Philippine officials stressed that what had been preserved was nonetheless still very valuable. In his remarks, Lt. Gen Lawrence Nicholson, the Balikatan exercise director on the U.S. side, emphasized that the training that was happening in areas like counterterrorism and humanitarian assistance and disaster and relief was “beneficial” and “critically important.” Philippine defense officials also made the same point, despite candidly admitting that the exercise had changed due to the political guidance they had gotten from the Duterte administration.

It’s far from surprising that officials from both sides would try to downplay the scaled down nature of Balikatan 2017 and put a positive spin on what they are able to do this year. But at the same time, U.S. and Philippine officials also do have a point when they stress that what has been preserved still proves useful for a number of reasons.

First and most obviously, irrespective of the specific scenario involved each time which does tend to shift in any case – be it territorial defense in 2016 which featured launching an amphibious operation on a hypothetical South China Sea island, or responding to a super typhoon this year – there are important advances made in terms of enhancing interoperability between the two militaries as well as the exchange of tactics, techniques, and procedures required to confront challenges jointly.

Second, though it may not grab as many headlines as the South China Sea, the focus on counterterrorism as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief is important in its own right. A point often missed with all the focus on the South China Sea is that the Philippines also faces a number of other important threats, including terrorism, insurgency, piracy, and climate change.

The Philippines is one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries, and it is no surprise that at the opening ceremony for Balikatan 2017, exercise co-director Lieutenant General Oscar Lactao made reference to Typhoon Haiyan, the deadliest Philippine typhoon on record which killed over 6,000 people when it hit back in November 2013. It has also long been a hub for terrorism and piracy and is still at the center of these threats, be it worries about the establishment of a Islamic State base in the Philippines or tackling transnational crimes in the Sulu-Sulawesi seas. (See: “Confronting Threats in the Sulu-Sulawesi Seas: Opportunities and Challenges”).

These are concerns for the United States too. On HADR, apart from the fact that the United States has assisted the Philippines when such disasters hit, they also factor into military planning more generally for similar calamities. Indeed, as Nicholson, who co-directed Balikatan 2017 with Lactao, related during the ceremony, during the week before the exercises, he and others had been preparing for what might have been a big super typhoon in Vanuatu that eventually did not come to pass.

Similarly, Washington also remains very concerned about threats like terrorism and piracy in Southeast Asia and the Philippines in particular. Indeed, last June, Washington used the window between the bilateral phases of its Cooperation Afloat and Readiness Training (CARAT) exercises to conduct a coordinated multilateral training activity in the Sulu Sea with the Philippine and Malaysian navies (See: “Can China Patrols Help Duterte in the Philippines’ Terror War?”) (For now, CARAT has been nixed by Duterte).

Third and finally, the utility of Balikatan 2017 is demonstrated by the continuity of its growing multilateralization, a point that often goes underappreciated. Much like the trajectory of the Cobra Gold exercises, Balikatan has increasingly evolved from a purely bilateral exercise to one where other U.S. allies and partners like Japan and Australia can either participate to varying degrees or at least attend as observers (See: “Why the Philippines is Critical to the US Rebalance in Asia“).

That continued this year, with Japan and Australia participating in all major training events and eight ASEAN nations also observing the exercises. This multilateralization is admittedly still in its early stages, and the numbers from Tokyo and Canberra are quite small (20 and 80 respectively). But Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who was present at the inaugural Balikatan exercise and served as its co-director before being posted as defense attaché in the United States, said that there may be the possibility of even greater participation of Australia and Japan in the Balikatan exercises in the future.

Though that point was missed by many mainstream media outlets, Lorenzana’s emphasis on the future is important. As I have emphasized before, this is just the first year of Duterte’s six-year term, and with the Philippines’ ties with major powers still in flux – including Manila’s ongoing South China Sea disputes with Beijing – Balikatan could once again see a refocusing to other areas like maritime security or even a scaling up in the following years.

As a case in point of how quickly exercises can wax and wane as bilateral relationships between the United States and Southeast Asian states evolve, consider the fact that Thailand, which initially saw its Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise with the United States suspended following the coup. The exercise was then resumed the following year and now Bangkok is one of the forward-leaning countries with which Washington is pursuing multilateralization of CARAT exercises, along with Singapore (See: “US, Singapore, Thailand Launch First Trilateral Exercise in South China Sea”).


Philippines to hold oil exploration with China in Spratly Islands

From the International Business Times (May 15): Philippines to hold oil exploration with China in Spratly Islands

South China Sea dispute: Philippines rejected China's offer of bilateral talks

An aerial photo taken though a glass window of a Philippine military plane shows the alleged on-going land reclamation by China on mischief reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, west of Palawan, Philippines Reuters

The Philippine government announced on Sunday that it would want to hold a joint oil exploration with China on the disputed sea waters of Spratly islands.

The announcement was made by Philippine special envoy to China Jose De Venecia who spoke at the Belt and Road Forum hosted by China that was participated in by heads and representatives of at least 30 countries.

Spratlys is a group of more than a hundred islets in the South China Sea adjacent to the Philippines that was reportedly to be rich in oil and natural gas resources.

The South China Sea is a disputed waterway t that is also being claimed by Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam. China's neighbour Taiwan also has rival claims of the South China Sea.

The Philippine media earlier reported that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to fly to China this month to sign a joint energy exploration deal with China.

De Venecia also said that the proposal will bring economic benefits to both countries.

During the Belt and Road opening forum, CNBC reported that China will be providing USD 100 billion worth of infrastructure and transport-related projects through the "One Belt, One Road," Strategy to strengthen China's trade links to the rest of the countries.

"China will endeavour to build a win-win business partnership with other countries participating in this Belt and Road Initiative, "China President Xi Jinping was quoted by CNBC.

Meanwhile, China last year also pledged to provide the Philippines USD 24 billion worth of infrastructure projects when Duterte visited China last year wherein he had announced he would realign himself with China and Russia.

Both World Bank and International Money Fund said that this strategy is to seek investment rewards and eventually boost international trade, investment and financial cooperation.

Aside from the strengthening economic relations between Philippines and China, both countries are also exploring at developing their military ties as they plan to hold joint naval exercise in the Southern Philippines.


Security Monitoring Cooperation In Sulu Sea To Begin In June

From the Malaysia Digest (May 17): Security Monitoring Cooperation In Sulu Sea To Begin In June

KUALA LUMPUR: The tripartite cooperation involving Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines to conduct joint patrols and monitoring of the Sulu Sea is expected be launched in June.

Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) deputy chief, Datuk Anuwi Hassan said the cooperation was aimed at addressing the current security challenges in the area, such as kidnapping for ransom.

Anuwi said the operation would be launched by the defence ministers of the three countries.

"The presence of ships and aircraft from the three countries is expected to curb crime and ensure the Sulu Sea is safe for merchant ships," he said.

He was speaking to reporters after opening the 4th Regional Workshop on the Law of Armed Conflict at Sea, at Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia (UPNM), here, today.

Isabelle Barras, head of delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), was also present.

Twenty-eight senior navy officers from the Asia-Pacific region are participating in the five-day workshop co-organised by the RMN, UPNM and ICRC, which began yesterday.


No Abu in Eastern Visayas: Gen. Farnacio

From the Manila Bulletin (May 17): No Abu in Eastern Visayas: Gen. Farnacio

CATBALOGAN CITY, Samar — The commanding general of the 8th Infantry Division (8ID) of the Philippine Army has denied the presence or sighting of members of the Abu Sayyaf in Eastern Visayas.

Eastern Visayas Map (Credits: Google Maps | Manila Bulletin)

Major General Raul Farnacio, 8ID commanding general, allayed fears that members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) had been sighted in the region.

Gen. Farnacio branded the reports as “a fabrication.”

He clarified that those seen in Sta. Fe, Leyte and in Dolores in Eastern Samar were members of the Balik Islam group — part of the Muslim communities in Eastern Visayas — who are helping the government in hunting down members of terror groups in the region.

The general said his office has intensified its intelligence information gathering and coordinated with the police and other authorities in Eastern Visayas to ensure public safety, notably to protect tourists who are visiting the region.


70-year-old grandfather confronts Abu Sayyaf terrorist with machete

From Coconuts Manila (May 17): 70-year-old grandfather confronts Abu Sayyaf terrorist with machete

Who’s afraid of terrorists? Not “Lolo Peryong”, a 70-year-old grandfather from Calape town in Bohol.

“Lolo,” who police did not identify by his real name, came face-to-face with Abu Sayyaf bandit “Abu Ubayda” on May 15, while he was cleaning his yard.

The terrorist group, who normally carries out their attacks and kidnappings in southern Mindanao, arrived in Bohol last April 11, where they were met by police and military forces in an armed firefight that killed most of their members.

While most people would’ve ran and hid from Abayda, one of the last surviving Abu Sayyaf members in Bohol, Lolo Peryong took his bolo — the Filipino version of a machete — and charged at Abayda.

Calape Police Senior Inspector Cresente Gurea told local newspaper The Bohol Chronicle that he tried to slash Ubayda but missed.

The confrontation led to a struggle for the bolo between Peryong and Ubayda. Peryong ended up getting slashed and butted in the head with Ubayda’s rifle.

Police credit Peryong with helping delay Ubayda, who was trying to escape authorities after he and Abu Asis were caught in a military checkpoint.

They split ways after the checkpoint, Asis was killed first and Ubayda was on the run when he found himself in Lolo Peryong’s yard.

A month after the first armed confrontation in nearby Inabangan town between the Armed Forces and police against the Abu Sayyaf terrorists, Gen. Arnulfo Matanguihan of the 302nd Infantry Brigade Commander declared that Bohol is free of the terrorist group.


Karapatan writes UN expert on IDPs as military operations displace thousands in Mindanao

From News 5-InterAksyon (May 17): Karapatan writes UN expert on IDPs as military operations displace thousands in Mindanao

Karapatan photo of displaced lumad.
The human rights group Karapatan has written the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of internally displaced persons even as it reported more displacements in Mindanao from military operations.

In the letter of allegation submitted to the UN expert Cecilia Jimenez, Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay raised “the cases of bombings and forced evacuations carried out by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s government under its counter-insurgency programs, Oplan Bayanihan and Oplan Kapayapaan.”

Palabay cited six specific cases of displacement from July 31 last year to March 31 this year:

Forced evacuation of 300 residents of Brgy. Hinimbangan, Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte
Forced evacuation of 691 Residents of Maddela, Quirino
Forced evacuation of 138 individuals of Purok 5, Barangay Parasanon, Maragusan, Compostela Valley and of 978 individuals of Barangay Mahayahay, Maragusan, Compostela Valley
Forced evacuation of 233 residents of Sitio Alimpulos, Barangay Kawayan, San Fernando, Bukidnon
Forced evacuation of 218 individuals (43 families) of Purok 8, Barangay Zillovia, Talacogon, Agusan Del Sur
Bombing and forced evacuation of 720 residents from Sitio Tangis and Sitio Solutan, Barangay Datal Anggas, Alabel, Sarangani

But just last week, a separate Karapatan statement released Wednesday said at least 86 families in Barangay Dominga in Davao City’s Calinan district and another 5,000 persons in Datu Saudi Ampatuan and Shariff Aguak in Maguindanao province were forced to flee their homes by military bombings and operations.

Palabay also said reports on the situation in Calinan they have gathered since May 6 document extrajudicial killings, torture, and threats and harassment of residents.

Karapatan said farmer Rodolfo Dagahuya, 33, died when troops of the 3rd Infantry Battalion’s Task Force Haribon strafed his and other homes in May 9.

The next day, the soldiers searched several houses and allegedly mauled a resident of Sitio Kibaton identified only as Lascuna, while residents said the military dropped at least six bombs in the community.

“On May 11, barangay kagawad Dennis Epal, together with other residents of Sitio Cabagtukan evacuated to Barangay Dacudao. While they were on their way to the next village, Epal was interrogated by the military and threatened to be tortured. They were prevented from going out of their barangay, their movements being monitored by the military,” the rights group said.

In Maguindanao, the displacements happened after air strikes were conducted against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Shariff Aguak and Datu Saudi Ampatuan on May 8, Karapatan’s Southern Mindanao office reported.

In her letter to Jimenez, Palabay said among the other abuses committed by the military were “encampment in communities” and “indiscriminate firing.”

“More often than not, the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) have accused community residents as well as legitimate and progressive organizations of harboring and supporting the New People’s Army (NPA), thereby legitimizing their threats, harassment and attacks against these communities. Among those affected are women, children and the elderly,” Palabay said.

“It has also been observed that the AFP seemingly concocted and staged encounters with the NPA to justify their continued operations and presence in the communities. Witnesses have seen them indiscriminately firing even without NPA rebels in the area,” she added.

Besides these, “the AFP have also spread fake news, press releases and blatant and incredible lies to cover up the human rights violations they have committed in the communities,” the Karapatan officer said.

Aside from Jimenez, Karapatan has also backed calls for UN experts to investigate extrajudicial killings, including the thousands of deaths in the Duterte government’s war on drugs, and attacks on human rights defenders.


Armed NPA rebel surrenders to Army in Agusan del Norte

From the Manila Bulletin (May 17): Armed NPA rebel surrenders to Army in Agusan del Norte

CAMP BANCASI, Butuan City – A New People’s Army (NPA) rebel, citing “hardships and disenchantment in the underground movement” surrendered to the army authorities on Tuesday, May 16.

Agusan del Norte Map (Credits: Google Maps | Manila Bulletin)
Second Lieutenant Ashley Mae Del Rosario, Civil Military Operations (CMO) officer of the Army’s 29th Infantry (Matatag) Battallion (29th IB) Wednesday said Rudy Alimbuyong, known in the communist movement as “Ka Bunso” of Sandatahang Platoon Pangpropaganda (SPP) 16A, guerilla-Front Committee 16 of the CPP-NPA Northeastern Mindanao Regional Committee, surrendered to 29th IB commander Lt. Col. Glenn Joy Aynera.

“Ka Bunso” was with the NPA for 13 months, operating in Santiago, Jabonga and Kitcharao, all of Agusan del Norte and was involved in the recent encounters at Barangay Hinimbangan, in Kitcharao town, Agusan del Norte, Col. Aynera said.

Rudy said he decided to surrender upon seeing the change in the lives of former rebels who had surrendered to 29th IB, adding that he believes that he also has a chance to live a peaceful and normal life.

“His being with the NPAs left him no time with his family, plus the fact that he has not received the monthly support the NPA had promised him. He also believed that most of his comrades are already thinking of laying down their arms at any opportune time as they see in the Duterte administration a real chance for peace and development,” the 29th IB commander added.

Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, Jr., commanding general of the Army’s Northeastern and Northern Mindanao 4th Infantry (Diamond) Division congratulated the 401st Brigade and the 29th IB for their continued support of peace building efforts; the general further instructed the unit to coordinate with the DILG for the enrollment of the surrenderee in the Comprehensive Local Integration Program.


Rebs free Agusan mine owner

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 17): Rebs free Agusan mine owner

SAN FRANCISCO, Agusan del Sur—Communist rebels on Monday afternoon freed a small-scale gold mining operator after holding him for two days.

In a telephone interview, Ka Amihan, spokesperson for the New People’s Army (NPA) Front 14, said there was insufficient evidence to pin down Carson Ceasar Lademora on counterinsurgency charges, prompting rebels to release him without the aid of third party facilitators.

The rebels held Lademora and his aide Leonardo Cacao captive on Saturday after they raided Lademora’s mining tunnels in Rosario town, Agusan del Sur province.
NPA rebels released Lademora to Rosario Mayor Jose Cuyos Sr., his wife Vice Mayor Juvy Cuyos and Councilor Belarmino Balagot in an undisclosed area in neighboring Tagbina town in Surigao del Sur province on Monday.

“He is okay now and is back to work,” said Lademora’s wife, Eufemia.

Lademora operates small-scale tunnels in the high-grade gold rush area in Sinug-ang in the village of Bayugan 3, which his family has been claiming since the early 1980s.

Amihan denied that ransom money was involved in Lademora’s release.

She said the NPA took Lademora and investigated him due to atrocities committed by his father, former Philippine Constabulary Col. Carlos Lademora, leader of the dreaded “Lost Command,” to poor people living in the mining

“[But the younger Lademora] did not have that kind of record, so we did not consider him a POW (prisoner of war),” Amihan said.


‘No peace if NPA keeps attacking government forces’

From the Philippine Star (May 17): ‘No peace if NPA keeps attacking government forces’

 “For as long as they are killing government security forces I will not sign anything. There is nothing I can do about it. I have to protect my soldiers. I am the commander-in-chief,” Duterte said upon arrival at the Davao International Airport early yesterday morning. PPD/Released, File

There will be no peace deal with the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front (CPP-NDF) if its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), continues to kill government troops, President Duterte has said.

“For as long as they are killing government security forces I will not sign anything. There is nothing I can do about it. I have to protect my soldiers. I am the commander-in-chief,” Duterte said upon arrival at the Davao International Airport early yesterday morning.

The government and the CPP-NDF peace panels have yet to resume talks.

“Ayusin mo. Matagal na eh (Fix it. It’s taking too long),” the President told chief peace negotiator and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.

Duterte said his offer to CPP founder Jose Maria Sison remains and he guarantees the communist leader’s safety should he decide to come home.

“So my offer to Sison stands. He can come here in peace. I will guarantee safety and I will even underwrite his hospitalization. I will not arrest him,” the President said.
Duterte said Sison is sick and that instead of arresting him, he would arrange for his medical treatment.

It’s not right to pick a fight with people who are sick and helpless like Sison, he added.
Martial law in parts?

President Duterte needs time to ponder whether to declare martial law in certain parts of, if not the entire, Mindanao due to security problems brought by the Abu Sayyaf bandits and other rebel groups.

“Declaring martial law is something that has to be pondered on deeply,” Duterte said, as he stressed that the extraordinary powers of the state should not be treated casually.

A group that calls itself the Save Sulu Movement has asked the President to place six Sulu towns under martial law, citing the alleged ties between some politicians and the Abu Sayyaf.

The group said martial law should be declared in the municipalities of Patikul, Indanan, Parang, Maimbung, Talipao and Kalingalan Caluang, which it described as “craters of terrorism.”

“I need time to ponder on it deeply and it is not only a political decision, it is an emotional decision,” Duterte said.

“You do not tinker with the extraordinary powers of the state,” he added.

Duterte recalled that he had issued a warning against the terrorists, who were bombing schools two months ago.

“I warned them not to force me to declare martial law because if I do, I will solve not only the rebellion, but everything that ails Mindanao including problems on land boundaries,” the President said.

“I would not just tinker with it as if it’s a plaything. It’s a very serious matter. But if I declare martial law, there is no way of telling how long would it take us to restore order or we might not really be able to succeed,” he added.

Last Saturday, Duterte floated the idea of declaring martial law as he chided the courts for supposedly delaying state projects through temporary restraining orders.

“Gusto niyo ng...kung ayaw mo ng ganun, martial law, maganda nga mag-martial law (You want...if you don’t want that, martial law. It’s good to have martial law),” he said during a meeting with the Filipino community in Hong Kong.

He later clarified that he would not make such declaration because he is not that happy to be president.

Meanwhile, the President said he is not hurrying the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in coming up with an enabling law on the Bangsamoro, which the Bangsamoro Transition Commission is set to craft.

“I have been waiting for them, I’m ready. Nur Misuari is taking his time. I am not hurrying him up. The MI probably would be ready for talks,” he said, referring to the MILF.

Communist rebels raid Benguet police outpost

From the Philippine Star (May 17): Communist rebels raid Benguet police outpost

Rebels overran another police outpost in Cordillera, this time in Buguias town in Benguet. Bing Maps

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Without any shots fired, communist rebels overran a police sub-station in barangay Loo, Buguias town in northern Benguet Tuesday evening.

An NPA unit under the New People's Army's t Command Benguet barged into the police sub-station at around 9 in the evening and took a 9mm Bereta pistol, four magazines, an M14 magazine, a hand grenade, holsters, pouch, two VHF radios, and military uniforms.
The attack was the second siege of a police outpost this year by the NPA in Cordillera. The NPA command claimed the move "was a punitive action for the crimes committed by the Philippine National Police against the people and the revolutionary movement."

Last month, rebels overran the remote Malibcong town police station in Abra, held four policemen on duty for an hour and carted away their high-powered firearms and equipment.

Reinforcing policemen including the provincial police director, Senior Superintendent Alexander Tagum, now Davao police director, were ambushed on their way to the "raided" police station, wounding two policemen.

Benguet communist rebels claimed Buguias policemen, "are notorious for committing crimes against the masses," citing among others, that policemen allegedly randomly stop motorists plying the highway "in order to extort bribes."
Most of these motorists are gardeners bringing their vegetable harvest to market. "The bribe money extorted by the police adds to the already heavy burden of the gardeners struggling under the high prices of farm inputs and fluctuating prices of their produce," the NPA said.

The Buguias police force, the Benguet NPAs also claimed, are "involved in the sale of illegal drugs and other anti-social activities such as the operation of bars."
The Benguet NPA command also rapped the Buguias police force for the alleged torture and death of NPA member Antonio Licawen in 2005, in Barangay Bad-ayan, after he had been injured and had already surrendered to the police.

NPA rebels along the boundaries of Abra, Mt. Province, Ilocos Sur and Benguet made the Licawen, whose nom de guerre was "Ka Leyap," as its command's name.

PMA cadets in the city on a recruitment tour

From the Mindanao Times (May 17): PMA cadets in the city on a recruitment tour

PHILIPPINE Military (PMA) cadets, belonging to Mabalasik Class 2019, arrived in Davao City on Monday for their southern cruise. Major Ezra Balagtey, spokesperson of Philippine Army’s Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom), said 290 cadets arrived — 210 males and 80 females.
Balagtey said part of their southern cruise is to encourage the Filipino youth to take the PMA exam. Part of this is the recruitment booth at Abreeza Ayala mall. Upon their arrival, they paid a courtesy call to Lt. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, the EastMinCom commander.

They also visited and made a courtesy call to Chief Supt. Manuel Gaerlan, director of Police Regional Office (PRO) XI, the Davao City Police Office and the Task Force Davao.

Yesterday, the cadets performed a silent drill in Agro Industrial College to the delight of the audience. They are scheduled to perform a silent drill at University of Southeastern Philippines today and at Jose Maria College on Thursday.

One strike policy

From the Mindanao Times (May 17): One strike policy

Cop head to roll if station is attacked by NPA

POLICE precinct station commanders will immediately be relieved if rebels could stage attack in their stations.

And following the doctrine of command responsibility, city directors and provincial commanders are not exempted.

A “One-Strike Policy” order was released by the Regional Police Office XI, headed by Chief Supt. Manuel Gaerlan, to all police commanders in the region following the attacks of communist rebels in at least two police stations in Luzon.

The precinct commander will be relieved once the communist rebels overran his/her station and carted away firearms,said Sr. Insp. Maria Theresita Gaspan, the spokesperson of the Davao City Police Office (DCPO), told reporters yesterday about the order.

Gaspan said the relief order includes the city and provincial directors if there are already two rebel atrocities happened under their command.

“It is also a good motivation for a station commander to strive hard,” Gaspan said.

The order came out following the NPA attacks in two police stations since last month. On April 29, NPA attacked the police stations of Maddela town in Quezon and killed one police officer. On May 4, the rebel also attacked a police station in Amulung, Cagayan.

DCPO chief Sr. Supt. Alexander Tagum has directed his 12 precinct commanders to always be on alert, especially on vital installations.

Out of the 12 police precincts in the city, the stations in Marilog and Paquibato are prone of the NPA attack. Both districts are in the hinterlands of the city.

Gaspan said there will be a series of simulation exercises on camp defense plan that will be conducted to prepare for tactical and operational operations.

There will also be an augmentation of force as the City Public Safety Company (CPSC) will be deployed to assist on the insurgent problem. They will help the police precincts by conducting preventive patrol to monitor the presence of the NPAs.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has deployed a battalion of soldiers as additional force in Davao region, particularly in the city.

Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio has requesting the AFP for additional force in the city to combat insurgency and terroristic attack.

Communist rebels staged simultaneous attacks against the Lapanday Food Corps last April 29, burning box and plastic plants and a ranch in in two barangays in the city and a plastic plant in a barangay in the neighboring Panabo City in Davao del Norte.

The commanders of the three police stations were already relieved following the attacks.


Truck torched by NPA

From the Mindanao Times (May 17): Truck torched by NPA

A 10-WHEELER wing van truck was torched by suspected communist rebels in Barangay Cabligan, Matanao, Davao del Sur around 11:30 a.m. yesterday.

Lt. Col. Marion Angcao, commander of the 73rd Infantry Battalion, told TIMES yesterday that the truck travelling from Hagonoy to Digos City when the driver was blocked by at least six armed men believed to be New People’s Army (NPA) on board three motorcycles.

The armed men then pointed their rifles and ordered the driver to alight.

The truck, with plate number AAT 4226 and owned by businessman Henry Sorongon, was loaded with 524 sacks of rice.
But only one quarter of the load—or about 130 sacks–was burned due to the prompt response of the Matanao firefighters.

Angcao believed that NPAs belonging to Front Guerilla 72 operating in Matanao area are responsible for the incident. “We are still trying to determine if it’s extortion but we haven’t talked yet to the owner,” he said.

2 killed in clan war in North Cotabato

From the  Mindanao Examiner (May 17): 2 killed in clan war in North Cotabato

At least 2 persons were killed in a clash between two warring clans in North Cotabato province in southern Philippines, police said on Wednesday.

Police said the fighting erupted in the village called Mudseng in Midsayap town where the protagonists traded gun fires. Those killed were identified by the police as Brando Sagandal and Kasan Madidis.

The local police chief, Superintendent Bernard Tayong said the feud between the families of Sugod and Madidis was due to land conflict.


ARMM to bring anti-terrorism summit at municipal level

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 17): ARMM to bring anti-terrorism summit at municipal level

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is eyeing to conduct summit against terrorism and illegal drugs in the region's 116 municipalities and two cities to prevent and combat the rising threat of terrorism as well as to strengthen the role of the LGUs in promoting peace and security.

The summit would synchronize measures on how to restrain criminality, terrorism and illegal drugs, which affect the peace and order situation in the region, said ARMM Interior and Local Government Secretary Noor Hafizullah ‘Kirby’ Abdullah.

He said LGUs must be at the forefront of this battle and must have a major role in combating terrorism.

“The summit will help confront terrorism and extremism at the municipal level,” Sec. Abdullah further said.

The decision to bring down the issue at LGU level came after the Dawla Islamiya, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, issued a statement threatening the ulamas who attended a three-day summit against terrorism in Cotabato City last weekend.

“To those who have Ulama relatives, warn your parents, brothers, and children not to attend the said summit because if something happens to them along the way or in the end, don't tell us you were not warned,” the Dawla Islamiya statement said.

The three-day ‘Ulama Summit Against Terrorism’ is an initial step of the ARMM government to enlist the support of Islamic scholars to combat terrorism.

ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman said Muslim scholars can contribute to the advocacy against terrorism by educating people about the true teachings of Islam most especially on the principles of justice, compassion, peace, and harmony. The national government considers terrorism as an urgent and critical national security threat.

“The LGUs play a vital role in the fight against terrorism and illegal drugs because local chief executives and officials could help prevent violence in their respective areas,” Sec. Abdullah said.

He reiterated that close coordination, mutual support, and cooperation at all times can help put an end to terrorism.

“I can see that the LGUs in the region are very active in this fight in order to have peaceful and progressive communities,” he said. “Liliit ang mundo ng mga teroristang grupo kapag nakita nila na lahat nagtutulungan to fight terror acts,” he added.


Cebuano News: Philippine Coast Guard, nanginahanglan og dugang 5,000 kawani

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 17): Cebuano News: Philippine Coast Guard, nanginahanglan og dugang 5,000 kawani

Nanginahanglan og upat ka libong bag-ong recruits, apil na ang lima ka gatos nga opisyal ang Philippine Coast Guard.

Matud pa ni Commodore Joel Garcia, officer-in-charge sa PCG, pipila sa mga naghulat nga mga posisyon mao ang mga dugang biologist, doktor, inhinyero, accountant ug public relations staff.

Ang tigpamaba sa PCG nga si Commander Armand Balilo miingon nga naa sa P17,000 ngadto sa P40,000 matag buwan ang madawat nga suholan sa entry level depende sa posisyon.

Kwalipikadong mo-apply ang usa ka natural born Filipino, adunay good moral character, may Baccalaureate​ Degree, adunay 72 units sa kolehiyo o nakatapos sa TESDA course alang sa mga non-officers.

Mahimong mo-apply alang sa opisyal sa PCG ang naa sa 21 anyos ang pangedaron hangtod 26 anyos samtang 18 hangtod 26 anyos ang mahimong mo-apply sa non-officers.

Alang sa uban pang detalye, mahimong mobisita ang mga interesadong mo-apply sa website sa PCG sa www.coastguard.gov.ph o mobisita sa Coast Guard Station Tagbilaran nga nahimutang sa LMP Building, K of C Drive, ning syudad sa Tagbilaran o motawag lamang sa numero 0949-8381531.


Cebuano News: Army sa Bohol, may bag-ong commander

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 17): Cebuano News: Army sa Bohol, may bag-ong commander

May bag-o nang commander ang bugtong Philippine Army battalion nga nahimutang sa lalawigan sa Bohol.

Si Lieutenant. Col. Eufracio Joel Malig Jr. opisyal nang gihulip ni Lt. Col. Jose Dodjie Belloga Jr. isip commander sa 47th Infantry Battalion karong adlawa.

Ang turnover ceremony gipahigayon sa Camp Lino Chatto sa lungsod sa Tubigon ug gipangunahan kini ni Maj. Gen. Jon Aying, commander sa 3rd Infantry Division (ID) sa Philippine Army.

Si Belloga nga na-assigned isip commander sa 47th IB niadtong Abril 22, 2015 makig-baylo og posisyon ni Malig diin ibutang siya isip assistant chief of staff sa 3rd ID’s Civil Military Operations (CMO).

Ang pagbalhin gikan sa 47th IB tungod sa pagtapos sa duha ka tuig nga termino ni Belloga sa lalawigan.

Si Malig katapusang na-assign isip assistant chief of staff sa CMO, G7, 3rd ID nga nakabase sa Camp General Macario Peralta Jr. sa Jamindan, Capiz.

Nakatapos si Malig sa Philippine Military Academy isip parte sa Bantay Laya Class of 1994.

Nahimo siyang security officer ug aide-de-camp sa Presidential Security Group (PSG) gikan niadtong tuig 2001 taman 2010 ubos sa administrasyon ni kanhi Presidente Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Nahimo siyang commanding officer sa First Escort Company sa PSG, a unit nga responsable sa physical security sa Presidente ug visiting heads of state.

Si Malig nakadawat og award sa Philippine Legion of Honor, Order ni Lakandula ug Bronze Cross ug Military Merit medals.


CPP: Protest successive presence of US and China navies in Philippines — CPP

Propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines Website (May 16): Protest successive presence of US and China navies in Philippines — CPP

 Information Bureau
Communist Party of the Philippines
Press Release

 May 16, 2017

Image Credit: REUTERS/Erik De Castro

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) urges the Filipino people to protest the successive presence and power projection of US and China naval forces in the country and stand firm to defend Philippine sovereignty against military intervention by big superpowers which is now being allowed by the Duterte regime.

The CPP said the May 8-19 “Balikatan” military exercises involving 2,600 American troops and 2,800 AFP soldiers are using so-called humanitarian assistance and disaster response “as a camouflage to conceal the more hegemonic aims of US military.”

“The Balikatan exercises this year, one of 257 scheduled joint exercises between the US and Philippine armed forces this year, aim to more firmly establish US military foothold in the Philippines amid the Duterte regime’s efforts to establish closer military and economic links with China,” said the CPP.

“In particular, the joint naval maneuvers carried out by the US and Philippine armed forces under Balikatan seek to reinforce US military presence in the Philippine eastern seaboard by more firmly establishing its foothold in Leyte, Samar and coastal towns of Aurora up to Northern Luzon,” said the CPP. “The aim is clearly to impede China from establishing its facilities in the Philippines’ resource-rich Benham Rise.”

“The US has since 2013 established its military presence in the town of Guian, Samar, taking advantage of the disaster wrought by supertyphoon Yolanda to set up facilities in the local airport,” pointed out the CPP. “American military facilities are also set to be built in Casiguran, Aurora.”
Balikatan exercises are also being held in Panay. “Despite declarations of an ‘independent foreign policy’ by the Duterte regime, US military presence in the country remains pervasive” with military facilities and bases established or being constructed in Clark and Subic, Nueva Ecija, Aurora, Palawan, Cebu, Samar, Cagayan de Oro City, Zamboanga City and elsewhere.

“The Duterte regime has so far failed to carry out steps to abrogate several unequal military treaties with the US including the EDCA, the VFA and the MDT which all serve to further US military intervention.”

“While condemning increasing US military presence in the Philippines, the Filipino people must also denounce rising presence of China’s naval forces, including those patrolling Philippine territorial seas and docking at local ports in order to establish China’s superpower military presence in the country,” said the CPP.

Just over two weeks ago, three Chinese naval ships docked at the Sasa Wharf in Davao City. “The docking of Chinese naval ships, euphemistically described as a ‘goodwill visit’, cannot be taken out of the context of China’s recent building spree of military facilities in and around the Spratly islands, as well as extended presence of Chinese research ships at the Benham Rise area.”

“China cannot win the friendship of the Filipino people by aping what the US imperialists have been doing in the Philippines, including projecting its military forces in Philippine territorial seas and building military bases in the country’s territories, albeit disputed,” pointed out the CPP.

“The Filipino people must firmly oppose joint exercises with China’s armed forces in the same grain that they firmly oppose joint exercises with the US armed forces as both aim to extend the reach and to project military might of the rival imperialist superpowers,” said the CPP.

“In declaring an independent foreign policy, the Duterte regime is obliged to assert the country’s national sovereignty and right against foreign military interference as a basic condition to achieve peaceful coexistence and equality with all countries.”


DWDD: BK 17 | Bilateral Service Inter-operability in Calayan Island

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (May 17): BK 17 | Bilateral Service Inter-operability in Calayan Island

CAMP GEN EMILIO AGUINALDO, Quezon City (DWDD) – “We conducted one of the important components of this year’s balikatan exercises at Calayan Island, in the province of Cagayan, an island municipality where typhoon frequently visits.”

Acccording to Major Celeste Frank Sayson, spokesman BK17, the exercise is one of the few peculiar events of BK2017 for it involves Combined Army Forces (CARFOR) between PH and US. The exercise is called Bilateral Service Interoperability Event of our land base forces. The exercise was a culmination of a series of Subject Matter Expert Exchanges Simulations conducted by CaRFOR ar various site like headquarters 5th Infantry Division in Upo Isabela, and Sta Ana Cagayan and some areas of 7th Infantry Division. The event was participated by Calayan LGU, local populace, municipal disaster response teams, and US and PH forces coming from the Army of both forces. It was participated by more than 200 individuals. US Black Hawk helicopters were used during the air evacuation scenarious.

This event is one of the AFP’s training objectives for BK17, to prepare our ground troops in extreme scenarious and work together with local populace in emrgency responses, especially in natural disasters. – BK17 / MCAG

2 3 5 6 8 9 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18


DWDD: COLLABORATION | WestMinCom launches Brigada Masjid before Ramadan

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (May 17): COLLABORATION | WestMinCom launches Brigada Masjid before Ramadan

HEADQUARTERS WESTERN MINDANAO COMMAND, Camp Navarro, Calarian, Zamboanga City – (DWDD) – In collaboration with the Muslim leaders, local officials, Ulama and other stakeholders, the Western Mindanao Command through its Joint Task Forces and the PNP launched the Brigada Masjid within the whole area of Western Mindanao today (May 16) to assist our Muslim brothers and sisters in preparing the mosques for the upcoming Ramadan.

The Brigada Masjid, which was conceptualized by Lieutenant General Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., Commander of the WestMinCom, is the first of its kind to be conducted in Mindanao involving Muslim soldiers and engineers.

The ceremonial launching was held in a 30 year old Masjid in Barangay Arena Blanco in Zamboanga City.

Attending the ceremony were the Deputy Grand Mufti Sheik Abdul Tanjilil; a representative of the Zamboanga City Government; an envoy from the Muslim Affairs; and the Muslim religious leaders, and Islam followers of Brgy Arena Blanco.

Honorable Abdulhusin, the Brgy Chairman of the place expressed his gratitude to the WestMinCom Commander for initiating the activity, saying this was the first time that the Brigada Masjid was launched in Mindanao. He also said that he was surprised of the endeavor since he did not expect soldiers whom they only perceive as combatants help them in the repair of an important structure and symbol for their religion and that is the mosque.

The Deputy Grand Mufti Shiek Tanjilil expressed his support to the endevour saying “The mosque is a place where we should love one another and live in harmony. Therefore, keeping it safe and conducive for all Islam believers is important and significant.

” He also mentioned about some Muslim brothers who use religion for their own interest and for propagating terrorism. He emphasized that Islam never taught Terrorism as part of its preachings, therefore must be avoided.

The WestMinCom chief who sees the activity as a good venue to promote cultural understanding and harmony felt elated with the comments he heard from the community.

It is also his intent that Brigada Masjid be institutionalize in the AFP as a regular activity yearly before Ramadan season starts.

“We are one, Christians and Muslims, in working for peace and development in Mindanao amid the diversity in culture and beliefs. The men and women of the armed forces join you as you prepare for the coming of the Ramadan,” said Lieutenant General Carlito G Galvez, Jr, Commander of the Western Mindanao Command.

All units under the WestMinCom will adapt a mosque within their respective area of operations and help the Muslim brothers and sisters in cleaning, repairing, and repainting of said mosques.


Cop killed in Agusan Sur; NPA blamed, deeper probe sought

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 16): Cop killed in Agusan Sur; NPA blamed, deeper probe sought
Sibagat, Agusan del Sur (Google maps)

A police officer was killed early Tuesday, by communist rebels at a patrol base along the national highway in Tabon-tabon village in Sibagat town.

Police Officer 1 Charmaine Cañete, 23, a resident of Sibagat, expired while being treated at the Butuan City Medical Center after he sustained multiple gunshot wounds. Police reports said around 20 New People’s Army rebels stormed the highway checkpoint.

But Elmer Luzon, general manager of the San Francisco Water District who was driving past the area a few minutes after the killing, said investigators should also look into other angles since he saw other policemen casually sitting down as if nothing happened as Cañete lay dead on the ground.

Chief Insp. Bonifacio Estrella, deputy chief of the Agusan del Sur Public Safety Company, however said Cañete’s colleagues were actually on full alert position to safeguard their detachment from fresh attacks but luckily, the raiding rebels did not come back.

He said Cañete was the first to react by going down from their elevated quarters after hearing the howling dogs, only to be gunned down by the assailants already in firing position.

“The rebels were in a failed position … (T)hey did not realize that the other police troopers were well-positioned upstairs ready to fire back at them the moment they pursue the attack,” Estrella said.

Cañete was a member of Agusan del Sur Public Safety Company who joined the police force in 2016.


IN PHOTOS: How PH, U.S. troops will respond to next big disaster

From Rappler (May 16): IN PHOTOS: How PH, U.S. troops will respond to next big disaster

In disaster-prone Casiguran, Filipino and American troops show how they'll work together to respond to the next big storm

DISASTER DRILLS. US troops arrive in Casiguran during a disaster response exercise in the disaster-prone town. Photo by Jeff Digma/Rappler

DISASTER DRILLS. US troops arrive in Casiguran during a disaster response exercise in the disaster-prone town. Photo by Jeff Digma/Rappler

AURORA, Philippines – The Philippines' BRP Tarlac and the US's Black Hawks and Ospreys aren't a usual sight in the Philippines, especially not in the sleepy town of Casiguran, Aurora, host of a disaster response drill in this year's Balikatan exercises.

Combined forces of the two countries' militaries demonstrated on Monday, May 15, how they would respond should a massive storm hit the country, similar to Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013.
RESCUE MISSION. American and Filipino troops arrive on shore from the Philippines' BRP Tarlac. Photo by Jeff Digma/Rappler
RESCUE MISSION. American and Filipino troops arrive on shore from the Philippines' BRP Tarlac. Photo by Jeff Digma/Rappler

Disaster response is one of the two themes of this year's joint military exercises, which President Rodrigo Duterte earlier threatened to cancel.

Amid an apparent shift to an "independent foreign policy" that would see the Philippines step back from the US and closer to China and Russia, mainstays in previous iterations of Balikatan – a drill to counter a possible Philippine invader – were scrapped to focus on humanitarian assistance and counter-terrorism drills.

Duterte seems keen on improving ties with China despite an ongoing dispute over the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).

Still, he was persuaded to continue the Balikatan, a long-standing tradition between the two countries. Through the exercises, the Philippine and United States militaries familiarize themselves with each other, making it easier to work together in times of need.
EDUCATION TOO. A US Navy man teaches Casiguran children how to use a stethoscope. Photo by Jeff Digma/Rappler
EDUCATION TOO. A US Navy man teaches Casiguran children how to use a stethoscope. Photo by Jeff Digma/Rappler

US ASSETS. An Osprey helicopter with US medical personnel onboard lands on a Casiguran port. Photo by Bea Cupin/Rappler
US ASSETS. An Osprey helicopter with US medical personnel onboard lands on a Casiguran port. Photo by Bea Cupin/Rappler

The drill was held in Aurora, officials explained, because aide is often best delivered through the sea. Towns in the eastern seaboard of the Philippines are often completely cut off via land travel during disaster.

While this year's Balikatan was clearly less grand than before, both Philippine and US officials denied that anything was "downsized."