Monday, May 22, 2017

Muslim leaders condemn 'involvement' of Imam in Maute group operations

From GMA News (May 21): Muslim leaders condemn 'involvement' of Imam in Maute group operations

Muslim leaders on Sunday condemned the supposed involvement of an Imam who was reported to have assisted in the operations of the Maute group in Lanao del Sur.

According to United Imam of the Philippines National President Alem Amate, Muslim leaders must safeguard the correct preaching of the Islam belief in mosques and madaris (Islamic schools).

Muslim leaders from Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Cagayan de Oro, and other nearby areas are currently in Iligan City for the first ever Imam Summit.

Amate's remarks come after an Imam was reported to have assisted the Maute group and brought them to Paigapo, Lanao del Sur after the military offensive against them in the town of Butig.

This was mirrored by former Basilan Gov. and congressman Gerry Salapuddin, who noted that leaders should make sure that the youth is taught the correct and proper teachings.

Aside from this, Amate also noted that attendees of the summit discussed the impact of the government's drive to shift towards federalism, as well as its campaign against illegal drugs.

Graft conviction of 4 PH Navy officers affirmed

From Malay Business Insight (May 22): Graft conviction of 4 PH Navy officers affirmed
THE Sandiganbayan has affirmed the conviction of four former ranking officers of the Philippine Navy on corruption charges in relation to procurement of drugs and medical supplies 26 years ago.
In a 12-page resolution, the anti-graft court’s First Division junked separate appeals filed by PN Commander Rosendo C. Roque, Commander Ramon C. Renales, Commodore Francisco I. Tolin, and Commander Manuel Ruason aka Manuel Tuason.

Roque, former procurement officer, was convicted on four counts of graft and sentenced to 24-years imprisonment. Renales, price monitoring officer, was meted 18 years in jail on three counts of graft.

Tolin, former deputy commandant of the Philippine Coast Guard, and Ruason,    former PN assistant chief of staff for logistics, both face six years behind bars for one count of graft.

All 25 charges against Vice Admiral (ret.) Mariano J. Dumancas Jr., former flag officer of the Philippine Navy, were dropped because of his death on April 2, 2016.

The cases filed in 2011, stemmed from a special audit of selected transactions of the Philippine Navy in 1991 and 1992. Auditors found violations of procurement rules when the military command resorted to emergency procurement, setting aside the requirement for public bidding in five separate transactions totaling P2.31 million.

The court also swept aside as mere conjecture defendant Renales’ claim of rumors of an impending coup d’état at the time as the basis for waiving the requirement for public bidding.

AFP chief: There is pressing need to secure ASEAN

From the Philippine News Agency (May 23): AFP chief: There is pressing need to secure ASEAN

There is a strong need to secure the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regional bloc given its economic leverage and potential, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Eduardo Año said.

He said ASEAN has become a "rising global economic force" due to its strategic location and economic activity — abundant resources, a more integrated market, and a large combined Gross Domestic Product from its members.

“By providing security to our respective nations, we create a better environment for growth and prosperity. And through purposive security cooperation, we actually help to secure and sustain our region’s economic gains. We all know that a secure ASEAN is a progressive ASEAN,” Año said during the ASEAN Chiefs of Defense Forces Informal Meeting (ACDFIM) held in Metro Manila recently.

He cited as example the existing trilateral agreement among three ASEAN countries — the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia — to combat trans-border crimes, terrorism, piracy, and other militant activities in the Sulu-Sulawesi-Celebes Sea.

“This partnership with neighbors will negate the threats and shows that strong military cooperation is important in aligning our security requirements and initiatives,” Año said.

The meeting, attended by the ten military chiefs from the ASEAN member states, is scheduled to be held next year in Singapore.

ASEAN member-states include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Recent Manila Bombings Not the Handiwork of Islamic State: Duterte

From Benar News (May 22): Recent Manila Bombings Not the Handiwork of Islamic State: Duterte


A bomb explosion victim lies dead on the ground in Quiapo, Manila, May 7, 2017

President Rodrigo Duterte has denied that Islamic State militants were behind twin bombings that left two people dead near a mosque in Manila early this month, the presidential palace said Monday.

Duterte said the May 6 bombings in Quiapo district of Manila were a result of a blood feud between warring two warring families.

“Certainly not an ISIS thing. One is that if it were the handiwork of IS, they wouldn’t have attacked Quiapo. It could be somewhere else but definitely not Quiapo, where most of our Muslim brothers live,” he said, using two different acronyms for the group.

“But there is bad blood amongst the groups of persons there. It could be a rido,” he said, using a local term for “blood feud” between two warring Muslim families.

The president, who embarked on a four-day official trip to Russia Monday, made the comments during the launch late Saturday of a government radio program, the palace said.

He said he had been in close contact with the Philippine National Police investigators, who assured him that it was not terrorism.

“I do not like IS. But I do not like to attribute things to them if they were not behind it,” he said, dismissing the feud as over “money matters.”


Duterte’s statement comes amid continuing concerns that Muslim militants with links to the IS could have infiltrated Manila and other urban sites to launch attacks.

Last month, the police killed nine Abu Sayyaf militants in firefights in the central island of Bohol, which is popular among tourists. Two others, including a police woman who allegedly has switched sides, have been arrested.

The gunmen, blamed for a series of atrocities including kidnappings and bombings, allegedly were on a mission to abduct foreigners. They had beheaded a German hostage this year and two Canadians last year.

While a faction of the Abu Sayyaf has pledged allegiance to the IS, local authorities have been quick to denounce the group as nothing more than well-armed bandits.

Police had earlier announced the arrest of one suspect in the Quiapo bombing. The suspect has been identified as Abel Macaraya, who launched the attack after his brother-in-law was beaten by two men, police said.

A local Shiite Muslim cleric apparently did not act on the family’s complaint, prompting Macaraya to carry out the bombings. The cleric was unhurt because he wasn’t at his office when the attack occurred.

The police also said that the home-made bombs used in the attacks were crudely made, and not sophisticated enough like the ones used by IS-linked militants.

China, RP dodge war threat quip

From the Daily Tribune (May 23): China, RP dodge war threat quip

Chinese and Philippines officials sidestepped claims by President Duterte that Chinese President Xi Jinping had threatened to go to war over the disputed South China Sea.

Duterte, who met with Xi and Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing last week, said Friday the leaders had raised conflict as an option to resolving their competing claims to the waters.

China’s government on Monday did not directly comment on Duterte’s version of the leaders’ conversation, but said it would “work with the Philippines to peacefully resolve disputes through friendly consultation.”

China sought to “deepen cooperation in other fields so bilateral relations can move forward in a sound steady way and also contribute to regional peace stability,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Hua Chunying said.

“I really said it to their face. That is ours and we intend to drill oil there,” said Duterte, who claimed he made the comments public in response to domestic criticism he was being too weak with China over the row.

“And they told me: ‘Well, we’re friends. We do not want to quarrel with you. We want to maintain the present warm relationship. But if you force the issue we’ll go to war.’” The rival claims to the South China Sea, which is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits, have for decades made it one of Asia’s potential military flashpoints.

China claims most of the sea, a key waterway for global shipping, and has reclaimed disputed reefs and installed military facilities on them.

Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and Taiwan also have overlapping claims.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruled in July last year that China’s claims to most of the sea were without legal basis, in a case filed by the Philippines under Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino.

But China vowed to ignore the ruling and warned the Philippines against trying to use the verdict as leverage.

Duterte, who began his six-year term in June last year, agreed to take a soft stance with China, claiming that if he did it might lead to war.

Duterte has also sought closer ties with China to win billions of dollars of Chinese investments and loans, while loosening the Philippines’ long-standing alliance with the United States.

Military mismatch

Mr. Duterte, in an interview with the Moscow-based news outfit Russia Today (RT), said the Philippines is not capable of facing off with China through military force.

“Do you expect me to fight China in a war? Do I have the cruise missiles for hitting them?” he said.
“If the conflict happens, it’s going to be a massacre,” he added.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, in a statement, said the government will not challenge China in an aggressive way, saying that it is more important to settle differences peacefully.

“The Philippines and China are committed to peaceful resolutions to socio-economic and political challenges,” Abella said.

“The first and last priority of President Duterte is the national interest and the well being of the Filipino,” he added.

“We are very clear that we are not giving up our claim of sovereignty and sovereign rights over certain islands in the South China Sea. At the same time, these matters are pursued in the context of maintaining peace and prosperity in the region,” he said.

The Palace official pointed out that maritime disputes are being settled in ongoing dialogs between Beijing and Manila officials.

“The recently concluded meeting on the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism is one platform for confidence-building measures, to address issues pertaining to the South China Sea,” Abella said.
“Matters are pursued in the context of maintaining peace and prosperity in the region,” he added.

No need for protest — Cayetano

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano does not see the need to file a diplomatic protest against Xi’s statement as told by Mr. Duterte.

There’s “no bullying, or pushing around” he said, explaining what transpired between the two leaders was not the result of any misstep, “it’s different when you talk of conflict that has (an element of) bullying.”

“It is but natural that when you talk about peace and when you talk about conflict, the word war may or may not come up. I’m not confirming (nor) denying,” he added.

Cayetano said the talks was actually about how to avoid conflict, how to increase mutual trust and mutual respect. “There was no language or even tone that would lead any of the two presidents to believe that there was disrespect for them or their country.”

After Duterte’s revelation of what was said during his meeting with Xi, the legislative branch and even Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio demanded that the government filed a diplomatic protest but Cayetano said “peace – internal and external, national security and regional stability” is part of the core and belief programs of Mr. Duterte.

Cayetano said he “expects the ups and downs, the arguments, people and the critics” of the relations between China and the Philippine but the public should understand and “trust the captain of the ship.”

He noted that when former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario was at the helm, “many disagreed with him, within the department, within the cabinet, not everyone agreed. But when President (Benigno) Aquino made a decision and del Rosario was given the green light, he did his best.”

“And he is a patriot, to be able to move forward our claim,” Cayetano added.

Del Rosario during the Aquino administration led the Philippines’ filing of the arbitration case against China before the PCA in the Hague, Netherlands.

Cayetano acknowledged this, “but we have a new captain of the ship which is President Duterte,” he said, warning that this leader’s language may continue if the criticisms “to the extent of trying to let him change course that would affect the results” do not stop.

“The destination is the same but how he wants to thread those waters are different,” he added.

Cayetano to brief Senate

Cayetano, a former senator, said he’s set to hold a briefing with his former colleagues to clarify the revelation made by Mr. Duterte.

“There are times when briefings would do good and I would like them to know the direction and maybe part of the strategy to the extent I can reveal,” he said.

“The senators were asking us to protest. I’m confident that the decision will change or they will understand the context of the President’s pronouncement.”

Cayetano clarified that he doesn’t want to preempt the lawmakers, but he will brief them

“If they still feel calling for us to issue a protest, that’s their privilege. Right now I want to call them and tell them what happened because I don’t have a clearance from the President (to reveal) what was discussed. If it’s restricted, classified, I can’t just reveal,” he said.

While he cannot disclose specifics of what transpired between the two state leaders’ discussion, Cayetano mentioned that the general atmosphere during the talk between Duterte and Xi was “very frank”.

“The mutual respect could be felt and the admiration of President Duterte to President Xi and (vice versa).”

Cayetano believes that “they would not be able to speak that frank to each other if there’s no trust being developed. Not are we saying we are being naïve because there trust, no. Our negotiators, our ambassador who took the lead and our executive director, will fight tooth and nail to protect our interest, and that’s very clear.”

Last Sunday, Senator Francis Pangilinan urged the government to file a diplomatic protest against China for threatening war against the Philippines over the maritime row.

“Did China really threaten the Philippines with war after President Duterte asserted the Southeast Asian nation’s sovereignty over disputed territory in the West Philippine Sea? If so, then Foreign Affairs Secretary Cayetano should issue a diplomatic protest for this threat,” Pangilinan said.

Carpio also said the government can raise the issue before an international court, as the threat to use force is a violation under international laws.

According to Pangilinan, who is also president to the Liberal Party, this subject should be immediately tackled in a Senate hearing.

He said LP supports Senator Bam Aquino’s Senate Resolution 158, which called on the Senate committees on foreign relations and economic affairs to conduct deliberation on the administration’s foreign policy direction.

“The hearing should tackle not only this issue, but also the details of the $24-billion loans and investments recently sealed with China, as well as the Duterte administration’s decision to reject aid from the European Union (EU),” Pangilinan said.

Drilon insists on protest

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the Philippine government should immediately elevate Xi’s threat to the United Nations.”

“This is a serious case. I call on the government not to take it lightly,” he added.

“The Chinese President’s threat is a gross violation of the United Nations’ Charter,” he said.

“Article 2, Section 4 of the UN Charter states that “all members shall refrain in their institutional relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purpose of the United Nations,” Drilon said.

Drilon said the country should stand up to China not allow “our country to be bullied and threatened.”

CPP/NPA-NCM: Tinuis nga Balita sa 403rd Brigade

New People's Army-North Central Mindanao propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines Website (May 22): Tinuis nga Balita sa 403rd Brigade

Ka Malen Mabini, Spokesperson
NPA-North Central Mindanao

22 May 2017

Gipanghimakak sa Mt. Kitanglad Sub-Regional Command sa New People’s Army ang gipakaylap ni 1st Lt. Norman Tagros nga tigpamaba sa 403rd Brigade nga balita bahin sa engkwentro sa Sumilao, Bukidnon kung asa tulo kuno ka mga sakop sa NPA ang napatay. Giatol kini pagpagawas nga balita human ang nahitabong pagparalisa sa mga ekipo sa mga sub-contractor sa Del Monte Corporation didto sa Km 24, Brgy. Don Gregorio Pelaez, Claveria, Misamis Oriental kagahapon Mayo 19 sa may 10:10 sa buntag.

Ang giingon ni Lt. Tagros nga engkwentro, nahitabo niadto pang Mayo 13, 2017 didto sa Brgy. Licoan, Sumilao, Bukidnon. Nasugat sa usa ka iskwad nga pwersa sa Mt. Kitanglad Sub-Regional Command ang naglunsad og combat operation nga usa ka platun sa 1st Special Forces Battalion (SFBn). Tungod kay unang nakamatikod ang nahauna, paspas nila kining giambus. Upat ang patay ug lima ang samaron sa pwersa sa 1st SFBn samtang walay tatsa ug luwas nga nakaatras ang pwersa sa NPA human niini. Ang mga lumulupyo sa Licoan sayud kaayo niini nga hitabo kay gani sila pa ang nagkuha sa mga patay ug samaron nga kaaway.

Kini nga hitabo gipaningkamutan sa 403rd Bde ug 1st SFBn nga dili mabutyag sa publiko. Apan tungod sa nahitabo kagahapon nga pagparalisa sa mga sakyanan sa Del Monte, nagtumo-tumo sila og balita aron ipagawas nila nga sila ang nagmadaugon ug tabunan ang ilang kapalpakan pagpanalipod sa Del Monte ug sa uban pang plantasyon sa mga multinational corporations batok sa mga atake sa NPA. Kung mahinumduman, ang 1st Special Forces Battalion gibutang sa Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon aron depensahan ang plantasyon sa Del Monte human ang malampusong pagreyd sa NPA sa compound niini didto sa Camp Philipps, Brgy Agusan Canyon, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon niadtong Pebrero 19, 2013.

Lunod-patay nga gigwardyahan sa 1st SFB ang mga negosyo sa multinational corporations sa Bukidnon nga nagapangilog og kayutaan sa mga Lumad ug kansang mga operasyon makadaut sa kinaiyahan ug hinungdan sa dakung bul-og sa polluted nga tubig nga mabubo sa Cagayan de Oro City atol sa ting-ulan.

Consistent nga baruganan sa rebolusyonaryong kalihukan ang pagpugong nga dili na makapalapad pa ang makadaut sa kinaiyahan ug katawhan nga mga operasyon sa plantasyon sa multinational corporation ug determinadong suklan ang mangtas nga elite nga pwersa sa 1st SFB sa Armed Forces of the Philippines nga nanalipod niini.

CPP/NPA-NCM: Punitibong Aksyon Batok sa Del Monte Philippines, Nagmalampuson

New People's Army-North Central Mindanao propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines Website (May 22): Punitibong Aksyon Batok sa Del Monte Philippines, Nagmalampuson

Ka Malen Mabini, Spokesperson
NPA-North Central Mindanao

22 May 2017

Malampusong naharang sa gimontar nga checkpoint ug naparalisa sa usa ka unit sa New People’s Army-Eastern Misamis Oriental-Northeastern Bukidnon (NPA-EMONEB) ang tulo ka sakyanang giabangan sa Del Monte Philippines niadtong Mayo 19, 2017 sa alas 10:10 sa buntag sa Sitio 24, Brgy. Don Gregorio Pelaez, Claveria, Misamis Oriental.

Ang mga naparalisa nga hauler trucks mao ang gidrayban ni Marianito Vicente nga adunay plate number nga KWA 163 nga gipanag-iyahan sa DUCSCO Trucking Service, ang gidrayban ni Arsenio Pakres nga may plate number, RLM 275 nga iya sa Dolor Trucking Service ug ang gimaneho ni Sunny Obalang nga gipanag-iya sa Tobert Trucking Service. Kining tanan nga mga sakyanan gikan sa Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon.

Laing forward truck nga gipanag-iya ni Kagawad Bebeng Sia sa Brgy. Aposkahoy niini nga lungsod nga nagkarga og unom ka drum nga krudo ang naharang. Gidiskarga ang krudo ug wala na gidaut ang sakyanan.

Mokabat og kapin 50 ka tawo ug 20 ka single motor ang lakip sa naharang sa gimontar nga checkpoint. Natapos ang maong aksyon sa alas 11:58 sa buntag ug luwas nga nakawidro ang yunit sa NPA.

Dugang pa, gamiton namo kini nga okasyon isip subling pasidaan niadtong mga negosyante nga nagapaabang sa ilang mga sakyanan ug ekipo sa Del Monte sa paghunong sa paghimo sa ingon tungod kay sa dugayng panahon, gidid-an na sa rebolusyonaryong kalihukan ang Del Monte ug ubang multinational corporations dinhi sa erya sa North Central Mindanao Region sa pagpalapad sa ilang mga plantasyon. Padayon namong pahamtangan og punitibong aksyon ang dili morespeto niini nga palisiya.

Walay kamatuoran ang propaganda sa 403rd Brigade nga giatake ang Del Monte Philippines tungod sa pagdumili niini paghatag og rebolusyonaryong buhis. Wala nagaapas ang NPA sa buhis o salapi nga makolekta gikan niini nga kumpanya. Ang pagmagahi sa Del Monte ug ubang multinational corporations sa padayon nilang ekspansyon bisan pa sa gipakanaug nga NO EXPANSION POLICY sa NCMR human sa katalagman nga gidulot sa Bagyong Sendong sa mga syudad sa Cagayan de Oro ug Iligan niadtong Desyembre 2011 ang tinuod nga hinungdan. Ang pag-upaw ug pagpatag sa kabukiran sa Bukidnon ang hinungdan sa dakung bul-og sa polluted nga tubig nga mibanlas sa liboan ka kinabuhi, kabalayan ug panginabuhi sa katawhan niini nga mga syudad.

CPP/NDF-EV: NDF-EV hits military for planting bullets and arresting child to smear the NPA

National Democratic Front-Eastern Visayas propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines Website (May 22): NDF-EV hits military for planting bullets and arresting child to smear the NPA

Fr. Santiago “Ka Sanny” Salas, Spokesperson
NDFP Eastern Visayas (Region VIII)

22 May 2017

The National Democratic Front-Eastern Visayas today slammed the arrest and tagging of a 12-year-old child as a Red fighter as a desperate move to smear the New People’s Army by Maj. Gen. Raul Farnacio of the Army’s 8th Infantry Division. “We strongly condemn Gen. Farnacio for victimizing a child to belittle the growing strength and offensive capabilities of the NPA in the region,” said NDF-EV spokesperson Fr. Santiago “Ka Sanny” Salas. “The child was illegally arrested by soldiers from the Philippine Army’s 803rd Infantry Brigade who allegedly found 25 bullets in his possession last May 13 in Barangay De Tubang, Silvino Lobos, Northern Samar. We demand the immediate release of the child from the custody of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.”

Fr. Salas said Farnacio’s accusation was clearly fabricated because of the circumstances of the child’s arrest and because of the NPA’s firm policy against recruiting minors. “The soldiers could have easily planted bullets while checking the sack of rice the child was carrying. Or the child could have picked up the bullets elsewhere because he lived in a highly militarized area. At any rate, the NPA will never even put a child at such risk in the midst of war. In the final analysis, alleging the child was a Red fighter is already spinning a fabrication on the part of Gen. Farnacio, because the NPA’s policy sets the minimum age for recruitment as a Red fighter at 18.”

The NDF-EV spokerson called on the people to be critical and vigilant of the military’s smear campaign against the NPA’s intensifying offensives in the region. “Earlier last April, the Philippine Army’s 87th IB also alleged the NPA burned down the schoolhouse in Barangay Literon, Calbiga, Samar, when in fact it was the soldiers’ barracks the Red fighters destroyed. Meanwhile, if we are to talk about human rights, Gen. Farnacio is silent on the evacuation last April of 7,000 peasants in Calbiga and Pinabacdao. Or the threats made that same month by 43rd IB soldiers they would shoot any male seen outside Barangay L. Empon, Las Navas, Northern Samar.

“These are the real and not just psywar violations of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. Even while the NDFP-GRP peace talks are about to resume, people in the countryside are being violated, and political prisoners still languish behind bars. Under these circumstances, the NPA must defend the people and intensify the offensives because it is waging a just war. The onus is on the GRP to silence the guns of its unjust war.”

CPP/NPA-NCM: CAA Detachment Gireyd

New People's Army propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines Website (May 22): CAA Detachment Gireyd

Ka Malen Mabini, Spokesperson
NPA-North Central Mindanao

22 May 2017
Press Release

Gipahalipayan sa Regional Operations Command sa North Central Mindanao Region ang pwersa sa Western Agusan del Norte-Agusan del Sur (WANAS) sa malampusong pag-reyd sa CAA Detachment nga ubos sa 26th IB didto sa Sityo Minpahaw, Brgy Binicalan, San Luis, Agusan del Sur ganinang kaadlawon sa may alas 3:40, Mayo 20, 2017. Mikabat og 55 minutos ang pinusilay hangtud nalupig sa pusisyon ang kaaway hinungdan sa pagpanagan niini. Nakuha gikan sa detachment ang usa ka M14 ug usa ka Garand Rifles. Samtang walay tatsa ang pwersa sa NPA. Gisunog ang tibuok detachment ayha sila luwas nga miatras.

Nahitabo kini taliwala sa nagapadayong combat operation sa 26th IB sa kabukiran sa Agusan del Sur. Apan sukwahi sa pangandoy sa 26th IB pagpuo o sa minimum, pag-abog sa pwersa sa NPA alang sa walay babag nga pagpasulod og mina ug plantasyon sa oil palm sa Esperanza, San Luis, Talacugon ug La Paz, gihatud naman hinuon sa pwersa sa WANAS ang panagsangka didto mismo sa kampo sa kaaway sama sa nahitabong pagharas niadtong Mayo 16,2017 sa hedkwarter sa 26th IB sa Talacugon sa usa ka team sa NPA diin napatyan og usa ang kaaway. Human niini, sa maong adlaw gihapon, giambus gamit ang command-detonated explosive ang nagresponde nga pwersa sa 26th IB. Napatyan kini og lima ug upat usab ang namissing in action.

MILF: ARMM Regional Darul Ifta holds Ulama Summit against Terrorism

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (May 18): ARMM Regional Darul Ifta holds Ulama Summit against Terrorism

Muslim Clerics and Aleema in Southern Philippines attended an Ulama Summit against Terrorism held at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex, ORC Compound, Cotabato City from May 12-14, 2017.

The activity was organized and sponsored by the Regional Darul Ifta (House of Opinion) of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

In their statement issued on the last day of the activity, they said, “as obliged and duty-bound” as religious leaders to shepherd the Moro people and their communities away from the darkness of ignorance and violence to the justness and peacefulness of Islamic way of life.

“In the light of current situation where the people are confronted with the threat and problem of violent extremism and terrorism engulfing the world today and the country as well, the urgency of working together is imperative”, they said.

“The threat of violent extremism and terrorism is not solely the problem and responsibility of our government and political leaders, but more so for us as religious leaders because many terrorists misrepresent and misuse our Islamic faith to legitimize and justify their wrongdoings. And as such, they have tarnished the image of Islam and Muslims’, they said in the statement.

They declared in the statement that:

It is HARAM (forbidden and unlawful) to use Islam to justify or legitimize violent extremism and terrorism:

It is incumbent upon us all to reeducate our constituents to rediscover our Islamic faith for justice, compassion, harmony and peace; and.

Finally, they said, “It is imperative upon us all to cooperate and collaborate with stakeholders in preventing and countering violent extremism and terrorism in its many forms and manifestations”.

The summit was also attended by the MILF Grand Mufti Abuhuraira Udasan who delivered a very inspiring message.

MILF: Southern Philippines’ Clerics to help 'reform' Abu Sayyaf members who surrendered to authorities

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (May 20): Southern Philippines’ Clerics to help 'reform' Abu Sayyaf members who surrendered to authorities

Muslim religious leaders (MRL) in the Southern Philippine Region of Mindanao said they would help "reform" members of the Abu Sayyaf terror group who have surrendered to authorities, UCANews said in its May 16 report.
Alih Sakaluran Aiyub, Secretary-General of the Ulama Council of the Philippines, said efforts are underway to help reform former terrorists.

"We will mainly help in the debriefing process and re-education," said Aiyub in an interview with

He said they would focus on the "aspect of psychological" needs of those who surrendered, adding that the mechanisms that they will use need to be "subtle."

"Our approach is not terrorizing the terrorists," said Aiyub, one of the facilitators of a summit of Muslim clerics and scholars in Cotabato City this week.

The summit participated by hundreds of ulama and aleema , organized by the Darul Ifta of the Autonomous Muslim government of Mindanao, discussed the threat of terrorism in the region.
The religious leaders agreed that the former terrorists, at least 50 of them who surrendered in recent months, can "effectively" convince active fighters to give up

"They can be very effective," said Aiyub, adding that, "we have to win their hearts and minds."

The MRL’s shall hold series of consultations with local officials and the security sector to achieve their goal of reforming former Abu Sayaaf members.

Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr., Chief of the Philippine Army’s Western Mindanao Command, welcomed the initiative of the religious sector.

"It would be a great help if the Ulama can re-orient and refocus the malign and distorted reasoning of the terror groups," Galvez told

He highlighted the "need to unite all our efforts to win the war against Islamic extremism and terrorism in our region."

Aiyub said a long-term solution to the problem of terrorism in the southern Philippine region "has been proved challenging."

"We have to counter them ideologically.... We cannot argue with them directly if they are armed," he said.

MILF: Rejection of EU funding could affect Mindanao peace projects

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (May 22): Rejection of EU funding could affect Mindanao peace projects

Rejecting aid from the European Union could cut support to peace-building programs in Mindanao like livelihood assistance in Moro Islamic Liberation Front camps and the delivery of basic services to conflict-affected communities, Philstar reports says on May 19.

In December, the EU approved P200 million in additional funding until 2018 for the Mindanao Trust Fund, a multi-donor grant facility funded largely by the EU.

According to past reports, the money will be used to support the Philippine Government’s efforts in monitoring the situation, defusing tension and creating in inclusive political platform that will unite the people of Mindanao, Philstar said in its online article.

Some 70 former MILF combatants were recipients of a Mindanao trust Fund’s (MTF)-supported Alternative Learning Program. The MTF also distributed cattle and funded the construction of water stations in Barira, Maguindanao.

The Sajahatra Bangsamoro, a joint development program between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front was financed and provided with technical assistance by the MTF. It helps the government deliver health, education and livelihood services to people in MILF communities.

The MILF is responsible for identifying beneficiaries and for monitoring the implementation of development projects (Source: Philstar, AP)

MNLF-IIO: Photo: MNLF FORCES at Astana Mt. Dragon Bakud Kagay, Indanan, Sulu, May 17, 2017

From the Moro National Liberation Front-International Information Office Facebook page (May 17):
Photo: MNLF FORCES at Astana Mt. Dragon Bakud Kagay, Indanan, Sulu, May 17, 2017

Only one Camp; MNLF FORCES
at Astana Mt. Dragon Bakud Kagay, Indanan, Sulu
The #Defenders of Peace
May 17, 2017
Secretariat CC.
supporting Peace in Mindanao under Duterte Admin.

MNLF-IIO: Photos: Bangsamoro and Federalism//Keynote Speaker Prof. Dr. Nur P. Misuari at Royal Mandaya Hotel Davao, May 21, 2017

From the Moro National Liberation Front-International Information Office Facebook page (May 21): Photos: Bangsamoro and Federalism//Keynote Speaker Prof. Dr. Nur P. Misuari at Royal Mandaya Hotel Davao, May 21, 2017

Image may contain: 4 people, people standing, wedding and indoor

 Image may contain: one or more people, crowd and indoor

Image may contain: 1 person, indoor

 Image may contain: one or more people, crowd and indoor

Guerrero likely AFP chief of staff?

From the Visayan Daily Star(May 22): Guerrero likely AFP chief of staff?

Another military officer formerly assigned as Army battalion commander in Negros Occidental, is now inching towards the position of chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Lt. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, commanding general of the AFP Eastern Command, was reported to be a “very strong” contender to replace General Eduardo Año as AFP chief of staff, a military source said.

The AFP turnover of command ceremony has been scheduled within this week.

Guerrero, who had served as 61st Infantry Battalion in southern Negros and commanding general of the 3rd Infantry Division, had been bypassed for the position of AFP chief of staff and Army chief, respectively, twice last year.

If he gets the appointment of AFP chief Guerrero will be the second Army battalion commander assigned in Negros, next only to former General Victor Ibrado, who had also served as 11th Infantry Battalion chief in northern Negros.

Guerrero, Lt. Gen. Oscar Lactao, AFP Central Command chief, and Maj. Gen. Jon Aying, 3rd Infantry Division commander, both of who also served as commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade in Negros Occidental, are all members of Philippine Military Academy Class of 1984.

All of them are set to retire from the military service in December this year.

Guerrero used to be assigned also in Davao City as Army brigade commander, after his stint at the Presidential Security Group, during the Presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Año, who is set to retire from the military service in October this year, has been designated by President Duterte as the incoming Interior and Local Government secretary. 

CASER what? Campaign to promote PH-NDF talks launched

From Rappler (May 22): CASER what? Campaign to promote PH-NDF talks launched

Ibon Foundation launches #CASERgoals, a campaign to promote public awareness on talks to reform the country's socio-economic policies   

SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGN. Ibon Foundation launches a social media campaign to promote understanding of talks on Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-economic Reforms or CASER. Rappler photo

SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGN. Ibon Foundation launches a social media campaign to promote understanding of talks on Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-economic Reforms or CASER. Rappler photo

A new campaign is launched as talks to end Asia's longest running communist insurgency approaches the 5th round, a crucial stage where negotiators hope to make progress in resolving contentious issues.

Leftist think tank Ibon launched on Monday, May 22, the campaign dubbed as #CASERgoals to promote public awareness on talks to reform the country's socio-economic policies, a longtime advocay for the organization that opposes the country's "neoliberal" policies.

CASER is the acronym for the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-economic Reforms, considered the most difficult stage in the peace process because it aims to radically change government policies in order to address widespread poverty in the country.

"Ibon aims to use #CASERgoals as its public information, education and advocacy campaign to advance progressive, pro-people, and nationalist economics as among the necessary foundations of a CASER that government and the NDFP are trying to forge," Ibon said in a statement.
Ibon executive director Jose Africa said poverty in the Philippines can only be addressed if the government is willing to institute polices that will go against vested interests.
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Ibon is a data bank that has published various studies that advocate for national industrialization and free land distribution, the two key proposals of the communist rebels under CASER. (READ: PH, NDF talks: Both sides need to make painful compromises)

Ibon launched the campaign during a media forum where negotiators of the government and communist rebels gave updates on the talks.

Negotiators will return to The Netherlands this week for the 5th round of talks that will start on Saturday, May 27.

Both sides committed to fast-track the talks. NDF consultant Alan Jazmines said they have made significant progress on free land distribution but they are only in the early stages of discussing national industrialization.

Both camps will also resume talks on the terms of reference for a bilateral ceasefire that the NDF said could only be implemented after CASER talks.

"After the 5th round, we hope to see little steps forward," Africa said.

At risk villages to benefit from new army program

From the Mindanao Times (May 22): At risk villages to benefit from new army program

The PHILIPPINE Army launched a new program which aims to build conflict-resilient communities, especially on vulnerable areas affected by conflicts and disasters.

The Community Support Program (CSP) is seen poised to transform insurgency-affected areas into thriving and sustainable communities by integrating activities that promote economic growth and address fundamental conflict issues.
The innovative strategy has received warm welcome from the community during its launching on May 16 in Barangay Central in the City of Mati, in time for the conduct of the provincial government-led Nagkakaisang Lingkod-Bayan ng Davao Oriental Barangay Outreach Caravan.

The launch was graced by top officials of the Philippine Army, namely: Lt. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command and Maj. Gen. Rafael Valencia, 10th Infantry Division commander.
“The program ultimately targets to uplift economic conditions and achieve sustainable peace in Davao Oriental,” Guerrero said.

On the other hand, Valencia said the program does not focus merely on security but also uplifting communities from the cycle of poverty, hunger, and other major social issues.

Being piloted in the province, the CSP hopes to complement the military’s current Development Support and Security Plan (DSSP) Kapayapaan and serves as upgraded version of the Peace and Development Outreach Program (PDOP) which was also piloted here with great success leading to the declaration of Davao Oriental as ‘development-ready’ in 2013.
Stakeholders for peace and development comprising the local chief executives of the province, led by Governor Nelson L. Dayanghirang, put their support behind the CSP.

Based on the agreement, the provincial government will provide support to the CSP teams immersed in recovered areas, address social issues, and undertake community-based initiatives, among many others.
Meanwhile, the military will take charge in dismantling underground organizations in insurgency-affected areas, facilitate the strengthening of barangay-based institutions, and assist in the delivery of government services, among others.

The program entails a shift from the purely military role of the Armed Forces of the Philippines into performing non-traditional functions such as support to peace building, security and sustainable development.

Among the significant successes of the program is seen in a far-flung village in the town of Boston, where a thriving community project has benefited an association consisting of former rebels.

Covering an area of 35 hectares, the 320 members grow different types of crops and livestock.

The association has received thousands of seedlings of various fruit and forest trees. It’s also planting cash crops and culture different species of fishes in their ponds, as well as raising livestock and poultry.

COMMENTARY: Addressing challenges posed by the Abu Sayyaf Group (3): Radicalization of Outlook

From MindaNews (May 22): COMMENTARY: Addressing challenges posed by the Abu Sayyaf Group (3): Radicalization of Outlook

3rd of 10 parts

In the second article in this series we raised the question as to whether feelings of enmity still exist among significant portions of Muslim and Christian Filipinos vis-à-vis each other. Whatever the situation is, whether this is perceived to be a serious issue or not, there is the problem of Muslim Filipinos being influenced by views which engender intolerance vis-à-vis persons of other faiths or even other Muslims who may espouse more openness to non-Muslims.

Without going into the scholarly debates on the definition of the term, and since we are focused on the Abu Sayyaf phenomenon, let us refer to this as the process of radicalization, the process of change in outlook on the part of individuals or groups vis-à-vis others, whether non-Muslims or even Muslims, from one of openness and acceptance to one of intolerance and unwillingness to accept a difference in views.

In the Philippine context, there are at least two trends that are a cause of concern. On the one hand, there is the observation on the part of Professor Yusuf Morales, that the Salafi-Wahhabi brand of Islam has spread among the Muslim community and that it is Salafi-Wahhabi doctrines that are being taught in many of the madaris. The other development is the very effective use by the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) of social media to spread its messages around the globe.

On the first point, Morales had this to say:

“The gradual introduction of Salafi Islam began in two-prong[ed] stages: first, when Damocao [Domocao] Alonto became Ambassador to Egypt and sent handpicked scholars to study Islam in an era when the Ikhwanul Muslimin of Hassanul Banna was gaining ground and the seeds of Salafi Islam were being sown in Azhar, the return of those who were attracted to Salafi Islam to the Philippines managed to build a mass base as they have moral ascendancy to preach Islam as seen by their constituents. The second stage was when Saudi Arabia began the gradual push towards oil, when it has begun both accepting OFW’s and scholars to its Salafi centres of learning” (Yusuf Morales, “Looking at a constructive analysis: The Madrasah Paradigm in the view of preventing radicalization in the Philippines).

This would imply that the entry of Salafi doctrines dates back to the 1950s. It was in 1955 that the late Sen. Alonto met Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser during the Conference for Non-Aligned Movement in Bandung, Indonesia at which time, among other things, he asked for assistance to send Filipinos on scholarship to Al-Azhar University. As Morales also points out, the explosion of the wealth of Saudi Arabia in the 1970s as a result of the oil embargo enabled the Saudis to intensify the spread of Wahhabi-Salafi doctrines around the world through the sponsorship of scholarships for study in the Kingdom, the financing of mosques and madaris around the world and the deployment of Muslim scholars to preach in different countries.

As a result, Morales concludes that “although there are still remnants of the Traditional Islam in the Philippines, most of the areas in the country has been supplanted with Wahabbi-Salafi-Saudi Islam”.

While this writer has no pretensions of being a scholar on Islam, the danger posed by Wahhabi-Salafi doctrines is that they result in an attitude of intolerance not just towards non-Muslims but even towards other Muslims who may hold other views. This intolerance could eventually – but not necessarily – lead to the use of violence to impose one’s belief on others.

So the base of a radical Islamic outlook would appear to have long been in place in the Philippines already. It is upon this base that the Islamic State appears to be spreading its influence, working through the adherents who have pledged allegiance to it.

In its mission to gain more support for its cause, the Islamic State has deftly and effectively utilized advances in communication technology to deliver certain key messages. These messages have been summarized by Thomas Koruth Samuel, a Director at the Southeast Asia Centre for Counter-Terrorism, as follows:
1. The establishment of a Caliphate as prophesied by the Prophet Mohammed. Islam is supposed to have developed over time as follows:
  • The era of the Prophet, which represented the purest form of the practice of Islam;
  • The period of the Caliphs who followed the Prophet;
  • The period from the Umayyad Dynasty to the Ottoman Empire;
  • The period of the various post-colonial Muslim states of the 20th century;
  • The resurrection of the Caliphate, harking back to the period of the Prophet.
2. The battle to end all battles will take place in Sham (present-day Syria) and will be undertaken by the Army of Mahdi carrying black banners to liberate Jerusalem and resurrect the Caliphate

3. All Muslims should join this final battle, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to establish and spread the domain of the final Caliphate.

4. All Muslims should join this final battle to help their brothers who are being oppressed by the Shia-dominated regimes in Syria and Iraq.

5. Joining this final battle will atone for past misdeeds and un-Islamic actions. (Thomas Koruth Samuel, “Radicalisation in Southeast Asia: A Selected Case Study of Daesh in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines”).
To these messages we may add the more recent message (June 2016) addressed to Muslims in this region to go to the Philippines and join the struggle here instead of going to Syria or Iraq.
Whether these messages resonate with Filipino Muslims remains to be seen but, as is well known, a number of groups have openly pledged their support to IS and its self-proclaimed Caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. These groups include the ASG in Basilan (under its formal name Al-Harakatul Al-Islamiyah), Katibat Ansar al-Shariah (headed by a Malaysian going by the name Abu Anas al-Muhajir who was killed shortly after having pledged loyalty to IS), Ma’rakah al-Ansar (supposedly from Sulu), Ansarul Khilafah Philippines (operating in the Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato area and whose leader, Mohammad Jaafar Maguid, was killed in January of this year), the BIFF, the Maute Group (IS Ranao).
Often, discussions on radicalization focus on radicalization of the youth. Certainly that is an important focus given the fact that it is young people who are recruited into the ranks of extremist groups. It is the younger generation that ISIS has been targeting with its army of social media practitioners. Maria Ressa, for example, pointed out that in a study done in early 2015, a minimum of 46,000 Twitter accounts were being used by IS. Moreover, around 200,000 pieces of social media were being created every day (Maria Ressa, “How to fight ISIS on social media”, Rappler, August 26, 2015).
Furthermore, as anyone who has seen any of the videos produced and disseminated by IS will attest, these are not crude slapdash affairs but well-crafted and skillfully produced works. Ressa has embedded in her article a video of a Canadian jihadi who described his background in Canada – being like any ordinary young Canadian male, playing hockey, going to the cottage in the summertime, fishing, hunting, while all the time snippets of these outdoor events are shown as he speaks. He describes himself as a good person, someone who had a regular job, friends, family, and not an anarchist as others might think. He briefly describes why he joined IS. Then the video shows him in battle, apparently with the use of a drone following his movements as he runs across a field with his gun, until an explosion turns him into a martyr for the faith.
Blaker describes the social media appeal of ISIS in this way:
“The ISIS propaganda wing, al-Hayat, continues to produce slick videos that mimic Hollywood action films and music videos and are obviously targeted to young Westerners. The videos often include music with lyrics translated to English and a number of European languages. More recent videos feature English-speaking jihadists. Notes Sam Heuston, a professor of English and film studies at The Citadel who has written about extremist video propaganda, ‘It’s actually surprising how contemporary and hip-looking some of these things are, especially considering the fact that the messages that they are promoting are essentially medieval.’” (Lisa Blaker, “The Islamic State’s Use of Online Social Media”, Military Cyber Affairs, Vol. I, Issue I, Article 4, 2015).
Given Morales’ observation that Salafi views have been influencing Filipino Muslims for several decades now – more than half a century, it would appear – it would be essential to determine to what extent whole communities have been influenced. To what extent is intolerance in matters of faith being handed down from generation to generation? Because if the younger generations are being brought up with closed minds and with a sense of suspicion or even hatred toward those who are different from themselves, then attention should be given to the family and the communities within which these outlooks are being nurtured, and not just the madaris which are often the focus of “de-radicalization” campaigns.
A Tausug friend the author asked about this phenomenon commented that it is in the gimba, the interior, where this kind of outlook would be found, particularly among those who have not had an opportunity to get a proper education. But one wonders. Those who have gone abroad for higher studies are exposed to extremist views. One does not even have to go abroad. Yusuf Morales has observed that many of the madaris in fact adopt a Salafi perspective in their teachings. And in this age of the global reach of communication technologies anyone who has a smartphone can download extremist writings, videos and audio messages. The author knows highly educated individuals who take a perverted pleasure in watching videos of Abu Sayyaf beheadings and encouraging others to watch them as well.
Researchers on terrorism point out that only a small proportion of those who are radicalized actually take the plunge and resort to violence. And among those who do, the motivating factors are varied. There are, certainly, those who are impelled by ideological convictions. But there are also those who take up arms (or set off bombs) for other reasons.
Samuel points to an interesting study undertaken by U.S. Army Colonel John Venhaus which looked at why young people joined al-Qaeda, based on interviews and personal histories of over 2,000 foreign fighters. Venhaus identified four categories of motivations:
1. “Revenge seekers”, wanting to exact retribution for some perceived wrong or injustice suffered in the past, whether experienced personally (such as the Anak Ilu or orphans in Sulu) or perceived collective grievances suffered by the Muslim community as a whole.
2. “Status seekers”, looking for some form of recognition.
3. “Identity seekers”, needing to join a group which would give them a sense of identity.
4. “Thrill seekers”, looking for adventure. (Thomas Koruth Samuel, study on radicalization in Southeast Asia cited earlier.)
The latter category, thrill seekers, recalls the description of Tausug males by anthropologist Thomas Kiefer:
“Risk taking in Tausug culture is encouraged, and the prudent lose the opportunity to demonstrate to their fellows valued virtues of character: bravado, honor, masculinity, and even magnanimity. Outlaws, criminals, well-known thieves and the ever-present seekers after revenge are admired as persons of strong character who have demonstrated their willingness to seek dangerous situations, or to accept them voluntarily when luck has made them inevitable. Long epic songs glorify heroes who have excelled in these virtues.” (Thomas M. Kiefer, “The Tausug: Violence and Law in a Philippine Moslem Society”.)
But even if ideology is not the primary motivation, there is more often than not, an ideological underpinning which justifies individual or group actions. For example, one kidnap victim the writer is acquainted with recounted how the ASG commander justified the kidnapping as payback for the decades of exploitation by Christians of Muslims lands and the resources on them. They were just getting back what had been stolen from them.
There is, of course, another category, whom one could refer to as Opportunists, who essentially are riding on the image or reputation of the ASG but for purely financial objectives. These are basically the criminal types who would need to be dealt with differently.
The roots or sources of the radicalization need to be analyzed and understood. The approaches and the messaging for the various categories will need to be appropriately formulated. The religious underpinnings of the militant groups need to be countered through what Kruglanski et al. refer to as a “religious dialogue component”. In a study undertaken they describe how this is done in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Singapore. In Singapore, for example, a community-based Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) was set up which “carried out an extensive analysis of the JI (Jemaah Islamiyah) interpretation of Islam and offered credible scholarly answers to the extremists’ arguments”. (Arie W. Kruglanski, Michele J. Gelfand, Rohan Gunaratna, “Aspects of Deradicalization”, Institute for the Study of Asymmetric Conflict.)
The grievances need to be addressed. Often these refer to persons killed, whether they were ASG fighters or not, with family members wishing to exact revenge. There is also the matter of disappearances, persons picked up on suspicion of being connected with the ASG, never to be heard from again. The writer is aware of a number of cases brought to his attention in recent months.
Because more often than not interpretations of religious issues are involved, the guidance of the region’s religious leaders is essential. It is they who can speak with authority on matters of faith and respond to the dogmas presented by extremists as the basis for their terroristic activities. For this reason, the region’s religious leaders need to take a leading role in the fight against the Abu Sayyaf, a topic we shall touch on in a subsequent article.
TOMORROW: Governance
[Vic M. Taylor, originally from Cebu, has been involved in various peace and development activities in Mindanao, particularly in Basilan-Sulu-Tawi-Tawi (BaSulTa) in the different positions he has held in government and the private sector over the last 50 years.
He started as an instructor at the Notre Dame of Jolo College after his graduation from the Ateneo de Manila University in the late 1960s. Subsequently, he oversaw the Rehabilitation and Development Program for Muslim Mindanao during the early years of martial law under the Office of the President.
Within the last 16 years and upon the request of the families of some kidnap victims, Mr. Taylor assisted these families to help secure the safe release of five victims from the ASG.
Recently, he has been working with a private group that is assisting a community of the Moro National Liberation Front in the Zamboanga peninsula in bringing development projects to their area.
This series is a revised version of a paper written by the author for the Mackenzie Institute, a Canadian security think tank, in light of the execution of two Canadian hostages by the Abu Sayyaf last year]

Gabriela seeks probe on alleged abuses during mil ops in Davao

From MindaNews (May 22): Gabriela seeks probe on alleged abuses during mil ops in Davao

A lawmaker said she will file a resolution asking the House of Representatives to investigate allegations that soldiers committed abuses during counterinsurgency operations in a hinterland village of Davao City on May 6 to 11.

In a press conference at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines here, Gabriela Partylist Rep. Arlene Brosas said a fact-finding mission conducted over the weekend showed there were residents of Barangay Dominga in Calinan District who complained of military harassment.

“We want to investigate how the residents, who are mostly farmers, were affected by the militarization. The resolution will highlight the case of Barangay Dominga,” she said.

She said she hopes the investigation would bring light to the alleged human rights violations and give justice to the victims, in particular Rodolfo Dagahuya Jr., 39, a corn farmer, who was killed on May 9 at the height of the encounters.

Dagahuya left behind three children.

Jay Apiag, spokesperson of Karapatan-Southern Mindanao Region, said Dagahuya was a member of Dominga Farmers’ Association and an active church member.

He said the military tagged him as an NPA member.

Brosas condemned the military’s “Red-tagging of the farmers.

“Hindi dapat basta-basta pagbintangan na supporter ng NPA ang simpleng mamamayan. Sila ay may karapatan din na protektahan ang kanilang buhay at depensahan ang kanilang kabuhayan (The military cannot just tag as NPA supporters the ordinary people. They have the right to protect their lives and defend their livelihood),” she said.

She said the military operations against the New People’s Army (NPA) displaced 251 families, or 1,014 individuals, and left them with no livelihood after they returned home last week.

“Their livelihood has been destroyed,” Brosas, who called counterinsurgency a form of “economic blockade,” said. She noted that the encounters had prevented the residents from doing any farm work.

She added the use of aerial bombs in Dominga affected the livelihood of the communities there.

Cpt. Alenel Valles, civil military operations officer of the 3rd Infantry Battalion admitted the Philippine Air Force used bombs for “close air support” but added they made sure the area was clear of residents before dropping them.

Valles dismissed allegations of human rights violations committed by government forces, saying all these were “unconfirmed” since no reports have reached them.

He said these were all “propaganda” coming from the militants.

BIFF bomber killed in Maguindanao raid — military

From MindaNews (May 22): BIFF bomber killed in Maguindanao raid — military

A suspected bomber of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters was killed in a joint operation by Army and police forces in Maguindanao early on Monday.

Capt. Arvin Encinas, spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division said Murad Ali was slain when police commandos and Army soldiers raided his hiding place in Barangay Capiton, Datu Odin Sinsuat town, Maguindanao.

In a press release Monday, the Armed Forces’ Western Mindanao Command said “Ali was a “notorious bomb instructor and a protege of the late Basit Usman. Just like Usman, he was an expert bomb trainer of newly recruited BIFF members.”

Usman was killed on May 3, 2015 in an encounter with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Wesmincom said joint elements of the 603rd Brigade from the 5th Special Forces Battalion and the 19th Infantry Battalion, and from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao raided Ali’s place in Capiton at 1:00 a.m. Monday.

The operatives were armed with search warrants for violations of Republic Acts 9516 (law on illegal possession of explosives) and 10591 (Comprehensive Law on Firearms and Ammunition).

“Further recovered were a 60MM HE mortars round; a fragmentation grenade; an INGRAM; and suspected components of an Improvised Explosive Device, composed of seven pieces of nine-volt battery, 16 blasting caps, nine battery connectors, four sets of cutting tools, four cellular phones, a radio, a detonating cord, a GPS, and a laptop,” the press release said.

“The recovered items were brought to the headquarters of the CIDG-ARMM for documentation and proper disposition, while the remains of Ali were turned over to his relatives after proper procedures were made by the SOCO team,” it added.

“This recent operational accomplishment will seriously degrade the BIFF, which propagates terrorism by conducting bombing activities in Central Mindanao,” said Wesmincom commander Lt Gen Carlito G. Galvez Jr..

Also on Monday, a bomb exploded at a market place in Isulan town, Sultan Kudarat.

Reports said a security guard noticed three men on a motorcycle leave a bag before speeding away. Shortly after, the bag exploded.

No one was hurt in the blast.

BIFF bomb expert killed in Maguindanao clash

From the Mindanao Examiner (May 22): BIFF bomb expert killed in Maguindanao clash

Security forces killed a suspected bomb maker in a gun battle following a raid before sunrise Monday in the restive southern Philippine province of Maguindanao, officials said.

Officials said Murad Ali, a member of the militant group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter, was slain in Datu Odin Sinsuat town after police commandos and army soldiers stormed his hiding place in the village called Capiton.

It was not immediately known how security forces tracked down Ali, a follower of slain BIFF leader Abdul Basit Usman who was killed by members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in May 2015. Officials did not say if the MILF – which signed an interim peace deal with Manila in 2014 – provided intelligence on Ali.

But officials said troops seized automatic weapons and grenades, and components for improvised explosives from Ali’s hideout.

The killing of Ali also coincided on bombing at a market place in Isulan town in Sultan Kudarat province after 3 men on a motorcycle left a bag containing an improvised explosive. The men immediately escaped after a security guard noticed them and the bag later exploded. No one was hurt in the blast.

Military, police personnel undergo 17-day specialized search and rescue training

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 22): Military, police personnel undergo  17-day specialized search and rescue  training

KORONADAL CITY, South Cotabato --  Some 21   military, police and reserve officers  are  currently  undergoing  17-day special training on  search and rescue operations, an official of the provincial  government  here confirmed.

Mila  Lorca , action officer of the  Provincial  Disaster Risk Reduction and Management  Office (PDRRMO) said the  training that  started on May  18  was specifically  designed  for  search and rescue teams  of  the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police  and  AFP's  Reserve Command.

Each team is composed  of  seven members.

The  505 Search and  Rescue  group of the Philippine Air Force  facilitates and  directs the training  course which include  modules on  basic first aid, high angle rappel and extrication techniques, land navigation, ropemanship and water survival rescue among others.

"Trainees will undergo  an intensive  SAR training  because  after they  have completed the  course, they will become auxiliary members of the  search and rescue team of the Philippine Air  Force,"  Lorca said.

They will also  serve  as trainors in  upcoming  SAR trainings of  local  DRRMs.

"Aside  from their  regular  mandates, these  forces  are also  mandated to  conduct  humanitarian assistance. During  disasters, they are among the first  groups deployed to the area,"  she  said.

"Since   these SAR teams  will become  auxiliary members of the 505 SAR team of  the Philippine Air Force, that  can  also conduct  search and rescue trainings  for  other SAR teams," Lorca explained.

Trainings  will be  conducted in  several locations across SOCCSKSARGEN Region depending  on the module, she added.

South Cotabato provincial government   has earmarked P300,000  for the SAR training.

Hundreds benefit in medical outreach in Kalinga

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 22): Hundreds benefit in medical outreach in Kalinga

Four hundred forty two (442) residents availed of free medical check-up during two separate outreach programs recently conducted by a professionals association and the military here and in Balbalan municipality.

Fifty six were also circumcised while 70 availed of free haircut.

In Tanudan, 228 underwent medical check-up rendered by Drs. Cynthia Rojo and Jovy Boacon during an outreach mission conducted by the Mangali Professionals Association at the Poblacion while 28 children were circumcised by medics of the 50th Infantry Battalion.

Film showing was also conducted by Alpha Mapagmahal Coy of the 5th CMO Battalion.

On the other hand, 214 benefitted from the same outreach sponsored by the 1st Kalinga-Apayao Ready Reserve Battalion at Balbalan Proper in joint mission with the 503rd Brigade, A Coy of the 5th CMOBN, and E Coy of the 77th IB. 28 boys were circumcised, 70 underwent free haircut and a dozen on tooth extraction.

Col. Leopoldo Imbang Jr, 503rd Brigade Commander, personally led the team in conducting the medical outreach in Balbalan.

2 more Abu Sayyaf bandits surrender in Basilan

From the Philippine News Agency (May 22): 2 more Abu Sayyaf bandits surrender in Basilan

Two more members of the dreaded Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) have surrendered to authorities over the weekend in Basilan province, bringing the total surrenderers to 52 since the “focused military operations” began in January.

Col. Juvymax Uy, Joint Task Force Basilan commander, on Monday said it is the second time in a week that followers of ASG sub leader Nurhasan Jamiri have surrendered to the command.

The Abu Sayyaf members contacted the troops of the Joint Task Force Basilan to surrender at 10:45 a.m. on Saturday, Uy said.

He identified them as Wowee Hassan and Samer Batin alias "Iroh." They turned over a Garand rifle.

They surrendered two days after two of their fellow bandits have surrendered to the military in Basilan.

Uy said he “specifically ordered his troops to fetch the duo and to bring them to the headquarters of 18th Infantry Battalion at Sitio Camalig, Bohe Pahu, Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan for the debriefing and documentation.”

Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr, commander of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said the constant military operations have forced the ASG members to surrender.

“The two Abu Sayyaf revealed that they fear for their lives as more of their fellow ASG members surrendered and gave information on the others. They said that they opted to surrender now believing that the government forces will eventually get them,” Galvez said.

“It is our intent that we continue to put pressure to these threat groups as we do both lethal and non-lethal approaches,” he added.

A week ago, the military pounded the lair of the ASG using new FA-50 fighter jets in the town of Sumisip. Based on intelligence information, about 20 militants were killed.

Army confirms NPA's massive recruitment of kids in Northern Samar

From the Philippine News Agency (May 22): Army confirms NPA's massive recruitment of kids in Northern Samar

The Army's 803rd Brigade here on Monday confirmed massive recruitment of children in upland villages of Mapanas and Palapag towns by the New People's Army (NPA).

Brig. Gen. Mario Lacurom, commander of the Army’s 803rd Brigade, confirmed the recruitment of at least 30 children to be trained as "soldiers" in Northern Samar.

Aside from being tapped as spy, messenger, cook, supplies carriers to other rebel camps, children are also trained to fight and use rifles and were given political indoctrination.

“Rebellion exposes children to different forms of violence and exploitation. Education is the key for a better society, but I have seen how this war in Northern Samar has affected so many children who are so talented but unable to go to school,” Lacurom told PNA.

“In Northern Samar province, which has suffered for years from conflict and families don’t have the basic necessities of life, there are few influences that can compete with a 'warrior’s' life,” the army official said.

“Orphaned children and those who have grown up alone, frightened, and surrounded by violence see this as a permanent way of life, and they often choose to fight,” he added.

Reportedly, there are at least three to five children under 18 year of age in every rebel camp in Northern Samar undergoing training for combat and in direct support roles.

Atoy (not his real), a former rebel, who joined the communist rebellion for five years confirmed that the NPA aims their propaganda at young people.

“It’s easier to ask children to do something. They are teachable and (they) easily trust rebel leaders,” Atoy told PNA.

These children became associated with rebels through some organization in the village level, he said. “Some children just wanted to become armies and involve themselves in the group while others are deliberately recruited by the rebels,” he added.

Most of these children have parents or grandparents engaged in the underground movement. “Situations of displacement and poverty make children even more vulnerable to recruitment,” the former rebel added.

On May 13, the Philippine Army apprehended a 12-year-old boy carrying ammunition and cartridge allegedly for use of rebel fighters in Northern Samar.

Government troops condemned the involvement of minors in communist rebellion since it was a clear violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

The army in Northern Samar has been trying to rescue children from rebel’s hands while other government agencies like the DSWD pledged to provide psychological counselling to help demobilized recruited children.

Lady rebel surrenders to AFP in Kalinga, guns seized

From the Philippine News Agency (May 22): Lady rebel surrenders to AFP in Kalinga, guns seized

A female member of the New Peoples Army voluntarily surrendered to the 50th Infantry Battalion at their Headquarters in Barangay Camalog, Pinukpuk, Kalinga over the weekend, Lt. Colonel Gulliver Siñeres said on Monday.

Siñeres said Liza Tongdo Gumabay, also known as “Raida”, 32 years old, and the party wife of the late communist terrorist leader Ruben Gumabay, also known as “Rashid” of the Kilusang Larangan Guerilla (KLG) Baggas, a local communist terrorist group operating in the province of Kalinga, surrendered to the government on May 21.

Siñeres assured that the government will provide her the assistance under the comprehensive local integration program (CLIP). The said surenderer is still at 50IB headquarters for documentation.

A total of 30 NPA members have surrendered to the 5th ID, majority of which are from the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).

In a statement released on Monday, Major General Paul Atal, 5ID Commander said “the influx of surrenderers from the communist terrorist group is a clear manifestation that our message of peace is already penetrating the core of their twisted belief and doctrine that is misleading some of the Filipinos living in the hinterlands of Cagayan Valley and Cordillera.” Atal said.

He also urged the other rebels “to lay down their arms and abandon their unworthy arms struggle against the government. Instead, they should actively participate in the political arena and help transform our country to what they think is good for the people. Let us settle our differences in a peaceful way. We are all Filipinos.”

Meanwhile the 50ID also discovered war materiels in Sitio Anyang, Barangay Wagud, Pinukpuk, Kalinga on May 20.

The M16 Rifle, a barrel and a short magazine, together with five meter electrical wire were discovered by the soldiers while doing security patrol. It can be recalled that in April, the troops also discovered war materiel inside a drum at Barangay Apatan in Pinukpuk town.

Siñeres said the war materiel are believed to be buried by a rebel who attended the burial of late Rudy Miguel, one of the communist terrorists who died during an encounter with the 50IB in May 13 in Balbalan, Kalinga. Miguel’s body was brought to his family in Pinukpuk town.

No plans to acquire more SSVs for now — DND

From the Philippine News Agency (May 22): No plans to acquire more SSVs for now — DND

Acquisition of additional strategic sealift vessels (SSVs) for the Philippine Navy (PN) will depend on the prevailing security environment in the future.

This was stressed by Department of National Defense (DND) public affairs office chief Arsenio Andolong when asked by the PNA on whether there plans to acquire additional SSVs for the Navy.

"At the moment, there are no plans to acquire a third SSV. Our modernization plan, which is based on the PN's doctrine, only provides for two," he added.

"Perhaps we will consider it in the future when our security environment will require it," Andolong emphasized to the PNA.

As of this posting, the PN has two SSVs in its inventory, the BRP Tarlac (LD-601) and the BRP Davao Del Sur (LD-602) which is scheduled to be commissioned this coming May 31.

The BRP Davao Del Sur arrived off South Harbor, Manila last May 8 after departing from the PT PAL (Persero) shipyard in Surabaya, Indonesia last May 4.

She was named after the province of Davao Del Sur, the home of the country's highest peak Mount Apo and other rare species of flora and fauna.

"It gives due recognition to the province as sanctuary of natural wonders and rarities like the country’s highest peak Mount. Apo, the most prized Philippine orchid Vanda Sanderiana, and the endangered Philippine Eagle," PN spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna earlier said.

Also, the namesake takes inspiration from a former PN vessel of the same name notable for its accomplishments during during the 1980s.

"Naming the vessel after Davao Del Sur is consistent with its predecessor, BRP Tarlac (LD-601), which was also named after a province," Lincuna added.

The ship was launched last Sept. 29. She is the sister ship of the BRP Tarlac (LD-601), currently the largest Filipino warship in commissioned.

BRP Tarlac was commissioned during short ceremonies at Pier 13, Manila South Harbor last June 1.

She arrived in the Philippines last May 14 after a five-day journey from PT PAL shipyard in Surabaya which started on May 9.

BRP Davao Del Sur is also a Makassar-class landing platform dock like her sister ship BRP Tarlac.

Its delivery completed the two-unit SSV procurement project with an approved budget contract of PHP4 billion sourced from the AFP Modernization Act Trust Fund.

Just like the BRP Tarlac, the PN's latest SSV will serve as a floating command-and-control ship especially in the conduct of humanitarian assistance and disaster response and will also serve as a military sealift and transport vessel.

The ship has an overall length of 120 meters,breadth of 21 meters, draft of five meters and can carry a payload of 2,800 tons.

She has a cruising speed of 13 knots and maximum speed of 16 knots and a minimum operating range of 7,500 nautical miles.

BRP Davao Del Sur can carry 500 troops, two rigid-hull inflatable boats, two landing craft units and three helicopters.

PN commissions first 3 MPACs with missile provisions Monday

From the Philippine News Agency (May 22): PN commissions first 3 MPACs with missile provisions Monday

The country's first three multi-purpose attack craft (MPAC), with provisions for missile armament, was formally turned over and commissioned into the Philippine Fleet during short ceremonies at the Naval Base Heracleo Alano, Sangley Point, Cavite City Monday.

These MPACs are the Mark III models and are considerably more advance that the six Mark I and IIs currently in the inventory.

Capt. Lued Lincuna, Philippine Navy (PN) spokesperson, said the MPACs, which has the hull number BA-488, BA-489, and BA-491, were all commissioned and quickly send-off to Davao City by Philippine Fleet commander Rear Admiral Gaudencio Collado after ceremonies at the Capt. Moya Boat Landing around 8 a.m. Monday.

These boats will be participate in the 119th founding anniversary of the PN which will be held in May 31 at Sasa Wharf, Davao City, he added.

The PN spokesperson said that the MPACs will form the 3rd Boat Attack Division of the Philippine Fleet's Littoral Combat Force.

These MPACs were constructed by Subic Bay-based Propmech Corporation.

They will be armed with the Israel's Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd's Spike ER (extended range) in anti-ship mode.

It is capable of penetrating 1,000 mm (39 inches) of rolled homogeneous armor and has a maximum range of five miles.

PN flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado said installations of the missile systems will follow shortly.

"(The MPACs) are only the platforms; installation of the missiles will follow," he said to the PNA.

These three MPACs are worth PHP270 million which was sourced from the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Act Trust Fund of 2000.

The contract includes mission essential equipment.

Mission essential equipment includes day/night electronic navigation systems, communication suites, safety-of-life-at-sea, propulsion system and seamanship and ship-handling gears.