Monday, July 24, 2017

Give us back Balangiga bells, Duterte tells U.S.

From Rappler (Jul 24): Give us back Balangiga bells, Duterte tells U.S.

'They are ours. They belong to the Philippines,' President Duterte tells the US in his SONA 2017, with the American ambassador in the audience

President Rodrigo Duterte told the United States on Monday, July 24, to return the iconic bells that led to a 1901 massacre, the US military's worst single defeat in the Philippines.

The Balangiga bells, once found in Balangiga Church in Eastern Samar, had been taken by the Americans as spoils of war.
"Give us back those Balangiga bells," Duterte said in his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.

"They are ours. They belong to the Philippines. They are part of our national heritage," he added.

"Isauli naman ninyo. Masakit 'yan sa amin," he also said. (Please return it. That is painful for us.)

Duterte made these remarks in the presence of US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim, who had a neutral reaction when his face was shown in the government's livestream. This comes as Duterte slams the US for supposedly meddling in his anti-drug campaign.

Rappler is still trying to reach the US embassy for comment as of posting time.

Signaling a historic siege, the bells led to the US military's so-called worst single defeat in the Philippines. In what is known as the Balangiga Massacre, locals outsmarted and killed 48 out of 74 US troops in 1901.

More than 3,000 online petitioners also urged the US in 2014 to return the Balangiga bells. When then US President Barack Obama visited the Philippines that year, however, the US leader said nothing about these so-called spoils of war.

Joma on Duterte's 'blatant lie': I don't have cancer

From Rappler (Jul 24): Joma on Duterte's 'blatant lie': I don't have cancer

'No findings of cancer of any kind, cardiac problem or any other malignancy,' says the communist leader

Image via

Image via

Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison denied he has colon cancer.

President Rodrigo Duterte claimed in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 24, that Sison – his professor back in the university – had cancer. Duterte also reiterated his decision to "stop talking" with communist rebels.

"This is a blatant lie. I was hospitalized for one month under the Rheumatology Department of the Utrecht University Medical Center and was released with a clean bill of health on March 20," he said in a statement he sent to media shortly after Duterte's speech.

"No findings of cancer of any kind, cardiac problem or any other malignancy which is life threatening," he added.

Here's his response to Duterte's statements about him, the Left and the military during the SONA:
  • "Re my being matanda: Duterte himself is an old man at 72. I am only 6 years older than him. So what is the public issue? I am still physically and mentally strong, trying hard as NDFP [National Democratic Front of the Philippines] chief political consultant to help in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, which have been scuttled by Duterte.
  • "Re waste of Duterte’s time talking to the NDFP: Duterte thinks it is a waste of time to negotiate peace with the NDFP. It is because he is really not interested in peace negotiations concerning social, economic and political reforms to lay the basis for a just and lasting peace. He is only interested in demanding the surrender of the revolutionary movement through a protracted and indefinite kind of ceasefire ahead of any comprehensive agreement on reforms.
  • "Re his job to bully and kill the enemies of the state: I appreciate that he frankly admits that his job or duty is merely to bully and kill what he calls the “enemies of the state”. But he must be guard on against his tendency and personal temperament to violate the human rights of his political rivals, critics and the poor people suspected of being drug addicts and pushers.
  • "Re my having colon cancer. This is a blatant lie. I was hospitalized for one month under the Rheumatology Department of the Utrecht University Medical Center and was released with a clean bill of health on March 20, after three weeks of diagnosis and treatment and one week of observing that I was cured. I was treated in connection with rheumatoid arthritis and skin allergy for the following symptoms: low auto-immunity level during the cold months of autumn and winter, lack of appetite, loss of weight, skin allergy, pains on the joints, etc. No findings of cancer of any kind, cardiac problem or any other malignancy which is life threatening. It is Duterte who has to explain his disappearances for medical reasons because the public is entitled to know everything that pertains to his suitability for public office,

  • "Re nothing to gain from the Left. He admits being a liar when he said that he would like to become the first Left president of the Philippines. Words pour out of Duterte so cheaply. He does not mean what he says when he is out to hoodwink the people.

  • "Re Left not winning after so long. The revolutionaries of the Left do not think of success in terms of the traditional politicians who measure success in terms of collecting campaign funds from their big comprador-landlord bosses, deceiving the people, getting elected and serving their personal and family interests, the US and the exploiting classes.
  • "Re special relations of Duterte and pro-US military officers. The real pro-US and rightist character of Duterte is manifest through his fascist brain trust: Lorenzana, Esperon and Año and through his economic and finance brain trust: Dominguez, Pernia and Diokno."

HIGHLIGHTS: President Duterte's 2017 State of the Nation Address (SONA)

From Rappler (Jul): HIGHLIGHTS: President Duterte's 2017 State of the Nation Address (SONA)

Follow Rappler’s live coverage of President Rodrigo Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address on July 24, 2017 at Batasang Pambansa

Gov’t forces call on Maute to surrender

From MindaNews (Jul 24): Gov’t forces call on Maute to surrender

Calls for the ISIS-inspired Maute Gropu to surrender echoed in this city’s conflict zone on Monday.

“Surrender now! The government knows where you are hiding,” said a call aired through loudspeakers which can be heard among the ruins and gutted buildings.

“Your families are waiting for you,” it continued.

Marines patrol a deserted street somewhere in Marawi City. Government forces are engaged in a bitter house-to-house battle with the ISIS-inspired Maute Group and its allies. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

The taped broadcasts were aired in Meranaw, Tausug, Yakan and Maguindanao dialects that are spoken by Filipino Muslims.

The loudspeakers are placed in strategic areas along the battlefront in Marawi City.
Just below the loudspeakers, Philippine Marines officers, unmindful of its noise, bunched together studying a map on a table.

The Marines are receiving reports from the field on the location of the gunmen.

Staring at the map, an officer gave the coordinates to his men who were manning 81mm mortars nearby.

Mortars were then fired at the supposed positions of the militants, a scene that has become familiar in the city in the past two months.

“These loudspeakers are good psychological weapons. They are very effective,” Marine Lt. Col. Bill Pasia said.

“If our mortars are not effective, these loudspeakers are a big help persuading the ISIS-Maute militants to surrender,” he added.

Pasia claimed that a number of militants especially those who were only forced to fight by the militants surrendered after listening for sometime to the broadcasts.
But he could not give the exact number of the rebels who surrendered saying only their intelligence officers knew.

Pasia said the calls aired through loudspeakers costing some P8,000 each, worked during the 2013 Zamboanga standoff.

“A number of the terrorists also surrendered in Zamboanga after listening to the broadcasts,” he said.

He said the broadcasts included instructions on how the militants can surrender without getting shot by government troops.

He said they also have taped broadcasts for civilians trapped inside the city who wanted to get out.

ISIS releases video of militants attacking soldiers in Marawi City

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jul 24): ISIS releases video of militants attacking soldiers in Marawi City

Local ISIS militants, led by Omar Maute, attack army soldiers in the besieged city of Marawi in this screen shot from a video released recently by the Islamic State through its Amaq News. (Mindanao Examiner Photos)
A video clip released recently by ISIS showed one of its local leaders and militants fighting security forces in the besieged city of Marawi in southern Philippines.

The two-minute clip, released by the ISIS-run Amaq News Agency, showed a small group of militants led by Omar Maute, firing at soldiers from a house they occupied in a village at the heart of the city.

Maute and his elder brother Abdullah were previously reported by the military to have died – along with nearly 400 militants – in clashes with army soldiers, although security officials provided no proof of this, except for intelligence information allegedly provided by civilians.

In the video, militants – armed with automatic weapons and sniper rifles, could be seen firing at soldiers, but it was unclear whether there had been casualties in the fighting.

It was unknown whether military officials had seen the video which was released by ISIS website on July 20. But 9 army soldiers were killed and over two dozen others injured in fierce clashes with local ISIS militants in Marawi over the weekend. Officials said the fighting left 26 soldiers wounded. “Just yesterday, 9 soldiers got killed and 26 others were wounded during an intense whole day of fighting in downtown Marawi,” said Army Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command.

Petinglay gave no other details, but at least 100 soldiers have so far died in the battle since May 23 when local militants occupied Marawi, the capital of Lanao del Sur in the Muslim autonomous region. The extremists, whose members are mostly from various jihadist groups, have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and vowed to put up a caliphate in the troubled region.

The military insisted that over 400 militants were also killed in the violence, but officials gave little proof to back up the claims, although dozens of civilians were also slain in the battle that displaced some 200,000 people.

4 soldiers slain by rebels in Mindanao

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jul 24): 4 soldiers slain by rebels in Mindanao

Four government soldiers were killed in separate attacks by communist rebel group New People’s Army in southern Philippines, a spokesman said Monday.

Rigoberto Sanchez said the weekend attacks killed Sergeant Cerilo Galigaw and another unnamed soldier in the village of Caningag in Davao Oriental’s Caraga town. Both soldiers were intelligence operatives who engaged rebels in a firefight to evade capture. Their pistols and cell phones were also seized by rebels, according to Sanchez.

“Sergeant Galigaw’s mission order confirmed his assignment under the Philippine Army’s Military Intelligence Battalion as an agent operating in Regions 10, 11, 12 and 13. The other operative did not have any identification with him,” Sanchez said. “Text messages in Sergeant Galigaw’s cell phone revealed he was on his way to gather tactical information regarding the NPA’s most recent Prisoner of War Alfredo Basabica, Jr., who was arrested in Cateel town last July 11.”

He said the soldiers were intercepted in the village where NPA rebels were meeting with civilians who accused the military of recruiting locals to work as spies for the 67th Infantry Battalion.

Sanchez said 2 Special Forces soldiers were also killed and 9 others injured in rebel attack in Kitubo village in the town of Kitaotao in Bukidnon province. He branded the soldiers’ unit – 2nd Special Forces Company – as “notorious for terrorizing civilians in Kitaotao, especially the Lumad families in the village of White Culaman who were forced to evacuate in 2015 and were never able to return to their farms and communities.”

He also accused the military of violating rights of civilians in the region and criticized President Rodrigo Duterte’s prolonged martial law in Mindanao. “The railroaded extension of martial law in Mindanao will undoubtedly embolden the Armed Forces’ impunity to commit more serious human rights violations against the masses. Already, Duterte is setting the stage for an all-out attack against revolutionary forces, which, in Armed Forces’ parlance is every farmer, Lumad and child in the countryside.”

“On the other hand, it is sure to also intensify the Filipino people’s sentiment against the Duterte regime, particularly the Moro and Lumad people who are bearing the brunt of the state forces’ fascism. Five more months of martial law will spell out intensified armed and legal resistance from the Filipino people,” Sanchez said.

The rebels have been fighting for decades now for the establishment of a Maoist state in the country. Peace talks between the rebels and government stalled after Duterte backed out from the negotiations due to continued attacks by NPA forces on military and police targets in the country.

Cebuano News: Pagbantay sa port areas, mas hugtan pa sa AFP

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 24): Cebuano News: Pagbantay sa port areas, mas hugtan pa sa AFP

Mas hugtan pa karon sa mga otoridad ang pagbantay sa mga port areas sa nasod human sa pagka-aresto sa tulo ka gitohuang miyembro sa Maute terror group sa Iloilo port.

Atol sa Mindanao Hour sa Malakanyang karong adlawa, miingon si AFP Spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla nga base sa ilang initial monitoring, kini ang labing unang insidente nga may nakasulod nga terorista pasulod sa rehiyon sa Visayas.

Matud pa ni Padilla, gipaabot nga mas hugtan pa karon ang pagbantay sa mga pier sa nasod tungod sa posibleng may pipila ka miyembro sa Maute ang naka-ikyas gikan sa kordon sa militar ilabi na sa unang semana sa binakbakay sa syudad sa Marawi.

Sa pagkakaron, giingong padayon pa ang imbestigasyon sa tulo ka suspek kun unsa ka lawom ang koneksyon nila sa mga terorista ug kun unsa ang relasyon nila sa Maute brothers nga nangulo sa Marawi siege.

Butuan soldiers undergo photoshop, mobile photography training

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 24): Butuan soldiers undergo photoshop, mobile photography training

The 4th Civil Military Operations “Kasaligan” (CMO) Battalion, 4th Infantry Division, Philippine Army based here underwent a mobile photography and photoshop training aimed to enhance the personnel’s knowledge and skills on photography and prepare them to perform their task as civil military operators.

Lt. Col. Rico A. Amaro, 4CMO commanding officer, said that it is important for every CMO soldier to learn and develop the skills in photography and photoshop as these can be used in their community activities.

He also added that the coordination between government agencies, LGUs, and stakeholders will be more effective and easier if the soldiers have this kind of skills.

TRADOC to put up research, development arm

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 24): TRADOC to put up research, development arm

Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) is now working on establishing a research and development institute.

“Establishing a research and development institute in TRADOC is part of our goal to expand the educational training of the officers of the Army,” TRADOC Commander Brigadier General Casiano Monilla said.

Aside from physical and field training exercises, Monilla explained that he wants to underscore the importance of research in the Command.

“To further enhance the quality of education and training in TRADOC, there is a need to highlight the importance of research. This institute is a way to practice the Army’s skills in the said field,” he shared.

TRADOC serves as the schooling and training for the Army, which aims to train personnel and develop doctrines in order to professionalize soldiers and provide sound doctrines for the said military service.

“Somehow, in some way, we are part of molding those people we send to battles, particularly those sent to mitigate the Marawi crisis. This [research institute] might be a way for us to improve those we send out,” he noted.

4 sites in R-12 eyed for USAid’s wildlife project

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 24): 4 sites in R-12 eyed for USAid’s wildlife project

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Region 12 has identified four critical landscapes and seascapes in the region as target sites for the implementation of the United States Agency for International Development (USAid)-supported Protect Wildlife Project.

Reynulfo Juan, DENR Region 12 director, said Monday they are pushing for the roll-out of the project at the Mt. Matutum Protected Landscape and Allah Valley Watershed Reservation in South Cotabato and the Sarangani Bay seascape and Busa Mountain Range in Sarangani.

He said the DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) and DENR-12 have already completed the assessment of the potential sites and possible partners for the project’s implementation.

The four sites were identified based on the results of the assessment and the recommendation by the BMB, he said.

On Monday, project stakeholders gathered at a hotel here for a joint consultation and planning workshop with DENR-12 and USAid.

“We’re here to identify and agree on the set of strategies and major activities for the implementation of the project,” Juan said.

The official said the workshop outputs will be used in the preparation of the project’s work plans.

Protect Wildlife, which was launched in March, is a five-year, PHP1.2 billion project that seeks to address biodiversity loss and rampant wildlife trafficking in the Philippines.

Project implementers earlier pushed for its expansion in Sarangani and South Cotabato provinces, which it identified as host to “some of the most biodiverse yet vulnerable natural habitats and species in southern Mindanao.”

USAid and DENR-12 initially gathered representatives from local governments, academe and civil society groups for a workshop to identify various threats to biodiversity in the two provinces, as well as possible solutions.

Among those cited were the need to strengthen wildlife law enforcement, provision of livelihoods to local communities, and roll-out of behavioral change campaigns.

Mt. Matutum, South Cotabato’s highest peak, and the Allah Valley Watershed Reservation are home to various wildlife species, among them the tarsiers, as well as rare flora and fauna.

These areas were known habitats of the Philippine deer, tarsiers, civets, bats, among others.

A portion of Mt. Busa complex is considered a habitat of the Philippine Eagle while sea turtles, dugongs, dolphins and whales had been sighted along the Sarangani Bay seascape.

ARMM grants scholarship to MNLF beneficiaries

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 24): ARMM grants scholarship to MNLF beneficiaries

As promised, the government granted education assistance to more than 1,000 students from the provinces of Maguindanao under a government anti-poverty program, officials on Monday said.

In coordination with the Commission on Higher Education in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (CHED-ARMM), Gov. Mujiv Hataman distributed education to students coming from Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur who were sons and daughters and immediate families of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

The educational program was in compliance with the provisions of the 1996 peace agreement between the government and the MNLF.

The education assistance was one of the programs implemented through the “Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan” (PaMaNa) and Humanitarian Development Action Program-College Education Assistance Program (HDAP-CEAP).

Engr. Dong Anayatin, PaMaNa-AARMM program manager, said more college students are expected to receive similar scholarship grants for the provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Ched-Armm Commissioner Amor Pendaliday said the validation and confirmation of the endorsed beneficiaries from PaMaNa project management office will continue to ensure the deserving students will get the necessary scholarship.

Hataman reminded the students of the importance of education as vehicle for better future of Bangsamoro.

Of the beneficiaries, 1,016 students were under PaMaNa-Armm and 52 students under HDAP program. Each college students received an amount of P20,000 covering two semesters for the year 2017-2018, Anayatin said.

Soldier killed in Quezon province as Reds attack on SONA day

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 24): Soldier killed in Quezon province as Reds attack on SONA day

A soldier was killed during a gunfight early Monday morning between the the Philippine Army (PA) 76th Infantry Battalion and New People’s Army (NPA) at a sub-village of Barangay Cagsiay 2 in Mauban, Quezon.

The firefight began 5:30 a.m. and lasted for 10 minutes forcing rebels to retreat as they brought along their wounded companions.

The pursuing military troops belonging to the Alpha Company of 76th IB found blood stains along the rebels’ escape route after the firefight in Sitio Bantigue, Barangay Cagsiay 2.

Mauban chief of police, Inspector Marianne Costas, identified the fatality as Corporal Angel Joseph dela Cruz.

Last week, the rebels also conducted several harassment in the Calabarzon region comprising Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon.

Last Saturday (July 22), the rebels also burned the barracks and four heavy equipment vehicles of the RTY Construction in Lopez, Quezon around 10:00 p.m.

On Sunday (July 23), the detachment of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Barangay San Antonio in Kalayaan, Laguna was also harassed by rebels with volleys of gunfire in a midnight attack.

Earlier, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the AFP sustained their full alert status following intelligence reports that NPA members will stage series of attacks prior to the State of the Nation Address (SONA) of the President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

Calabarzon Police Regional Office (PRO4A) Regional Director Chief Superintendent Ma O R. Aplasca instructed all provincial directors and chiefs of police to be on full alert and coordinate their actions closely with their AFP counterparts.

Aplasca also instructed to strengthen police and border control operations, conduct check points and place additional perimeter guards and sentinel at all police stations in the regions.

Last week, Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Council (JPSCC) of the AFP's 2nd Infantry Division and PRO CALABARZON met at Camp Vicente Lim to discuss and formulate plans to thwart enemy's plans to attack in the Calabarzon area.

Police arrest Maute man inside Lanao evacuation

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 24): Police arrest Maute man inside Lanao evacuation

Police announced Monday the arrest of a member of the Maute terror group in an evacuation in Saguiaran town in Lanao del Sur on Sunday.

Chief Supt. Reuben Sindac, police director for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (PRO-Armm), said Lala Arafat, 38, was positively identified by evacuees as followers of siblings Omar and Abdullah Maute.

“He was arrested at 5 p.m. Sunday, he did not resist arrest but denied he was a Maute member,” Sindac said in a statement.

The Maute brothers were founders of Dawlah Islamiya or the terror group - the Maute terror group which pledged allegiance to ISIS and seized Marawi City.

Arafat, a resident of Barangay Osmeña, Marawi City, was collared by police while inside an evacuation center in Saguiaran, posing as internally displaced person, getting aid from government and other organizations.

Sindac said the local police was alerted by evacuees who noticed Arafat mingling with them and kept on talking about the Maute group’s stance in the siege.

In his possession were 12 identification cards carrying different names. He was unarmed.

Sindac said charges will be filed against Arafat.

Military greatly encouraged by PRRD's statement of solid support

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 24): Military greatly encouraged by PRRD's statement of solid support

President Rodrigo Duterte's announcement that he is solidly behind the backs of military personnel will greatly encourage every servicemen to do more and carry out their constitutional duties.

This was emphasized by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla when sought for a comment on the Chief Executive's statement during his second state-of-the-nation-address (SONA) that he solidly behind Filipino troops doing their mandated duties especially in Marawi City where soldiers are now engaged in neutralizing remaining Maute Group terrorists.

"With no less than the Commander-in-Chief saying, this is more than a just assurance but a solid guarantee of his support in the fulfillment of our constitutional mandate," he noted.

Padilla also pointed out that this statement of support inspires every soldier all the more to carry out its sworn duties.

President Duterte also said in his SONA speech that he declared Martial Law in Mindanao because he believes it is the fastest way to quell rebellion in Marawi City which was being instigated by Maute Group terrorists.

"Never fear, do your duty, I will stand by you," the Chief Executive said.

The 17th Congress, voting jointly -- 261 as against 18 -- affirmed the need to extend Presidential Proclamation Number 216 extending Martial Law and the suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus until Dec. 31 as initiated by President Rodrigo Duterte.

It was declared in effect in Mindanao after Maute Group terrorists conducted a series of attacks in Marawi City following the botched attempt to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader and ISIS "emir" in Southeast Asia, Isnilon Hapilon, last May 23.

"I am reiterating by support to soldiers and police force. Those who are risking their lives for our country, I have your back," he stressed.

Also, Duterte said he is working to create a more stable nation defense to combat terrorism.

Duterte puts end to talks with Reds

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 24): Duterte puts end to talks with Reds

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday closed the door for the resumption of talks with communist rebels and ordered state forces to gear up for a possible all-out war with the New People’s Army (NPA).

In his State of the Nation Address (SONA), the President slammed the National Democratic Front (NDF) and its armed wing, the NPA, for insincerity in dealing with the government.

“I used to be friends with the NDF. Times have changed because God placed me here. Bully daw ako. Talagang bully ako (I am really a bully) especially to the enemies of the state,” Duterte said.

The President cited the spate of deadly attacks by the NPAs on policemen, particularly on the Presidential Security Group in Arakan, North Cotabato as evidence of the communist rebels hypocrisy.

The President, however, was not in the vehicle at that time.

"Kayong mga Left (To the Left), I will not talk to you. Why should I?" Duterte told a joint session of Congress in a lengthy speech.

The President reiterated this during a press briefing after the SONA.

He said the Communists, uncertain of their policies, still have the gall to accuse him of being a bully.

"I said I am a bully to the enemies of the state. So if you don’t want me, to talk to me, I (also) do not want to talk to you and I do not want you. So ayaw ninyong makipag-usap, mas lalo na ako (If you don't want to talk, much more am I),” Duterte told reporters.

The President expressed disdain to the NPAs for engaging in dirty tactics and accused them of showing no mercy to government forces called upon to render assistance. He was referring to a July 21 incident in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental wherein six police officers, including the city police chief, were killed in an ambush while responding to also to an ambush distress call.

“It is all rues and excuse just to kill them. Kawawa ‘yung mga tao na ‘yan (I pity them) because they went to their deaths with a sense of purpose and that was to respond to an emergency because they were told that," the President said.

The President, who in his first SONA called on the NDF to end decades of fighting through peace talks, said that he is now willing to continue the war against the communist rebels for another 50 years and reciprocate their ruthlessness in like manner.

“So kung ganon, wala ring patawaran tayo. So I am ordering the military and the police, walang patawaran kasi hindi naman tayo pinapatawad (No mercy because they do not show mercy),” Duterte said.

“So this time, you do it to me, do it to my police and to my Army, we will do it to you. So no more talks. They cannot have their cake and eat it too,” Duterte said.

As a counter-measure to the dual threats now posed by both the communist rebels and Islamic militants, the President said that government would start to call for a mobilization of additional 35,000 fighting men.

“I want the Army added by about 20,000 fighting men. Then I will add about another 10- to 15-thousand policemen. But I want them SAF (Special Action Force). And I will also start to re-arm,” he said.

“I really do not know how many will sprout up but we have the ISIS and the NPA. I will build a credible Armed Forces that can fight at all fronts everywhere,” Duterte said.

Troops foil NPA attack in Ilocos Sur

From the Philippine Stars (Jul 24): Troops foil NPA attack in Ilocos Sur

In this photo taken Nov. 23, 2016, members of the New People's Army communist rebels with face painted to conceal their identities, stand in formation during ceremonies before a news conference held at their guerrilla encampment tucked in the harsh wilderness. AP/File photo
Soldiers claimed to have foiled an NPA attack in Ilocos Sur ahead of President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address.
Improvised explosive devices, at least 20 M14 assault rifle bullets, firearm cleaning gears, rebel documents and other personal effects were recovered from fleeing rebels after a 30-minute firefight Saturday morning in Salcedo town in Barangay Sorioan, Salcedo town, said Philippine Army’s 81st Infantry Battalion commander Lt. Col. Julio Osias.

Soldiers launched an operation early Saturday morning when they received a tip about a rebel plan to launch terror in the area.

“NPA rebels who are members of Platoon South Ilocos Sur (were) planning to conduct an attack to disrupt Monday’s SONA by planting an IED in a populated area in synchronization with a rally.” The said rally, the military commander said, was intended to show their dismay to the current administration.

The plan was to set off the IEDs in a populated area “to embarrass the president since President Duterte expressed that he does not want to talk with the National Democratic Front anymore and that he wants to launch military operations against the CPP-NPA-NDF,” added Osias.

At around 9:00 a.m. Saturday, at least 12 rebels fought with advancing troopers resulting into a running gun battle.

At least five soldiers were wounded slightly in Saturday’s firefight. Osias said they were informed by residents that a female rebel was reportedly killed and several others were wounded in Saturday’s initial firefight.

The fight between pursuing soldiers and the fleeing NPAs continues, Osias claimed.

8 rebels surrender in Abra

From the Sun Star-Baguio (Jul 23): 8 rebels surrender in Abra

AN ALLEGED 8 communist rebels in Abra province surrendered to authorities last week, an official said.

Authorities said the alleged rebels are believed to be members of the Sangay Organization under the Militia ng Bayan.

Police Regional Office in Cordillera Director Elmo Francis Sarona, meanwhile, encouraged all remaining members and supporters of the New People’s Army (NPA) to lay down their arms and return to the mainstream of society.

“This is a time for NPAs to embrace the path to peace so that progress and development will be felt from the countryside up to the far flung communities,” Sarona added.

According to the rebels, they decided to voluntarily surrender to the government to live peacefully and to concentrate in their daily works, adding that they will support the plans and programs of the government.

Authorities believed the ranks of Communist Party of the Philippines, National Democratic Front, and New People's Army continuously diminish following the surrender of the eight including a certain Rafael Amorsolo Bautista on July 11.

Sarona said the return of the NPA members is attributed to the massive information campaign and tactical operations conducted by the government.

Benefits will be given to the returnees under the Comprehensive Local Integration Program of the government and incentives for the firearms that will be returned.

Terror groups in PHL: Removing the masks (Part 1)

From Business Mirror (Jul 23): Terror groups in PHL: Removing the masks (Part 1)

In Photo: In this June 9 file photo, debris fly as Philippine Air Force fighter jets bomb suspected locations of Muslim militants as fighting continues in Marawi City. The attack by Islamic State group-affiliated militants on a Philippine city has galvanized its Southeast Asian supporters and spells trouble for the region, a top terrorism researcher said, as the occupation of Marawi City nears two months despite a sustained military counterattack.

Part One

ONLY hours after a failed attempt to get Isnilon Hapilon, the recognized leader of the Islamic State (IS) in Southeast Asia, President Duterte imposed military rule in Mindanao.

The declaration of martial law on May 23 initially baffled Filipinos, since it has put the whole island of Mindanao under its coverage, rather than Marawi City only—the actual and only scene of the fighting.

It was Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana, the designated administrator of the martial rule, who provided the logic behind the Commander in Chief’s adoption of the extreme measure for the whole region down South.

Lorenzana said that, although the fighting—spawned by counterterrorism—is only confined in Marawi City, Duterte has decided to declare martial law all over Mindanao because of the existing security problem in other areas like Sulu, Basilan, in the Zamboanga peninsula, Central Mindanao and Davao region.

Decoding the defense secretary’s statement, he maybe referring to the security problems posed by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Sulu and Basilan, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao and North Cotabato and the New People’s Army (NPA) in Davao provinces.

Lorenzana also revisited Duterte’s constant pronouncements that if ever the latter would impose martial rule in Mindanao, he would finish “once and for all” the island’s security problem.

As the martial-law administrator, Lorenzana subsequently issued two special arrest orders containing the names of more than 200 individuals touted as members or supporters of the Maute-IS Group, the terrorist band that is challenging the government in Marawi.

Purpose defeated

UNLESS a miracle happens until July 23, which was supposed to be the end of the 60-day period of the martial law, the extreme measure adopted for Mindanao will just be a failure, defeating its very basic purpose.

As explained by Lorenzana, the purpose of the martial law and the whole idea behind it was not only to quell or neutralize the Maute-IS Group in Marawi City but should even address or end the security problem posed by other terrorist or threat groups in the region.

By July 23 martial law should have been over with one of its specified tasks accomplished—granting that it has killed or neutralized all members of the Maute-IS and cleared Marawi by that time.

Duterte has asked the House of Representatives to extend military rule for five years. However, Lorenzana said martial law is only called and implemented once special conditions call for it, although the decision still relies on the President.

Nevertheless, he added the soldiers can be relied upon and fully trusted to implement it once it is extended.

High number

SHOULD the government succeed in quelling the challenge put up by the Maute-IS group—and it must—it would still be contending with similar forays by other terrorist groups, if not in the next couple of years, in the distant future, as it has not dealt with them under the martial law.

Aside from the terror groups ASG, BIFF and the NPA—declared and considered politically by the government as terrorist groups—there are almost 20 other terror groups, most of them, if not all, operating or based in Mindanao.

Before the Supreme Court bought the constitutionality of martial rule, Solicitor General Jose C. Calida identified 20 terror groups that have been affiliating themselves with the IS.

Calida was even tempered in his disclosure when he branded these groups as “sleeper cells” of the Arab-based international terrorist group. Sleeper cells are secret group that are dormant but not active.

According to the solicitor general, these groups are the Ansar Dawiah Filibbin; Rajah Solaiman Islamic Movement; Al Harakatul Islamiyah Battalion; Jama’at Ansar Khilafa; Ansharul Khilafah Philippines Battalion; Bangsamoro Justice Movement; Khilafah Islamiyah Mindanao; the Abu Sayyaf Group (Sulu faction); Syuful Khilafa Fi Luzon; and the Ma’Rakah Al-Ansar Battalion.

They also included the Dawla Islamiyyah Cotabato; Dawlat Al Islamiyah Waliyatul Masrik; Ansar Al-Shariyah Battalion; Jamaah Al-Tawhid Wal Jihad Philippines; Abu Dujanah Battalion; Abu Khubayn Battalion; Jundallah Battalion; Abu Sadr Battalion; Jamaah Al Muhajirin Wal Anshor; and the Balik-Islam Group.

But Rommel Banlaoi, an author and expert on counterterrorism issues, said Calida’s list of sleeper cells in the country are actually active terror groups.

“Those groups listed by Solitor General Calida are active groups already,” Banlaoi said during a recent television interview.

Great surprise

FOR those who have not been following counterterrorism issues, Calida’s revelation comes as a great surprise, since the Armed Forces has merely busied itself during the past years containing the threat coming mainly from the BIFF, the ASG, the NPA or even the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

All five groups were principally the focus of the operations of the military. In claiming that sleeper cells are active, Banlaoi, the chairman of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, also said Calida made a “double entry” and may have misbranded a peaceful group as a sleeper cell.

Banlaoi added the Rajah Solaiman Islamic Movement is already inactive, but its members have joined and transformed themselves into what is now known as Syuful Khilafa Fi Luzon.

He also claims that the Balik-Islam Group, whose members are former Christians who have converted into Muslims, is a “moderate” and “peace-loving” group.

Regardless of Calida and Banlaoi’s statements, a security analyst said the government should have maximized the being observed martial rule by running after or neutralizing all terror, lawless and threat groups in Mindanao.

“Remember that President Duterte wanted martial law in Mindanao because, according to him, he wanted to end the security problem there,” said the analyst who requested anonymity for security reasons. “He got the martial law, and so what has been achieved or what is being achieved? Maybe the Maute-ISIS, which is confined in Marawi City.”

“What about the rest of those threat groups, the rest of Mindanao?” the analyst opined.

To be continued

Marawi standoff enters 3rd month, underlining crisis in PH

From ABS-CBN (Jul 23): Marawi standoff enters 3rd month, underlining crisis in PH

President Rodrigo Duterte inspects firearms together with Eduardo Año, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), during his visit at the military camp in Marawi Thursday. Malacanang/Handout via Reuters

Two months after Islamist militants launched an assault on one of the biggest cities in Mindanao, the fighting is dragging on, and President Rodrigo Duterte says he is prepared to wait for a year for it to end.

The defense top brass admits it underestimated its enemy and is struggling to finish off the highly organized, pro-Islamic State fighters who swept through Marawi City on May 23 and have held parts of it despite sustained ground attacks by hundreds of soldiers and daily pummeling by planes and artillery.

On Saturday, lawmakers approved Duterte's request to extend martial law to the end of the year on the island of Mindanao, granting greater powers to security forces to go after extremists with a reach that goes far beyond Marawi.

But it remains unclear how exactly Duterte plans to tackle extremism after troops retake Marawi, where about 70 militants remain holed up in the debris of what was once a flourishing commercial district, along with many civilian hostages.

More than 500 people have been killed, including 45 civilians and 105 government troops. After missing several self-imposed deadlines to re-take the city, the military says its options are limited because of the hostages.

Duterte has said he had asked to military to avoid more civilian casualties.

"I told them 'do not attack'. What's important is we do not want to kill people," he said on Friday. "If we have to wait there for one year, let us wait for one year."

The southern Philippines has been marred for decades by insurgency and banditry. But the intensity of the battle in Marawi and the presence of foreign fighters fighting alongside local militants has raised concerns that the region may be becoming a Southeast Asian hub for Islamic State as it loses ground in Iraq and Syria.

Militants from neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia, both Muslim-majority nations, are fighting in Marawi.

About 5 million Muslims live in the Catholic-majority Philippines, mostly on Mindanao. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana indicated on Saturday that after Marawi, the government would strengthen surveillance in the region, widening the net to detect rebel training camps and movements of militants.

"We need communications equipment, high-tech communications equipment that we can use to monitor cellphones of the enemies. We also need drones," he told Congress.


Security experts say the government needs a strategic overhaul after failing to act on warnings long ago that radical ideology was taking hold in Mindanao, and luring foreign fighters unable to join Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

"Things have changed dramatically ... our country must pursue some paradigm shifts," said analyst and retired police intelligence officer Rodolfo Mendoza.

"We have to counter the spread of terrorism not only by supporting use of intelligence or counter intelligence, but tackling the root causes."

The Marawi assault was planned and executed by a relatively new group, Dawla Islamiya, better known as the Maute Group, which wants recognition from Islamic State as its regional affiliate.

Led by two brothers, the Maute Group want a "Wilayah", or province of Islamic State, in Lanao del Sur province, where it has engaged in fierce, days-long battles with the military since 2016, each time suffering heavy losses before regrouping months later.

The brothers, Abdullah and Omarkhayam Maute, have been joined by Isnilon Hapilon, the anointed Southeast Asian "Emir" of Islamic State and leader of a faction of another Mindanao group, Abu Sayyaf.

The Marawi fighting has been much publicized across militant networks and experts say it could attract more fighters to the region.

"It has inspired young extremists from around the region to want to join," the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict said in a report on Friday, adding the fighting had "lifted the prestige of the Philippine fighters in the eyes of ISIS Central".

Richard Javad Heydarian, a political science professor at Manila's De La Salle University, said the military should seek to neutralize the Maute brothers to buy time to disrupt recruitment and stop fighters regrouping.

Moderate separatist groups from Mindanao should be co-opted to counter the extremist message, he said, while the military should work closer with the United States and Australia, which have provided operational advice and surveillance planes.
The Marawi crisis erupted not because of intelligence failures, but the policy priorities of Duterte, Heydarian added.

He said Duterte, who came to power a year ago, channeled security resources into a war on drugs instead of countering Islamic radicalization in the south, an issue the president himself has himself flagged in the past.

"They were all aware of this. It was just a matter of time," Heydarian said.

PH among 5 countries with highest count of terror attacks: US

Malacañang previously denied that the campaign against terror took a backseat because of Duterte's focus on narcotics.

MORE STORIES: Battle for Marawi

Philippines: 9 soldiers dead in Maute grenade attack

From Anadolu Agency (Jul 23): Philippines: 9 soldiers dead in Maute grenade attack

Military says attack led to intense day-long firefight in downtown Marawi, some 2 months into crisis

Philippines: 9 soldiers dead in Maute grenade attack

At least nine soldiers have been killed and 49 wounded following a grenade attack by Daesh-linked terrorists in Marawi city on the southern island of Mindanao.
Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, told reporters on Sunday that the Maute terrorists moved closer to the government troops and hurled a grenade at them.

Galvez said the Maute attack Friday on state troops triggered an intense day-long firefight in downtown Marawi, leaving nine soldiers dead and 49 wounded. He gave no further details.
As the prolonged crisis in Marawi City entered its 62nd day, the number of fatalities continues to rise.

Citing data sent by Armed Forces of the Philippines public affairs chief Col. Edgar Arevalo, GMA news reported a total of 578 people have died in the conflict.

Of the fatalities, government troops account for 105. Only last Friday, the number of fatalities on the government side was at 99, it said.

As of July 21, a total of 428 members of the terrorist Maute group have been killed. A total of 526 firearms have been recovered by the military.

Arevalo also said the death toll of civilians has remained at 45, while the number of rescued civilians stood at 1,723.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared military rule over the entire island of Mindanao after Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorists laid siege to Marawi on May 23.

A joint session of Congress on Saturday approved the extension of martial law in Mindanao until year's-end, Dec. 31, 2017.

Maute Group wants to seize schools, take kids as hostages – Sotto

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 23): Maute Group wants to seize schools, take kids as hostages – Sotto

Maute Group has allied with 3 other terror groups for attacks in other parts of Mindanao, says senator
The Maute Group has aligned with three other groups to sow terror in Mindanao and had planned to seize schools in Zamboanga areas and Jolo, and take grade school children there as hostages, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said.

Sotto, a reserved Philippine Army officer, said he got the intelligence information from his sources and that he expected the military not to confirm this report.

That was why when President Duterte met with senators along with some congressmen last week to pitch for an extension of martial law in Mindanao, he said he understood the Chief Executive when he told them of the seriousness of the problem of the Maute Group which had taken siege of Marawi City last May 23 and which government forces have been doing battle with to this day.

“The President told us that: “This is no longer a problem of Marawi. We are almost able to contain Marawi but they (Maute) are going to branch out,” Sotto said in a phone interview.

He said that they suspected ISIS has been backing the Maute Group, which has linked up with the Abu Sayyaf, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Maguit Group to make up the group calling itself “Da’wahtul Islamiyah Wailayatul Mastiq” or DIWM. The group is believed to have 1,200 members, according to Sotto.

He called the move of Congress to extend martial law in Mindanao until Dec.31 as a “pre-emptive strike” against the DWIM, which he said could have been surprised by the extension of the proclamation.

Last Saturday (July 22), the Senate and the House voted in a joint session to grant President Duterte’s request for an extension of martial law in Mindanao until Dec.31. The extension was granted, a day after his 60-day martial law proclamation covering the entire Mindanao expired.

The military continues to go after the ISIS-inspired group after taking over some of its strongholds in the now ruined city.

Before he talked to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Sotto had told a radio interview on Sunday, that the plan of Maute and other groups to seize Zamboanga and Jolo schools and take the school children there as hostages were disclosed in “captured documents.”

Sotto also said in the same radio interview that he did not think the local terrorists would go to Luzon and Visayas because an intelligence report said Filipino terrorists who were asked to become suicide bombers refused to do so.

When pressed on the report of the planned seizure of Zamboanga and Jolo schools, the senator said he learned from sources of this plan last week or before the President met with some senators and congressmen in Malacañang.

“They (ISIS -inspired groups) planned to take over schools while the (elementary) students are there. So what will the government do? What should we do if they hold the children hostages?” Sotto said in a phone interview.

“They were targetting elementary students.”

Sotto said the groups were already prepared to execute the plan to hold schoolchildren as hostages but apparently this did not happen.

An incident in Jolo last week somehow confirmed the intelligence reports on terrorists’ plan to mount attacks in Zamboanga City and Jolo, the senator said. Sotto was apparently referring to the July 21 attack when Abu Sayyaf members stormed a sawmill and took two men there as hostages.

Of the DIWM, he said the group members were spread out in Sulu, Basilan, Zamboanga, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and Saranggani.

“They plan to establish a Daesch there, ” Sotto said.

Sotto added that President Duterte had told them he needed P20-25 billion to arm the military and police against the new terror group.

He said Mr. Duterte has asked Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno to look for excess money in the current national budget so he could provide much needed government “arsenal” to fight the well-armed terror group.

“Because of the large number of our enemies, our bullet reserves are depleted. So we need a buffer to beef up our arsenal,” Sotto said.

Still, he said he believed the government would be able to wipe out this group before Dec.31 and therefore, the martial law proclamation could be lifted earlier.

Sen. Grace Poe, meanwhile, said the government should intensify its intelligence as the enemy has been engaged in guerilla-type warfare.

Poe said the government has so far reported that of the 1,200 enemies, 66 have been arrested; 400 have been killed whil 666 have remained unaccounted for.

“They may be in Marawi, they may be in nearby areas and in other parts of Mindanao,” Poe said in a radio interview on Sunday.

Another foreign surveillance plane spotted in Marawi

From GMA News (Jul 23): Another foreign surveillance plane spotted in Marawi

[Video report]

Another foreign surveillance plane was again spotted hovering over Marawi City as the Philippine military continued airstrikes on known Maute group positions.

A report on Balitanghali said the surveillance plane was seen almost at the same time as a Philippine military aircraft dropped bombs into Maute-held areas in the war-torn city.

The report said it was not clear if the surveillance plane belonged to Australia or United States.

Last month, the military confirmed that a US Navy P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft conducted an aerial patrol over Marawi City as part of the country's defense agreements with the US.

Australia had also said it will send surveillance planes to help Philippine troops fight local terrorists in Marawi City.

Aerial assaults continued on Saturday as Congress, in a joint session, tackled President Rodrigo Duterte's request to extend martial law in Mindanao by five months or until December 31.

Voting 261-18, senators and House representatives granted the request.

More than 500 people, mostly militants, have been killed in the ongoing conflict which is now on its 62nd day.

The conflict started after the Maute group attacked the city last May 23, which prompted Duterte's declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

Maute Group leader seen alive, unhurt July 17

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 23): Maute Group leader seen alive, unhurt July 17
Maute brothers

Abdullah (left) and Omarkhayam Maute. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS
Abdullah Maute, one of the leaders of a homegrown terror group that had pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS), is still alive and unhurt despite the daily air and ground assault by government security forces on terror positions in Marawi City.

Agakhan Sharief, known in the province as Bin Laden because of his resemblance to the late al-Qaida leader, told the Inquirer on Saturday that he was able to speak with Abdullah Maute on July 17.

“He is unhurt, but the military already cut off the communication signal inside the battle zone,” Sharief said.

He said mobile phone signal inside the war zone was cut on July 18.

Sharief was able to reach Maute after he was asked to lead efforts to bring out civilians and dead bodies through a peace corridor set up with the help of the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Silent on priest
Sharief said that in his conversation with Abdullah, he did not mention the fate of Fr. Teresito “Chito” Suganob, the vicar general of Marawi City.

Suganob and other hostages were seized in a cathedral as gunmen from the Maute terror group laid siege to Marawi City on May 23.

Sharief also said Isnilon Hapilon, the leader of Abu Sayyaf, managed to escape from Marawi.

“He is already outside Marawi City. He was able to get out last week of May,” he said.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Sunday said that Maute members who would surrender to the government would be accepted and given necessary support by the state even as he stressed that soldiers will strive even harder to end the ongoing crisis.
“With the overwhelming vote of confidence from our legislature and the ardent support of the Filipino people, your defense department will strive even more to deal with the rebellion decisively and expeditiously,” Lorenzana said in a statement.
Surrender terms

Lorenzana, administrator of martial law for Mindanao, said the government would help members of the Maute group who wish to reform to return to normal lives.

“But if you persist in your crooked ways, the Armed Forces and the police will come after you without let up,” Lorenzana said.

The military has listed 105 soldiers and police, 428 militants and 45 civilians killed in the fighting since May 23.

The military also reported that 526 firearms from the enemy had been recovered from the battle zone and 1,723 civilians and hostages had been rescued.

The clashes flared up on May 23 when soldiers and policemen moved to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, the acknowledged head of the IS in Mindanao, who is on the list of the US’ most wanted terrorists.

However, they were met by a big force of gunmen composed of militants from the Maute group, backed by an undetermined number of foreign fighters.

The fighting had displaced at least 400,000 people now staying in shelters or with relatives.

NPAs ambush troopers in Ilocos S.; 5 wounded

From the Manila Bulletin (Jul 22): NPAs ambush troopers in Ilocos S.; 5 wounded

INSURGENCY-FREE — Major General Angelito M. de Leon, commander of the army’s 7th Infantry Division, signs a document reaffirming the status of La Union as insurgency-free at the 2nd Quarter Meeting of the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) of Region 1 at Diego Silang Hall, Capitol, San Fernando City. Looking on are La Union Governor Francisco Emmanuel Ortega, III (left) and Chief Superintendent Charlo Collado, Police Regional Office 1 director. (Freddie G. Lazaro)

 NSURGENCY-FREE — Major General Angelito M. de Leon, commander of the army’s 7th Infantry Division, signs a document reaffirming the status of La Union as insurgency-free at the 2nd Quarter Meeting of the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) of Region 1 at Diego Silang Hall, Capitol, San Fernando City. Looking on are La Union Governor Francisco Emmanuel Ortega, III (left) and Chief Superintendent Charlo Collado, Police Regional Office 1 director. (Freddie G. Lazaro)
The latest skirmish between soldiers and New People’s Army (NPA) rebels broke out yesterday morning in Barangay Sorioan, here, where at least five government troopers were wounded, the police reported.

Senior Superintendent Jovencio Badua, Ilocos Sur Police Provincial Office (PPO) director who rushed to the battle site, said heavily-armed guerrillas ambushed troopers from the army’s 81st Infantry Battalion at 10:15 a.m.
The squad of 10 army soldiers led by 2nd Lieutenant Jade Lyzterdan Gavino came under heavy fire that resulted in the wounding of five troopers, but they returned fire and also inflicted casualties on the rebel side, said Badua who was quoting civilian witnesses.

A running gun battle ensued, prompting Lt. Colonel Eugenio Osias, commanding officer of the 81 IB to send additional forces to Barangay Sorioan.


The encounter in Ilocos Sur comes two days after high-ranking officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Region 1 declared the neighboring province La Union as insurgency-free.
Major General Angelito M. De Leon, the commander of the army’s 7th Infantry Division based in the Ilocos Region, reaffirmed the status of La Union as insurgency-free during the 2nd quarter meeting of the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) in Diego Silang in San Fernando City, La Union.


A couple of days before that in Abra province, still in Northern Luzon, eight NPA guerrillas belonging to the Sangay Organization under the Militia ng Bayan surrendered to the Abra PPO and the army’s 24th Infantry Battalion.
Chief Superintendent Elmo Sarona, regional director of the Cordillera police, said the surrenderers even pledged to support the plans and programs of the government as they laid down their arms.

Likewise, a rebel known as “Ka Belly Joy” and Ka Bibeth” surrendered to the army’s 17th Infantry Battalion based in Masin, Alcala, Cagayan.
Lt. Col. Camilo A. Saddam said he hopes more guerrillas will find it in their hearts to return to the fold of the law and enjoy the benefits and privileges of being a citizen under the duly-elected government.