Sunday, July 30, 2017

Army honors ‘cannoners’ in fight vs BIFF

From  the Philippine News Agency (Jul 31): Army honors ‘cannoners’ in fight vs BIFF

The Army’s 6th Infantry “Kampilan” Division on Monday awarded bronze cross medals to two brave soldiers, one of them a woman, for their fight against Islamic militants in Maguindanao.

The awardees were Privates Kayce Abuan and Jonirick Sultan, both members of the Army’s 6th Field Artillery Battalion (6FAB), and have been promoted one rank higher.

They were actively involved in the artillery and ground offensives against outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao.

Major Rosa Ma. Cristina Rosete-Manuel, executive officer of 6th Field Artillery Battalion, Lt. Col. Edgar Delos Reyes, a senior staff of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, pinned the awards to the soldiers.

During the operation where Abuan and Sultan took turns in feeding artillery to launchers, the Army neutralized 19 BIFF members responsible in the series of harassments against government forces in Mamasapano, Shariff Aguak and Datu Salibo towns, all in Maguindanao.

Manuel said three other artillery personnel, Privates Ronelo Zarsuelo, Jess Mar Diasnes and Regio Nhel Allado, were promoted one rank higher.

All of them belonged to a team manning and operating 105 howitzer cannons.

3 NPA rebels nabbed in Sarangani

From  the Philippine News Agency (Jul 30): 3 NPA rebels nabbed in Sarangani


Army and police personnel arrested Sunday three suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Maasim town, Sarangani Province.

Chief Insp. Canieso Golwingon, Maasim police chief, identified the suspects as Jojo Kolahing alias Bunso, Jasmin Atong Sambra alias Tata, and Raymond Mansia Damon alias Gab, all alleged members of the NPA’s Front 73.

He said the three were arrested in a house at Purok Riverside, Barangay Kablacan at around 2 p.m.

The police official said they earlier received a report regarding the presence of Kolahing at the house of one Lonicito Pason, a resident in the area.

Kolahing, who is facing murder charges in Tacurong City, is included in the list of most wanted persons in Region 12.

Golwingon said the immediately coordinated the matter with the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion and decided to launch the operation.

“The information was positive and we found the suspect along with two other persons there,” he said.

Recovered from the suspects were two hand grenades, a caliber 45 handgun, three handheld radios, a solar, combat shoes and several “subversive documents.”

Golwingon said they are currently determining the possible involvement of the suspects in previous attacks staged by NPA rebels in parts of Sarangani.

He specifically cited the cases of harassment and burning of passenger buses, van and heavy equipment in the municipalities of Maasim, Kiamba and Maitum or Makima area these past several months.

The suspects, who are now detained at the Maasim municipal station lockup, will be charged with violation of Republic Act 10591 for the recovered handgun and explosives.

NPA releases police officer to President Duterte

From  the Philippine News Agency (Jul 30): NPA releases police officer to President Duterte

The New People's Army (NPA) on Friday (July 28) released PO1 Alfredo Basabica Jr. in Baganga, Davao Oriental.

Basabica, 26, was held captive for 17 days.

He was on his way to Davao City when he was captured by the NPA around 4 p.m. on July 11 in Compostela town, Compostela Valley province.

Basabica was met by his parents and his fiancee Princess Dacuycuy, whom he was supposed to marry last Saturday (July 29).

The release came in the midst of the government's termination of the peace talks with the communist group.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier cited various reasons for the termination, including the ambush of members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) and of Police Officers in Negros Oriental. 

However, despite the cessation of peace talks, the Front Committee 25 of the NPA requested to release their Prisoner of War (POW) to President Duterte.

The Office of the Special Assistant to the President of Secretary Christopher Bong Go, facilitated the release of Basabica and even transported the police officer from the area of the release. 

Two days after his release, Basabica was formally presented and turned-over to President Duterte in Davao City. 

Ka Rene of the NPA’s Front 25 said they were scheduled to release Basabica earlier but ongoing military operations prevented them to.

Basabica, according to the release order of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), was released for his acts and conduct while under detention and during investigation. He has been observed to have exhibited remorse for his offenses and has voluntarily desisted from committing further crimes against the people and the revolutionary forces.

AFP now taking steps to curb troop sickness in Marawi

From  the Philippine News Agency (Jul 31): AFP now taking steps to curb troop sickness in Marawi

Steps are now underway to ensure that no additional troops will be sick with dengue, diarrhea and other water-borne diseases while battling Maute Group remnants in Marawi City.

This was the assurance given by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla when asked on what steps the military is doing to prevent these diseases from infecting soldiers deployed in the above-mentioned city.

This includes cleaning and possible fumigation of the quarters being used by troops, he added.

Sanitary conditions in the city has been ideal for various diseases as garbage, human remains and others remain uncollected due to the heavy fighting.

Fighting in the area has been raging since May 23 when government forces made a botched attempt to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader and ISIS "emir" Isnilon Hapilon.

As of this posting, the number of government troops killed in the ongoing operations in Marawi City has been placed at 114 with Maute Group killed at 482.

Civilians executed or killed by the bandits are still placed at 45.

On on the water-borne diseases, Padilla assured the public that sufficient supplies of clean and potable water is being provided to all front-line troops.

But he added that it is possible that soldiers are augmenting this supplies with locally, through wells or stored rain water, hence, the sudden influx of diseases.

Earlier, reports claimed that 25 troops have fallen ill with dengue, diarrhea, and typhoid while battling Maute Group remnants in Marawi City.

DND chief: Maute Group down to '30-40 fighters'

From  the Philippine News Agency (Jul 31): DND chief: Maute Group down to '30-40 fighters'

The number of Maute Group members left in Marawi City is down to about 30 to 40 fighters as government forces continue to track them down relentlessly, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Monday.

"They (Maute Group terrorists) are just a handful; I think they are down to only 30 to 40 fighters but don't discount them as these are good fighters and we are still taking casualties. In fact, we had one killed and nine wounded some three days ago and yesterday (Sunday)... Clearing operations are still ongoing," he added in Filipino.

Lorenzana stressed that ongoing operations, the so-called house-to-house and room-to-room fighting, is very difficult and dangerous.

Troops are doing these tasks very carefully in order to avoid the Maute Group's practice of using hostages as shields to avoid causing needless casualties to civilians.

As of this posting, the number of Maute Group terrorists killed was placed at 491, with 114 government troops slain and 45 civilians executed.

Also recovered were 584 high-powered weapons while some 1,723 civilians were rescued.

Fighting in the area has been raging since May 23, when government forces made a botched attempt to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader and ISIS "emir" Isnilon Hapilon.

MNLF/SG Ustadz Murshi Ibrahim: No Need to Recruit

Posted to the Facebook page of Ustadz Murshi Ibrahim, the Secretary General of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front-Misuari Faction (Jul 30): No Need to Recruit






MNLF-IIO: Beware of Fake Recruiters

Posted to the Moro National Liberation Front-International Information Office Facebook page (Jul 28): Beware of Fake Recruiters

BEWARE of FAKE Recruiter for supposed MNLF Forces. MNLF is NOT recruiting for Marawi.

MILF: “CAB- compliant BBL reflects the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people” – TPMT local member

From the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jul 28): “CAB- compliant BBL reflects the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people” – TPMT local member

The Third-Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) members significantly discussed the transition, a new peace roadmap in the Duterte administration and the activities of the peace panels; it includes BTC work, MNLF convergence, normalization aspects of the peace process, federalism, and concern over the security situations in Marawi as well as socio-economic development in a press conference held in Astoria Plaza, Ortigas, Pasig City on Friday, July 28 during their fourth annual public report presentation.

The report covers the developments in the implementation of the agreements between the Government of the Philippines and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (GPH-MILF).

Dr Rahib Kudto, local TPMT member, and President of the United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD) stressed that there is the need to pass a CAB-compliant BBL that will reflect the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people. He believed that failure to pass a CAB-compliant BBL will not address the clamor for Right to self-determination of the Moros.

Kudto remembered the failure of previous administration to pass the BBL that has deepened the frustration among the people of Mindanao and youths that led to violent extremism.

“They (youth) became attracted to violent extremism, leading to the rise of terrorist groups like the Maute group,” Kudto pointed out.
“Another failure to pass this important legislation (during this current administration) could mean worse for the peace process and the already volatile situation in Mindanao,” he lamented.

Karen Tañada, also a local member of the TPMT, and Chair of Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute however said that with positive development and some threat to peace confronted by the Duterte administration would allow positive and negative effects on the GPH-MILF peace process. “With the positive developments as well as threats, the peace process could be on the verge of a breakthrough, on condition that the twin challenges of completing BBL legislation, and combating violent extremism, can be effectively addressed,” she said.

Although Marawi crisis happened, Tañada said that the TPMT remains confident that peace can be attained.

“As the fighting subsides, it should be clear that a comprehensive approach that addresses the Bangsamoro aspirations by installing a Bangsamoro government exercising the fullest autonomy is the path to sustainable peace,” she pointed out.

The TPMT was formally established in 2013 as part of the peace process between the Philippine government and the MILF as provided for in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) signed on 15 October 2012.

The TMPT is supposed to have at least five members (two nominated by the GPH, two by the MILF, and a jointly-nominated Chair). Currently, there are four members: the local members are Tañada and Kudto, the international member is Huseyin Oruc (IHH) and the Chair is Alistair MacDonald (former EU Ambassador to the Philippines, now retired). Former international member Steven Rood (The Asia Foundation) left the TPMT in February 2017, and the Government Panel has yet to nominate his replacement (to be agreed by the MILF).

MILF: BBL is anti-dote to violent extremism in the South: Third Party Monitoring Team

From the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jul 28): BBL is anti-dote to violent extremism in the South: Third Party Monitoring Team

The Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT), an independent body mandated to monitor, review and assess the peace deals signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), cited the importance of passing the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which could be an anti-dote to the growing violent extremism in Southern Philippines.

During its 4th Annual Public Report on Friday (July 28) held at Astorias Plaza Hotel in Ortigas, TPMT international member Huseyin Oruc said passing the BBL “is very important.”

The BBL is the legal instrument that will pave the way for the establishment of the Bangsamoro government as stipulated in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by the government and MILF in 2014.

Local TPMT member Rahib Kudto said the non-passage of BBL will just deepen the frustration of the Bangsamoro people and may drive Muslim youth to join extremists like the Maute Group that sowed havoc in Marawi.

“Failure to pass the CAB-compliant BBL may worsen the already volatile situation in Southern Philippines,” Kudto said and added that the proposed legislation will bring realization to the aspiration of the Bangsamoro people for genuine peace and development.

Despite the failure of the 16th Congress under the previous administration, the monitoring body has expressed optimism that the BBL will be passed given that President Rodrigo Duterte has already committed to bring peace to Mindanao.

The Duterte administration has laid down two tracks in addressing the Bangsamoro issue, the passage of the BBL and shifting the form of government from unitary to federalism.

“The period of transition from the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III to that of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has seen some continuity but also change in the roadmap for implementation of the CAB,” Oruc said.

Karen Tañada, another local TPMT member, hoped that challenges in passing the BBL will be hurdled, like the issue on the constitutionality of the provisions of the proposed Bangsamoro law.

She said whether the provisions of the BBL is constitutional or not will depend upon the thinking of the legislators and soon the members of the Supreme Court.

Tañada added that with the passage of the BBL, the normalization process which is part of the implementation of the peace agreement will go on smoothly.

CPP/NPA-Comval: In exercise of political authority amid Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao, NPA releases Prisoner of War

NPA-Comval Davao East Coast propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Website (Jul 28): In exercise of political authority amid Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao, NPA releases Prisoner of War

Roel Agustin II, Spokesperson
NPA-Comval Davao East Coast

28 July 2017

The ComVal-Davao East Coast Sub-Regional Operations Command of the NPA in Southern Mindanao today released Prisoner of War PO1 Alfredo S. Basabica, Jr. in Sitio Tigbawan, Brgy. Binondo, Baganga, Davao Oriental.

In the midst of martial rule in Mindanao by the puppet regime of GRP Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, Red fighters are able to exercise the political authority of the People’s Democratic Government in undertaking the release with the assistance and support of the masses, well-meaning peace advocacy groups and allies in the region.

In contrast, the 67IB and 66IB of the Philippine Army have failed miserably to weaken the NPA and the revolutionary government as the fascist AFP troops wreaked havoc and mayhem in the countryside.

POW Basabica was arrested at an NPA mobile checkpoint in Km. 26, Brgy. Panansalan, Compostela town, at around 4:15 pm on July 11. The order for POW Basabica’s release was issued by the National Democratic Front in SMR which effectively deferred judicial proceedings against POW Basabica’s possible involvement in anti-people and anti-revolutionary activities. His police unit, stationed in Brgy. Aliwagwag in Cateel, was also investigated for mercenary activities at the behest of the corrupt local and provincial government units, human rights violations against civilians, involvement in the drug trade, and other crimes against the people and the revolutionary movement.

A few days before his release, the NPA custodial unit released a short video of POW Basabica. In it, he appealed to GRP Pres. Duterte to facilitate his safe release by ordering the suspension of military and police offensives. He also assured his family of his well-being and that he is being treated leniently by the NPA.

POW Basabica’s legitimate arrest, lenient treatment while in detention and safe and orderly release today underscore the stark contrast between the GRP’s fascist armed forces and the NPA. While the US-Duterte regime has practically ordered genocide against the Lumad, peasants and the urban poor, the NPA continues to adhere to international humanitarian laws and show its mettle as the true people’s army, beloved by the poor and oppressed.

A fascist dictatorship will only strengthen the NPA, intensify revolutionary fervor from the Lumad, Christians and Muslims alike and force the people to rise up against the Duterte government as they have done so with previous US puppet regimes.

CPP/Sine Proletaryo: Video: Kaugnay sa Deklarasyon ni Duterte na isusunod ang NPA sa Maute at Gera sa Marawi

Sine Proletaryo propaganda video posted the Communist Party of the Philippines Website (Jul 30): SineProletaryo: Kaugnay sa Deklarasyon ni Duterte na isusunod ang NPA sa Maute at Gera sa Marawi

Malem Mabini on Duterte's targeting NPA and on Marawi siege

US wants to return three Balangiga bells

From the Daily Tribune (Jul 29): US wants to return three Balangiga bells

The United States Ambassador to the Philippines on Thursday said the US government is willing to return all three Balangiga bells to the Philippines as it tries to reach an early resolution.

“What I can tell you is that we would like to reach a resolution on all three bells,” said Ambassador Sung Kim during the turnover ceremony of two new Cessna 208B aircraft to the Philippine Air Force.

“We know that it is a matter of great importance to the Filipino people, and if all possible we would like to return all three bells to the Philippines as soon as possible,” he said.

The envoy, who was present during President Rodrigo Duterte’s Second State of the Nation Address (Sona) where the issue of the bells’ possession was raised, acknowledged the Filipino leader’s “deep” sentiments about the issue.

While this was being said, Kim said “efforts have already started,” and that the US will continue to cooperate with the Philippine authorities and the people involved in the Balangiga Bells.

Kim said just as these bells have significant meaning to Filipinos, their veterans also put significant meaning to the bells.

“We just want to work with the local officials involved in Wyoming, with our military and other stakeholders to reach a solution that’s satisfactory to all parties, but there is no question that we want a reach a resolution,” he said.

The bells were taken from the Balangiga church by the American troops as a war booty from the “Balangiga Massacre,” a prominent title similarly used by both countries to depict two different points of history.

One of the bells have been in the hands of the 9th Infantry Regiment at Camp Cloud, South Korea while the remaining bells are in a former base of the 11th Infantry Regiment at F. E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenee, Wyoming, USA.

During a press conference, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said this issue is being taken as a priority.

“Anything that the President says is a priority. (On Tuesday), I already asked for a study. Some congressmen are volunteering where it is. And I’m sure that many people in the US government will work with us toward recovering these, and (the help) will be a good gesture and symbol,” he said.

China welcomes RP troops training

From the Daily Tribune (Jul 30): China welcomes RP troops training

Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua to Manila on Friday said the Philippines can send soldiers to China for training exercises, but he noted the legal limitation on having joint military exercises in the Philippines without forging a comprehensive agreement,

“Terrorism is the common enemy both China and the Philippines are facing, and we would like to have intelligence sharing and joint training, but as for military exercises, we are working on it but it might come later because you have legal limits,” he said during an interview at the 90th Anniversary of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) celebration in Makati Shangri-La.

“Without agreement in this regard, we cannot conduct joint military exercises in the Philippines, but if the military of the Philippines would like to send troops to conduct training exercises in China, they are most welcome,” he added.

President Duterte expressed openness in having joint military exercises with China in Mindanao as one way to quell terrorism and extremism in the region. This comes as the two countries enter a period of developing warm bilateral relationship despite maritime dispute in the South China Sea.

Present during the PLA event, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said there is positive prospect on joint military training with the Chinese since both sides have already forged a military-to-military agreement on exchanges of students.

He said, however, the two sides have not yet reached talks on having agreements that extend to bigger forces. “Later on, as we go along, we can also develop the mechanism that we can exercise... but that would be in the future.”

Earlier, he explained that an agreement or memorandum is necessary for such activity to determine who will participate, what is the purpose of the undertaking and where the exercises will be held.
“This is important because they will be entering our territorial waters. And if their sailors will get on land, there may be a need for a visiting forces agreement to be concurred by the Senate,” he said.

When asked of his expectations given the recent turnover of Chinese military equipment to the Philippines, Lorenzana said “in the future, maybe we can acquire some more bigger equipment like planes maybe, or drones or ship or fast boats, and that will be good for our defense, for the protection of our land.”

Officials from the Joint United States Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG), meanwhile, delivered at least 1,000 weapons to the Philippine Air Force (PAF) through the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) amid ongoing clashes between government forces and Islamic States-inspired terrorists in Marawi City.

According to United States Embassy in Manila, 1,040 2.75” rocket motors and 992 2.75? rockets were delivered following Washington’s recent turnover of two Cessna planes to the Philippines on Thursday.

“These timely transfers greatly enhance the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) counterterrorism efforts. They are part of a series of upcoming transfers from the US military to multiple branches of the AFP through both MLSA and the security assistance program,” said the embassy in a statement.
“Through the MLSA, the AFP is able to receive select munitions and equipment from US military stock in an accelerated process reserved for allies and close partners of the United States,” it added.

The US said the munitions and weapons deliveries will enhance the AFP’s counterterrorism capabilities and directly support AFP members actively engaged in counterterrorism operations in the southern Philippines, including Marawi.  

Upcoming weapons deliveries include 250 rocket-propelled grenade launchers and 1,000 M203 grenade launchers to the AFP through the security assistance program.

The embassy vowed that as “a proud and steadfast ally of the Philippines” they will continue to provide support to the AFP’s long-term modernization goals and counterterrorism needs.

During the turnover ceremony of two Cessna planes in Pasay City, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said closer cooperation with Washington in terms of anti-terrorism is expected.

“More participation in the Philippines and United States cooperation in general, not in particular in Marawi City,” he said.

“It has been the topic for the last 30 years and they have taken note we are sensitive about operating on our own land so they will not do it unless we request it and I haven’t heard, and I cannot answer if there is a request from foreign troops to operate in our land because I’m not part of the group that makes decision,” he explained.

“Technical support is different from having Americans doing the work,” he added.

Asian security execs fear spread of IS threat

From the Daily Tribune (Jul 30): Asian security execs fear spread of IS threat

Security officials in the region have expressed fears during a forum yesterday that the Marawi City siege of Islamic State (IS)-inspired militants will be the precursor of a region-wide terror crisis.

Australia’s Attorney-General George Brandis warned the fighting in Marawi City which has entered its third month poses an immediate threat to the Asian region including Australia and specifically Indonesia during a forum on foreign terrorist fighters returning to the region held in Manado, North Sulawesi.

“The collapse of the IS (Islamic State) caliphate as we achieve victory in that civil war in the Middle East throws up a new range of problems,” Brandis said.

He said the problem he was reffering in particular was about foreign jihadists seeking to rebase themselves “elsewhere in the world, including in this region.”

Indonesia and Australia co-hosted the counter-terrorism forum. The one-day gathering brings together six countries including Malaysia, Philippines and New Zealand.

Ministers discussed the challenges posed by growing terrorism in Southeast Asia as well as concerns that IS is trying establish a regional caliphate in the Philippines,where government forces are pitted against Islamist gunmen holed up in Marawi City.

“I am hopeful that this meeting will produce a valuable outcome so together we could fight terrorism, especially in Marawi, Southern Phillipines,” Indonesia’s chief security minister Wiranto said ahead of the event.

The final communique issued by the six countries stated “grave concern” at the growing threat of radicalism and violent extremism and also noted “rapidly evolving” threats facing the region.

The officials of the six countries also agreed to enhance law enforcement cooperation and intelligence sharing.

“Ministers discussed the rapidly evolving threats facing the region, and agreed that it is vital to respond collectively in a manner that is coordinated, strategic and pursued at all levels of government together with private actors and civil society,” according to the final communique.

“The conflict in Marawi reminds us in the most immediate possible way of the urgency and the proximity of the threat that is faced by all of us,” Brandis said.

Continuing dialog urged

During the summit the nations agreed to a law enforcement dialog led by the Australian Federal Police and Indonesian police, to discuss the threat of the IS group and to establish what would be known as a Foreign Terrorist Fighters Strategic Forum, to enhance information sharing among police and intelligence agencies, according to Australian broadcast outfit ABC.

That forum would also build on and establish databases to help track terrorists, it added.

They also agreed to a roundtable on the management of terrorist prisoners and to study each nation’s counter-terrorism laws, it said.

“I think Australians understand that we are threatened just as our regional partners are threatened and I think we all understand that this threat is best thwarted if we work collaboratively together,” Brandis said.

The final communique also commits to greater collaboration between the six nations border control agencies and strengthening cooperation between financial intelligence units. Indonesia’s Security Minister Wiranto described terrorism as a threat to humanity.

“Not one country in the world is free from the threat of terrorism, and we must face the threat together,” he said.

Still locked in battle

Fighting in Marawi City erupted after government troops made a botched attempt to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader and ISIS “emir” in Southeast Asia Isnilon Hapilon last May 23.

The military reported between at least 109 government troops were killed while 453 Maute Group terrorists were neutralized during the more than two months of battle. It also counted 45 civilians have been killed or executed.

In the more than two months battle, 900 troops were reported wounded.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he wanted government forces to conclusively defeat the lawless band so that rehabilitation of Marawi City can proceed full speed.

“We would like to start the rehabilitation of Marawi City so that’s why we want also the conflict to end soon,” he added.

Lorenzana said what happened in Marawi City was not a failure of intelligence but a failure to appreciate intelligence.

4 alleged BIFF members killed in Maguindanao clashes

From ABS-CBN (Jul 30): 4 alleged BIFF members killed in Maguindanao clashes

MAGUINDANAO - Four alleged members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) were killed in clashes with government troops in the towns of Rajah Buayan and Mamasapano on Saturday, according to the military.

Lt. Col. Edgar Catu of the Philippine Army's 40th Infantry Batalion said they were conducting combat clearing operations against the BIFF when the encounter happened.

The operation was launched following a roadside bombing in Barangay Pidsandawan, in the town of Rajah Buayan on Friday morning, which wounded 9 soldiers.

According to the military, the soldiers were on board a military vehicle en route from Barangay Bakaj to Barangay Zapakan when an improvised explosive device went off on the side of the road.
Meanwhile, BIFF spokesman Abu Misry Mama denied the reports that they sustained 4 casualties in clashes with the military.

Military validating reports of Maute leader's death

From ABS-CBN (Jul 30): Military validating reports of Maute leader's death

MARAWI CITY - The military is looking into reports that Abdullah, one of the Maute brothers leading the siege in Marawi, has been killed, the spokespersons of Joint Task Force Marawi said on Sunday.

"There are reports about these commanders but we're still confirming as to where specifically he is," said Captain Jo-Ann Petinglay, spokesperson of Joint Task Force Marawi.

Last month, the military said there was a "strong indication" that Abudullah's brother Omar was already dead, but was not able to provide any proof of this.
READ: Omar Maute likely dead, AFP chief says

Reports of Abdullah's possible death first reached the military two weeks ago, Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera, spokesperson of Joint Task Force Marawi, said in a press conference in Marawi City.

Petinglay said they are also validating reports that the terrorists have strapped bombs to their hostages and are planning to use them as suicide bombers to further wreak havoc in the war-torn city.

"Wala pa naman tayong incident with that, but then hindi po natin ipinasasaalang-alang 'yung ganung impormasyon because its very possible," she said adding that the terrorists are very desperate.

Lt Gen Carlito Galvez Jr., commander of the Western Mindanao Command, said the Maute group was down to just 60-70 fighters and were holding about 80 hostages.

"We need to really ensure the safety of hostages because we treasure the hostages' lives as much as we treasure ours," Galvez said.

Photo: Counter-terrorism

From The Standard (Jul 30): Photo: Counter-terrorism

National Defense Adviser Hermogenes Esperon (left) shakes hands Friday with Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto (right) before the one-day meeting on counter-terrorism in Manado, Sulawesi among Malaysia, Philippines, Brunei, New Zealand, Indonesia and Australiua.

Duterte calls Reds 'extortionists'

From The Standard (Jul 30): Duterte calls Reds 'extortionists'

The communist New People's Army has deteriorated from mere “ideologues” to “extortionists,” Malacañang said on Saturday as it hits back against Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison, who the Palace said seemed to be out of touch with his people on the ground.

“Mr. Sison’s remarks only highlight his apparent disconnect with their men and women on the ground who seem to have deteriorated from ideologues to plain criminals and extortionists,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said.

The Palace official noted that many of the communist cadres were left to die in the mountains while Sison was living a “soft life” in Europe.

“It is unfortunate he needs to be coaxed to return to his homeland, while his wounded comrades in the mountains in the Philippines are left dying only for our soldiers to rescue and accord medical care,” said Abella.

“Mr. Sison apparently took to the soft life in Europe leaving his comrades to fend for themselves. No wonder they are only too eager now to demand their unearned portions,” he added.

Sison, who had gone on self-exile to The Netherlands after the 1986 People Power uprising, reiterated that the “taxes collected by the revolutionary movement remains in the Philippines for the benefit of the Filipino people and revolutionary forces.”

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella

“The worst that the reactionary government does with its tax collection is to feed the corruption of the government officials, to finance the military, police and paramilitary for controlling and suppressing the people, to enter into lopsided agreements and contracts with foreign countries and corporations at the expense of the Filipino people and to pay for the most fraudulent and onerous foreign loans,” he said.

On Friday, the word war between him and President Rodrigo Duterte continued as they trade barbs against each other on Friday, with the President daring the Netherlands-based rebel leader to return to the country and fight his war.

Sison, however, lashed back at Duterte, saying that if the revolutionary movement “deems [his return] necessary,” he will do so “to fight the Duterte puppet regime of US imperialism.”

Irked by the continued collection of revolutionary tax by the New People’s Army, the President last Thursday night said he is directing the Armed Forces and the police not to use the word “revolutionary tax,” saying that it is clearly extortion.

“That is not a proper word for us to adopt. Kasi ang gobyerno na ito, may taxation. So, huwag ninyong tapatan ng revolutionary tax,” Duterte said.

“Use the word “extortion,” “hold-upper,” or “kidnapper,” the President added, warning that he will file cases against them based on the Revised Penal Code.

PH open to war games with Chinese People's Army

From The Standard (Jul 30): PH open to war games with Chinese People's Army

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana admitted on Saturday that the country’s Armed Forces can learn a lot from the Chinese’s People’s Liberation Army.

Lorenzana made the statement after Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua said in an interview that China want to hold military exercises through a military treaty like what the Philippines have with the United States for the last 50 years.

“For military exercises, we are working on it but it might come later because you have legal limits,” Zhao said.

“Without agreement in this regard, we cannot conduct military exercises in the Philippines but if the Philippines would like to send troops to conduct training exercises in China they are most welcome,” the Chinese envoy added.

The Filipino have a 50-year mutual defense agreement with Americans where either one country will come to the other’s assistance if attacked.

Lorenzana agreed with the idea and said that the AFP should learn from China’s PLA, which started from nothing until they have improved their defense capabilities.

“I just watched the video carefully, I’ve noticed that from 1924 up to now the Development of PLA has been going steadily, going up, and maybe from a poorly equipped army in 1924 when they were just guérillas, now they are very modern army so we admire their progress to what it is now,” Lorenzana said.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana

He also expressed admiration on how China was able to modernize their defense capabilities.

“They just make do with what they have and then pile up the achievement and now they have modern equipment, and that we are going to do also is to start from the basic and maybe we can pile up,” he added.

Lorenzana said he plans to ask China and other countries to help upgrade the country’s defense capabilities.

“We can also bring up our defense industry into a level that can protect us,” he said.

When asked if a treaty with China violates the standing agreement with the US, Lorenzana said no.

“Hindi naman [Not really]. Remember that US and China also have a RIMPAC [Rim of the Pacific] exercise,” the Defense chief said.

He said that it is possible that both countries may enter into an agreement, because there is a “mil-to-mil (military-to-military) agreement on exchanges with military students.

“Malaki kasi meron na tayong mil-to-mil agreement on exchanges ng mga students muna, wala pang malalaking pwersa, but later on as we go along we can also develop the mechanism that we can exercise there (in China) at pwede rin sila dito, but that would be in the future,” he said.

Lorenzana is also eyeing to acquire more bigger military hardware such as “planes, drones or shop, or drastic boats,” to protect the country.

Zhao, for his part, reiterated China’s support to the Philippines’ fight against terrorism.

“China supports Philippines' efforts in fight against terrorism and we’ve delivered some equipment and of course terrorism is the common enemy both China and the Philippines are facing, and we would like to have intelligence sharing and joint training,” he said.

Rody proposes new security law in wake of attacks

From The Standard (Jul 30): Rody proposes new security law in wake of attacks

THE Philippines plans to pass a National Security Act, similar to what other neighboring countries like Malaysia and Singapore have, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Saturday.

This emerged after President Rodrigo Duterte asked Congress to pass a national security code amid continued attacks by communist rebels.

“Maybe he meant [a] National Security Act similar to what the Malaysians or Singaporeans have,” Lorenzana said in a text message, replying to questions to clarify the President’s pronouncements last Thursday.

But he admitted he had yet to hear what the President said during his visit to killed-in-action soldiers at Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental.

In a media interview, Duterte said he would ask Congress to pass a “national security code” and warned in the same breath communist rebels to stop their extortion activities.

“I am going to ask Congress to pass a national security code. The only ones frightened by this are the enemies of the state,” the President said, referring to the leftists.

President Rodrigo Duterte

Malaysia’s National Security Act, which came into force in 2006, allows search and arrests without warrants, property seizures and bans on demonstrations.

The legislation allows a National Security Council headed by Prime Minister Najib Razak to essentially suspend civil liberties in designated “security areas,” giving security forces sweeping powers of search, seizure and arrest.

Meanwhile, Singapore’s Internal Security Act enacted in 1960 grants the executive power to enforce preventive detention, prevent subversion, suppress organized violence against persons and property, and do other things incidental to Singapore’s internal security.

The ISA also empowers the authorities to prohibit political and quasi-military organizations, ban subversive documents and publications, shut down entertainments and exhibitions that are or are likely to be detrimental to the national interest, and to suppress organized violence by declaring parts of Singapore to be security areas.

The Palace has yet to respond to calls for clarifications on the President’s pronouncements.

While the Philippines has enacted Republic Act No. 9372, or the Human Security Act of 2007, which is the primary anti-terrorism law that aims at tackling militants in southern Philippines—it does not directly address threats posed by communist rebels.

Another law, Republic Act No. 7636, repealed another law, Republic Act 1700 or the Anti-Subversion Act.

During the Arroyo administration, several proposals were made to resurrect the Anti-Subversion Law in an effort to end the communist insurgency.

But critics then insisted it had since been supplanted by the Human Security Act and other laws that already provided adequate protection to the State against threat groups.

Following the fall of the peace talks, Duterte told the military to be “unforgiving” to the communist rebels amid their attacks against government forces.

“I’m ordering the military and the police, no forgiveness for the communists since they keep attacking us,” Duterte told a press conference after his second State of the Nation Address at the Batasang Pambansa Monday.

Battle zone reduced to 2 barangays

From The Standard (Jul 30): Battle zone reduced to 2 barangays

THE military and Islamic State-inspired extremists are battling it out for the last two barangays in the already three-month Marawi siege, military officials said Saturday, as displaced residents affected by the infighting may already return to their homes from evacuation centers.

“I am happy to inform the body that our operations in Marawi continue to date and positively progressive. The area of operation is confined to about two barangays or, to be exact, about two and a half barangays and confined to about less than one square kilometer of the most problematic areas,” Armed Forces spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said.

Some areas near Marawi City and around Lake Lanao have been declared as “safe zones,” Padilla said, allowing some residents from those areas to leave the evacuation centers and return to their communities.

But Padilla clarified the areas now classified as “safe areas” were far from the battle zone in Marawi City.

But those who want to return home would still need to secure a safe conduct pass after a screening process, to confirm their identities, adding returning residents would be escorted to ensure their safety.

The military spokesperson also gave assurances they were doing their best to immediately finish off the siege as the battle moves to its 68th day.

In related developments:

• The U.S. embassy in Manila said Saturday it had delivered 1,040 rocket motors with sizes of 2.75” and 992 2.75” rockets to the Philippine Air Force through America and Filipino Mutual Logistics Support Agreement and the security assistance program,” the embassy said in a statement.

The equipment delivery was made despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s failure to mention in his State of the Nation Address on Monday the help of his American allies in the current firefight between the government forces and the Maute rebel groups in Marawi City for two months now.

• Malacañang also thanked the United States after it donated two brand new Cessna—208 B Grand Caravan aircraft—expected to boost the fight against terrorism in Mindanao.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the move reaffirmed the “strong” military alliance between the two countries, even as the relationship got strained because of President Duterte’s inflammatory remarks against the Western power.

IN WAR ZONE. This handout from the Western Mindanao Command, taken and released Saturday, shows boxer Manny Pacquiao (center, a reservist in uniform with the rank of lieutenant colonel) talking to members of media during a visit to a military camp in Marawi City. AFP

“These aircraft would bolster the capability and readiness of our Air Force to help address terrorism and support our intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations,” Abella, currently in the United States, said.

• From another front, Senator Emmanuel Pacquiao visited government troops in Camp Ranao Saturday, three days before he sent five of his Senate staff to distribute more than 3,000 packs of relief items to government troops there.

“I salute you for your bravery. I came here to express the support of the legislature for your campaign,” said Pacquiao, an Army reservist.

Pacquiao claimed he was not scared amidst gunbursts from the distance, saying “I grew up in a conflict area in Sarangani.”

As of July 27, 471 terrorists got killed while firearms recovered had been 576.

The number of civilians killed is 45 while those rescued is 1,723.

Padilla said all troops were in “a very high state of morale” and were all leaning forward to finish this operation soonest.

“Despite the number of casualties and wounded...this does not deter the troops and our ground commanders from pursuing the mission and accomplishing the much-needed liberation of Marawi,” he said.

In his Sona, Duterte devot6ed time to praise his new ally, the Chinese government, for granting the Philippines billions of loans to support the country’s infrastructure, agriculture, fishery, among others, with minimal interest of payment.

Through the MLSA, the AFP is able to receive select munitions and equipment from US military stock in an accelerated process reserved for allies and close partners of the United States.

“The munitions and weapons deliveries will enhance the AFP’s counter-terrorism capabilities, and directly support AFP members actively engaged in counter-terrorism operations in the southern Philippines, including Marawi,” the embassy stated.

The US government is also set to deliver another weapons, which includes 250 rocket-propelled grenade launchers and 1,000 M203 grenade launchers.

The US government will deliver those weapons to the Philippine Army through the security assistance program.

“The United States is a proud and steadfast ally of the Philippines and will continue to provide support to the AFP’s long-term modernization goals and counterterrorism needs,” the embassy said.

When Duterte assumed office, he declared his independent foreign policy, shifting Manila’s alliance from Washington, the country’s 70-year-old ally, to Beijing and Moscow.

But as soon as Donald Trump was seen as taking political power in the November 2016 elections, Duterte appeared to have toned down his scorn against Washington.

US Ambassador Sung Kim admitted that last year’s was a tough period for both countries but relationship had improved “dramatically” under his watch, or for the last six or seven months.

In June, the Philippine government requested the American forces to help the AFP to crush the Maute group and Abu Sayaff Group by deploying American special operation forces, and donating weapons for the country’s effort of counter-terrorism.

On Friday, the US embassy, through Sung, turned over P1.67 billion worth of two new Cessna 208B aircraft.

The P1.6 billion worth two aircraft will enhance the PAF’s counter-terrorism capabilities, and help protect AFP members actively engaged in counter-terrorism operations in the Southern Philippines, particularly in Marawi City.

Equipped with advanced sensors, cameras and communications equipment, these aircraft will significantly enhance the ability of the AFP to locate terrorist groups operating in Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago, the US said.

The PAF’s 300th Air Intelligence and Security Group, based out of Edwin Andrews Air Base in Zamboanga, will operate the two new C-208B aircraft.

300 AISG is the leading unit for air intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance operations for the AFP.

The deliveries had been the latest donation from the United States government, which over the last five years had allocated more than P15 billion of grant funding to provide the AFP with up-to-date equipment and training.

The equipment transfers, training, and continued bilateral exercises demonstrate the commitment of the United States to work with the Philippines in building capabilities towards eradicating global terror networks, military analysts said.

The United States, as a steadfast ally of the Philippines, continues to provide support to the AFP through both grant assistance and expedited sales of arms and munitions to support both long-term AFP modernization goals and urgent counterterrorism requirements.

For his part, Senator JV Ejercito sought the creation of an ad hoc committee tasked to oversee the rehabilitation of the Marawi City and other areas affected by the fighting.

“Considering the gravity of the destruction brought about by the Marawi crisis, there is a need for the creation of an ad hoc committee which shall exercise jurisdiction over all matters directly and principally relating to the construction and rehabilitation of Marawi City and other affected areas,” Ejercito said in his Senate Resolution No. 428.

He said the crisis had forced some 389,300 residents to flee their homes and sought temporary shelters in evacuation centers in nearby provinces.

“The continued crisis has left the city with ravaged and shattered buildings, houses, public infrastructures and utilities,” he said.

Senator Loren Legarda herself wants the Senate to inquire into the rehabilitation of war-torn Marawi City.

Under her proposed Senate Resolution No. 439, Legarda directed the Senate Committee on Finance to look into the recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation plans of Task Force Bangon Marawi for Marawi City and all other areas affected by the ongoing armed conflict between government forces and the Maute group.

President Duterte, through Administrative Order No. 3, has established “Task Force Bangon Marawi” to facilitate the recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts in Marawi City and all other localities affected by the current conflict in the area.

“We must restore hope, dignity and peace in Marawi City and other affected areas. Much more needs to be done to provide basic necessities to families affected by the crisis,” said Legarda.

“We must ensure that in addition to immediate aid, they also have access to emergency employment and livelihood assistance even as the conflict continues,” she added.

She said the fighting in Marawi City between the AFP and the Maute group, which started on May 23, 2017, had led to widespread destruction of critical public infrastructure and facilities and private property.

The latest report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on the conflict in Marawi City estimates that the number of internally displaced persons has reached 351,168, with the number of IDPs staying at evacuation centers at 17,389 and the number of IDPs living with family/friends at 333,779.

“Rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in Marawi and neighboring areas should include in its coverage not only public infrastructure but also private buildings and residences that have been destroyed in the fighting, taking into account the value of preserving local heritage, culture and religion,” Legarda said.

Duterte wants aggressive drive vs. NPA in Negros

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jul 29): Duterte wants aggressive drive vs. NPA in Negros

President Rodrigo Duterte wants aggressive military operations against the New People's Army in the Negros Island Region, after the series of atrocities committed by the communist rebels, includingthe killing of six policemen and a civilian during their attacks in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental.

This was disclosed yesterday by Maj. Gen. Jon Aying, 3rd Infantry Division commander, who,with other security officials in the Visayas headed by Lt. Gen.OscarLactao, AFP Central Command chief, held a closed door command conference and late dinner with President Duterte Thursday night in Dumaguete City.

Aying said the president told them that security operations will be focused on the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army, after the Armed Forces of the Philippines liberatesMarawi from the ISIS-inspired Maute terror group.

More than 100 soldiers and policemen,including three Negrenses, have already been killed in Marawi since May.

KaOris, spokesman of the New People's Army, lauded earlier the successful tactical offensives of its forces in Negros and in other parts of the country against government forces, and for allegedly collecting about 300 firearms.

Aying estimates that a battalion-sized unit of the 3ID deployed in Mindanao may return to Negros within one month.

He said the return of Army units to unit will help contain movements of the NPA.

The 3ID has three infantry battalions, that include the 11IB, 15IB and 82IB, deployed in Mindanao.

Aying said the police has been the target of operations by the NPA. Last year, two policemen also died in an ambush in Candoni, while responding to a commotion.

On Thursday, Duterte conferred posthumous awards on sixofficers killed inpolice operation, during his visit to their wake at the City Hall of Guihulngan, Negros Oriental.

He also gave P100,000 in cash assistance, new handguns, smart phones and medals to three injured policemen, who survived the ambush.

NPA releases policeman in Davao Oriental

From Rappler (Jul 29): NPA releases policeman in Davao Oriental

The National Democratic Front-Southern Mindanao Region orders the police officer's release on humanitarian grounds

RELEASED. PO1 Alfredo Basabica Jr. (in white shirt) looks on as, an NPA guerilla and village officials from Cateel, Davao Oriental, sign his release papers in Barangay Binondo, Baganga town, Davao Oriental on July 28, 2017. All photos by Manman Dejeto/Rappler

RELEASED. PO1 Alfredo Basabica Jr. (in white shirt) looks on as, an NPA guerilla and village officials from Cateel, Davao Oriental, sign his release papers in Barangay Binondo, Baganga town, Davao Oriental on July 28, 2017. All photos by Manman Dejeto/Rappler

The New People's Army (NPA) released PO1 Alfredo Basabica Jr, a policeman captured by the rebel group on July 11.

On Friday, July 28, Basabica was turned over to Kagawad Alicio Reyes of Barangay Aliwagwag, Cateel, Davao Oriental, and Reverend Jurie Jaime, a pastor of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines acting as a third-party, in Barangay Binondo in the hinterlands of Baganga town.
The National Democratic Front-Southern Mindanao Region ordered the police officer's release on humanitarian grounds.

Basabica, held captive for 17 days, was onboard a Mallen Bus for Davao City when he was captured by members of the NPA Guerilla Front 25 who set up a checkpoint along Kilometer 26, Barangay Panansalan, Compostela, Compostela Valley.

"Padulong ko ug Davao para asikasuhon ang pagkamatay sa akong iyaan ug ang requirements sa akong kasal (I was on my way to Davao City to help process documents for my aunt who recently died and to submit requirements for my wedding)," Basabica said.

The policeman was originally scheduled to marry his fiancée today, July 29, at the Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Church in Bangkal, Davao City.

TOGETHER. PO1 Alfredo Basabica Jr (in white shirt) with his fiancée, Princes Dacuycuy (3rd from L), and mother, Edeline, during a short turnover ceremony for his release by the New People's Army in Barangay Binondo, Baganga, Davao Oriental on July 28, 2017.

Princes Dacuycuy, Basabica's fiancée, endured an hour's ride on a habal-habal (motorcycle) over rough single-track roads, not minding that she is already 6-months pregnant with their first child.

Dacuycuy, along with her father Edwin and Basabica's parents Alfredo Sr and Edeline Basabica, were present for the release of the captured policeman.

Ka Rene, speaking for the NPA Guerilla Front 25, said the policeman's release was delayed due to continuous military operations.

The NPA released a video of Basabica asking President Rodrigo Duterte for a suspension of military and police operation to facilitate his release.

FREE. PO1 Alfredo Basabica Jr walks to his freedom after being released by the NPA in Barangay Binondo, Baganga, Davao Oriental on July 28, 2017.

Basabica said they moved location continuously to avoid military forces, walking from sun up to sun down every day during his captivity.

Basabica's release came after the President said he wants to end peace talks with the communist rebels after an NPA attack on his security aides in Arakan, Cotabato on July 18.

He reiterated that his decision was final in a press briefing after his second State of the Nation Address, ordering for the military and police to be "unforgiving to the communist rebels."

19 soldiers killed in Marawi ambush – Islamic State

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jul 29): 19 soldiers killed in Marawi ambush – Islamic State

Islamic State claims killing 19 soldiers in the besieged city of Marawi in southern Philippines

Local ISIS militants have killed 19 soldiers in an ambush in the besieged city of Marawi where security forces are battling jihadists straight for over two months now, the Islamic State said.

The Islamic State made the announcement on Friday through its Amaq News after the deadly attack on a group of government troops sent to fight the militants. The Philippine military did not issue any statement regarding the claim.

Fighting has entered its 3rd month and President Rodrigo Duterte said it may be over soon, but there is no sign the militants are backing down. The local jihadists, composed of Abu Sayyaf fighters and members of the Maute clan, and other pro-ISIS groups are also being backed up by foreign militants – some came from Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, according to the Philippine military.

Just recently, Amaq News also released a video clip showing local ISIS militants fighting security forces in Marawi. The two-minute clip showed a small group of fighters 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.

The military said over 100 soldiers have so far died with more than 900 wounded in the battle since May 23 when local militants occupied Marawi, the capital of Lanao del Sur in the Muslim autonomous region. The extremists have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and vowed to put up a caliphate in the troubled region.

The military insisted that over 500 militants were also killed in the battle, but officials gave little or no proof at all to back up the claims, although dozens of civilians were also slain in the battle that displaced some 200,000 people.

From Abu Sayyaf to civilian life, teenager tells his story

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jul 28): From Abu Sayyaf to civilian life, teenager tells his story

While Mindanao is generally peaceful, there are areas on the island mired with a long history of terrorism, and civilians and law enforcement officers both suffered from violence causing fear and anxiety to entire communities.

Properties were destroyed and lives of people were disrupted. The atrocities were perpetrated by lawless individuals including teenagers – some have joined the bandits, or terror groups, as young as 9 years old. Many of these bandits and terrorists, however, have quietly returned to the fold of the law.

For instance, more than 80 members of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Basilan province recently surrendered to the government and have renounced their previous activities. One of them is 18-year-old “Habib.” Raised in Tipo-Tipo town, Habib became involved with the ASG at a young age. He was a 14-year-old Grade 4 pupil when some members of the ASG asked him to buy food in the public market until it became his daily routine before going to school and after classes.

“Inuutusan ako ng mga Abu sa Baguindan na bumili sapalengke, araw -araw na yun, hanggang sa hindi na ako pinauwi sa amin,” Habib said. With regular access to the ASG’s camp in Barangay Baguindan in Tipo-Tipo, he became a full-fledged member of the group. The ASG’s Baguindan camp was recently overrun by government troops.

Habib said ASG members receive a monthly allowance, but it did not prevent him from leaving the group. “Sa loob ng kampo, ‘pag single binibigyan ng P5,000 kada buwan, ‘pag pamilyado naman P10,000 – hindi na mahirapan maghanap ng pera,” Habib added.

Habib is the 5th of eight siblings. His father died when he was six and his mother went overseas to work when he became an ASG member. “Wala na akong tatay, wala rin dito ang nanay ko, ang mga kapatid ko nag-asawa na, kaya mas okay na sa akin sumali sa ASG,” Habib said.

Habib recalls many experiences inside the camp during his four years as a member of ASG. He was generally assigned as an errand boy who helped in the day to day needs of the ASG – he buys food, he cooks, and he helps in the preparation of weapons before an operation.

He was once assigned to abduct a female hostage from Tipo-Tipo. “Kung may mga kini-kidnap, dadaan ng Zamboanga, may tao na maghihintay sa port pa lang ng Zamboanga, tapos iba naman may maghihintay sa Isabela. Pagdating ng Isabela ididiretso sa Lamitan, saka pupunta ng Tipo-Tipo. At kami naghihintay sa Baguindan,” he said.

When asked how ASG members treat the victims, Habib said: “Noong ako ang sumundo sa babaeng na-kidnap, gusto ko siya patakasin kasi kawawa lang, pero sinabihan ako ng mga matatanda kong kasama na kapag pinatakas ko, ako daw ang papatayin ng grupo.”

Habib, along with his young peers, also witnessed ASG leaders beheading hostages inside their camps. He added that the group’s leaders would first ask for volunteers among them to do the beheading.

“Maraming beses na ako nakakita ng pinupugutan na hostage kapag walang mabigay na ransom, kasi kapag may pupugutan na kailangan namin manood lahat, magagalit ang commander kapag hindi namin pinanood,” Habib explained. “Kung magpapakita ka ng awa sa kanila (hostages), o ng takot sa mangyayari, ikaw ang pagdidiskitahan nila (ASG leaders),” he narrated.

He said the commanders, especially the senior leaders, would usually do the beheading when hostages cannot pay for their ransom. Habib said he was also assigned in combat against government soldiers in 2016 in Baguindan. “Kapag may baril ka, matapang ka.”

Habib said he led a violent life full of uncertainty until he yearned for a decent and peaceful life as a civilian. “Gusto ko tumakas pero hindi ko alam paano kasi natatakot din ako,” he added. He said he saw an opportunity to escape during his last participation in an encounter against government troops in Baguindan last year.

“Pagkatapos ng giyera sa Baguindan, yun na yung pagkakataon na naisip ko na tumakas at sumuko,” he said. “Pagod na kasi ako sa buhay sa loob ng kampo, gusto ko ng mag-aral, nami-miss ko na ang mga kapatid ko, gusto kong lumabas na hindi natatakot at kailangang magtago,” he said.

When he finally reached home, he saw his mother has just gone back home for good. “Ang saya-saya ko nung nakita ko nanay ko na nasa bahay na, kasama ang mga kapatid ko,” he said. “Kaya sumuko na talaga ako para mas maging maayos ang buhay namin lalo na andiyan na ang nanay ko.”

He said he wants to go back to school and become a policeman. “Pag nakapagtapos na ako gusto ko maging pulis para ako naman ang po-protekta sa taga Basilan laban sa mga Abu Sayyaf,” he said.

Today, Habib is one of the returnees who underwent psycho-social interventions, debriefing, dialogue with the military and government officials, and a brief course on farming to help them reform and start a new life.

Suspected NPA leader, 3 others killed in Sorsogon clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 28): Suspected NPA leader, 3 others killed in Sorsogon clash

At least four suspected New People's Army (NPA) rebels including their leader were killed on Friday in an encounter with government troops in Barangay (village) Trece Martirez in Casiguran, Sorsogon, the town police chief said.

Killed were Andres Hubilla alias Bunso and Magno, the alleged leader with three other companions whose identities were not yet available as of press time, according to Inspector Joseph Millarez, Casiguran town police chief.

Millarez, in a phone interview, said a joint team of police and Army troopers on patrol encountered at around 5:05 a.m. Friday a 30-man rebel group led by Hubilla.

The encounter led to a 30-minute firefight where at the first volley of gunfire, four NPA rebels died instantly, Millarez said.

Suspected rebels, sensing that the government troops were in a vantage point, immediately withdrew to a mountainous area of the village.

Barangay Trece Martirez, a hinterland village, is 10 kilometers away from the town poblacion.

Recovered from the scene was the service handgun of the rebel leader.

Hubilla, a native of Barangay Sta. Cruz, Casiguran town, was the former secretary of the CPP/NPA provincial committee and member of the Bicol Regional Party Committee.

Millarez said Hubilla's group is reportedly operating in remote villages of Casiguran and neighboring towns.
Police report said Hubilla is facing rebellion charges including murder and attempted murder at a local court in Sorsogon City.

He was arrested last year in Trece Martirez, Cavite, but he was able to post bail for his temporary liberty.

Millarez said no casualty was reported among the government troops.

Military and police operatives are in pursuit operations, scouring the areas where the NPA rebels could have sought refuge. Military and police checkpoints were set up in nearby areas.

Police are doing their rounds checking clinics and hospitals for patients admitted with gunshot wounds.

Pangasinan police on full alert after clash with NPAs

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 30): Pangasinan police on full alert after clash with NPAs

The police in the 6th district of Pangasinan are now on full alert following an encounter between elements of the Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB) and about 20 New People's Army (NPA) rebels between the remote barangays of Sta. Maria and Malico in San Nicolas town.

This was bared by Senior Supt. Ronald Oliver Lee, Pangasinan police provincial director, in a talk to newsmen Friday night, where he announced continuing pursuit operations against the NPA rebels.

Lee said the encounter occurred when elements of the RPSB were already going down at the end of their three-day combat operations in the mountainous area in the boundaries of Pangasinan with Benguet and Nueva Vizcaya.

One RSPB member was killed in the encounter and another was wounded. The dead was identified as PO2 Aries Tamondong and the wounded was PO2 Jonielon Marcos Bagcal.

The encounter site was along Camp 3 and 4 of the Villaverde Trail between Barangays Sta. Maria and Malico in San Nicolas.

Following the encounter, Chief Inspector Norman Florentino, chief of the police community relations of the Pangasinan Police Provincial Office, assured that the situation in San Nicolas is under control.

"The situation as of this time is normal. Hot pursuit and clearing operations at the site of the encounter and possible escape routes of the NPAs are still ongoing," Florentino stated in his text message to PNA Dagupan on Friday.

He said augmentation personnel from the PNP and Philippine Army were already provided to ensure the maintenance of peace, order, safety and security of the public and in support of the LGU of San Nicolas.

Florentino was dismayed, however, by side stories which he described as a "hoax" being spread by some people in the social media that the San Nicolas Police Station was overrun by the dissidents.

Likewise, there were false stories like the one claiming the mayor of San Quintin town was abducted by the rebels and that students of the Sta. Maria National High School in San Nicolas were taken hostage, he said.

"These were all faux, gossips and rumors and dismissed these as "all black propaganda of the NPA," he added.

Meanwhile, Senior Supt. Lee maintained that Pangasinan remains insurgency-free as those who clashed with elements of RPSB 1 were from the other side of the Pangasinan border.

He said when the Philippine Army operates in adjacent provinces, the rebels withdraw to the border areas of Pangasinan, which explained the reported sightings of NPA rebels a few days ago in remote barangays of San Nicolas town.

Cops hunt down BIFF who fired at Maguindanao guv’s chopper

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 30): Cops hunt down BIFF who fired at Maguindanao guv’s chopper

Police and military forces are hunting down members of outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) who tried to shoot down a private chopper carrying Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Toto Mangudadatu and his brother Saturday, police said Sunday.

Mangudadatu, his brother Mayor Freddie Mangudadatu of Mangudadatu town, Maguindanao were aboard a helicopter piloted by Capt. Dennis Figueroa en route to the Army’s 6th Infantry Division headquarters for a speaking engagement when the shooting occurred over the town of Datu Salibo.

They were all unharmed.

”We are hunting them down, we have intelligence information about the attackers,” Senior Supt. Agustin Tello, Maguindanao provincial police director, said.

Mangudadatu who was seated beside the pilot of the three-seat aircraft said a bullet almost hit his head. A bullet hole was found in the glass right window.

The Maguindanao police, in hunting down the attackers, were backed by elements of the 40th Infantry Battalion.

Tello said the gunmen fired at the chopper as it passed above Sitio Dagading, Barangay Tee, Datu Salibo town at 10 a.m.

A day earlier, BIFF members who pledge allegiance to ISIS, set off an improvised bomb that injured nine soldiers of the 40th IB in Raja Buayan, a few kilometers from Datu Salibo.
Mangudadatu has been known for his hard stance against jihadists believed to be hiding in Maguindanao. On several occasions, Mangudadatu spearheaded summit against terrorism in the province that earned the ire of the BIFF.

He said he was not cowed by the attempt against his life, stressing what he has been doing is for the sake of poor Moro people in Maguindanao.

AFP denies losing 19 troops to terrorists this week

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 30): AFP denies losing 19 troops to terrorists this week

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) vehemently denied reports that Maute Group terrorists have killed 19 soldiers involved in the ongoing clearing operations in Marawi City Friday.

"That (report) is pure propaganda. Do not believe those sites. We are transparent and we reports not contrived data," AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said when asked about this matter Saturday.

As of July 27, the number of government troops killed in the more than two months operation in Marawi City has been placed at 114 with more than 450 terrorists killed.

Fighting in the city started last May 23 when soldiers made a botched attempt to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader and ISIS "emir" Isnilon Hapilon last May 23.

(News Feature) More pilots, aircrew in the pipeline for Cessna ISR planes

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 30): (News Feature) More pilots, aircrew in the pipeline for Cessna ISR planes

Sufficient pilots and aircrews will be trained to ensure the constant operations of the two US-donated Cessna 208B "Caravan" intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft.

This was confirmed by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla when asked if the military has enough pilots and mechanics for the new planes.
"We do have an initial set of aircrew and we will train more," he added.

And when asked on the exact figures, Padilla said he has no exact figures for now but stressed that four aircrewmen are usually assigned per military aircraft.

The two "Caravan" aircraft were formally turned over to the Philippines last June 27.

Earlier, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the two Cessna 208Bs will make the Filipino military more capable and flexible in dealing with various threats.

"Looking at the aircraft – and I’m sure that pretty soon these will be filled with sensors. I am overwhelmed at what can they do to support the Armed Forces’ operations on the ground, air and naval operations, as well as in humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR)," he added.

The defense chief pointed out that the planes can also survey Philippine maritime areas and support air operations by aiding in the direction and control of close-air support mission particularly on high mobile targets.

"Furthermore, it can also be utilized for identification of targets for air interdiction and battle damage assessment. in support to ground and naval operations, the Cessna 208B can act as forward observer for artillery and naval gun fire adjustments and tracking terrestrial and littoral movements of threat groups, especially in the southern tri-boundaries of Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. at the same time," Lorenzana pointed out.

Aside from combat and security operations, he also foresees the Cessna 208Bs playing a valuable role in the various government departments involved in agriculture, fisheries, mining and forestry.

"I can almost see that in the future, these aircraft will be working for the different departments of the government. It will be useful for the agriculture department, the fisheries department, the DENR, to survey the mining areas and the forests, for the Bureau of Fish and Aquatic Resources," Lorenzana pointed out.

The Cessna 208B has a cruising speed of around 170 knots and has a range of over 1,000 nautical miles and capable of transporting eight to nine persons, including the pilot.

Minus the ISR equipment and avionics, the aircraft is worth around USD2 million each.