Sunday, September 17, 2017

Eastmincom, regional agencies seal intel sharing deal

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 15): Eastmincom, regional agencies seal intel sharing deal

The Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) and 15 government agencies in Davao Region have sealed an agreement to orchestrate intelligence information sharing to strengthen security in the maritime borders, ports, and airports against terrorists and other criminal groups.

The agreement for intelligence information sharing and synchronized security of the region was signed Friday at the Eastmincom headquarters, NSFA, Panacan wherein the Border Security Coordinating Council and committees were formed for faster and organized security response based on functional areas.

Eastmincom chief Lt. Gen Rey Leonardo Guerrero said the coordinating council will help enhance surveillance and security not only in major ports, airports, maritime border but also in other landing areas and port facilities.

Guerrero, who was elected to head the council, said the coordination would be more seamless.

All efforts will also be coordinated with Indonesia through the Philippines naval forces, which hold coordinated patrol with Indonesian Navy.

The Eastmincom, which initiates the creation of the coordinating council, sees the importance of border security to national security as it plays an important role in securing the country against the threats of terrorism, transnational crimes, and to protect its interest and sovereignty.

This will also address different security issues in the region, such as illegal drugs, human trafficking, smuggling, sea piracy, and robbery.

Guerrero said collaboration between agencies, police and security forces is the most effective way to maximize use of resources, build a more comprehensive intelligence picture and respond to the needs of securing borders.

Guerrero hopes to share this collaboration initiative with the Western Mindanao command since Davao region also shares borders with Region 10. He noted that the western command is also facing threats of terrorism.

He said the initiative will also be replicated at the national level for wider scope of border security. Bureau of Customs District Collector Erastus Sandino Austria and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director Adhzar Albani welcomed the initiative because this also helps their own effort of curbing smuggling.

BoC and PDEA are also members of the newly-created coordinating council. Austria said the BoC has three mandates which are to collect revenue, facilitate trade, and protect borders.

And, he said, the BOC needs the support of other agencies especially when targeted containers are already out of its jurisdiction area.

He said the BoC and other agencies can watch out and provide feedback of intelligence information.

On the other hand, Albani said the initiative is good because this coordination makes the PDEA’s drug enforcement function faster.

Albani said it is also timely because PDEA is about to create a task force for port and airport interdiction against drug smugglers and their activities.

Guerrero said the coordinating council is expected to create beneficial conditions for social and economic development in the region, initiate measures to reduce threats and transnational crimes, and promote free and secure movement of persons, goods, services and investments across borders.

Resumption of talks remains in hands of Reds: Duterte

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 17): Resumption of talks remains in hands of Reds: Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte said Saturday he is not averse to the resumption of the peace negotiations with the communists.

While he is grateful for the safe release of SPO2 George Rupinta by the NPA’s Pulang Bagani Command (PBC), the President emphasized the resumption of the peace talks remains in the hands of the Communists Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

“Yung mensahe ninyo sa akin for the resumption of the talks, let me say this very carefully…sa inyo ‘yan eh (Your message to me for the resumption of the talks, let me say this very carefully…it’s on you),” he said, recalling the time he conceded to their (communists) demands since he became mayor.

Duterte said the communists should also consider the position of the military and the police, who invested their lives in fighting the insurgency.

There are also things he has to clear with the leaders of the House of Representatives and the Senate, periodically, he added.

So that is how it operates here. Now, if you want to resume the talks, I am not averse to the idea, but let me sort out first the other branches of government,” he said in a press conference after Rupinta was presented to him on Saturday evening at Matina Enclaves.

The President noted he made decisions to continue the negotiations like the release of about 25 prisoners of war, referring to the political prisoners, who are serving as consultants to the NDF peace panel for the peace negotiations with the government.

The political prisoners were released on government conditions. He said there are some which he cannot concede alone “because I am not the only one in control of this government”.

He added he came to a point of appointing people from the left to join the government.

"Gusto kong maglagay diyan (I want to put them there) because I have to hear both sides. Ang problema kasi (But the problem is), while we are talking, there’s full of threats about countryside positioning, deployment of New People’s Army soldiers, and that…),” he said.

Duterte also said the removal of some leftist members of the Cabinet was not his decision.

“Hindi naman tama sabihin na I torpedoed. Kung halimbawa i-torpedo ko (It is not correct to say that I torpedoed. If for example I torpedoed) why would I go into a rigmarole of appointing you every time they are rejected or bypassed by Congress?),” he asked.

Duterte also recalled he had been apologetic every time he stepped on the rebels' shoes. However, when they ambushed a Presidential convoy, no apology came from the NPA.

“And every time that I break bread with you, I am so courteous,” he added.

Rupinta, of the Lupon Municipal Police Station, was abducted by the NPA last June 9, 2017 in Barangay Langka, Lupon, Davao Oriental. He was released on September 15 in Barangay Sangab, Maco, Compostela Valley Province and turned over to Rev. Socrates Ibol of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) in Tagum City, Davao del Norte.

Duterte thanked Exodus for Justice and Peace for facilitating his release.

“They are always there all the time whenever there is a release of POW. They consider it prisoner of war,” he said.

“I should say that I see it that all prisoners of war have been treated well in accordance with the Conventions of Geneva. And for that, I also would like to acknowledge their (NPA rebels) respect for the law,” he said.

If Rupinta was killed in the hands of the NPA rebels, Duterte said there would be problems. But the President was not ready to talk peace again.

“Pag-usapan natin ‘yan ng masinsinan (Let’s talk about it). Do not be in a hurry because we have been fighting for the last 50 years. And you just cannot ignore that period of violence and killing on both sides,” he said.

Ex-NPA rebels in Davao Oriental start new life

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 17): Ex-NPA rebels in Davao Oriental start new life

Former New People’s Army (NPA) rebels who decided to leave behind years of armed struggle are starting a new life after receiving financial assistance under the government’s Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP).

Each of the 14 rebel returnees, who are temporarily staying at Davao Oriental’s Happy Home, received PHP65,000 for livelihood as part of the province’s and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG)’s reintegration program.

Karen Lou Deloso, provincial information officer of Davao Oriental, said the government released almost a million pesos to the former rebels.

This continuing program for the rebels is an indication of the government’s determination to assist them as they transition to civilian life.

Deloso said most of the former rebels are farmers and they plan to use the money in growing crops, raising livestock while others say they would like to engage in a small business like “sari-sari” store.

Deloso added that the former rebels can also use the skills acquired during their rehabilitation at Happy Home facility, a halfway house for former rebels.

While at Happy Home, the former rebels learned crop and livestock production, which was introduced by the Philippine Army’s 701st Brigade to provide former rebels wider economic opportunities when they get back to the community.

Deloso said the government has already spent PHP10.1 million for the livelihood assistance to a total of 187 former rebels enrolled under the CLIP since the Happy Home was established in 2013.

Deloso said they (former rebels) underwent other trainings. The former rebels also underwent a 10-day political de-radicalization process which included gardening, moral recovery, Sunday mass, and lectures on scores of topics such as Philippine history and socioeconomic theories, among others.
Governor Nelson Dayanghirang urged them to spend the money wisely.

Dayanghirang sustained the program initiated by his predecessor Rep. Corazon N. Malanyaon, with the hope of enticing more NPA rebels to surrender and embrace a new chance at life.

Minor killed in NPA attack in Masbate

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 17): Minor killed in NPA attack in Masbate

A 15-year-old boy was killed Saturday when suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels attacked a group of Army soldiers doing repair work at a daycare center in Barangay (village) Libertad, Cawayan town in Masbate.

Philippine Army's 903rd Brigade commander Col. Greg Almiro said Vincent Pekiro, 15, student and a resident of the said village, was killed in the incident.

Almiro said a group of NPA rebels attack at around 4:30 p.m. Saturday while a platoon of Army soldiers was conducting repair works at a Daycare Center in said village.

At the first volley of gunfire from the NPA rebels, a bullet hit the boy who was then watching the soldier do some repair work.

The Army soldiers quickly retaliated and fired back at the rebels who have positioned themselves about 200 meters away from the daycare center.

The NPA rebels immediately fled towards the neighboring villages.

Maute weakened, but expected to resist: AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 18): Maute weakened, but expected to resist: AFP

While the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is making steady progress in its fight against the Maute terrorists in Marawi, it is expecting more resistance from the group.

“As follow-up and clearing operations continue, we expect the enemy to yield more previously occupied positions, but not without a fight," AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Eduardo Año said late Saturday.

Fighting in Marawi City broke out after government troops tried to arrest Abu Sayyaf Isnilon Hapilon and his cohorts last May 23.

The AFP chief is, however, quick to say that the terrorist group has sustained significant losses following the capture of its two strongholds -- the Bato Mosque and Amaitul Islamiya Marawi Foundation -- late Saturday afternoon.

Año added goverment troops fought for five hours before the successful capture of the positions.

“This enormous AFP gain further weakened the terrorist group by denying them their erstwhile command and control hub,” he stressed.

Año said the AFP will press on relentlessly until all remaining terrorists, including former hostages turned fighters, to communicate with the military and surrender.

AFP honors outstanding reservists, reserve units

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 18): AFP honors outstanding reservists, reserve units

The country's outstanding reservists and reserve units were feted as the National Reservists Week formally closed last Sept. 16.

Closing ceremonies took place at the AFP Grandstand in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Among the awardees were Reserve Navy Cmdr. Alexander G. Abilo, the AFP Reservist of the Year for Field Grade Level; Reserve Air Force Lt. Albert C. Corres, AFP Reservist of the Year for Company Grade Level; and Reserve Navy PO3 Jocelyn H Nuevo, AFP Enlisted Reservist of the Year.

“Recognition of these men and women manifests the interchange of support between the civilians and the military. Our reservists do not receive compensation for their services yet they remain professionals and put premium on national well-being,” AFP public affairs office chief Col. Edgard A. Arevalo said.

Also awarded were outstanding reserve units of the year; Naval Forces Reserve, National Capital Region, 82nd Marine Battalion Reserve, 60th Naval Affiliated Reserve Group (YLFC), and 559th NROTCU – University of Visayas.

Arevalo said Rear Admiral Robert Empedrad, AFP Deputy Chief-of-Staff for Reservist and Retiree Affairs, (J-9) hosted the activity.

Among the activities conducted were the parade and review, and humanitarian assistance and disaster response capability demonstration. National Reservists Week ran from September 3 to 10.

This year’s theme is “Laang Kawal: Laging Handa sa Pagtugon sa Pangangailangan at Kusang Loob na Naglilingkod Para sa Bayan.”

“Linggo ng Laang-Kawal" under Presidential Proclamation 627 of 1995 annually celebrates the AFP Reservists and their interminable support to our Armed Forces in fulfilling our mandate to protect the people and the state,” Arevalo said.

At present, the AFP has about 385,116 strong Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine reservists, and 1,520,704 Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) cadets.

“The AFP recognizes and commends the spirit of volunteerism, patriotism, and dedication that the Reservists have in their hearts. The participation of some members to the rear of the Marawi battleground is worthy of emulation,” AFP Chief-of-Staff Gen. Eduardo Año said in a statement.

“The Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) is one of the major sources of the AFP’s Reserve Force. Hence, the approval of President Duterte on the restoration of the ROTC for Grades 11 and 12 in public and private schools nationwide is very much invigorating as this will help proliferate and build up the AFP’s Reserve Force,” he added.

Priest rescued from Maute: Premature disclosure endangered remaining hostages?

From Malaya Business Insight (Sep 18): Priest rescued from Maute: Premature disclosure endangered remaining hostages?

GOVERNMENT forces rescued Fr. Chito “Chito” Suganob and a companion from remnants of the Maute Group in Marawi City on Saturday night, hours after retaking two major positions from the terrorist group.

The rescue was disclosed yesterday by Secretary Jesus Dureza, presidential adviser on the peace process, but the Armed Forces declined to comment, only saying rescue operations were ongoing. Dureza declined to elaborate.

Security officials have reportedly chastised Dureza for prematurely disclosing the rescue, saying this has placed in danger the lives of remaining hostages and of the operating troops.

“We wanted to keep it secret temporarily because we’re still trying to rescue other hostages... He may have put in danger the safety of the hostages and the soldiers,” one of the officials, who asked not to be named, said.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, at around noon yesterday, said the Armed Forces has advised Malacañang to “refrain from making comments on the latest developments in the main battle area of Marawi at this time, as ongoing operations may be jeopardized, as well as the lives of the remaining hostages, or soldiers in the frontlines.”

Col. Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of the AFP Joint Task Force Ranao, held a press conference in Marawi City at around 5 p.m. yesterday but declined to confirm the rescue. He discussed the recovery of the Bato Mosque and the Jamaitul Islamiya Marawi Foundation building.

Marawi Bishop Edwin dela Peña said: “I am happy receiving messages about Fr. Chito’s rescue no matter how hazy they are.”

Dureza, in a Facebook post at around 8 a.m., quoted former Iligan City mayor Franklin Quijano as saying Suganob and his companion were rescued around 11 p.m. on Saturday near the Bato Mosque. He declined to give other details, referring questions to the AFP.

“Got this just now from Franklin M. Quijano: For info sir father Chito Suganob together with one other was rescued by troops near Bato mosque at ooa 162300hsept2017. This is the 2nd grand mosque in Marawi that has been taken over by our troops. To those who would wish to get more details, pls wait for the official announcement coming from the AFP and or the Palace in order not to jeopardize the ongoing mil operations,” Dureza said on Facebook.

Quijano was appointed by President Duterte in July this year as administrator and chief executive officer of the Philippine Veterans Investment Development Corporation-Industrial Authority and as member of the board of directors of the same institution.

Suganob is the vicar general of the prelate of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Marawi City, which has been desecrated by the Maute.

AFP spokesman Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla and AFP public affairs chief Col. Edgard Arevalo also refused to confirm the rescue.

“We cannot yet release any statement because the rescue operation is still ongoing,” said Padilla. Padilla said the military will issue a statement as soon as the operations are completed.

For his part, Arevalo said: “We have an ongoing rescue operation at the main battle area. We cannot give you details as of now lest we imperil the lives not only of our soldiers but more so that of the hostages.”

Suganob, in a video released a week after the Maute attacked Marawi on May 23, appealed to President Duterte to stop operations against the Maute. He has also said there were 240 hostages.

Recently, military estimates placed the number of the Maute hostages at around 30.

Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesman of the Lanao del Sur crisis committee, disclosed only the re-capture of the Bato Mosque, and foundation building, and Madaris schools.

He said on his Twitter page at 7:55 a.m.: “Bato Ali Mosque has been recovered by the military. This mosque was used to house hostages including Father Chito.”

One netizen asked about Suganob’s condition but Adiong did not respond.

The rescue of Suganob and his unnamed companion came six hours after soldiers gained control of the Bato Mosque and the office of the Jamaitul Islamiya Marawi Foundation (JIMF), which were previously occupied by Maute members.

Arevalo said the two structures were retaken at around 5 p.m. Saturday following a “fierce firefight.” He said there were casualties on the enemy side but could not immediately give figures.

Arevalo said the mosque and the JIMF structures were “command and control positions” of the Maute Group. “It’s a battle position, with machine gun and sniper nest, so those are very important structures to them,” he said.

Arevalo would not say the number of structures which the troops are trying to clear of Maute members and improvised bombs. About a week ago, the military said the Maute remnants are confined in a 500-square meter area with about 300 structures.

Arevalo said last Saturday’s fighting was part of the major operations the military is launching to end the conflict.

“We’re nearing the conclusion, just a little patience more... We’re recovering their positions and their strength is waning,” said Arevalo.

Brawner said Maute leaders Omar and Abdullah Maute and Abu Sayyaf senior leader Isnilon Hapilon are still inside the main battle area.

“It’s important to get their leaders to prevent a repeat of Marawi... That’s why our security forces are exerting efforts to arrest or kill the leaders... We are trying our best to contain this crisis and to capture their leaders,” he said.

‘Miron’ killed in NPA attack in Masbate

From Malay Business Insight (Sep 18): ‘Miron’ killed in NPA attack in Masbate

A 15-year-old student was killed in an attack staged by New People’s Army rebels on government soldiers involved in community works in Cawayan town in Masbate on Saturday afternoon.

Capt. Joash Pramis, spokesperson of the Army’s 9th Infantry Division based in Camarines Sur, said the fatality, Vincent Pekiro, along with other civilians, was hit by enemy fire.

Pramis said troops from the Army’s 2nd Infantry Battalion were doing repair and clean-up drive at a daycare center in Barangay Libertad when they were fired upon by the rebels around 4:30 p.m.

Pramis said the undetermined number of rebels positioned themselves about 200 meters away from the troops, fired around five shots and withdrew.

“According to the troops, they heard five shots and the first one hit the boy. He was watching what the soldiers were doing at that time,” Pramis said of Pekiro, a resident of the barangay.

“Our troops did not retaliate to spare from harm the civilians in the area....They (rebels) withdrew and until now, we are going after them to hold them accountable for what they did,” added Pramis.

“This is another proof that they do not give importance to the safety of the people,” Pramis added.

Pramis said the military’s community works, in collaboration with local officials, in the barangay will continue despite the rebel attack. He said the endeavor is part of the 9th ID’s Community Support Program.

P1.6B allocated for Pag-asa Island beaching ramp, runway, facilities

From Update Philippines (Sep 16): P1.6B allocated for Pag-asa Island beaching ramp, runway, facilities


National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said contracts for the upgrade and repair of facilities in Pag-asa Island were already signed two months ago. He said PHP1.6 billion was allocated.

“Hopefully, they have already started because the contracts have been finalized, I think two months ago. And the funds are already available. But it will be done in stages,” Secretary Lorenzana said during the Mindanao Hour Press Briefing on September 15.

He said the first stage is to construct a beaching ramp for ships to dock “so that we can bring in construction materials and heavy equipment.”

“After that is finished, after that, they will bring in the construction materials. Then they will repair the runway,” he added.

“They will repair first the runway before — make it useable on all weather. It would be cemented,” he added. “And then later on, they will extend for another 500 meters to make it viable for bigger aircraft.”

He said works are expected to be completed in 18 months. “We have allocated P1.6 billion there for the repair of Pag-asa,” he said.

“We should have started early this year, when the water still, medyo calm. Kalma pa ‘yung tubig,” he said. “Now, rough weather starts July. So it is now doubtful if the contractor can still go there with their ships ano. So medyo tuma-timing sila ngayon kung anong magandang panahon para magdala ng mga equipment.”

New PH patrol vessels built by Japan spotted

From Update Philippines (Sep 17): New PH patrol vessels built by Japan spotted

The Philippine Coast Guard’s (PCG) sixth and seventh 44-meter Parola-class Multi-role Response Vessels (MRRV) surfaced online through photo and a video. These vessels are being named after primary lighthouses in the country to denote their significance as one of the navigational aids in the maritime industry.

The sixth vessel, BRP Sindangan (MRRV-4407) was shown in a video suggesting the vessel is conducting sea trials. While probably the seventh (MRRV-4408), named BRP Cape San Agustin was shown docked in a photo.

These vessels are part of the 10-order deal with Japan Marine United Corporation (JMUC) under PCG’s Maritime Safety Capability Improvement Project (MSCIP) Phase I.

These vessels are part of the 10-order deal with Japan Marine United Corporation (JMUC) under PCG’s Maritime Safety Capability Improvement Project (MSCIP) Phase I.

The fifth vessel, BRP Suluan (MRRV-4406) was received August 7. Deliveries are expected every quarter from the first delivery conducted August 2016.

According to MSCIP, these vessels will act as (1) “primary rescue vessels within the PCG District’s areas of responsibility (AOR) when the extent of the disaster is beyond the capability of floating assets deployed within the area.”

The MRRVs will also (2) assist in controlling oil pollution and protection of the marine environment. (3) These vessels will also enforce applicable maritime laws within the designated AOR, particularly relating to illegal fishing and sea patrol. The vessels will provide (4) service as platform for rapid response during relief operations in the area, and (5) transport of personnel and logistical support.

Government forces demonstrate capability in Boracay

From Update Philippines (Sep 17): Government forces demonstrate capability in Boracay


Government forces under Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)-Central Command (CENTCOM) and Visayas police conducted a capability demonstration in Boracay Island on September 12. 

The demonstration was spearheaded by Visayas Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Council (VJPSCC) co-Chairmen CENTCOM commanding general Lieutenant General Oscar T. Lactao and Directorate for Integrated Police Operations (DIPO) Visayas chief Police Director Moro Virgilio M. Lazo.

Philippine Navy’s Naval Forces Central (NAVFORCEN) participated in the said capability demonstration through the Maritime Joint Task Group (MJTG) “Protect”.

NAVFORCEN the participation was “to assess the operational readiness in the conduct of their mandated tasks especially in Maritime Security Operations.”

“MJTG “Protect” is a subgroup of MJTG “Area Shield” established under the command of NAVFORCEN commander Commodore Loumer P. Bernabe.

“On orders, MJTG “Protect” in coordination with other law enforcement agencies, aims to conduct anti-terrorism and counter-terrorism, anti-kidnapping, anti-illegal drugs operations and support to Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief (HADR) operations within the Central Command Area of Operation,” NAVFORCEN said.

“After the Capability Demonstration, a Stakeholders’s Dialogue was conducted, headed by the top Commanders and leaders of the local government and stakeholders,” it added.

US, PH naval warriors holding inaugural military exercise

From Update Philippines (Sep 17): US, PH naval warriors holding inaugural military exercise

The United States and Philippines naval warriors will be conducing the inaugural US-PH bilateral military exercise KAMANDAG on October 2 to 11. KAMANDAG stands for “Kaagapay Ng Mga Mandirigma Ng Dagat” or “Cooperation/Alongside of Warriors of the Sea”.

KAMANDAG was created after President Rodrigo Duterte said last year that US-PH Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) 2016 will be the last. PHIBLEX 2016 was conducted October 4 to 12, 2016.

PHIBLEX focused on amphibious capabilities and live-fire training with humanitarian civic assistance efforts.

KAMANDAG will focus on enhancing counter-terrorism and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capabilities; and conduct humanitarian and civic assistance projects.

KAMANDAG also aims to increase overall US and Philippine readiness, improve combined responsiveness to crises in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, and further reinforce our decades-long partnership.

“The purpose of this Philippines-led military exercise is to conduct bilateral exchanges between Philippine and US forces. Exercise training will enhance cooperation and interoperability between the Philippines and the US, consistent with the Mutual Defense Treaty and Visiting Forces Agreement,” the US military said.

The final push: Inside the Marawi battle area

From Rappler (Sep 17): The final push: Inside the Marawi battle area

Rappler Carmela Fonbuena joins the first group of journalists allowed to enter the heart of the battle area. Watch her report.

Maute strongholds in Marawi City fall one by one in the past days. Catholic priest Father Teresito "Chito" Soganub is rescued, along with another hostage, after an intense 5-hour firefight.

The military is making its final push to end the war with local terrorist groups linked to the Islamic State (ISIS).
Rappler Carmela Fonbuena is in Marawi to cover the war. Watch her report on the challenges soldiers face in the battlefield.

Draft Bangsamoro Basic Law still in limbo

From MindaNews (Sep 16): Draft Bangsamoro Basic Law still in limbo

President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday met with Congress leaders and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), the joint commission of the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that drafted the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) purportedly to discuss the proposed law but the meeting ended with the draft BBL still in limbo.

BTC chair Ghazali Jaafar told MindaNews last week, after meeting with the President on September 4 also in Malacanang, that the President would convene a meeting on September 14 to be attended by Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza, the 20-member BTC, the government’s peace implementing panel, and other key officials “for further discussion of BBL.”

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte meets with leaders of Congress and members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission at the Malacañan Palace on September 14, 2017. Karl Norman Alonzo/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

That the outcome was not positive was evident in the delayed responses of the key officials, some of whom finally answered but declined to go on record.

A number gave carefully crafted vague answers or did not answer these very simple questions: Will the draft BBL finally have authors / sponsors so it can be filed as a bill in both houses of Congress? Will the President certify it as urgent? Has the Duterte administration’s Bangsamoro Peace and Development Roadmap which targeted the passage of the BBL by end of 2017, been abandoned in favor of a new roadmap? If yes, what is this new roadmap? Will the draft BBL be subsumed into the federalism track?

BTC chair Jaafar sent no reply Thursday evening. On Friday morning, he sent this reply by SMS: “Successful meeting kahapon with the President kasama ang Senate President, Speaker of the House, Majority Floor Leader, Chairman of the Committee on Appropriation of House Cong Nograles.”

“We will have another meeting proposed by the President, the date of which (is) not yet determined by him but not long from now. He will continue to father the BBL. He challenged us and the people of our region to have one solid voice,” Jaafar said.

He declined to answer if “success” meant the draft BBL will finally have sponsors at the Senate and the House.

“Separately tackled”

MindaNews asked Senate President Pimentel and Speaker Alvarez through SMS if the BBL would be filed already or if it would be subsumed into the constitutional amendments that the Duterte administration is pushing for in its campaign to shift to a federal system. Pimentel’s response: “BBL will be separately tackled. But Malacanang will study first the BTC draft.”

The BTC submitted the draft BBL to President Duterte on July 17, in ceremonies witnessed by Pimentel and Alvarez. It took the Office of the President a month before it transmitted the draft BBL to the two houses of Congress.

Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel discusses the Bangsamoro Basic Law and Federalism in a sit-down interview with MindaNews in his office at the Senate on 28 February 2017. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Asked why Malacanang will still study the draft BBL when it already transmitted it to Congress last month Pimentel gave a vague response: “What was submitted to Congress was the BTC draft which we are also studying.”

Asked if the Bangsamoro roadmap to pass the BBL by yearend has been abandoned, Pimentel said: “There is the usual delay.”

The draft Bangsamoro law was received by the Senate and the House in mid-August but has not been filed as bill because there are no authors.

Moro representatives like Maguindanao Rep. Bai Sandra Sema of Maguindanao, the Deputy Speaker for Mindanao, had repeatedly told MindaNews they are definitely willing to sponsor the measure but hopes the House leaders will also co-author.

Ready to file

On Thursday morning, hours before the President met with the Congress leadership and the BTC, MindaNews asked Sema on the status of the draft BBL in the House. “I’m ready to file it next week with three other representatives,” she said. She named them as Tawi-tawi’s Ruby Sahali, chair of the Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity; Lanao del Sur Rep. Mauyag Papandayan, chair of the Committee on Muslim Affairs and vice chair Makmod Mending, Jr. of Anak Mindanao Party List.

Deputy Speaker for Mindanao Bai Sandra Sema of the first district of Maguindanao, MIndaNews file photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas
Sema, who filed House Bill 0092 on June 30 last year, a re-submission of the first BTC draft submitted under the Aquino administration, said he had spoken with Alvarez and “he will be co-author.”

The sponsorship of the draft BBL, however, was not discussed in the Malacanang meeting.

Alvarez has not sent his reply to MindaNews’ query as of 3 p.m. Friday. It was Alvarez who, days after Duterte won the Presidency and while he was still presumptive Speaker, declared the BBL “moot and academic.” He later stopped saying that when the Bangsamoro roadmap was explained to him,

“Give me a month or two”

On March 27 this year, he told MindaNews in a sit-down interview in Davao City that if the President certifies the Bangsamoro bill as urgent, “conservatively, sa House, give me a month or two” to pass it and that it is possible to meet the yearend target of the roadmap. “Pwede. Oo” (Possible. Yes)

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Jr. vowed in an interview with MindaNews on March 27, 2017 to make the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law a priority and assures it will be passed in a month or two once the President certifies it as urgent. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

On February 28 this year, Pimentel told MindaNews in a sit-down interview in the Senate President’s office that “if we think about it objectively, it would be more difficult to have federal then have BBL because by the time that you are now pushing for BBL we are already in a federal set up. So it will be easier… relatively … compared to the other way around, it makes more sense to push for BBL first so an autonomous law for a certain area in the Philippines then for constitutional change towards federalism. So I think that is the two-track process envisioned by the peace panel but that also introduces some complications. The simplest would be straight to federalism.”

“Heavy heart”

Dureza told reporters in Malacanang after the meeting that the President will present a “gameplan” to ensure the passage of the law.

“In short, just some kind of roadmap that the President would like to present to the MILF and the BTC on how to see to it that he complies and he is true to his commitment that he will husband the BBL to its logical conclusion,” CNN Philippines quoted Dureza as saying.

Dureza said the Office of the President is still working on the “gameplan” with the Congress leaders.

A member of the BTC who requested not to be named said they left Malacanang with a heavy heart. The source said they were told there are “plans that are at the ‘confidential phase’ and that they will inform us of the ‘plan’ at the right time. In short, the draft BBL has no sponsor yet.”

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte meets with leaders of Congress, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and members of the Bangsamoro Transition on September 14, 2017 in Malacanang. Albert Alcain /PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

One member was reported to have stood up to stress the urgency of passing the BBL as an instrument of peace and that the President is “privileged by history to end the conflict by passing the BBL.”

But the source said the administration’s track is “constitutional amendment then legislation.”

A number of those who attended the meeting said the President “did not talk about BBL. He talked about amending the Constitution and that we should just wait.”

“Template for federalism”

Duterte during his campaign for the Presidency and even as President has repeatedly said he would address historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro. He also vowed to push for the passage of the BBL and make it a “template for federalism.”

After receiving a copy of the draft BBL on July 17, Duterte declared that “within the context of the Republic of the Philippines, there shall be a Bangsamoro country.”

He noted that after decades of armed struggle and violence, “we will soon come up with a constitutionally consistent legal instrument that will lay the foundation for establishing real and lasting peace in Mindanao.”

Duterte committed to “support and husband” the proposed BBL in Congress to ensure the passage of the law that would create the Bangsamoro, a new autonomous political entity that would replace the 27-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Ghazali Jaafar (right) 1st Vice Chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (right) introduces the other members of the MILF Central Committee to presidential candidate and Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte during his visit in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao on February 27, 2016. During this visit, Duterte promised to push for the passage of the BBL as a “template for federalsm.” MindaNews file photo by TOTO LOZANO

The creation of the Bangsamoro is in accordance with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on March 27, 2014.

The agreement envisions a new entity that would realize the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people for genuine self-determination under a ministerial form of government and ensure autonomy far more than what the present ARMM provides.

Aside from HB 0092 or Bangsamoro Basic Law filed by Sema on June 30, 2016, two other Bangsamoro bills have been filed in the House. HB 6121 or Basic Act for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BABAR) by former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on August 3 and HB 6263 or Bangsamoro Basic Law by Lanao del Norte Rep. Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo on August 24.

These three bills, along with the draft BBL when it is finally filed, will have to be consolidated.

Fr. Chito Soganub ends 117-day ordeal as Maute captive

From MindaNews (Sep 17): Fr. Chito Soganub ends 117-day ordeal as Maute captive

As of 6 p.m. Sunday, the military had yet to issue an official statement to confirm or deny reports that a Catholic priest held hostage by the Maute Group since May 23 “escaped” or was “rescued” along with another hostage, near midnight Saturday but the Prelature of Marawi in a press statement said the priest was undergoing military debriefing.

Saturday was Day 117 of the Marawi Crisis.

Fr. Suganob in the viral video posted in the Facebook account “Native A Mranao,” who credits it to Datumasa Khalid on May 30, 2017.

“The Prelature of St. Mary’s in Marawi welcomes the news that Fr. Teresito ‘Chito’ Soganub, its Vicar General, has been rescued by the Armed Forces of the Philippines at around 11 p.m. last night, September 16, 2017 near Bato (Ali) Mosque in Marawi City together with one other undisclosed companion,” its press statement read.

It said the entire Duyog Marawi team, an accompaniment journey with the people of Marawi by the Prelature in partnership with the Redemptorists, “exploded with shouts of joy” in the midst of its monthly meeting as Fr. Nono Reteracion, CSsR “read the confirmation from several military personnel.”

“The military will provide us with more details once the debriefing protocol is completed. For the meantime, we pray for the safety and immediate release of the other hostages,” Reteracion said.

Initial reports reaching the media said Soganub, also Acting Rector of the St. Mary’s cathedral and chaplain at the Mindanao State University (MSU) main campus here, and another hostage escaped from their captors near the Bato Ali mosque amid heavy firefight and that as the two were fleeing, they were identified by the military who brought them to a safer place.

The other hostage with Fr. Chito has not been identified.

A news blackout was imposed as no military official responded to the media’s queries early Sunday morning.

But a senior official told MindaNews that the silence of the military was deliberate, that they had agreed that news on Soganub’s freedom be kept under wraps first as troops were still working to rescue at least ten other hostages.

But Secretary Jesus Dureza, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, broke the silence. He announced through his Facebook wall at 7:31 a.m. on Sunday that Soganub was “rescued” at 11 p.m. Saturday near the Bato Ali mosque.

Dureza forwarded the information sent to him by Franklin Quijano, former mayor of Iligan City and now Phividec administrator. Quijano told MindaNews he received the information from his military sources.

“Still validating”

Persistent media queries prompted Marine Colonel Edgardo Arevalo, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Public Affairs Office to tell Defense reporters in the national capital shortly before 10 a.m. Sunday that they were “still validating that information. As of now, we cannot still give details. The rescue operation is still ongoing,”

Marawi, Day 117--The main battle area in Marawi City as viewed from neighboring Marantao town, Lanao del Sur at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, 16 September 2017, Day 117 of the Marawi Crisis. The military announced through a press release late Saturday evening that the troops had taken control of the Bato Mosque and Amaitul Islamiya Marawi Foundation at 5 p.m. These two structures the military said were Maute strongholds But where are the hostages? MindaNews photo by FERDINANDH B. CABRERA

In a statement sent to the Defense Press Corps at 11:41 p.m. on Saturday, Arevalo said the military had “fiercely fought five hours” before taking control of Bato Ali mosque and Amaitul Islamiya Marawi Foundation (JIMF) at 5 p.m. The military described these as “two of the Maute-ISIS Group’s strongholds.”

Arevalo’s near midnight. statement made no mention of Soganub’s alleged rescue at 11 p.m.

At 9:38 a.m. on Sunday, Arevalo issued a three-paragraph statement that they have an ongoing rescue operations at the main battle area, that they “cannot give you details as of now lest we imperil the lives not only of our soldiers but more so that of the hostages.”

“We urge you to wait for the official statement on the matter to be issued by higher authorities,” Arevalo said.

When Defense reporters pressed him about Fr. Chito, Arevalo the said they were “still validating” the information.


Questions have been raised by the media and the public if Fr. Chito escaped, was rescued by the military, was abandoned or released by the Maute Group, if leaders Abdullah Maute and the Abu Sayyaf’s Isnilon Hapilon, the alleged Southeast Asian Emir of the ISIS, are still in Marawi or have escaped.

A resident who was watching the air strikes on the main battle area in downtown Marawi from the MSU golf course here Sunday noon told MindaNews he hopes the fighting will, indeed be over soon.

But the resident, among the 359,680 persons displaced by the war, according to statistics of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, said they hope they will not be told that Marawi has been liberated but the terrorists escaped.

Soganub is expected to be presented to President Rodrigo Duterte soon.

The last time Fr. Chito was seen was on a viral video posted on Facebook last May 30 where he was made to appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte to stop the military operations.

During the ten-hour humanitarian ceasefire on Eid’l Fitr, June 25, the Maute Group’s leader, Abdullah, declined to release Fr. Chito but freed five hostages, including a two-year old girl.

The emissary told MindaNews then that Abdullah had set as condition for the release of Fr. Chito, that their parents, Cayamora and Farhana, be released from prison. The two were arrested separately in early June.

Welcome home
MindaNews’ Bong Sarmiento checked with Fr. Chito’s family in Norala, South Cotabato on Sunday morning but his sister Marilyn Soganub-Ginnivan said they had yet to receive a call from Fr. Chito. MindaNews checked again as of 4 p.m but his sister gave the same response.

MindaNews also checked with Marawi Bishop Edwin dela Peña but he was likely still in transit from Rome where he spoke about Marawi in a conference also attended by Mindanao’s lone Cardinal, Orlando Quevedo.

“I hope I was able to convey to Rome and the whole world the cries and anguish of the people of Marawi, particularly of the hostages and evacuees, and all the victims of the Marawi siege,” the Bishop wrote on September 15.

The Prelature and its Duyog Marawi, however, are ready to welcome home Fr. Chito.

The press statement said they have “laid out a plan for the hostages’ healing and reintegration program once they would be released. This includes a general medical check-up and hospital confinement for their body to recover. After which, a long period of rest and recovery together with trauma therapy will be provided to them.”

The press statement aslo said that while Fr. Chito goes through a healing process, his programs and services at the MSU — chaplaincy, education, interfaith and peacebuilding programs “will be assumed by a combination of seconded priests and lay missionaries from the Redemptorist Missionaries in the Philippines, Caritas Cebu, and the Capiz Archdiocesan Social Action Center in Roxas City.”

The press statement quoted Diovelene Francisco, an MSU student who volunteers fro the Duyog Marawi Communications center for Peace and Advocacy, as saying that Fr. Chito “has always been an inspiration to us all in Marawi. News of his release certainly pushes us more to work for peace in Marawi City.”

A special prayer for peace in Mindanao and Marawi City was organized by the Communita di Sant’ Egidio in Sta. Maria Basilica, Trastevere, Rome on September 15.

Lorenzana wants Año’s AFP service extended

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 17): Lorenzana wants Año’s AFP service extended

But Duterte has other plans for retiring AFP chief

Presidential Photo

Forty days before reaching the mandatory retirement age, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Año made a fresh pitch for fixed terms for top military officers.

Año stressed he was not seeking an extension of his military service since President Rodrigo Duterte had already announced he would be named interior secretary upon his retirement.

Rising through ranks
“I think that is only appropriate to enable junior officers to rise [through] the ranks,” Año said at a ceremony of the AFP Educational Benefit System Office on Friday.

Año said the Constitution required military personnel to retire at age 56 and that he had to abide by the requirement.

He suggested, however, that Congress pass a law fixing a term for the AFP chief of staff, major service commanders and unified area commanders.

He explained that the retirement age of 56 deprived the country of the experience and maturity of ranking military officials.

“It’s such a waste. They’re younger compared to (military officers in) other countries who [remain] in the service until they are 60 or 65 years old,” the AFP chief of staff pointed out.

He nevertheless expressed confidence that his successor would continue his plans and programs, including the transformation roadmap.

3 vying for AFP chief

Año will recommend to Mr. Duterte at least three names of three-star generals, among whom the President will choose the next AFP chief of staff.
A member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1983, Año’s military service spans 34 years, highlighted by the arrest of Communist Party of the Philippines chair Benito Tiamson and his wife Wilma in 2014, and the 2015 killing of New People’s Army leader Leoncio Pitao, better known as Commander Parago.

He was also commander of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines when fugitive general Jovito Palparan was arrested in 2014.

‘Very good officer’

“He is a very good officer,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said of Año during a graduation ceremony of the National Defense College, also on Friday.

“He is very good, very professional. He knows what he is doing. He is very firm, broad-minded and a profound thinker. He is the example of a general,” said Lorenzana, himself a retired major general.

“If I had my way, I would extend him in the military. But the President said he [needed] him (Año) for another job,” Lorenzana added.

Photo: Rifles Inspection at MNLF Camp Astana Mt. Dragon Bakud Kagay, Indanan, Sulu

Posted to the Moro National Liberation Front (Misuari): International Information Office (MNLF-IIO) Website (Sep 15): Photo: Rifles Inspection at MNLF Camp Astana Mt. Dragon Bakud Kagay, Indanan, Sulu

Image may contain: 1 person, outdoor

Photo: Ustadz Murshi D. Ibrahim

Posted to the Moro National Liberation Front (Misuari): International Information Office (MNLF-IIO) Website (Sep 15): Photo: Ustadz Murshi D. Ibrahim

Image may contain: 1 person, night and closeup

Sec. Gen. MNLF Central Committee

Photo: Ustadz Abdulkarim T. Misuari

Posted to the Moro National Liberation Front (Misuari): International Information Office (MNLF-IIO) Website (Sep 15): Photo: Ustadz Abdulkarim T. Misuari

Image may contain: 1 person, night and closeup


MILF: Political rivalries, land disputes top as drivers of ‘rido’ in ARMM

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Sep 17): Political rivalries, land disputes top as drivers of ‘rido’ in ARMM

The Regional Reconciliation and Unification Commission (RRUC) Executive Director Abdulbasit Benito said that “political rivalries and land disputes are the top drivers of ‘rido’ (clan feud) in the Autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

 Benito said “a total of 235 unsettled rido are recorded in ARMM as of 2017, 91 in Maguindanao, 88 in Lanao Del Sur, 38 in Basilan, 15 in Sulu, and three in Tawi-Tawi.”

Benito however said that political and business rivalries, land disputes, and drugs-related conflicts could be addressed by internal power sharing arrangements and signing of the covenant.

“Involvement of trusted leaders to facilitate the dispute settlement is also a key conflict resolution strategy in the region, and the key leaders may also explore alternatives,” Benito said.

Noraida Chio, Senior Program Officer of the Asia Foundation (TAF) is also worried by the worsening horizontal and vertical conflict in ARMM despite the peace-building efforts.

Meanwhile, Yusoph Lumambas, Secretary General of UNYPAD, said that rido is increasing because of the structural violence. He believes that the conflict must be addressed by different levels of authorities simultaneously.

“The national government must focus on addressing the historical injustices to the Bangsamoro. There is also a need to strengthen law enforcement and improved local governance,” Lumambas stressed.

“The CSOs, government agencies, and Moro revolutionary groups must collaborate in preventing and mitigating conflict through dialogue and advocacy,” he added

In ARMM, other concerns are competition for scarce resources and political influence are among of the major drivers of the conflict.

The role of ACRMS and TAF is to prevent and mitigate the conflict.

Datu Romeo Sema, Chairman of the RRUC, disclosed that these issues were presented during the joint planning workshop on September 11-14, 2017 in Davao City. The workshop was aimed at strengthening the approaches on ‘rido’ settlement in ARMM.

The members of ARMM Regional Coordination Mechanism on RIDO Settlement (ACMRS) are the RRUC, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD), Tiyakap Kalilintad Inc. (TKI), Maguindanao Taskforce Reconciliation and Unification Council (MTRUC), Confederated Descendants of Rajah Mamalu Incorporated (C-DORM), and MILF-CCCH.

The Center for Humanitarian Dialogue (CHD) and The Asia foundation (TAF) provides the logistic support for the workshop. They expressed their commitment to backing-up the implementation of the three-day planning workshop.

Sison/NDF: Briefing on the Philippine situation

Jose Maria Sison remarks posted to the National Democratic Front Website (Sep 15): Briefing on the Philippine situation

Brief remarks at the reopening of the NDFP Information Office Building
Prof. Jose Maria Sison
NDFP Chief Political Consultant
September 15, 2017

Dear Comrades and friends,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to give you a briefing on the Philippine situation. I will discuss four points regarding the US-Duterte regime: (1) its signature policy of mass murder and bombing of communities, (2) its termination of the peace negotiations with the NDFP, (3) its neoliberal economic policy and (4) its pseudo-independent foreign policy.

Policy of Mass Murder and Bombing Communities

 Duterte is using his so-called war on illegal drugs as a means of projecting an image as a strong man with an iron fist in order to intimidate the people and his political opponents and to popularize extrajudicial killings as a device for building a fascist dictatorship. But in only 14 months he has murdered too many, some 14,000, on mere suspicion as drug users and pushers in urban poor communities. He has gained notoriety for himself as a human rights violator. At the same time, it turns out that he is the protector of his compadre Peter Lim who is one of the biggest drug lords. His son Paolo Duterte has been exposed as a big drug smuggler and a rising drug lord himself.

The policy of mass murder is being applied in the military campaigns of suppression against social activists, the revolutionary movement and the national minorities. Aerial bombings, artillery and mortar fire have been used to attack communities and force people to evacuate in the countryside. The objective is to grab the land and other natural resources for the benefit of corporations engaged in logging, mining and plantations for export. The worst case is the destruction of Marawi City by aerial bombardments done by US pilots and their Filipino puppets.

The broad masses of the Filipino people are outraged by the brutality and atrocities committed by the US-Duterte regime. They define and denounce Dutertismo as the despotism of death and destruction. There is now a broad united front of social classes and sectors developing to isolate and oust the Duterte ruling clique. This broad united front is confident that it can overthrow the clique through street mass actions as those successfully carried out against Marcos in 1986 and against Estrada in 2001. There are now groups within the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police that are disgruntled by the Duterte regime and are preparing to withdraw support from it. At the same time, there are the armed revolutionary forces represented by the NDFP and those of the Bangsamoro.

Termination of the GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations

 Until recently, peace negotiations of the Duterte government with the NDFP appeared to have bright prospects because Duterte claimed that he wanted to become the first Left president and that he was himself a socialist, that he would amnesty and release all political prisoners, that he would appoint as many as four progressives to his cabinet and that he would negotiate peace with the NDFP.

Early on, Duterte proved himself a liar on his promise to amnesty and release all political prisoners. In June 2016, he took back his promise and expressed the wish to impose on the NDFP the surrender of the revolutionary forces under the guise of a protracted and indefinite ceasefire. From the beginning of his regime, he carried out his all-out war policy, first by continuing Aquino´s Oplan Bayanihan until the end of 2016 and subsequently Oplan Kapayapaan from January 2017 onwards. Even during the period of reciprocal unilateral ceasefire for more than five months, from August 2016 to February 2017, he never withdrew his military forces and allowed them to bombard and occupy communities and civic structures.

Duterte has terminated the peace negotiations three times on very flimsy grounds. He scuttled the 5th round of formal talks at Noordwijk in June 2017 after putting obstacles to the negotiation of social, economic and political reforms and after offending the NDFP with a proclamation of the Mindanao-wide martial law directed not only against the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups in Marawi City but also against the New People´s Army in many more parts of Mindanao. Forewarned by the repeated threats of Duterte to declare martial law nationwide, the people and revolutionary forces represented by the NDFP have come to the consensus that it would be easier to oust Duterte from power than to conclude a peace agreement with him.

Neoliberal Economic Policy pursued by the Duterte regime

 The NDFP has always made clear that the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) must first be negotiated and mutually approved before a protracted and indefinite ceasefire can be agreed upon. But the Duterte regime has prejudiced CASER with the neoliberal economic policy already adopted by his top economic team headed by his playmate Dominguez.

It is clear that the Duterte policy is to preserve the semifeudal and semicolonial economy which is dependent on the export of raw materials and cheap labor, import of manufactures, foreign investments, foreign loans to cover trade deficits and higher taxes and prices of basic commodities at the expense of the people. The big compradors and landlords enjoy tax cuts but the working people suffer low wages, underemployment and unemployment and the higher taxes incorporated into the rising prices of basic commodities and public utility services.

 Even if the GRP nd the NDFP negotiating panels were to arrive at a mutually satisfactory CASER, it is impossible to surmount the set neoliberal economic policy of the regime and the notoriously reactionary character of Duterte´s so-called super majority in Congress. The kind of Congress that exists in the Philippines today cannot be relied upon to provide the authority and funding for the social and economic development of the Philippines through national industrialization and land reform. The pro-US and rabidly anti-communist secretary of national defense has already told Duterte that the NDFP should never be given the chance to take any credit for the social progress of the Philippines.

Pseudo-independent foreign policy

 Duterte has boasted of engaging in an independent foreign policy. But in fact, he wants the Philippines to remain under the hegemony of the US. He has not heeded the demands of the people for the abrogation of treaties, agreements and arrangements that make the Philippines a vassal of the US. Despite his occasional and superficial anti-US chatter, he belongs comfortably to the oligarchy of big compradors, landlords and corrupt officials and enjoys being the top running dog of the US in the semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system.

What he means by an independent foreign policy is merely having additional foreign masters. He expects China to provide him limitless over-costly loans for infrastructure building in exchange for giving away the territorial sea, exclusive economic zone and extended continental shelf in the West Philippine Sea. He also wants to acquire additional arms from China and Russia in order to neutralize any US congressional sanction on his grave violations of human rights and to further strengthen himself in realizing his scheme of establishing a fascist dictatorship.

In the course of suppressing the uprising of Moro groups in Marawi City, Duterte has exposed himself as a consistent and incorrigible puppet of US imperialism. He has depended on US air and bombing power and has followed the US military doctrine of saving a community by destroying it. Thus, indiscriminate aerial bombing, on top of artillery and mortar fire, has destroyed Marawi, killed and wounded thousands of civilians and forced the evacuation of more than 300,000 people from Marawi and adjoining areas.

Appeal for solidarity

 More than ever, the Filipino people and revolutionary forces represented by the NDFP are resolved to wage various forms of revolutionary struggle against the US-Duterte regime and the entire ruling system and contribute to the advance of the worldwide anti-imperialist and democratic movement. More than ever, the Filipino people and revolutionary forces need the solidarity and support of the peoples of the world. Thank you.