Friday, September 29, 2017

Philippine Troops and Pro-IS Reinforcements Clash Near Marawi

From BenarNews (Sep 28): Philippine Troops and Pro-IS Reinforcements Clash Near Marawi


Philippine troops guard a lakeshore village near the southern town of Bacolod Kalawi near Marawi after several gunmen aboard a boat were spotted near the area, Sept. 28, 2017.

Heavy fighting broke out Thursday between government forces and gunmen sent to reinforce militants linked to the Islamic State (IS) who are cornered in the southern Philippine city of Marawi after four months of clashes, military officials said.

BenarNews journalists saw black smoke billowing from Balut, a sparsely inhabited island about three km (1.8 miles) from downtown Marawi, after air force planes dropped bombs and fired rockets at enemy positions.

The island lies in Lake Lanao, a 340 square-km (130 square-mile) body of water that militants have used to travel into and out of the devastated city.

About 70 militants, remained but some were trying to escape on the lake as they ran out of food, water and ammunition, said Col. Romeo Brawner, the deputy commander of the local military task force.

However, Brawner said he was certain the militants in Balut were part of the militants’ reinforcements, and not from the battlefront in the city.

How they landed on the island was not clear, but officials indicated that troops had not sealed off entry and exit points in and out of Marawi, a predominantly Muslim city that has been reduced to rubble since the fighting started on May 23.

Some civilians reported seeing gunmen traveling on boats, Marawi Mayor Abdul Mohaiman Dipatuan told BenarNews.

“There were no residents in that island, so probably they are terrorists” out to support Abu Sayyaf and Maute fighters, Dipatuan said.

Jun Sangcopan, a resident of Bacolod Kalawi, a town near Lake Lanao, said he saw four boats loaded with armed men heading into Balut and the nearby lakeside towns of Tugaya and Ganasi.

Brawner said a military contingent was deployed quickly to check on Balut island, but encountered heavy resistance.

“There’s an ongoing operation right now. The report said at least seven armed men were seen but we believe several more were there,” he told BenarNews.

“They were reinforcements. We are certain nobody was able to get out from the main battle zone in Marawi,” Brawner added.

He said there are strong indications Abu Sayyaf commander Isnilon Hapilon, the IS leader in the Philippines, was still inside the main battle area with Omar Maute, a local militant leader.

At least 711 militants, 172 military and police officers and 47 civilians have been killed since hundreds of extremists, backed by foreign fighters, seized Marawi, the biggest security challenge to President Rodrigo Duterte’s government.

Balut Island [Richel V. Umel/BenarNews]

Army, SAF engage in encounter with rebels

From the Sun Star-Bacolod (Sep 29): Army, SAF engage in encounter with rebels
THE 62nd Infantry Battalion (IB) of the Philippine Army and Philippine National Police -Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) engaged in a firefight with suspected members of New People's Army (NPA) in Barangay San Isidro, Toboso, Negros Occidental early Thursday morning.

Lieutenant Colonel Darrell Bañez, commander of 62nd IB, said yesterday the troops and police were conducting community security patrol in the area when they encountered about 10 armed men around 5 a.m.

“The firefight lasted for about two minutes,” Bañez said. No casualties were reported.

Additional troops were sent to the area to track down the armed men.

The joint combat operation of 62nd IB and PNP-SAF is in response to the reports they received from residents about the presence of armed men in the village.

Bañez expressed his gratitude to the community for their full cooperation that helped the government troops ensure peace and order in the province.

Colonel Eliezer Losañes, commander of 303rd Infantry Brigade, said hot pursuit operation is ongoing.

New People’s Army admits killing of RPA-ABB leader

From the Sun Star-Bacolod (Sep 28): New People’s Army admits killing of RPA-ABB leader

THE Armando Sumayang Command South West Negros Guerilla Front of New People’s Army (NPA) owned up the killing of a commander of Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental three weeks ago.
In a press statement dated September 27, Andrea Guerrero, spokesperson of the rebel group, said Jovanie Banista, 50, a sixth district commander of RPA-ABB based in Barangay Locotan, Kabankalan City, had engaged in illegal gambling and illegal drugs as protector, particularly in areas of Bantayan, Magballo and Manduaw in Kabankalan City.
Guerrero added that Banista was also involved in corruption and illegal logging.
She said that Banista was hired as a personal bodyguard and hitman of politicians in southern Negros especially during the elections last year.
The rebel group also alleged that Banista was an instrument of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police in counter-insurgency operations against the revolutionary movement.
They added that he was also involved in human rights violation against civilians, and in hold-up incidents victimizing businessmen.
On September 9, Banista was gunned down by about 12 armed men on his way home from Barangay Bantayan.
 In August 2014, he was seriously wounded when he was also ambushed by the same assailants at Purok Cubay in the same village.

AFP troops seize large NPA camp

From the Manila Bulletin (Sep 29): AFP troops seize large NPA camp

Camp Bancasi, Butuan City – Combat maneuvering troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) recently seized a large New People’s Army (NPA) camp in Sitio Side 4, Barangay Mangayon, Compostela town, Compostela Valley (ComVal) province, said 2nd Lt. Honeylee Joy S. Maunahan, acting Civil Military Operation (CMO) officer of the Army’s 66th Infantry Battalion (66th IB) on Friday.


She said an estimated one-hectare NPA camp was seized by the operating troops of the 66th IB following an armed encounter against some 50 heavily armed NPA rebels Thursday morning.

A small unit team was sent for an operation in the area of Dash 7 at Sitio Side 4, Barangay Mangayon, Compostela town, to confirm the report regarding the presence of a large number of communist rebels composed of guerilla-Front Committee 25 and guerilla-Front Committee 20 and Pulang Bagani Company (PBC) 8 of the CPP-NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Committee, the 66th IB CMO officer said, in a statement sent to The Manila Bulletin on Friday.

The firefight started at around 10 a.m. when the three NPA terrorists who were laying landmines along a road fired upon the troops, she said.

“The team was able to hold and sustain the hour-long firefight where they served as forward observer for the artillery fires toward the enemy location,” she said.

The 66th CMO officer also said the delivery of accurate artillery fires and the bravery of the team members despite being outnumbered forced the rebels to withdraw and abandon their camp.

The reinforcing 1st Platoon Bravo Company, 66IB, and the small unit who was earlier engaged, conducted the assault which resulted in the seizure of the NPA camp, she said.

Recovered in the encounter site were one M16A1 rifle, two improvised explosive devices (IEDs), assorted enemy personal belongings, food stuff and other war materials, she said.

There was no casualty on the government side while the communist rebels were believed to have incurred casualties as per reports received by the unit from the civilians, she added.

“This is a strong statement that 66 th IB will not allow incursion of peace spoilers and we have been continuously winning back the mass bases the NPA have gained during the ceasefire,” also said 667th IB commander Lt. Col. Palmer Parungao, in the same statement.

The encounter is an evidence that many people now are against the communist wrongdoings and are willing to sacrifice for the protection of peace in this part of the region, Lt. Col. Parungao added.

LOOK: PH special forces demo anti-hijacking operations

From Update Philippines (Sep 28): LOOK: PH special forces demo anti-hijacking operations

PAF photo

710th Special Operations Wing (SPOW) of the Philippine Air Force together with other special units of Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines on September 18 conducted a capability demonstration on anti-hijacking operations as part of Tempest Wind 2017.

The anti-hijacking demonstration was conducted at Air Force City, Clark Air Base, Mabalacat, Pampanga.

Tempest Wind 2017 aimed at testing and improving the ability of United States and Philippines to rapidly plan, coordinate, and conduct counterterrorism operations. It was held at various locations in the Philippines and Hawaii.

PAF photo

“Tempest Wind presented an unprecedented opportunity for comprehensive training for both senior leaders and action officers,” US Ambassador Sung Kim said.

“Through this exercise we learned together, strengthened our critical relationships, and pinpointed areas of weakness, making both of our countries better, stronger and more prepared to confront 21st century challenges,” he added.

US, PH set for military exercises for 2018

From the Manila Bulletin (Sep 28): US, PH set for military exercises for 2018
The Philippines and the United States are now determining the joint military activities for next year following the successful conclusion of a drill designed to train Filipino and American troops in fighting terrorism.

Philippines-US flags / Image courtesy of crossed-flag-pins/ Manila Bulletin
“Admiral Harry Harris of the Pacific Command and General Eduardo Año of the Armed Forces of the Philippines are leading the Mutual Defense Board and Security Engagement Board annual meeting in Hawaii this week to determine the slate of joint activities for next year,” US Ambassador to Manila Sung Kim disclosed in his remarks delivered at the conclusion of Tempest Wind, a counterterrorism drill between the Philippines and the US. “We look forward to another successful year of opportunities to train together and learn from each other.”

According to Ambassador Kim, Tempest Wind was “unique in important ways and went far beyond our normal array of joint exercises.”
“It was a challenging inter-agency drill for both sides, intended to test and improve the ability of our nations to plan, coordinate, and conduct counterterrorism operations,” he said.

The drill involved over 1,200 US and Philippine civilian and military participants and simulated a scenario involving a real commercial airliner filled with 150 actors who played hostages creating a realistic environment to test bilateral, inter-agency decision-making and tactical response.

“Tempest Wind presented an unprecedented opportunity for comprehensive training for both senior leaders and action officers,” said Kim. “The exercise involved everyone from senior officials of our national security agencies to the brave soldiers and police officers who do the front-line work of defending our safety and security.”

The top American diplomat in Manila said through the exercise the Philippines and the US “learned together, strengthened our critical relationships, and pinpointed areas of weakness, making both of our countries better, stronger and more prepared to confront 21st century challenges.”

“Tempest Wind was the latest and very significant example of our close ties,” said Kim. “The United States will continue to support Philippine counterterrorism efforts and work jointly to address shared threats to the peace and security in the region.”

What Did the New US-Philippines Terror Drills Achieve?

From The Diplomat (Sep 29): What Did the New US-Philippines Terror Drills Achieve?

The inaugural iteration of Tempest Wind bears attention within the broader context of the alliance.

What Did the New US-Philippines Terror Drills Achieve?
Image Credit: US Embassy Manila
Over the past week, the United States and the Philippines have held the first iteration of a new, recently unveiled counterterrorism drill. Though both treaty allies have long developed a range of bilateral exercises, the holding of this one bears attention given the ongoing efforts to boost counterterrorism cooperation amid concerns around the Islamic State as well as the broader context for ties under the leadership of Rodrigo Duterte.

As I have noted before, despite all the focus on Duterte’s fierce anti-American rhetoric, U.S.-Philippine defense ties have seen more of a downgrading than a severing (See: “Will Duterte End the US-Philippine Military Alliance?”). In addition to some refocusing and renaming in terms of exercises, there have also been some new forms of cooperation advanced as well in response to ongoing challenges, be it in on maritime security amid transnational crimes in the Sulu-Sulawesi Seas or on counterterrorism following the Marawi crisis that erupted in May (See: “US Terror Aid to Philippines Signals Enduring Defense Ties Under Duterte”).

On September 15, the U.S. Embassy in Manila had publicly announced for the first time that the two governments would embark on a new bilateral, whole of government counterterrorism drill called Tempest Wind in mid-September, despite the fact that the two sides had agreed on this last year.

As I noted in an earlier piece, Tempest Wind, which had been approved as a new exercise by the Mutual Defense Board and Security Engagement Board (MDB-SEB) back in November 2016, was to include not just drills, but additional military assessments, national level engagement, and subject matter expert exchanges taking place in both the Philippines and Hawaii, which is where the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) is located (See: “US, Philippines Launch New Drill”).

From September 18 to 26, the two countries conducted the first iteration of Tempest Wind in Clark Field, Pampanga. More than 1,200 U.S. and Philippine civilian and military officials participated in the exercises, which focused on improving the ability of both countries to plan, coordinate, and conduct counterterrorism and security operations.

The exercise included a scenario that used a real commercial liner filled with more than 150 actors portraying hostages. In the exercise scenario, terrorists linked to the Islamic State (ISIS) hijacked a passenger plane from Sydney, Australia bound for Hawaii and forced it to land in the Philippines. After negotiations failed, forces on the ground were forced to conduct a tactical response, resulting in the killing of the eight hijackers and the rescue of 162 Filipino and American passengers.

Following the exercise, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim discussed the details of what had occurred and its significance. Lorenzana emphasized the challenging and realistic nature of the exercise for both sides, and Kim described Tempest Wind as a unique initiative that “went far beyond our normal array of joint exercises.”

In terms of the broader context of U.S.-Philippine defense ties, the conclusion of Tempest Wind came as defense officials from the two countries meet for the MDB-SEB annual meeting in Hawaii to discuss joint exercises for 2018, led by Admiral Harry Harris of PACOM and General Eduardo Ano of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). As details continue to emerge, they will offer some concrete indicators of what we might expect in U.S.-Philippine defense ties for the following year.

MILF: The BBL, Congress and its Legislative Process

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Sep 28): The BBL, Congress and its Legislative Process

CAMP DARAPANAN, SULTAN KUDARAT, MAGUINDANAO-( September 28, 2017) -  The BTC-crafted Bangsamoro Basic Law has been filed last Tuesday, and numbered as HB 6475. The bill is sponsored by no less than the Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Majority Leader Rudy Farinas, Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, Deputy Speaker Bai Sandra Sema of 1st District of Maguindanao, and Rep. Ruby Sahali of Tawi-Tawi as principal sponsors and about 80 congressmen/women attested to co - author the same.

In this recent development, many groups are asking what is next now that BBL is filed; How congress will do its mandate and what is their limitations; How legislative processes works. For the sake of those who are not familiar on how laws are enacted by congress, Luwaran is humbly sharing the details.

CONGRESS: The highest lawmaking body in the Philippines and its power is vested by Philippine Constitution.

It is a bicameral body consisting of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House of Representatives is composed of the congressmen / women elected from their legislative districts and partylist representatives. The Senate on the other hand is made up of senators, elected at large on a national level.

With the key function to craft laws, the congress produces two principal documents, bills and resolutions. Resolutions convey principles and sentiments that address either of the houses. Bills are legislative proposals that may become laws.

Here is a summary of how a bill becomes a law. (obtained from official website of the Senate). Filing / Calendaring for First Reading. A bill is filed in the office of the Secretary where it is given a corresponding number and calendared for First Reading.

FIRST READING: Its title, bill number and authors name are read on the floor after which is referred to proper committee.

COMMITTEE HEARINGS / REPORT: Committee conducts hearing and consultation meetings. It then approves the proposed bill without an amendment, approves it with changes or recommends substitution or consolidation with similar bills filed.

CALENDARING FOR SECOND READING: The committee report with its approved version is submitted to the Committee on Rules for calendaring for Second Reading.

SECOND READING: Bill author delivers sponsorship speech on the floor. Senators engage in debate, interpellation, turno en contra and rebuttal to highlight the pros and cons of the bill. A period of amendment incorporates necessary changes in the bill proposed by the Committee or introduced by Senators themselves on the floor. Senators vote on the Second reading version of the bill. If approved, the bill is calendared for 3rd Reading.

VOTING ON THIRD READING: Printed copies of the bill's final version are distributed to the Senators. This time only the title of the bill is read on the floor. Nominal voting is held. If passed, the approved Senate bill is referred to the House of Representatives for concurrence. (At the House of Representatives, the lower chamber follows the same procedures of " three reading principles. "

BACK TO THE SENATE: If the House approved version is compatible with that of the senate, the final versions enrolled form is printed. If there are certain differences, a Bicameral Conference Committee is called to reconcile conflicting provisions of both versions of the Senate and of the House of Representatives. Conference Committee submits report on the reconciled version of the bill, duly approved by both chambers the Senate prints the reconciled version in its enrolled form.

SUBMISSION TO MALACANANG: Final enrolled form is submitted to Malacañang. The President either signs it into law or vetoes it, and sends it back to the Senate with veto message. If the President fails to do either, the bill will lapse into law after 30 days.

Those are the processes on how a bill becomes a law. A reminder to our Honorable Legislators that it is now your chance to leave a legacy to the Bangsamoro people. There is no other way of correcting historical injustices suffered by them except by passing the Bangsamoro Basic Law that is CAB complaint and let the Supreme Court decide if there will be legal infirmities as alleged by some.


(Editors note: The writer sought permission to go on indefinite medical leave)

MILF: BTC Chair Jaafar holds Presscon with Foreign Media

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Sep 29): BTC Chair Jaafar holds Presscon with Foreign Media

(IN PHOTO) -MILF 1st Vice Chairman and Concurrent Chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission(BTC) Ghazali Jaafar is being interviewed by a foreign journalist in his satellite Office in Sultan, Kudarat, Maguindanao

“There’s no presence of an ISIS terrorists group here in Mindanao”. This was disclosed by Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) Chair and 1st Vice Chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Central Committee (MILF-CC) Ghadzali Jaafar during a Press Conference with Foreign Media on Mindanao Peace Process (Saturday) held at Sultan, Kudarat, Maguindanao on September 22, 2017.
He further clarified that what has transpired here is that, “The existence of the BIFF and the Maute group who are fighting against the government forces in Maguindanao and Marawi City was the result of big frustration. They highly expected the commitment of the previous administration to implement the signed negotiated political settlement of the Bangsamoro issue in Mindanao.”

“Actually the BIFF and the Maute group were former members of the MILF but they separated due to their frustrations and dissatisfaction to the uncertainty of the ongoing peace process. Probably, the government and the MILF peace process is the longest in the history of the peace process in the world. That’s the reasons why they separated and continued in fighting against the government”, Jaafar told the foreign journalists.

The BIFF and the Maute group were never been a bandits or terrorists in the Bangsamoro Homeland. They remained in fighting for a cause and principle to establish a self-rule government. The reported displaying of ISIS flag is may be a part of their propaganda to get public attention and begging for support from the ISIS founder. But definitely, We are not amenable to their principles in fighting without adherence to the rules of engagement as provided for under the Geneva Convention, Jaafar further said.

Question asked by the Media: In what alternative solution of the MILF-CC to neutralize the continued existence of the BIFF and Maute and other armed groups in Mindanao?

There’s no other way or alternative solution to neutralize the BIFF and the Maute group, except, to sign a strong BBL that could address the Bangsamoro Issue in Mindanao, Jaafar replied.

Precisely the Bangsamoro Government would be established: What assurance in your part as the BTC Chair that the BIFF and Maute would sympathize in the Bangsamoro Government?

Jaafar replied and said: I had mentioned earlier, the BIFF and Maute groups were former members of the MILF. Though they have separated from the MILF, we have one common objective which is to establish a Bangsamoro Government for Self-determination. Therefore, once they saw and observed the strong BBL passed by the 17th Congress, there’s no reason for them not to join in the Bangsamoro Government.

With the concerted efforts of the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) in facilitating the Press Conference by at least 14 Foreign Media Correspondents, said conference successfully ended.

Jaafar expressed his thanks and gratitude to the organizers and to the following media entities: Nash Maulana, PPI and Manila Standard Correspondent; Arlene Burgos, ABC-CBN News; Steven Chang, CNN; Liz Dan, East West Center; Siba Al, Newsday ; Shackir R, Kuwait Times; Liza R, East West Center; Jane Namon, ABS-CBN News; Usman Kansung, Media Indonesia, Jakarta; Shoeb Khan, Tunes of India; Municken Oyewode, Daily Trust Newspaper; Joseph Neff, The News Observer, USA; Arlel Sebenido, PPI, Executive Director; and Brian Sayawam, Star Media Malaysia.

Chairman Jaafar had explained briefly during the Presscon the basic information with relevant issues on Mindanao Peace Process. Such as; the historical relevance of the Bangsamoro Struggle as an independent Sultanate State before the coming of the Spaniards in March 1521. The historical background of the Bangsamoro Struggle, the hardships and sacrifices of the Bangsamoro in the hands of the foreign invaders; the Spaniards and the United States of America, for barely 500 years as of now, including the Philippine Colonial government,

Pardon me for telling this, “The Bangsamoro people was never been conquered by the Spaniards, and even the Americans. The Philippine government who initiated a peace talks with the MILF and invited the MILF to have a peace talks, we accepted it. Because the late Amerul Mujahideen and founding Chairman of the MILF, Sheik Salamat Hashim (Allaho Yarhamo) firmly believed and emphasized, “The best alternative solution to attain a dignified and lasting peace in Mindanao is through a democratic process.” That’s why we are exerting all our efforts to resolve the Bangsamoro Issue through a peace process.

Jaafar reiterated the main objectives of the peace process in Mindanao as well as the salient points of the BBL wherein the Bangsamoro people are expecting the full support of President Rodrigo Duterte and the 17th Congress to pass the BBL into law. He reiterated further that the ongoing peace process under the Duterte administration may pave way for a just, dignified and lasting peace in Mindanao.

CPP/NDF-EV: Celebrate the historical victory of the Balangiga Uprising, onward with the unfinished revolution for national and social liberation

NDFP-Eastern Visayas propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines Website (Sep 28): Celebrate the historical victory of the Balangiga Uprising, onward with the unfinished revolution for national and social liberation

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

28 September 2017

We in the National Democratic Front-Eastern Visayas (NDF-EV) greet all patriotic Filipinos who celebrate today, September 28, the 116th anniversary of the victorious armed people’s uprising against US imperialist occupation troops in Balangiga, Eastern Samar in 1901. For many years, the townsfolk of Balangiga have insisted on reenacting the uprising their revolutionary ancestors fought and won, where the climatic scene is casting down of the US flag even though it is officially frowned upon. We salute the brave people of Balangiga and their supporters today in Tacloban and elsewhere for their militant tradition of keeping Filipino revolutionary history alive. We support their continuing anti-imperialist struggle for justice and redress including the return of the Balangiga church bells US troops took as war booty.

It is important to stress the revolutionary and anti-imperialist impact of the Balangiga Uprising in light of attempts by US imperialism and the ruling classes to appropriate and use it to peddle the exact opposites of surrender and puppetry. This was outlined in the state of the nation address of puppet president Rodrigo Duterte who demanded the return of the Balangiga bells as well as in the response of glib support by the US embassy. Duterte’s pseudo-patriotism has been exposed as he allows US military intervention in the wholesale destruction of Marawi City and war against the Moro people, while the US backs martial law in Mindanao and the counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan that is causing massive human rights violations against the peasants and national minorities in the countryside. Duterte is also pseudo-patriotic in brutally extolling the thousands of extrajudicial killings in the anti-drug war just over a year after assuming power against the faint condemnation of the US to make him toe the line.

Thus, if the US troops abused Balangiga’s people in their colonial occupation over a hundred years ago, they continue to do so today in the neocolonial regime together with their mercenary troops in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). We are Balangiga. And what the butcher of Samar, US Gen. Jacob Smith, more than a century ago called as “protective retribution” to justifiy the massive attacks on civilians, today is known as by US and AFP troops as “war on terror” and “collateral damage.”

The Balangiga Uprising on Sept. 28, 1901 provided the prototype for armed mass uprisings in the context of people’s war, though despite the courage and sacrifice, the old Philippine Revolution was bound to fail because it was of the old type. But the new democratic revolution under working class leadership and with a socialist perspective will surely persevere with the lessons from history. The oppressive and widely despised AFP troops are surrounded by masses of the seething poor peasants in the countryside. As the New People’s Army strives for fullscale guerrilla warfare in the next few years towards achieving strategic stalemate, the conditions for Balangiga-type armed mass uprisings will become more and more feasible.

Let us therefore remember the heroism of the past Filipino patriots who struggled against US imperialism. There is no better way of honoring them than to win over the masses in their millions to the Philippine revolution, raise the people’s war to a new and higher level, fight in a thousand Balangiga uprisings and attain national and social liberation!

CPP/Information Bureau: On Duterte’s praise for so-called security alliance with US

CPP Information Bureau propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines Website (Sep 29): On Duterte’s praise for so-called security alliance with US

Information Bureau
Communist Party of the Philippines

29 September 2017

Overawed by US military power and tied down by his regime’s dependence on US military financial assistance and hand-me-down war materiél, Duterte yesterday praised the US as “an important security ally,” less than a year after having declared his plan of “leaving the US.”

Duterte’s statements indicate his intention of securing his place as a puppet of the US imperialists. He is now exhibiting complete subservience to US policies.

The Filipino people marked the historic Balangiga uprising yesterday by recalling how their forebears rose up against the abuses, torture and killings of the US colonial forces. Duterte did the opposite and chose to forget. He made a 180-degree turn from his audacious demand for the US to account for its crimes during the Filipino-American War, to his declaration yesterday that the US had already “redeemed” itself and that all the past transgressions are “water under the bridge.”

He thanked the US military for its supposed help in Marawi to cover-up US interventionism. In particular, Duterte wants to draw attention away from the role of the US military in leading the Mamasapano-type operation to liquidate Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon which, in turn, instigated the Moro armed uprising in Marawi. Duterte also obscures how the US military has remote-controlled the AFP in dropping bombs against Marawi. Duterte also muddles the historical role of the US in organizing and arming the criminal Abu Sayyaf bandit group, as well as its meddling in the Moro question to pave the way for foreign plunder of the natural wealth of the Bangsamoro land.

Appeased by Duterte’s historical amnesia, the US government has now chosen to keep silent on the campaign of mass murder perpetrated by the Duterte regime in its triple wars of death and destruction. The US has become complicit in Duterte’s fascist crimes not only by its silence, but moreso, by providing it with bombs, helicopter gunships, drones, automatic rifles, bullets and so on, second-hand and all.

In exchange, the US military has been given all-out access to dock its ships, station its weapons, fly its drones, gather electronic intelligence, drop its bombs and forward deploy its warships for power projection in the South China Sea. Duterte has assured the US that he will uphold the MDT, VFA, EDCA and other lopsided military treaties. Using the cover of so-called “joint exercises”, the US military continues to entrench itself in the country in violation of Philippine sovereignty.

The US military is set to further strengthen its presence in the Philippines. Together with the AFP, it is set to complete 257 “exercises” in the country this year. It is hyping-up the so-called ISIS-threat in order to justify and draw public support for heightened US military presence in the country. With Duterte, the US is now also playing up the supposed “drugs-terrorism” combination which will likely serve as pretext for Colombia-type intervention. More exercises are being planned for next year.

In the face of continued US violation of Philippine sovereignty, its criminal role in the destruction of Marawi and complicity in the Duterte regime’s spree of extrajudicial killings and all-out violations of human rights, the planned visit of US President Trump on November will surely be met with widespread protests by the Filipino people.

White House confirms Trump visit to PH in November

From ABS-CBN (Sep 29): White House confirms Trump visit to PH in November

United States President Donald Trump will travel to the Philippines in November as part of his five-nation swing in Asia.

 The White House said Friday that Trump is set to undertake a 12-day trip from Nov. 3 to 14, with stops in Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

The US leader is expected to take part in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit in the Philippines, where top officials from the bloc's partner nations are set to attend.

He is set to tackle trade issues and the North Korean nuclear threat during his Asian trip, the White House said Friday.

"The president's engagements will strengthen the international resolve to confront the North Korean threat and ensure the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," it said in a statement.

It would be Trump's first trip to the Philippines as US President.

Sulu gov’s cousin seized by Abu Sayyaf

From Malaya Business Insight (Sep 29): Sulu gov’s cousin seized by Abu Sayyaf

A COUNCILOR of Jolo town in Sulu, who is a cousin of Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan II, was abducted Wednesday night by members of the Abu Sayyaf in Indanan town, also in Sulu.

Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the military’s Joint Task Force Marawi, said Ezzenden Soud Tan, a member of the Tausog Bikers Club, and 11 fellow bikers were on the way back to Jolo, traversing a road between Barangays Timbangan and Tagbak, when the suspects seized Tan at around 6 p.m.

The kidnappers were aboard a red Tamaraw FX van, he said.

“Mostly, the perpetrators are members of the Abu Sayyaf... Search and rescue operations are ongoing,” said Sobejana.

Tan’s abduction brought to 14 the number of kidnap victims, including foreigners, in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu. 

The military stepped up operations against the Abu Sayyaf last year, leading to rescue and recovery of a number of hostages. “We started with about 33 kidnap victims, now it’s down to 14,” said Sobejana.

The offensive has also resulted in the death of many Abu Sayyaf members, including sub-leaders. There are about 300 to 400 members of the Abu Sayyaf, mostly operating in Sulu.

Asean defense chiefs to issue unified stand on sea dispute

From Malaya Business Insight (Sep 29): Asean defense chiefs to issue unified stand on sea dispute

SOUTHEAST Asian defense chiefs are due to come up with a unified stance on the dragging South China Sea dispute during next month’s Association of Southeast Asian Defense Ministers Meeting, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana yesterday said. 

Lorenzana said other issues are going to be discussed in the meeting to be held on October 23 and 24 at Clarkfield in Pampanga, including counter-terrorism, climate mitigation, and the drug problem.

“It will be a huge conference. We will be talking about common interests, number one of course is terrorism, number two is drugs, and of course - because we are in an area where we suffer a lot of calamities - disaster management,” said Lorenzana.

He said the South China Sea disputes have also been tabled for discussion.

Four Asean-member countries are involved in the dispute over the oil- and minerals-rich areas in the South China Sea, namely Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei. The two other claimants are China and Taiwan.

“Of course, we are going to have some statement also on the solution of some of the conflicts in the West Philippine Sea. Hopefully, we’ll have a unified statement on that with the Asean countries,” said Lorenzana.

“But we are also having dialogues with eight other nations, we call them the plus. There are eight of them: US, China, Russia, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Australia (and India),” he said.

Duterte on America: I'd rather be friendly with them now

From Rappler (Sep 28): Duterte on America: I'd rather be friendly with them now

'Overall, I think the Americans also redeemed themselves a lot,' President Rodrigo Duterte says during the 116th Balangiga Encounter Day in Eastern Samar

BALANGIGA DAY. President Rodrigo Duterte leads the wreath-laying ceremony during the 116th Balangiga Encounter Day in Eastern Samar on September 28, 2017. Malacañang photo

BALANGIGA DAY. President Rodrigo Duterte leads the wreath-laying ceremony during the 116th Balangiga Encounter Day in Eastern Samar on September 28, 2017. Malacañang photo

President Rodrigo Duterte said he "would rather be friendly" now with the United States because the Americans have "redeemed themselves" and "have helped us a lot."
"There are so many factors involved but I'd rather be friendly to them now because aside from these episodes of, I said, sad incidents, overall, I think the Americans also redeemed themselves a lot," Duterte said during the 116th Balangiga Encounter Day in Balangiga, Eastern Samar.

Balangiga is the site of a historic siege that led to the US military's worst single defeat in the Philippines. In what is known as the Balangiga Massacre, locals outsmarted and killed 48 out of 74 US troops in 1901.
The siege was signaled by the Balangiga bells, which the US eventually took as spoils of war.

Duterte has told the US to return the iconic bells that led to the 1901 Balangiga Massacre.
Due to this demand, observers expected the President to slam the US again during the 116th Balangiga Encounter Day, but he surprisingly went soft on the US on Thursday.

Duterte explained on Thursday that the US "partly helped" the Philippines when it was "challenged by the Japanese occupation" during World War II.
'They are our allies'

"I would not say they were our saviors, but they are our allies and they helped us," Duterte said.

"Even today, they provide crucial equipment to our soldiers in Marawi to fight the terrorists," he added.

Duterte described previous US abuses as "water under the bridge."
"I was under advice by the Department of Foreign Affairs that I would just temper my language and avoid magmura (cursing), which I'm prone to do if I get emotional," he said.

In earlier speeches, Duterte blasted the US for atrocities such as the Bud Dajo massacre where Americans killed around 600 Moros in Sulu.

Duterte's speech on Thursday comes as the US assists the Philippines in ending clashes between government troops and Islamic State (ISIS)-linked Maute Group terrorists in Marawi City.

Earlier this month, the US announced it was donating P730 million ($15 million) to help rebuild Marawi.

Recently, the Philippines and the US held a drill that simulated a hijacking and hostage-taking incident to train their troops in fighting terrorism.

After long silence, ISIS says chief calls on jihadists to 'resist'

From Rappler (Sep 29): After long silence, ISIS says chief calls on jihadists to 'resist'

The United States says it is verifying the recording, but also that it has 'no reason to doubt' its authenticity

ISIS CHIEF. An image grab taken from a propaganda video released on July 5, 2014 by al-Furqan Media allegedly shows the leader of the Islamic State jihadist group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, aka Caliph Ibrahim, addressing Muslim worshippers at a mosque in the militant-held northern Iraqi city of Mosul. File photo by AFP/Ho/Al-Furqan Media

ISIS CHIEF. An image grab taken from a propaganda video released on July 5, 2014 by al-Furqan Media allegedly shows the leader of the Islamic State jihadist group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, aka Caliph Ibrahim, addressing Muslim worshippers at a mosque in the militant-held northern Iraqi city of Mosul. File photo by AFP/Ho/Al-Furqan Media

The Islamic State group (IS, formerly known as ISIS or the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq) released a recording Thursday, September 28, of what it says is its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, calling on jihadists under pressure in Syria and Iraq to "resist" their enemies.

In his first alleged message in nearly a year and following reports of his possible death, the elusive jihadist leader called on his supporters to target the "media centers" of countries fighting his group.

The United States said it was verifying the recording, but also that it had "no reason to doubt" its authenticity.

"The leaders of the Islamic State and its soldiers have realised that the path to... victory is to be patient and resist the infidels whatever their alliances," Baghdadi allegedly said in the recording.

It was not clear when the message, released by the ISIS-affiliated Al-Furqan media group, was recorded.

In it, he lashed out at "infidel nations headed by America, Russia and Iran" who, along with their allies, have inflicted losses on the jihadists during separate offensives against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

"We will remain, we will resist and be patient... We will not give in," he said, a day after Iraqi forces defeated ISIS fighters who had seized areas in a surprise offensive around Ramadi west of Baghdad.

The apparent ISIS leader called on "soldiers of the caliphate" to pursue their "jihad", or holy war, and attacks.

He urged his followers to "target the media centers of the infidels", without providing further details.

No verification yet

The voice said to belong to Baghdadi listed his group's defeats, referring to "blood spilt in Mosul, Ramadi, Sirte, Raqa and Hama".

ISIS lost Ramadi in February 2016, Libya's Sirte in December last year, and Iraq's second city Mosul in July.

In Syria, the group is facing ongoing offensives in its former de facto Syrian capital of Raqa and in the central province of Hama.

A US intelligence community source said they were examining the audio message.

"We are aware of the audio tape purported to be of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and are taking steps to examine it," the source said in a statement.

"While we have no reason to doubt its authenticity, we do not have verification at this point."

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Agence France-Presse: "I have no information about this recording."

Thursday's was the first audio message said to be of Baghdadi since November 2016, when he spoke in a defiant tone in urging his supporters to defend the city of Mosul against a massive operation by Iraqi forces.

That recording, also released by Al-Furqan, was a rare sign of life from Baghdadi.

In July, Moscow said it was struggling to confirm if Baghdadi was dead or alive, a month after reporting his possible demise in a May air strike near the ISIS one-time stronghold of Raqa in Syria.

With a $25 million US bounty on his head, Iraq-born Baghdadi has successfully avoided an intense effort to seek him out for 6 years or more.

Rumors have abounded about Baghdadi's health and movements, but his whereabouts have largely remained unclear.

Still alive?

On September 1, a senior US general said Baghdadi was probably still alive and likely hiding in the Euphrates River valley stretching from Syria to Iraq.

A US-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance and Russian-backed government forces are waging rival offensives against ISIS territory on either side of the Euphrates River in Syria's Deir Ezzor province.

In Iraq, US-backed Iraqi forces are pressing their battle to retake the northern city of Hawija and a section of the Euphrates near the border with Syria.

Shortly after the jihadists swept across swathes of Iraq in June 2014, Baghdadi appeared before thousands of faithful at Mosul's Great mosque of Al-Nuri to urge Muslims around the world to join his "caliphate" straddling Syria and Iraq.

The jihadists have since lost vast territory in both countries.

But US counterterrorism chief Nick Rasmussen warned on Wednesday, September 27, the global threat posed by ISIS had not been diminished by its battlefield defeats in Iraq and Syria.

He said, using an alternative acronym for ISIS, there was "not, in fact, a direct link between ISIS' battlefield position in Iraq and Syria and the group's capacity to inspire external attacks."

Baghdadi's group has claimed its members were behind deadly attacks carried out worldwide, including in Paris, London and Barcelona.

Wednesday's operation near the Iraqi city of Ramadi was likely to have been an attempt to divert the security forces from an offensive they launched last week against the jihadists' last two footholds in Iraq.

Bodies, firearms retrieved from former Maute stronghold

From Rappler (Sep 29): Bodies, firearms retrieved from former Maute stronghold

(UPDATED) The military is checking if Omar Maute, one of the key leaders behind the attack on Marawi, is among those killed in Bato Mosque


(UPDATED) – Government troops retrieved piles of bodies of Maute fighters and a hoard of burned firearms after clearing the whole block of Bato Mosque, formerly a key enemy stronghold in Marawi City.

Up to 15 bodies were retrieved in the area that troops fought hard to take from the Maute fighters, said Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez, chief of the military's Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom).

"We have significantly cleared the whole block of Bato Mosque and the different chambers wherin the bodies of dead Maute members have been found," Galvez said in a press briefing on Friday, September 29.

The military said it was checking if Omar Maute – one of the key leaders behind the attack on Marawi – was among those killed. Some of the faces were not recognizable, according to a source. (READ: Terror in Mindanao: The Mautes of Marawi)

"We are verifying. Sana nga kasama na siya roon (We hope his body is among those recovered)," Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told Rappler on Thursday.

Talks about Omar Maute's death swirled in Marawi following an intelligence report that he was severely wounded in fierce firefights over control of the mosque.

Bato Mosque previously served as enemy headquarters, where command and control came from. It was also where hostages were kept and where the Maute group reportedly kept its armory.

The military offensive forced the Maute fighters to abandon the mosque two weeks ago and allowed the rescue of up to 5 hostages including Catholic priest Father Teresito "Chito" Soganub and Dansalan teacher Lordvin Acopio. (READ: The life of a Maute hostage in Marawi)

Fighting continued in the area as Maute fighters holed up in tall buildings surrounding the mosque. On Thursday, the whole block was cleared.

Galvez said the hostages were moved to other locations in the battle area.

Troops had pushed back the enemies into a smaller space towards the lake but the military said improvised explosive devices slowed down the final push to end the war.

Military recruits 300 Lumad

From Rappler (Sep 29): Military recruits 300 Lumad

The 10th Infantry Division will begin training qualified Lumad recruits in October

RECRUITMENT. Lumad recruits will join the 10th Infantry Division once they complete training. Photo from the Facebook page of the 10th Infantry Agila Division Philippine Army

RECRUITMENT. Lumad recruits will join the 10th Infantry Division once they complete training. Photo from the Facebook page of the 10th Infantry Agila Division Philippine Army

A military unit in Mindanao has recruited at least 300 Lumad to provide "equal opportunities" to cultural minorities in the country.

Captain Roberto Escalona Jr, acting spokesperson of the 10th Infantry Division (ID), said the Lumad trainees were from cultural minorities in the Davao region who will be deployed to the division's 4 brigades.

“This means all cultural minorities have all equal opportunities,” Escalona told Rappler in a text message Thursday night. (INFOGRAPHIC: Who are the Lumad?)

To help facilitate the Lumad's recruitment, the military waived several requirements, including height, age, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Service Aptitude Test (AFPSAT).

They will be enlisted for an initial 3-year duty, and will be re-enlisted for another 3 years if they pass the AFPSAT, said Escalona.

To qualify for re-enlistment and to become part of the regular force, the recruits will have to pass the AFPSAT, he said. “If not, they will be reverted back to civilian,” Ecalona added.

Escalona said the recruitment of Lumad soldiers is part of the AFP’s national program, and not a special recruitment exclusive for minorities.

“They will receive the same training like the regular quota has been receiving. In the military, training is continuous, so they will receive whatever training we will be giving to all our soldiers,” he said.

10th ID spokesperson Captain Rhyan Batchar, who went on study leave starting September 28, said in an earlier statement that to check the mental and physical fitness of the trainees to join the military, they took a neuropsychological exam and a medical exam, and had an interview.

Batchar had said that the Lumad recruits, a mix of men and women, will undergo a 6-month training in October. They will also be likely assigned to their home areas, he added.

Asked whether the Lumad were recruited to help the military in its anti-insurgency campaign, Escalona said on Friday, September 29: "This is part of the national program, not only for the anti-insurgency campaign but the function of the army as a whole. This includes the boosting of disaster relief operations, humanitarian efforts, combating terrorism and other lawless armed groups and peace spoilers, and other functions of the army."

The 10th ID had earlier said that the recruitment of Lumad would keep them from joining the New People's Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

The area of responsibility of the 10th Infantry Division, also called the Agila Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, includes the Davao region and parts of Region 12.

On September 21, the 10th ID overran a camp of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Compostela Valley following an armed encounter with around 50 rebels.

The move to recruit Lumad to the Philippine Army comes after President Rodrigo Duterte made pronouncements against the indigenous people over their supposed links to communists.

Duterte had called himself a champion of the Lumad in Mindanao before he ran for president, but during his presidency, he had threatened to bomb community schools ran by the Lumad who, he alleged, spread the communist ideology among students. (RAPPLER TALK: The love-hate relationship between Duterte and the Lumad)

3 Maute fighters surrender in Marawi

From Rappler (Sep 29): 3 Maute fighters surrender in Marawi

'I believe hindi na nila kaya ang intense fighting,' says Westmincom chief Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez

ISIS-LINKED GROUPS. Marawi City is attacked by ISIS-inspired militants belonging to the Maute Group on May 23, 2017. Photo by Mohammad Manshawi

ISIS-LINKED GROUPS. Marawi City is attacked by ISIS-inspired militants belonging to the Maute Group on May 23, 2017. Photo by Mohammad Manshawi

Three Maute fighters surrendered in Marawi as troops continue to advance and gain ground in the battle area in Marawi City.

This was revealed by Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez in a press briefing in Marawi on Friday, September 28.

"I believe hindi na nila kaya ang (they can't anymore stand the) intense fighting," Galvez said.

Galvez said they are "regular fighters" or the recruits of the Maute Group, differentiating them from the so-called "hard-core fighters" who want to die as martyrs in the battle area.

It's unclear when the Maute fighters surrendered. Galvez refused to give more details, citing operational security.

"We are still withholding the information because of some critical matters. We still have a lot of operations ongoing," Galvez said.

The military is using loudspeakers in the battle area to encourage the Maute fighters to surrender. It's the scenario that the military said could end the war soonest.

Coins, nails used as shrapnel for Maute bombs in Marawi

From Rappler (Sep 29): Coins, nails used as shrapnel for Maute bombs in Marawi

Crisis spokesperson Zia Alonto Adiong hits the Maute Group for using the Bato Mosque to manufacture IEDs

The military on Friday, September 29, presented 6 sacks of coins and assorted metal that it recovered from Bato Mosque, a former Maute Group stronghold that troops recently cleared.

Colonel Romeo Brawner, deputy commander of Task Group Ranao, said the coins and nails may be used to manufacure IEDs as troops have seen them using the battle area.

IEDs are among the main killers of government forces in Marawi. Brawner showed a photo of an improvised hand grenade that used coins as shrapnel.

"One of the significant recoveries made yesterday [September 28] is the recovery of 6 sacks of coins and assorted metal objects that may be used for IEDs," said Brawner.

"There have been instances already in the past where our troops have been hit by coins. Noong sumabog po ang IED and improvised grenades nila ay mga pieces of coins ang tumama sa kanila (When their IED and improvised grenades exploded, coins hit the troops)," said Brawner.

The sacks of coins and assorted metal objects were found among IEDs unexploded ordnance, and firearms.

They were turned over to the police as potential evidence against members of the Maute Group, said Brawner.

Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesman of the Provincial Crisis Management Committee, hit the Maute Group for using the mosque to manufacture IEDs.

"They know for a fact, as Muslims, you should not use mosques as your place of manufacturing ordnance or firearms. A mosque is a place of worship. It should be neutral to any armed conflict," Adiong said.

"Using the mosque as an armory where they can set up their improvised grenades and explosives does not only violate religious issue, it also bastardizes the identify of Maranao people. Mosques are seen not only as religious icons but also the identify of Moro people," said Adiong.

Adiong also hit the Maute Group for taking civilian hostages.

Gov’t peace panel launches CARHRIHL monitoring committee

From MindaNews (Sep 29): Gov’t peace panel launches CARHRIHL monitoring committee

A platoon of NPA guerrillas render a salute during the 48th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines in barangay Mananom-Bago, Medina town, Misamis Oriental on Dec. 28, 2016. MindaNews file photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

The government (GRP) peace negotiating panel on Friday launched the body that will monitor compliance with an agreement that seeks to protect the rights of noncombatants in armed conflict.

The government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) signed the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) in the Hague, The Netherlands on March 12, 1998.

During the launch of the “Peace Buzz” at the Rizal Park here, Presidential Adviser on Peace Process secretary Jesus Dureza announced the GRP monitoring committee on CARHRIHL has stations in Davao City and Cagayan de Oro City that will receive complaints or incident reports.

He emphasized the need to revisit the provisions of this agreement. He said it should be strictly observed even as the talks between GRP and NDFP have been put on hold pending an environment “conducive for peace negotiations” that President Duterte had asked from the New People’s Army (NPA), the communists’ armed wing.

“If we can put a lot of work in respect for human rights, then we are already moving forward. And the respect for human rights should not only be for government, we shall expect the other side of the table will also do equally — respect human rights of people. And so if we can make that work already, we are already moving forward although talks are still canceled right now,” he said.

Dureza said he hopes their counterparts from the NDFP “will respond accordingly”, although doing so is their judgment call.

The committee will monitor the implementation of the CARHRIHL by concerned units and agencies of government, and request them to act on any violation of the agreement.

Dureza put to task the two monitoring stations to encourage local government units and civil society to support the committee’s efforts and give updates to stakeholders on the status of the CARHRIHL and the Joint Monitoring Committee.

The GRP monitoring committee is chaired by lawyer Franklin M. Quijano, with Deputy Regional Prosecutor Barbara Mae Flores and Justice Undersecretary Antonio T. Kho as members and lawyer Caesar S. Europa (Integrated Bar of the Philippines and Alladin S. Diega (International Alert) as independent observers.

In a statement delivered by GRP peace negotiating panel member lawyer Antonio B. Arellano, GRP chief peace negotiator Silvestre Bello III said the government panel’s monitoring station is another milestone of government’s earnest efforts that manifests the Duterte administration’s adherence to and respect for human rights and international humanitarian law.

“By doing so, we have brought the GRP-MC’s ear closer to the ground, so to speak, in what is undeniably a conflict hotspot in our country, thereby enabling it to be readily accessible and responsive to the people sought to be served by the enforcement of CARHRIHL,” he said.

The fifth round of peace negotiation scheduled on May 27 to June 2 in the Netherlands did not push through, following the series of skirmishes between government forces and NPA rebels.

Dureza said the challenges [to peace] include the noticeable increase in attacks by the NPA throughout the country, the seeming perception of the bigger public that these NPA operations are in open and public defiance of President Duterte who has consistently accommodated them in unprecedented ways, the renewed surfacing of public apprehension questioning the sincerity of the CPP/NPA/NDF in the peace talks;

the public admissions of some panel members of the CPP/NPA NDF that they have no control over their forces on the ground, the sudden and perceptible erosion of public support to the peace talks with strong messages received from the public to altogether stop peace negotiations, the clamor now to pursue instead localized peace talks, and the latest statements from the President that he will no longer sign agreements with the rebels if all of these will continue.

‘Localized peace talks’
Dureza said it will not get involved in the localized peace talks that the city government of Davao has initiated because the GRP peace panel will only deal with the NDFP leadership.

“What are localized peace talks? Localized because it will not deal with the CPP-NPA-NDF. It’s our panel at the national level that deals with them,” he said.

He acknowledged though that local officials can best deal with the NPA commanders on the ground “because they know them, they know where they are, they know what their needs are, and they can also provide the assistance perhaps that are needed.”

He added the OPAPP will not participate in the localized peace talks, as these may be viewed by the communists as “pulling the carpet under their feet” while the GRP panel is negotiating with NDFP leadership.

The “Peace Buzz”, a nationwide caravan that aims “to promote the culture of peace through an-on-the-ground outreach to the public” as the highlight of the National Peace Consciousness Month, kicked off in Baguio City on September 21.

It arrived in Davao on September 29, and will culminate in Iligan City on October 1 with the ringing of the Peace Gong in an evacuation site for displaced residents of Marawi City.

“Hopefully, the Peace Buzz will place into public view what we have been doing quietly before,” Dureza said.

Ateneo de Davao binulabog ng bomb threat

From the Mindanao Examiner (Sep 29): Ateneo de Davao binulabog ng bomb threat

Nabulabog kahapon ng bomb threat ang Ateneo de Davao University matapos na umano’y kumalat ang mga text messages sa Davao City na may bombing itinanim sa naturang paaralan.

Agad naman sinuspindi ng Ateneo ang lahat ng classes doon at pinalikas ang daan-daang mga estudyante, guro at empleyado habang sinusuyod ng bomb squad ang lugar. Naglabas pa ng tweet si Fr Joel Tabora, ng Ateneo, na suspindido ang mga classes dahil sa naturang bomb threat.

“ADDU Classes in Jacinto Campus called off for the rest of the day. Stay away until all is checkd,” tweet pa ni Tabora na siyang presidente ng paaralan.

Hindi naman agad mabatid kung saan o sino ang nagpakalat ng text messages na may sasabog na bomba sa Ateneo. Noon Septemebr 2 ng nakaraang taon ay sumabog rin ang isang bomba sa night market sa Davao City na ikinamatay at ikinasugat ng marami.

Ang local na Maute group ang siyang itinuro sa naturang atake sa night market sa downtown Davao. Ang naturang grupo ngayon ang siyang nakikipaglaban sa militar sa Marawi City.

NPA rebels urged to give up fighting, start new life

From the Mindanao Examiner (Sep 29): NPA rebels urged to give up fighting, start new life

The Philippine Army has urged communist insurgents to peacefully surrender at take advantage of the government’s amnesty offer and livelihood package for them to start a new life with their family.

President Rodrigo Duterte, in his recent public speeches, even offered New People’s Army rebels their own houses and join the military as soldiers should they lay down their weapons and surrender to the government.

Just on Wednesday, seven rebels have already surrendered to the army in the town of Ipil in Zamboanga Sibugay province, according to Major General Rolando Joselito Bautista, commander of the 1st Infantry Division anf Joint Task Force ZamPeLan (Zamboanga Peninsula at Lanao).

He identified those who yielded as Henry Bawan Becsala, Benbin Gumandag Mandaw, Mario Oksik Maghanaoy, Lauravel Obaran Niadas, Villa Neadas, Marcelino Gumangay Lavares and Joseph Gumangay Lavarez. They also handed over two AK-47 assault rifles and a .45-caliber pistol to the 102nd Brigade which facilitated the surrender.

“This recent surrender is a result of the combined intelligence and combat operations being launched by our troops on the ground to employ more pressure and compel the communist terrorists to lay down their arms.There is an ongoing facilitation on the resolution of two surrendered NPA members, and the CLIP benefits will be done after this will be resolved,” Bautista said, referring to Comprehensive Local Integration Program of the government.

The NPA, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front, has been fighting for many decades now in an effort to overthrow the democratic government and install a Maoist state in the country.

Government peace talks with the rebels had failed and fighting continue in many areas in the country.

Amazing Grace: A Glimpse Into the Philippines’ First and Largest Humanitarian Vessel

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 29): Amazing Grace: A Glimpse Into the Philippines’ First and Largest Humanitarian Vessel

Amazing Grace: A Glimpse Into the Philippines’ First and Largest Humanitarian Vessel

“PRC does not try to compete, but tries to keep up,” said Senator Richard Gordon who’s also the current Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) about the country’s first and largest humanitarian vessel.

The 195-foot military prototype vessel that was unveiled May 9 has the capacity to carry 20 ambulances or six trucks loaded with cargo. The ship can weather extremely choppy seas and operate as a cargo-loaded barge that can bring itself to the shore. In the event of a large-scale disaster, the ship can evacuate up to a thousand people to safety.

“The ship is the realization of our vision to establish the Philippine Red Cross as the foremost humanitarian organization in the country, capable of delivering timely humanitarian services that save lives and restore the dignity of the most vulnerable,” Gordon said.

Originally named M/V Susitna, the ship’s new name was picked through the social media contest titled #NameThatRedCrossShip. As an organization that has broken many barriers, overcome the odds, and came to the rescue to the most disastrous events in Philippine history for the past 70 years, the winning name was apt for the moment.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte himself led the commissioning of the newly named and now operational, M/V PRC Amazing Grace.

The need and purpose for the humanitarian vessel
“When the tragedy of Yolanda struck our nation more than three years ago, emergency responders faced the formidable task of reaching the devastated areas due to insufficient transport facilities and heavily damaged infrastructure,” President Duterte said.

“May this ship serve as a concrete reminder to all of us that above all we must prioritize the safety, the well-being and the welfare of our people,” the President said.

The President noted the significance of this ship in responding to calamities, and it’s acquisition as in line with the PRC’s vision of responding to any disaster anywhere in the country.

According to the PRC, citing a 2015 report by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), the Philippines ranks fourth in the world among countries hit by the highest number of disasters over the past 20 years.

The PRC also noted in its presentation that the need for a ship came from the organization’s experience during Typhoon Yolanda, where the temporary closure of the Tacloban airport (which was then heavily damaged) and seaports became a hindrance for Red Cross to bring much needed relief. to areas.

In its brief on the ship, PRC said that:

“The Philippines is also currently the fifth most vulnerable country in terms of disaster risk implications for development capacity, according to the UNISDR 2015 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction.”

According to Sen. Gordon, the M/V PRC Amazing Grace can be managed with a minimal of six personnel. He also noted that the humanitarian organization has signed an agreement in 2016 with the Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific to train and provide crew maintenance for the vessel.

The PRC will also be able to use the ship as a rapid transport and landing vessel for the organization’s emergency units. It will also function as a relief supply transport ship, medical facility deployment ship, sea rescue and mass evacuation vessel, humanitarian logistics ship, mobile operations command post, and humanitarian education and training ship.

It was the PRC, together with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), British Red Cross, German Red Cross, and Japanese Red Cross, that agreed that having their own ship is needed to effectively perform humanitarian work in the Philippines and the Asia Pacific Region.

NPA rebels stage attacks in 2 barangays in Bicol

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 29): NPA rebels stage attacks in 2 barangays in Bicol

Two groups of suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels on Thursday night carried out separate attacks against a police detachment in Barangay Bascaran and minutes later set fire on the heavy equipment at the construction site at the Bicol International Airport (BIA) in Barangay Alobo in this town.

Reports reaching the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Albay said on Friday that a 30-minute firefight ensued between policemen and an undetermined number of suspected rebels.

Chief Inspector Arthur Gomez, PNP Albay spokesperson, said the gunfight at the PNP Public Safety Command detachment lasted for 30 minutes but no casualty was reported on both sides. 

He added it appeared that the attack at the Bascaran police detachment is a diversionary tactic for the NPA guerillas to torch 11 construction machineries such at BIA. The attackers burned five heavy equipment trucks, mini dump truck, a cement mixer, crane among others, owned by the EM Cuerpo Builders.

He said it was the second attack staged by the rebels at the BIA. The first was in 2005 when a group of NPA men barged in at the construction site and torched several equipment of the Sun West Construction after the firm denied the extortion demands from the rebels.

Barangays Bascaran and Alobo in Daraga town are 20 kilometers away from Legazpi City.

Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda on Friday expressed dismay over the reported attack at BIA.

“So sad. Another big setback after 12 years of effort. But we are not giving up,” he said.

The Albay solon has asked the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the PNP to fully secure the ongoing construction work of the BIA passenger terminal building which is currently in its final stage.

“We remain hopeful and the entire government is resolute that the President’s commitment of completion in three years will still be met by early 2020,” Salceda said.

Suspects in NoCot village chair slay hunted

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 29): Suspects in NoCot village chair slay hunted

Police and military forces here are hunting down two men riding in tandem on a motorbike for killing a village chair in the province Thursday.

Supt. Gilbert Tuzon, Midsayap town police chief, said several witnesses have come forward to provide police investigators with information that could lead to the whereabouts of the suspects.

He identified the victim as Mama Duluan, 52, chair of Barangay Tumbras, a village bordering Maguindanao and North Cotabato.

Tuzon, citing police investigation, said Duluan was driving a multi-cab vehicle heading for home after he fetched his child and a relative from school when a motorcycle with two men overtook him at past 5 p.m.

One of the men shot Duluan using a cal. 45 pistol. He died on the spot from multiple gunshot wounds while his child and relative both escaped unharmed.

Police are eyeing “rido” (family feud) as the motive of the attack against Duluan, who had no armed escorts unlike other village officials in North Cotabato.

“We are still investigating other possible motives,” Tuzon said.

It was not clear if Duluan was armed or not.

BIFF executes 4 members for disloyalty

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 29): BIFF executes 4 members for disloyalty

Four members of an ISIS-inspired terrorist group in Maguindanao were executed by its commanders after they were found conniving with the rival Moro armed group and the military, the Army here said Friday.

Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, chief of the Army's 6th Infantry Division Civil Military Operations (CMO) Battalion, said the four Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) members were followers of Ustadz Esmael Abdulmalik whose group pledged allegiance to the ISIS.

The execution, according to Besana, came after joint Army and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) recovered the BIFF stronghold in Barangay Tee, Datu Salibo, Maguindanao following several days of artillery and air strikes from the Philippine military.

Major Gen. Arnel dela Vega, commander of the 6th Infantry Division and Joint Task Force Central, said the BIFF camp, where the Esmael Abdulmalik faction has been hiding since last month, was captured Wednesday afternoon. It was located iat sitio Dagaring, Barangay Tee, Datu Salibo, Maguindanao.

At the camp, dela Vega said in statement that elements of the 57th Infantry Battalion recovered the body of a slain BIFF fighter, four improvised explosive devices, two M-14 rifles, an M-16 Armalite rifle and ISIS flags when troops set in at past 5 p.m. Wednesday.

The slain BIFF member was later identified by villagers as Ansari Alimama, a Maranao from Butig town in Lanao del Sur and believed to be allied with the Maute terrorist group, according to Senior Supt. Agustin Tello, Maguindanao police director.

Barangay Tee had been the object of occasional air strikes when the MILF provided the information to the Army about the BIFF Abdulmalik faction’s location.

Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, spokesperson for Task Force Central, said the Army is verifying reports from the locals that four BIFF members were executed by Abdulmalik on suspicion that they were providing the Army and the MILF their location through text messages.
“The barangay and local leaders have been providing us information about it and we are validating it,” Besana said.

He could not say where the cadaver of four slain BIFF members now, but their mobile phones can no longer be reached, according to information provided by the MILF.

Abdulmalik and his men of about 500 is the subject of MILF offensives after they tried, but failed, to raise ISIS flags in MILF identified areas in Barangay Tee and Barangay Andavit, Datu Salibo Maguindanao in early August.

He and his group pledged allegiance to the ISIS and military intelligence reports said several foreign terrorists were seen with his group.

Tello said in separate interview that his unit had received information about the execution of four BIFF members.

According to Tello, Alimama was a lieutenant of Omar and Abdullah Maute, founder of the ISIS-inspired Maute group now fighting government forces in Marawi.

“We have validated from our contacts in Lanao del Sur that this Alimama hailed from Butig,” Tello said.

Besana said surgical air strikes and artillery offensives against the BIFF have continued in the towns of Datu Salibo and adjacent towns of Datu Piang and Datu Saydona Mustapha against fleeing terrorists.

The MILF, which signed a peace deal with the government in 2014, is bound by the 1997 ceasefire agreement to help the Philippine military rid their communities of terrorists and lawless elements.