Tuesday, October 3, 2017

US, PH Marines launch KAMANDAG

From Update Philippines (Oct 3): US, PH Marines launch KAMANDAG


The United States Sailors and Marines under the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade together with Filipino counterparts launched the inaugural exercise KAMANDAG on October 2. 

Activities for KAMANDAG will be conducted in different parts of Luzon until October 11.

KAMANDAG stands for “Kaagapay Ng Mga Mandirigma Ng Dagat” or “Cooperation of Warriors of the Sea.”

It focuses on enhancing counter terrorism and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) capabilities and conducting humanitarian and civic assistance projects.

“Some of the activities that service members will be able to practice together include combat lifesaving, shipboard mass casualty response, live fire training, urban operations, movement ashore, and humanitarian assistance and disaster response,” the US Embassy in Manila said.


LOOK: 226 New soldiers receive weapons, integrated into Army

From Update Philippines (Oct 3): LOOK: 226 New soldiers receive weapons, integrated into Army

7ID photo

A total of 226 new soldiers have been integrated into the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army on September 29.

This is after the holding of Closing Ceremony and Symbolic Entrustment of Firearms for the Candidate Soldier Course Class 458-17 and 459-17 in Fort Ramon Magsaysay.

7ID photo

7ID commanding general Major General Angelito M. de Leon was the Guest of Honor and Speaker during the Closing Ceremony of the Candidate Soldier Course, while Judge Kelly B. Belino, Presiding Judge, Municipal Trial Court in Cities Branch 1, Cabanatuan City was the Guest of Honor and Speaker for the Symbolic Entrustment of Firearms.


PHL, US soldiers hold drills

From the Visayan Daily Star (Oct 3): PHL, US soldiers hold drills

Philippine and US troops launched new joint counter-terrorism exercises yesterday, days after President Rodrigo Duterte, a fierce critic of Washington, reversed course in favor of pursuing one of Asia's oldest military alliances.

Duterte vowed last week to be "friendly" with the United States, in contrast to comments he made a year ago calling joint military exercises a "humiliation" and threatening to sever defence ties forged after World War II.

The week-long joint operation involves live-fire training, rescues in combat situations, and mass-casualty situations aboard ships, according to the American side.

The US embassy said the drills "will increase overall US and Philippine readiness, improve bilateral responsiveness to crises in the region, and further reinforce our illustrious decades-long alliance".

“(The operation) perpetuates a long and lasting partnership founded firmly on common heritage between freedom-loving countries," Philippine Marines spokeswoman, Captain Maria Rowena Dalmacio, said.

About 900 US troops are taking part in the training, to be held in various locations in the northern Philippine region of Luzon, including the former US military base of Clark. The Filipino side did not disclose its numbers.

Duterte, 72, had sought to loosen his nation's alliance with the United States since assuming the presidency last year as he looked to forge stronger relations with China and Russia.

During a visit to China last October, he announced his "separation from the United States" and later explained he was angry at then US president Barack Obama for criticising his centrepiece war on drugs which has since seen thousands killed.

However, Duterte said last week these comments were "water under the bridge" and thanked the US for helping the Philippines fight Islamic militants, who occupied parts of the southern city of Marawi on May 23.

The US provided intelligence, weapons and urban warfare training to Philippine forces trying to retake the city in fighting which has left more than 900 people dead.

The continuing Marawi crisis has prompted Duterte to refocus the Philippine-US military alliance towards counter-terrorism.

Last week, US and Philippine forces staged an exercise simulating the seizure of an American plane by IS and a hostage rescue.


Anti-insurgency operations in Negros Oriental boosted

From the Visayan Daily Star (Oct 3): Anti-insurgency operations in Negros Oriental boosted

The Police Regional Office 7 is starting to pour in more combat-trained troops to Negros Oriental to beef up its anti-insurgency operations in the province.

PRO-7 director, Chief Supt. Jose Mario Espino, announced the deployment of one platoon from the Regional Public Safety Battalion 7 during the regular flag-raising activity of the Negros Oriental Police Provincial Office at Camp Fernandez in Sibulan town, yesterday.

He said in an interview that the move is just the first step towards securing the province from the threat posed by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army.

“That is only initial to augment Guihulngan (police force) in response to the clamor of the local executive and residents” of that northern Negros Oriental city, he said.

He cited the ambush allegedly perpetrated by the communist rebels in Guihulngan in July where the police chief and five of his men were killed, while three other police personnel and a civilian were wounded.

Espino said that in the coming days, the PRO-7 would be creating a task force to solely address the insurgency problem in Negros Oriental.

This would be headed by PRO-7 deputy director for Operations, Senior Supt. Dennis Agustin, he added.

Also, the PRO-7 will beef up the Public Safety Battalion and the Public Safety Company to further strengthen the PNP's internal security operations, he added.

Espino said yesterday's command conference with the Negros Oriental PNP, headed by acting provincial director, Senior Supt. Edwin Portento, helped the PRO-7 in determining the strength, equipment and capabilities of the anti-insurgency troops in the province.

“Kung ano man ang kulang, pupunuan natin. (Whatever is lacking, we will provide)”, he added.

It was Espino's first visit to the NORPPO as he assumed command of the latter as PRO-7 regional director, following the abolition of the Negros Island Region, which took effect September 30.


‘RPA fighters repulse NPA'

From the Visayan Daily Star (Oct 3): ‘RPA fighters repulse NPA'

The Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade foiled a raid conducted by the New People's Army on its community in the boundary of Brgy. Bagong Silang and Brgy. Pinuwayan, Salvador Benedicto, Negros Occidental, its spokesman, Victorino Sumulong, said yesterday.

Sumulong said three teams of NPA fighters assaulted the RPA-ABB troops headed by Ka Andot at about 6 p.m. Sunday in the area.

He said the firefight lasted for 15 minutes and the NPA withdrew in separate directions.

A team of the fleeing NPA rebels crossing a river within the boundary of Brgys. Pinuwayan and Bagong Silang in Salvador Benedicto, were caught by pursuing RPA-ABB members, who opened fire at them, Sumulong added.

He said four of the fleeing NPA rebels were hit, and three of them are believed to have been killed.

But Mario Dulman, in an interview with Bombo Radyo, claimed that he and his two nephews, Reynold and Robert Selendron, were engaged in spear fishing at a river in Sitio Bayabas, Brgy. Bagong Silang, Salvador Benedicto, when they were fired upon.

It resulted in the death his nephew, Robert, Dulman added.

Reynold also denied that they are NPA members, and said no encounter had taken place.

Sumulong said the two who were claiming to be civilians traded shots with the RPA-ABB.

They were armed, he added.

Senior Inspector Joevito Bose, Salvador Benedicto police chief, yesterday confirmed the death of a person, although he withheld the identity.

Bose said they were not able to proceed immediately to the scene of incident, for security reasons.

Col. Eliezer Losañes, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, yesterday said that they are still confirming reports that three NPA rebels have died.

Losañes also reported that the RPA-ABB did not incur any casualty.

Senior Supt. Rodolfo Castil, provincial police director of Negros Occidental, said yesterday that he received reports that one was killed and two were injured in the encounter.

Castil said they also sealed off the entrance and exit of Salvador Benedicto with checkpoints, in tandem with the Philippine Army and public safety forces.

The reported encounter took place as the NPA in Negros claimed responsibility for the death of RPA-ABB leader Charlie Boli-Boli in Brgy, Bagong Silang, Salvador Benedicto, in an ambush two months ago, and the ambush-slay of Jovanie Banista, RPA-ABB district commander of southern Negros, last month.

The RPA-ABB and its political wing – Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa-Pilipinas – entered into peace talks with the government in year 2000. However, the closure peace agreement between the RPA-ABB and government has yet to be signed.


10 armed men arrested for trying to enter Camp Aguinaldo without permits

From Rappler (Oct 3): 10 armed men arrested for trying to enter Camp Aguinaldo without permits

The men, who claim to be part of a group called the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, have been turned over to the Quezon City Police

A THREAT? Armed men try entering the national base of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Rappler file photo

A THREAT? Armed men try entering the national base of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Rappler file photo

Ten men were nabbed on Monday, October 2, for illegally carrying firearms while entering the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

"The very reason why we put them on hold is because they had brought guns, which they did not have the authority to hold. So we turned them over to the Philippine National Police (PNP)," AFP Public Affairs Office chief Colonel Edgard Arevalo said in a mix of English and Filipino.

According to Arevalo, the men claimed membership to the "Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty."

They entered at around 5:45 am, and were interrogated immediately. They claimed they were on their way to present a "letter requesting accreditation" to National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

They had no appointment with the defense chief, according to records.

They were turned over to the Quezon City Police Station 8.

The team was led by their supposed "chief intelligence" Daniel Pagalan.

The members were:

Pascula Dizon, also known as Kumander Haslim
Rolando Mahusay, also known as Kumander Melody
Dioscoro Danis
James Iwayan
Butch B Galimba
Rico Giducos
Ramil B Peralta
Rundy Paderes
Alvin Simbahon

Seized from the suspects were 5 pistols, and 7 magazines with 47 caliber 9mm and 26 caliber .45 live ammunition.


VLOG: U.S. agents check for most wanted terrorists among Marawi bodies

From Rappler (Oct 2): VLOG: U.S. agents check for most wanted terrorists among Marawi bodies

The American agents will help identify the cadavers of foreign fighters who joined the local terrorists in Marawi City   


The Philippine National Police (PNP) conducts an autopsy on the bodies recovered from the battle area in Marawi City.

The results could confirm if leaders of the Maute Group were among those killed in earlier firefights with the military.
United States agents are also in Iligan City, supposedly to help identify the cadavers of foreign fighters who joined the local terrorists.


House leadership files Bangsamoro commission's BBL version

From Rappler (Oct 3): House leadership files Bangsamoro commission's BBL version

The original timeline of the bill targets its passage in the House on third and final reading by December 2017

BBL PUSH. President Rodrigo Duterte meets with the officials of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission in Malacañan Palace on September 14, 2017. File photo by Albert Alcain/Presidential Photo

BBL PUSH. President Rodrigo Duterte meets with the officials of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission in Malacañan Palace on September 14, 2017. File photo by Albert Alcain/Presidential Photo

Top officials of the House of Representatives have filed the Bangsamoro Transition Committee's version of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

More than two months after the BTC submitted its draft bill to Malacañang, House leaders filed House Bill Number 6475, which seeks to abolish the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and create in its place a new Bangsamoro region.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, and Minority Leader Danilo Suarez are the lead legislators in the proposed administration measure.

The BBL is the culimination of a peace deal signed between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the administration of President Benigno Aquino III. Aquino had wanted it passed before he stepped down, but a botched police operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, in 2015 derailed its passage.

In a phone interview with reporters on Monday, October 2, Tawi-Tawi Representative Ruby Sahali, one of the bill’s authors, said the latest version of the BBL filed before the House is the “same type” as the one submitted in 2014.

Sahali, chairman of the House peace, reconciliation, and unity committee, said only minor charges were made as the BTC, summoned by Duterte, crafted an updated version of the bill.

Sahali said that the last time she spoke to Chief Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza in 2016, he had targeted the bill to pass the House on 3rd and final reading by December 2017. A plebiscite on the new region was scheduled for May 2018.

The House, had factored this in when it decided to postpone the scheduled barangay and Sanggunian Kabataan elections to May 2018. The intention was to hold this alongside the plebiscite.

Can the House pull it off?

Now that the bill has been filed, it will be referred to the appropriate committee to begin deliberations. Sahali expects extensive debate on the same contentious provisions, including the opt-in clause.

Section 4 of HB 6475 reads:

Five years after the ratification of this Basic Law and every five years thereafter for a period of 25 years, a plebiscite shall be held in the cities, municipalities, and other geographic areas which were not able to join the Bangsamoro as a result of the plebiscite mentioned in the three preceding sections, to determine whether or not they desire to join the Bangsamoro.

The contiguous provinces, cities, municipalities, barangays, and other geographic areas particularly mentioned in the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and 1996 Final Peace Agreement, other than those mentioned in the preceding three sections, may opt to join the Bangsamoro through the periodic plebiscite mentioned in the preceding paragraph, provided, that a petition signed by 10 percent of the registered voters or a resolution of the local government units of each province, city, municipality or other contiguous geographic area opting to join is submitted to their respective election offices at least one (1) year prior to the scheduled plebiscite.

Congress will adjourn session by October 14 and will resume session on November 13. By December 16, it will adjourn again and resume on January 15, 2018. Session will again adjourn on March 24, 2018, and resume on May 14.

There are other pending House bills seeking to create a Bangsamoro region. During session on Monday, the House changed the referral of House Bills 92, 6121, and 6263 – different versions of the BBL.

It was referred to the committees on local government and Muslim affairs earlier. The special committee on peace, reconciliation, and unity will now be part of deliberations on the proposed law.


WATCH: Troops show Duterte how to build Marawi shelter in 10 minutes

From Rappler (Oct 3): WATCH: Troops show Duterte how to build Marawi shelter in 10 minutes

On President Duterte's sixth visit in Marawi, the troops show him how to build a house in 10 minutes

Troops showed President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, October 2, that they could assemble a Marawi shelter in about 10 minutes.

Duterte returned to Marawi to inaugurate relocation site "Bahay Pag-asa" that would host 50 families who lost their homes in the war with local terror groups linked with international terrorist network Islamic State (ISIS).

FROM SCRATCH. Troops compete for the fastest team to assemble a temporary shelter

10 MINUTES. Troops show they can assemble houses in about 10 minutes

The President was accompanied by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and 1st Infantry Division commander Major General Rolando Bautista at the relocation site located at barangay Bito Buadi Itowa in Marawi City.

Teams of soldiers competed against each other for the fastest team to assemble precast wooden roofs and walls.

It was the model house that they proposed to replicate in other relocation sites.

Duterte's visit to Marawi City was his 6th since the war erupted on May 23.

The military missed another self-imposed deadline to end the war in September.


Joint task group to secure ASEAN officials in Palawan

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 2): Joint task group to secure ASEAN officials in Palawan

Around 1,284 joint security personnel were deployed Sunday at Sitio Sabang, Barangay Cabayugan to ensure the safety of 71 senior economic officials and other delegates who will be meeting here for the Senior Economic Officials Meeting-European Union-Free Trade Agreement (SEOM-EU-FTA) as part of the ASEAN 2017.
Chief Superintendent Wilben Mayor, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) MIMAROPA Region, led the send off ceremony for the combined security personnel at the Sabang Wharf in Cabayugan as head of Task Group Palawan (TGP), according to City Police Office (CPO) spokersperson Police Inspector Pearl Lamban-Marzo.

“The send off ceremony was the start of the deployment of personnel for the senior economic officials meeting as part of the ASEAN 2017,” Marzo told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) also Sunday.

According to her, Mayor guaranteed that the security personnel’s need for logistical resources will be supported by around 668 different assets and equipment to adhere to a zero incident during the SEOM-EU-FTA meeting.

“A total of 71 delegates will be arriving to attend the said activity that will be primarily hosted by the Department of Trade and Industry DTI),” she stated.

Marzo said several delegates, have started arriving in Puerto Princesa, but the senior officials would only arrive on October 2. The official event will be on October 3-5 at Sheridan Resort Hotel in Cabayugan.


Military doctors embark on “Smiles for Free” project

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 2): Military doctors embark on “Smiles for Free” project

Military doctors from the Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) are now undertaking in this camp the “Smiles for Free” project that provides free surgery and related treatment to cleft palate patients in far-flung villages of Quezon province.

The project is in partnership with the Philippine Band of Mercy.

In a report on Monday, Major General Benjamin R. Madrigal Jr, SOLCOM commander, said the cause-oriented activity’s objective is to demonstrate to the community that their armed forces do not only focus on the elimination of various threat groups who sow fear to the communities but also to look after their health and welfare.

“We are also their partner in maintaining a healthy populace, especially in the geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDAs) where the need for health services is high,” Madrigal said.

The military’s health services at the SOLCOM Station Hospital embarked on “Smiles for Free” beginning Sept. 27 to reach out to the countryside where they target the poor patients who hardly have access to health, medical and surgical services.

“This is our simple way of showing them that we are here to help and to let them know that we, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) care for them and love them,” the SOLCOM commander said.

Lieutenant Colonel Leogardo D. Leonen, commanding officer of Camp Nakar Station Hospital expressed elation that their military doctors and medical personnel were able to team up with the Band of Mercy doctors in conducting the free cleft surgery to indigent patients.

The activity aims to continue to reach out to target the scores of patients in remote areas “who are financially challenged and cannot afford to pay for a simple operation that has been around for decades.”

“As military doctors and nurses, we do not only care for the men and women in uniform, but also patients who may be enemies of the state because first and foremost we are doctors and nurses by profession,” Leonen said.

127 new soldiers complete training in east Visayas

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 2): 127 new soldiers complete training in east Visayas  

The Philippine Army 8th Infantry Division (8th ID) has welcomed 127 new soldiers who completed their training on Monday at the Army Jungle Base in Fatima village, Hinabangan, Samar.

Army 8th ID Commander Maj. Gen. Raul Farnacio said in a statement sent to reporters Monday noon that out of 135 applicants, 127 completed the year-long training.

“The soldier above all other men is required to practice the greatest act of rigorous and rigid training. Put emphasis on the sacrifices you have made and love your profession. What you are, inside or outside the camp, even if you are not in uniform, is the extension of you being a soldier,” Farnacio said.

“To the 127 new soldiers, focus on your job. Help the national government in their effort in Mindanao and make us proud,” he added.

Of the 127 new soldiers, 81 are from Samar; 21 from Leyte; eight from Luzon; and 17 from Mindanao. In terms of educational profile, 23 of them are college graduates; 45 are college level and 59 are high school graduates with skills training from the Technical Education and skills Development Authority.

Eastern Samar Acting Governor Marcelo Ferdinand Picardal was the guest speaker of the ceremony. He led the ceremonial entrustment of firearms, distribution of certificates and individual achievements.

In his message, Picardal urged soldiers to fulfill their mission of providing protection and security to the Filipino people and to the country.

“Today, we face the challenges more than ever and the issues of peace and security are being tested not only by internal conflicts but by external threats as well. Thus, our vision to develop into a progressive nation is getting harder to realize. We see therefore the urgent need to get the real and concrete peace development initiatives into action,” the governor said.

All graduates are natural-born Filipino citizens, with 72 units in college, or with any certification of vocational courses, at least 18 to 26 years old, at least five feet tall, single and without a child; and of good moral character.


Bodies of 2 slain NPA rebels recovered

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 2): Bodies of 2 slain NPA rebels recovered

Two bodies possibly belonging to New People’s Army (NPA) members were retrieved by government forces ar sitio Tambo, Barangay Binicalan in San Luis, Agusan del Sur, late Sunday afternoon, the military said Monday.

Based on a report by Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID), a unit from the 26th Infantry Battalion (26IB) figured in a firefight with an undetermined number of NPA guerrillas in Binicalan Friday last week.

Troops recovered high-powered firearms, an improvised explosive device (IED), personal belongings, and subversive documents at the area following the fighting. Also found were three AK-47 rifles, an M14 rifle, an M16 with an attached M203 grenade launcher, and an improvised M16 rifle.

Lt. Col. Rommel Pagayon, 26IB commanding officer, said they were tipped off by village residents that the NPA had left their dead comrades at the site.
“A day after the gunbattle, concerned populace in Sitio Tambo informed the government troos that a number of NPAs were fatally wounded in the firefight with the 26IB [soldiers] and that [two] of the terrorists were left to die miserably,” Col. Pagayon said.

As of this writing, the bodies are yet to be identified and were brought from the mountains to be handed over to their families and given proper burial, Pagayon said.

Pagayon said the unnecessary loss of lives “could have been prevented if these [Communists] oheeded the call of the government to lay down their arms and live their lives peacefully and happily with their families.”

For his part, Col. Andres Centino, the 401st brigade commander, appealed to the other NPA members to "stop terrorizing the indigenous peoples communities in the hinterland and let them live in peace."

Maj. General Ronald Villanueva, Army's 4ID commander, has assured the military's commitment to address the threats that prevent peace and development in the countryside.

“This I assure everyone that your Army will take all necessary actions that will fully address this more than four decade insurgency situation that hinders our country’s development.
Sooner or later, if we continue to work together, this insurgency situation will just perish naturally and every plan and program of our government for our people will be realized. Everyone will be benefited,” Gen. Villanueva said.


Rebel returnees win 2017 'Huwarang Pantawid Pamilya' tilt

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 2): Rebel returnees win 2017 'Huwarang Pantawid Pamilya' tilt

The Cabualan family from Leon, Iloilo was declared grand champion in this year’s national search for "Huwarang Pantawid Pamilya" of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

The family brought home the PHP30, 000 cash prize and a plaque, said 4Ps information officer II Montesa Caoyonan of DSWD in Region 6 on Monday.

The Cabualan couple, Romulo and Remia, together with their four children, personally received the award on Sunday during the National Family Day celebration at the Muntinlupa Sports Complex in Muntinlupa City, Manila, Caoyonan said.

Other national winners came from Negros Oriental (NIR), Davao del Norte (Region 11), Quezon province (Region 4) and Siquijor (Region 7).

According to Caoyonan, the couple are both rebel returnees but later turned into advocates of peace and development in their community together with their six children.

The couple joined the armed movement in 1984. After eight years of hiding from the military, the two surrendered in 1992. Their respective families welcomed them back home in Leon town.

In fact, at least 20 of their comrades also surrendered after the couple’s submission to military.

After going back to the society, the couple received various assistance from the government agencies and private groups to start a new life.

It was in 2011 when the couple became a beneficiary of “Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program” covering three of their six children. Remia was chosen as a parent leader when the program started.

Aside from cash grants they are receiving from the program, Remia and her husband accepted the jobs as contractual laborers under the Trabahong Lansangan – a joint program of DSWD and the Department of Public Works and Highway (DPWH) through a private contractor, the International Builders Corp. (IBC,) just to sustain the school needs of their children.

Remia is a timekeeper assigned in Leon while Romulo is a construction worker assigned in Iloilo City.

All their hardships paid off when two of the couple’s children graduated from college. Another one is now in third year college while the three others are in high school.

The couple lauded 4Ps program as it is of great help to their family, especially in keeping their children in school and keeping them healthy. They added that the program also helped them boost their self-esteem and continue their advocacy as a catalyst of change through peace and development.

The search is an annual activity of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (Pantawid) to document the impact of Family Development (FD) and the benefits of the program, specifically in the strengthening of family relations.


NPA leader yields to Army in NoCot

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 2): NPA leader yields to Army in NoCot

A sub-leader of communist rebels operating in North Cotabato and Bukidnon suspected to be involved in the July ambush of President Duterte’s security personnel, decided to surrender to military authorities after he realized he was duped by New Peoples’ Army, the military here said.

Lt. Colonel Harold Argamosa, commander of the Army's 39th Infantry Battalion based in North Cotabato, said Alex L Gawelan also known as "Banate", 38, of Purok 2, Barangy Sagundanon, Kitaotao, Bukidnon, yielded to government through the help of a tribal leader.

The Army is now investigating Gawelan whether he was part of the communist rebels who ambushed the convoy of Presidential Security Group in Davao-Bukidnon highway in July this year.

Argamosa said Gawelan turned over his M-16 Armalite rifle to 39th IB troops in a remote village in Arakan facilitated by IP leaders.

Gawelan is the squad leader of Baking, Sentro De Gravidad, Guerilla Front 53, Southern Mindanao Regional Committee that operates in the hinterlands of North Cotabato and Bukidnon Province.
Argamosa said Gawelan revealed that he was made to believe that the raising of arms against the government is the only solution to uplift their lives and that support to his family will be provided by the underground movement.

Gawelan had been an NPA leader since 2011, but the promises made by NPA leaders remained unfulfilled.

Tired of constantly hiding in the mountains whenever the military operates, Gawelan said decided to escape and met with tribal leaders in Arakan town to help send his message to the Army.

“I pity our comrades who are injured in a clash with the military, we will just leave them behind,” Argamosa quoted Gawelan as telling him.

Capt. Silver Belvis, 39th IB spokesperson, lauded the IP community in Arakan for facilitating the surrender of Gawelan.

Argamosa said Gawelan will avail of government assistance through the Comprehensive Local Integration Program.


Former rebels get gov't financial aid

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 2): Former rebels get gov't financial aid

Gov. Pax Mangudadatu on Sunday lauded the Army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion for “winning the hearts” of indigenous peoples who were duped into joining the communist movement but returned to the folds of the law.

“Congratulations, job well done, keep it up,” Mangudadatu, also chair of the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) for SOCCSKSARGEN Region, told military officials, led by Lt. Colonel Harold Cabunoc.

Cabunoc presented to Mangudadatu some of the communist rebels who voluntarily surrendered to military authorities in Sultan Kudarat.

Cabunoc said the former communist rebels, mostly indigenous peoples, who operated in Sen. Ninoy Aquino in Sultan Kudarat received financial aid from the provincial government.

Mangudadatu chairs the CLIP (Comprehensive Local Integration Program) Committee and handed over PHP20,000 cash to each of the former rebels in exchange for the firearms they turned over to the Army.
“Start new life, use the funds for your livelihood, the local government will assist and help you how to use your money wisely,” Mangudadatu said in Filipino.

The governor said more cash incentives and livelihood assistance package are to be granted by the government through the CLIP.

Thirty two members of the communist Guerilla Front 73 have laid down their arms since May 2017, according to Cabunoc.

Cabunoc said the 33rd IB has combined civil support operations, combat operations, and information support affairs in winning the support of the people in conflict-affected areas.

“We will not stop until all the IPs, who were fooled by communist rebels to join their ranks and fight the government, will be enlightened and live normal lives,” Cabunoc said even as he urged other New Peoples’ Army to consider returning to the mainstream because armed struggle is a lost cause.

“The government is offering something good for you, consider it,” Cabunoc told communist rebels still in the mountains fighting government forces.

“We are all Filipinos, we need to help each other,” he said.


Army discovers BIFF burial site

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 2): Army discovers BIFF burial site

Military and police authorities here disclosed Monday the discovery of a mass grave of members of ISIS-inspired group in a remote village in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao.

The discovery came after government forces and its allies, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), overran a stronghold of the jihadists Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) Esmael Abdulmalik faction in Barangay Tee.

When the camp was captured last week, government forces also recovered the remains of ISIS member later identified as Ansari Alimama, who, according to Senior Supt. Agustin Tello, Maguindanao police director, was from Butig, Lanao del Sur and is related to Maute brothers.

Recovered at the camp were four rifles, improvised bombs and black ISIS flag.

Capt. Arvin John Encinas, speaking for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, told reporters that the Army and MILF Task Force Ittihad (Unity) found a mass grave for BIFF-ISIS group in Barangay Tee.

At least 10 persons were buried in the grave site,” Encinas said. The Army did not dig the grave in deference to Islamic tradition. Local religious leaders put up markers so as not to desecrate the burial site.

Tello said while recovered cadaver had been identified, no one has claimed it so the local government officials of Datu Salibo buried the remains at sitio Butalo, Barangay Sambolawan, Datu Salibo, Maguindanao.

Threats remained high as long as the ISIS-inspired armed group is still in Maguindanao.

Tello said the police will continue its coordinative efforts with the military against the jihadists in Maguindanao’s second district.

Earlier, an improvised bomb was set off by BIFF in Tambunan Bridge in Barangay Tambunan, Guindulungan, Maguindanao that the police said was part of diversionary tactics by the militants.

Armed hostilities in the adjoining towns of Shariff Aguak, Pagatin (Datu Saudi town), Mamasapano and Salibo, more known in the military as “SPMS box” started in late August when the group of BIFF leader Abdulmalik tried to influence MILF controlled areas.

The ISIS-inspired group tried to hoist the black flag but the MILF protested. Shooting started when the BIFF set off an IED that injured 10 MILF in Barangay Tee.

The MILF retaliated and killed 11 BIFF. Since then sporadic skirmishes continued with the Army siding with the MILF as per provisions of the 1997 GPH-MILF ceasefire agreement.

In the agreement, the MILF and the government forces must get rid communities of lawless elements, private armed groups and kidnappers.


DA, OPAPP complete P3.3-M PAMANA project in Sorsogon

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 3): DA, OPAPP complete P3.3-M PAMANA project in Sorsogon

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), has completed the PHP3.3-million tramline project designed to spur countryside development in a remote and insurgency vulnerable village in Irosin town, Sorsogon province.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Emily Bordado, Chief Information Officer of the Department of Agriculture (DA) Regional Field Office 5, said the DA and OPAPP turned over recently the 1.7-kilometer Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) funded tramline located in Barangay Cawayan, an upland and inaccessible area bounded by mountains.

"The longest tramline starts from the mountainous area of Barangay Cawayan and ends at the beautiful Irosin Eco Zoo Park in Barangay Patag," Bordado said.

OPAPP Secretary Jesus Dureza, in his message, said: “We cannot win the war unless we address the root cause,” as he led the inauguration and turnover ceremony here.
Dureza emphasized the importance of peace and order in every community.

“We must learn from the lessons of what is happening in other areas like in Marawi. “What’s the use of this beautiful eco park if the people are apprehensive because of the armed men? Any kind of development will be useless if there is a problem with security", Dureza pointed out.”
Dureza added the tramline is proof of President Duterte’s concern for the Filipinos.

“In every peace negotiations, the government also offers some interventions to improve the livelihood of the people. This is the role of PAMANA - without PAMANA, the people will be left out in the peace negotiation.” Dureza added.

OPAPP in cooperation with national government agencies such as the DA and local government units seeks to address issues affecting the peace process through security, justice and development interventions in conflict-affected and vulnerable areas.

Irosin Mayor Alfredo Cielo Jr. said the project of the DA and OPAPP serves to divert the attention of the people from rebellion and encourage them to cooperate with the government.

Municipal Agriculturist Nimfa Ferolino said the tramline would benefit upland farmers cultivating various crops in Barangay Cawayan. A total of 475.11 hectares in the barangay is planted to abaca, 176 hectares is devoted to coconut, and some 12 hectares with vegetables, bananas, pili and other fruit trees.

"Before the construction of the tramline, farmers in Barangay Cawayan endured three hours of hiking in the 4.6-kilometer narrow trail leading down to the national road in Barangay Patag. Frequent rains make the road muddy and slippery. Hauling of agricultural products such as coconut, abaca, pili and banana was very difficult for the farmers and the products also deteriorate fast from the long trek," Ferolino said.

Romeo Balderama Jr., president of Cawayan Farmers Association, said the travel time from Cawayan to Barangay Patag was reduced to only 25 minutes. All its 52 members, 39 of whom are women farmers and 13 men are very happy with the completion of tramline.

“Matagal na po naming ipinagdarasal na magkaroon ng sagot sa matagal na naming problema sa transportasyon. Ngayon po ay mas marami na ang magtatanim dahil hindi na mahirap ang pagdadala ng aming mga produkto sa bayan. (We have been praying for a solution to our problem in transportation. Now, more people will plant crops because the transport of our produce to the town will now be easy.,” said the farmers.


Pinpoint ops being conducted vs Maute brigands

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 3): Pinpoint ops being conducted vs Maute brigands

In a bid to eradicate the remaining Maute Group defenses in Marawi City, military units are conducting more focused operations against the terrorists enclaves.

This was emphasized Monday by AFP public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo who said that the remaining lawless elements are now pocketed in an area measuring eight to nine hectares.

"The (remaining Maute Group enclaves) are still located in highly-urbanized areas, there are still a lot of structures and tall buildings there, the same kind of density we encountered during our earlier operations. But the good part here is our forces are conducting more intense and focused operations to neutralize them," he added in Filipino.

In the same vein, Arevalo also urged the public to be more patient with the ongoing efforts to crush the lawless band.

"Right now, the information is (clearing) operations in Marawi City are still ongoing. We are appealing to the public for more patience as fighting in the city as a lot of challenges need to be hurdled to totally liberate Marawi City," he added.

Challenges include clearing and disarming of unexploded ordnance, improvised explosive devices laid in roadways, alleyways and buildings used by the terrorists as hold-outs during their series of attacks in Marawi City last May 23.