Friday, October 20, 2017

NPAs burn millions in heavy equipment in Butuan quarry raid

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 21): NPAs burn millions in heavy equipment in Butuan quarry raid

Heavily armed men swooped down on a quarry site at midnight Friday, and set ablaze multi-million peso construction equipment at Barangay Bonbon, which is about 10 kilometers away from this city.

In separate reports, the military and police identified the raiders as members of guerilla-Front Committee 21 of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA Northeastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC).


The CPP-NPA-NEMRC has yet to issue a statement on its alleged involvement in the burning incident.

Troops from the 401st Infantry Brigade were already dispatched to track down the marauders.

Initial reports said the equipment that were destroyed included four backhoes, a payloader and a dump truck.

The owner of the heavy machineries refused to give any comment as of press time.

But according to one of the operators of the equipments, the raiders numbered about 30, all of them armed with automatic rifles.

They reportedly arrived at midnight Friday, and woke up all the drivers resting in the bunkhouse.

According to one of the heavy equipment operators, the raiders numbering 30 of them, armed The raiders then gathered them in a corner, and were told to watch as the suspects poured gasoline on the vehicles before setting them on fire.

After the incidents, the perpetrators immediately fled towards the southern portion of Barangay Bonbon, particularly in Pasiohan Complex, bordering Agusan and Bukidnon provinces.

No one was reported hurt during the incident.

Lying in wait: Behind Malaysia's influx of foreign terrorists

From Channel News Asia (Oct 21): Lying in wait: Behind Malaysia's influx of foreign terrorists
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian police have arrested more foreign terrorist fighters this year than in the past four years combined, with more possibly lying in wait - some sent by Marawi siege leader Mahmud Ahmad.

The head of the Malaysian special branch's counter-terrorism divison, Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, told Channel NewsAsia 70 foreign fighters have been detained by Malaysian officials since 2013.

Of that number, 45 were picked up this year alone, in operations sparked by intelligence that Islamic State (IS) militants were shifting focus, working with terror groups in Asia, as they lose ground in the Middle East.

Nine arrested were suspected militants from the southern Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), some of whom are thought to have been in contact with Mahmud, who is Malaysia's most wanted terrorist.

Police have intelligence he ordered militants from the group to slip into neighbouring Sabah in 2015 and form a sleeper cell that would launch attacks on Mahmud's command.

"One of the members we arrested was a senior member of ASG and he was involved in six kidnappings before and in terms of commitment, he had a strong commitment to terror," Ayob told Channel NewsAsia in an interview on Sunday.

"We do believe they have long term plans to carry out attacks in Malaysia."

However, if reports of Mahmud's death are true, any cell members still in the country could remain dormant.

"There are no other characteristic leaders to take over (Mahmud's) leadership," he said.

The Philippines says some 20 others involved in the Marawi siege, including Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and Maute Group’s Omar Maute, were killed in a military assault on Monday.

Malaysia, however, has yet to receive formal confirmation of Mahmud's death.


Police in general are arresting more terrorists this year than they have in the past five but the entry of foreign fighters into Malaysia - whether they are transiting or planning attacks here - have been bolstered by several factors.

Authorities believe there are syndicates helping to create fake travel documents and employment visas for terrorists. Others have come in using student visas.

For many from Middle Eastern nations, however, including those from Syria and Iraq, entry into Malaysia is visa-free.

A proposal from the National Security Council last year to change this to avoid easy entry for terrorists was rejected by the cabinet, with the tourism minister then citing unfair profiling of Middle Easterners as well as safeguarding bilateral ties and tourism as factors.

Ayob could not comment on this decision, but he said even those who come in on legitimate student visas are difficult to vet.

"It is almost impossible also for the Ministry of Higher Education to do the background vetting or checking; it takes time," he said.

"For example, a student from Yemen applies for a student visa. Of course, the ministry can share their details with us, but we need to check with our counterparts and it will take maybe a few months before they can get back to us."

He said it is also possible that people who enter using student visas have no record at the time. However, once they reach Malaysia, they are recruited by terrorist groups.

Countries deporting terror suspects to "friendly" Malaysia is another issue. Still, countries like Turkey have taken advantage of Malaysia's visa-free provisions, deporting foreign terrorists trying to enter Iraq and Syria to Kuala Lumpur if they ask to go there.

In August, police launched a large scale manhunt for 16 terrorists deported to Malaysia by Turkey.

"Of course, we do have a small problem with certain countries ... Actually not 'certain', I'm referring to just one country," said Mr Ayob.

"If they arrest a foreign suspect involved in terrorist activities or using their country as a transit point to enter Syria and Iraq, those suspects should be deported to their country of origin, not to Malaysia.

"But this one, they're asking them where they want to go, and of course they want to come to Malaysia because we're the so-called friendly country, the Muslim country you see."

Porous borders are another way militants enter the country. Groups like Abu Sayyaf, however, are much closer to home - entering Sabah from the southern Philippines and Indonesia via the 1,400km porous coastline.

"We have the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) there, we have the navy patrolling the area - but it's almost impossible to cover the area unless there is intelligence," said Ayob.

"Recently, we have the trilateral border patrolling; intelligence agencies have also had trilateral meetings recently - so we are beefing up our cooperation and collaboration."

Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines launched joint maritime and air patrols over the Sulu Sea this year in a bid to block the movement of terrorist groups between their nations.

However, those still managing to slip in via Sabah have also made it to Kuala Lumpur without valid travel documents.

Police and immigration authorities are carrying out investigations into how this could have happened.

In March, an immigration officer stationed at the Sandakan airport was arrested for aiding people without valid travel documents, including IS militants from Malaysia and Indonesia, to travel into Sabah before heading to the Southern Philippines.


Even as terrorists are tasked to shift focus to Southeast Asia, Ayob does not expect the dozens of Malaysians fighting overseas to return to the region to join them.

"So far, we have no intelligence to suggest they want to come back," he said. "We have 53 Malaysians now in Syria.

"They want to die as martyrs, so that's their main objective (and) they're very sure if they come back they'll be arrested, charged in court and most probably convicted and serving a jail sentence."

However, Ayob foresees more Malaysians being radicalised to join a cause closer to home: Fighting alongside Rohingya militants in Myanmar's Rakhine state.

So far, they have arrested two suspects - one Malaysian and one Indonesian - who were planning to go there.

'We are very sure later there will be more as the issue in Rakhine is getting out of control, very serious," he said.

"Hopefully every country takes action to tackle the internal problem because if they don't, it will create opportunities for terrorist groups to recruit new members."

As for the more than 60,000 Rohingya who have fled the violence to Malaysia, Ayob said so far there is no intelligence so far to suggest they have been radicalized.

Philippines unrest: Who are the Abu Sayyaf group?

From BBC (Oct 16): Philippines unrest: Who are the Abu Sayyaf group?

Group of Abu Sayyaf fighters with an Islamic State flag

Abu Sayyaf is one of several groups in the Philippines to have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group

Abu Sayyaf is one of the smallest and most violent jihadist groups in the southern Philippines. Its name means "bearer of the sword" and it is notorious for kidnapping for ransom, and for attacks on civilians and the army.

The group is believed to have an estimated 400 members and, since 2014, several of its factions have declared their allegiance to the so-called Islamic State (IS).

In 2016, Isnilon Tontoni Hapilon, one of Abu Sayyaf's most prominent leaders, was recognised as the leader of all IS-aligned groups in the Philippines.

Filipino authorities initially characterised the pledges as opportunistic attempts to obtain funds from IS. But IS recognised some pledges and the group's official media outlets have since claimed several attacks in the southern Philippines.

Hapilon and other Abu Sayyaf militants took part in clashes against government forces in the southern Philippine city of Marawi, where militants linked to IS have fought an insurgency since May.

Over the last year and a half Abu Sayyaf has also taken several people hostage - Malaysian and Indonesian workers, Western tourists and one Filipina among them.

Three groups of Indonesians and Malaysians were released earlier in 2016, but two Canadians and one German were killed after their ransom deadlines passed.
Image copyright AFP Image caption Abu Sayyaf hostage John Ridsdel, 68, was killed after demands for his ransom were not met

The group has also carried out attacks outside its stronghold in the south. In 2004 it bombed a ferry in Manila Bay, killing 116 people.
What does it want?

It's not clear to what extent the entire group sympathises with IS's cause.

Abu Sayyaf has its roots in the separatist insurgency in the southern Philippines, an impoverished region where Muslims make up a majority of the population in contrast to the rest of the country, which is mainly Roman Catholic.

It broke from the broader Moro National Liberation Front in 1991 because it disagreed with the MNLF's policy of pursuing autonomy and wanted to establish an independent Islamic state.

Its founder, Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani, was an Islamic preacher who fought in the Soviet-Afghan war, where he is said to have met Osama Bin Laden and been inspired by him. Al-Qaeda provided the group with funding and training when it was initially set up.

After Janjalani died, the group split into two main networks whose leaders were then killed in 2006 to 2007. Since then, Abu Sayyaf has operated as a collection of factions that work with each other through kinship or personal ties but which also occasionally compete against each other.

The beheading of a Malaysian hostage, Bernard Then, in 2015, for example, is reported to have resulted from a breakdown in negotiations as one of the two factions holding him wanted more money than was demanded, and different parties involved in the negotiations all sought a share of the ransom.

How dangerous is the group?

There has been growing evidence of ties between the Abu Sayyaf members fighting in Marawi, IS fighters in the Middle East, and jihadist sympathisers elsewhere in the region.

Authorities in Southeast Asia believe the group has co-ordinated with IS to send fighters to Malaysia to plan attacks.

In April 2016, the body of a Moroccan bomb expert, Mohammad Khattab, was discovered following a battle between the group and the Philippine army.

There are also fears that the group could be supporting terrorist activities by other IS-linked groups in the region. Investigators looking into the Jakarta attack in January said the weapons used in it had come from the southern Philippines.

While there is no evidence that Abu Sayyaf was involved in this, the group has long had ties to prominent Indonesian militant groups like Mujahidin Indonesia Timur and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). Several JI members involved in the Bali bombings found shelter with the group after fleeing Indonesia.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Abu Sayyaf's hijacking of ships is alarming Indonesia and Malaysia, who want to work together to prevent the disruption of regional trade routes

Its kidnap of Indonesian, Malaysian and Vietnamese sailors has also prompted fears of the maritime region becoming a "new Somalia", as Indonesia's chief security minister put it, which could disrupt regional trade.

Abu Sayyaf's hostages tend to be released if the ransom demanded for them is paid. This has been the outcome for most of their hostages. The group is known to kill captives if its demands are not met.

The Kuala Lumpur-based Piracy Reporting Centre has warned ships to stay clear of small suspicious-looking vessels in the area.

What is the Philippine government doing about it?
Image copyright AFP Image caption The Philippine army has been battling militant groups in the south for years

Abu Sayyaf has withstood numerous government crackdowns over the years and has continued to mount attacks in the face of military offensives.

After taking office in June 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to "eat alive" the group's militants.

In January, he launched renewed efforts to defeat the group, with the military conducting air strikes on Abu Sayyaf sanctuaries and killing prominent militants, leading to the surrender of dozens of the group's members.

But a failed military operation to capture Isnilon Hapilon in May saw Abu Sayyaf militants re-emerge as part of the hostilities in Marawi.

Southeast Asia's governments have recently increased joint efforts to deal with the threat Abu Sayyaf poses.

The Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia have launched joint air and sea patrols in the Sulu Sea, a lawless region that has long-been a hub of Islamist militancy.

The patrols may help ensnare Abu Sayyaf militants who are fleeing the Marawi battle zone.

Some observers argue that the roots of Abu Sayyaf lie in the economic and political disparities between the south and other parts of the country. "As long as Muslims continue to be oppressed, there will always be Abu Sayyaf," the vice-chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Ghazali Jaafar, has said.

DWDD: FUTILE STRUGGLE | Hapilon’s Kin Among ASG who Surrendered to AFP

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Oct 21): FUTILE STRUGGLE  |  Hapilon’s Kin Among ASG who Surrendered to AFP


CAMP GEN EMILIO AGUINALDO, Quezon City (DWDD) – Nine (9) Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members voluntarily surrendered to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) over the past weeks includes the cousin of recently killed ASG and Maute-ISIS leader, Isnilon Hapilon, according to AFP Public Affairs Chief, Colonel Edgard Arevalo.

“We were able to identify Ben Salina Sapilin who uses the alias ‘Ben’ a cousin of Isnilon Hapilon. He along with other members Ramu Sapilin and Muhamad Endeng surrendered to troops of the 74th Infantry Battalion on 17 October 2017 in Al Barka Basilan. They brought along with them three (3) high-powered firearms,” Colonel Arevalo said.

To date, the military has neutralized 325 ASG personalities. Of which, 124 were killed in combat operations; 82 were arrested; and 119 voluntarily surrendered. The surrenders of the terrorists in masses are positive results of the AFP’s combined focused combat, intelligence, and civil-military operations in cooperation with the local governments in the area.

In September alone, 15 Abu Sayyaf terrorists turned themselves to the AFP. The most recent was in September 30 when three (3) ASG members under the late Sub-leader alias Ninok Sappari voluntarily surrendered with their high-powered firearms to the 32nd Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army. The troops in Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi (BaSulTa) area also have recent gains.

Last 28 September, a certain Boy Indama, one of the jail escapees in Basilan Provincial Jail back in December 2009 was re-arrested by combined military and police forces. He was under ASG Sub-leader Furuji Indama.

“The AFP sees the mass surrenders of the Abu Sayyaf as indicator of the weakening proliferation of terrorism and violent extremism in the country, an upshot of the gains in the Marawi operations,” Colonel Arevalo stated.

Rescue Operations Continue
Aside from combating ASG terrorists and pressuring them to surrender, the AFP is also focused on the continuous rescue operations of the remaining 19 kidnap victims of the ASG-Kidnap for Ransom Group (KFRG).

From November 2016 to date, the combined intelligence and combat operations of the AFP and other partner agencies have enabled the rescue of 35 kidnap victims. “Our troops are exerting their best efforts to rescue the kidnap victims of the Abu Sayyaf. It remains the utmost priority in our focused military operations against the terrorists,” AFP Chief of Staff, General Eduardo Año said.

Rescue Operations Continue Aside from combating ASG terrorists and pressuring them to surrender, the AFP is also focused on the continuous rescue operations of the remaining 19 kidnap victims of the ASG-Kidnap for Ransom Group (KFRG).

From November 2016 to date, the combined intelligence and combat operations of the AFP and other partner agencies have enabled the rescue of 35 kidnap victims. “Our troops are exerting their best efforts to rescue the kidnap victims of the Abu Sayyaf. It remains the utmost priority in our focused military operations against the terrorists,” AFP Chief of Staff, General Eduardo Año said. PAO AFP / MCAG

DWDD: HELPING HAND | 8IB assist Medical Mission

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Oct 21): HELPING HAND  |  8IB assist Medical Mission

IMPASUGONG, Bukidnon (DWDD) – Personnel of 8th Infantry (Dependable) Battalion provided manpower to the medical mission initiated by the Local Government Unit of Impasugong headed by Hon. Anthony A. Uy Municipal Mayor titled “Magbuliga Koy” at Brgy. Cawayan, Impasugong Bukidnon. 8IB CMO/MCAG

DWDD: CONFIRMED | US FBI confirms cadaver from Marawi is Isnilon Hapilon

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Oct 21): CONFIRMED  |  US FBI confirms cadaver from Marawi is Isnilon Hapilon

CAMP GEN EMILIO AGUINALDO, Quezon City (DWDD) – The person killed in by troops in Marawi is “Isnilon Hapilon.”

This was the confirmation made by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), according to Dir. Arsenio R . Andolong, Spokesperson of the Department of National Defense, based on the statement of Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

According to Lorenzana, they have received an official report that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has confirmed that the DNA sample taken from a body recovered by our operating units in Marawi matches that of Isnilon Hapilon. This process of verification is also being conducted on the cadavers of the other terrorists that have been recovered so far. PAS DND/MCAG

DWDD: PORT VISIT | 3 Russian Navy Vessels in the Philippines

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Oct 21): PORT VISIT  |  3 Russian Navy Vessels in the Philippines


PIER 15, South Harbor, Manila (DWDD) – The three (3) Russian Navy vessels, the Udaloy-Class Destroyers Admiral Panteleyev (548) (Large Anti-Submarine Ship), Admiral Vinogradov (544) (Large Anti-Submarine Ship) and Boris Butoma (Large Sea Tanker) of the Russian Pacific Fleet, arrived yesterday, October 20, for a port visit until Thursday, October 26.

The warships docked at pier 15 will be open for public visit.

This visit will further strengthens the friendship between the two navies, and enhance the maritime cooperation through naval diplomacy and camaraderie. It also fortifies the PN’s firm commitment of maintaining good relationship with other foreign navies. NPAO/MCAG/CaptainHero

DWDD: MEET AND GREET | 3ID Holds Dialogue with Muslim Community Leaders of Iloilo City

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Oct 21): MEET AND GREET  |  3ID Holds Dialogue with Muslim Community Leaders of Iloilo City

ILOILO CITY, Iloilo (DWDD) – The 3rd Infantry (Spearhead) Division’s Office of the Tribal and Socio-Cultural Affairs once again held a Meet and Greet activity with Muslim Community Leaders of Iloilo City on October 17, 2017.

Our Muslim Filipino brothers and sisters who are members of the Iloilo United Muslim Community Incorporated (IUMCI) gathered at Fine Rock Hotel in Iloilo City to meet and dialogue with 3ID officers headed by Major General Jon N. Aying, Division Commander. Also present are Col. Leonardo Peńa, Deputy Brigade Commander of 301st Infantry Brigade; LTC. Audie Mongao, Assistant Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations, G7; Major Boy Pakam, Chief, 3ID’s Tribal and Socio-Cultural Affairs Office; and, IUMCI key leaders.

As part of the activity, MGen Aying talked about “Understanding Violent Extremism” and emphasized the vital role of Muslim community leaders in promoting peace and security in the province and in preventing religious violent extremism.

MGen Aying also encouraged our Filipino-Muslim brothers and sisters to help and cooperate with government security forces in its effort towards a physically and psychologically secured community conducive for sustainable development.

It can be recalled that 3ID also conducted Meet and Greet activity with the Muslim community leaders of Boracay Island last September 11, 2017 and of Kalibo, Aklan on October 04 of this year. OACPA/3PDAO/MCAG

DWDD: HEARTFUL THANKS | 1IB gets Heroes Welcome at home

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Oct 21): HEARTFUL THANKS  |  1IB gets Heroes Welcome at home

FORT ANDRES BONIFACIO, Taguig City (DWDD) – Troops of the 1st Infantry “First Always” Battalion under the 2nd Infantry “Jungle Fighter” Division receives a heart-warming Heroes Welcome from officers and personnel of the Philippine Army.

The ceremony commenced with a Heroes March then they converged at the HPA Grandstand.

“Nais kong iparating sa inyo ang taos-pusong pasasalamat ng sambayanang patuloy ninyong pinangangalagaan. Saludo ako sa inyong lahat.

…Hanggat hindi natatapos ang trabaho ng sundalo sa Marawi, inaanyayahan ko po ang lahat na sama-sama tayong manalangin para ang mga sundalong natitira sa Marawi ay maging safe at secure. Para na rin sa mga kapatid nating Muslim.”

This was part of the message rendered by Lt. Gen. Rolando Joselito D. Bautista, the Commanding

General of the Philippine Army, who led the ceremony, the first of so many expected ceremonies for home bound troops after serving gallantly in Marawi city.

The 1st IB was the first army battalion to respond to the Marawi crisis and is now also the first to return home, back to their area of operations in Quezon Province. AES / MCAG / Photos by OACPA

DWDD: DONNING CEREMONY | NOLCOM Commander gets Third Star

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Oct 21): DONNING CEREMONY | NOLCOM Commander gets Third Star

(Middle) Major General Emmanuel Salamat’s wife, Clarissa Rafols (second to left) and daughter Christelle Ann (second to right) pins the three star insignia to the newly-promoted Lieutenant General as Armed Forces of the Philippines Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Salvador Mison Jr. presides over the donning ceremony. Also present is Lt. Gen. Salamat’s father (left), and Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, J1, Major General Arnel Duco (back).                                                                                           
CAMP GEN EMILIO AGUINALDO, Quezon City (DWDD) – Less than two months after being appointed as Commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM), Major General Emmanuel Salamat now wears his third star in a ceremony held Friday, 20 October 2017, here at the AFP General Headquarters Building.

The AFP Vice Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Salvador Mison Jr, presided over the donning of ranks to now Lieutenant General Salamat who assumed headship of NOLCOM on 04 September 2017. PAO AFP/MCAG

DWDD: DONNING OF RANKS | AFP’s Chief Nurse Promoted to General

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Oct 21): DONNING OF RANKS  |  AFP’s Chief Nurse Promoted to General

CAMP GEN EMILIO AGUINALDO, Quezon City (DWDD) – Colonel Nilda Nesperos, the Chief Nurse, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) receives her first star following her promotion as Brigadier General in a ceremony held Friday, 20 October 2017, here at the AFP General Headquarters Building.

The AFP Vice Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Salvador Mison Jr. presides over the donning of ranks ceremony as the family of BGen Nesperos dons her the one-star shoulder loops. PAO AFP/MCAG


From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Oct 20): NEWLY ACTIVATED BATTALION  |  88IB “MARINGAL” to Secure Southern Bukidnon

CAMP EDILBERTO EVANGELISTA, Patag, Cagayan de Oro City (DWDD) The newly activated 88th Infantry (Maringal) Battalion which is placed under the operational control of 4th Infantry Division is tasked to address the threat situation in the Southern part of Bukidnon.

In a simple ceremony this morning held at the Headquarters 88IB in South Poblacion, Maramag, Bukidnon, MGen Ronald C Villanueva, 4ID Commander underlined the specific tasks and mission of the said battalion that are aligned to the current AFP campaign which is the Development Support and Security Plan “Kapayapaan”.

He also emphasized during the program about the ultimate objective of the NPA terror group.

“When we talk about terrorism, we don’t only mean Maute or ISIS, we also talk about the New People’s Army that have longed made the lives of our people in Bukidnon miserable. Not only that they burn trucks and plantations but also extort hard-earned money from poor farmers and worst, recruit children to fight against the government.”

“I would like yo emphasize this with the presence of our local leaders in today’s ceremony that the real intent of the NPA is not to topple down the armed forces but to take the governance from you. This is the reason why we remain strong, resilient, and have improved our security stance in order to not just eliminate but to fully address this insurgency situation that have longed been affecting our Country’s development.”

“To all of you, soldiers of this battalion, I expect that you will always bear the professionalism as you execute your tasks.

Build bridges from among the people, earn their respect and gain friends. There is no room for any Human Rights violations. We have already gained an immeasurable people’s support especially during our efforts in Marawi. Don’t let one mistake destroy what we have sacrificed for our Country. We support the intent of our Commander-in-Chief to protect the state and the people. Again I remind all of you to perform only your duty as a disciplined soldier.” MGen Villanueva concluded.

The activation and deployment of 88IB that is composed of 450 soldiers is part of the president’s plan to hasten the resolution of all internal conflicts in the Country. This will help pave way for the smooth implementation of all Government programs and services that would benefit every Filipinos in all parts of the Archipelago. 4DPAO/MCAG

Key ISIS Operative in Philippines ‘Taken’ in Gunfight, President Says

From The New York Times (Oct 20): Key ISIS Operative in Philippines ‘Taken’ in Gunfight, President Says

Soldiers walking past damaged houses in Marawi, a southern city in the Philippines, on Thursday. Credit Romeo Ranoco/Reuters

A high-level Islamic State operative who funneled money and foreign fighters to the Philippines, helping militants seize territory there, was “taken” during a gunfight on Thursday, President Rodrigo Duterte announced.

The operative, Mahmud Ahmad, 39, a Malaysian former university lecturer, helped finance the siege of the southern city of Marawi, which jihadists stormed in May, killing scores of peoples and sending thousands of residents fleeing. After a fierce battle to retake the city, Mr. Duterte on Tuesday declared Marawi liberated.

Mr. Duterte said on Thursday that Mr. Ahmad had been “taken,” but did not specify whether that meant he had been captured or killed.

Hours earlier, the head of the armed forces, Gen. Eduardo Año, said Mr. Ahmad was among 13 militants who died in gun battles that raged late Wednesday and into Thursday morning. Six soldiers were wounded in the fighting, General Año said. A mother and her teenage daughter who had been taken hostage were rescued, he said.

“One of the rescued hostages revealed that Mahmud was dead and was buried last night,” the general said.
Officials were not immediately available to reconcile the different accounts.

In public remarks on Thursday, Mr. Duterte portrayed the Islamic State as an existential threat, and defended his decision in May to declare martial law on Mindanao, the southern island that includes Marawi.

“We have to finish this or we go kaput,” Mr. Duterte said.

He said the police and the military had warned about “retaliation” from the Islamic State in the face of their defeat in Marawi.

He said of Mr. Ahmad, “He was taken this afternoon and that completes the story.”

According to analysts, Mr. Ahmad had acted as a link to the ISIS central command in Syria, helping funnel money and foreign fighters to local militants trying to seize territory in the Philippines.

Mr. Mahmud was also a close associate of Isnilon Hapilon, one of Asia’s most-wanted terrorists and the leader of Abu Sayyaf, a terrorist group linked to the Islamic State. Mr. Hapilon was killed in a gunfight with government forces on Monday along with another militant leader, Omarkhayam Maute.

After their deaths, Mr. Ahmad assumed leadership of about 30 militants still fighting government forces in Marawi.

Mr. Ahmad trained at camps run by Al Qaeda in Afghanistan in the 1990s while studying at Islamabad Islamic University in Pakistan. He was a former lecturer of Islamic studies at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, one of the country’s top schools.

Analysts say Mr. Ahmad had helped organize and finance the travel of recruits from Indonesia before the Marawi siege in May to join in the fighting. The Philippine authorities have said that about 30 foreigners took part in the monthslong battle.

According to Philippine military intelligence, Mr. Ahmad also facilitated the travel of at least four Malaysians to join the Islamic State in the Middle East, including in Syria. He arrived on Mindanao, in the Philippines’ restive south, in 2014, where he sought out Mr. Hapilon and helped plan the Marawi siege and organize local terrorist cells.

A video released by the military showed him in a meeting with Mr. Hapilon and Mr. Maute as they meticulously planned the siege, which began on May 23. Mr. Ahmad reportedly funneled 30 million Philippine pesos, or about $580,000, to militants for the attack, according to intelligence officials.

Rommel Banlaoi, a terrorism expert who leads the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, said the funds went to help Mr. Hapilon’s group stockpile firearms, weapons and other logistical items for the siege.

“Mahmud, also called Abu Hanadzalah, was being sought by the Malaysian authorities for ties to global terrorists,” Mr. Banlaoi said. “He has been identified as a militant recruiter for the I.S.,” he added, using the initials of the Islamic State.

He said that among the people Mr. Ahmad had helped to go to the Middle East was Ahmad Tarmimi Maliki, who drove a car packed with bombs into an Iraqi police headquarters, killing 25 people in 2014.

While Mr. Ahmad and Mr. Hapilon may have died, there are other militant leaders waiting to emerge, Mr. Banlaoi said.

“I.S. may have lost a very valuable conduit in Mindanao with the reported death of Mahmud,” he said. “His death can severely affect financing terrorism in the region. However, threats of attacks from other terror groups remain imminent. It’s not yet over.”

More than 200,000 residents are crammed into refugee camps, waiting for the military to declare an official end to the operation.

The battle in Marawi has been financially draining and has tested the abilities of one of the region’s most poorly equipped armies. After Mr. Hapilon’s death, Mr. Duterte flew there and declared the area “liberated from terrorist influence.”

Ex-colonel Romeo Lim, key player in 1986 EDSA revolt, dies

From InterAksyon (Oct 19): Ex-colonel Romeo Lim, key player in 1986 EDSA revolt, dies


File photograph of retired Army colonel Romy Lim, taken when he was already a civilian and serving as consultant to senators and taking up various causes to improve communities. PHOTO COURTESY OF COL. ROMY LIM’S FAMILY

Retired Col. Romeo Y. Lim, former chief of staff of the Army’s elite First Scout Rangers Regiment and key player in the 1986 Edsa Revolution, died on Oct. 15.

Lim, a recipient of the Gold Cross medal and Distinguished Service Star award, was mentor to many other officers who excelled in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, including then Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim who is now Metro Manila Development Authority chairman.

Lim was chief of staff of then Brig. Gen. Felix Brawner, who headed the elite Army unit when the 1986 People Power revolt happened.

At the height of the bloodless revolution that toppled the Marcos dictatorship, Lim – with brilliant strategizing, psy-war, sheer courage and luck – helped prevent the First Scout Rangers Regiment (FSRR) from joining other pro-Marcos units.

This kept the highly-trained, highly-skilled Scout Rangers regiment based in Fort Bonifacio from providing support to Marcos’ forces.

WATCH | Troops wind down Marawi campaign; military eyes weekend closure

From News 5/InterAksyon (Oct 20): WATCH | Troops wind down Marawi campaign; military eyes weekend closure

 Scenes for “mopping up” operations and the sporadic riffs of rapid fire still punctuate the ruined landscape in the Islamic City of Marawi, as government security forces flush out remnant fighters of the terrorist Maute Group and methodically clear block after city block of boobytraps, mines and explosives left behind by the bandits.

Armored vehicles accompany platoons dispatched to make sure streets and alleys are made safe enough for the returning residents who have been displaced by the four-and-a-half month armed conflict that has all but decimated more than half of the city’s structures and edifices.

There are three more buildings to clear and some hostages, used as human shields, to liberate.

The endgame skirmishes included the extrication of soldiers pinned down in one building by the residual firefights. The rescue operation was backed up by an armored cavalry assault vehicle with troops raining cover fire on the enemy to facilitate the extraction.

As the tide of the Battle of Marawi turned in favor of the government, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) took calibrated moves to rotate out the fighting men and start flying them away from the battle zone and back to their mother units. The plan is to retain just six battalions in Marawi.
Blanco family reunion at Villamor Airbase. Photographed by Bernard Testa, News5 | InterAksyon

Among the first to leave the theater was 1st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army 2nd Infantry Division, which had lost one comrade to death and 13 others to battle wounds. They arrived at Villamor Air Base to jubilant cheers and emotional reunions with their families.

Col. Christopher Tampus, Commanding Officer of the 1st IB, said: “We are elated, we are sad, to be returning to our mother unit, the 2nd Infantry Brigade, based in Tanay, Rizal. Because we still have our brother soldiers left in Marawi.”

Western Mindanao Command’s (WESTMINCOM) Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, at the departure ceremony, said, “let’s maintain the highest dignity of a soldier. Always remember that our oath is to serve the people and to maintain the integrity of our country.”

General Año makes final visit to Philippine Navy

From Update Philippines (Oct 20): General Año makes final visit to Philippine Navy
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief-of-Staff General Eduardo M. Año made his farewell visit to the Philippine Navy on October 19.

Philippine Navy top officers headed by Flag Officer-in-Command Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph S. Mercado welcomed the AFP chief.

“The Command rendered honors to CSAFP followed by Talk to Men with the officers, men, women and civilian employees of the Philippine Navy aboard Headquarters Philippine Navy,” the Navy said.

Navy photo

General Año is set to reach the mandatory retirement age of 56 on October 26.

Names of four possible successors of Año were already in the hand of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Among the possible successor are Western Mindanao Command Chief Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, Eastern Mindanao Command Lt. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, AFP Deputy Chief of Staff Rear Admiral Narciso Vingson Jr., and AFP Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Salvador Melchor Mison Jr.

LOOK: Marawi City heroes welcomed by families; heroes welcome awaits

From Update Philippines (Oct 20): LOOK: Marawi City heroes welcomed by families; heroes welcome awaits
Today, soldiers from the 1st Infantry ‘Always First’ Battalion of the Philippine Army 2nd Infantry Division were welcomed after a successful stint in Marawi City.

They were welcomed by their family member at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City.

“Isang heroes’ welcome ang nakahanda para sa kanila sa Philippine Army Headquarters na pamumunuan ni Commanding General Lt. Gen. Rolando Joselito D. Bautista,” the Philippine Army said.

Philippine Army photo

Philippine Army photo

Big Russian anti-submarine warships in PH until October 26

From Update Philippines (Oct 20): Big Russian anti-submarine warships in PH until October 26
Russian Pacific Fleet’s warships arrived at the capital of the Philippines – Manila – for a visit as part of the military cooperation program between two countries, Russia’s Pacific Fleet spokesman Captain 2nd Rank Nikolai Voskresensky said.

“A group of the Pacific Fleet’s big anti-submarine vessels consisting of Admiral Vinogradov and Admiral Panteleyev as well as of the large sea tanker Boris Butoma docked at Manila, the capital of Philippines,” Voskresensky said adding that the visit takes place as part of the program on the development of international military cooperation.

During the visit of the Russian warships to Manila, the authorities of Philippines, foreign diplomats, and local residents will be allowed to take a tour of the large anti-submarine vessel Admiral Panteleyev.

Russia’s visiting naval crew and local navy representatives are also scheduled for friendly sports games, such as football and volleyball, and the Russian guests will also enjoy tourist tours in Manila.

The visit of the Russian Pacific Fleet’s warships to the capital of Philippines is scheduled to last until next Thursday, October 26. PNA/TASS

2 alleged high ranking rebel leaders nabbed

From the Visayan Daily Star (Oct 20): 2 alleged high ranking rebel leaders nabbed

Two alleged ranking leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines- New People's Army were captured yesterday by operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, assisted by the Philippine Army, in Brgy. 1 Poblacion, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental.

Col. Eliezer Losañes, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, said last night that the arrest of the two ranking CPP-NPA personalities yielded a .45 caliber pistol with a magazine loaded with five live ammunition and a fragmentation grenade.

Nabbed were Louie Antonio Martinez, alias Louie, who ranked number four in the National Military Staff of the CPP-NPA national hierarchy, and Aurora Cayon,alias Lilay, said to be a member of the National Finance Commission of the revolutionary movement, Losañes said.

Losañes said Cayon has a pending arrestwarrant for robbery with violence, or intimidation of a person, as well as arson, while Martinez is facing murder and multiple attempted murder charges.

The two arrested suspects are now under the custody of the CIDG in Bacolod City for proper disposition.

But one of the arrested suspects was reported yesterday as a member of Kilusang Magbubukid sa Pilipinas.

The 3rd Infantry Division announced earlier that concerned Negrenses are offering cash rewards for the capture of NPA combatants in Negros.

Losañes said the two arrested suspected CPP-NPA personalities are facing additional charges for illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Trillanes says he only presented 'facts' in meeting with U.S. senator

From Rappler (Oct 20): Trillanes says he only presented 'facts' in meeting with U.S. senator

'Be assured that I pushed for the interests of our country. But let me emphasize that the interests of our country are not necessarily the same as the interests of Mr Duterte,' says Senator Antonio Trillanes IV

US TRIP. Senator Antonio Trillanes IV confirms meeting with US senior officials, including Senator Marco Rubio, in the US.

US TRIP. Senator Antonio Trillanes IV confirms meeting with US senior officials, including Senator Marco Rubio, in the US.

Opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said on Friday, October 20, that he only presented facts about the situation in the Philippines during his meeting with US Republican Senator Marco Rubio in the United States.

In a statement, Trillanes also denied reports that he tried to convince US lawmakers to persuade US President Donald Trump to cancel his planned visit to Manila in November for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit (ASEAN) and Related Meetings.

“I would like to confirm the information that I met with senior US government officials to include Senator Marco Rubio. As mentioned in the tweet of Senator Rubio, we talked about enhancing RP-US relations, corruption, and the human rights situation in the country,” Trillanes said.

“To be clear, I did not try to stop the state visit of President Trump since these things are carefully planned and cannot be stopped on the mere say-so of a Philippine senator,” he said.

Malacañang earlier expressed hope that Trillanes did not give “biased” information to US officials that would "adversely affect” the ties between the two countries.

The opposition senator denied this and said he just presented factual information. After all, he said, no one can "fool" the US government on the status in the Philippines.

“Unlike the officials of the Duterte Administration, I presented only factual information. Besides, you cannot fool the US government; they know what's happening in our country,” Trillanes said.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III earlier said that he hopes Trillanes is not “wishing or, worse working for bad relations between the Philippines and other countries” and that anyone who loves the country should always promote its best interests.

In an apparent reply to such concerns, the minority senator assured the public that he did push for the country’s interests – which he said is not the same as what President Rodrigo Duterte wants.

“Be assured that I pushed for the interests of our country. But let me emphasize that the interests of our country are not necessarily the same as the interests of Mr Duterte,” Trillanes said.

Rubio and US Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland earlier introduced a bill seeking to restrict the supply of defense equipment to the Philippine National Police, which used to head the bloody campaign until Duterte ordered the Philippine Drug Enforcement Authority to take over following public backlash.

WATCH: First batch of Marawi soldiers come home

From Rappler (Oct 20): WATCH: First batch of Marawi soldiers come home

They were the first in when clashes broke out in May

35 troops from 1IB arrive at Villamor Air Base after Marawi is declared liberated from terrorists.

Marawi soldiers 'excited' for Hong Kong trip promised by Duterte

From Rappler (Oct 21): Marawi soldiers 'excited' for Hong Kong trip promised by Duterte

The military units first to arrive in Marawi have been sent off to rest and then train after 5 months of battle

BOOST TO MORALE. President Rodrigo Duterte poses for a selfie with soldiers in Marawi during his 7th visit there. Presidential photo

BOOST TO MORALE. President Rodrigo Duterte poses for a selfie with soldiers in Marawi during his 7th visit there. Presidential photo

After months enduring intense battle in Marawi, some Philippine soldiers are looking forward to rest and relaxation, and possibly a trip to Hong Kong care of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The trip was promised two months ago when Duterte visited Marawi on August 4.

"That's why soldiers are excited for the war to end because they will continue on to Hong Kong," said Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Major General Restituto Padilla on Friday, October 20, in a press briefing.

Duterte had enticed soldiers in Marawi with a trip to Hong Kong as reward for their efforts in retaking the city. The trip would go to soldiers awarded the Medal of Valor.

"Siguro may prize ako 'yung ano – 'yung Valor, 'yung mga tigas. Mga Hong Kong siguro," he said to applause from the uniformed personnel. (Maybe I will give a prize – for the [Medal of] Valor [awardees], the tough ones. Maybe, Hong Kong.)

"Hong Kong, that's free. If you want, bring a partner, your spouse," the President added.

In a later Marawi visit, Duterte told soldiers he would raffle off the all-expense-paid Hong Kong trips.

"I'll have a raffle. If you're lucky, you can bring your spouse and children," said the President on September 11.

He reasoned that a vacation without loved ones is meaningless: "They'd always hanker for the children and the wife."

If the soldiers would rather not go abroad, Duterte offered another option: a chance for the soldiers to meet a celebrity.

"Kung ayaw mo naman, ituro mo 'yung artista na gusto mo at pakiusapan natin," said Duterte in August. (If you don't want, identify the celebrities you like, and we will request an audience with them)

Rest from fighting

With the end of hostilities in Marawi in sight, Padilla said some troops are already being transferred out of Marawi so the soldiers can take a rest and then go back to training.

The first unit to be sent to Marawi, the First Infantry Battalion headed by Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Tampus, has been sent off following the AFP's rule of "first in, first out."

"They will also be going back to Luzon for a much-needed break and for their long-delayed training in Fort Magsaysay and in other camps of the Philippine Army," said Padilla.

The area vacated by Tampus' unit will be taken over by other military units to continue providing security during the recovery and rehabilitation phase.

The First Infantry Battalion is credited for the successful rescue of 34 hostages during the height of the conflict. The unit lost one soldier while several were wounded.

It received the Silver Cross Medal and a Command Plaque from the Western Mindanao Command, said Padilla.

Token of gratitude
Aside from his promise of a Hong Kong trip, the President also promised to give firearms to all soldiers who fought in Marawi.

Padilla said this commitment is being gradually fulfilled.

"There was a ceremonial turnover of 500 firearms, which our Commander-in-Chief gave to our soldiers," said the military spokesman.

Some 3,000 to 5,000 more firearms are set to be delivered. It has taken some time for this to be arranged because of the process of acquisition. The firearms were purchased from a local company.

The 5 months of armed conflict in Marawi saw the President visiting the besieged city a total of 7 times, more than once a month on average.

It was among the many ways the President wished to convey his concern and gratitude for the men and women risking their lives in the battlefield.

PNP may buy bell helicopters

From the Mindanao Times (Oct 20): PNP may buy bell helicopters

THE PHILIPPINES National Police (PNP) will be procuring additional helicopters and body cameras by next year, according to PNP Director General Ronald dela Rosa.

Dela Rosa was the guest of honor and keynote speaker in yesterday’s launching of the joint PNP and Petron’s Lakbay Ligtas program, in which police outposts are installed in selected Petron stations to improve police visibility.

Dela Rosa told reporters covering the event that among those being considered for procurement are those manufactured by Bell Helicopter, an American aerospace manufacturer that has a wide list of products such as attack and rescue helicopters.
Dela Rosa said the Congress has also inserted into the approved version of the 2018 General Appropriations Act the procurement of body cameras that would be used by operatives on field.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has earmarked at least P170 billion to the Department of Interior and Local Government.

According to the DBM in an earlier version of its budget message, the police budget will be used to “intensify the Philippine National Police’s law enforcement operations against illegal drugs and criminality.”

However, the talk in Congress is to redirect the funding to other purposes, which could fund the purchase of thousands of body cameras for the operations of the police.

The DBM added that the PNP will be hiring around 10,000 recruits to expand the roughly 195,000 police officers nationwide.
The government had initially provided a budget of P900 million for PNP’s Oplan Double Reloaded in its drug war.

However, President Rodrigo Duterte recently announced that the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency would now take the lead in anti-drug operations, thus dismantling the Oplan Double Reloaded.

Asked how it felt that the anti-drug operations were no longer being led by the police, Dela Rosa said the police could now focus on other illegal acts, such as the crackdown on the operations of riding in tandem crimes.

“We now have a monkey off our back,” Dela Rosa said of the drugs war no longer being spearheaded by the police.

Crush NPA next

From the Mindanao Times (Oct 20): Crush NPA next

AFP chief says campaign to renew after end of Marawi conflict

AFTER President Rodrigo Duterte declared the liberation of Marawi City, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Eduardo Año said they will refocus their campaign to eradicate New People’s Army influence in far-flung communities.
In his speech on Tuesday during in the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) at Naval Felix Apolinario Station in Panacan, he said they will recruit 8,000 more troops and activate 10 infantry battalion to end the communist rebellion.

The six battalions will be brought under the Eastern Mindanao Command area, while the rest will be deployed in Luzon and Visayas.

“To ensure the peace and order in the country we should have additional troops after the Marawi crisis to counter the communist rebels,” Año said. “It’s the time to crush the CPP-NPA here in Eastern Mindanao.”

The AFP chief said that the soldiers have gained ground against the NPA since the lifting of the ceasefire in February 2017.

“Now the Marawi crisis has ended we will deploy forces, we’ll return forces here,” he said. “We need to end the CPP-NPA.”

However, he said all battalions and units are all on alert to prevent a spillover of the violence in Marawi.

“In Marawi the crisis has ended but in the different areas in the country, there are still other threats that we need to counter like in Basilan and Sulu and Maguindanao,” Año said, adding that battle-scarred soldiers from Marawi will be redeployed in the three provinces to pursue the Abu Sayyaf Group and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, which are said to have allied themselves with the Daesh.

President Duterte, upon his visit to Marawi City on Tuesday, declared the liberation of the city. He said rehabilitation and reconstruction can commence after the military has cleared the area of threats.

“When Marawi has been liberated that means the level of the threat is at the lowest level,” the military officer said. He estimated that there are still around 30 fighters remaining in the area but they’ve sent feelers so they can surrender and leave ground zero alive.

The AFP has a huge role to play in the reconstruction phase. Apart from ensuring the area is already clear from improvised explosive devices, booby traps and terrorists, they will also conduct a damage assessment. Rebuilding may start in the first quarter of 2018.

The rehab and reconstruction plan received a boost with the donation of 47 units of heavy equipment from China. According to Public Works and Highways Sec. Mark Villar, the heavy equipment include eight units of excavators (back hoe), dump trucks, bulldozers, cement mixers, compactors,f and wheel loaders.

Año estimates that it will take three months for them to totally clear the area of booby traps and bombs.

Incentives to returnees

From the Mindanao Times (Oct 20): Incentives to returnees

DC-Peace targets to start by December with NPA
THE NEWLY-FORMED Davao City-Local Peace Committee (DC-Peace) is targeting to start pursuing localized peace talks with the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) by December.
Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio said the city government will provide P65,000 each per surrenderee. “But they should also surrender their firearms to avail of the incentive,” she said.

The City Peace and Order Council (CPOC), headed by Carpio, yesterday approved the grant to rebel returnees who gave up bringing their firearms.
In yesterday’s CPOC meeting at Grand Men Seng Hotel, Carpio said the DC-Peace will start having a meeting on Oct. 24 to carve out specific plans of the group.

“They (DC-Peace) should study on what they will specifically do whether they would directly negotiate with the NPA leaders,” Carpio said.

The timeline given for the implementation of the plans of DC-Peace is one year. The committee is chaired by former Judge Ridgway Tanjili with members from the officials of City Social Services and Development Office and City Legal Office.

The city government also tapped Archbishop Romulo Valles to be part of the committee.

M/Gen. Noel Clement, commander of the Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division, said they needed to talk and discuss with DC-Peace to determine on what the military can do to assist the newly-formed committee and prevent from having plans that would overlap their existing programs.
“We are all in this together in attaining peace,” Clement said.

At present, there is a Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) of the city government and other agencies led by Department of Interior and Local Government to extend assistance to the former rebels.

Each surrenderee, based on CLIP, will be entitled with P50,000 as livelihood assistance and P15,0000 for financial assistance.

The NPA-Southern Mindanao earlier stood by its position that only the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) is the negotiating entity.
“Even as we welcome talks initiated by well-intentioned peace advocates and government officials, the NPA in the region stands by its national leadership and the NDFP as the revolutionary movement’s negotiating entity in the peace process,” Rigoberto Sanchez, spokesperson of NPA-Southern Mindanao, said in a statement.

4,300 soldiers, cops deployed for ‘Undas’

From the Mindanao Times (Oct 20): 4,300 soldiers, cops deployed for ‘Undas’

A TOTAL of 4,303 security personnel will be deployed in the last week of the month as the predominantly Catholic Philippines commemorates the All Saints Day and All Souls Day on Nov. 1-2.

Angel Sumagaysay, assistant head of Public Safety Command Center, said yesterday in the City Peace and Order Council meeting at Grand Men Seng hotel that this is part of their plan to tighten security in the city.

“We will apply the same concept for this year’s Pasko Fiesta,” Sumagaysay said.

Last year, the DCPO alone assigned 2,600 cops and force multipliers in 34 cemeteries in the city. Most of them were assigned in Wireless, Davao Memorial and Mintal cemeteries, the areas with the biggest population in the city.

A police assistance desk will also be set up in each cemetery. Prohibited items include bladed weapons, gambling materials, alcoholic drinks, and sound systems.

The military, meanwhile, will train 240 individuals to be part of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (Cafgu) II.
Col. Ernesto C. Torres Jr., commander of 1003rd Brigade, said they would be trained at Mahayag, Bunawan as special Cafgu. “We expect that the training will end by December,” he said.

The 1003rd’s new 89 Infantry Battalion, Torres said, would also be soon deployed.

Committee for localized peace talks with NPA to meet on Oct.24

From MindaNews (Oct 20): Committee for localized peace talks with NPA to meet on Oct.24

Members of the Davao City Peace Committee, a body created by City Mayor Sara Duterte to hold localized peace talks with the New People’s Army, will convene for the first time on October 24, committee member and Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles said.

Valles said in a press conference on the last day of the four-day Mindanao-Sulu Pastoral Conference at the Waterfront Insular Hotel Davao Thursday that it will be more of an “organizational meeting” to allow them to know the other committee members.

Valles, who will assume as president of the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines on December 1, said he accepted the invitation to be part of the committee because a “sit-down” with the rebels is always a welcome development.

He said the city government tapped the church to join the negotiation because they “see the moral influence of the church, that the church has the good of everyone as her interest”.

Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles tells a press conference on Thursday, October 19, 2017, that the committee set up by Mayor Sara Duterte for the localized peace talks with the New People’s Army will meet on October 24. MindaNews photo by GG BUENO

“Those in the mountains and those on the ground are also sons and daughter of God. That’s a very important interest. Walang hidden agenda ang church (the church has no hidden agenda) except that interest is for the peace, development and well-being of each one will be achieved,” he added.

Valles said they view the negotiation as a positive way to bring peace rather than resorting to “firing and killing each other.”

“I, with consultation, said yes to invitation. Strong implication is that gisaligan pa intawon ang simbahan. Naa pa syay influence, ginapaminaw pa ang iyang voice (there is still trust in the church. It has the influence and its voice is being listened to),” he said.

He said he will need to prepare for the negotiation so he may contribute fruitfully to its success, as he acknowledged the possible difficulties of bringing the two parties together to talk peace.

He said being able to participate in the peace process is the church’s contribution in a bid to attain a long-lasting peace.

He added he was unaware whether the rebels have already accepted the invitation which Mayor Duterte initiated after the the supposed 5th round of talks last May in The Netherlands with the National Democratic Front was canceled.

“Maybe that’s the task no. 1 – to invite them,” he said. “I think the challenge is so obvious to facilitate, to create, to inspire them to talk. That’s a challenge.”

In a statement issued on February 26, NPA-Southern Mindanao spokesperson Rigoberto F. Sanchez said they were open to hold talks with Mayor Duterte, saying these are “auspicious” in light of a series of gunfights between communist rebels and government troops in Paquibato and Calinan Districts early this year.

“The NPA would gladly discuss any matter that she would like to take up with the revolutionary movement, the duties and responsibilities of the people’s democratic government, the role of the NPA, the on-going all-out war of the AFP and the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations,” he said.

He added they recognize the mayor’s willingness to talk to the NPA as a group and not as individuals to achieve substantial gains in the peace process.

US Gov’t donates more than 6,500 tablet arm chairs for displaced Marawi students

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 20): US Gov’t donates more than 6,500 tablet arm chairs for displaced Marawi students

Students of Sultan Angin Memorial National High School in the municipality of Saguiaran, Lanao del Sur receive their school’s new tablet arm chairs. (Photo by Leslie Lao-Francisco/USAID)

SAGUIARAN, Lanao del Sur - The US Embassy in the Philippines’ United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in partnership with the Department of Education, delivered its first batch of tablet arm chairs to schools in Mindanao, where displaced Marawi students are currently enrolled.Students from Saguiaran Central Elementary School in the municipality of Saguiaran, Lanao del Sur celebrate as new tablet arm chairs are delivered. (Photo by Leslie Lao-Francisco/USAID)

USAID’s Basa Pilipinas provided five schools in the municipality of Saguiaran (Saguiaran Central Elementary School, Bubong Elementary School, Maito Basak Elementary School, Sultan Angin Memorial National High School, and M&S Maito Basak National High School) with nearly 2,000 student tablet arm chairs. They are among 52 Lanao del Sur public schools that will receive more than 6,500 student tablet arm chairs from the US government.

Students from M&S Maito Basak National High School in the municipality of Saguiaran, Lanao del Sur try out their new tablet arm chairs provided by the US government. (Photo by Leslie Lao-Francisco/USAID)
On September 5, the US government announced its commitment of approximately P730 million in emergency relief and recovery assistance to support communities affected by the ongoing conflict in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, and the surrounding areas. The US government continues to coordinate with the Philippine government and humanitarian organizations to deliver critical relief supplies, and will help fortify Marawi’s longer-term stabilization and rehabilitation. (US Embassy Manila)

Tagalog news: OPAPP nagsagawa ng workshop para sa TF Bangon Marawi

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 20): Tagalog news: OPAPP nagsagawa ng workshop para sa TF Bangon Marawi

Nagsagawa ng dalawang araw na workshop ang iba’t ibang ahensiya ng gobyerno na bumubuo sa Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) sa pangunguna ng Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

Kasama rin sa workshop ang mga kinatawan ng civil society groups na nagsasagawa ng mga proyekto sa Marawi.

Layon nito na makabuo ng mga batayan sa isasagawang “healing process” na isang kritikal na bahagi sa rehabilitasyon ng Marawi.

Ipinaliwanag ni Usec. Diosita Andot ng OPAPP na mahalaga ang nasabing workshop para lubusang maunawaan ang mga problema na naging mitsa ng krisis sa Marawi.

Ang resulta ng dalawang araw na workshop na may temang “Conflict Context Setting Workshop on the Marawi Crisis” ay isasama sa pangkalahatang mga proyekto at programa ng task force.

Nakasama ng OPAPP na siyang lead agency sa Social Healing and Peacebuilding component ng Sub-Committee on Peace and Order ng Task Force Bangon Marawi, ang security sector, National Economic Development Authority, Department of Interior and Local Government, Mindanao Development Authority, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, Department of Public Works and Highways, local government units, traditional leaders, Ulama, at mga miyembro ng civil society groups. (OPAPP)

Budget Chief on doubling salaries of soldiers, cops by 2018: we are doing everything to honor commitment

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 20): Budget Chief on doubling salaries of soldiers, cops by 2018: we are doing everything to honor commitment

“The commitment is to double [military and uniformed personnel’s] salaries by January 2018. We are doing everything to honor that commitment,” Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Benjamin Diokno told reporters during a press conference on October 18.

The draft resolution containing the modified base pay schedule of military and uniformed personnel (MUP) prepared by DBM was concurred with by the Office of the President on September 20, 2017, and has already been endorsed to Congress.

“We need the approval of both houses of the Congress to implement this,” Diokno said, “because Congress has the power of the purse.”

The Resolution, if approved by both houses of Congress, will double the base pay of a Police Officer (PO) I in the Philippine National Police (PNP) or a Private in the Department of National Defense (DND), and equivalent ranks in the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), Philippine Public Safety College (PPSC), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA). A PO I and those with equivalent rank will enjoy a 100% increase resulting to a monthly base pay of P29,668.00. Overall, the salary adjustments will result to a 58.7% average increase for all MUP ranks, effective on January 1, 2018.

The increase in base pay will result to an increase in other allowances and bonuses that are computed as a percentage of base pay such as the longevity pay (or foggy pay) and mid-year and year-end bonuses. This will also effectively discontinue the grant of provisional and officers’ allowances, an interim measure pending the modification of the base pay schedule.

The net take-home pay will be much higher than the previous arrangement because the longevity pay, for example, will be exempted from taxes. Interim allowances, such as provisional and officers’ allowances are subjected to income tax. Tax-exempt collateral allowances (e.g., flying pay, sea duty pay, instructor’s duty pay, etc.) are expected to increase as well.

Finally, the passage of the first package of the Comprehensive Tax Reform program will further increase the net take-home pay of the MUP with the lowering of income tax rates.

According to DBM estimates, the increase in the base pay of soldiers, police, firefighters and jail guards will entail an additional cost of P63.4 billion. The increase in the compensation of the MUP will be funded by the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund (MPBF), and from any available allotment in the respective budgets of the agencies concerned.

73rd Leyte Gulf Landing honors surviving WW II heroes

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 20): 73rd Leyte Gulf Landing honors surviving WW II heroes

The courage and bravery of Filipino war veterans, who fought for peace and freedom during the Second World War, were brought to the fore in the 73rd Leyte Gulf Landing Commemoration on Friday at the MacArthur Shrine and National Park here.

Leyte Governor Leopoldo Dominico L. Petilla, in his anniversary message, said the yearly commemoration had focused on many causes, but this year, the veterans, called “heroes of World War II” were given more prominence, especially since many of them are in their twilight years.

“In this year’s celebration, we take our veterans’ valor and bravery as an inspiration to work for a more lasting peace and sustainable progress for the people of Leyte and the rest of the country. We must have peace which brings economic and social justice, equality, and greater independence and freedom for all,” Petilla said.

Likewise, he called on the members of the allied countries such as Australia, Canada, Japan and the United States, present during the commemoration, to continue the partnerships forged over the years in working towards achieving lasting peace and sustainable progress.

“The presence of representatives of the allied nations is a fitting reflection of our shared interests, capabilities, and values. I call on their support and shared effort, for the achievement of real justice, economic well-being and social equality for all our people,” Petilla said in his message.

Canadian Ambassador John Holmes said a number of humanitarian groups from his country continue its presence in the province almost four years after super typhoon Yolanda struck the province. The groups are into various humanitarian projects.

Meanwhile, Deputy Chief of Mission of the US Embassy in the Philippines Michael Klecheski assured a “coordinated assistance” to the Philippines in rebuilding Marawi in Mindanao after Filipino soldiers won it back from ISIS-backed Maute group.

“We are pleased that the Philippine government scored a great victory over in Mindanao. The US government is ready to help in whatever way according to plans being laid by the Philippine government,” Klecheski said.

On the other hand, Lt. Gen. Oscar Lactao, commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Central Command, who was the guest of honor for this year’s commemoration acknowledged that the country is facing a different kind of war these days.

“We are facing threats of extremism and we need more heroes in fighting ideological lawlessness, apathy and poverty,” Lactao said.

He vowed the AFP is more committed to work for unequivocal peace and fight terrorism, violence and poverty in all fronts.

The 73rd Leyte Gulf Landing Commemoration was set in low-key this year as the province is gearing towards a bigger commemoration in 2019 to marks its 75th year after US General Douglas MacArthur came back and landed on Philippine shores to liberate the country.

Veterans of World War II, both Filipinos and from the allied forces were also honored during the Sunrise and Sunset ceremonies, marking their bravery and heroism for the years to come.

On Oct. 20, 1944, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, at the head of the largest US fleet of transport and warships, and accompanied by Commonwealth President Sergio Osmeña and Gen. Carlos P. Romulo, landed at Red Beach of this town to reclaim the Philippines from the Japanese.

The Battle of Leyte Gulf is remembered as the largest naval battle ever fought in modern history. It was fought in four separate engagements near the islands of Leyte, Samar and Luzon from October 23 to 26 in 1944.