Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Gov’t troops kill 15 NPA rebels in Batangas clash (Photo of Captured Equipment)

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 29): Gov’t troops kill 15 NPA rebels in Batangas clash (Photo of Captured Equipment)

NPA rebels' personal effects

Guns and bags with personal belongings that were retrieved from the scene of battle between communist rebels and government troops in Nasugbu, Batangas, are inspected by Chief Supt. Ma O Aplasca, Calabarzon police chief, and Senior Supt. Alden Delvo, provincial police chief. Fifteen suspected rebels, including UP Manila student Josephine Anne Lapira, were killed during the clash. (Photo MARRAH ERIKA RABE / Inquirer Southern Luzon)

Fifteen suspected members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA), including a female student of the University of the Philippines Manila and four other women, were killed in a battle with government troops in Batangas province on Tuesday night.

The firefight came days after President Rodrigo Duterte called off peace talks with communist rebels.

Government officials said the slain rebels comprised the western Batangas command of the NPA, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

Maj. Gen. Rhoderick Parayno, commander of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, identified one of the fatalities as Josephine Anne Lapira, 22, from Marikina City, who died while being treated at Jabez Hospital in Nasugbu.

“We received information that she was from UP. I’m just not sure which (campus),” said Senior Supt. Alden Delvo, provincial police director.

A relative of Lapira confirmed to the Inquirer that she was from UP Manila.

On Wednesday afternoon, families of those killed sat on the wall of a roadside ditch in front of St. Peter’s Funeral Home here waiting for authorities to complete the autopsies.

Not seen for long time

Among them was Leony Aytona who was there for her son, Glen, 22.

“I didn’t know he was with them [NPA]. We’ve not seen each other for a long time since my husband and I got separated and I went home to Bacolod,” Aytona said.

The other fatalities were from Calaca and Lemery, both in Batangas, and Cavite province, according to other sources.

The clash at around 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday capped a series of skirmishes since last week between the rebels and the Philippine Air Force (PAF), which conducts counterinsurgency operations in Batangas province.
Tipped off

Maj. Engelberto Nioda Jr., commander of the PAF 730th Combat Group, said authorities were tipped off to the presence of vehicles “full of armed rebels” in Nasugbu, 65 kilometers south of Manila.

Delvo said joint police and military checkpoints were set up on the routes to Calatagan and Balayan towns after they received information about the vehicles.

“We were expecting them to pass by that road, as that would be the usual exit route, but they instead took a turn and headed toward the direction of Tagaytay [Cavite]. There were also checkpoints there,” Delvo said.

In a press conference in Batangas City, police said they seized seven rifles, a pistol, two laptop computers and an M79 grenade launcher along with backpacks that contained toiletries and some food.

Jeepney, van

Delvo said the intelligence information they received was that a three-vehicle convoy carried the rebels.

But the authorities encountered two – an unmarked jeepney and a van – in the adjacent villages of Aga and Kaylaway, along the dimly lit part of the Tagaytay-Nasugbu highway.

“The jeep did not stop [for inspection] and [the passengers] opened fire at our troops,” Delvo said.

The firefight prompted a 2-kilometer chase toward Barangay Kaylaway near a golf course here, according to Nioda.

“It seemed like a convoy. First a Montero [carrying PAF troops], then the enemy’s van, then three more [government] vehicles, the jeep, then us,” Major Nioda said in a phone interview.

Five people from the jeep and nine from the van were killed.

A female store owner in Barangay Aga said she hid in her kitchen when the shooting started.

“We heard men shouting. After that, people moaning. We only went out when the shooting stopped,” she said.
Troops wounded

The resident said she saw a body a few meters away from the jeep, suggesting an attempt to escape.

Nioda himself was also wounded and is recuperating at Fernando Air Base in Lipa City, Batangas. Also wounded on the government side were 2nd Lt. Eliseo Insierto of the Air Force and two Philippine Army soldiers.

Among those killed was the supposed team leader identified only as “Maro” who was found on the van’s front seat, Delvo said.

Another suspected rebel identified as Victoriano Almario, the alleged driver of the jeepney, was last reported being treated at Medical Center Western Batangas in Balayan town.

The authorities said the slain rebels were the ones involved in the series of clashes in the villages of Utod and Bunducan, also in Nasugbu, after soldiers overran an NPA camp.

Nasugbu Mayor Antonio Barcelon said the town, particularly the villages of Bulihan and Mataas na Pulo, had long been “influenced” by communist insurgents.

Exiled CPP founder Jose Maria “Joma” Sison, called for an independent investigation of the clash. Sison said he doubted the military report that an encounter really took place.

The regional military chief, Brig. Gen. Ernesto Ravina, said the operation was “anchored on the pronouncement of the President on the termination of peace talks.”

On Nov. 24, Mr. Duterte told soldiers to expect “virulent” clashes with the NPA after he scuttled peace talks with communist rebels. He accused the 3,800-member NPA of carrying out attacks despite his peace efforts.

Talks to end the conflict, which the military says has claimed 30,000 lives, have been conducted on and off for three decades.

15 communist rebels killed in Batangas clashes

From Rappler (Nov 29): 15 communist rebels killed in Batangas clashes

It is 'the biggest number of casualties on the side of the rebels and is a big blow to the New People's Army,' says Calabarzon police director Chief Superintendent Mao Aplasca

NEW PEOPLE'S ARMY in training. Rappler file photo

NEW PEOPLE'S ARMY in training. Rappler file photo

BATANGAS, Philippines – Fifteen alleged members of the communist New People's Army (NPA) were killed while 3 others were wounded in two separate encounters with government troops in Nasugbu town, Batangas, Tuesday evening, November 28.

Batangas police director Senior Superintendent Alden Delvo said joint elements of the 730th Combat Group of the Philippine Airforce and the Batangas and Nasugbu police acted on a phoned-in tip that armed men were seen at Sitio Pinamintasan in Barangay Aya, Nasugbu.

Upon reaching the area, the government troops were fired upon by the rebels, who were onboard a jeepney and a van around 8:30 pm.

Five rebels were killed on site while two were wounded in a 20-minute gun battle. They were brought to the hospital, where one expired.

Two soldiers were also reported wounded during the clash.

Meanwhile, in Sitio Batulao, Barangay Kaylaway, another encounter ensued between the rebels and government troops, killing 9 alleged NPA members.

Calabarzon police director Chief Superintendent Mao Aplasca said in a press conference that those neutralized – aged 18 to 25, and including 5 women – were all members of the Eduardo Dagle command.

"Based on documents we recovered, there's an indication that one of those neutralized is a high-ranking official of the NPA," he added.

Nine long firearms were recovered from the encounter site, and Aplasca believes there was a serious plan to conduct a tactical offensive against military and police establishments in the region.

"This encounter so far produced the biggest number of casualties on the side of the rebels and is a big blow to the NPA. We have been tracking their movements for two months, and we can expect another encounter soon if they don't vacate Calabarzon," said Aplasca.

Authorities said the casualties are believed to be remnants of the NPA unit that the government forces fought in Barangay Utod, also in Nasugbu, on November 20.

Duterte orders police, military to shoot any armed NPA member

From Rappler (Nov 29): Duterte orders police, military to shoot any armed NPA member

President Rodrigo Duterte says he will answer for all deaths condemned by human rights groups

WARNING TO NPA. President Rodrigo Duterte visits soldiers wounded in various attacks, including NPA attacks. Malacañang file photo

WARNING TO NPA. President Rodrigo Duterte visits soldiers wounded in various attacks, including NPA attacks. Malacañang file photo

President Rodrigo Duterte instructed military and police to shoot any armed New People’s Army (NPA) member or terrorist they see as part of his new approach to dealing with communist rebels after he formally terminated peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF).
“If there is an armed NPA there or terrorist who is holding firearms, shoot and tell any – ako na ang magsagot (I will answer),” he said on Wednesday, November 29 during the send-off of Vietnamese fishermen in Sual, Pangasinan.

Duterte said not to mind condemnation from human rights groups as he will claim responsibility for their actions.

“You just shut up. Do not answer if that issue of human rights [comes up]. You say, ‘You go to Duterte. It is and was his order,’” he said.

A frustrated Duterte said he decided to end talks after realizing communists are not “serious” in pursuing peace negotiations and after the deaths of soldiers and police during NPA attacks.
The NPA rebels, he said, deserve the shoot order.

“And so? You are destroying my country and you expect me to pat you on the back and say, dahan-dahan ka lang? (You go easy?)” said Duterte.

Malacañang is crafting an executive order declaring the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA as a terrorist organization.

The Philippine government, under Duterte, had asked Washington to remove the CPP-NPA from its list of foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) but the US did not grant the request, saying the organization continued to fit the FTO tag.

The President has also ordered the re-arrest of all NDF consultants who were earlier granted temporary liberty so they can participate in the peace talks. His arrest order, he said, covers CPP founder Joma Sison, his former professor who living in exile in The Netherlands.

However, Duterte said he might exclude some elderly rebels from those to be sent back to jail, saying they no longer posed a threat.

“Those who are above 70 like me, it’s like I am the one getting tired for them, although leaders, I said, ‘You can go.’ Anyway they cannot go far, they cannot climb those mountains there,” said Duterte.

He warned the NPA that if they decide to ramp up their acts of violence against government forces, the government will apply the same level of force.

“I do not want to start a real violent war. But if the NPAs, just like the terrorists, would do it, then we will give them the favor,” said the President.

Group warns of revenge killings, rise in clan feuding in Marawi

From Rappler (Nov 30): Group warns of revenge killings, rise in clan feuding in Marawi

According to International Alert Philippines, gender-related violence and clan feuds are the 3rd biggest cause of conflict in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao

AFTER MARAWI This screenshot shows the battle area in Marawi City. Screenshot from Rappler

AFTER MARAWI This screenshot shows the battle area in Marawi City. Screenshot from Rappler

Peacebuilding organization International Alert Philippines on Wednesday, November 29, warned about two looming problems related to identity that may erupt in Marawi City in the next few months.

"One, there will be those who will seek revenge. They lost their property, they lost their loved ones, and they want revenge – that's one potential source, and it's classic rido, clan feuding, that may happen," International Alert Philippines country manager Francisco Lara Jr said during the launch of the Conflict Alert 2017.

The second possible problem, according to Lara, is related to land.

"So there are two major potential spikes in violence that are rido in nature or clan feuding, and they will be tied up to land because of the very unstable nature of property rights in the area, and then secondly, revenge killings," he reiterated.

International Alert Philippines deputy country manager Nikki de la Rosa said there is a need to consider identity-based conflicts and land-based conflicts that happened before Marawi, and how those will "interplay" into existing conflicts that will be unleashed post-Marawi.

"The issue of revenge killings and clan feuding has been there previous to Marawi, so the manner by which the reconstruction process and the rebuilding process will be undertaken should also consider identity-based conflicts and the looming land issues. Otherwise, that will unleash other sources and episodes of violence in the time that people will go back to Marawi," she explained.

De la Rosa said that, based on their database, incidents of violence – specifically identity-based conflicts, political issues, and land-based conflicts – have the "highest propensity" to produce more episodes of violence.

"So this has to be addressed not just in a linear manner by cutting one string of violence, but also other corollary violence that will erupt out of those original incidents of violence. There are multiple causes of violence in the area, and there's also multiplicity of actor identities, so that has to be considered," she noted.

According to International Alert Philippines' latest Conflict Alert, identity issues, particularly gender-related violence and clan feuds, are the 3rd biggest cause of conflict in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The biggest causes of violent conflict are shadow economy issues. Shadow economies pertain to the informal or underground sectors of the economy that tend to fuel violent conflict.

On Wednesday, Lara said "there is no doubt already" of the "very strong connection" between the illicit drug industry and violent extremism in the case of Marawi.

"We've also seen particularly that [the drug trade in Lanao del Sur] enabled access to huge amounts of resources by the Maute Group. There are signs for example that the scale of their operations would not have occurred had those resources not been available," he explained.

Conflict Alert team leader Judy Gulane said they found out from their data that Maute members were also tied to cases of kidnapping, carnapping, and extortion of businesses – all shadow economies.

The presence of shadow economies, Lara emphasized, is an important factor to look into in other places that may be potential areas for the rise of extremism "because those will provide the resources that extremist groups can tap into in terms of waging their war."

President Rodrigo Duterte declared the liberation of Marawi City in October or nearly 5 months after the war erupted on May 23.

2 NPA rebels killed in Surigao Sur clash

From the Mindanao Times (Nov 29): 2 NPA rebels killed in Surigao Sur clash

THREE days after the cancellation of the peace talks, two members of the New People’s Army (NPA) died in a clash with elements of 75th Infantry Battalion in the hinterlands of Barangay Buhisan, San Agustin, Surigao del Sur around 1:30 p.m. on Monday.

Capt. Rodulfo Cordero, the civil-military operations (CMO) officer of 401st Infantry Brigade, said government troops conducted security operations in Lianga and San Agustin to pursue the rebels allegedly responsible in the killing of two Lumads and a soldier through a landmine in Purok 5, San Isidro, Lianga last Nov. 6.
Cordero said the encounter lasted for about an hour after before the rebels escaped.

During the clearing operations, the troops found the bodies, an AK47 rifle, an M653 rifle, a compass, blasting caps and detonating cords.
The encounter site was about seven kilometers away from the Lumad communities in Barangay Diatagon, Lianga and Buhisan, San Agustin.

Meanwhile, Col. Andres Centino, the commander of 401st Infantry Brigade, assured the people of Lianga and San Agustin that there is no reason to fear from the military offensives against the NPA. He said the soldiers are disciplined and have sworn to respect the rights of civilians.

President Duterte signed on Nov 23 Proclamation 360 declaring the termination of peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front-the New People’s Army.

With the cancellation of the peace talks, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero ordered all units to beef up their defenses as communist rebels are expected to intensify their attacks.

“My directive to the troops is to intensify our focused military operations to destroy the NPA, and to protect our communities against terrorism,” Guerrero said.

Duterte at Bangsamoro Assembly: what’s the special session of Congress for?

From MindaNews (Nov 28): Duterte at Bangsamoro Assembly: what’s the special session of Congress for?

At the 1st Bangsamoro Assembly in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao last Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte reiterated his campaign promise to push for federalism as what is at stake is “the preservation of the Filipino republic and to correct a historical injustice” and called on Congress to hold a special session for a day or two to address the concerns of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) under Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) under Nur Misuari to fully implement the peace agreements government signed with them.

In his 30-minute speech, Duterte made no mention of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) for whose passage the Bangsamoro Assembly was convened by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), the MILF-led 21-member body that was tasked to draft the BBL, composed of representatives from the government, the MILF and the MNLF faction of Yusoph Jikiri and Muslimin Sema. The BTC was created by executive order pursuant to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) signed by government and the MILF on October 15, 2012 and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) on March 27, 2014.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, in his speech during the Bangsamoro Assembly held at the Old Provincial Capital in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on November 27, 2017, declares that Muslims and Christians should unite to preserve the Republic of the Philippines. ALBERT ALCAIN/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO
Former Sulu Governor Jikiri, now chair of the MNLF faction formerly referred to as MNLF Executive Council was at the Bangsamoro Assembly. MNLF founding chair Misuari was not there but is reportedly convening another Bangsamoro gathering in Davao City.

“Now, there are so many drafts coming from Nur (Misuari), coming from Kagi Murad and everybody else, and the scholars, and also UP (University of the Philippines) is coming up with a position paper,” Duterte said. He was apparently referring to the draft BBL of the GPH-MILF peace process that the BTC submitted on July 17, when he mentioned Murad.

It is not clear what draft of the GPH-MNLF Misuari faction Duterte was referring to: the draft amendatory law to strengthen the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which it was supposed to submit to the President in July but did not “to avoid complications” with the GPH-MILF peace process. There is no draft amendatory law from the MNLF-Misuari faction pending in Congress.

Instead, the MNLF Misuari faction pushed for a proposed Provisional Bangsamoro Federal Autonomous Region (B’FAR) under a federal republic, a proposal that would require amendments to the 1987 Constitution.

The drafts from “everybody else, and the scholars, and also UP” apparently refer to position papers on the country’s shift to federalism.

Duterte apparently was still focusing on the “convergence” of the draft laws from the GPH-MILF and GPH-MNLF Misuari when the latter had already opted for a B’FAR.

“I said, one day, one session, Nur, si Kagi (Murad) and all should be there to present their platform. And then we will work out if it can,” Duterte said without finishing his sentence.

“If it’s not in consonance with each other, then we work out but at least Congress and the Filipino people should be given a day to hear you out on what we intend to do. Me? I support you. That is my promise,” the President said.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is greeted by Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim upon his arrival at the Old Provincial Capital in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao for his attendance to the Bangsamoro Assembly on November 27, 2017. Also in the photo are Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Central Committe Chairman Yusoph Jikiri (beside Murad), Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. ALBERT ALCAIN/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

He reiterated that the law must be inclusive and no one should be left behind.

“Ang akin, it must be inclusive. Lahat. Walang maiwan dito sa peace talks na ito. The MILF, the MNLF, lahat na, Lumad, kailangan kasali” (For me, it must be inclusive. All. No one will be left behind in these peace talks. The MILF, the MNLF, all, Lumad, must be included),” Duterte said.

He said he will “impress upon (Congress) that you have to devote even one day or two days. Hear them out, hear us from Mindanao.”

Duterte inherited four peace agreements with two Bangsamoro revolutionary fronts when he assumed the Presidency on June 30, 2016: the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and 1996 Final Peace Agreement with the MNLF and the FAB and CAB with the MILF. The peace processes with these groups are all on the implementation phase.

Peace and Development Roadmap
The Duterte Administration’s Bangsamoro Peace and Development Roadmap approved in July 2016, envisioned the passage of a Bangsamoro law by yearend of 2017 to allow for a plebiscite by mid-2018. Without a new law, the ARMM elections will push through in 2019.

The 21 members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) with President Rodrigo Duterte (center) at the launch on 24 February 2017 at the Garden Pavilion of the Waterfront Insular Hotel. TOTO Lozano / Presidential Photo

The roadmap also envisioned a BTC that would be represented by the MILF and all the MNLF factions, to ensure a “convergence” of the draft BBL under the GPH-MILF peace process and the draft amendatory law of the GPH-MNLF to fully implement the 1996 Final Peace Agreement.

The BBL will pave the way for the creation of a new autonomous political entity called the Bangsamoro which will replace the nearly three-decade ARMM, a structure that lacks fiscal autonomy and other features needed to ensure genuine autonomy.

The MNLF Misuari faction on the other hand was working on a draft law to amend RA 9054 to strengthen the ARMM, the body that would be abolished once the BBL is ratified in a plebiscite.

Convergence of these proposals would have been done at the BTC level. The MNLF under Jikiri and Sema has three members in the BTC. Misuari, however, did not want to have anything to do with the BTC and in November 2016, when he was granted temporary liberty by the court, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza announced the creation of peace implementing panel for the MNLF-Misuari faction.

On July 19 this year, two days after the BTC submitted its draft BBL to the President in Malacanang, MNLF Peace Implementing Panel chair Randolph Parcasio, concurrent spokesperson of Misuari, told MindaNews they will no longer submit their proposed amendatory law to enhance the ARMM but will instead push for federalism.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte poses for a photo with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Chairman Nur Misuari and his wife Tarhata after the meeting with the MNLF and Government Peace Implementing Panels at the President’s Hall in Malacañan Palace on July 18, 2017. SIMEON CELI JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

“In line with conversations between President Rodrigo Duterte and MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari in the previous five meetings which among others touched on federalism, the MNLF will no longer submit a draft New Autonomy Law to avoid complications. The MNLF-GPH Process will have to contribute directly to the fast tracking of federalism,” Parcasio told MindaNews.

Parcasio issued the statement after Misuari led a delegation that paid a courtesy call on President Duterte in Malacanang on July 18, a day after BTC’s submission of the BBL.

The proposed Bangsamoro comprises the present five-province, two-city ARMM, the cities of Cotabato and Isabela, and the six towns in Lanao del Norte and a few villages in some North Cotabato towns that voted yes for inclusion in the ARMM in the 2001 plebiscite.

Misuari’s proposed Provisional B’FAR comprises an area far bigger than the present five-province, two-city ARMM, and even the 13 province-nine-city “areas of autonomy” in Mindanao and Palawan under the 1976 Tripoli Agreement which he signed as chair of the then undivided MNLF. As new provinces and cities were created, the “areas of autonomy” in 1976 now comprise 16 provinces and 15 cities (15 out of 27 Mindanao provinces and 14 out of 33 cities) and Palawan and Puerto Princesa City.

March 2018 passage

Lanao del Sur Rep. Mauyag Papandayan, Jr., chair of the Committee on Muslim Affairs on Sunday told MindaNews that the new target for the passage of the BBL is March 2018, that committee hearings will begin first week of December and public hearings in January-February.

Congress has only seven session days left from November 29 until it goes on recess on December 16. It will resume session on January 15 and will have 30 Monday-to-Wednedsay session days from January 15 to March 23. It will go on break from Mach 24 to May 13 and will have nine session days from May 14 until it adjourns sine die on June 1.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte does his signature pose with (from left) Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza, Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) Chairman Ghadzali Jaafar, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Central Committe Chairman Yusoph Jikiri, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque and other guests who attended the Bangsamoro Assembly held at the Old Provincial Capital in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on November 27, 2017. ALBERT ALCAIN/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Three committees — Muslim Affairs under Papandayan; Peace, Reconciliation and Unity under Tawi-tawi Rep. Ruby Sahali and Local Government under South Cotabato Rep. Pedro Acharon — are jointly handling four bills on the proposed Bangsamoro law; House Bill 092 filed on June 30, 2016 by Maguindanao Rep. Bai Sandra Sema, Deputy Speaker for Mindanao; HB 6121 filed by Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on August 3, 2017; HB 6263 filed by Lanao del Norte Rep. Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo on August 24 and and HB 6475 or the BBL version submitted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and filed by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Jr. and 97 other Representatives reportedly on September 27. The first three bills are posted on the House website, the bills signed by the authors and stamped received. HB 6475 has not been posted on the website as of November 28.

All bills related to the proposed Bangsamoro law are to be consolidated by the joint committees. If the MNLF-Misuari faction’s draft amendatory law had been submitted to President Duterte and filed with Congress, it would have been included as the fifth bill for consolidation.

At the Senate, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III filed SB 1608 or the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region Basic Law (BARBL) on November 6, 2017.

Pimentel told MindaNews last week that the Committee on Local Government headed by Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara “has vowed to hear BBL immediately after tax reform (bill). “Will ask him what the feasible timetable is,” he said.

New Army battalion eyed to fight NPA in Panay

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 29): New Army battalion eyed to fight NPA in Panay

Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Eduardo Año on Tuesday talked of a plan to activate a new battalion in Panay to continuously go after the New People’s Army in the island.

“We need the unity of different sectors. Once and for all, let us end this,” he stressed in a media interview after his visit to the wake of slain Police Officer I Joeffel Odon who died in a recent NPA ambush in Maasin, Iloilo.

Currently, they are working to fast track the pull out of the Philippine Army’s 82nd Infantry Battalions (IB) deployed to Marawi City during the conflict. The battalion is based in Miagao, Iloilo.

Colonel Pio Diñoso, commanding officer of the Philippine Army's 301st Infantry Brigade (3rd Infantry Division) based in Dingle, Iloilo, said that they are currently expediting the activation of the new battalion.

“We have a lot of candidate soldiers who will undergo training so we could create the additional battalion,” he said in a media interview.

Diñoso expressed hope that the new battalion will be organized early next year.

Año said that they would also provide additional training and equipment to the troops of the Regional Mobile Force Battalion (RMFB) of the Police Regional Office (PRO-6) to improve their skills and perform better.

He added that they would also review the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), tactics, procedures and techniques of the Philippine National Police personnel in Western Visayas to improve their skills in dealing with incidents like NPA ambush and clash.

Peace monitors sign cooperation vs terror, drugs

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 29): Peace monitors sign cooperation vs terror, drugs

Peace monitors working under the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT) inked Tuesday with Philippine military counterparts here their willingness to share and tackle information leading to the eradication of terrorism and illegal drugs, which they described as evolving “spoilers of peace.”

“Based on our monitoring, the problem on terrorism and illegal drugs have cropped up as main threats to the peace process in Mindanao,” Malaysian Maj. Gen. Datuk Masrani bin Paiman, told reporters here in a press conference.

He said as the Philippine government had been steadily addressing the issues of poverty and illiteracy in Muslim-dominated areas of Mindanao, particularly in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, terror groups such as the Maute and Abu Sayyaf had been using illegal drugs to finance their nefarious recruitment activities.

The IMT, a third neutral party activated in 2004, is primarily tasked to oversee the implementation of peace process between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest Moro rebel group in Mindanao.

The team, which has maintained its main headquarters in this city, has nearly 100 combined members from Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Japan, Libya, Norway, and the European Union scattered in various parts of Mindanao.

In a statement, the IMT said it joins the GPH-MILF Coordinating Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities and Ad-Hoc Joint Action Group on working together by taking pro-active measures in managing spoilers of peace.

The IMT declaration had cited their continuous commitment to share information; joint and coordinated operations on the Philippine Army’s pursuit operation against Abu Toraife’s ISIS-inspired group of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in the borders of Maguindanao and North Cotabato provinces; maintenance of the Marawi peace corridor; pacification of family feuds; and combat against illegal drugs, among others.

“The high level of cooperation in dealing with some of these highlighted issues will naturally build strong confidence and trust among the peace process stakeholders and greatly contribute to peaceful environment,” the statement said.

The IMT said it hopes that such cooperation takes place in all community-affected areas throughout Mindanao.

Villagers' report foils NPA extortion in Leyte

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 29): Villagers' report foils NPA extortion in Leyte

The fresh clash between government troops and New People’s Army (NPA) in Albuera, Leyte is proof that communist rebels are not welcome even in remote communities, the Philippine Army said.

Lt. Jessel Montajes, acting spokesperson of the Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Division said the “shared cooperation” between soldiers and villagers prevented the NPA from conducting extortion activities.

“The villagers informed the army about the presence of the NPA rebels that continue to engage in acts of violence and hostilities endangering the lives and properties of innocent people,” Montajes said in a press statement released Wednesday morning.

On Tuesday morning, soldiers of the 78th Infantry Battalion clashed against 10 communist terrorists in Talisayan village, Albuera town.

The troops conducted security patrol and confirmed the residents’ reports about the presence of communist terrorists who were extorting food and money,” the Philippine Army said in its report.

The firefight lasted for 15 minutes, resulting in the recovery of two caliber .45 pistols, four magazines of calibre .45 pistol, one hand grenade, more or less fifty live ammunition, five cellular phones, subversive documents with high intelligence value, and personal belongings.

There are no casualties on the side of government troops while authorities have yet to determine if the rebels suffered any casualty, according to Montajes.

The latest clash happened five days after President Rodrigo Duterte declared the termination of peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front--Communist of the Philippines–New People’s Army and all its adjuncts and organizational units through Proclamation No. 360.

The President cancelled the peace talks due to NPA’s continued attacks against government troops and atrocities on civilians despite ongoing peace negotiations.

PNP lauds military, police troops' feat in Batangas clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 29): PNP lauds military, police troops' feat in Batangas clash

The CALABARZON Police Regional Office (PRO-4A) hailed the feat of the joint government troops for their successful operations during their encounter on Tuesday evening against communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Nasugbu, Batangas where around 15 rebels were killed and several firearms and a grenade launcher were seized following the gun battle.

Chief Supt. Ma O R. Aplasca, CALABARZON (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) Regional Police Director, led the regional police force in giving “salute to the gallantry of the personnel of both the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) who have successfully neutralized the communist terrorist (CT) group.”

Aplasca, however, cautioned that “we should continue to be vigilant to prevent any possible retribution of this group against government personnel and facilities in the whole region.”

He reported that an undetermined number of communist rebels were able to escape on foot but they are now the subject of follow-up operations by the joint elements of AFP and PNP.

The regional police command also commended the feat of the 730th Combat Group, Batangas Provincial Public Safety Company (PPSC) and Nasugbu police force for their continuing operations.

“This operation is a product of hard work, coordination and cooperation between the AFP-PNP and most especially the support extended by the community through the giving of timely and accurate information as to the presence and movement of the CTs in their area,” the regional police commander said.

Aplasca also said the latest feat “signals the end of atrocities of the NPA and we expect that extortion activities of this terrorist group will eventually stop.”

He enjoined everyone, particularly politicians and the business community, whom they have already identified as supporters of this terrorist group, to instead cooperate with the government.

Recently, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte tagged the New People’s Army as a terrorist group and subsequently signed Proclamation No. 360 terminating the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front-Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army.

“Thus, we further appeal for the continued and stronger community support as we are nearing the end of the reign of terror posed by the NPA in CALABARZON particularly in the 1st District of Batangas,” Aplasca said.

The police regional headquarters said the partnership of the AFP and PNP with the community is an offshoot of the joint project of mobilizing the community against all forms of lawlessness, criminalities and terrorism.

NPA admits quarry explosion in southern Negros

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 29): NPA admits quarry explosion in southern Negros

The New People’s Army (NPA) has claimed responsibility for the explosion that damaged equipment in a quarry site at Barangay Orong, Kabankalan City in Negros Occidental on November 26.

In a press statement dated November 28 and released to the local media here on Wednesday, the Armando Sumayang Jr. Command Southwest Negros Guerilla Front in Negros Island said the blast should serve as a warning to all operators conducting irresponsible quarry operations.

The Kabankalan City Police Station reported that on Sunday night, a blast from an improvised explosive damaged a backhoe owned by Hilamonan village councilor Raquel Siguero.

Eight suspected rebels were identified as the perpetrators, who also stole the cellular phones of the two caretakers.

Andrea Guerrero, spokesperson of Southwest Negros Guerilla Front, said that since 2014, they have identified 15 quarry operators in the area, of which three were allegedly involved in harassment, land grabbing, and threat against farmers in Barangay Orong.

Guerrero also said in the press statement that a fact-finding mission conducted by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas Southern Negros in cooperation with Defend Patrimony-South discovered that quarry operators have no permits or have expired permits to operate.

14 Reds killed, 1 captured in Batangas ops

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 29): 14 Reds killed, 1 captured in Batangas ops

Fourteen New People's Army (NPA) rebels were killed while one was wounded and captured during military operations in Nasugbu town, Batangas Tuesday night.

The incident also resulted in the slight wounding of three troopers who now in stable condition.

In an interview, Major Mikko Magisa, 202nd Infantry Brigade executive officer, said the series of encounters between between the Air Force's 730th Combat, police and various military units took place at Barangays Aga and Kaylaway took place around 8:20 p.m.

The firefight lasted for around 20 to 40 minutes.

He added that the encounter was "intelligence driven" and stemmed from the Nov. 20 operation in Barangay Utod which earlier resulted in the capture of a NPA base and undetermined rebel casualties last Nov. 20.

Magisa said the seized NPA encampment is capable of housing and training a significant number of rebels.

All of the bodies of the NPA dead were recovered by troops along with 12 high-powered firearms which consists of 10 M-16 automatic rifles, an M-16 automatic rifle fitted with a M-203 grenade launcher and an M-79.

Nine of the slain rebels were male while five were female, Magisa added.

While the wounded rebel were immediately taken to a private hospital for treatment.

Magisa said that they are still verifying reports that the Secretary of the NPA's Guerilla Front 3 and a platoon leader were among the 14 dead.

The above-mentioned rebel band also sustained losses during an encounter with government troops last Sept. 24 at the vicinity of Mount Banoy, Barangay Talumpok, Batangas City.

In the encounter, a rebel was reported killed while M-16 automatic rifles and a bandolier was also recovered with no losses to the government side.

Navy to welcome contingent to 1st AMNEX Wednesday

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 29): Navy to welcome contingent to 1st AMNEX Wednesday

The Philippine Navy (PN) contingent, which took part in the first-ever ASEAN Multilateral Naval Exercise (AMNEX) 2017, will be formally welcomed Wednesday.

Welcoming ceremonies will take place 2 p.m. at Pier 13, Manila South Harbor, Navy spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna said. The event will be headed by Philippine Fleet commander Rear Admiral Gaudencio Collado Jr.

The contingent consists of the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (FF-15), the BRP Tarlac (LD-601) and 600 sailors and marines, Lincuna bared.

The PN contingent to AMNEX 2017 is headed by Commodore Albert A. Mogol.

The naval exercises where 10 ASEAN nations and nine non-ASEAN member states took place in Pattaya and Sattahip Bay, Thailand.

It started November 13 and ended on November 22, the PN spokesperson added.

CTTC aims to beef up Army troops' urban warfare capabilities

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 29): CTTC aims to beef up Army troops' urban warfare capabilities

The planned "counter-terrorism training complex" (CTTC) aims to enhance the urban warfare capabilities of the Army's Special Operation Command personnel.

The CTTC, which has a budget of PHP55.6 million, will be constructed in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.

In an interview Wednesday, PA spokesperson Lt. Col. Ray Tiongson said the CTTC aims to replicate urban area conditions and thus improve the "military operation on urban terrain" (MOUT) or urban warfare.

"Yun planong gawin, para siyang magre-replicate ng (setting and conditions in) urban areas. Number one (benefit) dyan is ma-enhance natin yun capability sa MOUT and other operations na nasa urban setting like yung mga hostage rescue operations," he added.

Bid opening for the CTTC is slated for Dec. 4 at 11 a.m. at the headquarters of the Special Operations Command, Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.

Interested bidders must also have completed a similar project similar to the one being bidded.

JASIG no longer in effect, says Dureza

From ABS-CBN (Nov 28): JASIG no longer in effect, says Dureza


President Rodrigo Duterte in a meeting with Communist Party of the Philippines leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, and other officials of the National Democratic Front in Malacañang in September 2016. ABS-CBN News/file photo
MANILA- Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza on Tuesday said the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) is deemed no longer in effect because the government has terminated peace talks with communist rebels.

Speaking to ANC, Dureza explained that issuing a written notice of termination of the JASIG to communist rebels is no longer necessary since President Rodrigo Duterte has already issued Proclamation No. 360, ending talks with the National Democratic Front.
"No less than the President issued a proclamation terminating with finality the peace negotiation so all other accessory agreements like the JASIG are deemed also terminated," Dureza said.

The JASIG is a key agreement between the government and the NDF which guarantees the legal immunity of rebel peace negotiators.

With the agreement no longer effective, this means peace consultants of the communist movement who were protected by the JASIG can now be arrested if they have pending criminal cases.

Dureza added that the President "really went out of his way before" for the peace negotiations but decided to terminate it due to continuous attacks by New People's Army rebels.

"He (Duterte) came to a point where he said there is no more enabling environment that will be conducive to the continuation of peace negotiations so he decided to cancel it finally," Dureza said.
Duterte last week said one of the reasons peace talks between the government and the communist rebels collapsed is the latter’s goal to form a coalition government with his administration.
Following the collapse of peace talks, Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison alleged that the President "sabotaged" peace negotiations between the government and communist rebels.

Sison also labeled Duterte as the top terrorist in the Philippines for being responsible for the "mass murder" of drug suspects, among others.

Duterte closes door on coalition gov't with Reds

From the Philippine Star (Nov 28): Duterte closes door on coalition gov't with Reds


Duterte said a coalition government would mean sharing a part of the Philippines’ sovereignty, something that he is not allowed to do. AP

A coalition government with communists would spark a mutiny among security forces, President Duterte said Tuesday, as he blamed the rebels anew for the collapse of the peace talks.

Duterte said a coalition government would mean sharing a part of the Philippines’ sovereignty, something that he is not allowed to do.
“I studied the working papers and the sum total is a coalition government. I told them I cannot give what I don’t have. It’s a thing of sovereignty and you know...the one that represents sovereignty are the elected choice of the people,” Duterte said in an anti-corruption summit in Pasay.

“It cannot be shared by somebody just because you’re fighting a revolution and you want to fix it by having a coalition government. The military, even the police, will launch a coup d’état and I will lose my head. That’s for sure,” he added.

Duterte said several policemen and soldiers have died because of the armed struggle waged by the Maoist guerillas.

“There are policemen and Army men who have died and then I will coalesce with them and the wound runs deep? They (military) will kill me and they will arrest me and what? This is not something I can distribute,” he added.
The President previously said he terminated the peace talks with the communist rebels because they wanted to establish a coalition government, something he described as “pure nonsense.” He also cited the New People’s Army (NPA) attacks that resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians including a four-month-old infant in Bukidnon.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said a formal notice is not necessary to terminate the negotiations with the communists.

“What else do they want? The President already issued a proclamation saying it’s been terminated. It’s not as if the NDF (National Democratic Front) has a status of a state. It’s not as if we’re dealing with a treaty entered into between state parties. That’s enough that there is a formal proclamation,” Roque said in a press briefing in Malacañang.

“Whether or not they will be given a formal letter of termination, to me, that would be superfluous. Get a copy of the proclamation and it’s very clear: Peace talks are over for now,” he added.

Roque was referring to Proclamation No. 360 formally ending the peace negotiations with the rebels.

Duterte said security forces would also oust him If he establishes a dictatorship, one of the allegations hurled at him by his critics.

“That’s why there is always a revolution. If you overstay? I become a dictator? Yayariin din ako ng military (the military will go after me) same with what happened in the past,” the President said.

“You overstay, you abuse...there will always be attempts of coup d’état and mutiny,” he added.

Duterte said the issue of graft and corruption can always be used to overthrow a leader.

He also reminded government forces to be ready as terrorists can always stage retaliatory attacks

“They will seek revenge. It could be more lethal,” the President said.

But the tough-talking leader is unfazed by the threats, saying he is prepared to skin terrorists alive.

“You bring out the worst in me, I’ll eat you alive,” he added.

Army: One of slain alleged rebels in Batangas clash a UP student

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 29): Army: One of slain alleged rebels in Batangas clash a UP student

Firearms, still stained with blood of the slain rebels, recovered from the clash site in Nasugbu, Batangas, were put on display for the public to see by the police. Photo by Marrah Erika Rabe / Inquirer Southern Luzon

BATANGAS CITY—One of the five female rebels who died in the Batangas encounter was a student of the University of the Philippines (UP), the military and police said on Wednesday.
Major Gen. Rhoderick Parayno, commander of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, identified the slain suspected rebel as Josephine Santiago Lapira, 22, from Marikina City.

Lapira, according to army and police officials, died while being treated in a hospital. An earlier report identified Lapira as Ella Rodriguez, the name authorities believed she used as an alias.

READ: Army troops kill 14 suspected NPA rebels in Batangas clash

“Yes, we received information that she was from UP (University of the Philippines). I’m just not sure which (campus),” said Police Sr. Supt. Alden Delvo, Batangas provincial director.

A relative of Lapera confirmed to the Inquirer that she was from UP Manila.

Lapera was the 15th fatality in the encounter between New People’s Army rebels and the Philippine Air Force in Nasugbu Batangas on Tuesday evening.

Fourteen rebels were killed in the clash while two Air Force officials were wounded. Of the 15, five of them were female, Delvo said.

Meanwhile, another suspected rebel, Victoriano Almario, is being treated at the Medical Center Western Batangas in Balayan town.

Almario reportedly drove the jeepney, one of the two vehicles, that ferried the rebels.

The bodies of 14 fatalities are currently at the St. Peter’s funeral home in Nasugbu. Their identities were not immediately available as relatives have yet to claim the cadavers.

16 alleged NPA members killed in Batangas encounter

From GMA News Online (Nov 29): 16 alleged NPA members killed in Batangas encounter


At least 16 members of the New People's Army (NPA) were killed in a running gun battle in Nasugbu, Batangas on Tuesday night.

The encounter started in Barangay Kaylaway at around 8:30 p.m. after police spotted the rebels on board a jeepney and a closed van.

The Nasugbu Police said joint police and military teams were dispatched after receiving reports of armed men in the village.

It said that the troops, including members of the military's 730th Combat Group, were fired upon by the rebels when they arrived in the area.

Troops initially killed nine of the armed men, believed to be members of the NPA, during the encounter.

Five more members of the armed group were killed in Barangay Aga.
In the report of GMA News' Ivan Mayrina on "State of the Nation with Jessica Soho," the two suspected rebels were brought to the hospital but died a few hours later.

The military said the rebels were members of the communist group's Guerilla Unit 3 based in Batangas. Among those killed were the guerilla unit's secretary and a platoon leader, the military added.
Brigadier General Arnulfo Burgos, commander of the 202nd Infantry Brigade, the death of the NPA leaders in the counter will create a leadership vacuum in the rebel unit and "signals the end of insurgency in Batangas."

Five soldiers, meanwhile, were hurt in the counter, but are now in stable conditions.

The encounter took place nearly a week after President Rodrigo Duterte signed Proclamation No. 360, terminating the government's peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

Before signing the proclamation, Duterte said the communist group should be tagged as a terror organization.

3 suspected NPA rebels surrender to gov’t forces, says

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 28): 3 suspected NPA rebels surrender to gov’t forces, says military

CATARMAN, Northern Samar – Three self-confessed communist rebels have surrendered to government forces, said Brigadier General Mario Lacurom, commander of the 803rd Infantry Brigade.

He said Arnel Aquino and Teny Gerbon belonged to the Special Partisan Unit of the New People’s Army (NPA) while Richard Avino belonged to the NPA’s militia unit.

The three gave themselves up to the 20th Infantry Battalion based in Barangay Opong, Catubig town last Friday, Nov. 24, and turned over three firearms – two .45 caliber pistols and a .38 caliber revolver.

As surrenderees, the three would be enrolled in the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) of the national government and would receive legal and livelihood assistance and other social benefits.

They were also expected to receive similar benefits and cash rewards for the firearms that they surrendered under the Local Social Integration Program (LSIP) of the provincial government.

But the human rights group the Katungod Sinirangan Visayas claimed that the three were “illegally” arrested and detained by 20IB.

Sargie Macallan, Katungod-SV chair in Catarman, said the three should be released because they were mere peasants who were suspected by the military as NPA members.

Last Sunday, three persons who identified themselves as parents of Avina, Gerbon and Aquino went to the Palapag police station to report the supposed abduction of their sons by the military.

Chief Inspector Alex Mendez, chief of police in Palapag, told the Inquirer that the parents were accompanied by a member of the Katungod SV.

But Lieutenant Col. Noli Lapizar, commanding officer of the 20IB, maintained that Avina, Gerbon and Aquino surrendered to their troops.

He said his troops conducted a “legitimate combat operation” in Sitio Canunghan, Barangay Osmeña, in Palapag town, when the three men surrendered.

Lapizar said the three men were now in the custody of the 20IB based in Catubig together with their wives and children.

“Their families went with them because they were scared and were being hunted by the NPA rebels. They are well-taken care of and are staying in individual rooms,” he said.

Guerrero tours AFP bases to check on troops

From the Philippine Canadian Inquirer (Nov 29): Guerrero tours AFP bases to check on troops

FILE: To check on troops' readiness and morale, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief-of-Staff Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero is conducting a series of visits in various military installations in the country. (Photo: Eastern Mindanao Command, AFP/Facebook)

FILE: To check on troops’ readiness and morale, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief-of-Staff Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero is conducting a series of visits in various military installations in the country. (Photo: Eastern Mindanao Command, AFP/Facebook)

To check on troops’ readiness and morale, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief-of-Staff Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero is conducting a series of visits in various military installations in the country.

This was disclosed by Col. Edgard Arevalo, military public affairs chief, in a message late Tuesday.

Also on Tuesday, Guerrero visited Philippine Army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City and Air Force headquarters in Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

Arevalo said the AFP chief is slated to visit Navy headquarters in Roxas Boulevard, Manila on Wednesday.

“This is one in the series of customary visit he had to different AFP Units — in Marawi, as well as other units in the frontline, and in Metro Manila,” he added.

Arevalo said it the AFP chief’s duty as the commander to check on the readiness condition and the morale of the troops.

Prior to his appointment as chief-of-staff, Guerrero commanded the Eastern Mindanao Command, the Jamindan, Capiz-based 3rd Infantry Division, the 701st Infantry Brigade, Task Force Davao, Commander, and served as chief-of-staff of the Philippine Army.

Guerrero is also a decorated military officer having been awarded the Distinguished Service Star four times, the Order of Lakandula (Degree of Commander); the Philippine Legion of Honor (Degree of Officer); and the Honorary Airborne Wings from the Royal Thai Army.

House panel okays measure increasing base pay of military and uniformed personnel

From the Business Mirror (Nov 28): House panel okays measure increasing base pay of military and uniformed personnel

Photograb of Philippine military from YouTube
The House Committee on Appropriations on Tuesday approved a measure authorizing the increase in base pay of military and uniformed personnel (MUP).

Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez, Majority Leader Rodolfo C. Fariñas Sr. of Ilocos Norte and House Committee on Appropriations Chairman Karlo Alexei B. Nograles of Davao City said there is a need to adjust the compensation package of MUP to make it more commensurate with their critical role in maintaining national security and peace and order, taking into consideration their exposure to high-risk environments in the performance of their duties.

Nograles said the resolution will be submitted to the plenary for another round of deliberations.

“The lower chamber will approve the resolution next week and it will be immediately
transmitted to the Senate for its approval,” Nograles said.

The measure is expected to be approved before Congress goes on recess on December 13.

If approved by both houses of Congress, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said the resolution will double the base pay of a police officer (PO) 1 in the Philippine National Police, a private in the Department of National Defense and equivalent ranks in the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, Bureau of Fire Protection, Philippine Public Safety College, Philippine Coast Guard and the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority.

The DBM said a PO1 will enjoy a 100-percent increase in monthly base pay from the current P14,834 to P29,668.

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 for the government.

Under the resolution, the modified base-pay schedule for MUP shall be implemented in two tranches starting 2018 and 2019.

“Pending review of the current MUP pension system by the legislative and executive branches of government, which is aimed toward ensuring a sustainable and equitable pension system, the indexation of the pension of retired MUP with base pay of those in the active service shall be suspended with respect to the base-pay increase authorized in the joint resolution,” the measure said.

It added the indexation of such pension shall remain to be based on the rates of the base-pay schedule provided under the law.

Also, the resolution said the hazard pay of all military and uniformed personnel shall be fixed at P540 per month.

It said the amounts necessary to implement the increase in base pay in fiscal year 2018 shall be sourced from the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund and other available funds, while the funding requirements for the succeeding years shall be included in the annual General Appropriations Act.

Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Rey Guerrero said the passage of the resolution “is an indication of how the people appreciate the efforts of the AFP in terms of being able to fulfill its mandate.”

“[It] will definitely go a long way in boosting, not only the morale of our troops, but also in making sure that they have decent living,” he added.

P464-M allocated for AFP barracks

From the Manila Bulletin (Nov 29): P464-M allocated for AFP barracks

The Senate has set aside in the proposed 2018 P3.76 trillion national budget P464 million for the construction of barracks for personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Senator Richard Gordon ( Jansen Romero / Manila Bulletin File Photo)
The appropriation was sponsored by Sen. Richard J. Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, during the period for individual amendments on the proposed national budget.

This, according to Gordon, is in line with providing the Armed Forces of the Philippines adequate wherewithal to achieve the goal of having a credible military.

Gordon had earlier pointed to the need for additional barracks or housing for the military, citing the shortage of quarters in the country’s military camps that has constrained some military personnel to sleep in the offices.

“You will recall that the military tasked us that there were no barracks for the military. In most of the camps in the country, they have no barracks, in Camp Aguinaldo they have no barracks. I was surprised, I lived with the US Navy all my life and these people had BOQs, bachelor enlisted men’s quarters, they have Navy housing, and yet we are so niggardly providing for our military,” he said.

The P464-million additional allocation will be used for the construction of the following: enlisted personnel male barracks, amounting to P99-million; enlisted personnel female barracks, which would cost P49.5-million; four-story female officers’ barracks, P50.5-Million, four-story male officers’ barracks, P101-million; two 16-door married officers’ condominium, P114.9-million; and a 16-door NCO condominium.

Gordon said the proposed allocation, which was supported by Sen. Gregorio B. Honasan II, chairman of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, could be sourced from the P32-billion lump sum appropriation in the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

“Their (military) morale will certainly go up if they have homes for their enlisted men and women, for their officers, which they don’t have in any camp, practically. Nakita naman natin sa Marawi, ilan ang namatay na sundalo. This should be a good reward for our soldiers and I think this would be well taken by the military,” he said.

Conflict Alert 2017 Report Highlights

From Conflict Alert Philippines (Sep 16): Conflict Alert 2017 Report Highlights
Download File size is 3 MB. Downloaded 114 times.
Violent conflict surged to unprecedented levels in Muslim Mindanao in 2016 as the Duterte government launched a war on illegal drugs and guns and newly emerging violence from extremist groups escalated.

Guns, Drugs, and Extremism: Bangsamoro’s New Wars

From Conflict Alert Philippines (Nov 28): Guns, Drugs, and Extremism: Bangsamoro’s New Wars

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The ARMM saw an explosion of violence in 2016 as the Duterte government declared a war on illegal drugs and guns while a new threat emerged in the form of violent extremism.

US-Philippines Military Exercise Signals Strengthened Defense Ties in the Duterte Era

From the Diplomat (Nov 29): US-Philippines Military Exercise Signals Strengthened Defense Ties in the Duterte Era

Engagement is another sign of a relationship on the uptick following a rocky start under the new Philippine president.

US-Philippines Military Exercise Signals Strengthened Defense Ties in the Duterte Era

Image Credit: US Embassy Manila

This month, the United States and the Philippines carried out another one of their series of military exercises and engagements. The engagement, which occurred under the SALAKNIB banner, is testament to a bilateral defense relationship that is on the uptick despite some lingering challenges under new Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and U.S. President Donald Trump (See: “Trump’s Indo-Pacific Strategy Challenge”).

As I have noted before in these pages, though the U.S.-Philippine defense relationship had a bit of a rocky start once Duterte took office, developments particularly in the latter part of 2017 suggest that, as was likely to be the case, any kind of perceived downgrading on the defense side might not only be slowing, but beginning to reverse in a trend that might continue out to 2018 (See: “How Much Will Duterte Wreck the US-Philippines Military Alliance?”).

Several factors, including new appointed personnel in the bilateral relationship as well as ongoing developments such as the siege by Islamic State militants in the southern Philippine city of Marawi, have helped reinforce the importance of collaboration on this front and paved the way for new areas of cooperation as well (See: “US Terror Aid to Philippines Signals Enduring Defense Ties Under Duterte”). As a U.S. treaty ally, the Philippines will also have a key role to play in Trump’s developing Asia vision as was clear during the Trump-Duterte summit earlier this month. The Philippines likewise played a key role during Barack Obama’s rebalance to the Asia-Pacific (See: “Why the Philippines is Critical to the US Rebalance in Asia“).

That remains true on the exercise dimension of bilateral defense ties too. Following the recent annual meeting in Hawaii of the Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board (MDB-SEB) – the body which deliberates on these interactions – Philippine officials had indicated that the number of exercises and engagements would increase in 2018 from 2017 levels (even though they would still be still lower than that of 2016) (See: “What Will US-Philippines Military Exercises Look Like in 2018?”).

This month, another engagement took place that demonstrated the enduring defense ties between the two countries. From November 16 to 27, U.S. Army and Philippine Army (PA) soldiers conducted SALAKNIB (which means “Protector” in Illocano) in Luzon, the Philippines, which involved subject matter expert exchanges as well as practical exercises. The Philippine Army said that the exercises took place in various military facilities including Camp O’Donnel in Capas, Tarlac; Fort Magsaysay in Palayan City, Nueva Ecija; and Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

According to the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines, soldiers shared information such as gunnery procedures, maintenance for the M113 Armored Personnel Carrier, artillery tactics and processes, as well as study and validation of the PA Sustainment Functional Concept Document, the document which establishes a common framework for sustaining future Army operations. Philippine soldiers also fired artillery and M113 Gunnery in a display of their skills.

The Embassy said the engagements in SALAKNIB would serve as a foundation for future training, which will include SALAKNIB Part B in April 2018 and culminate in the BALIKATAN exercises in May 2018, the biggest annual bilateral exercise between the two sides. Despite the initial scaling down of the Balikatan exercises last year, the drills remain significant for several reasons including growing multilateralization, with last year seeing participation from U.S. allies Japan and Australia and eight Southeast Asian nations as observers (See: “How Significant is the 2017 US-Philippines Balikatan Military Exercise?”).

ARMM saw 'explosion of violence' in 2016 – report

From Rappler (Nov 29): ARMM saw 'explosion of violence' in 2016 – report

According to the latest Conflict Alert, the biggest causes of violent conflict in 2016 are shadow economy issues, while political issues such as rebellion and extremism caused more fatalities.

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) saw an "explosion of violence" in 2016, according to the latest Conflict Alert launched by International Alert Philippines on Wednesday, November 29.

"There were 4,356 incidents in 2016, or an 89% increase from the previous year's 2,303 incidents. All provinces in ARMM saw increases in conflict incidents to more than double their previous year numbers in the case of Maguindanao (including Cotabato City), Basilan (including Isabela City), and Tawi-Tawi," the 63-page report said.

Lanao del Sur saw the smallest increase (22%) of incidents, followed by Sulu (68%). The increase in Maguindanao and Basilan was due to "an intensification of urban violence" in Cotabato City and Isabela City, respectively.

While Maguindanao posted the highest number of incidents, Basilan was ahead of Maguindanao in terms of conflicts per 100,000 persons or per 1,000 square kilometers.

The report noted that the increase in violent conflict incidents in ARMM happened amid the holding of local elections, the Duterte administration's anti-drug campaign, and the emergence of "a particularly lethal form of violent conflict: violent extremism."

The biggest causes of violent conflict, according to the report, are shadow economy issues. The same report defined shadow economies as pertaining to the informal or underground sectors of the economy that tend to fuel violent conflict.

In Mindanao, shadow economies include illegal drug and illicit firearm trades, kidnap-for-ransom, cattle rustling, smuggling, illegal gambling, carjacking, and human trafficking. The bulk of shadow economy-related conflicts took place in Maguindanao.

"The sharp rise in shadow economy-related incidents coincided with the start of President Rodrigo Duterte's term of office, specifically after a nationwide and coordinated anti-drug campaign was announced in July 2016," the report noted.

Illegal drug-related incidents also rose nearly 6-fold to 757 incidents in 2016. According to Conflict Alert Team Leader Judy Gulane, this does not imply that the shadow economy in illegal drugs was not as widespread in the ARMM provinces prior to 2016.

"What it does reveal is that a hornet's nest was stirred by the Duterte government when it launched the anti-drug campaign, turning a relatively 'quiet enterprise' into a site of violent conflict," Gulane said in a statement.

Political issues
The report also noted that political issues such as rebellion and extremism caused more fatalities in the region in 2016.

For instance, at least 198 deaths in 2016 were attributed to the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), making it the deadliest among the threat groups.

"However, in terms of conflict deaths per armed confrontation, the Maute Group trumped the ASG. Eight people were killed per attack launched by the Maute Group (8 to 1) in contrast to 3 people killed by per ASG attack (3 to 1)," the group's statement added.

Maguindanao accounted for the highest number of rebellion-related violence, amid the increasing attacks by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). Sulu and Basilan, both host to factions of the ASG, followed in terms of number of incidents. Lanao del Sur, meanwhile, saw the emergence of the Maute Group in 2016.

The report noted that the BIFF, the ASG, and the Maute Group have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group (ISIS). The Maute Group is behind the Marawi City attacks that started on May 23, 2017, and lasted for almost 5 months.

According to International Alert Philippines, the steep rise in violence in 2016 shows the "urgent need for new and adaptable responses to conflict in Mindanao."

"Tackling violent extremism will require context-specific understanding. It is important for the government to monitor the actors, causes, and locations of violent conflict to see if an incident has the propensity to morph into more violence incidents, or conflict strings," said International Alert Philippines Deputy Country Manager Nikki de la Rosa.

She said the kind of conflict data provided in the Conflict Alert 2017 will "enable quick-response and effective conflict resolution efforts that not only focus on the security approach but also include processes that build community cohesion and resilience."