Saturday, December 2, 2017

What is the military doing to prevent another ISIS attack in Philippines?

From the International Business Times (Dec 1): What is the military doing to prevent another ISIS attack in Philippines?

Philippine governor seeks military help to prevent maoist rebels' harassment
Philippine military  Reuters

After learning lessons to suppress terror the hard way, the Philippine military is presently organizing a new unit to prevent a possible urban warfare attack from terrorists, similar to what happened in Marawi City where close to a thousand ISIS-inspired terrorists occupied hundreds of buildings and started shooting soldiers to death.

The military's 6th Infantry Division based in Maguindanao province has organized an army battalion to prevent urban terrorism in the province.

Maguindanao is known as a breeding ground of militants involved in violent extremism and a known stronghold of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

The Philippine military government earlier warned that the province of Maguindanao and the City of Cotabato could be a possible target of ISIS inspired group after Marawi's five-month battle that ended last October 2017.

Aside from the Maguindanao province, the army division will also be responsible for supressing growing terror cells in North Cotabato Sultan Kudarat and Lanao del Sur province that includes Butig, a small town where the Maute Group started building its armed members and raided the town hall to raise their ISIS-design flag.

Lt. Col. Gerry Besana of the 6th Army Division said that the infantry battalion is undergoing an organizational process to develop new strategies to counter urban warfare.

The Philippine military earlier told IBTimes that the armed militants have shifted their warfare approach from the jungle to urban setting because warfare in an urban setting will make Philippine soldiers difficult to contain.

The Philippine Army Division is now organizing 10 anti-terror battalions throughout the country and the unit members are acquiring a new set of special skills on urban warfare.

"The soldiers undergoing the urban warfare special course are battle-tested people who have the experience at countering violent extremism in Central Mindanao, " Besana added.

Besana also said they have enough equipment to ensure that the new battalion in Maguindanao is ready to take on possible terror attacks.

During the five-month battle in Marawi, the Philippine military has capitalized on using artillery and airstrikes to destroy the terrorist strongholds because the terrorists were in a strategic position where soldiers could hardly enter their positions.

More than a hundred Philippines soldiers were killed as a result of sniper attacks and improvised explosive devices placed in residential houses in that infamous Marawi siege.

Philippines: Frustrated MILF Fighters Joining Islamic State Ranks

From BenarNews (Dec 1): Philippines: Frustrated MILF Fighters Joining Islamic State Ranks


A Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) guerrilla wades through a flooded farm in Maguindanao province, Philippines, Aug. 22, 2017. AFP                

Islamic State recruiters in the southern Philippines are luring frustrated fighters from the country’s largest Muslim rebel force, despite the deaths of top IS-linked Filipino leaders and their defeat in Marawi, a senior MILF guerrilla warned Friday.

An undetermined number of Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels have “defected” to at least one group that has pledged allegiance to Islamic State, Mohagher Iqbal, the chief peace negotiator for MILF, told BenarNews, citing intelligence information from field commanders.
“We created a task force to talk to our commanders. We are really engaging them. We mobilized our Islamic religious leaders to tell them teach real teaching[s] of Islam,” Iqbal said.

“People, like in Marawi, they have been swayed already. The radicals in Marawi have consistently cited frustration in the peace talks as one of the reason why they fought the government,” he added.

MILF field commanders have found it hard to rein in young MILF fighters from joining IS, Iqbal said.

New IS leader

The IS faction in the southern Mindanao region is now headed by an ex-MILF guerrilla commander named Abu Turaipe, who controls a massive marshland area in Maguindanao town, where his forces have been involved in low-intensity fighting since August.
Turaipe split from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front when it signed a peace deal with Manila three years ago. The MILF then dropped its separatist bid for an independent state in the south, an idea that did not sit well with Turaipe. He broke away from the rebel chain-of-command and led his followers, who numbered in the few dozens, to press on with the fight.

Since then, the Philippine congress has stalled on passing the Bangsamoro Basic Law, legislation needed to implement autonomy for MILF-controlled areas in the south, as outlined in the peace agreement. The region is endowed with rich mineral deposits but its population has remained poor because of decades of insurgency that have left tens of thousands dead.

At first, Turaipe’s band was dismissed as nothing more than a small group of bandits, until its members pledged allegiance to IS last year. They were, however, forced to engage in hit-and-run attacks largely confined in Maguindanao. His faction was not involved in the five-month battle of Marawi, led by Isnilon Hapilon, the overall IS leader in the region, who was subsequently killed.

Now that Hapilon is gone, the low-profile Turaipe has emerged as the next IS leader.
“We are not saying we will not go back to armed struggle if the passage of the BBL fails. [T]he option right now is to pass the BBL,” Iqbal said.

Last week, Wahid Tundok, a senior MILF leader who is its 118th Base commander, warned of violence larger than Marawi should Congress fail to enact the law.
President Rodrigo Duterte, meanwhile, has appeared to listen to MILF’s warnings. During a visit to an MILF camp several days ago, he pledged to shepherd the pending legislation through Congress in a special session to be called at a future date.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law was touted as the centerpiece legislation of then-President Benigno Aquino’s administration. But efforts to pass it have met with stiff resistance from several lawmakers, who are wary of giving too much power to MILF. The proposed law calls for giving the group its own power structure, police force and money.

Past failed efforts to bring about peace in Mindanao have spurred deadly violence. In 2008, the Supreme Court invalidated a deal brokered by the government that would have declared large swathes of Mindanao as the MILF’s “ancestral domain.” As a result of the court’s ruling, peace talks at the time collapsed and hundreds of people were killed in ensuing violence.

Recruitment drive

According to the military, the aide of Omarkhayam Maute, one of the leaders behind the Marawi attacks who were killed in the battle there, has reportedly been recruiting residents, especially young men, in surrounding Lanao del Sur province.
Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., deputy commander of the military’s Joint Task Force Ranao, said militants aligned with Maute had been going around Muslim communities and actively trying to regroup after their defeat in Marawi in late October.
Citing fresh information from local residents and officials, Brawner said that a man identified as Abu Dar, one of the Maute leaders who escaped from Marawi, was leading the recruitment drive.

“The recruitment efforts for training of new fighters of IS-Maute terrorist group were monitored in the towns of Piagapo, Lumbacaunayan and Sultan Domalondong,” Brawner said.

At least 40 men were working along with Abu Dar in their recruitment drive, said Haroun Al-Rashid Lucman, vice governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. He appealed to the military not to allow the “terrorists to regroup.”

Cagayan councilor shot dead, NPA rebels admit killing

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 2): Cagayan councilor shot dead, NPA rebels admit killing

The Henry Abraham Command of the New People’s Army in Cagayan province admitted killing a town councilor at his house in Baggao town on Saturday morning (Dec. 2).

Councilor Angelo Luis was killed at 7 a.m. by about 20 armed men who broke into his house in Awallan village.

Luis was shot three times in the head.

In a statement, the communist rebels said Luis had been spying for the Army’s Military Intelligence Unit in the Cagayan region.

Luis, in a Nov. 1 text message, had admitted receiving death threats but had shrugged these off.

“There are so many threats but I am not a coward. I spent my own money and I am alone in my fight against corruption in our town,” Luis had said.

Luis’ relatives have not yet reacted to the NPA allegations.

Slain students ‘full-time’ rebs

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 2): Slain students ‘full-time’ rebs
Army corrects self, says youngsters not new recruits

Some of the assault rifles recovered by government forces from communist rebels following a clash in Nasugbu, Batangas.—MARRAH ERIKA RABE

The youngsters slain in what the military said was a clash with soldiers in Batangas province were full-time guerrillas belonging to the New People’s Army (NPA), not new recruits as some officials earlier said.

Maj. Gen. Rhoderick Parayno, head of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, said the killings of 15 supposed members of NPA were results of a “legitimate encounter” between soldiers and guerrillas in the villages of Aga and Kaylaway in Nasugbu, Batangas. Two of the dead rebels were college students Josephine Lapira and Kamil Manangan.

Parayno said the youngsters had been earlier tagged to be NPA recruits on an “immersion” program but corrected that report on Friday.

UP student

Lapira, a University of the Philippines (UP) Manila student, had already gone through an immersion program and was a regular member of NPA at the time of her death, according to Parayno.

Parayno said Lapira had told her parents she was in an immersion program to explain her long periods of absences, but was already a full-time guerrilla.

Details of how the rebels found their way into Nasugbu, a resort town, and the clash that followed started trickling in yesterday.

Police said one of two vehicles used by the rebels, a closed delivery van, was believed to had been stolen.

The van, which carried one rebel team including its supposed leader “Maru,” was registered to a trucking company based in General Mariano Alvarez town in Cavite province, according to police.

Stolen van

Senior Supt. Alden Delvo, Batangas police chief, said the provincial police was coordinating with the Highway Patrol Group to get more details about the van, which was reported stolen in Magallanes town, Cavite, on Nov. 28, the same day the rebels clashed with government forces.

Aside from Lapira and Manangan, the other slain rebels were initially identified, through sources, as Glen Mark Aytona, Carl Espinosa Labajata, Julieto Pellazar Jr., Karla Bahasa, Henry delos Reyes, Joshua Hernandez, Evelyn Pagara Manalo, Roberto Dolendon, Alfred Cadag, Anthony Felix and Graciella Pocaldo.

Five of them, who were aboard a jeep, were killed in the initial clash in Aga village. Nine riding in the van were killed in the second clash in the village of Kaylaway a few minutes after the first volley fire.

Driver missing

Police chief Delvo said the van driver, who was still unidentified, had fled.

One of the rebels had been wounded and put under hospital arrest in Batangas City. Police on Friday filed a complaint for illegal possession of firearms and explosives and attempted murder against him.

Maj. Gen. Parayno said 12 assault rifles, an M79 grenade launcher, bullets and communist documents were recovered.

One of the assault rifles, an M16, was registered to an agency in charge of security at a high-end resort in Nasugbu and was stolen during a raid in January at the resort’s security office by rebels.

NPA threatens Abra gov’t worker

From the SunStar-Baguio (Dec 2): NPA threatens Abra gov’t worker

A GOVERNMENT worker now fears for her life after alleged members of the New People’s Army tried to extort money.

In the morning of November 30, Philippine Information Agency Abra Infocen Manager Teresa Beñas received a call from a certain Commander Lawin asking her for money to be used for fueling their vehicle to transport supplies of the rebel group operating in the province.

"I refused to give in to their demand since I am just a simple government employee to which they threatened to kill me for not acceding to their demand," said Beñas.

The threat did not deter Beñas from immediately informing Abra Provincial Police Director Police Chief Superintendent Dominador De Guzman of the threat coming from the rebel group who immediately provided security for the information officer.

"After informing Colonel De Guzman of the threat, I immediately informed PIA-CAR Regional Director Helen Tibaldo of the incident who have readied specific actions for me and my co-employees safety, aside from the security provided for me by the PNP," Beñas explained.

The PNP traced the call emanated from Davao Del Norte which was their basis to say the alleged members of the NPA are part of the lost command who conducts extortion activities in different parts of the country.

In the last quarterly meeting of the Regional Peace and Order Council meeting held in the province of Abra last month, the Northern Luzon Command of the AFP reported the extent of extortion activities of the rebel group operating in Northern Luzon

Nolcom watches NPA attack sites

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 1): Nolcom watches NPA attack sites

The chief of the military’s Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) said government forces and resources had been concentrated in areas where communist rebels had intensified attacks before President Duterte canceled the peace talks last week.

In a statement on Tuesday, Nolcom commander, Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat, said “focused military operations” were being undertaken against the New People’s Army (NPA).

“Our intent is to concentrate our attention in areas where we have identified these criminal groups have been operating,” Salamat said.

On Monday night, Army soldiers clashed with suspected communist rebels in Sallapadan town in Abra province. Pfc. Jeffrey Siron of the Army’s 24th Infantry Battalion was hit in the leg and was treated at a local hospital.

The NPA has yet to react to a report from the overseas security and intelligence firm, Pacific Strategies and Assessment, about a rise since January of rebel attacks in Batangas province and Cordillera, Cagayan Valley and Ilocos regions.

Salamat said Nolcom would carry out a “more proactive campaign” against the NPA to counter rebel activities such as coercion and extortion on business owners.

2 NPA members wounded in Albuera, Leyte encounter —military

From GMA News Online (Dec 1): 2 NPA members wounded in Albuera, Leyte encounter —military

Two New People's Army (NPA) members were wounded from an encounter with military forces in Albuera, Leyte, the Philippine Army said on Friday.

According to a  News to Go report, the troop's battalion commander said soldiers engaged in a clash with the armed rebels lasting over 15 minutes at Barangay Talisayan.

The soldiers reportedly came across at least 10 NPA members while patrolling the area.

While retreating, the rebels reportedly left behind firearms, bullets, documents and personal belongings, the battalion commander added.

NPA rebels kill cop, wound 7 in Camarines Norte ambush (Photo)

From the Philippine Daily  Inquirer (Dec 2): NPA rebels kill cop, wound 7 in Camarines Norte ambush
Dead cop - Camarines Northe ambush

Government troopers view the body of a policeman killed by communist rebels in Labo, Camarines Norte, on Saturday. (Photo by REY KENNETH ONING / Contributor)
Suspected rebels killed a police officer and wounded seven others in an ambush in Labo town in Camarines Norte before dawn on Saturday after the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) ordered the New People’s Army (NPA) to intensify attacks against state forces.

The attack came days after the rebels suffered at least 15 dead in a clash with Air Force troops and police in Batangas province in the biggest single-day casualty for the NPA since President Duterte ordered the termination of peace talks with the insurgents last month.

The rebels waylaid two police patrol cars traveling through Barangay Daguit on their way from Labo town to Camarines Norte provincial police headquarters in Camp Wenceslao Vinzons in Daet town, said Bicol police spokesperson Senior Insp. Maria Luisa Calubaquib.

PO2 Richard Abad, a member of Camarines Norte Police Mobile Force, was killed in the attack at around 1 a.m.

Wounded were Ronald Gutierrez and Ericson De Vera, both with rank of PO2, and Jeffrey Tarrobago, Pedro Valeros, Romar Umandap, Johnson España, and a certain Aguilar all with the rank of PO1.

Communist party founder Jose Maria Sison said in an online interview on Saturday that the intensified attacks against government forces were in retaliation to Mr. Duterte’s recent moves against the rebels.

“He [Duterte] has arrogantly announced that he continues on the path of all-out war. The NPA has no choice but to take the initiative and do its best to defeat its enemy in as many places as possible,” Sison said.

In a statement last week, the CPP ordered the NPA to “continue to wage and intensify guerrilla warfare nationwide in order to inflict powerful blows against Duterte’s fascist machinery.”

Calubaquib said that Chief Supt. Antonio Gardiola Jr., Bicol police chief, ordered all police stations across the region to be on round-the-clock “high alert” after the President declared the cancellation of peace negotiations.

Senior Supt. Cerilo Trilles, acting police provincial director in Camarines Norte, said the police, backed by soldiers, were pursuing the rebels that attacked the police convoy.

In Albay, Col. Alden Juan Masagca, commander of the Army’s 901st Infantry Brigade, said the military would also conduct more counteroffensives against the NPAs.

In Saturday’s interview from Utrecht, the Netherlands, where he has lived in exile since 1987, Sison said, “It is impossible for Duterte to wipe out the CPP, NPA and NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines) by using methods of mass murder.”

He said more than 90 percent of CPP members were “secret,” adding that to kill one “he [Duterte] will have to kill 100 or even 1,000 suspects.”

Sison also claimed that many legal activists were preparing to join the underground revolutionary movement following Duterte’s threat of tagging them as terrorists, opening them to attacks.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Saturday said the President’s earlier shoot-to-kill order were for armed rebels, not for noncombatants like members of civil society and religious groups.

Roque also belittled the threat by the NPA to intensify attacks, citing the government’s victory over the pro-Islamic State militants in Marawi City.

“If we have defeated the Isis, how much more [the NPA]? I am not bragging but if the government managed to defeat a [global] terrorist group as Isis, wouldn’t they (get defeated too)?” he said.

Shoot order on rebels ‘unacceptable’ under international law – rights lawyer

From InterAksyon (Dec 2): Shoot order on rebels ‘unacceptable’ under international law – rights lawyer

Human rights lawyer Edre Olalia

President Rodrigo Duterte’s order for government forces to shoot armed rebels on sight is “a dangerous idea and an unacceptable norm” that goes against “universally accepted rules of armed conflict” that the Philippines is bound to observe, a human rights lawyer said.

Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, stressed that the Philippines is obliged to observe not only the 1949 Geneva Conventions and its protocols but also the 1989 Joint Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

The Geneva Conventions states that both combatants and civilians “have rights to be protected in the context of war.” It also requires that the “means and methods of warfare … must be necessary, proportionate, and must distinguish between combatants and civilians.”

“‪Even a combatant who has surrendered, is sick or wounded or is rendered hors d’ combat (in no position to fight) should not be attacked and are entitled to ptotection,” Olalia said.

“Hence, it is a dangerous idea and an unacceptable norm to sweepingly say without any qualification or clear explanation that an armed combatant can be summarily killed without any accountability,” he added.

Speaking in Pangasinan Wednesday, Duterte, who ordered peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines terminated, ordered government forces to “shoot them” (rebels).

“They will kill you anyway. If there is an armed NPA (New People’s Army) there or terrorist that’s holding firearms, shoot … ako na lang magsagot (I’ll answer for you),” he said.

Malacañang is also preparing an executive order declaring the communist rebels “terrorists.”

Reacting to this, Vice President Leni Robredo warned that Duterte’s order violated the Constitution.

But presidential spokesman, Harry Roque, who made a name as a human rights lawyer, justified Duterte’s statement because taking up arms against government is a “crime.”

Roque was also quoted in news reports as saying: “I assure you, no armed NPA will surrender to authorities. The options are to shoot at an armed rebel or for our men in uniform to be shot at by them.”

2 NPA members slain in Sarangani encounter

From the Manila Times (Dec 1): 2 NPA members slain in Sarangani encounter

Two members of the New People’s Army (NPA) were killed during an encounter with government security forces in Barangay Pag-asa, Alabel of Sarangani province on Friday.

Col. Robert Ancan, commander of the Philippine Army’s 102nd Infantry Brigade, said the encounter with about 15 NPA members happened at about 6:30 a.m. after a report from concerned citizens on the presence of armed men “extorting and intimidating” residents in the area.

Ancan said soldiers from the 73rd Infantry Battalion conducted a security patrol in Sitio Balataan to confirm the report but were fired upon by the communist rebels triggering a firefight that lasted for about an hour.

The identities of the slain rebels, both male, are yet to be confirmed by the military.

Ancan claimed that the blood stains in the encounter site and withdrawal route of the communist fighters indicate that there were also wounded NPA members.

No casualty was reported on the government side.

Capt. Mc Gary Dida, civil-military operations officer of the Army’s 1002nd Infantry Brigade, said seized from the encounter site were two AK-47, two M16 rifles, one Garrand rifle, seven backpacks, two handheld radios, an NPA flag and subversive documents.

Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Noel Clement, commander of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division, said despite the encounter, they were saddened that the killed NPA members were “another victims of the wrong propaganda.”

“Thus we are calling on the members of the NPAs to lay down their arms, surrender and avail of the Comprehensive Local Integration Program [of the government],” Clement said in a statement.

The encounter happened days after 15 NPA members were killed in an encounter in Nasugbu, Batangas a week after President Rodrigo Duterte terminated the peace negotiations with the communist movement.

The clash in Batangas that killed a University of the Philippines student drew the attention of Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Maria Sison who called on independent human rights organizations and the Commission on Human Rights to investigate the incident.

Two more Red rebels slain in Philippine clashes

From The Gulf Today (Dec 2): Two more Red rebels slain in Philippine clashes

Clashes between government forces and members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) continued to intensify, resulting in the killing of two more insurgents and the wounding of two others, the military reported on Friday.

Colonel Roberto Ancon, an Army brigade commander, said the two rebels were slain in an encounter with a team of soldiers who were on security patrol in the town of Sarangani, Mindanao on Friday morning.

On the other hand, police said two NPA insurgents were wounded in a clash also on Friday morning in the town of Albuera, Leyte in the Visayas in Central Philippines.

The clashes indicated the intensification of shootouts with the rebels following the order of the National Democratic Front (NDF) for more frequent attacks following President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte’s cancellation of their formal peace talks.

In announcing the cancellation, Duterte, likewise, ordered government forces to “shoot on sight” armed NPA insurgents who refuse to surrender and pose a threat to their lives.

“So, if there is an armed NPA there or terrorist, if he’s holding a firearm — shoot,” Duterte ordered.

The NDF is the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed component the NPA, which represented them in the peace talks hosted by Oslo, Norway as the third party facilitator.

On Tuesday, the military reported the killing of 15 NPA members including five women in a running gun battle involving two “barangay” (villages) in the town of Nasugbu, Batangas province in Southern Luzon.

Major General Rhoderick Parayno, an Army infantry division chief, disclosed that one of the five women was a student of the state-owned University of the Philippines

The student and other youngsters killed were in an “immersion programme” or “tour of duty to prepare fresh NPA recruits on the rigors of living dangerous lives,” Parayno explained.

Duterte said he cancelled the peace talks due to unabated NPA attacks on civilian establishments as well as military and police outposts even while the government and their representatives were talking peace in Norway.

Duterte also denounced the rebels for engaging in extortion activities under the guise of demanding payment of “revolutionary taxes” particularly from mining firms and other business establishments.

Injured soldiers unable to return to service may pursue making prosthethics for a living

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 2): Injured soldiers unable to return to service may pursue making prosthethics for a living

Wounded soldiers confined at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Medical Center in Quezon City may look forward to making prosthetics for a living courtesy of Vice President Leni Robredo and her “Angat Buhay” partners.

Vice President Leni Robredo (Photo by OVP / MANILA BULLETIN)

Robredo told soldiers, most of them fought to liberate Marawi from local terrorists, about their efforts to give them free admission to the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center’s prosthetics-making course.

“Once we have in-house people who know how to make prosthetics, it will be a big help for soldiers. Not only that, it will also be a livelihood opportunity for soldiers who will not be able to return to service,” she said in Filipino.

The Vice President visited the injured soldiers at the AFP Health Service Command in V. Luna Medical Center on Nov. 30, Bonifacio Day during the “Straight from the Heart” program, a gift to heroes concert.

She was joined by representatives from UERM and Physicians for Peace, her flagship antipoverty program’s partners.

Robredo expressed her heartfelt gratitude to the soldiers, whom she enticed with an enrolment to UERM, as a reward for their services and sacrifices to the country.

They also brought pre-Christmas package for the wounded soldiers and their families.

Robredo said her office’s partners have been in talks with V. Luna Medical Center to give interested soldiers training to make prosthetics. She also discussed it with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and AFP chief General Rey Leonardo Guerrero.

The Vice President said there were seven soldiers who were initially chosen to take a prosthetic-making course at UERM.

“We have many countrymen in need of prosthetics. But only a few know how to make them,” she said.

Robredo’s Angat Buhay program has been providing prosthetic legs and arms to Filipinos with disabilities.

In her remarks, the Vice President thanked the soldiers at the hospital for their services.

“I think all Filipinos should take the opportunity to thank the soldiers who are our heroes. We need to give time for them because it is an honor to be able to thank them personally,” she said.

AFP tracking down 21 NDF consultants

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 2): AFP tracking down 21 NDF consultants

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) yesterday said that efforts are underway to locate the 21 National Democratic Front (NDF) consultants temporarily released for the purposes of the peace talks.

Marine Colonel Edgard Arevalo (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

AFP Public Affairs Office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo, said that so far, they don’t have any information on the whereabouts of the NDF consultants or if they already went into hiding.

“So far we don’t have any information on their location but we are awaiting for any specific guidance if there is a need for them to be re-arrested based on the order of, the order of our courts,” Arevalo said.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Secretary Jesus Dureza earlier said there are 21 NDF consultants released for the purposes of the peace talks.

Among those granted safe conduct passes for the peace talks are Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, Adelberto Silva, Alfredo Mapano, Tirso Alcantara, Pedro Codaste, Porferio Tuna, Concha Araneta Bocala, Ernesto Lorenza, Eduardo Ganelsa, Ariel Arbitrario, Runel Saluta, Jaime Solidad, Keneddy Bangibang and Alan Jazmines.

Duterte wants idle lands in military camps leased

From the Sun Star-Pampanga (Dec 2): Duterte wants idle lands in military camps leased

President Rodrigo Duterte has disclosed his desire to have idle lands in military camps and bases leased immediately to private investors for commercial purposes.

Speaking during the 67th anniversary of the Scout Ranger Regiment or FSSR in Camp Tecson, San Miguel, Bulacan recently, the President in particular pointed to Basa Air Base, home of 5th Fighter Wing of the Philippine Air Force in Floridablanca, Pampanga, and Camp Tecson in Bulacan province.

President Duterte said he wants ordinary soldiers to benefit from the rental of idle lands in camps and military installations.

He added that proceeds from such commercial operations will also be used as capital for the creation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ own insurance and pension system similar to the Government Service Insurance System.

The government is eyeing about P50-billion from the rental of idle lands in military camps and bases.

Karapatan reports 25 new alleged EJK cases to UN special rapporteurs

From GMA News (Dec 2): Karapatan reports 25 new alleged EJK cases to UN special rapporteurs

Militant human rights group Karapatan submitted on Saturday a letter of allegation concerning 25 cases extrajudicial killings (EJK) to United Nations special rapporteurs Agnes Callamard and Michael Forst.

Karapatan said it had initially informed Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary execution and Forst, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, of 47 alleged EJKs last April.

The group alleged that the EJKs were perpetrated by security forces "in line with [President Rodrigo] Duterte's counter-insurgency program."

“From one counter-insurgency program to another, cases of extrjaudicial killings against peasants, indigenous peoples, Moro, workers, women and youth continue to be committed with impunity under the murderous Duterte regime. Also, most, if not all, of the perpetrators of human rights violations under the administrations of former Presidents Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III have not been brought to justice,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said in the group's letter to Callamard and Forst.

Karapatan said that among the victims of the new alleged EJKs was 18-year-old Obello Bay-ao, a member of the Manobo tribe and a students’ organization.

It said Bay-ao was walking home one afternoon last September from a day of harvesting corn in Davao del Norte when two gunmen fired at him.

Karapatan said the gunmen were allegedly members of an auxiliary group of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The group said all alleged EJK victims were peasants, indigenous peoples, Moro, workers, women and youth.

The group said they asked Callamard and Forst to "consider, investigate, make recommendation/s or take any appropriate action/s" on the allegations.

A part of the letter reads: “We allege that state security forces are primarily responsible for these killings that are all in the context of a government program that makes no distinction between armed and unarmed civilians, thus providing a pretext for the arbitrary tagging of individuals, groups and movements as ‘enemies of the state.”

Karapatan sent its second letter of allegation to the UN special rapporteurs after Duterte terminated the government's peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP).

Duterte also announced that the government will launch a crackdown on supposed legal fronts of the communist group.

The government decried supposed “hostilities” and a “lack of sincerity” from the communists, who in turn blamed Duterte for allegedly botching the two parties’ latest attempt at a decades-long quest for reconciliation.

The NPA’s countryside revolution is said to be the world’s longest-running communist insurgency.

Duterte has also said he would declare the NPA as a terror group.

The President’s termination of peace talks earned a nod from the military, which has long accused communist rebels of economic sabotage through alleged destruction of agricultural and mining equipment.

The left, on the other hand, has slammed the military for alleged attacks against farmers, human rights workers, and community and Lumad leaders, among others.

Karapatan said it has documented 104 victims of extrajudicial killings under Duterte’s counterinsurgency program from July 2016 to October 2017.

IS recruiting again; martial law extension eyed

From the Philippine Star (Dec 2): IS recruiting again; martial law extension eyed

IS-linked Maute terrorists attacked Marawi on May 23 and laid siege to the Islamic city until they were driven out by government troops after five months of intense fighting that left over 1,000 people dead and thousands more homeless. AP/File

Despite the liberation of Marawi City from terrorists last month, extremists continue to conduct massive recruitment in Mindanao, which might prolong martial law in the region, government officials said yesterday.
Task Force Bangon Marawi chairman Eduardo del Rosario and Lanao del Sur Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong told a press briefing at Malacañang that extremist groups continue to recruit followers in Mindanao in a bid to establish an Islamic State (IS) caliphate in the region.

IS-linked Maute terrorists attacked Marawi on May 23 and laid siege to the Islamic city until they were driven out by government troops after five months of intense fighting that left over 1,000 people dead and thousands more homeless.

The fighting in Marawi forced President Duterte to place the entire Mindanao under martial law until the end of the year to deal with the crisis and prevent other armed groups from reinforcing the militants or launching similar uprisings elsewhere in the region.

Congress approved the extension of martial law up to Dec. 31.
Adiong and Del Rosario cited serious security threats that would justify another extension of martial law.

They also pointed to the aggressive recruitment by extremist groups, as well as the need to secure the teams that will spearhead the rebuilding of Marawi, as reasons to extend martial law.
A former military general, Del Rosario cited intelligence reports of massive recruitment by extremists groups with as much as P100,000 per recruit for the IS.

Del Rosario is the chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) spearheading the rehabilitation efforts in Marawi.
“So, I guess, it’s a matter of necessity and protecting the civilians that would be – we put primacy as far as the national government would decide whether they will lift martial law or they will maintain the imposition of martial law in Mindanao,” Del Rosario said.

“It’s really very important that we can continue to ensure that the whole area, not only Marawi City but the whole of Mindanao, will be secured from any terrorist threat,” he added.

The Bangon Marawi Task Force will be coordinating with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police “so that we can properly assess and make the necessary recommendation to the President as to the extension or not of the martial law in affected areas,” Del Rosario said.

“Personally, I would like martial law to continue during the rehabilitation phase because as chairman of Task Force Bangon Marawi, my main concern is the security of rehabilitation efforts,” he added.

If violence breaks out anew in Marawi City during rehabilitation phase, Del Rosario said contractors and laborers would flee.

Del Rosario added the government is forgoing the regular public bidding process to fast-track the rehabilitation of Marawi.

Instead, the government is calling on all probable big-time developers to submit their “unsolicited” proposal to rebuild the war-torn area – the cost initially pegged between P20 billion to P100 billion by the government.

The proposals coming from private developers will then be subjected to the so-called Swiss Challenge, defined as public procurement process when the government has received unsolicited bid for a project after publishing its details, and then inviting third parties the chance to match it.

Adiong, for his part, said the extension of martial law would depend on the recommendation of security forces and situation on the ground.

“Remember, the post needs and assessment team will not only conduct its assessment based on the damaged properties but the impact of the siege – the crisis itself,” he said.

Adiong stressed “the end of the war does not necessarily mean normalcy of the peace and order situation.”

“Actually, we’ve been saying this all along – the crisis will really start after the war,” he added. “And there are several reports that we’ve been receiving that the recruitment activity is now ongoing in some other towns.”

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez supported the proposed extension of martial law in Mindanao.

“For me, and maybe for the majority of residents of Mindanao, we would like martial law to continue because of the many terrorist threats there, aside from kidnapping,” Alvarez said in a radio interview.

“Residents feel safer with martial law. We like the checkpoints the military and the police are setting up from time to time,” he said.

AFP spokesman Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla earlier said the military might recommend the extension of martial law in Mindanao if the threats remain prevalent in the region.  
Military officials have floated the idea of another extension. The President has said it would depend on the military and the police.

If Duterte decides to extend it again, he would have to send a formal request to Congress within the next two weeks, since lawmakers are going on a month-long Christmas recess on Dec. 16. They will reconvene in mid-January.

However, Duterte could call lawmakers to a special session during their break to tackle an extension request.

Asked about the possibility of a special session, Alvarez said it would be difficult to gather lawmakers since they have already planned their Christmas vacation.

Critics of martial have balked at another extension, saying it was no longer necessary since Duterte himself has declared that the war in Marawi City was already over.

Besides, they said under the Constitution, martial law could be declared or extended only if there is actual rebellion or invasion.

On the ground, Brig. Gen. Juvymax Uy, commander of the Joint Task Force Basilan, said operations continue to prevent foreign terrorists from touching base with local counterparts in southern Mindanao.

“We have been implementing the security measures to prevent the possibility of the IS in finding their way here,” Uy said.

Violence in ARMM due to illegal drugs grow 6x 2015 to 2016 but rebels, extremists cause more deaths – International Alert

From News 5/InterAksyon (Dec 1): Violence in ARMM due to illegal drugs grow 6x 2015 to 2016 but rebels, extremists cause more deaths – International Alert


Damaged houses and buildings are seen inside the war-torn in Marawi City. KJ ROSALES / Philstar

Violent incidents related to illegal drugs grew almost six-fold in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao from 2015 to 2016, coinciding with the launch of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs when he assumed office.

But peace building organization International Alert Philippines observed: “Despite the increase in drug-related incidents, the death toll from illicit drugs was still lower than those caused by political violence … A long history of revenge-killings in the Muslim Mindanao region and the likely clan feuding that may be unleashed may have led to a more cautious approach that lessened the bloodshed in the Bangsamoro.”

International Alert Philippines launched Conflict Alert’s 2017 report titled “Guns, Drugs, and Extremism: Bangsamoro’s New Wars” on Wednesday in Taguig City.

Conflict Alert is its conflict monitoring system for Mindanao.
From 130 violent incidents related to illegal drugs in 2015, the number grew to 757 incidents in 2016. 87 percent of these incidents occurred from July to December 2016.

From four deaths in 2015, 59 were killed in drug-related incidents in 2016. As for the number of people detained or arrested, it rose from 192 in 2015 to 1,019 in 2016.

This does not mean that the shadow economy in illegal drugs was not as widespread in previous years; rather, “a hornet’s nest was stirred by the Duterte government when it launched the anti-drug campaign, turning a relatively ‘peaceful enterprise’ into a site of violent conflict,” said Conflict Alert.

While violent incidents related to the shadow economy (such as illegal drugs and illicit firearms issues) rose sharply, political issues like rebellion and extremism caused more fatalities – 428 deaths in 2016, to be exact, as compared to 203 deaths in 2015.

Violent extremism

“The ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group) accounted for many deaths (198 killed in 71 incidents in 2016), but paled in contrast to the Maute Group in terms of conflict deaths per armed confrontation (130 killed in 16 incidents in 2016),” the report said.

A new form of conflict emerged in 2016: violent extremism.

“Rebellion-related violence increased as a result of the rise in violent extremism,” added Conflict Alert. The most incidents occurred in Maguindanao, given the increasing attacks of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters or BIFF (63 killed in 76 incidents in 2016).

“The human costs from BIFF/BIFM (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement) activities spiraled in the first quarter in 2015 following the Mamasapano tragedy, before stabilizing towards the end of the year,” the report said.

Sulu and Basilan followed in terms of number of incidents, as they are both host to the Abu Sayyaf.

In Lanao del Sur, the Maute Group emerged that year. The three groups have pledged their allegiance to the Islamic State.


 The Maute Group was the one that “really made its mark in 2016,” Conflict Alert said. Siblings Abdullah and Omarkhayam Maute “studied abroad and returned to the country completely transformed and preaching a more violent and exclusionary version of Islam”.

“Using their clan base in the town of Butig, the brothers soon mobilized their siblings, cousins, and other relatives, including some of their neighbors, to join their ragtag army of fighters … Key informants reported it was a good period for fast recruitment into the Maute Group. Job opportunities remained scarce, ethnic divisions were hardening and political tensions rising with the forthcoming 2016 elections, and a recent pyramiding scam had decimated the capital and savings of many Maranao families,” the report said.

The Maute Group went on to train its recruits, who joined for a small fee. “Education included religious training and ‘life skills’ such as the dismantling and firing of weapons and the conduct of ambush attacks,” Conflict Alert said.

“Violent extremism may overtake the magnitude of deaths associated with rebellion,” Conflict Alert stressed. “Violent extremism will require context-specific and conflict-sensitive approaches. The prominence of a security-focused response may neglect the long-term process of building community cohesion and resilience.”

Civilians, children most affected

 It also pointed out that conflict in ARMM affects civilians and children the most.

“Shadow economy issues, identity issues, and common crimes were the top causes of violent conflicts affecting these two,” the report said.

Based on data from 2011 to 2016, Conflict Alert also saw a trend regarding the drivers of conflict: “Conflict typically spikes in May, before the start of classes in elementary, junior high, and senior high school, and the month associated with the holding of general and midterm elections… Conflicts dip in June before climbing in the next two months, which often coincide with the celebration of Ramadan, the holy month in the Islamic calendar, and the planting of the main season rice crop, typically the lean months.”

It warned that urban areas are increasingly becoming “theaters of violence” due to highly dense populations, the fractious nature of alliances with different groups, ideologies, and affiliations in these areas.

Scout Rangers play Filipino games for peace

From Rappler (Dec 1): Scout Rangers play Filipino games for peace

'Through sports diplomacy, we engage with non-state actors like the MILF, MNLF, secessionist groups, and their supporters. We need to give peace a chance. I don't have to kill more people to win against insurgents,' says Lieutenant Colonel Harold Cabunoc

SPORTS DIPLOMACY. Scout Rangers play shatong, a traditional Filipino game

SPORTS DIPLOMACY. Scout Rangers play shatong, a traditional Filipino game

MANILA, Philippines – It's not every day that you see Scout Rangers of the Philippine Army play games. But when they do, it is to advocate for peace.

At the 67th founding anniversary of the First Scout Ranger Regiment, Scout Rangers played shatong, a traditional Filipino game similar to baseball.
Shatong is a sticks game where a longer stick serves as the bat and a shorter stick serves as the hit. The batter hits the shorter stick and as the latter is in air, the hitter runs to marked areas or bases.

Lieutenant Colonel Harold Cabunoc, 33rd Infantry Makabayan Battalion commanding officer, said he modified the game to incorporate Scout Ranger principles.

Cabunoc said instead of playing in doubles, each team has 7 members.

"I modified it to a team with 7 members each. Scout Rangers believe in teammanship that's why I preserved the same set-up. I want to tell people that Makabayan soldiers love the traditional games played by kids," Cabunoc said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Cabunoc said he wants to promote peace-building through sports and games. He said they played the games as part of their build up to an event they are hosting in December with the "enemies of the government."

"In December, we're hosting a peace-building activity with the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) and MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) – the 'enemies' of the government. Similar to this, we will play games," he said.

The government had signed peace agreements with both the MNLF and the MILF.

"Through sports diplomacy, we engage with nonstate actors like the MILF, MNLF, secessionist groups, and their supporters. We need to give peace a chance. I don't have to kill more people to win against insurgents," Cabunoc said.

He said the groups have confirmed their participation. He is also trying to get the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process on board.

This is not the first time that the Makabayan Battalion had engaged in such activities. Cabunoc said they also did mud runs with the MILF in October.

"I always come up with activities to promote peace. It has considerable impact because people see that there are other ways to claim victory," he said.

"I don't define victory with the number of people who died. We are all Filipinos. If you can do it without firing a shot – that is the best way to come forward in winning the insurgency," Cabunoc added.

He added that in Sultan Kudarat, they negotiated for the surrender of 66 members of the New People's Army (NPA).

"I want to sustain the peace efforts in the area through sports diplomacy," he added.

Cabunoc is pursuing peace-building efforts as President Rodrigo Duterte terminated peace talks with communist rebels, and instructed military and police to "shoot" any armed NPA member they see, following his decision. (READ: How Duterte sabotaged the GRP-NDFP peace process)

Army needs 19,176 tents

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 2): Army needs 19,176 tents

The Philippine Army (PA), through its Bids and Awards Committee, is looking for suppliers and manufacturers capable of producing 19,176 camouflage poncho tents for the use of its field units.

Based on a bid bulletin posted on the PA website, the project has a budget of PHP17,258,660.

Receipt and opening of bid envelopes is slated 9 a.m. on Dec. 14 at the PA Bids and Awards Committee, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

PAF unit to get 6 'Super Tucanos'

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 2): PAF unit to get 6 'Super Tucanos' 

Once delivered in 2019, the six brand-new Embraer A-29 "Super Tucano" light attack aircraft will be turned over to the Philippine Air Force’s (PAF) 15th Strike Wing, a defense official said.

"They will be turned over and maintained by the 15th Strike Wing, the PAF's end-user," Department of National Defense (DND) public affairs office chief Arsenio Andolong told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in an interview late Friday.

Andolong said the A-29 is a durable, versatile, and highly advanced aircraft capable of carrying out a wide range of missions.

"(It can) even (operate) on unimproved runways," he added.

The 15th Strike Wing, based in Sangley Point, Cavite City, is the operator of all the Air Force's ground attack aircraft, including the venerable Rockwell OV-10 "Broncos" and assorted armed helicopters.

Earlier, Andolong announced that Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer Defense and Security has been selected by the DND as the supplier of the six brand-new close air support aircraft (CASA), with a contract of PHP4.96 billion.

"Yes. A Notice to Proceed for the supply and delivery of six close air support aircraft has been transmitted to and received by Embraer Defense and Security," Andolong said when asked to confirm whether the contract was indeed bagged by Embraer.

"The aircraft that was selected after a rigorous public bidding process that was participated in by several manufacturers from different countries was the Super Tucano A-29, which is compliant with the stringent technical specifications required by the PAF," he added.

Andolong said the contract is being crafted for signing by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. The six brand-new CASA, once delivery begins in 2019, is expected to augment or replace the eight to 10 ageing Rockwell OV-10s being used by the PAF in close-air support missions.

Funds will be sourced from the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Modernization Act Trust Fund.