Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Captive cop released by NPA in North Cotabato

From News 5/InterAksyon (Dec 4): Captive cop released by NPA in North Cotabato


PO1 Catalan hugs daughter Karen at the release ceremony in Magpet, North Cotabato. (Bhong del Rosario/Kilab Multimedia)

The rebel New People’s Army (NPA) on Monday released a police officer whom it considered a prisoner of war in Magpet, North Cotabato.

The release comes amid intensified military operations in many parts of the archipelago following President Rodrigo Duterte’s threat of an all-out war and unilateral termination of the peace talks.

Arrested in August by the NPA’s Mt. Apo Sub-Regional Command, Makilala Police Station Police Officer 1 Bristol B. Catalan Jr was turned over to Rev Hipolito Parach of the Exodus for Justice and Peace, Magpet Vice Mayor Bernardo Piñol, Magpet Councilors Ruby Padilla-Sison, and Kidapawan City Councilor Francis Palmones at Barangay Bagumbayan, Magpet, Davao Today reported.

Catalan’s wife Geisha, children Karen and Jaspher, and cousin Ating Delgado were present at the turnover ceremony.

Catalan, who looked healthy despite his ordeal, had positive words about his captors and custodians during the ceremony.

“I enjoyed my experience. We’ve been to exciting places until they (NPA) built a house for me,” Catalan told Davao Today.

Catalan’s release order was signed by National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Southern Mindanao representative Rubi Del Mundo.

Catalan’s “acts and conduct while under the detention and during the investigation and judicial proceedings have been observed as exhibiting remorse for his offenses and voluntary desistance from committing further crimes against the people and the revolutionary forces,” the order read.

Catalan expressed gratitude to the NPA during the ceremony.

“I’ll be with my family before Christmas,” he said.

UN officials hail MILF for completing disengagement of children from its ranks

From News 5/InterAksyon (Dec 4): UN officials hail MILF for completing disengagement of children from its ranks

From left: Andrew Morris, head of UNICEF Cotabato; Julia Rees, UNICEF Deputy Representative; Ola Almgren, UN Resident Coordinator; Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, MILF Central Committee Chairman; and USEC Ronald Flores, OPAPP Undersecretary. HANDOUT PHOTO

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and UNICEF Philippines held a formal ceremony Monday marking the removal of the MILF from a UN list of armed groups recruiting and using children.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, and UN Resident Coordinator in the Philippines Ola Almgren congratulated the MILF for promoting and protecting the rights of children.

“Today, we mark an important milestone for the boys and girls of the Philippines. The Joint Action Plan between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the United Nations on the issue of recruitment and use of children has now been fully implemented. As a result I am very happy to announce that the MILF has been delisted from the annexes of the Secretary General Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict. I would like to congratulate the MILF for completing the action plan with the support of the Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting. This achievement is the result of a sustained commitment by the MILF with United Nations support”, Gamba said in her congratulatory message.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict serves as the leading UN advocate for the protection and well-being of children affected by armed conflict.

The UN-MILF began working together by signing of an Action Plan between the United Nations and the MILF in 2009. It was completed at the beginning of 2017 upon the fulfilment of a six-point roadmap, resulting in the disengagement 1,869 children from the ranks of the MILF. The disengagement of children will facilitate their access to appropriate support and services from government and development partners to enjoy all their rights to health, education and protection.

“The United Nations country team in the Philippines welcomes this important milestone achieved by the MILF, in demonstrating its commitment to the protection and welfare of children,” the United Nations Resident Coordinator in the Philippines, Mr. Almgren shared in his message. “In line with the UN package of existing programmes to support the normalization track of the peace negotiations between the Government and the MILF, the UN stands ready to support the relevant plans for the disengaged children and their communities,” he added.

UN children’s agency UNICEF facilitated the completion of the UN-MILF Action Plan which involved training programs, systematic sensitization and awareness-raising initiatives for the MILF and its communities.

“We congratulate the MILF as they reach this important milestone. Children are zones of peace and their rights must be promoted and protected at all times. UNICEF’s support to the MILF continues to ensure that disengaged children and their communities live in safe environments, by facilitating access to psychosocial support and other protection, social welfare, education and health services. In addition, UNICEF supports parents in providing family based guidance and care, ” said UNICEF Philippines Representative, Officer-in-Charge, Julia Rees.

In response, the MILF reiterated its commitment to protect and promote the rights of children in their communities.

“MILF has worked for years in partnership with the UN and we are pleased at being delisted in the 2017 Secretary General’s report and to be recognized here today by our UN country partners,” said Eduard Guerra, former Chair of UN-MILF Action Plan Panel and currently the Co-chair of Joint Normalization Committee – MILF.

“MILF will keep up the commitment and the work to protect and promote the inherent rights of every child in our community. Together we will work toward ensuring a peaceful environment and a fair chance for children to enjoy their childhood while having access to education and other essential social services critical for their growth and wellbeing,” added Mr. Guerra.

SOUTH CHINA SEA | PH envoy sees no Chinese withdrawal from Scarborough despite improved relations with Beijing

Posted to InterAksyon (Dec 5): SOUTH CHINA SEA | PH envoy sees no Chinese withdrawal from Scarborough despite improved relations with Beijing


Map shows the delineation of the Chinese claims and respective Exclusive Economic Zones at the South China Sea. REUTERS
Ambassador to China Santiago “Chito” Sta. Romana does not see Chinese leader Xi Jinping ordering the withdrawal of Chinese Coast Guard ships from Scarborough shoal and returning to the pre-April 8, 2012 situation, when the area was under the control of the Philippines, despite Beijing’s improved relations with the Rodrigo Duterte administration.

At best, it remains an “aspiration” that would take a long time, the Filipino diplomat said in an interview on the sidelines of the Philippine Association for Chinese Studies Conference in Mandaluyong City December. 2.

China “is still claiming all of Spratlys,” said Sta. Romana, noting that Xi would insist during talks that Scarborough Shoal is China’s territory, and its government would lose face if it were to withdraw its vessels from the shoal.

Flashing the peace sign at the Chinese Coast Guard off Scarborough Shoal. REUTERS

“Given that, you really have to maneuver slowly, carefully,” he added.

Arbitral tribunal award

“If we want to go back to pre-2012 situation, the condition is that China will also say drop your Arbitral Tribunal award, which is impossible,” Sta Romana said in Filipino.

Scarborough Shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc and Panatag shoal, is a 90-square-kilometer triangular-shaped coral reef, which has several rocks encircling a lagoon 124 nautical miles from the town of Masinloc, Zambales in central Luzon.

It is called Huangyan Dao by China, which also claims it under its all-encompassing nine-dash line map.

As part of its economic exclusive zone, the Philippines had control over Scarborough Shoal until April 8, 2012 when a Philippine warship arrested Chinese fishing vessels, which led to a three-month standoff between the two claimant countries, and the Aquino government filing a complaint against China before the Arbitral Court in The Hague.

The Arbitral Court declared China’s nine-dash line map invalid, but said Scarborough Shoal is a traditional fishing ground for Filipino, Chinese (including Taiwanese) and Vietnamese fishermen.

China remains in control of Scarborough Shoal with three surveillance ships permanently stationed in the area.

Since November last year, China has allowed Filipino fishermen to fish in the surrounding waters of Scarborough shoal.

Strategic cooperation

“Disputes remain, the challenges remain, but now we have found a method, a mechanism, and part of this is importance of strategic cooperation,” Sta. Romana said in a speech at the conference.

“A key component of this is not to put the disputes at the center or at the focus of your foreign policy,” he said, adding that the adversarial approach that the Benigno Aquino III administration took is all “water down the bridge.”

“The thinking before, what’s ours is ours, we should assert,” Sta. Romana said. “We were hoping that the (United States) would help. That’s the wrong assumption.”

As opposed to the previously used legalistic approach, the current administration employs both bilateral and multilateral approaches in a friendly, cooperative atmosphere. “You have this deck of cards, and the question is how you will improve relations,” Sta. Romana added, saying, “We have great progress on the deck of cards that we have dealt with.”

He said the goal of the Duterte administration is to prevent more losses and regain what have been lost.

Yet Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines’ Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, had warned in a Nov. 24 forum that cooperation with China must be taken with a grain of salt, noting the reality of what happens between legal right and raw power.

‘Too much cooperation’
He said too much cooperation may lead to “national economic bondage and political dependence,” and could translate into China’s unwarranted influence over the Philippines’ policy and decision-making.

More, if the Arbitral Tribunal award were to be finally raised, “will it really be just a piece of paper?” Batongbacal asked.

“We maintain our position, but it will not reverse the situation. But it will help ease the tensions further” Sta Romana pointed out, adding that other options remain for Manila.

The Philippines, he said, keeps a “friend to all, enemy to none” attitude, which means that it continues to foster good ties with the US and other nations like Japan and India, for instance.

Other countries that claim the South China Sea in part or in whole are Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam.

The problem is that people think there should be an alliance against one country, but it would only escalate tensions, he explained.

Good relations with all
Instead, the Philippines tries to place itself in a situation wherein it has good relations with all other countries. “It doesn’t have to be in the same scale,” Sta. Romana said.

The foundation to be able to maintain these, he said, remains in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, he added.

“The destiny of the Philippines lies in Asia and our immediate neighbors.”

ASEAN and China have agreed on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, but details will be negotiated only starting next year. The COC, however, will not cover bilaterally disputed areas like the Scarborough shoal.

Filipino soldiers given access to Singapore urban training facility

From Update Philippines (Dec 5): Filipino soldiers given access to Singapore urban training facility

Forty members of the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) of Philippine Army (PA) are now in Singapore for a professional exchange training program with Singapore Army. The program started December 4 and will end on the 15th.

The training program will focus on urban warfare training which gives visiting Filipino soldiers access to Murai Urban Training Facility of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

The said facility was created to hone the urban operations capability of SAF soldiers.

MUTF was built to resemble a typical town, and has features such as single-level houses; a commercial district comprising multi-function, multi-storey buildings; a residential district; as well as an industrial district. To provide added realism, the training facility also has bus-stops, traffic lights and over-head bridges.

Singapore Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen said they offered to host 40 Filipino soldiers and use the MUTF because “if extremists gain a foothold in any country around us, they will launch attacks against all ASEAN cities.”

“These groups can be defeated, but we will be stronger and that much more effective if we do it together,” he said.

“This professional exchange is mutually beneficial to SAF soldiers who would also be able to learn from their counter-terrorism fight in Marawi,” he added.


PH getting 5 new French-made vessels starting June 2018

From Update Philippines (Dec 5): PH getting 5 new French-made vessels starting June 2018

The Philippines will be getting four 24-meter fast patrol boats (FPV 72 MKII) in June 2018 and one 82-meter offshore patrol vessel (OPV 270 MKII) in August 2019 from French shipbuilder OCEA, this was confirmed by OCEA officials to the inspection team of the Department of Transportation (DOTr).
These vessels are being acquired for Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) through the Philippine Ports and Coast Guard Capability Development Project between the governments of the Philippines and France.

The shipbuilding contract was signed in September 2014 by the then Department of Transportation and Communication (D0TC) and OCEA.

DOTr photo

The contract includes five-year preventive maintenance for all five boats, spare parts for five years, and technical assistance and training for the crew.

DOTr photo

DOTr photo

On September 6, 2017, the DOTr and OCEA signed the contract effectiveness agreement the means certain conditions precedent for the coming into full force and effect of the contract has already been completed.


FF-17 conducts first voyage to northern Philippines

From Update Philippines (Dec 5): FF-17 conducts first voyage to northern Philippines

For the first time in her Philippine Navy service, third Gregorio del Pilar-class frigate BRP Andres Bonifacio (FF-17) sailed to the northern waters of the country.

Naval Forces Northern Luzon released photos of the All-In-One Bayanihan in Basco, Batanes conducted on November 24 in which BRP Andres Bonifacio participated.

Naval Forces Northern Luzon photo

Naval Forces Northern Luzon photo

Naval Forces Northern Luzon photo

The event included gift giving, medical, and dental mission. Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) training was also provided.


754 Candidate Soldiers start training

From Update Philippines (Dec 6): 754 Candidate Soldiers start training

Training of 754 Candidate Soldiers (CS) were admitted by the 1st Infantry ‘Tabak’ Division, Philippine Army on December 4.

Tabak Division is headquartered at Camp Major L. Sang-an, Pulacan, Labangan, Zamboanga Del Sur. It specializes in anti-guerrilla warfare.

1ID photo

The qualified applicants will undergo 16-week Candidate Soldier Course divided into Classes 506, 507, 518, 519, and 520 of 2017.

Tabak Division commander Brigadier General Roseller G. Murillo led the said event.

“I hope that all of the 754-strong candidate soldiers will be able to finish their training course. The objective of this training is for you to have the strength and discipline befitting a soldier, and transform you into fighters that can defend the country,” Brigadier General Murillo said.


Lorenzana tells public: Be vigilant as NPAs now terrorists

From Update Philippines (Dec 6): Lorenzana tells public: Be vigilant as NPAs now terrorists

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana is urging the Filipino people to safeguard their respective communities from possible violent and treacherous acts perpetrated by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

Lorenzana made this appeal following President Rodrigo Duterte’s proclamation of the CPP-NPA-NDF as terror group Tuesday.

“We enjoin the Filipino people to work closely with the military, police and local officials to safeguard our communities from the violence, treachery, and opportunism that the CPP-NPA are known for,” he added.

Lorenzana also said the declaration of the rebels as a terror group is in accordance with the Human Security Act and international laws.

“We have long since maintained that the CPP-NPA is a blight to the Filipino people, with its members engaging in constant criminal activities and wanton acts of terror,” the defense chief stressed.

He also added that the government had walked the extra mile to accommodate them by resuming the peace talks but the group ignored this and continued committing atrocities.

“But they have imposed unreasonable conditions and continued their criminal acts such as kidnappings, attacks on the military and the police, destruction of property, and extortion. Clearly their aim is not the welfare of the Filipino but the pursuit of their selfish agenda. Henceforth, they will be called Communist Terrorists,” Lorenzana concluded.


‘Agaw Armas' alert up

From the Visayan Daily Star (Dec 5): ‘Agaw Armas' alert up

The series of “agaw armas” operations in the cities of Talisay and Bacolod is being looked into by the police as the handiwork of the “enemies of the state”.

Six unidentified armed men disarmed three security guards of two .38 caliber revolvers and a 12 gauge shotgun in Talisay City, Negros Occidental, yesterday.

Supt. Adonis Rosales, Talisay City police chief, said the unidentified suspects, who were also armed with revolvers and shotguns, left the security guards unharmed, after taking their guns.

Rosales said he cannot speculate on the affiliation of the suspects, who were only interested in the guns.

Similar incidents of “agaw armas” were also reported in Bacolod City.

Senior Supt. Rodolfo Castil, provincial police director of Negros Occidental, said yesterday that they are looking into the involvement of the New People's Army, among other lawless elements, although they have no evidence yet.

Castil ordered police chiefs to remind private security guards to be responsible in securing their service firearms.

Capt. Ruel Llanes, 303 rd Infantry Brigade spokesperson, yesterday said that they are anticipating NPA attacks on undermanned PNP stations and CAFGU detachments and other soft targets, as well as agaw armas operations.

Last week, the NPA Armando Sumayang Command claimed responsibility for the raid of a quarry site and the bombing of its heavy equipment in Brgy. Orong, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental.

Castil said the raid of the quarry site and destruction of the heavy equipment is part of the NPA extortion activities.

As a precautionary measures, Llanes said they are intensifying their combat operations and conducting joint checkpoints with the PNP, to prevent the NPA from initiating more terroristic activities.

Police commanders have been reminded anew to verify first any reported incident, before taking any action, in the wake of series of attacks made by the New People's Army, with policemen as targets, nationwide.

Castil said they are tapping barangay officials to check any incident that may take place in their areas, before the police responds to it.

Last month, five policemen survived an ambush staged by about 30 NPA rebels in Cauayan, Negros Occidental. But two foreigners and their Filipino driver were injured.

Similar incidents also took place in Iloilo, Antique, Camarines Norte and Misamis Oriental, where two policemen were killed, and more than 20 others were wounded.

Castil admitted that policemen are vulnerable to rebel attacks, because of the nature of their job.


Talk about revolutionary gov't not doing PH any good – AFP Chief

From Rappler (Dec 5): Talk about revolutionary gov't not doing PH any good – AFP Chief

'We'd rather just focus on our mandate that is to make sure that all security threats are being addressed,' says Philippine military chief General Rey Guerrero

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff General Rey Guerrero reiterated the military position against calls for a revolutionary government that will give President Rodrigo Duterte powers to suspend the Constitution.

"The talk about revolutionary government is not doing the country any good," Guerrero said on Tuesday, December 5.

Those talks should be ignored, Guerrero said, saying the military has other things more important to focus on.

"Hayaan na lang natin yan (We should just ignore it). Anyway, the President has explained and even the press secretary, the spokesman, they've explained all this talk about revolutionary government. So for out part we'd rather just focus on our mandate that is to make sure that all security threats are being addressed," Guerrero said.

The statement comes after nationwide rallies launched by Duterte's supporters on November 30, coinciding with the commeration of Filipino revolutionary hero Andres Bonifacio.

Duterte's supporters argue that only under a revolutionary government can he implement reforms in the country.

Duterte's recent statements dismissing revolutionary government have not comforted his critics given his record of flip-flopping on major policy issues.

But statements from Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Guerrero indicate where the government's security agencies stand on the issue.


14 rebels surrender

From the Mindanao Times (Dec 6): 14 rebels surrender

FOURTEEN reported members of the New People’s Army (NPA)s surrendered to the 26th Infantry Battalion in Talacogon, Agusan del Sur on Monday.
2Lt. Romel Arnado, the Civil-military operations (CMO) officer of battalion, said the rebels also brought with them 16 firearms of different calibers.

According to the accounts of one of the rebel returnees, alias Jim, they were already scared for their lives due to the increased military offensives. He also claimed that they don’t want to suffer the same fate as their comrades who died in clashes.

In his statement, Lt. Col. Rommel Pagayon, commander of 26th IB, said they are hopeful that more NPA rebels will realize the futility of their struggle. “The 26th IB is committed to preventing the NPA terrorists’ criminal activities against our people and the communities,” Pagayon said.

On the other hand, Col. Andres Centino, the 401st Infantry Brigade commander, lauded the efforts of 26IB. “Options are open to them to live normal lives,” Centino said, as he called on the remaining rebels to surrender. “Be part of a peaceful community, Be among us,” he added.

11 surrenderees get assistance from LGU

Meanwhile, 11 former NPA rebels who surrendered to the 60th Infantry Battalion in Davao del Norte received their assistance under the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) in a ceremony held at the Davao del Norte Provincial Government Center, Tagum City last Dec. 1.
2Lt. Amadeuz Vincent John Celestial, the Civil-Military Operations (CMO) officer of 60th IB, said each of them received P15,000 immediate cash assistance and another P50,000 livelihood assistance.

Alex Roldan, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) regional director, personally spearheaded the distribution with a total amount of P715,000. Also present were Sr. Supt. Alan Manibog, director of Davao del Norte Police Provincial Office; 1001st Infantry Brigade commander, Col. Erwin Bernard Neri; and 1003rd Infantry Brigade commander, Col. Ernesto Torres, Jr., both under the 10th Infantry Division.

The distribution was preceded by the regular Provincial Peace and Order Council Meeting (PPOC) of Davao del Norte presided by Governor Anthony Del Rosario.

Two weeks earlier, four NPA members–two of whom were also militiang bayan leaders–surrendered to 60IB bringing with them their firearms.

He said it was also preceded by the surrender of over 70 other former NPA members since the breaking of the ceasefire last February.

Groups say tribal leader killed in SouthCot was no NPA member

From MindaNews (Dec 5): Groups say tribal leader killed in SouthCot was no NPA member

Leaders of church, militant and environmental groups condemned the killing of a tribal chieftain and three other family members in an alleged encounter between communist rebels and the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato on Sunday afternoon, claiming the four were civilians and not members of the New People’s Army (NPA) as alleged by the military.

The military claimed Datu Victor Danyan of Sitio Datal, Barangay Ned in Lake Sebu, chair of the T’boli-Manobo S’daf Claimant Organization (TAMASCO), his sons Tantan, Jr., and Artemio, and son-in-law Dodoy, were NPA members.

TAMASCO has been opposing coal mining and coffee plantation ventures in their village.

Datu Victor Danyan of Datal, Barangay Ned, Lake Sebu, chair of the T’boli-Manobo S’daf Claimant Organization (TAMASCO). File photo taken in 2007, courtesy of LRC-KSK

“The fatalities were all NPA members killed during the encounter with our troops,” 2Lt. Ranjan Palacio, spokesperson of the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion, said in a radio interview.

Palacio said three other dead bodies were recovered on Monday.

Two soldiers were also killed — PFC Jovanie P. Tagactac and PFC Max Jay Lord Fernando – and three soldiers were injured during the firefight.

“We mourn what happened to Datu Victor,” said Fr. Ariel Destora, Social Action Center director of the Diocese of Marbel.

Destora said Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez has requested a meeting with officials of the 27th IB to clarify the matter.

The priest said the diocese is concerned about what’s happening in Ned, where an estimated 211 million metric tons of coal are believed to sit.

Recently, the diocesan clergy wrote a letter to provincial legislators who are currently discussing the application of the proponents, to reject the project.

The Department of Energy issued in 1999 the coal operating contracts to Daguma Agro-Minerals, Inc. and Sultan Energy Philippines Corp., the letter said.

Chinkie Peliño-Golle, executive director of environment group Interface Development Interventions, described the slain tribal leader “as a man of integrity.”

“He is one of the IP (indigenous peoples) leaders who inspired me to work on upholding environmental and social justice. I’ve never heard him ask for anything but only to own back and manage their lands,” she said on social media.

“Datu Vic is not a NPA member. There was even an assurance that their community will not be touched because he is not part or a member of the NPA,” Golle said.

Golle said the military had earlier assured Sister Susan Bolanio, executive director of OND HESED Foundation, Inc. and member of the Regional Peace and Order Council, that they would not touch Datu Vic as they were convinced he was not a member of the NPA.

Ryan Lariba, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Mindanao coordinator, said what happened Sunday was a “massacre that should be blamed on President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to wage an all-out war against the communist rebels.”

Duterte issued the order after terminating the peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front-New People’s Army.

Lariba said the victims were “civilians opposing the coal mining and coffee plantation venture in Barangay Ned.”

“There are NPA rebels operating in the area but those killed were not communist rebels but civilians,” Lariba said.

A press release issued by Capt. Gary Dida, Civil Military Operations Officer of the 1002nd Infantry Brigade said troops from the 27th IB were verifying reports from residents in Barangay Ned about the alleged presence of armed men when they “encountered undetermined number of armed NPA terrorist (sic)” Sunday afternoon that led to the killing of “four NPA terrorists” and the recovery of one carbine, two homemade shotguns, one locally made 9-mm machine pistol.

“The NPA’s who are terrorizing our country shall be dealt with according to the provisions of the Law,” Dida quoted Colonel Roberto Ancan, chief of the 1002nd Brigade as saying.

Dida’s press release also quoted Lt. Col. Benjamin Leander, 27th IB chief, as having urged the wounded NPA and those in hiding to “peacefully surrender to the folds of law” and avail of the Comprehensive Local Integration Program of the local government.

In a telephone interview Monday, Dida said military operations have been intensified to thwart possible NPA attacks even before President Rodrigo Duterte branded the communist group as terrorists and later terminated the peace talks.


Troops recover NPA camp, but 2 soldiers die

From the Mindanao Examiner (Dec 5): Troops recover NPA camp, but 2 soldiers die

The Philippine military announced Tuesday the capture of a communist rebel stronghold in Mindanao, but also said that 2 soldiers had died from the mission following fierce clashes with the New People’s Army.

Captain Arvin Encinas, a spokesman for the 6th Infantry Division, said two battalions mounted the mission in Lake Sebu in South Cotabato province and eventually captured the rebel camp. The weekend fighting also killed 2 soldiers from the 27th Infantry Battalion, but Encinas did not release the identities of the military casualties.

He also insisted that 7 rebels had died in the fighting, but did not say whether troops recovered the cadavers or not, or if the information was based only on intelligence report.

Ensina said fighting erupted in a cave in Sitio Datal Bonglangon in the village of Ned where rebels had maintained a camp. Troops also recovered weapons – a Carbine rifle, an Ingram machine pistol and four shotguns, including anti-government propaganda left behind by rebels.

Military operation continued on Tuesday, but there was no fresh report of armed clashes between security and rebel forces in the town. The NPA has been fighting for many decades now in an effort to put up its own Maoist state in the country.


Army enlists ex-rebels in livelihood program

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): Army enlists ex-rebels in livelihood program

The Philippine Army has enrolled five former communist rebels to the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) after recently surrendering to authorities.

Army 8th Infantry Division acting spokesperson, Lt. Jessel Montajes, said the former rebels were from the remote villages of Guirang in Basey, Samar and Osmeña in Palapag, Northern Samar.

“The enrollment in CLIP will enable them to avail of financial and livelihood assistance from the government so that they can start a new and peaceful life,” Montajes said Tuesday.

The former rebels turned themselves in to government troops last Nov. 23-24 with their firearms and grenades.

Maj. Gen. Raul M. Farnacio, the army’s division commander welcomed the surrender of five rebels and encouraged others to voluntarily lay down their arms and live a normal life with their families.

“The surrender of NPA guerrillas only shows that the intensified strategy of your Army to counter the insurgency problem in Eastern Visayas is effective. It is also the result of the proactive cooperation of our stakeholders, above all the support given by the communities and local government units within our areas of operation,” Farnacio said.

Meanwhile, the Leyte provincial government awarded financial assistance to five rebel returnees during the joint 4th quarterly meeting of the provincial peace and order council and provincial anti-drug abuse council held in Villa Corazon village in Jaro town on Monday.

Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla handed over a PHP50,000 check from the Department of the Interior and Local Government to each former rebel and PHP20,000 from the provincial government as basic livelihood assistance to each surrenderer.
They also received an immediate assistance amounting to PHP15,000 for mobilization expenses while their enrollment in the program is being processed.

The former rebels are from the towns of Leyte, Carigara, Burauen, and Kananga.

CLIP, the National Reintegration Program for the New People’s Army, aims to achieve permanent and peaceful closure of the armed conflict with a non-state group.


Army chief welcomes Duterte declaration of NPA as terrorist

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): Army chief welcomes Duterte declaration of NPA as terrorist

The commander of the 79th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army on Tuesday welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of the New People’s Army (NPA) as a terrorist group.

Lt. Col. Roderick Garcia said there would be implications of the declaration, especially on the mass base of the NPA in the hinterlands.

“For one, no one wants to be affiliated with terrorists, especially now (that) the people have seen what the Maute terrorists have done, so they will now be cautious,” he said.

Another thing is that there will be legal implications because unlike freedom fighters, “the perception of terrorists is like you are on the level of the ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group), BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters), and other pests of the Philippines,” he added.

Garcia also pointed out that the support system of the NPA would mostly be affected by the President’s declaration.

He expressed belief that little by little, the mass base support of the NPA will crumble after being declared as terrorist.

The Army commander admits this would be to the advantage of the AFP but he also stressed the need for people to be aware of the so-called “birth pains” as there would be questions and issues that could arise from it.

But once the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will get the feel of it, and the people will realize the “tagging” of the NPA as terrorist, “it will become much easier for us.”

The province of Negros Oriental continues to deal with the problem of the NPA presence in a good number of areas even though it was earlier declared as conflict-manageable and development-ready.


AFP hunts remnant of Maute terror group

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): AFP hunts remnant of Maute terror group

Military authorities said all of the seven Maute siblings who led the siege of Marawi City had died in clashes with government forces from May 23 to October 23.

Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr. of the Western Mindanao Command, told a meeting of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Regional Peace and Order Council (ARMM-RPOC) here on Monday that the military is now hunting down a senior Maute leader, identified as Abu Dar, who remains at large.

ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman presided the RPOC meeting at the ARMM executive building Monday.

Abu Dar, a Maranao, was a member of the central leadership core of the Maute terror group and was seen in the video plotting the Marawi siege.

Government forces recovered the video. Siblings Omar and Abdullah, founders of the Maute group, were both killed in the almost five-month war in Marawi. The Maute patriarch, Cayamora, died of lingering illness while in detention in Manila. He was arrested by Task Force Davao operatives days after the siege in May.

Cayamora's first wife, Farhana, matriarch of the seven slain terrorists, was arrested by police in Masiu town, Lanao del Sur in August. She and two other sons were facing rebellion charges.

Speaking during the RPOC meeting, Galvez said that Abu Dar is the probable successor of Omar and Abdulla Maute.

“He can likely assume leadership of Maute terror group,” he said.

Mayor Dimnatang Pansar of Butig, hometown of the Mautes, corroborated Galvez assertion that all the Maute brothers had died.

Several Maranaos who have “Maute” as family name were either held for questioning or have gone underground for fear of getting arrested.

“We will help them return to their communities but subject to coordination with the police and the military,” Hataman said of the “good Mautes,” as their town mates ostracized some of them.

ARMM Vice Governor Al Rashid Alonto-Lucman told reporters his daughter’s classmate in medical school surnamed Maute had dropped from school after the siege. He said the Maute girl is in a dilemma when to continue studies.

Speaking to the Lanao town mayors, Hataman said local government executives should have strong government presence in their towns to prevent thriving of terrorists, like the Maute siblings.

“War is destructive. We have to prevent conflicts within our level first before we let the military come in,” Hataman said.

Hataman also ordered the local executives to help locate Abu Dar who, according to military intelligence sources, is leading the regrouping of terrorists in Lanao del Sur.

Galvez rallied the local executives to help fight terrorism at their level.

“If we fail, we will give these violent religious extremists an issue they can use to generate hatred to the government and entice prospective recruits to join their fold,” Galvez said.

Hataman also vowed his administration has enough funds to help rebuild Marawi and the surrounding towns affected by the conflict.


Guv deplores use of lumads as NPA 'frontliners'

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): Guv deplores use of lumads as NPA 'frontliners'

South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes raised concern on Tuesday over the recruitment and use of lumads, especially members of the province's T'boli tribe, as "frontliners" of the New People's Army's (NPA) guerrilla fronts.

The governor said such situation was seen in the latest encounter between government troops and the NPA at Sitio Celtix, Barangay Ned in Lake Sebu town on Sunday afternoon that left six rebels and two Army soldiers dead.

She said the six fatalities on the rebel side were all T'bolis from the area who had been recruited as cadres by the NPA.

During the encounter, Fuentes said field commanders and other high-ranking officers of the NPA's Daguma Front 73 were able to escape from the area.

"The lumads were left to face our troops. So it was them (lumads) who got wounded and killed," she said in a radio interview.

Troops from the Army's 27th Infantry Battalion (IB) were conducting security operations at a portion of Barangay Ned when they clashed with the rebels led by Ka Yoyo Baraganza of the Platoon Arabo at past 1 p.m. Sunday.

The area is within the boundary of Lake Sebu and Bagumbayan town in Sultan Kudarat where the NPA's Front 73 was reportedly based.

Fuentes said the scene of the encounter was reportedly near the base camp of the Front 73 at a mountainous area in Bagumbayan.

She said troops from the 27IB and 33IB intensified their security operations in the area following the cancellation by President Rodrigo R. Duterte of the peace negotiations with the communist-led National Democratic Front.

As of Tuesday morning, the governor said the clearing operations in the area are still ongoing based on information relayed to her office.

Due to the encounter, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) said around 20 tribal families with nearly 100 dependents have evacuated from the area.

Milagros Lorca, PDRRMO head, said the displaced residents are currently staying at evacuation centers in Sitios Panamin and Lubo in Barangay Ned.

She said they already sent initial relief assistance composed of food and non-food items to the affected residents in coordination with the municipal government of Lake Sebu.


Coast Guard beefs up southern Visayas security

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): Coast Guard beefs up southern Visayas security

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has strengthened its security operations in southern Visayas by opening a district headquarters in Negros Occidental.

Captain Artemio Abu, commander of PCG-Southern Visayas District, discussed their unit’s efforts with Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. during their meeting at the Provincial Capitol Monday.

Abu, who was assigned as unit commander on November 13, said the Southern Visayas District will be based in Hinoba-an, the southermost town of Negros Occidental.

Abu said the proposed headquarters in Hinoba-an will include a training facility, and a docking area.

“We can’t do it overnight. By 2018, we will have a budget for that. We’re also asking the support of the local government units especially from the three governors,” he said.

The PCG-Southern Visayas District was formed out of the units from Western Visayas and Central Visayas, including Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, and Antique.

Abu said there is “no threat” in Visayas as of now, but the Coast Guard remains “proactive all the time.”

He said the Southern Visayas District headquarters was formed to protect the Tubbataha Reef, a protected area located in the middle of the Sulu Sea, considered a “sensitive sea area,” and to contain the spillover of terrorism from southern Philippines.

“It is critical to put up a major Coast Guard unit in Hinobaan to address the vessels plying between Tubbataha and Negros,” Abu said.

He said given that southern Negros is the island’s nearest landing point from Mindanao, there is a need to be proactive in the vicinity.


PISTON leader arrested

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): PISTON leader arrested

Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (PISTON) president George San Mateo was arrested Tuesday for organizing a jeepney strike in February.

Police arrested San Mateo at the Quezon City Hall of Justice, as he was about to post bail for his case before the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court (MTC).

San Mateo was earlier charged before the Quezon City MTC with violation of Section 20 of Commonwealth Act 146, or the “Public Service Law”.

Quezon City MTC Branch 43 Judge Don Ace Mariano Alagar has found probable cause on the case filed by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) against San Mateo to issue the warrant of arrest against him.

The court also ordered the Quezon City Police District, National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group to hunt down and arrest San Mateo.

San Mateo was accompanied by his legal counsel Atty. VJ Topacio, of the non-government organization (NGO) Free Labor Legal Assistance Center (FLLAC), as well as former Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio.

The case of San Mateo has a corresponding bail bond of PHP4,000.

San Mateo’s case involves his instigation and leading the two-day transport strike of some jeepney drivers last October 6-17.

In a press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that the charges lodged against the transport leader were not a form of harassment.

“I think he was warned that as a holder of a franchise, a certificate of public convenience. It is criminal and it is illegal for them to participate in any tigil pasada,” Roque said.

“As I said, it is also pursuant to a warrant of arrest duly issued by a court and therefore, there can be now harassment here ‘no. We are just allowing the rule of law to prevail,” he added.


No ceasefire this holiday season: Lorenzana

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): No ceasefire this holiday season: Lorenzana

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana is not inclined to recommend any suspension of military operations (SOMO) against New People's Army (NPA) rebels this Yuletide season.

He made this comment at the sidelines of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council Yearend Meeting held at the AFP Commissioned Officers' Club in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City Tuesday.

The DND chief added that he could not recommend a SOMO as the NPA leadership vowed to intensify attacks against military targets in wake of Proclamation 360, issued by President Rodrigo Duterte which terminated peace talks and negotiation with the Communist Party of the Philippines following the series of rebel attacks and atrocities against military and civilian targets nationwide.

The proclamation was signed by the Chief Executive last November 23.

"Because there have been, there was an order by their commanders to intensify operations against us, so kung mag SOMO kami and we will stand down, (if we are to implement SOMO and we will stand down) then they will attack us again," Lorenzana stressed.

And when asked whether this would constitute a break in tradition, the DND chief said that traditions could always be broken.

"We can always break tradition," the DND chief emphasized.


Lorenzana mum on martial law, Guerrero extension

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): Lorenzana mum on martial law, Guerrero extension

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana refused to comment on the possible extension of martial law in Mindanao and Gen. Rey Leonard Guerrero’s term as Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff.

"I cannot talk about that, we already submitted our recommendation (on the extension of martial law in Mindanao) yesterday (Monday)," Lorenzana said on the sidelines of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council Yearend Meeting, held at the AFP Commissioned Officers' Club in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City Tuesday.

When asked on the contents of their recommendations, the DND chief replied, "Hindi ko sasabihin sa inyo kasi bahala na ang Malacanang na mag-announce kung ano yun. (I will not share that with you anymore. It is up to Malacanang to announce what that recommendation is.)"

Martial law was declared in Mindanao on May 23 following the series of attacks conducted by Maute Group terrorists in Marawi City.

The Congress, voting jointly -- 261 against 18 -- affirmed the need to extend Proclamation No. 216 extending martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus until Dec. 31 as initiated by President Rodrigo Duterte.

When queried on whether he recommended the extension of Guerrero as AFP chief, Lorenzana also declined to comment on the matter.

"I cannot talk about that," he added.

Guerrero succeeded Gen. Eduardo Año last Oct. 26. He is a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1984.

He is expected to retire on December 17.


DOTr reiterates legality of arrest warrant vs. PISTON leader

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): DOTr reiterates legality of arrest warrant vs. PISTON leader

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) on Tuesday said the arrest warrant issued against militant transport group PISTON leader George San Mateo for leading a transport strike last February was based on legal grounds.

The Quezon City (QC) Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 43 has issued the warrant against San Mateo Tuesday for violating Commonwealth Act No. 146 or the Public Service Act for allegedly encouraging jeepney drivers and operators not to provide rides to commuters in protest of the public utility vehicle modernization program (PUVMP).

The QC Prosecutor’s Office has determined probable cause on the complaint filed by the DOTr and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) against the transport leader.

DOTr reiterated that jeepney operators and drivers should comply with the guidelines on the grant of franchise, among which is that PUVs should not abandon their routes/lines to the inconvenience of the riding public.

“We respect jeepney operators/drivers’ right to stage a protest rally and exercise their right to organize and assemble. What we oppose, however, is when their protest is in the form of ‘tigil pasada’ wherein they inconvenience the riding public,” the department said in a statement Tuesday.

“The moment an operator applies and is granted a franchise, he agrees to be bound by the conditions of such franchise and the consequences in case of violation,” it added.

The DOTr refuted the statement of Sen. Grace Poe that it uses underhanded tactics for the court to implement the arrest order and that it respects the freedom of assembly of transport organizations.

“DOTr, under the leadership of Secretary Tugade, assures Senator Poe, as well as the public, that the agency would not use underhanded tactics to compel our courts to issue such order. As always, we allow the courts to decide on such cases and let due process take its course,” the transportation department stressed. “We, too, share the sentiment of the good senator that everyone has the right to peaceably assemble. However, to hold a franchise is not a right, but a privilege, granted by the state.”

Poe, who is the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Public Services, said the timing of the release of the arrest warrant against San Mateo “casts doubt on the intent of the complainant in filing such charges.”

She likewise pointed out that everyone has the right to peaceably assemble and that it is still unclear based on the cited section of the Public Service Act (PSA) what exactly San Mateo violated. “If holding a strike is tantamount to a violation under any memorandum of the LTFRB, then the proper penalty should have been a fine or suspension or cancellation of their franchise, not threatening their leader with incarceration,” the senator said.

Police arrested San Mateo at the Quezon City Hall of Justice, as he was about to post a PHP4,000 bail for his case before the Quezon City MTC.

San Mateo was accompanied by his legal counsel Atty. VJ Topacio of the non-government organization Free Labor Legal Assistance Center as well as former Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio.

The QC MTC eventually issued a release order allowing San Mateo to post bail.


Duterte formally declares CPP-NPA as terror group

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): Duterte formally declares CPP-NPA as terror group

President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a proclamation formally designating the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) as a terrorist organization.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque made the announcement during a press conference in Malacañang.

The Palace spokesperson said the President signed the proclamation pursuant to the provisions of Republic Act No. 10168 or the Human Security Act.

Roque said that under the law, affiliate revolutionary groups of the CPP-NPA would now also be considered terrorists groups, and anyone proven to be financing these groups would be held liable.

Citing the pertinent provisions of RA 10168, Roque said that a designated person is “any person or entity designated or identified as a terrorist, as one who finances terrorism or a terrorist organization or group under the applicable United Nations Security Council resolution or by another jurisdiction or supranational jurisdiction and pursuant to the proclamation which implements the Human Security Act.”

“Take note that the domestic statute and the UN Security Council prohibits the giving of funds to terrorist organizations, this will enable law enforcement agencies to run after individuals who will, in any way, provide financial support to the NPA now that it has been described as a terrorist organization,” Roque said.

In his proclamation, Duterte directed the Department of Foreign Affairs “to publish the foregoing designation of CPP-NPA and other designated persons, organizations, in accordance with Sections 3 and 15 of RA 10168 and its implementing rules and regulations.”

The proclamation was issued two weeks after the Philippine government terminated peace talks with the CPP-NPA after a series of violent attacks that the President said is against humanitarian law.

Meanwhile, Roque said that due to the proclamation, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea has already issued a memorandum to Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to immediately file the necessary application for the declaration of the CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization with the appropriate regional trial court (RTC).

He said this is because a proper petition must be filed by the DOJ in court to classify the CPP-NPA as a terrorist group under the Human Security Act for the group to be considered as such under domestic laws and under relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

“This is not just in relation to Philippine domestic law but also in relation to a UN Security Council resolution intended to curtail financing of terrorist organizations,” Roque said.


NPA not really interested in peace: AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): NPA not really interested in peace: AFP

The New People's Army (NPA) rebels never did really aspire for peace, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla said Tuesday.

"The government has done all it could to attain a much sought-after just and sustainable peace throughout our country. Despite the numerous show of sincerity and compromises of the government, it is apparent that the CPP-NPA-NDF never aspired for peace but merely use it as an opportunity to fulfill its selfish ends," Padilla said when sought for a comment after President Rodrigo Duterte signed a proclamation declaring the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front a terrorist organization.

He further said the terror tag declaration is also an offshoot of the termination of peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF by virtue of Proclamation 360, which was signed by the Chief Executive last November 23.

"This proclamation clearly classifies and labels the group for what they really are and will simplify military and law enforcement operations as efforts against lawless elements and enemies of the state," the AFP spokesperson added.

Padilla said the declaration would ensure that the AFP could now fully execute and perform its mandate without reservation and restrictions.

"Having said that, the AFP’s focused military operations will now become even more precise, simple and effective. We can now address without any hesitation and with all the means and resources available to us the increasing criminal and economic sabotage activities of these terrorists," he added.

Padilla emphasized that AFP Chief-of-Staff Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero had ordered troops not to let their guard down and be relentless in pursuing the enemy that had been the source of much suffering of Filipinos in the countryside.

"He also added that we must work hand in hand with all agencies of our government to ensure the services our countrymen need reach them," he said.


US welcomes PH offer to host strategic dialogue in 2018

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): US welcomes PH offer to host strategic dialogue in 2018

The United States has welcomed the Philippines’ offer to host the next US-Philippines Bilateral Strategic Dialogue (BSD) in Manila in 2018.

In a joint statement released by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Tuesday, both sides reaffirmed the importance of regular high-level consultations.

The dialogue, the 7th of its kind, ran for two days from November 30 to December 1 in Washington DC.

Senior officials tackled wide variety of issues and reaffirmed commitment to deepen collaboration in areas including maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, cybersecurity, countering transnational drug trafficking, countering terrorism, and improving drug prevention and treatment services, as well as combating wildlife trafficking and illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.

The senior officials further pledged to continue working together to effectively eliminate human trafficking.

The US and Philippine delegations emphasized the importance of the rule of law, human rights, and fundamental freedoms.

For its part, the United States congratulated the Philippines on defeating ISIS-supported terrorists in Mindanao and vowed to continue to support the fight against terrorism and the rehabilitation of Marawi.

Both sides also noted the substantive discussions on cooperating in areas such as science and technology, agriculture and fisheries, health, and environment.

They also welcomed the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) discussions held on November 29, and "look forward to more robust discussions on ways to expand free, fair and reciprocal bilateral trade," including through exploring a potential Free Trade Agreement.

The Bilateral Strategic Dialogue is a key mechanism for discussing the full range of political, security, and economic cooperation between the United States and the Philippines.

For this year, four working groups convened to develop action plans for expanding the two states' joint partnership on defense and security; economics, development, and prosperity; regional and global diplomatic engagement; and rule of law and law enforcement.

The joint statement issued after the meeting of President Donald Trump and President Rodrigo Duterte on November 13 provided the guidance for the Dialogue.

For this seventh US-Philippines BSD, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Susan Thornton and Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs David Helvey co-led the US delegation.

Meanwhile, DFA Undersecretary for Policy Enrique Manalo and Department of National Defense Undersecretary Ricardo David co-led the Philippine delegation.