Thursday, December 14, 2017

Military says NPA collects P460M yearly as ‘revolutionary taxes’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 13): Military says NPA collects P460M yearly as ‘revolutionary taxes’

A truck is among those burned by communist guerrillas during an attack on the site of construction of Bicol International Airport in Daraga town, Albay province, whichwould be like the drawing in top photo if finished. —MICHAEL JAUCIAN

Military officials pegged at P460 million the yearly collection that communist insurgents are getting as “revolutionary taxes” from at least two resources-rich provinces in Southern Mindanao.

Colonel Erwin Bernard Neri, commander of the Army’s 1001st Infantry Brigade, said in a press briefing in Maco town, Compostela Valley on Wednesday, at least 60 per cent of the amount come from mining companies in the province’s gold-rich towns of Monkayo, Maco, Pantukan and Nabunturan.

He said aside from the small and large-scale mining operators, the New People’s Army also collects from lowly sari-sari (variety store) owners, who pay as low as P2 per day and from big banana plantations in Compostela Valley and Davao del Norte provinces as well as politicians during election time.  Lt. Col. Esteven Ducusin, commander of the 46th Infantry Battalion based in Pantukan, said they found it difficult to follow the trail of the big amount of money that went into the NPA’s hands because of the “intricate mode of payment,” involved.

Although the military could not yet cite the particular firms or individuals who are faithfully contributing to the NPA coffers, those who refused to contribute usually suffered an attack from rebels; such as Apex Mining Co., whose facilities and heavy equipment were burned down by rebels in 2008 and 2014.

NPA-infested areas pose threats to DSWD workers

From the Sun Star-Davao (Dec 13): NPA-infested areas pose threats to DSWD workers
REACHING the Geographically Isolated and Disadvantage Areas (Gida) with high presence of New People's Army (NPA) is one of the challenges of the validation team of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD 11).

Herbert Duron, DSWD Davao Region Policy and Plans Division officer-in-charge, said there are areas in Davao Region that have yet to be covered by Listahanan due to security threats.

He said that during the validation and finalization phase where a local verification committee was organized to resolve all the complaints and appeals, there were around 12,000 who were recommended to be assessed; however, only 9,000 were assessed because of the geographical challenges.

"Those are the Gida areas that are hard to reach because rebels' presence is strong and the life of the validator is at stake," he said.

He cited for example Barangay Gupitan in Kapalong, Davao del Norte where he said that the NPA has declared it as their municipality and they could not enter there as suggested by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Duron said there were more than 700 Indigenous People (IPs) that were supposed to be validated but did not push through due to threats.

Based on DSWD 11's Listahanan as of December 2016, there were a total of 280,224 poor households with a total of 1,544,085 poor individuals recorded in the region out of the 836,567 households assessed.

Of poor households, there were 52,795 in Compostela Valley, 44,668 in Davao del Norte, 41,208 in Davao del Sur, 42,445 in Davao Occidental, 52,526 in Davao Oriental, and 46,582 in Davao City.

The Listahanan is an information system for identifying who and where the poor households are as reference to identify potential beneficiaries.

IED courier killed in shootout with Sultan Kudarat cops, military agents

From the Philippine Star (Dec 14): IED courier killed in shootout with Sultan Kudarat cops, military agents

The authorities were forced to kill the bomb courier when he pulled out a fragmentation grenade from his pocket. File photo
Lawmen killed Wednesday a tricycle driver transporting an improvised explosive device to Isulan town in Sultan from Maguindanao province.
Senior Superintendent Raul Supiter of the Sultan Kudarat provincial police on Thursday said suspect Abubakar Upam was killed in a shootout with police and military agents who tried to intercept him while driving his bomb-laden tricycle in Barangay Dansuli, Isulan.
Supiter said Upam was proceeding to the town proper of Isulan possibly from a nearby town in Maguindanao, where there is presence of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

The group uses the black Islamic State flag as revolutionary banner.

Supiter said the agents who tried to stop Upam were forced to kill him when he pulled out a fragmentation grenade from his pocket as they flagged him down while motoring through a stretch of the Cotabato-Isulan Highway in Barangay Dansuli.

“His cadaver was turned over to relatives after processing by crime scene operatives,” Supiter said.

 Responding bomb experts found an IED in the tricycle of Upam.

"We are thankful to the vigilant informants who provided information on his plan to bring an IED to Isulan,” Supiter said.

SOFREP Exclusive: Marawi Commander details what really happened in his country’s largest terrorist attack and how his men fought back

From SOFREP News (Dec 14): SOFREP Exclusive: Marawi Commander details what really happened in his country’s largest terrorist attack and how his men fought back

On May 23rd, 4th Light Reaction Company operators alongside a company of Scout-Rangers quietly approached the hideout of terrorist leader Isnilon Hapilon.  The Philippine armed services had been conducting a long-term surveillance operation on the terrorist safe house, located among a small cluster of homes along a road on the outskirts of Marawi.  The U.S. Special Forces-trained Philippine troops closed the distance, their breacher attaching what is known as a “water impulse charge” to the six-foot high front gate in order to explosively enter the structure and initiate the raid.  The concrete three-story building had been specifically chosen by the Abu Sayyaf sub-commander for its defensive features.  It was located on a road so narrow that one car could hardly pass at a time, which formed a choke point.

The 4th LRC operators initiated the explosive breach, gained entry to the safe house, and a firefight broke out on the ground floor.  While the firefight raged, Hapilon managed to escape.  What the operators did not know at the time was that they had just disrupted the planning of the most large-scale and deadly terrorist attack in their country’s history.  For months, Hapilon had been working with the Maute Group to establish themselves as an ISIS affiliate in the Philippines, a so-called “wilayat,” or a province in the ISIS caliphate.  The city of Marawi is almost entirely Muslim and combined with other social factors; the Maute Group was unopposed as they planned a massive terrorist operation which included establishing weapons caches around the city.....

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Martial Law Extended For Another Year In Southern Philippines

From National Public Radio (NPR) Website (Dec 13): Martial Law Extended For Another Year In Southern Philippines

Military trucks drive past destroyed buildings and a mosque in what had been the center of fighting in Marawi on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao on Oct. 25, days after the military declared that the battle against ISIS-linked militants was over. Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images hide caption toggle caption Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images

The Philippine Congress has extended martial law on the southern island of Mindanao for another year at the request of President Rodrigo Duterte, who says it is needed to continue the fight against armed groups in the region.

The move was overwhelmingly approved by both the Senate and House of Representatives, where Duterte and his allies hold big majorities. Duterte first imposed martial law in the Muslim-dominated south in May, and Wednesday's vote extends it through 2018.

Martial law, which extends military authority and allows for warrantless arrests and heightened surveillance, was declared in Mindanao after local militants laid siege to the city of Marawi in May. The battle that ensued between the ISIS-linked Islamists and Philippine security forces lasted five months, displaced over half a million people and left more than 1,100 people dead.

When the siege ground to an end in October, the military declared there were "no more terrorists." Duterte himself said, "Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby declare Marawi City liberated from the terrorist influence."

But in his letter to Congress asking for the extension of martial law, Duterte asserted that "the rebellion persists and a lot more remains to be done to ... bring back public order and safety in Mindanao."

The president said his request comes at the recommendation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, which both claim that the militants are regrouping and plotting new attacks.

The Marawi siege highlighted the Philippines' vulnerability to extremist violence, with some experts declaring that the country has become the weak link in terms of regional security.

Talking to reporters after the vote Wednesday, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said, "Public safety is our primordial concern; thus, we ask the public to stand behind the administration and rally behind our defenders to quell the continuing rebellion in Mindanao."

And Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana vowed that the security threats in the southern region would not spill into other parts of the country.

Those opposed to extending martial law say it is an abuse of power and fear it could lead to a declaration of martial law across all of the Philippines. Duterte has already come under fire from activists for his bloody war on drugs and general rebuffing of concerns over human rights and civil liberties.

Critics also argue that there's no constitutional basis for the extension. Main opposition party leader Sen. Francis Pangilinan told The Associated Press that major rebel attacks in the past have been quashed without declaring martial law.

"We will be in danger of becoming the monster that we seek to defeat, those who have no regard for law, order or respect for the constitution," Pangilinan said.

A June survey by the polling company Social Weather Station found that 57 percent of Filipinos who participated supported President Duterte's declaration of martial law on Mindanao, with the majority of respondents coming from Mindanao itself. However, that same survey also found that a majority of Filipinos opposed expanding the decree to the rest of the country.

Marawi still has a heavy military presence, said Saripada Pacasum of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office. During the siege, his team of disaster respondents helped get civilians to safely and recover the bodies of the dead.

"[They] are manning the checkpoints and securing the main battle area inside the city," he told NPR via Facebook Chat. Pacasum said things are slowly getting back to normal, but that many citizens are still not allowed to see their properties, including himself.

It's an abuse of power, according to Pacasum, who said his mother told him stories about when martial law was declared across all of the Philippines during the dictatorship of President Ferdinand E. Marcos. During nearly 10 years of martial law, from 1972-1981, tens of thousands of people were imprisoned and thousands killed. Filipinos were also rounded up and tortured by the thousands, according to Amnesty International.

"Our properties sequestered, many Meranaos [people of Mindanao] were killed," Pacasum said, adding that all the stories his mother told about that time were bad.

Joma sees more ‘gross’, ‘systematic’ rights abuses amid Mindanao martial law extension

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 14): Joma sees more ‘gross’, ‘systematic’ rights abuses amid Mindanao martial law extension

Communist leader Jose Maria Sison and President Rodrigo Duterte. (INQUIRER FILE PHOTOS)

The “gross” and “systematic” violation of human rights in Mindanao would certainly escalate as the military continues to take over amid the extension of martial law in the region until end of 2018, Communist Party of the Philippines (CCP) founder Jose Maria Sison said on Friday.

Sison said martial law under President Rodrigo Duterte would surpass the rate and proportions of military rule under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

“As the unnecessary and egregious martial rule by Duterte will expand nationwide, the violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the people will surpass the rate and proportions of martial rule under the Marcos fascist dictatorship,” Sison said in a statement on Thursday.

Sison, a friend-turned-critic of Duterte, believed that the president plans to destroy the CPP and its armed wing New People’s Army (NPA) before the end of 2018.

According to Sison, the President plans to achieve this by concentrating attacks on Communist rebels in Mindanao, and then in Luzon and in Visayas should when Mr. Duterte decides to expand martial law nationwide.

On Tuesday, Congress overwhelmingly authorized Duterte’s request for the extension of martial rule in Mindanao from January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018. Duterte cited the persistent threat of terrorism and rebellion in Mindanao to justify his request.

The Communist leader also revealed that some “patriotic” and “progressive” military officers were worried that Duterte “is misusing” the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) as his private armed unit.

“Military officers of the AFP who are patriotic and progressive are seriously concerned that Duterte is misusing the AFP and PNP as if these were his personal armies,” Sison said.

“They are critical of the promotion of officers on the basis of their friendship and personal loyalty to Duterte,” he also claimed.

But Sison said the progressive soldiers were most aghast by his termination of the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and National Democratic Front (NDF).

Duterte called off the peace negotiations at the time when the government and CPP panels were about to meet for the fifth round of formal talks in Oslo, and sign the drafts of the general amnesty of political prisoners, the unilateral ceasefires, and some parts of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CARES).

173 NPA rebels surrender to Armed Forces field units

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 12): 173 NPA rebels surrender to Armed Forces field units

Field units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have received more rebel surrenderees than attackers, according to the regional spokesperson and Public Affairs Office (PAO) chief of the Army’s 10th Infantry (Agila) Division (10th ID).

Capt. Jerry S. Lamosao, in a statement on Thursday ,said that some 173 members of NPA have surrendered to 10th ID through 1001st Infantry (Pag-asa) Brigade since July 1, 2017.

This file photo taken on July 30, 2017 shows guerrillas of the New People’s Army (NPA) in formation in the Sierra Madre mountain range. (AFP Photo / Noel Celis / Manila Bulletin)
The 1001st Brigade covers some parts of Agusan del Sur province and 8 municipalities in Compostela Valley (ComVal) province, 5 municipalities and 1 city of Davao del Norte province.

It has 4 combat maneuvering battalions and 1 Task Force covering the areas.

The surrenderees came about as a result of massive deployment of Community Pace and Development Support Teams in the unit’s area of responsibility (AOR) and relentless focused military operations against the NPA terrorists, Capt. Lamosao claimed.

“Most of mass surrendees were recorded in October-December this year,” he said.

The 1001st Brigade gained 64 firearms for the period.

The relentless combat operations also resulted in the recovery of 14 IEDs and 23 NPA camps and harbor areas, further claimed the 10th ID spokesperson .

Based on records from the different units of the 1001st Brigade, the NPA terrorists who surrendered are members of the regular armed group Sangay sa Partido (SP) and Milisya ng Bayan (MB), he said.

SPs are the smallest communist party branch personalities of the CPP who are conducting Ideological, Political, Organizational and Mass (IPOM) works while MBs are the “part-time” NPAs or “farmers by day, NPAs by night” who serve as security in the NPA- influenced barangays and are ready to join the regular NPA terrorists when necessary to conduct harassments to PNP, AFP detachments and vital installations, Capt. Lamosao said.

Some of the MBs are utilized as eyes and ears or guides and spotters for the NPA regulars. Others are trained to handle and fabricate improvised explosive devices (IEDs), he added.

“With the recent accomplishments, the 1001st Brigade has influenced a great deal the lives of these people, than wanting them dead. We know they are just victims of a lie that has been passed through generations which has caused confusion and division among our people. Clearly, our mission of helping establish the foundation for inclusive human and economic development in our area of responsibility has already begun. We are calling on the NPAs out there to return to the folds of the law and to their families and avail of the programs of the Government…Let’s all give peace a chance,” said Colonel Erwin Bernard Neri, commanding officer of the 1001st Brigade.

Meanwhile, Major General Noel S. Clement, commanding general of the 10th “Agila” Division, said in the same statement, “We ensure the public that 10th ID and its units will always perform their mandated task of protecting the people including those NPA members who have surrendered, respecting their human rights and securing the communities.”

Maritime council creation lauded

From the Sun Star-Davao (Dec 13): Maritime council creation lauded
PUBLIC Safety and Security Command Center (PSSCC) head lauded the passing of an ordinance forming an inter-agency council to address all the maritime and security issues, conduct search and rescue operations, and enforce laws on environmental protection in the martime waters within the territorial jurisdiction of Davao City.

PSSCC head Benito De Leon, in an interview last Tuesday, said the passing of the ordinance creating the Maritime Coordinating Council (MCC) is a good move.

"It strengthens the security of the city in guarding the coastal areas in Davao kasi yung present arrangements natin are only for the land based. So ito magandang arrangement, there is a collaborative effort among different naval forces guarding the city and identifies who is actually in charge kasi may Navy, may Maritime Police, may Coastguard. So maganda ito. I congratulate and thank the city council for passing the ordinance such as this," De Leon said.

Based on the ordinance approved by the 18th Davao City Council, MCC will be composed of concerned government agencies and non-government organizations is tasked to maintain constant and up to date city risk assessment on criminality, terrorism, maritime waters and coastal areas wthin Davao City, and to take law enforcement actions relative thereto.

The MCC will be composed of the city mayor of Davao as chair, Coast Guard District Southern Mindanao (CGDSEM) as vice chair, and Public Safety and Security Command Center as the secretariat.

Council members include Armed Forces of the Philippines Eastern Mindanao Command, Davao City Police Office, Regional Maritime Unit 11, Naval Forces of Eastern Mindanao, Task Force Davao, Central 911, Tactical Operations Group 11, Philippine Ports Authority 11, Bureau of Customs 11, Philippine Drug Enforcemetn Agency 11, Liga ng mga Barangay, Bureau of Fisheris and Aquatic Resources 11, City Agriculturists Office, and Maritime Industry Authority 11.

As mandated, the chairperson, or the city mayor or duly designated representative, shall exercise overall administrative and/or operational supervision and control to ensure and effective and efficient implementation of the policies by the Maritime coordinating council.

The MCC shall meet regularly at least once a quarter or as often as necessary at the call of the chair or by majority of the members. A majority of the members shall constitute a quorum to do business.

The budget for the MCC and its entire operations will be under the City Mayor's Office (CMO) and shall be appropriated in the annual or supplemental budget.

The MCC is also mandated to submit to the city mayor and the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) within 30 days after the end of every fiscal year, an annual report on its accomplishments under this ordinance, together with its plans and recommendations to improve and develop its capability to enforce the provisions of the ordinance and a complete accounting of transaction on funds received.

The ordinance was proposed by the committee on peace and order chair Davao City Councilor Maria Belen Sunga-Acosta.

MILF: We’re still in Zamboanga Peninsula

From the Manila Times (Dec 13): MILF: We’re still in Zamboanga Peninsula

SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao: The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Zamboanga City has belied the claim of the Peace and Order Council in Region 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula) that the group and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) are no longer in the area.

The Regional Peace and Order Council-IX (RPOC-IX) has issued a Resolution declaring that “there is no presence of MILF and MNLF communities in Region IX.”

Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG-IX) assistant regional director Pedro Cuevas Jr. and Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco are members of the RPOC-IX secretariat, which prepared the resolution that was duly adopted on June 7.

However, the liaison officer of the MILF Information Committee for Western Mindanao, who requested not to be named, said in a statement to the MILF’s Luwaran Interactive that the encounters between its members and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Basilan is proof that there are MILF members in the area.
Basilan is now one of the component provinces of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), hence it is no longer part of Region 9.

The MILF liaison officer said that the presence of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) led by the Malaysian Royal Army based in the AFP’s Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City is also evidence that there are MILF in Region 9.

“The IMT area of coverage are the provinces of Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Maguindanao, North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Bukidnon, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del sur, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Palawan,” he said.
The Western Front Command of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) of the MILF is located within Region 9, and there are base commands in the islands of Basilan and Sulu that the IMT recognizes.

Relief Web: Philippines: Marawi Conflict Snapshot (13 December 2017)

Posted to the Relief Web (Dec 13): Philippines: Marawi Conflict Snapshot (13 December 2017)

from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 13 Dec 2017 View Original

Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are starting to return to Marawi City after the end of clashes between Armed Forces of the Philippines and the non-state armed group. Affected barangays are grouped by cluster and are being cleared for phased returns. Families from barangays under clusters 1, 2 and 3 have returned.

Barangays under clusters 4, 5, and 6 are still waiting to be cleared for safe return. National government’s Task Force Bangon Marawi with the local government of Marawi have been coordinating the safe return of IDPs and providing return packages that include food packs, hygiene kits, kitchen kits and financial assistance.

A transitory site is being constructed in Barangay Sagonsongan to decongest evacuation sites and accomodate IDPs from the most affected areas.

What’s in the New Singapore-Philippines Urban Warfare Terror Training?

From The Diplomat (Dec 14): What’s in the New Singapore-Philippines Urban Warfare Terror Training?

The interaction is an example of indigenous capacity-building initiatives underway on the counterterrorism front.

What’s in the New Singapore-Philippines Urban Warfare Terror Training?
Image Credit: MINDEF Singapore

This week, Singapore and the Philippines concluded a new urban warfare training initiative that was first announced as part of the city-state’s assistance to Manila to combat the terror threat posed by the Islamic State and its affiliates earlier this year. Though details so far remain unclear about its future direction, the engagement and the cooperation that was seen within it was an example of efforts underway by Southeast Asian states to boost their collective capacities to address the threat of terrorism.

As I have consistently observed in these pages, the five-month long siege by Islamic State-linked militants in the southern Philippine city of Marawi, which ended just last month, had sparked growing terror fears in the Asia-Pacific, underscored the well-known limitations of the Philippine military capabilities, and catalyzed efforts by regional states to help boost capacity (See: “Why Has the Philippine Military Struggles in its Terror War Under Duterte?”). Though the focus in some media accounts tends to be narrowly framed in terms of military exercises, we have in fact seen instances of this across several areas, including on terrorism financing, countering radical narratives, and sharing experiences on rehabilitation and reintegration of former convicts.

One of these areas is developing expertise when it comes to urban warfare. As an example of this capacity-building that is underway, Singapore had announced in July that it would provide counterterrorism assistance to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that would include not just in terms of military assets and humanitarian assistance, but also use of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) urban training villages. Though Singapore and the Philippines have worked on other security initiatives before as part of their bilateral ties and also with other regional states on a multilateral and minilateral basis, this was a significant development because Philippine defense officials themselves have admitted that urban warfare training is an area of urgent need right now.

Last week, we saw the official start of this urban warfare training when forty soldiers from the Philippine Army (PA) had arrived in Singapore for a two-week professional exchange program. The program was conducted by the Infantry Training Institute (ITI) at the Murai Urban Training Facility (MUTF), a facility developed to boost SAF expertise in urban operations (UO) capabilities that offers a range of realistic, related training scenarios (See: “Singapore-Philippines Urban Warfare Training Kicks Off”).

So far, the publicly announced parts of the training have been focused around tactics, skills and basic missions. According to Singapore’s defense ministry (MINDEF), content-wise, the emphasis has been on information sharing on small unit tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) and individual skill sets needed to operate in a complex urban operating environment.

The exchange also culminated in both sides executing a Platoon UO mission. Though few details were publicly disclosed about that mission, MINDEF emphasized that while the Philippine Army personnel had gained an opportunity to hone their skills in urban operations, Singapore had also benefited in that knowledge about the Marawi operations would inform the SAF’ own UO training procedures for learning.

This is just the first official interaction we have seen between the two countries in terms of urban warfare training, and it will be interesting to see how things progress on this front, not just on its own but within the broader context of Singapore-Philippines ties – with both countries working up to the commemoration of the the 50th anniversary in 2019 – as well as the counterterrorism cooperation in the wider region, which Singapore will be helping shape next year given that it will hold the annually rotating ASEAN chairmanship. Singapore’s Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen noted on Facebook on Wednesday that on Singapore’s end, the SAF is prepared to do more on this front if it is requested to do so by the Philippine government.

Amnesty: Martial law extension signals more rights abuses in Mindanao

From the Philippine Star (Dec 14): Amnesty: Martial law extension signals more rights abuses in Mindanao

 London-based Amnesty International said that the extension of martial law until Dec. 31, 2018 could mean more human rights abuses in the coming months. AP/Bullit Marquez, File

An international rights group blasted on Thursday the extension of military rule in Mindanao for another year, saying that the decision is an "ominous move" that signals more human rights abuses in the coming months.

The Congress, dominated by allies of firebrand President Rodrigo Duterte, granted the leader's request to extend for the second time the prevailing martial law in Mindanao until Dec. 31, 2018.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives gave their imprimatur for the move, which the president said was needed to address the threat of terrorism and rebellion in many parts of Mindanao, a southern island which is home to around 22 million people.

READ: Kabataan rep: Martial law extension 'free pass for rights violations'

However, Amnesty International said that the extension could mean more human rights violations which were already recorded during the months-long battle of Marawi City which killed more than 1,000 people, most of whom combatants, and displaced hundreds of thousands of residents.
"The length of this latest extension, until the end of 2018, is an ominous move that almost certainly signals further abuses in the months ahead," James Gomez, Amnesty International's Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said.

He said that since military rule was declared in the region civilians in Mindanao had faced unlawful killings, destruction of their homes, ill-treatment and numerous other human rights abuses at the hands of the Philippine military and Islamic State-inspired militants.

READ: MAT: Martial law extension a danger to human rights, democracy

In a report on the siege of Marawi released last month, Amnesty said that both the Armed Forces and the Islamist fighters committed violations of international humanitarian law, some of which could amount to war crimes.

Amnesty accused the military of using torture and ill-treatment of people in their custody especially those who were trying to escape the fighting.

The militants meanwhile, according to the London-based group, committed numerous extrajudicial executions of non-Muslim residents, especially at checkpoints.

Both the military and the militants were accused of looting the deserted property of the residents. Military officials admitted in the past that some of their personnel were caught stealing and said that some had already been charged.

Amnesty said: “Violations in the battle of Marawi, in northern Mindanao, have been carried out with impunity, while there has been a disturbing rise in killings of human rights defenders and political activists across the region in recent months."

READ: Lorenzana: Rebellion still active elsewhere in Mindanao

The group said that Duterte, already accused of orchestrating a brutal anti-drugs campaign which killed between 7,000 to 12,000 people, should not use martial law as a "pretext for further violations" in Mindanao without any accountability.

It also called on authorities to take concrete steps to end violations, address those which had already taken place and prevent them from recurring.

Duterte first placed Mindanao under military rule on May 23 following an attempt by militants to transform the lakeside town of Marawi into the center of the Islamic State's caliphate in Southeast Asia.

Lumad group: We evacuated for our safety, not propaganda

From the Philippine Star (Dec 5): Lumad group: We evacuated for our safety, not propaganda

The military said it was implementing security measures, not a food blockade. Save Our Schools, file
A Lumad organization on Friday disputed military claims that residents of indigenous peoples' communities in Surigao del Sur left their homes as part of a plan to discredit the government.
"What we know is that the people of Lagangan evacuated to Caras-an, Tago last December 2 because military men encamped in the community of Lagangan and a helicopter was flying over their community. President Rodrigo Duterte himself threatened to bomb the Lumad communities. Who will not be frightened?" Malahutayong Pakigbisog alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU, or Persevering Struggle for the Next Generation) said in a press statement.
"We did not want to leave the crops that we have toiled over. We know that the animals we left behind will die. But we had to evacuate to save our lives," the group said.
The group released the statement to counter a claim by Col. Andres Centino, commander of the Army's 401st Infantry Brigade, that Lumad communities had been forced to evacuate by supposed front organizations of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army.
On Nov. 28, the Philippine Information Agency in Caraga, quoting Centino, said the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development Inc. and Teachers from Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur forced residents to go to Barangay Diatagon in Lianga, Surigao del Sur.
Centino claimed in the PIA report that Alcadev and TRIFPSS are "known front organizations of the NPAs exploiting the Lumads by coercing and agitating them to evacuate in order to pressure the government in ordering the military to stop its operation against the terrorists."
The two groups run schools for Lumad communities in what the Department of Education calls "geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas", or places that are too far away for regular public schools or where DepEd schools have yet to be built.
MAPASU has also been accused of supporting the NPA.
The military had initially denied that Lumad communities had to evacuate to Barangay Diatagon in Lianga to escape clashes between government forces and the NPA in late November but later said in a PIA situation report that the evacuation was a "leftist ploy."
"This ploy of these leftist groups to forcibly evacuate the residents is intended to maliciously discredit the government, exhaust its resources, gain national attention, and shield the escaping NPAs from pursuing government forces," PIA Caraga reported on November 28.
"You continue to belittle us. It is clear discrimination when you imply that we are easily deceived, easy to to fool," the Lumad group said.

"What wrong have we committed that you continue to persecute us Lumad? We who have long been forgotten by the government, deprived of social services, the reason why our elders never knew how to read and write thus were easily deceived. We who are constantly driven away from our ancestral lands because you want to clear all resistance to the entry of logging companies in the past and now coal?" MAPASU said in its statement.
MAPASU also disputed a claim by the Armed Forces of the Philippines that the military did not restrict the flow of food aid to evacuees in Diatogon.
The group said that NGOs Assistance and Cooperation for Resilience and Development Inc. and Friends of the Lumad in Caraga brought 10 sacks of rice to the evacuation center on November 28 to augment relief goods distributed by the Municipal Social Welfare Department.
"You denied them entry. You allowed the MSWD to come but they were only able to bring five sacks," MAPASU said, adding this was not enough for more than 1,000 evacuees at the center. 
The group said the military also blocked the entry of food for a cultural festival on December 1 "despite the entreaty of our [Lianga] councilor Sammy Dollano to let the food in because it was already cooked."
"What do you call controlling the entry of food, is it not a food blockade?" the group said.
The 401st Infantry Brigade told on Friday, December 8, that it was implementing security measures because of reports that armed individuals had mixed in with the evacuees.
The 401st Bde said it directed the group who wanted to distribute relief goods on December 1 to coordinate with local social welfare officials.
"[M]ay mga kasama silang bata kaya ang alam namin di sila binigyan clearance ng LGU dahil sa delikado ang sitwasyon dahil sa nangyaring encounter sa bundok nung [November] 28 at may report kami na may mga armadong humalo sa mga bakwit."

SOUTH CHINA SEA DISPUTE / While focus is on North Korea, China continues South China Sea buildup — think tank

From GM News Online (Dec 15): SOUTH CHINA SEA DISPUTE / While focus is on North Korea, China continues South China Sea buildup — think tank

Construction is shown on Fiery Cross Reef, in the Spratly Islands, the disputed South China Sea in this June 16, 2017 satellite image released by CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) to Reuters on June 29, 2017. MANDATORY CREDIT CSIS/AMTI DigitalGlobe/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

While attention in Asia has been distracted by the North Korean nuclear crisis in the past year, China has continued to install high-frequency radar and other facilities that can be used for military purposes on its man-made islands in the South China Sea, a U.S. think tank said on Thursday.

Chinese activity has involved work on facilities covering 72 acres (29 hectares) of the Spratly and Paracel islands, territory contested with several other Asian nations, according to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative of Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies. The report cited satellite images.

The United States and its allies oppose China's building of artificial islands in the South China Sea and their militarization, given concerns Beijing plans to use them to deny access to strategic routes.

The report said that in the last several months China had constructed what appeared to be a new high-frequency radar array at the northern end of Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratlys.

Subi Reef had seen tunnels completed that were likely for ammunition storage and another radar antenna array and radar domes, the report said.

Construction on Mischief Reef included underground storage for ammunition and hangars, missile shelters and radar arrays.

Smaller-scale work had continued in the Paracel Islands, including a new helipad and wind turbines on Tree Island and two large radar towers on Triton Island.

It said the latter were especially important as waters around Triton had been the scene of recent incidents between China and Vietnam and multiple U.S. freedom-of-navigation operations, which the U.S. navy has used to assert what it sees as its right to free passage in international waters.

Woody Island, China’s military and administrative headquarters in the South China Sea, saw two first-time air deployments "that hint at things to come at the three Spratly Island air bases farther south," the report said.

At the end of October, the Chinese military released images showing J-11B fighters at Woody Island for exercises, while on Nov. 15, AMTI spotted what appeared to be Y-8 transport planes, a type that can be configured for electronic surveillance.

The Pentagon has conducted several patrols near Chinese-held South China Sea territory this year, even as it has sought China's help in northeast Asia to press North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program.

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reiterated a call for a “freeze” in China's island building and said it was unacceptable to continue their militarization.

Cafgu, son latest casualties of NPA atrocity in Quezon

From the Daily Tribune (Dec 15): Cafgu, son latest casualties of NPA atrocity in Quezon

Communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels killed on Wednesday night a government militiaman and his son in Quezon province.

Police report identified the victims as Manaolito Alcantara, 48, a member of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit-Armed Auxiliary (CAA), and his son Randy, 29.

Report showed that the two were having dinner inside their house in Sitio Hacienda, Barangay Inabuan, San Francisco town at around 7:30 p.m. when three armed men barged in.

The three,one of them identified as Joseph de los Santos, immediately fired at the victims.

De los Santos, alias Ka Bingot, is a known NPA member. His two cohorts were not identified.

The elder Alcantara died on the spot while Randy was rushed to the San Francisco District Hospital but expired.

Recovered from the crime scene were 12 pieces of empty shells from caliber 5.56 and four spent shells for caliber .9mm.

Government troops immediately launched manhunt operation against the communist rebels.

In Nueva Ecija, government troops seized assorted New People’s Army (NPA) materiel, including two M-16 automatic rifles, following an encounter with rebels in Carranglan, Nueva Ecija Wednesday morning.

The incident took place around 7:15 a.m. at the vicinity of Sitio Dalipawen, Barangay Bunga of the above-mentioned locality, Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) spokesman Lt. Col. Isagani Nato said.

Nato said troops from the 84th Infantry Battalion were conducting combat patrols in the area when it chanced upon 10 NPAs, triggering a 15-minute firefight.

The fleeing rebels left behind two M-16 automatic rifles, two magazines, a sweatshirt, and assorted food.

No losses or casualties from government troops in the said fighting, Nato said.

Alleged IS recruiter faces cybercrime, rebellion charges

From the Business World (Dec 14): Alleged IS recruiter faces cybercrime, rebellion charges

IS recruiter

PROSECUTORS yesterday, Dec. 13, recommended the filing of charges of inciting to rebellion against Karen Aizha A. Hamidon, an alleged online recruiter for Islamic State (IS).

“This resolves the complaint filed by the National Bureau of Investigation Counter-Terrorism Division (NBI-CTD) against respondent Karen Aizha Hamidon y Abuan, for Rebellion under Articles 134 and 135 of the Revised Penal Code in relation to Section 6 of Republic Act (RA) No. 10175 (otherwise known as the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012), or two hundred ninety-six (296) counts of Inciting to Rebellion under Article 138 of the Revised Penal Code in relation to Section 6 of RA No. 10175,” the 16-page resolution read in part.

Ms. Hamidon was arrested by operatives of the NBI-CTD on Oct. 11 at her home in Taguig City, where they also seized her cellphones, laptops, tablets and other electronic devices allegedly being used for her illegal online activities.

Ms. Hamidon was allegedly recruiting for membership to IS and joining local terrorists who took seige of Marawi City.

In her counter-affidavit, Ms. Hamidon defended that she was “instigated” by NBI agents to commit the illegal acts and that these were done against her will.

However, a portion of the resolution reads: “The presumption prevails that complainants regularly performed their official duties and ordinary course of business has been followed.”

The prosecutors sought for the Department of Justice’s approval of the resolution and the filing of the case before the Regional Trial Court in Taguig City.

Be vigilant, brace for renewed NPA guerilla attacks–Palace

From the Business Mirror (Dec 14): Be vigilant, brace for renewed NPA guerilla attacks–Palace

The government is expecting intensified attacks from communist-led New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas with the extension of martial law in Mindanao, and has warned the public to be more vigilant in the wake of these anticipated offensives, Malacañang said on Thursday.

“Well, I think the reality is with the halt of the peace talks, there would be more military encounters between the Armed Forces and the New People’s Army. So we need to be more vigilant,” Presidential Spokesman Harry L. Roque Jr. said at a news briefing.

He added government troops were instructed to do everything in their power to quell terrorism in the southern third of the country. “So what else can be done? Well, more of the same. We just need to be able to deal with threats as they happen,” he said.

Congress voted overwhelmingly in favor of martial-law extension in Mindanao on Wednesday, approving President Duterte’s appeal to continue imposing military rule in the island for another year from January 1, 2018, to December 31, 2018. The President appealed to lawmakers to grant his request to allow government troops to neutralize the Islamic State and the NPA in Mindanao.

In his letter to Senate President Aquilino L. Pimentel III and House Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez, Duterte said he is adhering to the recommendation of his defense chief to prolong martial law in Mindanao.

Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana advised the President to extend military rule in the island to “ensure the total eradication of Daesh-inspired Da’awatul Islamiyah Waliyatul Masriq, other like-minded local and foreign terrorist groups and armed lawless groups, and the communist terrorists and their coddlers, supporters and financiers.”

With Congress’s approval of the extension, Duterte became the first President in the post-Marcos era to declare martial law due to the communist insurgency. The late strongman Ferdinand E. Marcos declared a nationwide martial law in 1972, which has resulted to thousands of cases of human-rights violation.

Roque said the public need not worry of a possible repetition of history with the martial-law extension in Mindanao. “I think we have shown for the entire period that martial law has been imposed in Mindanao, that this is not the same martial law that we had in 1972. Courts remain functioning [and] Congress remains existing. The Bill of Rights and the Constitution is enforced,” he said.

“So I don’t think there’s been any legal basis for the fears of many that there will be the return of dictatorial rule, neither has there been any systematic or gross violations of human rights so far,” the Palace official added. He said it is just that for the time being, military rule reigns supreme over civilian rule in Mindanao.

On top of this, Roque said, Malacañang has not received any complaints of human-rights violation from the local government unit of Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. “We are not exactly exploiting that and local government unit has actually complained, even in Marawi that they fear that their mandates have been violated,” he said.

Roque warned the public should be more vigilant on intensified NPA attacks in the face of the cancellation of the peace talks and the extension of martial law in Mindanao. The NPA and its ideological arm, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), are strongly opposed to military rule in the island.

With the extension, the CPP vowed to face martial law with force and declared it will not back down in confronting government forces in the southern third of the country. “That this will result in unmitigated death and destruction goes without saying, that this came after his declaration of the CPP and NPA as terrorists and simple criminals and his unbridled hostility to the legal democratic movement, speaks loudly and clearly of his intention to impose nationwide martial law. With barely concealed steps, Duterte is setting up his fascist dictatorship to perpetuate himself in power,” the CPP said.

“The people and the revolutionary movement are ready to defend themselves and will meet him head-on,” the CPP added.

Duterte visits Pakistan Navy warship

From Update Philippines (Dec 14): Duterte visits Pakistan Navy warship

President Rodrigo Duterte today, December 14 visited Pakistan Navy Ship (PNS) Saif docked at Pier 15, Port Area, Manila.

PNS Saif (FFG-253) is a Zulfiquar (Sword)-class frigate in the Pakistan Navy.

He was welcomed by Pakistan Ambassador to the Philippines Aman Rashid, Pakistan’s Defense Attaché Commodore Jawad Ahmed, and Pakistan Navy Commanding Officer Captain Shahzad Iqbal for an exclusive tour of the warship.

President Duterte was accompanied by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, other Cabinet members, and officers of the Philippine military.

The visit of PNS Saif (FFG-253) aims to strengthen Pakistan-Philippines relations.

Army Brigade records more NPA surrenders than attacks

From Update Philippines (Dec 14): Army Brigade records more NPA surrenders than attacks

The 1001st Brigade of the 10th Infantry Division of Philippine Army said that from July 1 this year they have received more NPA members who have surrendered than who have attacked.

1001st Brigade is based in Barangay Mapaang, Maco, Compostela Valley Province covers 8 Municipalities of ComVal Province, 5 Municipalities and 1 City of Davao Del Norte (DDN) and 1 Municipality of Agusan Del Sur.

The Army brigade said it recorded a total of 173 surrenderees from July 1 with mass surrenders recorded in October to December.

“The flock of surrenderees was the result of massive deployment of Community Support Teams in the unit’s area of responsibility and relentless focused military operations against the communist terrorist-NPA,” the 1001st Brigade said.

It added that relentless combat operations also resulted to the recovery of 14 IEDs and 23 NPA camps and harbor areas.

Surrenderees were from the regular NPA, Sangay sa Partido (SP), and Milisya ng Bayan (MB). “SPs are the smallest communist party branch personalities of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) who are conducting Ideological, Political, Organizational and Mass (IPOM) works. MBs are the part-time NPAs or farmers by day, NPAs by night,” 1001st Brigade said.

“We ensure the public that 10ID and its units will always perform its mandated task of protecting the people including those NPA members who have surrendered, respecting their human rights and securing the communities,” 10th Infantry Division commander Major General Noel S. Clement said.

Duterte generals see no reason for nationwide martial law

From Rappler (Dec 14): Duterte generals see no reason for nationwide martial law

Three generals advising President Rodrigo Duterte see no reason to expand martial law to include Luzon and the Visayas

MINDANAO ONLY. National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr says there is no reason to expand martial law to cover the entire country

MINDANAO ONLY. National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr says there is no reason to expand martial law to cover the entire country

Generals advising President Rodrigo Duterte said there is no reason to fear that martial law would be expanded nationwide.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said a nationwide declaration of martial law is possible if the New People's Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, grows and becomes a bigger threat after the cancellation of peace talks.

Three generals close to Duterte, gave assurances this will not happen –National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, and Interior Undersecretary Eduardo Año, who is now supervising the Philippine National Police.

Esperon and Año are former military chiefs.

Duterte earlier said any decision to expand martial law to also cover Luzon and the Visayas will be based on recommendations from the military and the police.

"I don't see it happening," Esperon told the media after Congress approved the extension of martial law in Mindanao on Wednesday, December 13.

"I would like to express confidence also that it (martial law) will not be expanded. Kasi dito sa Visayas at Luzon, ang insurgency dito ay kayang-kaya na ng maliitang deployment. At habang umuusad tayo, palagay ko magiging common criminal or police problem 'yan," he said. (In Luzon and Visayas, the communist insurgency can already be addressed by deploying small units. And as we move forward, I think that will become a common criminal or police problem.)

Año, the newly retired Armed Forces chief who is now supervising the police, shared Esperon's assessment. He was the first implementor of martial law in Mindanao.

"I don’t see any reason na mag-expand. Talagang Mindanao lang. 'Yung CPP-NPA sa Luzon at Visayas, very minimal. Kapag sinabi natin na talagang confined lang sa Mindanao, we mean it (I don't see any reason for expansion. It's really just Mindanao. The CPP-NPA [presence] in Luzon in the Visayas is very minimal. If we say confined to Mindanao, we mean it)," he said.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana already dismissed the idea of nationwide martial law during the deliberation that preceded the vote on Wednesday. (READ: Drilon: Martial extension 'prelude' to PH-wide declaration? and For the second time, Sulu lawmaker pushes for nationwide martial law)

"In Visayas and Luzon, the activities of the CPP-NPA are manageable so I don’t think it will be used to include Visayas and Luzon under martial law,” Lorenzana said.

Soldier killed, 3 others wounded in Zambo disco bar shooting

From the Mindanao Examiner (Dec 14): Soldier killed, 3 others wounded in Zambo disco bar shooting

A government soldier was killed and 3 others injured in a shooting incident inside a disco bar in Ipil town in the southern Philippine province of Zamboanga Sibugay, police said Thursday.

The soldiers, who are members of the 53rd Infantry Battalion and assigned with the 102nd Infantry Brigade in Ipil, were shot at dawn Wednesday inside the Planet Disco near the army headquarters. All the wounded were rushed to the De Villa Hospital in the town while police continue its investigation into the shooting.

But police gave little details of the incident and the investigator in-charge with the case, PO2 Romer Anggot, did not answer phone calls from journalists following up the progress of the probe.

It was unclear whether the shooting was connected to a brawl or if policemen or soldiers or communist rebels were involved in the deadly attack. The brigade headquarters and the 1st Infantry Division, and even the Western Mindanao Command did not release any information into the shooting incident.

Firearms recovered from Reds in Masbate clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 15): Firearms recovered from Reds in Masbate clash

Assorted high-powered firearms were recovered after a gunfight between government troops and seven mebers of New People’s Army (NPA) in Purok 7, Barangay Banase in Baleno, Masbate province on Dec. 8.

According to a report released on Thursday by the Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM), the military offensives against the communists were conducted by troops of the 2nd Infantry Battalion (2IB), 9th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army (PA) and the Police Regional Office (PRO5) and Regional Intelligence Unit (RIU) operatives at about 5:35 a.m. 

Lt. Col. John Oliver Gabun, Army’s 2IB commanding officer said the encounter happened when the army troopers led by 2nd Lieutenant Orville Jos Daniel B. Latap conducted their combat operation after a tip by a civilian informant on the presence of armed NPAs in the area extorting money from the villagers.

Colonel Greg T. Almerol, Army commander of the 903rd Infantry Brigade reported that “the 2IB troops recovered two M-16 rifles, a rifle grenade, a long magazine of 10 rounds of live ammunitions for M-16 rifle and subversive documents.

A number of NPAs were also wounded during the firefight.

Following the armed encounter by the combined military and police forces, Brigadier General Ernesto V. Ravina Jr, acting SOLCOM Commander, said government forces "will intensify our Internal Security Operations (ISO) against all security threats particularly with the CPP-NPA-NDF.”

CPP is the Communist Party of the Philippines and NDF is the National Democratic Front.

Ravina also assured SOLCOM’s full support to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s latest pronouncements in tagging the CCP-NPA as a terrorist group.

“All our operations are within the framework of the rule of law and respect for human rights to protect the Filipino People and to ensure stable security conditions in the area,” he stressed.

Disgruntled NPA supply officer surrenders

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 15): Disgruntled NPA supply officer surrenders

A discontented member of communist New People’s Army (NPA) operating in the hinterlands of North Cotabato yielded to military authorities, claiming the group was tainted with corruption, a military spokesperson said Wednesday.

Danny Lauda Andip, also known as "Berni", voluntarily surrendered with his rifle to the Army’s 39th Infantry Battalion in Arakan, North Cotabato, according to Capt. Silver Belvis, 39th IB spokesperson.

Until he decided to yield, Andip served the Squad Finance Logistic Officer of Squad Abe, Front Committee 53. He held the post for more than one year.

Andip revealed that a certain "Jecko," his NPA commander, has been pocketing the cash that were promised to them when joining the NPA.

Andip added that the budget for food supplies was not enough despite the huge amount of revolutionary tax the group had been collecting from multi-national firms.

“The NPA leaders inculcated in us that the government is corrupt when in truth the NPA leaders are the true vultures,” he told Army officials.

A tribal leader in Arakan town facilitated Andip’s surrender after previous fighters turned themselves in and avail of the government’s Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP).

Andip told the Army that a lot of his companions in the mountains of North Cotabato and Bukidnon are planning to bolt out of the organization “but are just buying time.”

Lt. Colonel Harold Argamosa, 39th IB commander, said discontent had been spreading within the communist organization and many wanted to get out and surrender but they were repeatedly threatened by their leaders.

“The challenge is on how to reach this individual in order for them to be enlightened from these communist deceitful actions,” Argamosa said even as he reiterated the government’s offer for them to take the right path and be integrated into the mainstream.

"We are always open for those NPA that would like to surrender, there are many ways in addressing your issues, taking up arms should not be the only choice," Argamosa said.

Senate approves resolution increasing military, police base pay

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 14): Senate approves resolution increasing military, police base pay

The Senate on Wednesday approved on third and final reading a resolution seeking to increase the base salary of military and uniformed personnel (MUP) starting January next year.

Senator Gringo Honasan, chair of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security and sponsor of Senate resolution 11, said that the resolution seeks to increase the base salary of all military and police personnel,

This includes jail guards, firemen, coast guards and those under the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority and the Philippine Public Safety College would double.

"The President has repeatedly made promises of higher salaries to the military and the police personnel. In support of this commitment, this joint resolution, if enacted into law, would double the MUPs base pay," Honasan said in his sponsorship speech.

He said that the increase in salary for MUPs would motivate those in active service to perform better and be more committed to the service.

Moreover, the, increase in compensation would encourage civilians to join the service and improve the recruitment process.

Citing a Department of Budget and Management report, Honasan said that the compensation package would result in an average increase of 58.7 percent for all MUPs.

Honasan pointed out that the base pay schedule of military and uniformed personnel or the MUP was last increased eight years ago.

Meanwhile, the Senate also adopted Resolution No.575, which calls for a review of the salary scheme of civilian personnel.

It was authored by Senate Minority Leader Drilon and Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III.

It is meant to bring the salary of civilian personnel closer to their military and uniformed personnel counterparts, whose base pay will be increased starting 2018.

Drilon explained that the salary of entry-level personnel in the military would surpass the salaries currently received by some professionals in the bureaucracy including lawyers, nurses, teachers, and doctors.

The resolution tasked the Department of Budget and Management to recompute and readjust the base pay of civilian personnel below and above salary grade 11 to bring the salary of civilian personnel closer to their military and uniformed personnel counterparts and eliminate overlaps in between salary grade allocations of government personnel to recognize differences in duties and responsibilities of the positions.

The new base pay rates for the civilian personnel shall take effect six months after the increase in the base pay of MUP takes effect, Drilon noted.

M-16s seized from NPAs in Nueva Ecija

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 14): M-16s seized from NPAs in Nueva Ecija

Government troops seized assorted New People's Army (NPA) materiel, including two M-16 automatic rifles, following an encounter with rebels in Carranglan, Nueva Ecija Wednesday morning.

The incident took place around 7:15 a.m. at the vicinity of Sitio Dalipawen, Barangay Bunga of the above-mentioned locality, Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) spokesperson Lt. Col. Isagani Nato said.

Nato said troops from the 84th Infantry Battalion were conducting combat patrols in the area when it chanced upon 10 NPAs, triggering a 15-minute firefight.

The fleeing rebels left behind two M-16 automatic rifles, two magazines, a sweatshirt, and assorted food.

No losses or casualties from government troops in the said fighting, Nato said.

"NOLCOM troops will persistently keep the enemy on the run and outbalanced by conducting aggressive, relentless and focused military operations in identified NPA lairs in the areas of North and Central Luzon," he added.