Thursday, December 21, 2017

700 former rebels meet with Duterte in Davao City

From the Mindanao Examiner (Dec 21): 700 former rebels meet with Duterte in Davao City

Some 700 former communist rebels faced President Rodrigo Duterte in a dialogue organized by the Philippine military on Thursday in the southern city of Davao, officials said.

Army Major Ezra Balagtey, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command, told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner that those who attended the meeting were former fighters of the New People’s Army who surrendered this year in the provinces of Agusan, Bukidnon, Surigao, Davao, Cotabato and Sarangani.

He said many of those who yielded to the government have received financial assistance and livelihood aid as part of the so-called Comprehensive Local Integration Program or CLIP. Others, he said, are still being processed so they can also receive assistance from the government.

“The former rebels who were from the provinces and who had surrendered their firearms to the authorities, and after undergoing verification processes are now the automatic recipients of the CLIP of the government which offers various financial and livelihood assistance,” Balagtey explained.

He said among the specific benefits that each former communist rebel can get from CLIP are P15,000 financial support, another P50,000 for livelihood, and a remuneration for the surrendered firearm with an amount ranging from P12,000 to P210,000 depending on the type of firearms that they turned over to the government.

Balagtey said Duterte also ordered government agencies to send their representatives to the meeting to help and hasten the processing of the rebel returnees so they benefit from the CLIP. “Various officials from different government agencies had also attended the event not only to witness but also to hold dialogues with the former communist rebels and offer talks on government’s social services, health, infra, livelihood, education, social justice and governance programs to help former communist rebels reintegrate to the society smoothly,” he said.

A number of former rebels have also joined the military’s CAFGU unit to help troops guard their communities from NPA attacks. “Meron mga dating rebelde ang ngayon ay CAFGU na at sila ang ating katuwang sa pagbabantay at pagbibigay ng seguridad sa ating mga kababayan at komunidad,” Balagtey said.

He also appealed to rebels to take advantage of the government’s amnesty program and return to the folds of the law and live a peaceful life with their families. The NPA has been fighting for decades in an effort to overthrow the democratic government and install a communist state in the country.

Duterte has declared a limited Christmas truce to allow government soldiers to enjoy the holiday break with their families, but the unilateral cease-fire would not stop law enforcement operations against the rebel group.

Army honors wounded relief troops in Northern Samar

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 21): Army honors wounded relief troops in Northern Samar

The Philippine Army has recognized the bravery of wounded soldiers who fought the New People’s Army (NPA) who attacked humanitarian response team in Catubig, Northern Samar.

Brig. Gen. Mario Lacurom, 803rd brigade commander, pinned the wounded personnel medal to Corporal Yzazel Laure and Pfc. Ronald Gomez on Thursday while in confinement. The Northern Samar provincial government awarded PHP40,000 cash and grocery packs to each soldier.

Gomez suffered a bullet wound in the buttocks while Laure was hit in the belly when about 50 rebels attacked them, triggering an hour-long firefight Sunday afternoon in Hinagonoyan village, Catubig town.

The military was heading to flooded communities to help bring residents to higher grounds and transport relief goods.

Top military officials condemned the attack of NPA terrorists against soldiers delivering food relief to families affected by Tropical Storm “Urduja”, calling it cowardly and inhuman.

Despite the attack, Lacurom promised that the military will continue serving the people especially in times of calamities. He branded the attack as a clear violation of the International Humanitarian Law.

“We deplore this kind of act of terrorist NPA that instead of helping the victims of disasters, they are making the disaster response complicated to the detriment of those who are already affected,” Lacurom said.

Despite the recent declaration of President Rodrigo Duterte to suspend military operations against the New People’s Army, the military in Northern Samar will remain vigilant and mindful of their safety during the holiday truce, according to Lacurom.

The ceasefire would run from Dec. 24, 2017 to Jan. 2, 2018 and the Palace expects the communist rebels to return the favor.

More rebels yield to Army in Sultan Kudarat

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 21): More rebels yield to Army in Sultan Kudarat

BAGUMBAYAN, Sultan Kudarat -- Eleven more members of tribal community in a remote village here have surrendered Thursday to the Army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion (IB) following a dialogue involving Indigenous Peoples (IPs), local officials and tribal leaders.

Lt. Colonel Harold Cabunoc, 33rd IB commander, said the surrender of 11 Red fighters, including an “Amazon,” came after local officials gathered tribal leaders in Barangay Sto. Nino, Bagumbayan for a dialogue.

“They all belonged to Platoon Arabo of Guerilla Front 73 of communist New Peoples Army,” Cabunoc said of the surrenderers, including Tata Isil, 22, a female warrior.

He said during the dialogue, tribal leaders aired their sentiments against the government and the neglect they have experienced thus many of them became easy prey of communist rebels who eventually duped them.

Cabunoc explained to tribal members of the government’s determination to help them and improve their lives, protect their ancestral domain “because it is only the government that is capable of doing it, not the communist rebels.”

Through the 'Balik Tribo' program of the military and the local government in partnership with Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR), parents, relatives and local leaders of those who joined the movement were asked to convince them to avail of government’s amnesty program.

After they showed up to surrender, the former NPA rebels had a tearful reunion with their loved ones who they missed for months.

“It was a teary and emotional reunion,” Cabunoc said, holding his tears. “I am very happy I was instrumental in the reunion of our IP people, very touching,” he added. “You will have a very happy and very merry Christmas celebration because all family members are here,” Cabunoc said.

“We spent not a single bullet in winning the hearts of our IP people,” he added of the outreach program he described as a combination of combat and civil support operations in the hinterlands of Bagumbayan.

“Ayaw na ng mga lumad sa mga komunista. Huwag nyo nang ipagpilitan yan, mga alipores ni Joma! (The IPs have rejected communism, don’t force it on them Joma),” he said, addressing NDF founding chair Joma Sison.

“We will sustain this, we will continue to hold dialogues with the IPs in the hinterlands of Sultan Kudarat to save them from the hands of terrorists,” the 33rd IB chief said. Bagumbayan Mayor Jonalette de Pedro lauded the Army efforts and vowed to support it all the way.

To date, a total of 101 IPs who joined the NPA movement have surrendered through the efforts of the 33rd IB since May this year. They all qualified to avail of the Comprehensive Local Integration Program of the government through the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

Cotabato security up due to twin grenade attacks

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 21): Cotabato security up due to twin grenade attacks

Security has been beefed up here and in adjoining Tamontaka, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao, following Wednesday night’s twin explosions that rocked two military checkpoints manning the entrance to this city.

Capt. John Arvin Encinas, Army’s 6th Infantry Division spokesman, said two vehicles, a pick up truck and a car, whizzed by the checkpoint of Task Force Kutawato and nearby detachment of the Army’s 39th Infantry Battalion at around 9:55 p.m. and successively hurled grenades at the two outposts.

No government troopers were hurt in the ensuing grenade explosions, Encinas said.

“The attackers zipped by the opposite direction going towards the direction of Datu Odin Sinsuat town from Cotabato City so they got away fast,” he said.

Only one passage, the Tamontaka Bridge, separates this city from Datu Odin Sinsuat town in the southern part.

Immediately after the attack, strict security check has been implemented on all vehicles entering and exiting the city.

Encinas said military and police probers have yet to identify the group behind the attack.

42 barangays in ComVal get more Kalahi funds

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 21): 42 barangays in ComVal get more Kalahi funds

MONKAYO, Compostela Valley – The Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has continued to provide basic social services in poor communities as it pursues operations in three towns in Compostela Valley Province for the Tier 2 implementation of the program.

The municipalities of Monkayo, Nabunturan, and Maco have conducted the Municipal Inter-Barangay Forum for Participatory Resource Allocation (MIBF-PRA), a criteria-based allocation of development investments where all barangays within the municipality decide what community proposals should be approved for funding.

Tier 2 is LGU-implemented incentive round for well-performing municipalities using the process of Kalahi-CIDSS and funded by foreign exchange gains from Asian Development Bank (ADB) emergency loan.

Joel Quiňo, Kalahi-CIDSS Regional Community Development Specialist, said the funds shall be used as an incentive grant to well-performing municipalities to address their pressing needs. During MIBF-PRA, community proposals are presented during the prioritization activity where community volunteers, municipal and national governments, non-government organizations (NGOs), community-based organizations (CBOs), and other groups and individuals in the municipality are gathered.

"People living in the communities know more about their current local conditions and making them identify their priorities is important in the formulation of development plans," Quiňo said.

The top projects prioritized are access road, community activity center, potable water system, solar light and multi-purpose building.

The three municipalities in Region XI obtained a total grant allocation of PhP20 million each.

“That is the essence of the Community Driven Development (CDD) program - the responsibility of decision making for the use of resources are crowdsourced, not based on a select few,” shared Judy Damasin, Gender and Development (GAD) Focal.

Kalahi-CIDSS is one of the programs of DSWD that uses the CDD approach to empower local communities to undertake their own development projects by actively and directly partaking in local governance in identifying their community needs as well as taking part in implementing projects that will address these needs.

Delivery of 2 missile-armed frigates still on track: acting PN chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 21): Delivery of 2 missile-armed frigates still on track: acting PN chief

Delivery of the country's first two missile-armed frigates, which are designed to be capable of engaging surface, subsurface and air threats, is still on track, acting Philippine Navy (PN) flag-officer-in-command Rear Admiral Robert Empedrad said late Wednesday.

"The frigate (project) has not been delayed. Tuloy-tuloy siya (It is continuing) and delivery time is still the same (first quarter of 2020) and we are going to process that," he added.

The Department of National Defense (DND) and Hyundai Heavy Industries signed a PHP18 billion contract for two frigates including its weapon systems and munition last Oct. 24, 2016.

But he admitted that the frigate program still has a lot of challenges to hurdle before being completed.

Some of the issues include how to prepare and train PN personnel to man and operate these modern ships, where to dock them, and where to source the missiles and torpedoes which are the frigates' main armaments aside from its main guns and secondary gunnery systems.

The acting PN chief said that determining where to acquire these weapons is a big challenge as torpedoes alone takes two years to manufacture.

"So we have to process that so that pagdating ng frigate ay may bala (na siya)," he added.

As this develops, Empedrad expressed his thanks to President Rodrigo Duterte for naming him as the acting Navy chief following the relief of Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado after DND Secretary DelfinLorenzana cited lost of trust and confidence on the integrity and leadership of the latter.

This was brought about by the alleged fixation of Mercado on one company to supply the combat management system (CMS) on the country's frigate project.

The CMS is the system which handles the weapons, sensors and other equipment related to combat.

The bickering on what particular CMS manufacturer to utilize has delayed the frigate project by some four months, Lorenzana earlier said.

Empedrad said he will be doing his job as PN chief and that he will do his best to keep the ongoing projects of the Navy moving forward.

"I'm happy to be at the helm of the Navy, and I would ask all the members of the Navy, sailors and marines to, let’s work as a team so that we can move on with what we (en)vision for the Navy which is to be a strong navy and credible navy that our maritime nation will be proud of," the acting PN chief said.

Holiday truce with Reds only on Dec.23-26, Dec. 30-Jan. 2

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 21): Holiday truce with Reds only on Dec.23-26, Dec. 30-Jan. 2

Malacañang on Thursday clarified that the unilateral ceasefire declared by President Rodrigo Duterte with communist rebels will not run continuously from Dec. 24 to Jan. 2 as earlier announced.

Instead, the unilateral truce will be from Dec. 23, 6 p.m. until Dec. 26, 11:59 p.m and from Dec. 30, 6 p.m. to Jan. 2, 11:59 p.m.

The clarification was announced by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. during the regular Palace press briefing.

Roque earlier said that Duterte has declared a suspension of military operations (SOMO) against the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) from Dec. 24 to Jan. 2.

He said the President decided to declare a ceasefire to reduce public apprehension during the Christmas season.

When asked what led to the change of decision, Roque said, “It is always the President’s prerogative to change his decision."

”That is part of Executive power. The President doesn’t have to explain,” Roque said.

In the meantime, the Palace official slammed CPP founder Jose Maria Sison for calling Duterte’s unilateral ceasefire declaration as “probably a sham” to deceive the NPA.

“If Joma Sison did not feel any spirit of Christmas because of the SOMO, well, I feel sorry for him. That’s what happens when you’re not here in the Philippines anyway,” Roque said.

“We should be thankful that the President is pushing through with the unilateral ceasefire altogether. He could have ignored it completely and not declared anything,” he added.

Earlier, Duterte said he was not keen on declaring a Christmas truce with the communist rebels following continued attacks against state security forces.

However, the President said early Wednesday that if ever he declares a holiday truce, it would be out of consideration for the well-being of the Filipino people.

"Look, if I declare a ceasefire, it is not addressed to the NPAs. Rather, I would want to celebrate Christmas with the rest of humankind or Filipinos na walang stress," he said in a media interview at the wake of Police Officer 3 Wilfredo Gueta.

"Baka sabihin nila walang ceasefire ngayon, baka magkaputukan then you put a lot of strain on the people. I will think about it. That would be my primary consideration," Duterte said.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) called the President’s decision to declare a unilateral ceasefire “a bold step”.

“It is a clear indication of his unwavering desire to bring sustainable and durable peace in the land despite the cancellation of peace negotiations with the CPP/NPA/NDF,” OPAPP Secretary Jesus Dureza said in a statement.

Duterte’s peace adviser likewise echoed Malacañang’s expectations “that the CPP-NPA-NDFP would do a similar gesture of goodwill.”

“Although arrived at unilaterally upon the President's sole determination, it is my personal expectation – and the public as well, I'm sure – that the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed organs will extend reciprocity to President Duterte's gesture for peace,” Dureza said.

The Department of National Defense (DND) also issued a similar statement.

“We urge those who are waging war against our sovereign government and inflicting harm on the Filipino people to spend this period in reflection and seriously reconsider returning to the fold of law,” the statement read.

Duterte declares Dec. 24-Jan.2 truce with NPA

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 21): Duterte declares Dec. 24-Jan.2 truce with NPA

NO WORD YET The communist New People’s Army has yet to announce its own ceasefire during the holiday season. —AFP

President Duterte has declared a ceasefire from Christmas through the New Year with communist rebels as a “gesture of goodwill,” a month after canceling peace talks and designating the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), terrorist organizations.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Wednesday said the President ordered the unilateral suspension of combat operations against the rebels from Dec. 24 to Jan. 2, 2018.

Mr. Duterte’s decision reflected the contrasting moves the volatile leader has taken to deal with the communist insurgency, one of the most protracted in Asia. The CPP will mark its 49th anniversary on Dec. 26.

“This unilateral ceasefire would lessen the apprehension of the public this Christmas season. We expect that the CPP-NPA-NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines) would do a similar gesture of goodwill,” Roque said in the statement.

 “Christmas holds a special place in the hearts of our countrymen. In the observance of this occasion, we hope that all Filipinos would stand together as one nation and aspire for peace in our beloved Philippines,” he added.

There was no immediate response from the CPP-NPA or the NDFP, which represented the rebels in the canceled talks.

Welcome with caution

Edre Olalia, a legal consultant for the NDFP, said in a statement that “we can welcome with abundance of caution the unilateral declaration of ceasefire by the Philippine government.”

“This declaration is not totally unexpected though. But it is especially curious because it comes at the heels of the rebel movement’s standing openness to declare its own (ceasefire) even before the government has apparently stolen the thunder to make it appear that the latter is magnanimous despite incessant vicious and outrageous words against the former,” Olalia said.

CPP founder and NDFP political consultant Jose Maria Sison described the government ceasefire as a “gimmick and deception” against which the NPA would always be on alert.

Speaking to reporters in Pasig City on Tuesday night, Mr. Duterte hinted that he would declare a ceasefire, but “not addressed to the NPAs.”

No-stress celebration

“Rather, I would want to celebrate Christmas with the rest of humankind or Filipinos without stress,” the President said.

“They might say, ‘There’s no ceasefire now there might be shooting.’ Then you put a lot of strain on the people. I will think about it. That would be my primary consideration. I do not declare ceasefires anymore with anybody,” he said.

The President said a ceasefire was “a unilateral action of [the] government to refrain from attacking.”

“A lot of people are going around, even at night, enjoying Christmas Day or whatever … going to Mass,” he said. “I do not want to add more strain to what people are now suffering.”

Roque had dismissed as late as Sunday a possible holiday truce, saying the rebels were “notorious for treacherous attacks even when there were unilateral ceasefires in the past during which we have lost scores of our brave defenders.”

Defense chief surprised

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who had refused to recommend a ceasefire, said he was surprised by the announcement.

“Last night? Where did he say that?” was Lorenzana’s immediate reply when asked for comment on the President’s decision.

“I was actually adamant. I didn’t want it. I didn’t recommend [a] cessation of military operations against the CPP-NPA,” he told reporters. “But if the President declares so, then we are going to implement and abide by the directive of the President.”

This was not the first time that the government’s top defense official was caught unaware of Mr. Duterte’s announcements and decisions that impacted national security.

Last year, Lorenzana admitted at congressional budget hearings that Mr. Duterte did not consult the Cabinet security cluster on such decisions as terminating joint military training exercises with the United States and plans to abrogate the country’s defense treaties with the United States.

Peace negotiations

The prospects of a peace deal with the communist rebels appeared high when Mr. Duterte pursued peace negotiations brokered by Norway and appointed left-wing activists to a number of Cabinet posts when he took power last year.

The government freed several communist leaders as a gesture of good faith to push the talks, but he canceled the negotiations last month and formally designated the CPP and the 3,800-member NPA as “terrorist organizations” following continued rebel attacks.

If approved by a court, the CPP-NPA would be the second group to be proscribed under a 2007 antiterror law after the Abu Sayyaf, a brutal Moro extremist group that was blacklisted in 2015 for involvement in ransom kidnappings, beheadings and bombings.

A Catholic priest and indigenous peoples’ rights advocate welcomed the President’s ceasefire declaration and urged the rebels to reciprocate the gesture.

“Thanks to President Duterte. God is really powerful and he loves the Philippines,” said Fr. Pete Montallana, coordinator of Indigenous Peoples’ Apostolate of the Diocese of Infanta in Quezon province.

Philippine National Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa said the ceasefire was meant to benefit the military and police, not the rebels.

Appeal to NPA

“It is for the soldiers and policemen whom [the President] wants to enjoy the Christmas, so they can experience Christmas with their families,” Dela Rosa said.

Local civilian and military officials in Southern Mindanao welcomed the President’s decision even as they urged the insurgents to also declare a truce “so the people can celebrate a peaceful Christmas.”

“We welcome this in the name of peace and will ensure that our units will abide by whatever is the directive regarding this,” Maj. Ezra Balagtey, spokesperson for the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command based in Davao City, told the Inquirer.

War on terrorists rages, displaces hundreds

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 21): War on terrorists rages, displaces hundreds

Islamic State (IS) followers were continuing their quest for IS to take root in Mindanao, leading to sporadic clashes with government forces that on Tuesday displaced at least 1,000 residents in a North Cotabato village.

The displaced residents of Tonganon village in Carmen, North Cotabato, sought shelter in Lawili, another village in the same town, when a group of IS followers led by Esmael Abdulmalik, also known as Abu Toraife, fled to Tonganon from Maguindanao amid military offensives against IS-linked gunmen.

Maj. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, head of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (ID), said the displaced residents of Tonganon had been given shelter in the village center and public schools of Lawili, where they were now being aided by relief workers.

Military target

Dela Vega said the military was after the group of Toraife, tagged as head of an IS cell in Maguindanao, which tried to hide in Tonganon where it was cornered by soldiers.

The clash in Tonganon wounded three soldiers and a militiaman, and killed five gunmen belonging to Toraife’s group, Dela Vega said.

Capt. Arvin John Encinas, spokesperson for the 6th ID, said it was still uncertain
if Toraife was among the IS followers killed by soldiers in Tonganon.

Toraife was a leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), who joined the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Liberation Front (BIFF) after top MILF officials struck a peace deal with the government.

But Toraife also later broke off from the main BIFF group with a few dozen followers to pledge allegiance to IS and wage an armed struggle to establish an Islamic waliyah (province) in Maguindanao.
Bodies not found

The military said Toraife’s group was allied with Abu Sayyaf and Maute, two homegrown terror groups that led the attempt to establish an IS province in Marawi City.

Dela Vega said the wounded government troops, including a militiaman, were now in a hospital.

But the bodies of the five IS casualties had not been found as these could have been either buried hastily or carried by their comrades, Dela Vega said.

Maguindanao base

He said foreign fighters were also seen with the group of Toraife but villagers could not ascertain their nationalities.

Brig. Gen. Nolly Samarita, head of the Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade, said the military launched airstrikes to prevent the Toraife group from attacking civilian communities in North Cotabato in retaliation for military offensives.

Since February, the military has been battling Toraife’s group, which had been based in Maguindanao where it had launched a series of bombings targeting civilians and soldiers.

Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, head of the Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom), said the military objective was to prevent Toraife’s group from getting near civilian populations.

Members of the group, said Galvez in a statement, “are known for harming civilians to avenge losses they incur in military operations.”

President Duterte had warned against the emergence of more radicalized Moro groups if the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) did not become law.

But he asked MILF, which struck a deal with the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III containing BBL, to be more patient should Congress fail to pass the proposed measure that would replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with a new autonomous government with broader powers.

The emergence of smaller groups of IS followers came after the government declared victory in Marawi, which IS groups tried to control.

11 BIFFs killed in N. Cotabato clashes

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 20): 11 BIFFs killed in N. Cotabato clashes

At least eleven extremists belonging to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) were killed, while five soldiers were wounded in armed skirmishes that began before dawn Tuesday and were still raging yesterday afternoon in Carmen, North Cotabato, military officials said.

Capt. Arvin Encinas, spokesman of the Army’s Sixth Infantry Division, said the military initially launched airstrikes on targets in Barangay Tunganon in Carmen town after confirming the presence of Daesh-inspired BIFF commander Esmael Abdulmalik, alias Abu Turaife, and his followers at about 2 a.m. Tuesday.

Abdulmalik leads one of three BIFF factions, and has long been wanted for raising Islamic State flags in areas he and his men infiltrate.

Encinas said the “well-planned and coordinated” airstrikes killed at least five followers of Abdulmalik. But a source from the military intellegence community told The Manila Bulletin that the rebel fatalities have already reached 11 yesterday morning.

Citing civilian villagers’ accounts, Encinas said, the bodies of the slain guerillas were taken by their comrades and were immediately in undisclosed locations even before soldiers could conduct ground clearing operations Tuesday.

And in that clearing operations, the fleeing BIFF bandits were still able to fire back, leaving five soldiers wounded, the military added.

The military operations “are continuing until Abdulmalik and his followers are neutralized or flushed out of Carmen, the hometown of North Cotabato Gov. Lala Taliño-Mendoza where the Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade has its main headquarters,” according to Encinas.

In a statement, Maj. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega, 6ID commander, said: “We are determined to defeat the threat groups and thwart them from doing terroristic activities in Central Mindanao. The continued support and cooperation of the civilian community should remain high.”

Abdulmalik and his followers reportedly shifted to North Cotabato after Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters backed by military troops engaged them in a series of clashes three months ago in Maguindanao.

The Maguindanao skirmishes left more than 40 BIFF and MILFF fatalities, it was learned.

5 BIFF members slain in military airstrike in Cotabato

From GMA News Online (Dec 20): 5 BIFF members slain in military airstrike in Cotabato

Five suspected members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) were killed in a military airstrike in Carmen, Cotabato on Tuesday.

Captain Arvin Encinas, spokesperson of the Army's 6th Infantry Division, said troops encountered at least 10 BIFF members in Sitio Misalan, Barangay Tonganon at around 2:30 a.m.

Encinas said an airstrike was launched after the clash, where five soldiers were injured.

At noon, he said they received information that five BIFF were killed in the airstike.

Encinas said two of the slain BIFF members have been buried in a Muslim cemetery near a mosque in sitio Misalan and the three other bandits' bodies were taken by their relatives.
He said the predawn clash happened as troops were conducting an operation against BIFF leader Esmael Abdulmalik, alias Commander Toraife.

The military has yet to confirm if Toraife was with his men during the clash and the airstrike.

Clearing operations are ongoing at the site.

MILF: Mayor Climaco is desperate, ignores current situation, historical facts

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Dec 19): Mayor Climaco is desperate, ignores current situation, historical facts

IN PHOTO- Mayor Isabelle ‘Beng” Climaco of Zamboanga City

“Zamboanga City cannot be, can never be, and must never ever be part of homeland Bangsamoro.” This is the consistent statement, obstinate stand, and stubborn rejection by Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabel Climaco Salazar of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Lately, in a talk show segment of television program hosted by co-anti BBL host, she was quoted saying “There is no MILF in the City of Zamboanga, and recently convened the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC)-Region IX that came up with a Resolution No. 06-2017 “declaring that there is no presence of MILF, and MNLF communities in Region -IX.”

Mayor Climaco is becoming desperate, and she is ignoring the reality in Zamboanga, and the historical facts on the pre-colonial existence of the Moro People in the Zamboanga Region.

In a Luwaran editorial dated December 16, 2017, the MILF said, “It is not good for her to deny the existence of these MILF communities/areas in this region; the facts on the ground, on the contrary, are overwhelming and they cannot be suppressed. It is like beating the surface of water which splashes back right into the face of the beater or person.

What a shame, and big lie!!! What has driven the bellicose mayor to desperation to shamelessly uttered such unfounded claim justifying her unwavering hardstand against inclusion of Zamboanga City to Bangsamoro? Was she in her state of sanity conscious, and prudently aware of her anti-Moro dialectic?

Such an act of provocation by the mayor is tantamount to declaration of war against the Moro fronts based in Region -9 communities. Are those valiant fighters in Zamboanga gone? Were all of them annihilated, and got martyred in protracted war since 1970? Were all of them gone forever leaving no offspring to continue unfinished task they have left of? Of course no. They are very much alive, and multiplying in numbers and existing in every community in Region- 9, contrary to Mayor Climaco-led RPOC declaration.

Such false declaration is obviously aimed, and bringing the attention of congress to urgently convince them to expunge the “opt-in” provision from BTC Draft BBL.

Will the Moros all over the island provinces, and mainland Mindanao allow her to successfully usurp a part of Moroland, and thereafter live happily at their expense? Even if the mayor has all the liberty in asserting her democratic right to freedom of speech, the Bangsamoro people should break their silence to assert their democratic right to freedom, and right to self-determination.

Most number of Barangay’s and sitios in Zamboanga City are Moro by name except for few manipulated, and concocted from Moro to Latin, i.e Sta.Maria, Sta. Barbara, San Roque, San Jose.... How can Mayor Climaco explain this? How would she unhook herself from the anomalous act?

There is no mention of Chavacano as a people in any Moro history books written, and authored by either Filipinos or foreign historians. What Book of history could you present to the world mentioning Chavacano existence before the Spaniards set foot to Moroland to affirm your claim on Zamboanga as the only “Latin City of Asia?” Which tribe or people can the Chavacanos proudly trace their roots?

Chavacanos existence as social entity was nowhere to be found during the glorious days of the Sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao. The Moro Tausogs were the overlord in western part of Mindanao, and Palawan. The Iranun, and Maguindanaon were the overlord of the entire mainland Mindanao.

Both the Tausog and Maguindanao existed before, and still existing until now, whereas the Chavacano emerged as a people only after colonialist Spaniards left the Philippines. Where were you in those glorious days? Were you hiding from the Moro overlord, the sultans?

An engraved historical landmark at the threshold of city hall reads: ANG GUSALING ITO AY SIMBOLO NG LUKLUKANG PAMAHALANG MUSLIM SA PANAHON NG PANANAKOP NG GOBYERNONG ESTADOS UNIDOS DE AMERIKA, 1906-1917”. It was then an attraction to every passing public. Now it is eternally blackened to conceal what history had to say about Zamboanga as capital of Moro province.

Mayor Climaco is being reminded by the Moros of Zamboanga Region to bear in mind that she can kill the dreamers but can never kill their dreams.

MILF: Marawi: Unable to return home, thousands remain dependent on aid 2 months after conflict ends

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Dec 21): Marawi: Unable to return home, thousands remain dependent on aid 2 months after conflict ends


Manila (ICRC) – It has been almost two months since armed conflict ended in Marawi City but thousands of displaced people remain unable to return home and are in need of help and attention. A majority of the displaced people staying in municipalities east of Lake Lanao come from the worst affected parts of Marawi City that have not opened for return yet. They are still dependent on relatives, the authorities and aid organizations.

Coming to their aid, the Red Cross recently distributed food and hygiene supplies to thousands of people still displaced in Lanao del Sur. Among the recipients of this assistance is Aisah Toroganan, a mother of five, who is currently seeking refuge in the eastern part of the lake.

Aisah and her family have been living with her aunt in Molundo, Lanao del Sur, since the fighting broke out in May. They left their home and everything they had behind once they felt it was too dangerous for them to stay in Marawi. “Where we live now, we are 34 people occupying three small houses in the compound. The place is cramped and we can barely find a place to sleep”, she said.

“We try to find ways to earn extra cash to support ourselves. I, for example, use my skills as a seamstress by offering sewing services to neighbors, but that is not enough to help us make ends meet. Most of us still rely on the assistance—especially food rations—that the government and other agencies give us”, Aisah added.

Aisah is looking forward to return to their house in Marawi once they will be allowed to do so. She hopes to receive seed capital to restart her business as well as cash to repair any damages of their house.

From December 13 to 15, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in collaboration with the Philippine Red Cross distributed half-month food rations and hygiene supplies among over 16,500 displaced people in five municipalities of Lanao del Sur. Each family received 25 kg of rice, one litre of soy sauce, one litre of oil, 12 tins of sardines, 1 kg of sugar, ½ kg of salt, two 20-litre jerry cans and hygiene items.

“We are in contact with the authorities, armed forces and non-State armed groups at the local level so they understand who we are and allow us to deliver our humanitarian response”, ICRC delegate Meher Khatcherian said. “To optimize available resources, we coordinate the distribution work with the main government agencies and other organizations. While they support the displaced people in the west of Lake Lanao, we focus on the eastern part,” he added.

Having continuously helped those affected by the fighting in this area, the ICRC enjoys a level of acceptance that allows it to deliver aid in hard to reach areas where other organizations have limited access.

The ICRC is a neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian organization whose exclusively humanitarian mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence and to provide them with assistance. The ICRC also endeavours to prevent suffering by promoting and strengthening humanitarian law and universal humanitarian principles.

MILF: CSOs unanimous in their call for BBL enactment

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Dec 20): CSOs unanimous in their call for BBL enactment

A large number of civil society organizations consisting of networks of people's organizations, non-governmental organizations, peace advocacy groups of IPs,and religious groups, labors, academe, and other sectors, are united in calling for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) by congress.
This has been the summary of the manifestos submitted to the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) during the Bangsamoro Assembly held at the old Maguindanao Provincial Capitol at, Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao last November 26-27, 2017 where President Rodrigo Roa Duterte was the guest of honor.

At least 67 CSOs submitted their respective statements asking President Duterte to urge the House of Representatives (HOR) to pass BBL into law. When approved in congress, BBL shall serve as the legal basis in the establishment of the Bangsamoro government.

"To sustain the gains of all peace processes between different Moro groups, and the Government of the Philippines, there is a need for the immediate enactment of the Bangsamoro Basic Law which is consistent with the signed agreements," reads the consolidated manifesto in support of the enactment of BBL.

These networks of CSOs are mostly based in mainland Mindanao, and the Island provinces with some few based in Manila, and in the Middle East with members who attended said two-day assembly.

According to the organizers, and based on the registration records, about 1.2 million participants attended the Bangsamoro Assembly. The event was convened in compliance with E.O. No. 8 issued by President Duterte last November 7, 2017 that mandated the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) to "convene an inclusive Bangsamoro Assembly as a consultative body to discuss the proposed BBL.”

Speaking during the event, President Duterte reiterated his policy on "correcting the historical injustices committed against the Moro people" at one hand, and the "preservation of the state" on the other hand. In that connection, his administration has been supportive of the peace process. He even said that he will asked congress to hold for a "special session" to tackle the proposed BBL.

Accordingly, said special session shall be held on the early months next year before congress adjourns on late March, 2018.

Press Secretary Harry Roque told media during the assembly that President Duterte supports the passage of the BBL. Asked about the timeline, Roque told that it shall be determined by congress.

The Philippine Star however reported lately that congressmen said "there is no more need to hold a special session to tackle the BBL." Instead, "they could pass the bill upon the initiative of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez," said the national daily reported.

House majority leader Rodolfo Farinas is also quoted to have said that Speaker Alvarez said Congress shall pass the BBL on March 21 next year. In another occasion, however, former House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. said that both senate, and congress shall pass the BBL by June 11 in 2018.

Recalling that the BBL of the expanded BTC version was certified urgent by President Duterte late September, this year, together with the tax reform bill.

Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim, MILF Chairman, said during the Bangsamoro Assembly: "We push for the enactment of BBL because we firmly believe it is the right thing to do."

Related thereto, it is important to note that BBL has been receiving popular support.

"We came to the assembly to register our full support to the BBL, as the more appropriate political solution to the Bangsamoro issue," MNLF Chairman Yusoph Jikiri said during the Bangsamoro Assembly. The current BTC version is based upon the "principle of convergence or harmonization" of the MNLF and MILF peace agreements with the GPH.

Likewise, Cardinal Orlando B. Quevedo OMI DD also expressed the same support to the BBL. "I strongly support the inclusive BBL that was drafted by the expanded BTC as it answers the centuries-old aspirations of the Bangsamoro for self-determination, and addresses the historical injustices against the Bangsamoro," he further said.

Timuay Melanio Ulama, an IP BTC commissioner, delivering his speech in Filipino, also manifested his support to BBL as it showcases the unity of the Bangsamoro, and that it's immediate passage into law shall fulfill the age-old aspiration of the Mindanaoans for peace with justice, dignity and real progress.

For BTC Chair Ghazali Jaa'far, "BBL is an anti-dote to violent extremism."

Very recently, recruitment by radical and extremist armed groups, particularly those ISIS-inspired terrorists, was reported. The fact is that, this extremist ideology is appealing to youth due to frustrations from the turnout of the GPH-MILF peace process, and the BBL fallout in 2015. To them, GPH has been just playing the fool of the MILF.

“The recruitment is now happening very, very rapidly,” Rommel Banlaoi, executive director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research (PIPVTR) recently said.

Very recently, President Duterte warned of "unrest in South" if the Philippines will not address the historical injustice committed against the people of Mindanao. He told that, otherwise, "there will be trouble," while giving his remarks during the celebration of the 2nd Philippine Construction Congress in Pasay City last November 28.

The warning was given in the light of the destructive aftermath of Marawi crisis where ISIS-inspired Maute Group, and Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom group occupied said town for five months since May 23 this year.


DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Dec 20): SUPPORT OUR TROOPS  |  AFP 82nd Anniversary




DWDD: AFP@82 | AFP 82nd Anniversary (5)

DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Dec 20): AFP@82  |  AFP 82nd Anniversary (5)

CAMP GEN EMILIO AGUINALDO, QC (DWDD) – President and AFP Commander-in-Chief Rodrigo Roa Duterte led the 82nd anniversary celebration of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) at the GHQ Grandstand in Camp Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

The theme for this years celebration: “AFP @ 82: Protecting the People, Securing the State.”

President Duterte presented several awards, assisted by Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero and other military officers to the family of a Killed-In-Action (KIA) soldier, to multiple Wounded-In-Action (WIA) peacekeepers and other military heroes who fought for peace during the Marawi Siege and against the terror group New People’s Army. MCAG / Photo by Amihan Sabillo

DWDD: AFP@82 | AFP 82nd Anniversary (4)

DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Dec 20): AFP@82  |  AFP 82nd Anniversary (4)




DWDD: AFP@82 | AFP 82nd Anniversary (3)

DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Dec 20): AFP@82  |  AFP 82nd Anniversary (3)




DWDD: AFP@82 | Arrival Honors for Pres Rodrigo Duterte

DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Dec 20): AFP@82  |  Arrival Honors for Pres Rodrigo Duterte




DWDD: AFP@82 | AFP Anniversary Static Display

DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Dec 20): AFP@82 | AFP Anniversary Static Display

CAMP GEN EMILIO AGUINALDO, Quezon City (DWDD) - AFP 82nd Anniversary Static Display


DWDD: AFP@82 | Celebration of the 82nd AFP Anniversary (2)

DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Dec 20): AFP@82  |  Celebration of the 82nd AFP Anniversary (2)

CAMP GEN EMILIO AGUINALDO, Quezon City (DWDD) – Select officers, enlisted personnel, civilian employees and stakeholders were recognized this morning, December 20, in connection with the AFPs 82nd Anniversary.

The awarding ceremony was led by AFP Chief of Staff Gen Rey Leonardo Guerrero, assisted by MGen Arnel M Duco, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel (J1).

The Order of Conferment:
AFP Enlisted Personnel of the Year – UO3 Joe Ben Salitre

AFP Model Civilian Supervisor of the Year – Ms Josephine Rhodora Amores

AFP Model Civilian Employee of the Year – Engr Liezel Reonal

Male ROTC Cadet of the Year – Cdt Col Elvin JhonBaal (1st Class) PAF

Female ROTC Cadet of the Year – Cdt Col Maridel Pillo (1st Class) PAF

Kapayapaan Award :

– Gov Ma Angelica Rosedell Amante – Agusan del Norte

– Dr Germiyn A Guiao, President, Deped Dentist Association, Tarlac City

– Gov David Suarez, Quezon Province

– Support our Filipino Troops (SOFT) Cebu; and

– Pinagkaisang Lakas ng Kabataang Lider ng Palawan (PIGLAS-Palawan)

Plaque of Appreciation :

Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship – GoNegosyo
UNTV Breakthrough and Milestone Productions International
Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office

After the awarding, Gen Guerrero gave his Anniversary Message. AES / MCAG / Photos by Latrell Spencer Del Rosario CEU