Friday, December 22, 2017

BRP Tarlac to carry relief supplies to Tacloban

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 22): BRP Tarlac to carry relief supplies to Tacloban

The Philippine Navy (PN)'s largest ship, the landing platform BRP Tarlac (LD-601), is now getting ready to transport medicines and other relief supplies for "Urduja"-battered Tacloban City.

"The PN's newest landing dock and largest vessel, BRP Tarlac (LD-601), is getting ready to depart here (Pier 13, Manila South Harbor) once the loading of tons of relief items intended for our countrymen in Visayas Region particularly Tacloban City that have been devastated by 'Urduja' is complete and the sea condition has improved for the vessel's safe navigation," Navy Spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna in a message Friday.

Lincuna said personnel from different PN units together with the crew of BRP Tarlac are now completing the hauling and loading of more or less 220 tons of assorted relief items such as food and non-food items like hygiene kits, medical kits, mosquito nets, plastic mats, and solar lamps consolidated by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Health and National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

BRP Tarlac is among the most recent acquisitions of the PN which allows the command to efficiently fulfill its duties in the area of humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

The ship has an overall length of 120 meters,breadth of 21 meters, draft of five meters and can carry a payload of 2,800 tons.

It has a cruising speed of 13 knots and maximum speed of 16 knots and a minimum operating range of 7,500 nautical miles.

BRP Tarlac can also carry 500 troops, two rigid-hull inflatable boats, two landing craft units and three helicopters. "It is a manifestation of the PN being always ready and committed in providing prompt assistance to our disaster-stricken countrymen in order to alleviate them from their current ordeals," Lincuna said.

Families of soldiers slain in Marawi get support from DTI

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 22): Families of soldiers slain in Marawi get support from DTI

Apart from helping affected internally displaced persons due to the Marawi crisis, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has also reached out to families of soldiers killed in action in Marawi City to start livelihood activities.
About 29 families of soldiers killed during clashes between government troops and a terrorist group in Marawi received livelihood support.

In a statement Friday, DTI said it provided the families of soldiers killed in action in Marawi livelihood starter kits, gift items, and gift certificates, among others for them to start some entrepreneurial activity.

DTI added that the agency also offered a financing program to these families if they wish to further expand their livelihood activities.

DTI said the agency also stands ready to assist in mentoring the families for them to grow their business.

“DTI acknowledges the ultimate sacrifice made by our soldiers who fought and died during the Marawi siege,” DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez said.

“In the spirit of the season and as a show of continued support from the Duterte administration, we decided to forego the usual department-wide Christmas party and use the funds instead to help the families of the slain soldiers,” Lopez added.

Marawi troops get 500 sacks of rice

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 22): Marawi troops get 500 sacks of rice

Showing appreciation to troops who helped in the liberation of Marawi City from the clutches of the Maute terrorist group, the Lim Seh Leng Foundation, through SL Agritech Corporation, donated 500 sacks of rice to soldiers stationed in the war-torn city Friday.

The turnover ceremony took place at the Armed of the Philippines (AFP) General Headquarters Conference Room in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

SL Agritech Group chair Dr. Henry Lim Bon Liong handed the rice to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and AFP chief-of-staff Rey Leonardo Guerrero.

"The sacks of rice containing 25 kilos each are intended for soldiers assigned in Marawi City. The rice donation is in support and recognition of the services of soldiers who are fighting violent extremists and terrorists," AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Emmanuel Garcia said.

He added that the distribution will be facilitated by the AFP Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel through the Western Mindanao Command.

The donated rice is of the Jasmine variety called "Dona Maria" with market value of about P95 per kilo.

"We are grateful for the act of kindness by our citizens who continue to appreciate the sacrifices of our soldiers especially those in Marawi," Guerrero added.

Guerrero hopes NPA sincere in ceasefire deal

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 22): Guerrero hopes NPA sincere in ceasefire deal

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero expressed optimism that the New People's Army will be true to their unilateral ceasefire declaration this Yuletide season.

He made the remark following the statement release of NPA's ceasefire, which mirrors the one issued by the AFP early this week.

The military's unilateral ceasefire will start 6 p.m. on Dec. 23 to 6 p.m. on Dec. 26, and 6 p.m. on Dec. 30 up to 6 p.m. on Jan. 2.

Guerrero said that he could only hope that the NPAs will be sincere in their announcement and not backtrack as they have done so in many occassions.

The AFP chief has instructed all military personnel to be vigilant despite the ceasefire and continue protecting communities from all forms of threats.

Activist shot dead, small miners tortured, almost burned alive in Mindanao – Karapatan

From InterAksyon (Dec 22): Activist shot dead, small miners tortured, almost burned alive in Mindanao – Karapatan

The small-scale miners, one of them a minor, show the injuries they said they suffered during torture by soldiers who also attempted to burn them alive. (photo from Karapatan-Southern Mindanao)

An activist was shot dead in Davao Oriental on Thursday, while two small-scale miners, one a minor, said they had escaped being burned alive in Compostela Valley, allegedly by the soldiers they claimed had tortured them for more than a week in Tagum City, Davao del Norte, the human rights group Karapatan said.

An urgent alert from Karapatan-Southern Mindanao said Edwin Magallanes, 38, of Purok Juan, Panikian in Banaybanay, Davao Oriental, was shot dead around 11 a.m. Thursday by suspected agents of the Army’s 28th Infantry Battalion.

Magallanes was a member of Abanterong Nakigbisog or Abantena,which opposed the entry of large-scale mining and the militarization of peasant and lumad communities.

In a separate alert, Karapatan-Southern Mindanao said Janry Mensis, 22, and a 16-year old it identified only by the pseudonym Jerry, small-scale miners and farmers who belonged to the Kahugpungan sa mga Mag-uuma sa Maco, were eating balut in downtown Tagum early in the evening of November 28 when they were accosted and accused of being thieves by soldiers they identified as “Medina” and “Cantoba,” who were with two companions.

“Medina and Cantoba then called the police and immediately brought the victims to the police station in Tagum City,” where police personnel interrogated them but eventually handed them back to the two soldiers after failing to find proof of the accusations against them

They were then taken to the 71st Infantry Battalion’s camp in Mawab, Compostela Valley where they said they were beaten several times by soldiers they identified as “Ferol” and “Cuevas,” who also allegedly took their money.

They were then locked up in a military ambulance inside the camp until December 6, or around eight days, but said they were fed only for six days.

Late at night of December 6, Karapatan said, the two were made to wear military uniforms, tied up and forced on board a military truck that took them to Baragay Masara where, they said, they were hogtied and gagged by around 20 soldiers.

The two said the soldiers talked of killing them before digging a pit before which the victims were strangled with a rope.

When they feigned unconsciousness, the two were dropped into the pit. The soldiers allegedly poured a container of crude oil on them and then set them alight before leaving the area.

“Janry and Jerry were able to run and escape the fire after the military left them, though Janry already suffered third degree burns,” walking for hours to reach home, Karapatan said.

But it was only on December 12 when they reported the incident.

NPA declares own unilateral holiday ceasefire

From InterAksyon (Dec 22): NPA declares own unilateral holiday ceasefire

(UPDATE – 1:27 p.m.) Communist rebels declared on Friday, December 22, their own unilateral ceasefire “in observance of the Filipino people’s traditional holidays and the (Communist Party of the Philippines’) 49th anniversary” on December 26.

The announcement by Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos, spokesman of the New People’s Army’s National Operational Command, came a few days after President Rodrigo Duterte declared a suspension of offensive military operations from December 24 to January 2.

The rebel ceasefire’s coverage, however, followed the two-stage ceasefire declared separately by the Department of National Defense — from 6 p.m. of December 23 to 6 p.m. of December 26, and from 6 p.m. of December 30 to 6 p.m. of January 2.

In an earlier report by independent media outfit Kodao Productions, Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison said the the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, which represents the rebels to now terminated peace talks with government, had recommended a a ceasefire running for the same period’s as Duterte’s.

Sison said he had also recommended that the rebel ceasefire order include a warning to the NPA about the “lying, deceitful, attacking and occupying characteristics” of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and paramilitary forces.

The rebel declaration released by Madlos said during the periods of the ceasefire, “all NPA units and people’s militias shall cease and desist from carrying out offensive military campaigns and operations against the uniformed armed personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and its paramilitaries, and the Philippine National Police of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.”

Soldiers and policemen “who have no serious liabilities other than their membership in their armed units shall not be subjected to arrest or punitive actions” and “may be allowed individually to enter the territory of the people’s democratic government to make personal visits to relatives and friends,” it added.

But it also included cautionary instructions for rebel units to “remain on active defensive mode in order to defend the people and revolutionary forces” and to “continue to enforce policies and laws of the people’s democratic government, perform necessary and appropriate functions of governance, and mobilize the people and resources in territories under its authority.”

The NPA said a “high degree of alertness and preparation” was necessary to prevent what it said was the deployment of military units to some 500 communities throughout the country during the ill-fated six-month unilateral ceasefires the government and rebels declared last year.

The rebels said they had received reports of at least 129 activist murdered since July last year, the “illegal arrests of more than a thousand activists and their supporters and cases of mass evacuations due to militarization, intense bombings and shelling.”

New Navy chief rallies personnel to work as one

From Malaya Business Insight (Dec 22): New Navy chief rallies personnel to work as one

ACTING Navy chief Rear Adm. Robert Empedrad asked Navy personnel “to work as a team” in the wake of the unceremonious relief of his predecessor, Vice Adm. Ronald Joseph Mercado.

Empredad also said the Navy’s frigate acquisition program, which caused the controversy, is proceeding as scheduled.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he lost trust and confidence in Mercado’s integrity   and recommended his relief to President Duterte.

Lorenzana said Mercado had been favoring a combat management system manufactured by Thales Group of France to be be installed in the two frigates being built by Hyundai Heavy Industries of South Korea.

Lorenzana said Mercado had been insisting on the installation of the Thales Group equipment despite three directives to abandon this stance. He said Mercado’s insistence was tantamount to insubordination.

Lorenzana added it is up to Hyundai Heavy Industries to decide on the CMS brand that would be installed. Anyway, he said, the CMS would be checked if they passed the specifications set in the contract signed.

The two frigates are being built by the Korean firm for P18 billion, including the weapon systems, under the AFP’s modernization program. The firm bagged the contract last year.

Many officers have expressed support for Mercado, saying he was merely pushing for a superior CMS produced by Thales Group.

“He is only after the better equipment for our frigates,” one of the officials said.

Sources said Hyundai Heavy Industries was planning to install CMS produced by Hanwha of South Korea. Hanwah’s CMS is reportedly less capable than that of the Thales Group but is cheaper.

“The Navy is a very dynamic organization and I am happy to be at the helm of the Navy. And I would ask the all the members of the Navy, sailors and marines, let’s work as a team so that we can move on with our vision for the Navy which is to be a strong Navy and credible Navy that we can be proud of,” said Empedrad.

Empedrad also said that the frigate acquisition program is on track, contrary to Lorenzana’s earlier pronouncement that it is four months delayed due to Mercado’s fixation.

“The frigate (acquisition) is not delayed. It’s continuing and the delivery time is still the same and we are going to process that. It should be delivered first quarter of 2020...It’s within the timeline,” he said.

Empedrad said the Navy is making preparations in the handling of the frigates upon delivery.

“There are a lot of problems that goes with the frigate -- how to prepare the Philippine Navy for the frigate is the most important one,” he said.

Empedrad said another challenge they are trying to address is where to dock the frigates once they arrive and where to source the missiles and torpedoes that would be loaded to the warships.

Empedrad expressed gratitude to President Duterte for choosing him to be the acting Navy chief, saying: “I am happy and I am going to do my job, as a soldier, as the flag-officer-in-command.”

NPA frees 2 cops in Surigao

From Malay Business Insight (Dec 22): NPA frees 2 cops in Surigao

COMMUNIST New People’s Army rebels released on Wednesday afternoon two policemen they abducted in Placer town, Surigao del Norte over a month ago.
Chief Supt. Noli Romana, Caraga regional police director, said PO2 Alfredo Degamon Jr. and PO2 John Paul Doverte were released at 1:30 p.m. in Barangay Mahanob in Gigaguit town.

The rebels released the policemen hours after presidential spokesman Harry Roque announced that the Duterte government is declaring ceasefire with the communists during the Yuletide season.

The two policemen were received by Surigao del Norte Gov. Carlos Egay and Surigao City Vice Mayor Alfonso Casurra.

Romana said the release of Degamon and Doverte were due to the operations of government forces and local government officials who negotiated to secure the freedom of the victims.

Romana denounced the abduction of the two policemen, detailed with the Placer town police station, who were seized on November 23 while manning a police outpost at public market.

“We have filed a case against the terrorist leaders and members. Meanwhile, we remind our police to be extra vigilant and observe personal safety always to avoid similar incident,” said Romana.

Romana disclosed that Degamon is set to marry his girlfriend next month while Doverte’s wife is four months pregnant.

Truce with Reds to last only 6 days

From Malaya Business Insight (Dec 22): Truce with Reds to last only 6 days

GOVERNMENT’S Yuletide truce with the communist New People’s Army was shortened from the 10 days first announced by MalacaƱang, and will be implemented in two parts.

The ceasefire will be from 6 p.m. of December 23 to 11:59 p.m. of December 26, then at 6 p.m. of December 30 to 11:59 p.m. of January 2, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said yesterday.

Roque said Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea informed him of the truce schedule yesterday morning.

Roque on Wednesday said the truce will be from December 24 to January 2. Yesterday, Roque said he was not aware why the truce period was shortened but said “it is always the President’s prerogative to change his decision.”

“That’s part of executive power,” he also said.

Arsenio Andolong, spokesman of the Department of Defense, said government declared the ceasefire to allow soldiers to be with their loved ones on Christmas and New Year’s days.

Reminded the NPA has been classified by the President as a terrorist organization, Andolong said: “This (ceasefire) not for the NPA. This is for the benefit of soldiers who want to go on leave, go on R&R (rest and recreation) with the families,” he said.

“Whether they are terrorists or not, it’s immaterial. This was declared so soldiers who want to go on vacation can go on vacation. But it’s no excuse to stand down with our current (alert) status,” said Andolong.

President Duterte formally terminated peace negotiations with the communists on November 23 after a series of NPA attacks, even while the peace talks were ongoing. Early this month, he classified the NPA and the Communist Party of the Philippines as terrorist organizations.

Andolong said that during the truce, soldiers will not conduct combat operations against the NPA but will also be on the “defensive” mode to prevent possible rebel attacks.

“We also directed our defenders (soldiers) to maintain their vigilance and be mindful of their safety in their areas of responsibility during the ceasefire,” he also said.

Andolong urged NPA members to go home and spend the holidays with their families.

“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,” he said.

Roque said government is hoping that the CPP-NPA-National Democratic Front of the Philippines would reciprocate the truce declaration.

He dismissed the claim of CPP founding chairman Jose Maria Sison that the holiday truce declared by Duterte is a sham.

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

Sison has been on self-exile in the Netherlands since the late 80s.

Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza and Roque Jr. expressed hope the communist group would reciprocate, if not respect the observance of the truce.

Roque said the President “has no expectations” from the CPP-NPA-NDFP but Duterte is “hopeful” that they communist rebels would at least respect the ceasefire.

“If not, then it will prove what he has been saying all along that the NPA are treacherous. So the ball is in the court of the NPA,” he said.

The President terminated the peace talks with the communist rebels and later declared the CPP-NPA as a terrorist group.