Thursday, December 28, 2017

More Townsville soldiers deploy to Philippines in ongoing fight against Islamic State

From The Townsville Bulletin (Dec 27): More Townsville soldiers deploy to Philippines in ongoing fight against Islamic State

A SECOND contingent of Australian Defence Force personnel has left for the Philippines to train the South-East Asian country’s armed forces in their ongoing fight against Islamic State.

The Bulletin can reveal that a second rotation of troops left Townsville in the past fortnight as part of Operation Augury.

While the Federal Government has refused to confirm ongoing details of the operation, the Bulletin understands a large contingent flew out on Saturday, following the movements of a lead group the week prior.

Last Friday, a majority of the first rotation, which left in October, returned home in time for Christmas.

Those soldiers, predominantly from Townsville’s 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, were among at least 80 Australian ­Defence Force troops making up mobile training teams to counter ISIS tactics to recruit from the region’s large Islamic community to push them towards extremism against the West.

Philippine Army soldier Sergeant Sonny Casuga practices urban combat techniques with Australian Army soldiers from the 3rd Brigade, at Capinpin, Philippines, as part of Operation Augury.

It is understood the second rotation is made up of similar numbers from 1RAR and other support units.

In July, 1RAR was certified as the ADF’s Ready Battle Group: the army’s largest, highest-readiness contingency force for short-notice ­deployments.

The Department of Defence said it would not “discuss ongoing operational matters including the deployment of personnel”.

But Defence Minister Marise Payne told the Bulletin that the threat of terrorism couldn’t be defeated by any individual nation, which is why Australia was committed to supporting the Government of the Philippines to counter the threat of Daesh.

“The Australian Defence Force’s training teams supporting the Armed Forces of the Philippines are making a significant difference,” she said.

“During the fighting to liberate Marawai, the Philippines Armed Forces proved themselves to be a courageous and extremely resilient and capable fighting force, especially considering their training and experience has historically centred on jungle warfare rather than fighting in urban environments.

“Through our operations in the Middle East over many years, we have extensive knowledge and skills in urban warfare which we are able to share with the Philippines, at their specific request.”

Ms Payne said Australia’s land-based work was supporting the Philippines to build their long-term capability to defeat the brutal tactics employed by Daesh-inspired terrorists.

At the same time, the Royal Australian Navy and the Philippines Navy have conducted joint maritime security patrols to share experiences in maintaining maritime borders and to prevent the unchallenged movement of terrorists and supporters between islands.

Ms Payne said that exchange of maritime experiences would continue in 2018.

“We are also contributing to post-conflict rehabilitation work by sharing experiences from other regional stabilisation missions that Australia has contributed to,” she said.

“We have seen the effect of extremist ideology and terrorist threats on millions of civilians and it is alarming to see this disruption come to our region.”

Bulatlat: 2017 Yearend report on the Presidency | Blowing in the wind

From the pro-CPP online propaganda publication Bulatlat (Dec 28): 2017 Yearend report on the Presidency | Blowing in the wind

Bulatlat perspective

The year 2017 should, more or less, show the policy directions of the Duterte administration. After all, the first six months of the presidency could be considered a period of adjustment.

Looking back, Rodrigo Roa Duterte was a dark horse for the presidency when he first sounded off then formally announced his candidacy. But almost instantly, his campaign gained traction. The hope for the winds of change to blow this side of the world was very strong.

Resolving the drug problem; curbing corruption; peace talks; an independent foreign policy; and concern for the plight of the poor and the ordinary masa fired up the imagination and hope of the electorate.

But now, in what direction does the wind blow?

On resolving the drug problem

The Duterte administration has been most consistent on this issue. In fact, President Duterte has been adamant and bellicose on his war on illegal drugs that he has dismissed all concerns regarding the spike in extrajudicial killings and violations of human rights. Not only that, he has even showered expletives on rights advocates and critics of the deadly way his war on illegal drugs is being conducted. And he has assured the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, for that matter, that he would defend them against complaints against human rights violations.

(Photo by Ruth Lumibao/Bulatlat)
Has it solved the illegal drug problem? Even Duterte administration could not claim that it is close to breaking the illegal drug trade and use.

On curbing corruption

President Duterte has been dismissing government officials, even those who supported him during the campaign for the presidency, whom he has accused of corruption, wasting people’s money, and/or extravagance.

He admitted that he could not monitor corrupt activities of government officials and employees up to the lowest ranks of government but he said he would not tolerate corruption from among his appointees at the Cabinet, Undersecretary, and Assistant Secretary levels. Recently, he ordered the dismissal of commissioners of the Energy Regulatory Commission and the Urban Poor Commission.

However, the 2017 and approved 2018 budgets reveal that still, the corrupt pork barrel system is still in place.

On the peace talks

President Duterte has declared that the enactment of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is a top priority because it is essential for peace in Mindanao. In late November, President Duterte has even announced that he is contemplating on calling for a special session of Congress specifically to fast track the passage into law of the BBL. However, in a speech, December 19, he expressed his opinion that it would be difficult to hurdle the “constitutional barriers” to the BBL.

The peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines have been blowing hot and cold. At the start of the Duterte administration, it appeared as if the substantial peace agreements would be signed in a year’s time. But recently, President Duterte has designated the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) as terrorist organizations. He threatened to run after not only the CPP and NPA but also what he branded as “front organizations.” President Duterte also declared that there would be no Christmas ceasefire, only to backtrack days later and declared the suspension of military operations, calling on the CPP and the NPA to do the same.

President Duterte declared a Mindanao-wide martial law when the Marawi fighting broke out. Now, he has extended it, with the approval of Congress, this time to intensify military operations against the NPA.

On an independent foreign policy

During his campaign and at the start of the administration, President Duterte has declared an independent foreign policy, specifically telling the US that he would cut ties with it and that he had been contemplating on putting a stop to the Balikatan joint military exercises and sending US troops stationed in the country home. He also warmed up to Russia and China.

Photo by Dee Ayroso/Bulatlat)

However, when the fighting in Marawi broke out, President Duterte allowed US troops to play an active part in the military operations. He has met with and warmed up to controversial US President Donald Trump. While opening up with the Russian and Chinese governments, President Duterte has now maintained the traditional relations of the Philippine and US governments.

On concern for the plight of the poor

President Duterte has once railed against the long queues that ordinary Filipinos, especially those wanting to land jobs abroad, have to hurdle to get a passport. Thus, he called for the extension of the validity not only of passports but driver’s licenses as well. Longer-validity passports and driver’s license are gradually being issued.

When urban poor residents affiliated with Kadamay occupied idle low-cost housing units for soldiers and policemen, President Duterte allowed these units to be awarded to the urban poor, promising to build better housing units for soldiers and policemen and warning Kadamay against doing another occupation of government housing units.

President Duterte also warned jeepney drivers, especially those affiliated with PISTON that he would run after them after the latter conducted nationwide strikes against the jeepney modernization program, which would phase out old jeepneys, require drivers and operators to replace these with higher-priced hybrid jeepneys and limit franchises to those who could afford fleets of jeepneys.

Recently, President Duterte signed a tax reform package that increased income tax exemptions, but would result in higher prices as the value added tax on fuel and other goods as well as excise taxes on oil, sweetened drinks, automobiles, among others would increase.

So are the winds of change finally forthcoming if we are to look at the policy directions of the Duterte administration?

Yes, how many times must a man look up,
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, how many ears must one man have,
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, and how many deaths must it take till he knows,
That too many people have died,
The answer my friend is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind.

Bob Dylan

Featured photo courtesy of Presidential Communications (Government of the Philippines)

Telesur: Anti-Communist PSYOP in the Philippines

From the leftist Telesur (Dec 14): Anti-Communist PSYOP in the Philippines

Police from the SWAT team walk past a resident during an anti-drugs operation.

Police from the SWAT team walk past a resident during an anti-drugs operation. | Photo: Reuters

The criminalization of organized dissent is the force of state terror against a shared communist vision of the world among the popular classes.

Psychological operations, PSYOP, are organized operations to modify behavior, influence reasoning, emotions or motives and make sure they align to the power structure.

Philippines: On the Further Extension of Martial Law in Mindanao

PSYOPs may be packaged as an educational campaign anchored on some academic disciplines and civil military operations such as humanitarian aid managed by legitimate armed troops in cooperation with NGOs, so-called nonprofits and funding institutions “helping” embattled regions to recover from wars and/or terrorist attacks.

A week ago, soon after Duterte’s official declaration on the Communist Party of the Philippines, CPP, and the New Peoples Army, NPA, being terrorist organizations, and its supporters as agents of terrorism, Professor of History, Lisandro Leloy Claudio, PhD of De La Salle University supplements this presidential announcement with yet another sound bite: “communists are morons.”

While he was quick to add that communists are not terrorists, we all know that a private school history professor is not in any position to dictate upon the president. There has been a strong push back from the mass movement on the labeling of their organizations as “communist fronts.” For progressive activists, this is an act of political vilification enacted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, AFP, that justifies extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance, torture, warrantless arrests, and the criminalization of political dissent.

Political dissent in the Philippines culls invaluable lessons from its own fraught yet remarkable history-making. For example, the above-ground character of Crisanto Evangelista’s Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (1930) and the subsequent crackdown and liquidation of its members and sympathizers, including Evangelista himself, impart significant lessons on the role of mass movement building in mustering a strong and popular counter-hegemonic force against oligarchic rule and imperialism.

The mass character of political dissent is crucial in building a truly democratic movement against elite democracy and imperialism. Therefore, the reinforcement of the AFP’s counterinsurgency program that is aimed at crushing dissent by targeting legal organizations which they expose as communist front is in fact an attack on the ways in which people organize themselves into alternative organs of political power based on the lessons learned from weaknesses of past endeavors.

So when Claudio claims that the uproar against his labeling of progressive mass organizations as communist fronts is misplaced as the AFP is already aware of this on account of its intelligence operations, he in fact misses the point entirely. The criticism launched against his parroting of progressive mass organizations as communist fronts is actually less an exposé on these mass organizations than a revelation of his right-wing sensibility. Claudio, like the AFP and other state agents do not bother to understand the hows and whys of mass uprisings, civil unrest, and political dissent. According to this mindset, the point is to quell dissent and liquidate all who are galvanized into action by an alternative vision of society.

Claudio further claims that communists are not only terrorists – an idea that has acquired the force of law and is therefore final, binding, and executory- they are morons, too. This makes the lives of communists super disposable as terrorists and morons. Claudio paints a picture not so much of the enemies of the state but of his own reactionary incapacity in trying to comprehend communists.

I also took the time to watch his “educational” video that aims to discredit people who are mobilizing against the current fascist regime in the Philippines. His main argument is that it is wrong to call Duterte a fascist president because he is not like Mussolini. Claudio avers that the confrontation between the people and the repressive state apparatus in the Philippines is not the same as what actually took place in Italy under Mussolini.

This history professor must be kidding. In any case, his Eurocentric notion of fascism fails to see how it operates in national and regional contexts. Fascism is a global phenomenon with historically acquired Asian, South and North American, European, African distinctions. In the same video, he tries to distinguish between fascism and populism by saying that the latter is a “rhetorical style.” Such lack of eloquence.

Yet I prefer to understand this very strange claim by making a generous inference: He must be referring to an approach to populism that focuses on its performative aspect. If that were the case, then it is disturbing how he can only deploy performative approaches to studying a powerful person’s rhetorical style while discrediting a people’s movement completely and properly mobilized around and organized against what it’s now calling “U.S.-Duterte fascist regime.” Performance Studies is definitely better than this.

Human Rights Day Marked In Philippines Amid 'All-Out' Repression, Drug War, Martial Law

A few days ago, he comes out with an essay explaining why he is anti-communist. He says he basically does not prefer violence. In other words, Claudio reduces all history of the confrontation between reaction and revolution to a question of one’s likes and dislikes. Worse, he reduces the stakes of the revolution to an enactment of violence. That the revolution is something of a spectacle to be contemplated from a distance according to one’s enthusiasms and quaint indignations is turning a concrete and historical struggle into a perspectival affair. This is an unfortunate academic stance because regardless of what bourgeois intellectuals think about the revolution, it rages on, worldwide.

Now this is the situation: Amidst Martial Law in Mindanao, the war on drugs has killed thousands of young and poor people, the crackdown on development workers, extra-judicial killings of human rights defenders, a history professor, with all his muddled ideas, thinks it’s showtime and high time for some attacks on the anti-imperialist and anti-fascist movement for national liberation in the Philippines.

In case this sounds familiar, it is because those of us who have been around long enough to live through the Marcos dictatorship and the subsequent pseudo-liberal democratic regimes know how state propaganda works. The whole structure maintains its monolithic national agenda that is attuned only to local and foreign oligarchic interests by criminalizing those who challenge the validity of state-sponsored national agenda.

The criminalization of organized dissent is the force of state terror against a shared communist vision of the world among the popular classes: the peasant-worker alliance, petit bourgeoisie, national bourgeoisie and special sectors such as women, church people, LGBTQA+, fisherfolk, informal workers, slum dwellers, church people, etc). This very act of state terror fails to signal that anti-communism is the zeitgeist of the spirit of the times. What it signals is that communism in fact is the spirit of the times that the 1 percent aims to exorcise.

Meanwhile, Claudio is teaching people how to hate communists and communism. And by doing so, he is actually teaching a lesson that is crucial to this regime’s survival. This is Claudio’s lesson: The commies are to be blamed for everything violent and moronic. And why is this a crucial lesson? Because once Duterte’s crackdown on anti-fascist citizens goes full scale, we can all be ready to say that “it’s all the commies fault, long live Duterte!”

Sarah Raymundo teaches at the University of the Philippine Diliman-Center for International Studies. She is the Chairperson of the Philippines-Venezuela Bolivarian Frienship Association. She also chairs the International Committee of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT). Her column Blood Rush where this article first appears is at

Telesur: As Duterte's 'Anti-Terror' War Looms, Philippine Communists Mark 49-Year Anniversary

From the leftist Telesur (Dec 27): As Duterte's 'Anti-Terror' War Looms, Philippine Communists Mark 49-Year Anniversary

New People

New People's Army combatants stand at attention during an assembly (FILE). | Photo: Jaja Necosia, The Breakaway Media

The NPA had launched nearly a thousand tactical offensives on the island and stocked its arsenal with enough high-powered weaponry to equip a “battalion of Red fighters".

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) is marking 49 years since its foundation with promises to continue advancing nearly five continuous decades of revolutionary struggle through mass organizing, intensified armed offensives, and continued efforts to overthrow the government of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. The party, which is illegal in the Philippines, has been waging East Asia's longest-running communist insurgency through its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), as well as base-building efforts in the cities, barrios and countryside spearheaded by the revolutionary National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) encompassing mass movements across the archipelago.

Philippines 'Anti-Communist' War: Indigenous Communities Face Displacement, 'Food Blockade'

In a statement by the Mindanao branch of the revolutionary NDFP affiliated with the party, spokesperson Joaquin Jacinto congratulated party cadre for their efforts and saluted the martyrs who have died in the fight to overturn what the left sees as the semifeudal and semi-colonial rule imposed on the people of the Philippines by successive governments in Manila, blasting the government of self-proclaimed “leftist” Duterte for revealing his “true character as a puppet of U.S. imperialism” who is loyal to the dictates of U.S. President Donald Trump.

“The U.S.-Duterte regime’s ‘change’ turned the economy for the worse and increased the suffering of the Filipino people: poverty rate increased, incidence of hunger rose, unemployment and underemployment shot up to new levels; the dearth of and disregard for social services, especially health and education, continue unabated; land grabbing and deprivation became more widespread and the displacement of peoples is at an all-time high,” Jacinto said.

In the city of Davao – a longtime fiefdom of the Duterte family – members of the NDFP clad in bandanas held a lightning rally Tuesday, occupying the intersection of one of the city's oldest streets and blocking traffic with banners as they spray-painted the hammer and sickle on the pavement. Similar actions were also held in Manila and other Philippine cities.

NDFP members stage a lightning rally in Davao City. | Photo: Jaja Necosia, The Breakaway Media

This year's anniversary is being marked amid a brief lull in hostilities after the NPA and the Armed Forces of the Philippines declared separate unilateral 8-day ceasefires to allow for the Filipino people to celebrate the Christmas and New Year's holidays without fear of military conflict.

Anti-Communist PSYOP in the Philippines

Fighting between the Manila government and the communists has raged in recent months following President Duterte's issuance of Proclamation 360, which ended long-running peace negotiations with the CPP-NPA's representatives in the NDFP.

The respite provided by the holiday season's silencing of arms showed signs of strain after AFP officials accused the communist fighters of breaking their own ceasefire when an NPA detachment in Davao Oriental allegedly attempted to detain a civilian combatant who belonged to the AFP-supported Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit paramilitary force. The attack was then followed by an alleged assault on a CAFGU patrol outpost in Compostela Valley where guerillas “harassed” civilian reservist irregulars, according to an AFP spokesman.

Separately, AFP main spokesperson Colonel Edward Arevalo accused the CPP-NPA of being simply "terrorists" and "criminals" and having lost any legitimate ideological basis, according to a bellicose statement released by Manila government spokespeople on Tuesday.

“The CPP-NPA-NDF (National Democratic Front) lost its ideological mooring and all its actions reflect a terrorist organization rather that what they claim to be,” Arevalo said in a statement.

NDFP spokesperson Jacinto, however, accused the Duterte government of disregarding international protocols and rules of engagement in his counter-insurgency campaign against the left, allowing the AFP to “literally go on a bloody killing spree.” Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police have been pursuing the so-called “war on drugs” which has claimed nearly 15,000 lives, according to some estimates, mainly encompassing small-scale drug peddlers and users as well as non-drug-related members of progressive organizations, such as human rights monitors and farm workers' unions.

A company of New People's Army guerrillas in Eastern Visayas. | Photo: Karlo Mongaya

Despite the attacks and imposition of martial law in Mindanao, Jacinto noted, the NPA has in this year alone launched nearly a thousand tactical offensives on the island and stocked its arsenal with enough high-powered weaponry to equip a “battalion of Red fighters." The NDFP spokesperson asserted that revolutionary forces are more than ready to face the coming full-scale conflict promised by Duterte and are aware of the sacrifices required in the armed fight. The famously temperamental president has recently has labeled the CPP-NPA as “terrorists” -- a move that many suspect was made to justify the extension of martial law on the island until the year's end.

Filipinos Remember Martial Law Under Marcos While Resisting 'US-Duterte Fascism'

“Despite the use of airstrikes, armed drones and prolonged focus operations, not one single NPA unit in Mindanao were wiped out,” the spokesperson continued. “The number of platoons and companies have in fact increased this year. In spite of the constant black propaganda, bogus peace caravans and the incessant parade of fake or recycled surrenderees, NPA Red commanders and fighters never faltered; ever willing to sacrifice their lives for the revolution and the people than be servile to the fascist dictatorship of the US-Duterte regime.”

The Communist Party of the Philippines was reformed on the basis of Marxist-Leninist-Mao Zedong Thought in Alaminos, Pangasinan, on December 26, 1968, following the stagnation of the previous party founded in 1930. The refoundation also occured amid the Sino-Soviet Split and China's cultural revolutin.

Aiming to rekindle the Philippines' long history of anti-imperialist national liberation struggle, effectively combat the repressive pre-dictatorship presidency of Ferdinand Marcos and break the country's militant leftists from the Soviet Union's hegemony in the world communist movement, a young Jose Maria Sison – then known by his alias, Amado Guerrero – and his comrades formed the new CPP for the purpose of forging a new path in what the clandestine party describes as the “new-democratic revolution.”

The party's foundation was followed by the issuance of documents laying out the party's programmatic and ideological basis as well as the formation and strengthening of mass movements in the city and the countryside. On March 29, 1969, the CPP formed the NPA with an embryonic group comprised of “sixty fighters, armed with nine automatic rifles and twenty-six single-shot rifles and handguns in the second district of Tarlac province,” according to Sison, who was also Duterte's former professor.

The party grew to a point that Marcos was driven to declare nationwide martial law on Sept. 21, 1972, opening the floodgates not only to widespread torture, repression and counter-insurgency against civilian communities but also to the rapid expansion of the CPP-NPA.

Given such history, members of the Philippine left are hopeful that in spite of the anticipated violent attacks waged by the Manila government against poor and exploited communities in the rural and urban regions of the country – or rather, because of such violence – the “U.S.-Duterte regime” itself will be the revolutionary left's primary recruiter.

A CHILLING MESSAGE//That sinking feeling: The story behind Navy chief’s sudden fall

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 28): A CHILLING MESSAGE//That sinking feeling: The story behind Navy chief’s sudden fall

Philippine Navy chief Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

The commander of the Philippine Navy was sacked on Dec. 18 in a move so abrupt that even the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, was surprised.

When word of it came, Guerrero assured the Navy chief, Vice Adm. Ronald Joseph Mercado, that there was “no directive” to fire him.

But less than an hour later, Guerrero texted Mercado to tell him that indeed he had been fired.

P15.5-B warship deal

Before that, word had been going around that Mercado would be sacked because of a dispute with officials at the Department of National Defense (DND) over the Navy’s P15.5-billion contract for warships.

Still, the transfer of command to Rear Adm. Robert Empedrad, who was sworn in on Dec. 19, came so abruptly it sent shock waves through the entire military.

A ranking Navy official, requesting anonymity, said the incident sent a “chilling message” to the military that anyone, even a flag officer in command (FOIC), can be relieved unceremoniously.

Mercado had supported the Navy project management team’s stand on various issues that came up against Hyundai Heavy Industries, the South Korean company that was awarded the warships contract.

A number of officers and other service members believed Mercado, in holding the line on the warship contract, was just protecting the Navy’s interest.

The DND, however, believed otherwise.

Canned by phone
Mercado learned about his dismissal while presiding over the year-end command conference of the Navy and the Marines at the Philippine Navy Officers’ Club in Taguig City on Dec. 18.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Guerrero were with President Duterte at the time touring storm damage in Biliran province.

Sometime between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., word that Mercado had been sacked came by phone, with an aide relaying it to the Navy chief at the conference.

Verbal directives are not uncommon in the military, especially if the decision had been previously discussed, but the written orders follow.

Mercado texted Guerrero about the phoned-in directive. The military chief replied in the negative, only to text an hour later to confirm to Mercado that he had been sacked.

What happened between the denials and the confirmation is hazy.

Benighted ‘guidance’

On Dec. 24, Lorenzana confirmed to the Inquirer that Mercado’s relief was decided on the night of Dec. 18—a puzzle, because Mercado learned that he had been sacked between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. that day.

“So while we were in Biliran, I directed General Guerrero to implement his relief the following day,” Lorenzana said.

The defense chief did not deny that Guerrero had earlier told Mercado that talk of his relief was not true, that there was no directive.

“Because that was the only time we received the guidance,” Lorenzana said.

He did not reply when the Inquirer asked if the “guidance” came from President Duterte.

In a news conference on Dec. 20, Lorenzana, his voice certain, said the decision to fire Mercado was his.

Unsigned letter

It was known, however, that he did not sign a four-page letter to the President recommending Mercado’s dismissal.

The unsigned letter was leaked to the press in early December.

In that letter, Lorenzana accused Mercado of delaying the warship program with insistence on tapping Tacticos Thales to install the combat management system on two frigates that the Navy was acquiring from Hyundai.

But the Navy’s contract with Hyundai stipulates options between Hanwha Thales of South Korea, a subcontractor of Hyundai, and Tacticos Thales of the Netherlands to provide the combat management system for the warships.

Lorenzana’s words at the news conference were exactly the contents of his unsigned letter to Mr. Duterte.

He did not deny the leaked letter, which pictured Mercado as an insubordinate and uncooperative official whose whims had delayed one of the biggest, if not the biggest, projects in the military’s modernization program.

Hanwha dissolved

An Inquirer source said one reason why Mercado wanted to go with Tacticos Thales was the dissolution of the Hanwha Thales consortium in July 2016, way before the contract was signed with Hyundai.

Hyundai, however, wanted to use Hanwha Systems, the subcontractor that had replaced Hanwha Thales, for the job.

The source said that Lorenzana and Mercado met on Dec. 3 and the Navy chief assured the defense secretary that he was not delaying the warship program.

Lorenzana, the source said, told Mercado that he did not sign the letter to Mr. Duterte.

In that letter, Lorenzana said he formed a steering committee headed by Defense Undersecretary for Finance and Materiel Raymundo Elefante to resolve the issue with the Navy’s project management team.

As head of the steering committee, Elefante had the “authority to resolve the technical issues” between the Navy and Hyundai, according to the leaked letter.

It also said the committee’s resolution “affirmed” Hyundai’s selection of the combat management system provider.

And it stated that the committee’s findings and recommendation would be part of the contract between the Navy and Hyundai.

Curiously, the letter also said that Mercado had told the DND through a letter “to proceed without haste on the execution of the project as per contract agreement,” which meant the former Navy chief had already agreed to what the DND wanted.

Breach of procurement law

At least two sources, however, said the formation of the steering committee violated the Government Procurement Act, which does not provide for a steering committee but for a technical working group to serve as the technical arm of the bids and awards committee.

Lorenzana dissolved the steering committee in the first week of December.

According to the leaked letter, the DND staff and Empedrad, as the warship program technical adviser, urged Lorenzana in August to direct then AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año to instruct the Navy to follow Hyundai’s technical advice to avoid further delay in the acquisition of the frigates.

On the sidelines of the celebration of Armed Forces of the Philippines Day on Dec. 19, Empedrad told reporters that the warship program was on schedule.

AFP after Marawi battle: On the slow boat to territorial defense or back to internal security?

From the Philippine Star (Dec 28): AFP after Marawi battle: On the slow boat to territorial defense or back to internal security? (By Renato Cruz De Castro, Ph.D.)

Government troops cross a bridge that Muslim militants tried to blow it up, to secure a village in the outskirts of Marawi city Tuesday, May 30, 2017, in southern Philippines. Philippine forces pressed their offensive to drive out militants linked to the Islamic State group after days of fighting left corpses in the streets and hundreds of civilians begging for rescue from a besieged southern city of Marawi. AP/Bullit Marquez
Since it became an independent state in 1946, the Philippine has been bedeviled by the perennial insurgency problem. As a result, the Armed Forces of the Philippines has long focused its attention, efforts and resources on containing domestic rebel movements.

During Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s nine-year presidency, the AFP launched a single-minded campaign aimed at neutralizing the various insurgent movements in the country by 2010. In 2009, however, the Arroyo administration was suddenly confronted by the ubiquitous Chinese naval presence in Philippine territorial waters and increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea dispute.

China’s belligerent behavior against the Philippines began when Arroyo signed Republic Act No. 9522 or the Philippine Baseline Act into a law in March 2009. Immediately after, China deployed a fishery patrol vessel, and in the following month, sent six more patrol vessels allegedly to curb illegal fishing in the disputed area. The Philippine government then realized the need to develop its naval capability to protect its vast maritime borders and its territorial claim over some land features in the South China Sea.

The Aquino administration’s shift to territorial defense

The AFP’s shift from internal to territorial defense, however, gained momentum when Benigno Simeon Aquino III became president in 2010. Then President Aquino spoke of “enhanced security” for national defense and put forward the country’s claim of the territories in the South China Sea through the modernization of its navy and the air force.

These official pronouncements relative to modernizing the AFP were geared toward redirecting the Philippine military away from asymmetric/low intensity conflicts (LICs) to territorial defense/maritime security. This shift required providing the AFP with the necessary equipment, technical training and expertise for external defense.

In turn, the Philippine military must train its officers and personnel to broaden their skills, knowledge, and capability in territorial defense instead of merely discharging constabulary functions, and undertaking socio-civic activities—a role it has performed since the Philippine became independent in 1946.

The Aquino administration’s defense goal was very modest--to develop a credible posture for territorial defense and maritime security through building a competent force capable of defending the country’s interests and the land features it occupies in the South China Sea. Despite this unambitious objective, however, the Aquino administration was immobilized by scant financial resources.

During its six-year term, the Philippine government acquired only two second-hand U.S. Coast Guard Cutter (The BRP Gregorio Del Pilar and the BRP Alcaraz), and signed the contract for 12 F/A-50 multi-purpose fighter planes from South Korea. Though the Philippine Navy acquired six Multi-Purpose Attack Crafts (MPAC), the Department of National Defense postponed the purchase of missile-armed MPAC after the DBM finally releases the funds.

Furthermore, it could not source the much-needed war materiel such as blue-water missile-armed ships, search-and-rescue vessels, naval helicopters, strategic sea lift ships and top-of- the-line interceptors to protect the country’s oil exploration projects and territorial claims in the South China Sea because of the shortfall in funds allocated by the Philippine Congress.

The Duterte administration’s one step forward, two steps backward

Before his inauguration on June 30, 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte declared that he wanted a closer relationship with China and that he would not continue the military modernization program started by his predecessor. His early statements indicated that he would not pursue the modernization of the AFP with as much vigor as former President Aquino. His newly appointed chief of the AFP, Lieutenant General Ricardo Bisaya, declared “that internal security will take precedence over external defense and that the military will invest more in speed boats and helicopters.”

Analysts and observers thought that Duterte would follow former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s national security policy of gravitating close to China while ignoring territorial defense and focusing on neutralizing domestic security challenges such as terrorism and insurgencies. The AFP’s modernization was linked to then President Aquino’s agenda of challenging China’s expansive maritime claim in the South China Sea. Duterte’s agenda to improve bilateral relations with China may mean that public investments to territorial defense would be decreased if not be terminated.

However, a few days after Duterte’s inauguration, his administration slowly changed his tune on the AFP modernization. Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana assured the AFP and the Filipino public that the Duterte administration would pursue the modernization of the Philippine military.

Lorenzana stressed that territorial defense is one of the priorities of the Duterte administration because “it is very important as we need to protect our territories against encroachment by other parties.” He added that the 15-year AFP modernization program will continue as scheduled.

He, however, clarified that there will be some “redirection” as the Duterte administration is determined to decisively deal with criminality, especially the Abu Sayyaf bandits, as it gives the Philippines a bad name due to a series of kidnappings of Malaysians and Indonesian sailor off the Sulu Sea.

In July 2016, Duterte assured troops of the 6th Infantry Division that he will continue the Aquino administration’s efforts to modernize the AFP. He declared that “there will even be no refocusing of the modernization thrust. We will only adjust our priorities (to internal defense).”

This policy statement is reflected in the 15 percent rise in defense spending for 2017 with the allocation for the modernization program raised from P15 billion (US$333million) to P25 (US$555million).

In mid-September 2016, the Department of National Defense announced it would sign a P16 billion (US$355million) deal with Hyundai Heavy Industries for the Philippine Navy’s acquisition of two new frigates and their weapons systems. This project is part of the Aquino administration modernization program that aimed to enhance the AFP’s territorial defense and disaster response capabilities.

The Duterte administration’s moves to build up the AFP’s territorial defense capabilities by acquiring two new frigates for the Philippine Navy underlined its intent to build-up its maritime capabilities while at the same time establishing a détente with its biggest maritime claimant state in the South China Sea dispute, China.

Despite Duterte’s and Chinese President Xi Jin Ping’s declaration that their countries’ long-lasting friendship is unbreakable, the two sides are still at odds over matters such as fishing rights in the Scarborough Shoal and on the role of the favorable PCA award in the planned bilateral negotiations to manage their territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

Furthermore, the Duterte administration also cannot simply ignore China’s maritime expansion given that the former is exploring ways of increasing the production of oil and gas in the future, with most of these resources located in the disputed waters.

The battle for Marawi: Revealing the resilience of internal security challenges

The AFP modernization program is divided into three horizons or phases.

During the Aquino administration, the government allocated P85 billion (US$1.75 billion) for the First Horizon that entailed the acquisition of military hardware both for counter-insurgency and territorial defense. The Duterte administration is supposed to implement the Second Horizon that would require the allocation of P125 billion (US$2.25 billion) for the acquisition of equipment primarily for territorial defense.

However, the occupation of Marawi City by local and foreign Islamic militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq forced the government to reconsider its plan to pursue the second phase of the AFP modernization program.

On May 26, 2017, more than 1,000 Islamic militants led by the Maute Group and flying the black flag of ISIS occupied the lakeside city of Marawi. The militants immediately took control of the city center, established and controlled several checkpoints on several key bridges, and deployed several well-armed and trained snipers in many of the city’s mosque.

Effectively, thousands of innocent civilian were caught in the middle of the city which rendered a full-scale AFP assault difficult and risky. The militants also positioned several snipers in the tall buildings which forced Philippine troops to maintain a safe distance from the center of the city.

It was also reported that several foreign militants from Malaysia, Indonesia, Chechnya, Yemen and Saudi Arabia fought alongside their Filipino counterparts. Consequently, the militants were able to capture a fifth of the city.

The militants were able to defend their enclaves as the AFP—trained and used primarily in conducting counter-insurgency operations in the jungles—found it difficult to wage an effectively urban warfare against well-armed Islamic militants who were prepared to sacrifice their lives for their cause.

Frustrated by its initial attempts to liberate the city, the Philippine military adopted a strategy of destroying the city in order to save it. The AFP waged a face-to-face urban warfare against the militants as they rooted them out through house-to-house and building-by-building fighting.

The Philippine Air Force used its attack helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft to bombard the militants’ positions in the city. The Philippine Army and marines relied heavily on air-support, artillery and armor personnel carriers to neutralize the militants’ strongholds in the city.

After four months of bloody scorched-earth combat, the AFP took control of Marawi City in late October 2017.

Seeking the balance between internal security and territorial defense
The four-month battle for Marawi City uncovered several challenges that the AFP faces in the second decade of the 21st century.

Despite some efforts to develop its territorial defense capabilities since 2010, the AFP remains deficient in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. It also lacks basic infantry equipment such as bullet-proof vests, helmets, night-vision goggles, bullets, ordinance, modern ground-attack aircraft and even tanks.

It also exposed a major structural problem that as the AFP tries to modernize its capabilities to confront a vast array of new challenges; the resilience of internal security threats has not only altered the country’s security perceptions, but also imposed greater resource constraints as it seeks to improve its overall capabilities.

In August 2017, during the height of the battle for Marawi City, Duterte asked the Congress to provide funding for additional 20,000 troops. With only about 130,000 personnel spread all over the country, there is now a concern that the AFP’s ability to deal with a range of internal and external security threats following decades of strategic slack and underinvestment in national defense.

The most important challenge the AFP faces, however, is seeking the appropriate balance between internal and external security considerations that has long bedeviled any attempts to modernize the Philippine military.

With a budget amounting to less than one percent of the country’s gross domestic product, how can the AFP address a spectrum of security challenges such as insurgencies, natural disasters, unresolved territorial and sovereignty issues with neighboring states, and increasing geo-strategic competition among the great powers in East Asia?

[Renato Cruz De Castro, Ph.D. is a trustee and program convenor for foreign policy and regional security at the Stratbase Albert Del Rosario Institute (ADRi) and a professor at the De La Salle University.]

DWDD: ENHANCED CAPABILITY | Special Forces Assault Boats deployed in Davao Gulf

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Dec 28): ENHANCED CAPABILITY  |  Special Forces Assault Boats deployed in Davao Gulf

NSFA, Panacan, Davao City (DWDD) – Two Assault Boats from the Special Forces Regiment Airborne (SFRA) has been turned over to Eastern Mindanao Command following its arrival in the afternoon of December 26, 2017, here at Naval Station Felix Apolinario, Panacan, Davao City.

The said equipment has been formally turned over to Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. Madrigal Jr., Commander of Eastern Mindanao Command by Brigadier General Ramiro Manuel A. Rey, Commander of the SFRA in a simple military ceremony.

In his acceptance remarks, Lt. Gen. Madrigal gave thanks to the AFP Leadership for attending to the need of the Command. Further, he recognized the assault boat as an added capability in securing the municipal waters in the area of responsibility, particularly Davao Gulf, to preempt terrorists, piracy and other security threats that are using the sea lanes.

Aside from its counter/anti-terrorist capability, the boats which are manned by Special Forces Riverine troopers can also be deployed in the conduct of water search and rescue operations.

The boats will be initially deployed with Joint Task Force Haribon which has the jurisdiction of Mega Davao.EMC/MCAG

DWDD: DECEPTIVE MOVES | NPA’s Violate their own Ceasefire Declaration

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Dec 28): DECEPTIVE MOVES  |  NPA’s Violate their own Ceasefire Declaration

CAMP GEN EMILIO AGUINALDO, Quezon City (DWDD) – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) strongly condemns the clear violation of the New People’s Army (NPA) of their own ceasefire declaration as evidenced by recent attacks on our troops.

The NPA’s harassment of a military patrol base on December 25, and attempted abduction of CAA member on December 26 are clear violations of their own declaration.

These show the duplicity and deception of the Communist Terrorists in saying one thing while doing the opposite.

Such treacherous attacks are expected of the NPA despite their ceasefire declaration since they have, for the longest time, lost their ideological mooring and resorted to actions reflective of a terrorist organization.

The AFP meanwhile will remain faithful to the government’s yuletide ceasefire and will remain on active defense. Our units and troops on the ground will remain ready to respond to any violent threat or attack that may be perpetrated by the NPA against our people and vulnerable communities

We call on our lost brothers in the NPA to reassess their stand and take the peaceful path to peace and return to the folds of the law so that they can be with their families and become productive citizens of the community. AFP /

MNLF-IIO: Some Golden Advice of MNLF Found Chairman Prof. Nur P Misuari for Mujahiden and Mujahidat

Posted to the Moro National Liberation Front-International Information Office Website (Dec 28): Some Golden Advice of MNLF Found Chairman Prof. Nur P Misuari for Mujahiden and Mujahidat

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing and text







MILF: Political rivalry seen behind the endless armed conflict in Pagalungan

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Dec 28): Political rivalry seen behind the endless armed conflict in Pagalungan

Political rivalry is seen behind the decade-old armed conflict in Pagalungan, not a ‘rido’ or family feud as reported by local police of Pagalungan, Maguindanao. The protagonists engaged anew in armed clash last December 15, 2017 in said town.

At around 4:30am on said date, some 140 fully armed men attacked Barangay Inug-ug, Pagalungan, the stronghold of ABC President Mokamad Andoy.

The attackers used high powered/sophisticated automatic rifles, such as; M60 Machinegun, 60mm mortal, 50 Caliber Barrette Sniper, and M2O3 Grenade Launchers to the position of Andoy’s 13 armed men in an abandoned military bunker, reliable sources said.

The skirmishes lasted for almost 10 hours resulting to the displacement of more than 700 families in three (3) affected Barangays of Inug-ug, Kudal and Bagoinged. The intense firefight subsided at around 4:00 in the afternoon when the IMT, CCCH members arrived, and pacified the leaders of the two (2) armed groups.

The attackers suffered one (1) casualty with five wounded. No reported casualty on the other side, report said.

The conflict between two distant relatives are utilizing their respective relatives in the two Moro Fronts without the sanction of the organizations. It seems the LGU’s, and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are hapless, and hopeless on the endless political animosity amidst thousands of civilian victims who are forced to evacuate to safer places.

The conflict in Pagalungan needs immediate solution, and the armed forces, provincial, and regional officials, and the executive department should enter into the scene, otherwise it may prolong the sufferings, and agony of the civilian populace.

A local group of peace workers is calling the attention of President Rodrigo Duterte to cause the investigation of alleged direct involvement of some LGU’s in the armed conflict where public funds are diverted in sustaining the armed groups to sow terror in broad daylight to pursue their interest.

The Municipality of Pagalungan is one of the oldest towns in Maguindanao. But if compared to the adjacent municipalities in North Cotabato, the municipality is obviously left behind for almost 50 years.

For its part, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have already dispatched members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) who are encamped in the boundaries of two warring parties as a buffer zone.

The conflict started sometime in 2008 during the reign of the late mayor Norodin Matalam, son of the late Grand Oldman of Maguindanao. He then declared and promised in public that ABC President Andoy would be his running mate in coming election. But it was not fulfilled, and the political division thus emerged, and aggravated when the late mayor Matalam nominated another person.

The decision so embarrassed Andoy, and due to his disappointment, he filed his candidacy for the position of municipal mayor opposing the late mayor Matalam in year 2013.

The MILF leadership exerted all efforts to resolve the armed conflict but lasting solution to the rivalry is too elusive to realize.

DOJ to charge military officers, several others for slay of Italian missionary

Posted to InterAksyon (Dec 28): DOJ to charge military officers, several others for slay of Italian missionary

Fr. Fausto 'Pops' Tentorio (image from

The Department of Justice will be filing murder charges against two military officers, a militia commander, and several others over the 2011 killing of an Italian priest in Arakan, Cotabato after the National Bureau of Investigation asked to withdraw the original case it filed before the provincial prosecutor.

Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong said the complaint filed by the NBI had to be withdrawn “kasi po merong (because there were) fall guys” named in it.

Once withdrawn, “the next step is to file a new complaint against the recommended people,” Ong said. These are:

Lt. Col. Joven Gonzales

Major Mark Espiritu

Jimmy Ato

Roberto Ato

Jan Corbala

Nene Durado

Kaing Labi

Joseph Basol

Edgar Enoc

Romulo Tapgos

William Buenaflor

several “Richard Does,” soldiers operating near the Arakan Elementary School at the time of the murder

several “John Does” and “Jane Does”

Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio of the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions was shot dead inside the compound of the Our Mother of Perpetual Help Parish on October 17, 2011 as he was about to leave for a meeting at the bishop’s palace in Kidapawan City.

A known lumad and environmental advocate who helped organize indigenous people’s communities campaigning against the entry of large-scale mining into their communities, Tentorio had earned the ire of local militias and the military, who suspected him of supporting communist rebels.

Despite this, Ong said the DOJ is ruling out any political angle in Tentorio’s murder.

“You have no reason to kill a person who is not a combatant. It is plain murder. No politics here. This has nothing to do with the NPA (New People’s Army). This is simple murder,” he said.

Ong, who said he finished in November the re-investigation he started in May, quoted witnesses as saying Tentorio’s killing was planned seven days before the hit.

“When I met 30 witnesses in July sa Arakan, very spontaneous pa rin ang kwento nila (in Arakan, they were very spontaneous in their accounts),” he said. “They aren’t worried. They are willing to testify.”

A key witness, Danilo Bayawan, told the DOJ he attended a meeting called by Corbala, a leader of the “Bagani Special Force,” to plan the hit on Tentorio.

At the meeting, Corbala allegedly said he had been ordered by the military to kill Tentorio and given money and a motorcycle to carry out the plot.

Bayawan backed out of the plot and later decided to tell authorities what he knew.

PH, France commit to strengthen fight vs terrorism

From Update Philippines (Dec 28): PH, France commit to strengthen fight vs terrorism

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Wednesday said the Philippines and French governments agreed to strengthen cooperation against terrorism. The government is currently striving to rebuild Marawi City, which suffered damages after an almost five-month long fight with Islamic State-inspired terror groups.

France is no stranger to acts of terrorism. Over the past few years, France was among Western countries to suffer from terror attacks.

In July 2016, at least 84 people were killed, including children, after a cargo truck slammed into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France.

According to the DFA, the consultations held last week came after the adoption of the Joint Declaration on the Enhanced Partnership between the two states in 2015.

Cited as “historic,” the DFA noted it was also in line with the two countries’ celebration of 70 years of diplomatic relations.

Aside from cooperation to counter terrorism, the consultations also featured agreement to increase economic engagement through implementation of agreed programs and projects in the crucial sectors of agriculture, infrastructure, tourism, science and technology, digital economy and creative industry, among others.

A review of initiatives to increase people-to-people exchanges was likewise undertaken.

Further, they acknowledged that agreements on social security and cultural cooperation need to be reinvigorated.

The Philippine delegation, led by DFA Undersecretary for Policy Enrique Manalo, was comprised of officials from DFA and other government agencies, such as the Department of Agriculture, Department of National Defense, Department of Trade and Industry, and National Economic and Development Authority.

The French delegation, on the other hand, was led by Director Thierry Mathou of the Directorate for Asia and Oceania of the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs.

Mathou was the French Ambassador to the Philippines from November 2015 – July 2017.

Negros ceasefire holding

From the Visayan Daily Star (Dec 28): Negros ceasefire holding

The unilateral ceasefires declared by the Philippine government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army appear to be initially holding, in the absence of insurgency-related incidents, before and after the 49th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines on Dec. 26 in Negros Island.

But the Army's 3rd Infantry Division and the NPA's Leonardo Panaligan Command in central Negros traded accusations of human rights abuses and extortion activities.

The government and NPA unilateral ceasefires took effect Dec. 23 to 26 and will resume Dec. 30 to Jan. 2.

Local rebel spokesman Ka JB Regalado accused the 3ID and 303rd Infantry Brigade of being behind the alleged killing of nine civilians in Guihulngan City.

The NPA also accused the military of being opportunists, blaming them for the proliferation of solicitation letters with the name and logo of the CPP-NPA, asking for cash and rice.

Regalado condemned the AFP for such actions.

Capt. Ruel Llanes, Civil Military Operations officer of the 303rd Infantry Brigade, said “We all know how they (CPP-NPA) deceive people in the far-flung barangays”.
“Soldiers are not criminals like them. We protect the people from them who do extortion. We don't do such act,” Llanes added.

Capt. Eduardo Precioso, spokesman of the 3ID, dismissed the repeated accusations against them as a “desperate move” of the CPP-NPA.

Precioso stressed that the Army has been leading in the elimination of terrorists in the country, and that they have been trying to cut off the logistics of the CPP-NPA from extortion in the past decades.

We are very effective due to cooperation of the victims of extortion, murder, arson and other inhuman acts leading to terrorism, he added.

Most likely, the CPP-NPA have felt the effects of declaring them as a terrorist organization by the government, Precioso also said.

Most of their leaders are conducting extortion for their terrorism activities and personal advancement, he added.

Regalado, meanwhile, claimed that their strength rose by 20 percent. He also said they conducted 20 successful tactical offensives in central Negros, killing 21 government forces, including the six policemen in Guihulngan, and recovered 30 firearms and thousands of ammunition.

Peace talks with Reds in 2018? 'Malabo,' says Palace

From Rappler (Dec 28): Peace talks with Reds in 2018? 'Malabo,' says Palace

'Dahil nga po sa katraydoran nila, baka malabo na po iyan,' says the Palace spokesperson

PEACE THEN. President Rodrigo Duterte pose for a photo with members of the Government of the Philippines and National Democratic Front peace panels following their meeting in Malacañang State Dining Room on September 26. File photo by Rey Baniquet/PPD

PEACE THEN. President Rodrigo Duterte pose for a photo with members of the Government of the Philippines and National Democratic Front peace panels following their meeting in Malacañang State Dining Room on September 26. File photo by Rey Baniquet/PPD

Citing their “treachery,” Palace spokesman Secretary Harry Roque said on Thursday, December 28 that peace talks with Philippine communists are unlikely in the coming year.

“Dahil nga po sa katraydoran nila, baka malabo na po iyan (Because of their treachery, that seems unlikely),” said Roque in a radio interview over dwFM.

The Dutere administration’s relationship with Philippine communists has been shaky in its first year-and-a-half. Hopes of peace rang high even before the start of the term of President Rodrigo Duterte, who had proclaimed himself leftist during the campaign.

During his first State of the Nation Address, Duterte declared a ceasefire against the New Peoples Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). But as talks progressed, apparent attacks from the NPA continued, prompting the President to stop the ceasefire and eventually, the talk themselves.

Following tradition, the Philippine government declared a holiday ceasefire that started on December 24, 2017 and will end on January 2, 2018. The NPA, in turn, declared a ceasefire from December 23 to 26, 2017.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), however, said the NPA broke this ceasefire, citing attacks in two Davao Oriental towns. (READ: Duterte's romance with the Reds)

“Well, basta tayo ay hindi tayo nagtaksil sa ating pangako. Tayo po ay may isang salita. Hayaan na natin ang mga NPA na ipakita ang tunay nilang anyo na mga traydor. Pero ang mandato po ng Presidente, tuloy pa rin ang ceasefire para sa Bagong Taon,” said Roque, when asked about these attacks. (We won’t turn back on our promise. We have one word. Let the NPA show their true colors are traitors. But the President’s mandate is to follow the ceasefire until the new year.)

Roque added, however, that soldiers may use force in self-defense.

5 communist guerrillas yield

From the Mindanao Times (Dec 28): 5 communist guerrillas yield

FIVE New People’s Army (NPA) rebels and two members of the Militia ng Bayan surrendered to the soldiers of 23rd Infantry Battalion in Agusan del Norte on Saturday, Dec. 23.
Maj. Ezra Balagtey, spokesperson of Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom), said their surrender came two days after the President met the 683 former rebels and supporters who surrendered to the authorities in Naval Station Felix Apolinario Panacan last Thursday.

Balagtey said the five NPAs (whose names are withheld) surrendered in Barangay Alubihid, Buenavista, Agusan del Norte bringing along with them four IEDs and two blasting caps.
On the same day around 10:30 a.m. two Militia ng Bayan (MBs) members surrendered to the 1st Special Forces Battalion in Barangay Lipiagan, Sumilao, Bukidnon, bringing along with them two M16 rifles with four magazines and ammo; one .45 caliber pistol and one .38 caliber pistol.

Balagtey said the rebel returnees will be enrolled in the Comprehensive Local Integrated Program (CLIP) of the local government in the said area.

After branding the New People’s Army as a terrorist group last month, President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday, Dec. 21, promised to protect rebels who will surrender to the government.

President Duterte gave the assurance as he graced the Paghiusa Para sa Kalinaw (Pagkakaisa para sa Kapayapaan), at the Eastern Mindanao Command, where he met more than 600 rebel returnees at the Naval Station Felix Apolinario in Camp Panacan

“It’s my obligation to give you protection, just (as) how I am defending my soldiers,” President Duterte said in visayan.

The President also offered jobs to the rebel returnees, saying that they can enter the armed forces if they want. He also assured them of financial and housing assistance.

He also said that the government has an incoming housing project in Cagayan de Oro City and Tagum City for the former rebels.

The President clarified that the ceasefire is not only for the NPAs, saying that it is a ceasefire for everyone and it is up for the Reds to join.

“I said I will declare ceasefire for all; it’s up to the NPAs to join; we have many enemies — we have Maute and other terrorists, we also have drug addicts; we’ll have ceasefire for now for you to return to your families,” he added.

Balagtey said that based on their records, 700 former rebels who came from the provinces of Agusan, Bukidnon, Surigao, Davao, Cotabato and Sarangani have surrendered their firearms to the authorities.

Photo: CPP anniversary rally

From MindaNews (Dec 28): Photo: CPP anniversary rally


A mother and child walk past activists holding a lightning rally for the 49th anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines along a busy area of Uyanguren in Davao City on December 27, 2017. The CPP was founded on December 26, 1968. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Bomb explosion kills tribal member in Maguindanao

From the Mindanao Examiner (Dec 28): Bomb explosion kills tribal member in Maguindanao

A bomb explosion had killed a tribal member and wounded another in an attack Thursday by the jihadist group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in the restive Muslim province of Maguindanao in southern Philippines.

Two other members of the tribal group Teduray were also taken hostage by the BIFF in Ampatuan town, several kilometers away from the town of Datu Unsay where the bombing that killed Diego Dagada, 24, took place. His elderly companion, Bada Dagadas, was also injured in the blast.

The bomb was planted on a trail leading to the victims’ farm, but it was unclear why the men had been targeted by the BIFF, although a tribal leader was also slain recently by the jihadists who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

The motive of the attacks was still unknown, but the BIFF is actively operating in Maguindanao, one of 5 provinces under the autonomous region, a hotbed of Muslim and communist insurgency. Both rebel groups have been fighting for their own separate state in the mineral-rich, but violent region.

The governor of Maguindanao, Esmael Mangudadatu, leader of a powerful political clan, did not release any statement on the continuing violence in the province that had already displaced many innocent civilians fleeing the fighting.

Military forces have been battling both rebel groups in separate fronts and recently bombed BIFF targets in Datu Unsay following a series of attacks by jihadists on army posts.

PH, France commit to strengthen fight vs terrorism

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 28): PH, France commit to strengthen fight vs terrorism

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Wednesday said the Philippines and French governments agreed to strengthen cooperation against terrorism.

The government is currently striving to rebuild Marawi City, which suffered damages after an almost five-month long fight with Islamic State-inspired terror groups.

France is no stranger to acts of terrorism. Over the past few years, France was among Western countries to suffer from terror attacks.

In July 2016, at least 84 people were killed, including children, after a cargo truck slammed into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France.

According to the DFA, the consultations held last week came after the adoption of the Joint Declaration on the Enhanced Partnership between the two states in 2015.

Cited as "historic," the DFA noted it was also in line with the two countries' celebration of 70 years of diplomatic relations.

Aside from cooperation to counter terrorism, the consultations also featured agreement to increase economic engagement through implementation of agreed programs and projects in the crucial sectors of agriculture, infrastructure, tourism, science and technology, digital economy and creative industry, among others.

A review of initiatives to increase people-to-people exchanges was likewise undertaken.

Further, they acknowledged that agreements on social security and cultural cooperation need to be reinvigorated.

The Philippine delegation, led by DFA Undersecretary for Policy Enrique Manalo, was comprised of officials from DFA and other government agencies, such as the Department of Agriculture, Department of National Defense, Department of Trade and Industry, and National Economic and Development Authority.

The French delegation, on the other hand, was led by Director Thierry Mathou of the Directorate for Asia and Oceania of the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs.

Mathou was the French Ambassador to the Philippines from November 2015 - July 2017.

Lorenzana welcomes Faeldon appointment to OCD

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 28): Lorenzana welcomes Faeldon appointment to OCD

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has welcomed the appointment of former Bureau of Customs (BOC) commissioner Nicanor Faeldon as deputy administrator of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), saying the former Marine official is "honest" and "competent".

"Nabakante yung Deputy Director III ng OCD (the Deputy Director (slot) of OCD III was vacant) and Undersecretary (Ricardo) Jalad was in the hunt for replacement. We did not request for Nick Faeldon, nevertheless we welcome him with open arms to team OCD. He is honest, dedicated, and competent and he would be an asset to the organization," Lorenzana said.

The OCD is one of the attached offices of the DND tasked to formulate a comprehensive national civil defense and disaster preparedness program.

President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed Faeldon who is currently detained at the Senate after refusing to testify on the probe of the PHP6.4-billion shabu shipment from China that slipped past the BOC's grasp.

In August, the President accepted Faeldon's resignation after he was linked to the controversy.

In a letter dated December 22, Faeldon was informed that he was appointed as OCD's deputy administrator.

Faeldon, who is expected to work even in detention, will replace Rodolfo Demosthenes Santillan.