Tuesday, January 9, 2018

3 more NPA rebels yield to Army in Sultan Kudarat

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 9): 3 more NPA rebels yield to Army in Sultan Kudarat

BAGUMBAYAN, Sultan Kudarat -- Three more communist rebels, whom the New People’s Army (NPA) promised to provide with agricultural inputs and free education, decided to surrender to the Army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion in a remote village here.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, 33rd Infantry Battalion (IB) commander, received the three surrenderees while his unit, in partnership with a Church-run relief organization, distributed food and non-food supplies to Manobo-Dulangan tribesmen displaced by hostilities last December.

On Monday, the three NPA members, identified as Ryan Mama, 24, and his brother Daniel, 25, together with cousin Ruben Pagiloy, 21, descended from their mountain lair here to formally surrender to the government.

Ryan said that “Ka Yoyo,” the Visayan NPA commander, had not fulfilled his promise.

“He swore to provide my family with fertilizer and seedlings which did not come,” Ryan said adding that the NPA leader also promised him and his brother they would be sent to school.

“We never saw school in the mountains,” said Ryan, a young father of three children, in vernacular.

Pagiloy told Cabunoc that he was really interested to finish education.

“I never set foot in a government-run school. I grabbed the opportunity of widening my understanding about the world, especially the problems confronted by the tribe today,” said Pagiloy in Ilonggo.

Cabunoc said all three surrenderees would be absorbed to the Alternative Learning System offered by the Department of Education.

He said that the natives were obviously duped by communist rebel leaders operating in nearby Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, into joining the useless fight against the government.

He said the land conflict between the Dulangan Manobo tribe claimants and Consunji logging firm in the area was used by the NPAs to convince indigenous peoples into joining them.

“Visayan communist recruiters penetrated the Lumad communities using left leaning organizations. They indoctrinated the people to hate the government, prompting many of them to join the armed group,” said Cabunoc.

“About 90 percent of the members of the NPA Guerilla Front 73 here in Sultan Kudarat are indigenous people. This is reflected by the fact that 100 percent of last year's 94 surrenderees belong to the Dulangan Manobo and T’boli tribe.”

He said the 33rd IB had combined combat operations and community support operations in its counterinsurgency campaign in its area of jurisdiction.

“The decisive terrain in an insurgency is human terrain. We need to dominate in the battle of opinion, in touching the hearts of the populace, and in getting the support of the people for the government,” Cabunoc said.


Army braces for BIFF retaliatory attacks in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 9): Army braces for BIFF retaliatory attacks in Maguindanao

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao -- The military is bracing for possible retaliatory attacks by IS-inspired armed groups in Maguindanao following the death of members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
Major General Arnel dela Vega, Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6ID) chief and head of Joint Task Force Central, said while the military had neutralized some lawless elements in its focused and surgical operation against the BIFF, the AFP would continue its operations against them.

“Our operation will continue without let-up because we do not want a repeat of an incident where the terrorists harass civilians,” Dela Vega told reporters.

Citing intelligence reports, he said that two of the three factions of the BIFF had reunified in an effort to regain control of Mt. Firis, a sacred ground for Teduray tribesmen.

Dela Vega said the military under his command was always ready to use its might against the BIFF.

Army intelligence reports said the BIFF groups of Commanders Bungos and Karialan had reunited in the mountains of Maguindanao.

The Army also said that 10 BIFF were killed since the lawless group’s harassment started on Christmas Day.

Lt. Colonel Gerry Besana, chief of 6ID civil military operations, said four of the slain members of IS inspired BIFF were recovered by government forces while six others were taken by their retreating comrades.

The BIFF suffered losses in a close quarter firefight in the midnight of Jan. 6 after they failed to overrun an Army station at Sitio Firis, Barangay Maitumaig, Datu Unsay, Maguindanao.

Besana identified the BIFF whose remains were turned over to local officials for immediate burial as Buna Awba, Mando Guiamal, Mokamad Sagkupan and Roy Alik.
Also killed but were hauled by retreating lawless elements under Commander Bungos were a certain Sallahudin alias Salah, a bomb expert trained under Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, Abu Omar, Magui Datem, Mhads Mangibra, Aladin Rajah Pandalat and Fahad Tungao.

Besana said two other BIFF members, named Daryl Mando and his brother Theng Mando, were wounded in the clashes covered by air strikes.
Four high-powered firearms were also recovered.

Dela Vega also reiterated his directive to all government forces in Maguindanao to maintain road security day in and day out along Maguindanao highways to thwart any diversionary operations by the BIFF.

Two militiamen were hurt when the BIFF set off a roadside bomb on national highway, Barangay Labo-Labo, Datu Hofer, Maguindanao on Monday, which the Army believed was an effort by the terrorists to ease military operations in the municipal tri-boundaries of Datu Hofer, Datu Unsay and Datu Saudi.

ASG explosive expert captured (Photo)

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 9): ASG explosive expert captured

Joint police and military operatives arrested an alleged explosive expert of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in this city, an official announced Tuesday.

Senior Supt. Vincent Neri Ignacio, Zamboanga City Police Office (ZCPO) director, identified the suspect as Benjar Engeng alias Ben Akmad, a native of Basilan province and temporarily residing at Maharlika Village in Taguig City.

Ignacio said Engeng was arrested in a law enforcement operation by way of serving search warrant at around 10:45 p.m. Monday at a pension house in Barangay Divisoria, this city.

Ignacio said the arresting team recovered an improvised bomb concealed in a black bag and placed inside the cabinet of Engeng’s room.

He said the Explosive Ordnance Demolition (EOD) Rendered Safe Procedure to disrupt the recovered improvised bomb.

“The type of IED (Improvised Explosive Device) shows the expertise of this person, meaning he has gone a lot of experience,” he said.

He said Engeng, who is an alleged bomb expert and trainor, is a follower of Imam Intong Mandan, one of the ASG leaders.

But Engeng denied he was an ASG member and a bomb expert of the bandit group.

Engeng claimed he just assisted his cousin, who assembled the improvised bomb that was recovered inside the cabinet.

He identified his cousin only as a certain Amilhassan.

“Actually, it will not explode,” Engeng said citing it was just a bomb replica.
He added that Amilhassan was contracted by a resident of Bongao, Tawi-Tawi to assemble the bomb replica.

He said they would be paid PhP30,000 once they send the picture of the bomb replica to the person who contracted Amilhassan.

Amilhassan was not around when the lawmen swooped down the pension and arrested Engeng.  Engeng suspected he was framed up by his cousin.

Ignacio said that charges for illegal possession of explosive would be filed against Engeng, who was detained at the ZCPO headquarters.


Multiple murder suspect's aide slain, 2 cops wounded in firefight

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 9): Multiple murder suspect's aide slain, 2 cops wounded in firefight

An alleged follower of a murder suspect was killed while two policemen were wounded in a firefight in the province of Zamboanga Sibugay, a police official disclosed Tuesday.

Chief Insp. Helen Galvez, Police Regional Office-9 (PRO-9) information officer, said the firefight broke out at around 10 p.m. Monday in Barangay Makilas, Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay.

Galvez said the identity of the slain outlaw was not immediately available except that he was a follower of DJ Munjalal.

Galvez identified the injured policemen as SPO1 Noel Vesperas and PO1 Herwin Cagas of the provincial mobile force company.

She said the firefight ensued when the lawless elements opened fire upon sensing the arrival of policemen, who were checking the reported presence of three gunmen led by Munjalal at the covered court of Barangay Makilas.

She disclosed that Munjalal has standing warrant of arrest for three-count murder.

She said policemen are tracking the whereabouts of Munjalal’s group, who fled to the hinterlands.


NBI probes missing PNP guns sold to Mindanao NPA

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 9): NBI probes missing PNP guns sold to Mindanao NPA

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Tuesday ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct a probe on the missing firearms of the Philippine National Police sold to the New People's Army (NPA) rebels in Mindanao.

Aguirre issued the order after the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte to investigate the reported 1,004 missing firearms at the PNP headquarters which were later found out to have been sold to the members of the NPA in Mindanao.

He stressed that the new probe would be an offshoot of the earlier Ombudsman investigation, which led to the indictment of top police officials in the Sandiganbayan and would focus on private individuals involved.

“We must always remember that as public servants, we are accountable to the people and must discharge our mandate with outmost fidelity and integrity,” Aguirre said in a statement.

Aguirre also ordered the NBI to regularly submit a progress report to keep his office up-to-date on the investigation and to file appropriate charges before the Department of Justice (DOJ) against those involved.

“With this, we are confident that those individuals who are responsible for this felonious act will be held accountable,” the Justice Secretary noted.

In 2014, it was uncovered that over 1,000 high-powered firearms of PNP worth PHP52 million had been sold to NPA since 2011 with the unwitting assistance of 19 senior police officials at Camp Crame.

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) discovered the irregularity after it was found that a cache of AK-47 assault rifles disappeared while papers were being processed by the PNP.

The CIDG had found that a certain Isidro Lozada, owner of a security agency based in CARAGA region in Mindanao, bought the firearms.


Efforts to upgrade Pag-asa Island facilities to continue: Lorenzana

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 9): Efforts to upgrade Pag-asa Island facilities to continue: Lorenzana

Efforts to upgrade the existing facilities in Pag-asa Island is one of the priorities of the government, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said during the sidelines of the New Year's Call Tuesday.

He added that such measures, which include improvements of the runway and construction of beaching ramps, were aimed at helping fishermen operating in the area.

Also, Lorenzana expressed confidence that China would not contest these improvements as these were for peaceful purposes and aimed at uplifting the lives of Filipino fishermen.

"I don’t think they would protest our purpose there, (It) is peaceful, it is (intended) for our fishermen, for peaceful purposes," the defense chief pointed out.

Lorenzana said that it was very unlikely that China would block these efforts as the Philippines now had good communications with the latter.

"Mukhang nawala na yun ngayon kasi na(kikipag-usap) naman tayo sa kanila eh. We have a good dialogue communication channel thru the Department of Foreign Affairs," he added.


US earmarks USD6.6-M add’l aid for Marawi

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 9): US earmarks USD6.6-M add’l aid for Marawi

The United States Embassy to Manila on Tuesday announced that the US government would be allocating another USD6.6 million in addition to their assistance worth USD14 million to war-ravaged Marawi City.

"We’ll continue to do a lot of work here and I should mention that in the Marawi context, as you know, we recently announced that we have allocated USD14 million to help with the Marawi situation," US Ambassador Sung Kim said on a television interview.

As per the envoy, the first allocation was not only directed towards immediate needs but also to programs to help in longer-term rehabilitation.

Meanwhile, he said the additional USD6.6 million, which would bring the total US Agency for International Development (USAID) assistance to over USD20 million, was “to help the most vulnerable population in Marawi."

"We are talking about children and the elderly," he said.

Kim stressed that the US government would like to expand programs focusing on vocational training and other education-related programs.

"We are already up to USD20 million over PHP1 billion and we are hoping to do more," he said.

Washington, through USAID, has been a key partner of the Philippine government in the recovery, stabilization, and rehabilitation of Marawi City and its surrounding areas.

USAID’s early assistance involved restoring access to water and distributing desks for schools, where displaced students were enrolled.

To bolster the recovery, the embassy mentioned the USAID would further help restore public services, like water and electricity, and would work with communities to jumpstart livelihoods, promote community dialogue, and improve health and education systems.

"To help fortify the area’s longer-term stabilization and rehabilitation, USAID will offer skills training and psychosocial counseling for youth, and promote community alternatives to violent extremism," the US embassy said in a statement.


President Duterte okays pay hike for soldiers

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 9): President Duterte okays pay hike for soldiers

President Rodrigo Duterte has signed the joint resolution of Congress authorizing the increase in base pay of military and uniformed personnel (MUP) in the government.

MalacaƱang released on Tuesday Congress' Joint Resolution No. 1, which covers all military and uniformed personnel under the Department of National Defense (DND), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA).

According to the Joint Resolution signed by the President on January 1, there is a need to adjust the compensation package of MUP in order to make it more commensurate with their critical role in maintaining national security and peace and order, taking into consideration their exposure to high-risk environments in the performance of their duties.

The Resolution also provides that modification of the base pay for the MUP “shall be aligned with the objective of maintaining fiscal integrity and pursuing pension reform.”

The Resolution was passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate on Dec. 11 and Dec. 13, 2017, respectively.

Meanwhile, MalacaƱang also released the appointment papers of Martin Dino as Undersecretary of the DILG and Loreto Llamas as a member of Sorsogon Sangguniang Panlalawigan last January 8.


Palace still trusts China won't embark on new reclamation

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 9): Palace still trusts China won't embark on new reclamation

Malacanang on Tuesday said the Philippines was still relying on China’s good faith that the Chinese government would not embark on new reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this reaction when asked to comment on the reported airbase with military facilities and hospital that China built in the Kagitingan Reef or Fiery Cross Reef.

“When we say we are relying on China’s good faith, it is because China has committed not to embark on new reclamations,” Roque said during Palace briefing.

Roque explained that Kagitingan is one of the islands that China had already reclaimed and subject of the arbitral tribunal’s decision that the island is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

“So when we invoke the good faith of China, it is against making further reclamations and not making further works on islands that it had already reclaimed,” Roque said.

“So I hope that is very clear. So the good faith we’re relying on is the commitment of China not to embark on new reclamations,” he added.

Roque, however, agreed with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana who said that the Philippines would file a diplomatic protest if China had indeed built airbase with military facilities in the Kagitingan island.

“Of course, that’s the proper remedy ‘no. But that’s something that the Department of Foreign Affairs will have to address,” Roque said.

Roque said if China would militarize the island, it would constitute a “further threat to peace and security in the area.”

“But the point is, has there been a breach of Chinese commitment not to reclaim any new islands or shoals in the area? For as long as there is none, then we continue to respect that they are true to their commitment not to do so,” he explained.

He also explained “from the very beginning China, we knew, was militarizing the area by reclaiming these areas and by using them as military bases.”

“So the fact that they are actually using it now as military bases, as far as I’m concerned, is not new, new. It’s not news. Because we’ve always been against the militarization of the area. But the good faith commitment is not to reclaim new islands. I hope that’s very clear,” he added.

On the reported China’s plan to deploy nuclear platforms in Chinese-controlled islands in the South China Sea before 2020, Roque said “that would be probably the subject of a separate protest as contrary to the sovereign rights of the Philippines.”