Wednesday, January 10, 2018

5 NPA rebels yield in Maguindanao

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 10): 5 NPA rebels yield in Maguindanao

Five members of the New People’s Army (NPA) laid down their arms and surrendered to the Army’s 1st Mechanized Infantry Battalion at Brgy. Kamasi, Ampatuan, Maguindanao on Tuesday.


The rebels, who surrendered to Lt. Col. Lauro Oliveros, the Commanding Officer of the 1st Mechanized Battalion, cited what they called the resentful system of the NPA “merely propagating lies to the T”boli community” in the town of South Cotabato, as the reason for their surrender.

The returnees who belonged to the platoon Samsung Guerrila Front 73 were identified as Sing O Maquil, 30; Daniel T. Fonok, 25; Panni L Sina, 18; Marvin S. Ginang, 30 and Taan M Ayunan, 30, all of Lake Sebu, South Cotabato

The five said they were tired of hiding, having experienced hunger , hardship and dissatisfaction with the NPA ideology.

The surrenderees turned over two homemade Ingram and one homemade Uzi the military.

Major General Arnel DelaVega, Army 6th ID Commander, said their intensified efforts through combat operations and information dissemination against terrorist group with the support of all local chief executives and other stakeholders encouraged the rebels to surrender.

He assured the former rebels that they would receive the benefits of the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP).

No restlessness in the Navy: AFP chief

From Malaya Business Insight (Jan 10): No restlessness in the Navy: AFP chief

ARMED Forces chief Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero yesterday sought to dismiss reports of restiveness in the Navy due to last month’s unceremonious relief of Vice Adm. Ronaldo Joseph Mercado as Navy chief.

Interviewed after a joint DND-AFP New Year’s call in Camp Aguinaldo, Guerrero said Navy officials are not reporting any problem in the 30,000-strong Navy.

“Restlessness? I do not see any restlessness in the Navy,” said Guerrero. It was Guerrero who implemented Mercado’s relief on December 19.

The Navy is now headed in an acting capacity by Rear Adm. Robert Empedrad, AFP deputy chief of staff for reservists and retirees affairs.

Military officials earlier said there are “rumblings” in the Navy over Mercado’s unceremonious relief. One of them said Mercado did not deserve such treatment from the leadership of the defense department and the military because he was merely after installing the best equipment for two frigates being built by Hyundai Heavy Industries of Korea for the Philippine Navy.

It was Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana who recommended to President Duterte Mercado’s relief for his insisting the installation of a combat management system produced by a French company.

On Monday, Lorenzana said he has met with former Navy chiefs who have expressed their disappointment over Mercado’s relief. He said he requested the meeting to explain why Mercado was sacked. Lorenzana said the former Navy chiefs claimed he violated the “long-honored tradition of retirement, parade, and everything” of a Navy chief.

Lorenzana said there was no “formal turnover” ceremony “because the situation was fluid” at that time. He said the former Navy chiefs “understood” his explanation.

Guerrero said there is no problem with those in active service.
“As far as I am concerned, I’ve been in contact with our Navy officers, in the active service, and we don’t have any problem,”
Guerrero said.

Mercado is on “special studies” at Guerrero’s office. Guerrero said Mercado is regularly reporting to his office.

‘Silent worker’ is new Scout Ranger chief

From Malaya Business Insight (Jan 11): ‘Silent worker’ is new Scout Ranger chief

A SENIOR officer who took part in campaigns against communist New People’s Army rebels and Abu Sayyaf bandits is the new commander of the elite First Scout Ranger Regiment.

Col. William Gonzales assumed the post last Monday in rites led by Army chief Lt. Gen. Rolando Bautista and held at the headquarters of the Army’s Special Operations Command (SOCOM) in Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija.

The turnover was held jointly with the assumption of Maj. Gen. Ronnie Evangelista as SOCOM chief.

“He is a silent worker but he delivers,” Army spokesman Lt. Col. Ray Tiongson said of Gonzales, who holds a master’s degree in management.

Gonzales, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1989, replaced Brig. Gen. Rene Glenn Paje who is now Armed Forces deputy chief of staff for civil military operations.

Gonzales served as the Army’s assistant chief of staff for education and training, as commandant of the Officer Candidate School of the Army’s Training and Doctrine command, and commander of the 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion that was deployed in the Bicol region to go after communist rebels.

The battalion was later sent to Basilan, a bailiwick of the Abu Sayyaf, and achieved feats against the terrorist group with Gonzales at the helm.

A PMA classmate of Gonzales, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described the new Scout Ranger chief as a “true-blue Ranger.”

“While in the field, he is always operating, engaged in internal security operations,” the official said of Gonzales, who he said finished a Ranger course from United States.

Defense chief: CPP ‘crumbling from within’

From Malaya Business Insight (Jan 11): Defense chief: CPP ‘crumbling from within’

DEFENSE Secretary Delfin Lorenzana yesterday dismissed a call of the Communist Party of the Philippines to its members to build an alliance with forces against President Duterte forces and work for his ouster.

Lorenzana assured the public that that the defense and military establishments are going to protect Duterte and the democratic way of life from the CPP and the New People’s Army.

“We will guard the institutions which are sacred to our democratic way of life and not let any group destroy the ideals which our nation’s forefathers fought and died for,” he said.

Duterte started formal talks with the communists shortly after he assumed the presidency in 2016. Four rounds of talks have been held before Duterte suspended and eventually cancelled the peace negotiations because of continued attacks by the NPA on government forces. Last month, he formally declared the CPP and NPA as terrorist organizations.

Last week, the CPP told its members that “Duterte’s overthrow is the most important task at present for the revolutionary forces.”

It urged revolutionary forces to ally with other sectors and groups, including those with “sharp contradictions” with the movement, “to create the widest anti-Duterte alliance.”

Lorenzana said: “This latest statement of the CPP-NPA once again shows how far these communist-terrorists are from the truth and how years of propagating lies have deluded their sense of reality.”

He also said the CPP’s call manifests the communist group’s “desperation since the movement is now crumbling from within.”

“They have already lost their mass-based support and their members are returning to the fold of law as their motives and criminal acts have already been exposed to their former cadres and the entire Filipino nation,” said Lorenzana.

The latest to surrender are two NPA logistics officers and a team leader.

Randy Atong alias Andikon and Renie Atenza alias Ryan surrendered yesterday to the Army’s 73rd Infantry Battalion in Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur, said the unit’s civil military operations officer, 1Lt. China Celina Castro.

Castro said Atong is the logistics officer of the Andoy and Basil Platoons of the NPA’s Guerilla Front 51 while Atenza is the leader of the Basil Platoon’s First Squad.

Castro said the two said “they are already tired of fighting against the government forces, coupled with the experience of starvation caused by the dwindling support from their masses, hence they decided to return to the folds of the law.”

In Zamboanga del Sur, another NPA rebel surrendered to the Army’s 53rd Infantry Battalion in Guipos town on Tuesday afternoon, said Maj. Richard Enciso, spokesman of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division.

Enciso said the 33-year-old rebel --  identified only as Jaypee, a resident of Pagadian City, is the logistics officer of Squad 3, Team Baking of the NPA operating in the province. He brought with him an AK-47 rifle.

“According to Jaypee, the physical hardships and limited supply of food were the reasons for his surrender,” said Enciso.

P25 B set aside for 2018 AFP modernization program

From Update Philippines (Jan 10): P25 B set aside for 2018 AFP modernization program

The government has set aside for 2018 some PHP25 billion for the modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that will include the acquisition of brand new attack helicopters, tanks and other military hardware.

Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr., AFP deputy chief of staff for plans and programs, said the acquisition of new military hardware was long overdue for the country’s national security.

For several years now since the enactment of the AFP Modernization Act in 1995, the AFP modernization has been at snail pace because of budgetary constraints.

Padilla told the Philippine News Agency Sunday that the amount for the AFP’s modernization program was allocated in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for 2018.

Padilla said President Rodrigo Roa Duterte was giving top priority to the AFP’s modernization program during his term of office.

He pointed out that the modernization program was long overdue.

Padilla also assured the public that all transactions or dealings in the acquisition of new military equipment would be above board.

He said the President was keen on the modernization program so that the Philippines would earn the respect of other nations.

At the same time, he said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero gave their full support to the military’s modernization program.

Out of the PHP25 billion for 2018, the AFP would procure brand new attack and utility helicopters for the Philippine Air Force (PAF) and tanks for the Philippine Army, Padilla said.

He said other armaments would be acquired also to modernize the AFP.

The PAF had recently acquired a dozen brand new FA-50 jets from South Korea for PHP18.9 billion.

But this was still a far cry from its inventory years back when PAF was second to none in Southeast Aisa in defense capability with squadrons of jet fighters such as F-5s, F-8s, and Sabre jets, but all of these warplanes had been retired long ago.

There was also a time when the PAF had in its inventory over 140 helicopters but had drastically reduced over the years due to wear and tear.

PAF pilots are looking forward to an Air Force that will soon acquire supersonic jet fighters to boost the air defense capability of the Armed Forces.

Aside from planes acquisition, the Philippine Navy is also in dire need of brand new ships to secure the country’s long sea lane which is twice as long as that of the United States.

The Navy used to have a large number of ships but through the years many of them have been mothballed due to old age. (PNA)

2 NPA terrorist leaders surrender to government

From Update Philippines (Jan 10): 2 NPA terrorist leaders surrender to government

Philippine Army 10th Infantry ‘Agila’ Division (10ID) has reported the surrender of 3 NPA terrorist leaders to the 73rd Infantry ‘Neutralizer’ Battalion this January 2018.

According to 10ID NPA leaders who surrendered were from Guerilla Front 51 (GF51), Southern Mindanao Regional Committee (SMRC). They are Randy N. Atong alias Andikon, Finance and Logistics Officer of Andoy and Basil Platoons of GF51, SMRC; and Renie C Atenza alias Ryan, Team Leader of First Squad, Basil Platoon, GF51, SMRC.

“The former terrorists said that they were already tired of fighting against the government forces coupled with the experience of starvation caused by the dwindling support from their masses hence they decided to return to the folds of the law,” 10ID said.

10ID photo

10ID added that they surrendered unarmed but later revealed that they have hidden high powered firearms composed of one M14 Rifle and one M16 Rifle attached with M203 Grenade Launcher in Brgy Sibulan, Toril District, Davao City.

Troops of 73rd Infantry Battalion (73IB) recovered the mentioned firearms.

“This is an excellent manifestation that our efforts on winning against communist terrorists through focus military operations and Community Support Program (CSP) activities are effective. Because of this, we are expecting more surrenderees in the coming days. Thus, we are reiterating our call on other NPA members to lay down their arms, surrender and avail the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP),” 73IB commander Lieutenant Colonel Marion Angcao said.

“The significant increase of former NPA terrorists returning to the folds of the law is also an evidence of our effective collaboration with the Local Government Unit and Local Officials of Province of Davao del Sur,” Lieutenant Colonel Angcao added.

Rimando of PMA '86 named new 5th ID commander

From Rappler (Jan 10): Rimando of PMA '86 named new 5th ID commander

Brigadier General Perfecto Rimando Jr of PMA Sinagtala Class of ’86 officially assumes the position during a turnover ceremony in Camp Melchor F. Dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela

PERFECTO RIMANDO JR. A shot of Brigadier General Perfecto Rimando Jr. Photo from

TUGUEGARAO CITY, Philippines – Philippine National Police’s (PNP) chief Director General Bato Dela Rosa’s classmate in the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) was assigned as the new commander of the Philippine Army’s 5th Infantry Division.

Brigadier General Perfecto Rimando Jr of PMA Sinagtala Class of ’86 officially assumed the position during the turnover ceremony in Camp Melchor F. Dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela.

Rimando succeeded Lieutenant General Paul Atal, who served the army division from August 2016 to December 2017. Atal is now the new Central Command (CentCom) chief in Visayas region.

Prior to his new assignment, the army division chief served as the Deputy Commanding General of the Eastern Mindanao Command based in Davao City.

Rimando was hailed from La Union province and was married to a woman from Ilagan, Isabela.

As the 5th ID commander, Rimando will head 8 battalion units and 3 brigade units. The 5th ID, also known as the “Star Division,” is focused in counter-insurgency in Cagayan Valley and Cordillera regions.

In his speech during the turn over ceremony, Rimando said he will intensify the counter-insurgency operations in the area.

He also urged the communities to support the government's campaign for peace and development, and the fight against terrorism.

The Duterte administration recently branded the New People's Army (NPA) rebels as terrorists, making them one of the main targets of the Army.

Sandiganbayan suspends Misuari’s graft, malversation trial

From GMA News (Jan 8): Sandiganbayan suspends Misuari’s graft, malversation trial

The Sandiganbayan has ordered the suspension of trial in the graft and malversation cases of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari over the alleged anomalous purchase of P115 million worth of educational materials from 2000 to 2001.

In a minute resolution dated December 6, the anti-graft court's Third Division ruled to suspend the trial of Misuari after it approved his motion for preliminary investigation in November.

"The motion to order preliminary investigation is granted considering that the prosecution did not object thereto, and the motion defer the scheduled arraignment is noted," the Sandiganbayan said in a minute resolution in November.

"Let the proceedings in these cases be suspended with respect to accused Nur P. Misuari only until the said preliminary investigation against him shall have been terminated," it added.

Then-serving as governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Misuari was charged with three counts each of graft and malversation through falsification for allegedly conspiring with his co-accused in giving "unwarranted benefits, advantage and privilege" to three private companies.

Ombudsman investigators found that "no such materials were delivered" by MBJ Learning Tools, CPR Publishing, and White Orchids Printing and Publishing House.

The Ombudsman also alleged that the respondents conspired to "take, appropriate or misappropriate" the said amounts by supposedly falsifying the corresponding procurement documents for the educational materials.

State prosecutors, in its motion to hold in abeyance the proceedings, said it was "constrained to move for the suspension of the proceedings of all the cases" of Misuari pending the results of the preliminary investigation.

The prosecution said the suspension is essential in the case since the probe may find a different outcome in the criminal liability of Misuari.

"This is not to preempt the result of the preliminary investigation but there is always a possibility that a different conclusion may be arrived at depending on the evidence presented. Hence, the necessity of suspending further proceedings in these cases," the motion read.

In his 11-page omnibus motion, Misuari said the Office of the Ombudsman failed to give him an opportunity to defend himself and answer the allegations hurled against him.

“Accused Nur Misuari most respectfully request the Honorable Third Division of the Sandiganbayan to refer the present cases against him for preliminary investigation by the Ombudsman and to defer the date of his arraignment if it is already scheduled,” he said.

Misuari added that he was also "shocked" upon learning about his case at the Sandiganbayan, saying he was not even notified by the Ombudsman that there was a complaint against him.

“For lack of preliminary investigation, herein, accused was deprived of his right to adduce controverting documents against the complaint lodged against him,” Misuari said.

NPAs urged to come down, avail of livelihood program

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 9): NPAs urged to come down, avail of livelihood program

The remaining members of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), on Tuesday were urged to come down and avail of the government’s peace, livelihood and development program.

New People’s Army (NPA) fighters in formation in the Sierra Madre mountain range.

The NPA terrorists were asked to lay down their arms peacefully and take advantage of the “Balik-Baril, Bayad Agad” program and the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) for rebel returnees, jointly implemented by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPPAP), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and different local government units (LGUs).

Maj. Gen. Ronald C. Villanueva, commanding general of the Army’s Northeastern and Northern Mindanao 4th Infantry (Diamond) Division,called upon the NPAs to come down and be spared from the current offensive operations conducted by field units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“Surrender now or face the consequences of your evil activities,” he said.

“There will be no let-up in our operation to hunt down the remaining terrorist members in this part of the country,” the highest-ranking area commander of the AFP in northeastern and northern Mindanao, said.

He said that combat maneuvering battalions and the operational control (Opcon) units of the 401st Infantry Brigade, 402nd Brigade and 403rd Brigade, supported by earth-moving equipment, Artillery battalions and air assets of the Philippine Air Force’s (PAF) Strike Wing and Helicopter Wing, are complementing each other “to crush” the remaining communist terrorists in the region.

Last Jan. 5, the combat maneuvering battalion under the 403rd Brigade scored one dead, several wounded, and one AK47 recovered when the battalion engaged NPA terrorists at the outskirts of Sitio Mahan-aw, Barangay Bulonay, Impasugong town, Bukidnon province, military sources said.

'NPA officer' surrenders

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Jan 10): 'NPA officer' surrenders

A MAN claiming to be the logistics officer of the New People’s Army (NPA) surrendered on Tuesday, January 9, to the government forces in Guipos, Zamboanga del Sur, a military official said Wednesday.

Major Richard Enciso, spokesperson of the 1st Infantry Division, said “Ka Jaypee” was a logistics officer of Squad 3, Team Baking, SECOM-KARA of Western Mindanano Regional Party Committee.

"Ka Jaypee" turned himself in to Lieutenant Colonel Virgilio Hamos, commanding officer of the 53rd Infantry Battalion stationed at Camp Sabido, Guipos, Zamboanga del Sur.

Enciso said the surrenderer also turned over his firearm, an AK-47 rifle, along with several ammunition to the army officials.

“According to Jaypee, the physical hardships and limited supply of food were the reasons for his surrender. Being a family man, the love and responsibility to his wife and their children are more important than risking his life in the mountains for a terroristic cause,” said Enciso.

For his part, Major General Roseller Murillo of the Joint Task Force Zampelan and 1st Infantry Division commander lauded the efforts of the 53rd Infantry Battalion for its successes against the terrorist NPA.

He called on the NPA fighters to return to their normal lives and contribute to building a peaceful and sustainable nation.

Earlier, President Rodrigo Duterte encouraged the NPA rebels to surrender with a promise to provide them with shelter and decent jobs.

Duterte last year branded the NPA, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, as a terrorist organization after he scrapped the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the communists' political arm.

Joma Sison slams Malacañang for 'fake news' on Dutch citizenship

From Rappler (Jan 10): Joma Sison slams Malacañang for 'fake news' on Dutch citizenship

Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Maria Sison accuses the government of targeting him, former Bayan Muna representative Teddy Casiño, and Bayan Secretary-General Renato Reyes Jr 

Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Maria Sison has called out Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque for spreading "fake news" that he has become a Dutch citizen after decades of exile in The Netherlands.

The 77-year-old Sison accused the government of targeting him, former Bayan Muna representative Teddy Casiño, and Bayan Secretary-General Renato Reyes Jr. (READ: Renato Reyes slams fake news on son's 'sports car crash')

"I have never applied for Dutch citizenship and have never been naturalized as a Dutch citizen. The legitimate mass media or any respectable person can verify this fact from the Dutch authorities in The Hague or the Dutch embassy in Manila," Sison said in a statement this week.

Sison fled to Europe after peace talks with the administration of Corazon Aquino failed in 1987. The Netherlands eventually granted Sison political refugee status.

"My actual residence in The Netherlands is in accordance with my being a recognized political refugee since 1992 and also in accordance with Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. I can travel for the purpose of peace negotiations under a laissez passer without having to be a Dutch citizen," Sison said.

Roque made the statement on Sison's supposed Dutch citizenship in December last year.

Sison made the clarification after a video of his interview spread on Facebook spliced with photographs showing Sison with female companions like former sexy starlet Ara Mina.

"It is exceedingly impertinent for my detractors in the Duterte regime to include in the film clip in my photos with various beautiful persons over a period of two decades. These photos have been taken during happy public occasions in which I and the other persons (overseas Filipino workers, academics, and TV entertainment personalities) are properly dressed and behave in a friendly way towards each other," said Sison.

Sison had hoped to end his exile under President Rodrigo Duterte but the negotiations collapsed last year. In December last year, Duterte signed a proclamation declaring the CPP-New People's Army as a terrorist organization. (READ: PH military vows to reduce by half NPA's 3,700 fighters)

The NPA and its so-called "support groups" were included as new targets in Malacañang's request to Congress for a one-year extension of martial law in Mindanao, although a military document shows the communist armed group was a target from the beginning.

1 soldier slain, 3 civilians wounded by IEDs in Maguindanao

From InterAksyon (Jan 10): 1 soldier slain, 3 civilians wounded by IEDs in Maguindanao

Army soldiers patrol in a forest in Maguindanao. (photo by Dennis Arcon, InterAksyon)

A soldier was killed and three civilians, including a child, were wounded in separate bombings in the towns of Datu Hoffer and Datu Unsay, Maguindanao on Tuesday, authorities said.

The civilians, including a 10-year old child, were hurt in the first blast, which happened around 6 a.m. on the Decalungan Bridge in Datu Hoffer.

Private First Class Ian Celeste of the 57th Infantry Battalion, on the other hand, was involved in a clearing operation on the highway in Barangay Maitumaig in Datu Unsay when the second improvised explosive device was detonated past 8 a.m., killing him instantly.

Colonel Gerry Besana, spokesman of the Army’s Task Force Central, said military detachments have also been constantly harassed by gunmen of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, who are believed to be behind the IED blasts as well.

The municipal peace and order councils of the two towns and of Datu Saudi convened a joint meeting with the military and police following the blasts.

On Wednesday, Governor Esmael Mangudadatu is scheduled to preside over a provincial peace and order council meeting to discuss the continued bombings and violence that earlier prompted a state of calamity to be declared in Datu Unsay.

Abu Sayyaf threat subsides after 2017 military ops – Gen. Galvez

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 5): Abu Sayyaf threat subsides after 2017 military ops – Gen. Galvez

The Abu Sayyaf threat is waning as government troops have accumulatively neutralized members of the infamous terrorist group during the past year.

According to Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez, Jr., commanding officer of the Western Mindanao Command (WesMinCom), soldiers under his command have neutralized a total of 352 Abus for the year 2017. Specifically, 128 bandits were killed during military operations and 80 were apprehended.

Add to that some 144 Abus from Zamboanga City, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi have returned to the folds of the law.

General Galvez also reported that 223 firearms were either recovered, seized or surrendered to the government.

For 2017, Wesmincom reports that 26 soldiers died serving their country combating the Abu Sayyaf terrorist threat.

“Ultimately, our efforts will continue to sustain our development support operations in Mindanao, through our interagency and stakeholder engagements and our commitment in supporting the law enforcement operations of different agencies,” said General Galvez.

The Mindanao Trust Fund: Supporting Reconstruction and Development in Conflict-affected areas in Mindanao

Posted to the Relief Web (Jan 10): The Mindanao Trust Fund: Supporting Reconstruction and Development in Conflict-affected areas in Mindanao

Report from World Bank
Published on 10 Jan 2018 — View Original

As of June 2017, about 650,000 people (52 percent of whom are women) in 284 villages across Mindanao have benefited from 641 community infrastructure and livelihood subprojects (access roads, water systems, community centers and pre- and post-harvest facilities) and support for community-enterprise development.


Conflict-affected communities in Mindanao are among the poorest in the Philippines suffering from poor infrastructure and lack of basic services (including education and health), weak local governance, and minimal private sector investment. Insecurity has been a major challenge. Frequent armed clashes driven by multiple and inter-related forms of conflict—insurgent groups, clan disputes, and quasi-ideological criminal banditry—have created severe economic dislocation and displacement of people. Armed conflict and poverty are inextricably linked. The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), one of the most heavily conflict-affected regions, has poverty incidence of 52.9 percent, almost double the national average. Based on the peace deal with the Philippine government in 2012, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is expected to transition into a social and political movement. One of the key challenges for a successful transition is to help the MILF build development planning, budgeting, and public administration skills within its ranks.


The MTF works to enhance access to services and economic opportunities and build social cohesion while enhancing the capacity of local institutions in conflict-affected areas. It supports the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA), the development arm of the MILF. Based on a 2001 agreement between the Government of the Philippines and the MILF, the BDA is tasked to determine, lead, and manage relief, rehabilitation, and development projects in the conflict-affected areas. It’s a unique project that enables various stakeholders—government, the World Bank, and other development partners—to work with a revolutionary movement in delivering development results even before the signing of a final peace agreement.

With an enhanced role of women, the program helps the BDA to deliver community development and income-generating subprojects in communities. This enhances access to basic services such as clean water, roads and day care centers. BDA also works to strengthen community enterprises for employment and income generation. The community-based approach brings people from different groups—Muslims, Christians, and Indigenous Peoples—together for the common good, building social cohesion and trust. Over time the program has expanded beyond community development to assist the BDA to develop skills in macro-development planning.

A broad package of engagement complements the MTF promoting inclusive growth across Mindanao. For example, US$121 million for farm-to-market roads in Mindanao is included in the nation-wide PRDP while the National Community Driven Development Project is financing US$190 million for CDD activities in Mindanao.


Results of April 2017:

Over a decade, 650,000 people (52% of whom are women) in 284 villages have benefitted from 641 subprojects financed by the MTF. The subprojects have included water systems, community centers, sanitation facilities, access roads, post-harvest facilities, and farming and fishing equipment. Eighty-six percent of the beneficiaries say that the project reflected their needs.

The subprojects have reduced travel time to market, increased agricultural productivity, reduced post-harvest costs, and increased access to basic services such as clean water. Beneficiaries of income-generating subprojects reported a 10 to 20 percent increase in incomes.

About 330,383 women beneficiaries learned skills in community planning and implementation.

42 community enterprises in 11 villages have been trained in business development to generate sustainable employment and income.

The Bangsamoro Development Agency has evolved from a small group of volunteers with no development experience to a leading development agency in Mindanao with 300 staff across seven regional management offices. BDA cooperates with multiple national and international partners, including JICA, WFP, and UNICEF.

Bangsamoro Development Plan: the MTF provided technical assistance to help the BDA formulate the first comprehensive economic development blueprint prepared by a non-state armed group.

Under the Alternative Learning System project, about 1,832 former combatants, housewives and out-of-school youth reported increased confidence because of improved reading, writing and numeracy abilities. These contributed to their more active participation in community meetings, stronger support for their children’s schoolwork, and better fair farm pricing transactions in city markets.

The MTF has remained an important mechanism for consolidating peace and development in Mindanao. Beyond the impact of subprojects at the community level, the program’s ability to converge government and international support to empower Bangsamoro people and institutions to lead in community development seeks to lay the foundation for future sustainable and inclusive development in the Bangsamoro.

The program fostered social cohesion by creating spaces for dialogue between Muslims, Christians, and Indigenous Peoples, as well as a diverse mix of local, regional, and national institutional actors. In many remote locations, the project provided the only opportunity for different groups to interact. The increased familiarity built mutual understanding—the basis of trust. Project policies also ensured active and meaningful participation of indigenous peoples and women, who are often otherwise marginalized from decision-making processes at the village level.

The participative approach fostered social unity and built trust among stakeholders. In tri-people communities, minority groups shared better understanding and more harmonious relations with Muslims due to the consensus-building nature of CDD/CDR. While residents of remote communities—who had had little to no government access—disclosed growing trust towards government institutions at the end of the project due to the assistance provided by officials.

The Bank’s technical and analytical support through the MTF and other engagements supporting peace and development in Mindanao have produced a significant body of literature that helps inform policy dialogues among various stakeholders. For instance, the Land Conflict study prepared for the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission provides short- and medium-term recommendations that can help address land conflict in Mindanao. Also, the Public Expenditure Review in basic education for the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao promoted dialogue between the national government and ARMM. This enabled ARMM to secure a larger budget for education.

Bank Group Contribution
The Mindanao Trust Fund (MTF) enables development agencies to pool resources and coordinate support for conflict-affected areas in Mindanao. The MTF is administered by the World Bank, which contributed US$1.5 million out of a total of US$28.88 million.

The Bank’s development partners have made the following contributions: European Union (US$17.66 million), Sweden (US$4.29 million), Australia (US$2.89 million), Canada (US$1.6 million), the United States (US$.75M) and New Zealand (US$0.2 million).


Besides the BDA, other partners in the project are: Community and Family Services International (CFSI), a humanitarian organization that has been involved in reconstruction and development work in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao since 2000; the Mindanao Land Foundation (MinLand), a nongovernmental organization that has been working for social cohesion building in conflict-affected communities in Mindanao since 2001; and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

CSFI, MinLand and the ILO operate as a financial intermediary for the program and source of technical assistance to BDA to ensure smooth operations and efficient fund use.

The MTF is governed by a Steering Committee co-chaired by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. The BDA also works with local government units (LGUs) in project sites and has signed Memorandums of Agreement with 79 LGUs to promote cooperation and support for the program.

Moving Forward

From 2017 to 2019, the MTF will continue to provide socioeconomic assistance to communities in the Six Acknowledged Camps to help transform them into peaceful and productive areas. Expanding beyond the BDA, the project will train MILF’s Task Force on Camps Transformation officers to lead in community organizing and project monitoring. Meanwhile, 343 People’s Organizations that have undergone capacity building will continue to maintain community infrastructure and operate community enterprises for income generation. World Bank engagement continues to respond to evolving needs in conflict-affected areas of Mindanao. The Bank is closely working with government, development partners, and other stakeholders to deliver technical support for recovery and reconstruction in Marawi City.


“I cried when water spouted out of the water system. It was an affirmation that life will be a little better for us now.” (Nhor Asia Momin, secretary of the Upper Campo Islam People’s Organization, in Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur.)

“What [the project] has done is allow people’s organizations whose members are of different faiths to interact – an opportunity that was not available before. Now we say hello to each other when we meet in the streets.” (Morsid Macabangin, People’s Organization President, Barangay Koronadal Proper, Polomolok, South Cotabato)

“The community-driven development program worked because it allowed us to identify our needs, maximize our resources, and implement the project in the manner reflective our customs.” (Tessie Piang, a Teduray and People’s Organization President, Barangay Pilar, Upi, Maguindanao.)

Presence of foreign terrorists remains a challenge in PH

From Rappler (Jan 10): Presence of foreign terrorists remains a challenge in PH

At least one faction of the Maguindanao-based Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) is coddling foreign terrorists 

The continuing presence of foreign terrorists remains a challenge in the Philippines months after its military defeated in Marawi City local armed groups linked with international terrorist network Islamic State (ISIS).

At least one faction of the Maguindanao-based Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) is coddling foreign terrorists, according to Mohagher Iqbal, peace implementing panel chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

"The BIFF has foreign elements in their ranks," Iqbal told Rappler on Tuesday, January 9.

BIFF, the breakaway group of the MILF, is the same group that coddled Malaysian bomber Zulkifli Binhir. Marwan, as he was more popularly known, was the target of a bungled police raid in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in January 2015 that killed 44 elite cops.

BIFF leaders have also pledged allegiance to ISIS, based on their recent video releases.

The group is one of the threats that the government cited when it asked Congress to extend martial law in Mindanao. (READ: End martial law? Lorenzana warns vs another Marawi)

Reports from Malaysia, Indonesia

What is not clear is if the foreign terrorists are new arrivals or they have been staying in the Philippines even before the Marawi siege erupted in May 2017.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said foreign militaries have warned the Philippines against the continuing entry of foreign terrorists.

"There are reports coming from other countries. Malaysia ang Indonesia are reporting that there's an increase of foreign terorrists in our southern back door. We are trying to verify that," Lorenzana told reporters in an interview on Tuesday.

"We are conducting continuous intelligence gathering," he added.

The BIFF has been the target of persistent military operations – including air strikes – in Cental Mindanao.

Different roles for foreigners

Philippine Army chief Lieutenant General Rolando Bautista said foreigners provide different kinds of assistance to local armed groups.

"Sa ngayon hindi namin ma-quantify. They just come in. Hindi mo alam kung talagang foreign fighter in terms of sasama sa actual engagement or they will just provide technical support other than the armed component," Bautista said. (As of now, it's hard to say how many foreign fighters there are. They just come in. It's hard to tell if they are foreign fighters in the sense that they will participate in actual engagements or they will just provide technical support other than the armed component.)

Bautista said they are also continuing work to make sure that the local armed groups do not have access to resources from foreign fighters abroad.

"Mayroon na tayong mga means kung paano natin mapuputol o ma-cut off ang support. Ang solution kasi ngayon is not more on the tactical operation. We already leveled up. Ang solution is strategic. Hindi ko na pwedeng i-expound 'yun," he said. (We have the means to cut off the support. The solution now is not more on the tactical operation. We already leveled up. The solution is strategic. I can no longer expound on that.)

Clashes with pro-Islamic State militants in southern Philippines kill 25

From Channel News Asia (Jan 10): Clashes with pro-Islamic State militants in southern Philippines kill 25

The conflict has also trapped about 5,000 indigenous people from the Teduray tribe in their villages.

Homes of Maguindanao Teduray tribes burnt. (Photo: Armed Forces of Philippines) 

KUALA LUMPUR: Clashes between the pro-Islamic State (IS) Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom fighters (BIFF) and security forces in the southern Philippines since Christmas Eve has killed 25 and trapped 5,000 indigenous people in their villages, according to the Philippines military and a tribal leader.
Military air strikes were launched during the clashes, which were still on-going as of Tuesday (Jan 9), in the municipalities of Datu Hoffer, Datu Unsay and Datu Saudi in the Maguindanao province.

The trapped Teduray tribe in Maguindanao province are facing difficulties accessing food and water as the BIFF militants have heavily booby-trapped their land, according to one tribal leader.

“The military has killed at least 20 BIFF militants in clashes that erupted on Dec 24. The clashes are still on-going,” Major-General Arnel V dela Vega told Channel NewsAsia from Cotabato City, southern Philippines.

“Two members of the Armed Forces of Philippines and one member of the Philippine National Police also died in the clashes,” said Major-General dela Vega.

“We will not let up in our campaign against the terrorist group. The military’s concern is the safety and security of the people,” he added.

BIFF is an IS-linked group which pledged allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi sometime in 2014. It is a splinter group of the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

According to Major-General dela Vega, the BIFF started massing in Teduray land two days before launching their attacks on Dec 24.

“They (BIFF) burnt at least 22 homes of the indigenous people,” he said.

Teduray community leader Pastor Jovel Tenorio told Channel NewsAsia the indigenous people are scared and many of them are hiding in the forested areas.

“They (Teduray) are in hiding as they are afraid of BIFF,” said Pastor Tenorio. “I saw BIFF burning people’s homes and firing their guns into the houses.”

BIFF also laid improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in large areas in Teduray land, trapping the villagers within the confines of their homes.

“The Tedurays are afraid to go to the market or their farms because of the booby traps. They also don’t dare go to collect water. They are facing many difficulties accessing food and water,” said the pastor.

At least one Teduray farmer, Diego Dagadas, was blown to pieces by an IED, according to the military and Pastor Tenorio.

“BIFF is trying to drive us from our homes so they can take over our land as it is fertile,” said Pastor Tenorio.

The three municipalities of Datu Hoffer, Datu Unsay and Datu Saudi in Maguindanao province are historically the Teduray ‘s ancestral home where the land is considered sacred.

A Teduray tribal leader who spoke out against BIFF’s attacks was also killed.

“The BIFF shot dead a Teduray tribal leader on Dec 29 for speaking out against their attacks,” Lieutenant-Colonel Gerry Besana, spokesman for Sixth Infantry Division of the army, told Channel NewsAsia.

"Another six were kidnapped by BIFF. But four of them managed to escape," said Lieutenant-Colonel Besana.

"Some 5,000 Teduray indigenous people are trapped by the ongoing clashes and booby traps. The military is working to clear the land of IEDs," Besana added.

AFP goals for 2018: Reduce NPA strength, defeat Sayyaf and BIFF

From Malaya Business Insight (Jan 10): AFP goals for 2018: Reduce NPA strength, defeat Sayyaf and BIFF

THE military is targeting to cut the strength of the communist New People’s Army by half this year. It is also aiming to defeat the Abu Sayyaf Group and the Bangsamoro Islamic Liberation Front within the year.

The three are being considered by government as terrorist groups.

The NPA has about 3,700 fighters. The Abu Sayyaf has 300 to 400 men, operating mostly in Sulu and Basilan while the BIFF has some 200 to 300 members operating mainly in Central Mindanao.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero yesterday said he has given directives to all military commanders “to sustain the momentum” of the operations against the all threat groups, including the NPA which has been pursuing the armed struggle for nearly 50 years now.

“Their (NPA’s) manpower is about 3,7000. We intend to reduce that number by half for 2018,” Guerrero said in an ambush interview after traditional joint Department of Defense-Armed Forces New Year’s call in Camp Aguinaldo.

Incidentally, Guerrero is due to retire in April this year after President Duterte extended his term for four months.

President Duterte formally terminated peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA-National Democratic Front last November because of continued NPA attacks even while peace negotiations were ongoing. He later said the CPP and NPA will be declared terrorist groups.

Asked to assess the military’s operations against the NPA last year, Guerrero said: “We have been successful as we were able to significantly reduce their strength, firearms and affected barangays.” He did not give figures.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said finishing the communist insurgency problem within the year may be impossible.

“We have a plan to degrade (the NPA)... To finish the communist terrorist is far-fetched. It’s a tall order and we may not be able to do it,” said Lorenzana.

“What we are trying to do is to degrade their capability to conduct large-scale attacks. So our operations will be a combination of combat operations plus development in the countryside,” said Lorenzana.

On the possibility of resuming peace talks between the government and the communists, Lorenzana said “there is always a chance for peace talks... for as long as we will have an enabling environment.”

“If the environment is good and there is trust from both sides, and we’re not hiding information from one another and we’re not fooling one another, it’s still possible,” he said.

Nevertheless, Lorenzana said President Duterte is “not very keen” on resuming the peace talks with the communists.

Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, said he considers the Abu Sayyaf and the BIFF as the biggest security threats in the Western Mindanao area.

“That is our goal for the year. We will do it, it can be done,” he said on the target to defeat the Abu Sayyaf and BIFF before the end of the year

“That’s our challenge. We will push our capabilities to accomplish this,” he added.

Galvez noted a recent feat against the BIFF in Maguindanao, which he said left 10 group members dead. The military stepped up operations against the BIFF in August last year, in collaboration with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“We will sustain our operations to rescue the villages because they are trying to create havoc in the villages,” said Galvez of the BIFF members who are mostly former MILF fighters.

Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the military’s Joint Task Force Sulu, said defeating the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu this year is “very doable.” About 300 ASG men are operating in Sulu where the group is holding three Filipino and six foreign hostages, he said.

“We want it done as soon as possible. We are exerting our best efforts. We are trying to get their leadership because we have proven in the past that neutralization of their leaders led to surrender (of members) because they are no longer being led,” said Sobejana.

“Our priority now is getting their leaders, neutralizing their leaders to really fast track the defeat of the ASG problem...We strong believe that that’s (ending ASG) very doable,” Sobejana said.

Duterte in August 2016 ordered the military to wipe out the Abu Sayyaf. Former AFP chief Ricardo Visaya, who assumed the top AFP post in July 2016, set a deadline of defeating the Abu Sayyaf by before his retirement in December 2016. Visaya’s successor, Eduardo Año, set a deadline of ending the Abu Sayyaf and other terror groups within the first six months of 2017. He retired in October last year and is now officer in charge of the interior department.

Meanwhile, Lorenzana said the defense and military establishments are verifying reports about the entry of an undetermined number of foreign terrorists in Mindanao.

“There are reports coming from other countries like Malaysia and Indonesia that there an increase of foreign terrorists, entering through our southern backdoor,” Lorenzana told reporters.

“But we are trying to verify that. Up to now, we have yet to confirm. Our intelligence gathering is continuous,” he said.

Tiamzons under tight watch – Lorenzana

From the Manila Times (Jan 10): Tiamzons under tight watch – Lorenzana

The government knows the whereabouts of Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, top leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New People’s Army (NPA), and security officials are only waiting for President Rodrigo Duterte to issue the order for their arrest, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Tuesday.

Lorenzana refused to disclose the location of the couple.

“We are monitoring them. We will wait for the order of the President. If he orders their arrest, then we are going to arrest them,” Lorenzana said in a news conference after the joint defense and military New Year’s Call at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

The Tiamzons, who are facing criminal charges on court, were released in 2016 to participate in the peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF), the political arm of the CPP.

The president called off peace talks last year after the CPP ordered communist guerillas to intensify their attacks on government troops.

Lorenzana said the peace negotiations may resume “if the environment is good and there is trust from both sides.”

“But as of now, I think you also have been hearing the President, he is not very keen on starting the talks now,” he added.

Lorenzana said the military is exerting efforts to encourage communist rebels to return to the fold of the law.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero last week vowed to reduce the number of communist fighters nationwide by half this year.

He estimated that there were 3,700 NPA members, mostly in eastern Mindanao.

“We intend to reduce that number by half for 2018,” the military chief told reporters in an interview.

Guerrero claimed that the military has been successful in containing insurgency in the past two years.

“We were able to significantly reduce their strength, their firearms and the number of affected barangay (villages) by the NPA,” he said.

Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., commander of the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom), downplayed the number of communist rebels in his area of responsibility.

“The number of NPA in my area is somehow small and we believe that we will be able to fight them and of course, we were able to contain them,” Galvez said.

Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat, commander of the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom), meanwhile said the military in Luzon will continue its “parallel efforts” in fighting communist insurgency.

He confirmed reports that the NPA has been recruiting in Cagayan, Cordillera and Abra.

“We have been doing several deployment [of troops]. We will address this problem within the minimal forces that we have [in Nolcom],” he said.

AFP vows to reduce by half NPA's 3,700 fighters

From Rappler (Jan 9): AFP vows to reduce by half NPA's 3,700 fighters

Armed Forces of the Philippines chief General Rey Guerrero makes the commitment during the military and defense department's annual New Year Call 
2018 GOALS. Armed Forces chief General Rey Guerrero meets with ground commanders in a command conference on January 9, 2017. Rappler photo
2018 GOALS. Armed Forces chief General Rey Guerrero meets with ground commanders in a command conference on January 9, 2017. Rappler photo

Another year, another chief of staff, and another promise.

Armed Forces of the Philippines chief General Rey Guerrero said on Tuesday, January 9, the military is committed to weaken by 50% the communist New People's Army (NPA), which he said has estimated 3,700 fighters nationwide.

"They have a manpower of 3,700. We intend to reduce that number by half for 2018," Guerrero told reporters on the sidelines of the military and defense department's annual New Year Call.

The NPA is responsible for Asia's longest-running communist insurgency. Its strength has been reduced from a high of 25,000 armed regulars at the height of the insurgency in the 1980s, but it keeps strong presence in pockets of communities, especially in eastern Mindanao.

President Rodrigo Duterte also aimed to forge a peace agreement with the communists by the second year of his administration. (READ: The end of the affair? Duterte's romance with the Reds)

Talks collapsed, and Duterte has since tagged the NPA and the Communist Party of the Philippines as "terrorist organizations."

Many chiefs of staff also aimed but failed to end the communist insurgency. The NPA is now an additional target in the extended martial law in Mindanao.

Evangelista new Socom commander; Pamonag to Solcom

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 09): Evangelista new Socom commander; Pamonag to Solcom


The former commander of Civil Relations Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines on Monday assumed leadership of the Army’s Special Operations Command (Socom).

Major Gen. Ronnie Evangelista took over the Socom in a turnover rite at the command’s headquarters at Fort Magsaysay.

He replaced Lt. Gen. Danilo Pamonag, now chief of the Southern Luzon Command (Solcom).
Evangelista was the deputy chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command based in Davao City.

Army chief Lt. Gen. Rolando Joselito Bautista led the ceremony with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana as guest of honor and speaker.

Southeast Asian Giants Team Up to Resist IS

From Voice of America (Jan 8): Southeast Asian Giants Team Up to Resist IS

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte talks with Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi during her courtesy call by foreign ministers of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Manila, Philippines Tuesday, Aug.8, 2017.

Southeast Asia’s two biggest countries, the Philippines and Indonesia, are joining forces to stop Islamic State sympathizers from crossing a porous sea border and helping violent rebel groups in deadly battles against the government in Manila.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi met Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in the southern city of Davao recently for talks that focused on stopping the threat. Duterte and the Indonesian foreign minister agreed to "elevate cooperation" on "maritime security" and "eradicating terrorism," the presidential office website in Manila said.

Predominantly Muslim Indonesia is known to have sleeper cells of sympathizers of Islamic State, a world terrorism sponsor based in Iraq and Syria. In 2016 Islamic State, or IS, picked a Filipino rebel, who was recently killed, as its emir in Southeast Asia, the U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group says.

Some Indonesian sympathizers worked alongside Filipino rebels in a five-month war in the southern Philippines last year.

"President Duterte said that he wants to intensify maritime security in cooperation with Indonesia as foreign and local terrorists continue to enter and exit the country despite the military efforts to go after these elements," the Philippine presidential office website said.

Support for 2017 war

Philippine officials suspected that Indonesians as well as Malaysians had reached the southern island Mindanao last year to support a battle being fought by local Islamic State-inspired rebels. That fighting killed at least 1,127 people, including more than 900 militants.

In October, troops declared victory over the Maute Group of Muslim rebels, which had pledged allegiance to Islamic State, which is also referred to as ISIS.

At least 38 Indonesians were helping the Philippine rebels as of June, a month after the battle broke out in the city of Marawi, a police spokesman told news outlets in Jakarta at the time.

Damaged buildings are seen inside a war-torn area in Marawi City, southern Philippines October 24, 2017, after the Philippines announced on Monday the end of five months of military operations in a southern city held by pro-Islamic State rebels.

Some of the 40 to 50 foreign rebel supporters in Marawi had traveled from Indonesia, "responding directly to the call of the ISIS," said Bibhu Routray, a visiting security and counter-terrorism professor at Murdoch University in Australia.

Thirty Indonesians got there from Syria, apparently sent by IS, Routray said. "A lot of Indonesians had actually gone to Syria and on their way back to (their) home country they were routing through the Philippines, so that’s one direct evidence that ISIS probably had sent them back to fight in Marawi," he said.

Continued cross-border threat

The Indonesian government said in November it would support the Philippine effort to stop radical elements in Marawi. In June the same government had sent 119 police officers and 200 special forces to Sulawesi Island to help the army squelch terrorists.

Philippine officials have warned against new Muslim rebel violence in Mindanao even with Marawi under control.

"I think it’s logical that Indonesia should always keep its guards up, because they know for a fact that their main sleeper cells around Indonesia are waiting for opportunities to come," said Eduardo Araral, associate professor at the National University of Singapore’s public policy school.

Government soldiers stand in front of damaged houses and buildings in Marawi city, Philippines, Oct. 25, 2017.

About 20 Muslim rebel groups operate in resource-rich but impoverished Mindanao, the southernmost major Philippine island and the site of Marawi.

They believe the majority Catholic country has taken a lopsided share of resources despite five centuries of Muslim settlement. Rebel violence has left about 120,000 dead in Mindanao since the 1960s.

Indonesia as a source of rebels

IS "sleeper cells" operate in most Indonesian provinces, the Straits Times of Singapore has reported, referring to groups that can be called to action as needed. The radical Islamic group East Indonesia Mujaheedin, which recruits young people in the jungles of Sulawesi island, has pledged support to IS.

"Despite the ending of the physical war in Marawi, the two countries remain vigilant because they know that there’s still a lot of risk and threats that have not been totally eliminated," Araral said.

"The capability of ISIS and their affiliation in Southeast Asia to the group is still there," he said. "Financing is still flowing. The ideology is still there. They might have lost leaders, but I’m sure there will be new leaders that would come around."

Porous sea border
The presidential office did not spell out how Duterte and the Indonesian minister planned to control migration by suspected terrorists.

Analysts point to a chronic lack of patrols in the Celebes Sea, a 285,000 square-kilometer body of water bounded by Mindanao to the north, Borneo to the west and Sulawesi to the south.

Ten years ago the sea was already a "serious maritime black spot," the Jamestown Foundation security research organization says in a study.

FILE - Indonesian navy divers are seen on board their vessel preparing for an underwater mission in the Java Sea January 9, 2015.

"Decades of poor governance, economic and political marginalization, lack of state capacity, and separatist conflict have turned this area into an ‘ungoverned space’ and hence a haven for transnational criminals, including terrorists," it says. The Philippine armed forces ran a poorly funded navy then, it adds.

But Indonesia and the Philippines have overall strong ties plus a record for reaching maritime agreements.

They signed an agreement in 2014 after two decades of talks on formal boundaries around their exclusive economic zones in the Celebes Sea – a deal aimed at improving resource cooperation.

"There’s a lot of cross-border traffic there, and so that’s caused some problems, but as much as it’s caused some problems it’s also been the focus of some agreements that have been fairly promising in terms of maritime boundary delimitation," said Jonathan Spangler, director of the Taipei-based South China Sea Think Tank.

AFP junks NPA’s tale on death of 26 soldiers

From the Manila Times (Jan 8): AFP junks NPA’s tale on death of 26 soldiers

THE MILITARY yesterday denied allegation of the New People’s Army (NPA) that 26 of their soldiers were killed in a series of encounters in different areas in the region from Dec. 27 to 30, 2017.
“That is a blatant lie,” Maj. Gen. Noel Clement, the commander of Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division, told TIMES yesterday. “The AFP does not hide its casualties and always states facts based on results of the encounters.”

“That is purely a propaganda statement to project an imagined strength of this terrorist organization,” Clement added.

In a press statement issued by NPA spokesperson Rigoberto Sanchez of the Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command, the communist armed group said they launched five military actions that resulted in at least 26 casualties against the government troops.
Sanchez claimed the operations were launched as an active defense against ceasefire and human rights violations committed by operating troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) from Dec. 27 to 30.

“The tactical offensives against the rabid reactionary armed forces serve to underscore the growing demand to overthrow Rodrigo Duterte from power.” Sanchez said.

He said the AFP soldiers belonging to the 28th Infantry Battalion and the Scout Rangers Company took a beating from the Red fighters of Comval-Davao East Coast Sub-Regional Command following a series of offensives in Barangay Tubaon, Tarragona, Davao Oriental.

The NPA claimed that the AFP troopers have launched operations in Tubaon, a remote village in Tarragona, since before its supposed ceasefire began on Dec. 23.

“There is no truth to the pronouncement of Clement that the NPA harassed a militia outpost and a militiaman on Dec. 25,” the NPA statement also revealed.

The communist group claimed that it was on Dec. 28 that AFP troopers were hit three times in one day by NPA operations in Sitio Gibaan and Sitio Bato-bato, killing 16 and severely wounding two others.

The NPA added that on Dec. 30, at least eight soldiers were killed in an ambush when members of the 28th IB and Scout Rangers “were lured deep into the NPA’s active defense plan in Sitio Madian

The statement added that Red fighters under ComVal-Davao Gulf Sub-Regional Command also launched an operation against operating 66th IB troops on Dec. 29 in Brgy. Marayag, Lupon, Davao Oriental.

They claimed that the government troopers, apart from several hours of mortar shelling, also detained for three days 10 farmers and subjected them to physical and psychological torture.

Rigor said “all there military actions were undertaken in adherence to the CPP declaration of ceasefire during the traditional holidays.”

“In fact, in contrast and in direct violation of their own ceasefire pronouncement, the AFP aggressively deployed combat troops in remote villages in at least eight municipalities in the region,” it said.

They claimed that since Dec. 19 up to the present, the 60th IB, 72nd IB and their paramilitary Alamara forces have terrorized hundreds of civilians in at least four Lumad communities in Brgy. Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte. The Lumad have since evacuated to other villages because of food blockade that was enforced by AFP troops and their paramilitary forces. Other cases of harassments were reported in adjacent villages.

It further claimed that in North Cotabato, particularly in Arakan, the newly-deployed 15th IB has practically turned the town into a virtual garrison with its troops launching operations day in and day out in Lumad and peasant villages even during the AFP’s ceasefire period. Since Dec. 11, hundreds of AFP soldiers have been deployed in several villages in town.

“Peace and human rights advocates in the province are raising alarm that the deployment of a full battalion will only escalate and aggravate cases of human rights abuses perpetrated by AFP soldiers and the paramilitary Alamara,” the NPA statement said.

In Magpet town, the NPA said, troopers from the 39th IB launched operations in Brgy. Mahongcog on Dec. 23 up to the present, encamped at the barangay hall and are readying to construct a detachment in the middle of the civilian populace. In the town’s Brgy. Tiko, troopers belonging to the 39th IB and paramilitary Bagani scoured Lumad communities from Dec. 21 until Dec. 26.

Prior to this, the 39th IB terrorized the village when it launched several rounds of indiscriminate aerial shelling using night-capable fighter planes at 3 am and at least 10 rounds of mortar shelling that lasted until noon on Dec. 21. Following the unprovoked and senseless aerial attack and bombardment, farms were destroyed as troops ransacked houses of civilians.

In Compostela Valley, the 46th IB and the 71st IB launched offensive operations in the hinterland villages of Tapan and Mascareg in Mabini town; in Malamodao, Panibasan and Panangan in Maco town; and in Lawaan, Panganasan and Palo in Pantukan town from Dec. 23 until Dec. 26.

“These operations were clearly vain attempts by the US-Duterte regime at preventing the masses and the NPA from holding celebrations for the 49th year anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines on December 26.” Sanchez said in the statement. “The forward deployment of AFP troops in interior villages around the region unmasked the AFP’s predisposition to violate their own ceasefire violation and which, time and again, has been proven to not only be spurious but also empty propaganda as well.”

The NPA in Southern Mindanao said they will continue to defend the masses and the political authority of the People’s Democratic Government in the face of escalating fascism of the US-Duterte regime with more head and body blows against the AFP, PNP and their paramilitary forces.

82 NPAs surrender to 60thIB

From the Mindanao Times (Jan 10): 82 NPAs surrender to 60thIB

EIGHTY-TWO communist guerrillas surrendered to the 60th Infantry Battalion based in n Asuncion town, Davao del Norte in 2017.

Lt. Col. Emmanuel Cannilla, commander of the 60 Infantry Battalion, said in yesterday’s AFP-PNP Press Corps news conference in Royal Mandaya hotel that 19 of the total brought with them high-powered firearms.
He also said that four of the rebel returnees have been integrated into the AFP after passing the physical and written exams. He said that in November and December where they recorded an average of seven surrenders per week.

Arrested NorthCot farmers accuse military, police of frame-up

From MindaNews (Jan 10): Arrested NorthCot farmers accuse military, police of frame-up

Two farmers belonging to a militant group accused the military and police of planting evidence to justify their arrest in separate raids in Magpet, North Cotabato on Tuesday.

Harold Adiaton and Ian Solis, both organizers for the Panaghiusa sa mga mag-uuma sa Magpet (PAMA), were arrested after soldiers and policemen allegedly found improvised explosive devices (IED) in their houses.

But the two suspects accused the government operatives of orchestrating evidence.

Adiaton denied keeping an IED in his house, saying he saw a member of the raiding team place the item on his child’s bed.

“After that, they told me it was an IED and immediately chained me,” he said.

In another raid on Tuesday, police and soldiers arrested Datu Maylan Andas, leader of the Manobo-Aromanon-Pasakaday Association (MAPA).

MAPA and PAMA both belong to the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.

Joy Mirasol, secretary-general of Karapatan-North Cotabato, said the Army and police committed human rights violations by arresting the three farmers.

Lt. Col. Harold Argamosa, commander of the 39th Infantry Battalion, said Andas was arrested for frustrated murder based on a warrant of arrest issued in 2015

He maintained that Adiaton and Solis were arrested for keeping IEDs.

The suspects were placed under the custody of the Magpet police.

Police said Andas would be turned over to a local court for his commitment order, while complaints of illegal possession of explosive are being readied against Solis and Adiaton.

Army settles Moro clan wars in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 10): Army settles Moro clan wars in Maguindanao

MATANOG, Maguindanao -- The military brought on Wednesday warring Moro clans to a negotiating table here to end their long-standing dispute that had claimed numerous lives and injuries of family members.

Brig. Gen. Jesus Sarsagat, commander of the Army’s 603rd Infantry Brigade based in Matanog, Maguindanao, successfully mediated and settled the “rido” (family feud) involving the families of Macapaar, Macapeges, Ustadz Maguid, Malambut, Hadji Salam, Hadji Rahman and Casaro, all belonging to Iranun tribe and residents of adjoining towns of Barira, Buldon and Matanog Maguindanao.

Sarsagat, concurrent head of the Iranun Inter-Agency Task Force, said the decade-old clan wars had claimed at least 10 lives and undetermined number of injured family members through the barrel of guns.

Some of the warring clans have relatives in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Sarsagat said.

Ibrahim Malambut, village chair of Barangay Liong here, said the deep-seated animosity stemmed from simple neighborhood misunderstanding over territories.

Malambut said he lost a brother and a son in the long standing armed conflict.

“I already lost loved ones, I do not want to lose more family members so I convinced my family to come to a peaceful settlement with other Muslim families,” Malambut told reporters during the signing of peace covenant and swearing before the Holy Quran.

“Nobody wins in rido,” Malambut said, his eyes turning red.

Matanog town Councilor Misuari Macapeges who witnessed the bloody conflict said the covenant signing and rido settlement had long been desired by his family.

“We really look up to this day when we can shake hands with our former family enemies. We thank the military for intervening peacefully,” he told reporters.

Sarsagat, a known Army peacekeeper in Maguindanao, said clan war was anti-development, anti-peace and anti-people.

“I lauded the mayors and other local officials for cooperating in the Army efforts to bring about peace in their communities,” he said referring to Barira Mayor Barok Tomawis, Buldon Mayor Abolais Manalao and Matanog Councilor Macapeges.

“In this endeavor, everybody wins, nobody loses, it is better like this than you shoot at each other,” he told erstwhile arch enemies.

IP leaders assured of Army protection vs BIFF in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 10): IP leaders assured of Army protection vs BIFF in Maguindanao

The military here has assured Teduray communities in Maguindanao of ample protection from IS-inspired Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) who have been harassing them since last month.

The Tedurays and their ancestral domain, Mt. Firis, became the site of running gunbattles between government forces and BIFF elements since Dec. 25 last year.

Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6ID) Civil Military Operations (CMO) office chief, said Major General Arnel dela Vega, 6ID commander, gave the assurance that their primary concern was to protect the less privileged inhabitants of Maguindanao.

“We will not let up on our campaign against the terrorist group,” Besana quoted Dela Vega as saying in response to the Teduray community leaders appeal for protection from the BIFF.

Following repeated harassment by the IS-flag carrying militants in the towns of Datu Hofer, Datu Unsay and Datu Saudi Ampatuan, tribal leaders sought a dialogue with military leaders.

Seventeen members of the Cultural Communities of Lambangian (CCOL) and the Office of the Teduray Lambangian Ancestral Claim (OTLAC), sought assistance and dialogue with the military, with Besana representing his superior, Gen. dela Vega, in the meeting held at CMO office here Tuesday.

The tribal leaders said last Christmas was not a joyous celebration for the Tedurays, an Indigenous group in the province, due to attacks of the BIFF.

Three Teduray homes were torched on Christmas Day by the BIFF, the Army said.

“And again razed 18 more houses to the ground on Dec. 31, 2017 near Mt. Firis, a sacred site for Tedurays at sitio Makon, Barangay Kabintog, Datu Hoffer town,” Besana said.

“These peaceful Teduray farmers in their fertile ancestral domain are afraid for their lives now for they do not know when will be the next attack of BIFF.”