Friday, January 19, 2018

4 NPAs dead in Davao Or.

From Malaya Business Insight (Jan 19): 4 NPAs dead in Davao Or.

FOUR New People’s Army rebels died Tuesday in a clash with government forces in Lupon town, Davao Oriental, the military said yesterday.

Troops from the Army’s 28th Infantry Battalion were deployed to Sitio Palo, Barangay Marayag after the military received reports that a group of rebels was extorting money from the residents, said Capt. Andrew Linao, spokesman of the Army’s 701st Brigade based in Mati City.

The troops were fired upon by the NPA group composed of about 20 men, triggering a firefight that lasted about 10 minutes.

During clearing operations, the troops recovered at the encounter site four bodies, four low-powered firearms, and an improvised explosive device.

Brig. Gen. Reuben Basiao, 701st Brigade commander, said the rebels have stepped up their recruitment activities in communities.

In Maguindanao also on Tuesday, five NPA rebels from the NPA’s Guerilla Front 73 surrendered to the Army’s 1st Mechanized Infantry Battalion in Barangay Kamasi, in Ampatuan town.

The five were identified as Dany Daligdig, 32; Emiliano Tarusan, 47; Mike Kadingilan, 21; Marcelo Dampo, 49; and Wen Bilagen, 31. They turned over five rifles and handguns during their surrender.

Last week, 28 rebels surrendered to the military.

5 NPAs yield in ComVal, Bukidnon

From the Mindanao Times (Jan 19): 5 NPAs yield in ComVal, Bukidnon

TWO MEMBERS of the New People’s Army (NPA) surrendered to the 66th Infantry Battalion at its headquarters in New Bataan, Compostela Valley last week.

Lt. Col. Palmer Parungao, commander of the 66th Infantry Battalion, told TIMES that the rebels belonged to the Guerrilla Front 27 SRC2, brought with them a .45 caliber pistol and a .38 caliber revolver, including bullets and one homemade bomb.

Based on the record of the battalion, 319 NPA members and supporters were either killed, captured, and had surrendered in their jurisdiction last year.

Rodel D. Lumangtad alias Lepi, Secretary of the GF 27, was killed in January last year during a clash in Maragusan, which eroded the resource generation capability of the group.

“We have denied the NPA access to their mass bases, which will eventually lead to its breakdown in the near future,” he said, explaining that their community support program has been instrumental in bringing the communities to the government’s side.

Meanwhile, three communist guerrillas surrendered to the army battalions under the 403rd Infantry Brigade in the province of Bukidnon.
Capt. Norman Tagros, the civil-military operations officer of 403rd IB, identified them only as alias Nante of Guerilla Front 68 surrendered to the 1st Special Forces Battalion on Jan. 14, 2018 bringing along one bolt action caliber .223 rifle with ammunition, one cal .45 pistol with ammunition, and two improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Meanwhile, alias Pipoy of Guerilla Front 53 surrendered to the 8th Infantry Battalion on the same day, bringing along his M16 rifle with live ammunition.
Alias Janjan surrendered to the 88th Infantry Battalion on Jan. 15 bringing along his M16 rifle with ammunition.

Their names are withheld for security purposes.

He said during their custodial debriefings, the rebel returnees disclosed the continued hardships and and the false promises of their leaders as their reasons for surrender.

Brig. Gen. Eric C Vinoya , commander of the 403rd Infantry Brigade, assured the surrenderees of their security and well-being.

“I welcome and appreciate the surrender of these three NPA members who recognized the value of their lives more than the futility of their ill-motivated terroristic acts,” he said.

“To all those who still remain with the NPA terrorist group, it is not too late to follow the path of your comrades who laid down their arms,” he added. “The government has prepared the necessary assistance for all of you should you decide to go back to the folds of the law including livelihood and cash assistance, employment, and housing benefits.”

Bong Go intervenes in P15.5-B project to acquire PH warships (Part 1)

From Rappler (Jan 16): Bong Go intervenes in P15.5-B project to acquire PH warships (Part 1)

Special Assistant to the President Bong Go issues a blanket denial, saying someone might be using his name. But documents show otherwise.

Part 1
POST-IT NOTE. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana asks former Philippine Navy chief Vice Admiral Ronald Mercado to respond to issues raised by Special Assistant to the President Christopher Go about the P15.5-billion project to acquire Philippine warships. Screenshot of a sourced document
POST-IT NOTE. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana asks former Philippine Navy chief Vice Admiral Ronald Mercado to respond to issues raised by Special Assistant to the President Christopher Go about the P15.5-billion project to acquire Philippine warships. Screenshot of a sourced document

President Rodrigo Duterte's right hand man, Special Assistant to the President Christopher "Bong" Go, intervened in the multi-billion-peso project to acquire two brand new frigates or warships for the Philippine Navy (PN), documents obtained by Rappler show.
In January 2017, Go gave Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana a white paper endorsing a supplier that now stands to be selected to provide the critical Combat Management System (CMS) to be installed in the warships. The total project cost is P15.5 billion.

Go's office also asked a Navy officer involved in the implementation of the project – then Frigate Project Technical Working Group chairman Commodore Robert Empedrad – to a meeting in Malacañang to discuss the selection of the CMS. Empedrad would later submit a written report addressed to Duterte and Go.

Go issued a blanket denial when reached for comment, saying he never intervened in the project. He said he did not give Lorenzana any white paper related to the project nor asked Empedrad to brief him on the CMS selection.

Go said someone might be using his name.

"I have not intervened in the procurement of DND of its computer system for its ships. I have not participated nor intervened, directly or indirectly, in the transactions of DND," Go told Rappler reporter Pia Ranada.

Lorenzana also denied that Go intervened. But signed documents provided by sources privy to the project showed otherwise.

Big-ticket AFP modernization project

The frigates project is one of the big-ticket modernization projects initiated and practically completed during the administration of Benigno Aquino III, and finalized and signed in the early months of the Duterte administration. It is the Department of National Defense (DND) that conducts bidding for projects of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) won the bid to build two ships for the Philippine Navy. Under the contract, the South Korean company will also acquire several systems – based on the technical requirements of the Philippine Navy – from secondary suppliers to install in these ships.

The importance of the CMS, considered the heart of warships, cannot be understated. It integrates real-time data from all the ship's sensors and data from other parties or other nearby ships necessary for situational awareness at sea.

Former Philippine Navy chief Vice Admiral Ronald Mercado stood by another CMS supplier that technical working groups from the Navy selected as most suitable for the warships. (READ: PH Navy relieved after disagreement over P16-B warships)

Mercado's actions would cost him his post. Just before Christmas last year, he was unceremoniously relieved for alleged insubordination.

The officer that Go asked to meet in Malacañang – now Rear Admiral Robert Empedrad – was installed Navy officer-in-charge in a hastily organized change of command ceremony on December 19, 2017.

The DND has submitted to Malacañang names for Mercado's permanent successor. Empedrad is among them.

Go's white paper in January 2017

A year ago, in the first week January 2017, Go gave Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana a white paper expressing preference for Hanwha Thales, another South Korean company, to provide the CMS.

Lorenzana gave the white paper to Mercado. He wrote on an attached Post-it note:
To: Admiral Mercado
This was given to me by Bong Go.
Go over it and prepare a report/rebuttal
to be submitted to the Pres.
The white paper argued "there is no specific logic or justification on the preferred list of PN where seven (7) equipment of Thales are included." It was referring to the other supplier – Tacticos Thales of The Netherlands – that the Philippine Navy preferred.

It also trashed the Dutch company that supposedly caused many countries "suffering from their poor supports of logistics services and upgrade of their outdated CMS."

In contrast, the white paper gave a glowing endorsement of Hanwha Thales to counter arguments raised against it.

"Hanwha will provide the Philippine Navy the most economic and effective logistics and upgrade etc (almost free riding or on boarding) after delivery or brand new CMS with the logistics support based on large number of ships and continuous upgrade/modernization policy of Korean Navy with government funding supports," the white paper read.

Meeting in Malacañang
INVITATION. Philippine Navy's OIC chief Commodore Robert Empedrad was invited to Malacanang to discuss the frigates project. Sourced document
INVITATION. Philippine Navy's OIC chief Commodore Robert Empedrad was invited to Malacanang to discuss the frigates project. Sourced document

A week after Go gave Lorenzana the white paper, his office sent a letter to Empedrad inviting him to Malacañang on January 20, 2017, to discuss the CMS Selection.

The letter was signed by Undersecretary Christopher Lao of the Office of the Special Assistant to the President. Rappler has no details about the meeting in Malacañang nor the people who attended it.

Go claimed he didn't know about it and that Lao had long left his office. (Lao is now Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board CEO and commissioner.)

But Empedrad sent a report to Malacañang 3 days later, dated January 23, 2017, addressed to the President and Go. He upheld that Tacticos Thales was the better supplier of CMS and debunked most of the arguments that favored Hanwha Thales.

Go told Rappler he also didn't know about this report.

Empedrad wrote, "The Frigate Acquisition Project PMT (Project Management Team) sustains its preference on Tacticos of Thales Nederlands as the CMS for the two PN Frigates."

The debate did not end there, however. For the rest of the year, the DND and the Navy continued to discuss which company should supply the CMS, delaying the project altogether.

In early December 2017, a supposed copy of Lorenzana's letter to Duterte circulated in the military. It was calling for the removal of Mercado over his insistence on Tacticos Thales.

When Rappler asked Lorenzana to confirm it, he said, "Look. I did not sign it." A week later, Malacañang ordered the relief of Mercado.

Part 2 will compare the CMS of Tacticos Thales and Hanwha Thales

Ousted PH Navy chief wanted 'proven technology' for warships (Part 2)

From Rappler (Jan 19): Ousted PH Navy chief wanted 'proven technology' for warships

On January 4, 2017, then Philippine Navy chief vice admiral Ronald Mercado wrote Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to reject plans to install the Combat Management System of Hanwha Systems in Philippine warships. A week later, Lorenzana is handed a Hanwha white paper in Malacañang

PH NAVY CHIEF. Philippine Navy chief Vice Admiral Ronald Mercado leaves his post months ahead of his scheduled retirement. Rappler photo

PH NAVY CHIEF. Philippine Navy chief Vice Admiral Ronald Mercado leaves his post months ahead of his scheduled retirement. Rappler photo


  • The P15.5-billion frigates project of the Philippine Navy is one of two-big ticket modernization projects of the Philippine military. The other one is the already completed P18-billion project to acquire a squadron of fighter jets for the Philippine Air Force.
  • Hyundai Heavy Industries won the bid after the lowest bidder was disqualified. The contract was signed in October 2016 but the project was stalled at the Critical Design Review stage, the first stage of a 10-step process to complete the contract, because they could not agree on the supplier of the Combat Management System or CMS.
  • The Philippine Navy rejected the CMS of Hanwha Systems, which Hyundai wanted to install in the ships, and insisted on the CMS of Tacticos Thales. In the middle of this debate, Malacañang intervened and called the navy officer in charge of the project to a meeting.
Former Philippine Navy chief Vice Admiral Ronald Mercado did not mince words in his letter to Defense Secretary Lorenzana to protest the fine print that shipbuilder Heavy Hyundai Industries (HHI) added in its contract to build two frigates or warships.

"The remarks, if permitted, are akin to a buyer (the Navy and the defense department) with his or her own money being told by the seller (Hyundai) what to buy,” Mercado wrote in a letter dated January 4, 2017.

For P15.5 billion, Hyundai will build two warships and install in them critical systems (identified by the Navy in the contract), which the South Korean company will buy itself from other suppliers.

Hyundai claimed “sole right” to choose the maker of these systems and said it may “consider” the preferences of the Navy only if they are “commercially competitive.”

This is the crux of the problem in the frigate deal that caused the unceremonious relief of Mercado before the end of 2017, and triggered another new year controversy involving Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go. Aside from Go, Malacañang, Lorenzana, and Mercado denied any intervention.

Combat Management System

At the center of the controversy is the Combat Management System (CMS), which is considered the heart of warships. It is a computer system that integrates real-time data from the ship's sensors and data from other parties or other navies necessary to provide situational awareness at sea.

Hyundai decided to buy the CMS from fellow South Korean company Hanwha Systems. The Navy rejected the choice on the ground that its CMS does not comply with the technical specifications agreed upon in the contract. The project stalled.

On January 12, 2017, or a week after he received Mercado's letter, Lorenzana was handed in Malacañang a white paper that debunked the Navy's reasons for opposing Hanwha and trashed the supplier the Navy preferred, Tacticos Thales of The Netherlands.

Lorenzana sent the white paper to Mercado with a marginal note saying it came from Go, and that he should prepare a rebuttal for President Rodrigo Duterte. (READ: Bong Go intervenes in P15.5-B project to acquire PH warships)

A year later, after Go's alleged intervention in the project was reported, Lorenzana admitted it was his handwriting on the note pad, but he said he had wrongfully assumed the white paper came from Go. In an interview with reporters on Wednesday, January 17, he said he could not recall who gave him the white paper, but it came from someone in Malacañang.

Mercado also said Go never approached him personally to intervene in the project. "Secretary Bong Go has not personally inquired nor talked about the frigate project to me in all instances we were together," Mercado told Rappler.

It was Rear Admiral Robert Empedrad, the project officer back then, who was invited on January 20, 2017 to Malacañang to discuss the CMS selection. It was also Empedrad who sent on January 23, 2017 a written report to Duterte and Go.

A former undersecretary in Go's office, Lloyd Christopher Lao, confirmed the Malacañang meeting with Empedrad. (EXCLUSIVE: Undersecretary in Bong Go's office confirms letter in frigates deal)

“It’s a usual course of action done by our office if there are complaints,” Lao told Rappler on January 18.

Empedrad, who served as OIC chief after Mercado's relief, was officially appointed to the post on Thursday, January 18, amid the controversy.

Navy's preferred supplier

The Philippine archipelago – the South China Sea on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other – has one of the longest coastlines in the world. But its Navy is one of the weakest.

The country's current flagship is a hand-me-down former US Coast Guard cutter – the BRP Gregorio del Pilar – which was donated by the country's treaty ally at a time when China resumed its aggression in the West Philippine Sea.

But Del Pilar shouldn't be the flagship for long. The warships from Hyundai were envisioned to become the Philippine Navy's modern and most capable warships.

In his report to Duterte and Go in response to the white paper, Empedrad enumerated the following reasons why the Navy chose Tacticos Thales over Hanwha Systems:
  • Tacticos CMS is "one of the leading Combat Management Systems in the world considering that it is being used by 23 foreign countries in over 172 ships." In comparison, Hanwha's CMS is currently used only by the Korean Navy but it has an ongoing contract with the Royal Malaysian Navy.
  • Tacticos CMS is compatible with Tactical Data Link (TDL) 16, a connection standard adopted by the Philippine military for its frigates, fighters, and long-range patrol aircraft. Hanwha is still working to make its CMS compatible with TDL 16 by 2019.
  • There have been repeat orders for Tacticos from Germany, Indonesia, and Turkey which indicate satisfaction with the CMS. The Hanwha white paper's claim that countries have suffered "poor support of logistics and upgrade of their outdated CMS cannot be validated."
  • Hanwha's promise to "provide the most economic and effective logistics and upgrade" is "a future occurrence that needs to be validated later on."
Even Lorenzana acknowledged that Tacticos Thales "is a proven technology."

"But I do not know if it is far superior than what Hyundai is thinking of putting in," he added.

There are a lot of legal technicalities in the letters exchanged in 2017 by the Navy and the defense department. Their debates went on for the entire year. The Marawi siege came and went but the issue could not be resolved even after Lorenzana issued directives ordering the Navy to honor Hanwha as Hyundai's choice.

Installing the CMS of Tacticos Thales will cost Hyundai more. But fine print or not, sources in the Navy maintained Hanwha doesn't comply with the technical specifications in the contract.

For one, the sources said Hanwha cannot claim to have a proven design, as the contract demands, if it is not currently compatible with TDL 16. Hanwha has committed to have the capability only by 2019.

Delayed steel cutting

The DND team in charge of the frigates deal accused Mercado of disregarding directives to complete paperwork necessary to give HHI the go-signal to begin construction of the ships. It was stuck at the Critical Design Review (CDR) stage, where the Navy and Hyundai were supposed to agree on the makers of the systems to be installed in the ships.

Completing the CDR would pave the way for the shipbuilder to buy steel for the ceremonial steel cutting, which officially kicks off the construction of the ships.

Lorenzana said the problem is that the Navy approved both suppliers – Hanwha and Tacticos – during the post qualification stage before he signed the contract with Hyundai in October 2016. He said he was assured it was ready for signing.

"The Combat Management System is very important to that project. But you cannot put a company there [in the contract] to put the CMS. Ilagay mo lang 'yung capability na gusto mo (Just note down the capability you require). Hyundai said they will put the CMS there according to our specification and we will find that out when they deliver that," Lorenzana said on December 20, 2017.

This is where the issue becomes murky. When the contract was being finalized, Hanwha had a joint venture with French multinational and aerospace company Thales Group. But Thales divested its 50%-stake in Hanwha Thales in the middle of 2016 just before Lorenzana signed the contract. Hanwha Thales is now Hanwha Systems.

It appears the Navy belatedly realized a potential problem with the fine print in Hyundai's contract. The Navy wanted to add a page to the contract to clarify the issue but Hyundai supposedly refused to accept it.

This resulted in the letter that Mercado sent to Lorenzana in January 2017 – it was meant to protest the page in the contract that supposedly wasn't signed by the Philippine Navy. He stood by his decision and, before his relief, gathered the former navy chiefs to explain the problem and get allies.

"He goes around forum shopping and he talks about rescinding the contract kung hindi matuloy ang pinapasok niya (if he doesn't get his way). I had to recommend his relief and it was approved by the President," said Lorenzana when he explained Mercado's relief on December 20 last year.

"I didn't want to remove him but the team that is involved in the acquisition of the frigates is alarmed because the project was delayed by the insistence of Admiral Mercado on the system," said Lorenzana.


Mercado's relief drew attention to issues that had long been discussed in social media pages.

It surprised the military as an institution and many didn't know what to make of the corruption allegations made on both sides. Lorenzana was asked if Mercado was being investigated for corruption and he said no.

Lorenzana also had to meet with former navy chiefs who were disappointed with the unceremonious change of command.

“They said I violated the time-honored tradition of retiring honorably with a parade and everything. I told them that the situation then was so fluid and that we can no longer have a formal turnover. I explained to them why and they understood,” Lorenzana said on January 8, 2018.

In the House of Representatives on January 15, former navy officer and fierce Duterte critic Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano delivered a privilege speech urging the government to cancel the project if the winning bidder insists on giving the Navy an outmoded warship.

The Department of National Defense ignored the call but Congress is poised to investigate the issue. It's a no-win situation for the country facing challenges in its maritime waters. It might need to wait longer to have modern warships.

2 IEDs explode near Army training camp in Maguindanao

From MindaNews (Jan  19): 2 IEDs explode near Army training camp in Maguindanao

DATU ODIN SINSUAT, Maguindanao – Two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) exploded separately early morning in this town Friday, the military said.

An Army EOD team gather pieces of evidence after a twin explosion that took place early Friday morning (19 January 2018) in Barangay Semba, Datu Odin Sinsuat. The explosion is only a few meters away from the 6th Infantry Division’s training school. Authorities are still investigating if the bomb attack was meant to hit soldiers. MindaNews photo by FERDINANDH CABRERA

Capt. Arvin Encinas, spokesperson of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the explosions took place in Barangay Semba not far from the 6ID’s training camp.

The first explosion occurred 6 a.m., followed by another one 36 minutes later.

Encinas said that fortunately, no motorists or school children were hit in the explosions even though the road was already busy at that time.

He said they were not sure yet if the explosions were intended for the soldiers because 10 minutes before the first blast, an Army truck passed by.

Encinas said they are still coordinating with the police as to the identity of the suspects and the motive.

Twin blasts rock Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan  19): Twin blasts rock Maguindanao

Twin blasts rocked the junction of Barangays Tamontaka and Broce in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao, early Friday morning momentarily causing fear among local residents.

Nobody was reported hurt in the incident.

“We panicked after the succession of blasts,” said Datu Salik, a resident in the area. He said the first blast occurred at 6 a.m. followed by another blast at 6:30 a.m. at a secluded section of the highway near the junction.

Responding police and military bomb disposal experts said the blasts were caused by improvised explosive devices rigged from black powder, cut nails, metal shards and mobile phone as triggering device.

Authorities immediately implemented strict security measures in the area following the incident.

The site of the blasts is only some 200 meters away from Tamontaka Bridge that separates this city from Datu Odin Sinsuat town.

A company-size contingent from the Army’s 6th Infantry Division is securing the bridge as entry and exit points in the south side of this city.

Bong Go 'link' to warship deal a hack job

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan  19): Bong Go 'link' to warship deal a hack job

Two administration lawmakers on Friday dismissed as "nothing but a desperate hack job" the allegations against Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong" Go on the multi-billion frigate acquisition project (FAP) of the Philippine Nay.

In a statement, House appropriations committee chair Karlo Nograles and his younger brother, Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA) Partylist Rep. Jericho Nograles, said this Bong Go-warship issue is a "fishing expedition" and, at worst, a smear campaign against the Duterte administration.

"They've done everything to malign the Chief Executive but these obviously haven't worked in their favor. So now they're targeting his most trusted friend in Bong Go," Karlo said.

According to reports from online news site Rappler, Go allegedly “intervened” in the selection of the combat management system (CMS) of the two warships.

Go has categorically denied the accusation, while Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and former Navy chief Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado have backed him up.

"This issue was raised out of nowhere amid the surge in President Rodrigo Duterte's ratings from independent pollsters. The timing and dubious nature of the accusation would make anyone with a discerning mind suspicious," Karlo said.

The older Nograles highlighted the recent Social Weather Stations' (SWS) December 2017 survey results showing that Duterte posted a "record high" net satisfaction rating of +70 percent, a 12-percentage point increase from his rating during the third quarter.

For the younger Nograles, the connections being made right now between Go and the warship deal is apparently contrived.

"The timeline of the FAP is indisputable. It was initiated by the Aquino administration in June 7, 2013 and was completed through the appointment of the winning bidder on June 9, 2016, a full three weeks before President Duterte took over," Rep. Jericho said.

"Simply put, Bong Go was never in a position to intervene during that period even if he wanted to," he added.

Jericho also noted that the supposed damning document against Go was not even signed by the latter.

"No Bong Go signature, no issue. This looks like a witch hunt just like all the other attempts to discredit our government," he said.

Malacañang on Thursday said that an internal investigation showed that the allegations against Go were not true.

“An investigation has been conducted and it has been found that the allegations of Rappler are untrue and unfounded,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said at a briefing in Legazpi City, Albay.

Roque reiterated that there was no way Go could have intervened in the acquisition of the two frigates, including the CMS, because the project was already awarded by the Philippine government during the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III.

The Palace spokesperson said Rappler’s allegation against Go “appears to be defense by way of an offense,” noting how the allegations surfaced immediately after the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) declared that Rappler Inc. and Rappler Holdings violated the ownership rules of the Constitution on mass media companies.

Guerrero gets first-hand look at fighter jet operations

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan  19): Guerrero gets first-hand look at fighter jet operations

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero got a first-hand look at the capabilities of the newly-acquired FA-50PH "Fighting Eagle" jet aircraft during a capability and demonstration flight over Clark Air Base, Pampanga on Thursday.

This took place shortly after the military chief's visit to the Air Defense Alert Center where he was welcomed by Philippine Air Force (PAF) chief Lt. Gen. Galileo Gerard Kintanar and other high-ranking military officials.

PAF spokesperson Major Aristides Galang said the AFP chief was escorted to Hangar Bay 1 where he was welcomed by Air Force fighter pilots.

After this, Guerrero was flown aboard one of the FA-50PH jet aircraft by one of the pilots who saw action in the Marawi siege.

The Mach 1.5 capable FA-50PHs were used in the five-month battle to retake Marawi City from the clutches of ISIS-inspired terrorist groups.

The PAF has around 12 units of jet aircraft which was acquired at about PHP18.9 billion from Korea Aerospace Industries.

The delivery commenced on December 2015 and was completed on May last year.

Galang said the AFP chief witnessed a stimulated bombing activity which highlighted the FA-50PH's onboard aerial firepower, fighting capability and technology.

Following the exercise, the AFP chief expressed his commitment to PAF’s "future big ticket acquisitions."

"After the flight, the FA-50PH aircraft recovered at Clark International Airport and taxied to park at Haribon Building for a ceremonial and beer toasting in honor of the CS, AFP. He was then awarded with a Mach 1+ patch, Mach Buster Plaque, and FA-50PH patch as a proof that he flew a speed of Mach 1.2 or around 1, 482 kilometers per hour flight," the PAF spokesperson added.

Mass reshuffle due to pending retirement: PNP

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan  19): Mass reshuffle due to pending retirement: PNP

Philippine National Police Spokesperson Chief Supt. Dionardo Carlos on Friday said the mass reshuffle of 12 senior police officials of the agency has nothing to do with President Rodrigo Duterte's announcement that he will dismiss three police generals over corruption.

In a Radyo Pilipinas report, Carlos clarified that the reshuffle was brought about by the need to fill in the slots vacated by the pending retirement of ranking police officers.

Among the officials transferred included Police Director Noli Taliño, who returned to the Special Action Force from the Directorate for Human Resources and Doctrine Development (DHRDD).

Taliño will be replaced by DIPO-Western Mindanao Police Director Cedrick Train who will be replaced by Directorate for Police Community Relations director Noel Constantino.

Taliño will replace Police Director Benjamin Lusad who was transferred to the Directorate for Integrated Police Operations (DIPO) Southern Luzon, the post poised to be vacated by Police Director Eduardo Garado, who will be assigned to DPCR.

Meanhwile, Southwestern Tagalog Regional Director Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor and Chief Supt. Emmanuel Luis Licup from the Directorate for Operations switched positions.

PNP Health Service Chief Supt. Edward Carranza will be transferred to PRO Cordillera while Central Visayas Police Chief Supt. Jose Mario Espino will be transferred to PRO 10.

Police Chief Superintendent Robert Quenery of the PRO 2 will be transferred to PRO 7, while Police Regional Office 10 head Chief Superintendent Timoteo Pacleb will be transferred to PRO 2.

DND welcomes Senate plan to probe frigate project

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan  19): DND welcomes Senate plan to probe frigate project

The Department of National Defense (DND) welcomed the call of the Senate minority bloc to look into the controversial PHP18-billion Frigate Acquisition Project (FAP) of the Philippine Navy.

DND Public Affairs Office Chief Arsenio Andolong said the agency "have long been waiting for the opportunity to shed light on this issue so that the truth will finally be known."

The FAP is one of the key pieces of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program as it seeks to provide the country with the capability to deal with air, surface and sub-surface threats.

It will be armed with a variety of missiles and guns capable of defeating such threats.

Earlier, Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano claimed that the frigate project is riddled with anomalies and that its design was altered from the original, including the alleged preference for the Hanwha Combat Management System.

"There is a proper process prescribed in RA 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act) concerning the termination of a procurement project and there are specific conditions that must be present in order to invoke it, none of which are existing at the moment in this project," said Andolong.

Andolong added that the anomalies claimed by Alejano are mere allegations and innuendos which hardly constitute grounds for termination of the project.

The defense department had earlier cleared Special Assistant to the President Christopher "Bong" Go of any interference in the FAP following reports claiming that the latter interfered in the project.

"The President has already addressed the issue of the alleged 'intervention' of the SAP Christopher “Bong” Go in the PN Frigate Acquisition Project," Andolong, quoting DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, said in a statement.

"The Secretary of National Defense is confirming that no intervention or interference by Secretary Bong Go happened. The document that the SND alluded to have been given to him by Secretary Bong Go was handed to him at the Palace, so he assumed that it came from Secretary Go, the Special Assistant to the President and Chief of the Presidential Management Staff (PMS). It should be noted that the one of the tasks of the PMS includes the official routing and endorsement of documents to government agencies concerned, for appropriate action," he added.

Andolong said the document originated from Hanwha, one of the proponents for the combat management system (CMS) who were post-qualified by the Philippine Navy for the FAP.

"The SND forwarded it to then Flag-Officer-In-Command of the Philippine Navy (then Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado) for appropriate action, who, in turn, gave it to then Commodore Robert Empedrad, the Chairperson of the Frigate Project Management Team at the time. Adm. Empedrad wrote a reply to the document stating the preferred CMS of the Philippine Navy, subject to the terms and conditions of the contract," he added.

The DND spokesperson said there was neither hint nor guidance from the Palace or from Go to influence the implementation of the project.

"There is a contract for the FAP which was crafted mainly by the Philippine Navy and it will be implemented strictly to the letter," Andolong pointed out.