Tuesday, January 23, 2018

One more NPA rebel surrenders

From the Mindanao Times (Jan 24): One more NPA rebel surrenders

ANOTHER NPA rebel surrendered to the 30th Infantry Battalion at its headquarters in Sta. Cruz, Placer, Surigao del Norte on Monday, Jan. 23.
2Lt. Jonel Castillo, the civil- military Operations (CMO) officer of 30th IB, identified the returnee as alias Ted, 22, a native of Surigao del Norte and served under the NPA Guerilla Front 16 who brought his M16 rifle and several bullets.

“The NPA fails to fulfill its promises, continues punishment on the poor … (and conducts) unending extortion,” Castillo said, quoting the rebel returnee.

A total of two NPA returnees surrendered to the 30IB since the start of the year 2018.

On Sunday, alias Jun also surrendered to the 30th IB who brought along his AK47 rifle and several ammo.
“There are many benefits from our government awaiting our returnees. At this moment, they should realize how we want peace for them,” he said.

Lt. Col. Allen Thomas, the battalion commander, said that the surrender of the two communist guerrillas only proves that many of them are keen on going back home to their families, and live peaceful lives.
“Once again, to those who are still with the terrorist organization, it is not yet late. The government is open to your return,” he said. “Assistance is waiting if you choose to embrace a peaceful life with your families.”

Rebel killed in encounter

From the Mindanao Times (Jan 22): Rebel killed in encounter

A SQUAD leader of the New People’s Army (NPA) was killed while a soldier was wounded in an encounter in New Bataan, Compostela Valley at 8:56 a.m. last Saturday.
Lt. Col. Palmer Parungao, the commander of 66th IB, said troopers of the 66th Infantry Battalion encountered around 30 NPAs, said to be members of the Sentro De Grabidad, Guerilla Front 25, in Sitio Tadia, Barangay Bantacan, New Bataan.

Parungao said the firefight, which lasted for an hour, resulted to the death of one rebel, said to be a squad leader.

One soldier was wounded. He was immediately lifted by chopper to the army hospital in Camp Panacan. The wounded soldier, name withheld, is now in stable condition, Parungao said.

Government trooper recovered four high powered firearms, nine improvised explosive devices, one rifle grenade, electrical wires and blasting paraphernalia, five cellphones, one handheld radio, two binoculars, documents and other enemy personal belongings and food stuff.

The body of the slain rebel was brought by the troopers in the nearest local government unit.

Parungao personally set foot in the battle area to congratulate and boost the morale of his troops. “This is another significant progress in our efforts in reducing the manpower and equipage of our adversaries.

Brig. Gen. Reuben Basiao, the commander of 701st Infantry Brigade, said that government troopers are in the area to secure the communities from the harassment and extortion activities of NPAs.

“Troops are conducting community support program (CSP) and facilitate the delivery of basic services to the people together with other government agencies,” Basiao said.


Two soldiers killed in Kalinga encounter

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 24): Two soldiers killed in Kalinga encounter
Two government soldiers were killed while two others were wounded during an encounter against New People’s Army (NPA) in Kalinga on Tuesday, the military said.

Lt. Col. Isagani G. Nato, the chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Northern Luzon Command (AFP-NoLCom) Public Affairs Office, said the encounter took place at Sitio Matayog, Brgy. Baay, Pinukpuk, Kalinga at about 10 a.m.

Soldiers from the 50th Infantry Battalion (50IB) of Joint Task Force “Tala” under the Army’s 5th Infantry Division were scouring the area in response to reports of the presence of NPA rebels/terrorists in the area when a firefight ensued.

Nato said the NPA group was part of the Komiteng Larangang Gerilya (KLG) “Baggas” of the Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Committee (ICRC), NPA under Ruby Daguitan alias Pinpin.

The clash resulted in the death of two Army personnel and wounding of another two on the government side, while the NPA suffered undetermined number of casualties, according to reports received by the military.

The wounded personnel were immediately given first aid on site and were evacuated to the nearest hospital for treatment.

Nato said prior to the firefight, another abandoned NPA terrorist encampment was discovered while the same Army unit was conducting security operations in Brgy. Babalasioan, Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur.

The encampment was estimated to accommodate at least 15 communist terrorists. Nato said the encampment was abandoned five days prior its discovery.

Nato said NoLCom will remain steadfast to its mandate of protecting the communities against any threat.

“NoLCom will also sustain its Development Support Operations to ensure that government services will reach their recipients and thwart any plan of the NPA criminal group detrimental to the lives of the people…”


Editorial: CPP-NPA’s ill will and motive

From the Manila Times (Jan 24): Editorial: CPP-NPA’s ill will and motive

“NO thanks” came the reply of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), to President Rodrigo’s generous offer of livelihood and housing to Red fighters willing to lay down their arms.

The response was made in a statement sent to the press on Tuesday afternoon.

“Duterte’s call for NPA members to surrender, in exchange for cash, housing and jobs, is pure hogwash,” the NPA said.

The statement is premature and is indicative of the malice and bad faith the CPP-NPA has shown since the beginning of the Duterte administration.

It pointed to the counterinsurgency program CLIP (Comprehensive Local Integration Program), which it described as a “hold-over of the US-Arroyo regime’s Oplan Bantay Laya.” It claimed, without providing evidence, that the CLIP had served as a “source of corruption for AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) generals and ranking officials.”

Duterte made the assurance of protection over the weekend as two former NPA members yielded to the government in simple rites at the Matina Enclaves in Davao City.

Malacañang said: “The Chief Executive pledged that NPA surrenderees would be welcomed and accepted; assured the rebel returnees of the government’s protection and assistance as they begin to immerse [themselves]in the civilian way of life.”

Each of the former rebels was given a housing unit, financial assistance, food packs and a smartphone.

The President’s offer of protection and a return to civilian life appeared sincere by all indications, unlike the CPP-NPA leadership’s show of treachery during the peace negotiations by attacking government forces, including a presidential convoy, during a ceasefire.

The CPP-NPA should not begrudge its members who have grown tired of four decades of fruitless armed struggle, nor should it take offense at the government’s offer of assistance to them.

Tuesday’s statement was, in fact, a new low for CPP-NPA propaganda, as it also disrespected the achievements of the good men and women of the Armed Forces, particularly those who fought in the five-month siege of Marawi City.

“Red fighters are not like AFP soldiers,” the CPP-NPA said. “They are not enticed to join the armed struggle through promises of high salaries, sex with starlets and bright new toys. They do not seek constant flattery for what they do, which is to serve the people selflessly and with humility.”

What hypocrisy! Perhaps the CPP-NPA propaganda machine should take a look at Joma Sison’s lifestyle in exile in the Netherlands, where at one point the CPP founder was himself pictured with a sexy starlet, Ara Mina.

Such was Sison’s frivolity, while Red fighters—lured and indoctrinated in the passé ideology of armed struggle, placed themselves in harm’s way, separated from their families and friends.

Red fighters are certainly better off with Duterte’s offer of protection, housing and livelihood, than wait for Sison’s false promise of communist utopia.


Esperon opposes Bangsamoro military command creation under proposed BBL

From GMA News (Jan 23): Esperon opposes Bangsamoro military command creation under proposed BBL

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. on Tuesday opposed the creation of a Bangsamoro Military Command under the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

At the Senate subcommittee hearing on BBL, Esperon cautioned that a separate command will be used by leaders “for their own interest.”

“May I take the position that we should not create a command that will be under the control of the autonomous region,” Esperon said.

Esperon said the Armed Forces of the Philippines' Eastern Mindanao Command and Western Mindanao Command are already “enough and sufficient.”

“In this kind of structure, I believe that the Armed Forces would be better able to serve the purposes of defense and security without becoming a potential instrument of the leaders or of personalities in an area for their own interest,” Esperson argued.

Esperon said the military may be “flexible” on the possible creation of task groups in the proposed Bangsamoro area.

Under Section 147 of the proposed BBL, the defense of the Bangsamoro entity shall be the responsibility of the central government. It said “the central government shall create a Bangsamoro Military Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines for the Bangsamoro.”

“Qualified inhabitants of the Bangsamoro territory shall be given preference in the leadership of Command for assignments in the said Bangsamoro Military Command,” it said.

Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) member Jose Lorena said the creation of a military command for the autonomous region is already provided in Republic Act 9054, which strengthened and expanded the Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

“Since it is already vested in that law, the BTC did not change it, except the name, because it is provided,” Lorena said.

Meanwhile, Esperon said the BBL will allow the “peaceful transition” of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front from an armed group to a “legitimate political actor.”

He cautioned that failure to pass the BBL will result in a “grimmer picture” as the Moro people are “beginning to lose faith in the peace process.”

He said the Marawi siege last year is an indicator of the “growing discontent” among the Moro community.

“The succesful conclusion of the peace process is still the most effective vacctination against the risk of violent extremism in our country,” Esperon said.

Senator Miguel Zubiri, chairman of the subcommittee on BBL, committed to passing the proposal on third and final reading by March this year.


AFP chief of staff Gen. Guerrero to be assigned as Marina administrator

From UNTV News and Rescue (Jan 23): AFP chief of staff Gen. Guerrero to be assigned as Marina administrator

President Rodrigo Duterte is set to assign Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff, General Rey Leonardo Guerrero as the new administrator of the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina).

The President made the announcement Monday afternoon at the launching of an event for farmers and fishermen in Mawab, Compostela Valley.

The President is eyeing Guerrero to replace dismissed Marina administrator, Marco Amaro due to excessive foreign trips.

“Jagger (General Guerrero) after his term, he will lead Marina because I dismissed the former administrator since he’s been on foreign trips often,” Duterte said.

The President has earlier extended Guerrero’s tour of service at the AFP until April 24, 2018.

Meanwhile, the President has ordered the military and police forces to uphold their duties and apply the implementation of the law on him, in case he violates any provisions of the Constitution, especially on term extension.

“Pag ako sumobra sa aking termino, isang araw lang (If I exceed my term, even for a day,) I am now asking the AFP or PNP not to allow me or anybody else to mess up with the Constitution. Trabaho niyo yan, to protect the Constitution and the people… pag sumobra ang panahon ko kahit isang araw lang barilin nyo ako (if my term extends even one more day, shoot me),” Duterte said.


Harris awarded USD45 million contract for Philippine C4ISTAR capability

From Jane's 360 (Jan 23): Harris awarded USD45 million contract for Philippine C4ISTAR capability

Harris Corporation has been awarded a USD44.86 million Foreign Military Sales (FMS) contract to assist the US government in providing the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) with a C4ISTAR capability, the US Department of Defense (DoD) announced on 19 January.

Harris will provide “programme management, design, systems engineering, integration and test, installation, post-installation test, training, and maintenance efforts,” said the DoD, pointing out that the AFP will be supplied with a joint service command-and-control (C2) system of systems that will replace legacy service-specific systems.

The Global Command and Control System – Maritime will provide information integration and dissemination to each of the AFP joint and service specific headquarters to expand their ability to form and maintain a national common operational picture, stated the DoD.

To read the full article subscription required.


Roxas bombing suspects' trial remains in limbo

From the Sun Star-Davao (Jan 22): Roxas bombing suspects' trial remains in limbo

THE trial of the five suspected Maute Group members accused in the September 2, 2016 Roxas night market blast remained undecided before the courts in Davao City.
Davao City Prosecutor's Office spokesperson fiscal Jay Karel Sanchez said the cases handled by the Regional Trial Court branches 33 and 17 are being held in abeyance pending the resolution of the Supreme Court (SC) on the petition to move the trial outside Davao City.
"So far, wala pang update from the Supreme Court. The decision to change venue for the trial and detention of the accused has not yet been decided," Sanchez said.
There were 14 alleged Maute members earlier charged with terrorism, in violation of the Republic Act 9374 or The Human Security Act, and multiple murder with multiple attempted murder under the Revised Penal Code following the incident.
But the charges against the others were dropped. One was a minor, while two turned into state witnesses after they executed extra-judicial confessions, which became basis for prosecutors to charge the other five.
One of the five accused was a son of a high-ranking Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader and former mayor of Cotabato City, Muslimin Sema.
The accused Mohammad Abdul Jabbar Sema's plea for reinvestigation was granted by Judge Lope Callo in May 2017 on the grounds that the suspect was not given the opportunity to submit his counter-affidavit.
Facing charges are TJ Macabalang, Wendel Apostol Facturan, Musali Mustapha, Zack Villanueva Lopez and Jericho De Rome. The City Prosecutor's Office filed a petition before the Department of Justice to move the trial and detention of the accused to another place.


Taliño named new SAF director

From ABS-CBN (Jan 23): Taliño named new SAF director

Police Director Noli Taliño has assumed command of the Special Action Force (SAF), the Philippine National Police's (PNP) elite anti-terror unit.

He replaced Police Director Benjamin Lusad, who has been re-assigned to the Directorate for Integrated Police Operations in Camp Crame.

Taliño is no stranger to the SAF, as he started his career in the unit back in 1984.

He was the SAF's second-in-command during the bloody Mamasapano encounter, which claimed the lives of 44 SAF troopers and dozens of civilians and Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters.
Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, a skilled bomb maker with links to Jemaah Islamiyah, was killed in the operation.

In his speech, Taliño spoke of his fondness for the SAF and his pride as a trooper, and extolled the unit's virtues and accomplishments, most recently during the five-month war between state troops and terrorists in Marawi City, where the SAF lost 4 policemen leading other units in close-quarter combat.

Comrades laud SAF troopers, cops’ heroism in Marawi siege

Taliño, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1984, was formerly director of the PNP Directorate for Human Resource and Doctrine Development, and regional director of Police Regional Office 7 based in Cebu.

Present during the turnover were PNP Deputy Chief for Administration Ramon Apolinario, former SAF Director Getulio Napeñas, and AFP Task Force National Capital Region Chief Major Gen. Allan Arrojado.


Cops nab Maute widow in Cotabato City for rebellion

From GMA News (Jan 23): Cops nab Maute widow in Cotabato City for rebellion

Authorities in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao have arrested the alleged widow of a top Maute group leader on Tuesday afternoon.

Chief Inspector Allan Uy, spokesperson of CIDG-ARMM, identified the suspect as Najiya Dilangalen Karon-Maute.
She has been included in the arrest order number 2 of Department of National Defense dated June 5, 2017 for violation of Article 134 or rebellion.

Karon-Maute, a 37-year-old civil engineer and contractor was arrested at 2 p.m. at her residence at 23 Nayon Shariff, Barangay Rosary Heights 3 by members of the Police Regional Office in the ARMM, Cotabato City PNP and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-ARMM.

She is allegedly the widow of slain Maute-ISIS commander Mohammad Khayam Maute.

“This is part of the ongoing tactical interrogation being conducted at this moment and her role in the terror group” Uy said.

Families and lawyers of the arrested Maute have visited the suspect but they kept mum on the issue including the suspect.

The Maute brothers of Lanao Del Sur have links to another local terror group Abu Sayaff and have pledged allegiance to international terror group ISIS.

The Maute brothers, the Abu Sayyaff Group and foreign terrorists launched the attacked Marawi City on May 23, 2017 in an aim to install a regional Islamic caliphate in Asia.

The clashes lasted for six months and claimed more than a thousand lives including civilians, government troopers, bandits and their leaders.


3 Dawla Islamiyah members arrested in Lanao del Sur

From GMA News (Jan 23): 3 Dawla Islamiyah members arrested in Lanao del Sur

Three members of the bandit group, Dawla Islamiyah/Maute, reportedly responsible for the killing of civilians were arrested in a joint operation conducted early Tuesday morning in Barangay Gacap, Piagapo in Lanao del Sur.

The joint operation is composed of the 103rd Infantry Brigade, Joint Task Force Haribon, 1SRBN, 51st Infantry Battalion, the Philippine National Police Lanao del Sur and the Special Action Force.

Apao Dmacaling, a suspected member of the Dawla Islamiyah-Maute Group, allegedly responsible for killing three civilians. PHOTO BY 103rd Infantry Brigade

Ibrahim Alek Undi alias Brad Alexander, a suspected member of the Dawla Islamiyah-Maute Group, allegedly responsible for killing three civilians. PHOTO BY 103rd Infantry Brigade

Jamal Ramal Berongan also known as "mayor", a suspected member of the Dawla Islamiyah-Maute Group, was arrested for allegedly killing three civilians. PHOTO BY 103rd Infantry Brigade

The members of the bandit group were identified as Apao Dimacalang, Ibrahim Alek Undi alias Brad Alexander, and Jamal Ramal Berongan also known as "mayor" as individuals responsible for the killing of three civilians who were selling furniture and foam last Dec. 6, 2017.

Officials said the suspects admitted to the crime, saying that this was their way of getting back at those responsible for the deaths of their relatives during the Marawi siege.

The officials also confiscated two caliber 45 pistols from Apao and Jalal.

The arrest was made with the assistance of civilians who reported that there were unidentified individuals roaming the area.


Two soldiers killed in clash with NPA in Kalinga

From GMA News (Jan 24): Two soldiers killed in clash with NPA in Kalinga

The Philippine military revealed that two soldiers were killed and two servicemen were injured when the Army's 5th Infantry Division clashed with Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) gunmen in Kalinga's Pinukpuk town.

According to 50th Infantry Battalion commander Lieutenant Colonel Martin S Daiz Jr., his soldiers were responding to a tip that NPA gunmen were "conducting extortion activities" in Barangay Baay when the gunbattle broke out Tuesday morning.

While the wounded soldiers were immediately evacuated to hospital, the rest of the soldiers pursued the fleeing gunmen, who were believed to have also suffered casualties.

“We also expressed our deepest sympathy to the family of our soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice in serving the people of Kalinga from the hands of the [NPA]," said 5th Infantry Division commander Brigadier General Perfecto M Rimando Jr. "All the benefits intended for them will be received by their families the soonest possible time.”

Meanwhile, additional soldiers joined the 50th Infantry battalion in the pursuit of the NPA gunmen.


Firearm found after clash with NPA in North Cotabato belonged to slain cop

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 24): Firearm found after clash with NPA in North Cotabato belonged to slain cop
Police authorities here said they have identified one of the firearms recovered in the aftermath of Monday’s clash here, which left a militiaman and three communist rebels dead, as that of a policeman in nearby Davao del Sur.

Senior Superintendent Jonathan Tangonan, North Cotabato police director, said the Taurus 9-millimeter pistol was government-issued to Police Officer 2 Manolo Booc, who was slain in the March 2014 attack by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels on the police station of Matanao, Davao del Sur.

Tangonan said the details of the firearms were provided by the police’s Crime Laboratory.

Tangonan said all the slain rebels had also been identified and their bodies claimed by their relatives.

He said the last slain rebel to be identified was Roger Sikin Labajo Jr. of Datal Batong, in Malungon, Sarangani Province.

Superintendent Bernard Tayong, speaking for North Cotabato PNP, said Labajo’s remains were identified by an aunt, who arrived at the funeral home here on Tuesday.

The other slain rebels during Monday’s clash were Reymart Rusiana of Purok Malabuan, Makilala, Cotabato and Armand Mendoza of Barangay Nuling, Lebak, Sultan Kudarat.


7 rebels, 35 ‘people’s militia’ surrender in Masbate

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 23): 7 rebels, 35 ‘people’s militia’ surrender in Masbate

At least seven alleged New People’s Army (NPA) rebels and 35 “people’s militia” (militia ng bayan) operating in Masbate province surrendered to the military on Sunday, the spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Southern Luzon Command (AFP-Solcom) said Tuesday.

Colonel Teody Toribio said the rebels also surrendered two M16A1 rifles, one caliber .30 Garand rifle, three caliber .38 revolvers, one caliber .45 pistol, and one improvised explosive device to the Army’s 2nd Infantry Battalion. The members of the NPA’s “people’s militia” also yielded six assorted short firearms.

Toribio tagged the members of the rebel’s militia as supporters of the communist guerrillas in Balud town.

The surrenderers will be listed in the Comprehensive Local Integration Program that gives financial and livelihood assistance to former communist rebels who returned to the fold of the law.

Toribio said he and several Army commanders in the field have been receiving surrender feelers lately.

“It seems that our brothers in the hills are now tired of being hunted. They now want to live peacefully with their families,” Toribio, a native of Camarines Norte, said.

In a statement, Lt. General Danilo Pamonag, Solcom commander, said: “The series of surrenders indicates that the move of the government and the efforts of the AFP is taking its toll on the rebel group and they heard the call of our president to lay down their arms and abandon the armed struggle”.


Lanao Sultan: MNLF, MILF won’t go to war if BBL not passed, but…

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 23): Lanao Sultan: MNLF, MILF won’t go to war if BBL not passed, but…

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will not go to war even if the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) fails to get the approval of Congress.

Firdausi Ismail Abbas, the sultan of Lanao and a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), gave this assurance on Tuesday during a joint hearing in the Senate on the BBL, which seeks to establish a new autonomous Muslim region in Mindanao.

“We’re very thankful that the honorable senators are doing everything to see to it that this law will be passed. And there’s nothing from us, no statement could you ever expect that if this law will not be passed, there will be war,” Abbas said.

“Definitely, the MNLF will not go to war. Most of us are already old. The MILF neither will go to war,” he also said.

But Abbas warned of other groups that he said might take advantage if the BLL would not be approved by Congress.

Firdausi Ismail Abbas, the sultan of Lanao and a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC)

He cited as example the Abu Sayyaf Group, which he said emerged out of their frustration with the MNLF; and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), which he said came about because of their disagreements with the MILF negotiations with the government.

“So these are things, the persons, the groups that will take advantage of the situation if this law will not be passed,” Abbas noted.

Abbas assured that the BBL that the BTC is proposing would be subject to the scrutiny of Congress as it would be given power to amend the law.

“There’s nothing to worry. We’re trying to build nationhood. But we can’t build it without trust. We can’t build without sincerity. For as long as you don’t trust us, nothing would come out of it,” he said.

“A strong nation is not borne out by a mere fiat of law. It must be our attitude towards each other, respect for each other’s cultures and customs.”

Abbas admitted that the law may not be perfect, but he hopes that Congress could help thresh out its “deficiencies.”


Basilan town mayor arrested for rebellion

From Rappler (Jan 23): Basilan town mayor arrested for rebellion

Mayor Jamar Mansul Hadji Muhtamad town, Basilan, is arrested as he is set to fly to Malaysia

ARRESTED. Mayor Jamar Mansul is on the defense department's list of security threats. Photo by Richard Falcatan/Rappler

ARRESTED. Mayor Jamar Mansul is on the defense department's list of security threats. Photo by Richard Falcatan/Rappler

The mayor of Hadji Muhtamad town in Basilan is being held by airport authorities in Manila for rebellion.

Mayor Jamar Mansul was arrested Monday, January 22, by operatives of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) at the departure area of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1.

Mansul is the subject of warrant of arrest for rebellion and is on the security watchlist of the Department of National Defense.

Mansul was set to board Malaysian Airlines flight 805, which was flying to Kuala Lumpur, when he was arrested. when he was accosted by NBI agents.


PH conducts maritime patrol in Scarborough, brings TV crew

From Rappler (Jan 23): PH conducts maritime patrol in Scarborough, brings TV crew

Amid criticisms over its failure to assert its sovereignty of Panatag Shoal, the Philippines shows it can fly a military aircraft to the disputed shoal without protests from China

71-SEATER. The Philippine Air Force flew its brand new C295 aircraft to patrol Panatag Shoal on January 23, 2018.

71-SEATER. The Philippine Air Force flew its brand new C295 aircraft to patrol Panatag Shoal on January 23, 2018.

The Philippine Air Force on Tuesday morning, January 23, conducted maritime patrol over Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), bringing along a TV crew to show that "there was no problem" in the area.

Lieutenant Colonel Isagani Nato, spokesman of the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom), said the Philippine aircraft did not receive radio challenges from China. There were no construction activities on the shoal either.

He said at least 4 Filipino fishing boats were also spotted in the area along with at some 4 Chinese Coast Guard and fishing vessels.

"Wala namang problema sa lugar noong pagpunta namin (There was no problem in the area when we went there)," Nato told reporters on Tuesday.

The 71-seater C295 plane of the Philippine Air Force reportedly circled the shoal and stayed 5,000 feet above the waters without protests from China. It is not clear if the aircraft breached the 12-nautical-mile "territorial waters" that China is claiming.

"Inikutan namin – two rounds – sa buong shoal covering 40 square miles.... We were almost above but around the shoal (We circled the entire shoal two times covering 40 square miles)," Nato told Rappler.

Footage of the maritime patrol operations were shared by TV network ABS-CBN. Rappler was supposed to join the aerial reconnaissance operation as member of the Defense Press Corps but was bumped off from the manifest Monday night.

The military brought along the media to its maritime patrol operation in the wake of criticisms over Malacañang's failure to question China's "sovereignty" claim over the shoal.

Filipino fishermen spotted in Panatag

President Rodrigo Duterte claimed that the situation in the disputed waters has improved since he pushed for warmer ties with China. Filipino fishermen were allowed to return to their traditional fishing ground.

Nato said the situation was normal despite reports of harassment that were being verified at the start of the year.

"Okay naman 'yung relationship ng mga mangingisda doon. Wala namang problema sa tingin namin (The relationship of the fishermen seem okay. We don't think there is a problem)," Nato said.

Last week, US warship USS Hopper was shooed away by China for supposedly violating its "sovereignty" when the American vessel sailed within what the Chinese refer as the 12 nautical miles territorial waters of Panatag Shoal.

But presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, himself an expert on the West Philippine Sea issue, maitained that the country's claim over Panatag Shoal is clear.

“The Philippines’ claim over Scarborough Shoal is recognized under our constitutional law and international law,” he said in a statement to reporters.

Nato said the C295 aircraft of the Philippines stayed in the area for about 30 minutes.

Inside Philippines' EEZ

Under the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS), countries are entitled to territorial waters spanning 12 nautical miles from its coast.

Panatag Shoal is located off the coast of Zambales province. It is outside the country's territorial waters but well within its 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

China refers to Panatag Shoal as "Huangyan Island" and supposedly a part of its 9-dash-line territory.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, acting on a complaint filed by the Philippines, struck down the 9-dash-line claim. It did not rule on the sovereignty of Panatag, however, saying it has no juridisction over the issue.

Nato belied claims that the Philippine military has stopped patrolling Panatag Shoal. He said at least 3 maritime patrols are conducted in the area every month.

Coast Guard Spokesperson Captain Armand Balilo said they also conduct regular aerial reconnaissance in Panatag Shoal although its ships have stopped going there.

Proposed BBL under Duterte is constitutional – transition commission

From Rappler (Jan 23): Proposed BBL under Duterte is constitutional – transition commission

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr fears the conflict in Mindanao would worsen if the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law is not passed   

BBL. The Bangsamoro Transition Commission gives an assurance on the constitutionality of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) amid questions by former Senate president Aquilino Pimentel Jr. Malacañang file photo

BBL. The Bangsamoro Transition Commission gives an assurance on the constitutionality of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) amid questions by former Senate president Aquilino Pimentel Jr. Malacañang file photo

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) on Tuesday, January 23, assured the Senate that the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is constitutional amid questions raised by former Senate president Aquilino Pimentel Jr.

BTC Commissioner Jose Lorena said a legal panel was created to ensure that the bill's provisions are aligned with the 1987 Constitution.

"The current expanded BTC was directed to craft the BBL along these parameters: implementation of all agreements in [line with the] Constitution…we are minded by the constitutional provisions and we are in custody of the resolution of the constitutionalists so that the draft BBL can pass the constitutional tests," Lorena said during the 2nd Senate hearing.

Deputy Presidential Peace Adviser Nabil Tan shared the same sentiment and called the new version of the proposed BBL "a more improved version of the 2014 bill."

The former senator raised questions on the possible violations of the proposed parliamentary system of the Bangsamoro government and the implementation of Shariah laws, among others.

Pimentel said the system of government should be presidential, consistent with the 1987 Constitution.

"Sapagkat 'yun ang punto ko, lahat ng elective officials natin pinipili ng taumbayan but doon sa proposal nila ang pipiliin ay members lang ng legislative department. Pagkatapos [ay] sila na magpili sa executive. I don't think that is allowed," Pimentel told reporters.

(That's my point. All elective officials are chosen by the people but in their proposal, they will only choose members of the legislative department. Then they will choose the members of the executive. I don't think that is allowed.)

The former senator also questioned the lack of a specific provision ensuring freedom of the press in the proposed Bangsamoro constitution. Pimentel said the draft only states that "freedom of speech is guaranteed."

"So kung wala 'yung freedom of the press, ibig sabihin puwede ka magsalita pero 'di ka puwede maggawa ng news. Hindi naman tama 'yun," Pimentel said.

(So if freedom of the press is not there, it means you can speak but you cannot make news. That is not right.)

Despite this, Pimentel said the measure is crucial in bringing long-lasting peace and development to Mindanao.

The proposed BBL seeks to address the problems caused by injustices to the Moro people by providing them autonomy. The Bangsamoro region would replace the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Tool vs violent extremism

For National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr, the proposed BBL is an antidote to the rise of violent extremism.

"The successful conclusion of [the] peace process is still the most successful vaccination against the rise of violent extremism in the country," he said.

If the measure is not passed into law, Esperon said the war in Mindanao would likely go on.

"One of the most pronounced threats is the Muslim communities turning away from the peace process. Therefore, President Duterte's warning about the war in Mindanao is not far off," he added.

Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, the chairman of the sub-committee on the BBL, reiterated the Senate's commitment to pass the bill.

Zubiri earlier said President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed commitment to certify the bill as urgent.


Duterte says 56 is “too young” for military, police to retire; DND proposes “up to 65”

From MindaNews (Jan 23): Duterte says 56 is “too young” for military, police to retire; DND proposes “up to 65”

President Rodrigo Duterte wants a change in the compulsory retirement age of soldiers and other uniformed personnel as 56 is still “kabata” (too young).

But Duterte in his speech Monday afternoon at the launch of the “TienDA para sa mga Bayani” in Camp General Manuel Yan in Mawab, Compostela Valley, did not say at what age he wants them to retire.

MindaNews asked Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenza for their proposed change in retirement age. He said they are “writing a draft bill that would extend the term of those occupying high and sensitive positions such as area commands, service chiefs and the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”

“The top honcho could go up to 65,” he said.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte chats with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on the sidelines of the establishment of the TienDA Para sa mga Bayani at Camp General Manuel Yan Sr. in Mawab, Compostela Valley Province on January 22, 2018. Also in the photo is Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence Go. RICHARD MADELO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

“We will do away with 56. We will give each rank a time-in-grade” which he defined as length of time one should stay in a rank. “Once he reaches that time-in-grade and does not get promoted, he is compulsorily retired if he reaches retirement age or separarated if not. This system will insure a pyramidal rank structure (for) both officers and enlisted (personnel),” Lorenzana said in a text message on Tuesday.

Duterte, who is turning 73 in March, said the law on compulsory retirement at 56 should be amended because “lugi kaayo ang gobyerno sa inyo” (government is losing so much) by investing on their trainings and letting them retire at the early age of 56.

The retirement age for civil servants is 65.

“Kadakong gasto nako unya… Mag-retire pa ko. Mura ma’g nag-retire kag high school. Kaya dapat palitan ‘yang batas” (We are spending so much on you … it’s like retiring at high school. That’s why the law should be amended), Duterte emphasized.

“Pag trabaho mo uy. 56 ang y***, kabata pa ninyo. Pila ma’y inyong retirement? The most? (You have to work. Fifty six is too young. How much will you receive the most?) Two million? Three million? Four million? Five million? Unya mabuhi ka 56 years old? Ang imong mga anak uban, naa pa sa high school?” (Will you be able to survive at 56 when some of your children may still be in high school?), especially those who have several children or several families.

Duterte’s running mate in the May 2016 elections, Senator Alan Peter Peter Cayetano (now Foreign Affairs Secretary) filed on May 4, 2017 Senate Bill 1436 raising the compulsory retirement age of uniformed personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) from 56 to 60 years old.

Cayetano in his bill noted how government has heavily invested in the training and development of the officers and members of these agencies and that given recent scientific and technological advances, most people over 60 are still capable of sharing their knowledge and expertise, thereby contributing to the development of the next generation of officers.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte flashes his signature pose with 10th Infantry Division Commander Major General Noel Clement, Agriculture Undersecretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Rey Guerrero, Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) Commander Lieutenant Benjamin Madrigal Jr. and other EastMinCom personnel during the establishment of the TienDA Para sa mga Bayani at Camp General Manuel Yan Sr. in Mawab, Compostela Valley Province on January 22, 2018. RICHARD MADELO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

“We need more competent and dedicated uniformed personnel to assist our government pursue its programs to ensure peaceful, orderly, and safe communities,” Cayetano said.

“We need to maximize their years of experience and wealth of knowledge, harness their leadership skills and professional competence until the age of 60,” he added.

Cayetano’s bill, according to the Senate website is still pending at the Committee on National Defense and Security.


Kin identify slain NPA rebels in North Cotabato

From MindaNews (Jan 23): Kin identify slain NPA rebels in North Cotabato

Two of the three suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels that died in a clash with government troops in Barangay Luayon, Makilala, North Cotabato on Monday were already identified by their relatives, a police official said.

Chief Inspector Johnny Rick Medel, chief of the Makilala Police, identified the slain suspected rebels as Raymart Rusiana, 25, of Makilala, and Armand Mendoza, 39, of Barangay Nuling, Lebak in Sultan Kudarat.

Rusiana and Mendoza were identified by Renato Rusiana, also a resident of Makilala.

Raymart is Renato’s step son, the Makilala police said.

Renato refused to tell the police anything about his stepson’s supposed involvement in the NPA.

Three NPA rebels and a CAFGU member killed during a clash in Makilala, North Cotabato from midnight until dawn Monday (22 January 2018) are brought to a funeral house inside body bags. MindaNews photo by FERDINANDH CABRERA
The Makilala police said the other slain guerrilla was still unidentified but his remains were already brought to the Collado Funeral Homes in Kidapawan City, along with those of Raymart and Mendoza.

Meanwhile, the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) member who was killed in the clash was identified as Julito Apalan.

Six other CAFGU members were wounded. They were identified as Edgar Delima, Olegario Rollorta, Raffy Aguana, Jimmy Gonzaga, Joel Daguan, and Jose Angcob, all under the Army’s 39th Infantry Battalion.

Lt. Lea Canseran, spokesperson of the 39IB, said the rebels that attacked their detachment in Luayon belong to the NPA Guerilla Front 72 operating in the provinces of Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, and South Cotabato.

Canseran said they would continue their pursuit operations against the rebels despite reports that they have already fled to the hinterlands.

Classes in Luayon were set to resume on Tuesday after authorities assured the safety of students and teachers.


Another NPA rebel yields in Surigao

From MindaNews (Jan 23): Another NPA rebel yields in Surigao

Another member of the New People’s Army surrendered Monday in Surigao del Norte, an Army official said.

Identified only as Ka Ted of the NPAs Front 16, the alleged rebel brought along an M16 rifle and several ammunition, 2Lt Jonel Castillo, 30th Infantry Battalion spokesperson said.

Castillo quoted the surrenderer as saying he could no longer take the NPA’s “terroristic activities” and “unending extortion”.

REUNITED. A New People’s Army guerrilla belonging Guerilla Front 16 B is reunited with his son (right) who came with friends to visit his father during the 48th anniversary celebration of the Communist Party of the Philippines in Bacuag town in Surigao del Norte on Monday (26 December 2016). MindaNews photo by Roel N. Catoto

In December last year, President Rodrigo Duterte issued a proclamation tagging the NPA and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) as “terrorist organizations”. Earlier, he had called off peace talks with the National Democratic Front, citing as basis the wave of offensives launched by the rebel group.

Another alleged rebel identified as Ka Jun surrendered Sunday to the 30IB in Alegria town, Surigao del Norte.

“There are many benefits from our government awaiting our returnees. At this moment, they should realize how we want peace for them. We want their families and loved ones to have them. Last Sunday, alias Jun surrendered and yesterday, alias Ted. It is a sign that many of them wanted to go down and lay their arms in order to live a peaceful life,” Lt Col Allen Tomas, commanding officer of the 30 Infantry Battalion said Tuesday.

“Once again, to those who are still with the terrorist organization, it is not yet late. The government is open to your return. Assistance and support are waiting if you choose to embrace a peaceful life with your families,” Tomas added.

The said surrenderees are now in the custody of the 30IB.

In a statement Tuesday, the CPP called Duterte’s call for NPA members to surrender in exchange for cash, housing and jobs “pure hogwash”.

The group said the counterinsurgency program Comprehensive Local Integration Program “has served as a source of corruption for AFP generals and ranking officials.”

“Foot soldiers regularly conduct forays in far-flung barrios, round up residents, force them to sign blank documents and later present them as ‘NPA surrenderees.’ These efforts are now being doubled to make it appear that the NPA is weakening, and at the same time, reward AFP field commanders with bureaucratic loot,” it said.

The CPP belittled the surrender of NDF-Far South Mindanao spokesperson Noel Legazpi.

It said that while Legazpi, who surrendered together with his wife on 15 January, admitted to being “tired” of the struggle, “thousands are not.”

“For the hundreds of peasants, Lumads and Moros, joining the struggle is a matter of survival as one reactionary regime after another attack their communities and livelihoods, kill their leaders and loved ones, and commit numerous, unspeakable abuses,” it added.


Military: Businesses in Eastern Mindanao lost P2.48B to NPA attacks, extortion

From MindaNews (Jan 23): Military: Businesses in Eastern Mindanao lost P2.48B to NPA attacks, extortion

Businesses in four regions of Mindanao lost P2.48 billion to attacks and extortion activities by the New People’s Army (NPA) last year, Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) commander Lt. General Benjamin R. Madrigal said on Tuesday.

NPA fighters in formation. MindaNews file photo

Madrigal told reporters at the sidelines of the Mindanao Business Briefing at Seda Hotel here that the NPA got P1.48 billion from mining and agricultural companies in Eastern Mindanao, covering Regions 11 and 13 and parts of Regions 10 and 12.

He said that with P1.48 billion the NPA could buy 23,333 AK47 rifles or 31.1 million rounds of ammunition.

For the same period, rebel attacks caused P1 billion in damages to businesses the bulk of which was sustained by the box plant of the Lorenzo family-owned Lapanday Foods Corporation in Mandug, Davao City which the NPA burned on 29 April 2017, he said.

Madrigal urged businesses to stop giving in to the demand for so-called revolutionary taxes of the NPA, saying it would only worsen the insurgency.

“They (NPA) will continue to ask if some will continue to provide also,” he said.

He stressed that they intend to prevent the recruitment of new NPA members by deploying more security forces in communities where there are reported extortion activities.

Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, delivers his inaugural address as the 10th commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command based in Davao City. on 15 November 2017. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

Madrigal added that they will hold regular meetings with companies to explain to them the consequences of paying “revolutionary taxes” and to inform them how and where to report if NPA members would harass them.

He assured they would strengthen military presence in conflict-affected and resources-rich areas to put a dent on extortion activities.

The military has beefed up security measures in Mindanao since the May 23 declaration of martial law in the island by President Rodrigo R. Duterte in response to the attack launched by Islamic State-inspired militants in Marawi City.

Martial law is still in effect in Mindanao after Congress approved Duterte’s request for another extension, from January to December this year, citing as basis the communist insurgency.

Madrigal, who assumed as head of Eastmincom on November 13, 2017, said they have come up with measures to reduce or eliminate extortion and burning incidents.

He said the measures include the deployment of new members of the Specialized CAFGU Active Auxiliary in conflict-affected and resource-rich areas.

He said they will step up security in Davao Region by deploying 25 CAFGU companies.


DA market in Army camps keeps soldiers safe from NPA attack

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 23): DA market in Army camps keeps soldiers safe from NPA attack


MAWAB, Compostela Valley -- President Rodrigo Duterte lauded on Monday the launch of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Department of National Defense (DND) partnership in bringing the TienDA farmers and fisherfolk outlets inside Army camps to keep soldiers safe from attacks of the New People's Army (NPA).

The President also cited the Circle of Life and KISS ME projects, camp-based enterprise development program initiated through a partnership between the DA, DND, and Aboitiz Group.

At the launch of TienDA Para sa mga Bayani at the 10th Infantry Division headquarters in Tuburan, Mawab, Compostela Valley province Monday, the President voiced concerns that soldiers who go out of the camps to market for food supply are being waylaid and ambushed by members of the NPA either on their way to the market or back to the camp.

He said he had been seeking a solution to put a stop to losing soldiers from such NPA scheme or other armed groups in other areas of Mindanao like in Zamboanga area, Jolo in Sulu, Mati in Davao Oriental, even in Calinan in his hometown.

The President bared that he has been asking Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Eduardo Ano to find something to correct the aberration.

Until one day, Duterte said he asked Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol to think of one plan that food supplies are brought to the soldiers.

The President further lauded TienDA for coming with a bonus – food with reduced prices.

“TienDa is really for the food. If it is at reduced prices, well and good,” he added.

He even advised soldiers to have a central refrigeration to preserve the food especially those which require conserving.

TienDA is a marketing strategy which aims to lower food prices by eliminating layers of middlemen in the supply chain consequently increasing farmers and fisherfolk’s income and providing them market opportunities.

The TienDA outlet at the 10th ID camp, DA and DND also opened an outlet inside the camp of the Eastern Mindanao Command in Panacan, Davao City.

Pinol said the TienDA outlet in Camp Panacan earned a total sale of P85,000 for only six hours when it opened last January 20.

Pinol said TienDA was consistent with the President’s vision for available and affordable food for the Filipinos.

He said consumers would also benefit from cheaper agri-fishery produce at farm gate prices because these no longer pass through marketing layers and middlemen.

Pinol said TienDA would also prove to the people that the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) had no effect on food prices becasue the prices of food products are low.

Aside from TienDA, DA and DND also launched KISS ME (Karne, Isda, Supply, Suporta a Masa at Ekonomiya), a project which aims to establish neighbourhood outlets that sell poultry products, meat and fish sourced directly from farmers and fisherfolk to by-pass resellers or middlemen.

Under KISS ME, Pinol said there would be two projects – P.A.G.K.A.I.N Para sa mga Bayani with the Egg Layer Machines donated by Aboitiz Group; and, the Circle of Life from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

PAGKAIN is a camp-based enterprise development program between the partnership of DA, DND and Aboitiz.

Aboitiz donated 60 kits of egg machines which will be distributed to the military camps. Each kit contains 48 heads of ready-lay hens, galvanized steel cages, feeders, nipple drinkers, water gallon containers, and feeds for one month consumption.

Pinol said an egg machine is a backyard farming starter kit that allows the continuous production of eggs in a period of 16 months.
On the other hand, the circle of life is a new fish tank system.

Pinol said using clean solar energy, the aquaculture innovation re-circulates water between two huge tanks with one tank holding for fish culture and the other growing kangkong.

With the system, people can produce healthy, full-grown organic tilapia in four months with an average weight of 319 grams and selling at an estimated price of P100 per kilo.

Pinol said farmers and fisherfolk can start a good business in their own backyard.


NPA amazon, 9 others yield in Sultan Kudarat

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 23): NPA amazon, 9 others yield in Sultan Kudarat

SENATOR NINOY AQUINO, Sultan Kudarat -- Tired and confused, another 10 members of the communist New Peoples Army (NPA) decided to surrender to the local police here on Sunday afternoon.

Sr. Supt. Raul Supiter, Sultan Kudarat police director, said the surrenderers belonged to the NPA Guerilla Front 73 Cherry Mobile Platoon under a certain Commander Macmac.

Supiter said a police team fetched the rebels, who all belong to Manobo-Dulangan tribe, from Sitio Lee Mangga, Barangay Midtungok, some 10 kilometers away from the Sen. Ninoy Aquino town center.

Chief Insp. Aldrin Gonzales, speaking for police in Region 12, said village chair Mamerto Parong helped in negotiating for the surrender of the rebels.

Gonzales said the surrenderers, a woman and nine men, were all residents of Barangay Baluan, Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat, but had been with the NPA operating in the mountains of Sen. Ninoy Aquino.

The surrenderers turned over to police authorities three cal. 45 pistols with ammunition, homemade Garand rifle, two cal. 38 revolvers, one M-14 rifle and one homemade shotgun with ammunition.


Northern Samar rebel returnees optimistic of new life

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 23): Northern Samar rebel returnees optimistic of new life

CATARMAN, Northern Samar -- Former rebels in this province are upbeat about starting a new life after years of armed struggle that they consider as wasted years.

The nine former rebels faced the members of the Regional Peace and Order Council during the body’s first quarter meeting at the Northern Samar provincial capitol on Tuesday.

The former rebels signed up as recipients of the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) and Local Social Integration Program (LSIP) of the province meant for rebel returnees.

Under the program, surrenderers receive livelihood and cash assistance.

They were given PHP15,000 immediate cash aid on top of the PHP50,000 livelihood assistance and varied amount depending on the type of firearms surrendered.

Prior to the release of assistance, they are trained on how to manage livelihood activities and manage finances.

Nido and his wife Sally (not their real names) were among the nine rebels presented during the council meeting. The couple has 10 children.

The father was a member of Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) in his hometown in Northern Samar when he received death threats from the New People’s Army (NPA).

He recalled that decades back, the NPA came to their house and offered him only two choices -- to die or leave his hometown. He chose the latter and his family settled in Manila for a year.

With very unstable income to sustain their daily needs, they went back to his hometown in Northern Samar. His childhood friend convinced him and his wife to join the organization.

Out of fear, he agreed to join the organization tasked to help communist rebels raise revolutionary taxes while his wife prepares food for the armed rebels.

“They don’t have regular schedule to visit us. When they did, I am obliged to cook and feed them. Many time, I even borrowed money to buy food for them,” Sally said.

After several years of being a member of the NPA, the couple decided to turn themselves in and avail of the government’s CLIP and LSIP.

“This is a very good decision that we made because unlike the NPA who gave use false hope and promises, the government is sincere to help us. They are giving us chances to change our life and start a new life by providing us means to run a livelihood,” Sally said.

Boy (not his real name), 34, was convinced by the NPA to join the organization after they promised to send him to school, but he ended up doing errands for the group.

For staying six months in NPA camps, Boy said joined clashes against government forces.

“I was afraid when I was still with them,” Boy shared. “I made the decision to leave the group because I know my life was in danger.”

He is optimistic to go back to school as a Grade 4 student now that he’s back to normal life away from rebellion.

Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Northern Samar provincial director Valente Bajet said that those who availed of CLIP and LSIP are guaranteed safety by the military and the Philippine National Police.

Since the provincial government implemented LSIP, Bajet said they had already processed the assistance for three batches of rebel surrenderers.

RPOC held a meeting in Northern Samar to showcase the good practices of the province in dealing with insurgency problem by implementing the LSIP, according to DILG Regional Director Maribel Sacerdoncillo.

The body will hold its second quarter meeting in Leyte province.


200 families flee homes as conflict sparks between two MILF factions

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 23): 200 families flee homes as conflict sparks between two MILF factions

COTABATO CITY -- Close to 200 families evacuated to safer grounds after an encounter erupted Tuesday dawn between two factions of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) over a long-standing land dispute at Sitio Madap, Barangay Madia, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

The warring factions were identified as those of Commanders Hawon Sindatuk and Datu Andap of the MILF’s 118th and 105th Base Commands, respectively.

Aside from the village of Madia, also affected by the running gun battle are the villages of Gawang and Dapiawan, both in same town.

Military and police forces have secured the peripheries of the three affected villages to avoid further spillover of the conflict.

Since two days ago, evacuees said intermittent burst of gunfire could be heard in the vicinity of Madia, prompting them to seek refuge at the town center.

The provincial government, in partnership with the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team, sent emissaries to the area on efforts to defuse tension between the warring factions.


Lanao Sur warring clans settle dispute

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 23): Lanao Sur warring clans settle dispute

Twenty-four high-powered firearms were turned over to government authorities by two feuding families in Lanao del Sur that peacefully settled their five-decade old conflict locally known as “rido.”

The peaceful settlement was held on Monday at the headquarters of the Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade in Marawi City.

The settlement between the families of Tugaya Mayor Al Fatah Pacalna Balindong and Bacolod-Kalawi Vice Mayor Jafar Dipatuan was witnessed by top military and local government officials.

The weapons surrendered included two caliber .50 sniper “Barret” rifles, six M-14 rifles, seven M-16 Armalite rifles, four M-203 grenade launchers, three M-79 grenade launchers, one caliber .30 machine gun and, one caliber .30 Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR).

“The two families surrendered 24 high-powered firearms to symbolize their resolve to put an end to the long-time violent family feud,” Col. Generoso Ponio, Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade commander, said.

“The end to the violent family feud happened when the two heads of the families swore in the Holy Qur’an to settle their rido,” Ponio, who led the settlement of the feud, added.

Maj. Gen. Roseller Murillo, Army’s 1st Infantry Division commander, congratulated the two parties involved in the peaceful settlement of the decades old violent family feud.

Murillo said the most recent incident involving the two families was the shooting of one of the scions of the Dipatuan Clan in a busy commercial area of Iligan City on November 13, 2017 and the wounding of four and the displacement of more than 200 families when an hour-long gun-battle between the clans erupted last January 5 in Bacolod-Kalawi town.

Murillo also commended the 103rd Infantry Brigade for the successful mediation that led to the peaceful settlement of a violent family feud that has cost the lives of many from both sides and affected the peace in the area for so many years.

“We will continue to maintain an active stance on this particular issue and we will not stop until we reach a closure on all existing rido, may it be peacefully or aggressively,” Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, said.

The peaceful settlement of the feud between the two families was achieved with the active participation of the Lanao del Sur Vice Governor Mamintal Adiong Jr., the provincial police units, religious leaders, local government, and, other members of civil society.


Lorenzana: Frigate project cancellation unlikely

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 23): Lorenzana: Frigate project cancellation unlikely

Despite allegations hounding the Navy's Frigate Acquisition Program (FAP), Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that it is very unlikely that the project would be cancelled.

'With all the facts we know about the frigate (project)? No," he said in a message.

Earlier, the DND announced that it is welcoming any investigation on its PHP18 billion FAP, noting that it has nothing to hide regarding the matter.

DND public affairs office chief Arsenio Andolong made the statement in response to plans of the Senate minority bloc to conduct an investigation on the FAP.

"The DND welcomes the plan of the Senate to conduct an investigation on the Frigate Acquisition Project. In fact, we have long been waiting for the opportunity to shed light on this issue so that the truth will finally be known," he added.

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 partylist Rep. Gary Alejano claimed that the FAP project is riddled with anomalies and that its design was altered from the original.

According to the lawmaker, one of the anomalies surrounding the project is the alleged preference for the Hanwha CMS.

"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," Andolong added.

Also, the DND spokesperson said these claims are mere allegations and innuendos which hardly constitute grounds for termination of the project.


No new Chinese construction in Scarborough Shoal

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 23): No new Chinese construction in Scarborough Shoal

A Philippine air patrol over Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal Tuesday showed no new Chinese construction over the disputed maritime area.

This was announced by Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) spokesperson Lt. Col. Isagani Nato in an interview last Tuesday.

"Wala namang problema sa lugar nung pagpunta namin. Walang construction," he added.

In the same air patrol, which was conducted by one C-295, four possible Chinese coast guard ships and one Chinese fishing vessel were sighted.

"Yung tingin namin kasi puti pero hindi ko ma-sure kung lahat yun, coast guard (vessel)," the NOLCOM spokesperson said who added that they were flying at 5,000 feet at the time.

Also spotted were five Filipino fishing boats and their crew who seemed to be going about their business.

"Wala namang problema sa tingin namin," he added.

Nato said that the C-295 was not challenged by the Chinese during their patrol mission which lasted for about 30 minutes.


Duterte: I want NPA destroyed

From Malaya Business Insight (Jan 23): Duterte: I want NPA destroyed

PRESIDENT Duterte yesterday said he wants the New People’s Army “destroyed,” similar to ongoing efforts to eradicate illegal drugs in the country.

He said the public should not mind what human rights groups would again say because the communist insurgency situation only adds to the suffering of the Filipinos.

“Just like drugs… destroy the NPA. Destroy the organization,” he said in Compostela Valley during the launch of the “Tienda para sa mga Bayani” outlet in partnership with Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Duterte also chided businessmen and groups that tolerate the communist rebels by paying the NPA “revolutionary tax” or extortion money.

Duterte said that long ago, the idea of communist-socialism was popular that some groups had even funded the communist movement.

In some instances, he said, the funds went to the pockets of some of the current communist leaders, some of whom are abroad and have enjoyed stays in hotels and good food, while the local armed groups are poor and continuing to fight.

Jose Maria Sison, founding chair of the Communist Party of the Philippines, has been on self-exile in the Netherlands since the late 1980s.

Duterte reopened peace talks with the CPP-NPA-National Democratic Front of the Philippines shortly after he became President in 2016. Last November, he cancelled the talks because of continued attacks by the NPA on government forces, even while the talks were ongoing. Last month, he declared the CPP and its armed wing, the NPA, as terrorist groups.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque dismissed Sison’s call for the youth to organize a mass protest against the President and even emulate the riots of the “First Quarter Storm” (FQS) of 1970.

“We don’t attach too much importance on Joma Sison. I hope he has enough grandchildren to heed his call,” Roque said adding that the problem with Sison is that he is stuck in history and had “failed to move beyond the First Quarter Storm.”


3 NPAs, 1 militiaman dead in North Cotabato firefight

From Malaya Business Insight (Jan 23): 3 NPAs, 1 militiaman dead in North Cotabato firefight

THREE members of the New People’s Army and a government militiaman were killed yesterday in an attack staged by the communist group on an Army detachment in Makilala town, North Cotabato.

Lt. Lea Canseran, spokeswoman of the Army’s 39th Infantry Battalion operating in the province, said about 20 rebels attacked the Luayon detachment in Barangay Luayon at around 12:15 a.m.

Militiamen manning the detachment traded fire with the rebels belonging to the NPA’s Guerilla Front 72 for almost two hours, or until the insurgents withdrew.
The fighting resulted in the death of one of the militiamen, identified as Julito Apala, and wounding of six others.

In Sultan Kudarat, 10 NPA rebels surrendered to the police.
Chief Insp. Aldrin Gonzales, spokesman of the Soccsksargen regional police office, said the returnees are members of the NPA’s Guerilla Front 73 Cherry Mobile Platoon under one “Mac-Mac.”

Gonzales said the rebels surrendered after negotiations with Mamerto Parong, chairman of Barangay Midtungok in Senator Ninoy Aquino town.

He said the rebels turned over three cal. 45 pistols, two cal. 38 revolvers, a home-made pistolized Garand, a home-made M14 rifle, and a home-made shotgun, and assorted ammunition.


Looted cash, gold helps Islamic State recruit in Philippines

From InterAksyon (Jan 23): Looted cash, gold helps Islamic State recruit in Philippines

A view of the facade, of the battered Landbank building, looted by militants, in the early days of the Marawi siege, Philippines January 13, 2018. REUTERS/Tom Allard

MARAWI CITY, Philippines – Islamist insurgents looted cash, gold and jewelry worth tens of millions of dollars when they occupied a southern Philippines town last year, treasure one of their leaders has used to recruit around 250 fighters for fresh attacks.

The military said Humam Abdul Najib escaped from Marawi City, which the militants had hoped to establish as a stronghold for Islamic State in Southeast Asia, before it was recaptured by the military in October after five months of ferocious battles and aerial bombardment.

Since then, Najib, also known as Abu Dar, has used the booty looted from bank vaults, shops and homes in Marawi to win over boys and young men in the impoverished southern province of Lanao del Sur, military officers in the area said. Hardened mercenaries are also joining, lured by the promise of money.

As a result, Islamic State followers remain a potent threat in Southeast Asia even though hundreds of militants were killed in the battle for Marawi, the officers said.

“Definitely they haven’t abandoned their intent to create a caliphate in Southeast Asia,” Colonel Romeo Brawner, the deputy commander of Joint Task Force Marawi, told Reuters.

“That’s the overall objective, but in the meantime while they are still trying to recover and build up again – fighters and weapons – our estimate is they are going to launch terrorist attacks.”

On Saturday, militants wounded eight soldiers in two attacks in Lanao del Sur, Brawner said, the first such violence since the recapture of Marawi.

In the early days of the occupation of Marawi last May, as black-clad fighters burned churches, released prisoners and cut the power supply, other militants targeted banks and the homes of wealthy citizens, commandeering hostages to help with the plunder.

“It was in the first week. They divided us into three groups with seven people each,” said J.R. Montesa, a Christian construction worker who was captured by the militants.

Using explosives, the militants blew open the vaults of the city’s three main banks, Landbank, the Philippine National Bank and the Al Amanah Islamic Bank, Montesa told Reuters in a town near Marawi. They trucked away the booty, easily slipping out of Marawi because a security cordon was not fully in place.

They also raided jewelry stores, pawnshops and businesses.

Landbank and Al Amanah did not respond to requests for comment. Philippine National said recovering losses because of the Marawi fighting was a concern, but did not give details.

PNB officials pose beside the reopened Marawi branch’s ATM machine in Marawi in this Jan. 4, 2018 file photo. HANDOUT PHOTO


The Islamic celebration of Ramadan was looming at the time the militants struck and banks, businesses and homes had more money than usual, said Marawi City police chief Ebra Moxsir. The Maranaos, the ethnic group that dominates the area around Marawi, are mostly Muslims.

“There was a lot of money inside the battle area,” he told Reuters. “Maranaos keep millions of pesos in safety vaults in their homes. Gold, also. It is a tradition of the Maranao to give gifts of money (during Ramadan).”

Montesa said vans they loaded with the spoils of the raids were “overflowing”, with money, gold and other valuables stuffed into every crevice of the vehicles.

“They were saying it was a gift from Allah. They would say ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is greatest) while we were stealing.”


The military and police have also been accused by rights groups and by Marawi residents of looting during the conflict.

Brawner said a small number of soldiers had been disciplined for looting but the practice was not widespread.

However, the center of Marawi – home to its major banks, main market and grandest residences – was under the control of militants for months.

Brawner said authorities were unclear exactly how much was taken by the militants.

“It’s hard for us to say. We have heard about 2 billion pesos ($39.4 million) but that’s just an estimate.”

“In the first days, when we were not able to establish that security cordon around the main battle area, that was the time when they were able to slip out with their war booty.”

The government also said the regrouping of militants in Mindanao, the southern region of the Philippines that has been marred by Islamic and Communist uprisings for decades, was dangerous.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque told Reuters: “There is always the danger of these groups regaining strength enough to mount another Marawi-like operation.”

Najib is believed to have fled Marawi early in the battle. There are conflicting reports about whether he had a dispute with other leaders or left as part of a preconceived plan.

He attempted to return in August with 50-100 more fighters to reinforce the militants, who by then were losing ground, but he was prevented by an improved security cordon, said Brawner.

“According to reports, they were able to recruit another 100 to 150. So the estimate is 250 all in all, and this includes children,” Brawner said. “They are trying to recruit orphans, relatives of the fighters who died and sympathizers.”

Parents of children are offered as much as 70,000 pesos ($1,380) plus a monthly salary of as much as 30,000 pesos ($590) to hand over their sons to the group, according to security sources and community leaders briefed on the recruitment.

The average family income in the Philippines is 22,000 pesos per month, according to a 2015 government survey. It was about half that in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, where Marawi and surrounding areas lie.

Brawner said local residents had told the military that the militant group was also offering bonuses of up to 10,000 pesos ($200) for killing a soldier.

Rommel Banlaoi, a Manila-based security expert, said more experienced fighters had also been recruited. These were “mercenaries” attracted by the payouts, he said, but Najib has also tapped into disaffection among Maranao angered by the destruction of large parts of Marawi by the Philippine military’s bombing campaign.

“That kind of narrative is being used by ISIS to lure people to continue the fight,” Banlaoi said, using an acronym for Islamic State.


With the looted funds and a loyal following, Najib, could become the new “emir” of Islamic State in Southeast Asia following the death of Isnilon Hapilon in the battle for Marawi, security analysts say.

Najib is a hardened fighter and cleric who studied in the Middle East and reportedly trained with militants in Afghanistan, they say.

He co-founded Khalifa Islamiyah Mindanao, an insurgent group formed in about 2012 that launched a series of bombings in Mindanao.

“He is a very, very important person because he has been there from the start,” said Banlaoi.

Najib had links to Al Qaeda, which earned him the nickname “al Zarqawi of the Philippines”, a reference to the slain leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), Abu Musab al Zarqawi. AQI morphed into Islamic State, to which Najib pledged allegiance in 2014.

According to Banlaoi, Najib worked closely with Mahmud Ahmad, a Malaysian militant believed to have died in Marawi who was the key conduit between the Philippines fighters and the Islamic State leadership in Syria and Iraq.

Banlaoi said the recruitment effort by the pro-Islamic State remnants led by Najib was “massive and systematic”. “If you are well funded, you can do a lot of things.”