Thursday, January 25, 2018

Marines in Western Mindanao train for urban warfare

From the Philippine Star (Jan 24): Marines in Western Mindanao train for urban warfare

Members of the Philippine Marines practice urban warfare. US Embassy/Released, file
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — The Philippine Marines are stepping up urban warfare training after five months in Marawi City against Islamic State-inspired terrorists.
R.Adm. Rene Medina, commander of Naval Forces Western Mindanao, said the Marines now have regular training support from the Australian Defence Force.
"The training on urban terrain is very important to us, particularly to our Marines because of what had happened in Marawi," Medina said.
Medina said the Marines are also taking special operations training, including a sniper course. 
Government efforts to retake Marawi, parts of which were taken over by Abu Sayyaf and Maute militants on May 23, 2017, were hampered by threats posed by terrorist snipers and marksmen. 
He said the siege of Zamboanga City in 2013 and of Marawi City last year changed the landscape of operations and security forces have to adapt to changing operational environments.
The Marines were initially organized for amphibious operations.
Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., chief of the Western Mindanao Command, recently disclosed that cities and population centers in Mindanao are probable targets of the IS-inspired Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups.
Galvez said this has prompted authorities to increase security in urban areas.
Medina said the Philippine Fleet has also been receiving training, especially in ship boarding procedures, interception and on encounters in the high seas.
He said the US Navy has been providing operational training to Philippine sailors.
Personnel of the Naval Special Operations Group have been undergoing training on detecting, controlling and disrupting improvised explosive devices.
He said the US and Australia have been providing support as allies against extremist terrorists.
"These are usually technical supports, and we are grateful for that like what happened in Marawi. The other armed forces are filling the technical support which we lack. They complemented a lot," Medina said.

China Wants Confrontation in the South China Sea

From The National Interest (Jan 24): China Wants Confrontation in the South China Sea (By Gordon G. Chang)

“China’s goal in the South China Sea appears to be a gradual extension of its sovereignty to a maritime space the size of India.”

Image: An aerial photo taken though a glass window of a Philippine military plane shows the alleged on-going land reclamation by China on Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, west of Palawan, Philippines, May 11, 2015. REUTERS/Ritchie B. Tongo/Pool/File Photo​
Last Wednesday, the USS Hopper, an Arleigh Burke–class missile destroyer, sailed within twelve nautical miles of Scarborough Shoal, a few rocks in the northern portion of the South China Sea.

We would not have known about the sail-by if we were relying on the Pentagon. Beijing announced the event and then made threats. The Chinese, we have to conclude, are itching for a confrontation.

Therefore, strategic Scarborough Shoal, a mere 124 nautical miles from the main Philippine island of Luzon and guarding Manila and Subic bays, could be the hinge on which America’s relations with China swings.

Think of Scarborough as perhaps this century’s Sudetenland. In the spring of 2012, Chinese and Philippine vessels sailed in close proximity of contested Scarborough. Washington brokered an agreement between Beijing and Manila for both sides to withdraw their craft. Only the Philippines did so, leaving China in control of the feature, which had long been thought to be part of the Philippines even though it was inside Beijing’s infamous “nine-dash line.”

Washington, unfortunately, did not enforce the agreement it had arranged, undoubtedly under the belief it could thereby avoid confrontation with China. The White House’s inaction just made the problem bigger, however. By doing nothing, the Obama administration empowered the most belligerent elements in the Chinese capital by showing everyone else there that duplicity—and aggression—worked.

An emboldened Beijing then ramped up pressure on Second Thomas Shoal, where China employed Scarborough-like tactics by swarming the area with vessels, and the Senkakus, eight specks under Japanese administration in the East China Sea.

In short, Washington, through timidity, ensured the Chinese took ever more provocative actions.

And ensured American allies questioned Washington’s leadership. Today, American policymakers complain that the current Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, has been cozying up to Beijing. Although thoroughly anti-American all his adult life, the Philippine leader has a point when he said his country, despite the mutual defense treaty with America, could not rely on Washington to defend his islands. The result of irresolute American policy is that China, which is dismembering the Philippines, is now more influential in Manila than the United States, the only nation pledged to defend the archipelago’s security.

In view of China’s growing confidence and assertion, it is no surprise that its reaction to the Hopper’s passage has been intense. State and party media, while replaying old themes of protecting “indisputable” sovereignty, went into overdrive with their most provocative language, that of inflicting indignity on the United States. “The reckless provocation ended in disgrace for the U.S. Navy,” wrote Curtis Stone of the Communist Party’s People’s Daily, China’s most authoritative publication.

The Global Times, the tabloid controlled by People’s Daily, predicted that if Washington did not change course, it would become “a lonely pirate” and “suffer complete humiliation.”

Washington’s reaction was, in keeping with its traditional posture, low-key. “All operations are conducted in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows,” said Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Logan, without specifically mentioning Hopper’s patrol.

And when Washington policymakers did talk about the Hopper, they did so anonymously and in tones meant to avoid offense. A “U.S. official” said the transit was an “innocent passage” and not a freedom of navigation operation.

That stance allowed the Philippine defense secretary, Delfin Lorenzana, on Sunday to defend the U.S. Navy’s sail-by, because it did not impinge on his nation’s sovereignty.

Yet Hopper would have never made the transit if Manila were in sole control of the shoal. The motivating factor, of course, was China. “China’s goal in the South China Sea appears to be a gradual extension of its sovereignty to a maritime space the size of India,” Anders Corr, editor of the just-released Great Powers, Grand Strategies: The New Game in the South China Sea, told the National Interest.

In view of this expansive vision, an “innocent passage” is a counterproductive response.

“In our department in Newport, we’re always taking leaders to task for ‘self-defeating behavior,’” James Holmes of the Naval War College e-mailed me on Monday, commenting for himself and not on behalf of the U.S. government. “The anonymous official quoted in press accounts as saying the Hopper passage was an ‘innocent passage’ is guilty of that behavior.”

“Innocent passage is something ships do when passing within 12 nautical miles of sovereign territory,” Holmes, co-author of Red Star Over the Pacific: China’s Rise and the Challenge to U.S. Maritime Strategy, points out. “So if we’re depicting the Hopper passage by Scarborough Shoal as an innocent passage, we are conceding precisely what a freedom-of-navigation operation is supposed to dispute: that China is the lawful sovereign over Scarborough and that it’s entitled to a 12-mile territorial sea around the shoal.”

Scarborough is well within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, and China is essentially asserting squatter’s rights. Moreover, Philippines vs. China, the July 2016 Hague decision applying the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, holds that the shoal does not confer a twelve-nautical-mile band of territorial water. “Our passes by Scarborough must show that they are not innocent in legal terms,” Holmes notes. “We must get our language straight, stay on message, and remind everyone regularly that the Hague tribunal smacked down China’s unlawful claims with extreme prejudice back in 2016. That’s how we avoid defeating ourselves.”

American officials, for years, have been characterizing freedom of navigation exercises around Chinese-held features as “innocent passages,” hoping not to rile Beijing. That strategy, unfortunately, has produced the opposite result.
The Trump administration, however, is changing four decades of America’s soft approach to China. That “pivot” is evident in the National Security Strategy, unveiled in December, and the National Defense Strategy, a summary of which was released Friday. China in these landmark policy statements is essentially characterized as an adversary.

Yet historic changes in policy take years to implement. “My belief is that we still have a long way to go to undo the pernicious impact of the policy of appeasement,” James Fanell, a former U.S. Navy intelligence officer with the Pacific Fleet, told the National Interest in strong, but nonetheless accurate, terms. “We have several generations of government workers who have been trained to be more attuned to ‘not provoking’ or ‘not offending’ the Chinese than in openly challenging their expansionist activities. This is despite two new policy documents, the NSS and NDS, that clearly intend to challenge Beijing’s outrageous expansionism.”

American policymakers are struggling to come to terms with Beijing’s open hostility to the United States. Obviously, Chinese officials could have ignored the Hopper’s passage, but their choosing to make an issue of it suggests they are determined to pick a fight.

[Gordon G. Chang is the author of The Coming Collapse of China. Follow him on Twitter @GordonGChang]

Philippines eyeing arms deal with India

From the Sun Star-Manila (Jan 25): Philippines eyeing arms deal with India

NEW DELHI. On his first day in India, President Rodrigo Duterte meets with India Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Presidential Photo)
THE Philippines is considering the acquisition of defense equipment and warships from India, Malacañang said on Thursday, January 25.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said this developed during a bilateral meeting between President Rodrigo Duterte and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held in New Delhi, India.

"There was a commitment, in fact, for the Philippines to purchase Indian military hardware," Roque told a press conference in India.
Duterte and some of his officials are currently in India for his participation in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-India Commemorative Summit.
Roque said Duterte's intent to acquire weapons from India came following Modi's remark that his country is capable to produce military equipment.
"The Prime Minister actually said that they have expertise in ships and other military hardware," the presidential spokesman said.
"President Duterte just manifested in the same way that he has decided to purchase weapons from China and Russia that he will also consider purchasing Indian weapons," he added.
Roque said Duterte also expressed gratitude to Modi for India's $500,000 donation as the Philippines rehabilitates Marawi City, which was already liberated by the Filipino troops following the May 23, 2017 siege by Islamic State-linked Maute group.
He added that the two leaders also sought to improve the military, political, economic, and business relations between the two countries.
"The meeting (between Duterte and Modi) lasted for one hour. The two leaders agreed on expanding bilateral ties on all fronts," Roque said. "The two heads of state agreed that relations, while already very good, will even be better."

Analyst Heydarian’s take on possible future terrorist attacks in Mindanao

From GMA News (Jan 25): Analyst Heydarian’s take on possible future terrorist attacks in Mindanao

GMA resident analyst Richard Heydarian on Thursday said even if the Marawi siege had already ended, forces of the ISIS-inspired Maute group could still launch similar attacks in other urban areas in southern Philippines.

Heydarian's statement came on the heels of a fresh encounter over the weekend between government forces and alleged Maute members in Lanao del Sur.

In Iligan and Cotabato, four other supposed members of the terrorist group were arrested.

Heydarian also talked about the two possible candidates who could lead the terrorist group, following the deaths of leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute.

More Army troops deployed to IP areas in Davao region

From the often pro-Communist Party of the Philippines online publication the Davao Today (Jan 25): More Army troops deployed to IP areas in Davao region

In response to the pronouncement of President Rodrigo Duterte to “destroy the enemy,” the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced it will augment its brigade covering indigenous peoples communities in Southern Mindanao region.

“The message of the President is clear to us. It is now our primary task. The additional troops coming from Luzon will be a great help in accomplishing our mission as we eliminate the enemies of the state particularly, now that we are calling them, the CPP-NPA terrorists (CNTs),” said Colonel Ernesto Torres, the Philippine Army Commander of the 1003rd Brigade in an AFP-PNP press conference on Wednesday morning here at Mandaya Hotel.

The 1003 rd Brigade currently comprises the 3rd Infantry Battalion, 16th IB and the 89th IB and are operating in Paquibato, Marilog, Calinan, Baguio, and Toril districts in Davao City, Davao del Norte towns: Sto. Tomas, Carmen, Panabo and Island Garden City of Samal.

The 56th IB from Luzon is expected to report by the first week of February and will cover Talaingod town in Davao del Norte.

Leaders of IP groups in a protest against martial law extension in Mindanao at Freedom Park on Wednesday afternoon slammed the additional troops deployed.

In an interview with Davao Today, Datu Kaylo Bontulan, a leader of a local Lumad group Salugpungan Ta’ Tanu Igkanugon (Salugpungan) in Talaingod expressed dismay over the President’s remark especially with martial law being extended in Mindanao and feared that their lives are at stake under the hands of the armed security forces.

“Wala pa nag-deploy, pirmi na ang pagpamatay sa mga Lumad sama ni Obello Bay-ao (Lumad killings continue even before the additional deployment of troops, like in the case of Obello Bay-ao),” said Bontulan.

He pointed that once the additional troops arrive in Talaingod, IPs will have no choice but to flee, leaving their farms and homes.

The Lumad leader slammed the food blockade and the red tagging that have further impoverished their communities.

He also questioned that if the military is actually targeting communist rebels, they should have deployed the soldiers evenly in Luzon and Visayas as NPAs are also operating in other parts of the country.

He believed that the rapid military deployment and expansion of its operations in Mindanao are meant to protect the mining companies that are exploiting and poised to exploit more on IP’s ancestral domain.

There are about 52 applications for mining concessions in Talaingod, Bontulan said.

“Ang akong panawagan kay Duterte, nga kung ang NPA iyang target, dili martial law ang tubag. Kundili, pagpanubag sa panginahanglan sa katawhan ug pagrespeto sa panagiya sa mga lumad sa ilang yutang kabilin (I am asking the President that martial law will not resolve the issue on the NPAs. But rather, addressing the basic needs of the masses and respect for IPs in their ancestral domain),” said Bontulan.

Aside from incoming new battalion, a total of over 300 soldiers are joining the 1003rd Brigade, 80 of whom are indigenous people (IP). Another two special Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGU) companies with 120 private soldiers each also form part of the brigade forces.

Col. Torres is confident that there will be more successful counter-insurgency operations with the increased number of forces in under his command together with the intelligence, artillery and other complimentary units needed in his brigade, as it puts them in “better position to defeat the threats of CNTs especially in Metro Davao.”

The 901st Brigade from Luzon is said to be joining the 4th Infantry Division which will act as controlling headquarters to be stationed along the boundaries of Bukidnon and Cotabato provinces. President Duterte has ordered the military to “destroy the NPAs (New People’s Army), destroy the organization” in his speech during the AFP and Philippine National Police (PNP) joint command conference at the 10th Infantry Division Headquarters in Mawab, Compostela Valley on Monday.

Stop attacks around Mayon, AFP asks rebs

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 25): Stop attacks around Mayon, AFP asks rebs

The military has appealed to communist rebels to stop launching attacks and allow the unhampered movement of representatives of government agencies helping evacuees fleeing the wrath of Mayon volcano in Albay province.

“Our fellow Filipinos are currently facing a critical situation. They need all immediate help that we can give. Let us temporarily put aside the fighting to provide them with unhampered quick assistance,” said Col. Teody Toribio, spokesperson for the military’s Southern Luzon Command.

“The situation around Mayon is critical. The NPA (New People’s Army) should not make it hard and worse for the civilians,” he said.

He made the call after a team of Army soldiers, who were on their way to assist evacuees, was attacked by a band of suspected rebels in the village of Malabago in Guinobatan town early on Monday.

Toribio said a soldier was wounded in the five-minute firefight.

NPA mass surrenders due to internal corruption: AFP

From the Philippine Canadian Inquirer (Jan 25): NPA mass surrenders due to internal corruption: AFP

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte engages in a discussion with some members of his cabinet after two rebel returnees from the New People's Army were presented to the President at the Matina Enclaves in Davao City on January 20, 2018. Also in the photo are Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Eduardo Año, Education Secretary Leonor Briones, Agrarian Reform Acting Secretary John Castriciones, and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza. (Photo by Ace Morandante/Presidential Photo)

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte engages in a discussion with some members of his cabinet after two rebel returnees from the New People’s Army were presented to the President at the Matina Enclaves in Davao City on January 20, 2018. Also in the photo are Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Eduardo Año, Education Secretary Leonor Briones, Agrarian Reform Acting Secretary John Castriciones, and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza. (Photo by Ace Morandante/Presidential Photo)

The recent spate of New People’s Army (NPA) rebels returning to the fold of the law reflects the demoralization being experienced in their ranks due to internal corruption, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said Thursday.

AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Emmanuel Garcia made this statement after 188 NPA members surrendered in the first three weeks of January alone.

“The AFP is expecting more NPAs to yield since there is demoralization in the NPA’s ranks as some leaders have already returned to the folds of law brought by internal corruption,” Garcia stressed.

He also stressed that the series of mass surrender is reflective of the combined efforts of the local government units, communities, Philippine National Police and the AFP thru-community based dialogues.

EastMinCom to augment force in fight against terrorist group CPP-NPA

From UNTV News and Rescue (Jan 25): EastMinCom to augment force in fight against terrorist group CPP-NPA

Destroy the enemies of the state.

This is the clear order of President Rodrigo Duterte to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) during a command conference in Mawab, Compostella Valley last Monday.

The President announced he wants to eradicate all the terrorists in the country.

“He mentioned that in equivocal terms to destroy the enemy of the state. For the part of the PNP it’s the defeat or destruction of drug syndicates primarily with us the supporting role. But the destruction of CPP-NPA that is our primary task,” 1003rd Infantry Battalion Commander Col. Ernesto Torres said.

With this, the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) of the AFP will deploy another battalion of soldiers to help in defeating the members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army or the CPP-NPA.

Three battalions of soldiers have already been deployed at the 1003rd infantry brigade

The military said the Chief Executive also vows to provide funds for the rebels who would surrender to the government.

“He said let us offer something to them, meaning the active rebels, something that is more than what the communist are offering. He made mention of land, houses, and jobs. He said he will find funds for this program that we would be proposing,” Torres said.

Among the counter insurgency measures the government wants to implement is the improvement of the reward system of the AFP and its programs for the indigenous people or Lumads in the region.

Insurgents attack government troops evacuating people from Mayon

From the Gulf News (Jan 24): Insurgents attack government troops evacuating people from Mayon

A soldier was injured while several guerrillas were wounded by soldiers repelling the attack

A government soldier was wounded in an attack on an army truck taking part in evacuation efforts in Albay as Mayon volcano continued to exhibit heightened activity.

According to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Civil Relations Service (CRS), a truck dispatched by the government to evacuate residents in the town of Guinobatan last Monday was ambushed by New Peoples Army (NPA) guerrillas. A soldier from the 83rd Infantry Battalion, identified as Gilno Manuel, was injured while a number of insurgents were wounded by soldiers repelling the attack.

“This act by the NPA’s is a clear disrespect of the rights of evacuees to receive assistance from our government. This shows that they are insensitive to the plight of the Mayon evacuees,” Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla AFP-CRS chief said.

The Army 9th Infantry Division based in the Bicol Region is taking part in efforts to evacuate residents inside the eight kilometre danger zone around Mayon, to evacuation areas around the province of Albay.

Reacting to reports of the rebel attacks, Cedric Daep of the Albay Provincial Security and Emergency Management Office appealed to the insurgents that instead of attacking government forces engaged in humanitarian evacuations, it would be better for the NPA to “help the government bring the evacuees to a safe area.”

Bicol has traditionally been an area infested with communist insurgents. During times of disasters, combatants are expected to avoid conducting attacks as a humanitarian gesture.

Fortunately at the time of the attack, the military was just on its way to pick up evacuees in the village of Dona Mercedes in Guinobatan.

2 NPA officers slain in Tarlac clash

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 26): 2 NPA officers slain in Tarlac clash

 Boracay Island in Aklan province remains the leading tourism driver in Western Visayas. —INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—Two suspected high-ranking officers of the New People’s Army (NPA) in northeastern Luzon were killed on Wednesday in a firefight with government soldiers and policemen at San Manuel town in Tarlac province, a report from the Central Luzon regional police camp here confirmed on Thursday.

The report said Victorio Tesorio and Lolito Raza fired at soldiers and policemen who were serving them arrest warrants in the house of Jose Dallente Caroy at Barangay San Miguel.

Tesorio was reportedly the head of the NPA northeastern Luzon regional command, while Raza was the head of the Danilo Ben command of the NPA’s northern front.

Murder, rebellion

 The warrants stemmed from cases of murder, frustrated murder, multiple murder and rebellion filed against Tesorio and Raza.

Police reported recovering two guns, two hand grenades, a laptop and antigovernment documents from the two men.

Police said Caroy faced charges for harboring criminals.

Chief Supt. Amador Corpus, Central Luzon police director, said the operation was a result of “concerted operations and diligent efforts of the police and the military to arrest all lawless elements in the region.”

The Armed Forces’ Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) said in a separate report that the NPA had stepped up attacks.

On Jan. 23, Nolcom tagged the NPA to be behind the killing of Johnny Adaol, a retired policeman, at Sitio Luyucan in Tabuk City, Kalinga province.

Kalinga clash
On the same day, a clash took place in Pinukpuk town, also in Kalinga, where two soldiers were killed and two others wounded.

The NPA, the military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, had stepped up attacks in parts of Luzon before President Duterte unilaterally canceled the peace talks in late 2017. The attacks took place in Batangas and Northern Luzon provinces.

MILF warns of heightened extremism if BBL passage is stalled anew

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 26): MILF warns of heightened extremism if BBL passage is stalled anew

SULTAN KUDARAT, Maguindanao — The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) warned yesterday of a resurgence in extremism in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) if the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is stalled in Congress.

MILF Chairman Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim during the Senate BBL sub-committee consultation hearings at Camp Darapanan in Cotabato City on Thursday.
(Jansen Romero / MANILA BULLETIN)

MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said there is a possibility of increased extremism in the region should the approval of the BBL be stalled anew.

“The more failure we face with the peace process, then expect that there will be more extremist groups,” Ebrahim said in a press briefing with senators in their headquarters in Camp Darapanan, this municipality, Thursday.

He cited that the failure of the government in forging peace agreements with rebel groups was the reason why terrorist groups such as the Abu Sayyaf (ASG) and Bangsamoro Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) were formed.

He also attributed the attack of the Islamic State (IS)-affiliated Maute Group in Marawi City last year to the failure of the BBL during the previous administration.

“These groups exist and survive because they’re gaining support from the people. Because the people see that their grievances are not addressed,” Ebrahim said.

Ebrahim urged Congress, particularly the Senate to approve a BBL that is accepted by people in poverty-stricken ARMM, so that groups will die by a natural cause.

The MILF leader also said that it is high-time for the government to pass the BBL especially now that the IS is reportedly losing ground in the Middle East.

With Mindanao’s proximity to other Muslim countries in Asia, Ebrahim said it is not impossible for the Islamist insurgents to rebuild their troops here.

“The only solution for this is to get the support of a large majority of the people; to have a political solution in place that is accepted and supported by the people. Because if it is accepted by the people, these groups will not exist anymore. If they run out of support, they cannot survive,” he said.

The MILF, Ebrahim said, is optimistic that theBBL will hurdle Congress this time as officials under the Duterte administration, including the President, have aired their support for the measure.

Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri, Sonny Angara, JV Ejercito and Riza Hontiveros on Thursday visited the MILF headquarters in Camp Darapanan before the Senate subcommittee’s public hearing on BBL in Cotabato City.

Residents of Cotabato City and Sultan Kudarat lined the streets with flaglets and placards showing their support for the approval of the BBL that was based on the draft presented by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), a version crafted by the region’s representatives in coordination with the MILF.

148 Abu Sayyaf members have surrendered since last year —WesMinCom

From GMA News (Jan 25): 148 Abu Sayyaf members have surrendered since last year —WesMinCom

A total of 148 Abu Sayyaf members from Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi have surrendered to the government since last year, the Western Mindanao Command said Thursday.

Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez, Jr., commander of the Western Mindanao Command, said they ascribe the massive surrender to the relentless operations of the troops on the ground and the robust support of the people of Mindanao.

“Especially our local chief executives that are now involved in our fight against decades-long internal aggression on the islands,” he said in a press statement.

From January 1 to December 31, 2017, a total of 70 Abu Sayyaf bandits yielded to the troops in Basilan, 53 in Sulu, and 21 in Tawi-Tawi.

On January 21, 2018, four Abu Sayyaf members, including three in Sulu and one in Basilan, surrendered to the Joint Task Forces under the WestMinCom.

The three were identified as Reymal Abe Majan, 23; Tarun Uhad Ismael, 63; and Makdar Jikiri, 25, yielded to Captain John Armand Guevarra of the 2nd Special Forces Battalion, Special Forces Regiment (Airborne) in Barangay Kanaway, Parang, Sulu.

Ismael and Jikiri are followers of Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Idang Susukan, while Majan is a follower of Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Maradjan Hadjiri.

They also surrendered two M1 Garand rifles and an M16 rifle.

Government troops recovered three high-powered firearms of the Abu Sayyaf from January 1 to 23, 2018.

Galvez encouraged other Abu Sayyaf members to surrender.

“The government in coordination with the Ulama has prepared rehabilitation programs to those who have surrendered to ensure that they do not go back to their ill beliefs,” he said.

He said this January, the WesMinCom through its Joint Task Force Basilan, in collaboration with Balay Mindanaw, ARMM, Eisenhower Fellowship Association US Embassy, and Nagdilaab Foundation Inc conducted an "Expository Tour" under the ASG Returnees Rehabilitation Program (ARRP) for 40 Basilan Abu Sayyaf surrenderers.

He said the activity intends to provide the surrenderers an avenue for personal, spiritual, values formation and the opportunity to gain new experiences.

The tour also seeks to expose to the surrenderers to progressive communities outside Basilan Province; create positive disposition among the surrenderers through leisure and other activities; foster cohesion and team spirit; and reinforce positive and moderate view of Islam.

“This program will set as a pioneering model similar to the NPA returnees Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP),” Galvez said.

He said all surrenderers will also undergo the same program to ensure that they will be fully integrated and mainstreamed as productive members of their community.

Abu Sayyaf bandit killed in Basilan gunfight

From ABS-CBN (Jan 25): Abu Sayyaf bandit killed in Basilan gunfight

Photo courtesy of Richard Falcatan

An Abu Sayyaf bandit was killed Wednesday afternoon after a fierce gunfight with government militiamen and barangay peacekeeping action team (BPAT) in Ungkaya Pukan town, Basilan.

Local authorities identified the bandit as Munir Abduljarid Kahum, a known henchman of Abu Sayyaf commander, Furudji Indama.

Joel Maturan, the town’s former mayor, said local officials of Barangay Sungkayut and Materling received information from civilians that an armed man was sighted in one of the houses in the remote village of Sungkayot.

Government militiamen and barangay peacekeepers were met with heavy gunfire when they reached the subject’s location.

A few minutes of gunfight ensued, which resulted to the death of Kahum.

Authorities recovered an M16 rifle from the suspected bandit.

Maturan said they have been on high alert for the past few weeks after the Abu Sayyaf threatened village officials who did not concede to demands of monthly protection money.

He added the bandits were also extorting money from local businessmen in Ungkaya Pukan and threatening their lives if they resisted.

Amid fear of retaliation from the bandits, Maturan said they have maintained normalcy in their municipality as more government troops were deployed in their area for tighter security.

Classes in public schools were also not affected, amid security concerns brought out by some teachers and parents.

2 soldiers dead, 1 injured in clash with Reds in Kalinga

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 24): 2 soldiers dead, 1 injured in clash with Reds in Kalinga

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) suffered three more casualties as two soldiers died and one was injured in an encounter with members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in a town in Kalinga province on Tuesday, the Army’s 5th Infantry Division (5ID) said on Wednesday.

5ID Public Affairs Office (DPAO) chief, Captain Jefferson Somera, said the names of the casualties are put on hold pending information to the family of the two fallen and injured soldiers.

The Army believes that the NPA also suffered casualties in the 15-minute gunfight.

He said the encounter happened at around 10 a.m. of Tuesday in Sitio Matayog, Barangay Baay in Pinukpuk town, about three hours from this capital city.

Somera said that according to 50th Infantry Battalion (50IB) commander, Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Martin Daiz Jr. based in Pinukpuk municipality, the government troops responded to information from members of the community of the presence of terrorists doing extortion activities in the area.

5ID commander, Brigadier General Perfecto Rimando Jr., ordered the immediate evacuation of the injured soldier and two slain troopers.

Somera said the commander also ordered a hot pursuit operation against the fleeing rebels.

“There will be no let-up in our operations in Kalinga Province until the last rebel is either neutralized or has yielded to the government,” he said.

Rimando said, “we also express 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 rebels.”

He assured that all the benefits intended for them will be received by their families the soonest possible time.

Somera said the 5ID commander had already deployed additional soldiers to Kalinga to augment the troops of the 50IB in pursuing the fleeing rebels.

Army’s 2ID camp welcomes 356 new soldiers

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 24): Army’s 2ID camp welcomes 356 new soldiers

CAMP GEN. MATEO CAPINPIN, Tanay, Rizal — The Army’s 2nd Infantry (Jungle Fighter) Division (2ID) under the leadership of Major General Rhoderick Parayno, has admitted 356 new soldiers who graduated from the Candidate Soldiers Class ‎484-2017 at the camp headquarters here Monday.

The new soldiers, composed of 336 males and 20 females,  completed their five-month rigid Candidate Soldier Course (CSC) at the Division Training School.

Brigadier General Glorivine Dida, Assistant Division Commander of the 2ID, told the new soldiers that their enlistment in the AFP was the start of their true service to the government.

“Just like in the oath you mentioned a while ago, that you will give your best effort in serving our people, even if it may cost your lives,” he added.

Dida also thanked the parents, relatives and friends of the new soldiers for the support and congratulated the Division Training School personnel.

The activity culminated with a symbolic entrustment of firearms to the new privates with Baras Vice-Mayor Wilfredo Robles along with other local government chief executives.

Officials of the 2ID said the ceremonial entrustment of firearms would instill nationalism and service-oriented attitude among soldiers who willfully accepted the magnitude of the responsibility, duty and authority vested upon them in protecting the country and the Filipino people.

They deemed it necessary to involve the local government officials in this ceremonial entrustment since the new soldiers will soon become partners in promoting peace and development in their respective localities.

Westmincom chief vows zero tolerance on illegal drug activities

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 25): Westmincom chief vows zero tolerance on illegal drug activities

Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, said he will not and never tolerate the involvement of any personnel in illegal drugs.

Galvez issued the statement following the arrest of a soldier with a female companion in an anti-drug operations in the province of Zamboanga del Sur.

Corporal Lehamber Acosta, 31, of the 1st Signal Battalion, Army Signal Regiment, and his female companion were arrested in a buy-bust operation on Monday at a hotel room in Barangay Tuburan, Pagadian City.

The arresting team recovered from them a heat-sealed plastic sachet of suspected shabu, PhP1,000 marked money consisting of two P500 bills, and three pieces of folded aluminum foil.

The soldier and his female companion were detained while appropriate charges are readied to be filed against them.

Galvez said the campaign against illegal drugs is one of his priorities as the highest military commander in the region.

“Any drug case involving our personnel will be dealt with in accordance with the law,” Galvez said adding: “Let this be a strong reminded to everyone.”

“We strongly support and adhere to the policy and campaign of the current administration against the proliferation of illegal drug trade in the country,” he said.

Galvez, who visited the Army’ 1st Infantry Division headquarters, on Tuesday, vowed that he will not and never tolerate personnel who will be found involved in the use or sale of illegal drugs.

Maj. Gen. Roseller Murillo, Army’s 1st Infantry Division commander, said they are saddened that “there are still soldiers who are into illegal drugs” despite the constant reminders.

“We will be more aggressive in finding out scalawags among our ranks and we will definitely be harsh on them,” Murillo added.

Acosta, who is assigned in Basilan province, belongs to the 1st Infantry Division.

2 cops killed, town execs injured in Abra blast

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 25): 2 cops killed, town execs injured in Abra blast

Members of the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) in Abra province sweep the town plaza in La Paz town for pieces of evidence following a hand grenade explosion at 1:30 a.m. on January 25, 2018 that killed two policemen and injured officials including civilians. (Photo courtesy of Abra PPO)
Two policemen on security detail to ranking officials of Abra province were killed after a hand grenade exploded during a fireworks display in La Paz town at about 1:30 a.m. Thursday.

Based on the spot report provided by the Abra Police, those killed were PO3 Carlos Bocaig and PO2 Frenzel Kitoyan, both members of the Abra Provincial Mobile Force Company under the Abra Police.

The two were declared dead while undergoing treatment in a local hospital.

Also injured were La Paz Mayor Menchie Bernos and Abra Congressman Joseph Santo Nino Bernos, who were immediately sent home after receiving treatment.

Others who sustained injuries were Ryan Manasan, Jayron Sales, Marian Manzano, Kenneth Onobre, Aira Cortez, Mark Beronilla, and Merry Rose Baluyot, who were still confined in a medical facility in the province.

Based on initial reports, the incident occurred at the town plaza late Wednesday where the celebration of the town fiesta was being held.

A sudden explosion happened near the officials, led by the congressman and his mayor wife, as they were watching the fireworks display. Police were able to recover levers for two hand grenades at the crime scene.

Police operatives are conducting a follow-up investigation on the incident.

2 'ranking' NPA members killed in Tarlac clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 25): 2 'ranking' NPA members killed in Tarlac clash

Two ranking members of the New People’s Army (NPA) were killed in an encounter with combined police and military teams in San Manuel, Tarlac Wednesday.

In a report sent here, Senior Superintendent Ritchie Posadas, Tarlac police provincial director, identified the fatalities as Victorio Tesorio alias Ka Dong/Rico/Dado/Merto/Ikoy/Reto and Lolito Raza alias Ka Lanlan.

Posadas said Tesorio was first deputy secretary and company commander of Komiteng Rehiyon-Hilagang Silangan Luzon (KR-HSL) while Raza was company officer of Danilo Ben Command of WestCom, Northern Front, KR-HSL.

He said the raiding team armed with warrant of arrest swooped down the house of a certain Jose Dallente alias Caloy in Barangay San Miguel, San Manuel town where the two rebels were reportedly staying.

The two NPAs were issued warrants of arrest for murder, frustrated murder, rebellion, and attempted murder.

During the operation, the suspects resisted arrest and fired towards the operating teams that prompted the lawmen to retaliate.

After a brief of exchange of firefight, the two rebels were killed, Posadas said.

Recovered from the crime scene were a caliber .45 Llama pistol, a caliber .45 Colt, two hand grenades and several subversive documents.

Police said Dallente, the owner of the house, was arrested for harboring or concealing of criminals.

Marine soldier shot dead in Basilan

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 25): Marine soldier shot dead in Basilan

The police are eyeing love triangle as the possible motive behind the Thursday killing of a member of the Philippine Marine Corps in Basilan province.

Supt. Restituto Pangusban, Isabela City police chief, identified the victim as Corporal Jhunrey Lauriaga, resident of Barangay Binuangan in that city.

Pangusban said Lauriaga was shot dead shortly around 10 a.m. Thursday along Strong Boulevard, Barangay Port Area, Isabela City.

Pangusban said Lauriaga and his girlfriend were aboard a motorcycle and had just arrived at the motorboat terminal when shot by a lone gunman.

He said the victim and his girlfriend, who was unscathed, were on the way to a picnic at the White Beach on Malamawi Island.

He said Lauriaga was hit in the head and was declared dead on arrival at the hospital by the attending physician.

The Isabela City police received an information that the gunman casually walked away from the crime scene after the incident.

The incident took place near the Police Maritime Group in Barangay Port Area, Isabela City.