Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Philippines' Strategic Relationship With India

From The Diplomat (Jan 27): The Philippines' Strategic Relationship With India (By By

The Philippines' Strategic Relationship With India

Image Credit: Flickr/ Indian Ministry of External Affairs

The 61-year old Treaty of Friendship signed in Manila on July 11, 1952 between India and the Philippines was cemented again by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte as he attended the India-ASEAN Commemorative Summit in New Delhi hosted by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Duterte and Modi exchanged economic and political views, including discussing the possibility of military cooperation. The defense relations of the two maritime nation-states have been marked by frequent visits by Indian navy warships and coast guard ships to the Philippines since 1998 and thereafter in 2017 under the terms of the 2006 Philippines-India Defense Cooperation Agreement.

Being natural allies — English-speaking democratic stalwarts with shared experiences of Western colonialism — India has supported the Philippines’ positions on quite a few international issues, including world trade, labor, and even the latter’s quest in 2004 to become a nonpermanent member of the UN Security Council from 2005 to 2006, when India withdrew its candidacy in favor of the Philippines. In 2011, the Philippines also supported India, as the latter was elected to the rotating two-year membership in the Security Council. For more than a decade, the Philippines and India have continuously held bilateral negotiations assessing their progress on trade, investment, economic, technical, scientific, and technical cooperation. With the world’s exponential growth in digitization and globalization, both countries have emerged as frontline service sectors in the business process outsourcing industry.

The renewed relationship has cemented almost 40 bilateral agreements and memoranda of understanding, alongside several rounds of mutual visits by top leaders, and people -to-people exchanges that have enhanced ancient trade and cultural ties. Amidst the volatile geopolitical and strategic ambiguities in the Indo-Pacific region, New Delhi’s expanding defense posture and economic success can provide prospects for shaping the balance of power in the region.

After the arbitral tribunal’s verdict over the South China Sea case filed by the Philippines against China, India used its influence among Asian neighbors to push for peaceful resolution of maritime differences. As a naval power itself, India had a moral responsibility to push for freedom of navigation as a global interest, asserting that no state has a monopoly over the seas and oceans. India hopes that assertions of maritime and international laws will prevail in maintaining an equitable balance of powers in an evolving multipolar world.

Both the Indian and Filipino navy and air force should help provide a secure maritime environment. Given the volatility of the regional security environment, the Philippines should learn from India in enhancing transparency and accountability while pursuing opportunities for stable security structures. The Armed Forces of the Philippines should opt to improve its human, organization, and information capital. It shall build a culture of joint operations, establish an integrated secure communications and information system to institutionalize integrated joint logistics support systems, and develop a professional and highly motivated regular and reserve force. Highly competent and motivated professionals should spearhead the crafting of sound and appropriate maritime doctrines leading to responsive naval reserve forces; the same professionals should be building the corps of the same force.

Meanwhile, India’s financial aid and growing counterterror cooperation during the Marawi siege in Mindanao manifest an Asian big brother’s determination to halt terrorism in the region. The Philippines can also learn from India about the peaceful resolution of armed conflict. After the Sino-Indo territorial sovereignty dispute caused war in 1962, the thorny border issue was largely stabilized in 1996 through an agreement to resolve regional security threats.

Indian defense technology is admittedly more advanced than the Philippines’. Along with India’s tremendous economic growth, it has optimized the production of computer software operating short- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, nuclear capable aircraft, naval vessels, and India’s active military space program. Duterte’s strategic visit to New Delhi, should gauge the possibilities for new engagement on defense. Both countries can benefit from a much closer cooperation in the development and application of aviation and space technology including telecommunications, television broadcasts, meteorological services, disaster warnings, and surveillance satellites. In the short run, with India’s strong naval aviation, it can assist the Philippines with defense research and technology transfer, especially relating to naval ship design and repairs, helping Manila to maintain stability in the high seas and combat transnational crimes and terrorism.

The Philippines and India should join hands and engage each other on many fronts. Given all the confidence and potential each country has, they must strategically continue to gauge assistance and learn best practices from each other in the fields of defense infrastructure, industry development, business process outsourcing, life sciences, research technology, higher education, agriculture, and medicine — especially since both Asian democratic countries share similar values.

[Dr. Chester Cabalza is a security analyst.]

2 farmers dead, 1 hurt in Maguindanao rice field blast

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 26): 2 farmers dead, 1 hurt in Maguindanao rice field blast
DATU PIANG, Maguindanao—Two farmers were killed while another was injured when they stumbled upon an explosive in the middle of a rice field here on Thursday afternoon, the Army said Friday.

Killed were Abusama Guiamin, 26; and Abdullah Mamatanto, 21, both residents of Barangay Dasawao here. Injured and recuperating in a hospital was Katib Mamatanto, 26, of the same village.

Mamatanto, 26, confined at Maguindanao provincial hospital in Shariff Aguak town, told police that he and his companions were guarding their rice fields against wild hogs when one of them accidentally stepped on an unidentified explosive that subsequently went off.

The village was the site of recent skirmishes involving government forces and Moro Islamic Liberation Front members against the Islamic State-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

The military here said the explosive could have been planted by the BIFF against pursuing soldiers during previous clashes.

Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, speaking for the military-led anti-terror unit, Joint Task Force Central, said Army bomb experts were helping the police identify the explosives.

“The Army is helping solve the mysterious blast,” Besana told reporters, adding that there was no military operation in the area at the time of the explosion.

Abu Misri Mama, speaking for the BIFF, was quick to blame the military for the blast by saying his group did not plant IEDs in civilian areas or places that civilians frequented.

Hapilon's follower, Abu Sayyaf member nabbed in Zambo

From the Philippine Star (Jan 27): Hapilon's follower, Abu Sayyaf member nabbed in Zambo

Image from an undated video shows Malaysian militant Mahmud bin Ahmad who helped lead and finance the siege in Marawi City. AP, File photo
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — A follower of slain Abu Sayyaf and Islamic State leader Isnilon Hapilon and another member were arrested separately by the police intelligence unit in this city, a police official said Saturday here.

Chief Superintendent Billy Beltran, director of Police Regional Office 9, identified one of the suspects as Radulat Balito, a follower of Hapilon.
Hapilon, who left Basilan and established ties with the Maute Group, was named as the emir of the IS for Southeast Asia. He was killed during the military offensive that liberated Marawi City in October last year.

Beltran said the other arrested Abu Sayyaf member was Isah Sampal, also known as Sonny Abubakar.
Balito was arrested on Friday about 7:50 a.m. by members of the Regional Intelligence Division unit under Superintendent Fergen Torred at Barangay Recodo, a west coast village this city.

Sampal, on the other hand, was arrested about 7 a.m. Saturday by the same police intelligence unit at Barangay Mariki, a coastal village destroyed at the height of the 2013 siege.

Beltran said both suspects were facing charges of kidnapping and serious illegal detention in connection with the mass abduction of plantation workers of Golden Harvest Inc. at Barangay Tairan, Lantawan on June 11, 2001.

The two suspects were positively identified by a witness, who is under the Witness Protection and Security Benefit Program of the Department of Justice.

Based on the accounts of the witness, the two were among those who joined the Abu Sayyaf group who abducted around seven to 15 workers. Five of the victims were then executed.

According to the witness and kidnap victims, about 70 Abu Sayyaf group members were involved during the raid in the plantation.

NPA eyed in killing of rape suspect

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 27): NPA eyed in killing of rape suspect

Suspected New People's Army rebels shot and killed a rape suspect Wednesday night in Sitio Patlangka, Brgy. Magballo, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental, police chief Supt. Rhea Santos reported yesterday.

The victim was identified by the Kabankalan police as George Garingo, alias Colasing, of Bayawan, Negros Oriental.

Investigations of the Kabankalan police showed that the victim, accompanied by a certain alias Bay, and two other unidentified persons, went to the house of Dominador Pelago, to borrow a pot.

About five meters away from his residence, Pelago told the police that he saw Garingo allegedly being shot by an alias Bay, a resident of Bayawan, Negros Oriental, and his two companions.

The victim, who sustained four gunshot wounds in the back, died on the spot, the Kabankalan police said.

Santos said the three suspects declared themselves to be NPA members, before fleeing to unknown directions.

Investigations of the Kabankalan police further showed that the victim was reported by Pelago to have a pending arrest warrant for rape.

In 2014, Garingo, 43, and a laborer, had been warned by the NPA to leave Sitio Patlangka in Brgy. Magballo, Kabankalan City, for being an alleged troublemaker in the place.

But the victim returned to Brgy. Magballo,Kabankalan City, last year, to hide, as he was facing rape charges, the Kabankalan City police said.

The killing of Garingo was reported to the Kabankalan police by Magballo barangay captain Egan Antonio on Thursday.

Duterte to probe mining, banana firms: Paying NPA taxes is money laundering

From Rappler (Jan 27): Duterte to probe mining, banana firms: Paying NPA taxes is money laundering

President Rodrigo Duterte threatens to close down companies that have continued paying revolutionary taxes to communist guerillas even after his warning   

PEACE? Banana exports have previously asked the government to continue peace negotiations with the communists to protect businesses from extortionist activities. File photo of a plantation in Tagum, Davao del Norte, by Romeo Gacad/AFP

PEACE? Banana exports have previously asked the government to continue peace negotiations with the communists to protect businesses from extortionist activities. File photo of a plantation in Tagum, Davao del Norte, by Romeo Gacad/AFP

President Rodrigo Duterte said on Saturday, January 27, he would have allegations investigated that banana and mining firms continued to pay revolutionary taxes to Communist rebels.

Calling these payments as money laundering, Duterte said: “I will look into your transactions.”

Duterte threatened to subject these companies to sanctions if they continued to give in to the demands of the New People’s Army (NPA).

It was the same threat he made to mining companies in November 2017, where he said those who continued to support the communist guerillas financially would face closure. At the time, he also threatened to trace these companies.

The NPA justifies collecting revolutionary taxes and has long done so, especially to banana plantations in Mindanao.

In past statements, the NPA said these plantations deserved to pay taxes to the revolutionary movement as they were guilty of dispossessing lands from peasants and indigenous peoples.

Several business leaders have asked the government to come into the private sector’s rescue by finding ways to secure their plantations.

On the other hand, others, including the Philippine Exporters Confederation (Philexport), would want the government to continue talking peace with the rebels.

But negotiating peace with the rebels is no longer part of Duterte’s agenda, as on Saturday he emphasized that “the talks are over.”

“No more talks. I will go after the legal fronts,” he said.

The President signed in November 2017 Proclamation 360, formally terminating talks with the National Democratic Front-Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army.

Following that, he declared the CPP and the NPA as terrorist organizations.

In his trip to India this week, he called for stronger cooperation among countries to stop the financing of terrorist organizations.

CASER: Reds’ economic reform plan amid TRAIN worry

From the often pro-Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) online publication the Davao Today (Jan 25): CASER: Reds’ economic reform plan amid TRAIN worry

The peace panels of the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines sign the ground rules for conduct of the meeting of the reciprocal working committee on social and economic reforms during the third round of talks in Rome, Italy on January 2017. ( file photo)

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) released its latest draft of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), a document which they say is a guide to an inclusive economic development in the Philippines.

Published on January 21, the draft is a 180-page document released by the Reciprocal Working Committee on Socio-Economic Reforms (RWC-SER) of the NDFP. The draft will precede a book which they will publish next month.

The NDFP said they published the draft online “amid the public furor brought about by the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law (TRAIN), a meltdown of the public transport system, the largest contraction in employment in 20 years, proposals for charter changes that will institute dictatorial rule and increased attacks on the Filipino people’s sovereign, civil, political, economic and cultural rights.”
It maintained that “a genuine program for agrarian reform and national industrialization directly addresses the roots of the armed conflict in the country and is the way to economic development.”

The publication includes the draft’s executive summary, which was issued last September 2017.

The RWC-SER NDFP describes CASER as an immediate program for real social and economic progress that is “realistic within current political and legal processes and can be implemented by the current administration” and its succeeding non-revolutionary governments.

Days before President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Proclamation No. 360 canceling the talks in November last year, the bilateral teams of the government and the NDFP initialed draft documents on socio-economic reforms.

President Duterte and NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison exchange tirades early this month.

Duterte offered to talk with Sison privately which the latter accepted saying it would be a good venue to talk about the resumption of peace talks and as long as they meet in a neighboring country.

Go to the following URL to see the NDFP draft of the CASER:

Strong civilian-military partnership key to peace, dev’t in Basilan

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 26): Strong civilian-military partnership key to peace, dev’t in Basilan

ISABELA CITY, Basilan -- Achieving peace and development entails a strong partnership and cooperation between civilians and law enforcers in a province that has been infested with lawless elements and terrorists.

Any law enforcement and military actions would be futile when civilians become passive players in the process of human security and peace. In effect, anger and hatred will perpetuate and the cycle of violence will continue. For quite some time in the past, the use of military force has been the way to stabilize the state of security in the conflict-torn province of Basilan.

But things have changed. The military, through its Bayanihan program, has evolved into a force that strives to win the peace in communities rather than winning the war.

The whole armed forces in Basilan, including the Fourth Special Forces Battalion (4thSFBn) (Riverine) of the Philippine Army, embodied this same principle of winning the peace in every community. This was further affirmed during the recent turn-over of command at the 4th SF Bn Headquarters in Basilan.

As LTC Andrew B. Bacala Jr turned-over his post to the new commanding officer recently, he bannered the many programs and successes of the battalion, which were attributed to the support, cooperation, and partnership of Basilan stakeholders, including civilians in the communities.

“To all BasileƱos, I am much honored to have served you all in my capacity as the commander of 4SFBN(R). Marami pong salamat sa lahat ng suporta ninyo sa akin at sa Special Forces. Wala po kaming magagawa kung hindi nyo kami sinuportahan sa lahat ng bagay na na-accomplish namin. With that, my sincerest gratitude to all for keeping the faith in us. Maraming salamat po ulit. Hasta la vista (Till we meet again)," he said.

In a simple turn-over ceremony held at Cabunbata, Isabela City, LTC Bacala was replaced by LTC Achilles Dela Cruz who promised to sustain the gains the unit has achieved for the last two years.

He especially cited and gave credit to the significant role of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGUs) and the Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVOs) who fought side by side with the Dolphin Warriors (the 4SFBn soldiers) in many of its victories and some failures.

“To all Dolphin Warriors, CAFGUs and CVOs of Basilan: Words cannot express my sincerest thanks and gratitude for all the support you have extended to my 2 years of leadership. Your trust and confidence in me, and our collective efforts have elevated 4SFBn(R) to what it is now. Keep it up. Sustain it,” he said.

“Given our limited resources, we strive to reach for greater heights. This could not have been possible if not for your full cooperation. Unknowingly, each and every Dolphin Warrior went beyond your personal limitations to make collective achievement possible. And I, for one, am very proud to have provided that brand of leadership, that very leadership that requires every soldier and every man to take risk and take decisive action. For it is maturity in those actions that makes insurmountable task seems easy,” he said.

“More than fighting the enemy, your special forces is here to build communities. Makatulong na maiahon sa kalagayan ang mga taga-Basilan. None of these would be possible kundi sa tulong ninyong lahat—barangay, LGU, NGAs, NGOs, CSOs, media, CAFGUs, CVO, BPATS. It is an honor to have served the people of Basilan,” Bacala added.

Bacala considered the neutralization of a dreaded bomber, the capture of major ASG camps, the rescue of a number of kidnapped victims, the surrender of a significant number of suspected ASGs, and the introduction of seed the future project which paved the way for the community-based vegetable farming programs of some communities and agencies, as among the greatest accomplishments of the 4SFBn in Basilan.

“We showed sincerity to the community we swore to protect that is why we were able to get their support,” Bacala stressed.

Meanwhile, newly installed commanding officer of the 4thSFBn LTC Achilles Dela Cruz said, “As I assume this command, I shall continue to share the vision, implement the programs and the projects that LTC Bacala had set, which I am certain had made a great impact in Basilan as evidenced by the presence of the different stakeholders.”

Dela Cruz underscored that he will implement an “all nation approach” in keeping Basilan peaceful and open opportunities for greater development in the near future.
The turn-over of command was presided by Brigadier General Ramiro Manuel A. Rey (AFP), Commander of the Special Forces Regiment (Airborne), Special Operation Command of the Philippine Army.

2 more NPA rebels yield in Sarangani

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 26): 2 more NPA rebels yield in Sarangani

Two more New People’s Army (NPA) rebels surrendered on Thursday afternoon to government troops in an outskirt village in Malapatan town in Sarangani Province.

Lt. Col. Marion Angcao commanding officer of the Army’s 73rd Infantry Battalion (IB), said Friday the rebels yielded along with their firearms at a portion of Barangay Upper Suyan, Malapatan.

He identified the returnees as Hermes Tuco alias Alfinso, 20, and Sabes Tumbo alias Sagle, 35, who were listed as former members of the NPA’s Far South Mindanao Region’s Front 71.

The two surrendered two days after their alleged leader, Simeon Miguel alias Simpak, yielded to 73IB troopers in the same village following a series of encounters.

Miguel, who yielded an M16 rifle, was reportedly the vice team leader of Front 71’s platoon North, which operates in Malapatan town and the neighboring areas.

Angcao said Tuco and Tumbo, who were both residents of Barangay Upper Suyan, surrendered two M16 rifles.

He said the two decided to yield as they could no longer endure the difficult life in the mountains and the uncertainty of their cause.

They intensified operations launched by the 73IB in the area that resulted to a series of encounters these past weeks affected the movement and morale of the rebels, he said.

Angcao said that as a result of the clashes, the two admitted that they “can’t even afford to prepare and eat their meals as they were always on the run.”

“This is a manifestation that our relentless efforts in winning the campaign against the NPA through focused security operation are effective” the Army official said.

Col. Roberto Ancan, commander of the Army’s 1002nd Brigade, said they are set to present the returnees to the provincial government of Sarangani to facilitate the release of immediate assistance and their enrolment into the Comprehensive Local Integration Program or CLIP.

CLIP reintegrates former rebels into the social mainstream and uplifts their socio-economic conditions to enable them to become active partners in the local development.

The program also seeks to contribute towards the achievement of the goal of permanent peaceful closure of all armed conflicts with non-state armed groups.

Ancan said they will be provided with livelihood assistance and receive additional cash benefits for the surrendered firearms.

He urged other NPA rebels in the area to surrender and “start new and peaceful lives in the folds of the government.”

Ancan noted that their intensified operations against the NPA in the hinterlands of Malapatan and other parts of Sarangani will continue.

"For those who are hiding right now, it is now your chance to surrender peacefully and avail of the government programs intended for you. You deserve to live happily with your family,” he added.

Soldier survives shooting in Zamboanga Sibugay

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 26): Soldier survives shooting in Zamboanga Sibugay

A soldier survived although wounded in a shooting incident in the province of Zamboanga Sibugay, the police reported Friday.

Chief Inspector Helen Galvez, Police Regional Office-9 (PRO-9) information officer, identified the victim as Corporal Abdula Amada, who is assigned with the Army’s 102nd Infantry Brigade.

Galvez said Amada was shot and wounded at around 10:15 a.m. Thursday in Barangay Poblacion Muslim, Titay, Zamboanga Sibugay.

Galvez said Amada was driving his motorcycle and had just arrived in Barangay Poblacion Muslim when repeatedly shot by one of two men riding in tandem on another motorcycle that tailed the victim.

She said Amada was hospitalized while investigation continues in a bid to establish the identities of the suspects behind the incident.

Army assures security in irrigation project areas

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 26): Army assures security in irrigation project areas

The 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army (5ID-PA) based in Gamu town in this province has assured the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) of security in implementing irrigation projects in its area of operations.

Brig. Gen. Bartolome Bacarro of the 86th Infantry Battalion Commander, who represented the Division commander, said the soldiers are ready to respond to any security threats in areas where the irrigation projects are implemented.

The security to be provided by the soldiers will also ensure that irrigation construction will not be halted due to attacks or destruction of the project.

The assurance was made during the stakeholders forum held in Cauayan City on Thursday held at Marco Paulo Hotel with the presence of various sectors in Cagayan Valley region.

Bacarro urged the community to help the soldiers and report or inform them of any security threat, especially in areas where irrigation projects are being constructed.

He said there are soldiers who are deployed in various parts of the region and are securing the construction of infrastructure projects.

Bacarro said the NIA management should inform the soldiers where are the other projects, which will need to be secured.

NIA Administrator Gen. Ricardo Visaya lauded the assurance of the Philippine Army in the region saying forces are always present every time they are informed and the communities are encouraged to help the soldiers to ensure peace and security in their areas.

2 dead, 1 hurt in Maguindanao bomb blast

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27): 2 dead, 1 hurt in Maguindanao bomb blast

SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao -- Two civilians were killed while another was injured in an improvised bomb explosion in the middle of a ricefield in Datu Piang town in this province Thursday afternoon, the military here said Saturday.

Killed were Abusama Guiamin, 26, and Abdullah Mamatanto, 21, both residents of Pikit, North Cotabato, in an explosion at 3 p.m. in a ricefield in Barangay Dasawao.

The third victim, Katib Mamatanto, 26, also from Pikit, is now confined at a government hospital in this town. Mamatanto told police and military investigators that they were walking in the ricefield when the explosion occurred.

He could not say whether the explosive was fired from somewhere or was planted. The blast site is the place of recent skirmishes between government forces and IS-linked Moro rebels.

A military intelligence officer said the victims could be the bomb couriers and it accidentally went off while being transported.

The same official said the explosive could be one of the improvised explosive devices planted by BIFF intended for pursuing military forces.

Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, speaking for the military-led anti-terror Joint Task Force Central, said the Army was helping the police identify the explosive in post blast investigation.

In the adjacent town of Raja Buayan, also in Maguindanao, a member of IS-inspired BIFF under Abu Torayfe, was killed in a brief clash with government forces at around 3 a.m. Friday.The Army’s 6th Infantry Division, in a statement, said elements of the 40th Infantry Battalion backed by armored personnel carriers and artillery fire clashed with Abu Torayfe’s group while the armed men were moving from Raja Buayan to nearby town of Mamasapano.

The body of slain BIFF man was turned over to village officials for immediate burial. No casualty was reported on the government side.

Waging war vs. MILF, MNLF not an option: Duterte

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27): Waging war vs. MILF, MNLF not an option: Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte Saturday hinted at continued talks with the Moro revolutionary groups as still the best option until the government perfects an arrangement on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) without violating the Constitution.

“Let me make myself very clear. I do not want violence, I do not want war. I only want to talk,” the President said in a press conference at Davao International Airport following his arrival from a three-day visit to India.

"This is my take. Either we figure out new regions if I can do it administratively without violating any provision in the Constitution. If it’s only a matter of laws, then we can ask Congress for the corresponding change,” the President told reporters when asked what comes first federalism or BBL.

The President wanted to sort out everything given the general sentiments of Congress that there are provisions in BBL that are unconstitutional.

The BBL seeks the creation of a new government to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

“So let’s start to sort it out. Let us show the Moro that we are trying our best. That those Constitutional provisions that will be violated can be corrected if there is a Federal setup coming,” he said.

Duterte was concerned of renewed trouble in Mindanao once Moro groups do not get what they want. He remembered MILF Chair Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim telling him “we are tired of waiting for so long”.

On the other hand, the President has said that the promise for a federal system of government was not his but it was a concession by former President Corazon Aquino to MNLF Chair Nur Misuari when the former president went to Jolo.

But now, he said, he was getting the beating.

“Yun ngayon ang sinisingil na sa panahon ko, na-timing eh (and now they are demanding it during my time). And they are threatening to go to war,” he said.

“Ako naman (For me) I’m pleading to the Moro people to give the government a chance to work out something. That’s the last thing that I would want to happen to my country. Go again and wage war against their own people," he stressed.

The President pointed out going to war is not his style “because you are not criminals”.

This is a matter of principle to everybody, he said. “So let’s avoid violence. If the thing that we are working on now do not fit, your paradigm of what you want, we can always talk and change everything,” he said.

“I don’t know if it’s an event that is imposed on. There’s always a time to do it and I think that they are decided to do something if they are not given the things that they want,” he said.

In December last year, the Senate’s sub-committee on the BBL held its first hearing on the proposed BBL with the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC).

Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, who chairs the sub-committee, assured to schedule more hearings and invite more resource persons.

2 more ASG men linked to 2001 Basilan plantation raid nabbed

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27): 2 more ASG men linked to 2001 Basilan plantation raid nabbed

Police authorities have arrested two alleged members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) involved in the kidnapping of plantation workers 16 years ago in Basilan, an official announced Saturday.

The arrest of the suspects was part of the series of apprehensions the authorities made with the assistance of witnesses who were under the government’s Witness Protection and Security Benefit Program (WPSBP).

Chief Superintendent Billy Beltran, Police Regional Office-9 (PRO-9) director, identified the suspects as Rabulat Balito and Issa Sampang alias Sonny Abubakar.

Beltran said Balito was arrested around 7:50 a.m. Friday in Barangay Recodo, this city while Sampang at around 7 a.m. Saturday in Barangay Mariki, also in this city.

Beltran said both Balito and Sampang had standing warrants of arrest for their alleged involvement in the kidnapping of workers at the Golden Harvest Plantation in Barangay Tairan, Lantawan, Basilan province on June 11, 2001.

He said they were identified by the witnesses who were under the WPSBP of the Department of Justice.

Balito and Sampang are the sixth and seventh members of the ASG involved in the kidnapping of plantation workers arrested by the authorities this year in this city.

The five others were: Mudrim Isnani; Emran Ismael; Bryan Mohammad; Puyat Saiyadi, and, Faizal Sariul, 35. The Abu Sayyaf bandits have seized 15 workers when they raided the Golden Harvest Plantation on June 11, 2001.

They had executed them by beheading some of the hostages while the others had either escaped or were rescued by pursuing military forces.

Troops help in Mayon HADR efforts

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27): Troops help in Mayon HADR efforts

Philippine Army troops are at the forefront of humanitarian and disaster response (HADR) efforts as Mayon Volcano continues to spew ash flumes and lava.

"Troops from the (Army's) 9th Infantry Division have been deployed to conduct humanitarian response and risk reduction operations since Mount Mayon started to show signs of eruption," Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Louie Villanueva said late Friday.

Villanueva said the soldiers had assisted the local governments in evacuating affected residents in the danger zone and in packing and delivering relief goods to the evacuation centers in Albay.

An estimated 19,972 families had to leave their homes for safety, according to reports.

“Our troops are always ready to conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster response in times of calamities like this. Right now, the Army is still in close coordination with the local government units in Albay, the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, and Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office for constant updates in case there is a need for more response operations,” he said.

18 Reds killed in first 3 weeks of January

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27): 18 Reds killed in first 3 weeks of January

Focused military operations against the New People's Army (NPA) have neutralized 18 communist rebels during the first three weeks of January.

The 18 include two ranking NPA leaders killed during a warrant operation in Tarlac early this week, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Emmanuel Garcia said Friday.

Garcia attributed the military’s success to the close coordination between the security sector and the local communities who informed the soldiers about the presence of NPA rebels, especially those conducting extortion.

During a Joint Command Conference in Compostela Valley province last week, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the AFP to crush the NPA so that peace and economic progress would prevail, especially in the countryside.

Garcia said the AFP had been winning the fight against the communist rebels since the termination of the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front last year. A total of 163 NPAs had been killed in various operations nationwide, while 188 rebels had surrendered to government forces in the first three weeks of January.

NPA claims daring assault in Duterte’s turf

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jan 27): NPA claims daring assault in Duterte’s turf

Communist insurgents on Wednesday claimed a daring attack on President Rodrigo Duterte’s hometown where they destroyed trucks owned by fruit companies in Davao City in southern Philippines.

Rubi del Mundo, a spokesman for the New People’s Army, said the weekend assault was a punitive action against the Japanese Sumitomo Fruits Corporation and Ayala-owned Highland Banana Corporation. Rebel forces torched three trucks owned and pushed them off a cliff in Calinan district.

“Workers and peasants in corporate plantations around Southern Mindanao are rejoicing Saturday’s punitive action,” he said, adding, the attack is part of its revolutionary movement’s policy to penalize big bourgeois comprador companies which continue to exist with impunity by inflicting unimpeded environmental destruction and exploitation of peasants and workers.

Del Mundo branded the two companies as notorious and accused the Sumitomo Fruits Corporation and Highland Banana Corporation of exploiting workers’ welfare by dishing out barely liveable wages, subjecting them to inhuman working conditions, union busting and other repressive labor practices, particularly in their farms in Davao City where Duterte’s daughter, Sara, is also the mayor.

“Both companies push plantation workers to work almost 12 hours, sometimes 16 hours daily under different schemes meant to extract super-profit. Packing plant workers are also made to work the same length of hours without sufficient safety implements. SUMIFRU and Highland, likewise, continue to utilize toxic chemical fertilizers and pesticides in their boom truck sprayers. Workers report that they are routinely exposed to the harmful chemicals being sprayed by boom trucks,” he said.

Del Mundo said peasant families who initially expected to be alleviated from poverty by entering into agri-business venture agreements with SUMIFRU and Highland are faring no better under highly-exploitative arrangements that eventually cost them their lands. “With no control over production, they fall prey to the companies’ exclusive and manipulative management schemes that have buried them deep into indebtedness and have resulted in the seizure of their lands,” he said.

There was no immediate statement or reaction from neither the mayor nor the two companies on the accusations against them by the rebel group which has been fighting for many decades now for a separate state in the country.

CPP-FSM: On the raid of a CAA detachment in Makilala, North Cotabato

NPA-Far South Mindanao propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines Website (Jan 24): On the raid of a CAA detachment in Makilala, North Cotabato

Dencio Madrigal, Spokesperson
NPA-Far South Mindanao (Valentin Palamine Command)

24 January 2018

The VPROC congratulates the Red fighters and commanders of the Mt. Alip Subregional Operations Command of the NPA-FSMR for accomplishing an audacious attack at the 39th IB-CAA detachment in Sityo Garing, Brgy. Luayon, Makilala, North Cotabato in January 21, 2017.

The firefight started at 11:40 in the evening on June 21 and ended at around 2:00 o’clock in the morning the next day. The NPA confiscated a M14 rifle, a M16 rifle, 5 rifle grenades, assorted ammunitions, vests and military equipment. A portion of the camp was burned down by the Red fighters.

The action is a decisive riposte against the US-Duterte regime’s impudent terrorism and perfidious imposition of martial law in Mindanao. The NPA is ever ready to wage war against terrorist suppression in order to protect the rights and welfare of the oppressed and exploited people.
The raid also serves as a punitive action against the mercenary 39th IB and its CAFGU minions for their numerous atrocities towards the civilians. The 39th IB is notorious for the killings of activists and Lumads and the incessant harassment of innocent civilians in North Cotabato and Davao del Sur.

Three Red fighters were martyred at the gun battle.
Red salute to the NPA Red fighters who courageously fought and perished at the fight! We express our utmost revolutionary homage and comradely adulation for Ka Rocky (Raymart Rusiana), Ka Reden (Roger Labajo Jr.) and Ka Tomas. Though saddened by their death, the revolutionary forces and masses they have served were inspired by their determination and sacrifices in pursuing the people’s revolutionary aspirations.

This stout triumph of the NPA is an attestation that the reactionary state’s policy to quash the revolutionary movement is bound to fail. It is because amidst the setbacks, glitches, capitulation, and the call for NPA members to surrender in exchange of cash, a genuine revolutionary’s unwavering fervor will continue to thrive and strengthen.

CPP/Information Bureau: Quid pro quo: Operation Pacific Eagle-Philippines in exchange for support to Duterte’s corrupt and criminal rule

CPP-Information Bureau propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines Website (Jan 27): Quid pro quo: Operation Pacific Eagle-Philippines in exchange for support to Duterte’s corrupt and criminal rule

Information Bureau
Communist Party of the Philippines

27 January 2018

Power-hungry Rodrigo Duterte has earned himself an exalted place in Trump’s international war machine. This January, the US’ new mission in the country, dubbed “Operation Pacific Eagle-Philippines” was finally made public after months of clandestine operations. The mission “replaces” Operation Enduring Freedom which was supposedly shutdown in 2014 but whose troops left the country only in 2015. Since July last year, US senators have have been capitalizing on Duterte’s anti-Moro war in Marawi to call for the reestablishment of an operating base and justify stockpiling various weapos, including planes and drones, in the country.

Duterte’s martial law against the so-called “ISIS” in Mindanao set a perfect backdrop for the reentry of US troops and their permanent basing in the country without a signed treaty. His termination of the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and subsequent declaration of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army as “terrorist organizations” further set the stage. The declaration, which was made specifically in line with the US State Department’s foreign terrorist organizations (FTO) listing, bolstered Duterte access to the US’ budget for overseas contigency operations (OCO), the Pentagon’s bloated “anti-terror” slush fund.

At the start of his term, Duterte portrayed his engagement with the US as “pera-pera lang” (its all about the money). He vowed to give the AFP brand new weapons and went on a begging spree to China and Russia for soft loans supposedly to modernize his army. In “Pacific Eagle-Philippines,” he gets both and more. He gets Trump’s explicit support and funding for his one-man rule.

In 2017, the US OCO started with $42 billion in February but ballooned to $65 billion by the end of the year. For 2018, Trump asked for an initial $64 billion for the program. In November last year, he asked for an additional P7 billion for “missile system and defense enhancements” against North Korea and more funds for its “anti-ISIS” efforts. This is despite the US’ own pronouncement that ISIS forces in the Middle East are losing ground. Qualifying for OCO, or more specifically, its “counter-ISIS train and equip program,” means having forward-deployed US troops “near or in combat forces they support.”

At the same time, Operation Pacific Eagle -Philippines gives the US an advantage over China, which it identified as its “strategic competitor” in its recently published National Security Strategy (NSS). For years now, the US has been attempting to contain China by forward-deploying troops and ships, as well as stockpiling war materiel, in the region. This was the impetus behind the “pivot to Asia” of the then Obama regime.

Under Trump, the US continues to use the so-called threat from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) as a pretext to “enhance” the US expansive missile defense system. This includes the positioning of thre e X-band radar systems and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) systems in the region, as well as the construction of 10 new anti-ballistic missile capable warships. In 2012, US defense officials scouted for a location of the third X-band radar system in Asia, and found one purportedly off the coast of Saranggani. By 2015, a total of 20 off-shore radar systems have already been built in the Sulu and Celebes Seas, with an additional four off the coast of Palawan, near Scarborough Shoal. On the same year, a “national coast watch center” built by US company Raytheon was completed using a $20 million fund from the US.

On a smaller scale, Trump mouths the same anti-terror rhetoric that his predecessors used in the past decade to forward-deploy troops and equipment. In the Philippines, the US maintained 600 special operations forces, said to be the largest anti-terror contingent in the Pacific, for close to 15 years. Operation Enduring Freedom was withdrawn after the botched “anti-terror” raid against Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir (alias Marwan) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. It took another botched “anti-terror” raid, this time against Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, for the US to correct what it later saw as a “mistake” of reducing special operations in the Philippines. Operation Pacific Eagle, the Pentagon promises, will be bigger and more expansive.

MILF: Joint senate subcommittee on BBL holds 3rd public hearing In Cotabato City

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jan 27): Joint senate subcommittee on BBL holds 3rd public hearing In Cotabato City

The Senate Committee on Local Government, Committee on Constitutional Amendments, and Revision of Codes, Ways and Means, Finance, and the Subcommittee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) conducted a joint 3rd Public Hearing on Bangsamoro Basic Law bills, the Senate Bill No.  1608 of Senator Koko Pimentel, and Senate Bill No. 1646 (BTC version) of Senator Migs Zubiri at SKCC, ORG Compund, Cotabato City on January 25, 2018.
The Senate delegation was led by Senator Migs Zubiri, Senator Sonny Angara, Senator Risa Hontiveros, JV Ejercito, and the Senate staff. Prior to the public hearing, the Senators paid courtesy visit to Camp Darapanan, and was welcome by the members of MILF Central Committee headed by MILF Chairman Al haj Murad Ibrahim.

The Senate delegation was accompanied by ARMM Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman and its ARMM officials, Maguindanao Governor Toto Mangudadatu, and its Provincial LGU officials, CSO's and security sectors.

The visit was so festive and greeted by thousands of Bangsamoro people from all walks of life who went out of the street not minding the heat, and hunger just to show their unconditional support to the passage of BTC crafted Bangsamoro Basic Law.

The public hearing was a success, and overwhelming considering that there were no opposition heard from the participants about the said measure. It was attended by the Commissioners of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission headed by its Chairman Ghazzali Jaafar.

BTC Commissioner Raissa Jajurie presented the salient points in the BBL

In a power point presentation entitled, " A Revisit of Moro History and the Search for Peace in Mindanao”,

BTC Commissioner Mohagher Iqbal presented the narratives of the Bangsamoro struggle, and BBL as a solution to end the century - old Bangsamoro problem.

Senator Zubiri in his closing statement said, " This is not for us. This is for our children, and children's children. Let’s stop the conflict. The " bangayan " (bickering)...We pray that whatever religion, and tribe, and people in Mindanao we treat each other with respect, and love... We in the Senate commit in the soonest possible time , the creation of the BBL.

MILF: Members of Senate Joint Sub-Committee on BBL visit Camp Darapanan: A Historic Day, they said

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jan 27): Members of Senate Joint Sub-Committee on BBL visit Camp Darapanan: A Historic Day, they said


Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, Chairman of Senate Sub-Committee on BBL, who recently withdrew his version of Bangsamoro Law, and instead filed the BTC-Crafted Bangsamoro Basic Law (BB) known as Senate Bill No. 1646, headed his delegation in a courtesy call to the leadership of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on January 25 at the MILF Administrative Camp in Darapanan, Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.
Senator Riza Hontiveros, Senator Sonny Angara, and Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito joined Zubiri in his visit, along with ARMM Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman.

From the Security Sector who joined the delegation were LtGen Carlito G. Galvez Jr., Commanding General of Western Mindanao Command, and MGen Arnel B. Dela Vega, Commanding General of 6ID.

Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, MILF First Vice Chairman, and BTC Chairman Ghazali Jaafar, 2nd Vice Chairman Ali Pangalian Solaiman, and other members of the MILF Central Committee welcome the lawmakers’ delegation.

Chairman Ebrahim said, it is a historic day, for it is the first time that such a number of senators came to Darapanan. In behalf of the MILF, he thanked Senator Migz Zubiri for filing, and sponsoring the Bangsamoro Basic Law crafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.

“Same words of thanks, and gratitude for the accompanying senators who are also equally supportive for the BBL to pass in the Congress,” he added.

Al Haj Murad said, “We are so impressed upon the gesture of President Duterte when he made effort calling Senator Zubiri during their meeting last week, and ask for the filing of the Bangsamoro Basic Law crafted by BTC”.

He also acknowledged the presence of the two generals (Galvez and de Vega), describing them as partners in keeping peace.

An emphasis was made by Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim that the BBL is the fruit of more than forty years of struggle of the Bangsamoro people, mentioning a hundred thousand lives were lost, and billions worth of properties were damaged during the war in 1972 up to late 70s.

Chairman Al Haj Murad said, “The BBL is seen as a way to end the sufferings and destructions if it will be fully implemented.”

“BBL is the life of our people. BBL will ultimately be an instrument for a better life, and development, not only for the Bangsamoro but for the entire country as well,” he added.

The MILF Chairman said, “With the Committee now in the Senate, headed by our very own Senator from Mindanao, and with the support of senators who are with us today, we are optimistic for the passage of BBL crafted by BTC. Your visit today is already a manifestation of your strong support to the peace process, and passage of BBL”.

Chairman Al Haj Murad expressed the heartfelt thanks of the MILF Leadership, and entire Bangsamoro people, to the visiting dignitaries.

Senator Zubiri mentioned that his colleagues are all supportive of BBL-BTC version, Senator Sonny Angara, Chairman of Committee on Local Government, Senator JV Ejercito, a Senior Member of the Senate is one hundred percent, supporting, and promoting the passage of BBL, BTC version, Senator Riza Hontiveros, Member of the Committee on Minorities, equally supportive of the BBL- BTC version, and also Senator Franklin Drilon.

He said “The BBL crafted by BTC would be smooth sailing, not too much rough waters, In Shaa Allah”, which made the audience applaud.

“What is really needed in the Bangsamoro Region is a long term political solution achievable thru legislation,” he stressed.

He confirmed that he has withdrawn his own filed bill in favor of sponsoring the BTC-Crafted BBL. He also thanked the MILF leadership for the goodness the past years, for efforts against extremism, and for the rescue of civilians trapped in the Marawi siege, both Muslims and Christians.

“We also want to pass in the Senate, as much as possible the essence of the BBL version of BTC.” Senator Zubiri added. Further he said “let us thank our president, President Duterte for the opportunity to make this realized.”

‘It is really a historic day,” said Senator Sonny Angara. “JV is here, whose father, then, bombed MILF camps, but now JV is here, a good gesture, he showed, I think the past has healed”

Senator Angara said, they will support their vote, and intellectual to come up with a bill truly representing the aspirations of Bangsamoro, and the people of Mindanao.

“Peace is possible uttered Senator JV Ejercito, and repeated saying, “it is a historic day.” Today is the best chance we have to have peace in Mindanao in this administration of President Duterte.” He relates how Muslims, and Christians worked together to make their city, San Juan a success with their co-existence.

Senator Hontiveros began by saying “to the MILF Chairman, Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, when you said BBL is the life of the Bangsamoro, I will never forget that, as we pursue with our search of the BBL”. She had also filed a Bill 1652, BTC Version of BBL. “Indeed,” she said “this is a historic day, full of hope for the imminent passage of BBL version of BTC., in spirit and letter.”

ARMM Regional Governor manifested to leave his office for the sake of BBL, that for him, it’s the interest of the people that comes first.

LtGen Galvez, who has been saying that he is for the MILF, expressed that he will always support the Bangsamoro. He will be retiring this year, and said he will dedicate his life for the peace in Bangsamoro.

MGen Dela Vega said, they have manifested in their stay; they will be supporting every effort to ensure the welfare of Bangsamoro people, and rest assured their sentiments are very clear to them.

BTC Chair Jaafar in his concluding message reiterated the appeal that the Bangsamoro Basic Law crafted by BTC, not to be watered down. He is positive that a good life, and development await everyone. He enjoins everyone to help in attaining a peaceful and bright future for the people.

DWDD: DISGRUNTLED | 188 NPAs Surrender in First 3 Weeks of January 2018

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Jan 25): DISGRUNTLED  |  188 NPAs Surrender in First 3 Weeks of January 2018

CAMP GEN EMILIO AGUINALDO, Quezon City (DWDD) – A total of 188 terrorists New People’s Army (NPA) surrendered to government forces in the first three weeks of January.

This happens in the wake of President Rodrigo Duterte’s invitation to surrender and offer to protect and provide assistance in his Dec 21 talk to more than 600 former rebels in Davao City .

Mobile phones were also distributed by the President encouraging former rebel leaders to communicate the efforts of the government to their former comrades who are still fighting for a lost cause.

In January 20, President Rodrigo Duterte also met with rebel returnees Nilo Legaspi (former regional Spokesman of the NPA) and his wife Wendy in Davao City. The President gave the couple housing unit and financial assistance.

In January 21, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) received 52 former rebels who surrendered from the provinces of Masbate and Sultan Kudarat.

Seven NPA regulars and 35 members of Militia ng Bayan turned themselves in to joint elements of 2nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and the Police in Masbate City. The group surrendered 13 firearms.

In Sultan Kudarat, 10 communist NPA members have returned to government folds and surrendered eight firearms.

Other 82 surrenders were had in the Provinces of Albay, Compostela Valley, Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato, Agusan del Norte, Bukidnon, Davao Oriental, Sarangani, Kalinga, Surigao del Sur and in the City of Davao.

The AFP believes that the series of surrenders reflects the efficacy of the combined efforts of local government units, the communities, the PNP, and the AFP thru community-based dialogues.

The AFP expects more NPAs to yield due to demoralization in their ranks amidst their mounting trust on President Duterte.

The surrenders are also attributed to the growing void in the NPA leadership due to the surrender of their leaders who opted to return to the folds of government citing corruption in the higher levels of NPA hierarchy as among the reason. AFP PAF / MCAG