Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Abu Sayyaf leader who tried to set up cell in Sabah arrested in Malaysia

From ABS-CBN (Feb 21): Abu Sayyaf leader who tried to set up cell in Sabah arrested in Malaysia

9 others arrested in 3 separate raids

KUALA LUMPUR- Malaysian police have arrested 10 people on suspicion of aiding the movement of militants between the eastern state of Sabah and the southern Philippines, a hotbed of Islamic insurgency, the second batch of arrests this year.

The Muslim-majority Southeast Asian nation has been on high alert since gunmen linked to Islamic State launched several attacks in Jakarta, the capital of neighboring Indonesia, in January 2016.

Police arrested the 10 suspects in three separate raids between Jan. 25 and Feb. 6, inspector-general of police Mohamad Fuzi Harun said in a statement.

Among the suspects is a 27-year-old Filipino believed to be a senior leader of the Abu Sayyaf, and another Filipino, 32, believed to have arranged passage of foreign nationals to the southern Philippines to join Islamic State.

"Preliminary information gleaned from the 10 suspects revealed an attempt by the Abu Sayyaf group to establish a cell in Sabah," Mohamad Fuzi said.

Mohamad Fuzi said Abu Sayyaf had intended to bring in IS fighters from Southeast Asia to the southern Philippines for military training.

"The same cell members would then be used to launch attacks on Sabah in the future," he said.

Malaysia has arrested hundreds of people over the past few years for suspected links to militant groups.

A grenade attack on a bar on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur in June 2016 wounded eight people. Islamic State claimed responsibility.

Islamic State Operatives in the Philippines

From the Asia Sentinel (Feb 20): Islamic State Operatives in the Philippines

The February 16 arrest in Manila’s Ermita area of an Egyptian national named Fehmi Lassqued, along with the seizure of illegal firearms and explosives, is a disturbing validation of concerns that the Islamic State, decimated and driven out of Syria and Iraq by combined western forces, is seeking to move its operations elsewhere.

Fehmi, who is said to have been attempting to recruit adherents among Muslim families in Manila, is the second IS combatant to be arrested recently in the Philippines. In January, a suspected Spanish terrorist named Abdelkhakim Labidi Adib was arrested in Basilan province, roughly 1,400 km south of Manila.

With the growing collapse of Islamic State, hundreds of defectors were reported to have massed on Syria’s northeastern border with Turkey in recent months, stripping off their gear and adopting civilian clothing in an effort to blend in with refugees fleeing the fighting.

Turkish officials, according to Sidney Jones, the Jakarta-based director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, have done an effective job of rounding up the fleeing former fighters and deporting them to their home countries to be incarcerated and that few have escaped the dragnet. Media reports say several dozen former fighters have made it across the heavily patrolled Turkish border. Reportedly scores of infiltrators have been shot dead by border guards.

Last June, Jones reported that in a Jakarta presentation that IS activists had created a video encouraging sympathizers from across Southeast Asia to go to the Philippines in the hope of recreating a Caliphate, or state under the leadership of an Islamic steward, in the Muslim-dominated areas of Mindanao island.

Indeed, foreign nationals from Yemen, Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia are said to have been killed in the five-month-long struggle for the Mindanao city of Marawi, which was destroyed in bitter house-to-house fighting. The attempt to establish an Islamic government in Marawi was led by members of the Maute Group, a fundamentalist Islamic clan and ultimately cost the lives of more than 800 Islamic combatants, including the group’s leaders, as well as 160 Philippine Army troops and dozens of civilians.

Killed along with the Maute brothers were Isnilon Hapilon and Muamar Askali, both leaders of the notorious Abu Sayyaf gang, which law enforcement authorities describe more as a gang of kidnappers sailing under the false flag of Islam. Abu Sayyaf members have since been limited in their ability and intent to conduct offensive attacks against security forces although some have taken place.

Some 200,000 people were driven out of the destroyed city. The refugee population has dispersed across cities in Mindanao and other areas of the southern Philippines, with suspected combatants having blended in with the fleeing evacuees. It is unclear how many combatants escaped from Marawi, but some did, having looted the city’s banks and a wide range of other establishments including homes, making away with tens of millions of dollars, according to the military. They were said to have been led by Humam Abdul Najib, also known as Abu Dar, who is said to have used the money to recruit as many as 250 new combatants. Reuters, in a report last November, said hardened mercenaries are joining, lured by the promise of the looted money.

Across the southern Philippines, insurgent and insurgent and terrorist activity is fractured across several groups, according a report by Pacific Strategies & Assessments, or PSA, a Manila-based regional country risk firm, each with a typical geographic range of operations and different levels of capability, raising the risk of small-scale bombings resembling those in the Manila area of Quiapo in April and May of last year or in Davao in September 2016.

“In terms of intent, radical groups may continue to be motivated to conduct such small-scale bombing attacks to display their relevancy despite the end of the Marawi siege and the death of important Islamic State-affiliated leadership,” PSA said in a Feb. 13 report to paid subscribers.

Unlike the threat pattern in other parts of the world like the United States or Europe, the threat in the Philippines is not characterized by low-sophistication/high-impact methods such as vehicle ramming attacks or mass shootings, PSA said. “Suicidal attacks and suicide bombings have not yet been a feature of the threat environment in the Philippines. However, it remains to be seen how long the Philippines can be insulated from global trends in terror attacks, and the possibility of such attacks, or complex armed assaults in the style of Paris 2015, cannot be ruled out.”

“Muslim terrorist- and insurgent-related violence will likely fall into similar patterns in the short term,” PSA said. “Another high-profile event like the Marawi siege is unlikely for the time being, due to the degradation of the capabilities of these groups through the operations by security forces. However, the driving forces for the violence – lack of economic development, radicalization among the Muslim population, and the weakening of the MILF through failure to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law – cannot be addressed through military action.”

Malaysia police nab 11 suspected militants, including seven Filipinos

From the Straits Times (Feb 21): Malaysia police nab 11 suspected militants, including seven Filipinos

One of the suspected militants detained in Sandakan on Jan 25, 2018.

KUALA LUMPUR - Eleven suspects were arrested in the latest swoop in recent weeks as Malaysia stepped up its security following growing concerns over the threat of militants using the country as a transit point and forged documents to stay off the radar.

The suspects - 10 men and a woman - were detained in a series of operations in Johor and Sabah between Jan 25 and Feb 6.

They included seven Philippine nationals.

They were arrested for their suspected links to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group, which is also called IS, and involvement in arranging for the safe passage of militants to the southern Philippines.

Malaysia's top cop Mohamad Fuzi Harun in a statement said five men, including three Filipinos, were detained in the first round of arrests in Sandakan, Sabah, on Jan 25 and 26.

"Two of them worked as labourers, one an unlicensed moneylender, one a boat operator and another was unemployed.

"One of them, a 39-year-old Filipino, had pledged his alliance and received orders from a senior IS militant in southern Philippines to arrange safe passage for militants from Sandakan to Zamboanga, where they would join the IS faction there," he said.

These suspects were aged between aged 33 and 50 .

Tan Sri Fuzi said the same Filipino man had received military style training from the terror group.

The other four suspects are believed to have assisted the 39-year-old Filipino to smuggle militants into the southern Philippines via Sandakan, he said.

In a separate arrest, police detained another four individuals - three male Filipinos and a Malaysian woman aged between 27 and 32 - in Penampang, Sabah, on Feb 4.

One of them is a 27-year-old senior member of the Abu Sayyaf militant group, which is based in Basilan.

Another suspect, a 32-year-old Malaysian, had helped a foreign militant make his way to the southern Philippines, he said.

The arrests led the authorities to detain a 49-year-old Filipino man, who worked as a cab driver and holds a Malaysian permanent resident status, on Feb 6 in Sandakan.

Mr Fuzi said based on the arrests in Sabah, it is learnt that the Abu Sayyaf group was attempting to form a terror cell in Sabah so that they could successfully arrange for the safe passage of ISIS militants in the region to the southern Philippines.

"The militants were to receive weapons training in the Philippines. The same terror cell in Sabah would later have been used to launch attacks in the state," he said.

The arrests were announced two days after Malaysia's Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said he had ordered random checks to be carried out on people travelling between Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia to catch those who might be using fake Malaysian identity cards, including militants.

Datuk Seri Zahid, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister, said random checks at airports were necessary to identify holders of fake identity cards. This was in response to news reports that a suspected militant had been found living in Peninsular Malaysia using a fake identity card obtained from Sabah.

In a separate case, a 38-year-old Malaysian man was previously detained in Singapore on Jan 18 was also arrested after he was deported to Malaysia on Feb 2.

The man, who is from Penang, was believed to have planned to head to Syria to join ISIS.

Army, NPA clash anew in Bukidnon

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Feb 21): Army, NPA clash anew in Bukidnon
SOLDIER is in critical condition after an encounter with suspected New People's Army (NPA) rebels in a remote area in Bukidnon Monday evening, February 19.
First Lieutenant Erwin Bugarin, civil-military operations officer of the 8th Infantry Battalion (8IB), said 9 of their soldiers were patrolling in between the boundaries of Cabanglasan town and Malaybalay City at about 8:30 pm when they encountered 5 communist insurgents.
Bugarin said the wounded soldier, whom he refused to identify, was hit in the head. The firefight lasted for about 10 minutes.
"We regularly conduct patrolling if and when there is a threat in the area, and even if there is no threat we do it to keep the community nearby safe," Bugarin said.
The soldier is still under observation at the Camp Evangelista Station Hospital, Cagayan de Oro. Bugarin said they are conducting pursuit operations against the communist rebels.
"We still don't have evidence that proved there was casualty or wounded in the NPA side," he said.
Bugarin admitted that troops are more aggressive now following President Rodrigo Duterte's pronouncements to intensify the crackdown against the NPA, calling them "terrorists."
He added that they will also charge sympathizers found to be aiding the NPA.
"We have always been aggressive, but we are more aggressive now because it is the orders of our commander-in-chief, we should act on it accordingly," he said.

Balweg’s brothers, ex-comrades: Autonomy first, before federalism

From ABS-CBN (Feb 21): Balweg’s brothers, ex-comrades: Autonomy first, before federalism

Brothers and ex-comrades of the late "rebel priest" Conrado Balweg continue his fight for autonomy in the Cordilleras. From right: Balweg's former aide John Blue; Jovencio Balweg; Gaspar Cayat, former chair of the defunct Cordillera Executive Board; and Bienvenido Balweg during an interview at a restaurant in Baguio city. ABS-CBN News

BAGUIO CITY—There are voices in the wilderness of the Cordilleras seemingly long forgotten after the death of "rebel priest" Conrado Balweg 18 years ago, but all seeking to be heard amid renewed calls for federalism.

Balweg’s brother, Jovencio, a former hitman of the New People’s Army (NPA); their elder brother, Bienvenido; and the slain leader’s former comrades at the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) met with ABS-CBN News for an interview last week to remind President Rodrigo Duterte of the government's promise to provide autonomy to the people of Cordilleras 32 years ago.

“The government has a standing covenant with the people of the Cordilleras to grant us an autonomy,” said the 72-year-old Jovencio, referring to the peace agreement Balweg forged with President Corazon Aquino in September 1986.

Called the Mount Data Peace Accord, the covenant paved the way for Aquino's Executive Order No. 220 (E0 220) in July 1987, creating the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and integrating Cordillera rebels with the police and the Armed Forces​ in hunting down NPA rebels.​

The CPLA leaders have since been hoping that the CAR would give birth to an autonomous region, as mandated by the 1987 Constitution.

It is ironic, however, that Jovencio is now at the forefront of those seeking the implementation of the peace agreement.

Under Conrado Balweg, the CPLA broke away from the NPA after the EDSA Revolution, alleging that the armed group of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) had overlooked the plight of the Cordilleras.

Then still with the CPP-NPA, Jovencio took the blame for the rebel priest's death on December 31, 1999, at the height of violent conflict between the NPA and splinter group CPLA. (Police later identified another NPA leader, a member of Jovencio’s squad, linked to Conrado Balweg's murder several days later).


Jovencio currently serves as municipal councilor in Malibcong town in Abra.

“I have no regrets of the things I learned from the NPA,” he told ABS-CBN News when the interview tackled Balweg’s death. “It still hurts me.”

Jovencio said he and his remaining brothers want the government to grant them autonomy first, federalism later, if federalism would at all be acceptable to the Cordillerans, he said.

“I am very supportive of any individual or group advocating autonomy in the Cordilleras,” he said.

Besides Bienvenido and Jovencio, Balweg had 2 other brothers and 3 sisters.

One of Balweg's children was a CPLA member who was integrated into the Philippine Army in 2012.

The CPLA leaders and comrades ​​had let go of their arms while holding on to that covenant, Bienvenido said, hoping to live their lives the way the Cordillerans should after 2 government projects in the Cordilleras resulted in violent deaths of their leaders and displaced of hundreds of residents toward the end of the Marcos regime.

"We want to choose our leaders," he said.


The Balweg brothers, the rebel priest’s CPLA comrade and aide John Blue, and Balweg’s right-hand man Junior Briones said it would greatly disadvantage the Cordilleras if the government pushes through with a proposal putting together the CAR, the Cagayan Valley, and the Ilocos Region into one federal state.

In all aspects of development, the 81-year-old Bienvenido said, the government puts its money where there is a great land area and population. The CAR would thus be prioritized the least, it being the smallest of the 3 regions, he added.

“We want autonomy, we are not ready for federalism,” he said.

Bienvenido said the CPLA leaders fear that the proposed federal setup would get in the way of the promised autonomy to the Cordillera’s six provinces — Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga and Mountain Province, with Baguio City as the regional center, all rich in mines and rivers.

​The 1987 Constitution provides for autonomy in the Cordilleras. Yet two plebiscites held separately in 1989 and 1990 failed to get enough affirmative votes, a precondition under the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

But the CAR has suffered from the national government’s neglect, according to the Balwegs, owing to the changing political climes in Manila.

Under Aquino’s EO 220, the CAR received an annual appropriation of P36 million.

​In February 2000, Joseph Estrada signed the national budget reducing the CAR budget to P1, rendering the body inutile.

In July 2001, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued another executive order creating the Regional Development Council in the Cordillera Administrative Region with an annual budget of P18 million.


In April 2016, the CPLA leaders sent then-presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte a letter calling his attention to their plight.

Since he became president, they have sent him two other letters through Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza. The last one was on February 8. They're still waiting for a reply.

Bienvenido said he has not lost hope that Duterte would soon pay attention to the region.

​“Now that there is no more violence or rebellion here, the government is ignoring us. We don’t kill each other here, unlike in the South,” he said.

"That is our dilemma here: Should we create noise here? Should we create fireworks here? Everybody is a warrior here and everybody can be called upon to fight for autonomy. But we want peace here. We want progress here now."

Duterte to let military decide on peace talks with Reds

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 20): Duterte to let military decide on peace talks with Reds

The fate of the peace talks with the communist rebels remains in the hands of the military, President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday night.

Duterte issued the statement three months after the collapse of the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), and following the visit of Norwegian government officials, the third party facilitator in the peace process.

“So I’m talking to the communists. The Norwegian officials came here to explore the possibility of talking again. I have to consult my military people. Why? Eh sila ‘yung namamatay eh, hindi naman ako. Sabi ko, ‘I will talk to the military. If you would agree, I might [consider resuming the peace talks]’,”
Duterte said in a speech at the Manila Hotel on Monday evening.

But the President said he would not “waste his time” thinking about the possible resumption of peace talks.

“Ngayon, hindi ko paggastusan ng panahon. I am not thinking about it even. Why? Because now it’s beyond my control. I have to get the [military’s recommendation]. How do you feel? What’s your take? It is good for us to fight forever or mag-usap tayo?” he noted.

But if the military would recommend to pursue the fight against the New People’s Army (NPA), Duterte said he would not object to this.

“And I will tell you, ‘pag sabi nila, ‘Ubusin na lang natin, Mayor’, oh it’s fine. Sabi ni Sison, hambugero, ‘kill one soldier a day’. Eh di sinabi ko, ‘You kill one NPA and I’ll give you ₱25,000’,” he said.

3 NPA rebels surrender in Ilocos Sur

From the Manila Times (Feb 19): 3 NPA rebels surrender in Ilocos Sur

THREE members of the New People’s Army (NPA) surrendered to government security forces on Sunday in Sta. Cruz, Ilocos Sur, the military’s Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) reported on Monday.

Lt. Col. Isagani Nato, Nolcom spokesman, said the rebels gave themselves up to the Philippine Army’s 81st Infantry Battalion at about 4 p.m. at Barangay Bugbuga, Sta. Cruz, Ilocos Sur.

He identified the surrenderees as Joel Tayan Sabino alias Ben, 48; Judith Balingsat Dumalig alias Maya, 49; and Jayson Batuli Bayan alias Mayo of Barangay San Ramon East, Manabo, Abra. They were also operating in Tubo town, also in Abra, Nato added.

They also surrendered high-powered firearms and ammunition such as an M-16-A1 rifle and two caliber .30 Springfield Garand Rifles.

5 NPA rebels captured during PNP, AFP raid

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 19): 5 NPA rebels captured during PNP, AFP raid

At least five New Peoples Army (NPA) rebels including the leader of training SPARU, demolition and explosive team, were captured during raid conducted by operatives of PNP at AFP in a hideout at Cabisera 17-21 Barangay San Antonio, Ilagan City, Isabela.

Five New People’s Army (NPA) including the training specialist were captured Sunday evening in Ilagan City, Isabela. (photo courtesy of PIO PRO2)

PS/Supt. John Cornelius A. Jambora , provincial director of Isabela PNP, reported today to PC/Supt. Jose Mario Espino , PRO2 regional director, that suspects were identified as Mauricio Sagun , “Raul/Johny,” 65, of Barangay Old San Mariano, San Mariano, Isabela, alleged leader of training, SPARU, Demolition and Explosive Team; Mario Turqueza, 65 ; Ariel Peñaflor, 48 ; Bernard Peñaflor, 21; both from Barangay Minanga, San Mariano, Isabela and Maximiñano Domingo, 44 , resident of Barangay Old San Mariano, San Mariano, Isabela.

Jambora said that about 11 p.m. of February 18 when the arrest warrant was implemented against Sagun by Regional Intelligence Division (RID, Isabela Provincial Mobile Force Company (IPMFC), Provincial Intelligence Branch (PIB), Ilagan City Police Station, 502nd Brigade 5ID, PA, 86IB, 5MIB, and Military Intelligence Group-2 (MIG-2) for a case of murder with Criminal Case No. 7170, 7169 and 5024.

Also arrested were Sagun’s four other companions who possessed a Pietro Berreta Cal. 9mm pistol with magazine and 15 live ammunition, a Cal. 38 revolver, three grenades, two blasting caps, a detonating cord, one sling bag, a 9mm holster, and two backpacks containing cash and personal documents.

All are now in the custody of Ilagan City Police Station for further investigation.

Alleged rebel bomber, 4 others arrested in Isabela

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 20): Alleged rebel bomber, 4 others arrested in Isabela

CAMP MELCHOR DELA CRUZ, ISABELA – A suspected New People’s Army bombing expert and four other alleged rebels were arrested on Monday (Feb. 19) by the police and the military in Ilagan City.

Mauricio Sagun allegedly heads the NPA Training, Demolition and Explosives Team and is supposedly an expert in manufacturing and handling improvised explosive devices and landmines, said Army Capt. Jefferson Somera, 5th Infantry Division spokesman.

Somera said Sagun was arrested at his house in Barangay San Antonio Centro along with Mario Turqueza, 65; Maximiano Domingo, 41; Ariel Peñaflor, 48; and Bernard Peñaflor, 21, all of San Mariano town in Isabela province.

The Army claims the four other men were recruits of the NPA Sparrow Unit, an urban attack group formed and deployed during Martial Law.

Seized from Sagun’s house were three hand grenades, a caliber 9-mm Pietro Beretta, a Cal. 38 pistol, two blasting caps, and a roll of detonating cords.

The arrested suspects were brought to the police for questioning before they were held at the military camp here.

Army claims NPA now ‘demoralized’

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Feb 19): Army claims NPA now ‘demoralized’

TWO suspected communist insurgents were killed in an encounter on Sunday, February 18, in Agusan del Sur as government forces press on with relentless combat operations against communist rebels since early this year.
First Lieutenant Tere Ingente, spokesperson of Army's 4th Infantry Division (4ID), said the troops were conducting security operations in the hinterland areas of barangay Bunawan Brooks, Bunawan town, Agusan del Sur when they encountered about 10 members of the New People's Army (NPA).
The NPA rebels are believed to be members of Platoon 2, Guerilla Front Committee 14 (GC14).
Ingente said the firefight lasted for about 25 minutes. Troops recovered 3 AK47 rifle, along with the dead bodies. The fatalities have not been identified as of this writing.
Colonel Andres Centino, 401 Brigade Commander, said the recent setbacks of the GFC-14 have caused demoralization among the rebels.
 Centino urged a certain Leonida Belarmino "Monic" Sanchez, allegedly the front secretary of GFC-14, to surrender and "choose the path for peace". "Heed the call of the government to go back to mainstream society, be more productive citizens again and have a chance to avail of the Comprehensive Integration Program (CLIP) offered by the government and be with their families," Centino added.
In February 14, 16,and 17, successive encounters between troops and rebels have transpired, particularly in Bunawan Brooks, Agusan.
 These encounters, Ingente said, resulted in the recovery of a cache of different firearms such as an improvised explosive device, personal belongings of the rebels, including ammunition.
In February 16, one suspected NPA member was also killed in the same area.
Also in February 14, troops in Valencia, Bukidnon also found a food and medical cache allegedly owned by the NPA.
Major General Ronald Villanueva, 4ID commander said the series of encounters prove that there is no let-up in the operations against the NPA.
"In fact, the Philippine Army have been realigning forces to our area of responsibility," Villanueva said.
Last year, the 4ID has activated the 88th Infantry Battalion, while the 65th Infantry Battalion from the 1st Infantry Division was transferred, and recently, the 901st Brigade arrived from Albay, all to help 4ID in its mission "to end terrorism in Northern Mindanao and Caraga regions."

2 NPAs slain in clash with AFP in Agusan del Sur

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 19): 2 NPAs slain in clash with AFP in Agusan del Sur

Camp Bancasi, Butuan City – Two New People’s Army (NPA) terrorists were killed while an undetermined number of other rebels were believed wounded in an encounter with government forces in Upper Road 1, Barangay Bunawan Brook, Bunawan town, Agusan del Sur province last Sunday, according to First Lt. Tere Ingente, chief of the Public Affairs Office (PAO) of the Northeastern and Northern Mindanao Fourth Infantry Division (4th ID).

BITTER END – Photo shows the high-powered firearms recovered from two New People’s Army (NPA) fighters, who were killed in an encounter with the military in Upper Road 1, Barangay Bunawan Brook, Bunawan town, Agusan del Sur province last Sunday. (Photo courtesy of Army 88th Infantry Battalion)

Identities of the slain NPA terrorists were not immediately known, she said.

Ingente said troops from the 401st Infantry Brigade were on-patrol in the hinterlands of Barangay Bunawan Brooks when they were engaged by an undetermined number of NPA terrorists at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

“The intense fire fight lasted for about 25 minutes after which the NPAs scampered to different directions,” she said.

Ingente disclosed the encountered rebels were believed members of Platoon 2, Guerilla-Front Committee 14 (GFC 14) of the CPP-NPA Northeastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC).

Troops recovered from the encounter site two dead bodies of the NPAs, together with the three AK47 rifle and live ammunitions, she said

“The dead NPA bodies were immediately brought to the Barangay Hall of Bunawan Brook in Bunawan town of that same province for identification and proper disposition,” Ingente said.

Meanwhile, according to Col. Andres Centino, commanding officer of the 401st Brigade, the operation was a continuation of security operations being conducted by the brigade since February 14, which resulted to the series of encounters between the government troops and the NPAs belonging to the same guerilla front committee of the NEMRC.

He said due to the recent setbacks of the GFC 14 its members were now demoralized due to their wounded comrades and dwindling numbers.

“We would like to reach-out to Leonida Belarmino Sanchez, also known as Monic, the Front Secretary of Guerilla Front Committee 14 and her members to take the opportunity to heed the call of the government to go back to mainstream society, be more productive citizens again and have a chance to avail of the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) offered by the government and be with their families,” said the 401st Brigade commander, in statement sent to The Manila Bulletin on Monday.

“This is the right time to choose the path for peace. Go back to the folds of the law now and we will wait for you,” Centino said in the statement.

2 arrested for blast in Maguindanao

From Malaya Business Insight (Feb 21): 2 arrested for blast in Maguindanao

TWO suspects in last Sunday’s roadside bombing in Datu Unsay town in Maguindanao were arrested later that day, the military said yesterday.

Omisalam Andakay and Kapadlong Mamalak were arrested at around 10:30 a.m. last Sunday in Barangay Meta, near the area where the explosion occurred, by forces of the 57th Infantry Battalion, 21st Mechanized Company, and 63rd Division Reconnaissance Company at around 10:30 a.m. last Sunday, said Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, spokesman of the military’s Western Mindanao Command.

The two yielded a rifle, a shotgun, and ammunition.

The explosion resulted in the wounding of an Army lieutenant and four enlisted personnel.

Petinglay said the bomb was made from a 105-mm high explosive projectile, based on the post blast investigation conducted by the 32nd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team and 3rd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company.

Petinglay said the military is still determining if the two suspects are members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters which the military earlier tagged as primary suspect in the attack.

“As of now, we consider them as lawless elements,” she said,

The BIFF has 200 to 300 members, mostly former members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The BIFF is among the several groups in Mindanao that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria a few years ago.

More troops deployed in drive to crush NPA

From Malaya Business Insight (Feb 21): More troops deployed in drive to crush NPA

THE Army’s 901st Brigade has been redeployed from the Bicol region to the eastern part of Mindanao as part of the military’s continuing effort to defeat the communist New People’s Army.

The brigade arrived at the headquarters of the 4th Infantry Division in Camp Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro City on Thursday last week.

Maj. Gen. Ronald Villanueva, 4th ID commander, said the redeployed unit is composed of 80 men led by the brigade’s commander, Col. Larry Mojica. Villanueva said the brigade is now operating in the Bukidnon, North Cotabato, and Davao areas.

He said the 19th and 92nd Infantry Battalions, which came from the Central Mindanao, have been attached to the brigade. Another battalion, the 88th IB, will soon be placed under the brigade.

“It’s meant to cover the area where we have a blind spot,” said Villanueva on the redeployment of the 901st brigade. He said the brigade will help accomplish the military’s objective to crush the NPA.

Maj. Ezra Balagtey, spokesman of the AFP’s Eastern Mindanao Command, expressed confidence that the redeployment of the brigade will lead to the restoration of peace in the areas.

“The 901st Brigade will augment troops in Northern Mindanao and Caraga Regions to help 4th ID in crushing NPA terrorists. Further, the brigade will be deployed in the priority areas of 4th ID,” added Balagtey.

“They will help in the accomplishment of the objective given by higher headquarters, we are sticking with that. (The objective) is to crush the NPA,” said Balagtey.

President Duterte terminated peace negotiations with the communist-led National Democratic Front in November last year due to series of rebel attacks against military and civilian targets.

Also yesterday, the 56th IB arrived in Mindanao to augment the 10th Infantry Division, based in Compostela Valley, in the fight against the communists. The battalion used to operate in Aurora province.

“They will be operating in the 10th ID area, they are going to be additional force against the NPA,” said Balagtey of the 56th IB. A battalion is composed of around 500 officers and men.


President Duterte is due to have snacks today in Malacañang with 241 former NPA members. They are part of the 683 NPA members who surrendered to the Armed Forces in Eastern Mindanao last year.

Balagtey said the 241 former rebels are composed of 38 women and 203 men who used to operate in the Compostela Valley and Davao del Norte. They were flown to Manila yesterday morning from Davao City, and toured by the military to Luneta Park and Fort Santiago in Manila.

On February 7, Duterte also had snacks with the first batch of 217 former rebels.

Balagtey said the third batch, composed of 225 former rebels, will also  dine with Duterte and given the same tour but no date has been set.

24 MILF men held in Maguindanao

From Malaya Business Insight (Feb 22): 24 MILF men held in Maguindanao

GOVERNMENT forces apprehended 24 fully-armed members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Sultan sa Barongis town in Maguindanao on Tuesday night for uncoordinated movement, which is in violation of a ceasefire agreement.

Capt. Arvin Encinas, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division based in Maguindanao, said the rebels were released yesterday morning, through the ceasefire mechanism of the peace process.

Encinas said the 24 were intercepted by forces of the Army’s 40th Infantry Battalion around 6:15 p.m. in Barangay Melib, aboard a vehicle. The rebels were carrying 19 M16 rifles and five M14 rifles.

Encinas said the 24 belong to the MILF’s 106th Base Command. He said the 24 claimed they were on the way to Ampatuan town supposedly to settle a conflict between two MILF commanders.

He said the 24 were brought to a military base in Sultan sa Barongis town.

At around 10:30 a.m., the 24 were released from military custody after coordination between members of the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities of both sides.

Asked if no charges will be filed against the 24, Encinas said the military is giving primacy to the peace process. “We have ongoing peace talks with the MILF, so we left it to discretion of the CCCH of both sides,” he said.

However, he said the firearms seized from the 24 are still with the military. Encinas justified the apprehension of the MILF rebels, saying: “All movement, both military and MILF, should be coordinated to the CCCH. Admin or operation movement, they should be coordinated.”

Encinas said the 24 did not resist when accosted by soldiers.

The MILF signed a peace accord with the government in 2014 although the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, which will establish a new political entity in the South, is yet to be passed by Congress.

Psy-war man named AFP spokesman

From Malaya Business Insight (Feb 22): Psy-war man named AFP spokesman

THE military’s top psychological warfare officer has been designated as Armed Forces spokesman.

Brig. Gen. Bienvenido Datuin assumed his new post on Tuesday in concurrent capacity as commander of the AFP’s Civil Relations Service (CRS) which is leading the military’s psychological warfare against the communist New People’s Army and other threat groups. He became commander of the Camp Aguinaldo-based CRS last month.

Datuin replaced Col. Edgard Arevalo who will now focus on his main position as the assistant AFP deputy chief of staff for civil military operations. Arevalo became the AFP spokesman in December last year.

“This is going to be a big challenge,” said Datuin on designation as the new spokesman of the 125,000-strong military force.

Datuin said that as CRS commander, he has to influence the perception, belief, emotion, behavior and attitude of the people.

He said he can strike a balance between being CRS commander and AFP spokesman, saying he has done this in his other assignments.

Before becoming the CRS commander, Datuin was deputy commander of the 10th Infantry Division based in Compostela Valley and of the 701st Brigade in Davao Oriental.

This is not the first time a CRS commander had been designated as AFP spokesman. The most recent CRS commanders who served as AFP spokesmen were Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala, and Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta.

Malaysia arrests 10 over links with South Philippines militants

From InterAksyon (Feb 21): Malaysia arrests 10 over links with South Philippines militants

Google map showing the Celebes Sea between Sabah, Mindanao and Sulawesi

KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysian police have arrested 10 people on suspicion of aiding the movement of militants between the eastern state of Sabah and the southern Philippines, a hotbed of Islamic insurgency, the second batch of arrests this year.

The Muslim-majority Southeast Asian nation has been on high alert since gunmen linked to Islamic State launched several attacks in Jakarta, the capital of neighboring Indonesia, in January 2016.

Police arrested the 10 suspects in three separate raids between Jan. 25 and Feb. 6, inspector-general of police Mohamad Fuzi Harun said in a statement.

Among the suspects is a 27-year-old Filipino believed to be a senior leader of the Abu Sayyaf, and another Filipino, 32, believed to have arranged passage of foreign nationals to the southern Philippines to join Islamic State.

“Preliminary information gleaned from the 10 suspects revealed an attempt by the Abu Sayyaf group to establish a cell in Sabah,” Mohamad Fuzi said.

Mohamad Fuzi said Abu Sayyaf had intended to bring in IS fighters from Southeast Asia to the southern Philippines for military training.

“The same cell members would then be used to launch attacks on Sabah in the future,” he said.

Malaysia has arrested hundreds of people over the past few years for suspected links to militant groups.

A grenade attack on a bar on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur in June 2016 wounded eight people. Islamic State claimed responsibility.

ISIS fighters forced out of Syria, Iraq arriving in PH; may be planning to take Iligan, Cotabato – MILF leader

From InterAksyon (Feb 21): ISIS fighters forced out of Syria, Iraq arriving in PH; may be planning to take Iligan, Cotabato – MILF leader

An ISIS fighter waves the group's flag in Mosul. REUTERS FILE PHOTO

Foreign Islamic State fighters forced out of Syria and Iraq have been arriving in the Philippines with the intent of recruiting, and they have plans to attack two Philippine towns, the head of the country’s largest Muslim rebel group said on Tuesday.

More than 1,100 people were killed last year when pro-Islamic State militants attacked and held the Philippine city of Marawi for five months, leading to massive destruction across the scenic lakeside town.

That could happen in other cities if Congress fails to pass a law to allow Muslims in the southern Philippines to run their own affairs, according to Ebrahim Murad, leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a separatist group which signed a peace deal with the government in return for greater autonomy.

“Based on our own intelligence information, foreign fighters who were displaced from the Middle East continued to enter into our porous borders and may be planning to take two southern cities – Iligan and Cotabato,” Murad said.

The two cities are 38 km (24 miles) and 265 km (165 miles) respectively from Marawi.

Murad said fighters from Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Middle East were known to have entered the Philippines, including a Middle Eastern man holding a Canadian passport.

That man went to a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf militant group, notorious for kidnapping and piracy, Murad said.

Murad said militants had been recruiting fighters in remote Muslim communities, exploiting delays in the passage of legislation aimed at addressing long-standing Muslim grievances, the Bangsamoro Basic law (BBL).

“These extremists are going into madrasas, teaching young Muslims their own version of the Koran, and some enter local universities to influence students, planting the seeds of hatred and violence,” he said.

Such a scenario would be a major headache for the military, which is fighting on multiple fronts on the southern island of Mindanao to defeat home-grown Islamic State loyalists, bandits and communist insurgents.

Mindanao is under martial law.

The military has said remnants of the militant alliance that occupied Marawi were trying to regroup and were using cash and gold looted from Marawi to recruit.

Murad’s statement echoed those of President Rodrigo Duterte, who last month urged lawmakers to pass the BBL, or face re-igniting war with separatists after two decades of peace.

“We cannot decisively win the war against extremism if we cannot win the peace in the halls of Congress,” Murad said.

U.S. intel agencies say Duterte a 'regional threat' in Southeast Asia

From Rappler (Feb 21): U.S. intel agencies say Duterte a 'regional threat' in Southeast Asia

The CIA and 16 other US intelligence agencies cite President Rodrigo Duterte's suggestion to declare a 'revolutionary government' and impose nationwide martial law as a threat to democracy in Southeast Asia

US intelligence agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), said Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is among the "regional threats" to US national security in Southeast Asia as democracy in the region is expected to "remain fragile" this year.

"In the Philippines, President Duterte will continue to wage his signature campaign against drugs, corruption, and crime," said the US Intelligence Community in its Worldwide Threat Assessment issued February 13.

"Duterte has suggested he could suspend the Constitution, declare a 'revolutionary government,' and impose nationwide martial law. His declaration of martial law in Mindanao, responding to the ISIS-inspired siege of Marawi City, has been extended through the end of 2018," the US Intelligence Community added.

The US Intelligence Community is a group of 17 agencies, including the CIA, that conduct intelligence activities to help in their country's foreign affairs and to protect their national security.

The Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community was released by Daniel Coats, US director of national intelligence, on February 13.

Coats said the report covers "threats to US national security." Their output, he said, is needed "to protect American lives and America's interests anywhere in the world."

Among the likes of Hun Sen
The report placed Duterte's name under the heading "regional threats."

In Southeast Asia, regional threats also include the following:
  • Cambodian leader Hun Sen, who "will repress democratic institutions and civil society, manipulate government and judicial institutions, and use patronage and political violence to guarantee his rule beyond the 2018 national election"
  • The Rohingya crisis that "will threaten Burma's fledgling democracy, increase the risk of violent extremism, and provide openings for Beijing to expand its influence"
  • The pledge of Thailand's leaders to hold elections late this year, even as the new Constitution "will institutionalize the military's influence"
Duterte earlier said he believes the CIA wants him "out of government." He also falsely claimed that the CIA funds Rappler.

US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim denied in October 2017 that the CIA is backing destabilization plots against Duterte's government.

DOJ formally seeks court declaration of CPP-NPA as terrorists

From Rappler (Feb 21): DOJ formally seeks court declaration of CPP-NPA as terrorists

The DOJ says the CPP-NPA was 'merely buying time' when it entered in peace talks with the government   
NPA GUERILLA - NPA guerillas inside their camp in Km. 15 barangay San isidro, Marihatag, Surigao del Sur. Bobby Lagsa/Rappler
NPA GUERILLA - NPA guerillas inside their camp in Km. 15 barangay San isidro, Marihatag, Surigao del Sur. Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

The government has formally made its first step to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) a terrorist organization, pursuant to President Rodrigo Duterte’s earlier proclamation.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed on Wednesday, February 21, a petition before the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) seeking to declare the CPP-NPA as terrorists citing Republic Act 9372 as The Human Security Act of 2007.

The petition, signed by Senior Associate State Prosecutor Peter Ong, accused the CPP-NPA of having an “evil plan of imposing a totalitarian regime.”
This is a bitter end to the peace talks that President Duterte resumed when he took over the presidency. The talks have since collapsed, although the National Democratic Front or NDF’s legal counsels said the talks cannot be considered officially terminated if there is no mutual agreement.

“The CPP and NPA are merely buying time by deceiving the Philippine government in entering into peace talks, while their main purpose is to mobilize all their forces in preparation for the people’s war aimed at overthrowing the duly constituted authority, seizing control of the Philippine government and imposing a totalitarian regime,” the DOJ said in its petition.

A Manila court has ordered the re-arrest of NDF consultants Benito Tiamzon, his wife Wilma Tiamzon, as well as Adelberto Silva. This was after the DOJ canceled their bail. They were set free by Duterte to join the peace talks.

NDF consultant Rafael Baylosis was arrested last January 31 over charges of illegal possession of firearms.

Rappler denounces PSG chief's threat vs reporter Pia Ranada

From Rappler (Feb 21): Rappler denounces PSG chief's threat vs reporter Pia Ranada

(UPDATED) In response, Dagoy says, 'Me to apologize? In their dreams! Sila ang mag-apologize sa sundalo ko (They should be the one to apologize to my soldier)

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Rappler on Wednesday, February 21, denounced the threat made by Presidential Security Group chief Brigadier General Lope Dagoy against the news site and its Palace reporter, Pia Ranada, calling his actions “conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman.”

In a statement, Rappler demanded an apology from Dagoy for telling Ranada that she should be grateful that the PSG personnel who
stopped her at the New Executive Building gate in Malacañang on Tuesday, February 20, did not hurt her after she supposedly "bullied" him with questions.

“We denounce the threat made by the commander of the Presidential Security Group against Rappler and its Malacañang reporter Pia Ranada,” Rappler said.

“Dagoy’s statement is conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman, coming as it did from a soldier who took his oath to defend civilians, who stands closest to the seat of power, and who serves an organization that has shown, time and again, its respect for and appreciation of civilian institutions such as Rappler,” it added.
The news site demanded an apology from Dagoy or for him to be sanctioned by his superiors.

“We ask General Dagoy to apologize for his outburst or for his superiors to take him to task for threatening to use force outside the battlefield,” it said.

In reaction, Dagoy said on Wednesday: "You see how selective they are in finding fault at me without giving the people the whole picture of the incident. I challenge Rappler that they present the whole video to the public and let them decide who between us made the grievous mistake on what transpired during the incident.

Imagine namili lang ng portion of the incident then project me already as the bad guy?Tama ba yan? Ganyan na ba ang standard ng media investigation ng Rappler? (Imagine, they chose only a portion of the incident then project me already as the bad guy? Is that right? Is that Rappler's standard of media investigation?)

Me to apologize? In their dreams! Sila ang mag-apologize sa sundalo ko (They should be the one to apologize to my soldier)."

In an interview with Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson on Tuesday, Dagoy accused Ranada of "bullying" PSG Corporal Marc Anthony Cempron, who had initially kept her from entering the NEB gate to attend a press briefing. He based his assessment on Ranada's repeated questions as to why she was not allowed entry, when she was a member of the Malacañang Press Corps.

In a text message to Ranada on Wednesday, Dagoy reiterated, "It was good that my soldier did not hit you when you were bullying him." (Ranada's video footage of the entire incident can be viewed above.)

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana called out Dagoy for making the remark, saying it was "uncalled for".
Ranada and the MPC were not informed about President Rodrigo Duterte's order to ban her from Malacañang.

The President issued the order to the head of the Palace Internal House Affairs Office just the night before on Monday, hours after the Senate hearing on the Philippine Navy frigates deal, where Special Assistant to the President Bong Go branded as "fake news" reports of Rappler and the Philippine Daily Inquirer on the project. (READ: Rappler statement on Bong Go's fake news accusation)

Duterte issued the order because Ranada's reports "irritated" him, according to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque. Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea offered a different reason – the Securities and Exchange Commission's decision to revoke Rappler's registration, even if this was on appeal and not yet final and executory.

The MPC asserted on Wednesday that Ranada continues to be its member and free to cover presidential events unless the SEC ruling becomes final.

Military sends more alleged NPA surrenderees to Manila to dine with Duterte

From MindaNews (Feb 21): Military sends more alleged NPA surrenderees to Manila to dine with Duterte

Another batch of alleged former New People’s Army (NPA) rebels were flown to Manila on Tuesday morning for a scheduled dinner with President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Wednesday in Malacañang and a tour around Rizal Park and Intramuros in Manila.

Major Ezra L. Balagtey, Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) public information office head said in a statement that 241 alleged surrenderees were flown to Manila via two Philippine Air Force C-130 planes from the Davao City International Airport.

Comprising 38 females and 203 males, they were among the 683 persons who reportedly surrendered last year within the jurisdiction of the Eastmincom, Balagtey said.

He added the activity is part of the government’s efforts to reintegrate former rebels in the mainstream of society by providing them a better perspective, including peacebuilding and nationalism.

DINING WITH DIGONG. Two hundred seventeen NPA surrenderers board the C-130 aircraft for Manila on Tuesday, February 6, 2018 for an “educational tour” and dinner with President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacanang on February 7, Photo courtesy of EastMinCom
Before the tour around historical and heritage sites, the surrenderees will be welcomed by Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Rey Leonardo Guerrero in Camp Aguinaldo and meet former NPA members who are working as advocates of peace and development before the dinner with Duterte in Malacañang.

Balagtey said they will return to Davao on Thursday.

From February 6 to 8, 215 surrenderees were also taken on a tour around Manila, visited a mushroom production site in Bulacan, and dined with the President. The schedule for the third batch has yet to be arranged.

The first batch of surrenderees underwent trainings by the Technical Vocational Education and Skills Development Authority as part of the social integration program.

On November 23 last year, Duterte issued Proclamation 360, calling off the peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF), two days before the supposed fifth round of formal peace negotiations on November 25 to 27 in Oslo, Norway.

The NDF represents the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the NPA in the talks.

On December 5, Duterte issued Proclamation 374 declaring the NPA and the CPP as terrorist organizations pursuant to RA No. 10168, also known as the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2002.

24 firearms seized from MILF rebels in Maguindanao

From MindaNews (Feb 21): 24 firearms seized from MILF rebels in Maguindanao

Troops from the 40TH Infantry Battalion confiscated 24 high-powered firearms from Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels at a checkpoint in Sultan Sa Barongis, Maguindanao.

Members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) put on the ground caliber .50 long-range Barret sniper rifles as they prepare for formation inside Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao 9 July 2012 at the end of the four-day Bangsamoro Leaders Assembly. MindaNews file photo

Capt. Arvin Encinas, spokesperson of 6th Infantry Division in Maguindanao said the incident took place on Tuesday, Feb. 20, in Barangay Melib.

He said the soldiers found the firearms hidden beneath a yellow Bongo-Mazda type truck.

“When our troops checked the legality of the firearms, it turned out they have no pertinent legal authority to carry such weapons,” he said in a statement.

Commander Orly Gampung of the MILF 106th Base Command led the group of rebels.

Eighteen M16 riffles, five M14 riffles and one M16 with an attached M203 grenade launcher were confiscated from them.

The rebels submitted themselves to the soldiers and explained they were sent to help ease the tension brewing in nearby Ampatuan and Datu Abudullah Sangki towns between their comrades caused by land disputes covering a banana plantation.

As part of the ceasefire agreement between government and the MILF, the military referred the incident to Coordinating Committee for the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) for its action.

On Wednesday the confiscated firearms were returned to the MILF.

7 NPA rebels, 44 supporters surrender in Masbate

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 21): 7 NPA rebels, 44 supporters surrender in Masbate

Seven New People's Army (NPA) rebels and 44 supporters of the communist movement operating in Masbate province have surrendered to military authorities in Milagros town in Masbate, a report from the Philippine Army 9th Infantry Division (9ID) said Wednesday.

The surrenderers were formally presented to Maj. Gen. Jesus Manangquil Jr., commanding general of the 9th ID in a ceremony at the 2nd Infantry Battalion Headquarters in Barangay Bacolod, Milagros, Masbate, according to Army Col. Ferozaldo Paul Regencia, 9ID spokesperson.

Regencia said the seven NPA rebels, 24 mass base supporters and 20 members of the Militia ng Bayan formally returned to the fold of the law on Monday.

At the ceremony, they surrendered two M16 rifles, a cal. 30 Garand rifle, three .38 cal revolvers and a .45 pistol.

Manangquil said the former communist rebels and mass base supporters were formally included in the government's Comprehensive Local Integration Program under which they would be given livelihood and shelter facilities after undergoing a process of reintegration.

Leyte army again calls on Reds to surrender, avail of aid

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 21): Leyte army again calls on Reds to surrender, avail of aid

A top Army official in Leyte province has called on the New People’s Army (NPA) to abandon communism and avail of government assistance meant for rebel returnees.

Brig. Gen. Francisco F. Mendoza Jr., commander of the Philippine Army’s 802nd Brigade based here, said Wednesday they have been pushing maximum opportunities for rebels to surrender to return to their normal lives.

To encourage more rebels to return, the government offers financial help through the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP), which includes an immediate assistance of PHP15,000 that a rebel returnee would receive while undergoing processing, an additional PHP50,000 for livelihood, and PHP20,000 from the Provincial Social Work and Development Office.

“Rebels who submit firearms would get a financial assistance from the government, ranging from PHP2,000 to PHP449,000, depending on the kind of weapon. These are given so they could start life at the mainstream anew,” Mendoza said.

Any rebel who surrenders a heavy machine gun caliber 7.62 (M73) is entitled to a PHP279,510 cash assistance.

Mendoza said last year, armed rebels deployed 18 individuals from Northern Samar for their recruitment in upland Leyte, which turned out to be a failure.

“The fatality during the encounter in Hilongos, Leyte last year and the one wounded were both from Las Navas, Northern Samar. As we monitored, they have already returned home following failures in their mission,” Mendoza told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

The army assured they would assist all rebel surrenderers, whom they advised to approach village officials, local chief executives, religious leaders, relatives from the army and police, or media.

Late last year, at least five rebels from Leyte turned themselves in to authorities.

PRRD meets 241 NPA surrenderers

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 21): PRRD meets 241 NPA surrenderers

The 241 former New People’s Army (NPA) members have traveled to Manila to meet with President Rodrigo Duterte later Wednesday, February 21, in Malacañang.

Composed of eight women and 203 men, the former rebels left Davao Tuesday via two Philippine Air Force C-130 aircraft at Davao City International Airport with a hope of a better life out of the communist struggle.

Their Manila-trip will give them a better perspective on life, particularly in peace-building and nationalism.

Maj. Ezra Balagtey, spokesperson for Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom), said,
"It is part of the government's continuing activity of reintegrating the former rebels in the mainstream society."

The group is composed of 241 former rebels from Compostela Valley Province and Davao Del Norte. They were part of the 683 NPA members from different parts of the Eastern Mindanao area that were presented to the President on December 21, 2017, in Panacan, Davao City.

Just like the first batch, the 241 former rebels will tour historical and heritage trip to Luneta Park and Intramuros.

They’re also accorded a welcome ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo hosted by Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Rey Leonardo Guerrero. Prior to their dinner with the President, the former rebels will interact with other former NPA members who are now advocates of peace and development.

Balagtey said the trip of the third batch of the former rebels is now being worked out with the Appointments Office of the President.

Last February 6 to 8, the first batch composed of 215 former rebels toured and dined with the President.

So far, they are enrolled in the Technical-Vocational Education Training with TESDA XI as part of their social integration program.

Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. Madrigal Jr., the Commander of the Eastmincom, reiterates the willingness and openness of EMC to assist NPA members who are willing to surrender.

"We are committed and more than willing to accommodate NPAs who want to return to the folds of the law and take part in building a nation of peace for progress and development," Madrigal said.

The programs lined up for the 683 former rebel are "manifestation of the social economic reforms being implemented by the government," Madrigal said.

PH won’t take part in US-China conflict: Palace insists

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 21): PH won’t take part in US-China conflict: Palace insists

The Philippines will not take part in any conflict between the United States and China, Malacañang has said, following the statement of President Rodrigo R. Duterte that the Philippines has good relations with the two countries.

Duterte, during the founding anniversary of the Chinese Filipino Business Club at the Manila Hotel on Monday night, said the Chinese structures and military bases being built in the disputed territories were not intended against the Philippines but against the US.

Roque said Duterte simply meant that because the Philippines was in good terms with both the US and China, it would maintain the policy of neutrality.

“I think the context is we’re in good terms with both US and China, so it is not to our national interest to go to war, which is what some people want--to assert what they perceive to be our weak position in China,” Roque said in a Palace briefing on Tuesday.

Roque said that as part of the Philippine government’s independent foreign policy, it would not allow itself to be dragged into a war between the two countries.

“They want to assert our national sovereignty, I guess, through military means. But the President is saying ‘we don’t have to do that, we’re in good terms with the Americans, we’re excellent terms with Chinese. If there is a conflict between them, so be it. But we will not take part in it,” he added.

Last month, China protested against the sailing of a US Navy warship near the Panatag Shoal or Scarborough Shoal, which is 124 nautical miles from the nearest base point in Zambales Province.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano earlier said that every time a foreign country gets in another country's territory or claimed territory, it was expected that the latter would call the attention of the other.

But in this case, he pointed out the difference was that the Philippines had a mutual defense treaty with the US.

PH must learn to produce own CMS, other military equipment

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 21): PH must learn to produce own CMS, other military equipment

The Philippines must produce its own combat management system and other related defense equipment in order to protect its military capabilities.

"The only way we can do that is to make our own. We produce our own CMS, everything, so nobody will know about it," Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said during Monday's Senate hearing about the Frigate Acquisition Project (FAP).

He also admitted that as long as the Philippines sub-contracts ships and other military equipment from other nations, there is nothing the country can do to prevent others from knowing about its capabilities.

The FAP has a contract of PHP18 billion including the weapon systems and munitions.

Earlier, the DND chief said that using the Thales Tacticos CMS would shoot the price of the frigates by USD7 million per ship or USD14 million for the two vessels.

In Monday's hearing, Lorenzana defended the decision of Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) to pick Hanwha as the supplier of the CMS for its two frigates over Thales Tacticos, the manufacturer preferred by former PN flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado.

While acknowledging that Thales Tacticos is a good CMS brand, the DND chief said the Hanwha CMS being selected to fit the Navy's first two missile-firing capable frigates are equally capable.

"We are not buying a lesser product. we are buying an equally capable product to be put into our ship(s)," he added.

Also, Lorenzana emphasized that Mercado's relief last December was brought about by the latter's refusal to comply with two of his memorandum on the CMS and pronouncements that he will have the project cancelled if Thales Tacticos was not selected to supply the above-mentioned equipment.

"(The reason for his relief as FOIC was) dahil dalawang beses na memo ko hindi n’ya sinusunod tapos, sa mga conference niya (sinasabi) na pag hindi (na)tuloy ang (Thales) Tacticos, ika-cancel niya ang FAP (The reason for his relief as FOIC was he disobeyed my memos twice and he says in his conferences that he will have the FAP cancelled if Thales Tacticos will not be selected)," the DND chief pointed out.

Also, Lorenzana said that it was Mercado who had the specification "Tactical Data Link 16" or the ability to transmit and receive data from various platforms in a bid to justify the preference for the Thales Tacticos CMS.

'Bato' elated, saddened over term extension

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 21): 'Bato' elated, saddened over term extension

While expressing surprise over the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to extend his term for a little longer, Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa on Tuesday said that he will continue to do his job well.

"Extension? Nagulat nga ako nung lumabas yung balita kahapon na sinabi daw niya (President Duterte). Well, walang problema sa akin, continue lang (I was surprised to hear the news yesterday about what he said. Well, I have no problem about it, just continue, continue the fight)," he added.

And while feeling elated as term extension is equated with trust and confidence of the Chief Executive, Dela Rosa said he is also saddened as his retirement plans were put again on hold.

"Una, masaya na medyo malungkot kaunti (First, I am happy but I am also a bit sad). Masaya in the sense (na) andyan pa rin yung trust and confidence ni Presidente sa atin na patuloy tayong nagtatrabaho and masaya rin ako na patuloy yung aking pagseserbisyo sa ating bansa, tuloy pa rin (Happy in the sense that I still enjoy the President's trust and confidence and that I continue to work and serve the country). On the other hand, medyo malungkot konti dahil nasira yung mga plano sa retirement dahil merong akong mga plano para sa aking pamilya kung ano gagawin namin (I am a bit said because I have to shelve again my plans for retirement. I already have plans for my family when I retire)," the PNP chief emphasized.

Dela Rosa was supposed to retire last Jan. 21 after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56 but his term was extended by Duterte by three months or until this coming April 24.

The Chief Executive decided to extend Dela Rosa's term as PNP chief in a bid to beef up reforms in the police force.

Only 300 Reds are left in 1001st IB areas: commander

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 21): Only 300 Reds are left in 1001st IB areas: commander

Only an estimated 300 New People's Army (NPA) combatants are operating in areas covered by the 1001st Infantry Brigade, its commander has said.

The brigade is responsible for protecting eight municipalities in Compostela Valley; another five in Davao del Norte; and one town in Agusan del Sur, Col. Erwin Bernard Neri said in an interview following the presentation of 238 NPA rebels and their supporters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City before their visit and meeting with President Rodrigo R. Duterte in Malacanang Palace Wednesday.

Neri said the 238 NPAs and supporters -- 195 men and 43 women -- surrendered to government troops from January to Dec. 21 last year. They also gave up 104 firearms.

Of the total, 60 were regular members of the NPA, 152 were members of the so-called "Militia Ng Bayan", and 26 were party branch members, said Neri.

A lot of rebels and their supporters are surrendering due to hunger, unfulfilled promises and demoralization, he said, adding that from December to Feb. 21, some 559 NPA fighters and their supporters also turned themselves in to authorities, along with 16 high-powered firearms and improvised explosive devices.

Of the figure, 60 were regular NPA combatants while the rest were supporters and allies.

With these surrenders, Neri said peace and order in his area of operation have improved immensely.

Palace rejects US intel report tagging Duterte as threat to democracy

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 21): Palace rejects US intel report tagging Duterte as threat to democracy

Malacañang on Wednesday rejected the US intelligence report that tagged President Rodrigo R. Duterte as threat to democracy, stressing that the President adheres to the rule of law.

“For one, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is no autocrat or has autocratic tendencies. He adheres to the rule of law and remains loyal to the Constitution,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.

This comes after the Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community released a report, dated Feb. 12, stating that Duterte has suggested he could suspend the constitution and declare a revolutionary government or martial law.

Citing a Freedom House report, the US intel report also listed the Philippines as one of the governments that use propaganda and misinformation in social media “to influence foreign and domestic audiences.”

Roque, however, described the report as “myopic and speculative” at best.

He acknowledged that the administration uses social media to promote government messages and accomplishments, but noted that the opposition and other cause-oriented groups do the same.

“We have to understand the use of social media has become an important part of the daily lives of Filipinos,” Roque said describing it “foolhardy” not to tap social media as a tool.

“I don't know of any government in the free world which does not use the internet and social media to promote its agenda. This is very true especially in the case of the US. This latest intelligence assessment is a classic case in point,” Roque said.

Roque also explained that an autocracy is not prevalent in the Philippines since media are still able to broadcast and print what they want, including fake news.

He also said that the Philippine judiciary and the courts are functioning as usual, legislature remains independent, and basic services are still being delivered.

“There is no revolutionary government or nationwide martial law, which US intelligence officials are saying that the President might declare or impose,” Roque said.

In an earlier TV interview, Roque, a human rights advocate, said that he would not join Duterte’s Cabinet if the President, a lawyer himself, was a threat to human rights.

“He’s a lawyer. He knows the law. He wants to uphold the rule of law. He knows about the bill of rights. And of course I wouldn’t have joined him if he was a threat to human rights,” Roque said.

Duterte has previously criticized the US for expressing concern over his aggressive campaign against illegal drugs, noting that he would not take orders from the country’s former colonizer.