Saturday, March 3, 2018

Aguirre talks anti-terrorism with US official

From GMA News Online (Mar 2): Aguirre talks anti-terrorism with US official

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II met with a counter-terrorism official from the US Homeland Security Department on Friday to discuss "strong" Philippine-US ties in fighting terrorism, crime, and child exploitation.

Aguirre sat down with US Department of Homeland Security Undersecretary and counter-terrorism coordinator David Glawe, according to a press statement from the US Embassy in Manila.

"Their conversation reaffirmed our joint efforts to combat child exploitation, secure global aviation against terrorism threats, as well as identify and interdict criminals and contraband crossing our borders," said the press statement.

The US Treasury Department recently included the ISIS-linked Maute group, which attempted to hold Marawi City last year, in its sanctions list for global terrorism.

Malacañang and the Department of Foreign Affairs welcomed this development.

US special forces assisted the Philippine military in countering the Maute group through technical assistance and enemy surveillance.

Despite rights issues, US to share assets, intel with PH to combat IS

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 3): Despite rights issues, US to share assets, intel with PH to combat IS

David J. Glawe, US Department of Homeland Security undersecretary for intelligence and analysis (Photo by ANTHONY Q. ESGUERRA /

The United States has reiterated its commitment and support for the Philippines in defeating the Islamic State (IS), an international terror group also referred to the Islamic State Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its sympathizers in the country.

A senior official of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said the US would provide the Philippines assets it would request despite global concern on the human rights situation and rule of law in the country.

In fighting IS, David J. Glawe, DHS undersecretary for intelligence and analysis, said the Philippines would receive multi-faceted support and partnership from the US government.

“You can expect a hundred percent of the assets of the US government that the Philippines would request,” Glawe told reporters in an interview on Friday. “We are committed to our partnership and friendship with the Philippines in our global fight against ISIS and Al-Qaeda.”

Glawe visited Manila to meet with Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and the senior officials its attached agencies.

They discussed issues of “mutual concerns” in the areas of drug enforcement, child trafficking, global terrorism and transnational crimes.

US Department of State recently tagged the Maute Group, which was behind the Marawi siege, as “ISIS-Philippines” and designated them as foreign terrorist organization.

Glawe said the US and the Philippines had been sharing information “back and forth” that would help address airline safety issues and passenger information.

“We know ISIS and Al-Qaeda continue to target aviation and the worse thing that could happen is if we had a successful attack on an airliner,” he said.

He said the two countries are cooperating to address the vulnerabilities in the aviation security.

But the partnership between Manila and Washington, according to Glawe, is hinged on the rule of law and the humane treatment of people.

Asked if the US was concerned that the Philippine government would use American assets in its bloody war on drugs, the undersecretary said the rule of law is of utmost important.

“When we partner with countries we also partner in the rule of law and humane treatment of people and that’s the benchmark of US law enforcement,” he said.

Duterte stopped a multimillion helicopter deal with Canada after the latter ordered it reviewed amid concerns about the rights situation in the Philippines.

READ: Duterte cancels helicopter deal with Canada’s Bell

The Canadian government said it would not allow Bell to sell 16 helicopters, which were intended for humanitarian missions, to Manila if these would be used by soldiers “to kill other Filipinos.“

The British government came under fire for reportedly selling spyware to the Philippines despite Duterte’s brutal war on drugs.

The Guardian posted on its website a story about the issue written by Hannah Ellis-Petersen: “Britain sold spying gear to Philippines despite Duterte’s brutal drugs war.”

Criticizing United Kingdom’s arms export control, Labor MP Lloyed Russel-Moyle said the sale “makes us complicit in the deaths of thousands of Filipinos.”

Press Attaché Molly Koscina, who was also present in the media roundtable, cited the Leahy vetting process.

The vetting process under the Leahy law of the US prohibits the State and Defense Departments from providing military assistance to foreign security forces that has committed gross violation of human rights.

When IS-inspired groups attacked Mindanao, Washington extended its support to the Philippines by providing counter-terror weapons to Philippine soldiers. The US also pledged aid in the rehabilitation of the war-torn Marawi City.

Last month, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson announced that Manila has joined the US-led Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.

As ISIS decentralizes, US looks at new tools to combat terror threat

From ABS-CBN (Mar 2): As ISIS decentralizes, US looks at new tools to combat terror threat

A counterterrorism official from the United States State Department on Thursday (Manila time) said the Maute Group and ISIS-Philippines were listed among its list of foreign terrorist organizations as part of US' strategy in combating a “decentralized” ISIS threat.

PH welcomes designation of Maute group as terrorist organization

The State Department applied legal standards such as asking if the groups "engage in terrorism that threatens the national security of the United States,” State Department Counterterrorism Coordinator Nathan Sales said.

US Africa Media Hub
In response to 's : Attacks on our closest partners, like the Philippines, is a criteria for inclusion on the list of terrorist organizations. It is of vital interest to the U.S. that the Philippines is protected.

“Attacks in Manila, attacks elsewhere in the Philippines by a terrorist organization certainly meet that standard. The Philippines is one of our closest partners in the region. We have a long-standing history of working together in the security space, in the economic space. And so, it’s a vital interest of the United States to ensure that a partner like the Philippines is protected from terrorist organizations like the Maute Group, the local ISIS network,” he said in a telephone conference with international media.

In its website, the US State Department enumerated 3 criteria before an organization may be included in the US list of foreign terrorist organizations.

U.S. Treasury slaps sanctions on Maute group, ISIS-Philippines

The group must be a foreign organization, it must be engaged in a terrorist activity or retain the capability and intent to engage in a terrorist activity or in terrorism, and its terrorist activity must threaten the security of US nationals or the national security of the United States. US national security includes national defense, foreign relations, or economic interests of the US.

In its press statement on Tuesday, the State Department cited a June 2016 video of militants in the Philippines pledging allegiance to ISIS. It also attributed to the Maute Group the May 2017 siege of Marawi, the September 2016 Davao City market bombing, and the November 2016 attempted bomb attack near the US Embassy in Manila.

ISIS now connected with Maute group: Duterte

'Foreign jihadis fighting with Maute in Marawi'

The designation of the Maute Group and ISIS-Philippines as foreign terrorist groups means the two groups and their leaders and operatives will not have access to the US financial system.

'Maute group recruiting new members with cash, gold looted from Marawi'

“These designations will deny the ISIS network the resources it needs to carry out terrorist attacks around the globe…[W]e don’t just want to stop the bomber, we also want to stop the money man who buys the bomb,” Sales said.

Beyond cutting off financial support, the designation is part of a bigger strategy the US is adopting in combating a “decentralized” ISIS threat.

A soldier passes a wall with graffiti near the Marawi City Hall where fighting is ongoing a few hundred meters between government forces and the Maute terrorist group on June 22, 2017. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

Ambassador Sales noted that as a result of the destruction of the ISIS caliphate in Syria and Iraq, ISIS has evolved into a decentralized network of smaller groups in different parts of the world.

Aside from ISIS-Philippines and the Maute Group, the US foreign terrorists list released this week also includes ISIS-West Africa, ISIS-Somalia, ISIS-Egypt, ISIS-Bangladesh, and Jund Al-Khilafah-Tunisia. This is in addition to 8 other ISIS-affiliated groups previously listed.

“We’ve designated these groups and individuals to illuminate ISIS’ global network and to emphasize the need to continue our campaign against ISIS,” he said.

As the fight against ISIS evolves, Sales emphasized the need to resort to law enforcement and civilian tools, such as the use of passenger name records (PNR) and biometrics.

PNR refers to information given to an airline upon booking a ticket – from contact information, seat assignment to frequency flyer numbers.

“[T]his is an incredibly powerful counterterrorism tool. PNR can help analysts identify suspicious travel patterns, flagging threats that otherwise might have escaped notice. It can also illuminate hidden connections between known terrorists and their unknown associates,” he explained, citing as an example a terrorist about to flee the US who was arrested when authorities tracked his flight booking.

“Biometrics are a critical tool for verifying that travelers really are who they say they are. Terrorists will try to mask their true identities in any number of ways – fake passports, aliases, and so on. It’s a lot harder for them to fake their fingerprints. For that reason, the United States collects biometrics from visitors to this country. We take their fingerprints and facial scans, we validate identities and travel documents. We also check this data against our watch list of known and suspected terrorists,” he added.

Military checking on reported terrorist infiltration in Mindanao waters

By using biometrics, Sales said, US authorities arrested a man in Oklahoma a few weeks ago whose fingerprints matched those taken from an application to join an Al-Qaeda training camp retrieved in Afghanistan.

Sales encouraged countries like the Philippines to use PNR and biometrics to combat the threat of ISIS and terrorism, noting that this is now a global standard with the adoption of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2396 in December 2017.

Sections 12 and 14 of the resolution obligates UN Member-States to develop a system of collecting PNR and biometric data.

“I think those civilian tools are going to be increasingly important as ISIS elements in the Philippines and throughout Southeast Asia look to regroup after the losses they suffered.

It’s important for us to be able to spot these people as they attempt to cross international borders,” he said.


Sales said despite the successful liberation of Marawi from terrorists, the terrorist threat to the Philippines in particular and Southeast Asia in general is not yet over.

N PHOTOS: Marawi in ruins

“ISIS fighters, ISIS ideologues, ISIS recruiters are still active. Some are active in the Philippines, some are active in other countries in the region,” he said.

Foreigner with alleged ISIS links nabbed in Manila

“And so, the United States and the State Department in particular are looking very closely at what we can do. We need to stand up to capabilities of our partners in the region, to improve border security, we need better information sharing between countries in region, and between the region and the United States,” he added, noting a “very promising relationship” with the Philippine government.

Sales also underscored the need to address the conditions that can contribute to the rise of a terrorist organization.

“Countries that have well-developed industrial economies and coincide with well-developed institutions of democracy have a sort of built-in resilience to terrorism. Developed democratic liberal countries provide their citizens with legitimate means of expression and redress. It’s never appropriate to resort to violence to attempt to achieve a political objective…It’s not to say that they’re immune. But it is to say that they’re less susceptible,” he added.

Among the measures he shared is the use of counter-speech against terrorist organizations trying to recruit members by empowering community leaders, imams and respected voices who can intervene at attempts to recruit by delivering targeted messages.

“ISIS is an adaptive threat and we need to adapt along with it to keep our people safe,” he said.

3 suspected Abu Sayyaf arrested in Zamboanga City

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Mar 2): 3 suspected Abu Sayyaf arrested in Zamboanga City

GOVERNMENT authorities have arrested three suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits in separate law enforcement operations, a police official said.

Chief Inspector Helen Galvez, Police Regional Office-Zamboanga Peninsula information officer, identified the suspects as: Daud Bulan Sabdani, who is also known as Julhasin Hanwari alias Nur; Hood Salvador Abdulla alais Jiking; and, a certain Kim.

Galvez said Sabdani was arrested by policemen around 5 p.m. Thursday in the village of Tetuan, this city.

 Galvez said Sabdani has standing warrant of arrest for eight-count kidnapping with serious illegal detention issued by the court in Basilan province.

Galvez said Sabdani was allegedly involved in the kidnapping of 15 workers on June 11, 2001 at the Golden Harvest plantation in the village of Tairan, Lantawan, Basilan.

The Abu Sayyaf bandits have executed by beheading five of the 15 workers while the remaining 10 have either escaped or were rescued by pursuing military forces.

Galvez said Abdulla was arrested by a joint team of policemen, soldiers and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at a motel in the villages of Sta. Maria, this city.

She said Abdulla has standing warrant of arrest for six-count kidnapping issued by a Pasig City court.

She said Abdulla was allegedly involved in the kidnapping of six members of the Jehovah’s witnesses on August 20, 2002 in Patikul, Sulu.

The victims -- two men and four women -- were on a door-to-door sale of comestic products when the Abu Sayyaf bandits kidnapped them.

The Abu Sayyaf bandits have executed by beheading the two men a day after they were kidnapped.

Military troops rescued the four women several weeks later. Galvez said Kim was arrested by joint military, police and NBI operatives around 12:20 a.m. in the village of Rio Hondo, this city.

She said Kim, whose complete name was not released, was also involved in the kidnapping of six members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Patikul, Sulu.

She said Abdulla and Kim were taken to Manila after they were arrested in this city.

Sulu-based ASG member surrenders

From Zamboanga Today Online (Mar 2): Sulu-based ASG member surrenders

A member of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) surrendered to personnel of the 1st Marine Battalion and the Philippine Marine Ready Force Sulu (PMRFS) in Sulu province last Tuesday.

The Abu Sayyaf member was identified as Jupakkal J. Usman, 50 years old, a resident of Barangay Lahing-lahing, Omar municipality.

Usman was identified as a follower of the late ASG sub-leader Alhabsy Misaya.
Usman also surrendered one (1) M16A1 rifle with tampered serial number, two (2) short magazines and thirty two (32) live ammunition.

A concerned citizen of the Municipality of Omar coordinated with the PMRFS following Usman’s desire to surrender before the government and military authorities.

Acting on said report, LtC. Stephen L. Cabanlet, PN(M) and his men, in coordination with the Philippine Marines Ready Forces 2, the Naval Intellgence Special Unit2, and the Marine Intelligence Detachment 2 proceeded to Barangay Angilan of said town to check on the veracity of the report and the identity of reported surrenderee.

Under the command of PMRFS' Col. Armel S. Tolato, PN(M)(MNSA), the Marines facilitated the surrender of Usman.

Marine Operatives conducted initial debriefing to Usman before transporting him to Kampo Heneral Teodulfo Bautista Hospital where he underwent treatment against trauma.

In a phone interview, Cabanlet said, "We, your Marines, continue to work to stop terror activities in our country."

Lt Ramel Vilocura, PN(M), 1MBn Civil-Military Operations Officer received Usman as he surrendered himself, with his arms and ammunition.

In the last days of the past week, the marines under Cabanlet's command conducted community services with more than a dozen non-government organizations participating in a joint outreach program.

Visiting volunteers from Luzon, Visayas, and other parts of Mindanao went to three towns in Sulu over the weekend to render free community services.

Another Abu Sayyaf arrested in Zamboanga

From the Zamboanga Today Online (Mar 3): Another Abu Sayyaf arrested in Zamboanga

Another suspected Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) member with multiple warrants of arrest (WOA) was nabbed by personnel of Police Station 6 led by Supt. Hadjiri Langgal while he was onboard a public utility jeepney along MCLL Highway, Barangay Tetuan, Zamboaga City on Thursday.

Supt. Langgal identified the suspect as Daud Bulan Sabdani, also known as Julhasin Hanwari.
Langgal added that Sabdani was arrested by virtue of a warrant of arrest docketed under criminal case numbers 3432, 3551, 3556, 3567, 3568, 3569 and 3570 for the crime of Kidnapping and Serious Illegal Detention in relation to the Golden Harvest Plantation kidnapping incident in Barangay Tairan, Lantawan, Basilan Province on June 11, 2001.

The warrant of arrest was issued by Judge Leo Jay T. Principe, RTC, Branch 1, 9th Judicial Region, Isabela, Basilan.

Recall, another ASG member identified as Hood Salvador Abdulla, alias Jiking, was arrested at Idol Motel in Farmers Drive, Governor Ramos Avenue, Barangay Sta. Maria, Zamboanga City last Tuesday.
Abdulla was arrested for six counts of Kidnapping and Serious Illegal Detention with Ransom under criminal cases number 128923-H to E, issued by Judge Toribio E. Ilao Jr., Presiding Judge of Branch 266. TRC, National Capital Region, Pasig City.

Authorities disclosed that Abdulla was involved in the Jehovah’s Witness kidnapping incident in Patikul Municipality, Sulu Province on August 20, 2002.

US Carrier Group Headed to S. China Sea Waters Claimed by China

From the Voice of Americ (Mar 2): US Carrier Group Headed to S. China Sea Waters Claimed by China


FILE - The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson transits the Philippine Sea, April 23, 2017.

A U.S. aircraft carrier group is preparing to sail through the contested South China Sea later this month, and observers expect an angry Beijing to register its opposition and quicken its militarization of small islands in the region.

The group of ships led by the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and guided missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy is plying the South China Sea after a mid-February port call in Manila where some of the 5,500 crew members offered humanitarian aid, the U.S. Navy said in a statement.

A U.S. Navy statement says the group came for, “promoting freedom of the seas and enhancing regional security,” as well as working with allies in the region.

That’s not the message likely to be received by Beijing, which regards about 90 percent of the 3.5 million-square-kilometer waterway as its own.

Those claims are disputed by five militarily weaker claimants: Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. The United States does not claim territory in the region, but regularly patrols the waters to ensure that they remain open for commercial traffic.

“I think it’s important to show to the world that the South China Sea is an international water, that it’s not a private lake of China, and only the United States can challenge China or provide balance of power in the South China Sea,” Philippine Congressman Gary Alejano said.

FILE - An airstrip and buildings on China's man-made Subi Reef in the Spratly chain of islands in the South China Sea are seen from a Philippine Air Force C-130, April 21, 2017.

Chinese build-up

China has built up three features in the sea’s Spratly Islands since 2013 to accommodate fighter planes and radar systems, one American think tank believes. It also controls the 130-feature Paracel Islands disputed by Vietnam.

The U.S. carrier group’s visit may lead China to accelerate development or deploy fighter planes, some analysts believe.

U.S. maneuvers, which are taking place roughly once every two months under President Donald Trump, would spark a tightening of China’s positions in the name of “defensive purposes,” said Collin Koh, a maritime security research fellow at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

China will take on the U.S. naval group indirectly, predicted Euan Graham, international security director with the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney.

“What they’re looking for is an excuse to ramp up the level of defense infrastructure on the features that it’s built up and occupied since 2013,” Graham said. “What they want I think is to derive the indirect benefit of characterizing the U.S. as provoking [them] into doing what they wanted to do all along.”

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force has the option of basing fighter planes on the larger Spratly Islands, where all other claimant governments have nearby holdings, analysts say.

However, maintenance of aircraft would cost a lot in utilities, said Alexander Huang, strategic studies professor at Tamkang University in Taiwan.

FILE - A ship (top) of the Chinese Coast Guard is seen near a vessel of the Vietnam Marine Guard, in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) off the shores of Vietnam, May 14, 2014.

Other claimants cheer carrier visit

The USS Carl Vinson group is due to dock at Vietnam’s port in Da Nang March 5-9 following an upbeat visit to Vietnam by U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in January. The carrier will be the largest and most powerful U.S. military ship to reach a Vietnamese port, said Carl Thayer, emeritus professor with the University of New South Wales in Australia.

Vietnam is the most outspoken claimant against Chinese maritime expansion but has struggled for U.S. support because of their own war in the 1970s. Hanoi supports U.S. naval presence in the South China Sea to advance "regional peace and stability," Thayer said in a commentary February 22.

Southeast Asian countries as well as Taiwan have been pushing for more U.S. presence as China expands at sea, backed by the world’s third strongest armed forces after the United States and Russia.

But Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam are working with both China and the United States to keep the peace as well as economic relations with two vital trade partners. Their support for the USS Carl Vinson will be muted, but excited, analysts say.

“Reactions from other claimants would be in favor or that presence except China,” Huang said.

“I don’t think there’s a specific quarrel between Washington and Hanoi and even though [Philippines] President [Rodrigo] Duterte had expressed some kind of collaboration possibility with China, I think the Philippines in general would appreciate American strong presence.”

ComVal barangay officials asked to shun NPA

From ABS-CBN (Mar 3): ComVal barangay officials asked to shun NPA

Over a hundred barangay officials from Monkayo, Compostela Valley were asked not to provide any kind of support to the New People's Army. Vina Araneta, ABS-CBN News
MONKAYO, Compostela Valley - Monkayo’s local government unit and the Armed Forces of the Philippines gathered more than a hundred barangay officials on Wednesday and urged them not to support the New People’s Army (NPA).

According to the army’s 101st Infantry Brigade, out of the 21 barangays in Monkayo, 30 to 40 percent of village officials have links to the group.
One of those who admitted links with communist rebels is one alias Rodel, a barangay captain.
Rodel said he provided rice to rebels who asked for food.

He said village officials only started ignoring the group when President Rodrigo Duterte called the NPA terrorists.
Monkayo will hold a two-day "clearing event" on March 6 and 7. The goal is to make barangay officials promise not to provide any kind of support to the NPA anymore, authorities said.

Government has pursued operations to quell communist rebels following the collapse of peace negotiations last year.

Military open to torture probe

From the Manila Times (Mar 3): Military open to torture probe

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is open to investigation of soldiers in Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) who have been accused of torturing two farmers from Compostela Valley last year.

Maj. Ezra Balagtey, spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command, over the weekend said they do not condone any misbehavior of their soldiers and assured they will sanction and punish those who commit human rights violations.

“We welcome any investigation by any legitimate investigating agency and further cooperate as this will provide opportunity for our unit and personnel to answer the allegation squarely and bring closure to this issue the soonest possible time,” he said in a statement.

Capt. Jerry Lamosao, spokesman for the Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division, said they will also cooperate with concerned authorities regarding the farmers’ allegations.

He said they had expected such accusations even before they started their campaign against Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).

Lamosao added that they remain steadfast in respecting human rights and adhering to rules of engagement, international human law and rule of law.

The two farmers, Janry Mensis and “Jerry,” on Friday filed complaints before the Commission on Human Rights, saying they were abducted, illegally detained and tortured by soldiers from November 28 to December 6, 2017.

According to human rights group Karapatan, Mensis and Jerry were kidnapped by the military and the police in Tagum City, Davao del Norte, on November 28 after they were falsely accused as thieves.

After they were cleared by the police, they were turned over to the Philippine Army and said they they were tortured for days after they were accused as members of the NPA.

Mensis and Jerry were brought on December 6, 2017 to a mountainous area in Compostela Valley and were thrown in a pit where the solders tried to burn them alive.

The victims escaped but Mensis suffered from third-degree burns and Jerry sustained several wounds in the body.

They were able to go back to their family on December 12, 2017.

“Despite the enactment of the Anti-Torture Law in 2009 and the government’s ratification of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, such practices still prevail. These stem from the military’s dangerous and insidious mindset that they can get away with anything, owing to the climate of impunity in the country,” Karapatan deputy secretary general Roneo Clamor said.

Based on documents from Karapatan, there have been 87 persons tortured by military and police authorities.

257 Filipino soldiers trained on urban combat operation by Australian Army

From the Manila Bulletin (Mar 1): 257 Filipino soldiers trained on urban combat operation by Australian Army

The Australian Army has trained 257 Filipino soldiers on urban combat operation as part of the move to strengthen the local military’s operational capability against terrorists in cities and highly populated areas following the Marawi City siege last year.

(Alvin Kasiban | Manila Bulletin FILE PHOTO)

Maj. Gen. Noel Clement, commander of the 10th Infantry Division, said the two-week training has focused on urban close combat, search and breach operation, managing combat trauma, communication operation, command and control in urban operation, sniping and countersigning and joint fires and airspace deconfliction.
“With threats evolving and becoming more aggressive in utilizing any means to conduct terrorism in the country, our thrust of protecting the people and securing communities must be recalibrated and should be added with much-needed knowledge and skills to address terrorist threat,” said Clement.

The official said the Australian Defense Force that facilitated the exercise which started on February 15 is composed of six officers and 52 enlisted personnel.

Under the training which is part of the Philippines-Australia Army to Army Exercise (PAAAE), local soldiers coming from various parts of Eastern Mindanao have been trained in various approaches and strategies in dealing with urban terrorism using modern equipment and tried-and-tested combat schemes.

Clement assured the Australian forces that the new combat knowledge they learned would be adapted if local terrorists and their sympathizers would dare to replicate the Marawi City siege in the future.

“It is very timely that this kind of exercise was brought to the 1oth Infantry Division. Our operational environment is ever changing. In training, we will adapt to it, in the ground, we will surely make it. Our forces, your Army is at all times ready to perform our task of protecting the people and securing our communities from any threat,” Clement said.

The training came a few months after the Marawi City siege was retaken from the Maute Group which is being linked to the international terror group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

It took five months before the military succeeded in defeating the Maute Group and their sympathizers, with more or less 1,000 casualties from both sides and the destruction of the Marawi City.

Earlier, the top leader of the biggest faction of Moro rebels warned that there could be another attempt to take over a city in Mindanao in the future.

“We are very thankful to Australia for being among the countries that provided us with much needed defense assistance during Marawi crisis. They helped our troops in locating terrorist positions in difficult urban terrain with their sophisticated equipment and they provided aid to our displaced brothers in Marawi,” said Clement.

“I am very certain that this bilateral exercise has truly and further strengthen the cooperation between our forces, enhanced our urban warfare counter-terrorism, intelligence and reconnaissance capabilities and strengthen our information sharing on significant matters of mutual interest. The skills acquired by our troops in urban warfare and related trainings are very useful specially that this Command is securing a number of urban areas in its area of responsibility to include Metro Davao which is the Malacaňang of the South or the alternate seat of government,” he added.

Her Excellency Amanda Gorely, Australian Ambassador to the Philippines, was the guest of honor and speaker during the closing event.
“The PAAAE is a clear display of the long standing partnership between Australian Defense Force and Armed Forces of the Philippines. The military relationship of the two countries goes back to the Second World War when Filipino fighters were trained in Australia prior to returning to the Philippines to carry out guerrilla operations to get occupying Japanese. Terrorism is not only a threat to the Philippines and our region but indeed to other parts of the world. It knows no borders and so we must all remain ready for another incident elsewhere,” she said in her speech.

“It’s been more than 70 years and our Armed Forces continue to work hand in hand in protecting our regions. Australia will always support our allies and neighbors to fight against scourge of terrorism and help protect peace and security that all the people deserve,” she added.

To fight ‘fake news’, gov’t plans to build nationwide information network system

From ABS-CBN (Mar 3): To fight ‘fake news’, gov’t plans to build nationwide information network system

The government is planning to put up an information satellite network that covers the entire country to combat the spread of "fake news," a Palace official said Saturday.

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said the "ambitious" project can be used to fight disinformation among Filipinos.

"Ito po ay malaking panlaban din sa disinformation, misinformation or fake news," he said in an interview on state-run Radyo Pilipinas dzRB.

"Sapagka’t kung mayroon pong fake news na halimbawa may nagsabi na, 'Uy mayroong red tide sa lugar na ito,' dahil nga 42,000 na mga barangays ang mayroon at lahat po ng mga information officers ay united po lahat, ay siguro na mas madali po ng mapawi o matabunan iyong mga fake news dahil lahat ho ay nagkakaisa at mayroon pong government satellite network."

The government aims to roll out its satellite network, which can serve as a "central hub" of information, to 42,000 barangays by June. Each barangay will be provided with a receiver so that chiefs can directly receive updates from the government.

The satellite network will carry government programs and will also contain information from different government agencies.

"So direkta po mula sa Malacañang all the way to the barangay halls," Andanar said.

The communications chief said the planned satellite network will be capable of delivering videos and audio content even to far-flung places.

"At kung Facebook po ang pag-uusapan ay puwede rin pong mag-Facebook diyan sa government satellite network at para matabunan at mawala nga ang fake news," he said.

The project will be headed by the Presidential Communications Operations Office and will include the offices of the president and the national security adviser.

Andanar added that his department is also working to include the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Department of Defense in the project.

"Para po ito sa barangay hall, sa barangay hall, para po ito sa mga iba pang mga departamento na gustong gumamit ng government satellite network but we will really encourage all of the departments . . . " he said.

Unlicensed high-powered firearms surrendered in Maguindanao

From ABS-CBN (Mar 3): Unlicensed high-powered firearms surrendered in Maguindanao

Civilians surrendered a number of loose firearms to the military in Datu Unsay town, Maguindanao. Courtesy of the 6th Infantry Battalion

DATU UNSAY, Maguindanao—Fifteen unlicensed firearms were surrendered by civilians in this town Friday.

Of that total, 10 were high-powered firearms. Assorted magazines and ammunition were also turned over to authorities.

Chiefs of 6 villages namely Meta, Maitumaig, Pananget, Macalag, Tuntungan and Bulayan brought the weapons to military personnel.

Captain Arvin Encinas, public affairs chief of the 6th Infantry Battalion, said this is a positive development in the government's campaign against weapons that can be used in clan wars or "rido."

"Nakita natin na ang mga loose firearms nagagamit sa mga rido cases at iba pang criminality kung kaya't mas pinalalakas natin [ang kampanya laban dito]," Encinas said.

Earlier this week, residents of Buldon, Parang, Matanog and Barira towns also surrendered 88 loose firearms to authorities.

Territorial disputes in the South China Sea among the biggest threats to the world economy – EIU

From Business World (Mar 1): Territorial disputes in the South China Sea among the biggest threats to the world economy – EIU

Territorial disputes in the South China Sea among the biggest threats to the world economy - EIU

Armed men disarm MMC guards

From the Visayan Daily Star (Mar 3): Armed men disarm MMC guards

A group of unidentified armed men, clad in military uniforms and wearing bonnets, disarmed six security guards of G-Holdings Inc. of their firearms at the Maricalum Mining Corp. compound in Brgy. San Jose, Sipalay City, Negros Occidental, on Thursday.

The eight suspects, who carried M-14 and M-16 assault rifles with M-203 grenade launchers, divested the six members of Ultrafine Security Agency, based at the ECO Park of the MMC compound, of five 12 gauge shotguns with ammunition, a 9mm caliber pistol and their cellular phones.

Chief Inspector Romeo Vargas, Sipalay City police officer-in-charge, yesterday said the suspects fled towards a warehouse, where they were fetched by a white van with plate number GB 8461.

The van, that was escorted by motorcycles, passed through the airport, while fleeing from the MMC compound, investigations of the Sipalay City police showed.

The disarming of the G-Holding security guards came several hours after four claimants of the scrap iron at the MMC had a meeting with Senior Supt. Rodolfo Castil, provincial police director of Negros Occidental, at Camp Alfredo Montelibano Sr. in Bacolod City, to thresh out their differences.

Vargas said it was clarified during the dialog that policemen, with some already facing charges before the Ombudsman, were not taking sides on any of the four claimants.

It was also stressed that the main job of the police is to maintain peace and order and protect the court sheriffs, and will abide with whatever order of the court, he added.

On the other hand, Vargas said they cannot ascertain yet if the suspects who divested the security guards of their guns, are members of the New People’s Army.

Troopers of the Negros Occidental PNP Provincial Mobile Force and local policemen are presently deployed in the area, to maintain peace and order.

RPOC Chair eyes Central Luzon as first insurgency-free, drug-free region

From the Philippine Information Agency (Mar 3): RPOC Chair eyes Central Luzon as first insurgency-free, drug-free region

The Province of Bataan hosts the first quarter regular meeting of the Regional Peace and Order Council III (Mar Jay S. Delas Alas/PIA 3)

Bataan Governor and Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) Chairperson Albert Raymond Garcia on Thursday expressed his desire to make Central Luzon the first region in the Philippines to be insurgency-free and drug-free.

“I urge members of the council to collaborate with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police (PNP) to continue supporting their campaigns,” he said during the 1st Quarter RPOC meeting.

He added that maintaining the peace and order in the region will lead to success of economic zones and rise of business investments.

In that meeting, PNP Regional Operations Division Chief PSSupt. Jesus Rebua disclosed a significant drop in criminality in all seven provinces of Central Luzon in the first two months of 2018 compared to the same period in 2017.

Rebua also stressed the accomplishments of the Provincial Police Offices (PPOs) in their campaign against illegal drugs.

In Bataan, a total of 76 drug personalities were arrested from December 2016 up to February this year.

Bataan PPO recorded zero fatalities during the conduct of 59 drug-related police operations within the period.

6 Reds captured in NegOr

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 3): 6 Reds captured in NegOr

Members of the 62nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and the Philippine National Police arrested six suspected members, including one female and two minors, of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) in Barangay Luyang, Mabinay town in Negros Oriental early Saturday.

Initial reports said government troops encountered about 20 armed men believed to be members of the Regional Security Force of the Komiteng Rehiyon Negros (RSF-KRN) of the CPP-NPA in Sitio Tumunon at 2:45 a.m.

The firefight lasted for about 45 minutes but no one got hurt on both sides.

The female suspect is a 21-year-old Mass Communication graduate of the University of the Philippines in Cebu, said Brig. Gen. Eliezer Losañes, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army in Negros Island.

The two apprehended minors were reportedly recruited from Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental.

The names of those arrested are being withheld pending investigation.

The six suspected NPA members were already presented to the Mabinay prosecutor’s office for inquest.

Recovered from the suspects were high-powered firearms, among them one M16A1, one M16A1 attached with M203 Grenade launcher, two M4 Rifles, one VLTOR (M16), one AG 43 (M16), rifle grenades, explosives, other war materiel, foodstuff, and alleged subversive documents.

The encounter took place after months of reported sightings of armed men in the hinterlands of Bindoy, Ayungon, Mabinay and nearby areas.

The civilians reported about armed men allegedly asking food and other provisions while others had reportedly fled their villages out of fear.

Losañes, in an interview, said that sometime in the middle of last year, “we had already monitored the movement of the Regional Security Force of the Komiteng Rehiyong Negros, shifting from the 6th district of Negros Occidental to the areas of BATMAN,” referring to the acronym for the towns of Bindoy, Ayungon, Tayasan, and Manjuyod in Negros Oriental.

This is their expansion area, and what the Army calls the “guerilla zone preparation”, and so they are going to expand, “hoping that they can create another front”, he added.

The 62nd IB also reported that before Saturday’s encounter, troops on regular security patrol discovered alleged NPA encampments in Samac, Mabinay and Panciao, Manjuyod.

The suspects are under the custody of the Philippine Army for further disposition, although according to Sr. Supt. Edwin Portento, the police will take over and secure their detention.

He, however, did not disclose where they would be detained.

Charges stemming from the illegal possession of firearms and ammunition and explosives will be filed against them, Portento said.

Surrender of mass base supporters weakens NPA: Army

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 3): Surrender of mass base supporters weakens NPA: Army

The Army said Friday it sees the weakening of the strength of the New People’s Army (NPA) after a series of mass surrenders of mass base supporters, particularly in Compostela Valley and Davao del Norte provinces.

Col. Erwin Bernard Neri, commander of the 1001st Infantry Brigade, said his unit alone already received 39 NPA regulars, 179 Militia ng Bayan, 73 Sangay ng Partido, and 586 mass supporters from Dec. 21 to March 1.

The increase in NPA surrenderers was noted following the oath of allegiance of some 700 surrenderers to the Philippine flag in December last year in a meeting with President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

During the same period, some 15 firearms and nine Improvised Explosive Devices were either surrendered or recovered by government forces in the two provinces.

In a press briefing held at the 1001st headquarters in Barangay Mapaang, Maco, ComVal, Neri said that among the surrenderers were 16 personalities holding vital positions in the movement, among them Ka Anthony, the Commanding Officer of Sandatahang Yunit Pampropaganda of Guerilla Front 2; Ka Charry, the Vice-Commanding Officer of Pulang Bagani Company 8; and Ka Dindo, a Political Instructor of Guerilla Front 33.

In an assessment made by 1001st Brigade of the 10th Infantry Division, which has operational jurisdiction over some parts of Davao Norte and some parts of Compostela Valley, the massive influx of surrenderers is the result of Duterte’s visit to Panacan last December 21.

Duterte had a dialogue with the 700 former rebels and offered them government assistance to help them lead a peaceful life.

He also encouraged other rebels who are still active in the movement to surrender.

According to Neri, many of those who surrendered felt the difficulty of continuously running away from the pursuing troops.

In a related development, a Sparrow member of the NPA named alias Jano and a sub-section collector named alias Lenny were also apprehended in Maco while extorting money from residents. Their apprehension came after responding troops received information from the residents of a community in Maco that the two were coercing and forcing them to give money.

Neri expressed his gratitude to the community for providing information leading to their arrest. He also exhorted other community-based groups and individuals to continue supporting the Army to hasten the attainment of lasting and genuine peace in the area.

“This development is an offshoot of the continued support of the community exhibiting their disgust and hatred of the communist terrorist movement,” the commander added.

Neri noted that no one from ComVal and Davao del Norte attended a rally in Davao City for EDSA. This shows that there are no longer NPA mass supporters, he added.

Neri said the military is already gaining ground.

"For now, around 315 is the strength of NPA in my area of responsibility," he said, adding that the 1001st is still open for those who want to surrender to the government," he added.

Sr. Supt. Marvin Manuel Pepino, director of the Compostela Valley Police, said, "We are always in support to the internal security operation conducted by the Philippine Army."

Troops arrest crime syndicate member

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 3): Troops arrest crime syndicate member

Government security forces arrested a member of a crime syndicate in the province of Lanao del Norte, the military reported Saturday.

Brig. Gen. Roseller Murillo, the Army’s 1st Infantry Division commander, identified the suspect as Roger Sagarino, a hired killer and dealer of illegal drugs.

Murillo said Sagarino, who was arrested in Barangay Raw-an, Lala, Lanao del Norte at about 11:45 a.m. Thursday, was also involved in numerous robbery cases.

He said Sagarino and his brother, Charly, are associated with the Kuratong Baleleng gang of Ozamiz City, a syndicate involved in robbery, smuggling, kidnapping, murder, extortion, drugs, illegal gambling and other illicit activities.

Murillo said Charly is currently detained at the municipal jail of Dumingag, Zamboanga del Sur.

He said Sagarino is also associated with the Labang group, particularly Mariano Labang, who was slain in a police operation; Tatong Labang, who is at large for being the principal suspect in the killing of Edgar Paculaba, barangay councilor of Lipawan, Dumingag; and Boboy Labang, who is also at large after being implicated in cases of killings.

He said Sagarino was taken to Lala Municipal Police Station for documentation.

NPA leader, brod surrender to police in Sultan Kudarat

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 3): NPA leader, brod surrender to police in Sultan Kudarat

COLUMBIO, Sultan Kudarat -- Two communists, including a rebel sub-commander, surrendered to police authorities here following a week-long negotiation, police said.

Chief Inspector Aldrin Gonzales, speaking for police in Central Mindanao region, said Beong “Ka Tukay” Dalumatan, 45, and his brother Ruben, 41, both members of the New People’s Army Guerilla Front 72 Far South Mindanao Region, surrendered on Friday to Columbio municipal police office.

Gonzales said the two have standing warrants of arrest for murder and robbery.

The two, Gonzales said, were from Sitio Mauno, Barangay Maligaya, Columbio, and turned over one M-14 rifle, two cal. 357 pistols, an M-30 Garand rifle, and ammunition.

They are now housed at the Columbio police station while police officials are studying whether they will qualify for the government amnesty program.

Fully equipped reserve units valuable to country: Lorenzana

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 3): Fully equipped reserve units valuable to country: Lorenzana

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has said that while it would take time and resources to deploy fully trained and equipped reserve units, their value to the nation is incalculable in times of crisis or disasters.

"Our concept will need resources for buildings and equipment but the payback would be great. We will have ready reserves who are on call anytime," Lorenzana said in a text message to reporters Thursday.

And while the concept is still on the drawing board, he said his department is trying to reorganize reserve units in the country for re-equipping.

The defense chief, however, acknowledged that the bulk of the personnel of these units are “aging retirees from the Armed Forces of the Philippines”.

“We have not had any significant infusion of young blood ever since mandatory Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) was abolished in 2002," Lorenzana said.

Earlier, he said there is nothing new with President Rodrigo R. Duterte's announcement that he is willing to arm ROTC graduates and other reservists should terrorism take a turn for the worse in the Philippines.

"Other countries do it, like Switzerland, Israel. They have a small standing armed force backed by a huge reserve force that continually trains with the active force," he said.

Lorenzana noted that they are looking at the possibility of each region having a reserve unit, consisting of retired military officers and ROTC graduates with a core group of active duty officers and enlisted personnel.

"Their cadres (officers and enlisted personnel) will be active military. They will have their Regional HQ with armories where they will keep their individual firearms. They can use these firearms during training," he said.

Should these formations be used in combat, peacekeeping and disaster response missions “will have official orders calling them for limited active duty, like we did with the Lanao del Norte Reserve Battalion during the Marawi Siege,” Lorenzana said.

Constitution allows joint exploration in WPS: Palace

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 3): Constitution allows joint exploration in WPS: Palace

Malacañang on Saturday reiterated that joint exploration at West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) is allowed in the 1987 Constitution.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this statement as critics of the Duterte administration, who according to him, acted like Supreme Court (SC) justices, continued to insist that the joint exploration violated the law. 
“Ang problema doon sa mga kritiko ng administrasyon nais nilang maging justices ng Supreme Court, maghintay muna po kayong maitalaga diyan at maghintay muna kayong magkaroon ng kapangyarihang gumawa ng desisyon,”
Roque said in a briefing in Zamboanga del Norte. (“The problem with the critics of the administration is that they all want to be Supreme Court justices, lets just wait to be appointed there at wait to have the same power to make those decisions.”)

Roque again cited a 2004 La Bugal ruling which provides that the President could enter intoagreements with foreign entities for large-scale explorations.

“Malinaw po ang La Bugal, ang joint exploration po ay pinapayagan sa ating Saligang Batas basta alinsunod ito sa isang kontrata na nilagdaan ng Presidente at isusumite sa Kongreso (La Bugal is clear, joint explorations are allowed in our Constitution as long as it follows the contract signed by the President and submitted to the Congress),” Roque said.

He also insisted that joint explorations were “constitutional” in both disputed and undisputed areas.

“Constitutional po ang mga joint exploration doon po sa area na walang dispute, kagaya ng 57 at doon sa area na mayroong dispute kagaya ng 72 (Joint explorations are constitutional in areas without dispute like 57 and areas with dispute like 72),” Roque said.

Roque also clarified anew what President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s statement which likened the proposed joint exploration with China in the disputed territory to “co-ownership”.

“Hindi naman niya sinasabi na magko-co-owner tayo. Kaya lang habang hindi natin rini-resolba pa iyong pagkakaiba, iyong pag-aangkinan ng teritoryo, ang tingin ng Presidente ay mas mabuti na makinabang na sa pamamagitan ng joint exploration (He didn’t say we would be co-owners. While we haven’t resolved our differences, our territorial dispute, the President thinks that it’s best that we can benefit from joint exploration),” Roque said.

Roque earlier said the Palace still trusts ins China’s good faith commitment not to make new artificial islands in Scarborough Shoal.

Scarborough Shoal is claimed only by the Philippines and China while Spratly’s Group of Islands where China started to build artificial islands even before Duterte’s came to office midway of 2016 are also claimed by other nations, according to Roque.

In July 2016, the Permanent Court on Arbitration ruled in favor of the Philippines’ case contesting China’s nine-dash line claim that covers nearly the whole of WPS which supposedly rich in oil and gas resources.

Duterte has opted to maintain friendly through peaceful dialogues while improving economic ties with China.