Thursday, March 8, 2018

More NPAs surrender to gov't: Duterte

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 8): More NPAs surrender to gov't: Duterte

President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Wednesday, March 7, lauded the joint efforts of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and the local government units for the increasing number of surrenderees from the New People's Army (NPA).

"At no other time are the NPAs surrendering with their firearms. It is taboo to them here and in Mindanao, everywhere, na ‘pag nag-surrender ka tapos ibigay mo ‘yung armas mo sa sundalo o sa pulis, so talagang ha-huntingin ka because that is anathema, a taboo. Talagang yayariin ka," President Duterte said in his meeting with the local chief executives of Luzon at the Royce Hotel here.

"So mabuti na lang, marami na ang nag-surrender and… Also, I’d like to congratulate the Armed Forces and everybody, ‘yung mga mayors pati pulis, they are active in convincing people," he said.

The President said he has reached out to NPA founding chairman Jose Maria Sison but in the end, there was a stalemate in the talks because Sison wanted a coalition government, which the government cannot give.

"So ‘yan ang sitwasyon doon. So there is an impasse. I don’t know who would blink first but definitely it would not be government," Duterte said.

The President said that with more rebels surrendering to government, he hopes that the Armed Forces can quash the rebel group soon.

"We are trying to really go out and just embrace them as brothers and at no other time, maraming armas. If they become decimated by the number of surrenderees, maybe the Armed Forces can finish them off next year at mawala na ‘to," Duterte said.

Duterte said rebel surrenderees are given housing and livelihood opportunities.

"We are about to complete many -- sa Davao City may 1,000 ako; in Tagum about mga 700 plus. Then Surigao and in Zamboanga. Dito naman sa Bulacan, meron rin ako marami nang natapos... Then I inaugurated the other day sa Marawi at iba pa and those are for the soldiers. But at the same time, mabilis din kaming gumagawa. But some businessmen who want to donate, gusto nila individual," Duterte said.

"Si Inday, ‘yung anak ko na Mayor ng Davao, sabi ko, ’Day, iyo ‘yung mga sa NPAs'. I hope we can have it the momentum here. Tutal anyway, ang gagastos naman niyan karamihan is government," Duterte said.

"It’s a matter of ‘yung program of how to talk to them sincerely and if they want to surrender, meron silang bahay then we can give them money in the meantime may transition sila," he added.

As for livelihood, Durerte said rebel returnees will be trained by TESDA, noting that the country is in need of more skilled workers.

"Mind you, there are constructions in Manila, Davao, Cebu, which have temporarily stopped because of the absence of skilled workers," he said.

"So they would need some kind of a master carpentry, master plumber. ‘Yan ang gusto kong makiusap sa inyo. If you have that kind of program of pacification, let me know," he added.

With regard to fighting corruption, the President said it is one of his campaign pledges and he remains committed to ending abuses and misdeeds in the bureaucracy.

Fending off corruption accusations, he stressed he has never entertained any transaction or deals and lets his Cabinet secretaries handle those transactions at their level.

“Best ways, maski sinong tanungin ninyo, any -- doon sa clerk who started to type the endorsement and everything, no transaction ‘yung MRT, PAGCOR o ano that ever reaches my table. ‘Yung MRT ni Tugade o ‘yung eroplano ni Tugade, ‘yung MRT niya, wala akong pakialam diyan and all,” he said.

Army always open to peaceful conflict resolution with NPA

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 8): Army always open to peaceful conflict resolution with NPA

The Philippine Army (PA) is always open to settle the ongoing conflict with the New People's Army (NPA) peacefully.

This was stressed by PA spokesperson Lt. Col. Louie Villanueva after President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said he would pursue efforts for peace with the enemies of the states including communist rebels despite his decision to terminate talks with them last year.

"The PA, we are the forces on the ground, nandun lagi yung interest natin na magkaroon ng settlement itong issue na to ano (the interest to reach a settlement of this issue is always there). (In) the first place, it’s always us who are (in) the verge of conflict, kami lagi ang naapektuhan dito, and kung maitutuloy ito, magandang (development) ito (we are the ones who are always affected by this conflict and if this will push through, it will be a good development)," he added.

But Villanueva said that the NPAs should show sincerity and fully comply with the ceasefire once it is in place.

Duterte, on Nov. 23 signed Proclamation 30, ordering the termination of all peace negotiations and meetings with the rebel group.

The termination was an off-shoot of the rebel atrocity and other acts of violence against civilians, and security forces.

DND mourns passing of ex-defense chief Abat

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 8): DND mourns passing of ex-defense chief Abat

The Department of National Defense expressed its regrets on the passing of former DND Secretary Fortunato Abat Wednesday night.

"The DND mourns the loss of former Defense Secretary and Commanding General of the Philippine Army, Fortunato Abat. He passed away last night at 7 p.m. at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center. We (thanked) him for his service to the nation," DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said Thursday.

Abat was born on June 10, 1925 in San Juan, La Union.

Starting as an enlisted man on April 15, 1944 during World War II, Abat received various medals and decorations for acts of conspicuous courage and gallantry in the conduct of the pacification campaign in Central Mindanao and for distinguished service in various positions in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

After the war, he entered the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) as a cadet in 1947 and graduated in 1951.

Abat was part of the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea (PEFTOK), thus a veteran of the Korean Campaign.

He was first appointed as the Administrator of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), a DND-attached agency, after the EDSA Revolution in 1986.

Later on, he was named Undersecretary of National Defense (USND) during the term of Defense Secretary Rafael Ileto.

He also served as USND during the term of then Defense Secretary Fidel V. Ramos, but he left the Department and was designated Deputy Director General to Ileto who later headed the National Security Council (NSC).

Abat previously served for exactly five years as the Commanding General of the Philippine Army from March 28, 1976 to March 28, 1981.

Immediately after his retirement from active military service, he joined the Ministry of Human Settlements.

From May 1981 until April 1986, Abat was designated as Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China.

It was during Abat’s term as the Commanding General of the Central Mindanao Command (CEMCOM) that he became a prominent national figure.

It was the height of the rebellion of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in the 1970s when then Brigadier General Abat was directed by the President to proceed to Cotabato from Cebu to organize the CEMCOM.

The MNLF had overrun undermanned and isolated military detachments in the Cotabato countryside and took control of the area that now comprise the province of Maguindanao and portions of the provinces of Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato and South Cotabato.

The story of CEMCOM controlled the separatist uprising, recovered all territories lost to the secessionists, restored order and paved the way for normalcy in the operations of the local governments and in the lives of the people in Central Mindanao are told in the book, “ The CEMCOM Story: The Day we Nearly Lost Mindanao”, written by Abat himself.

Prior to his appointment as defense chief, Abat was the chairman of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) Peace Panel that negotiated with the military rebels and other secessionists groups in Mindanao, to include the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Significant accomplishments of the GRP panel during his incumbency include the peace agreement with the military rebels in 1995 and the ceasefire agreement signed on July 18, 1997 ending the spate of hostilities between government and MILF troops.

His remains lie in state at the Loyola Chapels, Commonwealth, Quezon City and will be ready for public viewing by Friday.

The former defense chief will be laid to rest on March 13 at the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City where he will be given full military honors. The schedule of the necrological service has yet to be announced.

Army vows zero tolerance for 'narco-troops'

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 8): Army vows zero tolerance for 'narco-troops'

The Philippine Army (PA) on Thursday said it would not condone any illegal acts of its personnel, including the use and distribution of illegal drugs.

This was stressed by PA spokesperson Lt. Col. Louie Villanueva following the arrest of 2nd Lt. Hamel Abubakar Samsodin, who was assigned at the Camarines Sur-based 9th Infantry Division and his drug-runners, identified as Aslimah Somala Aliba and Mohair Masicuin Mamalampac during a buy-bust operation conducted by police and military units at Sampaguita St, Mapayapa Village 1, Barangay Pasong Tamo, Quezon City around 10:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Confiscated from the suspects, who were all arrested after a brief car chase, were 25 grams of shabu, PHP60,000 in marked money, an Armscor .45 caliber pistol loaded with five bullets, another .45 Swissvale and a magazine clip containing seven rounds, an M-16 replica, six M-16 magazine assemblies with 148 bullets, a hand grenade and a white Hyundai Accent (with conduction sticker MOS5702) which the three tried to use as their getaway vehicle.

"The arrest of subject officer is a product of counter-intelligence which is a constant procedure of monitoring personnel doing anomalous or illegal acts detrimental to the organization. The PA (doesn't) condone any act that is not in conformance to its policy and standard," Villanueva said.

And based on current policies, the PA spokesperson said that any personnel involved in any drug-related activities would face sanctions and immediate dismissal.

"The Army is serious in support of government campaign on illegal drugs, hence it has undertaken at its level programs activities such as mandatory drug test to all personnel establishment of drug-testing facilities in various camps as well as sustain advocacies," the PA spokesperson said.

Samsodin was called to active duty last May 1, 2016 through the Officers' Preparatory Course and took his oath at the Philippine Army Headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

The suspect also underwent a two-month Scout Ranger Orientation Course in Bulacan and a three-month Basic Officer Leadership Course at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija.

Prior to his arrest, he was supposed to be deployed as platoon leader of the 83rd Infantry Battalion in Pili, Camarines Sur.

NPA killed in Bulacan clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 8): NPA killed in Bulacan clash

Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) units together with their police counterparts shot and killed a New People's Army (NPA) rebel during an encounter in San Idelfonso, Bulacan Wednesday night.

Lt. Col. Isagani Nato, Nolcom spokesperson, said troopers from the 48th Infantry Battalion along with operatives of the San Idelfonso Municipal Police Station were conducting law enforcement operations in Barangay Nabaong Garlang following reports that members of the NPA's Kilusang Larangang Gerilya “Sierra Madre” of the Central Luzon Regional Committee were operating in the locality.

In the ensuing firefight, an NPA rebel identified as "Buddy" was killed while caliber .38 revolver with three rounds of ammunition and a motorcycle was seized.

No losses were sustained by government forces, Nato said.

"NOLCOM will continue to intensify its Law Enforcement Support Operations in support to other concerned agencies and the community, to curtail and neutralize all threat groups in its area of operations. These integrated efforts of all stakeholders will prevent hostile groups, particularly the NPAs, from executing its plans to impede the peace and development of the affected barangays in Central and Northern Luzon," he added.

PNP to appeal DOJ dismissal of raps vs. Tunisian ISIS suspect

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 8): PNP to appeal DOJ dismissal of raps vs. Tunisian ISIS suspect

The Philippine National Police will appeal the Department of Justice's (DOJ) dismissal of the criminal complaint against suspected Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist Fehmi Lassqued, a Tunisian national, and his Filipina live-in partner Anabel Salipada.

"It's an unfortunate news for the PNP but anyway this is not yet final," PNP spokesman Chief Supt. John Bulalacao said in a press conference Thursday.

"The arresting officers can avail of other remedies like a petition for review before the secretary of the DOJ and meantime let us just leave this to the disposition of the investigating teams or their legal officers," he added.

In a resolution, DOJ Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter L. Ong dismissed the complaint for illegal possession of explosive devices and firearms filed by the PNP Regional Police Intelligence Operations Unit (RPIOU) of the National Capital Region Police Office and the Armed Forces of the Philippines against the two suspects for lack of merit.

“After a careful review and evaluation of the evidence submitted by the parties, the undersigned finds no probable cause to charge respondents for violations of RA 10591 and RA 9516,” read the DOJ resolution approved by Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Rassenell Rex Gingoyon and Acting Prosecutor General Jorge Catalan Jr.

The two were arrested in Ermita, Manila last Feb. 16 by joint operatives of the PNP and the Philippine Army, pursuant to a search warrant issued by the Makati City Regional Trial Court.

The charge sheet signed by Supt. Carlito Narag Jr., RPIOU chief, sought the indictment of the suspects for violations of RA 10591 and RA 9516.

In his counter-affidavit, Lassqued said he was not arrested in Ermita, Manila but in Ayala Triangle on Feb. 16 while he was taking his cigarette break from his Spanish class.

Salipada, on the other hand, also denied owning the explosive devices and the firearm. She said when the police searched their apartment in Manila she was taken and held outside the apartment.

Ong said that among the evidence presented, both the suspects and the arresting officers admitted that the five photographs of the seized items taken inside Room 409 but did not include the arresting officers and the suspects.

The prosecutor citing photographs said Lassoued was likely not present inside Room 409, on February 16, 2018, during the implementation of SW M. 18-003, and further support Fehmi Lassoued’s story that he was later brought to an unfamiliar room with the seized articles,” he pointed out.

The prosecutor also learned that Salipada was brought by authorities to the Ospital ng Maynila Medical Center on Feb. 17 for medical examination while Lassoued was taken at the Army General Hospital in Fort Andres Bonifacio on February 18.

“Finally, the fact that both respondents underwent medical examination at two different places and on two different occasions suggests that they were arrested in separate places at different time,” the prosecutors said.

NPA continues to lose armed assets to government troops

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 8): NPA continues to lose armed assets to government troops

The New People’s Army (NPA) has continued to lose their assets in latest campaign of the government troops against the communist group during the first two months of the year.

The military units 209 seized and surrendered high-powered and low-powered firearms and 155 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) belonging to the NPA from January to February 2018.

Lt. Col. Emmanuel Garcia, chief of public affairs office of the AFP, said Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) alone recorded a total of 165 firearms and 131 IEDs that were confiscated from the NPA and its supporters.

On February 27, the 16th Infantry Battalion discovered an arms cache tipped off by former rebel in Calinan District. The troops seized six firearms and other war materiel (military material and equipment).

Three arms cache were discovered by the 66th Infantry Battalion Philippine Army on February 21. These included six high-powered firearms, five IEDs, and several war materiel in Compostela Valley.

The location of the three arms cache were revealed by former rebels who surrendered to the 66th IB.

According to Garcia, the surrenderers, mostly from the eastern part of Mindanao, brought with them their firearms and surrendered them to the authorities. Each firearm has corresponding remuneration to help surrenders start a new life.

This is aside from the immediate assistance from the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP). Garcia said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) continues to call on the remaining rebels to return to the folds of law and be productive members of the community.

“The AFP will continue to conduct operations to degrade the armed capability of the terrorists and further enhance Community Support Program to empower local government units in providing basic services to the people in their communities to encourage more NPAs to surrender,” he added.

Ex-rebels to join drug surrenderers in skills training

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 8): Ex-rebels to join drug surrenderers in skills training

Former rebels will join drug surrenderers in the second batch of skills training sponsored by the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) regional office here.

PNP 8’s (Eastern Visayas) Chief Supt. Gilberto Cruz said Thursday they would forge a partnership with the military in implementing the next 45-day training.

“The Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Division found the training beneficial to former rebels since part of the reintegration program is to help participants find means to earn income or land a job,” Cruz said.

The next training, which will enlist about 300 participants, will run within the first semester of the year. The first batch completed the training on March 5.

Army 8th Infantry Division commander, Major Gen. Raul Farnacio, said they are joining the program given its holistic approach and the opportunity to converge with the police in reintegrating former armed rebels to the community.

“We are still in discussion with the police regional office on how we can involve rebel returnees to the program,” Farnacio told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

“Most of the people recruited by rebel groups are deprived. Perhaps, with this activity, maybe this will become our chance to address our problem not only on illegal drugs but also in insurgency.”

Meanwhile, beneficiaries of the training program for first batch of drug surrenderers hope for a fresh start after receiving government assistance.

Among the completers was Ivan Alecha, 21, who volunteered to quit drug addiction and start a new life.

It was last year, at the height of the government’s implementation of the anti-illegal drug campaign Oplan “Tokhang”, that Alecha yielded to authorities.

“I’m thankful that I was chosen to become a beneficiary of the program because it enlightens me and showed me that I can be a better person and good provider for my family,” he said.

The PNP selected participants from six provinces and seven cities in Eastern Visayas. They have gone through a 45-day skills and livelihood training with the help of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and partners from the private sector.

Skills training offered include welding, motorcycle servicing, service consumer electronic products and systems, food processing, organic vegetables cultivation, organic chicken raising, massage, emergency search and rescue, stress management, traffic management, village peacekeeping operations, self-defense techniques, environmental protection, conflict management, internal security operations, community integration, counseling, and healing.

Palawan remains safe vs. terrorism: Wescom

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 8): Palawan remains safe vs. terrorism: Wescom

Palawan remains safe against any terrorist threat despite Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque’s disclosure that it is considered a “problem area”, the Western Command’s (Wescom) spokesperson said here Thursday.

Thus, there is no reason for Palaweños and tourists to panic because the military and the inter-agency task force are on top of the situation, Capt. Cherryl Tindog said.

“We would like to inform the public that there is no reason for us to panic because of the statement of Secretary Roque that there are many terrorists in Palawan,” Tindog said, adding that Roque was likely referring to the communist-terrorist group New People’s Army (NPA) that had staged atrocities recently, including the murder of two police assets in Sofronio Española, southern Palawan last March 2.

“He’s probably talking about the NPA that had just been tagged as terrorists. In the province, we had situations where they were involved, and recently they staged atrocities. However, the Wescom is working 24/7 with our partners and police counterparts to ensure that we will deter any terrorist attack in Palawan,” said Tindog.

In a forum with students at the Palawan State University on Wednesday, Roque briefly mentioned that the province is one of the problem areas where violent extremism in the country is concerned.

“The not-so-good news is that there are many terrorists who are now here in Palawan. Palawan is one of the problematic (sic) areas when it comes to terrorism. Believe it or not, I can see intelligence reports that are being given to President (Rodrigo) Duterte, and we know their moves. That is why we are able to secure our communities,” said Roque.

Tindog said the Wescom joint inter-agency task units have been doing stringent air, land, and sea patrols, and strategic checkpoints, to ensure that the province remains safe.

“We’ve gone through a lot of advisories regarding the presence of terrorists here, but as far as Wescom is concerned, other than the communist-terrorist NPA, we have not monitored any other terrorist group,” added Tindog.

She reiterated that those who want to visit Palawan can do so because Wescom will make sure they are safe.

“We can continue our economic activities, and tourists can come and visit without worry because we are going to make sure that Palawan will remain safe,” she said.

Army calls on Bukidnon IPs to name erring soldiers

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 8): Army calls on Bukidnon IPs to name erring soldiers

The Philippine Army has urged Bukidnon residents--especially the Indigenous Peoples (IPs)--to identify soldiers alleged to have committed human rights violations so it could act based on verified complaints, a military official said.

First Lt. Tere Ingente, spokesperson for the Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID), urged victims of abuses allegedly perpetrated by soldiers to file a formal complaint so that proper action can be taken against any erring personnel.

Penalties for human rights violations, Ingente said, range from demotion to removal from service.

Ingente said the 4ID “will not hesitate” to demote or discharge any soldier who has been found to have violated any law.

“The order of [4ID commander] Maj. Gen. Ronald Villanueva is very clear: He doesn’t want rotten soldiers within the rank,” Ingente said in an interview Wednesday (March 7).

However, the 4ID spokesperson pointed out that the Army cannot investigate and prosecute a soldier for any misdeed if the complainant cannot provide them with names.

On Tuesday, members of a tribal community in Bukidnon lodged a complaint against some soldiers who have allegedly harassed them before the Commission on Human Rights (CHR-10) based in this city.

According to the complaint filed by a member of the Buffalo-Tamaraw-Limus (BTL)with the CHR-10, soldiers from the Army’s 8th and 88th infantry battalions were responsible for several harassments in their village in Musuan, Maramag town, Bukidnon, last month.

BTL alleged that soldiers coerced them and even accused them of being New People’s Army (NPA) supporters.

A BTL member, Ronilo Menente, told reporters that the soldiers were asking for the names and whereabouts of their leaders.

Ireneo Udarbe, regional chairperson of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, said some tribe members are being forced to “surrender” after being accused of being NPA combatants.

Responding to the allegations, Ingente said the 4ID’s human rights desk and the Civil Military Operations (CMO) office is open to any civilian who wants to file a complaint against any serviceman.

The complaint, she said, would then be forwarded to the concerned unit where that soldier belongs for investigation and proper action.

She assured that the Army is serious in going after erring soldiers in that if the 4ID leadership is not satisfied with the investigation, the division commander can send an investigator to make further verification.

5 timber cutters seized; troops launch rescue ops

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 8): 5 timber cutters seized; troops launch rescue ops

Pursuit operations by government troops continued in a bid to rescue the remaining hostages from suspected kidnappers in the hinterlands of Zamboanga del Norte, the police reported Thursday.

This, as the kidnappers killed one of the five hostages they seized when pursuing policemen and soldiers caught up with them at around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday that triggered a 10-minute firefight at sitio Kabatunayan, Barangay Panabutan, Sirawai, Zamboanga del Norte.

Chief Insp. Helen Galvez, Police Regional Office-9 (PRO-9) information officer, identified the slain hostage as Mario Rosales alias Mario Ungok, 46, a resident of Barangay San Nicolas, Sirawai.

Galvez said Rosales was positively identified by his employer, Tata Subebe, a resident of Barangay San Vicente, Sirawai town.

Rosales was one of the five timber cutters from San Nicolas, who were reported missing on Monday, March 5.

The four others were the following: Roger Jung-an, 36; Jomar Maglangit, 26; Reymond Purisima, 14; and, Jomar Mantangan, 25 all residents of San Nicolas village, Sirawai.

They went to Sitio Maasum, Barangay San Nicolas on March 3 to cut timber but failed to return home since then.

Galvez said that two days later, the kidnappers have demanded PHP10 million in exchange for the release of the victims.

She said the kidnappers used the cellular phone of one of the five victims and relayed the ransom demand at around 10:30 a.m. Monday, March 5, to Jojo Ebalde, a chainsaw operator and a resident of San Nicolas.

She said the ransom demand was lowered to PHP75,000 or at PHP15,000 each hostages when the kidnappers made the second call later.

Sirawai Mayor Gamar Janihim convened the Crisis Management Committee (CMC) to find solution to the kidnapping.

Galvez said the CMC was able to identify the leaders of the kidnappers as Jamilon Wahab and Bating Lumiguis, whose group operates in the hinterlands of Sirawai and in nearby areas.

She said the troops recovered a caliber .30 M1 Garand rifle and a caliber .45 pistol with ammunition from Thursday’s clash site in Sitio Kabatunayan, Barangay Panabutan.

She added that around 10 gunmen figured in Thursday’s clash with pursuing policemen and troops from the Army’s 42nd Infantry Battalion.

She disclosed that troops from the Army’s 13th Special Force Company and policemen were deployed as blocking forces in Barangay Riconalla, Siocon, an adjacent town of Sirawai, while pursuit operations in a bid to rescue the remaining four hostages continue.