Saturday, April 7, 2018

Marawi fallout foreshadows more violence in the Philippines

From the East Asia Forum (Apr 7): Marawi fallout foreshadows more violence in the Philippines (By Jasminder Singh)

Since the recapture of Marawi city by Philippines government forces in October 2017, militants affiliated with the so-called Islamic State (IS) have been forced to retreat. But retreat does not always imply defeat: there are IS supporters and sympathisers in the Philippines who continue to pursue the goal of establishing an IS-styled regime in Southeast Asia.

In January 2018, members of the IS-affiliated Maute group attacked troops of the Joint Task Force Ranao, injuring six before escaping by boat from Lake Lanao (less than 40 kilometres from Marawi city). The attack was the first clash between militants and government forces since the end of the Marawi battle, and there are concerns that it may only be one of more to come.

Despite being forced to retreat, IS-affiliated militants claim the Marawi siege as a victory. Videos of the Marawi attacks continue to be circulated online and the Maute brothers are glorified as heroes by Filipino IS supporters. The Maute group and its allies failed to capture the city and convert it into an IS outpost. But the group’s ability to hold the Philippines military off for months captured the attention of global IS-affiliated militants, some of whom have since migrated to the Philippines as foreign fighters.

The Maute group also systematically looted millions of dollars from homes, banks and shops during the drawn-out battle for Marawi. It will use these to promote recruitment and replenish its military capabilities. The military expects that the militants may have the resources to conduct renewed attacks in the future.

Having witnessed the destruction and social disintegration of their city, local government officials and residents are supportive of military operations to wipe out the remaining militants. The destructive manner in which the Maute group and its allies conducted their battle for Marawi showed that they are not interested in meeting the real political and economic development needs of Filipino communities.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) claims that it is making great strides in diminishing the capabilities of the IS-affiliated Abu Sayyaf group (ASG) in Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi provinces. Since operations began last year, 128 ASG members have been killed, 80 arrested and 150 others have surrendered.

Notably, Westmincom has managed to achieve strategic control of the Sulu and Tawi-Tawi waters in the tri-border area between the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. Control of these waters is helping to prevent the high-profile kidnappings-for-ransom that have plagued the area since 2000 and have provided a crucial source of funding for ASG.

The autonomous regional government of Mindanao is also working with local Islamic scholars to rehabilitate militants who surrender, and is funding infrastructure and economic development initiatives to encourage militants to give up their firearms. Together with the effects of military pressure, these programs are expected to be the beginning of the end of the ASG.

But such programs –- as well as the Bangsamoro Basic Law that will likely be passed this year — are also propaganda fodder for radicalisation. Peace initiatives have been framed as anti-Islamic, and Muslims who are supportive of peace are labelled as traitors and could be targeted by terrorists who seek to garner support through fearmongering. There is also the possibility of peace programs falling apart and leading to violence if they are seen to benefit certain ethnic groups or families more than others.

If Westmincom does not follow through on its strategy in Mindanao, it is possible that another Marawi-esque battle will occur. Intelligence reports maintain that the leaders of IS-affiliated militant groups in the Philippines — such as Amin Baco, Muawiyah and Abu Turaifie — are still alive. With millions of dollars in loot still unrecovered and available for recruitment purposes, it is likely that Filipino militants are organising their next big move.

New IS-affiliated cells reportedly continue to emerge in Jolo, Cotabato and Basilan provinces. There are also reports of a female unit of militants comprising local Marawi women as well as women from other parts of the Philippines who have been radicalised online. With IS now including females in the frontlines, the Philippines military must factor this into its strategy.

The above revelation is part of a broader trend of online radicalisation of Filipino Muslims in other parts of the Philippines as well as in the larger diaspora. In the past few months, new social media groups have emerged that bring together radicalised Filipino Muslims who live in Manila, Basilan and Mindanao, as well as in Morocco, the Netherlands, Germany, South Korea, China and the United States.

While the battle for Marawi may have ended, the danger of violent extremism and terrorism in the Philippines is far from over. Continued government efforts to combat militancy must now confront the re-emergence of IS-affiliated groups and the very real possibility of another Marawi-type conflict in the near future.

[Jasminder Singh is Senior Analyst with the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, a constituent unit of the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
A version of this article originally appeared here on RSIS.]

Westmincom reforming militants to defeat Abu Sayyaf

From the Philippine Star (Apr 5): Westmincom reforming militants to defeat Abu Sayyaf

Former members of the Abu Sayyaf group surrender to the military in January. Pareño, file
The government is taking cues from Malaysia and Indonesia and is working on reforming members of the Abu Sayyaf group instead of engaging them in a war of attrition.
Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., commanding officer of the military's Western Mindanao Command, said the regional neighbors managed to make gains against the Jemaah Islamiyah terror network through a 'soft hand' approach.

"It is not only in the Philippines that this is being done. Maybe this is the first time [here]. But in Malaysia and Indonesia, if you see, the JIs have been [weakened] because of these strategies, wherein hardcore terrorists were given time to be reformed," Galvez said.

He explained that killing a terrorist would give three or four relatives a reason to take up arms themselves. 
"But if you will be able to reform one hardcore terrorist, all of his followers and his relatives will be reformed also," Galvez said, saying this approach is the best way to address "the unbreakable chain of violence perpetrated by the Abu Sayyaf."

Galvez said Abu Sayyaf groups like the "Ajang-ajang" or "Anakyatin" — the Tausug term for "sons of the warriors" or "sons of the martyrs" — are composed of militants whose fathers and brothers were killed in encounters with the military.
Galvez said Abu Sayyaf members believe they are martyred when they are killed in combat and that they will be replaced by a relative who will continue their fight.

"So that's what we are doing now, we get the model of how the Malaysians and Indonesians were able to counter the sprouting of the JI and I think we are gaining ground on this," Galvez said.

READ: Lorenzana backs reintegration program for former Abu Sayyaf

He said this is part of the reason the command accepted the surrender of notorious Abu Sayyaf leader Nurhassan Jamiri and 13 of his followers Tuesday last week. Many other Abu Sayyaf militants have surrendered in the past year.

The general said President Rodrigo Duterte's recent pronouncements to help former militants return to a normal life has helped convince Abu Sayyaf members to surrender.

He said an ongoing program funded by non-government organizations like the Balay Mindanao and Nagdilaab, the Eisenhower Fellowship and other foreign donors is also helping the Abu Sayyaf surrenderees reform.

"They saw the possibility they can be reformed upon learning the experiences of former members who surrendered ahead and are now freely moving around the community with their family," Galvez said.

He said, however, that surrenderees with pending cases will still have to face the courts.

"We cannot just drop those cases because we saw that surrender should also [be done] with justice... We also have to go by that because we respect also the rights of the victims to have justice," Galvez said.

Army’s 3ID on ‘high state of vigilance’

From Panay News (Apr 6): Army’s 3ID on ‘high state of vigilance’

ILOILO City – The Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) based in Jamindan, Capiz was on a “high state of vigilance” when the New People’s Army (NPA) marked its 49th anniversary.

“The terrorist organization is known for staging terror and criminal activities against helpless civilians before and during their anniversary,” said Brigadier General Dinoh Dolina, 3ID commanding general.

NPA was founded on March 29, 1969 as the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Panay Island was relatively peaceful on March 29 last week.

“We are reminding the civilians, they are the enemy’s vulnerable targets,” said Dolina.

From 2010 to 2017 the NPA had killed a total of 46 civilians, data from t he 3ID showed.

“Perpetrating atrocities against civilian communities is like a requirement for their anniversary celebration,” said Dolina.

He urged civilians to help the military thwart rebel attacks by sharing information about the insurgents’ whereabouts.

On June 22, 2017, 3ID records showed, 10 civilians including Roberto “Bebe” Lumayno and driver Danilo Braga were ambushed in Purok Greenhills, Barangay Minapasok, Calatrava, Negros Occidental.

Three weeks before that, on May 27, 2017, Eliodoro Alvarado was dragged out of his house in Sitio Binataan, Barangay Quintin Remo, Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental and shot on the head for refusing to give money to the NPA.

Six policemen and a civilian were also killed in an NPA ambush in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental on July 21, 2017, and eight more civilians in Castellana, Negros Occidental.

“The NPA is not fighting for the welfare of civilians contrary to their claims. They actually targets civilians and brag about their killings,” said Dolina.

In the nation’s capital, meanwhile, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brigadier General Bienvenido Datuin called on to the remaining NPA members to surrender and rejoin society.

“Choose the path of peace. Join those who have decided to go back to mainstream society. There is no greater fulfillment than to live in peace with your families and loved ones in a conflict-free community,” he said.

The AFP earlier reported that a total of 4,356 regular NPA members and their supporters have surrendered to government forces between Jan. 1 to March 15 this year.

Lorenzana wants conditions to talks, Joma disagrees

From the Manila Times (Apr 6): Lorenzana wants conditions to talks, Joma disagrees

Preconditions should be observed before the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) are resumed, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Thursday, echoing the stand of President Rodrigo Duterte for the “last chance” of the talks.

Exiled Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria “Joma” Sison however countered this, saying that setting of preconditions would not follow The Hague Joint Declaration signed in 1992 by former president Fidel Ramos and former NDF chairman Manuel Romero.

Lorenzana raised at least seven conditions: a bilateral ceasefire; no coalition in the government with the communists; no attacks of New People’s Army (NPA) rebels on government forces and civilians; no extortion activities; no destruction of properties; no recruitment by the NPA; and no roaming around with firearms.

These were the same conditions laid down by the Defense chief on Wednesday, hours before Duterte ordered the “last chance” for peace talks with the communists.

Lorenzana had softened his stand on the peace negotiations but maintained that there should be a ceasefire from both parties.

During the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday night, the President ordered the resumption of the peace talks with the communists, with Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza saying Duterte was also committed to provide support, “if necessary,” in replacement with the armed rebels’ “revolutionary taxes.”

The move was welcomed by Sison, the chief political consultant of the NDF, saying there was a need for the resumption of talks on “substantive issues and complaints.”

“In the same round of formal talks, as well as in preceding consultations, the panels can present conflicting positions and subsequently seek to solve the problems on mutually acceptable grounds,” the communist leader said in a statement.

Three agreements

Sison, who is in self-exile in The Netherlands, emphasized three agreements drafted before the peace negotiations stalled last year.

The first one was the “substantial consensus” between the two peace panels in terms of the agrarian reform, rural development, national industrialization and economic development, which Sison described as the “most important parts” of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (Caser).

“There is already a draft amnesty proclamation to release all the political prisoners listed by the NDFP in compliance with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL),” Sison said.

Another deal, he said, was the draft agreement on the coordinated unilateral ceasefires, which he said is under the monitoring of a joint national ceasefire committee.

“This draft agreement is in effect at the start of a bilateral ceasefire agreement. It is a significant step towards the Comprehensive Agreement on the End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces,” Sison emphasized.

Contrary to the suggestion of Lorenzana, he maintained that there should be no preconditions as it would not be in compliance with The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992.

Under the declaration in The Hague, the NDF and the government stated that the holding of the peace negotiations must be in accordance with “mutually acceptable principles” including national sovereignty, democracy and social justice.

“[N]o precondition shall be made to negate the inherent character and purpose of the peace negotiations,” the declaration read.

This was echoed by Sison, adding that the two “conflicting” parties have become negotiating parties to thresh out differences and complaints, and to seek solutions in achieving a “just and lasting peace.”

“As a matter of course, the two panels shall reaffirm all the existing agreements by way of ending the previous termination of the peace negotiations,” he said.

“It logically follows that the two panels shall cooperate in doing away with the obstacles and hindrances to the agreements and to the entire peace process,” Sison added.

‘No surrender’

Lorenzana again expressed his openness as well to the possible resumption of the peace talks, saying that he would support the “last chance initiative” of Duterte.

NDF legal consultant Edre Olalia pointed out that The Hague declaration does not indicate any surrender or capitulation.

“[The peace talks] shall be able to resolve the roots of the armed conflict for a negotiated political settlement, the negotiations should have no submission or dictation by one party to the other’s jurisdiction or system, among others,” Olalia said.

“In short, no prior or pre-set condition before the talks or the negotiations are held. Precisely, such matters are the proper subject of negotiations, not the other way around,” he added.

Defense lists 7 conditions that Reds must meet to revive talks

From the Sun Star-Manila (Apr 6): Defense lists 7 conditions that Reds must meet to revive talks

DEFENSE Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Thursday, April 5, that he fully supports the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to revive the peace negotiations with the communist rebels as long as certain conditions are met.

He said the President listed seven: bilateral ceasefire; no coalition in government with them; no attacks on government forces and civilians; no extortion; no destruction of properties; no expansion and recruitment; and no roaming around with firearms.

"I support this last chance initiative of the President," Lorenzana said.

Presidential Adviser to the peace process Jesus Dureza said Wednesday that Duterte expressed openness for the resumption of the peace talks.

“President Duterte directed during the Cabinet meeting to work on the resumption of peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF with clear instructions on the importance of forging a ceasefire agreement to stop mutual attacks and fighting while talks are underway,” he said.

CPP refers to the Communist Party of the Philippines. The NPA, or New People's Army, is its armed wing, while NDFP, or National Democratic Front of the Philippines, is its political arm.

 “The President said: 'Let’s give this another last chance'. He also committed to provide support, if necessary, in replacement of the revolutionary tax that he asked be stopped,” he added.

CPP founding chairman Jose Maria Sison welcomed the possible resumption of the peace talks, but noted that there should be no preconditions.

"Kapag may gusto, dapat may laya 'yung anumang panig na magreklamo. Ihapag niya sa pag-uusapan ng dalawang panig. Doon nalulutas 'yung problema," he said.

He also cited the Hague declaration which prohibits preconditions for such negotiations.

"The holding of peace negotiations must be in accordance with mutually acceptable principles, including national sovereignty, democracy and social justice and no precondition shall be made to negate the inherent character and purpose of the peace negotiations," the declarations reads.

In November 2017, Duterte ordered the termination of the peace talks with the communists due to the series of attacks conducted by the NPA against the government security forces amid the ongoing peace negotiations.

He also tagged the NPA rebels as terrorists.

Meantime, the PNP expressed support for the possible resumption of the peace talks and urged the rebel group to be sincere in order for the negotiations to prosper.

"The PNP is pro-peace and we support all government efforts to achieve lasting peace,” PNP spokesperson Chief Superintendent John Bulalacao said.

“All of us have witnessed the sincerity of the government through President Duterte for exhausting all possible means to hold the peace negotiation with the CPP-NPA-NDF.

The rebels however should show sincerity and good faith while talking peace with the government. They need to show control of their men on the ground so that the final peace talk may succesfully work," he added.

Read more:

Duterte sets terms of peace gab, scoffs at coalition govt with Reds

From The Standard (Apr 6): Duterte sets terms of peace gab, scoffs at coalition govt with Reds

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has agreed to resume the stalled peace talks with the communist rebels but subject to three conditions, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said Thursday.

He said Duterte wants the New People’s Army, the Communist Party of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front to honor a genuine ceasefire, and that there will be no shooting if and when the peace talks resume.

Duterte also wants the CPP-NPA to desist from collecting its so-called revolutionary tax while the ceasefire is ongoing and that the communist rebels will not insist on a coalition government.

In other developments:

• The Duterte administration should withdraw its bid to declare the communist guerrillas as terrorists before fanning hopes of reviving the stalled peace talks with the group, their exiled leader Jose Maria Sison said Thursday.

The Justice department has a pending petition before a Manila court to cite the National Democratic Front’s ‘s political wing, the Communist Party of the Philippines, and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, as terrorist organizations.

• The government will push through with its petition seeking to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, as terrorist groups, Justice Undersecretary Erickson Balmes said Thursday.

“We are all for peace. However,  the peace talks have not actually resumed. For the time being, there being no order to the contrary, we will pursue the petition as filed,” Balmes said.

• The Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines on Thursday supported Duterte’s decision to return to resume the peace talks with the communist rebels.

“The AFP supports the administration in all its efforts and initiatives to bring just and lasting peace and development for the country,”  military  spokesman Brig. Gen. Bienvenido Datuin said in a statement.

• Two lawmakers on Thursday welcomed Duterte’s decision to resume the peace talks with the communists.

“We welcome the orders of President Duterte to resume the peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines,” Rep. Antinio Tinio said.
“We should still be alert on the possible peace spoilers who have no desire to address the roots of the armed conflict,” Rep. France Castro said.

Roque said the military operations against the communist rebels will continue because there has been no peace negotiations or ceasefire yet.

He expressed hope that the NPA-CPP-NDF will accept the government’s offer to resume the stalled peace talks and to observe an absolute ceasefire.

“The peace talks have yet to start, the military operations against the communist rebels will continue. We will not let the rebels to attack our soldiers and get killed,” he said.

Roque also said the communist rebels must  desist from collecting their so-called revolutionary tax while the ceasefire is in effect. The rebels must also not insist on a coalition government “which is absolutely not part of the bargaining table.

Jolo And Maguindanao: New Islamic State Epicentres In Philippines? – Analysis

Posted to the Eurasia Review (Apr 6): Jolo And Maguindanao: New Islamic State Epicentres In Philippines? – Analysis (By Syed Huzaifah Bin Othman Alkaff and Jasminder Singh)
The presence of the so-called Islamic State in the Philippines continues to be a significant threat in this region. After Marawi, IS fighters have been reported as still active in the southern part of the country. Jolo and Maguindanao are likely to be the next IS stronghold.

On March 22, 2018, exactly five months after the Philippine government liberated Marawi, An-Naba, the self-proclaimed Islamic State’s (IS) mouthpiece, reported a clash between Abu Sayyaf (ASG) fighters and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the island of Jolo.

The constant update from IS Central through its publications, such as An-Naba, about incidents happening in the Philippines could suggest the trajectory of the group’s activities in the country. The latest are in Jolo and Maguindanao.

Shifting Grounds

Prior to the Marawi siege from March to October 2017, the pro-IS groups were mainly located in four key areas in the Philippines. They were also called IS Basilan, IS Ranao, IS Maguindanao and IS Cotabato – all in the Mindanao region of south Philippines.

Since the failure of the ‘Marawi project’, the pro-IS groups that escaped from Marawi City or were outside the operational zone, have been regrouping. This has led to a new development with fighters from the former four pro-IS areas being reorganised into two, now based in Jolo and Maguindanao.

While the An-Naba news report would indicate that there have been constant communication between pro-IS jihadists in the Philippines and IS Central, more significantly is the decision to zero in on Jolo and Maguindanao as the new IS strongholds in the Philippines.

The IS report also highlighted the importance of Muslims in Mindanao and Sulu in undertaking ‘jihad’. It advocated continuing the mentality of the war against the colonial power in the last 490 years, and replace the current political system in the Philippines with an Islamic ruler and governance.

Why Jolo and Maguindanao?

Maguindanao has been an old ASG stronghold that had pledged allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi long before the Marawi siege. Equally important is the fact that there is a major jihadi group based there, called Jamaatul Muhajireen Wal Ansar. It is led by Abu Turaifi and associated with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a breakaway faction from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Similarly, Jolo has long been associated with the ASG. In the present political and military constellation, Jolo is also associated with Amin Baco, one of the leaders of the Marawi siege who succeeded in escaping from the AFP crackdown. Amin’s first father-in-law, Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, is a key ASG leader in Sulu and is from the town of Patikul in Jolo where many of the ASG fighters, including Amin, are believed to be in the inaccessible mountains off Patikul.

Turaifi and Amin are important magnets that have drawn local jihadists and apparently foreign ones too. Since the end of the Marawi siege, there has been a call to ‘hijrah’ (migrate) from Basilan and Cotabato to Jolo and Maguindanao, to rebuild the pro-IS jihadi strongholds. This effort has been greatly facilitated by the presence of another key pro-IS jihadi leader involved in the Marawi siege, Humam Abdul Najid also known as Abu Dar.

Together with Dr Mahmud Ahmad from Malaysia, Abu Dar was responsible for recruiting foreigners and obtaining international funding for the Marawi project. Abu Dar is also believed to be in control of the ‘war loot’ taken from Marawi City and hence, in a position to finance not just the ‘hijrah’ of local and foreign fighters but also in strengthening the declining military capability of the jihadists.

Two Other Factors

Apart from the significant leaders mentioned above, there are two other factors that could facilitate the rise of Jolo and Maguindano as new IS strongholds. First, historically these areas have developed a robust and resilient infrastructure to support jihadi operations and are regarded as a ‘no go zone’ for the AFP and Philippines Police, who fear being kidnapped for ransom.

Second, the failure of the Philippine Government to endorse the peace treaty, called Bangsamoro Basic Law, has created a toxic environment for Manila or any Muslim group keen on negotiating with the Philippines Government. This has the effect of strengthening the jihadist narrative that only a military solution would benefit them and hence, the support for jihadists in Jolo and Maguindanao.

Impact of Rise of Jolo and Maguindanao

The loss of Marawi and the death of Isnilon Hapilon, the leader of the Abu Sayyaf group, and Omarkhayam Maute, leader of the Maute group, do not signal the end of the pro-IS and pro-jihadi struggle in the Philippines. Efforts are being made to find a replacement for Hapilon with Amin Baco, Abu Turaifi and Abu Dar often named as possibilities.

There have been suggestions earlier that Amin Baco could be dead. Hence another possibility is Yassir Igasan, a Libya-trained ASG commander with extensive links with Middle Eastern jihadi groups. Regardless of whoever replaces Hapilon, the decades-old struggle will continue.

While it will only be a matter of time before a new consensual figure acceptable to all is elected to replace Hapilon, the Marawi Siege has totally changed the character of jihad in southern Philippines. The snail-paced reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi City will only benefit the jihadists with the government seen as the source of the people’s misery, providing additional recruits to the jihadists. This does not include families who lost their loved ones in the Marawi Siege.

In an endeavour to avenge the deaths of their comrades, leaders and the loss of Marawi City, these jihadists can be expected to target security personnel in revenge killings. For the past three months since January 2018, there have been reports of ASG and BIFF clashing with security personnel. In addition to attacking military targets, groups in the Philippines have also taken the advantage to target non-military targets to widen the war to both embarrass the Philippine Government as well as to spread the security forces thin.

New Phase?

The quest for revenge, the tasting of ‘power’ for five months over a Filipino city, the massive destruction and loss of lives, among others, would be critical in shaping the ‘jihadi’ struggle in southern Philippines in the coming years. The movement of local and foreign jihadists to the new pro-IS strongholds, confirmed by images in the social media, is an indication that a new phase of violence is likely to break out in southern Philippines.

Given the circumstances, the security apparatus in the Philippines and neighbouring countries should be more vigilant as violence is likely to escalate. Keeping track of the jihadists’ movements is imperative in curbing another Marawi. Particularly important to focus on is the extensive jihadi networks of Amin Baco and Abu Dar, both in the Philippines and in Malaysia and Indonesia.

[Jasminder Singh and Syed Huzaifah Bin Othman Alkaff are Senior Analysts with the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR), a constituent unit of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore.]

WFP Philippines; Marawi Crisis Situation Report #5 (30 March 2018)

Posted to the Relief Web (Mar 30): WFP Philippines; Marawi Crisis Situation Report #5 (30 March 2018)

Report from World Food Programme
Published on 30 Mar 2018
  • WFP resumed its general distribution of rice for its Marawi humanitarian response. WFP has distributed 57.15 mt of rice to 1,143 affected families in the municipalities of Poona Bayabao and Lumbatan, Lanao del Sur.
  • WFP received a USD 1.2 million grant from the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund through the underfunded emergencies window. The allocation will be used to further reach vulnerable communities through a nutrition intervention targeting pregnant and nursing women and children age 6-23 months in partnership with United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and a food security and livelihood intervention in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
  • WFP is in need of USD 1.2 million in additional financial resources to meet the needs of this operation until 31 May 2018.
The Marawi City Situation
  • Five months after the five-month long armed conflict between government security forces and the Islamic Stateinspired Maute group was over, 67 barangays (administrative sub-unit) are reported opened to returning families. Government data reveals that 27,770 families were confirmed to have returned to 42 barangays in Marawi.
  • Based on the Government’s post-conflict needs assessment, the Marawi siege left PHP 18 billion (USD 357 million) worth of properties damaged, and at least PHP 50 billion (USD 1 billion) is required forthe complete rebuilding and rehabilitation of the city. It is estimated that this will take four years.
  • To better understand the food security and nutrition situation of the affected population, WFP conducted an Emergency Food Security Assessment (EFSA) in February 2018 covering 21 municipalities in Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur, as well as Marawi City. Results reveal that 39 percent of the assessed population is moderately to severely food insecure, which is an increase compared to the 35 percent recorded in the previous EFSA in October 2017. An additional challenge was the overall impact of Tropical Storm Tembin (locally known Vinta), which also affected those already displaced by the Marawi siege.
  • The Department of Education has extended the end of the current academic year in Marawi City to May to compensate for the school days missed during the height of the conflict.
  • WFP supports the kambalingan (homecoming) of returning families during the early recovery phase through general distributions of rice and an upcoming school feeding in cooperation with the local non-governmental organization Gawad Kalinga and the Office of Civil Defense.

Who is Carlito Galvez, the AFP’s next chief?

From GMA News Online (Apr 6): Who is Carlito Galvez, the AFP’s next chief?

Not only he has played a key role in ending the five-month siege laid by ISIS-inspired Maute group in the war-torn Marawi City, the incoming chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is also a peace advocate as he had worked closely with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to keep the ceasefire intact after the Mamasapano bloodbath in 2015.

Battle-seasoned Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez, who is the current commander of the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom), will replace AFP chief General Rey Leonardo Guerrero, whose term had been extended by President Rodrigo Duterte last December.

A member of the Philippine Military Academy "Sandiwa" Class of 1985, Galvez served as one of the best leaders during the Marawi siege on May 23 last year, which resulted in the killing of terror leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute.

The AFP said Galvez as Wesmincom commander "provided strategic direction and inspiration and deployed forces and to successfully rescue the civilian hostages, neutralize Isnilon Hapilon, all the Maute brothers and terrorists, and clear Marawi."

Galvez was even conferred with the Order of Lapu-Lapu (Kamagi Medal) for his "outstanding performance as the unified commander during the liberation of Marawi City."

The 55-year-old Galvez was the battalion commander of the 1st Scout Ranger Battalion and was also the youngest military officer to command the Basilan-based 104th Infantry Brigade from 2012 to 2013 where he led military operations against Abu Sayyaf bandits.

Peace process with MILF

In 2015, Galvez served as the chairman of the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities for the government side in the peace process with the MILF.

A Joint Ceasefire Crisis Team was immediately formed by Galvez and GPH-CCCH secretariat Director Carlos Sol after they learned that MILF members and Special Action Force commandos engaged in a firefight in Maguindanao on January 25, 2015, which left 44 elite policemen, 17 MILF combatants and five civilians dead.

The team's mission was to "negotiate a ceasefire, separate the two contending forces, assist in the evacuation of casualties, assess the situation of internally displaced persons, and help stabilize the situation."

Months later, Galvez was installed as deputy chief of staff for operations (J3) of the AFP and as commander of the Philippine Army's 6th Infantry Division based in Maguindanao before was appointed as Wesmincom chief.

Meanwhile, it was also under Galvez as Wesmincom chief where 436 Abu Sayyaf members, 276 communist rebels, 311 members of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and 1,065 Maute members were neutralized and a total of 1,343 loose firearms were recovered.

Galvez is experienced in the fields of combat and intelligence operations, leadership development, counter-terrorism, humanitarian assistance, strategic management, systems dynamics modeling, and peace-building, negotiation and mediation.

He was the class president and valedictorian of the AFP Command and General Staff College.

While he has been in the military service for more than 34 years, Galvez had also finished his Master’s Degree in Project Management from the University of New South Wales in Australia and Leadership Executive Education from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

He had been conferred with numerous awards such as the Philippine Legion of Honor, three Distinguished Service Stars, two Outstanding Achievement Medals, six Gold Cross Medals, eight Bronze Cross Medals, 40 Military Merit and Commendation Medals and the Wounded Personnel Medal.

He was also named as one of The Outstanding Philippine Soldiers in 2007 and recipient of the United States Eisenhower Fellowships in 2006.

Galvez said his "experience as a peacemaker could be an advantage" for his new role which he is set to assume on April 18. He is set to retire on December 12.

"I would like to thank the President for the trust and confidence. I would like to make this opportunity that I will do my best with honor, integrity, and loyalty that I will serve the President...the best way I can," Galvez said.

Galvez is married with one daughter to Marissa, an international flight purser of Philippine Airlines.

Civilians continue to yield loose arms in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 5): Civilians continue to yield loose arms in Maguindanao

PAGALUNGAN GUNS. Mayor Vicman Montawal (right) of Datu Montawal town hands over a rifle to Colonel Alfredo Rosario Jr, chief of the military’s 602nd Infantry Brigade during turn over ceremonies of loose firearms on Wednesday. (602nd Brigade photo)

PAGALUNGAN, Maguindanao – A total of 75 firearms from civilians in this town and adjacent Datu Montawal municipality were turned over to the military on Wednesday, the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6ID) said.

Lt. Colonel Gerry Besana, spokesperson of the 6ID Task Force Central, said the assorted high-powered firearms were turned over by Mayor Vicman Montawal of Datu Montawal town and Mayor Salik Mamasabulod of Pagalungan, both in Maguindanao, to Colonel Alfredo Rosario Jr, commander of the Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade and Lt. Colonel Ciriaco Lomas-e Jr, chief of the Army’s 7th Infantry Battalion, respectively.

The surrender of guns was part of the local Balik Baril Program of the adjoining municipalities in support to the Army’s campaign against loose firearms.

Mamasabulod handed over 45 assorted firearms that included grenade launchers, sub-machine guns, assault rifles, cal. 50 Barrett sniper rifles, rifle grenades, mortar and homemade shotguns.

“We support the program of President Rodrigo Duterte. It’s better not to carry guns. You become angrier when you lose your temper. No matter how you would control yourself, somehow you could not resist once you have your gun with you,” Mamasabulod said.

On the other hand, Montawal turned in 30 assorted homemade and original war materials that included grenade launchers, M-14 and M-16 rifles, cal. 45 pistols and home-made grenade launchers.

“I am looking forward that there will be more loose firearms to be surrendered to show that we are in full support of the program of President Duterte,” Montawal said.

Col. Rosario Jr. also believes that more firearms will be surrendered in the future as he challenged all leaders to participate in this program of government.

“All of you barangay captains are considered as the cutting edge for you operate from the ground. You know who are those who have unlicensed firearms and those who don’t have any firearms at all,” Rosario said.

Major Gen. Arnel dela Vega, 6th ID chief and commander of Task Force Central, has expressed his elation on the gesture of the local officials.

“We are glad that the local chief executives of Maguindanao have shown their full support on this Balik Baril program of the government. It is our thrusts to see that all communities will be in peace and harmony knowing that no more firearms will be used against any member of our community,” Dela Vega said.

Only last month, residents of Mamasapano, Pagalungan, Datu Montawal and Shariff Aguak, all of Maguindanao, also surrendered a total of 113 loose firearms.

Resumption of peace talks, govt’s last attempt: Dureza

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 6): Resumption of peace talks, govt’s last attempt: Dureza

President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s order to work on the resumption of the peace talks will be the government’s last attempt to settle issues with communist rebels, Secretary Jesus Dureza, the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, said here Thursday afternoon.

Dureza warned that the President might finally decide to cut-off the peace negotiations if more attacks would be staged.

“If there will still be some issues along the way, then let us forget all these totally. It is like the last attempt of the President to bring peace in the land,” he said.

“Hopefully, with that instruction, we can already start bridging again, rebuilding mutual trust so that we can move forward in the peace process,” he added.

The President ordered Dureza during Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting to work on the resumption of the peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army, and National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

Duterte also made instructions to forge a ceasefire agreement to stop mutual attacks and fighting while the talks are underway.

The peace adviser said there was an immediate positive response from the founder of the CPP, Jose Maria Sison, adding that the chief also came up with a welcoming statement.

“So, the President felt that this may be another opportunity but he said we will resume but this will be our last chance,” he said.

Dureza said there is no timeline on the resumption of talks but he expressed hope that the “environment will also be conducive” and the events ahead will be “very positive".

“I will tell you, if there will be more attacks that will happen after he indicated that he (President Duterte) wants to resume then the decision might be different already. So, we would like to see reciprocity on the other side,” he said.

“Although there is no ceasefire agreement yet to really firm up a favorable atmosphere for the resumption but we hope that there will be no major incident that will again make the President finally decide to totally cut-off with finality the peace negotiations,” he added.

Dureza said although the President has not set the terms and conditions, he would want a stop to the attacks and burning of equipment of those who do not want to pay the revolutionary tax, as well as a ceasefire.

“These are not pre-conditions. These are of course the wish of a President who feels that (he) would like to further take the extra mile towards peace and he hopes that the other side will also respond accordingly,” he added.

It was last year when President Duterte terminated the peace negotiations with the communist rebels.

Dureza said that the government already reached the “farthest in the time of our negotiation” under the President.

Dureza was here on Thursday upon the invitation of the town of Guimbal to grace the “Re-enactment of the Moro Raids”, one of the highlights of the five-day Bantayan Festival.

203 new soldiers join PH Army’s 2ID regular force

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 6): 203 new soldiers join PH Army’s 2ID regular force

CAMP GEN. MATEO CAPINPIN, Tanay, Rizal – Some 203 new soldiers have joined the regular force of the Philippine Army’s 2nd Infantry (Jungle Fighter) Division after completing their four-month rigid Candidate Soldier Course (CSC) at this camp here.

2ID Commander Major General Rhoderick M. Parayno officiated on Thursday the Joint Closing Ceremony of Candidate Soldiers (CS) Class ‎510-2017 and Recognition Day of CS Class 529 and ‎530-2017 at 2nd Division Training School (2DTS) view deck.

Parayno welcomed into the army’s regular force the all-male 203 soldiers describing their graduation from the military’s rigid training “as no small thing since the new soldiers were properly nurtured with the basic knowledge and skills of soldiery in order to develop their character worthy to become members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).”

Representing Brigadier General Felipe B. Vejar Jr, commander of the 51st Engineering Brigade as guest of honor at the graduation rites , Deputy Brigade Commander Colonel Anthony T. Cacayuran congratulated the new soldiers.

Cacayuran also extended his felicitations to the soldiers’ parents for their moral support and inspiration as well as the army’s training officers and staff.

“Always bear in mind the military professionalism and loyalty that were taught to you during your training”, he said, adding that "the culmination of the solidiers’ training also signals the beginning of their genuine and dedicated service to the government."

Cacayuran also led the symbolic entrustment of firearms to the new army privates, assisted by Sampaloc Barangay Chair Alvin Belsa of Tanay, Rizal.

Captain Patrick Jay M. Retumban, chief of the 2ID public affairs office the ceremonial entrustment of firearms bear with it the spirit of nationalism and service-oriented attitude among soldiers.

Retumban said this military tradition of the firearms entrustment also symbolizes that the new breed of soldiers willfully accepted the magnitude of the responsibility, duty and authority vested upon them in protecting the country and the Filipino people.

He also said that the 2ID also observes its customary practice in inviting the local government officials during the ceremonial entrustment of firearms to mark the occasion that the new soldiers are now partners in promoting peace and development in their respective localities.

Eastmincom backs possible resumption of GRP-NDFP talks

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 6): Eastmincom backs possible resumption of GRP-NDFP talks

The Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) has assured support to the possible resumption of the stalled peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

This came amid the recent attacks in Davao City and Davao del Norte where the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels burned the heavy equipment used in the construction of access roads in the remote areas.

On Tuesday, President Rodrigo Duterte said he was open to talk again the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA-NDFP but with certain conditions.

Eastmincom spokesperson Maj. Ezra Balagtey said it is the discretion of the President since he is the commander-in-chief.

"But of course, our commanders will be giving a situationer for the President to decide if he will pursue the peace talks or not," he said.

Balagtey said whatever the decision of President Duterte after he will receive the situationer, the Eastmincom will abide by it.

"There are many factors that are being considered and we will be supporting the President on the peace initiatives that he is pursuing," he said.

Earlier, Duterte said in his speech in Bongabong, Oriental Mindoro the communist rebels should stop their hostilities if they want to resume peace talks with government.

“So it, first-time ko ito nagsalita (So this is my first time to speak) since (Joma) Sison is always mentioning about the peace process. I am ready. First thing is we should stop killing each other. Then if we can have peace; and if you do not have the money, government will subsidize it," Duterte said during the inauguration of the Lisap Bridge in Barangay Hagan here.

The President said both the government and the New People’s Army (NPA) should agree on some fundamentals.

“In the meantime na kung gusto niyo talagang totohanan is you stop immediately, you and I ceasefire tayo. Ni walang isang putok, maski labintador and I would be happy (In the meantime if you want it - is you stop immediately, you and I will have ceasefire. Not one shot, even a firecracker and I would be happy),” he said.

He also urged the rebels to stop collecting revolutionary tax and harassing businessmen. The President said his number one condition is ceasefire and then no taxation. Duterte was even willing to shoulder expenses during the peace process.

But the President emphasized on no coalition government. “For the simple reason that I do not own the sovereign power of the state,” he said.

Soldiers get free eye check-up, glasses

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 6): Soldiers get free eye check-up, glasses

PALAYAN CITY, Nueva Ecija -- At least 250 military personnel availed of free eye check-up and prescription glasses in an eye mission conducted by Armed Forces of the Philippines Officers’ Ladies Club, Inc. (AFPOLCI) here.

Major General Felimon Santos Jr., commander of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division, said Friday beneficiaries include 100 Kaugnay troopers, 100 Special Operation Command (SOCOM) personnel, 25 from the Army Artillery Regiment (AAR), and 25 from the Training and Doctrine Command of the Combat Arms School and the Combat Service Support in Fort Magsaysay.

Santos lauded the eye mission activity, noting it served well for the welfare of his men.

“We would like to thank the AFPOLCI for its mission that is geared towards providing better visual health to our soldiers,” he said.

The group headed by Jayne Guerrero, wife of the Chief of Staff of the AFP, General Rey Leonardo Guerrero., led the eye mission Wednesday.

The eye mission is in line with one of the objectives of the AFPOLCI, which is to assist the AFP in its effort of promoting personnel morale and welfare to its members and dependents.

2 ex-NPA rebels, 90 IPs enlist in Army

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 6): 2 ex-NPA rebels, 90 IPs enlist in Army

Maj. Gen. Roseller Murillo, Army's 1st Infantry Division commander, keynotes the graduation of 736 candidate soldiers on Thursday at the 1st Division Training School. Two of the graduates were former NPA members while 90 are IPs belonging to the Subanen Tribe. (Photo courtesy: 1st Infantry Division) 
LABANGAN, Zamboanga del Sur -- Two former members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and 90 Indigenous Peoples (IPs) are among 736 candidate soldiers who have become regular members of the Philippine Army, the military said Friday.

The newly-enlisted men belong to the Candidate Soldier Course Classes 506, 507, 519 and 520, who graduated on Thursday, Maj. Ronald Suscano, Army’s 1st Infantry Division information officer, told the Philippine News Agency.

They completed the four-month Basic Military Training at the 1st Division Training School (1DTS) here from Dec. 4, 2017 to April 5, 2018.

Lt. Col. Rufino de Leon, 1DTS commandant, said of the 736 new privates, 90 are IPs belonging to the Subanen tribe, two are former NPAs, and the others are Muslims and Christians from various ethnic groups.

De Leon said of the total, 29 percent and 28 percent completed their college and high school education, respectively, 23 percent reached college level, and 20 percent completed vocational courses certified by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

The age requirement for a candidate soldier applicant is 18 to 25 years old.

Maj. Gen. Roseller Murillo, commander of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, has expressed gratitude to the family, especially the parents of the graduates, who entrusted their sons to be part of military service.

In his speech as the graduation keynote speaker, Murillo asked for a moment of silence for candidate soldier Randell Berlin, who died while undergoing training.

He said the new soldiers will be given a short break to spend time with their respective families and share their experiences in training before they are deployed to the different field units under the administrative control of the 1st Infantry Division.

The graduation ceremony culminated in a Ceremonial Entrustment of Firearms that symbolizes the magnitude of responsibility, duty and authority vested upon the soldiers in protecting the Filipino people.

Timuay Jose Macareal, Multi-Sectoral Group Council member representing the IP sector, told the new soldiers to use the firearms entrusted to them to protect the Filipino people in attaining peace in Mindanao.

Macareal further said that the priority and the quota allocation given to the IPs manifest the government’s concern for the marginalized sector.

Solon condemns murder of tribal leader in NoCot

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 6): Solon condemns murder of tribal leader in NoCot

MAGPET, North Cotabato – Rep. Nancy Catamco of North Cotabato’s 2nd district strongly condemned on Friday the murder of a tribal leader, who sat as ex-officio councilor of this town.

Councilor Antonio Takinan, 50, the Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) to the Magpet town council, was ambushed on Wednesday by about six suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Barangay Tagbac here.

Takinan’s two other companions, identified as Robello Tambunan, 62, the IP representative of Barangay Tagbac; and Rene Soriano, 50, an escort, were wounded in the incident.

The three victims were on board two separate motorbikes and were heading home after attending the town council session Wednesday when waylaid at about 5 p.m.

Catamco urged police and military authorities to dig deeper into this case “so justice will be served on Takinan.”

“Bring the suspects before the bar of justice to restore the IPs confidence in the government,” she said in a statement.

Catamco also urged Takinan’s family and relatives to allow the country’s wheels of justice to roll and let government instrumentalities do their job.

“Let us not be carried by our emotions. Let us reflect on why it happened and its message so we take necessary measures to prevent similar incidents in the future,” she said.

Magpet Police chief, Senior Insp. Jose Mari Molina, said Takinan had been receiving death threats but ignored it, saying he had no known enemies.

Citing witnesses, Molina said three motorcycle-riding men tailed and opened fire on Takinan's group.

The town councilor, who was also armed, returned fire but three more motorcycle-riding gunmen peppered him with bullets. The suspects sped off towards an unknown direction after the incident.

Police are looking at members of the outlawed NPA as possible suspects behind the killing of Takinan, who was a strong critic of the communist movement prior to his death.

MILF leader arrested for gun possession in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 6): MILF leader arrested for gun possession in Maguindanao

Police arrested Friday morning a man claiming to be a ranking official of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for gun possession.

Supt. James Allan Logan, chief of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (CIDG-ARMM), said his office has been receiving complaints from residents of Barangay Tapian in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao over harassments allegedly perpetrated by Tato Ibrahim.

He also allegedly slapped in public and humiliated a village official.

He said Ibrahim, also known as Commander Tato, a resident of the coastal village of Tapian, Datu Odi Sinsuat town did not resist arrest but declared he is covered by the joint government and MILF ceasefire mechanism.

The CIDG chief said he is still coordinating with the Army’s intelligence operatives to determine if indeed Ibrahim is an official of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF).

Logan also said that Ibrahim admitted he had high powered guns but these were already turned over to the MILF leadership before the police raided his home.

But during the search after his arrest, police and military personnel found an unlicensed cal. 45 pistol and ammunition inside Ibrahim’s home.

20 loose firearms seized in Maguindanao raid

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 6): 20 loose firearms seized in Maguindanao raid

Lawmen seized some 20 assorted firearms from an individual during a raid on Friday in Barangay Banaba, Datu Abdullah Sangki (DAS), Maguindanao.

Combined forces from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group – Autonomous Region in Mulim Mindanao (ARMM), the Police Regional Office – ARMM and DAS police unit carried out the operation and arrested a certain Wiily Evangelista over the discovery of a cache of firearms in his possession.

Armed with a search warrant issued by Regional Trial Court Branch 13 Judge Bansawan Ibrahim, the lawmen swopped down the village of Banaba at around 6 a.m. and caught the suspect flat-footed.

Recovered from the suspect’s house were 12 pieces of .45-caliber pistols; two M16 rifles; one AK-47 rifle; one KG9 assault rifle; one Garand rifle; one Ingram machine pistol; one 9mm pistol; one .38 – caliber revolver; 160 rounds of assorted bullets; and various firearm bullet clips, among others.

Speaking over local radio station DXMY, Chief Inspector Allan Uy, the CIDG-ARMM spokesman, said the operation forms part of “Oplan Paglalansag” that they are implementing in the region. He said appropriate charges of illegal possession of firearms are now being readied against the suspect.

More firearms turned over to Army in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 7): More firearms turned over to Army in Maguindanao

DAS GUNS. Mayor Mariam Mangudadatu of Datu Abdullah Sangki in Maguindanao hands over a rifle to Lt. Colonel Lauro Oliveros, chief of 1st Mechanized Infantry Battalion in Ampatuan, Maguindanao, during a ceremony on Friday. (6th ID photo)

DATU ABDULLAH SANGKI, Maguindanao -- Sixteen more loose firearms were turned over by local officials here to the military in support of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s campaign against unlicensed guns in the hands of civilians.

Lt. Col. Lauro Oliveros, commander of the Army’s 1st Mechanized Infantry Battalion (1st MIB), received the war materiel from Datu Abdullah Sangki Mayor Mariam Mangudadatu during turnover rites at the 1st MIB headquarters in nearby Barangay Kamasi, Ampatuan, Maguindanao on Friday.

The initiative has raised to 322 the total number of loose firearms turned over to the Army since January. The ceremony was witnessed by Brig. Gen. Bismarck Soliba, the 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade commander, and Datu Abdullah Sangki officials.

Oliveros said the surrendered firearms were three M-14 Armalite rifles, two homemade Ingram sub-machineguns, an M79 grenade launcher, seven homemade 12-gauge shotguns, a homemade sniper rifle, a .50-caliber Barrett sniper rifle, and an Uzi submachine gun.

He said local officials helped gather the firearms from civilian residents of Tukanalugong, Madanding, Dinampao, Mao, Old Maganoy, Kaya-Kaya, and Sugadol.

Soliba, in turn, acknowledged the efforts of Datu Abdullah Sangki’s municipal government in helping the Army’s disarmament program.

Bomb attempt foiled, 2 suspects nabbed in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 7): Bomb attempt foiled, 2 suspects nabbed in Maguindanao

The powerful imrovised explosive device placed inside a small box left beside a ticket booth in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao. Photo by Army's 6th Infantry Division

SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao -- Alert police force multipliers and Army bomb experts foiled Friday night a bombing attempt here and arrested two of four suspects, the military has said.

The powerful improvised explosive device (IED) inside a small box was left at about 6:30 p.m. by four men beside a terminal ticket booth, near an outpost of the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team (BPAT).

The Army’s Explosive and Ordnance Division defused the IED about an hour later, according to Capt. Arvin John Encinas, Army’s 6th Infantry Division spokesperson.

He said alert BPAT members told the military they saw four men leaving a suspected IED at the ticket booth and quickly left on board two separate motorbikes.

The BPAT members immediately informed Shariff Aguak Vice Mayor Akmhad Ampatuan who, along with the BPAT, chased the suspects.

They arrested two on a motorbike but failed to get the two other suspects, who were on a separate motorcycle.

Encinas identified the arrested suspects as Esmael Abdulkarem, 44, a resident of Shariff Aguak, and Boy Kamid, 52, of Datu Hoffer, both in Maguindanao. Two .45-caliber pistols were found in their possession.

Immediately, elements of the Army’s 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion and the 57th Infantry Battalion cordoned off the ticketing booth area.

Encinas said the improvised bomb was fashioned from an MK2 fragmentation grenade and 60-mm. mortar explosive sans its fuse and tailfin.

Major Gen. Arnel B. dela Vega, 6th ID chief, lauded the alertness of village watchmen as well as Vice Mayor Ampatuan for quickly responding to the incident and alerting the Army. The suspects have remained under close watch at the municipal police office here.

President fully supportive of veterans, DND chief says

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 7): President fully supportive of veterans, DND chief says

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Friday President Rodrigo R. Duterte has the welfare of World War II veterans at heart and will fully support them.

Lorenzana was guest of honor and speaker at the “Parangal sa mga Beterano” (Tribute to the Veterans) given by the Bataan provincial government at the Capitol compound here, as part of the observance of the 76th year of Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor).

On the bill that seeks to increase the pension of veterans, he said, “Once Congress passes the bill, I know that President Duterte will immediately sign it. He has utmost care and concern for the veterans and soldiers.”

He noted the decrease in the value of the PHP5,000 monthly pension of veterans given in 1995 by then president Cory Aquino.

“We will increase it for the welfare of our veterans and I will fully support that,” Lorenzana said. “After visiting the Veterans Memorial Center in Quezon City and seeing its condition, the President released a big amount for the purchase of equipment for the hospital.”

He said he will confer with Health Secretary Francisco Duque on having veteran’s wards in district and provincial hospitals under the health department.

Bataan 1st District Rep. Geraldine Roman announced that she has filed a bill in Congress that seeks to raise the monthly pension of World War II and Korean veterans from PHP5,000 to PHP20,000.

A counterpart bill was filed in the Senate by Senator Gregorio Honasan, she said, hoping that it would be passed soon, as “only few works need to be done”.

Meanwhile, Bataan Governor Albert Garcia lauded the veterans, some of them were in wheelchairs and limping.

Only a few original WWII veterans remain alive. Most of those who attended the occasion were spouses of the late veterans.

“They made the ultimate sacrifice for the independence that we are now enjoying. We are fortunate. Now, we do not need to die for war. We can now live to serve our nation because of the sacrifices of the veterans,” the governor said.

Garcia also announced the transformation of Mount Samat into a world-class shrine through the Tourism Infrastructure Enterprise Zone Authority.

The provincial government paid tribute to WWII veterans through a parade of floats that depicted major events, among them the cruelty of war until Bataan fell on April 9, 1942 and the infamous Death March that followed.

The last two floats showed that despite the damage, Bataan rose from the ashes and is now on its way to attain the lowest poverty index in the country by year 2020.

US researcher to present old guerilla records in Bacolod forum

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 7): US researcher to present old guerilla records in Bacolod forum

United States National Archives head researcher Marie Vallejo will present the digitalized version of old records of Filipino war guerillas in a lecture on Philippine heroes at the Bacolod City Government Center on Tuesday, April 10.

The lecture is still part of Bacolod City government's yearly commemoration of the Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor), which falls a day earlier, April 9.

Parts of the Philippine Archives Collection, to be presented in the lecture are "Finding Our Heroes: The Brigadier General Francisco Licuanan Jr. Memorial Collection, Philippine Guerrilla Files from the US National Archives” and “Memories of our Heroes from World War II.”

Vallejo said in a press statement the project is being undertaken to preserve crumbling documents and to make known the heroic exploits of Filipino guerrilla fighters and disseminate the records as research and teaching materials.

“Above all, we want to install a sense of nationalism through the untold stories in these records,” she added.

Vallejo pointed out that 280,000 records have been extensively scanned, uploaded, and made available to researchers, history teachers, and libraries.

This is a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to know more about the history of the Philippines, she said.

The project's lead sponsors are the Philippine Veterans Office, the Filipino War Veterans Foundation, and Geo Estate Development Corporation, with the Philippine Veterans Bank-Bacolod as the local sponsor in partnership with the City of Bacolod.

6 bandits surrender in Zamboanga Sibugay

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 7): 6 bandits surrender in Zamboanga Sibugay

Operations by government troops continue in a bid to locate and possibly rescue Laarni Buen, 38, secretary of Cebeles Marine Products, who was abducted by seven gunmen on Tuesday in Barangay Poblacion, Malangas, Zamboanga Sibugay. (Photo courtesy: PRO-9 PIO)

Six armed men surrendered to government authorities in the province of Zamboanga Sibugay, a top police official announced Saturday.

Chief Supt. Edwin De Ocampo, deputy regional police director for administration (DRDA), identified the surrenderees as Esmael Cader, Abbas Kinawalan, Leden Abbas, Omar Abdurahim, Esmael Pangilan, and Aloy Pangilan.

De Ocampo said they surrendered to the joint police and military forces ar around 9 a.m. Friday at the coast of Barangay Sinusayan, Malangas, Zamboanga Sibugay.

De Ocampo said the troops were on search and rescue mission when Sinusayan Barangay Chairperson Ibrahim Abbas presented to them the six lawless members, who signified their intention to surrender.

He said the surrenderees turned over two M-14 rifles, one Garand Springfield, two Shotgun, and a caliber .45 pistol as well as assorted ammunition.

He said the surrenderees and their firearms were taken to the Tactical Command Post of the Army’s 44th Infantry Battalion.

The search and rescue operation is aimed to locate and possibly rescue Laarni Buen, 38 (not Laarni Bandi as earlier reported), the secretary of the Cebeles Marine Products.

The Cebeles Marine Products is engaged in the buy and sell of all kinds of marine products in the town of Malangas.

Buen was abducted by seven gunmen believed to be members of kidnap-for-ransom-group (KFRG) on Tuesday at Purok Maabiabihon, Barangay Poblacion, Malangas, Zamboanga Sibugay.

De Ocampo said the six surrenderees were placed under investigation to determine whether they were involved in the abduction of Buen.

“It depends on the result of interrogation and possible account of witnesses,” De Ocampo added when asked if they were part of the KFRG behind Buen’s abduction.

Galvez a good choice for AFP chief: Lorenzana

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 6): Galvez a good choice for AFP chief: Lorenzana

Western Mindanao Command chief Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez Jr. is the next Armed Forces of the Philippines chief-of-staff. (PNA file photo)

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Thursday welcomed the appointment of Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) head Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez Jr. as the new Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff.

Galvez will replace outgoing AFP Chief-of-Staff General Rey Leonardo Guerrero who will retire on April 24.

"I am happy for General Galvez. I know he will make a good CSAFP. I knew him since he was a lieutenant, (He is) very professional and competent," he said.

Lorenzana said Galvez's assignment in Mindanao is an advantage. He has been assigned in the western, central and eastern parts of the island.

"He knows the area and the people well," the DND chief said.

Galvez is a member of Philippine Military Academy Class of 1985. His appointment was announced by Malacañang Thursday.

"I would like to take this opportunity (and) I will do my best to serve the President the best I can with honor, integrity and loyalty," Galvez said.

Aside from his Wesmincom stint, the incoming AFP chief also commanded the Maguindanao-based 6th Infantry Division. Galvez also served as one of the leaders in the five-month Marawi City campaign which resulted in the neutralization of Abu Sayyaf leader and ISIS Emir in Southeast Asia, Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute, one of the leaders of the Maute Group terrorists.

He is also a recipient of the Military Merit Medal, Military Commendation Medal, Gold Cross Medal, Distinguished Service Star, Leadership Award and Outstanding Achievement Medal.

Army supports resumption of peace talks with Reds

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 6): Army supports resumption of peace talks with Reds

The Philippine Army (PA) has expressed its support to President Rodrigo R. Duterte's decision to resume the stalled peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

"The Army shall, by all means, abide and support the government stand and thrust on the renewed peace talks," Army spokesperson, Lt. Col. Louie Villanueva, said Thursday.

Villanueva said the Army would continue to perform its mandate and contribute to the "permanent and peaceful closure of all armed conflicts by adhering to the primacy of peace process."

He also assured that they would continue to perform their task and be on guard to prevent NPA rebels from exploiting the process, saying troops deployed for anti-insurgency operations would continue their mission.

US wants Code of Conduct on West PH Sea negotiations 'transparent'

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 6): US wants Code of Conduct on West PH Sea negotiations 'transparent'

As an "interested party" in the achievement of peace in the Pacific region, the United States is encouraging transparency in the negotiations for the crafting of the Code of Conduct (COC) on the West Philippine Sea.

In a conference call with the press on Thursday, Patrick Murphy, US State Department's Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Southeast Asia, said Washington welcomed the fact that there is now an inclusive dialogue to manage maritime disputes in the sea lane.

"All 10 members of ASEAN with China are participating in that dialogue. That’s the good news," Murphy said.

"At the same time, as an interested party, we very much encourage that this process be transparent, that it leads to a binding, meaningful result in accordance with international law," he added.

While the US is not a claimant country, Murphy stressed they are a "very interested and engaged country" as part of the Pacific region.

"We have great interest in this part of the world for our commerce, but also in exercising our legal freedoms of navigation and overflight," he said.

For more than a decade, China and the ASEAN reaffirmed their commitment to work towards the early adoption of the COC. But it was only during the 20th ASEAN-China Summit in November last year that development on the document began to move forward.

As the dialogue progresses, Murphy encouraged parties to adhere to the basic principles of international law, as he cited the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling on a case between the Philippines and China, and the 2002 Declaration of Conduct (DOC) on the West Philippine Sea.

Murphy said COC discussions can only work if the environment is conducive for dialogue.

"That’s why we encourage all parties to cease any militarization, construction or reclamation of disputed outposts," he said. "That would be in accordance with the 2002 DOC and that would improve the backdrop, the environment for successful dialogue."

Murphy said in a negotiation, there is a ceiling and a floor. In the case of the COC discussions, the floor is the 2002 DOC.

"The current discussions, in our view, should not go any lower than that floor, but in fact should be aspirational to put in place results that, as I say, are binding and in accordance with international law."

Members of terror groups send surrender feelers

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 6): Members of terror groups send surrender feelers

Members of terrorist organizations have indicated their willingness to surrender to authorities, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Friday.

We have received feelers that members of terrorist organizations will turn themselves over to the authorities,” Joint Task Force Ranao deputy commander Col. Romeo Brawner said in a Bangon Marawi media briefing at Malacanang Palace.

Brawner did not provide further details but he said the task force had already sought the help of local government units (LGUs) in the provinces of Lanao del Sur and del Norte.

“We have made arrangements with the LGU for them to help us in the processing, as well as in the provision of medical, financial and psychological support for the fighters,” he said.

He also attributed to the local executives and residents the task force’s efforts in recovering loose firearms, noting that these had “yielded significant gains”.

Brawner said a total of 295 high-powered and low-powered firearms have been turned over by LGU officials in Piagapo, Marantao, Masho, Maguing and Lumba-Bayabao.

“In line with this, we are encouraging the other municipalities and cities in Lanao Del Sur and Lanao Del Norte to join us in our campaign to get rid of loose firearms in our area. This will lead to a decrease in the incidents of ‘rido’ or clan wars, and also of criminality and terrorism,” he said.

The military official also appealed to local residents not to join the terrorist organizations nearly a year after the ISIS-inspired Maute groups seized Marawi City.

The attack had led to a five-month war between government troops and the ISIS-inspired terrorists, leaving more than 1,000 people dead and over PHP17 billion in property damage and opportunities lost.

“We are appealing to our Maranao brothers and sisters not to allow other interest groups to agitate them into doing illegal acts or joining terrorist organizations,” Brawner said.

According to the Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM), at least PHP75 billion will be needed to rebuild the war-torn Marawi City.

TFBM chairperson Eduardo Del Rosario said the rebuilding of Marawi’s most affected area is expected to commence in the first week of June this year and is poised to be completed in the last quarter of 2021.

Meanwhile, Brawner said a total of 1,835 families were able to visit their houses and properties for the past four days under the Kambalingan and Kambisita programs.

Kambilingan is the visit of residents in barangays outside of the most affected area (MAA) while Kambisita refers to 250-hectare MAA composed of 24 barangays. Marawi has a total of 92 barangays.

Steel cutting for 2 frigates starts April 30

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 7): Steel cutting for 2 frigates starts April 30

The steel cutting for the two missile-armed frigates, which is under contract with South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), is expected to start on April 30.

"The next significant milestone will now be the ceremonial steel cutting, which will likely be held on April 30 at the HHI Complex in Ulsan, South Korea, to be attended by a delegation from DND/PN (Department of National Defense/Philippine Navy) to mark this important milestone," Navy spokesperson, Capt. Lued Lincuna, said Thursday.

Steel cutting signals the official start of a vessel’s construction.

The two frigates are capable of engaging air, surface and sub-surface threats. Including their weapons system and munitions, the vessels have a budget of PHP18 billion.

Earlier, a committee under the DND approved the Critical Design Review (CDR) of the Frigate Acquisition Project (FAP).

Lincuna said the Technical Inspection and Acceptance Committee (TIAC), headed by Commodore Alberto Carlos, approved the CDR of the project last March 23.

The CDR, handed to the TIAC last January, will serve as the shipbuilder’s "bible" while constructing the frigates.

Lincuna said TIAC’s acceptance of the CDR marks a significant step forward and a milestone for the project, which consists of the approval of 71 critical detailed design drawings as submitted by HHI.

These drawings shall be the basis of HHI to proceed with the project.

It can be recalled that on Oct. 24, 2016, the contract agreement for the FAP was signed by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana as head of the procuring entity, and Kisun Chung, HHI owner and vice president, for the construction of two new 2,600-ton frigates that are missile-capable and equipped with sensors and systems for modern naval warfare.