Monday, April 16, 2018

Philippines: Father, Infant Killed in Attack Blamed on IS-linked Militants

Posted to the Relief Web (Apr 16): Philippines: Father, Infant Killed in Attack Blamed on IS-linked Militants

Report from BenarNews
Published on 16 Apr 2018 — View Original

Jeoffrey Maitem and Mark Navales
Cotabato, Philippines

A father and his infant daughter were killed and three others, including two children, were wounded during a weekend attack in the southern Philippines that police and military officials on Monday blamed on militants linked to the Islamic State (IS).

Superintendent Gilbert Tuzon, the local police chief, alleged that Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) fighters opened fire on a cluster of wooden homes in the southern town of Midsayap on Sunday, killing Musa Sayang and his 7-month-old daughter Malaiha.

The attackers left the scene minutes before responding police commandos arrived, Tuzon said.

He said three relatives of the victims, Jehan Buacan, 18, Melanie Buacan, 13, and Princess Kusa, 10, were wounded in the attack. Police on Monday said their injuries were not life-threatening.

“The victims were having their dinner inside their house when gunmen arrived and fired their weapons toward them,” Tuzon said.

Regional police spokesman Chief Inspector Aldrin Gonzales told BenarNews officials believe the attack could be in retaliation for police foiling a BIFF bomb attack on a bridge linking the provinces of Maguindanao and North Cotabato.

He said he is not sure why civilians were targeted.

On-going investigation

“Aside from militants as suspects, we are also checking the possibility of clan war or local elections as the motive,” he said.

Clan wars or blood feuds, commonly called “rido” are common in the south, especially among village officials. Hostilities could last for decades until a peace pact is reached between the protagonists, usually through mediation by religious leaders and the payment of “blood money.”

Lt. Col. Angelo Lutera, commander of 34th Infantry Battalion, said his group received information from civilians that members of BIFF, a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), planted a homemade bomb at the bridge in the village of Olandag in Midsayap town on Friday. Soldiers defused the bomb fashioned from artillery ammunition.

Earlier that day, soldiers captured five BIFF fighters during a raid on their hideout. In addition, air, ground and artillery assaults last week left at least 13 guerrillas dead in the province of Maguindanao.

BIFF, with hundreds of fighters, split from the 10,000-member MILF in 2008, after the larger group dropped its bid for full independence and began peace talks with Manila to settle for an expanded autonomy.

The government and MILF signed a peace deal in 2014. Since then, the separatist group has been helping the military go after IS-linked groups, including BIFF, in the south.

While BIFF has pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State, it did not send fighters to the southern city of Marawi last year, where the military was engaged in five months of fighting with IS-linked groups, leaving 1,200, mostly militants, dead.

Army, NPA clash anew in Camarines Sur

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 11): Army, NPA clash anew in Camarines Sur
For the third straight day in Camarines Sur province, Army soldiers and New People’s Army (NPA) rebels engaged in another clash in Lagonoy town Wednesday morning.

Troops clashed with about 20 NPA guerrillas in Barangay Pinamihagan at 8:35 a.m., said Army 1st Lt. Felise Solano, deputy public information officer of the military’s Southern Luzon Command (Solcom).

After a 15-minute firefight, the NPA rebels retreated in different directions and left behind an improvised landmine, communication equipment, medical supplies, documents and personal belongings.

“There are no casualties from the government troops while wounded armed men have been sighted fleeing from the encounter site,” Solano said in a statement.

Hot pursuit operations were still ongoing as of Wednesday afternoon.

Lt. General Danilo Pamonag, Solcom commander, condemned the continued use of improvised explosive devices by the NPA rebels, which he pointed out was a violation of the International Humanitarian Law.

Pamonag noted that the Philippines is one of the signatories of the Geneva Convention and the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, where Protocol II prohibits and restricts the use of mines, booby traps and similar explosive devices.

Pamonag also cited the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAHRIHL), signed by both the government and National Democratic Front of the Philippines in 1998 that prohibits the use of landmines and improvised explosive devices by armed combatants from both parties.

On Monday, NPA rebels left behind the body of their slain comrade after an encounter in Barangay Gubat also in Lagonoy.

The next morning, three still unidentified NPA guerrillas were slain in a clash with soldiers in Bato town.

Army soldiers also captured five NPA rebels, some of them wounded. The Solcom reported that one of the captured rebels was a 15-year-old boy.

NPA rebels’ arms cache, supplies seized in Agusan del Sur

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 16): NPA rebels’ arms cache, supplies seized in Agusan del Sur
Soldiers from the 75th Infantry Battalion recovered an arms cache, and medical and food supplies hidden by suspected communist rebels in Barangay Bunawan Brook in Bunawan, Agusan del Sur on Sunday, a military official said Monday.

Lieutenant Colonel Jaime Datuin, the 75thIB commander, said among the high-powered firearms recovered were an M14 rifle and an AK47.

Datuin said soldiers also recovered assorted types of ammunition, six Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), a rifle grenade, 315 pieces super dyne explosives, six pieces blasting caps, three handheld radio batteries, 450 meters electrical wire, A Yamada generator set, an Acer multi-media projector, 28 gallons of rice, military uniforms and personal belongings.

Datuin said the recovery of the items was made possible through information provided by the locals.

Colonel Andres Centino, the commander of the Army’s 401stInfantry Brigade, said the recovery of the items owned by the New People’s Army (NPA) showed the importance of civilian cooperation.

“Your security forces need the help of everyone, may it be the local chief executive, local government agencies, media, and especially the populace in order to stop terrorism brought by the NPA. A peaceful community can be achieved with everybody’s help,” Centino said.

Major General Ronald Villanueva, the commander of the 4th Infantry Division based in Cagayan de Oro City, said the cooperation showed by Bunawan locals indicated the “shifting support from NPA terrorists to the government.”

Governor asks Army to guard N. Cotabato villages vs NPA

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 17): Governor asks Army to guard N. Cotabato villages vs NPA
North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Mendoza has asked the military to deploy troops and set up detachments in areas that communist rebels use to enter and leave the province.

Mendoza said among these were the villages of Pangao-an, Binay and Tagbac in Magpet town. Magpet is in the province’s borders with Davao del Sur and Bukidnon provinces, where the New People’s Army (NPA) operates.

It was in Tagbac village that “lumad” leader Antonio Takinan was ambushed on April 4 and where NPA rebels set off an explosive as a military truck was passing by on April 10.

“These areas are entry and exit points of armed men and there was no presence of the military [there],” Mendoza said.
She said the absence of soldiers in these villages had left village officials in fear.

Army, suspected Reds clash in Negros Occidental

From GMA News (Apr 17): Army, suspected Reds clash in Negros Occidental

As peace talks between the Philippine government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) were reportedly set to resume, the Philippine Army's 79th Infantry Battalion (IB) and alleged members of the CPP-NPA clashed in Barangay Guadalupe, San Carlos City, Negros Occidental on Monday morning.

The firefight, which lasted for 20 minutes, occurred at around 8 a.m. Monday when around 30 to 40 armed men opened fire at the 79th IB's Spearhead Division while the latter was on security patrol, the military said in a statement.

Soon after the encounter, the alleged NPA members immediately fled, leaving their camp behind.

Upon scouring the said camp, the military recovered a solar panel, "subversive documents," and some personal belongings.

Some of the items recovered from the alleged NPA campsite: a solar panel, "subversive documents," and personal belongings. Photo courtesy of 79th IB

The camp could accommodate up to 40 persons, had two kitchens, and held an ample supply of water, Brigadier General Eliezer Losañes, commanding officer of the 303rd Infantry Brigade assigned in Negros Island, told GMA News Online in a phone interview.

Mobile reception was also reportedly good at the camp site.

No casualties from the military's side were reported, while troops were still verifying reports of deaths from the side of the suspected rebels, said Captain Rowell Dairocas, the 79th IB's acting civil military operations officer.

As of posting time, troops were still conducting both clearing operations within the encounter site and pursuit operations of the fleeing alleged Reds.

The encounter stemmed from a security patrol the military was conducting in the area, in response to reports from locals that members of the NPA allegedly harassed and extorted from them.

"It is a clear indication that the community (there) doesn't want the armed NPA terrorists conducting extortion, harassment, and recruitment of minors as terrorists," said Lieutenant Colonel Emelito Thaddeus Logan, commanding officer of the 79th IB.

For his part, Dairocas said the military is still open to peace talks with the rebels, even after yesterday's firefight.

"Kami sa military, open kami. Gusto namin ng peace talks, pero depende rin 'yan sa kabilang panig. Kami, sumusunod kami sa mandato ng ating Presidente," he told GMA News Online.

In Negros Oriental, police provincial director Senior Superintendent Edwin Portento ordered police stations in areas near San Carlos City, such as Vallehermoso, Guihulngan City, and Canlaon City, to be on alert following the clash.

The encounter came over a month after military forces were allegedly involved in a firefight in Barangay Luyang in Mabinay, Negros Oriental.

Arrested after the said firefight was youth leader Myles Albasin, a fresh graduate of the University of the Philippines-Cebu, and five others, who were eventually called the "Mabinay 6" by local media.

Case of foreigner charged with membership in Abu Sayyaf transferred to KK High Court [NSTTV]

From the New Straits Times (Apr 13): Case of foreigner charged with membership in Abu Sayyaf transferred to KK High Court [NSTTV]

KOTA KINABALU: The sessions court here has decided to transfer the case of an undocumented Filipino man charged with being a member of the Abu Sayyaf militant group to the High Court.
Clad in a green t-shirt, Marsan Ajilul @ Anuar Mohamad Asnalul, 32, was brought to the sessions court this morning and charged under Section 130 KA of the Penal Code, which was read for the second time before Judge Azreena Aziz.

Deputy public prosecutor Wan Farrah Wan Farrizan had requested for another mention date, pending a confirmation report of the case’s transfer to the High Court, which she said would take a month.
Azreena fixed May 31 for re-mention and offered no bail for Marsan, who was unrepresented. No plea was recorded from the accused.

On another offence, the judge sentenced Marsan to six months in prison and a stroke of the cane after he pleaded guilty to not possessing valid identity documents under Section 6 (c) of the Immigration Act.

Azreena ordered the accused to serve his jail sentence from the day of his arrest on March 15, 2018.
In pleading for leniency, Marsan, who is a welder by trade, said his family is dependent on him as he is the sole bread winner for his wife and four children. He added that he is also taking care of his sick mother.

"I only came here to work, and I was arrested at my work place. My father and two brothers have passed away and I have to provide for my family," he told the court, adding that he has been in the country for seven months, and had been sending money home every month until his arrest.

In applying for a deterrent sentence against Marsan, Wan Farrah said the court must take the public’s interest into consideration.

Wan Farrah also reminded the court of the rampancy of the offence and the need to send a strong message to would-be offenders that the court does not tolerate such misbehaviour.

Marsan was arrested on March 15, this year, at about 10.30am at the Sabah Police headquarters in Kepayan here. He was detained for alleged involvement in a case that was a threat to public security.

According to the charge sheet, Marsan is accused of being a member of a militant group between July 31, 2012 and March 15 this year.

He is also accused of staying in the state illegally between Aug 2017 and March 15 this year.
It was reported that Marsan is from Zamboanga, Mindanao and was a senior member under Abu Sayyaf group leader Furuji Indaman – an expert bomb maker – in southern Basilan.
(File pix) Marsan Ajilul @ Anuar Mohamad Asnalul (second from right) at Kota Kinabalu Court Complex. Pix by Edmund Samunting

Malaysian police hunting for four suspected ISIS militants

The Straits Times (Apr 17): Malaysian police hunting for four suspected ISIS militants

Malaysian police are hunting for four militants suspected of planning attacks on non-Muslim places of worship, as well as plotting to kidnap and murder police officers.

Police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun said in a statement yesterday that six members of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) cell were arrested between Feb 27 and March 1. But four others were still on the run. Police said the men were "dangerous" and "capable of launching attacks that could pose a threat to national security".

Two of the suspects listed were named as Muhamad Faizal Muhamad Hanafi and Muhamad Hanafi Yah, both from Kelantan.

A third suspect is Nor Farkhan Mohd Isa, whose address was given as being in Taman Ungku Tun Aminah in Skudai, southern Johor.

The fourth is Awae Wae-Eya, a Thai national living in Narathiwat province in southern Thailand.

"We have been monitoring the cells for the last few months. We are asking the public to share with us if they have any information on the whereabouts of these four suspects. They should approach the police if they know anything," the Special Branch's Counter Terrorism chief Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay told The Straits Times.

Intelligence sources say they believe Awae is the group's mastermind, based on interrogation of the six men arrested, and that he is trying to establish an ISIS cell in southern Thailand.

From left: Terror suspects Awae Wae-Eya, Muhamad Hanafi Yah, Nor Farkhan Mohd Isa and Muhamad Faizal Muhamad Hanafi are still at large.
The arrests of the other members of the terror cell, which included two men working as janitors in Singapore, were previously announced on March 24. The plot was uncovered after Malaysian counter-terrorism police, aided by their Singaporean counterparts, detained the terrorists in a series of swoops.

The order to kidnap and kill policemen was the first of its kind, according to an intelligence source.

The six men nabbed earlier included a 37-year-old technician who was initially thought to have masterminded the plans to attack places of worship in Johor Baru.

The second suspect, a 49-year-old security guard, was the cell's adviser and responsible for keeping the cell and its plans secret.

Also picked up during the raids was a 30-year old security guard, tasked with acquiring firearms from a neighbouring country and scouting for non-Muslim houses of worship to target. Another suspect, a 25-year-old waiter, had been ordered to kidnap and kill policemen.

Two others, aged 23 and 22, were arrested on March 1 and worked as janitors in Singapore. One of them acted as an intermediary to buy firearms. The other was picked up to facilitate police investigations.

A member of the Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines was also arrested during the police crackdown in Sabah on March 15.

The 31-year-old man is said to be a trusted lieutenant to Furuji Indama, the group's leader based in Basilan and believed to have connections to Malaysian militant Mahmud Ahmad. He is an expert in making improvised explosive devices and had planned to attack several locations in Sabah.

Malaysia has arrested nearly 400 people since 2013 for suspected links to terrorism.

Twin bombings hurt 4 in North Cotabato, Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 17): Twin bombings hurt 4 in North Cotabato, Maguindanao

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao -- At least four persons were hurt in separate explosions that occurred Monday night in Maguindanao and North Cotabato provinces.

Capt. Aldrin Encinas, head of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6ID) public affairs office, said a balut vendor was hurt when an improvised bomb went off around 6:40 p.m. along the vicinity of the rotunda leading to the 6ID camp in Barangay Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

He said the vendor, identified as Dairy Joy Arayo, 22, was tending to her goods not far from a carnival with his friend, Joel Samar, when a loud explosion occurred.

Arayo was hit by shrapnel in the body and was rushed to an infirmary inside the 6ID compound.

“The blast site is about 50 meters away from the first sentry of the military camp that also houses the Cotabato airport,” Encinas said.

He said the bombing could be the handiwork of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters that have suffered heavy losses in ongoing Army offensives in Maguindanao.
In Pikit, North Cotabato, three men in a drinking spree were hurt when two men aboard a motorbike tossed a hand grenade at 7 p.m. Monday in Barangay Kolambog.

Supt. Bernard Tayong, speaking for the North Cotabato police office, identified the injured victims as Jerry Cordova, 44, Leonardo Baclayon, 56 and Ariel Abrenica, 36, all farmers and residents of Barangay Kolambog.

Tayong said village officials rushed the victims to a district hospital in nearby Aleosan town in North Cotabato.

Police probers found shrapnel and fragmentation grenade components at the site of the blast. Tayong said personal grudge is initially being eyed at the Pikit incident.

Army exhumes ‘lumad’ NPA fighter for burial

From the Manila Times (Apr 15): Army exhumes ‘lumad’  NPA fighter for burial

SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao: The military exhumed the remains of a lumad who has joined the New People’s Army (NPA) in Bagumbayan town in Sultan Kudarat and turned over to the family for traditional burial rites.

The former NPA member was identified as To Denian, 50, who was among those wounded in a clash with Philippine Army troops in Lake Sebu last December 3, but his fate was unknown to his relatives until last week.

That was after former NPA child warrior, named Teng Ambag, now 17, guided the Army and police investigators who exhumed Denian’s remains in a shallow grave on a forested area of Barangay Santo Niño, Bagumbayan.

Ambag said he buried his comrade on orders of Felimon Villegas, alias Ka Yoyo, sometime in December 2017.

“I was saddened because we could have saved his life. Ka Yoyo did not allow our civilian supporters to bring Timlas [Denian’s codename] to the nearest hospital,” said Ambag.

Denian and four other siblings – Remy, Ali, Jeffrey and Alka – joined the Platoon Arabo after being duped by a recruiter who promised to return their ancestral lands from the Consunji family.

Like To, the younger Jeffrey was also hit on the chest during the firefight but was saved by combat medics of the 33rd Infantry Battalion who found him near the encounter site.

Hearing the revelation of Ambag, Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, commanding officer of the 33rd Infantry (Makabayan) Battalion, ordered the exhumation of the human remains of the slain lumad NPA.

Illegal entry: Suspected Sayyaf member jailed

From the Daily Express (Apr 14): Illegal entry: Suspected Sayyaf member jailed

Kota Kinabalu: A 31-year-old Filipino, charged with being a member of the Abu Sayyaf militant group, was jailed six months and ordered to be given a stroke of the cane for entering the State illegally.

Sessions Court Judge Azreena Aziz handed the sentence to Marsan Ajilul @ Anuar Mohamad Asnalul, Friday, after he pleaded guilty to the charge.

The offence, under Section 6(1)(c) of the Immigration Act 1959/63, carries a jail term of up to five years or a fine of up to RM10,000, or both, and whipping, on conviction.

During mitigation, Marsan who was not represented asked for a lenient sentence, saying he came to the State to work as he was the breadwinner of his family.

However, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Wan Farrah Wan Farrizan urged the court to impose a deterrent sentence on the grounds that it involved the security of the country.

Meanwhile, Azreena set May 21 for mention of Marsan's other case pending instruction to transfer it to the High Court.

On April 10, Marsan was charged with being a member of the Abu Sayyaf militant group at the State police contingent headquarters, here.

For the case, no plea was so far recorded from Marsan.

In the same court, a Filipino and a local man charged with causing hurt to a woman while robbing her were ordered to enter their defence.

The court made the order on Filipino Arnajir Lajaraib, 22, and Julasri Mohd Zaki, 29, after ruling that the prosecution had established a prima facie case against them.

Their defence would be heard on April 30 and about four witnesses will testify.

They are accused of assaulting one Lee Hui Keing, 50, while robbing her of RM6,500, a wristwatch, a gold bracelet, 600 Brunei dollar, a wallet and an IPhone at 10pm on March 18, 2017 inside a car parked in Jalan Gaya, here.

DPP Husna Abdul Halim conducted the prosecution while counsel Henry Gudid defended the duo.

Six prosecution witnesses were called during the hearing.

NPA courier surrenders

From Tempo (Apr 15): NPA courier surrenders

A man alleged to be a courier of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) voluntarily surrendered to the 25th Infantry Battalion at Purok 7, Barangay Mainit, Nabunturan, Compostela Valley on Friday.

Capt. Jerry S. Lamosao, chief of Public Affairs Office (PAO) of the 10th Infantry Division, said the 32-year old alleged courier whose name had been withheld for security reasons, surrendered two M16 rifles.

5 arrested, 3 firearms seized in predawn raid

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 14): 5 arrested, 3 firearms seized in predawn raid

Five people were arrested while three firearms were seized in a dawn raid by the combined elements of the Philippine Army and the Special Action Force in Paglat town, Maguindanao on Saturday.

Paglat Town, Maguindanao (Wikipedia/ Manila Bulletin)

Lt. Col. Harold M Cabunoc, commanding officer of the Army’s 33rd Infantry (Makabayan) Battalion, said the target of the law enforcement operations was the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) faction of Sindatok Dilna alias Motolite, a known associate of Gani Saligan.

Backed by wheeled armored vehicles from the 1st Mechanized Infantry Battalion and supported by artillery fires from Charlie Company of the 7th Field Artillery Battalion, the assaulters of the 33rd Infantry Battalion and the 4th Special Action Battalion stormed the identified hiding places of the notorious personalities in Tual village.

Cabunoc said the suspects did not resist arrest upon seeing that they were overwhelmed by the security forces.

“We handcuffed five suspects and interrogated them in the presence of local government officials who witnessed the operations,” Cabunoc said.

The security forces accounted three firearms recovered including one Cal 5.56mm AR 18 armalite rifle and two M1911A1 Cal 45 pistol. The suspects were brought to 33rd IB headquarters for further questioning.

Cabunoc said the hinterland areas of Maguindanao have become the hiding places for terrorists and political armed groups.

“We have been alerted by the intrusion of alleged members of ISIS-inspired jihadists who mixed with the local population especially with the political armed groups in the area. We will not allow them to dominate a particular terrain in my area of operation in order to protect the gains of our past security operations here,” Cabunoc said.

At present, the Army is working closely with local authorities in convincing people to hand over loose firearms to demonstrate their support to President Duterte’s order to collect illegal weapons that proliferate in Mindanao.

US vows freedom of navigation, freedom from fear, coercion

From the Philippine Star (Apr 15): US vows freedom of navigation, freedom from fear, coercion

Through the presence and more frequent visits of powerful aircraft carriers in in the Philippines and other parts of the South China Sea, the US is sending a loud and clear message that America’s military forces are ready to defend and protect its allies in the Indo-Pacific region.
Speaking at a reception onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the waters of Manila Bay on Friday, US Ambassador Sung Kim said the US will continue to ensure “freedom of navigation, freedom of commerce and freedom from fear and coercion.”

Kim said the aircraft carrier, carrying a handful of F-18 Hornet fighter jets, helicopters and some 5,000 sailors and marines, is named after the 26th president of the United States.

Roosevelt, a soldier, a visionary president and a Nobel Prize winner, is famous for the saying “Speak softly but carry a big stick.” Hence the carrier is nicknamed “the Big Stick.”

“But I might take exception to the first part of the Teddy Roosevelt saying about speaking softly. I think there are times when we should speak loudly and clearly,” Kim told an audience of that included Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Presidential Political Adviser Francis Tolentino, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, Philippine Navy Flag Officer in Command Rear Admiral Robert Empedrad, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, Pangasinan Rep. Leopoldo Bataoil and business leaders Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Tessie Sy-Coson, Ricky Razon, Alfred Ty.

“The presence of the Theodore Roosevelt here in Manila Bay sends a very clear message to everyone in the region, especially to our friends in the Philippines, because our commitment to the US-Philippines alliance is unbreakable and will remain so indefinitely,” Kim said.

“Our friendship has never been stronger and we have been and remain an Indo-Pacific nation. And our commitment to this region and its well-being is enduring,” he said.

Kim said the US clearly showed its commitment to the alliance with the Philippines when it came to the assistance of the brave men and women of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as they defeated the terrorists in Marawi City last year. 

 He said the US also shows its clear commitment when it welcomes every year tens of thousands of Filipinos to the US, to study, to visit loved ones – and sometimes to shop.

“Our commitment is also clear on the number of US companies investing in Philippines’ thriving economy, providing jobs to talented Filipino workers and also when we welcome Filipino products to US markets,” he added.

The USS Theodore Roosevelt is a fourth Nimitz-class aircraft carrier launched in 1984. She saw her first action during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 that is now under the command of Rear Admiral Stephen Koehler of Carrier Strike Group 9 whose crew include some 400 Filipino-Americans.

“At well over a thousand feet long and weighing in at well over a hundred thousand tons, sticks don’t come any bigger than the Theodore Roosevelt,” he said.

Kim said the timing of Roosevelt’s visit to Manila is fitting as the Philippines observed the Day of Valor or Araw ng Kagitingan just a few days ago.

Kim said such day is a somber reminder of what the US and the Philippines have endured troughout history.

“Yet we emerge from these trials stronger, both as individual nations and as friends, partners and allies. The Day of Valor invites us to remember and honor the past. But the presence of this amazing carrier in Manila Bay reassures us that together we can have a secure and prosperous future,” Kim said.

Kim later told reporters that the visit of the USS Theodore Roosevelt to the country is “a clear sign, clear reflection, clear demonstration of our commitment to the Indo-Pacific Region, commitment to the US-Philippines alliance and also our commitment to promoting and protecting important values, principles and rights like freedom of navigation, freedom of flight and freedom of commerce.”

Asked about recent reports that China has put up jamming devices in disputed islands of the West Philippine Sea, Admiral Kohler said the aircraft carrier along with other navies sail through the region regularly.

“We like to promote and ensure that those freedoms and those commons are open to everybody. And so that’s what we’ve done here and that’s what we’ll continue to do here in the region and sail professionally and safely like all other navies that we’ve run into,” he said.

Kim, responding to the same issue, said when US President Donald Trump visited the region in November last year, he made it very clear that one of the central themes of his policy and approach to the Indo-Pacific region was to make sure to secure and promote an open and free region.

“And I think what the Admiral and his team are doing in the region is just that – to promote freedom, fairness, and openness,” he said.

Kohler said the presence and sailing of the USS Theodore “is an indication that we’re here to support all of our friends and allies here in the region.”

Retirement honors given to outgoing AFP chief of staff

From CNN Philippines (Apr 15): Retirement honors given to outgoing AFP chief of staff

(Photo: David Santos/CNN Philippines)

The Philippine Military Academy (PMA) gave retirement honors to outgoing Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief, General Rey Leonardo Guerrero on Sunday.

Guerrero, the AFP's 49th Chief of Staff, graduated from the academy at the top of his class in 1984.

Prior to pursuing a military career, he recalled being recruited to join a left-leaning organization at the University of the Philippines.

"Siyempre, it's most fulfilling, 'saka sabihin na lang natin most satisfying career, having been able to serve our country, in the highest position sa ating AFP," Guerrero said. [Translation: Of course, it's most fulfilling, and let's say the most satisfying career, having been able to serve our country in the highest position of our AFP.]

Guerrero was appointed as AFP chief in October last year.

Before that, he held a string of military positions in Mindanao – including as Chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command based in Davao City, President Rodrigo Duterte's hometown.

Gurrero's term was supposed to end in December, but the President extended it to almost four months.

Guerrero will formally bow out of the service on Wednesday, April 18th.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier hinted Guerrero's next appointment could be as head of the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA).

He said, "Prepared naman tayo for any position. Sabi nga, ang training naman natin as a military man, hindi lang naman sa tactics and operations, but more on management." [Translation: I am prepared for any position. As they say, our training as a military man isn't only for tactics and operations, but more on management.]

If it pushes through, Guerrero would join a growing list of former military men holding key positions in the Duterte government, including National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Interior Department Officer in Charge, Eduardo Año, and Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu.

Guerrero said, "Choice ng Presidente natin 'yan e, pinipili niya whoever he thinks na, would be able to contribute doon sa organization." [Translation: It's the President's choice, he chooses whoever he things would be able to contribute to the organization.]

Western Mindanao Command Chief, Carlito Galvez, will replace Guerrero as AFP chief.

Galvez, a member of the Philippine Military Academy's class of 1985, was Guerrero's strongest rival for the top AFP post.

"General Galvez is a very competent officer, nakita naman namin, nakita natin [we all saw], he has proven himself, in terms of his ability to lead 'yung ating forces," Guerrero said. "Apart from that he had special duties sa ating peace process, and most recently, he has distinguished himself as a Western Mindanao Commander during the Marawi siege. So he's more than capable."

Guerrero said he has formed a team to ensure a smooth transition, putting emphasis on internal security operations and territorial defense, as well as the AFP's modernization and transformation roadmap.

Smooth sailing from now on for Navy’s warship deal

From the Business Mirror (Apr 15): Smooth sailing from now on for Navy’s warship deal

Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana is expecting Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) to deliver the two frigates ordered for the Philippine Navy by 2020, as the South Korean contractor has started the manufacture and assembly of the twin warships.

The completion of the military ships, with a total contract price of P15.5 billion, commenced as the Navy had moved past the controversy surrounding the vessels’ acquisition, which Lorenzana now consider as “nonexistent” in the first place.

“There is nothing to settle because there was no issue on the contract, except the one manufactured by [Rear Adm. Ronald Joseph] Mercado to favor his preferred CMS [combat management system],” the defense chief said last week.

“The critical design review [CDR] has been approved by the PMT [project management team] and Hyundai on March 24, six months delayed, thanks to the meddling of Mercado. It should have been done last September,” Lorenzana added.

Mercado, the former Navy chief who held the rank of vice admiral, was allowed to officially retire last month without any charges while vainly and “manipulatively” fighting for Thales Tacticos’s CMS to the hilt, but failed.

Lorenzana said the “frigate program will go on smoothly from here on. We expect them to be delivered [by] 2020 and 2021.”

The twin frigates project, dubbed as the first for the Navy, started after the military’s Technical Inspection and Acceptance Committee (TIAC) for the Frigate Acquisition Project (FAP) had accepted HHI’s CDR on March 23, 2018.

The CDR’s acceptance was an approval of the 71 “critical detailed design drawings” for the 2,600-ton and missile-firing frigates that were equipped with sensors and systems for modern naval warfare.

“The next significant milestone will now be the ceremonial steel cutting, which will likely be held on April 30, 2018, at HHI Complex, Ulsan, South Korea, to be attended by a delegation from the Department of National Defense/Philippine Navy to mark this important milestone,” the Navy said in a news statement.

“Indeed, the completion of the CDR phase and the start of the steel cutting show that FAP is now moving forward without delays in accordance with the stipulations of the contract,” it added.

The frigate project encountered a “delay” after Mercado, then as the Navy chief, insisted the use of Tacticos’s CMS for the two warships that would be built, instead of the CMS of Hanwha, another South Korean firm that was chosen by HHI to deliver the system.

The CMS is considered as the “brain” of any military ship as it integrates its systems, including its weapons, sensors, communication and navigation, among others.

The issue of CMS, along with its compatibility with TDL 16 (tactical data link), has dragged the project as Mercado, who was relieved as Navy chief by Lorenzana for “loss of trust and confidence,” fought “tooth and nail” for the Dutch (Tacticos) systems against the contract.

The issue even reached the Senate and the House of Representatives, which separately conducted an investigation into the matter.

Thales Tacticos’s CMS is being used by 23 navies around the world, while the South Korean Navy only uses Hanwha’s program (Naval Shield), although the Malaysian Navy is about to use it for training purposes.

Tacticos’s system is also reportedly compatible with TDL 16, which is a C4ISTAR (command, control, communications, computers, information/intelligence, surveillance, targeting acquisition and reconnaissance) requirement of the military, while Hanwha’s own would be made available next year.

But Lorenzana said Hanwha’s NSICMS (Naval Shield Integrated Combat Management System) was also a proven program like that of Tacticos.

“The PQ [postqualification] team, when it postqualified Hyundai, went aboard ROKS Jeonbuk [FFG 813], one of the most modern frigates of the Republic of Korea Navy [ROKN] commissioned in May 2015, which was the basis for the design of the Philippine Navy frigates. The PQ team observed that most subsystems installed onboard the vessel are locally made [indigenous products] by South Korea, such as C-Star Missile by LIG Nex1, Main and Auxiliary Engines by STX-MTU and, more important, the NSICMS by Hanwha,” he said.

“This validates that the NSICMS is indeed a proven design. As a matter of fact, NSICMS has been installed in ROKS Daegu [FFG-818], the newest ROKN ship commissioned into service last February 18, 2018,” he added.

Navy Flag Officer in Command Rear Adm. Robert Empedrad said both the CMS of Tacticos and Hanwha have passed the evaluation and inspection of the Navy, and Hanwha’s Naval Shield could not even be considered as inferior to the Tacticos program.

Lorenzana reiterated that everything that involves the frigate project is governed by a contract, including HHI’s right to choose the CMS contractor for the warships that it will build.

The defense secretary said TDL 16 was also taken into account over the contract.

“[The] CMS shall be compatible with Link 16 [and] was part of the contract under the Tactical Data Link portion. During the one-week workshop held from September 26 to 30, 2016, the FAP TWG [technical working group], chaired by then-Commo. Robert A. Empedrad, AFP, requested HHI to include in the contract the phrase, ‘The CMS shall be compatible with Link 16’ because the Armed Forces of the Philippines plans to acquire TDL 16 sometime in the future,” Lorenzana said.

“During the SOBE [submission and opening of bid envelopes], this was not part of the technical requirements because what was initially required was just a space provided in the ship for the future installation of TDL1 6. Acceding to the Navy’s request, HHI agreed to insert in the contract the phrase, ‘The CMS shall be compatible with Link 16’ without additional cost. As agreed, HHI assures the [Philippine Department of National Defense] that the TDL 16 will be integrated with the NSICMS before the delivery of the two frigates,” he added.

Is the Philippine Coast Guard Being Militarized?

From The Diplomat (Apr 14): Is the Philippine Coast Guard Being Militarized? (Jay Tristan Tarriela)

Suspect nga adunay link sa Maute arestado

From Radio Mindanao Network (RMN): Suspect nga adunay link sa Maute arestado

Gipalaluman ang imbistigasyon sa Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Caraga subay sa report nga adunay koneksyon sa teroristang Maute Group ang suspek nga nadakpan atol sa gilusad nga search operation sa hiniusang pwersa sa CIDG, Cabadbaran PNP ug Regional Mobile Force Battalion (RMFB 13) didto sa Cabadbaran city kagahapon.

 Si Arab Mamao, ang target sa search operation, kinsa nakuhaan ug .38 nga revolver ug mga buhing bala ang gi-detain karon sa CIDG Agusan del Norte tungod sa kasong kalapasan sa RA 10591 kon Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act – maoy gitumbok sa intelligence report nga adunay link sa Maute group.

 Sigun ni PSupt. Choli Jun Caduyac, regional chief sa CIDG Caraga nga si Mamao maoy direktang kontak sa Maute group sa ilang pagbyahe padulong sa kauluhan agi sa Lipata port sa Surigao city base usab sa impormasyon gikan sa CIDG region 10.

 Gipahayag usab ni PCI Rennel Serrano, hepe sa Cabadbaran city Police Office nga nawala kini sa ilang lugar ug bag-o pa nakabalik si Mamao ug wala bisan kinsa nga makatug-an kung asa kini napadulong.

Reds abandon wounded, pregnant woman after Bukidnon clash —AFP

From GMA News (Apr 15): Reds abandon wounded, pregnant woman after Bukidnon clash —AFP

The military said a wounded and pregnant woman was abandoned by her fellow New People's Army (NPA) members during an encounter in Impasugong, Bukidnon on Saturday.

Lieutenant Colonel Ronald Illana, commander of the Philippine Army's 8th Infantry Battalion (IB), identified the female NPA member as Susan Guaynon, 22 years old and five months pregnant.

Illana said Guaynon was left behind by her fellow NPA members after a 20-minute firefight.

He said Guaynon, who had an injury on the forehead, was taken to the nearest hospital after being given first aid by soldiers. Guaynon is now in stable condition, he added.

The military believed that several other members of the NPA group that its troops encountered were also wounded.

Seized following the encounter were two AK47 rifles, one AR18 rifle, one cal. 30 M1 Carbine rifle, one M4 rifle, one air gun, and 30 backpacks containing subversive documents and other personal belongings.

The military said the NPA group was under the Headquarters Force NEO Compaq of North Central Mindanao Regional Committee allegedly behind the killing of Mayor Mario Okinlay on July 2, 2014 in Barangay Bontongon.

The group is also allegedly involved in the killings of three unarmed 8th IB soldiers last February 1, 2017 in Sitio Kaleb, Barangay Kibalabag in Malaybalay City.

US-PH ties unbreakable – Kim

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 16): US-PH ties unbreakable – Kim

ABOARD USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT — United States Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Y. Kim on Friday night said the presence of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) in Manila Bay sends a very clear message to everyone in the region that the US-Philippines alliance is unbreakable and will remain so indefinitely.

The four-day exercise in the western Pacific involving the USS Ronald Reagan, USS Nimitz and USS Theodore Roosevelt also included seven South Korean vessels. (AFP / MANLA BULLETIN)

In a speech he delivered at the reception aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt which was attended by Philippine government officials, politicians, members of the business community, the military, media and the academe, Kim said the friendship between the two great allies has never been stronger.

He added that he is honored to join the Commander of the Carrier Strike Group 9 Rear Admiral Stephen K. Koehler in welcoming all the guests to USS Theodore Roosevelt also known as the “Big Stick.”

“They have opened their home to us tonight and what a home it is. The namesake of this amazing ship is of course the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. Teddy Roosevelt, as many of you know, was a soldier, a visionary president, a nobel prize winner, and famous for creating the famous saying, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Well over a thousand feet long and weighing in at well over hundred thousand tons, sticks don’t come any bigger than the Theodore Roosevelt,” Kim said.

“But I might take exception to the first part of the Teddy Roosevelt saying about speaking softly. I think there are times when we should speak loudly and clearly. And the presence of the Theodore Roosevelt here in Manila Bay sends a very clear message to everyone in the region, especially to our friends in the Philippines because our commitment to the US-Philippines alliance is unbreakable and will remain so indefinitely.”

“Our friendship has never been stronger and we have been and remain an Indo-Pacific nation. And our commitment to this region and its well-being is enduring,” he added.

Commitment kept
Kim, in his speech, said the US commitment was clear when the U.S. came to the assistance of the brave men and women of the Armed Forces of the Philippines as they defeated the terrorists behind the siege in Marawi.

He added that their commitment is clear when every year, they welcome tens of thousands of Filipinos to the United States, to study, to visit loved ones, and sometimes to shop.

“And we appreciate the incredible hospitality the Philippines shows our fellow Americans when they visit this beautiful nation,” Kim said.

“Our commitment is also clear on the number of US companies investing in the Philippines’ thriving economy, providing jobs to talented Filipino workers, and also when we welcome Filipino products to US markets,” he said.

Kim also said that the timing of Theodore Roosevelt’s visit is quite fitting as the Philippines just a few days ago observed the Day of Valor.

“This day of course is a somber reminder that our alliance and indeed both of our nations have endured much larger history. Yet we emerge from these trials stronger, both as individual nations and as friends, partners, and allies,” Kim said.

“The Day of Valor invites us to remember and honor the past. But the presence of this amazing carrier in Manila Bay reassures us that together we can have a secure and prosperous future,” he added.

Kim also said that Theodore Roosevelt is a symbol of their commitment to protecting the enduring values that have generated so much prosperity in the amazing region.

“Values and principles like freedom of navigation, freedom of commerce, freedom from fear and corruption. So this ship is well named, Theodore Roosevelt was restless, wandering and an adventurous soul. And wherever he went, he was (mystically)… American and consistently represented the very best our country has to offer,” Kim said.

“Theodore Roosevelt set a very high standard for this magnificent ship and its equally magnificent crew. So please get to know them tonight. You will discover that they are truly worthy of the name,” he added.

Among the VIPs seen present during the reception included Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes, Magdalo Representative Garry C. Alejano, Oriental Mindoro 2nd District Rep. Reynaldo Umali, Don Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Chairman and CEO of Ayala Corp. and former AFP spokesman Major General Restituto Padilla.

Fil-Ams onboard
Kim said he was both thrilled and honored that USS Theodore Roosevelt is visiting the Philippines.

The ship, he said, has about 400 Filipino-Americans aboard.

“I think it’s a clear sign, clear reflection, clear demonstration of our commitment to the Indo-Pacific Region, commitment to the US-Philippines alliance, and also our commitment to promoting and protecting important values, principles and rights like freedom of navigation, freedom of flight, and freedom of commerce. So I’m delighted and grateful the Admiral and his outstanding team are visiting us in the Philippines,” he said.

For his part, Admiral Koehler said the presence of USS Theodore Roosevelt only means that they are ready to protect and challenge any threats to freedoms amidst China’s increasing activities in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea.

The U.S. Embassy said the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17, and the guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) arrived in Manila on Wednesday for a scheduled port visit.

Koehler said they are excited to visit the Philippines and spend time in this part of the Indo-Pacific.

“The Philippines has long been a part of U.S. Navy history, and we look forward to continuing that valued relationship and partnership,” Koehler said.

During the port visit, Sailors and Marines will participate in cultural exchanges, community relations events, and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR)-sponsored tours to enhance cultural understanding and cooperation between the two countries.

Pregnant NPA member wounded, arrested

From Malaya Business Insight (Apr 16): Pregnant NPA member wounded, arrested

A PREGNANT member of the New People’s Army was wounded and subsequently apprehended by government forces after a firefight in Impasugong town, Bukidnon on Saturday, the military reported yesterday.

Susan Cabusao Guaynon, 22, who is five months pregnant, “was abandoned by her comrades during the 20-minute firefight after incurring a wound in the forehead,” said 1Lt. Tere Ingente, spokeswoman of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division based in Cagayan de Oro City.

Ingente said the injury was minor and Guaynon is in stable condition.

Troops from the Army’s 8th Infantry Battalion were on security operation when they clashed with about 40 NPA rebels in the forested Sitio Ulayanon in Barangay Kalabugao at around 2 p.m. Saturday.
Recovered at the encounter site were two AK47 rifles, an AR18 rifle, an M1 Carbine rifle, an M4 rifle, an air gun, and 30 backpacks filled with documents and personal belongings.

Dela Vega is OIC of Wesmincon

From Malaya Business Insight (Apr 17): Dela Vega is OIC of Wesmincon

AN Army general leading the fight against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters has taken over as the officer in charge of the Zamboanga City-based AFP’s Western Mindanao Command, vice incoming AFP chief Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez.

Sixth Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega took over as the OIC of the Wesmincom last Thursday.

Galvez takes over from retiring AFP chief Rey Leonardo Guerrero tomorrow. Guerrero reached the retirement age of 56 last December 17 but his term was extended by President Duterte.

“General Galvez has been out since April 12 so there has to be a general OIC in the absence of the incumbent...This is pending the designation of a permanent (Wesmincom) commander,” said 6th ID spokesman Capt. Arvin Encinas.

Encinas said Dela Vega, a classmate of Galvez at the Philippine Military Academy class 1985, is the OIC of Wesmincom, the largest unified area command of the AFP, in concurrent capacity as commander of the Maguindanao-based 6th ID

Dela Vega assumed command as 6th ID chief in January last year and had supervised the continuing military campaign against the BIFF, which the military classifies as a terrorist organization.

The BIFF is composed of about 300 members, mostly former members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front which signed a peace accord with government in 2014. The BIFF has pledged allegiance with the Islamic State a few years ago.

The 6th ID is one of the Army divisions under the operational control of Wesmincom. The other is the 1st Infantry Division, under Maj. Gen. Roseller Murillo of the PMA class 1986, based in Zamboanga del Sur.

Military sources said Dela Vega and Murillo are said to be top contenders to become the full-time Wesmincom commander. Dela Vega is senior in rank.

NPA a threat to barangay, SK polls, says military

From Malaya Business Insight (Apr 16): NPA a threat to barangay, SK polls, says military

THE Armed Forces yesterday said it sees the New People’s Army as a threat to the upcoming barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections, particularly in Eastern Mindanao where the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines has a strong presence.

Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, commander of the AFP’s Eastern Mindanao Command based in Davao City, said the NPA is expected to stage violent activities to “influence” results of the elections scheduled for May 14, aside from the usual collection of “permit to campaign” and “permit to win” fees from candidates.

“They are a threat, especially in the far-flung areas. We all know that they want to establish (power), especially in the far areas so they will try to influence,” Madrigal said.

Military estimates place the NPA strength at about 3,700 men throughout the country as of end 2017. About half of them are operating in Eastern Mindanao.

The Eastmincom has jurisdiction over the Davao and Caraga regions and parts of the Northern Mindanao and Soccsksargen regions.

Records from the Commission on Elections show there are 5,690 barangays in the Northern Mindanao, Davao, and Soccsksargen regions, out of the total 42,036 barangays in the country, based on the record of the interior department as of December 2017.

The election period began on April 14 with the start of the filing of candidacies.

Madrigal said NPA rebels may endorse the candidacy of those who are members of their so-called “organized masses.”

“They will try to influence who will win,” he said.

On the collection of permit to campaign and permit to win fees, Madrigal said it is an “opportunity” for the communists to earn.

Maj. Ezra Balagtey, Eastmincom spokesman, said Eastmincom officials are coordinating with the PNP to ensure peaceful and orderly elections.

“We already had meetings to come up with joint military and police security plan,” said Balagtey.

“The NPA wants to influence the elections. Also, we see them resorting to their permit-to-campaign and permit-to-win scheme for their fund-raising activity. That’s why military operations in the barangays are very crucial,” he added.

Balagtey also said government forces will remain aggressive in the conduct of focused military operations. He said intelligence operations will also be sustained to monitor “critical areas” where the rebels may resort to election-related extortion.

AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bienvenido Datuin said the military can be deputized by the Commission on Elections to establish checkpoints to contain any threat.

Bureau of Immigration detains Australian missionary nun

From Rappler (Apr 16): Bureau of Immigration detains Australian missionary nun

Detained Sister Patricia Fox, 71, is a missionary with the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion, and has worked in the Philippines for 27 years, says CBCP News

DETAINED NUN. The Bureau of Immigration detains missionary nun Sister Patricia Fox on April 16, 2018, says CBCP News. Photo courtesy of CBCP News

DETAINED NUN. The Bureau of Immigration detains missionary nun Sister Patricia Fox on April 16, 2018, says CBCP News. Photo courtesy of CBCP News

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Monday, April 16, detained 71-year-old Australian nun Sister Patricia Fox, said the news service of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

CBCP News said Fox is a missionary with the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion, and has worked in the Philippines for 27 years.

"I've been in and out of the country several times but I've never been questioned. The immigration bureau has not said anything on what to do with my missionary visa," said Fox, as quoted by CBCP News.

Sought for confirmation, BI spokesperson Antonette Mangrobang said their bureau apprehended a certain "Patricia Cox." Rappler clarified if she meant "Fox," as CBCP News reported. Mangrobang replied it is "Cox."

The nun who belongs to the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion in the Philippines is Sister Patricia Fox, not Cox, according to the Catholic Directory on the Claretian Publications website.
"We confirm the apprehension of Patricia Cox pursuant to a Mission Order issued by Commissioner Jaime Morente. We await completion of the investigation before we issue our official statement. Thank you," said Mangrobang in a text message on Monday evening.

Mangrobang said the nun was apprehended at around 2 pm on Monday.

Fox said 6 BI officials arrested her at their mission house in Quezon City at around 2:15 pm on Monday, CBCP News reported. She is now detained at the BI intelligence division in Intramuros, Manila.

Fox recently joined an international fact-finding and solidarity mission in Mindanao, said CBCP News. Her work involves helping farmers and indigenous peoples.

CBCP News also said Fox had been detained in 2013 "for joining protests in Hacienda Luisita, but was released without charges."
This comes after the Philippine government on Sunday, April 15, blocked an official of the Party of European Socialists from entering the Philippines. A slip issued by the BI showed that the EU political party official, Giacomo Filibeck, was part of a "black list order."

Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin slammed the Duterte administration for Filibeck's "shameful" deportation, saying that it shows "how paranoid this government is in keeping the rest of the world blind from the damage President Duterte has done to our country."

Retired general convicted again, gets 216 years for tax fraud

From Rappler (Apr 16): Retired general convicted again, gets 216 years for tax fraud

Jose Ramiscal Jr is found to have falsified documents for the sale of General Santos City properties in order to pay lower taxes

GUILTY. The Sandiganbayan hands down another guilty verdict for retired army general Jose Ramiscal Jr over the repeated misuse of military retirement funds. File photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

GUILTY. The Sandiganbayan hands down another guilty verdict for retired army general Jose Ramiscal Jr over the repeated misuse of military retirement funds. File photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

Retired army general Jose Ramiscal Jr was again convicted of corruption, as the Sandiganbayan sentenced him to 216 years in prison for 24 counts of graft and falsification of documents.
Also convicted of the same charges and with the same sentence is lawyer Nilo Flaviano.

"This Court has found conspiracy among accused Ramiscal, accused Pabalan, and accused Flaviano in falsifying the unilateral Deeds of Absolute Sale for the purpose of causing undue injury to the government in the amount of unpaid taxes, and thus finds no basis in accused Flaviano's assertion that such conspiracy has not been duly proven by the Prosecution," reads the decision of the Sandiganbayan 7th Division promulgated last Friday, April 13.

Wilfredo Pabalan was the project director, but he had died before the decision was rendered. The Sandiganbayan did not pronounce judgment for him on account of his death.

The crime

Ramiscal was the president of the now defunct Armed Forces of the Philippines-Retirement and Separation Benefits System (AFP-RSBS). In 1997, he bought 12 lots in General Santos City which were supposed to be developed for a housing project and a marina complex.
The lots were sold to the AFP-RSBS by members of the Guaybar family, represented by Flaviano.

The charges state that Ramiscal and Flaviano falsified a deed of sale showing a lower amount in order to pay lower capital gains tax and documentary stamp tax.

For example, one of the 12 lots was sold at P10,500 per square meter or a total of P10.489 million. However, Ramiscal and Flaviano falsified a deed of sale that states it was sold for only P3,000 per square meter or a total of P2.997 million. For that transaction, the government lost P292,207 due to the underpayment of taxes.

All in all, P3.506 million in taxes were not paid to the government.

Ramiscal argued that the Sandiganbayan has no jurisdiction over him because he is already retired, and therefore acting in a private capacity as AFP-RSBS president.

But citing a Supreme Court (SC) ruling, the Sandiganbayan said the AFP-RSBS has "public character and operations," and that public funds were used to buy the lands.

The actual sellers, the Guaybar family, were acquitted because the court said their lawyer Flaviano was the one liable.

"Since it was his signatures which all appeared in the bilateral and unilateral deeds of sale, as far as Lots X-1 and X-5 are concerned, the responsibility began and ended with him alone. Criminal liability did not extend to the vendors," said the Sandiganbayan.

The ruling was penned by division chairperson Associate Justice Maria Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta and concurred with by Associate Justice Zaldy Trespeses and Associate Justice Bayani Jacinto.

Ramiscal has now been convicted of corruption twice, both stemming from misuse of the retirement funds he handled as head of the AFP-RSBS.

Army: NPA rebel population in DavOr continues to plunge

From the Mindanao Times (Apr 15): Army: NPA rebel population in DavOr continues to plunge

The number of the New People’s Army in Davao Oriental dropped significantly from February 2017 up to March of 2018.

According to Lt. Col. Jacob Thaddeus Obligado, commander of the 67th Infantry Battalion, they monitored only 93 communist guerrillas operating in the area this year compared to the 299 last year.

“We have reduced them by 80 percent we could not have done that without the relationship of the governor and mayor, and the help of Barangay and municipal officials,” he said, adding that the role of the peace volunteers is instrumental in protecting the indigenous communities in the province.

 On Saturday, around 150 peace volunteers graduated from the four-day training and seminar during the ceremony conducted at Sitio Batiano, Barangay Salingkumot, Caraga, Davao Oriental on Saturday.

 He said they’ve proven the effectiveness of the program since there were zero atrocities committed by the NPA in the area since July of last year.

“Unlike other provinces and municipalities, the pride of the Mandaya is (evident),” he said. “Unlike other tribes, they are fighting against communism and terrorism.”

The peace volunteers came from NPA-affected areas, and the military doesn’t provide them with firearms. Instead, they will defer to the customary laws of the Lumad political structure. In this case, the protection of the ancestral domains will still be led by the baganis (warriors).

“The baganis are the defenders of the ancestral domain,” he explained.

 He said the peace volunteers have their own indigenous weapons which are used only within their ancestral domain area.

“They have spears, and weapons to defend themselves against the animals, intruders. These are being used for hunting to source out their food, ” he added.

 He said tribal communities should never be afraid of the NPA because the rebels are just a small band of armed men. One positive step is the fact that residents are coming forward to become peace volunteers and secure the ancestral domain. They will also serve as ambassadors to raise awareness on the need to protect and nurture the natural resources.

 Tribal chief Kalig-onan said the peace and development volunteers will help establish order and security in the community.

 In total, Obligado said around 700 peace development volunteers already graduated in the first district of Davao Oriental from Manay to Caraga, Baganga, Cateel, Boston, and Lingig in Surigao del Sur except in Tarragona.

The five-day training of the volunteers is divided into modules. Among these are modules in livelihood, government in action (government agencies), people empowerment (first responders when emergency), plan-making and deployment, and good citizenship.

Army says 2 hinterland towns in North Cotabato ‘problematic’ but..

From MindaNews (Apr 14): Army says 2 hinterland towns in North Cotabato ‘problematic’ but..

Two hinterland towns in North Cotabato are considered by the Philippine Army as “problematic” or “very challenging” in terms of terrain and support that communist guerillas get from the communities, a military spokesperson said.

1st Lieutenant Prolen Bonacua, spokesperson of the Army’s 19th Infantry Battalion, identified these “problematic areas” as Arakan and Magpet towns.

Bonacua admitted the rebels operating in these areas enjoy the support of the communities, including some barangay officials.

He said the NPA raises fund through “extortion activities” traders, even government officials, allegedly through its “extortion activities.”

“But this won’t stop us from pursuing our intention to rid these areas of these communist guerillas. We will pursue, and even intensify, military offensives against these groups,” he said.

He said they are gaining headway in that the NPA is “no longer that strong, unlike before” because “many of their members have surrendered.

The towns of Arakan, Magpet, President Roxas, and the city of Kidapawan, are under the 19th IB of the 901st Brigade, which was deployed to the province early last month.

The 19th IB was previously assigned in the provinces of Samar and Leyte in the Visayas

A week ago, soldiers from the 19th IB, on board two military vehicles, were ambushed in a remote village in Magpet, after they responded to persistent reports that NPA guerrillas were sighted in the area.

The soldiers, however, were able to fight back and succeeded in driving their attackers away, reports said.

No soldier was wounded.

A week ago, at least 29 NPA rebels from different areas in Magpet, led by a certain Felix Sicao, surrendered to authorities, he said.

Based on the Army’s intelligence reports, there are at least two NPA fronts operating in North Cotabato: Front 53 which covers the hinterlands of Arakan Valley Development Complex and parts of Bukidnon province, and Front 51 which covers Makilala, North Cotabato and other parts of Davao del Sur.

Presidential daughter says no to peace talks with communists

From the Mindanao Examiner (Apr 14): Presidential daughter says no to peace talks with communists

Presidential daughter and mayor of Davao City, Sara Carpio, has appealed Friday to his father, Rodrigo Duterte, not to reopen stalled peace talks with communist insurgents, blamed for many attacks in her hometown, and branding the rebel group as terrorist.

Duterte, who previously trashed the peace talks with rebels following deadly attacks in the restive region in the past, has revived negotiations in an effort to put an end to bloodshed to the world’s longest-running insurgency. The New People’s Army (NPA), armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, has been waging decades of bloody separatist war, and previously demanded a coalition government from Duterte who flatly rejected this.

A screenshot from Davao City Government Facebook page.
“Respectfully, I am asking President Rodrigo Duterte to reconsider his decision to reopen the negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. I believe the insurgency problem can only be ended peacefully if the NDFP and the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, are sincere, honest, and committed to working toward the direction of peace and reciprocate the gesture offered by the government. But there are no indications at all that they are willing to negotiate for a peaceful resolution of the conflict,” Carpio said.

Rebel forces had recently raided Davao City and torched heavy equipment used in government infrastructure projects in three areas there. And also launched a spate of daring and deadly raids and even challenged Duterte to stop them.

“History will also tell us that the communist movement is not to be trusted as they have consistently shown us their deep-seated proclivity to sow hate, violence and extremism, destruction, and senseless killings. These are groups motivated by the desire to overthrow the government and rule the nation. For them, peace is not an option. And that’s because they are terrorists,” Carpio said.

She said the government should not negotiate with terrorists or deal tough with the rebels and cited the murders of innocent civilians, including a baby, in attacks perpetrated by the NPA.

“We maintain our position that we are not supposed to negotiate with terrorists, but deal with them the way we should — tough, strong, high intensity, and one that gathers all sectors to completely crush their influence in communities where they are present.”

“Let us not forget Larry Buenafe, the fish vendor who died because the NPA detonated a landmine in Mandug last year. Let us not forget Larry’s two very young children now growing without a father — and the many other orphaned children of other hapless, mostly poor civilians. Let us not forget the orphaned children of our brave soldiers and police officers killed by the NPAs in the name of a rusty ideology and deranged revolution. And how could we possibly forget Malysha Machorao who died after an NPA ambush in Bukidnon last year. She was only 4-months-old,” she said.

Carpio said the latest rebel attacks in Davao City stalled infrastructure projects that should have benefitted poor communities there.

“We should put a stop into the insanity of these terrorists — or more children will be orphaned, more civilians will be killed, more soldiers will die, and many more facilities and equipment will be burned, setting back development by a hundred years.”

“If talks are revived, we are almost certain that the NPAs will continue to terrorize government forces and civilians. They will discharge offensives and unabated destruction, while recruitment of minors, farmers, lumads, workers, and students would continue courtesy of its legal fronts,” she said.

Carpio said the country will move forward if the government is able to eliminate the rebels and end their senseless rebellion. “Just like a battered lover, there is a time to finally say no to pain and suffering. No to peace talks,” she said. “While I trust the wisdom of the President and his intention to end the insurgency problem peacefully, I believe pursuing peace talks with the NDFP, CPP and NPA is counterproductive and plainly useless.”

“We should stop rewarding these terrorists with our attention, resources, and time. Suspending the peace talks would not only mean ending the delusion of these terrorists, but would also allow the realization of long-delayed growth and the development of our countryside villages. It also means giving justice to the victims of these terrorists,” she said.

There were no immediate reactions from either Duterte or the NDFP on Carpio’s statement.