Thursday, April 19, 2018

Maute assets probed as AMLC focuses on terror financing

From Rappler (Apr 19): Maute assets probed as AMLC focuses on terror financing

The Bureau of Internal Revenue investigates an unnamed individual who tried to claim the P52-million worth of Maute loot

TERROR MONEY. The Anti Money Laundering Council (AMLC) puts focus on investigating terrorism financing as they probe assets of the Maute terror group.

TERROR MONEY. The Anti Money Laundering Council (AMLC) puts focus on investigating terrorism financing as they probe assets of the Maute terror group.

The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) put focus on flagging terrorism money in 2017, including freezing and investigating bank accounts and assets of the ISIS-associated Maute group that waged war in Marawi City last year.

The AMLC said it “targeted financial sanctions related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and its financing” in 2017.

This was included in the operational highlights that they submitted to the Commission on Audit (COA).

The AMLC also listed as its accomplishment their freeze orders on “all the bank accounts and other assets owned and controlled by the Maute group.”
“Bank inquiry on the bank accounts is ongoing,” the AMLC said.

Maute loot
The bank accounts and assets under investigation are separate from the P52-million cold cash which was recovered by military troops inside Marawi. The AMLC is also investigating the P52 million.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he was not aware how much the bank accounts and assets were worth. As for the P52-million cash, Lorenzana said the money is deposited at the Central Bank.

Lorenzana said the P52 million appears to have been stolen by the Maute terrorists. He said someone tried to claim it as their own, but did not succeed.

“AMLC asked us to certify that he was the owner. We declined to give the certification because we were not certain who really owns them,” Lorenzana said.

Instead, a case was referred to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to investigate the alleged owner.

Terrorism financing

According to the audit report on the AMLC, the agency also spent hundreds of thousands to train investigators in the field of terrorism financing.

Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Trainings were part of 5 training sessions conducted by AMLC for its staff that cost them an overall P2.3 million.

However, COA auditors pointed out that the terrorism trainings had only 31% attendance.

“The deficiency in the training physical accomplishment was due to on-going revisions in the AML/CFT training modules for senior management and front liners of banks and money service businesses,” the COA said.


Lorenzena was also unsure whether the government has started forfeiture proceedings for all the Maute assets.

But overall, the AMLC has civilly forfeited P23.9 million for 2017, or P911 million since 2011 when they started filing forfeiture cases.

They have total pending civil forfeiture orders worth P5 billion. Since 2011, they have returned P1.6 billion to victims and/or investors.

There was no mention of President Rodrigo Duterte’s bank accounts in the audit report.

The Office of the Ombudsman said they have terminated the bank investigation into Duterte because AMLC refused to cooperate.

AMLC is headed now by Mel Georgie Racela, Duterte’s fellow Bedan.

U.S. forces arrive in PH for Balikatan military exercises

From Rappler (Apr 19): U.S. forces arrive in PH for Balikatan military exercises

The annual activity, to be held for the 34th time, is meant to enhance cooperation between the US and Philippine militaries

DISASTER RESPONSE. This file photo from the 2017 Balikatan exercises shows new focus on humanitarian assistance and disaster response. File photo

DISASTER RESPONSE. This file photo from the 2017 Balikatan exercises shows new focus on humanitarian assistance and disaster response. File photo

United States forces have arrived in the Philippines for the annual Balikatan military exercises, the military announced.

A military spokesperson said the Americans, on Thursday, April 19, started visiting parts of Luzon to conduct activities for community engagement.

"Balikatan, which formally opens on May 7, features humanitarian civic action activities in pre-selected areas in Cagayan and Central Luzon. They are working together to construct a two-room school building in 5 different sites in the provinces of Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Cagayan, and Isabela," said Lieutenant Liezl Vidallon, a spokesperson for the Balikatan exercises.

Vidallon added that other activities will be held, including medical missions and training with local government units.

This year's Balikatan exercises will focus on mutual defense, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and counterterrorism.
The annual activity, to be held for the 34th time, is meant to enhance the interoperability of the US and Philippine militaries that have a Mutual Defense Treaty. (READ: Duterte's pivot to China won't be easy for Americanized PH military)

Other allies including Australia and Japan are expected to participate in the exercises.

2 NPA fighters killed in clash with gov’t troops

From the Mindanao Times (Apr 20): 2 NPA fighters killed in clash with gov’t troops

TWO ALLEGED members of the New People’s Army (NPA) were killed and two M16 rifles recovered after a clash with the troops of 39th Infantry Battalion in Sitio Caceras, Barangay Upper Bala, Magsaysay, Davao del Sur on Wednesday around 11:30 a.m.

Lt. Col. Rhojun Rosales, the commander of 39th IB, told TIMES yesterday that the troops of 39th IB encountered more or less 30 communist guerrillas in the area.

The soldiers immediately established a defensive position and fired at the rebels. The firefight lasted for about an hour.

Accordingly, the 39th Infantry Battalion received information regarding the meeting by the NPA members in the forested area of Barangay Upper Bala. 

The leaders of the group were identified by the witnesses as Norma Capuyan alias Libra, Dave Verano alias Borjack and Eusebio Cranzo alias Brix.

Soldiers were deployed to verify the information and chanced upon the group. Two NPA fighters were killed in the operation and their rifles seized.

According to Sr Supt. Samuel Gadingan, Davao Del Sur Provincial Police Office director, one of the rifles was traced to the raid on Matanao Police Office last March 10, 2014.

There were no reported wounded among the soldiers of 39th IB.

Lt. Col. Rhojun Rosales, commanding officer of 39IB, thanked the residents and barangay officials for the information.

On the other hand, Brig. Gen. Roberto Ancan, 1002nd Infantry Brigade commander, called on the remaining NPA fighters to surrender and avail of the government programs so they can live with their families again.

For his part, Maj. Gen. Noel S Clement, commander of the 10th Infantry Division, lauded the troops for the successful operation.

“Our forces will continue hunting down the remaining CPP-NPA terrorists but will spare those who want to surrender,” he said.

“Let us work hand in hand to end terrorism brought by CPP-NPA,” he added. “Insurgency is everybody’s responsibility.”

Pastor killed, 2 hurt in NPA attack: army

From the Mindanao Times (Apr 20): Pastor killed, 2 hurt in NPA attack: army

A JEHOVAH’S Witness pastor was killed and his two companions wounded when they were ambushed by the New People’s Army rebels in Barangay Lahi, Gigaquit in Surigao del Norte on Wednesday, April 18.Capt. Al Athony Pueblas, the civil-military operations officer of 402nd Infantry Brigade, identified the fatality as Jepti Acido, 32, resident of Tayaga, Claver. The two others were Virgil Flor Ortiz, 23, from Tayaga, Claver and Adner Malaque, 20, from Villafranca, Gigaquit, Surigao del Norte.

“It is very unfortunate that despite being a signatory to the CARHRIHL, the NPA, with the guidance of their leaders, still continue to attack and murder innocent civilians,” Pueblas said.

Acido succumbed to a gunshot wound on the left eye and exited to the back of his neck. Malaque sustained a gunshot wound on the neck, which exited on his right shoulder, along with another wound on his elbow and two more on his left chin.

Meanwhile, Ortis also sustained gunshot wound on the left elbow and back of right chin, splinter shot wounds behind the neck and left foot.

Part IV, Article IV, Item 4 of the CARHRIHL provides that the civilian populace shall be distinguished from combatants and not be the subjects of attack.

“We strongly condemn the NPA’s acts of terrorism by attacking, and again, murdering a civilian and the wounding of two others in Barangay Lahi, Gigaquit, Surigao del Norte,” Brig. Gen. Franco Nemesio Gacal, commander of 402nd IB, said.

“Nevertheless, these attacks only fuel our utmost desire to protect our people from these thugs,” Gacal said.

“In coordination with the PNP, we will hunt them down to bring justice to the victims and their families.”

The body of the victim was brought to the Gades Funeral Parlor in Barangay Campo, Bacuag, Surigao del Norte while the two are already in stable condition at the Surigao Medical center.

Moro leader barred entry into US is second in 14 years

From MindaNews (Apr 20): Moro leader barred entry into US is second in 14 years

The national chair of Suara Bangsamoro (Voice of the Moro People) arrived in San Francisco Tuesday night holding a 10-year multiple entry US visa but was deported the next day for still unclear reasons, the second Moro leader to be turned back in 14 years.

The 25-year old Jerome Aladdin Succor Aba, an Iranun Datu from Parang, Maguindanao, was invited by several church groups such as the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Sisters of Mercy, and the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church, to speak on the Philippine situation at the 16th National Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD) in Washington DC on April 20 to 23, among others.

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) sent this call via social media for a telephone barrage to the Customs and Border Protection to demand that young Moro leader Jerome Aladdin Succor Aba be allowed entry into San Francisco. Aba, a holder of a ten-year US multiple entry visa, was held for still unclear reasons, at the San Francisco airport upon arrival Tuesday, and was sent home Wednesday.

The EAD is one of the largest gatherings of church and faith-based groups across the US that discusses social issues and concludes their activity with a lobby day at Capitol Hill.

Aba, also vice chair of the Sandugo Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination, is the second Moro activist from Maguindanao to have been barred entry into the US in 14 years.

In May 2004, Prof. Abhoud Syed Lingga, Executive Director of the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies andchair of the Bangsamoro People’s Consultative Assembly, who was invited to at least two conferences, including one in the United Nations, was detained upon arrival in Los Angeles and was sent home within 24 hours.

Amirah Ali Lidasan, former national president of Suara Bangsamoro blamed US President Donald Trump’s “discriminatory and xenophobic Muslim ban policy” as the reason why Aba was denied entry in the US.

Lidasan said Aba’s case is the first recorded deportation of a Moro since the presidency of Donald Trump.

“We condemn Trump’s Islamophobic policy and enjoin Muslims in the Philippines to protest this,” said Lidasan as she called on Muslims in the country to “protest the incident at the US Embassy.”

In San Francisco, some members of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) US Chapter gathered at the airport and launched a phone barrage to call the Customs and Border Protection Agency to demand his release and to allow his entry in the US.

The group said authorities had not released the basis for denying Aba’s entry.

The ICHRP statement said Aba was to “speak on the human rights situation in the Philippines under the administration of Rodrigo Duterte,” and speak before other groups as part of its “Stop The Killings Speaking Tour.”

Terry Valen, a spokesperson for the ICHRP told the that they were at the airport to welcome Aba for his 8 p.m. arrival. The plane arrived 25 minutes later but he did not show up.

Valen said that at around 7 a.m. Wednesday, Aba left a voicemail saying he had been denied entry to the US and would be deported the next day.

Lingga, who was also chair of the Bangsamoro People’s Consultative Assembly, told MindaNews in 2004 that he was told by US Immigration officials at the airport in Los Angeles that he was “inadmissible into the United States” and was given two options: return to the Philippines voluntarily or appeal before the Immigrations judge. Lingga opted to return home.

“When people do not welcome you, why insist?” Lingga told MindaNews in a telephone interview then.

Lingga left Manila for New York via Los Angeles at 10 p.m. on May 12, 2004 to attend the 3rdsession of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues of the Social Policy and Development of the Department of Economics and Social Affairs in the United Nations in New York. The conference was scheduled on May 10 to 21 but was able to leave only on May 12 because he was granted a US visa only on May 11.

Unlike Aba who has a 10-year multiple entry visa, Lingga’s application for visa was actually denied on April 15, 2004 despite his presentation of the invitations from the UN Permanent Forum and from the Asia Society and United States Institute of Peace (USIP) which were sponsoring a conference on “Securing Peace in Mindanao: Resolving the Roots of Conflict” in New York on May 25. At that time, former US Ambassador to the Philippines Nicholas Platt was the President of the Asia Society while another former US Ambassador to the Philippines, Eugene Martin, headed the USIP.

When his US visa was denied in April that year, Lingga filed a petition for reconsideration which was granted on May 11 but despite showing his travel document and the invitations to the New York conferences, he was told upon arrival in Los Angeles that he was “inadmissible into the United States.”

He said he did not bother to ask why he was “inadmissible.”

Lingga said he was aware that he was a victim of discrimination but “when people do not welcome you, why insist? When I visit your house and you say you can’t come in, why insist?”

The May 25 conference was canceled and later re-scheduled to September that year after Lingga’s fellow resource persons from Mindanao withdrew participation in protest of what happened to Lingga.

But Lingga’s ordeal did not end there. While the US organizers got him a special document from the Department of Homeland Security to attach to his passport for the September travel to the conference, while he had a visa and the invitation letters from conference organizers, another set of problems began at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport where he registered an alert upon check in. Lingga’s fellow resource persons who were taking the same flight informed the US Embassy’s political officer in Manila that they would not leave Manila if Lingga would not be allowed to leave.

Lingga was finally allowed but upon arrival in New York was asked to disembark first and was held by Immigration for at least an hour. From New York to Washington, DC to San Francisco, airport check-in took long for Lingga. But the worst was on their way home to the Philippines when Lingga was barred exit in San Francisco. His plane departed for Manila without him and Datu Michael Mastura on board.

Mastura, a former Maguindanao congressman, stood by Lingga.

The two left San Francisco for Manila the next day.

Government militia killed in BIFF attack

From the Mindanao Examiner (Apr 18): Government militia killed in BIFF attack

Rebels allied with the Islamic State attacked and killed a government militia on Wednesday in North Cotabato’s Pikit town in the restive southern region of Mindanao, police said.
It said the 33-year old Rodel Abellanida, a member of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit, was killed on the spot in Bualan village after a band of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) opened fire on the militiaman.
The attackers escaped after the killing. Abellanida’s body was recovered by other government militias under the 38th Infantry Battalion. Police said the victim was tending to his farm animals when rebels shot him.
Troops were sent to track down the rebels who are responsible in the spate of attacks against military targets in the province. The BIFF has vowed to launch more attacks not only in North Cotabato, but also in neighboring provinces of the troubled Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat where it is actively operating.
BIFF leaders have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and is pursuing a deadly campaign in the region in an effort to put up a caliphate in Mindanao, home to over 4 million moderate Muslims.

4 killed in clashes in Mindanao

From the Mindanao Examiner (Apr 19): 4 killed in clashes in Mindanao

Security forces clashed with bandits on Thursday in the restive province of Maguindanao in southern Philippines that left 2 people dead, officials said.

Officials said a member of a police volunteer group and a bandit were both killed in the fighting in the village of Blensong in the town of Upi. The fighting erupted after more than a dozen armed bandits entered the village which were being guarded by soldiers and policemen.

The bandits were being blamed for the series of cattle rustling and extortion in the town. The clash lasted nearly two hours and the running gun battle only stopped after the gunmen broke into smaller groups and fled.

Officials have identified the slain police volunteer as Gilbert Golde, 45.

In Davao del Sur’s Magsaysay town, security forces also killed two New People’s Army rebels in a firefight Wednesday in Upper Bala village. Government troops ran into a group of communist rebels and fighting erupted.

There was no report of military casualties and soldiers recovered the bodies of the slain rebels who had been identified as Boboy Alcantara and Jojo Sarigumba and their automatic rifles.

President Duterte confers Medal of Valor, Order of Lapu-Lapu to SAF 44 commandos

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 18): President Duterte confers Medal of Valor, Order of Lapu-Lapu to SAF 44 commandos

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Tuesday, April 17, led the awarding of Philippine National Police (PNP) Medal of Valor and Order of Lapu-Lapu Magalong Medal to the members of the PNP - Special Action Force (SAF) 44 who perished during the bloody Mamasapano encounter in 2015.

“Today, we pay tribute to the gallant troopers from the Special Action Force who gave their lives in Mamasapano a few years ago,” the President said during the awarding ceremony held at the Heroes Hall of Malacañan Palace.

“Their extraordinary display of bravery during that fateful operation does not just qualify them to receive this highly-coveted decoration. It also makes them worthy to be called as heroes,” he added.

The Chief Executive stressed that the tragic death of the police officers in the hands of enemies who outnumbered them and surrounded them from all sides may be one of the darkest and saddest parts of the nation’s history.

“Yet, this sad episode just proved that [through their] commitment to their sworn duty to protect our nation from terror and violence, they have successfully neutralized one of the world’s most wanted terrorists,” Duterte said.

“Indeed, the SAF 44 is not only a group of dedicated, capable and commendable police officers. They are also individuals worthy of emulation and admiration,” the President said.

Duterte said the government recognizes the SAF 44’s heroism so they may inspire other men and women in uniform to also demonstrate the values of service, honor and justice in all pursuits.

He also expressed hopes that this recognition will further invigorate police officers and military personnel to perform their duties with utmost dedication, excellence, loyalty and love of country.

At the same time, President Duterte assured the families of the fallen police commandos that the government is doing its best to ensure that their sacrifices will not go in vain.

“To the families of our fallen troops, I join you in remembering their legacy and honoring their memory,” he said.

In addition, the President vowed that the administration will continue to pursue welfare assistance programs such as housing projects, scholarships and employment opportunities that will benefit the families that the SAF troopers left behind.

“Most importantly, I assure you that we remain resolute in ensuring that justice—no matter how long it takes—will be served,” he said.

The Chief Executive acknowledged that the government still has a long way to go in the task of completely liberating the country from the ills that threaten its path to genuine and lasting peace and progress, but he also expressed confidence that the Philippines can succeed, citing the full support of the PNP in the efforts to maintain law and order.

During Tuesday’s awarding ceremony, all of the members of SAF 44 were posthumously awarded the Order of Lapu-Lapu (Magalong Medal).

The Magalong Medal is awarded to officials and personnel of the government and private individuals who have rendered extraordinary service or have made exceptional contributions to the success of an activity pursuant to a campaign or advocacy of the President.
Meanwhile, only 42 were conferred the PNP Medal of Valor, as the two of them --- P/CInsp Gednat Tabdi and PO2 Romeo Cempron --- posthumously received the award during the Aquino administration.

The PNP Medal of Valor, which is the highest award of the PNP, is awarded to any member of the PNP who have performed in action a deed of personal bravery and self-sacrifice above and beyond the call of duty so conspicuous as to distinguish himself clearly above his comrades in the performance of more than ordinary hazardous service, according to a National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM) memorandum circular.

The award may be given only if the enemy force is so overwhelming as compared to the government troops.

SAF 44 engaged in a nine-hour gun battle when they implemented Oplan Exodus to arrest Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Basit Usman on 25 January 2015 at Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano in Maguindanao province.

Those who posthumously received both the PNP Medal of Valor and Magalong Medal were P/CInsp. Ryan Pabalinas, P/CInsp. Max Jim Tria, P/Insp. John Garry Erana, P/CInsp. Cyrus Anniban, P/SInsp. Joey Gamutan, P/SInsp. Rennie Lumasag Tayrus, SPO2 Lover Ladao Inocencio, SPO1 Rodrigo Fernandez Acob Jr., SPO1 Virgel Serion Villanueva, SPO1 Noel Onganey Golocan, SPO1 Andres Duque Jr.,

SPO1 Junrel Kibete, SPO1 Victoriano Acain Jr., SPO1 Robert Allaga, SPO1 Jedz-in Asjali, SPO1 John lloyd Sumbilla, PO3 Amman Esmula, PO3 Romeo Senin II, PO3 Chum Agabon, PO3 Glenn Bedua, PO3 Richelle Baluga, PO3 Noel Balaca Jr., PO3 Joel Dulnuan, PO3 Walner Danao, PO3 Godofredo Cabanlet, PO3 Franklin Danao, PO3 Jerry Kayob, PO3 Noble Kiangan, PO3 Ephraim Mejia,

PO3 Omar Nacionales PO3 Rodel Ramacula, PO3 Roger Cordero Cordero, PO3 Peterson Indongsan Carap, PO3 Nicky de Castro Nacino Jr., PO2 Russel Bilog, PO2 Windel Candano, PO2 Loreto Capinding II, PO2 Gringo Cayang-O, PO2 Mark Lory Clemencio, PO2 Joseph Sagonoy, PO2 Oliebeth Viernes, PO2 Angel Chocowen Kodiamat. (PND)

'Alab ng Puso' sculpture honoring heroism of soldiers unveiled at BGC

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 18): 'Alab ng Puso' sculpture honoring heroism of soldiers unveiled at BGC

A sculpture honoring the gallantry of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) was unveiled on Monday at the Bonifacio Global City in Fort Bonifacio, a former military camp.

Apart from members of the AFP, the unveiling of Alab ng Puso (Fire in the Heart) was attended by Taguig Rep. Pia Cayetano, officials from the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), Fort Bonifacio Development Corporation (FBDC), and the Bonifacio Art Foundation, Inc. (BAFI) and the City of Taguig. 

AFP Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Salvador Melchor Mison Jr., representative of President Rodrigo Duterte, said Alab ng Puso “signifies the burning fire in the heart of every Filipino.”

Mison read the message of outgoing AFP Chief General Rey Leonardo Guerrero: “We stand in tribute to all those who have made it possible for the Republic to stand tall and free among community of nations–the gallant soldiers, unsung heroes and selfless patriots, this is our monument to their fire and heroism.”

Mison said the sculpture of artist Daniel dela Cruz is a “morale booster” to the men and women in uniform to do better.

“By your hands and your vision, you honor every soldier, sailor, marine, and airman who have pledged to serve, who has put our country first above all else,” he said.

BCDA President and Chief Executive Officer Vivencio Dizon said the installation of historical markers was an idea of BCDA Chairman Gregorio Garcia III.

“This is just the beginning. We’re currently working on more tribute markers for our soldiers,” Dizon said.

Dizon said the sculpture is also an initiative to promote the history behind the Bonifacio Global City. BGC, now a premier business district in the country, is one of the biggest projects of BCDA, mandated to transform former military camps into centers of economic growth.

“Looking back at our cherished history is so important. The history of Fort Bonifacio is really very much ingrained and very deep in the hearts of our soldiers; and it should be the same for each and every Filipino who goes here,” he said.

BCDA also helps build great cities while strengthening the Armed Forces, remitting P8.2 billion to the AFP during the first two years of the Duterte administration.

Lt. Gen. Rolando Joselito Bautista, Commanding General of the Philippine Army, said the Alab ng Puso will serve as an inspiration to soldiers fighting at the battlefronts.

“As we stand here today, our soldiers are continuously fighting in the different battlefronts nationwide, not only in Marawi City. It is a fight against terror, it is a fight for peace, and it is a fight that our troops are willing to take,” Bautista said in his message read by Army Vice Commander Maj. Gen. Robert Arevalo.

Alab ng Puso portrays an ordinary Filipino soldier with his weapon set aside, reading a letter from his family.

“Alab ng Puso shows that the Filipino soldiers answer to an extraordinary call of duty but at the same time, he is also like the rest of us who value the same things that we all have in common,” Manny Blas II, FBDC head of commercial operations, said.

Duterte leads AFP Change of Command

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 19): Duterte leads AFP Change of Command

President Rodrigo Duterte presided over the turnover ceremony of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Wednesday, April 18 at the Parade Grounds of Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

General Rey Leonardo Guerrero, the 49th Chief of Staff of the AFP, relinquished the AFP’s top post to Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., former Commander of the AFP Western Mindanao Command.
During the ceremony, Guerrero was honored with a Testimonial Parade and Review and the prestigious award of the Philippine Legion of Honor (Rank of Commander).

Guerrero was supposed to retire on December 17, 2017 when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 56. However, President Duterte extended his service for four more months.

The President said, “I had to extend your services because of the ongoing war in Mindanao, specifically ‘yung (the) Marawi. Kaya ‘yung MARINA, ‘yung director, ang silya doon multo na ang nakaupo (Over at MARINA, the long vacated director’s seat has been occupied already by a ghost). It’s about time na (that) you report to that office by next week perhaps.”

The President praised Guerrero for his accomplishment in the AFP specifically the increase in number of rebel surrenderers during his tour of duty.

Meanwhile, the President expressed confidence “that the AFP will continue to move forward in the right direction” under the leadership of Guerrero’s successor, Lt. Gen Carlito Galvez. 

Renovated Cavite Naval Hospital OPD opens

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 19): Renovated Cavite Naval Hospital OPD opens

The newly renovated Out-Patient Department of the Cavite Naval Hospital here was recently inaugurated and turned-over by benefactor, SM Foundation Inc.

The renovated facility is located at the back of the hospital that caters to about 100 patients a day include clinics for prenatal care, ob-gynecology care, family planning, well baby, bone and joint, osteoporosis, physical therapy/rehabilitation medicine, ophthalmology and ENT, diabetes, anti-TB (DOTS) program and psychiatric evaluation/management.

The hospital is the first military facility to use the PN MedICS (Philippine Navy Medical Information Computerized System) software provided by the Makati Medical Center Foundation, Inc, (MMCFI) and Ideaspace. The said software is a web-based electronic medical records system that would make the hospital patient-friendly because patients attended to by the facility would no longer undergo time-consuming routine examinations with which their medical history records already contain.

The renovation project is the first partnership between SM Foundation, Inc. (SMFI) and the Makati Medical Center Foundation, Inc, (MMCFI) headed by Marge Macasaet Barro and Ideaspace headed by Butch Meily.

Cavite Naval Hospital is the 136th Wellness Center and the 24th military facility which SMFI helped rehabilitate.

SM Foundation Executive Director for Health and Medical Programs, Ms. Connie Angeles committed for the continued support of the building’s care and maintenance and stated that, “This is our way to help the men in uniform who serve our country. We are your partners.”

On the other hand, Flag Officer in Command of the Philippine Navy, Vice Admiral Robert Empedra AFP, on behalf of the naval force expressed his gratitude for the project that greatly enhance the quality of their medical services.

Likewise, Commanding Officer of CNH, Capt. Ma. Jessica Vallanca, said that the service upgrade will certainly boost the morale of military personnel, their dependents and civilians.

Army spearheads biz security forum in SurSur

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 19): Army spearheads biz security forum in SurSur

With the aim of recognizing the new perspective on peace security operations in addressing different security issues and concerns, the 75th Infantry “Marauder” Battalion, Philippine Army successfully conducted the Business Security Forum recently in Bislig City.

The said activity, which was joined in by the representatives from the business sectors, Philippine National Police (PNP), and some stakeholders, specifically aimed to intensify the cooperative defense mechanism and give way to an exchange of different security benchmarks that would basically prevent the threats and other atrocities in the area.

“We cannot resolve the problem if the information are intentionally hidden from us,” 75IB commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Jaime Datuin revealed.

The official also discouraged the participants from supporting the enemy entities, in any possible way that may cause atrocities (Arson, Extortion, Bombing and etc.) in the future.

Lt Col. Datuin reminded that it is against the law to support the communist group.

On one hand, participants have also brought out some issues and concerns on peace and security operations during the open forum.

Meanwhile, the said activity has asserted the collaborative relationship between the Armed Forces of the Philippines, PNP, business owners and other stakeholders in the pursuit of peace and order in the area.

#ForMindanao prepares local groups on effective project management

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 20): #ForMindanao prepares local groups on effective project management

The 13 winning teams of #ForMindanao grants competition undergo a three-day boot camp on project management, financial reporting, monitoring and evaluation, project documentation, and community sensitivity. The 13 projects are part of the second wave of #ForMindanao projects which will be implemented starting this April. (APB/PIA-10)

Over 40 community leaders have undergone a three-day boot camp on project management at Apple Tree Resort and Hotel on April 5-7, 2018 as part of the #ForMindanao Conflict Response and Peacebuilding Grants.

The boot camp was designed to equip leaders of the 13 local groups that won the #ForMindanao grants competition with necessary knowledge and skills to effectively and efficiently carry out projects.

Anchored on three themes: getting to know the “why” of change; understanding “how” to be an agent of change; and telling others your story of change, the three-day camp focused on how the leaders can effectively participate in addressing the needs of their community and develop innovative and sustainable projects.

The sessions included discussions on project documentation, monitoring and evaluation, financial reporting, community sensitivity, online and physical safety, and branding, among others.

Selahuddin Hashim, one of the resource experts who discussed why and how Mindanaons can participate in Mindanao building, reminded the participants to ensure that the community should be involved in their projects.

“Go down to the community, ask them and listen to them. There has to be people’s participation,” he emphasized.

On the other hand, Michael Lagcao who introduced the Do No Harm concept shared tips on how to maximize positive project impacts.

Resource speakers during the second day of the #ForMindanao boot camp share insights on community ethics and psychological and cultural sensitivity in developing and implementing community projects. The #ForMindanao boot camp was organized by the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines through Naawan HELPS, a U.S. exchange alumni-led civil society organization based in Northern Mindanao. (APB/PIA-10)

“In project delivery, it is important to know the community and understand the interaction between the projects and the context in order to maximize positive impacts,” he said.

The #ForMindanao boot camp was organized by the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines through Naawan HELPS, a U.S. exchange alumni-led civil society organization based in Northern Mindanao.

#ForMindanao is a project that supports locally-led projects in Mindanao that mobilize local communities.

The selected projects will be awarded grants of up to P100,000.

“The project provides local groups with resources and avenue where they can help their own communities because we believe that the locals are well-positioned to address the needs of their communities,” said Johnson Badawi of the #ForMindanao core team.

The first wave of the #ForMindanao grant started in 2017.

The second wave, which targets initiatives and projects in Lanao areas that aim to contribute to the recovery from the Marawi crisis and the overall development of Mindanao, will be implemented from April to October 2018.

Badawi said they have received over 30 proposals for the second wave and 13 projects were selected to receive the grants.

#ForMindanao: An aid through community engagement

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 20): #ForMindanao: An aid through community engagement

KulturAKO is one of the six of the winning projects of #ForMindanao campaign that focus on livelihood and economic development of the community. Hammin Casan says the KulturAKO project is their initiative to revive the culture and at the same time, help OSY, internally displaced youth, and women weavers to start anew and have their own livelihood. (Zener R. Dumaguing/PIA-10)

The Marawi crisis has been a bell-ringing concern that lasted for quite a long time. In response to this, the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines made an effort to respond to the thirst for support by some Mindanao groups to lend a help to the victims.

Here, the birth of the second wave of #ForMindanao Conflict Response and Peacebuilding Grants happened. This campaign supports locally-led initiatives by awarding grants of up to P100,000 to projects that aim to contribute to the recovery from the Marawi crisis and the development of Mindanao.

The #ForMindanao campaign builds upon the belief that addressing the needs of conflict-affected communities in Mindanao requires a confluence of local and civil society initiatives that encourage engagement from local communities.

The grant competition is administered by Naawan HELPS, a U.S. exchange alumni-led civil society organization based in Northern Mindanao.

Many groups desired to win the grant competition but only a few were granted the chance. Out of the 30 proposals the #ForMindanao core team received, 13 projects were selected.

Johnson Badawi of the #ForMindanao core team said a clear understanding of the community needs and the appropriateness of the proposed intervention to the identified needs were among the considerations in selecting the best proposals.

We also looked into the feasibility of the monitoring and evaluation of the projects, the sustainability and replicability of the project, as well as the teamwork of the group and how they can mobilize partners in the community, Badawi said.

Six of the winning projects are into livelihood and economic development programs to alleviate unemployment and uplift socio-economic conditions of the community through livelihood activities for women and youth, capacity-building training on agriculture, production and entrepreneurship.

The projects are Fleet Farming for a Resilient Mindanao (FFfaRM), KulturAKO, Out-of-School Youth Farms for Mindanao (OSY-FM), Palapa sa Lumba, Sound Intervention for Young Advocates of Peace (SIYAP), and Small Entrepreneurs and Local Farmers (SELF) Sunday Market.

The other seven projects, namely: Acquiring Leadership Initiative for Valuable Education (ALIVE), Young Peace Advocates Camp (YPAC), Project MALAYA, PAG-USWAG, SPELL Peace, SPRING of Hope, and Training-Workshop for Teachers on the Teaching of Reading and Children’s Literature, were anchored on education, social mobilization, peace and stability, with the goal to capacitate the children, youth, teachers and communities to peace literacy, street law programs, Basic English, literature-based reading programs, and faith based approaches to peace-building.

“Our project S.P.R.I.N.G. of Hope, which stands for Strengthening the Potential Responsibility in the New Generation of Hope, caters to 25 youth, aged 15 to 18, enrolled in Iligan City National High School and its annexes who are directly affected by the Marawi siege,” said Project Director Wilhelma Sampaco.

The project aims to enhance and strengthen the youth’s knowledge on basic Philippine and Islamic laws. The series of seminars, workshops, and psychosocial support activities are to be conducted to illuminate the youth with knowledge on their rights and responsibilities in Philippine and Islamic Laws in the hope that they may be able to avoid and correct the ideologies that promote nothing but lawlessness and discrimination.

The KulturAKO is a livelihood training project of team MARINAW which gives economic opportunity to 20 students and five out-of-school youth (OSY) to build a social enterprise out of “landap”, a Meranao weaved cloth.

“Our team is named MARINAW, a Maranao term for clear, which means our intention to help is pure. Our KulturAKO (My Culture) project aims to create products such as wallets, flip covers, passport holders, and other things we can imagine out of the traditional weaved clothing. We will be training the youth on sewing, weaving and handicrafts making. We will also contact five women weavers and buy their landap. In this way, we can also help the women weavers whose livelihood were affected by the Marawi crisis,” said Hammin Casan.

“It is our initiative to revive the culture and, at the same time, help OSY, internally displaced youth, and women weavers to have their own livelihood and start anew,” he added.

Casan is grateful that #ForMindanao supports local initiatives that promote sustainable peace and development in each of the communities.

Galvez supports peace efforts with MILF, MNLF

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 19): Galvez supports peace efforts with MILF, MNLF

Newly-appointed Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez strongly supports the government's peace initiatives with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

"As your Chief-of-Staff, I take this opportunity to reiterate our full support to peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front. We look forward to the final, peaceful, and equitable resolution of the conflict in Mindanao," he said during his assumption speech Wednesday.

In line with the government’s ongoing peace initiatives with the MILF and MNLF, Galvez said the AFP would strengthen existing peace mechanisms and revitalize the Peace and Development Offices down to Unified Command level.

"We will do this to effectively address the grievances of the people of Mindanao and to set the conditions for a just and lasting peace," the newly-appointed AFP chief stressed.

Earlier, Galvez said that it is time to reconcile with "misguided Filipino brothers and sisters" and walk the path of peace.

"It is time for rebuilding and reconciliation amongst Filipinos. It is the best time to walk the path of peace. I once again propose to you, brothers and sisters, that you consider returning to the folds of the law and avail government’s offer to end all conflicts," the newly-appointed AFP chief added.

Galvez, a member of Philippine Military Academy Class of 1985, replaced Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, a member of PMA Class of 1984, who was honored with a testimonial parade and review and the prestigious award of the Philippine Legion of Honor (Rank of Commander).

Año orders Albayalde to probe SAF allowance mess

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 19): Año orders Albayalde to probe SAF allowance mess

“Get to the bottom of the PHP60-million Special Action Forces (SAF) allowance mess and file charges.”

This was the first marching order of Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Officer-in-Charge Secretary Eduardo Año to new Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director Oscar Albayalde as he assumed office Thursday.

Año said Albayalde should give outright priority in finding out how SAF officials were allegedly able to withhold and deprive SAF troopers of their daily subsistence allowance for several months since 2016.

“This should be his first priority and will serve as litmus test on how he will carry out the internal cleansing program within the police organization,” Año said.

Four former SAF officials are now the subject of a complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the alleged malversation of close to PHP60 million of funds that are meant for the daily additional subsistence allowance of SAF troopers for two years.

Año said that Albayalde, who had also been part of SAF before, knows first-hand the hardships of being part of the elite force of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and should be able to act decisively on this issue.

“He (Albayalde) is a former SAF commando and official so he knows the struggles of SAF and how they look forward to receiving additional benefits from the PNP,” Año said.

Año said the PNP should conduct its own fact-finding investigation to ensure that the SAF allowance mess is an isolated case and to craft appropriate policies that will prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

“This should not happen again," he said.

New PNP top cop assumes post, vows reform continuity

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 19): New PNP top cop assumes post, vows reform continuity

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Oscar Albayalde on Thursday formally assumed office as the new head of the 196,000-strong police force.

Albayalde replaced Director General Ronald dela Rosa during the change of command ceremonies led by President Rodrigo R. Duterte at the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame.

In his inaugural address, Albayalde, the 22nd PNP chief, thanked Dela Rosa and vowed to continue the latter's programs particularly on improving discipline and the campaign against illegal drugs.

"We shall impose and breathe discipline 24/7 and implement reforms in all levels in the PNP, we will show respect to both to ourselves and to the public. Because genuine public service I believe is anchored on respect. Self-respect is what guide our morals as individuals and our collaborative action as an organization -- we wear our uniforms properly and with pride, we do not sleep while we are on duty, and we do not betray our oath of office by engaging illegal activities," Albayalde said.

He added that he will require unit commanders to conduct regular surprise inspections in the 2,766 police stations throughout the country.

"If we want to win the trust of the Filipino people who pays our salary --which the President doubled recently -- we will serve with all honesty, honor and integrity," he said.

Albayalde said he would carry on with the programs of the previous leadership particularly the Oplan Double Barrel, adding that "continuity is important to maintain the momentum" but said he would introduce reforms to those programs that need to be more responsive to our existing situation.

"We will strengthen the oversight committee which will regularly evaluate the performance of all commanders on the ground," the new PNP chief added.

Army hosts dialogue to tackle Maguindanao land dispute

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 17): Army hosts dialogue to tackle Maguindanao land dispute

DIALOGUE. Lt. Colonel Lauro Oliveros, commander of the Army's 1st Mechanized Infantry Battalion speaks before tribal leaders and representatives of a former logging firm to settle their land dispute in Ampatuan, Maguindanao. (Photo by 1st MIB)

AMPATUAN, Maguindanao –- The Army’s 1st Mechanized Infantry Battalion (MIB) hosted a dialogue Monday between Indigenous Peoples (IPs) community and representatives of a former logging firm-turned coffee planters in a bid to avoid bloody confrontation between IPs and the firm’s security personnel.

Lt. Colonel Lauro Oliveros, commander of the First MIB stationed here, believes that dialogue is the best means to settle dispute than resort to unnecessary confrontation.

Representatives of Magsaysay and Sons (M&S) Company and Manobo tribes’ people sat down in the negotiating table inside the battalion headquarters and gladly welcomed mediation by Oliveros.

Also in attendance were village officials of Barangays Tomicor and Saniag, both in Ampatuan town -- Arlene Catuluyan of the Office of Southern Cultural Communities - Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (OSCC-ARMM), M&S Manager Joselito Invento and Rolando Baloria, the firm’s chief security officer.

Oliveros said issue of overlapping boundaries between the tracts of land owned by M&S Company and the ancestral domain of the IPs has been a perennial conflict that resulted to animosity between the two groups.

“This is the same major issue unearthed during the Community Support Program conducted in Barangay Tomicor that the communist New Peoples Army was exploiting to gain popular support and recruit the IPs to fight against the government,” Oliveros said.

He said the dialogue cleared and ruled out the misconceptions about the company and enlightened the misunderstanding between the two parties.

“It’s good we have meeting of the minds here,” Oliveros told both parties and lauded that both showed their willingness to solve the issue regarding land dispute for them to move forward and work together in order to wipeout misunderstanding and confusion in the area.

Oliveros said more dialogues would be conducted, this time with the participation of representatives from concerned government agencies who could help address the land issue.

Both sides readily agreed to another or more meeting and dialogues. Tribal leaders lauded the Army for initiating the dialogue.

Invento said the dialogue gave the company the opportunity to explain and clarify matters affecting the firm and the tribal community.

Invento said it was the first time that the company representatives directly engage the IP leaders to settle misunderstanding.

Oliveros did not stop at settling the misunderstanding over boundaries but urged both sides to help in the preservation of the remaining forest in the mountains of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat.

“This gathering is not for the military, it is for you people here,” Oliveros said adding “Your soldiers come and go but you stay here because your life is here.”

A total log ban is currently in effect in the component areas of the ARMM, namely the cities of Marawi and Lamitan, and the provinces of Maguindanao, Sulu, Basilan, Lanao del Sur, and Tawi-tawi.

The M&S firm, though not anymore engaged in logging activities, has planted coffee and other agricultural crops in the areas where they used to cut trees, including those near the IP-dominated Tomicor and Saniag villages.

Expel Anakpawis rep, Davao City mayor asks solons

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 18): Expel Anakpawis rep, Davao City mayor asks solons

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio on Tuesday asked members of the House of Representatives to expel Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao who has become an aberration to the government.

“Casilao is an aberration in government. Instead of working to help the workers and farmers he is supposed to represent in Congress, Casilao is now serving as the representative of the terrorists. His colleagues in the House of Representatives should expel him,” the city mayor said.

She also urged Casilao to resign from government and join his brothers in the communist movement if he intends to continue attacking the government which he is supposed to be a part of.

Duterte-Carpio issued the statement following Casilao’s reaction to her opposition to the resumption of the peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

The city mayor had earlier asked President Rodrigo Duterte to reconsider his decision to reopen the negotiations with the NDFP.

She said suspending the peace talks would not only mean ending the delusion of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-NDFP, but would also allow the realization of long-delayed growth and the development of the countryside.

But Casilao reacted, saying Duterte-Carpio should realize that rebellion persists because of continuing injustice in rural areas, like the concentration of land ownership in the hands of few families.

He urged the mayor to first understand why communist rebellion persists in the countryside before concluding it was a waste of time to resume talks with the NDFP.

“Mr Ariel Casilao’s comment on my opinion on the resumption of the peace talks is telling of how the representative of Anakpawis has designated himself as the mouthpiece and the attack dog of the groups responsible for a long list of terroristic activities against the people and the state over the past 40 years,” Duterte-Carpio said in a statement issued Tuesday.

She said Casilao’s pontification comes straight from the political propaganda playbook of the terrorists.

“I do not need to kowtow to the military or read a document to give my thoughts on the peace talks. My assessment is based on the wisdom I have gained as mayor and is actually reflective of the sentiments of the majority of Dabawenyos.” she stressed.

The mayor further urged Casilao to tell the international fact-finding solidarity mission “which was composed of NPA sympathizers, by the way — to put in their report that I said NPA terrorists and disorderly picketers in Davao City do not deserve rights accorded to human beings.”

SOLCOM adheres to human rights accord; nixes Reds’ false claims

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 19): SOLCOM adheres to human rights accord; nixes Reds’ false claims

CAMP GEN. NAKAR, Lucena City, Quezon – The Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) branded as “false and pure lies” the outlawed communist insurgents’ claim that the military executed rebels during the April 9 clash in Camarines Sur.

In a statement, the Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) also said “(t)he Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is a strong advocate of human rights and international humanitarian law.”

It also said “there are many instances that the troops have been demonstrating their love for their fellow Filipino and dedication to the service.”

“On the contrary, the CPP-NPA-NDF continues to spread fear and lies to recruit minors, women and farmers, and extort money from local businessmen and entrepreneurs,” it added.

SOLCOM public information officer 1Lt. Felise Vida P. Solano told Philippine News Agency on Wednesday that contrary to the Communist Party of the Philippines -National Democratic Front-New Peoples' Army (CPP-NDF-NPA) claim, the military leadership here and the Southern Luzon units are in accord with the human rights observance and the International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

Solano said human rights was observed when they captured one of the wounded terrorists during last week's clash.

“He (the wounded insurgent) had a gunshot wound and was near death when the medical team revived him on site. He was given further medical treatment and is currently in stable condition,” she said.

She also referred to one of the captured terrorists as a 15-year-old boy, whose “participation in the armed struggle is the CPP-NPA’s clear violation of the rights of children as stated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour.”

SOLCOM has already turned over the child in conflict with the law (CICL) to the social welfare services office for proper disposition.

Solano also said the bodies of slain NPA members have been sent to funeral parlors to prepare them for proper burial and all other captured rebels have been referred to authorized agencies to undergo due process.

Solano said the SOLCOM leadership has been encouraging all CPP-NPA terrorists to lay down their arms and allow the government to help them rebuild their lives.

She said SOLCOM also continues to appeal to the families of the rebels to help military forces rescue their relatives from the communist terrorist group’s exploitation.

But SOLCOM maintains that it will continue its operation against communists who continue to fight.

“SOLCOM remains firm in its stand to continue to protect and serve the Filipino people from these atrocities. It will not be bullied into submission by any terrorist group that threatens the peace and security the communities and stakeholders have built. The AFP wholeheartedly supports peace programs by all stakeholders and will not withhold its participation and cooperation to push these endeavors into fruition,” the SOLCOM statement added.

It said that “those captured during armed encounters and apprehended during law enforcement operations shall face the consequences of their crimes.”

The SOLCOM leadership also vowed “it will not tolerate those among its ranks who will abuse the power and responsibility they have been given and encourage the community to report personnel who commit acts not befitting of his uniform.”

The military here also assured that all formal complaints forwarded to SOLCOM will undergo due process.

“Peace is the product of the stakeholders’ united effort. We call on every citizen to do their part, even in a simple way, such as reporting unfamiliar faces in their communities and following government rules and regulations, in our quest for peace. There is much we can achieve when we do it together,” the SOLCOM statement stated.

Mayor urges US envoy to consider Iloilo City as port of call

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 19): Mayor urges US envoy to consider Iloilo City as port of call

Iloilo City Mayor Jose Espinosa III has requested United States Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim to consider this metropolis for the port call of their vessels.

The US ambassador paid a courtesy call to the mayor at the Iloilo City Hall on Thursday.

As for Espinosa’s request, the ambassador told the mayor that he will look into it.

Espinosa believed that bringing in one US vessel, which carries more or less 5,000 personnel can “boost the tourism aspect of Iloilo City tremendously.”

It would benefit restaurants, department stores and even “pasalubong” (souvenir) centers because of their purchasing power, he said.

Ambassador Kim said he heard a lot about Iloilo City as one of the most successful cities in the Philippines.

He also learned about the city’s successful partnerships, especially with the United States Agency for International Development.

The courtesy call was followed by a private meeting together with members of the Iloilo Trade and Investments Promotions Board.

The board will be leaving for a trade mission to the United States in June.

The envoy is alsoo scheduled to have a private dinner with Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Sr.

Villagers displaced by NPA-military clash in NegOcc return home

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 19): Villagers displaced by NPA-military clash in NegOcc return home

HELPING HAND. A 79th Battalion soldier distributes canned food to residents displaced following an encounter between government troops and rebels in San Carlos City, Negros Occidental earlier this week. (Photo courtesy of 3rd Division Public Affairs Office )

More than 200 residents of Barangays Buluangan and Quezon in San Carlos City, Negros Occidental displaced by the encounter between government troops and communist rebels have returned to their homes as of Thursday morning.

The Army’s 3rd Infantry Division said soldiers of the 79th Infantry Battalion assisted the affected residents who were evacuated when the clash started at the adjacent Barangay Guadalupe on April 16.

Data provided by the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (Nocppo) showed that 27 families composed of 123 individuals took shelter at Handalago Elementary School while 19 families comprised of 101 individuals stayed at Mabato Elementary School.

Inspector Charmae de Paz, public information officer of Nocppo, said the displaced residents also received assistance from the barangays, city government, and Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Troops of 79th Battalion encountered about 30 members of Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) after they were dispatched by Lt. Col. Emelito Thaddeus Logan to conduct security patrol at Barangay Guadalupe.

No injury or casualty was reported on both sides, but the soldiers later discovered a rebel camp in the area.

Logan said he deployed his men after receiving reports from concerned citizens of the rebels’ continued extortion activities in the hinterlands of the northern Negros city.

“This is a clear indication that the community is tired of the NPA terrorists’ ruthlessness and extortion activities in the area,” he added.

“We are calling the populace to remain vigilant and report the presence and whereabouts of these terrorists to stop them from staging terror in the community,” he said.

‘Balik Baril’ yields 123 firearms in NoCot, Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 20): ‘Balik Baril’ yields 123 firearms in NoCot, Maguindanao

SURRENDERED. Mayors Datu Shameem Mastura (in red shirt) and Datu Rauf Mastura (in blue shirt) of Sultan Kudara and Sultan Mastura towns, respectively, flash the peace sign together with local military and police officials during the joint turnover ceremony of 76 loose firearms on Tuesday (April 17) at the municipal hall of Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. (Photo by 6ID)
CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao -- Local officials in North Cotabato and Maguindanao provinces separately surrendered 123 firearms to military authorities here in the past two days.

Capt. Arvin John Encinas, Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6ID) spokesman, said loose firearms were turned over by civilians to their respective local officials under the government’s “Balik Baril” program.

On Wednesday, officials of Midsayap, North Cotabato, surrendered 47 unregistered firearms during a simple turnover ceremony held at the barangay hall of Poblacion 5 in the area.

Witnessing the event were Midsayap Mayor Romeo Araña; North Cotabato 1st District Board Member Rolando Sacdalan; Lt. Col. Angelo Lutera, 34th Infantry Battalion (IB) commander; and town police chief, Supt. Gilbert Tuzon, among others.

Subsequently, the firearms were brought to the headquarters of the 34th IB in Barangay Salunayan for proper documentation.

On Tuesday, the local governments of Sultan Kudarat and Sultan Mastura in Maguindanao also turned over 45 and 31 loose firearms, respectively.

Sultan Kudarat Mayor Datu Shameem Mastura; Sultan Mastura Mayor Datu Rauf Mastura; and Army’s 603rd Infantry Brigade Commander Brig. Gen. Jesus Sarsagat attended the turnover rites held at the municipal hall of Sultan Kudarat.

Sarsagat expressed his gratitude to the local officials of both municipalities for the fruitful outcome of the campaign against illegal firearms in their respective turfs.

“These loose firearms will never be used now to sow terror in the community, hence everybody must embrace the culture of peace,” he said.

In a statement, Maj. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, 6ID commander, said a total of 515 firearms have so far been “recovered and surrendered” in the 6ID area of responsibility.

2 NPA rebels killed in clash with Army troops

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 20): 2 NPA rebels killed in clash with Army troops

Two members of the New People's Army (NPA) were killed and their rifles seized in an encounter with troops of the Army's 39th Infantry Battalion in Sitio Caceras, Barangay Upper Bala, Magsaysay, Davao del Sur on Tuesday.

Capt. Gary Dida of the 1002nd Brigade reported that the two NPA members were part of a 30-man armed rebels, allegedly led by a certain Norma Capuyan alias Libra, Dave Verano alias Borjack, and Eusebio Cranzo alias Brix, that the soldiers had clashed with.

Witnesses reported that the NPA was meeting with militias in the forested area of Upper Bala, prompting government troops to send forces to quell any planned atrocity.

Dida said the firefight lasted for about an hour, resulting in the death of the two rebels. The troops also seized their M16 rifles.

He said the troops also saw several wounded NPA members being dragged away by their comrades.
The troops immediately hunted down the NPA rebels, Dida said, noting that there was no casualty from the government side.

Lt. Col. Rhojun Rosales, Commanding Officer of 39IB, thanked the concerned residents for the timely and accurate report on the presence of the NPAs in their area.

The Commander of the 10th infantry Division, Maj. Gen. Noel Clement, vowed to continue pursuing the remaining CPP-NPA terrorists but "will spare those who want to surrender."

“10th ID remains steadfast in protecting the people and securing communities.

The death of the two NPAs clearly manifested the ills of communist-terrorist ideology," he said.

BIFF returnees included in ARMM’s re-integration program

BIFF returnees included in ARMM’s re-integration programBIFF returnees included in ARMM’s re-integration program

Surrenderers from the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) are included in the Program Against Violent Extremism (PAVE) re-integration program of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

On Tuesday, ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman led the launching of the program in Isabela City, Basilan, with at least 139 Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) initially benefiting from the program.

Specifically, the PAVE package is the regional government's first model program in providing various interventions to former (ASG) members who surrendered to the government, and their families.

Hataman added though that the scheme also caters to BIFF returnees.

The ARMM covers the cities of Marawi and Lamitan, and the provinces of Maguindanao, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Basilan and Lanao del Sur in its area of jurisdiction.

Hataman noted that the PAVE program is recognized by the National Peace and Order Council (NPOC), and will officially be part of the national government’s Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) reintegration program that aims to a achieve permanent and peaceful closure of all armed conflicts with non-state groups.

The PAVE’s core principles are to bridge social gaps, balance the military and non-military offensives, and attain justice.

Hataman said after being processed by the local government units (LGUs) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the surrendering Abu Sayyaf and BIFF members will be endorsed to the regional government for the required psycho-social, economic, educational and spiritual interventions.

"(And) we will allow them to live as normal and productive citizens in their communities, and they will be the advocates for peace against violent extremism," the governor said, adding that the cycle of violence must end.

The returnees will automatically be recipients of the regional government's banner programs - ARMM's Health, Education, Livelihood, Peace and Governance, and Synergy (ARMM-HELPS) and ARMM's Bangsamoro Regional Inclusive Development with Growth and Equity (ARMM-BRIDGE).

"We made sure that surrendering Abu Sayyaf members with pending cases would not be beneficiaries of this program,” Hataman stressed.

PAVE will also be launched in the provinces of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi that have 61 and 23 surrenderees, respectively. Only recently, four BIFF members also surrendered in Maguindanao.