Saturday, April 28, 2018

2 coco farmers beheaded in Maguindanao farm

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 28): 2 coco farmers beheaded in Maguindanao farm

Residents of a remote barangay in Parang town of Maguindanao were shocked over the grisly murder of two neighbors who were beheaded inside a coconut farm.

Parang Town, Maguindanao Map (Wikipedia/ Manila Bulletin)
Senior Insp. Jemar delos Santos, spokesman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) regional police, said it appeared that the beheading occurred while the two victims were sleeping between Friday night and early Saturday morning.

“Their bodies were found right in the place where they were sleeping. Both heads of the victims are nowhere to be found,” delos Santos told the Manila Bulletin in a phone interview.

He identified the victims as 42-year old Ceasar Fermin and 21-year old Jabon Bistas, both of G. Calawag in Parang town.

He said that at around 9 p.m. on Friday, the victims asked permission from the owner of a coconut farm if they could sleep in the farm to tend to the coconuts harvested in the area.

The crime scene, according to delos Santos, is some 200 meters away from the house of the victims.

At around 5 a.m. yesterday, the cadavers of the victims were found.

Police are yet to identify the perpetrators and to determine the motive.

But delos Santos said that long before the beheading, local residents had been receiving threats of attack from nearby barangays.

Local investigators, however, would not say the reason behind the threats of attack from other barangays.

In the past, however, land dispute was among the common reasons why members of a community would attack another family or community in central part of Mindanao.

2 farmers beheaded in Maguindanao —ARMM police

From GMA News (Apr 28): 2 farmers beheaded in Maguindanao —ARMM police

Two farmers were found Saturday morning decapitated and their headless bodies sprawled on the ground in Parang, Maguindanao.

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao police identified the victims as farmers Ceasar Deamada Fermin, 42, and Jabon Bistas, 21, all residents of Purok Lansones, Barangay Gumagadong Calawag, Parang.

Photo courtesy: PNP ARMM

An initial police investigation showed that at 9 p.m. on Friday, April 27, the two told their families they will sleep over at a tapahan (coconut drying hut) located 200 meters away from the farm owner's house.

Residents found the headless bodies of the victims at the tapahan at about 5 a.m. Saturday.

Police Chief Superintendent Graciano Mijares, regional director for ARMM, said that authorities are investigating the incident to track the assailant and to determine the motive for the crime.

IS fighters storm fugitives’ lair in Basilan – report

From the Manila Times (Apr 29): IS fighters storm fugitives’ lair in Basilan – report

The SITE Intelligence Group, a US terrorism monitor, reported on Saturday that Islamic State (IS)-inspired militants attacked the houses of apostates in Basilan and allegedly killed them.

Quoting an IS report, it said: “The Islamic State (IS) reported in Naba 129 that fighters on Basilan Island in the Philippines stormed the homes of apostates and killed them.”

The Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium also reported the same information and said “Islamic State releases newspaper Al Naba 129 on 27 April 2018 – Battles South of Damascus, Syria; ISK attack in Kabul, Afghanistan; Basilan, Philippines Claim.”

Access to the news on both sites and details of the reports are exclusive to paying subscribers. It was not known how many people were killed or whether the victims were all Muslims.

There was no immediate statement both from the Philippine military and police on the reported attacks.

Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao also told the regional newspaper Minda­nao Examiner, “We have no reports about it. Maybe it’s just IS propaganda,” he told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

But it was the second time since last year that IS claimed deadly attacks in the Philippines.

In June 2017, the IS, in a statement, took responsibility for the lone wolf attack at the casino of the Resorts World Manila.

At least three dozens people were killed in the attack that the IS claimed was carried out by a lone Filipino gunman – Jessie Carlos – whose nom de guerre was Abul Al-Kahir al-Arkhabili. It said the daring attack was carried out by one of its jihadists who later shot himself in the head in one of the hotel rooms after setting afire gambling tables and carpets that suffocated the victims.

The Islamic State, in a statement released through its Amaq News Agency, said: “With God’s help, our brother Abul Khayr al-Arkhabili managed to hide with his machine gun among a group of Christians who fight Islam inside a Resorts World resort in Manila, Philippines, where he opened fire on them, killing and injuring about 100 of them, until he, eventually, died as a martyr.”

Police said Carlos had huge casino gambling debts and strongly denied the IS claim that he was a jihadist.

Bulatlat: DND, AFP are spoiling the peace talks resumption

From the pro-Communist Party of the Philippines online propaganda publication Bulatlat (Apr 29): DND, AFP are spoiling the peace talks resumption

Republished from the Philippine Star At Ground Level column by Satur Ocampo, a former member of the clandestine National Democratic Front, the political wing of the CPP, who was captured by Philippine security forces and later released. He is now an above ground propagandist for the Maoist insurgents.

In his latest turnabout on the issue, President Duterte apparently seeks to convince the public that he is dead set on continuing the GRP-NDFP peace talks that he unilaterally “terminated” just before the start of the fifth round of formal negotiations in November 2017.

Twice this month, he has made such a public affirmation. On April 3 in Oriental Mindoro, he addressed himself to the New People’s Army, saying: “You know, we’re not enemies… I want to pursue the peace talks with you… I want peace under my watch. I do not hold a grudge against you. I understand you.” Then, in Legazpi City on April 22, he raised the ante for his call to resume the negotiations, saying: “My duty, my fundamental basic duty is to see to it that the country is peaceful.”

Duterte has directed his peace panel to engage their NDFP counterparts in back-channel discussions, giving them 60 days to get back on track the twice-cancelled fifth round of formal negotiations. On April 12, his peace adviser Jesus Dureza alluded to ongoing “quiet” talks; five days later he announced, “I think we are back on track.” Speaking before the United Nations General Assembly in New York on April 24, Dureza explained:

“President Duterte cancelled the talks in November 2017 because he felt that there was no enabling environment conducive to resuming the negotiations. Today he has found time and effort to already start resuming the negotiations.”

What “enabling environment conducive to resuming the negotiations” made Duterte change his mind, Dureza didn’t mention. For sure it’s not the hardline stance of the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), which the President had kept saying he needed to consult, whenever he was asked if he would still pursue the GRP-NDFP negotiations.

In his Legazpi City speech, Duterte made reference to that fact. He said, “I’m talking to [Joma] Sison now. It’s an off-and-on thing. Probably, ang mga military pati mga pulis may misgivings, but sinabi ko na sa inyo (the military and the police may have misgivings, but I’ve already told you): I am not a president who is a soldier and I am not a president who is a policeman.” Did he mean to say he didn’t think like the military and the police?

True to form, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana let out his deep “misgiving” toward the peace negotiations, while saying that he supported his commander-in-chief’s decision to pursue the same. On April 14, he remonstrated:

“Peace is not their purpose, but to take advantage. When the government declared a ceasefire [at the start of formal negotiations in August 2016], the NPA benefited more than the government. Their leaders were freed and went abroad to join the negotiations and they also launched massive recruitment in upland areas, taking advantage of the peaceful situation.”

Note that Lorenzana didn’t say the NPA violated the ceasefire. What he didn’t say, however, was that the AFP was taking its own advantage during that same August ceasefire. Recently retired AFP chief Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, who at the time headed the Eastern Mindanao Command, declared then:

“Now that the ceasefire with the CPP-NPA is in effect, we expect that the implementation of the government’s peace and development program in the countryside will be able to proceed much faster…” Ordering his troops to carry out their job, Guerrero added: “I also call on our partners and stakeholders to continue supporting our efforts to clear the remaining 156 NPA-affected barangays by yearend.”

That order resulted in AFP units continuing to conduct military operations in and occupying civilian communities “from Northern Luzon to Southern Mindanao” over five months, as recorded in NPA field reports submitted to the NDFP negotiating panel. Despite these intrusions in NPA-held areas, the reports say, NPA units averted armed clashes by maneuvering away from the state troops. In early 2017, the NDFP panel handed these reports to the GRP panel as evidence of the AFP’s violating the spirit of the reciprocal ceasefire.

Lorenzana continues to make more venomous statements, gravely denigrating and brazenly undermining the peace negotiations. On the 45th anniversary of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) last April 24, he crowed:

“With the government’s sincere efforts to achieve peace even without formal talks, the NDFP is fast becoming irrelevant. Through the government’s various programs for reintegration [read: “surrender”], thousands of former rebels have rejoined society.”

He referred to the AFP’s boasting that, during the six-month tour of duty of Gen. Guerrerro as chief of staff (October 2017-April 17, 2018), more than 5,000 “NPA rebels” surrendered to the government. The figure was starkly false. Why? It exceeded the alleged number of NPA fighters that the AFP itself claimed to be only 4,000, more or less. Guerrero then had admitted that most of the “surrenderees” were not combatants but civilians forced into admitting they were NPA supporters.

From plying that blatant fake news, Lorenzana further badmouthed the NDFP. “While NDFP representatives negotiate with government in a foreign land,” he blathered, “their armed comrades perpetrate deceptive and coercive recruitment and, at the same time, continue the conduct of extortion, kidnapping, murder, destruction of property and other criminal acts, exposing their true terrrorist nature.”

Then Lorenzana bared the DND-AFP end-game: “Under President Duterte’s guidance, we are more determined than ever to extend our call for peace and unity – a call for the remaining CPP-NPA to lay down their arms…”

On his part, newly sworn-in AFP chief Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., speaking at the change-of-command rites in Camp Aguinaldo on April 18, vowed “full support” to the peace process with the MILF and the MNLF. But not with the NDFP. Instead, he called on “our Muslim brothers and sisters… to join the AFP in the fight against all forms of violent extremism… our campaign to end insurgency and terrorism.” “Together,” he boasted, “we shall render the CPP-NPA-NDFP irrelevant.”

Spoilers of the peace talks, indeed, these two militarists are!

Misuari seeks court nod to attend OIC meet

From the Philippine Star (Apr 27): Misuari seeks court nod to attend OIC meet

Misuari said the Bangladesh government and OIC General Secretariat invited him as MNLF chair. “The MNLF enjoys an observer status with the OIC as the sole representative of the Bangsamoro people,” Misuari’s motion read.

Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder and chairman Nur Misuari has asked the Sandiganbayan to allow him to leave the country to attend the 45th Foreign Ministers meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Bangladesh from May 2 to 10.

Misuari said the Bangladesh government and OIC General Secretariat invited him as MNLF chair. “The MNLF enjoys an observer status with the OIC as the sole representative of the Bangsamoro people,” Misuari’s motion read.

He said he is “expected” to deliver a speech on developments in the implementation of the 1996 peace agreement signed by the Philippine government and MNLF.

Misuari gave assurance that he would return to the country and present himself before the court within 10 days upon his arrival.

He was charged with three counts each of graft and malversation of public funds through falsification of public documents before the anti-graft court’s third division in connection with the alleged anomalous procurement of educational materials and kits for public schools in 2000 and 2001 amounting to P115.2 million when he was governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The Office of the Ombudsman said Misuari and his co-accused falsified disbursement vouchers, purchase orders, canvass reports, sales invoices, delivery receipts and other supporting documents to make it appear that the transactions were above board.

None of the purchased materials were delivered, the ombudsman said.

In a resolution issued on Dec. 6, 2017, the Sandiganbayan ordered the suspension of Misuari’s trial to allow another preliminary investigation. He claimed he was not given the opportunity to answer the complaints against him.

Misuari was also charged with rebellion and crime against humanity before the Pasig City regional trial court over the Zamboanga siege in 2013, which left more than 100 people dead and 120,000 displaced.

PNP hunting Suyuful members

From Tempo (Apr 29): PNP hunting Suyuful members

The Philippine National Police is hunting members of local terror groups who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria following the arrest of two suspected symphatizers in Laguna last Thursday.

PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde confirmed that they are conducting surveillance operations on other troops of Suyuful Khilafa Fil Luzon.

Two suspected members – Jimuel Velasco Dizon, alias “Amir,” and Eddie Boy Alejo Bermejo, alias “Abdullah” – were arrested by the police and military in Cabuyao and Santa Rosa City in Laguna last week.

“We still have some people subjected for surveillance. The intelligence build-up does not end with the arrest of its two members and I’m sure we are looking into many other personalities,” Albayalde said. He did not disclose how many are they tracking.

He also said they are looking for persons, particularly in the Muslim community, who could provide intelligence information to authorities.

“It does not necessarily mean that they have involved themselves with the terror groups,” he explained.

Mag-uuma, gipatay sa nagpa-ilang NPA

From Radio Mindanao Network (Apr 27): Mag-uuma, gipatay sa nagpa-ilang NPA

Gipatay sa gituuhang mga miyembro sa rebeldeng New People’s Army kon NPA ang usa ka mag-uumang nailang si Berting Balakayo, 66 anyos nga residente sa Brgy. Kihan, Malapatan.
Sumala lkang Lt. Daryll Cansancio, labaw sa Alpha Company sa 73rd ib nga basi sa pamahayag sa mga testigo, gisulod sa dili muubos lima katao ang panimalay sa biktima kung asa kini gigapos.

Gidala matud pa kini sa kasagbutan nga bahin ug dayon gipusil gamit ang wala pa masutang armas sa dughan nga bahin nga hinungdan sa iyahang kamatayon.

Dugang pamahayag ni Lt. Cansancio nga basi sa inisyal nga pagsuta, migawas nga gidudahang impormante sa mga sundalo ang biktima rason nga kini gipatay sa armadong grupo

Sumala sa kabanay niini nga nagbahad matud pa ang mga nahisgutan nga susama ang mahitabo sa kinsa mang mag-traydor sa NPA. Kung asa nagpa-ila matud pa silang miyembro sa NPA ayha mipahawa sa lugar human ang krimen.

2 NPA rebels yield in Mt. Province

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 27): 2 NPA rebels yield in Mt. Province

Two communist rebels surrendered to the police on Thursday afternoon (April 26) in Paracelis town, Mt. Province, the Cordillera police announced on Friday(April 27).

The government took custody of Rogelio Balanon Del Rosario, who went by the name “Ka Eric”, a 41-year-old squad leader of the Frank Guerilla Unit of the New People’s Army (NPA) based in Gonzaga town in Cagayan province, and Benny Lumidap Tuginay, a 26-year-old rebel known as “Ka Manny.”

Their surrender took place at 4:30 p.m., following talks with the local police, military and community leaders, among them Franklin Tallawec, a leader of the Cordillera Bodong Association (CBA), the police said.

Military tags NPA in torching of construction equipment in MisOcc

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 27): Military tags NPA in torching of construction equipment in MisOcc

The military on Friday tagged communist rebels as behind Thursday’s burning of five pieces of heavy equipment in Calamba, Misamis Occidental.

Major General Roseller Murillo, commander of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division based in Zamboanga del Sur, said around 15 New People’s Army (NPA) rebels set ablaze the machineries owned by RN Builders in Barangay Salvador.

“This terroristic act of the NPA rebels hinders progress and development of the communities in our area of responsibility,” Murillo said.

He urged “every individual and contractors to cooperate and report to us any suspicious groups and their activities in order prevent another burning incident.”

Philippines Arrests 2 Suspects With Alleged IS Ties Near Manila

From BenarNews (Apr 27): Philippines Arrests 2 Suspects With Alleged IS Ties Near Manila

The Philippine police claimed Friday they had thwarted a potential terror plot in Manila by capturing two Filipinos belonging to a group sympathetic to the extremist group Islamic State (IS).

The suspects, identified as Jimuel Velasco Dizon (also known Amir) and Eddie Boy Alejo Bermejo (also known as Abdullah) – both Muslim converts – were arrested separately on Thursday in the suburbs of Cabuyao and Sta. Rosa, an hour’s drive south of Manila, authorities said.

The two belonged to the Rajah Sulayman Movement (RSM), one of 23 Filipino groups that the Philippine military had identified as sympathetic to IS and that were being watched, the nation’s new police chief said.

The arrests were “part of our proactive measures to prevent a terror attack particularly here in metro Manila,” National Police Dir. Gen. Oscar Albayalde told reporters.

“They are identified as members of local threat groups which pledged allegiance to ISIS. That’s why they were subjected for case build up and surveillance,” Albayalde said, referring to IS by a different acronym.

“This is an indication that our law enforcers and our Armed Forces of the Philippines and our intelligence operatives are doing their jobs,” he said.

Arresting officers recovered several guns, ammunition, grenades and improvised bombs as well as two black IS flags from the two suspects, Albayalde said.

IS is said to be actively recruiting members in the southern Philippines, months after the military, with assistance of the United States, defeated Isnilon Hapilon’s group in the southern city of Marawi in October 2017.

Hapilon, the acknowledged head of IS in the Philippines, and close to 1,000 fighters from Southeast Asia and the Middle East took over Marawi in May last year, triggering the worst fighting seen here in years.

He was killed in October along with several key associates, ending the five-month battle, in which 1,200 – mostly militant fighters – were killed. But close to 200 others escaped and dispersed in remote areas in the southern island of Mindanao, where they are believed to be hiding out with homegrown militant groups, according to officials.

Albayalde did not disclose details of the alleged plot, but said the two could have been planning to stage attacks to mark the anniversary of the Marawi siege on May 23.

AFP troops find CPP-NPA training camp in Agusan del Sur

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 28): AFP troops find CPP-NPA training camp in Agusan del Sur

BUTUAN CITY – Combat maneuvering troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) found an alleged training camp of the Communist New People’s Army Terrorists (CNTs) in upper Sitio Vertudaso, Barangay San Juan, Bayugan City, Agusan del Sur, 1Lt. Tere Ingente, chief of the Public Affairs Office (PAO) of the Army’s Northeastern and Northern Mindanao 4th Infantry (Diamond) Division (4th ID).


The 4th ID PAO chief told the Manila Bulletin today the found training camp of the CPP-NPA Northeastern Mindanao Regional Committee came about after four-day military operations (FMOs) conducted by the 3rd Special Forces Battalion (3rd SFBn) in Vertudaso area of the same barangay and city.

Combat maneuvering troops of the 3rd SFBn engaged the rebels in a heavy gunfight on Tuesday upper Barangay San Juan, Bayugan City that also resulted in a running gun battle until pursuing government troops stumbled the said training camp, Ingente said.

“Our operating troops found the CNTs training camp four days after that Tuesday gun battle,” she said.

Found inside the training camp were training facilities and make-shift lecture hall that can also accommodate 15 persons, the 4th ID PAO chief added.

In his report to Northeastern and Northern Mindanao 4th ID chief Maj. Gen. Ronald C. Villanueva, commanding officer of the 401st Infantry (Unity) Brigade, Col. Andres Centino, credited the successful operation to the 3rd SFBn in Vertudaso area.

The 401st Brigade commander claimed that operating troops faced a tough fight during the “last two days.”

“Both sides had suffered casualties,” said Centino, not elaborating further to media if how many casualties on the CNTs and government side.

The offensive operation was linked to the April 24 National Democratic Front (NDF) founding anniversary celebration, he added.

As of this posting, combat maneuvering battalions of the 401st Brigade are still pursuing the running CNTs in Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Sur, Ingente also said.

Meanwhile, in its goal to achieve peace and development in Agusan del Norte, the officials of the provincial government personally led by Gov. Ma. Angelica Rosedell M. Amante-Matba and top military commanders in the area extended financial and livelihood support to 19 former CNTs, the Army’s 402nd Infantry (Stingers) Brigade reported today.

Matba, who is the concurrent chairperson of the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) in Caraga region and Army commanders of the 23rd Infantry Battalion and 29th Infantry Battalion handed over P72,000 each to the former CNTs under the Comprehensive Local Integration Program or CLIP and another separate P50,000 each as support from the provincial government of Agusan del Norte.

The handover of the check took place at provincial capitol here recently where Matba spearheaded the activity, assisted by 23rd IB commander Lt. Col. Emil J. Cruz and 23th IB executive officer Maj. Redenson Depita.

Dureza: Extremists incubating all over Mindanao; 75% of NPAs are lumads

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 28): Dureza: Extremists incubating all over Mindanao; 75% of NPAs are lumads

Philippine Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Jesus Dureza (left) and Consul Arman Talbo. INQUIRER/Elton Lugay

Philippine presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza reported at a community forum here that Marawi is not the only breeding ground of ISIS rebels in the country, and this is why martial law is beneficial to Mindanao despite the end nearly six months ago of the bloody five-month-long fighting in that city.

“There is still a possibility na magkaroon ng problema[renewal of conflict],” the secretary told this reporter at the Philippine Consulate-sponsored forum Wednesday night on the peace process.

“Dahil hindi lang sa Marawi nag-incubate ‘yungviolent extremists [Because it’s not only in Marawi that violent extremists are incubating], they are all over. If you do not do proactive prevention, we can have another Marawi [crisis] again and we don’t want that to happen.”
Dureza was in town to deliver a peace situationer at the United Nations General Assembly. At the Fil-Am community forum, he assured the audience that while the military exercises full authority during martial law in Mindanao, “this is not the usual martial law that we used to have during [former President Ferdinand] Marcos’ time.”

“If you ask Mindanaoans if they are happy with martial law, yes, they are. You ask those who are not from Mindanao, they are a little doubtful,” Dureza said. “You have to come from the area to know the situation, to be able to understand it… Even under martial law, the soldiers cannot violate their rights, cannot just suspend their rights.”

But Marawi residents still can’t move freely in their hometown because the city is still considered ground zero, and they are unhappy about it, he reported.

“We’re rebuilding structures there, but they don’t find it very significant,” Dureza said. They’d like to go back to their old lives; their children want to go back to school pero hindi madali[but it’s not easy] and there is still danger of threats.”

It is not known to many, but the Maranaos never thought they would become victims of violent extremists. According to Dureza, they were surprised to learn that many were members of their own clans. They also knew about firearms being stocked up, but when evacuees were asked why they didn’t speak up about it, their reply: “Sir, akala namin, kapwa Muslim hindi kami bibiktimahin[we thought they would spare us because we are Muslims too].”

“Iba kasi ang concept ngviolent extremists ngayon[Violent extremists of today are different],” Dureza told “When nag-incubate sila sa[they incubated in] Marawi, we felt that it’s very important to deal with why are there extremists there.”

Long process

In his opening statement at the community forum, Dureza emphasized that the signing of a peace agreement is just the start of a very long process.
“When a president tells a panel to go negotiate, do not forget it is only the executive department that commits. We have three independent branches of the government. The judicial can strike down any agreement to the Supreme Court or Congress will not pass a law… Agreements that are signed are not the end game—it’s the beginning of more challenges for us,” the longtime peace advocate told the audience, citing continuing problems with the 1996 peace agreement signed with Nur Misuari, which are expected to be resolved with the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

The work for peace must be inclusive, even though certain parties such as the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army in Luzon or the Alex Boncayao Brigade in the Visayas cease to be threats, because if they are neglected, “then they will create more incidents of unpeace to the country,” according to Dureza.

Indigenous peoples or the lumads continue to bear the brunt of conflicts, with 75% of armed NPAs now consisting of lumads, the presidential peace adviser alleged.

“Ang areas ng mga NPA nasa ancestral areas, mga indigenous people natin, doon sila ngayon naglulungga[NPAs hide in ancestral domains, with our indigenous peoples] and these are areas that are very deprived or very poor areas. [That’s why] 75% of the armed NPAs all over the country are indigenous peoples or lumads sa atin,” Dureza said.

He also cited the lack of economic opportunities in the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao, which is the poorest area in the country, as the root of unrest that reared its head in the Marawi conflict.

“When you work for peace, it’s not only just negotiations now, it’s also the nexus development. Kailangan ma-improve natin yung mga lives ng mga tao sa mga areas na ‘yan, sana buong bayan kung puede[We need to improve the lives of the people in these areas, in the entire country if possible],” Dureza told the forum.

“The search for peace should be a work for everyone especially those people in the ground dahil ang[because the] environment to enable peace cannot be dictated by somebody from the outside. It must be worked out by the people in the localities,” he added.

Strategic leader

The environment for peace is a little bit conducive now with an ongoing effort to pursue talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines

Asked to comment on how influential his voice of reason is to the Filipino president, Dureza replied: “The president is the boss! Manage your expectations. He calls the shots and we perform accordingly.”

Secretary Jesus Dureza among community attendees of the peace forum organized by the Philippine Consulate INQUIRER/Lambert Parong

He proceeded to describe President Rodrigo Duterte’s management style.

“I don’t know if this is known by the public, but I will disclose it here, it is his governance style that he doesn’t even instruct members of the Cabinet to do this or to do that. Unlike other presidents I know, before he leaves you, he trusts in you and he believes that you can perform it the way you should.

“Sa peace process lang namin[In the peace process], we continue doing what we are supposed to do. [He gives] just a guidance, go ahead, already resume, and we take care of the details. Bago lang kami magka-pirmahan ng agreement we just have to send himmuna the draftpara makita niya andmagsabi siya OK and go. When an agreement is due to be signed, we send him the draft for approval and he has not rejected or revised any document. He does not micromanage. He’s a very strategic leader and when he appoints you into a position, he trusts that you will do it properly. If you deviate, that’s something else and he makes that call also, which he did in many ways already.”

At the end of the forum, Dureza called on all the attendees to become “ambassadors of peace” for the Philippines.

“You do not need to do anything, just be peaceful to yourself so that you can radiate this to other people around you,” he said.

ASEAN: Recent militarization in S. China Sea 'erodes trust, confidence'

From CNN-Philippines (Apr 28): ASEAN: Recent militarization in S. China Sea 'erodes trust, confidence'

Regional leaders expressed concern over the militarization of contested areas in the South China Sea, as the 32nd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Singapore drew to a close.

"We discussed the matters relating to the South China Sea and took note of the concerns expressed by some Leaders on the land reclamations and activities in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region," the leaders said, in the ASEAN Chairman's statement issued Saturday.

Apart from the Philippines and China, ASEAN states Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand also have claims in parts of the South China Sea.

Last February, local news outfit released photos of China's continued construction of air and naval structures in the contested Spratly group of islands.

READ: Vertical structures built on reefs in S. China Sea — Inquirer reporter

"We emphasized the importance of non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states," the statement read.

ASEAN leaders stressed the need for the implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in its entirety, for there to be mutual trust between parties and the pursuit of a peaceful resolution in the conflict in accordance to international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The DOC is a 2002 document meant to facilitate a peaceful resolution to the maritime conflict in the disputed areas.

"We warmly welcomed the improving cooperation between ASEAN and China and were encouraged by the official commencement of the substantive negotiations toward the early conclusion of an effective Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) on a mutually-agreed timeline," said the statement.

During the ASEAN meeting, President Rodrigo Duterte on the sidelines held bilateral talks with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

When the Vietnamese leader raised the South China Sea issue, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte told Phuc he is not "abandoning, ignoring, or setting aside" the landmark arbitral ruling that invalidated China's claims over most of South China Sea.

"He made it very clear to a head of state that he recognizes the gains of the arbitral award and that he will refer to the arbitral award in due course," Roque told reporters in Singapore, the summit's venue.

READ: Duterte talked about South China Sea arbitral ruling with Vietnam leader – Palace

The Chinese government, however, believes it has the right to build structures in the disputed areas.

READ: China asserts right to build military structures on Spratly Islands

"The Nansha Islands are China's territory," said Chinese Ministry of Defense Spokesperson Senior Colonel Ren Guoqiang in a statement on April 11. The Nansha Islands is the Chinese name for the Spratlys.

Army calls NPA claims ‘fake news’

From the Visayan Daily Star (Apr 28): Army calls NPA claims ‘fake news’

The Army’s 79th Infantry Battalion yesterday dismissed as “fake news” claims of the Roselyn Pelle Command of the New People’s Army that the battalion suffered two casualties during an encounter on April 16 in Brgy. Guadalupe, San Carlos City, Negros Occidental.

In a statement issued by his unit, Lt. Col. Emelito Thaddeus Logan, 79IB commander said, that his troops did not commit any human rights violations during the pursuit operations, which was also certified by members of the barangay council of Guadalupe.

The Roselyn Pelle Command issued a statement claiming that two Army soldiers had been killed.

Logan said the seizure of the training camp abandoned by the NPA, as a result of the encounter, was a result of a tip given to them by residents in the area, who were already tired of the extortion and terroristic activities of the rebels.

He added that his unit also assisted San Carlos City and concerned government agencies in giving assistance to internally displaced persons, who returned to their homes, after it was cleared of NPA rebels.

Ka Cecille Estrella, rebel spokesperson, claimed that the 79IB created fake stories, especially on the molestation of a certain Sumulong by alias Lando and alias Morris.

The Roselyn Pelle Command does not have any members by those names or aliases within its membership, Estrella said.

It is clear and obvious that this fake story conjured by the 79th IB is intended to throw dirt at the NPA in order to hide their defeat, she added, stressing that the NPA strictly abides by the 3-8 discipline, including respecting and not exploiting women.

Estrella added that the NPA has a revolutionary court that tackles complaints against violations of human rights, such as the exploitation of women.

Duterte offers ’60-40’ deal to China in West PH Sea joint exploration

From Rappler (Apr 28): Duterte offers ’60-40’ deal to China in West PH Sea joint exploration

'President Xi is a friend. We'll share with you,' says Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on his planned joint exploration with China

COOPERATING WITH CHINA. President Rodrigo Duterte shakes hands with President Xi Jinping during his state visit in October 2016. File photo by Toto Lozano/PPD

COOPERATING WITH CHINA. President Rodrigo Duterte shakes hands with President Xi Jinping during his state visit in October 2016. File photo by Toto Lozano/PPD

President Rodrigo Duterte proposed to forge a “60-40” sharing deal with China on the two countries’ planned joint exploration of the West Philippine Sea.

The Philippine President made the proposal in a
speech delivered on Thursday, April 26, at the 102nd Annual Communication of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the Philippines in Davao City.

“Precisely I said, with the issue of the China Sea, leave it at that, it‟s geopolitics. Anyway, China has offered joint exploration and joint operation. And I said, maybe, we give you a better deal, 60-40,” said Duterte, earning him applause from the crowd.

He also called Chinese President Xi Jinping a “friend.” (READ: Duterte: 'I need China’)

“You cannot go against anybody. You cannot fight there. But President Xi is a friend. We‟ll share with you,” said Duterte.

Earlier this month, both Duterte and Xi gave the "go signal” for their countries to craft a framework for joint exploration in the West Philippine Sea, the part of the South China Sea that belongs to the Philippines but is claimed by China.
Duterte agreed to joint exploration even if the Philippines won a Hague ruling in 2016 over China, affirming the Philippines' rights over the West Philippine Sea.

Duterte, however, has since downplayed this victory in exchange for economic benefits from China.

The Philippine President had said “it's important that our people see the benefit" of the relationship between Manila and Beijing.

Critics of the move have said that entering into a joint exploration with China would negate the Philippines' historic, hard-won victory in the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio earlier said said the Philippine Constitution bans "joint development" within the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ). (READ: [OPINION] Duterte's China itch)

Youth activists hold indignation vs Moro activist’s torture, US detention

From the often pro-Communist Party of the Philippines online publication the Davao Today (Apr 28): Youth activists hold indignation vs Moro activist’s torture, US detention

Photo by League of Filipino Students-Southern Mindanao

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Members of the League of Filipino Students-Southern Mindanao region held an indignation rally, Friday, in front of the City Hall to protest the detention and forced deportation of Moro activist Jerome Aba.

Abdul Sissay, LFS-SMR spokesperson, slammed the harassment made against Jerome Aba who was detained and tortured in a United States airport last week and the Philippine government’s apathy to protect the right of its own citizen in a foreign land.
Sissay added that the abuse heaped on Aba is only one of the increasing human rights violations perpetrated or backed by the Duterte administration.
READ: Filipino human rights activist arrives home after detention in U.S. airport

At the House of Representatives, the Makabayan opposition bloc has filed a resolution which sought to probe the detention and torture of Aba by the United States Homeland Security and Customs Border and Protection.

The House Resolution 1826 was filed by Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, ACT-Teachers Reps. Antonio Tinio and France Castro, Gabriela Reps. Emmi de Jesus and Arlene Brosas, Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao and Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago last Wednesday.

Zarate decried how activists remain under attack in the Philippines and in the US.

Zarate also cited the detention and expulsion of Australian missionary nun Patricia Fox, as well as peasant activists who were killed.

“This just goes to show the striking fascist similarities between the Trump and the Duterte administrations. People all over the world should condemn this deplorable acts,” the Davao-based solon said.

“What is the US and Philippine governments so afraid of? Are they so paranoid and scared that the whole world would know the horrid human rights situation in their countries? They should stop harassing activists,” he added.

In his testimony during a press conference in Manila, Aba recounted his ordeal at the hands of US authorities.

Last April 17, Aba, a Moro and human rights activist and chairperson of Suara Bangsamoro, was briefly held by Immigration agents at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on his scheduled flight to US.

He was invited by the Human Rights Office of the Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church to be a resource speaker at the 2028 Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Washington, DC.

When he was held at the Manila airport, he was asked if he would be participating in rallies in the US. He was also subjected to separate random security checks.

Upon arrival at the San Francisco International Airport, Aba was escorted by two officers and was brought to the Homeland Security office where he was left alone in an empty room, his belongings and phone confiscated.

Aba was interrogated for 12 hours by different officers and was denied food, sleep and access to a lawyer.

He was forced to admit that he was a “terrorist and communist despite his truthful answers.

At one point, Aba was made to strip naked in front of a large industrial fan inside an air-conditioned room.

He was forced to sign a blank waiver attesting that he was treated humanely by the officers. He was later deported back to the Philippines.

“The harrowing experience of Jerome Succor Aba, including his torture from the hands US Immigration agents, is highly condemnable and a grave violation of human rights,” the militant lawmakers wrote in the resolution.

“The said acts are not only an affront to the rights of an innocent Filipino citizen who was validly invited and granted travel documents for his US engagement but, a serious affront as well to the Philippines, for which the government should rightly protest,” they added.

3 Islamic militants surrender in Lanao del Sur

From the Mindanao Examiner (Apr 28): 3 Islamic militants surrender in Lanao del Sur

The Philippine Army said it has 3 Islamic militants in custody after they surrendered to soldiers in the Muslim province of Lanao del Sur in Mindanao.

Captain Clint Antipala, a spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division, said the trio are members of the so-called Dawlah Islamiah and the Maute group which laid siege to Marawi City last year that left hundreds of people dead.

He said the militants surrendered to the 51st Infantry Battalion in the village of Pawak in Saguiaran town on Friday afternoon. “The surenderees brought along with them and presented their firearms to Lieutenant Colonel Gremel Brual in the battalion headquarters. The three were welcomed and accepted through a simple ceremony,” Antipala said.

Major General Roseller Murillo, a regional army commander, also urged other militants to surrender peacefully. “We are willing to accept surenderees and encourage others to return to the mainstream society. Their surrender is significant and we hope this would inspire other members to do so. Rest assured that we will take care of their welfare,” he said.

Murillo and Antipala did not give additional details or what led to the surrender of the militants or their names.

Opinion: Joma Sison, the grand daddy of peace spoilers

Opinion piece in The Durian Beat column of Roger Balanza from the Philippine News Agency (Apr 25): Joma Sison, the grand daddy of peace spoilers

FOR the nth time, President Rodrigo Duterte has opened the door for the resumption of peace negotiations with communist rebels in a last-ditch bid to end the country’s 50-year old insurgency.

The President has given a “last chance” for the communists to talk peace with the Philippine government to start within 60 days.

The off-and-on peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF), the political arm of the communist movement, were previously held abroad, but this time Duterte wants the negotiations in the country and has invited Jose Maria Sison aka Joma, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and NDF chief consultant, to personally participate in the talk.

Joma, living in exile for the past three decades in The Netherlands, has set conditions for him to return to the country.

One, an assurance that there would be no “peace spoilers” in the military who might sabotage the talks.

Two, legal and security for him and the members of the NDF negotiating panel.

Three, the government of the Philippines and the NDF should sign a memorandum of agreement to respect existing agreements and draft agreements on bilateral ceasefire and amnesty of for political prisoners.

Who are the peace spoilers of the peace talks? Joma points to the ultra-rightists in the military. His eyes are closed to the violence of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the CPP.

Duterte may have terminated the talks in the past under his administration, but his latest decision to resume the talks demonstrates that he could stretch his patience if only to achieve peace in the country.

It is not hard to recall that Duterte terminated the talks not because he is influenced by what Joma described as peace spoilers in the military but because of saboteurs in the ranks of Joma.

The atrocities of the NPA in the midst of ongoing talks in the past speak much about the insincerity, treachery and double-talk of Joma and CPP/NPA/NDF mafia.

The peace saboteurs are not the military but the NPA with its violence.

Add to the NPA the NDF legal fronts engaging Duterte and his administration in endless verbal warfare and you have a cabal of terrorists attempting to derail the peace negotiations.

The Philippine countryside is littered with dead bodies and flows with the blood of soldiers, policemen and civilians killed by the NPAs.

There was no sincerity and the only treachery on the part of Joma with the NPA continuing to wage atrocities in the countryside against military, business and civilians even as past talks were ongoing.

Duterte’s last move to terminate the peace negotiation was precisely for the insincerity and treachery of the Joma and the NDF.

Nevertheless, Duterte has assured Joma and company with full security, just so the peace process could proceed.

Joma wants security if he returns to the country for the peace talks?

There is no room for retribution at this time of what could be the last and final dash to peace with the communists.

Duterte is footing the bill for the travel, hotel and food expenses of Joma and his coterie of NDF consultants. We guess that Duterte may even organize a warm welcome for Joma.

Joma wants a ceasefire?

There is double-talk in Joma demanding to sign of a bilateral ceasefire and discussions on the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-economic Reforms (CASER), the two remaining contentious issues that the government and NDF panels will have to agree on before the talks could proceed.

Last year, panels of the government and the NDF were prepping up for the 5th round of talks, the final round in a series of talks abroad, that would have discussed the ceasefire and CASER.

Days before the 5th Round could start, the NPA, Joma’s peace saboteur, threw a monkey wrench into what could have been the last round of talks to signing a peace agreement: the terrorists carried out several attacks nationwide against the military, police and the civilian population. One of the victims was an infant killed when the NPA ambushed a police patrol in Bukidnon.

The treachery prompted Duterte to terminate the talks and declare the CPP and the NPA as terrorists.

Peace advocates say Duterte’s move to resume peace negotiations with the NDF is the answer to the call of millions of Filipinos.

The NDF itself said the coming talks would achieve a just and lasting peace in the country as it would address its agenda of economic, agrarian and urban reforms.

And we may see an end to Filipinos killing Filipinos and the barbarity and violence of the NPA with the declaration of a bilateral ceasefire?

Duterte has only one demand: the NPA should stay in their camps during the peace talks.     

We can’t be sure if the terrorists would do that.

We should take a cue from the statement of the CPP on the occasion of the recent NDF 45th founding anniversary.

The statement called for the “broadest anti-fascist united front against the Duterte administration.”

“By waging revolutionary resistance, both in the urban underground as well as in rural armed struggle, the NDF helps strengthen the people’s determination to fight and defeat the despicable (Duterte) regime.”

This mantra of violence by the communists – mouthed since the founding of the CPP until today; before, during and after termination of the past peace talks; and could resonate even as Duterte resumes talks with the reds – spells out the communists’ ultimate objective to grab power.

Joma and his cabal could be playing a joke on Duterte’s resumption of the peace talks.

Will the peace talks this time fly? We are not sure.

But if Joma reins in his peace saboteurs – the NPA and the communist legal fronts and their leaders like Ariel Casilao and Kaloy Zarate – from sowing violence against the people and hurling vicious verbiage at the President and his administration.

If Joma does not do that, then he is the grand daddy of peace saboteurs.

Another North Cotabato town yields 119 loose firearms

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 27): Another North Cotabato town yields 119 loose firearms

Midsayap surrendered firearms (Photo by Garry Fuerzas)

MIDSAYAP, North Cotabato--Another North Cotabato town has initiated the surrender of 119 loose firearms to the military in support of the government’s disarmament campaign in Mindanao.

On Thursday, this town became the third local government unit in Region 12 to turnover unlicensed firearms to the Army’s 6th Infantry Division.

Cotabato City and the town of Carmen in North Cotabato have earlier responded to the martial law directive to surrender loose firearms from civilians.

Mayor Romeo Araña of Midsayap led the hand over of the assorted guns and ammunition to Maj. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, commander of the Army's 6th Infantry Division during ceremonies held at the town gymnasium.
Araña said the guns were collected from civilians in the town’s 57 municipalities.

Araña said the surrendered firearms included 63 high powered and 56 low powered guns with 65 assorted magazines and 379 mixed ammunition.

Araña told reporters that civilians, who armed themselves in defense against harassment by lawless elements, especially during harvest season, voluntarily surrendered the firearms.

“Your efforts to bring in unlicensed guns are laudable and must be emulated by other local government executives,” Dela Vega said.

Dela Vega stressed that only the military and the police are authorized to possess and carry firearms.

Mendoza said more LGUs are expected to formally turn over unlicensed guns to the military, as local government executives in North Cotabato’s 18 towns and a city are in the process of collecting guns from residents.

Army Capt. Arvin Johngn Encinas, 6th ID spokesperson, said  there are currently 956 loose firearms surrendered and recovered from the different local government units under the 6th ID.

Mindanao has been under martial law since the Marawi siege last year and President Rodrigo Duterte’s marching order is for the military to collect all loose firearms. The 6th ID covers the provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and part of Lanao del Sur.

On Wednesday, Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu presented to President Duterte in Buluan town more than 900 unlicensed firearms collected from the province’s 36 municipalities.

2 NPA members, 17 sympathizers yield in Mt. Province

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 28): 2 NPA members, 17 sympathizers yield in Mt. Province

SURRENDERERS. Two regular members of the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army (CPP/NPA) and 17 of their supporters take their oath  of allegiance to the  Philippine government in this photo taken on Thursday (April 26, 2018). (Photo courtesy of Police Regional Office Cordillera) 

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- Two members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) and 17 of their supporters have surrendered to police authorities in Mountain Province, police reported on Friday.

Chief Supt. Edward Carranza, director of Police Regional Office Cordillera, said Rogelio Balanon del Rosario, also known as “Ka Eric”, 41, squad leader; and Benny Lumidap Tuginay or “Ka Manny”, 26, both of Gonzaga, Cagayan - along with 17 CPP-NPA Militia ng Bayan supporters - yielded to authorities in Poblacion, Paracelis, Mountain Province at about 4:30 p.m. on Thursday.

Carranza said del Rosario and Tuginay belong to the Frank Guerilla Unit based and operating in Gonzaga, Cagayan and nearby regions.

The two CPP/NPA members turned over several firearms and ammunition, among them a Carbine rifle with no serial number; two magazines for Carbine rifle; 10 pieces of ammunition for Carbine; one M16 rifle with a defaced serial number; one short metal magazine for M16; and five ammunition for M16.

The items are now with the Paracelis Municipal Police for proper disposition.

Carranza said the surrender was made possible through the initiative and persistence of personnel from the municipal police, the Alpha Company of the 54th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and Franklin W. Tallawec, a leader of the Cordillera Bodong Association.

NPA rebels torch millions worth of construction equipment

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 29): NPA rebels torch millions worth of construction equipment

LABANGAN, Zamboanga del Sur--Suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels burned down five heavy equipment worth millions of pesos in the province of Misamis Occidental, a top military official said Saturday.

Maj. Gen. Roseller Murillo, Army’s 1st Infantry Division commander, said the incident happened at around 10:30 p.m. Thursday in Barangay Salvador, Calamba, Misamis Occidental.

Murillo said the heavy equipment burned by a group of 15 NPA rebels belonged to RN Builder, a government contractor private currently undertaking a construction project in Barangay Salvador, Calamba.

“This terroristic act of the NPA rebels hinders progress and development of the communities in our area of responsibility,” Murillo said.

“We encourage every individual and contractors to cooperate and report to us any suspicious groups and their activities in order prevent another burning incident,” he added.

He said troops have been deployed to track down the NPA rebels responsible in the incident.

Duterte assures Nguyen to catch ASG for kidnap of Vietnamese sailors

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 29): Duterte assures Nguyen to catch ASG for kidnap of Vietnamese sailors

President Rodrigo R. Duterte has promised Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc that he will not stop until he gets rid of the Abu Sayyaf Group for the abduction of Vietnamese sailors in 2016.

“His promise was he did not stop until he gets rid of and curbs those Abu Sayyaf bandits," Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.

Roque made this statement in a press conference after a bilateral meeting between the two leaders on the sidelines of the 32nd ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting in Singapore.

In November 2016, six Vietnamese sailors were kidnapped by militants off Sibago Island in Basilan.

The group, known to behead hostages unless ransom payments are made, had released two of the six hostages last year.

Naval Forces were able to rescue three other hostages while one was beheaded.

Meanwhile, Duterte also thanked Nguyễn for his country’s warm reception to around 3,800 Filipinos working there.

Duterte also appealed for humanitarian assistance in favor of a certain Captain Rommel Aleria, who has been detained in Vietnam since 2016 for alleged illegal cross-border recruitment.

NDFP now becoming irrelevant with massive rebel surrenders

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 29): NDFP now becoming irrelevant with massive rebel surrenders

With the recent spate of surrenders by regular members of the New People's Army (NPA) and their supporters, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) is now fast becoming irrelevant.

"With the government’s sincere efforts to achieve peace even without the formal talks, the NDFP is fast becoming irrelevant. Through the government’s various programs for reintegration, thousands of former rebels have rejoined society," Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement Saturday.

As of April 15, focused operations by the military alongside intensified stakeholder engagements, resulted in the neutralization of 6,817 members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

A total of 6,709 of them have surrendered, 723 of whom were regular NPAs and Sangay ng Partido sa Lokal members; 513 were Militia ng Bayan; 712 were underground organization members; and 4,761 were mass supporters.

Moreover, 47 NPAs were also killed, while 61 others were apprehended in legitimate military operations.

A total of 288 assorted firearms were also seized from the rebels.

The NDFP is the peace negotiating arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA.

"Under the President Duterte's guidance, we are more determined than ever to extend our call for peace and unity – a call for the remaining CPP-NPA to lay down their arms, rejoin their families, fulfill their dreams, and serve as active partners for peace, development and community empowerment," Lorenzana said.