Thursday, May 10, 2018

Vietnam asks China to withdraw military equipment from South China Sea

From InterAksyon (May 10): Vietnam asks China to withdraw military equipment from South China Sea

Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Fiery Cross Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy May 21, 2015. (U.S. Navy/Handout)

Vietnam has asked China to withdraw military equipment from the South China Sea, following media reports this month that China had installed missiles there.

“Vietnam requests that China, as a large country, shows its responsibility in maintaining peace and stability in the East Sea,” Vietnamese foreign ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said in a Tuesday statement, referring to the South China Sea.

U.S. news network CNBC reported this month that China had installed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems on three of its outposts in the South China Sea, citing sources with direct knowledge of U.S. intelligence reports.

Vietnam and China have over-lapping claims in parts of the South China Sea.

“Vietnam is extremely concerned about the information (as reported) and reaffirms that all militarization activities, including the installation of missiles on the Spratly islands, is a serious violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty,” Hang said in the statement posted on the ministry’s website on Tuesday.

The installations, if confirmed, would mark the first Chinese missile deployments in the South China Sea.

China claims 90 percent of the potentially energy-rich maritime territory. Other Asian countries including the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims to parts of the waterway.

China’s deployment of defence equipment and troops on the Spratly Islands, its sovereign territory, was its indubitable right, China’s defense ministry said in a statement sent to Reuters on Wednesday.

The equipment helped protect the peace and stability of the region and “does not target any country”, the ministry said, without giving details of what deployments had been made.

Philippines seeks parts from Japan for ‘Huey’ helicopters

From InterAksyon (May 7): Philippines seeks parts from Japan for ‘Huey’ helicopters

A Huey helicopter used by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. (PHDEFENCE via YouTube)

The Philippines is talking to Japan about acquiring spare parts for its UH-1H “Huey” helicopters, the air force commander said on Monday, after a deal for new Canadian choppers collapsed this year.

The $96 million parts package would keep about 80 U.S.-made Bell utility helicopters flying until 2020 when the Philippines expects to take delivery of new aircraft, Lieutenant-General Galileo Kintanar, the air force chief, told Reuters.

Japan eased a decades-old arms export ban in 2014, allowing for weapons exports and participation in joint arms programmes when they serve international peace and Japan’s security.

Two years later, the Philippines agreed to lease from Japan five TC-90 arcraft to help patrol the disputed South China Sea, where China is expanding its military presence.

Kintanar said an agreement for the helicopter parts would be finalised in the third quarter of this year.

President Rodrigo Duterte canceled a deal in February to buy 16 new Bell 412 EPI helicopters worth $233 million* from Canada, whose government expressed concern they could be used to fight rebels.

The new aircraft would have begun to replace the second-hand Vietnam War-era Huey helicopters that are the workhorse of the Philippine air force.

Since then, the Philippines military has said China, Russia, South Korea and Turkey have shown interest in selling new helicopters to Manila.

“We will definitely sign a contract for the brand-new combat utility helicopters this year,” Kintanar said, without giving more details.

The new helicopters are expected to be delivered by 2020.

NPAs flee camp after clash

From the Mindanao Times (May 10): NPAs flee camp after clash

TROOPS of 27th Infantry battalion stumbled upon an abandoned encampment of the New People’s Army (NPA) following a clash with communist fighters in Barangay Kimatu, T’boli, South Cotabato on Tuesday morning.Capt. Mc Gary Dida, the civil-military operations officer of 27th IB, told TIMES yesterday that their soldiers were conducting security operations in the village when they encountered the rebels.

The firefight lasted for 40 minutes before the rebels escaped. The soldiers later found out that the NPAs were defending an encampment which include foxholes, ammunition, food supplies, subversive documents, and personal belongings.

He said there was no casualty on the government side but the pursuit operation is ongoing against the fleeing rebels.

“It is high time for you to peacefully surrender and bring down your fire arms to the folds of law, the government has a program that will provide livelihood assistance to help you start a living and avail of the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) of our government,” Lt. Col. Jones Brisal Otida, 27th IB commander, said.

Brig. Gen. Roberto Ancan, the 1002nd Infantry Brigade commander, said the rebels with be dealth with in accordance with the law.

NPA owns burning equipment at dam

From the Visayan Daily Star (May 10): NPA owns burning equipment at dam
Members of the Mt. Cansermon Command (MCC) of the New People’s Army admitted yesterday the burning of a backhoe and other construction equipment on Monday, saying they are against the dam project being built by the National Irrigation Administration in Brgy. Tan-awan, Kabankalan City.

In their press statement dated May 8, the MCC said that the burning of the backhoe, generator set, bunkhouse and other construction equipment for building the dam is their way of opposing this “anti-people” project of the government under the Ilog-Hilabangan River Basin Project (IHRBP).

The construction of the dam has negative effects on the people who live in the area, it made the river deeper and it is harder for boats to cross it, especially if loaded with goods.

The river is also the gateway for the people to the barangay proper of Tan-awan and Saise, the public market, and other places in Kabankalan and Himamaylan City. These challenges were especially experienced when heavy rains poured in the area, the statement said.

MCCalso claimed that these resulted to the displacement of people working at the construction sites and the affected farmers were forced to get P15,000 to P30,000aid.

The statement added that the project has also become an alleged avenue for the barangay officials to get P50 deduction from the workers of the project. MCC said the workers receive only P250, instead of P300 daily, as the officials who hired them get the P50.

They also said that ultimately, the project will not benefit small farmers but will serve the haciendas of several families.

MCC called for the people who are affected by the project to unite and oppose the building of the dam.

Army chief vows protection versus rising NPA atrocities

From the Visayan Daily Star (May 10): Army chief vows protection versus rising NPA atrocities

While the Philippine Army is supporting the revival of peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front, Army chief Lt. Gen. Rolando Joselito Bautista yesterday vowed to protect communities from atrocities perpetrated by the New People’s Army

Bautista, who met yesterday with Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Maranon Jr. at the Provincial Capitol, said they have contingency plans to thwart NPA violent activities, while peace talks are ongoing

About 20 suspected NPA rebels swooped down on a project site of the National Irrigation Administration Monday night in Brgy. Tan-awan, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental, and burned heavy equipment, construction materials, and a bunk house of workers.

Estimated damage has been placed by the Bureau of Fire and Protection at P6.8 million.

Capt. Ruel Llanes, spokesperson of the 303 rd Infantry Brigade, said the burning incident was triggered by the failure of the NIA contractor tasked to construct a dam in the area, to comply with the NPA extortion demands.

The Philippine Army in Negros slammed the latest atrocity committed by communist rebels.

The peace talks between the Philippine government and NDF collapsed three times during the Duterte administration due to violations committed by the CPP-NPA, Bautista said.

Bautista also said he is hopeful that the conditions set by President Duterte, for the resumption of peace talks will be followed by the CPP-NPA-NDF leadership.

If the president tells us to negotiate and observe the peace talks, we will abide, he said.

But the mandateof the Philippine Army to ensure the security of communities and barangays will continue, he added.

The 15th Infantry Battalion is now spearheading the manhunt operations against the fleeing rebels.

Last month, the NPA also claimed responsibility for the burning of a farm tractor in La Castellana, Negros Occidental, and a cargo truck in Canlaon City, Negros Oriental, for failure of their owners to pay revolutionary taxes.

As to the return of 82nd and 11th Infantry Battalions to Panay and Negros, respectively, Bautista said they are now giving priority to the communist threat in the area of Eastern Mindanao Command and the local terrorist group in the area of the Western Mindanao Command.

“We are now assessing the situation,and I think we are gaining headway. We are meeting the targets,” Bautista added.

Hopefully, the third quarter of the year will pave the way for the pull-out of Army battalions of the 3ID to be brought back to Panay, he said.

Talks, informal back channel with Reds on, OPAPP chief confirms

From the often pro-CPP online publication the Davao Today (May 9): Talks, informal back channel with Reds on, OPAPP chief confirms

In this file photo take on May 28, 2017, peace panels from the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, together with the facilitators from the Royal Norwegian Government, resumed their session to continue on sorting out how to push through with the scheduled fifth round of talks at the Radisson Blu Palace Hotel in Noordwijk Aan Zee in the Netherlands. (Zea Io Ming C. Capistrano/

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) confirmed that talks with the informal back channel are being facilitated by representatives from the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and negotiators from the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in Europe.

The OPAPP said in a statement issued on Tuesday that
“Efforts to resume peace negotiations with the CPP/NPA/NDF are underway, with informal back-channel talks now taking place in Europe.”

The peace talk was stalled when the Duterte government pulled out from the negotiating table after the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) accused the CPP and its armed wing of capitalizing the declared ceasefire to expand its membership, areas of influence and resources.

It was only in April this year that Duterte had signified, again, his openness to come to the negotiating table, but with conditions.

Duterte pointed out that he wanted a ceasefire agreement to be hammered out first and that the talks must resume within a timeline of 60 days.

Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza and Chief Peace Negotiator Silvestre Bello III already informed the President that his clear directives are being relayed “across the table” and are now the subject of discussions in the on-going meetings, the OPAPP statement added.

OPAPP has also received positive results from the current initiative in Europe, the statement said.

“We are doing our best to meet the deadline set by the President about the resumption of talks within 60 days,” Bello was quoted in the statement.

He added that the team involved in the back channel efforts will soon return home to brief the President of its outcome.

165 families flee fighting in North Cotabato

From MindaNews (May 10): 165 families flee fighting in North Cotabato

At least 165 families were displaced after three days of fighting between government troops and New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas in Makilala, North Cotabato, reports from the municipal social welfare office said.

Residents of Sitio Garing, Barangay Luayon in Makilala, North Cotabato the morning after the clash from midnight until dawn Monday (22 January 2018). Three NPAs and a CAFGU member died in the firefight. MindaNews file photo by FERDINANDH CABRERA

Lina Canedo, Makilala social welfare officer, said 65 families fled at the start of hostilities on Tuesday in Barangay Luayon.

The additional families came from remote sitios and puroks who decided to leave their homes when the fighting intensified, Canedo said.

On Tuesday, the 39th Infantry Battalion launched an operation after receiving reports the rebels were again sighted in Sitio Kapatagan, Barangay Luayon.

Lt. Col. Rhojun Rosales, 39th IB commander said they clashed with at least 30 rebels in Sitio Kapatagan led by Commander Bordjack, Bricks, and a certain Ka Libra, all of the NPA Front 72.

Ka Libra and his group came from Magsaysay town in Davao del Sur, the reports added.

Rosales said two of his men were wounded in the attack and were rushed to Davao City for treatment.

He said the rebels were massing in Luayon and other villages in Makilala for their recruitment and extortion activities for the upcoming barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.

Barangay officials of Luayon earlier declared their place as a “zone of peace” after the residents decided in an assembly to stop supporting the NPA.

Photo: Dud

From MindaNews (May 10): Photo: Dud

An Army soldier responding to an alarm for a suspected improvised explosive device finds instead a dud M203 grenade at Ground Zero in Marawi City on Wednesday, 9 May 2018. MindaNews photo by H. MARCOS C. MORDENO

97IB undergoes organizational training

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 8): 97IB undergoes organizational training

KUTA SANG-AN, Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur -- The 97th (Kalasag Lahi) Battalion under the 1st Infantry (Tabak) Division, Philippine Army, which was activated on April 16 is undergoing organizational training starting May 3.

The new battalion was formally activated in a simple ceremony held at Tabak Grandstand, pursuant to General Orders No. 211. The Philippine Army has directed the activation and operationalization of 10 additional infantry battalions wherein the 1st Infantry Division is among the recipients.

The 97IB is headed by LTC Rufino L De Leon, GSC PA, with 400 soldiers taken from the different line units under the 1ID. Some of the new privates who graduated from the Candidate Soldier Course last April 5 are now part of the new battalion.

The activation of this new battalion aims to augment the units covering the entire Western Mindanao Region in sustaining the gains of Tabak troopers in keeping the peace and development in their area of responsibility.

“The command has its full trust and confidence in choosing the leadership of LTC De Leon as the pioneer Commanding Officer of 97IB. Always think about the welfare of each and every one of you so as nobody in your unit will be placed in danger. Also, don’t forget the discipline and the prestige of a real Filipino soldier,” said MGen Roseller G Murillo, 1ID Commander.

“The organizational training for the 97th IB that will start today is designed to enhance the competence and individual skills of every soldier and also to develop their teamwork as a unit. Training builds competence, and competence builds confidence”, the military commander added.

De Leon expressed gratitude to Murillo for entrusting him the leadership as commandant of the 1st Division Training School as he embarks on a new challenge to lead the 97IB.

1ID holds photo contest for military and civilian personnel

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 8): 1ID holds photo contest for military and civilian personnel


LABANGAN, Zamboanga del Sur -- To hone and improve the photography skills of military and civilian personnel, the 1st Infantry (Tabak) Division, Philippine Army recently conducted a photography competition at its headquarters at Camp Major Cesar Sang-an, Pulacan here.

LtCol. Vladimir Lenos T. Villanueva, commanding officer of the 1st Civil-Military Operations (CMO), said the competition is one of the highlights of the 82nd anniversary celebration of Tabak Division.

Villanueva said the event is designed to show to the public the skills of military and civilian personnel on how to keep abreast with the latest technology.

The photography competition has two categories - the Conventional Category (for images taken using any type of traditional and compact camera) and the Mobile Category (for photos taken using devices like mobile/cellular phones, tablets and the like.)

Villanueva believes that the soldiers are talented and they have something to contribute, and good stories to tell that promote peace for the country.

He said the photos that they have taken are real and are coming from their respective units where they are deployed.

There were at least 15 entries submitted for the conventional photography and nine for the mobile phone category. Most of the entries were taken during the Marawi siege and the medical, dental and civic action program (MEDCAP) activities conducted by the units.

“The photos depict the positive images of soldiers’ lives, sacrifices, accomplishments, and heroism that cannot be seen in the ordinary people,” Villanueva explained.

The photo contest was first conducted last year. This year, the 1ID improved the contest by encouraging more participation from the military and civilian personnel and increased cash prizes for the winners.

“Big cash prizes await contest winners. The grand winners for the conventional and mobile category will receive P5, 000 plus certificate,” Villanueva said.

The winners will be proclaimed during the awarding ceremony on May 31. Judges were composed mostly of professional photographers from Pagadian City Photographers Association and national government agencies.

Tagalog news: Balikatan Exercises 2018, opisyal ng binuksan sa Fort Magsaysay

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 9): Tagalog news: Balikatan Exercises 2018, opisyal ng binuksan sa Fort Magsaysay

Si 7th Infantry Division Commander Major General Felimon Santos Jr. habang inilalahad ang kanyang mensahe sa pagbubukas ng Philippines- United States Balikatan Exercises 2018 sa kampo Magsaysay, lungsod ng Palayan, Nueva Ecija. (Larawan kuha ng 7th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office)

FORT RAMON MAGYSAYSAY, Nueva Ecija -- Opisyal nang pinasimulan sa kampo ang Balikatan Exercises sa pagitan ng mga kasundaluhan ng bansa at Amerika.

Sa kanyang mensahe ay ipinahayag ni Philippine Army- 7th Infantry Division Commander Major General Felimon Santos Jr. ang kahalagahan ng taunang aktibidad sa pagpapalago ng kakayahan at pwersa ng magkabilang hukbo.

Kabilang aniya sa mga tututukang programa ngayong Balikatan ay ang mga kasalukuyang kinahaharap ng dalawang bansa partikular ang may kaugnayan sa pagpapalakas ng depensa, pagtulong sa kapwa, pagresponde sa oras ng kalamidad at paglaban sa terorismo.

Ipinahayag din ni Santos ang benepisyo sa pagkakaroon ng matibay na relasyon sa pagitan ng dalawang bansa upang mapanatili ang kapayapaan, seguridad at katatagan ng bansang nasasakupan.

Labingdalawang araw na matutunghayan ang kabi-kabilang aktibidad sa iba’t ibang dako ng bansa na magtatagal hanggang sa Mayo 18.

Nakapaloob rito ang donasyon at pagpapatayo ng dalawang classroom building sa Cabu Elementary School sa Nueva Ecija na bahagi ng humanitarian civic action activities ng Balikatan Exercises na inilunsad din sa mga lalawigan ng Tarlac, Cagayan at Isabela.

Taong 1998 nang magkaroon ng kasunduan ang dalawang bansa sa pagbisita ng mga kasundaluhang banyaga na naging panimula sa taunang pagpapalitan ng kaalama’t kasanayan sa pakikidigma.

Army troopers seize hot logs in SurSur town

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 9): Army troopers seize hot logs in SurSur town

The army troopers of the 36th Infantry “Valor” Battalion, Philippine Army have seized a total of 179 pieces of sawn lumber in Sitio Cagpangi, Barangay Cabangahan in Tago town, this province around 8:45 am, May 7, 2018.

Based on the report, while the army troopers were conducting a combat security patrol in the area, they recovered a 1,141.99-board feet of abandoned sawn lumber worth P22,839.

Capt. Francisco Garello, 36IB Civil Military Operations Officer, said that the seized lumber were brought to the 36IB Advance Command Post in Brgy Magroyong, San Miguel, Surigao del Sur for temporary custody while coordination was made with the Tago Municipal Police Station and Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) Lianga for proper disposition.

Garello revealed that from January 2018 up to this time, the 36IB troopers have already conducted 10 successful anti-illegal logging operations in close coordination with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Philippine National Police (PNP). The said operations resulted to the confiscation of 53,754.57-board feet of illegal logs/sawn lumber with an estimated market value worth P1,291,096.80.

To strengthen their campaign against illegal logging, 36IB Commander Lt. Col. Xerxes Trinidad reiterated the call to the local government unit (LGU) officials to address the problem seriously.

"We are sending a message to everyone to stop illegal logging as their livelihood, because the AFP will not hesitate to go after illegal loggers and those who tolerate it through buying it or consented their vehicles to be used for hauling illegal logs. We are reiterating our call to the LGUs to address this problem seriously,” Trinidad said.

The official noted that the troops of 36IB are committed in the government’s campaign against illegal logging in support to the government’s program in the preservation and protection of the environment.

Sayyaf man involved in plantation raid falls

From the Philippine News Agency (May 10): Sayyaf man involved in plantation raid falls

The police released the mugshot photo of Langa Jamil Francisco, an alleged Abu Sayyaf member involved in the Golden Harvest Plantation raid in 2001. (Photo courtesy: Police Regional Office-9 PIO)

Policemen have arrested another suspected Abu Sayyaf bandit involved in the plantation raid in Basilan more than 16 years ago, an official said Wednesday.

Chief Insp. Helen Galvez, Police Regional Office-9 (PRO-9) information officer, identified the arrested suspect as Langa Jamil Francisco alias Teng, a resident of Barangay Tetuan, this city.

Galvez said Francisco, 52, was arrested in an operation around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday in Barangay Sta. Barbara, this city.

She said Francisco has a standing warrant of arrest for seven counts of kidnapping and serious illegal detention charges issued by a court in Isabela City, Basilan.

Francisco is allegedly involved in the kidnapping June 11, 2001 of 15 workers from the Golden Harvest Plantation in Barangay Tairan, Lantawan, Basilan province, police said.

NPA tagged as threat to village polls in Eastern Visayas

From the Philippine News Agency (May 10): NPA tagged as threat to village polls in Eastern Visayas

Activities of the New People’s Army (NPA) remains a security threat to upcoming village and youth council elections in Eastern Visayas, a military official said on Wednesday.

Major Gen. Raul Farnacio, commander of the Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Division based in Catbalogan City said NPAs have been consolidating their forces especially in Northern Samar area a week before the elections.

Farnacio reported that on Tuesday, patrolling soldiers encountered about 60 armed rebels in the upland Imelda village in Silvino Lobos, Northern Samar. One soldier was wounded while there are still unknown casualties on the NPA side.

“I believe their consolidation in the hinterlands has something to do with the upcoming elections especially in remote areas,” Farnacio told reporters during Wednesday’s send-off ceremony of augmentation forces to secure the elections.

The military official said rebels see the elections as an opportunity to raise funds and anoint their chosen local officials. “It has been their plan to support village officials who are supportive to their armed struggle,” Farnacio added.

The military has deployed this week 1,700 soldiers to ensure peaceful elections in conflict-stricken communities.

These troopers are from the 801st brigade based in Hinabangan, Samar; 802nd brigade based in Ormoc City in Leyte; and 803rd brigade based in Catarman, Northern Samar. Each brigade has 500 to 600 soldiers.

The Samar provinces have been the stronghold of armed rebels due to their densely-forested mountainous areas, high poverty incidence, and issue of widespread landlessness, according to a 2013 study of William Norman Holden of the University of Calgary in Canada.

The NPA launched its first tactical operation in the country in Calbiga, Samar in 1974, when its members ambushed an Army scout patrol and seized a number of weapons.

In 1976, the NPA gained popular support among the inhabitants of Samar following its actions against cattle rustling gangs.

In the Eastern Visayas region, three cities and 24 towns have confirmed NPA activities. There are 404 active NPA members in Eastern Visayas equipped with 576 firearms in four provinces as of first quarter of 2018, the military reported.

Communist rebels torch equipment for dam project in southern Negros

From the Philippine News Agency (May 10): Communist rebels torch equipment for dam project in southern Negros

The New People’s Army (NPA) in Central Negros admitted burning the heavy equipment and bunkhouse being used for the dam project of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental on May 7.

The confirmation by the rebel group’s Mount Cansermon Command (MCC) was included in a statement written in Hiligaynon and released to the media here on Wednesday night.

The group said one of its squads under the MCC successfully carried out the torching of a backhoe and a generator set, and the bunkhouse at the NIA construction site in Sitio Tagbak, Barangay Tan-awan around 7:45 p.m.

The act signified the strong opposition of the people to the government’s anti-people project under the Ilog-Hilabangan River Basin Project, it added.

The rebel group also said the project puts the lives of the residents at risk, particularly those who are crossing the Hilabangan River, and also dislocates the livelihood of those living in the dam site.

Brig. Gen. Eliezer Losañes, commander of Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade based in Negros Occidental, condemned the act of the communist rebels.

“The project’s purpose was to give development to the area so that the people will benefit from its use,” he said, adding that the NPA is not only anti-development, but even justifies being terrorist with its threats and intimidation to the people of Negros.

Losañes appealed to Negrenses to closely coordinate with the army and the police to stop the NPA from creating terror.

Last February 27, a group of NPA rebels also burned a farm tractor owned by Jorge Vargas at Hacienda Conchita in Barangay Sag-ang, La Castellana town.

Military steps up drive vs. private armies this poll season

From the Philippine News Agency (May 10): Military steps up drive vs. private armies this poll season

The Philippine Army is stepping up its watch against the reactivation of private armies in Samar province days before the May 14th elections.

Major Gen. Raul Farnacio, commander of the Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Division, said the military have intensified intelligence gathering to prevent the regrouping of private armed group and dismantle existing ones.

“Every election, wanted persons are hired by politicians to advance their interest. Remember that barangay election is in preparation for the 2019 elections and some officials will make sure that their anointed candidates will win,” Farnacio said in a press briefing Wednesday.

In fighting private armed group, the Philippine Army will apply the “Alunan doctrine” introduced by former Interior secretary Rafael Alunan III, who served during the presidency of Fidel Ramos.

“Under Alunan doctrine, any official with more than two armed men can be considered as an organizer of private armed group and must be disarmed,” Farnacio said.

On Tuesday, the Philippine Army started the deployment of 1,700 soldiers to patrol in remote communities vulnerable to threats of New People’s Army and private armed groups.

Deployed soldiers are from the 801st brigade based in Hinabangan, Samar; 802nd brigade based in Ormoc City in Leyte; and 803rd brigade based in Catarman, Northern Samar. Each brigade has 500 to 600 troopers.

“We have to prevent rebels and private armies to launch violent activities affecting the security and result of the barangay (village) and Sangguniang Kabataan elections,” Farnacio added.

Last week, the Philippine National Police released photos and announced cash rewards of most wanted persons in Samar province. Topping the list is Jimmy Managaysay from Calbayog City with PHP700,000 cash reward awaits his capture. He was charged with four counts of murder.

PNP Regional Director Chief Supt. Gilberto Cruz said they have posted photos of these most wanted persons for the communities to alert the police of their presence. Authorities believe that wanted persons will likely be hired by politicians as private armies.

At least 284 villages in the Eastern Visayas region have been identified as election hotspots, citing intense political rivalries, threats of armed rebels, and violence committed by private armed groups.

Northern Samar has the most number of areas on the watch list with 114, followed by Samar (82), Eastern Samar (60), and Leyte (28).

In October 2016, the police and army formed a task force to disband private armies in Calbayog City and nearby towns of Sta. Margarita, San Jorge, Gandara, and Matuginao in Samar.

Alert residents foil bomb attempt in Cotabato City

From the Philippine News Agency (May 10): Alert residents foil bomb attempt in Cotabato City

Police and Army bomb experts deactivated Wednesday night an improvised bomb along a busy alley in Barangay Bagua here.

The discovery of the improvised bomb fashioned from 81 mm mortar with mobile phone as triggering device briefly interrupted the campaign period for barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections (BSKE) here.

Quoting witnesses, reelectionist village chair Bimbo Diolonen said two men were seen entering the densely populated village at past 7 p.m. and left what appeared like a bag beside the narrow alleyway.

Residents noticed the suspicious item and alerted authorities who quickly sealed off the area.

“At past 8 p.m., the IED was deactivated after several attempts of disrupting it,” Senior Supt. Rolly Octavio, city police director, said.

An Army disposal bomb expert who responded at the scene said that after the IED was deactivated using a water disruptor, he noticed traces of suspected shabu substance in the site where the bomb was found.

Police said intense rivalry has been observed in the village.

Diolonen, the village chairman, said it was the first time an IED was planted in the village since he was elected village chief.

Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi lauded the civilians for quickly alerting the police, preventing a potentially bloody Wednesday evening.

Abu Sayyaf sub-leader, 5 followers surrender in Basilan

From the Philippine News Agency (May 10): Abu Sayyaf sub-leader, 5 followers surrender in Basilan

An Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) sub-leader along with his five followers surrendered to government authorities in the province of Basilan, an official said Thursday.

The group surrendered through the concerted efforts initiated by the Joint Task Force Basilan (JTFB) in coordination and with the support of Basilan Gov. Hadjiman Hataman-Saliman and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Mujiv Hataman, said Brig. Gen. Juvymax Uy.

Uy, who heads JTFB, identified the ASG sub-leader as Apan Apino alias Abu Mudzrin, whose group is based in the hinterlands of Basilan.

He said the group surrendered on Wednesday in Barangay Sinulatan, Tuburan town. They turned over six high-powered firearms consisting of three M-16 rifles, two .30 caliber M1 Garand rifles and one M-79 grenade launcher and ammunition.
Apino told authorities they decided to surrender as they had already grown tired of running from the advancing government troops.

“We have won several communities that use to support the Abu Sayyaf bandits. The Abus are now confined in the hinterlands where they intimidate communities for support,” Uy said.

“The Abu Sayyafs are not safe in Basilan. We are giving the option for them reconsider peace through surrender while the door is still open,” the military official added.

Saliman and Hataman reiterated their earlier call for the remaining Abu Sayyaf Group members to surrender and return to the fold of the law.

BIFF commander, 10 followers yield in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (May 10): BIFF commander, 10 followers yield in Maguindanao

SURRENDER. BIFF member shakes hands with Lt. Colonel Harold Cabunoc, Army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion commander, during simple surrender ceremonies after he turned in his rifle to Mayor Abdulkarim Langkuno of Paglat town in Maguindanao on Thursday (May 10). (Photo by 33rd IB)
DATU PAGLAT, Maguindanao -- Eleven members of IS-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) surrendered and handed over their rifles to the military on Thursday.

Lt. Colonel Harold Cabunoc, the commander of the Army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion, along with local government officials of this town,  received BIFF commander Sindatuk Dilna and 10 of his men at the Liguasan marshland here around 8:30 a.m.

Cabunoc said the armed men showed sincerity in returning to the fold of the law, and that their surrender was the result of the army's combined community engagement and military operations.

“Through unity of effort in our combat operations, various AFP and PNP units have pooled resources together in the conduct of intelligence-driven operations inside the lairs of the known rebel groups,” Cabunoc said.

“We also engaged the people to change perceptions and lure the insurgents back to the folds of the law,” he added.

Among the surrendered weapons were two M16 rifles, two M14 rifles, four Garand rifles, one Carbine rifle and one .50-caliber Barrett sniper rifle. Cabunoc said the surrenderers would be presented to Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu on May 12.

Mangudadatu said his office will provide livelihood assistance to the BIFF rebels equivalent to the cost of the firearms they have turned in, as prescribed under the Comprehensive Local Integration Program of the government.

SC junks soldier's habeas corpus plea in kidnap of 2 UP students

From the Philippine News Agency (May 10): SC junks soldier's habeas corpus plea in kidnap of 2 UP students

The Supreme Court (SC) upheld the dismissal of a petition for the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus filed by one of the accused soldiers in the abduction and disappearance of University of the Philippines students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan in 2006.

In a 17-page resolution penned by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, the SC's third division affirmed the Court of Appeals (CA) rulings dated July 27, 2015 and February 22, 2016 denying the plea of Army SSgt. Edgar Osorio for the issuance of the writ for lack of merit.

“All told, the arrest warrants issued against Staff Sgt.Osorio were issued by the court that has jurisdiction over the offense charged. SSgt. Osorio’s restraint has become legal hence, the remedy of habeas corpus is already moot and academic,” read the resolution dated April 23.

“Republic Act 7055 (An Act Strengthening Civilian Supremacy Over the Military) provides that if the accused is a member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the crime involved is one punished under the Revised Penal Code, civil courts shall have authority to hear, try and decide, the case,’ stated the ruling concurred by Associate Justices Lucas Bersamin, Alexander Gesmundo, Samuel Martirez and Presbitero Velasco.

The decision affirmed that the Malolos Regional Trial Court (RTC) properly took cognizance of the kidnapping case against him.

It explained that the only time a court martial may assume jurisdiction is, if before arraignment, the civil court determines that the offense is “service-oriented”.

Furthermore, the high court said since Osorio is charged with a crime committed in a private capacity, the Sandiganbayan cannot take cognizance of the case.

It will be recalled that in his plea, Osorio said the Malolos RTC which issued the warrant against him has no jurisdiction to take cognizance of the case against him and that court martial, not civil courts, have jurisdiction to try and decide a case against a soldier on active duty.

In the alternative, Osorio stressed that the Ombudsman and Sandiganbayan should have conducted the preliminary investigation and decided the kidnapping case against him since his co-accused, then Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, had a rank higher than colonel and had a salary grade 28 at the time of the commission of the alleged offense.

Aside from Osorio and Palparan, also charged over the disappearance of Empeno and Cadapan are Lt. Colonel Felipe Anotado and Master Sergeant Rizal Hilario.

Hilario remains at large.