Saturday, May 19, 2018

Terrorist recruitment in Mindanao not massive —AFP

From GMA News (May 19): Terrorist recruitment in Mindanao not massive —AFP

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Saturday denied a security expert's claim that there is a "massive" terrorist recruitment in Central Mindanao.

"In so far as the AFP is concerned, there may be discreet and serious efforts to recruit, but not massive not to be monitored by the AFP," Colonel Edgard Arevalo, chief of the military's public affairs office, said in a statement.

In an interview over Super Radyo dzBB, Banlaoi said the recruitment activities of extremist groups in Central Mindanao have become "massive, discreet and decisive."

He said the local terrorists are exploiting the desperate condition of displaced residents of Marawi City, which suffered severe damage during a five-month seige by combined local terror groups led by Dawlah Islamiyah also known as the Maute group.

Aside from Marawi City, he said extremist groups are recruiting in Iligan City, Cagayan de Oro City, Cotabato and other parts of Mindanao.

Banlaoi added that these groups recruit even children from nine years old and up and young ones who are already able to handle a gun.

The security expert had recommended that the government should not put much focus on the rehabilitation of Marawi City and instead "plant the seeds of peace and hope" among the displaced residents.

Arevalo said the AFP is already doing Banlaoi's recommendation through Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (PCVE) programs.

He also said that the AFP is also aware that extremism cannot be resolved "using military solution alone."

"That is why the AFP is working in close coordination with other agencies of government like DSWD, DOH, DILG, NEDA, among others to address the issues of the internally-displaced persons and the roots of terrorism," the military spokesman added.

Duterte turns over two kidnapped policewomen to PNP’s Albayalde

From GMA News (May 19): Duterte turns over two kidnapped policewomen to PNP’s Albayalde

Duterte turns over two kidnapped policewomen to PNP’s Albayalde

President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday personally turned over to the Philippine National Police (PNP) the two policewomen released by the Abu Sayyaf group earlier this week.
In a statement, PNP spokesperson Chief Superintendent John Bulalacao said Duterte turned over Police Officer 2 Benierose Alvarez and Police Officer Dinah Gumahad to Director General Oscar Albayalde at 3:30 p.m. in Davao City.

The PNP said in the statement that the two policewomen, who were abducted last April 29 in Patikul, Sulu, were released by their abductors to the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Barangay Buanza, Indanan town.

It assured that "no ransom was paid" for the release of the two policewomen.

In photos posted on Facebook by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari was present during the turnover in Davao City.

In a separate statement, the OPAPP said Misuari was "reportedly personally requested earlier by the President to help in [the policewomen's] safe return."

Albayalde had said that they are suspecting that the Abu Sayyaf's "Ajang-Ajang" arm was responsible for the abduction of the two policewomen.

He said the Abu Sayyaf may have been released Alvarez and Gumahad due to the police and the military's pressure.

China announces landing for 1st time of H-6K bomber in Spratlys

From GMA News (May 19): China announces landing for 1st time of H-6K bomber in Spratlys

China's Air Force announced on Friday that it landed a bomber for the first time on its largest base in the South China Sea, located on Woody Island in the Paracel group in the Spratlys.

Social media posts, both on the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Weibo account, as well as the state-owned People’s Daily Twitter account, shows the long-range bomber landing and taking off from Woody Island.

Also, a post on shows an H-6k long-range bomber flying over the Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal, claimed by the Philippines as part of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative had reported of the possible role of Woody Island in China's "eventual" military deployments in the Spratlys.

AMTI also said that China has built large hangars at all three of its “Big 3” outposts in the Spratlys (Subi, Mischief, and Fiery Cross Reefs) that can accommodate bombers like the H-6K (as well as large transport, patrol, and refueling aircraft).

Moreover, it said that H-6K’s combat radius of nearly 1000 nautical miles means bombers taking off from Woody Island could cover the entire South China Sea.

Two days before the reported landing and taking off of H-6K bomber from Woody Island, President Rodrigo Duterte said that he was aware of China's missiles deployment and military assets on its built-up islands in the disputed sea.

But he said there is no point in questioning China's actions there.

"There is an airport. There are missiles there installed. There are military equipment already in place. So what's the point of questioning whether the planes land there or not? There's an airstrip," Duterte said.

International observers, however, said that the landing of H-6K bomber on Woody Island is another recent move by China that further escalates the tension in the region.

66 rookie cops to pioneer SAF training – Albayalde

From UNTV News (May 18): 66 rookie cops to pioneer SAF training – Albayalde

Members of PNPA Maragtas Class of 2018
QUEZON CITY, Philippines – Sixty-six members of the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) Maragtas Class of 2018 will form the first batch of rookie cops to undergo the PNP Special Action Force (SAF) training.

This is in line with PNP Chief Director General Oscar Albayalde’s directive to upgrade the skills of new police graduates prior to deployment to their official assignments.

Aside from six months commando training, the group will also undergo 20-day Patrol Officer Basic Course and 45-day Investigation Operation Course.
Among them is class valedictorian Police Inspector Fritz Salvador.

“Gustong gusto ko po talaga na mag-undergo ng commando course and eventually maging SAF trooper so di na rin ako nabigla ng i-announce ni PDG Oscar Albayalde na ganun po ang magiging program sa class namin. I’m happy,” said Salvador.

(I really wanted to undergo a commando course and eventually become a SAF trooper. So I wasn’t really surprised anymore when PDG Oscar Albayalde announced that our class will indeed go have that program.)

As always, the PNP Chief advised the newbie cops to uphold with highest priority discipline and good values to be deserving protectors of the people.

“Our highest priority is the protection of human rights. This should be reflected in every aspect of police conduct. Even in confrontational or private situations we should use all reasonable means to prevent injury or harm to everyone,” Albayalde concluded.

Body of high-ranking NPA rebel found in Agusan del Sur – AFP

From UNTV News (May 18): Body of high-ranking NPA rebel found in Agusan del Sur – AFP

The body of “Ka Marjun,” vice commanding officer of a rebel platoon based in North Central Mindanao
AGUSAN DEL SUR, Philippines – The Philippine Army (PA) has identified the body recovered by members of the 402nd Infantry Brigade following an encounter in Sinacungan, Esperanza, Agusan del Sur on Monday, May 14.

402nd IB Spokesperson Captain Al Anthony Pueblas announced Friday, May 18, that a rebel returnee assisted authorities to identify the body of “Ka Marjun,” the vice commanding officer of Platoon 2, RSDQ Compaq based in North Central Mindanao. He was a resident of Barangay Balit, San Luis, Agusan Del Sur.
The Philippine Army believes the killing of “Ka Marjun” is a positive indication that the leadership of the NPA rebels is now dwindling in Caraga Region. The military expressed gratitude for the active support from communities in the region for such accomplishment.

“Nagpapasalamat po tayo sa sting mga mahal na kababayan sa tulong at suporta na ipinakita nila sa pamamagitan ng pagbibigay ng mga reports hinggil sa presensya nitong mga teroristang NPA,” Pueblas said.  (We thank members of the community for the help and support they have shown by reporting the presence of NPA terrorists.)

Kabankalan armed clash a ‘form of punishment’

From the Panay News (May 19): Kabankalan armed clash a ‘form of punishment’

The Mount Cansermon Command of the New People’s Army (NPA) admitted to have a hand in the armed encounter on May 12 in Barangay Tan-awan, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental.

The shootout was a “form of punishment” for the military over its operations that lead to human rights abuses in the hinterlands of Negros Occidental, NPA spokesman Dionesio Magbuelas said.

Members of the Philippine Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade (IB) were patrolling the village in relation to the synchronized barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections when they chanced upon about 60 NPA rebels, resulting to the shootout that lasted for almost an hour, the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (Nocppo) said.

The gunfight started at around 5:30 a.m., Nocppo added.

According to the Army, Sergeant Sandy Arevalo and Private First Class (PFC) Vicente Marcon were killed.

Eight other soldiers – Sergeant Niño Nabaunag, PFC Michael Besana, PFC Voltair Catamin, PFC Angelito Bariga, PFC Kenneth Cerbo, Private Ryan Las Piñas, Private Joven Taghap, and Private John Daryle Delgad – were wounded, it added.

But if the NPA was to be believed, five soldiers were killed in the encounter and 10 were wounded.

The NPA also said one of its members was killed and only two were injured.

Magbuelas said they confiscated an M203 grenade launcher, several ammunition, six back backs, and other military items after the shootout.

Military denies burning, strafing Lumad schools

From the Sun Star-Manila (May 19): Military denies burning, strafing Lumad schools

THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) denied on Friday, May 18, allegations that they burned and strafed Lumad (indigenous people) schools in Mindanao.

Marine Colonel Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesperson, said the units in the Eastern Mindanao command and the 10th infantry division categorically denied that they forcibly closed, burned or strafed indigenous people’s schools in the said region.

“We challenge our accusers. Provide details: which schools, where, and when were the alleged acts committed. Those are serious allegations of criminal acts. And they should file appropriate cases in court. They should not resort to deception and lies,” he said.

“Those allegations against us are preposterous and malicious and are meant to malign the reputation and discredit the AFP,” he added.

Arevalo maintained that the AFP helps construct schools and provide security to students and teachers and will not do harm to the people especially their brothers and sisters in the indigenous communities.
He said that such claim is nothing but another disinformation campaign by the New People's Army, armed unit of the Communist Party of the Philippines, to discredit the military to win back public support they have lost.

Mary Ann Manja Bayang, external assistant of United Nations Special Rapporteur Victoria Corpuz, said several indigenous people groups reported to Corpuz earlier alleged harassment and human rights violations committed by the military including the alleged burning, closing and strafing of their schools.

As a result, students are attending classed in evacuation centers.

Protesters said that since the entire Mindanao was placed under martial law, the AFP forcibly closed 56 schools. Of these, 19 were allegedly either burned or strafed.

Military on ‘lumad’ UN raps: Prove them in court

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 19): Military on ‘lumad’ UN raps: Prove them in court
The military on Friday blasted what it called the “disinformation campaign” by communist groups, a day after “lumad” (indigenous) groups held a video conference with United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz to air complaints about the Duterte administration’s alleged human rights violations.
Lumad groups in Mindanao and their supporters told Corpuz that their communities continued to suffer from the government’s “red-tagging,” resulting in extrajudicial killings, as well as the strafing of their schools.

No less than President Duterte had threatened to bomb lumad schools for allegedly serving as communist fronts, they complained.

But in a statement on Friday, Col. Edgard Arevalo, spokesperson for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, bristled at the allegations, particularly the claim that military men had strafed and burnt down lumad schools.

‘Deception and lies’

 “We challenge our accusers. Provide details: which schools, where, and when were the alleged acts committed,” Arevalo said.

“Those are serious allegations of criminal acts. And they should file appropriate cases in court. They should not resort to deception and lies,” he added.

The accusations, he said, were part of a disinformation campaign by the New People’s Army “to win back public support they have lost.”

During Thursday’s video conference at the Commission on Human Rights office in Quezon City, Tauli-Corpuz said she had every intention to communicate with the Duterte administration, but her efforts might be in vain, as she herself had been tagged as a communist by the government in a court petition by the Department of Justice.

Esperon, PH security execs fly to Moscow for bilateral meet

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 19): Esperon, PH security execs fly to Moscow for bilateral meet

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. (Photo by NOY MORCOSO /

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. is off to Moscow this weekend to boost the Philippines’ security relations with Russia.

Esperon and an interagency delegation composed of officials from the national security sector will be holding bilateral meetings with their Russian counterparts from May 18 to 19.

In a statement, the National Security Council said “the strengthening of security cooperation between the Philippines and the Russian Federation will be the main objective” of Esperon’s visit.

Esperon will be meeting with Secretary Nikolay Patruchev of the Security Council of the Russian Federation.

The two officials are expected to follow through on the implementation of the memorandum of understanding on security cooperation between the NSC and SCRF, which was signed in May 2017.

“The bilateral discussions build on the successful efforts of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano in solidifying Philippines-Russia diplomatic relations along President Duterte’s independent foreign policy,” the statement said.

Cayetano was in Russia earlier this week for a two-day working visit, during which he held bilateral talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Esperon’s delegation includes senior officials from the Department of National Defense, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Justice, the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency; Philippine Coast Guard, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the Philippine National Police.

“They are expected to explore cooperation mechanisms on information exchange, capacity-building, training, and other matters that are mutually-beneficial to both nations,” the NSC added.

Last year, the Philippines and Russia signed a military-technical cooperation agreement to conduct joint research, production support, and possible of exchange of experts and training of personnel.

It may be recalled that President Rodrigo Duterte visited Russia in May 2017, but had to cut the trip short after the Marawi City siege broke out on May 23, 2017.

China lands nuclear strike-capable bombers on South China Sea islands

From The Guardian (May 19): China lands nuclear strike-capable bombers on South China Sea islands

Exercise described by air force as preparation for ‘the battle’ for the disputed waters

Chinese dredging vessels reportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed South China Sea.

Chinese dredging vessels reportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed South China Sea. Photograph: Reuters

China’s air force has landed bombers on islands and reefs in the South China Sea as part of a training exercise in the disputed region, it said in a statement.

Several bombers of various types – including the long-range, nuclear strike-capable H-6K – carried out landing and take off drills at an unidentified island airfield after carrying out simulated strike training on targets at sea, the Chinese airforce said.

“A division of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) recently organised multiple bombers such as the H-6K to conduct take-off and landing training on islands and reefs in the South China Sea in order to improve our ability to ‘reach all territory, conduct strikes at any time and strike in all directions’,” it said.

The statement said the pilot of the H-6K bomber conducted assault training on a designated sea target and then carried out take-offs and landings at an airport in the area, describing the exercise as preparation for “the west Pacific and the battle for the South China Sea”.

China deploys cruise missiles on South China Sea outposts – reports

The notice, published on the PLAAF’s Weibo microblogging account, did not provide the precise location of the exercise.

The US has dispatched warships to disputed areas of the South China Sea in a bid to challenge China’s extensive sovereignty claims in the territory, which is also subject to claims by Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia. The waters are vital global shipping routes and contain what are believed to be significant oil and natural gas deposits.

“The United States remains committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Pentagon spokesman Lt Col Christopher Logan said.

“We have seen these same reports and China’s continued militarisation of disputed features in the South China Sea only serves to raise tensions and destabilise the region.”

Wang Mingliang, a defence expert cited in the Chinese statement, said the takeoff and landing exercises will help the air force “strengthen its combat capability to deal with maritime security threats”.

The move comes weeks after US network CNBC reported that China had installed anti-ship and air-to-air defences on outposts in the Spratly Islands that are also claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines, citing sources close to US intelligence.

Washington warned Beijing would face unspecified “consequences” over its militarisation of the South China Sea, and said it had raised the issue with China.

In an analysis published on its website, CSIS said the location of the runway was believed to be Woody Island, China’s largest base in the Paracel Islands, which is also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.

China has engaged in years of land-reclamation efforts on reefs it controls in the region and built both civilian and military facilities in the contested area.

Chinese military facilities include air bases, radar and communications systems, naval facilities and defensive weaponry including landing strips able to accommodate military planes.

PNP chief fetches 2 cops freed by Sayyafs in Sulu

From the Mindanao Examiner (May 19): PNP chief fetches 2 cops freed by Sayyafs in Sulu

SULU – Philippine police chief Oscar Albayalde flew Saturday to the southern Sulu province where he fetched two kidnapped policewomen freed by the Abu Sayyaf.

The two officers Bennie Rose Alvarez and Dinah Gumahad were released on May 16 barely three weeks after rebels seized them April 29 along with two other civilians Jakosalem Blas and Faizal Ahidji who had been earlier freed.

Sulu Governor Totoh Tan with Philippine police chief Oscar Albayalde who fetched freed officers Bennie Rose Alvarez and Dinah Gumahad on Saturday, May 19, 2018 three days after Abu Sayyaf released them in the province. (Courtesy of the Sulu Provincial Government)

Albayalde thanked Governor Totoh Tan for his assistance in the safe release of the officers. The release of the officers came days after Albayalde sought Tan’s help in recovering Alvarez and Gumahad.

The duo - both clad in veil – were smiling when they met with Albayalde.

Former rebel chieftain Nur Misuari of the Moro National Liberation Front was also present during the handover, but it was unclear whether he took part or directly involved in the negotiations with the Abu Sayyaf for the release of the hostages. The Abu Sayyaf had demanded P5 million in exchange for the officers. It was unknown whether ransom had been paid for the freedom of the police officers.

The officers are assigned with the crime laboratory and engineering department and were vacationing in Sulu when rebels kidnapped them near a military base. They were travelling on a motorcycle taxi when about a dozen gunmen flagged down their vehicle in Liang village in Patikul town and took them away. Police have identified the gang’s leader as Mujir Yada.

It was unknown why no policemen and soldiers were guarding the highway or why authorities failed to prevent the kidnappings despite an extended martial rule on the whole southern region.

Tan repeatedly rallied his mayors to work hard in protecting their communities and repeatedly ordered authorities to impose a tighter security in the Sulu and for the military to help police in maintaining peace and order in the province.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government has removed last year the supervision of the local executives over the police, which relied heavily on the support of local governments in their campaign against criminality.

Just recently, two government soldiers were killed and at least 12 wounded in fierce battle with the Abu Sayyaf during a rescue mission in Patikul. The soldiers were members of the 5th Scout Ranger who clashed with Abu Sayyaf commanders Hajan Sawadjaan, Idang Susukan, Injam Yadah and Ben Quirino in the village called Tanum.

Balikatan 34 strengthens U.S.-Philippine alliance through rigorous training

From the Philippine Information  Agency (May 18): Balikatan 34 strengthens U.S.-Philippine alliance through rigorous training  

From left, Armed Forces of the Philippines Lt. Gen. Emmanuel B. Salamat, commander, AFP Northern Luzon Command; Undersecretary Cardozo M. Luna, Philippine Undersecretary of National Defense; Mr. Michael S. Klecheski, U.S. Embassy Chargd’Affaires; AFP Gen. Carlito G. Galvez Jr., chief of staff, AFP and U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Thomas D. Weidley, commanding general, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, raise their arms while standing shoulder-to-shoulder during the Exercise Balikatan closing ceremony.

After 12 days of training, approximately eight thousand service members from the US military and Armed Forces of the Philippines completed this year’s Exercise Balikatan, resulting in increased interoperability and improved military skills.

Balikatan, in its 34th iteration, focused on counterterrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, as well as other combined military operations to ensure a more rapid response to natural disasters and manmade crises in the region.

The combined forces conducted a diverse range of training events, such as a combined arms live-fire exercise, an amphibious raid, close air support operations, artillery training, search and rescue operations, and small unit tactics operations. These training events strengthen the U.S.-Philippine military partnership and ensure a more effective combined joint response in future operations.

In Northern Luzon, U.S., Philippine, Australian, and Japanese service members took part in five engineering projects to construct new school buildings, renovate existing structures, as well as take part in beautification projects. They also conducted several health engagements by teaching the local community basic lifesaving skills, disease prevention strategies, as well as physical and dental hygiene.

Through Balikatan, the forces built upon a long and productive history of joint military exercises that enhance interoperability, strengthen partnerships, and improve disaster response and counterterrorism capabilities. (US Embassy Manila)

Cabanatuan City public school gets classroom from 'Balikatan'

From the Philippine News Agency (May 18): Cabanatuan City public school gets classroom from 'Balikatan'

A two-classroom school building funded and constructed by the Balikatan 2018, a joint military exercise between the Philippine Army and the United States Army, was formally turned over to the recipient school in Barangay Cabu here Wednesday.

Major General Herminigildo Francisco, assistant exercise director of BK 34-18, representing the Philippine Army; and Lt. General Lawrence Nicholson, commander of the III Marine Expeditionary Force, representing the US Army, led the ceremonial turn over of the school building at the Cabu Elementary School to the Department of Education (DepEd).

Both officers underscored things that can be achieved through the collective efforts of soldiers.

Nestor Lunderio, a supervisor from the local DepEd, led education officials during the ceremony that was also attended by children who went to the school, specifically to witness the turn over.

The construction of the 2-classroom building was part of the Balikatan 2018 humanitarian activities. Balikatan is being conducted to enhance interoperability between the US and Filipino troopers and advance regional security operations.

Arms cache seized in separate raids in Masbate City

From the Philippine News Agency (May 18): Arms cache seized in separate raids in Masbate City

Police operatives seized an arms cache and arrested two people in separate raids in barangays Nursery and Kinamaligan in Masbate City on Thursday.

Marino Torrecampo, 54, of Barangay Nursery and Antonio Barotil, 54, married, a gunsmith and welder, of Barangay Kinamaligan were nabbed by operatives of the Regional Special Operation Task Group, spokesperson of Police Regional Office 5 (Bicol), Senior Insp. Maria Luisa Calubaquib, said Friday.

The operatives, armed with search warrants, swooped down on Torrecampo in his residence at 4:42 p.m. on Thursday and confiscated two 9-mm. pistols, .45-caliber revolver, .32-caliber pistol, a 22-caliber revolver, a one-piece upper receiver for an M16 rifle, two pieces of butt for M16 rifles, and assorted tools for gun repair.

Meanwhile, policemen who raided Barotil’s house at 5 p.m. on Thursday, seized a KG-9 sub-machine pistol, two .45-caliber pistols, five .38-caliber revolvers, three .22-caliber pistols, a 9-mm. handgun, a .25-caliber pistol, a 32-caliber pistol, and assorted magazines and live ammunition.

Calubaquib said police investigators are determining if the seized firearms are documented or loose firearms.

She said the suspects are detained at the Masbate Police custodial facility while awaiting the filing of charges against them for violating the election gun ban and illegal possession of firearms.

Catholic Church, Army put up IPs school in Sultan Kudarat

From the Philippine News Agency (May 18): Catholic Church, Army put up IPs school in Sultan Kudarat

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao--The military and the local Catholic Church have joined hands in putting up a school for Indigenous Peoples (IPs) in an upland town in Sultan Kudarat province.

Fr. Rockmore Saniel of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) congregation on Friday said the Army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion has assisted in putting up a Day Care Center in Sitio Pangaan, Barangay Tinalon, Senator Ninoy Aquino town, a two-hour drive from this camp, the headquarters of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division.

First Lieutenant Alessandro Cruzada, commander of the 33rd IB Alpha Company, and his men helped Saniel and his church workers put up the foundation of the school project primarily intended for IPs children with the groundbreaking ceremony held on Thursday.

Saniel, concurrent head of the OMI IP ministry, said the materials for the construction of the two-room day care center were donated by the local government of Senator Ninoy Aquino, headed by Mayor Randy Ecija Jr., and private structure firm Jargon Construction Company.

The OMI congregation has long been extending aid to the IPs in Sultan Kudarat, including education, livelihood, and promotion of peace.

“The IPs here have been subjected by various groups to abuses, land grabbing included. The Church is helping them preserve their culture and make them self-reliant through various programs,” Saniel said in a mobile phone interview on Friday.

Army Colonel Harold Cabunoc, the commander of the 33rd IB, said the communist rebels are using the IPs in advancing their communist ideology.

“The uneducated IPs and the rebels’ promise of protection for their ancestral lands make the IPs sympathize with the rebels,” Cabunoc said in a separate interview in this camp on Friday.

The military and the Sultan Kudarat provincial government have been convincing IPs lured by the New Peoples Army (NPA) to surrender and avail of the government’s amnesty program. Cabunoc has expressed full support to the Church programs for the IPs in Senator Ninoy Aquino town, especially its programs on education.

269 PMA cadets hold tour in NegOcc

From the Philippine News Agency (May 18): 269 PMA cadets hold tour in NegOcc

PMA CADETS. Bacolod City Administrator John Orola (seated, center) welcomes Lt. Col. Reynaldo Balido, chief of PMA Public Affairs Office, with the 10 cadets of Class 2020 at the Bacolod City Government Center on Thursday (May 17, 2018). (Photo courtesy of Bacolod City PIO)

BACOLOD CITY -- The 269 cadets of the Philippine Military Academy’s (PMA) “Masidlawin” Class of 2020 are conducting various community activities in Negros Occidental until May 21 as part of their southern tour.

Lt. Col. Reynaldo Balido, chief of PMA’s Public Affairs Office, said the cadets were given the opportunity to tour selected cities in Visayas and Mindanao to learn about the various military units in these areas and their customs and traditions.

Balido, with 10 cadets from the cities of Bacolod, Bago, and Iloilo, visited the Bacolod City Government Center on Thursday where they met with City Administrator John Orola.

They held silent drills and community development activities, opened recruitment booths, and launched the Host Parents Program.

On Friday, some of the cadets performed silent drills at the Manuel Y. Torres Sports Complex in Bago, and will hold the same activity at the Provincial Capitol Lagoon and Park in Bacolod at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

In Bago, the cadets laid a wreath at the monument of General Juan Araneta, set up a recruitment booth, and conducted a coastal clean-up in Barangay Sampinit.

On Saturday, they will launch the Host Parents Program at Bago’s Bantayan Park at 5 p.m.

The Host Parent Program aims to give cadets their second home away from home and give them the opportunity to socialize with other people to enhance their social and cultural development.

On May 21, the cadets will be back in Bacolod for a city tour, and tree-growing activity in Barangay Alangilan.

The “Masidlawin” Class includes two cadets from Bacolod City, one from Bago City, five from Iloilo City, and two from Antique.

Landmine explosion injures 2 soldiers in Zamboanga del Norte

From the Philippine News Agency (May 19): Landmine explosion injures 2 soldiers in Zamboanga del Norte

Two soldiers were wounded when suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels bombed a bridge in the province of Zamboanga del Norte, a top police official disclosed Saturday.

Police Regional Office 9 (Zamboanga) Director, Chief Supt. Billy Beltran, said the incident occurred in Barangay Palalian, Kalawit, Zamboanga del Norte at about 10 a.m. Friday.

Beltran did not release the identities of the two wounded soldiers but said they belonged to the Charlie Company of the Army’s 42nd Infantry Battalion.

He said investigation showed that the suspected NPA rebels detonated a landmine when they saw six soldiers approaching the bridge.

The soldiers had disembarked from a KM450 truck and were about to inspect the bridge after they saw three rebels “laying landmine at the structure,” Beltran said, adding that a brief firefight ensued when other suspected NPA rebels positioned on a high ground opened fire at the soldiers.

The suspected rebels fled towards Barangay New Salvacion, Labason, Zamboanga del Norte.

The troops later recovered more or less 100 meters of wire, three nine-volt batteries, and shrapnel.

Government troops are now tracking down the suspected NPA rebels who fled to the hinterlands.

Cotabato City mayor seeks 'deeper' probe into bomb attempt

From the Philippine News Agency (May 19): Cotabato City mayor seeks 'deeper' probe into bomb attempt

Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi on Friday called on the police and the military to conduct a "deeper investigation" into the foiled bombing attempt here days before the May 14 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE).

Guiani-Sayadi said police discovered the improvised explosive device (IED) at the coastal village of Kalanganan 2, one of the identified election “hotspots”, three days before the May 14 elections.

She said the plot only came to light after a suspect, who was supposed to "receive" the bombs and use these during campaign rallies, surrendered and confessed the plan to barangay officials. The suspect is under police custody and his identity is being withheld pending investigation, she added.

While the plot was foiled, the mayor expressed disappointment over the incident, pointing out that bombs have been used in the past by criminal elements to disrupt elections in the city, or simply to disturb the peace.

“This is clearly an act of violence and a disruption to the improved peace and order situation in the city,” she said.

Guiani-Sayadi said she has already appealed to the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, including Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, to further deepen the investigation into the case.

“It is high time that the names of those behind these terroristic acts be revealed, as they should also be made answerable for their acts,” the mayor said.

Guiani-Sayadi herself has been a target of a bombing incident in the past.

In August 2013, an explosion ripped across a busy section of Sinsuat Ave., the city’s main thoroughfare, while the two-vehicle convoy of Guiani-Sayadi, who was then the city administrator, was passing by.

She was not hurt in the incident but several of her security escorts and civilians lost their lives in the incident. The case has not been resolved.

Gunman shoots soldier in Zamboanga City

From the Philippine News Agency (May 19): Gunman shoots soldier in Zamboanga City

Police are investigating the identity of the gunman behind the attempted gun slay of a Marine soldier late Friday in this city.

Chief Insp. Helen Galvez, Police Regional Office-9 (PRO-9) information officer, said that Marine soldier, Sgt. Fredencio Braba, 41, survived the attempt on his life but was wounded.

Braba is currently assigned in the province of Tawi-Tawi.

Galvez said Braba was aboard a pedicab on his way home when shot by a lone gunman at around 7:40 p.m. Friday at Salamat village, Barangay San Roque, Zamboanga.

She said the suspect pursued and opened fire for the second time but missed, as the victim, although wounded, managed to run to his home. The soldier was later admitted to a hospital for treatment.

Abducted policewomen freed, presented to Duterte

From the Philippine News Agency (May 19): Abducted policewomen freed, presented to Duterte

JOLO, Sulu -- The two policewomen who were abducted some two weeks ago in Sulu by suspected Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members were rescued on May 19 and were formally turned over to President Rodrigo Duterte in Davao City.

The two Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel were rescued with the assistance of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chair Nur Misuari, who was reportedly personally requested earlier by the President to help in the captives safe return.

RESCUED. Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus G. Dureza with the two policewomen who were rescued from their abductors on Saturday (May 19, 2018). The two were kidnapped last April 29 in the town of Patikul by suspected Abu Sayyaf members. (Photo courtesy of OPAPP)

Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus G. Dureza, accompanied by Misuari, personally fetched the two PNP officers in Jolo on Saturday.

Also present during the handover were AFP Chief of Staff Carlito Galvez , PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde, and Sulu Task Force head Gen. Cirilito Sobejana.

“Since day one, President Duterte instructed us to work on the safe release of the victims,” he said.

Police Officer 2 Benierose Alvarez and Police Officer 1 Dinah Gumahad, along with two civilians, were abducted by armed men on April 29 in the town of Patikul.

They had just come from Camp Teofilo Bautista near the Jolo Airport when their tricycle was waylaid by suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf Group.

Authorities in Sulu said the two police officers underwent medical examination and military debriefing.

Sobejana said military operations have been heightened to rescue the remaining kidnap victims in the island.

Last week, a number of Abu Sayyaf members were killed following a rescue attempt by the military. (OPAPP PR)

AFP will always protect nation: spox

From the Philippine News Agency (May 19): AFP will always protect nation: spox

AFP spokesperson, Col. Edgard Arevalo

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will never renege on its mandate to defend the country against all threats, its spokesperson said Friday.

"Your Armed Forces will never renege on (its) constitutional mandate to protect and defend the integrity of the country," Col. Edgard Arevalo said when asked what the military is doing to preserve and protect the country's territories.

“Like what I’ve said a while ago, our maritime and aerial patrols are continuing. We are submitting reports. Our trilateral (patrols) with neighboring countries like Indonesia and Malaysia are likewise continuing,” Arevalo said.

He noted that their other activities could not be divulged to the public “because these are operational matters.”

“But to assure our public, your Armed Forces will never renege on its constitutional mandate to protect and defend the integrity of our country," Arevalo said.

PH, US 'Balikatan' exercises a success: AFP chief

From the Philippine News Agency (May 19): PH, US 'Balikatan' exercises a success: AFP chief

The "Balikatan" exercises. (Photo courtesy of Exercise Balikatan FB page

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief-of-Staff Gen. Carlito Galvez on Friday called the just-concluded "Balikatan" exercises between Filipino and American military personnel a success.

"With the evident success of the annual exercise, I speak for the entire AFP in expressing our profoundest appreciation for everyone's active involvement in this shoulder-to-shoulder commitment," Galvez said during the closing ceremony of the two-week military exercise, held at the AFP Commissioned Officers' Club in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

He noted that this year's activities concluded with no accident, mishap or any untoward incident.

"This may be considered as one of the best since we have practiced the concise nature of the CPX (command post exercise) and the activities integrating our insights with our counterparts," the AFP chief said.

"I'm very pleased to note that all objectives set were achieved as planned. The execution phase was carried out smoothly and methodically, leading to the seamless conduct of the following activities -- the staff and command post exercise, the joint and combined interoperability events, the humanitarian civic assistance events, communication electronics events, the live-fire exercise," he added.

Some 5,000 Filipino and 3,000 American soldiers participated in this year’s “Balikatan” activities that began mid-April.

Troops from the Australian Defence Force and Japan Self-Defense Forces also joined some of the exercises. Their participation was under the ambit of the US alliance system.