Friday, May 25, 2018

Suspected NPA member dead in Camarines Sur clash

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 25): Suspected NPA member dead in Camarines Sur clash

A suspected member of New People’s Army was killed in an encounter with military troops before dawn Friday in Garchitorena town in Camarines Sur province.

Police reports said soldiers under the military’s 83rd Infantry Battalion encountered about 20 NPA members while patrolling in Sitio (sub-village) Pagsurungan in Barangay (village) Lidong around 5 a.m.

The body of the still unknown rebel was found later in the site where the soldiers and rebels engaged in a short firefight.
There was no casualty among the government soldiers.

Also recovered in the site were two M16 rifles and an M203 grenade launcher.

NolCom, Cagayan governor condemn killing of SB member by NPA terrorists

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 25): NolCom, Cagayan governor condemn killing of SB member by NPA terrorists

An incumbent Sangguniang Bayan (SB) member was shot dead by unidentified individuals on board motorcycles in his welding shop in Barangay Labben, Allacapan, Cagayan, Friday afternoon.

Armed Forces of the Philippines-Northern Luzon Command (AFP-NoLCom) spokesman, Lt. Col. Isagani Nato, said the victim identified as Ronel “Zaldy” Millare, was shot dead at about 5:30 p.m.

Nato said the victim was a retired police officer (PNP) and his execution was owned afterwards by the Communist New People’s Army Terrorist Group (CNTG) under Danilo Ben Command, NPA West Cagayan as announced in their press statement by its spokesperson Crispin Apolinario.

Justifying their terror acts, the NPA terrorists mentioned that Millare was working with the intelligence units of the government, strongly countering the advancement of the revolutionary movement and has done offenses against the masses ever since.

“NoLCom, together with the leadership of the province of Cagayan headed by Gov. Manuel Mamba, chairman of Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) of Cagayan, strongly condemns this terroristic act done by the CPP/NPA, Nato said.

“NoLCom denounces this treacherous and desperate act of influencing the minds of peace-loving people of Cagayan. Justice must be served for the victim and NoLCom sympathizes with his family,” he added.

MILF: Editorial - Defining moment!

Editorial posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (May 24): Editorial - Defining moment!

At no time in the past that the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is closer to be enacted into law than today. The Senate had closed its period of interpellation last night (Wednesday, May 23) and on May 28, the period of amendments will start. Thereafter, third and final reading is expected to be finished within two days after. In the Lower House, the period of interpellation will commence on May 28 and immediately the period of amendments is expected to start right away.
Informed sources disclosed that both Chambers of Congress assured of the BBL’s passage before Congress adjourns sine die on June 1. This is response to the appeal of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to leaders of Congress during a meeting with them on April 4, in the presence of MILF leaders led by Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim.

Part of the growing optimism is that both House Bill 6475 and Senate Bill 1717, if they are passed in their current forms, can be acceptable to the MILF. The case of the House is even better, because they adopted the original BBL drafted by the 21-man Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) in its entirety. Similarly, while the Senate had introduced some amendments to the BTC draft, but they are more for improvements rather than a diminution.

In the Senate, one can witness the brinkmanship of one veteran lawmaker, in the person of Minority Leader, Senator Franklin Drilon. He had been on the rostrum for more than two hours and he was not even halfway in terms of numbers of issues he was supposed to ask. But upon the appeal of his colleagues, especially the main sponsor of the bill, Senator and Majority Floor Leader, Juan Miguel Zubiri, he relented, and terminated his interpellation.

We have no reason to doubt the support of the Liberal Party senators. The Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and its four Annexes, plus the Addendum on Bangsamoro Waters, as well as the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) were all signed during the administration of President Benigno Aquino III. Moreover, the first BBL crafted by the first BTC chaired by Mohagher Iqbal was also during the previous administration. More importantly, solving the Moro Question or Problem, which President Duterte repeatedly referred to it as the “historical injustices” committed against the Bangsamoro, is not a partisan issue. Political considerations especially party affiliations shall not be invoked here or are part of the equation.

Indeed, the BBL has reached the defining moment! But surely, it is not yet in the basket. There are still remaining bottlenecks to be resolved. One is the issue of policing in the Bangsamoro. There seems to be a little disconnect here. The Bangsamoro Police contemplated in the BBL “is part of the Philippine National Police”. Perhaps, what elicits so much “discomfort” is the use of the term Bangsamoro Police. But the truth is that this term is merely descriptive, like Makati Police, Manila Police, Cotabato City Police, etc. It does not assign any power or authority because of the nomenclature.

In addition, the BBL did not provide for wholesale taking-in of the MILF combatants into the Bangsamoro Police. Only those who are qualified may apply as part of it.

We fully agree with Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Oscar Albayalde that there will never be an independent police force for the proposed Bangsamoro region, and uniformed troops should continue to be administered by the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to prevent, among others, politicization and the absence of command and control.

Perhaps, a little language engineering in the provision of the BBL on policing is in order. This is in consideration of the fact that the Bangsamoro is being given an autonomy status, and as such, it has to be considered. Moreover, for years our people have very little problem with elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines(AFP). They are virtually observing the ceasefire agreement down to the last letter. The case of the PNP, however, is different. People’s perceptions, founded or unfounded, are not very encouraging.

NDF/Sison: Duterte: I’ll kill Sison if talks fail anew and he comes home

Propaganda statement by Jose Maria Sison posted to the National Democratic Front Website (May 25): Duterte: I’ll kill Sison if talks fail anew and he comes home

PRRD has repeated so many times the threat to kill me that sometimes I surmise that the expression ¨kill¨ has actually become a term of endearment, as in some American comedies. I will not reply to PRRD in any hostile manner, unless he actually wrecks the work already done by the negotiating panels to prepare the resumption of formal peace talks. It seems to me that in using strong words he is eager to resume the peace negotiations rather than to block them.

It is best that PRRD and I allow and encourage the GRP and NDFP Negotiating Panels to continue preparing for the resumption of formal talks and make substantial progress as soon as possible. I have reason to be optimistic on the basis of the hard and productive work that the panels have already done in the form of back channel consultations, consensus building and bilateral drafting, unless the Duterte regime is once more backtracking.

NDF/Sison: Threat of nationwide martial law persists

Propaganda statement by Jose Maria Sison posted to the National Democratic Front Website (May 24): Threat of nationwide martial law persists

By Jose Maria Sison
NDFP Chief Political Consultant
May 24, 2018

 Within the so-called Constitutional Commission, there is the drive of certain pro-Duterte elements headed by a retired general to draw up a a draft federal charter that makes easier the declaration of martial law by citing ¨lawless violence¨ or ¨a series of offensives by the New People´s Army¨ as the basis for the declaration of martial law.

Said drive of the pro-Duterte elements is an indication that the threat of martial rule, being declared before or after the charter change, continues to exist and does not augur well for the resumption and success of GRP-NDFP peace negotiations while Duterte is the president.

Instead of trying to scapegoat the NPA and make it the pretext for martial law declaration, state terrorism and fascist dictatorship, the Duterte regime should let the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations to succeed in addressing the roots of the armed conflict and laying the ground for a just and lasting peace through comprehensive agreements on social, economic and political reforms.

Marawi generals return to honor men killed in battles last year

From Rappler (May 24): Marawi generals return to honor men killed in battles last year

'Huwag mo ako interview-hin. Baka umiyak ako.' The Philippine military unveils a 'Heroes Wall' inside Marawi camp.

HONORING THE DEAD. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana leads a wreathe-laying ceremony for soldiers killed in Marawi. Photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

HONORING THE DEAD. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana leads a wreathe-laying ceremony for soldiers killed in Marawi. Photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

LANAO DEL SUR, Philippines – One by one, the names of the soldiers and police officers killed in Marawi were called. The bell was rung each time.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, standing at attention, listened with a pensive face. Behind him was Armed Forces chief of staff General Carlito Galvez Jr.

Guns were fired in salute to the fallen men and Taps was played. The two men lifted their right hand in salute.

A wreath-laying ceremony was held on Thursday afternoon, May 24, inside the 103rd Brigade Headquarters where the military unveiled a Heroes Wall inside the camp.

"We owe it to the people to erect a memorial for them so we always remember their heroism here," said Lorenzana, a retired Army general.

"I wish it didn't happen... It happened because of the actions of terrorists. We had to deal with them in a way to stop them and wipe them out," Lorenzana said.

It was a reunion of some sort. Lorenzana and Galvez were joined by officers who led the fighting in the city from May to October last year.

They're all back in Marawi to honor their men – a total of 168 soldiers who were killed in the battles to stop armed groups from establishing a caliphate in Marawi.

"Huwag mo ako interview-hin. Baka umiyak ako," an officer told Rappler. (Don't interview me. I might cry.)

MARAWI COMMANDERS. Officers who led the fighting in Marawi City return to honor fallen soldiers. From left, Lt. General Arnel de la Vega, commander of Western Mindanao Command; Lt. General Danilo Pamonag, former Special Operations Commander; Lt. General Galileo Gerard Kintanar Jr, Philippine Air Force commanding general; Lt General Rolando Joselito Bautista, commanding general of the Philippine Army. Photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

The officers also attended the two separate events that allowed them to mingle with local officials they used to work with during the war.

The Marawi generals who now lead the military promised the local government and residents that they will make sure the rehabilitation of the war-ravaged city will be successful.

"We will not leave you," said Galvez. He assigned officers, who "gained the people's trust" during the siege, back to Marawi.

Galvez was the commander then of theWestern Mindanao Command, the unified command focused on fighting violent extremism.

Lieutenant General Rolando Bautista, the Philippine Army chief, was the ground commander in Marawi. Lieutenant General Danilo Pamonag, the chief of the Southern Luzon Command, was the ground commander who succeeded Bautista at the tail end of the war.

NPAs kill Kabankalan man?

From Panay News (May 25): NPAs kill Kabankalan man?

Four people shot to death a man once charged with murder in Barangay Bantayan, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental.

They claimed to be members of the New People’s Army (NPA), police said, citing investigation.

Superintendent Rhea Santos, Kabankalan City police chief, identified the victim as 48-year-old resident Rodolfo Ambong.

Investigation showed the suspects fired at Ambong while the latter was driving his motorcycle on his way home at around 6:45 a.m. Wednesday.

Police learned from witnesses that the suspects fled while shouting that they were NPA members, Santos said.

Ambong sustained gunshot wounds on the head and other parts of the body.

Santos said Ambong had been charged with murder but the case had been dismissed.

Police recovered from the crime scene several empty shells of .45 and .9mm pistols. Investigation continues.

15 Maute members surrender: military

From ABS-CBN (May 24): 15 Maute members surrender: military

Fifteen members of the Maute group have surrendered to authorities, the military said Thursday.

Col. Romeo Brawner, commander of Joint Task Group Ranao, a counter-terrorism unit, confirm the surrender without giving details.

The Maute group, which pledged allegiance to Islamic State-inspired militants, led a 5-month-long siege in Marawi City last year. The fighting left over 1,000 people killed.

Earlier this month, 27 Maute extremists were presented to President Rodrigo Duterte during his visit to Marawi.

The latest surrender brings the total number of Maute members in government custody to 42, the military said.

Feature: Philippine military vigilant on threatened IS-related attack on southern city Marawi

From New China/Xinhua (May 24): Feature: Philippine military vigilant on threatened IS-related attack on southern city Marawi

Photo taken on May 22, 2018 shows the damaged buildings in Marawi City, the Philippines. (Xinhua/Wang Yu)
Norma Abbas, a 60-year-old resident from Philippines' southern city Marawi, has been thrown into anxiety and panic these days. Rumors swirled last week that Islamist militants are planning another attack during the lunar month of Ramadan.

The lady has reason to worry. On May 23 last year, two military tanks and a military truck loaded with heavily-armed troops swooped down on her quiet street in this southern Philippine city.

The government forces were trying to capture Isnilon Hapilon, the pro-islamic State (IS) leader of the Abu Sayyaf militants who plotted the takeover of Marawi along with the Maute brothers, Omarkhayam and Abdullah and they were met by sustained attack from the militants, who fired rocket-propelled grenades, ensuing a ferocious fighting between the government security forces and pro-IS jihadists that attempted to make the city a caliphate in Southeast Asia.

One year later, a "For Rent" sign still hangs on the bullet-riddled building with shattered windows and bomb-inflicted holes in a residential area, which Hapilon and the Mautes rented to plot the Philippines' longest and most intense urban battle in recent history. More than 1,200 people were killed, and hundreds of thousands more displaced.

"(The Marawi siege) was the longest urban battle ever confronted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)," said security analyst Rommel Banlaoi in a new study titled "Marawi City Siege and Threats of Narcoterrorism in the Philippines."

Indeed, the AFP took five months to liberate Marawi from the Islamist jihadists that profess loyalty to the IS terrorists based in the Middle East.

"The Marawi City siege was a game-changer in the history of Philippine counter-insurgency operations as the main battle area was an urban terrain and not a guerrilla zone in the forested areas. For almost five decades, the Philippine government has fought armed insurgencies in the countryside. The Marawi City siege taught the Philippine military to learn how to fight in the city," Banlaoi said.

Soldiers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines walk to a bridge in the war-tornMarawi City, the Philippines, May 22, 2018. (Xinhua/Rouelle Umali)

One year after the raid, Army jungle fighter Joseph Quilang said IS militants are again actively recruiting. "They are bitter about their defeat. They want a repeat of the siege," he told Xinhua in an interview while showing reporters around the main battle area.

The main battle area in Marawi is formerly referred to as the Ground Zero after the May 23 attack. The military refers to it now as the "most affected area" or the part of the city where fierce fighting took place between the warring government security forces and pro-IS fighters. The area is now a ghost town of bullet-riddled mosques, buildings, houses and cars, and tons of debris of twisted steel, perforated iron sheets and concrete waste.

Quilang was among the first batch of 205 troops flown into Marawi on June 23 last year. The troops have just completed the Jungle Warfare and Mountain Operations Course (JWMOC) on April 25 that year. Marawi became their first major battle.

"I was totally shocked when I first got here. I was trained to fight in the jungle, not in an urban setting. I remember it was pitched dark when we got into the battle zone. We were literally groping our way," Quilang said.

Out of the 205, he said only 95 survived. Quilang lost his "training buddy," tank gunner Raymundo Gogotano, in the war. His friend was burned alive when the militants set the Simba tank ablaze, Quilang said. Before the burning, he said Gogotano called him to tell that the militants poured crude oil and was about to burn the tank. "I am still mourning for his death," he said.

Quilang toured the Chinese media in the bullet-riddled, bomb-battered Bato Mosque where the last two surviving leaders of Marawi siege Hapilon and Maute made their last stop before in October last year attempting to escape. They were killed before hopping into a waiting boat. Their deaths signaled the end of the devastating war.

A soldier from the Armed Forces of the Philippines looks at destroyed buildings in the war-torn Marawi City, the Philippines, May 22, 2018. (Xinhua/Rouelle Umali)
Quilang said the terrorists are bitter about the war. "They are into recruitment again, offering thousands of pesos to potential recruits. We got wind of it and made some arrests recently," he said.

Army chief Lt. Gen. Rolando Bautista confirmed the presence of IS sleeper cells not only in Marawi but also in many parts of the country.

"We discovered after the Marawi campaign that there are IS sleeper cells not only in Mindanao but also in Luzon and Visayas," Bautista, who previously headed the Joint Task Force Marawi, said in Manila.

"You can see the presence of IS cells in Baguio, Dagupan, Tarlac, Pangasinan (in the Philippine main Luzon Island). In the Visayas (in the central Philippines), there are (cells) in Samar, Cebu and so forth. If they will orchestrate terrorist activities, it might be in the form of lone wolf," Bautista said.

"If they are activated, they can create simultaneous terrorist activities, for example, one or two explosions in one area and an assassination in Cebu, liquidation. That will create a big impact although two or three persons will carry that out. That is their most probable strategy in the meantime," Bautista warned.

However, Bautista expressed doubt that militants can launch a Malawi-like siege in the next three to five years. He said the strength of the militants has been significantly reduced after their defeat in Marawi.

In the military's assessment, he said "the (enemy) threat is totally reduced in terms of leadership, in terms of armament, in terms of foreign support" adding that the "hardcore (IS) fighters have been neutralized."

Bautista nevertheless said that IS-influenced groups "are still recruiting," although the Maute group had been "reduced in terms of strength and capability."

Bautista tagged the Abu Sayyaf, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Khilafah Islamiyah Mindanao as among the IS-influenced groups.

He said the attack in Marawi was carried out by an alliance of the different terrorist groups. "If they were able to do that in Marawi, then chances are they can do it again. But our assessment is that it will take more or less three to five years before they can repeat what they did in Marawi," Bautista said.

Housing Assistant Secretary Felix Castro, Task Force Bangon (Rise) Marawi field office manager, echoed Bautista's assessment. "We continue to be vigilant. We do not want these people to disrupt the rehabilitation process," he said.

"A small incident would scare away investors or developers, and the development will not push through. So, we are very vigilant and we continue to coordinate with the military and the military continues to address these concerns," Castro added.

Asked if he considers the IS regrouping as a threat, Castro said, "We don't think so. At this point in time from what I learned those who are recruiting are small in numbers and the recruits are actually young and untrained so it will take time for them to really gather enough strength, enough firearms, enough experience or training to stage another siege."

Pentagon ‘uninvites’ China from major military exercise

From Malaya Business Insight (May 25): Pentagon ‘uninvites’ China from major military exercise

The Pentagon on Wednesday uninvited China from a major US-hosted naval drill in response to what it sees as Beijing’s militarization of islands in the South China Sea, a decision China called unconstructive.

“As an initial response to China’s continued militarization of the South China Sea we have disinvited the PLA Navy from the 2018 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise,” said Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Logan, a Pentagon spokesman.

PLA is the English-language acronym of China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army.

Logan did not specify what else the US government might do to respond but stressed there was “strong evidence” that China had deployed anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missile systems and electronic jammers to contested features in the Spratly Islands.

“We find that a very unconstructive move,” the Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councilor Wang Yi, told reporters in Washington after meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Wang described China’s activity in the South China Sea as self-defense, saying it was working on a “much smaller scale” than what the United States had done in Hawaii and Guam.

“We hope that the US will change such a negative mindset.”

Over the weekend China’s air force landed bombers on disputed islands and reefs in the South China Sea as part of a training exercise in the region, triggering concern from Vietnam and the Philippines.

Satellite photographs taken on May 12 showed China appeared to have deployed truck-mounted surface-to-air missiles or anti-ship cruise missiles at Woody Island in the Paracel island chain to the north of the Spratlys, said Greg Poling, a South China Sea expert at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Poling, who heads CSIS’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, said the images showed China had also deployed J-11 combat aircraft as part of its exercises.

He said later satellite images, taken on May 20 and published by Fox News, showed the missile systems still in place, suggesting they could be there to stay.

The Rim of the Pacific exercise, known as RIMPAC, is billed as the world’s largest international maritime exercise, held every two years in Hawaii in June and July, and China has attended previously.

Abraham Denmark, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia under President Barack Obama, said the move was largely symbolic.

“To me it shows that the relationship is veering towards increasingly intense competition and the Pentagon sees diminishing returns on the value of military to military cooperation with China,” Denmark said.

US President Donald Trump has praised China in recent months for its help putting pressure on North Korea, even amid concerns about a potential trade war between Washington and Beijing, the world’s two largest economies.

Earlier this month the United States said it had raised concerns with China about its latest militarization of the South China Sea and said there would be near-term and long-term consequences.

Pentagon officials have long complained that China has not been candid enough about its rapid military build-up and using South China Sea islands to gather intelligence in the region.

Chinese officials have accused Washington of viewing their country in suspicious, “Cold War” terms.

“On the so-called militarization in the South China Sea, we talked about this issue just now ... It is a normal deployment and has nothing to do with militarization,” Wang said. -- Reuters

The United States 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 subject to various claims by China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia.

Martial law forever?: Military chief says Mindanao people ‘love’ martial rule

From Malaya Business Insight (May 25): Martial law forever?: Military chief says Mindanao people ‘love’ martial rule

MINDANAO residents want martial law to be implemented in their area “forever” because of its positive effects on the peace and order situation, Armed Forces chief Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. said yesterday.

“We talked to the people, they love martial law. The peace-loving people have witnessed what we call remarkable improvement on the peace and order,” Galvez told a press briefing in Marawi City.

President Duterte declared martial in the entire Mindanao on May 23 last year, hours after members of the Maute terror group attacked the city. Martial rule has twice been extended, the last one was for one year or until December 31 this year.

Galvez said the Mindanao residents are no longer seeing loose firearms in the streets. He noted the military has recovered 6,000 of some 30,000 loose firearms in Mindanao since January this year.

The seized guns, he said, are only a small part of the loose firearms in Mindanao, and martial law is “definitely” needed by the military to recover the remaining illegal weapons.

“We need to get all the 80 percent of the firearms (remaining) so that we will remove the possibility of using these for lawlessness and criminality,” said Galvez.

“We are seeing that in Mindanao, martial law is appreciated. Others are even saying they want martial law to be forever in Mindanao,” said Galvez, without saying if the military supports the residents’ sentiment of being under martial rule forever.

“They’ve witnessed that martial law is being implemented against lawless elements. If you are a peace-loving person, you should be favorable and comfortable with martial law,” Galvez said.

Galvez did not say how many residents who are supposedly in favor of martial law were consulted by the military.

Col. Noel Detoyato, chief of the AFP public affairs office, said information about favorable civilian reaction to the implementation of martial law was based on the observation of different military units.

Detoyato said the military has two unified commands in Mindanao -- the Western Mindanao Command and Eastern Mindanao Command. These commands include Army, Air Force and Navy units.

“All of them are giving us feedbacks from the populace they are serving and in contact with. One third of our forces are residents of Mindanao. They are the sources of our information,” said Detoyato.

“I am also from Mindanao and all of my relatives are happy with the implementation of martial law. There are no rallies in Mindanao against martial law. If there are (rallies against martial law), they don’t represent the majority of the Mindanaoans. We support the martial law because it makes our mission accomplishment efficient and faster,” said Detoyato.

Galvez said martial law is an effective tool for the Armed Forces as they can search houses even on mere suspicion that firearms and other illegal materials are being hidden there.


Maj. Ezra Balagtey, spokesman of the AFP’s Eastern Mindanao Command, said there was “significant reduction” in crime rate in Mindanao because of martial law. He did not give figures.

“Relatedly, the movements of terrorist groups and other threats have been limited, thereby preventing the occurrence of possible sabotage and terror attacks. Further, it also led to the arrest of different terrorist personalities in Eastern Mindanao during the implementation,” he said.

Balagtey said martial law also contributed to the successful conduct of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque reiterated martial law would be lifted when it is no longer needed.

He also said those accusing the military of committing human rights abuses under martial law should show proof and file complaints.

Unless they do so, they should just “shut up” as they have never sacrificed for the country, like the soldiers and heroes of Marawi did, he said.

The five-month Marawi conflict left 168 soldiers and policemen dead.

Naval demonstration in Sipalay June 8-10

From the Visayan Daily Star (May 25): Naval demonstration in Sipalay June 8-10

The Naval Forces Central (NAVFORCEN) is set to conduct an Amphibious Raid Capability Demonstration and Civil Military Operation activities at Poblacion Beach in Sipalay City on June 8 – 10.

Lt. Nomer Bilbao, Lt. Hassam Liktayo, and Lt. Oscar Mendoza of the NAVFORCEN met with Negros Occ. Board Members Salvador Escalante, Jr. and Alain Gatuslao, and Negros Occidental Acting Provincial Administrator, Dr. Lucille Gelvolea, at the Provincial Capitol, yesterday, and presented an overview of the conduct of the said event, a press release from the capitol said.

The capability demo will be executed by the Naval Reserve Center – Western Visayas through the utilization of one company of the 81st Marine Battalion reservists.

The CMO activity will be spearheaded by the Civil Military Operation Unit-Central that will cover medical and dental mission, circumcision, photo static display, and audio visual presentation that will be held at the Sipalay City gymnasium; they will also have mangrove planting and coastal clean-up activities, the press release said.

The Provincial Government will also provide additional medicines and dental supplies; health professionals from the province will also augment the AFP personnel in the conduct of their medical and dental mission.

NAVFORCEN said , prominent personalities from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, as well as provincial and local officials, will be invited to witness the event, the press release added.

Army honors slain Negros soldiers

From the Visayan Daily Star (May 25): Army honors slain Negros soldiers

The Philippine Army honored yesterday the six Negrense soldiers and 159 others, who lost their lives while liberating Marawi from the control of the ISIS-inspired Maute terrorist group.

The six Negrense soldiers are 2Lt. Macglen Abuyabor of Bais City, Negros Oriental, PFC Nielbert Dedales of Bayawan City, Negros Oriental, SSgt. Joseph Villanueva of La Castellana, PFC Ramonito Occena III of Sipalay City, Cpl. Ariel Arquio of Cauayan, and Corporal Arjhay Baroa of San Carlos City, all in Negros Occidental.

The first anniversary of the Marawi siege was marked yesterday, May 23, by the Philippine Army top officials led by Maj. Gen. Robert Arevalo, Army Vice Commander, at Fort Andres Bonifacio in Taguig City.

There were 165 soldiers and cops who made the ultimate sacrifice in the 5-month long battle to free Marawi City from the hands of Daesh-inspired Maute terrorists.

The six slain Negrense soldiers were laid to rest in their respective hometowns near their families, while some were interred at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

While the battle they have fought may have long been over, Arevalo said, “The peace we now enjoy is the fruit of their heroism”.

A total of 641 soldiers, who had fought against the Maute group in Marawi, were also promoted to the next higher rank.

Of the 641 promoted enlisted personnel, 36 are ranked Master Sergeants, 98 are Technical Sergeants, 103 are Staff Sergeants, 193 are Sergeants, and 211 are Corporals.

During the donning of ranks at Fort Bonifacio on May 21, the promoted Army soldiers were given honor and recognition for their sacrifices during the government’s campaign to free Marawi from the terrorist group.

“You put your lives on the line and you did not fail your country, all in the name of service,” Army chief Lt. Gen. Rolando Joselito Bautista, said.

Presidential Security Group to have new chief on May 30

From Rappler (May 25): Presidential Security Group to have new chief on May 30
Colonel Jim Niembra will formally assume the post on May 30, replacing Brigadier General Lope Dagoy who takes command of the 802nd Infantry Brigade in Leyte
DUTERTE'S SECURITY TEAM. President Rodrigo Duterte gets ready to dine with PSG chief Brigadier General Lope Dagoy during the 2017 Christmas party with the Presidential Security Group. Malacañang file photo
DUTERTE'S SECURITY TEAM. President Rodrigo Duterte gets ready to dine with PSG chief Brigadier General Lope Dagoy during the 2017 Christmas party with the Presidential Security Group. Malacañang file photo

The Presidential Security Group (PSG) will soon have a new commander.

Informed Malacañang sources told Rappler that Colonel Jose "Jim" Niembra will be PSG commander effective May 30.
He will replace PSG chief Brigadier General Lope Dagoy who assumed the post of brigade commander of the Army's 802nd Infantry Brigade in Leyte on Thursday, May 24, during a change of command ceremony.

Dagoy served as the chief of President Rodrigo Duterte's security for a year and two months. He was appointed to the post in March 2017. (READ: PSG chief's remark vs Rappler reporter 'uncalled for' – Lorenzana)

Before assuming the PSG top post, Niembra was its deputy group commander.

Niembra also previously served as deputy commander of Task Force Davao when Duterte was mayor.

LOOK: Japanese destroyer ‘Setogiri’ arrives in Manila

From Rappler (May 26): LOOK: Japanese destroyer ‘Setogiri’ arrives in Manila

The Asagiri-class destroyer of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, which has arrived with a helicopter and about 200 officers and crew, will be docked overnight at Pier 15 in South Harbor

JS Setogiri (DD-156), an Asagiri-class destroyer of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), arrived in Manila Friday, May 25, with one helicopter and approximately 200 officers and crew on board.

Its one-day goodwill visit is the 4th visit of a JMSDF ship in the Philippines in 2018. Previously, JS Akizuki and JS Osumi made port visits in April, while JS Amagiri docked here in February.
Philippine Navy (PN) delegates, headed by Captain Joselo Tuballa, welcomed their Japanese counterparts at Pier 15 in South Harbor, Manila. They held a briefing on health and security aboard the Setogiri.
Representatives of the two navies will also hold goodwill games and a boodle fight.
The Japanese maritime officials, headed by Captain Susumi Moriyama and Commander Tokeshi Tonegawa, were expected to pay a courtesy call to Philippine Navy chief Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad at the PN headquarters.
In a statement on Friday, the PN said: "The visit aims to strengthen the relationship between the two navies. It will further enhance and sustain the promotion of peace, stability, and maritime cooperation of the two countries through naval diplomacy and camaraderie.
The Setogiri will leave the Manila port on Saturday, May 26.

Photos courtesy of the Philippine Navy

Marawi's silent heroes: Scout Rangers remember their days on the battlefield

From Rappler (May 26): Marawi's silent heroes: Scout Rangers remember their days on the battlefield
New recruits to the First Scout Ranger Regiment of the Army write journals about their drastic transition from training to actual combat – against terrorists at that
MANILA, Philippines – A year ago, on May 23, war broke in Marawi, Lanao del Sur. Seven months after President Rodrigo Duterte declared the city liberated from ISIS-inspired local terrorists, there are still countless stories left untold.
We heard stories of tireless men inside mechanized tanks, or those who ran or dodged bullets, but did we ever know who had their back?
Those who assisted them were mostly new soldiers who went through a drastic transition from training to actual combat – against terrorists at that.
They are members of the First Scout Ranger Regiment or the FSRR, a Special Operations Command Unit of the Philippine Army. To become an elite Scout Ranger, one must undergo 6 to 7 months of brutal training, which will be tested during a life-threatening mission.
When they were thrown into Marawi, they found a setting different from what their trainings made them to expect, and they were also surprised by how quickly the conflict escalated.
Some young privates recently penned brief journals about their experiences in Marawi. Here are the stories of 6 of them.

J Morido
Private First Class J. Morido, 25, from Sta Ignacia, Tarlac City, is the youngest and the only girl among 4 siblings. After earning a bachelor’s degree in criminology, she went straight to train with the Philippine Army and got enlisted in the First Scout Ranger Batallion.
In April 2017, I served under the one-month leadership of LTC Yunque during the Battle of Piagapo. It was my first major encounter while belonging to the Combat Support Unit. We provided the troops their basic needs and necessary support in the frontline, such as food, medicines, ammunitions, etc. While the battle lasted for almost 5 days, welfare of men is kept safe and secure. A month later, the Battle of Marawi broke out.
In September 2017, I reported in the 1SRB and was designated as an S1 clerk typist, a position that later gave me an opportunity to know more about S1 functions and obligations. I believe that I can do what men can do; either in admin operations or in actual combat.
Our headquarters was stationed at Barangay Nanagun, Lumbanague, in Lanao del Sur, close to Barangay Butig, where majority of the Maute members are residents. We stayed there for almost 4 months and encountered different threats from the other side. My daily activities included serving at my duty post while preparing a foxhole for my safety, just like the rest of the senior NCOs. I was so happy when we transferred to Agus 2, Saguiran, Lanao del Sur, and abandoned that place.
Aside from my S1 responsibilities, I was also assigned as a Rear Support for the troops. We were tasked to provide the troops in the frontline all the necessary needs as quickly as we could, such as food, medicine, water, ammunitions, and other equipment needed. People and soldiers will never forget this historic battle that brought so much casualties, damages to property, and affected innocent civilians.

SS Tolentino
PFC SS Tolentino, from Pangasinan, is the only daughter of a retired policeman and a housewife. With a degree in nursing, Sarrah joined the Philippine Army driven her father’s exciting stories. Through her father’s inspiration she now proudly wears the army's green uniform, decorated with the Scout Ranger badge. During the war she remembers another inspiring figure, her battalion commander, LTC Yunque.
Before reporting to this unit, I was thinking what tasks or job would be waiting for me; what were their expectations and my expectations? But all I was expecting was that the morale and welfare of men and women of 1SRB would be kept and there should be equality among individuals in every task given.
As the day went by, I learned and gain knowledge, especially in operational matters, with the help of my seniors and officers, particularly LTC Yunque. I learned from his professionalism as a commander, how he delegated leadership to his men from the highest down to lowest rank in the unit. LTC Yunque always motivated his troops during the Marawi siege and emphasized his extraordinary rule, "Noody is left behind." I salute him for the kind of leadership he had before, during, and after any event or movement of 1SRB.

RP Besana
In the journal of Private (PVT) RP Besana, 27, he remembers himself as a little boy who dreamt of becoming a soldier. Growing up in Lambayong, Sultan Kudarat, with his siblings, Basena was only able to finish high school because of financial problems. This did not dishearten him. Working hard, he was able to enter the Scout Ranger Training Course in 2016. He graduated in 2017. Fresh from training he recounts his experiences during the big war in Marawi.
Buwan ng Mayo 20, 2017, may isang combat operation sa kalagitnaan ng bundok ng Bukidnon, at isa ako sa napasama doon. Na-abort ang operasyon namin dahil sa malaking giyera ang nangyari sa Marawi City. Nilakad naming nang buong gabi at dinanas ang halo-halong sagabal sa paglalakad, marating lang namin ang labasan at matulungan ang tropang nangangailangan.
Unang mission na 'binigay sa batalyon namin ang sagipin ang tropa na mechanized na hindi makalabas. Ramdam ko sa sarili ko and takot, ngunit handa ang bawat isa sa amin na pasukin ang tropang nangangailangan na walang ni isang maiiwan. Kahit man tail scout lang ako, may naiambag din ako sa pagka-rescue ng tropa na hindi makalabas sa loob ng Main Battle Area, bukod sa pagluluto na araw-araw kong ginagawa, paghahakot ng bala, medisina, pagkain, tubig, at iba pa. [Ito ay] isang simbolo ng kooperasyon at iyon ang basihan na may naiambag din ako.
Sa loob na halos limang buwang giyera hindi lang trabaho ng tail scout ang natutuhan ko. Ang maging handa sa ano mang utos maging ng officers at senior NCO. Madiskarte sa anumang bagay, hindi lang sariling kapakanan ang iniisip kundi sa pangkalahatan. Mataas ang pasyensiya at sumunod nang sumunod sa anumang bagay, at ito ay magdala ng hindi ikakapahamak.
Nakakapanibagong harapin ang mga ito, lalo na gaya sa amin na baguhan, ngunit ito'y magdadala sa amin ng tamang direksiyon sa serbisyon na aming patutunguhan. Ang giyerang ito ay kailanman hindi basta-basta malilimutan ng bawat isa sa aming mga sundalo. Maraming buhay ang nawala at nagsakrispisyo. Maraming pag-aaral pa ang dapat pagtuunan ng pansin. Malaking pasasalamat ko na isa ako at kabilang sa digmaang ito. Dala-dala ko ang pagsubok na ito sa aking serbisyo at kailanman ay hindi maging kampanti sa anumang bagay na bawat ginagawa.
(On May 20, 2017, I was one of the people who joined the combat operation in the mountains of Bukidnon. The operation was aborted because there was a big war happening in Marawi City. We walked all night and even hurdled a lot of obstacles to get to the exit and help a group in need.
The first mission given to our battalion was to save the mechanized troup that couldn’t get out. I was scared, but we were all prepared to cross and rescue the people without leaving anybody behind. Even though I’m a tail scout, I contributed to saving them, aside from my duties of cooking every day, carrying bullets, medications, food, water, etc. It was a symbol of cooperation. It was proof I contributed something.
I learned not only the job of being a tail scout during the 5 months of the war, but being ready for any order from the officers and senior NCO. One must be wise, not just for the sake of oneself but for the entire group. One must be patient and obedient to any command without getting into trouble.
This carried a lot of unexpected things for beginners like us, but this is what will bring us in the right direction in our service. It will never be forgotten by any soldier. A lot of lives were lost and sacrificed. There are still a lot of things to learn and to address. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be one of people involved in this war. I will carry this experience as I continue in my service, to never be complacent in anything I do.)

JC Dechos
PVT JC Dechos, 24, from Surigao City, was a soldier in the making. With a bachelor's degree in criminology, he joined the Reserved Officer Training Course and worked his way up until he reached and completed the Scout Ranger Orientation Course. As a fresh soldier, he has never encountered anything like the Marawi siege.

My encounters in the battle of Marawi were extremely dangerous. I had never experienced going against the Maute-ISIS group, this was the first time. I was part of the support team and we were the ones who provided the daily needs of the battalion and company. We were also tasked to make sandbags, which were used as a shield for security and safety. It helped us maneuver during battle, and hide to avoid casualties and injuries. I am a tail scout and my main function was to cook for the team 3 times a day and to provide them whatever they needed.
If there is one thing to say about my team: we were united and we had camaraderie. Despite our different personalities, we became one for our mission. We did our best to avoid any casualty and injury. I can say that I'm proud to be part of this unit because I was able to surpass all the challenges and missions during the Marawi siege. No one is left behind, but everyone is lifted with the help of each other.

JS Domingo
PVT JS Domingo, 25, from Bulacan, had a lot going on growing up, juggling different problems, one of which was financial. He was only able to finish high school because of his scholarship. Despite his problems, he never considered himself poor. He faced life with his head held high. He would jump from one job to another, but finally settled when he joined the rangers.
Sumunod, magpalakas, makisama, at lumaban. Ilan ito sa mga bagay na itinuro sa akin sa 7 buwan na training namin. Malaki ang naging epekto ni Musang sa aking buhay. Tinuruan niya ako ng mga kaalamang hindi man lamang sumagi sa aking isipan noong sibilyan pa ako, at mga kaibigang sariling buhay ang basehan ng katapatan. Pagkatapos ng training namin, isa na akong Ranger. Sa kabila ng maraming pagbabago sa aking buhay, batid ko na simula pa lang ito ng pakikipagsapalaran ko sa aking buhay.
1st SRB “UNBEATABLE” – dito ako 'pinadala ng regiment para mapakinabangan ang mga natutunan ko. Unang encounter namin sa Piagapo, dito ko unang naranasan ang Real McCoy, 5 araw na operation laban sa Maute. Ngunit hindi maikukumpara ang 5 araw na ito sa 6 na buwang giyera sa Marawi, isang magandang siyudad na sinira ng mahabang labanan.
Kasama ako sa Command Team, isa akong tail scout. Laging pagod, puyat, at walang ligo. Bawat araw ay may bagong istorya, bagong pagsubok, at bagong kaalaman, ngunit may isang bagay ang tila hindi nagbabago araw-araw – ang aking dasal sa ating Ama. Kagaya ng lahat, ginagawa namin ang mga bagay na higit pa sa inaasahan sa amin kahit na parang hindi nauubos ang trabaho namin: magluto, magbuhat ng mga bala, magpalipad ng drone, mag-duty sa post, tumulong sa mga sugatan, at madami pang iba. Hindi kami tumitigil na para bang kusa nang gumagalaw ang aming katawan bago pa ito diktahan ng aming isipan. Dito ko natutunang matulog sa oras ng pahinga sa kahit na ano'ng sitwasyon sa paligid dahil sa pag-iisip na kakailanganin ko ng lakas sa bagong araw na darating, at magising kahit na sa kaunting pagbabago sa aking paligid.
Iba't ibang emosyon ang nakikita ko sa bawat isa. Karamihan ay takot. Naalala ko pa ang sinabi sa akin ng isa sa aking mga mentor: normal ang matakot, kailangan natin ang takot, dahil ang kawalan ng takot ay pagiging kampante, ang pagiging kampante ay kawalan ng pag-iingat, at ang kawalan ng pag-iingat ay kapahamakan. Ang mali ay pangibabawin at magpatalo sa takot.
Dito ko rin nakita ang papel at kahalagahan ng mga pinuno. Mga pinunong hindi lamang sa salita kundi sa lahat ng aspeto. Pag-iisip at galaw na nakabase sa dalawang katayuan: bilang isang rebelde at bilang isang tropa. Mga desisyong hindi dapat maapektuhan ng emosyon at mga emosyong hindi dapat basta ipakita. Para silang mga manlalaro ng chess na gustong ipanalo ang laban nang walang isinasakripisyo. Totoo nga naman, ang pinakamatamis na tagumpay ay ang tagumpay na walang sakripisyo.”
(Obey orders, be strong. practice camaraderie, fight. These are some of the words I learned from Musang during my 7-month training with the Rangers, words that made a significant impact on my life as a soldier. During the first days of the Marawi siege, I was sent to the 1st SRB "Unbeatable," where I experienced my first encounter with the ISIS-inspired group. I had experienced the Real McCoy for the first time during an encounter in Piagapo. It was an intense 5-day operation against the Maute group. However, it can never be compared with those 6 months of being in a war in Marawi City – a beautiful place wrecked by a long-drawn conflict.
I was with the Command Team. I was a tail scout. We were always exhausted, tired from having to stay up at night, and not taking a bath. Every day, there is a different story and a new struggle. But there is one thing that never changed: it is my prayer to our Father in Heaven. Like everyone else, we did beyond what was expected of us, even if we already had our hands full with various obligations, such as cooking, carrying bullets and weapons, flying a drone, keep watch at the post, rescuing wounded people, etc. We didn’t stop. It was if our body moved automatically before our minds told them to. I learned here how to sleep on time even when it's not quiet in my surroundings, knowing that I would need to regain strength for the next day.
I saw each person show different emotions out there. Some were afraid. I remembered what my mentor said to me: it’s normal to have fear, because without fear you become complacent, and with complacency you set aside caution, and without caution trouble comes. What's wrong is when you allow fear to get the better of you.
From this experience I also learned about the importance of leaders – those who lead not just by words but in everything else. They think and act both as rebels and associates. I also learned that emotions should not affect decisions, and there are emotions you should keep to yourself. There were like chess players who wanted to win without sacrificing. It’s true, the sweetest victory is a victory without sacrifice.)

DH Gumuwang
PVT DH Gumuwang is a 22-year-old Igorot from Ifugao. Finishing only his high school, he traveled to Manila to pursue his dreams of becoming a soldier. He worked hard for a year at a water refilling station just to do it. After completing the training course he shares his story during the war as a tail scout.
 Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler
Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

Malaking tulong ang training na nadaanan ko at ito'y subok sa loob ng 5 buwan na giyera sa loob ng Marawi City. Isa akong tail scout. Ang aking team leader ay si Ssg Nacario. Hindi lamang ang pagluluto ang naging trabaho ko kundi pangkalahatan: pagkuha ng mga wounded na tropa; panghahakot ng bala, medesina, pagkain, tubig; at lalong lalo ang sandbagging operation o tinatawag na Task Force Birading.
Una at pangalawang buwan pa lang sa loob ng Main Battle Area, gumawa at nagpadala na kami ng halos 700 to 1,000 sandbag, ngunit sa katagalan at hanggang natapos na ang giyera hindi bababa sa ilang libo sa isang araw ang nagawa namin. Oo, mahirap, kasi kakaunti lamang kami, pero nagawa pa rin namin dahil sa pagtutulungan ng bawat isa.
Ang natutunan ko sa mahabang giyera na ito, bilang isang private, [maging] mapagmatiyag at may tapang [dapat] sa sarili. Mapagmatiyag bakit? Isang giyerang kaunting pagkakamali, buhay na ang kapalit nito. Bawat daan, bahay, sulok, kanto, butas, o palapag man ay maaaring may nakaabang na kalaban. Daan-daang tropa ang natuto rito at maraming baguhan gaya ko ang hindi makakalimot sa pagsubok na ito. Sa mga kasama ko na siyang nagdala at naggabay sa akin para matuto nang husto, lalo na sa mga officers ko na na'ndito, wala akong masabi, at sana ipagpatuloy 'nyo ang magandang asal na siyang ehemplo gaya sa aming mga baguhan.
(The training I underwent before this was a big help, and it showed during the 5-month-long war in Marawi City. I was a tail scout. My leader was Ssg. Nacario. My task was not just to cook; I was all around: rescue wounded troops; carry bullets, medicines, food, and water; and, most importantly, sandbagging operation or what they called Task Force Birading.
For a couple of months inside the battle area, we were able to make and send almost 700 to 1,000 sandbags. Eventually, and until the end of the war, we were easily making thousands of sandbags every day. Yes, it was difficult, because there were just a few of us, but we were able to do it because of teamwork.
Sa mga kasama ko na siyang nagdala at naggabay sa akin para matuto nang husto, lalo na sa mga officers ko na na'ndito, wala akong masabi, at sana ipagpatuloy 'nyo ang magandang asal na siyang ehemplo gaya sa aming mga baguhan.
As a private, what I learned from this drawn-out war was to be vigilant and brave. Why be vigilant? This is a war, where one small mistake can cost you your life. There may be enemies in every road, every house, every corner, or every hole, even every floor. Hundreds of troops learned from this war, and many new recruits like myself will never forget this trial. To my company, who carried me through and gave me so I would learn as much as possible, especially my officers who are here, words are not enough [to thank you]. I hope you continue that good example you have set for novices people like us.)

More than 1,600 Chinese structures in South China Sea

From Rappler (May 26): More than 1,600 Chinese structures in South China Sea
From basketball courts to buildings with radar equipment, nearly 800 of these Chinese structures can be found in the West Philippine Sea
SUBI REEF. This photo shows the artificial island on Subi Reef in the West Philippine Sea as of December 7, 2017. Photo courtesy of CSIS/AMTI/DigitalGlobe
SUBI REEF. This photo shows the artificial island on Subi Reef in the West Philippine Sea as of December 7, 2017. Photo courtesy of CSIS/AMTI/DigitalGlobe

China has constructed more than 1,600 structures in the disputed South China Sea, and nearly half of these can be found in waters belonging to the Philippines.

This is based on data exclusively reviewed and published by Reuters on Thursday, May 24.

The data came from the non-profit group Earthrise Media, which analyzed satellite images by DigitalGlobe. The building counts spanned the years 2014 to 2017.

Basd on these data, nearly 800 of these Chinese structures can be found in the West Philippine Sea, the part of the South China Sea that belongs to the Philippines. In particular, the Chinese structures can be found on the artificial islands constructed on the following reefs:
  • Subi Reef, "now home to nearly 400 individual buildings," according to Reuters
  • Mischief Reef and Fiery Cross Reef, that "each house almost 190 buildings and structures"
China has constructed hundreds of other structures on the Paracel Islands, which the Philippines does not claim.
All in all, China has built 1,652 buildings in both the Spratly Islands, which the Philippines claims, and the Paracels.
"In total across both island chains, China has erected more structures than all other occupants combined," Reuters reported.
Here is Reuters' breakdown of the structures built by different claimants the South China Sea:

China - 1,652 buildings
Vietnam - 338 buildings
Philippines - 100 buildings
Taiwan - 37 buildings
Malaysia - 28 buildings

Reuters also noted the "shift of focus and massive expansion in the Spratlys" as of 2017.

Between 2014 and 2015, for example, there were 554 buildings in the Spratlys and 730 in the Paracels.

A few years later, there were already 1,350 buildings in the Spratlys and 805 in the Paracels.

"Most of this is due to China's island-building drive there," Reuters reported.

Capable of holding up to 2,400 troops
DigitalGlobe images "show neat rows of basketball courts, parade grounds, and a wide variety of buildings, some flanked by radar equipment," according to Reuters.

"Subi is the largest of China's seven man-made outposts in the Spratlys. The so-called 'Big Three' of Subi, Mischief and Fiery Cross reefs all share similar infrastructure – including emplacements for missiles, 3-km runways, extensive storage facilities, and a range of installations that can track satellites, foreign military activity and communications," the wire agency reported.

Analysts cited by Reuters, including Singapore-based Collin Koh, "said the facilities on Subi, Mischief, and Fiery Cross could each hold a regiment – between 1,500 to 2,400 troops."

Rappler is still trying to reach the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs for comment as of posting time.

The Reuters report comes after Chinese state media said Chinese bombers have landed for the first time on an island in the South China Sea.

The DFA has chosen not to publicly condemn China over these bombers, saying it was not its policy to "publicize every action" it takes.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier stressed the need to remain "meek and humble" to receive the "mercy" of the likes of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio and former Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario, however, urged the Philippine government to file a diplomatic protest over the Chinese bombers.

"Failure to formally protest means the Philippines is acquiescing or consenting to the militarization, and worse, to the claim of China that all the islands, waters, and resources within the 9-dash line form part of Chinese territory," Carpio said.

Arms cache discovered abandoned in Bukidnon

From the Mindanao Times (May 25): Arms cache discovered abandoned in Bukidnon

A CACHE of arms and ammunition was discovered on Tuesday by the troops of 16th Infantry Battalion near the encounter site where the NPA leader Elizalde Canete, alias Ka Jinggoy, was severely wounded during a firefight on May 10.

Meanwhile, three members of the communist group also surrendered to the soldiers of the 56th and 89th infantry battalions on the same day.

Capt. Erick Wynmer Calulot, the civil-military operations officer of 1003rd Infantry Brigade, said the troops were patrolling in Sitio Bulak, Barangay Kipilas, Bukidnon when they discovered the cache abandoned in a mountain slope of the said area.

They found one .45 caliber pistol, .357 caliber revolver, .9mm pistol, hand grenade, six magazines of assorted firearms, 153 rounds of assorted ammunition, one radio transceiver, one radio charger, and three destroyed M16 gun parts.

He said the soldiers also recovered one switch and two fuses for an improvised explosive device, personal belongings, medical equipment, and subversive documents. They were supposed to belong to the Pulang Bagani Company after being overwhelmed by government troops last May 10.

Meanwhile, three communist rebels surrendered to the military on May 22.

Calulot identified them as alias Oniok, 35, resident of Talaingod municipality and a member of the Guerilla Front 55; alias Kibloy, 26, a team leader of the Segunda Baking, Front 2 under the Sub-Regional Command 2, and a resident of Compostela Valley; and alias Itay, 56, a Milisyang Bayan member of the Pulang Bagani Company 1 and a resident of Paquibato District.

They also brought along an M14 rifle, M1 Carbine, and a Garand rifle, along with ammunition.

“The unusual nature of the surrenders and the nature of arms and ammo cache hastily abandoned strongly suggest and give a glimpse of how the (NPAs) within the 1003rd Brigade’s area of responsibility is now very loosely controlled after a devastating tactical defeat further worsened by the capture and wounding of one of their most revered leaders, Ka Jinggoy,” Brig. Gen. Ernesto C. Torres, commander of the 1003rd Infantry Brigade, said.

“We expected these events to take place. We have offered our hands time and again, some took the offer so we in the government gave what was for them, a life back in the mainstream society,” Torres said.

4 Abu Sayyaf members surrender in Basilan

From the Philippine News Agency (May 25): 4 Abu Sayyaf members surrender in Basilan

Bin Ajalan alias Kurerep Usuluddin turns over an M-16 Armalite rifle with attached M-203 grenade launcher to an officer of the Army's 18th Infantry Battalion when he surrenders on Friday in Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan. (Photo courtesy: Army's 18th Infantry Battalion)
ZAMBOANGA CITY--Four members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) have separately surrendered this week to military authorities as offensives continue against the group in Basilan province, an official disclosed Friday.

Brig. Gen. Juvymax Uy, Joint Task Force Basilan commander, identified those who surrendered as
Bin Ajalan alias Kurerep Usuluddin, Hudzri Haron, Radzmier Mundo Arangli alias Inang, and Jirham Jalil.

Uy said Ajalan, who ranks number 21 on the ASG wanted list, surrendered on Friday to the Army’s 18th Infantry Battalion in Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan.

Uy said Ajalan brought along with him an M-16 Armalite rifle with attached M-203 grenade launchers and ammunition when he surrendered. He has two brothers, who also joined the ASG: Mudzri Usuluddin, who was captured during a firefight in 2016; and Jabir Ajalan, who surrendered last year.

He said Haron, Arangli and Jalil have surrendered to the Army’s 18th Infantry Battalion on Monday also in Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan. They turned over three M-16 Armalite rifles when they yielded.

Uy said Jalil confided to them that the ASG is using illegal drugs to lure more youths to join them. He added that the military will continue to partner with different local government units in Basilan to convince ASG members to surrender and live peaceful lives.

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has recently launched livelihood programs for surrendering ASG members in Basilan province.

Cagayan town councilor shot dead

From the Philippine News Agency (May 25): Cagayan town councilor shot dead

A 58-year-old councilor in Allacapan town was shot dead by one of the two motorcycle-riding gunmen at the family-owned vulcanizing and repair shop in Labben, Allacapan, Cagayan on Thursday late afternoon, police said.

Killed was Zaldy Mallari, 58, a first-term councilor since 2016.

Mallari sustained head and body wounds due to the still unknown caliber of gun that caused his instant death.

The gunmen allegedly casually left with an unlicensed motorcycle after killing Mallari.

Police investigators have been eyeing either a personal angle or a work-related motive in the killing.

Police Supt. Warren Tolito, Cagayan police director, said they received reports that the New People’s Army sent text messages claiming responsibility in the killing due to Mallari’s alleged landgrabbing and spying for the government.

Mallari was earlier shot by a gunman few years ago but he survived the attack.

Duterte to escort Sison out of PH if peace talks fail

From the Philippine News Agency (May 25): Duterte to escort Sison out of PH if peace talks fail

A month ago, President Rodrigo R. Duterte invited self-exiled Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison to come home and gave him 60-day window for “make or break” peace talks.

On Thursday, Duterte said Sison has accepted his invitation but warned the President would escort the communist leader out of the country and not allow him to go back again if nothing would happen in the peace talks.

“If we can understand each other, then it’s good. If not, I will see to it and will personally maybe escort him to the airport if nothing would happen in two months,” Duterte said in his speech during inauguration of the Davao River Bridge widening project in Davao City.

“I will allow him to go out. I will not arrest him because that word of honor but will really tell him, “p***** i**, do not go back again here,” he added.

Duterte said if Sison will return again to the Philippines, he will kill the communist leader because he killed “so much of my soldiers and policemen”.

“If nothing will happen, I would tell him “do not ever, ever return again to this country. I will kill you,” he said.

Sison had expressed openness and readiness to resume peace negotiations which the President cancelled in November last year due to the series of attacks launched by the New People’s Army on civilians and government troops.

In response, Duterte said in an event in Legazpi on April 23 this year that he is ready to give the communist rebels another chance to talk peace.

Duterte had even said he would allow the communist rebels to set up a camp where they could talk without arms around.

The President assured that Sison will be given complete freedom to move around without being harmed by the military and police.

Sison went into exile in the Netherlands after the two-decade regime of former President Ferdinand Marcos ended in 1986.

Visits of Japanese warships boost PH, Japan ties

From the Philippine News Agency (May 25): Visits of Japanese warships boost PH, Japan ties

Frequent visits of Japanese warships boost Philippine bilateral relations with Japan, a Philippine Navy official said Thursday.

PN Spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna said the Japanese destroyer, JS Setogiri (DD-156) is on a goodwill visit to the country from May 25 to 26. The ship is expected to dock at Pier 15, Manila South Harbor Friday.

The contingent will be headed by JMSDF Escort Division 7 head, Capt. Susumi Moriyama, and JS Setogiri skipper, Commander Tokeshi Tonegawa.

JS Setogiri is the fourth JMSDF ship to visit the Philippines in a span of five months, with JS Osumi being the third, and destroyer, JS Akizuki, the second and JS Amagiri the first.

"There is nothing unusual (in) their (JMSDF) frequent visit to our country. This is a regular port visit and we welcome navies that plan to visit us," Lincuna said.

He added that the frequent calls of Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) ships enhance the country's bilateral relations with Japan through naval diplomacy.

"It will further contribute to promote peace, security and stability in our maritime region," Lincuna said.

PAF new jet fighters lauded for role in Marawi victory

From the Philippine News Agency (May 25): PAF new jet fighters lauded for role in Marawi victory

Without support from the Philippine Air Force (PAF), especially its brand-new Mach 1.5 capable FA-50PH jet fighters, government losses in the five-month battle to liberate Marawi City from control of the Maute-ISIS Group terrorists would have been much higher, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief-of staff Gen. Carlito Galvez said Friday.

"The roar of the FA-50(PH) is the roar to victory. The PAF is the 'game changer' during the Marawi campaign. I'm impressed with the air warriors for flying day and night just to provide all the needed support of our troops on the ground during the entire campaign. Without our very skilled, focused and hard working pilots, air crew and air controllers, our casualties could have been more,” Galvez said during the Marawi Air Campaign Commemoration at the Edwin Andrews Airbase, Zamboanga City.

Around 165 soldiers and police officers were killed in the fighting, which started May 23, 2017 and ended on October of that year. Around 1,000 Maute-ISIS Group terrorists, including then ISIS Emir in Southeast Asia, Isnilon Hapilon, and Maute co-founder, Omar Maute, were killed in the government offensive.

Galvez also thanked the PAF for saving his life some 31 years ago when he was wounded-in-action. At that time, an Air Force helicopter picked him up and transported him to the nearest hospital for treatment.

The FA-50PHs had its baptism of fire in the Marawi City campaign, where it was heavily used for close-air support mission roles along with the OV-10 "Bronco" turbo-prop attack aircraft, SF-260 light bombers and PAF's various attack helicopters.

The FA-50PHs have top speed of Mach 1.5 or one and a half times the speed of sound and are capable of being fitted with air-to-air missiles, including the AIM-9 "Sidewinder" air-to-air and heat-seeking missiles aside from light automatic cannons.

Twelve of such aircraft were acquired from Korea Aerospaces Industries for PHP18.9 billion. Deliveries commenced on November 2015 and were completed in May 2017.

Suspected NPA rebel nabbed in Camarines Norte

From the Philippine News Agency (May 24): Suspected NPA rebel nabbed in Camarines Norte

A suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebel facing murder and frustrated murder charges was nabbed by police operatives on Wednesday in Barangay Camambugan in Daet town in Camarines Norte.

Arrested was Jonel Alcanzo, 34, a resident of Purok 3 Barangay Anameam in Labo, Camarines Norte, a suspected member of NPA under the Armando Catapia Command operating in the province, said PNP Bicol spokesperson Police Senior Inspector Maria Luisa Calubaquib on Thursday.

Armed with a warrant of arrest, police operatives collared the suspect in a house in Barangay Camambugan, Daet town on Wednesday morning. The suspect did not resist arrest.

Alcanzo has been tagged as among the most wanted persons in the province.
The suspect is facing murder and two counts of frustrated murder charges at the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 64 in Labo, Camarines Norte.

Marawi mayor: Heed the lessons of war

From the Philippine News Agency (May 25): Marawi mayor: Heed the lessons of war

Local residents should reflect on the bitter lessons of war as this city marks the first anniversary of the five-month bloody siege by the ISIS-inspired Maute group.

This was the message of Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra during Wednesday's commemoration marking the liberation of the war-torn city.

“As we remember what had happened in Marawi last May 23, 2017 let us go back and reflect upon the few things...and remember all the men and women who had lost their lives so that our city could be released from the hostilities that reduced our city in rubbles,” Gandamra said during the commemoration rites, attended by national officials led by Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza.

It was essential, Gandamra said, that the lessons of the war be instilled on the residents so that similar violence will never happen again.

“We have seen much during the five-month siege. Properties and structures were destroyed, we lost our relatives and families," the mayor said. "We are not only here to give honor for the departed, the soldiers, police and civilians who sacrificed their lives for us but also to learn the lessons that the war has taught us.”

Sec. Dureza shared Gandamra's sentiment, calling on the people of Marawi to united behind the government in its effort to stamp out extremism in the city and neighboring areas.

“We're just visitors here and have not felt much the pain and hardship you have experienced,” Dureza said.

He added; But you're from here and you are in the best position to say what happened here, why it happened, and how can we prevent it from happening again."

Dureza, together with local, military, and national line agency officials, also led an interfaith prayer offered to those who perished during the siege.The participants also signed a peace covenant, followed by the symbolic release of doves and white balloons.

The Marawi siege occurred after ISIS-inspired Maute terrorist group laid siege to the city that resulted in the death of over 1,000 people. The conflict ended five months later after Maute’s top leaders, Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute, were killed by the military.

About 165 soldiers and policemen, as well as an estimated 908 Maute-ISIS Group terrorists were killed and 852 firearms were seized in the five-month campaign that began May 23, 2017 and ended in October.