Saturday, June 2, 2018

Alleged NPAs torch vehicle, equipment of inland resort

From the Mindanao Times (Jun 1): Alleged NPAs torch vehicle, equipment of inland resort

ONE MULTICAB, generator set, and electric steel cutter were torched by armed men who introduced themselves as members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Barangay Ompao, Tarragona, Davao Oriental around 6 a.m. on Wednesday.Chief Insp. Milgrace Driz, spokesperson of Police Regional Office (PRO) XI, said that the vehicle and equipment were owned by Adam’s Haven Mountain Resort owned by Engr. Ariel Carmina Mosquera.
Initial investigation conducted disclosed that more or less 26 men arrived at resort and looked for the owner.

They told the caretakers that the owner didn’t ask permission to build a resort in the area. “This is still our AOR (area of responsibility), you should give revolutionary tax because we are the government of the poor,” the caretakers quoted the men as saying.

The estimated cost of the damage reached P600,000.

No. 1 councilor slain by communist rebels

From the Mindanao Times (Jun 1): No. 1 councilor slain by communist rebels

A NEWLY elected barangay official was killed by alleged members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Barangay Mahaba, Cabadbaran City, Agusan del Norte around 12:45 a. m. on Wednesday.Capt. Al Anthony B. Pueblas, spokesperson of the 402nd Infantry Brigade, identified the victim as Edgar Rosal Panisan, 40.

Pueblas said Panisan was shot to death by members of the Guerrilla Front 21C of North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC).

Accordingly, Panisan was the first councilor of Barangay Mahaba and also an active member of the Cafgu.

“While serving his constituents during their barangay fiesta celebration, the victim was shot by the NPA hitting his left chest which caused his instantaneous death,” Pueblas said.

A witness reportedly identified the gunman as a full-time NPA member of GF 21C.

It can be recalled that on April 18, 2018, a pastor named Jepti Acido was killed by the NPA in Barangay Lahi, Gigaquit, Surigao del Norte.

In his statement, Lt. Col. Gleen Joy Aynera, commander of 29th Infantry Battalion, vowed that justice will be served for the killing of Panisan.

“Being the no. 1 in the latest barangay council election is a manifestation that indeed kagawad Panisa was loved by the people,” he said.

Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Franco Nemesio M. Gacal, commander of the 402nd Infantry Brigade, said the murder of Panisan was also an assault on the right of suffrage of the community.

“The victim was a duly elected official and was serving well his constituents,” he said. “The NPA should stop this senseless killing and adhere to the provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.”

Army: Don’t give in to NPA extortionists

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jun 1): Army: Don’t give in to NPA extortionists
The Army’s 3rd Infantry Division yesterday urged businessmen and private contractors not to give in to extortion demands of the New People’s Army in Negros Island, as it will help further strengthen rebel forces.

Maj. Gen. Dinoh Dolina, 3rd Infantry Division commander, made the appeal after noting a series of arson activities perpetrated by communist rebels in central Negros in the past several weeks.

The NPA had recently claimed the burning of a farm tractor, two cargo trucks and a heavy equipment in La Castellana, Moises Padilla, and in Kabankalan City, in Negros Occidental, as well as in Canlaon City, Negros Oriental, respectively.

Two weeks ago, suspected rebels also simultaneously burned heavy equipment of two private construction firms contracted by the government to build farm-to-market roads in the hinterland barangays of Mabinay, Negros Oriental.

Dolina ordered Col. Alberto Desoyo, whom he installed yesterday as the new commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade, to ensure the effective coordination between them and the police, as well as the Department of Public Works and Highways, to secure the flagship programs of the government in Negros.

Desoyo, who was the commander of the 62nd Infantry Battalion stationed in Sagay City, almost a decade ago, has replaced Brig. Gen. Eliezer Losanes, who is slated to assume the position of Assistant Division Commander of the 8th Infantry Division in Samar.

Dolina also instructed Desoyo to focus his efforts on clearing central Negros of communist rebels, as the 3ID has a mandate to accomplish the target set for them by the Armed Forces of the Philippines of dismantling guerilla fronts in Negros Island.

Negros Island is a priority area for clearing of local insurgents by the 3ID, Dolina admitted.

He slammed CPP-NPA for the rising atrocities it has committed in Negros Island, which he called an anti-people and terrorist organization.

On his part, Desoyo stressed the need for politicians not to provide support to the rebels.

“As I assume command of the Brown Eagle Brigade I cannot help but feel honored to be welcomed by all the combat support and its service unit commanders, and by no less than three fighting battalions,” Desoyo said, after receiving the unit colors from Dolina.

Desoyo supervises three Army battalions in Negros Island, composed of about 1,500 regular soldiers.

Dolina urged Negrense stakeholders to show Desoyo the same support they gave to Losañes.

Duterte 'seriously concerned' about Navy soldiers harassed by China chopper

From Rappler (Jun 1): Duterte 'seriously concerned' about Navy soldiers harassed by China chopper

While Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has refrained from speaking publicly about the Ayungin Shoal incident, he conveyed concern about it in a confidential meeting

'CONCERNED.' President Rodrigo Duterte has been briefed about the incident of a China chopper harassing a Philippine Navy rubber boat in Ayungin Shoal. Malacañang file photo

'CONCERNED.' President Rodrigo Duterte has been briefed about the incident of a China chopper harassing a Philippine Navy rubber boat in Ayungin Shoal. Malacañang file photo

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte may not be making any public statements so far about a China chopper harassing a Philippine Navy rubber boat in Ayungin Shoal, but he expressed concern about the safety of the military personnel involved.

He had conveyed this during a confidential meeting with Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Santa Romana on Monday, May 28.

Duterte was "seriously concerned about the safety of the Philippine soldiers," a source privy to the meeting told Rappler.

The meeting had been called to brief Duterte on the then-upcoming congressional hearing on the West Philippine Sea and tackled the note verbale sent by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to China on the incident in Ayungin Shoal.

There had also been a report on the progress of Philippine government projects in Pag-asa Island and other West Philippine Sea features held by the Philippines.

Duterte gave "strong instructions" during the meeting, said Cayetano in the hearing at the House of Representatives on Wednesday, May 30.

Duterte has not publicly referred to the May 11 Ayungin Shoal incident in any of his speeches. He has, however, been stressing in recent public speeches that he has no choice but to stay on China's good side because the only alternative, supposedly, is to go to war against the Asian giant.

"Ako, gusto ko (Me, I want to). I really want to do something to assert," said the President in a speech on May 22.

Cayetano had previously said that the Monday meeting with Duterte was "to propose two more systems to allow immediate action" in the West Philippine Sea.

New PNP spokesman is former UN officer, Harvard graduate

From Rappler (Jun 2): New PNP spokesman is former UN officer, Harvard graduate

Senior Superintendent Benigno Durana is appointed chief of the Philippine National Police Public Information Office, effectively becoming spokesperson of the 190,000-strong police force

NEW SPOKESMAN. This photo shows Senior Superintendent Benigno Durana at a speaking engagement. Photo courtesy of Leaders International Christian School of Manila

NEW SPOKESMAN. This photo shows Senior Superintendent Benigno Durana at a speaking engagement. Photo courtesy of Leaders International Christian School of Manila

MANILA, Philippines – A former United Nations (UN) officer and Harvard graduate is the new voice of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Senior Superintendent Benigno Durana has been appointed the new chief of the PNP Public Information Office, effectively becoming the unifying spokesperson of the 190,000-strong police force.

Durana replaced his Philippine Military Academy (PMA) classmate Chief Superintendent John Bulalacao, who has been designated as head of the Western Visayas (Region 6) regional police.

Like Bulalacao, Durana is considered an achiever in his PMA batch, the Maringal Class of 1988. He is set to be among the first in the batch to "get stars" or become generals in police jargon.

The PNP expects no less of Durana, as the spokesperson will be fielded in the realm of public perception and be bombarded with questions ranging from developments in the highest offices of Camp Crame, to crimes committed in the streets.

'Achiever' Durana

Durana presents himself as a policeman bent on law enforcement reforms, public administration, and intelligence gathering.

According to his resume shared with reporters on Friday, June 1, he served as the chief of strategic information in the police headquarters of the United Nations mission in East Timor from 2001 to 2003.

From 2008 to 2009, Durana returned to the missionary life, joining the UN Observer Mission in Georgia, which watches over the ceasefire between forces of country Georgia and disputed territory Abhkazia.

There, Durana worked with the "police component," and "secured funds for foreign governments."

Five years after, he got accepted into the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government, earning a masters degree in public administration and policy in 2013.

Prior to his new assignment as spokesperson, Durana was an official of the PNP Directorate for Police Community Relations, the civil relations policy-crafting arm of the PNP.

PNP experience

Durana first made it to the news back in 2015, as he was part of the PNP Board of Inquiry that probed the botched Mamasapano operation which left 44 elite cops dead.

Durana himself used to be assigned to the Special Action Force (SAF).

He led the Cubao police station from 2003 to 2005, and later became the provincial police chief of Aklan from 2007 to 2008.

Durana also served as senior executive assistant in the PNP chief's office during the term of retired top cop Jesus Verzosa. From 2010 to 2012, he became the chief of the PNP's Intelligence Research Center.

As new PNP spokesperson, Durana is expected to face incessant questions regarding issues such as the government's unrelenting anti-illegal drugs campaign, the SAF allowances mess, and crimes across the country.

Senior NPA leader captured in Mindanao

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jun 1): Senior NPA leader captured in Mindanao
DAVAO CITY – The Philippine Army is holding a senior communist rebel leader following her capture in Butuan City in the southern region of Mindanao, officials said Saturday.

Captain Ezra Balagtey, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command, said soldiers and policemen nabbed Nerita de Castro in her hideout in Emenville Subdivision in the village called Ambago.

He said the 55-year old De Castro is the head of the NPA’s finance committee who is in-charge of the rebel group’s extortion activities. De Castro took over the post left behind by Leonida Guao who was arrested in Butuan City just this year.
“She assumed as head of finance committee and is in-charge of the extortion activities after Leonida Guao was arrested on February 2, 2018. After the arrest of Guao, the Komisyon Mindanao of the PA designated De Castro to be in charge of all the extortion activities in Mindanao,” Balagtey quoted Brigadier General Franco Gacal, as saying.

During her interrogation, De Castro, a native if Surigao City, turned out to be the NPA’s Acting Secretary of Regional White Area Committee of North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee.
There was no immediate statement from the NPA on De Castro’s capture, but Lieutenant Benjamin Madrigal, Jr, the regional military commander, praised security forces for the capture of De Castro, saying, it was a big blow to the communist rebel group which is currently negotiating with Manila for the resumption of stalled peace talks.
“The Command commends the inter-agency effort and the cooperation of the communities. Indeed, we can go after high ranking personalities of the NPA terrorist group and accomplish our tasks easily if we continue to put our acts together. This accomplishment will have an impact in our effort to bring peace in our communities.”

“The arrest of De Castro is a big blow on the extortion activities of the NPA in Mindanao, and this will give relief to small business establishments who fell victim of their extortion activities. We expect further that De Castro will be revealing information especially those who are contributing to the NPA terrorist group,” Madrigal said.

President Rodrigo Duterte scrapped the peace talks after rebel negotiators insisted on the release of over 500 captured and arrested insurgents and their leaders languishing in jails across the country.

Rebel negotiators are also demanding the same before they can sign an interim peace deal with the Duterte government. Fidel Agcaoili, head of the communist peace panel, said both sides have already agreed on an amnesty for all jailed rebels he called political prisoners.

285 candidate soldiers undergo training in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 2): 285 candidate soldiers undergo training in Maguindanao

TRAINEES. Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Army's 6th Infantry Division commander, addresses the 285 candidates soldiers, who started formal training on Friday (June 1, 2018) at the 6th Division Training School in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao. (Photo courtesy: Army's 6th Infantry Division)

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao -- The second batch of this year’s candidate soldiers took their oath on Friday, and in four months they will become new foot troopers.

Major Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, newly-installed Army’s 6th Infantry Division commander, administered the oath-taking of the 285 candidates, witnessed by their proud parents, relatives and loved ones.

Of the 285 candidate soldiers, 256 are male and the remaining 29, female.

After the oath-taking, they were sent to the 6th Division Training School (DTS) in Barangay Semba, Datu Odin Sinsuat, in Maguindanao province.

Capt. Arvin John Encinas, speaking for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the candidate soldiers were among the more than 1,000 applicants, who went through strict selection process after they passed the physical and medical examinations.

“They are the most competent candidates who will be honed to become future soldiers of the Philippine Army,” Encinas said.

After their oath, the candidate soldiers were brought to 6th DTS for a 14-week rigid military training broken down into three modules: Transformation, Basic Squad Training, and Application of Knowledge.

Encinas said the training will mold them to become well-disciplined, competent and capable soldiers to fill in the enlisted ranks of the Philippine Army.

Sobejana said the training will change the candidates’ lifestyle.

“The candidate soldiers’ training is fundamentally stressful as they will initially experience an abrupt change from being a civilian to adapting the military lifestyle,” Sobejana said.

“I am reminding the personnel of 6th DTS to instill discipline and respect to guarantee that these recruits would develop a mind-set of survival in the military profession,” he added.

45 families evacuated to safe place in Zambo Sur town

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 2): 45 families evacuated to safe place in Zambo Sur town

DUMINGAG, Zamboanga del Sur -- Some 45 families consisting of 230 people have been ordered to evacuate to a safe area as the military launched an offensive against the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in the outskirt of this town.

Chief Insp. Andrew Limos, the local police chief, on Saturday said the 45 families are from Barangay Saad, a remote village in this town, the center of the military offensive against the NPA rebels.

Limos said the families were told to evacuate to avoid being caught in the crossfire as the NPA rebels might mingled with the community in Barangay Saad.

Barangay Saad is located in the boundary of this town with the municipality of Siayan, Zamboanga del Norte.

Limos said the 45-family-evacuees are temporarily sheltered at the covered court of Barangay Poblacion.

Limos said the municipal social welfare and development office has immediately provided food supplies and other needs to the affected families.

He said the offensive was launched Friday after the NPA rebels threatened to burn the heavy equipment of a construction firm undertaking a government project in Barangay Saad.

The NPA rebels have demanded payment of protection money, which the construction firm turned down.

PH Navy contingent for RIMPAC to sail for Hawaii June 6

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 2): PH Navy contingent for RIMPAC to sail for Hawaii June 6

The Philippine Navy (PN) contingent for this year's "Rim of the Pacific" (RIMPAC) naval exercises will leave for Hawaii on Wednesday.

Two Navy ships, the strategic sealift vessel BRP Davao Del Sur (LD-602) and frigate BRP Andres Bonifacio (FF-17), along with its AgustaWestland AW-109 naval helicopter, will join RIMPAC 2018 scheduled from June 27 to August 2.

Navy Spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna, in a statement Friday, said these assets will be joined by a Naval Special Operations Group team and a Marine company.

The Filipino ships and their crew will deploy from Cebu on their way to the Hawaiian training area. The Navy contingent already left Pier 13, Manila South Harbor for Cebu on Friday morning.

The contingent, now called the Naval Task Force (NTF) RIMPAC, will be commanded by Capt. Ernesto Baldovino, while the mission head will be Commodore Toribio Adaci.

Lincuna said NTF RIMPAC will be further complemented by components of the Civil Military Operations, and students from various PN training schools, among others.

RIMPAC 2018, the 26th exercise in the series that began in 1971, carries the theme, "Capable, Adaptive, Partners”.

This is the second International Defense and Security Engagement that the PN will participate in this year. The first was during the Multinational Exercise Komodo 2018 in Indonesia early May.

A Royal Malaysian Navy ship will join NTF RIMPAC as it sails from Cebu and will link up with the Indonesian Navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, and Royal Australian Navy along the way for the ASEAN++ Group Sail en route to RIMPAC 2018.

"The PN’s participation in this undertaking is expected to advance its maritime operational capability to multilateral levels, thereby increasing readiness and interoperability and enabling the nation’s premiere maritime force to be more effective and efficient in the conduct of its mandated task," Lincuna said.

China gave PH 'assurance' on Ayungin incident: Cayetano

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 2): China gave PH 'assurance' on Ayungin incident: Cayetano

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Friday China gave "assurance" to the Philippines regarding the latest "incident" in the disputed West Philippine Sea, which prompted the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to file a diplomatic protest against its giant neighbor.

Last May 11, a Philippine Navy boat resupplying Filipino troops at the Ayungin Shoal was allegedly challenged and harassed by the Chinese Coast Guard and China’s People's Liberation Army Navy.

Cayetano explained that the note verbale on the incident was filed just recently because it "was not settled immediately" through dialogue.

While he did not elaborate on the issue, the foreign affairs chief said the Philippines already received an assurance from China over the recent incident.

“It’s how we should talk and how our resupplying would not be hampered. And in fact, a feature already went here the other day. The conversation was good -- coast guard to coast guard,” Cayetano said in Filipino.

The country’s filing of a diplomatic protest was announced by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Thursday, a day after a congressional hearing on issues concerning the West Philippine Sea was conducted, where Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano revealed the May 11 incident at the Ayungin Shoal.

The hearing and the announcement followed two separate meetings on the West Philippine Sea: one on Saturday where Cayetano and Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua met, and the other one on Monday, where the foreign affairs secretary and Philippine Ambassador to Beijing Jose Santiago Sta. Romana and other high-level officials briefed the Chief Executive on the situation in the disputed waterway.

It was not clear, however, when the DFA issued the latest note verbale and when China gave its response.

“If I tell what was filed, where it was filed, et cetera, then it means I’m not following our policy. But as I said, this does not mean all remain classified. At one point in time, this will all come out,” Cayetano said in a mix of English and Filipino.

ASEAN, China to hold talks on South China Sea code in August

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 2): ASEAN, China to hold talks on South China Sea code in August

The leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China are set to convene negotiations for the crafting of the code of conduct (COC) on the South China Sea in August, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano announced Friday.

Cayetano, however, admitted that all parties are still facing challenges on the substance of the COC, but assured that the Philippines is keen on pushing for a substantial document.

"We only have the framework as of now, but this August, there will be a meeting of the Ministers. This time around, like what we had last year, it won't be just the ASEAN but also our dialogue partners, our strategic partners, they're all included," he said in Filipino.

"We intend to push it to get as far as we can, as fast as we can," he added, adding that the Philippines expects no less than an "effective COC."

"We want an effective COC, something that we can rely on because the DOC (Declaration of Conduct), a lot has happened (to) it, so we want the COC clear. For example on the environment, how do we protect (it), what will be the arrangement and how do we implement (it)," Cayetano said.

Last year, the ASEAN regional bloc and China adopted the COC framework under the Philippines’ chairmanship, where both parties welcomed the adoption as a sign of progress after 15 years since the 2002 DOC was signed.

China, Taiwan and some ASEAN member states including the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Vietnam have overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea.

During the ASEAN Foreign Minister's Retreat in February 2018, Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan admitted that the COC negotiation will be "very complicated" and will require all parties to "ultimately exercise political will" to resolve sensitive issues, adding that territorial claims will not be resolved with the COC alone.

For his part, Cayetano said he is confident that Singapore, as the current ASEAN chair, will steer a fruitful COC negotiation.

"As I've said, Singapore is the perfect country to lead us now. (It) is a perfect country to negotiate all of this because they are open-minded and they have this mindset of no nonsense, get things done," he said.