Monday, June 4, 2018

Soldier killed, 2 wounded in Quezon NPA landmine blast

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 5): Soldier killed, 2 wounded in Quezon NPA landmine blast

A soldier was killed while two other troopers were wounded after landmine planted by suspected New People’s Army rebels in Lopez town in Quezon province exploded Monday night.

Col. Elias Escarcha, commander of the Army’s 201st Infantry Brigade, reported that the soldiers were onboard a military truck when the landmine exploded along a road in Barangay Bagong Silang at around 8 p.m.

The blast was then followed by an attack by an undetermined number of rebels which triggered an exchange of fire.

“But we were able to reinforce our troops,” Escarcha said in a text message to the Inquirer.

Police report said the soldiers were traveling towards the 85th Infantry Battalion headquarters in Barangay Villa Principe in the nearby town of Gumaca.

Killed during the one-hour gun battle was Private First Class Nilo Julian while the wounded were identified as Sgt. Victor Bartocillo and Corporal Jonathan Baylar.

They were rushed to St. Jude General Hospital in Lopez for medical treatment.

Escarcha said he has no information yet if the NPA rebels sustained casualties.

He said the military’s explosive ordnance disposal team has yet to finish its investigation if the landmine was command detonated or contact detonated.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has long condemned the use of landmines by the communist guerillas.

The use of landmines, the military said, was a clear violation of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and the convention banning the use of the explosive devices where the Philippines is one of the signatories.

But the communist rebels have long maintained that their explosives are legitimate weapons of war and are allowed by existing international treaties.

The rebels claimed that the use of “command-detonated landmines” as opposed to “contact-detonated” ones, was not a violation of the mine ban treaty.

The attack happened amid the scheduled signing of “interim peace agreement” (IPA) between the government and communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines that would lead to the resumption of the formal peace talks this month.

MILF: Editorial - Historic day!

Editorial posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jun 4): Editorial - Historic day!

It was a historic day for the Bangsamoro people when both versions of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), House Bill 6475 and Senate Bill 1717, were passed in the Lower House and Upper House on May 30, the last day of session of Congress. The most difficult part of the legislative process is already behind us.

In general, the credit for this feat goes to the leaderships of both chambers. But in particular, we have champions in both chambers. In the House, we have Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Farinas, Deputy Speaker Bai Sandra Sema, Congresswoman Ruby Sahali, and Congressman Pedro Acharon, Jr. We also have in the supporting role the likes of Congresswoman Anihilda Sangcupan,
Congressman Wilter “Sharky” Palma II, and Congressman Mauyag Papandayan. Of them all, however, the most passionate movers were Bai Sandra Sema and Ruby Sahali. In the Senate, all the Senators, irrespective of party affiliations, expressed support for the passage of the bill. But since the degree of support and commitment cannot be equal, then in our list we have former Senate President Koko Pimentel, current Senate President Tito Sotto, Majority Floor Leader Miguel Zubiri, Senators Sonny Angara, Win Gatchalian, and Risa Hontiveros. But the most passionate were Senator Miguel Zubiri, the main sponsor of SN 1717, and Senator Risa Hontiveros.

But on top of it all, and without saying, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte caused this feat to happen. Aside from all his consistent positive statements in support of the BBL, his certification of it as urgent administration bill spelled the difference that led to its passage especially in the Senate. Without the certification, we don’t think the bill will make it in the Senate. Take for instance, the amendments proposed by Minority Floor Leader Frank Drilon and Senator Ralph Recto. They were enough to filibuster the entire proceeding even without the former ever thinking of it. To our estimate, around 85% of amendments were introduced by Drilon and Recto, with the former having the most number.

To our view, the Senate and House versions are not bad. We repeat, they are not bad. However, much are to be desired when the final version comes after the bicameral conference on July 9-13. We hope the best in the Senate and House versions will appear in the consolidated and final version of the bill, which President Duterte will sign during the state-of-the-nation address on July 23.

In the meantime, the social media is full of negative comments. Many of the comments are below the belt. They accused MILF leaders of selling the Moro aspirations in exchange for watered BBL.

Despite all these bashing, the MILF is not hitting back. We persevere and we continue to be patient. We will get nothing in engaging them in a tit-for-tat. In fact, they will find happiness if we respond to them frontally.

What is unusual, however, is that some of these bashers or critics are former comrades in the struggle who chose the radical viewpoints although they always stayed in the comfort of air-conditioned rooms. They distanced themselves from us because they wanted a perfect agreement, which only dwells in their minds, because such agreement will never happen.

The surprising of all is that many of these bashers have never involved themselves in the struggle, or tasted the horrors of war. Either they worked with government or are with non-government organizations. In times of crisis and dangers, they either run to Manila or abroad. On the contrary, leaders of the MILF have been with the struggle since 1972 through thick and thin – and they are still around. They will either swim or drown with their people.

MILF: North Cotabato political committee holds Islamic symposium and peace advocacy

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jun 4): North Cotabato political committee holds Islamic symposium and peace advocacy

The North Cotabato Political Committee conducted an Islamic Symposium and Peace Advocacy last June 02, 2018 at Magatos, Kabacan, Cotabato with the theme “Unity on Righteousness in the Way of Islam, the Bangsamoro Contemporary Situation on the Peace Process and Fencing Violent –Extremism and Radicalism”.

About 865 people from different sectors participated in the activity.

Marhan Burhan Khadafi, member of the Committee on Da’wah Central Committee, centered his lecture on Unity on Righteousness in the Way of Islam. He narrated the history of Islam and pointed out some important events which served as the foundation of unity and solidarity.

“’The concept of unity and solidarity were both mentioned from the Holy Qur’an and Hadith. Ignorance on the teachings of Islam resulted to both extremism and radicalism”, Khadafi said.

Prof. Raby Angkal, Chief of Staff of Chairman Ghazali Jaafar of Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) explained the current state of Bangsamoro Peace Process.

On the first part of his lecture he enumerated some of the gains of the MILF negotiation with the government. “Ceasefire is one of the significant results of the negotiation that brought lives to the Bangsamoro people,” Angkal said.

He told the participants on the positive result of the House Joint Committee on Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) majority vote on the proposed law drafted by the BTC on the approval of the committee report on BBL without amendments last May 15, 2018 at the Batasan Pambansa, Quezon City.

“The implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) is unquestionable because it is strengthened by the BBL,” Angkal said.

Uz. Akmad Doli, Chairman Tarbiyah-MILF Central Committee explained the importance of education in achieving unity and solidarity. “Education is very important, hence one must learn how to pray and obey the commandments of Almighty Allah (SWT) according to the Hadith and Qur’an,” Doli stressed.

“Islam among other religions has the only concrete definition of unity. We must know our obligations to Allah (SWT) and He will reward us,” Doli added.

Abdul Nasser Yusop, Al-Hadj, Vice President for External Affairs Etihad Madariz Bil Philippines discussed the topic regarding Fencing Violent-Extremism and Radicalism. He defined extremism as an idea about disobeying lawful acts and radicalism as a term related to politics and hidden acts which is opposite to existing law.

“We must not ignore Bangsamoro history for a reason, since this is the capital of current struggles,” Yusop said.

“The best way to achieve a certain goal is to unite, perhaps the extremists determination will not succeed,” Yusop added.

CPP/NP-Sierra Madre: Pananalakay ng AFP sa Sierra Maadre-TK, patuloy na binibigo ng BHB

NPA-Sierra Madre propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines Website (Jun 4): Pananalakay ng AFP sa Sierra Maadre-TK, patuloy na binibigo ng BHB

Armando “Ka Mando” Jacinto, Spokesperson
NPA-Sierra Madre (Rosario Lodronio Rosal Command)

4 June 2018

Sa pamamagitan ng serye ng mga kontra-opensibang aksyon ng mga pwersa ng BHB sa ilalim ng Rosario Lodronio Rosal Command (RLRC-NPA-Mt. Sierra Madre-Southern Tagalog Sub-Regional Command) ay matagumpay na nadepensahan nito ang sarili at ang mamamayan at matagumpay na binigo ang pananalakay ng mga pwersa ng AFP sa ilalim ng 80th IB-PA.

Naglunsad ng sustenidong pananalakay ang mga pwersa ng 80th IB-PA mula Enero 2018 hanggang sa kasalukuyan. Pinakatan nila ng tig-iisang platun ng sundalo ng AFP ang halos lahat ng sityo sa Barangay Umiray, General Nakar, Quezon at ang mga panabihan ng baybay dagat ng General Nakar, Quezon. Sinimulan nila ang panlilinlang at pananakot sa mga mamamayan ng nasabing lugar pangunahin na ang mga katutubong Dumagat at Remontados na naninirahan dito. Sa una’y sinikap ng mga pwersa ng BHB na iwasan ang mga tropang nag-ooperasyon subalit mas naging agresibo at marahas ang kanilang naging panunupil sa mamamayan upang hanapin ang mga pwersa ng BHB. Sa ganito ay naobliga ang BHB sa ilalim ng RLRC-NPA-Sierra Madre-TK na maglunsad ng mga aksyong militar para ipagtanggol ang sarili at ang mga mamamayan.

Noong Mayo 14, 2018, sa ganap na ika-4 ng hapon ay sinalakay ng 1 platun ng mga sundalong kabilang sa 80th IB-PA ang nagpapahingang 6-kataong tim ng NPA sa Sitio Panagsaan, Umiray, General Nakar. Quezon. Aktibong nagdepensa ang pwersa ng NPA at nilabanan ang umaatakeng tropa ng AFP. Nagresulta ito sa isang patay at isang sugatan sa panig ng sundalo. Ang namatay ay si Sgt. Salustiano ng 80th IB-PA habang walang kaswalti sa panig ng BHB.

Matapos ang nasabing labanan ay iligal na hinuli. tinortyur at ikinulong ng hindi ipinapakita sa pamilya at sa kanilang abogado ang mga katutubong Dumagat na sina Rocky Torres, 22 taong gulang, binata at si Dandoy Avellaneda Dela Cruz, mahigit 40 taong gulang, may asawa at mga anak. Ang 2 Dumagat ay nakatira sa Sitio Dadiangao, Umiray, General Nakar, Quezon na inabot ng mga nag-ooperasyon sundalo sa kanilang pansamantalang tirahan sa tabing ilog ng nasabing barangay. Sapilitan silang pinapaamin na myembro ng BHB at nang hindi umamin ay binugbog at sapilitang sinakay sa helicopter ng mga militar. Sila ngayon ay iligal na nakakulong sa kampo ng Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM-AFP) sa Lucena City, Quezon.

Noong Mayo 24, 2018 ay inisnayp ng BHB ang nag-ooperasyong tropa ng 80th IB-PA sa Sitio Longo, Umiray, General Nakar, Quezon bandang ika-6 ng umaga. Nagresulta ito sa pagkamatay ng isang opisyal ng 80th IB-PA.

Bandang ika-1 ng hapon ay pinagtangkaang ambusin ng isang platun ng 80th IB-PA ang 3-kataong tim ng NPA na naglalakad sa tabing ilong ng Sitio Pilipit, Umiray, General Nakar, Quezon. Aktibong lumaban ang pwersa ng NPA at ligtas na nakaatras habang may mga nasugatan sa panig ng sundalo ng AFP.

Pagdating naman ng ika-4 ng hapon, Mayo 24, 2018 ay sinalakay ng isang seksyon ng sundalong kabilang sa 80th IB-PA ang nagpapahingang 3 kataong tim ng NPA. Aktibong nagdepensa ang mga pwersa ng NPA sa dikitang labanan na 10 metro ang pagitan. Habang naglalabanan ay dumating ang 2 helicopter ng AFP (MG 520) para suportahan ang kanilang tropa. Umikot ito ng 5 beses sa lugar na pinaglalabanan subalit hindi nagawang putukan o bombahin ang tropa ng NPA dahilan sa malaking posibilidad na madamay mismo ang kanilang mga tropa. Nagresulta ito sa pagkasugat ng ilang mga sundalo habang ligtas na nakaatras ng tropa ng BHB.

Mayo 27, 2018 ng ika-6 ng gabi ay hinaras ng tropa ng NPA ang isang platun ng sundalong kabilang sa 80th IB-PA na nag-ooperasyon sa Sitio Inamitan, Umiray, General Nakar, Quezon. Nagresulta ito sa ilang mga sugatan sa panig ng AFP habang ligtas na nakaatras ang tropa ng NPA.

Ang mga operasyon ng NPA laban sa mga umaatakeng pwersa ay para idepensa ang sarili at ipagtanggol ang karapatan ng mga mamamayan, magsasaka at katutubong Dumagat at Remontado na patuloy na dinadahas at lansakang nilalabag ang karapatang pantao. Hindi mapapayagan ng NPA patuloy na pinahihirapan ng mga sundalo ang mamamayan at winawasak ang kanilang buhay at ari-arian. Tungkulin ng NPA na lumaban para ipagtanggol ang mamamayan buhay man ay ialay kung kinakailangan. Patuloy na bibiguin ng mga pwersa ng NPA ang patuloy na pananalakay na gagawin ng GPH-AFP laban sa mamamayan at rebolusyonaryong kilusan.

Bagama’t aktibong lumalaban sa pananalakay ay patuloy na sinusuportahan ng mga pulang kumander at mandirigma ng RLRC-NPA-Mt. Sierra Madre ang napipintong muling pagbubukas ng usapang pangkapayapaan sa pagitan ng CPP-NPA-NDFP at Gobyerno ng Pilipinas (GPH) na kinakatawan ngayon ng Rehimeng US-Duterte. Nananawagan din kami sa Rehimeng Duterte na kagyat na ipahinto ang operasyong militar sa kanayunan na pangunahing pumipinsala sa buhay at ari-arian ng mga mamamayan, magsasaka at katutubong Dumagat sa buong Sierra Madre-Timog Katagalugan dahil ang mga ganitong aksyon ng AFP-GPH sumisira sa klima ng napipintong pagbubukas sa usapang pangkapayapaan. Hanggang patuloy na aatake ang AFP-GPH sa mga teritoryo ng CPP-NPA-NDFP ay hindi maiiwasang lumaban ang NPA para depensahan ang sarili at ipagtanggol ang mga mamamayang dumaranas ng kalupitan, karahasan at paglabag sa karapatang pantao na ginagawa ng AFP.

Anuman ang maging resulta ng usapang pangkapayapaan ay hindi hihinto ang NPA sa tunay at tapat na paglilingkod sa sambayanang Pilipino.


Gabriela says its member not an NPA amazon

From the Manila Bulletin (Jun 4): Gabriela says its member not an NPA amazon

The Gabriela Women’s Party has accused the government of “red-tagging” one of its members as a New People’s Army (NPA) amazon, when she is actually just a small-time businesswoman and a human rights advocate.

In a statement, Gabriela-Caraga said the arrest of Nerita De Castro last week by the military was a “misogynistic move” meant to silence all those who are critical of the Duterte government. It also said the suspect has been its member since 2006.

“The arrest is meant to sow fear among the people of Caraga who dare to expose and criticize President Duterte and his military and police’s misogynistic and anti-people actions,” the women’s rights group said.

De Castro was arrested by combined elements of the Crime Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Davao and Caraga, and the 402nd Infantry Battalion in Emenville Subdivision, Barangay Ambago, Butuan City last May 31.

Gabriela charged that De Castro’s arrest was made based on a “trumped-up murder charge filed in Lianga, Surigao del Sur.”

The group also said De Castro was denied her right to counsel and access to her family after she was arrested.

“Despite her constant demand for a lawyer while being interrogated, she was denied her right to be accompanied by counsel when questioned by state agents,” the statement said.

The group tagged the CIDG, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), the Presidential Management Staff (PMS), and Caraga Philippine National Police as liable for the illegal arrest of De Castro.

It also said the military erred in announcing that De Castro was a high-ranking member of the NPA as finance officer of the Komisyon sa Mindanao and the secretary of the Regional White Area Committee of the Northeastern Mindanao Region.

“She is a human rights advocate, working fulltime first with the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) during the 1980’s under Marcos’ Martial law when her brother was tortured by the military, and for Karapatan-Surigao del Sur during the 1990’s until around 2006 when she focused on her small buy and sell business for her children’s education,” the groupe said.

Davao Region police blame NPA for unsolved riding-in-tandem killings

From Rappler (Jun 5): Davao Region police blame NPA for unsolved riding-in-tandem killings

Chief Superintendent Joel Orduña, Police Regional Office 11 officer-in-charge, gives the explanation as Davao Region is deemed as the worst in solving randem-in-tandem slays

COMMUNIST INSURGENCY. Members of the New People's Army in Maco, Compostela Valley. File photo by Mick Basa

COMMUNIST INSURGENCY. Members of the New People's Army in Maco, Compostela Valley. File photo by Mick Basa

Davao Region police on Tuesday, June 5, blamed the communist New People's Army (NPA) for its poor peformance in solving riding-in-tandem killings.

Police Regional Office 11 (PRO 11) officer-in-charge Chief Superintendent Joel Orduña told Rappler in a phone interview said that most of the killings took place in areas with NPA presence.

"Most [killings] happened in insurgency-prone areas, and based on intelligence, some of the victims are those who have surrendered, those who have turned their backs on their organization," Orduña said.

"Kaya binabalikan sila (That is why they were hunted down)," he added.

(READ: Bulk of 1,000 Red surrenderees NPA supporters, not fighters)

Based on police records obtained by Rappler, Davao Region recorded 74 riding-in-tandem killings from October 2017 to May 2018.

Of the cases, only 6 had been solved or cleared to date, making the region the worst performer in solving riding-in-tandem killings.

Harder to solve: According to Orduña, the alleged NPA-perpetrated killings are much harder to solve than the usual gun-for-hire cases.

"Mostly they are murder cases, premeditated, planned. Kaya nahihirapan kami i-solve (This's why we're having a hard time solving them)," Orduña said.

Pressed about unsolved cases that have no NPA involvement, Orduña said that these cases are hindered by the lack of witnesses as well as formal complaints to aid police investigators.

Not Davao City: Orduña also noted that most of the killings happened outside Davao City, the hometown of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Orduño said the insurgency-prone areas in the region are the provinces of Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, and Compostela Valley.

The other provinces in the region are Davao del Sur and Davao Occidental.

Orduña assured Davao Region residents that the police are trying their "best" to end the vigilante-style killings by intensifying checkpoint operations.

Bangsamoro ‘police, armed forces’ plan thumbed down

From the Manila Standard (Jun 4): Bangsamoro ‘police, armed forces’ plan thumbed down

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte said he will not approve a Bangsamoro Basic Law that would create a fissure in government as he rejected again proposals to create a Bangsamoro police and military force.

The President made the statement days after he certified as urgent the versions of the BBL before the House of Representatives and the Senate.

“On the BBL, I might as well be frank. I will accommodate, I will move the extra mile but never would I agree that there will be a fissure somewhere,” he said in a press briefing late Saturday night.

“The Philippine National Police will remain one line to the last barangay tanod. The Armed Forces of the Philippines will only have one command from the Chief of Staff down,” Duterte said.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte’s decision to reject proposals for a separate police and military for the proposed new autonomous region has already been conveyed to members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.

“The contentious issue that the President decided on is there can be no separate Bangsamoro police and separate Bangsamoro armed forces, which the BTC wants,” Roque said.

The House version of the substitute BBL already had marked differences from the one proposed by the BTC.

The version passed by the House slashed the proposed annual block grant from 6 percent to 5 percent of national internal revenue and Customs collections. It also removed the proposed periodic plebiscites that would have allowed for the Bangsamoro region’s repeated expansion for the next 25 years. The House also increased the number of “reserved powers” of the national government from only nine to 20, including powers over the armed forces, police, jail management, elections, and coast guard, among others.

The Senate version of the BBL is even more different from the BTC version, but senators said it is “more compliant” with the 1987 Constitution.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said there were at least 10 “significant differences” between the Senate and the House versions. Senators wanted a ban on political dynasties, a provision that was “highly opposed” by the BTC, Drilon said. The Senate also deleted provisions on “reserved, concurrent and exclusive powers” of the proposed Bangsamoro government.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar said the MILF would prefer if the final version to be passed by the bicameral conference is as close as possible to their proposed BBL.

“We want our proposals to be included in the final version. If not all, then at least the final version should not be diluted or watered down,” he said in a recent television interview.

Roque said the President is counting on all stakeholders “to work together” for the passage of a BBL “that is acceptable to all and will withstand the test of judicial scrutiny.”

“It is really a process of give and take...Otherwise we won’t have a BBL,” Roque said.

Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat on Sunday urged fellow lawmakers, including senators, to address in a bicameral conference committee meeting next month the remaining controversial provisions of the proposed BBL that could spark a constitutional challenge.

He, along with Lanao del Norte Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo, recently abstained during the plenary voting of the BBL measure, clarifying his stance that he just wanted to ensure that all provisions of the bill were constitutionally compliant.

“I think none of us is opposing [the BBL]. We are opposed to certain provisions that are unconstitutional or disadvantageous, but many of these have already been addressed. Not all, but substantial,” he said.

Lobregat, a member of the bicameral conference committee, said they would meet from July 9 to July 13 to harmonize the disagreeing provisions of the BBL bill.

“Well, I am substantially satisfied, not fully, but substantially,” he said.

He said the Shariah court should still be under the Supreme Court in the final version of the BBL.

“I think there were [amendments]. For me, the Shari’ah court shouldn’t be a high court. It should be an appellate court and it should not have jurisdiction on criminal cases,” he said.

Anak Mindanao Rep. Amilhilda Sangcopan, who voted for the passage of the BBL, called on the bicameral conference committee not to pass a watered-down peace bill.

Soldiers disarm IED along Maguindanao highway

From the Philippine Star (Jun 3): Soldiers disarm IED along Maguindanao highway

The stretch of highway where the IED was found was closed to traffic for about an hour as bomb disposal experts worked on the scene.
The stretch of highway where the IED was found was closed to traffic for about an hour as bomb disposal experts worked on the scene.
MAGUINDANAO, Philippines — Soldiers found and promptly disarmed an improvised explosive device along a highway in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao.

The stretch of highway where the IED was found was closed to traffic for about an hour as bomb disposal experts worked on the scene.

Dozens of vehicles, including a van carrying Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, were stranded until the improvised bomb was disarmed.

Sobejana said Sunday he is certain he was not the target of the supposed roadside bombing in Barangay Saniag.

“I was just a passerby. We have security protocols. My travels are virtually unannounced,” Sobejana said.

He said the IED was safely dismantled by a responding Army ordnance team.

Local officials said they are certain the IED was planted by members of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
The BIFF is known to use roadside bombs on civilians as retribution for losses in encounters with units of 6th ID, the Army unit headquartered in Maguindanao.

More than 30 members of the BIFF, which uses the flag of the Islamic State, have been killed in a spate of encounters with soldiers in Maguindanao from January to May this year.

Military, alleged NPA rebels clash in Isabela: 6 soldiers hurt

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 4): Military, alleged NPA rebels clash in Isabela: 6 soldiers hurt

CAMP MELCHOR DELA CRUZ, ISABELA – Six Army soldiers were wounded during a firefight with suspected New People’s Army rebels in Echague town around dawn Monday.

A patrol from the 86th Infantry Battalion had chanced upon the armed men in the hinterlands of Barangay (village) Mabbayad, said Army Captain Jefferson Somera, spokesperson of the 5th Infantry Division.

The names of the wounded soldiers have not yet been released as of this posting, but they already received treatment from various hospitals in Cauayan City and were subsequently transferred to the 5th Infantry Division Hospital located inside this camp.

A Muslim insurgency called MILF is close to getting a homeland in the Philippines

From Vice News (Jun 3): A Muslim insurgency called MILF is close to getting a homeland in the Philippines

In the marshlands of the southern Philippines, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, or the MILF, patrol the swamps, looking to root out remaining pockets of ISIS-linked militants. The MILF have been longtime enemies of the state, but they recently forged an alliance with the government. Their partnership hinges on a deal that would give the Muslims in the Southern Philippines an autonomous homeland, ending decades of insurgency.

The Moro rebellion began in 1968, when the Muslim Independence Movement was founded. Since then, nearly a half-dozen armed groups warred against the government to establish a Muslim homeland on the island of Mindanao. Over 150,000 were killed in the decades-long insurgency that ensued.

Wahid Tundok (Center) is the commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front's 118th Base Command in Maguindanao. (Adam Desiderio/VICE News.)

The Philippine government has attempted negotiating multiple peace deals with various Muslim insurgent groups since the rebellion began, but so far none have stuck.

However, on Wednesday, both houses of the Philippine Congress relented to pressure from the MILF and President Duterte, and preliminarily passed the most promising version of a peace deal yet; its called the Bangsamoro Basic Law or BBL.

The BBL would give the Muslims in the Bangsamoro region of Mindanao an autonomous local government that would gain control the tax-base, land, water, education and legal systems. However, the deal doesn’t give them complete independence, it reserves the responsibility of the military, policing, immigration and foreign affairs among other powers to the central government of the Philippines.

Hundreds of fighters from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s 118th Base Command stand protect civilian communities from ISIS-linked militants in Maguindanao using high-powered weapons, some of which are homemade sniper rifles. (Adam Desiderio/VICE News.)

The BBL has been on the table for nearly four years, but in the past year the MILF managed to tip the scales in favor of getting the deal passed by making a historic partnership with the government, who’ve been their longtime enemies.

They helped the government establish peace corridors and negotiate hostage releases during the battle for Marawi, and are now fighting to root out ISIS-linked factions in other parts of Mindinao. But the unlikely partnership was made knowing full well that getting a peace deal passed under Duterte’s presidency was the MILF’s best shot at favorable terms with the government.

President Duterte is the Philippines’ first president from the island of Mindanao, and he campaigned on the promise to pass the BBL. In the aftermath of Marawi, Duterte even warned lawmakers in January that passing the BBL was the only way to avoid large-scale war in Mindanao and forge a lasting peace on the island.

A Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighter patrols the marshlands of Maguindanao where ISIS-linked militants began attacking civilian communities last August. (Adam Desiderio/VICE News.)

MILF commanders like Wahid Tundok, who heads the insurgents' 118th Base Command, feel the same way.

“If the BBL gets signed, then all is well and the peace will continue,” says Tundok. “But when push comes to shove, the MILF is already preparing its best weaponry.”

VICE News’ Isobel Yeung met with members of the MILF before Congress decided to pass the BBL this week. Since the fighting in Marawi ended, they’ve been on edge, waiting for Duterte to follow through with his campaign pledge to get the peace deal passed.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters reinforce forward operating bases scattered throughout marshlands in Maguindanao. (Adam Desiderio/VICE News)

This segment originally aired May 23, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.

Passage of Bangsamoro Basic Law is a step towards peace

From the ASEAN Post (Jun 3): Passage of Bangsamoro Basic Law is a step towards peace

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (C) poses with Secretary of the Peace Process Jesus Dureza (L), Al-Hajj Murad (2nd L), chairman of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Ghazali Jaafar (2nd R), vice chairman of MILF and Mohagher Iqbal (R), MILF chief negotiator, as they join hands holding a draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) during a ceremony at the Malacanang Palace in Manila on 17 July, 2017. (Ted Aljibe / AFP Photo)
Just a few days before the 17th Congress of the Philippines went on break, history was made on 31 May when the Philippines senate unanimously approved the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law. Hours earlier, the House of Representatives approved its own version of the BBL bill with a 221 to 11 vote.

The BBL seeks to establish a proposed new autonomous political entity known as the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, replacing the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Some have mistaken the fight for BBL as a separatist struggle, however that is not the case. Essentially, the BBL will allow the Bangsamoro to have greater political powers with wider fiscal autonomy while still remaining in the Philippines.


The concept of the BBL came about after the Philippines government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed a peace deal in March 2014. The MILF is based in Mindanao and is one of the foremost groups fighting for an autonomous region for the Moro people. First founded in 1978 as the Moro National Liberation Front, the group has presence throughout the Bangsamoro region of Mindanao, the Sulu Archipelago, Palawan and other nearby islands. Historically, the MILF and other Islamic groups have fought using violent means to demand for independence. However, in 2010, the MILF said that it would instead pursue a plan for an autonomous region under the Philippines instead of separation from the country.

Source: Various sources

In 2014, the Philippine government’s chief negotiator Miriam Coronel Ferer and MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal signed a peace agreement in Kuala Lumpur. This peace deal led to the conception of the Bangsamoro state. Stakeholders submitted a document to the Philippines’ Congress with a detailed plan for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region to replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The document would spell out the territory it would occupy and the details of the BBL. Progress in passing the law in congress however hit a snag in 2015 when the Mamasapano clash took place. The Mamasapano clash was an “misencounter” between the Philippines National Police and MILF rebels that left over 60 people dead.

Peace in Bangsamoro

Speaking to local media, the chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines welcomed the passage of the BBL saying that the laws has a “direct correlation to peace”. Over the past few decades, Bangsamoro has been a hotbed of terrorism and extremist activity. Terrorist organisations would exploit the Moro conflict and insurgency as a way to recruit members. Among the organisations active there include Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. The passage of the BBL would now reduce antagonisms between citizens and the central government, giving less room for other groups to exploit the sentiment of the people. Furthermore, the passage of the BBL will negate grievances of the insurgency groups there. If proper autonomy is granted to the region, insurgency groups would have no reason to engage with the central government as their grievances could be brought up with the local government.

However, there are arguments that the passage of the BBL does not guarantee the elimination of extremism. Whatever version of the BBL that Duterte ends up signing as law will still have to adhere to the country’s constitution. If there are limitations in the BBL, it could be used as ammunition against the MILF. It needs to be reminded that groups such as Abu Sayyaf and Dawlah Islamiyah came into prominence after mainstream groups such as the MILF were seen to be ineffective in the struggle for self-determination.

Currently there are two versions of the BBL, the House of Representative version and the Senate one. Both houses of Congress need to iron out the differences in the bicameral conference committee meetings before it is passed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte. Muslim groups have already voiced their dissatisfaction with the version passed by the House of Representatives arguing that it does not guarantee autonomy and self-determination. Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adion even argued that the BBL passed in congress has been watered down and points out that the final version could give the region less powers than it currently has under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao set up.

If the Philippines government is serious about bringing peace to the Bangsamoro region then it will need to give the region full autonomy. Any watered-down promises will only give more reason for extremists to resort to violence once again.

All-Moro Convention pushes Bangsamoro state constitution

From the Sun Star-Davao (Jun 4): All-Moro Convention pushes Bangsamoro state constitution

THE All-Moro Convention (AMC) is proposing a Bangsamoro State Constitution that will attend to the demands of the constituencies, particularly in Mindanao, to President Rodrigo Duterte administration.

An AMC Core Group Meeting and Signing on draft Bangsamoro State Constitution, Federal Republic of the Philippines was organized at the Mindanao Development Authority (Minda) in Davao City on June 2.

Minda Secretary Datu Abul Khayr Alonto and AMC president lawyer Datu Michael Mastura presented the draft of the Bangsamoro State Constitution to participants composed of professionals, judges, and lawyers.

"It started, instead of the Bangsamoro, the All-Moro Convention must write a state constitution for the Bangsamoro," Mastura said, adding that the AMC prepared the draft Bangsamoro State Constitution a year ago.

With the mandate of the Minda to provide strategic path for Mindanao development under the Duterte administration’s federalism agenda, Mastura said AMC picked up such idea and proposed an amendment to the constitution.

"The president, for the meantime, convokes a constitution. And so, we are responding to the third idea... wherein the Constitutional Commission (Concom) will write a constitution, which now, we have done it already," Mastura said.

Mastura said the Bangsamoro State Constitution is a constitution that provides structure which will be parliamentary in form and will fit a Federal Constitution Presidential System. He added that this would be a big help to their people.

Alonto, in a separate interview, described this move that embodied in pursuance of their rights to self-determination, with Duterte’s assurance from day 1 that he will support the Bangsamoro whose desires can be put in a constitution.

"In restoring their independence, freedom, and their sovereignty as people, therefore, the call of the adoption of the Federal System wherein Bangsamoro can fit in. The president is sincere in providing a genuine change," Alonto said.

Mastura said the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) earlier drafted a Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), but did not propose an amendment to the constitution that prompted the AMC to create a draft Bangsamoro State Constitution.

"This will help because we are attending to the demand of the constituencies. This is one of the demands during the days of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), but they were not satisfied on the organic act. Now, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to MILF, the agreements that were made, they are not satisfied with the law that made by the Congress. So, we are taking it upon ourselves to write this basic law for our constituents," Mastura said.

Mastura said the idea of a viable state will be resolved with their constitution because the government money will be equitable according to the distribution of the needs unlike the unitary system which it will go through a lot of process.

"In this constitution, we’ll be able to decide ourselves. We can increase requirements for attending the infrastructures for economic developments, because we will be deciding for ourselves what is needed for development," he added.

When asked as to their mode of government, Mastura said, they assumed corruption since every government in the world has a mode of corruption, but he can assure that it will be lessen as its government will be closer to the people.

The AMC calls on the president to involve people on the action side not anymore on the advocacy since he has been talking about the Federal System, Mastura said, adding that this is the right time for the administration to act on it.

"We really hope that this is a different ball game because the president is pushing the federal set up. The point here is this Bangsamoro State Constitution is coming from the experience of the people here in Mindanao," Mastura said.

As to the timeline of the constitution, Mastura said their timeline defends on the drafting of the Federal Constitution. He said they will match the work of the Federal Constitution Constitutional Commission (Concom) since they are on it.

Mastura said they will soon present the draft Bangsamoro State Constitution to the Concom, to the president, and to the Congress.

Alonto said they believe that the Federal System, the change and/or the amendment of the constitution into federal form of government is the very soul of the Duterte administration.

Philippines: ISIL-linked Maute recruiting children in Marawi

From Aljazeera (Jun 3): Philippines: ISIL-linked Maute recruiting children in Marawi
The Philippine military accuses the rebel group of playing on the emotions of displaced and orphaned children traumatised by the battle for the southern city of Marawi.

U.S. weighs more South China Sea patrols to confront ‘new reality’ of China

From InterAksyon (Jun 4): U.S. weighs more South China Sea patrols to confront ‘new reality’ of China

U.S. Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis speaks at the IISS Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore June 2, 2018. (Reuters/Edgar Su)

SINGAPORE — The United States is considering intensified naval patrols in the South China Sea in a bid to challenge China’s growing militarisation of the waterway, actions that could further raise the stakes in one of the world’s most volatile areas.

The Pentagon is weighing a more assertive programme of so-called freedom-of-navigation operations close to Chinese installations on disputed reefs, two U.S. officials and Western and Asian diplomats close to discussions said.

The officials declined to say how close they were to finalising a decision.

Such moves could involve longer patrols, ones involving larger numbers of ships or operations involving closer surveillance of Chinese facilities in the area, which now include electronic jamming equipment and advanced military radars.

U.S. officials are also pushing international allies and partners to increase their own naval deployments through the vital trade route as China strengthens its military capabilities on both the Paracel and Spratly islands, the diplomats said, even if they stopped short of directly challenging Chinese holdings.

“What we have seen in the last few weeks is just the start, significantly more is being planned,” said one Western diplomat, referring to a freedom of navigation patrol late last month that used two U.S. ships for the first time.

“There is a real sense more needs to be done.”

The Pentagon does not comment on future operations but a spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Logan, said “we will continue to work with our friends, partners, and allies to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific”.

A more assertive Pentagon approach already appears to have started. Reuters first reported the patrol last month in which two U.S. Navy warships sailed near South China Sea islands claimed by China, even as President Donald Trump sought Chinese cooperation on North Korea.

While the operation had been planned months in advance, and similar operations have become routine, it is believed to be the first time where two U.S. warships have been used for a freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea.

The Pentagon also withdrew an invitation for Chinese forces to join large multi-country exercises off Hawaii later in the year.

Critics have said the patrols have little impact on Chinese behaviour and mask the lack of a broader strategy to deal with China’s growing dominance of the area.
‘Do not pay off’

U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis warned in Singapore on Saturday that China’s militarisation of the South China Sea was now a “reality” but that Beijing would face unspecified consequences.

Questioned during the Shangri-La Dialogue security conference over whether it was too late to stop China, Mattis said: “Eventually these (actions) do not pay off.”

Last month, China’s air force landed bombers on Woody Island in the disputed Paracel archipelago as part of a training exercise, 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, while anti-ship cruise missiles and anti-air missiles were also placed on its largest bases in the Spratlys.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Singapore conference, He Lei, of the PLA’s Academy of Military Sciences, said China had every right to continue to militarise its South China Sea holdings.

“It is China’s sovereign and legal right for China to place our army and military weapons there. We see any other country that tries to make noise about this as interfering in our internal affairs,” He said.

Regional military attaches say they are now bracing for China’s next moves, which some fear could be the first deployment of jet fighters to the Spratlys or an attempt to enforce an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) similar to one Beijing created off its eastern coast in 2013.

Vietnamese military officers say they are particularly concerned by the prospect of an ADIZ, saying it could threaten the integrity of Vietnamese airspace.

Lieutenant General Nguyen Duc Hai, head of the Vietnamese military’s Institute of Strategic Studies, said that while Vietnam had long sought peaceful settlements to disputes, “all options are on the table from our side to safeguard our sovereignty and territory.”

“The ADIZ establishment is one option we have thought of and also have plans to deal with.”

Vietnam is the most active challengers to China’s sweeping claims to much of the South China Sea, with Hanoi claiming the Paracels and the Spratlys in their entirety.

Malaysia and the Philippines hold some Spratlys features while Brunei claims waters straddled by China’s so-called nine-dash line claim. Taiwan claims the same area as China.

Singapore-based security expert Tim Huxley said while increased pressure might slow China’s militarisation efforts, they would be difficult to stop. “China has created a new reality down there, and it is not going to be rolled back,” Huxley told Reuters. “They are not doing this to poke America or their neighbours in the eye but they are almost certainly doing this to serve their long-term strategic objectives, whether that is projecting their military power or securing energy supplies.”

Lorenzana: We're helpless against China blockade in West PH Sea

From Rappler (Jun 4): Lorenzana: We're helpless against China blockade in West PH Sea

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana asks Congress to fund military modernization. 'We don't have the capabilities now. We are [working] double time but it depends on the funds that we get from Congress.'

DEFEATIST. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana says the Philippines is helpless against China in the West Philippine Sea. File Photo by DARREN LANGIT

DEFEATIST. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana says the Philippines is helpless against China in the West Philippine Sea. File Photo by DARREN LANGIT

 The country's top defense official repeated President Rodrigo Duterte's defeatist stance against China's aggressiveness in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) in the wake of new reports of harassment.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the Philippines has no capability to defend the country's maritime territories and troops can only watch if China blocks the military's resupply missions to outposts there.

"At present, we don't have any capability to even to just demonstrate to others that we are capable. We are not capable. We don't have the capital ships. We don't have the weapons," Lorenzana said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) aired on Monday morning, June 4.

"If they block our people from resupplying our outposts there in the Spratlys, then what can we do?," Lorenzana said.

The Philippines filed a diplomatic protest against China for harassing a Philippine rubber boat on its way to resupply Marines occupying a grounded warship in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.

Lorenzana said the country can only resort to protests, something the government also would rather keep from the public and quietly resolve with China.

"All we can do now is protest – diplomatic protest, note verbal – and have a dialogue with China. There's nothing we can do," Lorenzana said.

Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano, a retired Marine officer, divulged how a Chinese chopper hovered "in a close and dangerous distance."

Lorenzana asked Congress for more funds for military modernization.

"We don't have the capabilities now. We are [working] double time but it depends on the funds that we get from Congress – if they allocate more funds for our modernization program," said Lorenzana.

Money is not the issue in the case of Pag-asa (Thitu) Island, however. Funds for the repair of the country's airstrip on the island was allocated by the previous Aquino administration but repeated protests from China delayed the project.

The government finally started work on the airstrip recently. It remains to be seen if repair works will be completed. (READ: PH plans for Pag-asa to test Duterte's friendship with China)

"We are trying to also pave (the airstrip) that so that we can bring in our aircraft anytime. At present, you can only land there after 5 days of sunshine. [Otherwise], it is soggy and you cannot land," said Lorenzana.

"So it will take some time for us to be ready to defend our territories the way we should have defended in the first place," said Lorenzana.

Army foils bomb plot in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 4): Army foils bomb plot in Maguindanao

BOMB ATTEMPT. A member of the Army's bomb disposal team carefully disarms an improvised explosive device discovered and reported by civilains placed along the higway last Saturday (June 2) in Barangay Saniag, Ampatuan , Maguindanao. (Photo by 6ID)

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao – More checkpoints are being set up along the Maguindanao highway here following a weekend foiled roadside bombing attempt by lawless elements in Ampatuan town, the military said Monday.

On Saturday, the military said troopers from the Army’s 1st Mechanized Infantry Battalion pre-empted a bomb attack after  concerned civilians reported around 10:00 a.m. the discovery of an improvised explosive device (IED) along the section of the highway in Barangay Saniag, Ampatuan.

Traffic along the highway was temporarily halted for an hour as soldiers cordoned off the area for the safety of motorists.

Members of the Army’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team of the Army conducted safety procedure that resulted in the recovery of an IED fashioned from an unexploded 105mm cannon projectile, wires, a timing device, and one 9-volt battery as trigger mechanism.

Brigadier General Cirilito Sobejana, Army’s 6th Infantry Division commander, who personally supervised the safety procedure said that the primary goal of the bombing attempt is to instill fear to communities in the area.

Sobejana expressed appreciation to the civilians who reported the bomb discovery, encouraging them to cooperate closely with military authorities.

“We should work together for a just and lasting peace without the use of arms and violence,” he said.

Sobejana also commended the troops in the field for a job well done, reminding them to always do the best they can to protect the communities from harm.

Westmincom, PRO-9 vow to continue working vs. criminality

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 4): Westmincom, PRO-9 vow to continue working vs. criminality

Lt. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, on Monday leads the awarding of medals to 22 officers and policemen, who excelled in police operation and administration. Chief Supt. Billy Beltran, Police Regional Office-9 (PRO-9) director, assisted Dela Vega during the ceremony held at Camp Abendan that houses the PRO-9 headquarters in Zamboanga City. (Photo courtesy: Westmincom PIO)
ZAMBOANGA CITY--Top military and police officials vowed to continue working together in the fight against all forms of criminality and in the maintenance of law and order in Region 9.

Lt. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, and Chief Supt. Billy Beltran, Police Regional Office-9 (PRO-9) director, made the commitment on Monday as the latter invited the former as the guest of honor in the flag raising ceremony at Camp Col. Romeo Abendan.

Camp Abendan houses the PRO-9 headquarters in Barangay Mercedes in this city.

“Once again, we renew our commitment of support in terms of operations, manpower, logistics, and resources to the campaigns of the PNP (Philippine National Police). You can count on all AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) units. In unity there is strength,” Dela Vega said.
Beltran cited the recent successes of the joint efforts of PRO-9 and Westmincom, including the peaceful conduct of Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections, rescue of the police hostages, neutralization of lawless elements and other campaigns against various crimes.

Beltran, who is celebrating Monday his second year as PRO-9 director, expressed his gratitude to all police personnel, as well as for the support being extended to them by military units in the region.

“I vow to improve further the quality of police service and strengthen the character of the PNP founded on compassion,” Beltran added.

Dela Vega, as the invited guest, led the awarding of medals to 22 officers and policemen, who excelled both in police operations and administration.

Dela Vega expressed his gratitude to the men and women of PRO-9 and commended the awardees.

“That is a manifestation that PRO-9 is doing its mandate, and I thank you for all your support and contributions to Western Mindanao Command’s mission accomplishment. Malaki ang pasasalamat namin dahil magkatuwang tayo,” Dela Vega said.

AFP conducts first inter-service cooking competition

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 4): AFP conducts first inter-service cooking competition

Soldiers fight well with full stomachs.

With this old adage in mind, the Armed Forces of the Philippines conducted its first "AFP Battle of the Kitchen Warriors" last May 28 to June 1, military public affairs office chief Col. Noel Detoyato said over the weekend.

The goal of the five-day competition is to come up with a truly unique Filipino cuisine, which can be integrated into the AFP Commissioned Officer's Club (COC) and provide soldiers and the AFPCOC staff with opportunities to improve their cooking skills, as well as their professional networks, he added.

This is aside from boosting the morale of AFP personnel by enhancing AFPCOC and its counterpart service providers in the Major Services' capability in developing and promoting high standard of food services for the soldiers and its guests.

Detoyato said the five-day event was organized by the AFPCOC management in partnership with the Center for Culinary Arts, Manila.

He added that kitchen personnel from the Army, Air Force, Navy, and AFPCOC participated in the cooking contest.

Declared as overall winner was Team AFPCOC, composed of Jessie Magcalas, Nonie Santiago, and Allen James Bernardez, who prepared the following cuisine: malunggay-tinapa bites or malutina for appetizers; stuffed and steamed boneless bangus (milkfish) with malunggay pesto, also called the “Marawi Tower,” for main course; and bikoron (biko and turon) with langka (jackfruit) and latik sauce for dessert.

PH Navy RIMPAC contingent now in Cebu

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 4): PH Navy RIMPAC contingent now in Cebu

The two-ship flotilla of the Philippine Navy (PN), which will participate in this year's Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercises, safely arrived in Cebu Sunday.

This was disclosed by Navy spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna in a message to the Philippine News Agency Monday.

"PN (ships strategic sealift vessel BRP Davao Del Sur (LD-602) and frigate BRP Andres Bonifacio (FF-17) its attached AgustaWestland AW-109 helicopter had) arrived June 3 in Cebu," he said.

The Filipino naval contingent along with 700 sailors and marines left Pier 13, Manila South Harbor last June 1.

Lincuna said the PN flotilla is now awaiting the arrival of the Malaysian naval ship, another RIMPAC participant, which is expected this Monday.

The Filipino ships and the Malaysian craft will depart for Hawaii on Wednesday and link up with other navies (Indonesian Navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and Royal Australian Navy) along the way for the ASEAN++ Group Sail to RIMPAC 2018.

Lincuna said this is the first time the PN will be deploying naval and air assets to RIMPAC.

"In the past years we were active and regularly sending participants as observers for the RIMPAC but this time it will be the first that we will be sending our ships( Tarlac-class and Del Pillar-class) and aircraft( AW-109) and around 700 sailors and marines," he added.

RIMPAC 2018 is scheduled for June 27 to August 2.

AFP working double-time to develop defense capabilities

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 4): AFP working double-time to develop defense capabilities

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is working double-time to acquire the capabilities needed to protect the country's territories.

This was stressed by Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana during an interview Monday with ABS-CBN News Channel on the sidelines of the 17th Shangri-La Dialogue held in Singapore from June 1 to 3.

"We don't have capabilities now, so we are making double-time, but it depends on the funds that we get from Congress if they allocate more funds for our modernization program (then we can expedite the development of these capabilities)," he said when asked about the AFP's readiness capabilities.

At the moment, Lorenzana said that AFP does not have the capabilities to defend the country.

"At present you know we don't have any capabilities to even just to demonstrate to others that we are capable (of defending our territories) because we are not capable, we don't have the capital ships, we don't have the weapons," the DND chief added.

Also, Lorenzana cited the case of the 1.2-kilometer Rancudo Airfield on Pagasa Island, the country's sole operational airstrip in the Kalayaan Island Group, which is short, unpaved and incapable of handling aircraft when it rains.

"Our sole airstrip in Pagasa is still vey short and it is (unpaved), so we're trying also (to pave) that so that we can bring in our aircraft anytime, because at present it can only (land) there if there was five days of sunshine, because (it is) soggy," he added.

DWDD: Another NPA Terrorist Surrendered in Sarangani

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Jun 4): Another NPA Terrorist Surrendered in Sarangani

CAMP BGEN AGAAB, MALUNGON, SARANGANI – NPA terrorist who operates in Sarangani Province, surrender along with his firearm to the troops of 73rd IB in Barangay Upper Suyan, Malapatan, Sarangani Province on Friday morning 01 June 2018. Boy Cabisa Diale @BUSAW 75 years old, married and a resident of Sitio Lino, Barangay Upper Suyan, Malapatan, Sarangani Province, surrender along with his M16 (Bushmaster) rifle to the troops of 73rd IB.

“Kapoy na kog tinago sa bukid ug nahadlok ko basi mapatay ko sa engkwentro mao ni hawa na ko sa walay klarong saad sang hublag.” I left the armed group because of their false promises and fear of being caught in the firefight during encounter, and I am tired of hiding from the government troops, @BUSAW said.

It can be recalled that last May 18, 2018 an armed cache was discovered in Barangay Upper Suyan, Malapatan, Sarangani Province and recovered thereat are three AK47 rifles, after the information receive from the NPA terrorist who surrender to the troops of 73IB. “With our intensive security operations and continuous collaborations to our Local Government Units and other stakeholders, we can align our efforts in attaining a peaceful and conflict resilient communities within our area of operation.” Lieutenant Colonel Angcao 73IB commander said. The former rebel will be presented to the LGU of Sarangani Province for immediate assistance and enroll him to the CLIP (Comprehensive Local Integration Program). He will be provided a livelihood assistance and he will also receive additional cash assistance for his surrendered firearm that will help him to start a new and peaceful life.

“We SARANGANS should stand together as one. We should not fight fellow Filipinos. The Province of Sarangani is encouraging those who want to be part of a productive and democratic Philippines to come down and be one with the administration in protecting all Filipinos”. Hon. Steve Chiongbian Solon Governor of Sarangani Province said. ”

The brigade is always open for NPA who are willing to surrender and enjoy the peaceful life, the government has a program that will provide livelihood assistance to help them start a living” Brigadier General Roberto Ancan 1002nd Brigade Commander said. “We are grateful to the leadership of the Sarangani Province for their unending support to peaceful initiatives especially in the implementation of the Comprehensive Local Integration Program for the former rebels. As always we recognize and further affirm the vital role of local government and other stakeholders in their transformation and eventual integration in the mainstream society as productive citizens”. BGen Ancan added.

Major General Noel S Clement Commander, 10ID lauded the troops’ accomplishment. “Boy Cabisa or alias Busaw’s surrender finally brought him freedom from his long years of struggle, suffering, discrimination and intimidation in the hands of his NPA-terrorist leader.

We assure every NPA-terrorist who would like to surrender or go back to the folds of law, 10ID will accord what is due to you in accordance to our existing laws and programs of the government that can help you live productively and peacefully with the mainstream society,” MGen Clement said.

DWDD: Army Troops Encounter NPA again in Isabela

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Jun 4): Army Troops Encounter NPA again in Isabela

Camp Aquino, Tarlac City –Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) Army troopers clash with the Communist New People’s Army Terrorist Group (CNTG) at 5:10 in the morning today, June 4, 2018, Monday, in Isabela province.

The skirmish transpired while a company of the 86th Infantry Battalion (86IB), under the Joint Task Force (JTF) “Tala” of the 5th Infantry Division (5ID), was conducting Focused Military Operations (FMO) in the vicinity of Brgy. Mabbayad, Echague, Isabela.

The Army troops confronted about twenty (20) members of the NPA Terrorist Group, with unknown leader, operating in the area. The firefight also lasted for about twenty (20) minutes which resulted to the wounding of four (4) army personnel and undetermined number of casualties on the enemy side.

The NPA remnants immediately withdrew towards Northeast direction while the government troops continue to pursue them as of this press time. Wounded Army personnel were given first aid and were now for air evacuation to the nearest hospital for treatment.

Just five (5) days ago, an encounter between the NPA Terrorist and the same Army unit also happened in the same municipality of Echague, Isabela.

NOLCOM will continue to conduct pursuit and focused military operations, in coordination with other law enforcing units, in order to bring these terrorist groups, detrimental to people’s safety and hindrance to community development, into the hands of the authorities.