Monday, June 25, 2018

Unsolved PH Coast Guard cash mess continues with promoted officer – COA

From Rappler (Jun 25): Unsolved PH Coast Guard cash mess continues with promoted officer – COA

P800,000 worth of cash advances given to Rear Admiral Leopoldo Laroya are disowned by the suppliers

CASH ADVANCES MESS. Rear Admiral Leopoldo Laroya's 'irregular' cash advances add up to the pile of questionable expenses of the Philippine Coast Guard. Photo of Laroya courtesy of PCG Facebook

CASH ADVANCES MESS. Rear Admiral Leopoldo Laroya's 'irregular' cash advances add up to the pile of questionable expenses of the Philippine Coast Guard. Photo of Laroya courtesy of PCG Facebook

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) continued to be gripped by corruption controversies, as the Commission on Audit (COA) flagged another round of cash advances which were given to a newly-promoted officer even as past irregularities remained unsolved.

In its 2017 audit report of the PCG, state auditors said that P818,531 worth of cash advances given to former commodore, now Rear Admiral Leopoldo Larroya were “disowned by suppliers.”

President Rodrigo Duterte promoted Laroya to rear admiral in January 2018.

According to COA, Laroya was issued with P3.9 million worth of cash advances in 2016. He liquidated it only in April 2017, and upon liquidation, P818,531 were found with irregularities.

Eleven suppliers “disowned” 100 receipts that made up the amount. The responses of the suppliers varied, some saying the receipts were “incorrect, “fake” and one supplier said they do not even sell the items declared in the receipts.

QUESTIONABLE. Breakdown of Rear Admiral Leopoldo Laroya's cash advances which were found questionable by the Commission on Audit. Screenshot from COA audit report
COA told the PCG to “conduct its own investigation and institute appropriate administrative and legal action, as warranted, against persons found responsible/liable for the irregular transaction.”

COA said the PCG’s Accounting Service Office (ASO) should conduct an in-depth review of the receipts submitted to them to ensure that “spurious receipts are no longer used by the assigned Special Disbursement Officers (SDOs) in the liquidation of their cash advances.

In its reply to COA, the PCG said “they have already made significant improvement in the granting and liquidation/replenishment of cash advances such as issuance of guidelines in accordance with the new accounting rules.”


However, the COA noted that the PCG has not implemented any of its recommendations from past years to address irregular expenditures, including P27 million worth of questioned cash advances.

This P27 million cash advances anomaly involves newly promoted officers Rear Admiral Athelo Ybañez and Commodore Teotimo Borja Jr. Ybañez, Borja and 7 others have been preventively suspended by the Office of the Ombudsman, pending the result of a graft investigation.

"No appropriate administrative and legal action was taken by the Management against persons found responsible/liable for the fake/irregular transactions,” COA said.

In fact, the PCG only implemented the suspension order on June 1, a month after the order was issued, and after it was publicized on the media.

The COA said that while they recommended PCG to strictly abide by procurement rules, “there were still cases of spurious transactions.”

The PCG said it discontinued the practice of granting cash advances to special disbursing officers that are in excess of their “maximum accountability.” The PCG added it did not release cash advances to special disbursing officers who still had unliquidated amounts.

Auditors said that P2.5 million worth of cash advances still remained unliquidated as of the 2017 audit. And yet, COA said, more cash advances were again released in 2017.

“As per verification with the Accounting Service Office, there is still no assurance as to the legitimacy of supporting documents since there is only one person handling the review of such documents,” COA said.

The head of the PCG’s Accounting Service Office said the unit has a “limited capability as a centralized accounting office that processes financial transactions of the PCG nationwide.”

“Likewise, extensive review may cause delay in the processing of payments of obligations and requirements that may hamper the operations of the PCG units,” the PCG said.

The PCG is also embroiled in another legal suit over anomalous transactions involving P125 million worth of rescue equipment which were found to be rife with irregularities. The Court of Appeals has left it to the Office of the Ombudsman to decide the fate of some of its officers with unclear judgments, including Borja.

Sayyaf fighter captured in Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): Sayyaf fighter captured in Sulu

Police are holding an Abu Sayyaf fighter who was captured in the southern Philippine province of Sulu where security forces are fighting the militant group tied to the Islamic State.

Police said Suaid Hayudini is currently being investigated here, but details in interrogation were not immediately available.

Hayudini was said to have participated in cross-border raid in Sabah in 2000 where the Abu Sayyaf kidnapped 21 mostly European holidaymakers and Asian resort workers.

It was not immediately known whether police seized weapons from Hayudini. The Abu Sayyaf is still holding about a dozen hostages, mostly foreign sailors, in the restive region.

IED explosion injures 8 soldiers in Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): IED explosion injures 8 soldiers in Sulu

Eight soldiers were wounded in an accidental explosion involving an improvised explosive device (IED) they recovered following a clash with Abu Sayyaf bandits in Sulu, the military reported.

Brig. Gen. Divino Rey Pabayo, Joint Task Force Sulu commander, disclosed that the explosion occurred while troops were conducting a clearing operation following a 30-minute clash with Abu Sayyaf bandits on Saturday in Barangay Bangkal, Patikul town.

Pabayo said the wounded troops belong to the Army’s 1st Scout Ranger Battalion and are currently recuperating at the Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista Station Hospital in Barangay Busbus, Jolo, Sulu.

The IED that accidentally exploded were among the war materiel the troops recovered following the clash, which occurred around 2:40 a.m. Saturday, when soldiers encountered around 40 Abu Sayyaf bandits led by sub-leaders Almujer Yaddah, Sonny Boy Sajirin and Ellam Hasirin in Barangay Bangkal, Patikul.

The troops managed to outmaneuver and force the bandits to scamper to different directions after a 30-minute firefight, he said.

“We have intensified our operations to pursue the fleeing bandits to prevent them from committing atrocities against the people,” Pabayo said, adding that the bandits are believed to have suffered casualties.

Lt. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega, commander of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) said the troops will continue to exhaust all means to contain the Abu Sayyaf and limit their movement.

“We are continuously intensifying the conduct of focused military operations, in coordination with the local government and the people of Sulu, to neutralize the terrorist group,” dela Vega added.

Army to secure major Samar road project

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): Army to secure major Samar road project

Major Gen. Raul Farnacio, commanding general of the Army’s 8th Infantry Division, greets DPWH Secretary Mark Villar during the groundbreaking of Samar Pacific Coastal Road project in Northern Samar last May 31. (photo from FB page of Philippine Army)

The Philippine Army will secure the construction of nearly PHP1 billion Samar Pacific Coastal Road project, in a bid to stop armed rebels from hampering the road works, a military official said Monday.

Major Gen. Raul Farnacio, commanding general of the Army’s 8th Infantry Division, said members of the New People’s Army may try to sabotage the PHP997.50-million road project, funded through a loan from the South Korean government

The 11.6-kilometer road works, which was awarded to a Korean contractor, will connect the island towns of Laoang, Palapag, Mapanas, Gamay, and Lapinig to the provincial capital of Catarman and to Arteche and San Policarpo, both in Eastern Samar. It is up for completion in March 2020.

“We need to have a unique approach together with the local government units and the community to ensure the safety of equipment and unhampered implementation of the infrastructure project. We will need their help because we cannot guarantee the safety without the cooperation of other stakeholders,” Farnacio said.

Three military battalions in the area -- the 20th Infantry Battalion in Catubig town, the Civil Military Operation Battalion and the 543rdEngineering Battalion in Laoang-- will help secure the project.

Aside from the communist group, the military is also considering threats from criminal elements that would affect the implementation of the government project.

“That is why we need the support of the people to make sure that this project will be completed on time,” Farnacio added.

The road project will also help promote the tourism potentials of the four Pacific Coastal towns blessed with beaches, rock formations, waterfalls and caves, he said.

On May 31, the Department of Public Works and Highways and the South Korean government held a groundbreaking for the project that will open an 11.6-kilometer, two-lane road and build three bridges.

AFP seeks to empower Lanao Norte youth peace advocates

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): AFP seeks to empower Lanao Norte youth peace advocates

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), in partnership with the local government units of Lanao del Norte, spearheaded the Youth Leadership Summit (YLS) held at the Mindanao Civic Center in this town on Sunday.

Some 75 youth leaders from 15 municipalities of this province joined the YSL camp activity, now on its third year, with the theme: “Empowering the Youth as Advocates of Peace and Solitary Towards a Progressive Nation.”

“The youth leadership summit enhances leadership traits and it depends on how we develop them in our minds. I believe that every one of us are born to be leaders but it has to start from ourselves before we share it to others,” said Lipnikki Maghinay, a participant from Salvador town.

Jurdine Kit Mahilum, a Sangguniang Kabataan chairman in Kauswagan town, underscored the importance of empowering young people to keep them away from violent extremism.

During the three-day summit, youth leaders heard lectures on criminality, drug addiction and prevention, cultural sensitivity, preventing and countering violent extremism, as well as leadership development and interpersonal communication.

Lieutenant Col. Ronel R. Manalo, commanding officer of the Army's 5th Mechanized Battalion, said the AFP hopes the event has equipped young people with the necessary knowledge in dealing with growth and maturity issues, as well as in "avoiding the wrong path as they soar for their dreams."

The yearly summit, Manalo said, aims to empower the youth to become peace advocates in their own communities.

“This year's theme exemplifies the role of the youth as catalysts in achieving a peaceful and progressive community," Manalo said, adding he hopes that "no wars, no crimes, no drugs and organized groups are out to destroy the promising opportunities for the youth like you and the next generation.

PAF to accept 2 brand-new NC212i light-lift aircraft

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 26): PAF to accept 2 brand-new NC212i light-lift aircraft

(Photo courtesy: Philippine Air Force)

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) will be formally accepting into service two PT Dirgantara NC212i light-lift fixed wing aircraft Tuesday afternoon.

This was disclosed by PAF spokesperson Major Aristides in a message Monday.

Acceptance, blessing and formal turned-over will take place at the Haribon Hangar, Air Force City, Clark Air Base, Pampanga, around 1 p.m., he added.

Galang said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana will be the event's guest-of-honor.

The above-mentioned aircraft was acquired under the Light Lift Fixed-Wing Acquisition Project of PAF under the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program.

The NC212i aircraft can be used strategically for producing artificial rain, maritime patrol and coast guard patrol.

It can also be utilized for the following missions: passenger and troop transport, cargo/logistic transport, anti-smuggling control, immigration control, search and rescue, paratroop dropping, and medical evacuation.

Compared to the previous NC212 models, the NC212i has a carrying capacity of 28 passengers, a digital avionic and next generation autopilot.

It features a ramp access, next generation navigation and communication system, as well as, cheaper operational cost. Moreover, the aircraft is capable of taking-off and landing on unpaved runways.

‘Oplan Pagtugis’ nets Mamasapano carnage suspect in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): ‘Oplan Pagtugis’ nets Mamasapano carnage suspect in Maguindanao

One of the gunmen involved in the infamous Mamasapano encounter that took the lives of 44 elite police unit members in 2015 in Maguindanao was arrested Sunday, police said.

Chief Insp. Esmael Madin, chief of Maguindanao Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), said Monday that suspect Rolando Samal, also known as “Blackmoro Samal” and “Rex Samal” was nabbed in his home in the village of Manungkaling, Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Samal was collared around 4:30 p.m. by combined agents of the CIDG and Maguindanao police personnel under OPLAN Pagtugis and OPLAN Omega (Most Wanted Person-National Level).

The raiding team was armed with an arrest warrant for 44 counts of direct assault with murder issued by Judge Alandrex Betoya of Regional Trial Court Branch 15 in Cotabato City.

Madin said a search of Samal’s house led to the recovery of an unlicensed .45 caliber pistol and ammunition.

“Someone tipped us about his presence in the village and after confirming the report through our agent, we launched the implementation of arrest warrant,” Madin said of Samal who did not resist arrest but denied he was part of the gunmen who massacred Philippine National Police-Special Action Force unit during the 2015 incident.

On January 25, 2015, clashes erupted between Moro gunmen, believed to be a combined group of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and the SAF unit after the latter neutralized in the area Malaysian-born terror bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, from the Al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah militant group.

The MILF, which is now engaged in a peace negotiation with the government, described the incident as a “misencounter,” saying the operation had not been coordinated with them.

Samal is now under CIDG custody and will be moved to Manila to face the charges against him.

Samar ‘misencounter’ kills 6 cops, wounds 9 others

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): Samar ‘misencounter’ kills 6 cops, wounds 9 others

The misencounter site a few minutes after the firefight in San Roque village, Sta. Rita, Samar that killed six policemen and wounded nine others. (photo shared in FB page of police officer Lope Irasga Cebreros III)

TACLOBAN CITY – Six junior police officers were killed while nine others were wounded in a misencounter Monday morning between patrolling cops and soldiers in San Roque village, Sta. Rita, Samar, the Philippine Army reported.

Army’s 8th Infantry Division spokesperson, Capt. Francis Agno, said 17 soldiers of the 87th Infantry Battalion based in Calbiga, Samar “incidentally engaged” in a clash with a team from the 805th Company of the Philippine National Police Regional Mobile Force Battalion.

Both teams were conducting patrol in Sitio (subvillage) Lunoy, San Roque village past 9 a.m.

“After the skirmishes, 1st Lt. Orlando Casipit, Jr. and his troops discovered that the unit involved in the encounter belongs to the PNP unit under Chief Insp. Don Arhie Suspiñe who also operated on the same location,” Agno said in a statement issued late Monday night.

Killed and wounded during the encounter are all junior police officers of one of the PNP’s elite force trained in anti-insurgency operations. No one was hurt from the military.

“A joint, thorough and impartial investigation is being conducted even as we assure the public that your Army and PNP are fully cooperating to shed light on the incident,” said Major Gen. Raul Farnacio, commander of Army’s 8th Infantry division.

“The whole 8ID family extend our condolences to the bereaved families of those who died in the armed engagement. Rest assured that this unfortunate incident will not hamper the working relation of your Army and PNP in the region.” Farnacio added.

The casualties have been identified but the names are yet to be officially released pending notification of their next of kin.

The PNP Eastern Visayas regional office has not yet issued any statement on the incident.

Sta. Rita has been identified as one of the areas in the region infested by the New People’s Army. The town is just 30 kilometers away from Tacloban, crossing the San Juanico Bridge.

RIMPAC-bound PH ships join formation exercise

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): RIMPAC-bound PH ships join formation exercise

Philippine Navy (PN) ships, strategic sealift vessel BRP Davao Del Sur (LD-602) and frigate BRP Andres Bonifacio (FF-17), took part in a formation exercise with other "Rim of the Pacific" (RIMPAC)-bound vessels as it was passing through Johnson Atoll while headed to Hawaii.

Cmdr. Jonathan Zata, PN spokesperson, said the formation exercise took place Sunday morning.

Other participants in the exercise were Japan's helicopter destroyer JS Ise (DDH-182), India's Shivalik-class stealth frigate, the INS Sahyadri (F-19), the American Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, USS William P. Lawrence, and Singapore's Formidable-class stealth frigate, RSS Tenacious (71).

He added that the ships took part in a series of formation exercises, which include the diamond, abreast, and line-abreast formations and conducted a communication exercise to ensure the success of the former drills.

Zata said that the naval vessels are expected to arrive in Hawaii by June 26. This year's RIMPAC is supposed to start June 27 and end on August 2.

Aside from the two ships, the PN is also deploying an AgustaWestland AW-109 naval helicopter and 700 sailors and marines. The PN contingent is commanded by Capt. Ernesto Baldovino while mission head is Commodore Toribio Adaci.

"With the vigorous support from the government and its stakeholders through the modernization program, the PN now has the capability to send a contingent to RIMPAC 2018 thus, further fulfilling its diplomatic role in keeping peace and stability in the region," Zata added.

Strong military good for country, people: AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): Strong military good for country, people: AFP

Modernizing the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is a good investment for both the country and the people.

This was emphasized by AFP spokesperson Col. Edgard Arevalo in a press briefing in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City Monday.

"Modernizing the AFP is a wise investment for the taxpayers' money. Although the campaign against (groups) that destroy the peace and prevent development of the country, like the local terrorist groups, including the New People's Army (NPA) is successful, the AFP needs to update and enhance its capability to counter these threats -- human-induced and natural calamities," he said in Filipino.

Arevalo also said funds used to fight and contain the NPA and other local threat groups, in the past years, could have been used to modernize the AFP for it to be at par with its Southeast Asian counterparts and formidable against terrorist groups.

This was echoed by Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana when asked on whether the ongoing operations against various threat groups are slowing down efforts to modernize AFP.

"Of course, because money that could have been used for modernizing our troops are used to fight terror. For instance, (in) the five-month Marawi Siege, the AFP spent almost PHP4 billion (to fight and defeat the Maute Group terrorists), excluding the amount to care for the IDPs (internally displaced persons) by other agencies than ran into billions as well," the DND chief added.

The fighting in Marawi City started May 23, 2017 when Maute-ISIS elements attacked the city, triggering a five-month battle which ended only in when military units neutralized Abu Sayyaf leader and ISIS Southeast Asia Emir, Isnilon Hapilon, along with 1,000 militants late October.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier gave the green-light for Horizon Two of the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program, which is slated for 2018 to 2022 and estimated to cost at roughly PHP300 billion to implement.

Horizon One lasted from 2013 to 2017 and resulted in the acquisition of the three Del Pilar-class frigates, 12 FA-50PH light-lift interim fighters, and two strategic sealift vessels, to name a few.

Equipment slated for acquisition during Horizon Two are towed and self-propelled howitzers, multiple launch rocket systems, armored recovery vehicles, five support vehicles, tactical radios, ground mobility equipment (light, medium, heavy), individual weapons, crew-served weapons, and night-fighting equipment for the Army; multi-role fighters, radar systems, light and medium lift aircraft, heavy lift helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, helicopters (attack and combat utility), special mission and long-range patrol aircraft for the Air Force; frigates, corvettes, submarines, amphibious assault vehicles, anti-submarine helicopters, attack craft, medium lift helicopters and multi-role vessels for the Navy.

Also being eyed are combat engineer, force protection, explosive ordnance disposal, as well as humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief and medical equipment.

AFP: Focused-military ops vs. NPA 'successful'

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): AFP: Focused-military ops vs. NPA 'successful'

The ongoing focused-military operations are proving to be successful against the New People's Army (NPA) guerillas, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Col. Edgard Arevalo said Monday.

This was highlighted by the fact that the AFP has recorded 681 military operations against the NPAs starting from Jan. 1, 2017 to June 25 of this year, Arevalo said.

The AFP spokesperson said that all of these encounters are initiated by government troops.

Since 2017, Arevalo said AFP records show a downward trend on enemy atrocities.

“For year 2017, we have recorded a total of 455 communist terrorist group incidents while on the first semester of 2018, that's (from) Jan. 1 to June 25, we have monitored 112 incidents,” Arevalo said.

Included in these incidents are arson. which decreased from 77 in 2017 to 18 in the first semester of 2018.

Moreover, cases of abduction/kidnapping “decreased also from 25 to only one, and intimidation from two to none”.

Arevalo said there were also incidents of ransacking of facilities “from six to three” aside from road blockade or checkpoint, that decreased from two to “zero incidents.”

Aside from the decline in NPA atrocities, the AFP spokesperson said that they have recorded the surrender of 6,659 NPA members, underground movement members, Militia ng Bayan members and other rebel supporters as of this year alone.

"Sa bilang na yan (From this number), 59 ang nadakip (were arrested), ang napatay ay (those killed were) 68, ang firearms na nabawi o nakuha natin ay (seized firearms reached) 736. Combined na dyan ang low at saka (That is a combination of low and) high powered-firearms," he added.

As of this posting, the AFP spokesperson estimated that there are only 3,900 armed regular members of the NPA nationwide.

Also, Arevalo said these surrenders are indication of the NPA's dwindling strength brought about by pressure from constant hiding, fighting, hunger and generous government offer of livelihood assistance should they decide to lay down their arms.

In spite of these victories, the AFP spokesperson said the military continues to advocate for a just and lasting peace with the rebel groups.

But such agreements, especially those calling for a ceasefire, should be scrutinized closely as the NPAs could take advantage of these and proceed with their recruitment activities.

"Your AFP continues to advocate for peace, we are supportive of all peace efforts, national or local in order for us to have a lasting peace,” Arevalo said.

However, Arevalo said the real motive of the NPA in pushing for peace talks should be scrutinized as records and interviews with surrendered rebels tend to show that the NPA usually takes advantage of the talks to regroup, assemble and recruit new members.

PH thanks US for add'l P296-M aid for Marawi

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): PH thanks US for add'l P296-M aid for Marawi

The Philippines, through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), on Monday thanked the United States government for releasing an additional PHP296.2 million-worth of assistance to the families affected by the Marawi siege.

"We greatly appreciate this generous gesture being extended by the United States to our kababayan in Marawi,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said in a statement.

"The latest assistance would bring to more than PHP1.5 billion the amount the United States has allocated for the rehabilitation and recovery of displaced communities in Marawi,” he added.

US Deputy Chief of Mission to the Philippines Michael Klecheski on Saturday announced the additional assistance, which will be delivered through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

This brings the total US government contribution to Marawi to more than PHP1.7 billion or around USD31.95 million, the US embassy in Manila said.

Of the total amount, PHP136.1 million is allotted to displaced persons, particularly women and girls.

The embassy said this is to empower women in fostering peacebuilding and alternatives to violent extremism, as well as integrate gender into recovery and rehabilitation work.

Meanwhile, the remaining PHP160.1 million will be used to restore livelihoods through training and recovery grants to help more than 7,800 displaced families as well as provide water and sanitation for more than 10,000 displaced households inside and around Marawi City.