Saturday, June 30, 2018

PNP steps in to defuse tension between warring MNLF, MILF groups

From the Manila Bulletin (Jun 27): PNP steps in to defuse tension between warring MNLF, MILF groups

Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat – Government security forces have undertaken steps to defuse the brewing tension between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) after a shooting incident involving its members in Barangay Mina here.

Sr. Supt. James Gulmatico, Sultan Kudarat police director, said the police are investigating the incident wherein Israel Valle, 62, MNLF vice-chairman for Sabiwang Revolutionary State Committee, was fired upon by five suspects in Barangay Mina last June 25.

Valle, who sustained a lone bullet wound in the stomach believed to be shot from a Garand rifle, accused a certain Inoy Kadtim, a member of 105th MILF Base Command of leading the attack against him.

Police said the attack against Valle was an offshoot of the killing of Mustre Kadtim, barangay chairman of Mina who was gunned last May 13 in Barangay Poblacion.

The victim’s relatives tagged Valle as the one who masterminded the killing of the barangay official.

Valle has denied any involvement in the killing of Kadtim.

He said that he had prevailed upon his MNLF forces to stand down and just allow him to press charges against Inoy Kadtim.

Gulmatico said additional policemen have been deployed in the area to prevent the escalation of tension between the two warring groups.

DND wants to remove all civilians in Crow Valley

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 28): DND wants to remove all civilians in Crow Valley

The Department of Defense (DND) planned to clear Crow Valley in Tarlac province of civilian settlements to turn the former US bombing test site into a training facility for the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters on Tuesday that the military needed a “large area” for joint training exercises by the Army, Navy and Air Force.

“Crow Valley is a military reservation,” Lorenzana said. “It is used for bombing [tests],” he added. “In the first place, they (civilian settlements) should not be there,” Lorenzana said.

Gunmen kidnap 6 people in Zamboanga town

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jul 1): Gunmen kidnap 6 people in Zamboanga town

Gunmen kidnapped 6 people, including an infant, from a farm in Sirawai town in the southern Philippine province of Zamboanga del Norte, police said Sunday.

Police said a group of bandits headed by Jamilon Tukalan was likely behind the kidnapping which occurred July 28 in San Nicolas village. The kidnappers demanded P400,000 for the safe release of the hostages.

The victims have been identified as Feliciano Javier, 28; his wife Elsa, 28, and their five-month old baby Vincent; and Junior Javier, 22, and wife Rica, also 22-years old and their five-year old son Val. All are keepers of farm owned by Valiente Tolo Felizarta, the town’s municipal engineer.

The town’s deputy mayor, Jaime Felizarta, has told police investigators that a man, who identified himself as “Abu”, is holding all the hostages and demanded the ransoms.
Authorities also invited Tukalan’s sister, who is a local resident, to help in negotiating for the freedom of the two farming families.

Security forces were dispatched to track down the kidnappers and rescue the hostages even while the negotiations are going based on the recommendation of the local crisis management committee headed by the mayor.

Tukalan’s group is behind the series of robberies, cattle rustling and ransom kidnappings and murders in the Zamboanga Peninsula.

The Post-Marawi Decline of Abu Sayyaf

From the Asian Sentinel (Jun 29): The Post-Marawi Decline of Abu Sayyaf (By Michael Hart)

For much of the previous two decades, Abu Sayyaf has comprised the major Islamist militant force to be reckoned with in the southern Philippines although they have been regarded as much a criminal ransom gang as jihadis. Today they are being supplanted by groups affiliated the Islamic State, however, which seeks to establish an Islamic caliphate across much of the Middle East.

Abu Sayyaf, unlike the Bangasamoro Islamic Freedom Figghters, or BIFF, which is aligned with the Islamic State and has clashed repeatedly with the military since the first of the year, has retreated from mainland Mindanao since its participation in the Marawi siege last year, which cost the lives of nearly 1,000 Islamic combatants and destroyed the city.

Abu Sayyaf’s largest and most influential faction, led by Isnilon Hapilon, who pledged allegiance to IS in 2014, was wiped out in Marawi and Hapilon was killed during the final throes of the battle. Since the conflict there ended in October, the group’s remaining fighters have laid low in their traditional maritime hideouts. Abu Sayyaf’s surviving factions – loosely led by Radullan Sahiron in Sulu and Furuji Indama in Basilan – have not pledged allegiance to IS and harbor few concrete links to the wider global jihadi network.

The group’s capabilities have been significantly reduced and its fighters have engaged in only sporadic clashes with the military during 2018. And while Abu Sayyaf used to be the scourge of waters in the Sulu Sea off western Mindanao’s coastline, the militants have recently been unable to launch ambitious piracy attacks or maritime kidnappings as regional nations have maintained heightened vigilance through joint naval patrols. Abu Sayyaf holds only nine hostages and lucrative ransom payments have dried up, signalling a lack of funds to purchase weapons and speedboats for use in hostage-taking operations. Since the defeat of Hapilon’s followers, the group has remained leaderless and with no clear direction.

For so long the most brutal and feared jihadi group in the region, the threat from Abu Sayyaf has been been superseded by the BIFF and the remnants of the Maute Group, a radical Islamist group composed of former Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerrillas. With Abu Sayyaf relegated the to outlying islands, these more recently-spawned groups pose the dominant threat on Mindanao’s mainland as they look to rekindle their aim of forging the IS-style Islamic caliphate that has been largely defeated in the Middle East.

These are now the groups-of-choice for Southeast Asian jihadis and represent the vanguard of Islamist militancy in the jungles of Mindanao.

Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters assume IS mantle
While the Mautes were dealt a near-knockout blow after sustaining vast losses in Marawi, only a small cohort of BIFF members participated in the siege. The BIFF fighters who did not travel to Marawi have now picked up the IS mantle. Thought to number several hundred jihadis, the BIFF remain embedded in small pockets of rural territory across three provinces in western Mindanao: Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat. The group is split into at least three sub-factions, with Esmael Abdulmalik serving as its main figurehead and de-facto leader. Since Marawi, the BIFF have regularly clashed with security forces, launched a wave of IED attacks and rampaged through civilian towns.

Encounters between the BIFF and the military have increased in both scale and intensity. On March 11, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) reported it had killed 44 militants and wounded 26 during three days of intense clashes in Datu Saudi town. Fighting again erupted in mid-April, before June’s latest military onslaught targeted the group in Liguasan Marsh. Despite suffering heavy casualties, the BIFF have proven unexpectedly resilient, well-resourced and difficult to dislodge.

The group has hit back by ambushing soldiers using IEDs. Bomb blasts have also targeted civilians, with an explosion outside a bar in Tacurong City in the province of Sultan Kudarat, causing 14 casualties on New Year’s Eve. More recently, the BIFF bombed a cathedral in Koronadal city in late-April and detonated a device outside a school in Midsayap in May.

The armed forces have reported seeing foreign fighters from Indonesia and Malaysia fighting alongside the BIFF, providing a possible explanation for their confounding level of strength. It is thought that a number of these non-Filipino combatants managed to escape from Marawi during the siege and linked-up with the BIFF, while others are rumoured to have entered Mindanao later by crossing porous sea borders.

Senior army commander Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana says the AFP is verifying reports that Indonesians and Singaporeans were among those killed recently at Liguasan Marsh, while Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has previously warned of the illicit entry of terrorists from neighboring countries. The AFP has vowed to keep a ‘tight watch’ along Mindanao’s heavily-indented coast but policing it round-the-clock is a monumental challenge, and inevitably some are able to to slip through the net undetected. Some of these new recruits are battle-hardened and trained in bomb-making skills acquired abroad.

The Maute group shows signs of life

As the BIFF has proceeded with its campaign of terror, the Maute group – destroyed as a hierarchical and organized fighting force in Marawi – has been slowly rebuilding beneath the surface. The clashes that erupted in Tubaran in Lanao del Sur Province in June were the first involving the group since the early months of the year, when sporadic gun battles with government soldiers erupted in the towns of Masui, Pagayawan and Pantar. The latest violence indicates the Mautes are still very much alive under new leader Abu Dar.

Reports of Maute recruitment in Lanao del Sur province have emerged, with the army claiming the terrorists are using cash, gold and jewellery looted from Marawi to lure impoverished young men into their ranks in villages surrounding the ruins of the now-destroyed Islamic city on the shores of Lake Lanao. In February, Col. Romeo Brawner estimated the Mautes had replenished their ranks with around 200 fighters from Lanao del Sur and said the group ‘had not abandoned their objective to create a caliphate’.

The military’s commanding general Rolando Bautista recently warned another Marawi-style urban siege was becoming a ‘big possibility’. Police have also arrested Maute members and sympathizers further afield in central and northern areas of the country, while Manila’s police director Oscar Albayalde has placed officers on ‘full alert’ for potential Maute attacks in the capital.

Mindanao’s Peace Process Threatened
Alarmist rhetoric aside, on the surface the threat from radical Islamists appears reduced since the Marawi siege ended. A military crackdown facilitated by martial law on Mindanao has kept up the pressure on the jihadists, while the long-delayed peace process with the region’s larger and more moderate Muslim rebel groups is inching towards a conclusion.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is set to be passed next month, paving the way for the creation of a new autonomously-governed region for Muslim majority areas in Mindanao. It is hoped the landmark deal will forge a lasting peace between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – which has already laid down its arms – while at the same time reducing grievances among the Muslim population and tackling the core long-term drivers of terrorist recruitment in western Mindanao, which have sustained more radical groups for decades.

Yet the current generation of extremist groups present in the region – spearheaded by the IS-aligned BIFF and the rapidly-regrouping Maute remnants – appears unlikely to give up the fight. If the peace process fails to live up to its promise of bringing greater autonomy and development, there is a danger these elements may be able to garner enough support to once again revive Mindanao’s six-decade Islamist separatist struggle – but this time entwined with the warped ideology of transnational jihad and the brutal tactics which have become the trademark of IS’s global brand.

Just last month, senior BIFF spokesperson Abu Misri Mama warned that the group does not recognize the peace process and chillingly said ‘‘we are not in favor of autonomy…the BIFF will continue to fight for independence; the island will not see peace even after this BBL is passed.’’

President Rodrigo Duterte has also voiced fears of such a scenario, warning earlier this year of ‘‘war in Mindanao’’ if the peace process collapses.

With the notorious bandits of the once-influential but now-weakened Abu Sayyaf restricted to their remote archipelagic hideouts in the Sulu Sea, across the water on the region’s main island, it is now the more ideologically-minded IS-inspired militants of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Mautes who represent the greatest barrier to securing an elusive peace in Mindanao’s wild west.

[Michael Hart ( has researched for Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) and the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). He blogs at Asia Conflict Watch.]

The Future of Philippine Military Modernization Under Duterte: What’s on the Second Horizon?

From The Diplomat (Jun 29): The Future of Philippine Military Modernization Under Duterte: What’s on the Second Horizon?

Duterte reshuffles senior Army officers in southern Mindanao

From the Philippine Star (Jun 30): Duterte reshuffles senior Army officers in southern Mindanao

Brig. Gen. Juvymax Uy of the 104th Brigade in Basilan is now assistant commander of 6th Infantry Division. Unson

The Army general who helped secure the recent surrender of dozens of misguided Islamic militants in Basilan is now assistant division commander of the 6th Infantry Division.

Brig. Gen. Juvymax Uy of the 104th Brigade will replace Brig. Gen. Cirilo Thomas Donato, 6th ID’s assistant division commander.

Donato will assume as deputy chief of the Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City under Lt. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega.

Dela Vega was 6th ID’s commander before President Rodrigo Duterte designated him WestMinCom chief last April.

Donato, who graduated from the Philippine Military Academy in 1985, was involved in Malacañang’s peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as chairman of the government’s ceasefire committee while in 6th ID.

The committee deals with a counterpart in the MILF in addressing peace and security issues in conflict flashpoint areas in southern provinces.

The 6th ID, whose command center is in Camp Siongco in Datu Odin Sinsuat town in Maguindanao, covers central Mindanao’s adjoining North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces and several municipalities in Lanao del Sur, where there are government-recognized MILF camps now called “peace zones.”

Units of 6th ID are also scattered in Maguindanao, where provincial officials are helping contain the spread of misguided Islamic militancy through education and livelihood programs meant to improve the productivity of sectors vulnerable to indoctrination by local IS-inspired blocs.

Uy, who belong to PMA’s Class ’89, is no stranger to central Mindanao.

He had worked as senior tactical staff of the Task Force GenSan covering General Santos City before he got to the helm of the 104th Brigade based in Tabiawan area in Isabela, Basilan.

Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said Saturday he is thankful to Uy for having managed the civil-military operations of Army units in Basilan.

More than 30 members of the Islamic State-Inspired Abu Sayyaf in Basilan surrendered while Uy was commander of the 104th Brigade, a post he held for more than a year.

The ARMM regional peace and order council and the provincial government of Basilan had secured the surrender of almost 200 Abu Sayyaf terrorists in the past 24 months with the help of Uy and his predecessors in the 104th Brigade.

The now reforming former Abu Sayyaf gunmen are being reintegrated into Basilan’s mainstream communities through joint socio-economic interventions by different ARMM regional agencies and WestMinCom.

The reassignment of Uy and Donato was ordered on Friday by Duterte via a directive channeled through Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

A Muslim officer of 6th ID, Col. Markton Abo, said they are certain Uy can efficiently help Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana and Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu pursue their bilateral peace program enticing members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters to return the fold of law and reform.

Sobejana, also a graduate of PMA, has been serving as commander of 6th ID since May 25.

“Gen. Uy has had extensive engagements focused on propagation of `culture of peace’ among erstwhile Abu Sayyaf members in Basilan. Surely, he will continue here in Maguindanao province what he had started there,” said Abo, 6th ID’s civil-military operations officer.

Like the Abu Sayyaf, the BIFF, operating in Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces, also uses the black Islamic State flag as revolutionary banner.

Eighteen BIFF terrorists operating in the 220,000-hectare Liguasan Delta in central Mindanao surrendered to 6th ID in batches from between April to early June this year through the intercession of local officials and officers of battalions and brigades under the division.

Treachery of the ‘fog of war’

From the Business Mirror (Jul 1): Treachery of the ‘fog of war’

In Photo: A soldier stands beside bullet-riddled gate and walls in an area where government troops battled Islamic extremists in Marawi City on June 15, 2018.

IN May last year, it took the Marawi siege for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to learn its lesson—the urgent need for its troops to train, equip and improve their skills in urban warfare.

Thirteen months later, and this time, in the province of Samar, it took both the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the military to learn another invaluable lesson—the need for a more “realistic” coordination.

While both events happened in different settings with different objectives, both happened under the same course of combat operations.

While investigations are still being conducted into the events, including possible lapses, leading to the killings of six rookie policemen in the rather so unfortunate “misencounter” in Samar, officials are already laying the cornerstone that governs coordination between the police and the military in future combat operations.

As to how this coordination should be properly conducted, relayed, and to whom, should be incorporated into the report that is probing the “whys” of the debacle that also wounded nine other policemen.

To spell out the importance of coordination, which is being pointed to as the culprit behind the debacle, AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. even went as far as suggesting the crafting of “future joint campaign plans” with the PNP so that “at least, coordination will be strong.”

While the policemen may have coordinated with a detachment near the operational area in Santa Rita, Samar, Galvez said protocols may not have been followed that may have precipitated the incident.

“It’s on the protocols which we have been implementing, our joint letter directive in operations… we have our own protocols in the Armed Forces…[that are] also different from the protocols of the PNP,” Galvez said.

Friendly fire
The Samar misencounter evoked three tales about the deaths of soldiers from friendly fire while they were on combat operations.

In May and July last year, 12 soldiers who were among those operating against members of the Islamic State and the Maute Group in Marawi City were killed after bombs dropped by Air Force planes hit the operating troops.

Such incidents, no matter how bitter, are considered as a “fog of war,” according to military public affairs office chief Col. Noel Deto­yato, adding that the Samar misencounter and the deaths of soldiers in the bombing run in Marawi are two different things.

“Fog of war, meaning you already have the information, you know you already knew everything, but in the middle, something crops up which you do not know,” he said. “And it happens.”

Detoyato said that in an urbanized warfare setting, soldiers could suffer disorientation, especially if they happen to operate in an unfamiliar area.

“This is the characteristic of urbanized terrain,” he said.

The military public affairs office chief said the technical side of combat operations entails a lot of work, with soldiers even needing to visit the exact area of operations to determine and establish the distance and field of fire, among others.

The Samar incident is a different thing, since according to Detoyato it needs more detailed information.

In June 2014, six elite soldiers were also killed after a howitzer fired by the Marines hit them, instead of its intended targets who are members of the Abu Sayyaf Group in Sulu.

The Marines, at that time, were providing fire support for their colleagues who were in the middle of an operation against the terrorists.

Military officials blamed that incident on “stress.”

Joint training

In order to avoid future misencounters, Galvez even considered the prospect of the military holding a joint training with the PNP in a higher form of coordination, something that PNP chief Director Oscar Albayalde was very much amenable to.

“We talked about joint campaign planning in the future. Our plans are integrated. We will also have joint interagency training,” he said.

Galvez said the PNP and the military will come up with protocols on coordination, which is multilevel or from top to bottom and down to the operating units.

An earlier news statement by Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año said protocols exist between the PNP and the AFP governing operations, but he did not elaborate on what these protocols are.

“There are existing protocols between the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines in field operations. We will try to determine why these were not followed and if these need review and modifications,” Año, a former chief of staff of the AFP, said.

Coordinative effort

Año may be referring to the Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Center (JPSCC) that was struck in 2010 by the PNP and the AFP, which even covered their joint security activities in times of elections.

The JPSCC governs the execution of plans on joint military and police operations against lawless groups, criminal elements, private armed groups, and other threat groups within their areas in support of local government units and government agencies in need of military and police assistance.

This is the reason why some police or military operations were joined by forces from each side.


Some officials in the PNP said the overbearing pressures being exerted by Albayalde on his police commanders may have contributed to the debacle that befell the rookie policemen.

Police commanders from regional directors down to city and municipal chiefs of police are being rated and evaluated on a monthly basis for their performance, and for those who will not fare well, they will be relieved of their posts.

Elite units, on the other hand, such as the Special Action Force and Regional Mobile Force Battalions, especially those deployed on the ground, are required to conduct one major operation and two minor operations with positive results on a monthly basis.

Those who were killed are members of the 805th Company of the Regional Mobile Force Battalion 8.

Given that the AFP has been lamenting that the bulk of its annual budget is being eaten up fighting the nearly four-decade communist insurgency, it’s deplorable, note military observers, that other State forces—like the police—which could help fight the “enemy,” are in fact being decimated by such incidents as the Samar “misencounter.” And that’s a problem that tweaking protocols may not easily resolve.

Rebel surrenders in Bingawan

From Panay News (Jul 1): Rebel surrenders in Bingawan

ILOILO City – A 29-year-old member of the New People’s Army (NPA) has surrendered in Bingawan, Iloilo.

Hunger and fear of getting killed by government forces prompted Jerry “Ka Nonoy” Glorian, 29, to turn himself in, local authorities said.

Mayor Mark Palabrica of Bingawan facilitated Glorian’s surrender.

He and Senior Inspector Ramil Jacaba, municipal police chief, picked up Glorian in Purok 7, Barangay Poblacion, Bingawan at 10:45 a.m. on Friday.

Glorian turned over a .45 pistol with three ammunitions.

The rebel sent him surrender feelers, saying he was afraid that police and military officers would go after him, Palabrica said.

“He (Glorian) was too hungry and tired of hiding in the mountains,” the local chief executive said.

Palabrica assured Glorian of a “livelihood program.”

“We are calling on other rebels to surrender. I will ensure their safety. We (in the local government) are willing to help them,” the mayor said.

A press release from the Iloilo Police Provincial Office identified Glorian as a native of Tapaz, Capiz living with a common-law wife in Bingawan.

Palabrica and elder brother Matt, the vice mayor, presented Glorian to Senior Superintendent Marlon Tayaba, IPPO director, to whom he turned over his gun and bullets.

According to Glorian, he joined the NPA in October 2010 under the Coronacion Chiva Waling-Waling Command operating in Central Panay, particularly in Calinog, Iloilo and Tapaz, Capiz.

Glorian returned to Bingawan after he was presented to Tayaba since there was no outstanding warrant of arrest against him, the IPPO said.

Battalion chief sacked after mistaken clash

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 30): Battalion chief sacked after mistaken clash

WRONG ENCOUNTER The body of one of the policemen slain in a mistaken clash with soldiers in a Samar town is being brought to a morgue. —REMSEN RAMIREZ

The battalion commander of soldiers involved in the June 24 mistaken clash with police in a town in Samar province has been relieved of his post, according to the military.

Maj. Gen. Raul Farnacio, 8th Infantry Division commander, on Thursday said he had removed Lt. Col. Arnel Floresca as head of the 87th Infantry Battalion (IB).

The soldiers who clashed with police in the town of Santa Rita, Samar, were under the command of Floresca.

In a phone interview, Farnacio said he removed Floresca as battalion head so “he cannot influence” the investigation now ongoing on the mistaken clash, which killed six policemen.

Soldiers belonging to the platoon that were involved in the clash had been recalled to their battalion for questioning, Farnacio said.

Joint probe

The Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police were conducting a joint investigation.

PNP Director General Oscar Albayalde said the probe would focus mainly on coordination, or the lack of it, prior to the clash.

“Until what level did the coordination reach? What went wrong with the coordination?” Albayalde said of some of the questions that needed to be answered in the probe.

“If they coordinated, the AFP is already in control of the area for five days,” he said.


“Coordination should have reached the operating unit of the Army if there was proper coordination,” he added.

In a joint press conference on June 26, Farnacio and Chief Supt. Mariel Magaway, PNP Western Visayas director, said soldiers and policemen had been in the area of the clash days before.

At least 17 soldiers, led by 1st Lt. Orlando Casipit Jr., had been in the area six days prior to the clash, Farnacio said.

At least 33 policemen, belonging to the Regional Mobile Force Battalion, had been in the area for two days before the clash, according to Magaway.

The soldiers and policemen were there to carry out orders to hunt down a group of New People’s Army rebels.

The clash, according to Farnacio and Magaway, took place around 9:20 a.m. on June 24.

Farnacio said soldiers, positioned at an elevated part of the clash site, fired first and the policemen below returned fire.

Police reported the exchange of gunfire lasted for some 20 minutes but the Army said it was 30 minutes.

Soldiers, with the help of policemen who survived the gunfight, retrieved the slain policemen’s bodies and brought these to the village center of San Roque.

Transfer to Tacloban

The retrieval operation took about an hour, said Capt. Rommel Pulanco, operations chief of the 87th IB.

Wounded soldiers and the policemen’s corpses were taken to Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center (EVRMC) in Tacloban City.

A hospital employee said the group of soldiers and policemen arrived at EVRMC past 1 p.m. of June 25.

The six dead policemen were transferred to St. Peter’s Funeral Homes, also in Tacloban City, for an autopsy.

On June 27, the remains were transferred to the gym of the regional headquarters of the PNP at Camp Ruperto Kangleon, Palo, Leyte province.

Army urges lumads to cooperate vs rebels

From Tempo (Jun 30): Army urges lumads to cooperate vs rebels

CAMP DATU LIPUS MAKAPANDONG, Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur – So that none of their highland communities could be penetrated by lawless elements, the Philippine Army (PA) on Friday urged tribal communities to immediately report to the nearest police and military installations or to local government units (LGUs) of any suspicious movements of group or individual in their respective localities.

Majority of the highland tribes in Northeastern Mindanao or Caraga region are Manobo, Higaonon, Mamanwa, and Talaindig.
The PA’s 401st Infantry (Unity) Brigade based here also told the lumads, especially their respective tribal chieftains and sectoral Datu’s or leaders to “stay alert” always and to report immediately any presence or suspicious motives by any individuals or group that could trigger conflict within their respective highland communities.

“Our main concern is to protect these lumads (natives) from any lawless elements, especially the Communist New People’s Army Terrorists (CNTs),” Maj. Gen. Ronald C. Villanueva, commanding general of the Army’s Northeastern and Northern Mindanao 4th Infantry (Diamond) Division (4th ID) said.

The 4th ID chief ordered all field unit commanders to protect the lumads in their respective highland communities and their respective Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT).

UN told: Philippines stepping up war on terror

From the Manila Standard (Jul 1): UN told: Philippines stepping up war on terror

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon has informed the United National Security Council that the Philippines has been taking bold steps to combat terrorism in the country, including the threat of the Communist movement which he described as a dangerous local terrorist group.

In his speech before Heads of Counter Terrorism Agencies of Member States at the UN Headquarters in New York City on Friday (Saturday in Manila), Esperon said the Philippine government was vigorously and relentlessly fighting terrorism consistent with the UN Global Counter-terrorism Strategy.

In related developments:
• The Communist Party of the Philippines on Saturday cast doubt that President Rodrigo Duterte would finish his term, which ends in 2022.

“In less than two years, he has become isolated domestically and internationally. Thus, there is a high probability that Duterte will not be able to complete his six-year term of office and will be forced out of Malacañang by way of a surge in anti-fascist protest actions or some other means,” the CPP said in a statement sent to reporters on the day Duterte marked his second year in office.

“Far weaker than the Marcos dictatorship, the US-Duterte regime will likely be ousted in a shorter period of time,” the CPP warned, referring to the years 1972 until 1981 when martial law was imposed in the Philippines by President Ferdinand Marcos.
• Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Col. Edgard Arevalo has said the number of New People’s Army forces continues to dwindle nationwide.
Arevalo said around 7,531 rebels had been neutralized from January 1 to June 28 this year: 71 killed, 114 captured and 7,346 voluntarily surrendered.

Among those who surrendered were three rebel leaders from the NPA’s Sentro De Grabidad from Guerilla Front 30, North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee.

Esperon included the Communist Party of the Philippines and its military arm New People’s Army which he dubbed as dangerous local terrorists that continued to wreck havoc in the countryside, waging desperate attacks on military and police forces and innocent civilians.

“The CPP-NPA has been committing the same brutal atrocities like the Daesh. CPP-NPA terrorists killed more than 10,000 soldiers, policemen, and civilians in one of the longest-running insurgencies in the history of the world,” Esperon told UN security experts.

“It had entrenched itself in international organizations through its international solidarity networks,” he stressed.

On Thursday, the CPP through its founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison, had opted to close its door to the ongoing peace talks with the government after the scheduled June 21 resumption of talks was unilaterally postponed by President Duterte.

Esperon also raised the threat of the CPP/NPA as an equally dangerous local terrorist group fueled by foreign ideology and its atrocities must be exposed in the community of nations similar to the brutal presence of the Daesh.

“I hope that by locally proscribing the CPP/NPA as a terrorist organization, the true nature of the group will be exposed to the community of nations as an equally brutal and dangerous presence as the Daesh in a peaceful democratic state,” Esperon said.

He also told the UN that following the Marawi City siege brought by the attack by Daesh-inspired Maute Group, extensive efforts at the domestic front were focused to strengthen the country’s anti-terrorism law, investigation, and prosecution of personalities in the UN sanctions and national list.

Esperon also revealed that the government was implementing a national action plan to prevent and counter violent extremism, and the fast-tracking of rehabilitation and rebuilding of Marawi City.

During his presentation, Esperon said the Philippine government was strengthening engagements with local and international bodies relative to anti-money laundering and terrorism financing.

It is also implementing the conventions related to chemical and biological weapons, and strengthening its partnership with the International Police (Interpol), Esperon added.

The two-day conference was organized by the UN Office of Counter Terrorism to provide an opportunity for the UN and member states to forge a new partnership in addressing the complex and transnational threat of terrorism.

Other members of the Philippine delegation were National Intelligence Coordinating Agency Director General Alex Paul Monteagudo, Anti-terrorism Council Officer-in-charge Atty. Florentino Manalastas, Department of Foreign Affairs-office of Civilian Security and Consular Concerns Undersecretary Jose Luis Montales, the Philippine Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Teodoro Locsin Jr., and the Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Kira Christianne Azucena.

Earlier, Sison said they were withdrawing from the peace negotiations following the government’s decision to suspend the scheduled peace talks June 28 to 30.

The government decided to suspend the talks to give way to public participation in the peace process.

The CPP founder earlier claimed they were focused now on efforts to oust the present administration as it would be much easier to talk peace with the next leadership.

Arevalo added this desire for peace by the rebels was an indication that they were being hit hard by the ongoing military operations and in dire need of a reprieve.

“In the present state of their battle against the AFP, they have to ask for ‘time out’ for them to rest, beef up their weaponry and manpower and continue with the armed struggle. This a fake desire for peace,” the AFP spokesperson stressed.

Soldiers kill 2 NPA rebels, 1 a minor, in Davao City clash

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 30): Soldiers kill 2 NPA rebels, 1 a minor, in Davao City clash
A 15-year old schoolboy was one of two communist rebels killed in a clash with soldiers in a hinterland village here last Wednesday.

The slain minor was identified Reglen Malcampo. The other fatality was identified as Renante Dablo, 35.

The two were among the members of the New People’s Army (NPA) who engaged soldiers in a firefight in Barangay Tambobong in the Baguio district of this city at around 3:25 p.m. on Wednesday, according to Chief Insp. Milgrace Driz, spokesperson of the Southern Mindanao Police Regional OFfice.

Driz said the families of Malcampo and Dablo identified their bodies at a funeral home in Calinan district here on Thursday.

According to Driz, Malcampo was a fifth grade student from Barangay Patulangon in Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur, while Dablo was a 35-year old high school graduate also from the same village.

The two were reportedly killed in a firefight when soliders came across a group of rebels, according to Capt. Jerry Lamosao, spokesperson of the 10th Infantry Division.

Army apologizes to kin of cops slain in Samar ‘misencounter’

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 30): Army apologizes to kin of cops slain in Samar ‘misencounter’

WAKE OF SLAIN COPS. The wake of slain policemen at the Philippine National Police regional headquarters before President Rodrigo Duterte's visit late Friday afternoon (June 29, 2018). (Photo by Sarwell Meniano)

The Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Division (8th ID) has apologized to the families of the six policemen killed in the recent “misencounter” in Sta. Rita, Samar, assuring full cooperation in the ongoing investigation.

In a letter issued Saturday, 8th ID commander Major Gen. Raul Farnacio vowed to help “expedite the conduct of the investigation so that the truth will be established and ease the burden of sorrow of the bereaved families.”

“We will be objective and transparent to shed light on the incident and will make appropriate actions thereafter to those who will be proven to have committed any lapses or violated established rules and regulations,” Farnacio said.

The region’s top military official assured that they will cooperate in the investigation being done by the Board of Inquiry, composed of personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines general headquarters, Philippine Army headquarters, and the 8th ID.

At least six junior police officers were killed and nine others were wounded in a “misencounter” in Sitio Lunoy, San Roque village, Sta. Rita town on June 25.

Both groups were conducting simultaneous combat operations against the New People's Army in Sta. Rita. The 20-minute gun battle was stopped after soldiers got a call that they were fighting law enforcers.

In a media interview, the soldier’s team leader, 1st Lt. Orlando Casipit Jr., maintained that it was an accident since they were unaware of the presence of patrolling policemen.

Killed were Police Officers 1 Wyndell Noromor, Edwin Ebrado, Phil Rey Mendigo, Julius Suarez, Rowell Reyes, and Julie Escalo.

Wounded were PO1s Elmer Pan, Cris Angelo Pialago, Romulo Cordero, Joenel Gonzaga, Rey Barbosa, Roden Goden, Jaime Galoy, Rommel Bagunas, and Jonmark Adones.

PO3 Jessie Escalo, brother of P01 Julie's, said Friday night that what the Army did is unacceptable. “We want justice to be served because it was an ambush incident and not a chance encounter,” he said.

All six families rejected the flowers offered by the Philippine Army during the wake at the PNP regional office, saying it was an “insult” to accept it.

President Rodrigo Duterte visited the wake Friday afternoon and told family members that it was all his fault and not to hold grudges against the army.

After the President’s visit, the bodies of the six slain cops were transported to their respective hometowns.

Rifle grenade blast hurts 2 farmers in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 30): Rifle grenade blast hurts 2 farmers in Maguindanao

Two farmers in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town were hospitalized when a rifle grenade exploded near them early Friday morning.

Citing police reports from the Datu Saudi Ampatuan police office, Chief Supt. Graciano Mijares, police director for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said the explosion occurred at past 5 a.m.

The Datu Saudi Ampatuan municipal police office identified the victims as Amir Bangon and Mohammad Lagasan, both residents of Barangay Madia.

Accordingly, the duo initially heard some explosions a few kilometers away from their homes. They then noticed that a hard object landed on a nearby rice field and exploded seconds later.

Both Bangon and Lagasan sustained shrapnel injuries in their legs and bodies and are now confined at a hospital in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao.

Mijares said investigators were trying to determine where the M-79 grenade was fired from and who was behind it.

The town is within the so-called “SPMS” box, where the IS-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) operates.

SPMS is the term used by the Army to refer to the towns of Shariff Aguak, Pagatin (Datu Saudi), Mamasapano and Saydona towns in Maguindanao.

NoCot gov’t extends aid to 1 slain, 5 injured soldiers in NPA attack

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 30): NoCot gov’t extends aid to 1 slain, 5 injured soldiers in NPA attack

The provincial government of North Cotabato on Friday extended financial assistance to the families of six soldiers hit by a recent roadside blast set off by communist rebels in Magpet town.

One of the soldiers later died due to severe shrapnel injuries.

North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Mendoza said the bereaved family of Corporal Ronnie Gutierrez of the 19th Infantry Battalion (IB) received Php10,000 in cash assistance from the provincial government while the five other soldiers, who survived their injuries, got Php5,000 each.

The six soldiers, including an Army lieutenant, were hurt when communist New Peoples Army (NPA) rebels set off a roadside bomb last June 21 in Purok 1, Barangay Doles, Magpet. They were heading back to the North Cotabato provincial capitol onboard a military truck, after assisting the provincial medical team during a medical and dental mission in Barangay Binay, also in Magpet, when attacked.

Though wounded in the bomb blast, the soldiers engaged the rebels in a firefight. The rebels later withdrew to a forested section of Binay village.

Injured were 2nd Lt. Rustine Barco, Corporals Gutierrez, Roldan Parcon and Shanon Obaldo; and Privates First Class Rolando Bublao and Dennis Andol.

Gutierrez later expired.

Mendoza, who condemned the NPA attack, said that despite the incident, the provincial government will continue to bring health services to poor communities in the province.

NPA forces on the decline: AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 30): NPA forces on the decline: AFP

The number of New People's Army (NPA) forces continues to dwindle nationwide, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Col. Edgard Arevalo said Friday.

Arevalo said around 7,531 rebels have been neutralized from January 1 to June 28 this year - 71 killed, 114 captured and 7,346 who voluntarily surrendered.

Among those who surrendered were three rebel leaders from the NPA's Sentro De Grabidad from Guerilla Front 30, North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee.

"Ayon sa mga sumuko, di na nila matagalan ang hirap sa bundok, gutom at pagod na sa pakikipaglaban, at sa pagtakbo-takbo at pagtatago-tago samantalang ang mag-uutos daw sa kanila na si (Communist Party of the Philippines founder) Ginoong (Jose Maria) Sison ay nabubuhay ng maginhawa at mariwasa doon sa ibayong dagat (According to the surrenderers, they cannot stand anymore the poverty in the mountains, the exhausting battles and the ceaseless running and hiding while the one who is commanding them (Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison) is living lavishly in another country)," Arevalo said.

Earlier, Sison said that they are withdrawing from the peace negotiations following the government's decision to suspend the scheduled peace talks June 28 to 30.

The government decided to suspend the talks to give way to public participation in the peace process.
The CPP founder earlier claimed they are focused now on efforts to oust the present administration as it would be much easier to talk peace with the next leadership.

Arevalo added that this desire for peace by the rebels is an an indication that they are being hit hard by the ongoing military operations and in dire need of a reprieve.

"At sa kasalukuyang estado ng laban nila sa AFP, kailangan nilang humingi ng “time out” upang makapahinga sila, makapagpalakas ng armas, bala at tauhan, at ituloy ang armadong laban. Huwad na paghahangad ng kapayapaan (In the present state of their battle against the AFP, they have to ask for "time out" for them to rest, beef up their weaponry and manpower and continue with the armed struggle. This a fake desire for peace)," the AFP spokesperson stressed.

Gunmen kill 2, hurt 2 others in N. Cotabato ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 30): Gunmen kill 2, hurt 2 others in N. Cotabato ambush

A police manhunt is underway against two gunmen, who shot dead two persons and injured two others, including a public school teacher, in an ambush on Friday night in Matalam, North Cotabato.

Chief Inspector Sunny Leoncito, Matalam town police chief, said the victims were on a motorbike when waylaid by the two gunmen in Purok Tagumpay 1, Barangay Marbel, Matalam.

Leoncito identified the slain victims as Isidro Cantil, 56, the “habal-habal” (motorcycle-for-hire) driver, and one of his passengers, Ruben Ramuhal, 52, and a farmer. Both victims were residents of Barangay Kabulacan, Matalam.

Injured were passengers Prudencio Cantil, 45 of Barangay Kabulacan and Ruel Santillano, 39, a public school teacher and a resident of Barangay Kibia, also in Matalam.

Leoncito said the victims were heading home past 6 p.m. on the “habal-habal” when the attackers, onboard a separate motorbike, fired at them from behind.

Both Cantil and Ramuha suffered multiple bullet wounds and were declared dead on arrival at a local hospital. Leoncito said police investigators are following a lead but declined to reveal further details so as not to jeopardize the operation.