Thursday, July 12, 2018

Historic visit: PH military welcomes MILF to Camp Aguinaldo

From Rappler (Jul 12): Historic visit: PH military welcomes MILF to Camp Aguinaldo

(UPDATED) At a critical stage of the Bangsamoro peace process, the Philippine military rolls out the red carpet at the headquarters for officials of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front

HISTORIC VISIT. Members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, including high-ranking officials of the Moro Islamoc Liberation Front, pay a courtesy call to Armed Forces of the Philippines chief General Carlito Galvez Jr on July 12, 2018. Photo by Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler

(UPDATED) – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) welcomed high-ranking Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) officials in a historic visit to Camp Aguinaldo on Thursday, July 12, sending a strong message of support at a critical stage of the peace process.

MILF vice chairman Ghazali Jaafar and Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) chief of staff Sammy Al Mansour and colleagues at the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) set foot in Camp Aguinaldo for a courtesy call to AFP chief General Carlito Galvez Jr.

It was a ceremony characterized by military pomp and pageantry, sending goosebumps to military officers and MILF rebels who shared stories about the years they fought each other fiercely.

Arrival honors, followed by a reception inside the general headquarters, were given by the military top brass to Muslim rebels talking peace with the government.

MILF vice chairman Ghazali Jaafar was handed a white rose that symbolized peace before he was led to a red carpet, where Galvez waited to shake his hand. The military chief then escorted Jaafar to shake the hands of generals occupying high posts in the headquarters, including intelligence offices, and key commands in Mindanao.

“We feel honored by the invitation and humbled by the welcome,” Jaafar told reporters.

“This is the first time I’m seeing Jaafar in person,” Army Lieutenant Colonel Noel Detoyato told reporters in a celebratory tone. He approached Jaafar after the courtesy call to reminisce his years as young lieutenant in the 1990s fighting in the jungles of Maguindanao.

The names of the generals and the BTC members were called one by one, each one standing to introduce themselves to everyone in the room. An applause followed each name.

Military officers welcomed the BTC gesture to introduce Al-Mansour by his legal name Abdulraof Macacua. "He's only been known to the military as Sammy Al Mansour. It shows you the level of mutual trust," said military spokesman Colonel Edgard Arevalo.

The warm welcome is a stark mood change from Congress, where BTC members are lobbying hard to restore deleted provisions in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law. (READ: Bicam draft 'not a watered-down BBL,' says BTC chair Jaafar)

“My presence here is really a fruit of the peace process. There is a general who said if you want peace, be prepared for war. That’s not correct. If you really want peace, then be prepared for peace. Without peace, I don’t think and it’s very impossible for us to be here in Camp Aguinaldo,” said Mansour, the counterpart of Galvez in the MILF, commanding units on the ground.

After the red-carpet welcome, the MILF officials were led to the Hall of Flags for photos in the reception area meant for VIP guests.

"On behalf of the soldiers, sailors, and airmen, I welcome you to the military headquarters,” Galvez told Jaafar.

“On behalf of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, I thank you for your invitation to us,” said Jaafar.

After the ceremony, the military and the BTC proceeded to business. The media were ushered out of the room to allow the military and the BTC to discuss the “normalization” work after the expected passage of the Bangsamoro law on July 23, in time for the State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Normalization includes the commitment of the MILF to make sure that the BIAF combatants will “put their weapons beyond use” after the Bangsamoro law is passed to end the fighting and make way for peace in the communities.

The closed-door forum between the military and BTC members lasted about an hour. The MILF officials were also later invited to the office of Galvez for a private meeting.

The peace process evolved the relationship between the military and the MILF from foes to partners. Galvez and Jaafar had a laugh on Thursday sharing to reporters the latter's experience flying on a military chopper in January 2016 to Basilan for a public consultation on the Bangsamoro law.

Jaafar said he couldn't forget how the military used to deploy Huey choppers to conduct air strikes against them. He was initially hesitant and scared to ride the military chopper, but eventually came to enjoy it.

"I'm saying it right now, maganda pala sakyan ang choppers. Kaya lang, ito yung mga nagma-machine gun sa amin noon (it's a great experience riding the choppers, although these were the same choppers firing at us before)," a laughing Jaafar said.

Galvez said the creation of the new Bangsamoro region will pave the way for better cooperation between the military and the MILF in fighting armed groups in Mindanao, including the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the breakaway group of MILF.

"The cooperation and solidarity among us in necessary now more than ever, as we are only a few steps closer to achieving the objectives of the transition process. I trust that we shall see better days ahead for our brothers and sisters in Mindanao," said Galvez.

Truck torched

From the Mindanao Times (Jul 11): Truck torched

Authorities could not pinpoint group behind Dole attack
UNIDENTIFIED armed men burned a box-hauler truck of the multinational agriculture company Dole in Barangay Talandang, Tugbok District on Monday evening.

“The suspects are still unidentified,” said Lt. Col. Raymund Dante Lachica, the commander of the 3rd Infantry Battalion that operates the barangay.

Lachica said they could not yet pinpoint the participation of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the attack.
“There is no NPA in Talandang,” Lachica said. “It could just be coincidence that the perpetrators targeted the Dole.”

In a report given by Davao City Police Office (DCPO) spokesperson Sr. Insp. Maria Teresita Gaspan, four armed men doused gasoline in all the tires of the truck, operated by Stanfilco, before setting it on fire around 7 p.m. Monday in at Sitio Banarao, Talandang.

Stanfilco is a Philippine division of the California-based Dole, said to be the largest fruit producer in the world. In the country, Dole produces bananas and pineapple, among others.

Members of the Tugbok Police Precinct, led by Sr. Insp. Paulino Zaulda, and soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Battalion are now conducting follow-up investigation and operation to identify and arrest the perpetrators.

In 2016, Dole-Stanfilco closed two of its banana operations in Surigao del Sur after NPA repeatedly attacked the company’s equipment. The rebels reportedly torched a total of 19 container trucks since 2010. The Dole sites in Barobo and Tagbina employed 1,500 workers. The attacks were believed to have been carried out by the rebel group after Dole refused to pay revolutionary taxes.

In 2015, NPA rebels stormed the airstrip owned by Dole and blasted a parked light plane in Maragusan, Compostela Valley.

The NPA rebels were tagged in the series of atrocities in the region that targeted heavy equipment of various companies that reportedly refused to pay revolutionary taxes.

Last June 1, a generator set and an electric steel cutter, owned by Adam’s Haven Mountain Resort, were torched by armed men who introduced themselves as NPA members in Barangay Ompao, Tarragona, Davao Oriental.

On April 1, two days after the 49th anniversary of the NPA, the communist guerillas left an estimated P65-million in damage in the simultaneous attacks in the city.

They burned five backhoes, four dump trucks and a bulldozer in two sites — Purok 4, Sitio Suadan and Purok 14, Sitio Quarry — in Barangay Callawa, Buhangin District.
The rebels also burned one bulldozer and backhoe in Barangay Fatima, Paquibato District. Another backhoe was also torched by the rebels in Purok 8, Barangay Dalagdag, Calinan District.

4 NPAs surrender

From the Mindanao Times (Jul 12): 4 NPAs surrender

Four Militia ng Bayan (MB) members of the New People’s Army operating in the hinterlands of Paquibato District surrendered to the 16th Infantry Battalion on Tuesday.

They brought with them 30 anti-personnel improvised explosive devices, four .38 caliber revolver with live ammunition, and 17 assorted two-way commercial radio transceivers.

Lt. Col. Darren Comia, the commander of 16th IB, said the four surrenderees claimed that they were tired of living a life on the run.

“They wanted to live a peaceful life together with their families,” he said, adding that they were disillusioned with the rebel group and understood “the futility of what they were fighting for.”

Comia refused to name the surrenderees for security reasons but said they all came from Barangay Fatima, Paquibato District.

Relatedly, a resident of Barangay Mapula of Paquibato District guided soldiers of the 16th IB to the location of one caliber .30 sniper rifle stashed in a stack of coconut husks.

“The good rapport of our personnel on the ground with the populace is starting to pick up and soon we are hopeful that there will be numerous recoveries of war materiel that will happen with the help and support of the civilian populace,” Lt. Col.
Darren Comia, the battalion commander, said.

He said the sustained efforts of the Community Support Program (CSP) teams deployed all over Paquibato District paved the way for the surrender of the MBs and eventually the surrender of war materials, as well.

“Notwithstanding, the civilian populace of Paquibato District have seen a lot of efforts being undertaken by the LGU of Davao City through the Peace 911,” he added.

EastMinCom shows support for localized peace talks with NPA

From the Mindanao Times (Jul 12): EastMinCom shows support for localized peace talks with NPA

The Eastern Mindanao Command hopes that local commanders of the New People’s Army will consider the localized peace talks to address the core issues of the communities, particularly those located in the hinterlands.

Speaking in yesterday’s AFP-PNP press briefing held at Royal Mandaya hotel, Maj. Ezra Balagtey spokesperson of EastMinCom, said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Interior and Secretary Eduardo Ano already gave the go signal for the local government units to engage communist guerrillas in local peace negotiations.

“This will be our thrust but as far as the mechanism is concerned, we haven’t received yet,” he said. “In fact, we haven’t received any directive from President Rodrigo Duterte as far as pushing for the localized peace talks.’

But he said that most of the LGU officials they’ve talked to are warm to the idea of localized peace talks.

He said that they already informed the ground army commanders to adopt and support the localized peace talks.

“So far, we haven’t receive for now the take of the commanders on what the local government units are pushing for in the localized peace talks,” he further said.

Ano said they will push for localized peace talks with communist rebels if the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front (NDF) will stall.

On Monday, Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, the commander of EastMinCom, said they will continue their peace and development programs in the far-flung barangays to weaken the foothold of the NPA.

Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom), told reporters at the sidelines of the AFP-PNP Press Corp Southern Mindanao Media Fellowship on Monday night held at COA XI that Mayor Sara Duterte has already stopped the localized peace talks with the armed rebels operating in the hinterlands of the city.

Madrigal said that the community support program (CSP) teams of the different line battalions under the command have already been deployed to further help and provide services in the far-flung communities together with the efforts of the local government unit and agencies.

“On programs and services, we have already done Serbisyo Caravan in Davao Oriental also in Compostela Valley and in Caraga region,” he added. “In Caraga region, we have already a peace plan for the whole region,” he said. “We have combined the peace and development plan so that it becomes a peace and development plan.”

“Some of the issues that have to be addressed on the peace plan will come from the development plan (addressing IP concerns, law enforcement and other programs) and issues on the NPA conflicted area,” he further said.

Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio actually initiated local peace talks with the local NPA commanders. However, that plan was scuttled when President Duterte moved to declare the rebel group as a terrorist organization. Instead, she introduced Peace 911, which is a multi-dimensional approach to development in the city’s rebel-infested areas.

Pressed for her reaction on whether or not she will support the localized peace talks being pushed by the national government, Mayor Duterte said, “that ship has sailed.”

Cafgu killed in NPA attack

From the Mindanao Times (Jul 12): Cafgu killed in NPA attack

A Cafgu was killed after members of the New People’s Army (NPA) attacked the security team in Barangay Lindoy in Tago, Surigao del Sur on Tuesday.

Capt. Francisco Garello Jr., the civil-military operations officer of 36th IB, the team was attacked by more or less three communist guerillas believed to be members of Platoon 8, Guerrilla Front 19B, NERMC, under alias Adel.

Garello said the government militias, led by SSg. Danilo G. Balandang, were providing area security to the elements of 36th IB as they were installing a water pump for the Lindoy Farmers Association under the Project kaPALAYapaan. They were then attacked by the NPAs resulting in the death of CAA Reymond L. Besinga, a resident of Barangay Bajao, Tago, Surigao del Sur.

The installation of the water pump for the community was part of the military’s assistance to the farmers of Lindoy.

He said the project was temporarily halted while the military secured the area and launched pursuit operations against the rebels.

The KaPALAYapaan is being piloted-tested in Barangay Lindoy to address the high cost, low yield of rice farmers. The said project promotes organic farming method and introduces new farming techniques for bountiful harvest.

Lt. Col. Xerxes A. Trinidad PA in his statement, “I condemn the attack on the community,” Lt. Col. Xerxes A. Trinidad, commander of the 36th IB said, adding that the attack only proves that the NPA is against development He said the rebels “wanted the farmers to remain poor so that they can use it as an issue to agitate them and eventually recruit them in their terrorist organization.”

It can be recalled that in the year 2016 to 2017, the NPAs burned container vans and destroyed banana plantations in Tago.

“I call upon the peace-loving community of Brgy. Lindoy, the local officials of Tago, and all stakeholders of peace and development in the province of Surigao del Sur to take action and condemn these treacherous and anti-development actions of the communist-NPA terrorists in our community,” he added.

2 alleged NPA leaders turned over to Bukidnon RTC for trial

From the Mindanao Times (Jul 12): 2 alleged NPA leaders turned over to Bukidnon RTC for trial

Two suspected high-ranking members of the New People’s Army are already detained at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) in Bukidnon after they were arrested in Barangay Lagao, General Santos city on July 4.

Maj. Ezra Balagtey, the spokesperson of Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom), identified the two as
Maria Limbaga Unabia, resident of Koronadal, South Cotabato, and the secretary of the regional urban committee; and Francis Madria, of Malaybalay, Bukidnon, finance officer of the North Central Mindanao Regional Committee.

The two were turned over to the Bukidnon Regional Trial Court after they were arrested in an inter-agency law enforcement operations in Barangay Lagao, General Santos City.

They were arrested by virtue of the warrants of arrest (CC NO. 29243-16 and CC NO. 29241-16 and 29242-16) for the crimes of murder, frustrated murder, and attempted murder issued by the Regional Trial Court in Bukidnon.

He also said that 11 persons were also arrested and charged for violation of PD 1829 or obstruction of justice after they tried to prevent the arresting team from executing the warrant against the two suspects.

The 11 arrested persons were detained at the General Santos Police Office pending their commitment order by the court and other legal procedures.

However, they were granted temporary liberty by Judge Emilio O Quianzon Jr., vice executive judge of the City Trial Court, when he allowed the group of Congressman Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna and Ali Macalintal of Karapatan Socsksargen to post bail on their behalf with the amount of P36,000 each on July 6.

The inter-agency law enforcement operations composed of PNP units, NICA 12, and Joint Task Force GenSan came after an intelligence report stating that some suspected members of NPA will converge in an undisclosed place in General Santos to assess and plan for the ouster of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Meanwhile, the PNP General Santos, assisted by a legal team from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, is on the process of applying for the issuance of a search warrant to allow the conduct of forensic examination on the confiscated electronic gadgets from the arrested persons.

Immediately after the arrest, Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. Madrigal Jr., commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command, directed his subordinates to intensify security operations to deny any group, particularly the communists in conducting atrocities, in relation to the directive of Jose Maria Sison to oust President Duterte.

“While we are protecting our communities from atrocities, let us further intensify our security operations to deny the terrorist group from conducting atrocities and subversive acts in furtherance of the directive of the communist leadership to oust President Duterte illegally,” Madrigal said.

241 ex-rebels benefit from E-Clip program

From the Mindanao Times (Jul 12): 241 ex-rebels benefit from E-Clip program

The task Force Balik Loob awarded the Enhance Comprehensive Localized Integration Program (E-Clip) to 241 former rebels who comprise the first batch of beneficiaries in a ceremony at the Provincial Happy Home of Davao Oriental in Don Martin Marundan, Mati City in Davao Oriental on Wednesday.

The task force is headed by Undersecretary Reynaldo Mapagu of the Department of National Defense and is an offshoot of the Administrative Order No. 10 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on Apr. 10, 2018, converging the comprehensive localized integration program of DILG and programs of interventions of different government agencies for former rebels.

Maj. Ezra Balagtey, the spokesperson of Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom), said the E-Clip was piloted by the 701st Infantry Brigade under Brig. Gen. Reuben Basiao by converging existing program of the Davao Oriental provincial government.

The Happy Home in Davao Oriental is the only facility in the whole country which houses and caters to former rebels undergoing rehabilitation and training in preparation of their reintegration to the mainstream society.

It was fully operationalized during the time of Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal when he was the brigade commander of 701st Brigade.

As of July 11, 2018, 45 of 241 Former rebels have already received a National Certification II from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) after finishing the skill development training (carpentry, welding and massage therapist) intended for them.

The 241 returnees enrolled in the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) livelihood program. Other interventions may include PhilHealth enrollment, housing, legal assistance and other social intervention.

The awarding ceremony was graced by Mapagu as head of Task Force Balik Loob; Assistant Secretary Manuel Felix of DILG; USec. Ronald Flores of OPAPP; USec. Luz Ilagan of DSWD; commander of Eastern Mindanao Command, Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. Madrigal Jr.; Maj. Gen. Glenn Paje representing the AFP Chief of Staff; and Maj. Gen. Noel Clement of 10th Infantry Division.

Yesterday, around 12 former rebels from Sarangani Province was also awarded with E-CLIP in a ceremony at the Provincial Capitol of Sarangani Province in Alabel.

The ceremony will be led by USec. Mapagu and Governor Steve Solon of Sarangani Province. They are being assisted by Brig. Gen.

Roberto Ancan, commander of 1002nd Infantry Brigade, who facilitated the enrollment of former rebels to the E-CLIP.

On Wednesday’s AFP-PNP press briefing held at Royal Mandaya hotel, Maj. Ezra Balagtey said there are already 554 regular NPAs surrendered, 867 members of the Militia ng Bayan and underground mass organizations who withdrew their support from the NPA.

On the other hand, Lt. Col Raymund Dante Lachica, outgoing commander of 3rd Infantry Battalion, said the local government is very supportive as Davao City donated P5 million for the halfway house or Bahay Kalinaw that will be constructed in the headquarters of 1003rd Infantry Brigade in Barangay Mahayag.

The Bahay Kalinaw will cater to the needs of the rebel returnees like processing of documents, e-book, CLIP and other training that will be conducted.

NPA surrenderees, tumanggap ng ayuda

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jul 12): NPA surrenderees, tumanggap ng ayuda

Nabigyan ng tseke na may halagang tig-P5,000 ang labing anim na mga dating miyembro ng rebeldeng New People’s Army o NPA sa bayan ng Magpet sa North Cotabato province.

Ang mga dating rebelde ay sumuko noong Marso at prenisinta sa katatapos na Municipal Peace and Order Council Meeting ng Magpet nitong Hulyo 11.

Bukod sa financial assistance na ibinigay ng opisina ni Mayor Florenito Gonzaga ay inaasahang tatanggap din ang mga ito ng livelihood assistance mula sa pamahalaannal sa pamamagitan ng E-CLIP o Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program.

Binigyan din sila ni Mayor Gonzaga ng tig-isang kasong bigas. Ilan sa mg dahilan kung bakit sumuko ang mga ito ay dahil sa walang patutunguhan ang kanilang ipinaglalaban.

Una na ring nananawagan si Lt. Col. Elrick Noel Paraso, commander ng 19th Infantry Battalion sa mga NPA na sumuko na at magbalik loob sa pamahalaan.

Solder killed, 10 wounded in Sulu Sayyaf clash

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jul 12): Solder killed, 10 wounded in Sulu Sayyaf clash

Government troops clashed with a huge number of Abu Sayyaf militants in the southern Philippine province of Sulu that killed a soldier and left 10 more wounded in the battle, officials said Thursday.

Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, a spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command, said the fighting erupted in the village of Panglayahan in Patikul town on Wednesday afternoon.

He said members of the 32nd Infantry Battalion under Lt. Col. Ronaldo Mateo battled some 60 militants led by Hajan Sawadjaan and that the fighting lasted for 2 hours that left a still undetermined number of enemy casualties.

“Casualties on the enemy side are yet to be determined,” Besana said.

Security forces continue to track down the militants, who broke into smaller groups and escaped. It was unknown whether soldiers clashed with militants holding nearly a dozen, mostly foreign hostages, held captive in Sulu, one of 5 provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.

Just early this week, troops and police commandos raided an Abu Sayyaf hideout in the village called Pang in Kalingalang Caluang town after receiving reports the militants and their hostage, a seven-year old Muslim girl, were spotted in the area. But the Abu Sayyaf fighters managed to escape with their victim.

Seven Abu Sayyaf militants seized the girl, whose surname is Astah, in the village of Himba in Tandubas Island in Tawi-Tawi province, also in the autonomous region, on June 25 and shot and wounded her mother before escaping.

Army in Compostela Valley gets new commander

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 12): Army in Compostela Valley gets new commander

MACO, Compostela Valley (PIA) -- The deputy commander of the Philippine Army’s 1001st Infantry Brigade in this province has been named as the unit’s commanding officer.

Colonel Gilbert Saret was installed in his new assignment as 1001st IB commander
on Tuesday, July 10, replacing Brigadier-General Erwin Bernard Neri.

Major General Noel Clement, chief of the 10th Infantry Division, led the change of command ceremony at the brigade headquarters in Maco town.

"We will bring peace to those who want peace but we will fight hard those who insist to fight," Saret said in his speech.

He reminded his troops to respect the rules of conflict, including the international humanitarian law and human rights in the conduct of their operations.

Saret is a member of Philippine Military Academy’s “Maringal” class of 1988.

Different bilateral, multilateral meetings on WPS urged

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 12): Different bilateral, multilateral meetings on WPS urged

The Philippines must consider several bilateral and multilateral meetings in handling the issue of its territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea aside from its dual talks with Beijing and the consultations within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), an official said Thursday.

The suggestion came as the country commemorated the 2nd anniversary of the Permanent Court of Arbitration July 12 ruling.

At a forum organized by the Albert del Rosario Institute at the Manila Polo Club in Makati City, Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio said the country can enter into a sea boundary agreement with other claimant states.

One scenario is the Philippines and Vietnam venturing into such a deal over its overlapping extended continental shelves beyond the Spratlys.

The premise of the agreement would be on the lack of geologic feature in the Spratlys that generate an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as ruled by the Arbitral Tribunal.

Once the two countries established there is no overlapping EEZ between them, the sea boundary will be the median line, Carpio said.

"There can be no dispute on this," he added. "Such an agreement adopts a ruling in the award by state practice, even if China is not a party to the agreement."

Meanwhile, he noted a similar sea boundary agreement can be entered into between the Philippines and Malaysia to delineate their adjoining EEZ between Borneo and Palawan.

"The premise of this agreement is again that none of the islands claimed by either country in the Spratlys generates an exclusive economic zone as ruled by the Arbitral Tribunal. Consequently, there are no EEZs from these islands that will overlap with the EEZ of Borneo or Palawan," he said.

Former foreign affairs chief Albert del Rosario echoed similar sentiments, saying Manila can still move forward on the West Philippine Sea issue through bilateral engagements with other states, as well as through multilateral ones with the United Nations.

He underscored that with an all-out effort to pursue these, "the path to gaining the support of the community of responsible nations remains."

Vice President Leni Robredo also expressed optimism that through calls for multilateral and bilateral cooperation, the region may avert conflict on a global scale.

"With stakes this high, this is not the time to look for someone or something to blame; this is the time to find solutions for the benefit of us all," she said.

July 12 marks the 2nd anniversary of the Permanent Court of Arbitration Award, handing its landmark ruling that invalidated China's nine-dash line, which claims at least 80 percent of the South China Sea.

Moving forward

While there is still a long way to go in the settlement of competing claims in the West Philippine Sea, Carpio said "not all is doom and gloom" with the Philippines' position in the area.

"I am heartened that Secretary of Foreign Affairs Peter Cayetano has drawn a red line on Scarborough Shoal. That red line is: China cannot build on Scarborough Shoal. This should be the red line of the Philippines and the Filipino people," he said.

Carpio urged the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to further promote this, saying the agency should campaign among ASEAN states, in particular among those states prejudiced by the nine-dashed line, to make Scarborough Shoal also the bloc's red line.

He added that the DFA should also campaign for the United States to make Scarborough Shoal the official red line under the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty.

Carpio said it was former US President Barack Obama who originally told President Xi Jinping in 2015 that Scarborough Shoal was a red line.

"Moreover, the U.S. has recognized Scarborough Shoal as part of Philippine territory when the US was still the colonial power in the Philippines," he said.

Davao peace advocates hold solidarity event for BBL passage

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 12): Davao peace advocates hold solidarity event for BBL passage

DAVAO CITY--Members of the All Out Peace Davao gathered at the Freedom Park here on Wednesday morning as they joined the call for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which is being tackled at the Bicameral Conference Committee.

Randy Ponteras, All Out Peace Davao spokesperson, told local reporters they are hoping the BBL would pass the bicameral conference.

“Dugay na natong gisalikway ang giyera. Ang mga sibilyan is longing for peace so if the solution for this is to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law they should pass it now (We have rejected war long time ago. The civilians are longing for peace and if the solution for this is to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law, they should pass it now),” Ponteras said.

“The BBL is our call for peace not only with the Moro but also with the Christians and Muslims,” he added.

Ponteras said the solidarity event is held simultaneously in four key cities (Iligan, Cagayan De Oro and Cotabato city) in Mindanao, dubbed as “Kongreso Katawhan (People’s Conference),” which mirrors the bicameral conference.

A press statement from the group on Tuesday said representatives from different communities and sectors advocating peace will pass their own version of a basic law, which hinges on the values of truth and justice.

The peace advocates said they look forward to a legislation that addresses social and historical injustices, asserts meaningful autonomy, and affirms the people’s right to self- determination.

They also called on the Bicam committee to help “heal the wounds of violent conflict and achieve a genuine peace.”

Sarangani allots P1.5-M for halfway house of ex-rebels

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 12): Sarangani allots P1.5-M for halfway house of ex-rebels

The provincial government of Sarangani has allotted an initial P1.5 million for the establishment of a halfway house for returning New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

Lizette Lopez, provincial focal person of the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (Clip), said Wednesday the funds will be utilized for the acquisition of the project's site in Barangay Poblacion, Alabel town.

She said the provincial board issued the go-signal during its regular session on Tuesday authorizing Sarangani Gov. Steve Chiongbian Solon to sign the deed of absolute sale and finalize the acquisition of the site, which already has an existing residential building.

Lopez said the property serves as the local government's counterpart for the project, which will be constructed through a P5 million grant from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

"The plans are already in place and we're now ready for the development of the facility," she said in a statement.

Based on the approved development plan, Lopez said the halfway house will have three rooms for males, three rooms for females, a conjugal room, an office, kitchen and a conference room.

Once operational, she said the facility will serve as temporary home for rebel returnees in the province for 15 days to one month.

"It will accommodate at least 15 individuals per cycle," she said. 

While hosted at the halfway house, Lopez said the former rebels will undergo healing sessions and psychosocial interventions to prepare them for integration into the mainstream society.

She said they would also undergo skills trainings to complement with the livelihood component of the Clip.  

The DILG had allotted grants of PHP5 million to local government units, including the province, that have signified to establish a halfway home for returning rebels as a component of the Clip.

A halfway home or house is a temporary residence that serves as the processing center for former rebels.

The facility could also be used to cater to other individuals in crisis situations, such as victims of violence against women and children, juvenile delinquents, former convicts and times of disaster.

PRO-11 breaks ground on new reg’l mobile force building

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 12): PRO-11 breaks ground on new reg’l mobile force building


Police Regional Office-11 Director Manuel Gaerlan (with shovel) leads the laying of time capsule for the the construction of the Regional Mobile Force Battalion on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of PRO-11 PIO

DAVAO CITY--The Police Regional Office-11 (PRO-11) is building a new home for the Regional Mobile Force Battalion inside the Camp Quintin Merecido in Catitipan, Buhangin, this city.

The laying of the time capsule and groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday afternoon marked the start of the construction of the building worth PHP27 million, funded under the national budget of the Philippine National Police (PNP) with a counterpart from the local government units in Davao Region.

PRO-11 director Chief Supt. Manuel Gaerlan, who led the event, said the RMFB building is one of the many projects being implemented by the PRO-11 under his leadership.

Gaerlan, who is retiring next month, will also ground break the construction of the Sta. Cruz Municipal Police Station later this month.

He said other new police stations will also be inaugurated before he bows out of service, such as the ones in Governor Generoso in Davao Oriental, Don Marcelino in Davao Occidental, as well as the Bagani Hall located at the entrance gate of PRO-11.

“This legacy has paved the way for sophisticated and standard police facilities to bring out the best working condition and excellent public service,” Gaerlan said.

3rd Marine Brigade in Palawan welcomes new commander

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 12): 3rd Marine Brigade in Palawan welcomes new commander

CHANGE OF COMMAND IN PALAWAN: Brigadier General Nathaniel Casem (wearing medal and in uniform) and Col. Charlton Sean Gaerlan are being interviewed by the local media during their change of command late Wednesday afternoon (June 11, 2018) at the 3rd Marine Brigade Headquarters in Barangay Tiniguiban. (Photo by Celeste Anna R. Formoso)
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The new commander of the 3rd Marine Brigade (3MBde) in Palawan has vowed to continue the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) peacekeeping mission and enhancement of security competencies against insurgency.

“As far as we are concerned, all units of the AFP in Palawan are all systems go. The Wescom (Western Command) has set up its plan earlier so all we have to do is pursue what we’re supposed to do, we will just continue the function of the Marines here,” said Col. Charlton Sean Gaerlan, the new commander of the 3MBde, following the change of command ceremony between him and Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Casem in this city.

Gaerlan said his leadership of the Marines in Palawan will abide by the plans of Wescom to address the atrocities being perpetrated by the communist-terrorist New People’s Army (NPA).

He called on them to surrender to the government through peaceful means and lay down their arms to put an end to the age-old insurgency to be able to lead renewed lives with their families.

“Palawan is more on the problem of the NPA. We want to invite them to surrender because everything could be done through peaceful means," he said.

Casem, on the other hand, said he had briefed Gaerlan on security posturing, informing him to conduct more patrols in Palawan with the Marine Battalion Landing Team 4 and 12 and to also strengthen cooperation and collaboration with local government units (LGUs).

He said engaging the support of the LGUs is vital in sustaining the peace and security that the residents of the province are enjoying.

"Hindi lang i-maintain kundi dapat ma-enhance pa ang ating security by sea and land lalo na ang collaboration natin sa mga key leaders sa mga bayan (It’s not only about maintaining but enhancing our security by sea and land and by sustaining partnerships with key leaders in the municipalities)," he said.

The change of command was facilitated by Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) commandant, Maj. Gen. Alvin Parrreño.

Casem served as commander of the 3rd MBde for one year and 10 months. His next assignment will be as naval general inspector of the Philippine Navy.

Army bomb experts defuse roadside bomb in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 12): Army bomb experts defuse roadside bomb in Maguindanao

An improvised bomb planted along a roadside here caused a heavy traffic along the Cotabato-Isulan highway Thursday morning and stalled some 100 vehicles.

Police and military authorities shut down the highway near a bridge in Barangay Labu-Labu 2 around 6 a.m. after a roadside bomb was found by residents. Among the vehicles stalled in the incident was that of the Philippine News Agency-Cotabato News Bureau team.

A military bomb expert, who requested anonymity for security reasons, said the bomb, which was packed with gunpowder, concrete nails and metal shards, was cellphone-triggered and could have seriously hurt civilian motorists.

Traffic was opened after two hours when the Army's ordnance team deactivated the explosive, which they said bore the signature style of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

The discovery of the roadside bomb came hours after a rifle grenade, fired from a distance, landed and exploded near a gas station in Barangay Poblacion, Datu Paglas, Maguindanao.

Datu Paglas Mayor Ibrahim Paglas said the explosion occurred at 8 p.m. Wednesday but nobody was hurt. He blamed illegal drug syndicates as behind the attack, adding it was to avenge the group's losses in the intensified anti-drug campaign of the local government.

Last week, the Army's 33rd Infantry Battalion clashed with the BIFF in Sitio Mopac, situated some 500 meters from the Paglas municipal hall at the town center. The terror group had plotted to take over the municipal hall but was foiled after residents reported to authorities their presence in the area.

Both the military and the police here have blamed the roadside bombings on the BIFF, which the terror group usually carry out to divert the military’s intensified operation away from them.

3 Abu Sayyaf bandits die in Sulu firefight

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 12): 3 Abu Sayyaf bandits die in Sulu firefight

Three Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members, including a navigator, were killed in a brief clash early Thursday as troops conducted combat operations in Indanan, Sulu, a top military official said.

Brig. Gen. Divino Rey Pabayo, Joint Task Force Sulu commander, said the clash took place around 4:30 a.m. Thursday in Barangay Kuppong, Indanan municipality.

Pabayo said troops from the Army’s 2nd Special Forces Battalion conducted a combat operation after receiving reports about the presence of the ASG bandits in Barangay Kuppong.

Pabayo said the firefight lasted for about two minutes, after which,  the ASG bandits fled to different directions.

He said the troops recovered the remains of one of the three slain ASG bandits, who was identified as Pakam Sakam Sappari alias Last Pangit. Also recovered was a caliber .45 pistol with four live ammunition.

“Pakam Sakam Sappari was a skilled sea navigator identified with various ASG sub-groups, the latest of which was the group of the late ASG sub-leader Alden Bagade. He was reportedly involved in several kidnapping activities,” Pabayo said.

He said the remains of the other two slain bandits were dragged by their comrades, who fled to different directions.

The Abu Sayyaf bandits are still holding hostage 10 people, including five foreigners. They comprise three Indonesians, one Dutch, one Vietnamese and five Filipinos.

Lt. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega, Western Mindanao Command chief, has commended the troops for their accomplishment and thanked the community for their contribution by providing essential information.

Nothing new with Reds’ destabilization plan: AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 12): Nothing new with Reds’ destabilization plan: AFP

There is nothing new with the communist rebels' plans to destablize the existing government, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Col. Noel Detoyato said late Wednesday.

He made this statement when asked if there are reports that rebels are planning to disrupt President Rodrigo Duterte's third State of the Nation Address (SONA) this coming July 23.

"Actually yung (the) left naman eh, they have never changed their stand ever since. They will always destablize any sitting government, any sitting president. Ang nagbabago lang dyan yung mga protesta nila, yung mga placard nila, nagbabago lang pangalan ng presidente eh (What only changes is their protests, their placards, it's only the name of the president that changes)," Detoyato stressed.

The AFP public affairs chief added that they have yet to detect any security threats for the SONA aside from rallies planned by militant groups.

Earlier, Detoyato said the AFP through its Joint Task Force-National Capital Region (JTF-NCR) will be deploying 600 officers and enlisted personnel to augment the security measures being implemented by the police during this year's SONA.

He added that this force can be augmented if needed.

We will continue to assert ‘what is ours’ in WPS: Palace

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 12): We will continue to assert ‘what is ours’ in WPS: Palace

Two years after the Philippines won an arbitration case against China over the West Philippine Sea (WPS), Malacañang on Thursday said the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte will assert “what is ours” while moving on with bilateral ties with Beijing.

“We assure the public that on the second year of the anniversary, we will continue to assert what is ours while we move on with our bilateral relations with China,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Palace press briefing.

On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), based at The Hague in the Netherlands, released a landmark decision that invalidated China’s nine-dash line map, which covers nearly the whole of South China Sea.

The 501-page PCA ruling also said “there was no evidence that China had historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or their resources”.

Roque explained the PCA’s verdict covers only the legal status of reefs, rocks and artificial islands and not the disputed islands in the Scarborough Shoal and Spratly Island groups.

“We are decided to move on issues which are non-controversial because we know that the final resolution particularly on the issues of sovereignty on the disputed islands will take many, many, many years to resolve since this was not a subject of the arbitral ruling that we won two years ago,” he said.

China had rejected the international tribunal’s ruling which it called “null and void”.

With China’s action, Duterte had decided to temporarily set aside the PCA ruling to give way to peaceful and friendly dialogues that eventually revived China-Philippines relations.

Duterte, however, told Chinese President Xi Jinping that he would raise the arbitral decision before his term ends in 2022.

For now, Roque said concerns about WPS, including China’s alleged militarization of the dispute territory, are being discussed in the Bilateral Consultative Mechanism (BCM).

“I have said that we are discussing this in the bilateral mechanism that we have with China, which also has the effect of a protest,” Roque said.

Contrary to alleged inactions by the Duterte administration, Roque said “the President has publicly protested in some instances”.

“And I know of formal protests filed directly with the embassy upon expressed direction of the President 'no. So we have said all this; we are not hiding what we have been doing to protect our sovereignty and sovereign rights in the disputed areas of the West Philippine Sea,” Roque said.

Roque dared former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay to file an impeachment complaint if the latter feels government’s inaction against China’s aggression is betrayal of public trust.

“He should file impeachment if he wants. He’s welcome. It’s a free country, they can file it and we will meet them in court,” Roque said.

PRRD to issue EO for ‘localized’ peace talks with NPA

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 12): PRRD to issue EO for ‘localized’ peace talks with NPA

President Rodrigo Dutere will issue an executive order for “localized” peace talks with the New People’s Army (NPA) if the peace talks between national government and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) will not push through, Malacañang said on Thursday.

“So there will be an executive order that will spell out the guidelines that were agreed upon yesterday (Wednesday),” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said during regular Palace press briefing.

Roque said the guiding framework for localized peace talks has been approved during Wednesday’s special cluster meeting of the Security, Justice and Peace Committees at Malacañang Palace.

The meeting was attended by the President, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and some Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) members.

“This localized peace talks was agreed upon during the last Cabinet meeting if Joma Sison does not want to talk here in the Philippines and to agree to some conditions, our local government officials will be given authority to engage in localized peace talks,” Roque said.

Roque said among guidelines for localized peace talks include:

It is nationally orchestrated, centrally directed and locally supervised and implemented.

The constitutional integrity and sovereignty will not be compromised.

Complete and genuine resolution of the local armed conflict. It shall cover the NPAs, organs of political power and Militia ng Bayan.

If there is a ceasefire, the constitutional mandate of the state to protect public safety, civilian welfare, critical infrastructure and private properties and the guarantee of rule of law and order will not be compromised at all times.

Government goodwill, full amnesty package based on disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration to the mainstream of society.

The necessary enabling environment set by the President for the formal local talks to proceed are local venue, no coalition government or power-sharing, no revolutionary taxes, extortion, arson and violent activities and the fighters to remain in their pre-designated encampment areas.

The substantive agenda will be based on the Medium Term Philippine Development Plan and Philippine Development Program 2040.

Roque said officials have also agreed to have four kinds of localized peace talks such as the localized peace talks between the local peace channel and the local fighters; community dialogue; local peace package; and confidential dialogue.

“Confidential dialogue will be undertaken to a combatant armed group who desires to lie low without open documentation and will not avail of the peace package program,” Roque said.

He said the peace package, on the other hand, is direct availment of the GRP peace initiative intended to provide the integration and mainstreaming support without going through process of peace negotiation.