Tuesday, July 24, 2018

NPA rebs freed abducted militiaman in exchange for food —military

From GMA News (Jul 24): NPA rebs freed abducted militiaman in exchange for food —military

Communist rebels have reportedly released a government militiaman they abducted in Surigao del Sur in exchange for food, a military spokesman said Tuesday, adding this shows "desperate move" on the part of the insurgents.

"They (rebels) demanded five kilos of pork meat, five kilos of assorted fish, sugar and coffee," Captain Al Anthony Pueblas of the Army's 402nd Brigade said.

Pueblas said the local government of Carmen town provided the rebels with their demand to secure the release of Eusebio Meniano.

He said Meniano, 43, is a farmer who is also a member of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (Cafgu) detailed at the military's San Roque Patrol Base in Barangay San Roque in Madrid town.

The victim is also a chieftain of the Manobo tribe in Carmen, Pueblas said.

"The local government provided what the rebels demanded to secure his (Meniano) safe release," Pueblas said.

Pueblas said Meniano was seized by New People's Army (NPA) rebels from his residence in Purok 4, barangay Hinapuyan in Carmen town at around 4 a.m. on Monday in front of his wife and children.

"Datu Meniano is a tribal leader and has been supporting the government's peace and development program in the area which is affected by the insurgency problem," Pueblas said on why the rebels abducted the victim.

Pueblas said pursuing government troops caught up with the rebels moments later. The clash resulted in the wounding of one militiaman who is now recuperating at a hospital in Tandag City.

Pueblas said local government officials later negotiated with the communists for the release of Meniano. He said Meniano was freed by the rebels at around 3 p.m. on Monday "after the NPA terrorists received a few kilos of meat, fish, sugar, and coffee."


Joma trashes Duterte's 3rd SONA

From GMA News (Jul 24): Joma trashes Duterte's 3rd SONA                               

Communist leader Jose Maria Sison on Tuesday countered several points in President Rodrigo Duterte's State of the Nation Address (SONA).
In a statement, Sison said "as a whole," Duterte's third SONA "shows no remorse for his glaring nonfulfilment of electoral promises and his gross aggravation of the problems that afflict the people."

On the President's tirade against human rights advocates and vow to continue his bloody war on drugs, Sison said Duterte "promotes the worst of criminality by turning police officers into kidnappers and murderers and corrupting them with rewards of cash and promotions in rank."

The exiled founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines also questioned Duterte's seriousness in going after corrupt officials, noting his ties with the "Marcoses, Arroyos and Estradas," which he described as the "biggest plunderers."

Though Duterte bragged in his SONA about firing corrupt officials, Sison said these officials "are reassigned to other lucrative positions."

"His friends have been caught stealing public funds but mostly they go scotfree and when removed from office they are reassigned to other lucrative positions," he said.
Sison also blamed Duterte for the destruction of Marawi City, saying his refusal to negotiate with the Maute and Abu Sayyaf members as supposedly advised by the "Sultan and leading families of the city" led to the bloodshed.

He also accused Duterte of using the Marawi siege as springboard to put the entire Mindanao under martial law "in order to attack other Bangsamoro, Lumad and Christian communities and grab the land for foreign and oligarchic interests in mining, plantations and logging."

"Now, he makes a new false promise to fulfill the promise of Mindanao with public funds which have not at all flowed for the urgent and adequate reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi City," Sison said.

Sison also accused Duterte of "traitorously selling out the sovereign rights of the Philippines over the West Philippine Sea to China and plunging the Philippines into a debt trap in connection with overpriced infrastructure projects."

"He has not dared to file a diplomatic protest against the Chinese encroachment on and militarization of the West Philippine Sea with the use of artificial islands," he said.

Sison also noted that Duterte's SONA did not say much about solving the problems of underdevelopment, mass poverty, unemployment, soaring prices of basic commodities and services.

Instead, he said Duterte "merely repeats a series of generalized promises."

Sison also noted that Duterte did not mention Proclamation 360 that terminated the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in November last year.

He said this shows that Duterte "does not want to address the roots of the armed conflict through comprehensive agreements on social, economic and political reforms in order to lay the basis for a just and lasting peace. "


CPP: Military 'twisting facts' over alleged abuses vs. lumad

From GMA News (Jul 24): CPP: Military 'twisting facts' over alleged abuses vs. lumad

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on Tuesday slammed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for allegedly "twisting facts" while trying to cover up military abuses in the evacuation of thousands of Lumads in Surigao del Sur.

In a news release, the communist group hit AFP Public Affairs Office chief Colonel Noel Detoyato for
"dismissing the suffering and hardships of the evacuees by claiming they are only being used in the 'bakwit tactics' of the New People's Army (NPA)."

According to CPP, Detoyato issued the statement after reports revealed that soldiers have been conducting food, aid, and information blockades at Diatagon Gym in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, where about 1,600 Lumad residents are staying after evacuating from their communities in the previous weeks.

"Detoyato, furthermore, is twisting facts for claiming that government food aid have not reached the Lumad evacuees because these are being blocked by the revolutionary forces, when in fact, AFP soldiers are the ones manning checkpoints near Diatagon Gym to prevent aid agencies from getting near the evacuees. Such impertinence!” the CPP said.

"Fascist soldiers of the AFP are not only terrorizing communities but are also making a thousand evacuees suffer more from hunger because of the food and aid blockades they are imposing," the CPP added.

The CPP claimed that Diatagon residents had marched for about 10 hours from their sitios to the barangay center to seek safe haven from military attacks last July 16.

The evacuation of those residents was the fourth time since martial law was imposed last year in Mindanao, the communist group added.


Reds 'desperate' to keep Joma Sison relevant —Esperon

From GMA News (Jul 24): Reds 'desperate' to keep Joma Sison relevant —Esperon

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. on Tuesday said the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) is "desperate" to keep communist leader Jose Maria Sison relevant.

In a statement, Esperon said the NDFP's tirade
"against me and other government officials are desperate attempts to keep Jose Ma. Sison relevant in the midst of the CPP/NPA/NDF's immense decline."

Last Saturday, NDFP negotiating panel chair Fidel Agcaoili rebuked Esperon for supposedly insinuating that Sison, on self-exile in the Netherlands, was seriously ill.

He also claimed that Prof. Philip Alston, former UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, had disproved Esperon's claims that the alleged mass murder of communists in the 1980's was part of "internal purges" of the New People's Army.

Alston supposedly said, "There is no reasonable doubt that the military is responsible for a significant number of the killings and that subsequent evidence points to the continuing nature of that practice.”

Esperon, a former Armed Forces chief of staff, repeated his stance from 2007 and denied Alston's assessment, saying the former rapporteur "did not go to Inopacan nor did he consult the courts where the cases against the CPP/NPA/NDF personalities involved in the purges were lodged."

The rumored purges supposedly took place in the 1980's in the Visayas and in Mindanao, where 1,000 CPP-NPA rebels were killed and 1,500 others tortured and arrested; in Bicol where 2,000 were slaughtered; and Northern and Central Luzon where 3,000 were slain.

"The leaders of the CPP/NPA/NDF responsible for these killings should account for their atrocious crimes," Esperon said.


Negros Oriental guv, mayors back localized peace initiatives

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 23): Negros Oriental guv, mayors back localized peace initiatives

Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo and town mayors, headed by League of Municipalities-Negros Oriental chapter president Mayor Edsel Enardecido of Ayungon, are one in supporting President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to localize the conduct of peace initiatives after talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) bogged down.

The expression of support came amid criticisms and claims by militant and cause-oriented groups that the localized peace initiative is bound to fail.

Degamo announced over the weekend that he is confident that genuine peace will be achieved in the province because the “government is doing its best to deliver the basic services needed by the people especially in the hinterland barangays.”

The governor is of strong belief that waging war is not a solution to the insurgency problem as evidenced by the fact that it has existed for more than 40 years.

Enardecido also expressed belief that Communist Party of the Philippines leader Jose Maria Sison is not anymore in full control of the rebel movement.

“It is best that local mayors be given the authority to negotiate peace with rebels in their respective areas of jurisdictions,” he said.

Enardecido, however, has apprehensions as to the so-called packages for rebel-surrenderees in the absence of clear-cut guidelines regarding fund sources.

He said until today, what is due the beneficiaries of the closure agreement on the peace talks between the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) and the government has not been fully released.

For his part, Mayor Ernesto T. Uy of Mabinay wants a template on how to go about the localized peace initiative, including the procedure, stressing the Commission on Audit (COA) should be involved in this undertaking.

He said for the last three years, the intelligence fund of the municipality remained unutilized because of strict COA regulations.

Mayor Uy wants COA to make it clear where the budget for peace and security can be drawn from.


Trial for LGU case vs MNLF on 2013 attack begins soon

From the Zamboanga Today Online (Jul 23): Trial for LGU case vs MNLF on 2013 attack begins soon

Hearings for the case filed by the City Government against members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)-Nur Misuari faction relative to the 2013 attack in Zamboanga is set to start either in August or September, this year.

This was bared by Mayor Beng Climaco following a meeting with the Department of Justice (DOJ) panel of prosecutors handling prosecution of the case during the latter’s visit to the city last week.

Climaco, in a message during the Consultation Workshop on IDP Concerns sponsored by humanitarian partners at a local hotel Friday, said she will be the first witness to testify at the Pasig City Regional Trial Court being the lone signatory in the case.

“As mayor, we will fight for justice. We cannot just be attacked and suffer and then forget everything. For as long as there is the law, the struggle of the MNLF siege victims will not end without given them the justice they deserve,” the mayor declared.

The panel of prosecutors from Manila came to the city last week and met with the members of the City Council and the mayor separately, to lay down plans on how to prosecute the MNLF cases pending at Branch 158 in Pasig City.
City Legal Officer Jesus Carbon said the City Government is under the supervision and control of panel of prosecutors from the DOJ, as the panel is the one responsible for building up the case against MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari and Habier Malik, who allegedly led the Zamboanga attack last September 9, 2013 and over a hundred others who are still detained at the Taguig City Jail.

The City Government, according to Carbon, bats for the trial of cases as well as presentation of evidences as a whole and not by batches. 

US-Philippines Alliance: Security Cooperation in the Headlines with Terror Aid Boost

From The Diplomat (Jul 23): US-Philippines Alliance: Security Cooperation in the Headlines with Terror Aid Boost

The recent round of assistance is yet another indicator that substantive defense cooperation continues to be advanced.

Last week, the United States unveiled the latest round of counterterrorism assistance to the Philippines. The move is yet another sign of the continuing opportunities that exist for bilateral cooperation between Washington and Manila despite the challenges the alliance has faced under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte thus far.

As I have noted before in these pages, despite the challenges posed by the rise of Duterte, U.S.-Philippine defense cooperation has continued to advance in some areas (See: “US Terror Aid to Philippines Signals Enduring Defense Ties Under Duterte”). One of these is counterterrorism, which is no surprise considering the heightened threat posed by terror groups, most clearly manifested in the Philippine context with the siege of the southern city of Marawi last year (See: “ASEAN’s Post-Marawi Islamic State Challenge”).

We have seen a mix of activities in this area of the relationship over the course of the past year alone. And while the focus of the headlines is often on transfers of equipment, aid boosts, or even the approval of new exercises involving the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), there are other significant engagements as well. For example, Washington has sought to build links with other institutions such as the Philippine National Police (PNP) on law enforcement issues, despite some rights concerns linked to the Duterte administration’s policies.

On July 19, this aspect of the U.S.-Philippine alliance was in the spotlight again as the United States announced that it would contribute an additional round of funding to boost Philippine counterterrorism efforts. According to the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Washington would contribute 1.418 billion Philippine pesos ($26.5 million) over two years to boost counterterrorism support for Philippine law enforcement agencies.

The focus of the assistance, the statement said, was on “support for non-military rule of law approaches to addressing terrorist threats.” That was a reference to Washington’s continued emphasis on a comprehensive response to countering terrorism and violent extremism that does not only rely on military force. Continued concerns have been raised about the Duterte administration’s law enforcement activities and their effects on democracy and human rights.

The coverage of the assistance will be wide-ranging, including training, equipment, and other support to build up law enforcement capacity to deny terrorist operations, funding, and movement; investigate and prosecute terrorism cases; and counter radicalization to violence and violent extremism. And though few specifics were disclosed in the statement itself, we will no doubt continue to see some of its manifestations as activities take shape in the months that follow.


NPA duping ‘lumad’ by accusing soldiers of atrocities – AFP

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 24): NPA duping ‘lumad’ by accusing soldiers of atrocities – AFP
Communist rebels are preying on indigenous people (IP) by pretending they are concerned about their plight, the military said on Monday.

Col. Noel Detoyato, public affairs office chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said the New People’s Army (NPA) had been duping the IP, or “lumad,” into joining the armed movement by accusing the military of atrocities in their communities.

The Communist Party of the Philippines alleged that soldiers had been imposing food, aid and information blockade in the IP’s evacuation center at Barangay Diatagon, Surigao del Sur.

But Detoyato said government services had not reached the lumad because the insurgents were blocking them.

“We all know their … ‘bakwit tactic.’ They create a drama where they act concerned about their victims, the lumad,” he said.


Malacañang affirms survey on West Philippine Sea

From Business World (Jul 22): Malacañang affirms survey on West Philippine Sea

West Philippine Sea

PRESIDENTIAL Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr. on Sunday said Malacañang is “”one with our people in seeking to assert our sovereign rights and territorial claims in the (West Philippine Sea).”

Mr. Roque made the statement Sunday following the release Friday of the Second Quarter 2018 Social Weather Survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS), showing that 87% of adult Filipinos believe it is important the country regains control of the islands occupied by China in the West Philippine Sea.

His statement also said: “Having seen how the confrontational approach of the previous administration only spurred greater militarization, we have shifted to a conciliatory tack and friendly dialogue with China by employing a bilateral consultation mechanism (BCM) to resolve issues while we build up our capability to monitor and defend our maritime interests.”

The BCM, according to the Palace, was established based on the joint statement issued after President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s landmark visit to China in 2016. Its primary objective is to discuss issues of concern from either side, promote cooperation in the disputed waters, and identify mutually acceptable approaches toward addressing the territorial issue.

Labor coalition Nagkaisa, for its part, said there should be a “clear government policy of defending the country’s sovereignty and patrimony on its rightful claims” in the West Philippine Sea.

Before the survey was conducted, SWS also said, “64% already knew that the Philippines is unable to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing in the West Philippine Sea, 51% already knew that China broke its promise not to militarize the area, and 50% already knew that China created artificial islands that they use as military airbases.”

“The proportion of those who said it is important to regain control of the islands occupied by China in the West Philippine Sea was highest among those with extensive knowledge at 98%, followed by those with adequate knowledge at 95%, those with only a little knowledge at 91%, and those with very little knowledge about the conflict at 83%,” SWS said further.


Retiradong sundalo, binaril ng umano'y NPA sa Guihulngan City

From ABS-CBN (Jul 24): Retiradong sundalo, binaril ng umano'y NPA sa Guihulngan City
GUIHULNGAN CITY - Patay ang isang retiradong sundalo matapos pagbabarilin Martes ng hapon sa highway sakop ng Barangay Bulado dito sa siyudad.
Kinilala ang biktima na si retired Master Sgt. Larry De Gracia, 53, dating miyembro ng 79th Infantry Battalion ng Philippine Army.

Namatay ang biktima dahil sa natamong mga tama ng bala.
Ayon kay Supt. Mario Baquiran, hepe ng Guihulngan City Police, pauwi na sa kaniyang bahay sakay ng kaniyang motorsiklo si De Gracia nang tambangan ng mga nagpakilalang miyembro ng New People's Army (NPA).

Nagtatrabaho bilang caretaker sa Bulado Port si De Gracia.

Nakuha mula sa crime scene ang mga basyo ng kalibre .45 na baril.

Kasalukuyan pang iniimbestigahan ang krimen.


Rappler editor launches landmark book on Philippines-China case

From Rappler (Jul 24): Rappler editor launches landmark book on Philippines-China case

(3rd UPDATE) Rappler editor-at-large Marites Dañguilan Vitug unveils the book 'Rock Solid,' the first of its kind about the Philippines' victory over the South China Sea, at the Ateneo de Manila University

LANDMARK BOOK. 'Rock Solid,' authored by award-winning journalist Marites Dañguilan Vitug, is the first of its kind on the Philippines' case against China over the South China Sea. Photo of Vitug by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

LANDMARK BOOK. 'Rock Solid,' authored by award-winning journalist Marites Dañguilan Vitug, is the first of its kind on the Philippines' case against China over the South China Sea. Photo of Vitug by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

(3rd UPDATE) – Two years after the Philippines won a case against China at The Hague, Rappler editor-at-large Marites Dañguilan Vitug launched a landmark book about this historic ruling on the South China Sea.

Vitug on Tuesday, July 24, unveiled her book Rock Solid: How the Philippines Won Its Maritime Case against China, the first of its kind on Manila's legal victory against Beijing.

The book was published by the Ateneo de Manila University Press, the publishing arm of one of the leading Catholic universities in the Philippines.

The book launch was held at 5 pm on Tuesday, July 24, on the 5th floor (First Pacific Hall) of the Rizal Library at the Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City. (The event was postponed from July 18 due to inclement weather.)

Speakers at the book launch included Vice President Leni Robredo and two stalwarts of the Philippines' case against China – Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio and former Philippine secretary Albert del Rosario.
Rock Solid was sold at a discounted rate of P490 ($9), or 10% lower than the original price, during the book launch.

Afterwards, the book is set to be sold in leading bookstores for P545 ($10).

Harvard Nieman fellow, best-selling author
The author of Rock Solid is one of the Philippines' most awarded journalists.

Vitug received the Courage in Journalism Award from the US-based International Women's Media Foundation in 1991, the Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) Award for the field of journalism in 1993, Ateneo de Manila University's prestigious Ozanam Award in 2011, and the Glory Medal of Distinction from the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Mass Communication Alumni Association in 2017.

Vitug also has a solid academic background.

Recently, Vitug was a visiting research scholar at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies of Kyoto University, and in the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo.

In 1987, Vitug was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. She later took her postgraduate studies in international relations, graduating with merit, at the London School of Economics and Political Science, under a British Chevening scholarship. She was a broadcast communication graduate of UP.

Vitug was also editor-in-chief of the award-winning news magazine Newsbreak for almost 10 years.

She authored the best-selling Shadow of Doubt: Probing the Supreme Court, the first book to expose the inner workings of the Philippine Supreme Court.

She also wrote Power from the Forest: the Politics of Logging, which won the National Book Award in 1994 and, with fellow journalist Glenda M. Gloria, co-authored Under the Crescent Moon: Rebellion in Mindanao, which won the same award in 2001.

Story of the Philippines' victory
In the preface of her new book Rock Solid, Vitug said the idea for the book came from the Philippines' historic legal victory against China.

"Here, I tell the story of this victory that gave the country so much but was not accorded the attention it deserved," the author said.

ROCK SOLID. Rappler editor at large Marites Dañguilan Vitug launches 'Rock Solid' in the presence of VIPs such as Vice President Leni Robredo, Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, and former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario. Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler
The book comes at a time when President Rodrigo Duterte and his foreign secretary, Alan Peter Cayetano, choose to downplay the South China Sea ruling in exchange for economic benefits from Beijing.

The Philippines won the Hague ruling on July 12, 2016, two years before Rock Solid is to be launched.

Vitug said: "In writing this book, I was guided by these core questions: Why did the Philippines sue China? What led to this brave decision? What were the hurdles that had to be overcome? How did the Philippines frame the case and build it in such a compelling manner? Who were the main actors? What was the outcome and its impact?"

"It dawned on me as I was doing my research that filing the case against China before an international arbitral tribunal was a very big deal. Taking this legal step meant confronting a mega-power that had the might and resources to lash back at a small country such as ours. It meant uniting the whole of government and harnessing talents to be part of this massive endeavor. It tested both the country's strategic brainpower and the quality of its public servants," Vitug said.

Rock-solid victory
For this book, Vitug used the transcripts of oral hearings at The Hague, the Philippines' memorial or memorandum explaining the case, the ruling itself, and volumes of annexes including memos, diplomatic cables from 1995 onwards, notes verbale, and intelligence reports.

"Going over these documents was like cramming years of education into about 16 months of reading, interviewing, and writing," Vitug said.

On top of reading these documents, Vitug also interviewed personalities such as former president Benigno Aquino III, Carpio, Del Rosario, and the Philippines' lead counsel in the Philippines-China case, Paul Reichler.

"At first, the subject of rocks, reefs, and islands scattered in the South China Sea seemed esoteric to me. But, as I learned, they meant something more than their geographical location. They resonated with an ideal close to the hearts of many Filipinos: asserting and fighting for a country's rights," she said.

One of the lessons she learned while writing the book, she said, is that the Philippines "is bereft of strategic thinking."

"It is moored on short-term interests and has little regard for external forces, primarily the plans of powerful countries and how these impact the country's politics," Vitug said.

She also said "the past has a lot to teach us, even if the decisions and actions were made under another government."

"Thus, the Philippines should learn from its rock-solid victory and not let it go to waste," Vitug wrote.

Tagalog News: Army commander ipagpapatuloy ang paghahanap sa mga teroristang CPP-NPA-NDF

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 24): Tagalog News: Army commander ipagpapatuloy ang paghahanap sa mga teroristang CPP-NPA-NDF

LUNGSOD NG BUTUAN - Ipagpapatuloy ng militar ang pagtugis sa mga miyembro ng Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People's Army, and the National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) dito sa Caraga Region.

Ito ang mensaheng binigyang-diin ni Major General Ronald Villanueva sa kanyang pakikipanayam sa media kamakailan, kasabay sa ika-46 na selebrasyon sa anibersaryo ng 401st Brigade, Philippine Army sa Camp Datu Lipus Makapandong, New Leyte, Barangay Awa, Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur.
Ayon kay Villanueva, ang 4ID ay nakapokus sa kanilang development support and security plan – kapayapaan sa Armed Forces, kung saan ang 4ID ay may joint campaign plan kasama ang Police Regional Office sa Region 10 at 13.
Nagsasagawa umano sila ng clearing operations sa Guerilla Zones at dismantling o pagkalas sa Guerilla Fronts sa probinsya ng Agusan del Sur at Surigao del Sur.
Dagdag pa ni Major General Villanueva, marami na umano napasukong NPA ang ibat-ibang batalyon ng 4ID at nakatanggap na rin ng tulong mula sa gobyerno.

Hinimok din niya ang mga local government units at local chief executives na tulungan at suportahan sila sa kampanyang ito at mas lalo pang paigtingin ang implementasyon ng kanilang mga programa at serbisyo at maiparating ito sa ibat-ibang komunidad ng rehiyon lalung-lalo na sa liblib na lugar kung saan ang karamihan sa mga naninirahan dito ay sinasamantala ng mga teroristang NPA na sumanib sa kanilang grupo.

Maliban sa mga sundalo, may mga nadagdag pa umanong CAFGUs na nagbabantay at nagsisiguro sa proteksyon ng mga mamamayan sa mga komunidad.

Ayon naman kay Brigadier General Andres Centino, ang komander ng 401st Brigade, Philippine Army, mas pinagtibay pa umano nila ang kanilang maayos at magandang samahan at relasyon kasama ang mga Indigenous Peoples sa probinsya ng Agusan del Sur at Surigao del Sur at tinutulungan nila ito sa pagresolba ng kanilang mga issues and concerns.

Pinaparating din niya sa mga residente sa malalayo o liblib na lugar na ang gobyerno ay patuloy na nagbibigay ng mga programa at serbisyo na tumutugon sa kanilang pangangailangan, ayon na rin sa mahigpit na mandato ng Presidente.

Samantala, hinimok din ni retired Brigadier General Rogelio Villanueva, ang pang-siyam na kumander ng 401st brigade at siya ring naging panauhing pandangal sa anibersaryo ng 401st brigade, na ang mga sundalo, lokal na pamahalaan at ahensya ng gobyerno, kasama ng mga mamamayan ay magkaisa at sama-samang labanan ang terorismo at mamuhay nang matiwasay sa maunlad na rehiyon.

243 new soldiers finish military training

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 24): 243 new soldiers finish military training

CITY OF ILAGAN, Isabela – Two hundred and forty-three new soldiers successfully completed the required extensive military training at the 5th Infantry Division on Saturday, July 21.

Soldier Jay-R Almodovar of Gaddanan, San Mateo, Isabela, an Overseas Filipino Worker’s (OFW) son, topped this year’s Candidate Soldiers Course garnering an average grade of 89.88 in both academic and non-academic requirements of the course.

Major General Perfecto Rimando Jr, commanding general of 5th Infantry Division, Philippine Army awards a certificate to Soldier Jay-R Almodovar of Gaddanan, San Mateo, Isabela, an Overseas Filipino Worker’s (OFW) son, who topped this year’s Candidate Soldiers Course.

The graduation ceremony held at Camp Melchor Dela Cruz in Gamu town was led by Major General Perfecto Rimando Jr, commanding general of 5th Infantry Division, Philippine Army and attended by relatives of the new soldiers.

“I congratulate each and everyone of you. Today you will mark your first day as regular members of the Star Troopers, the guardian of the North,” Rimando said.

Rimando said the batch of soldiers is called “Sandatahang may Dignidad, Maasahan at Maabilidad” or SANDIGMA.

Of the 243 new soldiers, 87 are degree holders and 20 of them have professional licenses, 43 are college level and the rest are vocational and high school graduates with special skills.

“When you mingle with the people in the countryside, always remember that they are the reasons why you are wearing that uniform - that is to protect their rights, to defend them against the enemy of the state and to serve them with your best abilities,” Rimando said.

Rimando added that as new regular members of the Star Troopers, they must avoid committing abuses emphasizing that the Filipino people deserve only a professional soldier. Prove that you are one, he said.

Majority of the “SANDIGMA” Class 535-2018 batch of new soldiers came from Isabela, Cagayan and Kalinga provinces.


GenSan mayor seeks stronger cooperation vs. terrorism

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 24): GenSan mayor seeks stronger cooperation vs. terrorism

GENERAL SANTOS CITY--City officials here are pushing for stronger cooperation between community stakeholders and law enforcement units in an effort to keep the city safe and secure from terrorist elements.

City Mayor Ronnel Rivera on Tuesday cited the contribution of concerned residents in the successful operation of joint security personnel here last week against an alleged top leader and “bomb-maker” of the Islamic State-inspired Maute group.

Rivera said suspect Najib Calimba Pundug alias Najib Hussein was tracked down by the police and military through “community reports and intelligence.”

Pundug, who was tagged as the number two man of the Islamic State-inspired Maute under its new leader Owaidah Abdulmajib Marohombsar alias Abu Dar, was killed in an encounter with police operatives in a house in Barangay Fatima on July 16.

The raid also led to the arrest of Abu Dar’s wife Nafisah Pundug in a follow-up operation in Purok Maunlad, Barangay Apopong.

Despite the incident, Rivera assured that the city remains safe and secure, and authorities are doing everything to maintain peace and order.

Citing intelligence reports, the mayor said there were no other monitored movements of members of the Maute and other local terror groups in the city.

"According to the information that we received, the slain Maute bomb expert was just here to visit his family," Rivera said in a statement.

The mayor acknowledged that the operation in Barangay Fatima unsettled some residents but said law enforcement units are on top of the situation.

Rivera said the police and military have sustained the red alert status in the city as a measure to protect the area against lawless elements. He noted that such alert status was based on the prevailing martial law in the entire Mindanao earlier declared by President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

The President issued the declaration in May last year due to the Marawi City siege and was eventually extended by Congress until the end of 2018.

Rivera and other city officials had supported the declaration of martial law in Mindanao and called it a necessary move in the continuing fight against terrorism.


DND backs PRRD efforts on diplomatic settlement of WPS issue

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 24): DND backs PRRD efforts on diplomatic settlement of WPS issue

The Department of National Defense (DND) expressed support for President Rodrigo Duterte's efforts to settle the West Philippine Sea (WPS) issue with China through diplomatic means.

"The WPS issue represents just a portion of the sum total of our relations with China, thus, the DND supports the President's efforts to manage it through diplomatic means," DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in message to the PNA Monday.

"Having said that, however, the DND and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will defend our country's sovereignty with all the means and resources available to us, if and when the need arises," he added.

Meanwhile, AFP spokesperson Col. Edgard Arevalo said the military has been consistently conducting regular maritime and aerial patrols in the WPS in line with its constitutional mandate.

"We pursue our mandate of protecting the people and securing our sovereignty - in relation to the country's foreign policy," he added.

In his third State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Duterte said Manila stands firm on its commitment to protect its interest in the WPS while improving relations with Beijing.

"Our improved relationship with China does not mean that we will waver in our commitment to defend our interest in the West Philippine Sea," Duterte said, adding that this is reflected in Manila's continued engagement with Beijing through multilateral and bilateral channels.

In 2017, the government launched the first bilateral consultative mechanism in South China Sea (BCM) with China, where all issues concerning the contested area were discussed in a "frank, in-depth, and friendly manner."

The Philippines, together with several Southeast Asian countries, also engaged China towards the drafting of the framework of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) during its chairmanship to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2017.

These efforts paved the way for an opportunity to manage the dispute without further escalating tensions in the strategic waters, Duterte said.

"Opening lines of communication and amicably managing differences have led to positive developments that include renewed access of Filipino fishermen in the areas of dispute in the Philippines' West Philippine Sea."


AFP ‘pleased’ with peaceful conduct of PRRD’s SONA

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 24): AFP ‘pleased’ with peaceful conduct of PRRD’s SONA


The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said it is pleased with the peaceful and orderly outcome of President Rodrigo Duterte's third State of the Nation Address (SONA), especially with the successful implementation of its security plan.

"We are pleased with the outcome of our preparations for the SONA as it so far turned out to be peaceful and orderly. The thorough planning and its efficient execution were key (to its peaceful conclusion)," AFP spokesperson Col. Edgard Arevalo said Monday.

AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. commended the soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines of the Joint Task Force-National Capital Region (JTF-NCR) for the job well-done, along with the force-in-reserve at General Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, who were on stand-by for possible deployment.

JTF-NCR deployed three infantry companies, two infantry platoons, seven civil disturbance management companies, three search-and-rescue response teams, one air defense asset team and two chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear explosives teams.

Earlier, Arevalo urged SONA protesters, while observing their rights to freedom of expression and assembly, to do their mass actions peacefully and orderly.

"But if they have to pursue those rights, they should do so peaceably and with due regard to the opinion, safety, and well-being of others," he added.


BOL now awaits Duterte’s signature

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 24): BOL now awaits Duterte’s signature

Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza welcomed the House of Representatives decision to ratify the bicameral conference committee report on the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) on Tuesday, noting that the bill is now ready for President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s signature.

“The ratification of the proposed Bangsamoro Organic Law by the House of Representatives today is a step closer to the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao,” Dureza said in a press statement.
“The bill is now ready for the signature of President Duterte who will sign it anytime now. It's been a long and arduous road for all,” he added.

Dureza said that once Duterte signs the bill into a law, it will mark “a new beginning” for all Bangsamoro and a peaceful Mindanao and Philippines.

“When President Duterte approves and signs it into law, it will be a new beginning for all Bangsamoro and all citizens to work for a better and peaceful Mindanao and country,” Dureza said.

He acknowledged that it will not be easy, but vowed to stay the course.

The measure seeks to create a new Bangsamoro political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Ratifying the BOL was the first item completed on the agenda of newly-elected House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Duterte was expected to sign the BOL before his third State of the Nation Address on Monday but it was only the Senate that was able to approve the bicam report on the BOL.

The lower chamber failed to ratify the landmark measure following a change in House speakership where Arroyo replaced Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez.

Malacañang earlier said Duterte will sign the BOL as soon as it is ratified by the House of Representatives.

“The President to sign it into law is for the House to ratify the bicam version of the bill. So if it will be ratified later, then the President can sign it tonight,” Roque said.

Roque said “a ceremony of sort” should be held during the signing of the BOL since it did not take center stage in the SONA.

In his SONA, Duterte vowed to sign the BOL after reading the bicameral conference version.

“Despite all that has been said [for] or against the Bangsamoro Organic Law by all sectoral groups, I make this solemn commitment that this administration will never deny our Muslim brothers and sisters the basic legal tools to chart their own destiny within the Constitutional framework of our country,” Duterte said.

“When the approved version is transmitted [to] and received by my office… The law has been passed actually and I intend to… Give me 48 hours to sign it and ratify the law,” he added.


PH Navy: Delivery of 2 anti-sub helicopters set in March 2019

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 24): PH Navy: Delivery of 2 anti-sub helicopters set in March 2019

The Philippine Navy (PN) will receive its first two anti-submarine helicopters, AgustaWestland AW159 "Wildcat", in March next year.

"Siguro sa March ang delivery (The delivery is probably in March 2019)," PN flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad said when asked about the delivery dates for the two aircraft, during an interview with reporters Monday.

The AW159s, to be sourced from the Anglo-Italian aircraft manufacturer AgustaWestland, will help the two missile-armed frigates being constructed by Hyundai Heavy Industries for PHP18 billion, against submarine attacks.

"Itong anti-submarine warfare will (help the frigates against submarine attacks) kasi yun submarine ang magpapalubog ng mga barko (These anti-submarine helicopters will help the frigates against submarine attacks because submarines sink ships). So this will help in the defense of the frigates," Empedrad added.

The contract for the two anti-submarine helicopters is worth PHP5.4 billion and includes munition, mission essential equipment, and integrated logistic support. The AW159, previously called the Future Lynx and Lynx Wildcat, is an improved version of the Westland Super Lynx military helicopter.

The helicopter, which has been ordered for the Royal Navy and British Army, is capable of speeds of 291 km/h, has a range of 777 km., a ferry range of 963 km., and an endurance of one-and-a-half hours (four hours and 30 minutes if fitted with auxiliary fuel).

The AW159 can be fitted with forward firing CRV7 rockets and machine guns, pintle-mounted machine gun, Sea Skua missiles, and Sting-Ray torpedoes and depth charges.


House ratifies Bangsamoro Organic Law

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 24): House ratifies Bangsamoro Organic Law

A day after the ouster of former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, the House of Representatives on Tuesday ratified the bicameral conference committee report on the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

This was the first item completed on the agenda of newly-elected Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

"As I intend to carry out the legislative agenda of President Rodrigo Duterte, we will ratify the Bangsamoro Organic Law today," Arroyo said before Tuesday's session started.

President Rodrigo Duterte was expected to sign the BOL before his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday but it was only the Senate that was able to approve the bicam report on the BOL.

The lower chamber failed to ratify the landmark measure during the opening of the third regular session following a leadership shakeup.

The measure seeks to create a new Bangsamoro political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The bicameral panel approved the reconciled version of the BOL last July 18 after six days of marathon hearings.

The bill provides for the 75-25 wealth-sharing term in favor of the Bangsamoro. This increases the share of the Bangsamoro in government tax revenues by 5 percent compared with the current 70 percent being received by the ARMM from national internal revenue taxes, fees, and charges, as well as taxes imposed on natural resources.

The automatic allocation of the annual block grant for the Bangsamoro region has been adopted by the committee. This is equivalent to 5 percent of the net national internal revenue of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

The national government will allocate PHP5 billion to the Bangsamoro annually for a period of 10 years. This is equivalent to PHP50 billion for the entire implementation. The amount will be used for the rehabilitation of conflict-affected areas within the region.

The bicameral committee adopted the provision covering the Bangsamoro justice system, which includes the creation of the Shari’ah High Court.

The measure provides for the addition of Shari'ah high, district, and circuit courts to regular courts within the territorial jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro.

The committee also agreed to have the Bangsamoro government and national government jointly explore, develop, and utilize fossil fuels and uranium in the new region.

The coverage of the region includes current ARMM provinces, such as Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Basilan, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur.

It also provides that six municipalities of Lanao del Norte and the 39 barangays of North Cotabato could vote to join the territory in a referendum to be conducted in the mother territory of the areas involved.