Friday, July 27, 2018

Government troops overran NPA camp in Agusan Norte —military

From GMA News (Jul 28): Government troops overran NPA camp in Agusan Norte —military

Security forces clashed with undetermined number of New People's Army guerrillas and overran the rebels' camp in Tubay town in Agusan del Norte last Thursday afternoon, the military said Saturday.

The NPA camp in Sitio Cogon-Cogon of Barangay Tagmamarkay of Tubay town was routed in a firefight that erupted at about 2:20 p.m. as troops from the 29th Infantry Battalion of the 402nd Infantry Brigade were conducting a focused military operation.

After the 20-minute clash, the troops captured the communist insurgents' camp that yielded a loaded AK-47, an improvised explosive device (for landmine), 100-meter wire strip, a backpack, and personal belongings.

No soldier was hurt in the skirmish, the military said, adding that "heavy blood stains" was seen inside the captured enemy camp, indicating the enemy's large casualties.

402nd IB commander Brigadier General Franco Nemesio Gacal lauded the 29th IB troops for the successful conduct of the military operation in Tubay.

NPA claims slay of ex-Army officer

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jul 27): NPA claims slay of ex-Army officer

The New People’s Army has issued a statement claiming responsibility for the killing of a former Army intelligence officer in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental, Tuesday.

The rebel group, however, denied any involvement in the murder of retired SPO2 Angel Sinadjan in Escalante City, Negros Occidental.

Ka JB Regalado, spokesperson of the NPA Leonardo Panaligan Command, in a statement, linked Larry De Gracia to a murder incident in July 27 last year, among other illegal activities, including proliferation of illegal drugs.

De Gracia, a retired Army lieutenant, was shot and killed by three suspected NPA assassins, while on his way home on July 24 in Brgy. Bolado, Guihulngan City.

He succumbed to 13 gunshot wounds, investigations of the Guihulngan City police showed.

Regalado alleged that De Gracia also engaged in spying activities by reporting the activities of NPA and legal organizations of the people in Brgys. Bolado, Calamba and Basak in Guihulngan City.

He added that all units of NPA under the Leonardo Panaligan Command will punish protectors of illegal drugs, including the police and military personnel in Guihulngan.

The Roselyn Pelle Command Northern Negros Guerilla Front also issued a statement condemning the killing of Sinadjan, also a chief security officer of the Escalante City government.

Ka Cecil Estrella, spokesperson of the Roselyn Pelle Command, however, also said that the NPA had nothing to do with the murder of Sinadjan.

Investigations of the Escalante police showed that Sinadjan, who used to be a member of the city police force, was murdered at his residence on July 14 in Brgy. Buenavista, Escalante City.

Estrella raised the possibility that the killing of Sinadjan was politically-motivated, since the victim was a close friend of Rep. Melecio Yap (Neg. Occ., 2nd district).

Before Sinadyan’s death, Estrella further claimed that an alleged military asset and two gun-for-hire persons, were noticed by residents within the perimeter of the scene of incident.

DOCUMENT: Bangsamoro Organic Law

From Rappler (Jul 27): DOCUMENT: Bangsamoro Organic Law
Here's the document signed by President Rodrigo Duterte, creating a new Bangsamoro region in place of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao
MINDANAO PEACE. President Rodrigo Duterte shakes hands with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal. Malacañang file photo
MINDANAO PEACE. President Rodrigo Duterte shakes hands with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal. Malacañang file photo

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang released the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) or Republic Act Number 11054 a day after President Rodrigo Duterte signed it.

The law is historic as it means the Duterte administration has surpassed the previous administration in fulfilling its promise to create a new Bangsamoro region in place of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Under former president Benigno Aquino III, deliberations on bills of what would have become the Bangsamoro Basic Law were stopped after a botched police operation in 2015, known as the Mamasapano massacre.

Passing the BOL is also a fulfillment of a major campaign promise by Duterte, the first president from Mindanao. It's the culmination of a peace deal signed between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and past administrations.

The BOL retains the major provisions agreed upon during the long and arduous bicameral conference between the Senate and House of Representatives.

They are the following:

Composition: The region would be composed of the current ARMM – Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Basilan, Maguindanao, and Lanao del Sur – pending a regional plebiscite.

Also included in the Bangsamoro region are 6 municipalities of Lanao del Norte and 39 barangays of Cotabato, provided that the province and their municipalities, respectively, vote to lose jurisdiction over them. These areas previously voted to be included in the ARMM, but their mother units voted against it. (READ: Duterte ends BBL impasse: Mother LGUs' vote needed for inclusion in Bangsamoro)

The chartered cities of Cotabato and Isabela would also be included, subject to the approval of their respective registered voters in the plebiscite.

The law has an opt-in provision, allowing areas adjacent to the region to join the Bangsamoro, with a petition of at least 10% of their voters.

Wealth sharing: The law grants 75-25 wealth sharing between the Bangsamoro and national governments – higher than the current 70-30 scheme under the ARMM law. This means 75% of the national internal revenue collection would go to the Bangsamoro, and 25% to the central government.

Block grant: An annual block grant, pegged at a 5% share of the national internal revenue or some P59 billion, would also be automatically appropriated to the region without any conditions.

Head of government: The Bangsamoro government will be headed by a chief minister and a ceremonial leader called a Wali.

Parliament: There will be a parliament composed of 80 members: 50% party representatives, 40% district representatives, and 10% sectoral representatives, including two reserved seats for "non-Moro indigenous peoples and settler communities."

Security: The Bangsamoro will not have its own military and police forces, as these would still be under the national government. (READ: Bicam adopts Senate provision vs Bangsamoro firearms purchase)

Supervision over bodies of water: The Bangsamoro region will primarily oversee all inland bodies of water, except for those that produce energy for other areas outside its jurisdiction. Energy-producing bodies of water, like Lake Lanao, would instead be co-managed by the region together with the Department of Energy.

Duterte to Abu Sayyaf: 'Let's talk'

From Rappler (Jul 28): Duterte to Abu Sayyaf: 'Let's talk'

A day after signing the Bangsamoro law, President Rodrigo Duterte appeals to terror groups not to spark any conflict while the Bangsamoro government is being set up

President Rodrigo Duterte said on Friday, July 27, that he wants to dialogue with terrorist group Abu Sayyaf to bring an end to bloodshed in Mindanao.

"Mag-usap na lang. Iyong Abu Sayyaf, mag-usap na lang tayo. Ano bang gawain natin? Magpatayan tayong lahat (Let's talk. The Abu Sayyaf, let's just talk. What do we do? Just kill each other)?" Duterte said in a speech in Jolo, Sulu, where the Abu Sayyaf operates from.

It was not the first time for the President to express his openness to a dialogue with the Abu Sayyaf. Days before he formally assumed the presidency in 2016, Duterte had said that "the Abu Sayyaf is not my enemy" and that he wanted to ask them if they were "willing to talk or do we just fight it out?"

Duterte had also said earlier said that he did not consider the Abu Sayyaf – who became infamous for kidnap-for-ransom of foreigners – as a criminals as they committed their acts out of "desperation," driven by an ideology.

In his speech on Friday, the President also asked the terror group to give him more time to address their grievances about Mindanao and government.

"Now, you have a President with Moro blood. Give me some time. Now, if you really just want to end this world, bathe Mindanao and Jolo in blood, let's just talk," he said in Filipino.

The day before, Duterte signed the historic Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) that creates a new Bangsamoro autonomous region to replace the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). (READ: DOCUMENT: Bangsamoro Organic Law)

In his Friday speech, he appealed to terror groups not to spark any conflict or act of violence while the BOL is being implemented.

"The BBL is signed. Let's give it some time. Let's not go to war. Because if there is war – I don't have a problem dying – but we will all die," he said in Filipino.

Previously, Duterte had earlier said he would not dialogue with terrorists.

He has also specified that he rejects any talks with the Islamic State (ISIS) because it has "no ideology except to destroy and kill." The Abu Sayyaf, however, is aligned with ISIS. (READ: More dangerous union: Abu Sayyaf Sulu and ISIS East Asia finally align)

Duterte himself had said that ISIS aims to put up a caliphate in Mindanao.

NPA frees police officer after 7 months in captivity

From the often pro-Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) online publication the Davao Today (Jul 27): NPA frees police officer after 7 months in captivity

FINALLY FREE. Police Inspector Menardo Cui, Deputy Police Chief of Pres. Roxas Municipal PNP, is emotional when the custodial unit of the New People’s Army announced his release on Friday afternoon in a remote village at the boundary of Davao City and Magpet town, North Cotabato. (Mara S. Genotiva/

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The New People’s Army has finally freed a police officer they held captive for seven months.

Inspector Menardo Cui, deputy police chief of Pres. Roxas Municipal PNP, was released on Friday, July 27, in a rural village located at the boundary of Davao City and Magpet town, North Cotabato.

Cui was taken as prisoner of war by the Mount Apo Sub-Regional Command NPA Front 53 on December 28 last year in Barangay Poblacion, Pres. Roxas town, North Cotabato.

Cui was endorsed to government officials around 12:30 pm today as well as to Bishop Hamuel Tequis, Rev. Jurie Jaime, and Bishop Jonathan Casimina, of Exodus for Justice and Peace (EJP), a peace advocate group which acted as the third party facilitator.

The officials present were Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go, Magpet Mayor Florentino Gonzaga, and Kidapawan City Councilor Ruby Padilla-Sison.

Also present were members of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the People’s Peace Network, a group composed of church, civil societies, and local government units in North Cotabato.
In early January, the NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command (NPA-SMROC) released a video of Cui, saying he was being treated well.

In the video, he appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to resume peace talks with the communists. He also requested the Armed Forces of the Philippines to suspend its operations to make way for his safe release.

READ: NPA holds deputy police chief as prisoner of war in North Cotabato

A month after Cui’s arrest, his wife died of cancer.

Ka Tris, spokesperson of the NPA’s 2nd Pulang Bagani Company, said they informed Cui about the death of his wife and let him communicate with his family.

Ka Tris added that they would have released Cui sooner had it not been for the Army and police’s refusal to suspend its operations.

According to the release order signed by Rubi Del Mundo, representative of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in Southern Mindanao region, Cui has investigated by the responsible unit and “sufficient evidence has been established to warrant his prosecution for serious crimes committed against the Filipino people and the revolutionary movement.”

“However,” it added, Cui’s “acts and conduct while under the detention and during the investigation and judicial proceedings have been observed as exhibiting remorse for his offenses.”

Police Inspector Menardo Cui meets with church leaders from the third-party facilitator, Exodus for Justice and Peace, and Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go during the turn-over ceremony. (Mara S. Genotiva/
Del Mundo also said that the Order of Release is the NDFP’s “favorable response to widespread appeals of the Prisoner’s family and relatives and well-meaning parties and individuals who have expressed support for the negotiated settlement on the issue of POW within the purview of the CARHRIHL and the Geneva Conventions and Protocol 1.”

Cui was received by his older brother.

The peace negotiation between the government and the NDFP faced uncertainty anew after the government postponed the scheduled resumption of formal talks in Oslo, Norway on June 28-30 saying it would review its position and conduct consultations with stakeholders.

Amidst the setbacks, the NDFP said the release of Cui was carried out as a gesture of goodwill for the resumption of the peace talks.

In his speech during the ceremony, Cui thanked the NPAs for their fair treatment.

“Sa 209 ka adlaw nako sa hukbo nagtamod sila sa ilang ika-walo na punto na dili dagmalan ang POW. Bisan kusi, sigaan ko og mata, wala ko nakatilaw. Tanang pagkaon na akong gi-hanyo, tagaan… biste, akong suoton, tanan. Ginakab-an kog tubig, ligo, sila pa ang maglaba sa akong sanina. Sa custodial, daghan kaayong salamat kauban dira ang medic na nag atiman sa akoa,” said Cui.

(Within the 209 days with the NPA, I can say they really adhere to their eighth point of discipline: Do not mistreat prisoners. I did not receive any pinch nor a glare. They have provided me with food, clothes, everything. They even fetch water for me and they wash my clothes. I thank the custodial unit including the medic who took care of me.)

He also called for the resumption of peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

“Balik kita sa negotiating table. Mag storya ta og kalinaw sa Mindanao, sa Pilipinas, aron walay kamatayon na magmadaugon kanato (Let’s go back to the negotiating table. Let’s talk about peace in Mindanao, in our country, so that death will not prevail in our land),” Cui added.

SAP Chistopher Go, in his speech, said he would relay the church leaders and Cui’s call to President Rodrigo Duterte on the resumption of peace talks.

Go added that the government is still “open for another chance” to return to the negotiating table as long as the other party adheres to the conditions set by the government including return of CPP Founding Chair Jose Maria Sison in the Philippines for the talk.

He also said that local government units may engage to a localized peace talks with the communist rebels operating within their area of responsibility, with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) as the lead agency.

NPA’s Ka Tris said the localized peace talks would not address the root causes of the armed conflict in the country, saying the issues that need to be addressed are of national character.

“Localized peace talks cannot solve the root cause of the conflict which is severe poverty among the Filipinos. It should be resolved in the national level down to the local,” Ka Tris said.

Early this week, the ComVal-Davao East Coast Sub-Regional Command of the NPA in Southern Mindanao declared Private First Class Johannes Dolor Parreño of the 28th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army assigned in Davao Oriental as a prisoner of war.

Parreño was arrested at a checkpoint mounted by the NPA in Sitio Mampising, Barangay Taguibo in Mati City on June 10.

Cop wounded in DavOr attack

From MindNews (Jul 27): Cop wounded in DavOr attack

A policeman was wounded in an attack by suspected New People’s Army rebels around 4 pm Thursday in Tarragona, Davao Oriental.

Police Regional Office 11 spokesperson Chief Insp. Milgrace Driz on Friday identified the wounded policeman as PO1 Johnny Morales.

Driz said Morales was with Chief Insp. Marcelito and PO1 George Silat onboard a Toyota Avanza on their way back to Baganga municipal police station from the provincial office in Mati City for a drug test.

She said they stopped upon seeing around 10 armed men mount a roadblock near Tagsagaong Bridge in Barangay Tomoaong, Tarragona for a supposed checkpoint.

But they turned back after sensing that the armed men were neither soldiers nor police officers, she said.

The armed men opened fire at the vehicle, prompting the policemen to retaliate, she added.

Their vehicle fell off a cliff while trying to escape, she said.

“They can’t go out from the door, so they broke the window glass and managed to hide,” she said.

Driz said the policemen hid until the armed men left.

She said Morales was hit in the abdomen and is recuperating in a hospital in the province.

She said the NPA could be behind the attack based on the “mode of operation.”

No group has claimed responsibility for the incident.

NPA frees police officer after 7 months

From MindNews (Jul 27): NPA frees police officer after 7 months

A police officer held captive by the New People’s Army (NPA) for seven months was released on Friday afternoon.

The rebel group released Insp. Menardo Nisperos Cui in Sitio Apog Apog, Barangay Panaka Magpet, North Cotabato.

Police Regional Office 11 spokesperson Chief Insp. Milgrace Driz said Cui was flown by helicopter to Camp Catitipan in Davao City where his mother, Filomena, was waiting.

She said Cui became emotional upon knowing his wife died of cancer while he was being held in captivity.

In a statement published on its website on January 12, 2018, the NPA’s Mt. Apo Sub-Regional Command said it abducted the 48-year old deputy chief of police of President Roxas, North Cotabato on December 28 and subsequently declared him a prisoner of war for his “counterinsurgency activities and possible crimes against the masses and the revolutionary movement.”

“As a legitimate exercise of belligerent political authority on behalf of the People’s Democratic Government, the NPA is tasked to arrest, detain and investigate personnel of the reactionary armed forces who are actively engaged in the armed conflict,” it read.

Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence Go received Cui on behalf of government.

Abducted deputy police chief of Cotabato town released to SAP Go

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 27): Abducted deputy police chief of Cotabato town released to SAP Go

Special Assistant to the President Secretary Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go (3rd from right) with members of the Exodus Movement for Justice and Peace and Police Insp Menard Cui (2nd from right) listens as Ka Tricia reads the release order.Lilian C. Mellejor

MAGPET, North Cotabato -- The New People's Army's (NPA) released the deputy chief of police of President Roxas municipality in Cotabato to Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go in a remote village in Magpet town, North Cotabato on Friday.

The release of Inspector Menard Cui came after seven months of negotiations with the NPA for the former’s release. Cui was abducted on December 28, 2017 and held as Prisoner of War by the rebels

Cui was received by SAP Go from members of the
NPA's Guerilla Front 23, First Pulang Bagani Battalion.

Go, who flew by chopper to Sitio Apog-Apog — the remotest area between Barangay Tiko, Magpet and Barangay Salaysay, Davao City --thanked the NPA for showing goodwill in releasing the police officer.

He said the policeman's release came with no financial demand, adding the NPA also returned Cui's personal belongings.

Go said he also provided Cui financial assistance to start a new life and spend time with his three children. He advised Cui to visit the grave of his wife, Florelie, who died of sickness a month after Cui’s abduction. Cui's family sought Go's help in January.

Go turned over Cui to Police Regional Office (PRO) 11 Director Manuel Gaerlan and Chief Supt Marcelo Morales, PRO-12 Regional Director, in a ceremony at Camp Quintin Merecido in Davao City, where Cui also reunited with his family.


Ka Tricia, spokesperson of NPA's First Pulang Bagani Battalion operating in North Cotabato and Bukidnon areas, read the release order for Cui from the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP)-Southern Mindanao Region that was signed by Rubi del Mundo of the NDFP-SMR Executive Council.

Tricia said the policeman's release was in accordance with the provision of the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and the International Humanitarian Law and the Geneva Protocol. She said Cui underwent NPA's internal judicial processes and was cleared of wrongdoing.

Ka Joel, NPA platoon leader of Front 53, said Cui was fed with the same food for the rebels if there was no chance to buy food supply.

“Everyday we eat vegetables,” he said in Cebuano.

Joel noted Cui lost weight from the time he was turned over to the custodial force.

Cui was thankful he was finally freed, saying he was treated well by the NPA custodial force.

Go said there was no question on the sincerity shown by President Rodrigo Duterte in reaching out to the communist movement.

“kilala ko ang Presidente. Sincere siyang kausap (I know the President.He is a sincere person),” Go said as he cited the President’s signing of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), now known as Bangsamoro Organic law (BOL).

He underscored the President’s wish to achieve peace with the communist, but noted that there are certain conditions that must be met for the resumption of the talks.

Go said he remains optimistic that the peace talks will be resumed soon, based on the pronouncement of the Presidential Peace Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza.

'Disgruntled' NPA siblings yield to Army in Tacurong

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 28): 'Disgruntled' NPA siblings yield to Army in Tacurong

NPA SIBLINGS YIELD. Two young members of the communist New People’s Army identified as brothers Boyet, 19, and Ato,18, both surnamed Ador, surrender before Colonel Robert Dauz, commander of the Army's 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade at the headquatrers of the Army's 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade in Tacurong City on Friday (July 27, 2018). Looking on are Lieutenant Colonel Harold Cabunoc (second from right), the commander of 33rd Infantry Battalion, and another military officer. (Photo by 6ID)
CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao -- Two New People’s Army (NPA) members deserted the communist movement and surrendered with their weapons to military authorities in Tacurong City on Friday, an Army official said Saturday.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, commander of the Army's 33rd Infantry Battalion (IB), identified the surrenderers as brothers Boyet Ador, 19, and Ato Ador, 18, who are members of the Dulangan-Manobo tribe.

They were accompanied by their father, Jun Ador, 48, during a formal handover to Col. Robert Dauz, the newly installed commander of the Army's 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade (MIB), at the 1st MIB camp at about 1:30 p.m.

Both siblings said their father, himself an NPA surrenderer, convinced them to abandon the communist group.

"We decided to surrender because our father told us about the social benefits given by the government to former NPA combatants," said Boyet, the older sibling.

The duo brought with them a 40-mm. grenade launcher and a locally-manufactured M16 rifle during the surrender rites.

Since January, more than 160 rebels have yielded to the military’s 33rd IB in adjoining Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao provinces.

Dauz expressed elation over the decision of the Ador siblings to lay down their arms.

"We don't need to fight to solve community problems. I will facilitate the release of your social benefits under the Enhanced Local Integration Program," the military official told the surrenderers.

Dauz said NPA members who previously yielded to authorities in Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao have been granted social benefits by the government through the Task Force Balik-Loob headed by former Army chief, Lt. Gen. Reynaldo Mapagu.

Most of the surrenderers were “Lumads” (natives) who were allegedly deceived by NPA front leaders into joining the communist terrorist group by exploiting social issues, the military official said.

Maguindanao town officials surrender 10 more firearms

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 28): Maguindanao town officials surrender 10 more firearms

MORE YIELDED FIREARMS. Mayor Anida Abas-Dimaukom of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao, hands over a firearm to Brigadier General Diosdado Carreon, commander of the Army’s 601st Brigade, during the ceremonial turnover of ten high-powered loose firearms at the town hall on Friday (July 27, 2018). On April this year, the town also yielded 17 loose firearms to military authorities (Photo by 6ID)
CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao – Town officials of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao have surrendered 10 loose firearms to the military on Friday.

Datu Saudi Ampatuan Mayor Anida Abas-Dimaukom turned over the high-powered guns to Brig. Gen. Diosdado Carreon, commander of the Army’s 601st Brigade, and Lt. Col. Alvin Iyog, commander of the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion, in a ceremony held at the municipal hall.

Capt. Arvin John Encinas, the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (ID) spokesperson, said the surrendered firearms included two 60-mm. mortar launchers, two sniper rifles, three M203 grenade launchers, one .50-caliber Barrett-type rifle, one .30-caliber machine gun, and an 81-mm mortar launcher.

Last April 24, the town also surrendered 17 loose firearms to the Army.

“The municipality of Datu Saudi has once again proven their support and cooperation to the campaign against loose firearms as this is their second time to hand over unlicensed firearms to the Army,” Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, the Army’s 6th Infantry Division commander, said in a statement.

The number of assorted loose firearms surrendered to the 61D since January has totaled 1,913.

5 NPA-recruited IPs reunited with guardians

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 27): 5 NPA-recruited IPs reunited with guardians

Five indigenous people, aged 17-19 years, who were recruited by the New People's Army (NPA) in August last year, were returned to their guardians by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Thursday.

The IPs, whose identities were being kept confidential for security reasons, belong to the Manobo Tribe of San Fernando, Bukidnon, said Col. Noel Detoyato, military public affairs office chief.

Before turning them over to their guardians, medical officers of the Camp Aguinaldo Station Hospital gave the former rebels a physical check-up.

Detoyato said the IPs cited physical abuse as reasons for leaving the rebel group.

Four of them allegedly suffered physical abuse while the other contracted typhoid fever and was hospitalized for a week. All of them experienced lack of food and sleep, and were always on the run due to military operations.

AFP personnel will assist them as they return to their hometown in Bukidnon.

Detoyato said the five IPs, who were without any weapon, voluntarily surrendered to troopers of the 24th Infantry Battalion and Abra Police in the town of Licuan-Baay last July 5.

The IPs were recruited by a certain Jeffrey Mandangit, also known as "Jumboy", a known NPA member.

They were told that they have to go to Manila and will be hired as piggery caretaker with a salary of PHP8,000 per month. In Manila, they were forced to join mass protests with the promise that they could avail of a job after a week.

However, they were subsequently sent to Abra and were forced to become full-time fighters of the NPA’s Kilusang Larangang Gerilya (KLG) North Abra until their surrender last July.

Detoyato said the former rebels were unaware that they were victims of human trafficking, deception, and abuse by the rebel group. The IPs told the military that of the 44 members of the KLG, 27 are IPs from Mindanao.

Army, village officials sued over Lake Sebu incident

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 28): Army, village officials sued over Lake Sebu incident

The National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) has sued before the Department of Justice (DOJ) three Army officials and three barangay (village) executives in South Cotobato over their alleged involvement in the so called “Lake Sebu Massacre.”

In a complaint dated July 26, the NUPL, representing the families of the victims, filed seven counts of murder and two counts of frustrated murder against the respondents 10th Infantry Division (ID) commander Maj. Gen. Noel Clement and his subordinates, 33rd Infantry Battalion (IB) commander Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, and 27th IB commander Lt. Col. Benjamin Leande.

Named respondents also include the local officials -- Barangay Captain Bebot Nobleta, Kagawad Melencio Tungkay, and Indigenous People Mandatory Representative Arturo Labi-- of Barangay Ned in Lake Sebu.

The NUPL accused the respondents of killing seven members of Lumad from T’boli-Dulangan Manobo and B’laan indigenous tribes and hurting two others during the incident that took place on Dec. 3, 2017 in Lake Sebu.

Killed during the incident were Datu Victor Danyan Sr., Victor Danyan Jr., Artemio Danyan, Tho Diamante, Mateng Bontal, Pato Ceralbo, and Samuel Angkoy. The two wounded Lumad members were Bosing Danyan and Jeffrey Danyan.

In a letter dated July 26 to Acting Prosecutor General Richard Anthony Fadullon, NUPL lawyer Katherine Panguban said the families decided to file the complaint in Manila instead in South Cotabato for security reasons.

“They are currently seeking refuge in Metro Manila following the continued and intensified militarization of their community in South Cotabato as a consequence of the imposition of Mindanao-wide Martial law,” the letter read.

The NUPL also sought the prosecution of officials and personnel of the Bagumbayan Police Station in Sultan Kudarat for arbitrary detention for the illegal arrest of another Lumad, Jamel Culano, last Dec. 6, 2017.

The military claimed that the incident was an encounter between government troops and Danyan’s group who were allegedly members of the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

BOL signals a ‘new era of peace’ in Mindanao: Lorenzana

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 28): BOL signals a ‘new era of peace’ in Mindanao: Lorenzana

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Friday expressed optimism that the signing of the landmark Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) on July 26 “will usher in a new era of peace in Mindanao.”

Lorenzana said the government is ready to start the implementation of important provisions of the new law, including the decommissioning of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters, and the possible integration of qualified individuals to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.

"The DND (Department of National Defense) is ready to assist our fellow Filipinos in the Bangsamoro to start their lives anew, heal the wounds of conflict, and end our people's divisiveness after decades of fighting," he said in a statement.

With the BOL expected to bring commerce, trade, and industry developments in the region, including increased delivery of government services to communities in Mindanao, the defense chief expressed confidence that the root causes of violent extremism and terrorism, such as poverty, lack of education, and social injustice, will be adequately addressed.

"I now call on the remaining groups still fighting the government to follow the path of peace just like the MILF and MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front). Through our localized peace efforts, we remain committed to achieve peace, even with members of the Communist Terrorist Group, and pursue the peace agenda of our President who is walking the extra mile to unite the people as one nation," he added.

He cited as proof the thousands of former communist rebels, who have returned to their families to live their lives in peace with the help of such government programs as the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program or E-CLIP.

"Together with our brothers and sisters in the Bangsamoro, we will show the world that violence and terror do not have a place in our communities, and as Filipinos we can work together to achieve just and lasting peace," Lorenzana said.

The BOL 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, increasing its share in government tax revenues by 5 percent compared to 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.

Philippines teeters between war and peace

Posted to the Asia Times (Jul 26): Philippines teeters between war and peace (By Bong S. Sarmiento)

President Rodrigo Duterte now holds the key to a final autonomy-for-peace pact to end decades of war with MILF rebels but Islamic State spoilers still lurk in the shadows

Soldiers man a checkpoint along Mapandi bridge in Marawi City on the southern island of Mindanao, April 1, 2018. Photo: AFP/Ted Aljibe

Soldiers man a checkpoint along Mapandi bridge in Marawi City on the southern island of Mindanao, April 1, 2018. Photo: AFP/Ted Aljibe

Authorities are warning Filipinos to remain vigilant as Islamic State-aligned militants active on the southern island of Mindanao are allegedly preparing new attacks in retaliation for recent setbacks against government troops.

Since May, the military claims to have killed at least 57 members of the Islamic State-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in separate gun battles across Mindanao’s restive Maguindanao province. The onslaught comes after last year’s four-month-long siege of Marawi City by Islamic State-aligned local groups.

The BIFF pledged allegiance to Islamic State after splitting from the 11,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest Muslim armed group in the Philippines that signed a peace agreement with the government after four decades of rebellion that took over 120,000 lives.

The Senate approved the so-called Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) on July 23, hours before President Rodrigo Duterte was to deliver his third State of the Nation Address (SONA). Observers had anticipated the leader would sign the law ahead of his speech and point to the deal as one of his administration’s key accomplishments.

However, the House of Representatives failed to approve the measure because of a leadership squabble that installed former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as the new House Speaker. The next day, the House of Representatives approved the BOL, the first legislative measure approved under Arroyo’s speakership.

The president asked for time to study the measure before signing it. Some media reports claimed that Duterte has signed the law on Thursday, but as of 6:20 pm the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process could not confirm the reports.

Duterte recently reiterated he would not renege on his commitment to enable Filipino Muslims “to chart their own destiny that will establish just and lasting peace in Mindanao.”

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures as he delivers his state of the nation address at Congress in Manila on July 23, 2018. Photo: AFP/Noel Celis

Duterte, who hails from Mindanao and has professed to have an ethnic Moro bloodline, has consistently warned that new large-scale war could erupt in Mindanao if the Bangsamoro law is not quickly enacted. He has also cautioned that more disgruntled Muslims in the region might join Islamic State-inspired groups if the pact is delayed.

The MILF’s leadership regards the BOL, a reconciled version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law drafted by the MILF-led Bangsamoro Transition Commission, as “largely compliant to the letter and spirit” of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), an earlier negotiated peace-for-autonomy deal.

The CAB is a final peace agreement between the government and MILF that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with a new, more autonomous political entity to be known as the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The hard-negotiated pact will provide for a 75%-25% wealth-sharing arrangement that will favor the new Bangsamoro region over the central government, among other autonomy-devolving measures. But there are still many spoilers waiting in the wings, not least the BIFF.

There are at least 23 Muslim armed groups, largely based in Mindanao, that have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and are reportedly poised to strike again after last year’s surprise and devastating siege of Marawi, according to government intelligence reports.

The BIFF is the most active among the groups, the same government intelligence estimates. This month, the BIFF tried in vain to occupy and raise the black Islamic State flag at the town hall of Datu Paglas in Maguindanao, known otherwise for its export-quality Cavendish bananas.

Army Captain Arvin Encinas, spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division, said troops repelled the Islamic militants’ attempt, which he described as a diversionary “tactic” amid ongoing military operations to crush BIFF forces in the region.

Eight BIFF members, including a top sub-leader identified as “Commander Marrox”, were killed in the ensuing July 4 firefight. A junior military officer was killed, while more than a dozen soldiers were wounded in the gun battle.

Marrox was reputedly a key subordinate of BIFF commander Karialan, whom the military said engaged troops in the infamous Mamasapano clash that left 44 elite police force members dead in a botched 2015 raid.

Brigadier General Cirilito Sobejana Jr, the 6th Infantry Division’s commander, urged in a statement for BIFF fighters to surrender. He claimed their “ranks have been weakened” with the killing of their comrades while describing them as a “menace of society.”

While the BIFF is strongly opposed to the MILF’s peace-for-autonomy deal with the government, it could aim to leverage any setbacks to enacting the deal to recruit new disenfranchised MILF members, analysts say.

The rebel group is making its disruptive presence felt. In April, authorities claimed the BIFF was responsible for an explosion outside a Catholic church in Koronadal City in South Cotabato province that injured at least two civilians. Another bomb was found and detonated in another part of the city on the same day.

Earlier this week, bomb experts detonated a powerful improvised explosive device allegedly planted by the BIFF along a highway in Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat province, a province which neighbors on Maguindanao and thus hints at a possible spread of the conflict.

Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao in a 2014 file photo. Photo: AFP/Ted Aljibe

Lieutenant Colonel Harold Cabunoc, commander of the region’s 33rd Infantry Battalion, one of the units that has battled the BIFF in Maguindanao, told local media that Islamic State supporters have been recruiting new members in local mosques, luring them with offers of as much as 100,000 pesos (US$1,867) as well as weapons.

The military claims it is now conducting “surgical operations” against the BIFF in Maguindanao province, including through the use of air assaults. The military has ensured that the armed operations will have only a “minimal impact” on civilian communities.

The MILF has in certain instances helped the military to flush out the BIFF from its sanctuaries, even though some of its rebel members are known to be related to MILF members through intermarriage. The BIFF has in the past and will undoubtedly in the future aim to discredit the pending MILF-government deal as selling out local interests.

Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, Mindanao’s first and only Catholic bishop, told Asia Times that Islamic State ideology will spread fast in Mindanao if the government fails to enact a peace pact that is acceptable to all Bangsamoro people and not just those represented by the MILF.

The Catholic leader said if the law is not enacted or if its implementation fails to address past state injustices against the Bangsamoro people it will fuel radicalism among the region’s youth.

“A good Bangsamoro law will be an antidote to Islamic radicalization,” the prelate said, while hopefully suggesting that Mindanao was at a “golden juncture” on “the cusp of peace.”

Cop wounded in clash with NPA rebels in Davao Oriental

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 26): Cop wounded in clash with NPA rebels in Davao Oriental

A policeman was wounded in an attack by suspected communist rebels in Tarragona town, Davao Oriental on Thursday, police said.

Police Officer 1 Johnny Morales was wounded after a brief firefight with New People’s Army (NPA) rebels at a bridge in Sitio Tagsagaong, Barangay Tomoaong, according to Chief Insp. Milgrace Driz, Southern Mindanao police regional spokesperson.

The incident happened as Morales, a member of Baganga municipal police station, Chief Insp. Marcialito Batingana, Baganga police chief, and two other policemen were onboard an unmarked sports utility vehicle (SUV) driven by Police Officer 1 George Silat.

The group was on their way back to their station from the provincial police headquarters in Mati City. As they approached Tagsagaong Bridge, the policemen saw at least 15 armed men in military uniforms manning a checkpoint. Sensing that the gunmen were not government security forces, the SUV turned back.

A hail of gunfire from the armed men on the bridge soon followed, sparking a brief firefight before the insurgents fled, according to Driz.

Morales was shot in the abdomen and is now undergoing treatment at a local hospital.

Police and soldiers are now conducting pursuit operation against the rebels, the regional police spokesperson said.