Sunday, July 29, 2018

In Eliminating ISIS, Philippines Tore the Hearts of a City and Its People

From The Wire (Jul 29): In Eliminating ISIS, Philippines Tore the Hearts of a City and Its People (By  Mark Juergensmeyer)

The flattening of the city of Marawi has left its residents devastated, and the prospect of the youth turning to militancy is palpable.

Marawi, Philippines: “There’s nothing left,” a former resident of Marawi told me, showing videos of what was left of his family home he had taken several days earlier on his cell phone. He was right — there was only a pile of brick and stone rubble where once a multi-story had proudly stood.

“My mother built that home with her sweat and toil,” he said sadly. His mother had worked for years as a domestic housekeeper in Saudi Arabia, diligently sending the earnings back to her family in the Philippines. Part of the money was for the college education of the children. The rest was for the house in Marawi.

Finally, after forty years of domestic labour abroad, the mother returned to Marawi several years ago. Her plan was to spend her retirement years with her extended family in the house she had lovingly built with the remittance funds she had sent all those years. It had a stone fa├žade and metal grillwork, my interlocutor told me. And it was located directly across from the main mosque in the center of the city.

That turned out to be its undoing. On May 23, 2017, a group of Muslim separatist rebels affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) holed up inside the mosque. Soon after, they infiltrated throughout the inner city, making it virtually impossible for the Philippines army to quickly isolate and destroy them.

My interlocutor’s mother, along with most of the residents of the city, fled as reinforcements came from both sides, and the roads were packed with terrified fleeing residents. The pitched battle between the militants and the Philippines armed forces went on for over five months. Heavy casualties were inflicted on both sides. Official reports state that around a thousand militants were killed along with a little under 200 government forces and 100 civilians. Local observers dispute those numbers, claiming many more army troops and civilians were killed, and that there were less militants involved in the standoff than the government claimed. Nonetheless, the human toll was considerable.

The physical damage to the city was equally devastating. Not only was the mother’s house and the mosque’s immediate surrounding destroyed, but virtually all of the inner city was also left in ruins. Standing on the other side of the river from the city, it appeared to me that at least a mile-long span of the heart of the city was in ruins. It looked like the images of Mosul and Raqqa after those equally devastating attempts to scour the city of ISIS rebels.

A view of the devastated city. Credit: Mark Juergensmeyer
The mother of the Marawi resident with whom I spoke was not an ISIS militant, of course. She was just a returning domestic worker. Her son, my conversation partner, benefited from her earnings, finished college and earned a PhD. He was now a professor at Mindanao State University in Marawi. Though not a rebel, he was a Muslim and sympathetic with the goal of semi-autonomy for the Mindanao region and had played a role in the past to help negotiate between the government and rebel groups.

The Muslim extremists who had taken over the city of Marawi in 2017 were not, however, the usual activists associated with the main organisations of the movement, the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Both groups have entered into peace agreement negotiations with the government. In 2014, after two decades of negotiations, a comprehensive Bangsamoro Peace Agreement was signed by both Muslim rebels and the Philippine government. But it languished for four years, unratified by the Philippine legislature. Some blame the current President, Rodrigo Duterte, for not playing a more active role in securing the agreement’s implantation. It was only after the Marawi invasion that President Duterte, on July 26, 2018, finally signed the agreement.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco/Files

The stalemate over implementing the peace agreement led to widespread frustration within the Mindanao Muslim community and eroded the credibility of the moderate rebel leaders involved in the negotiation. More dangerously, it encouraged the growth of extremist elements within the Muslim movement who were never supportive of the peace talks. The government’s failure to act gave them evidence that it could not be trusted.

Two groups had joined forces

In the months before the Marawi standoff, two of the extremist groups had joined forces. One was the group led by Isnilon Hapilon that was based in the Sulu Peninsula of Mindanao. He had broken from the Moro National Liberation Front in 1994 and helped form a more militant movement, Abu Sayyaf. This movement — as much a criminal gang as a political organisation — became wealthy through kidnapping and holding hostages for ransom. They gained international notoriety by kidnapping foreigners and beheading those for whom ransom was not secured. In 2016, Hapilon was said to have pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the caliph of the Islamic State, affiliating his group with the international ISIS movement.

Another group, led by two brothers, Omar and Abdullah Maute, had a history similar to Abu Sayyaf but in a different part of Mindanao. They were based in Lanao del Sur, the region surrounding Marawi, and they had broken off from the mainstream Moro movement that that was dominant in that area of central Mindanao, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Like Abu Sayyaf, the Maute Brothers Group gained their income through extortion and threats. Sometime in 2015 or 2016, the brothers joined forces with ISIS, proclaiming their movement to be a branch of this international jihadi organisation, and began working closely with Hapilon and his formerly Abu Sayyaf branch of ISIS.

Both movements were fueled by the frustration over the failure of the peace agreement to be ratified. The Maute Group was especially successful in using online social media to target young people for recruitment, including students at Mindanao State University. The international connections provided by declaring themselves affiliated with ISIS allowed the Maute Group and Hapilon’s organisation to gain new recruits from abroad. They were said to be preparing for something big, perhaps a takeover of a part of central Mindanao as a kind of Philippines version of the Islamic State that had conquered large sections of Syria and Iraq.

All of this preparation came to a head in Marawi in May 2017. It is not clear how the fighting began, whether by design or by accident. Some local observers with whom I spoke thought that it was a miscalculation on both sides. They suggested that the militants only wanted to seize the center of the city briefly, for a day or two, simply to demonstrate that they could, then slip away before they were engaged in a major and protracted battle. The army, for its part, thought this would be an easy win — they could slip in and destroy two sets of outlaw bands in one simple strike.

If this was their reasoning, both sides got more than they bargained for. The ISIS forces could not easily escape from the city, and it is said that after the first day when Hapilon’s wife and child were killed in the assault on the mosque where they were sequestered, Hapilon was determined to fight until the end. On the government’s side, they discovered that they could not easily win against an enemy that knew the city intimately and who could retreat into the shadows as soon as they were approached.

Army unit attacked

One resident of Marawi told me that on the second day of the fighting, the army chased the ISIS fighters out of a school they had occupied. Then the army unit occupied it themselves in a kind of bivouac, unaware that two ISIS fighters were still hiding under the floor. When the army unit was sleeping, the ISIS fighters came and killed them all. After that, it is said, the army decided to bring in air power to attack ISIS strongholds instead of using human personnel in door to door combat.

The decision to use air power had a devastating effect on the city. Building after building became the target for military air strikes, and as the siege dragged for months, the Philippine military called for reinforcements. They requested the so-called ‘bunker-buster’ bombs from the American military to strike deeply under the surface to kill militants who were hiding in basements and deep spaces underground. And they also requested drones with night-vision cameras to track the movements of the militant groups at night.

Members of Philippine marines in Marawi City. Credit: REUTERS/ERIK DE CASTRO/Files

Eventually, these augmented military measures helped, and on October 16, 2017, Omar Maute and Isnilon Hapilon were killed in a military operation to rescue hostages being held by the militants. Soon after, the Philippine army raised the national flag and proclaimed that the city was liberated.

It was liberated but destroyed. The mother of the Mindanao State University Professor who had lost her home in the fighting was heartbroken. “She doesn’t want to return to see what remains,” he said, adding that she was in a state of deep depression, staying with one of her children and refusing to talk with anyone about her experience.

Much of the other residents in Marawi felt the same way, even months after the end of the fighting when I visited the city and talked with them. They still seemed to be in a state of shock and anger, though it was not clear to them to whom the anger should be directed.

Some blamed ISIS. “They drew the army into our city,” one former resident told me, adding that they had used the whole city as a hostage. He pointed to the widely circulated rumor that during the first days of the fighting, Isnilon Hapilon notified the Philippine government that if they provided the ISIS rebels with ten million US dollars and safe passage from the city, they would leave. Apparently, the Philippine government was not willing to provide ransom for a whole city, nor did it want to lose the opportunity of destroying Hapilon’s Abu Sayyaf and the Maute Brothers Group for good.

Some residents blame the army for the destruction
So the army stayed and fought, increasingly employing the kind of missiles and air power that would destroy most of the buildings in the older part of the city. For this reason, an even larger percent of the former residents with whom I spoke blamed the army for the destruction. They were bitter about the physical damage to their buildings, and even buildings that were not destroyed were often looted. Some of the looting was undoubtedly done by the ISIS militants, but even in areas that were not controlled by ISIS but where the army had required a mandatory evacuation, there was looting. Some residents who spoke with me blamed the army for the looting. “We lost a computer and two televisions,” one Marawi resident told me.

It is not clear what will happen next. The professor at Mindanao State University said that it was up to the Philippine government. Regardless of who one might blame for causing the conflict, it was clear that the damage to the property was inflicted primarily by army missile attacks. Several citizen committees were demanding immediate restitution. They were frustrated by the slow response of the government to the enormity of the devastation.

One of the professor’s colleagues was even angrier. He was actively engaged in protest movements and investigative reporting into what he claimed was widespread corruption among the fledgling restitution efforts that the government had provided. Very few people who lived in the destroyed areas of the old city had access to the documents that would prove their property rights — and in many cases they had passed on their property from generation to generation without any documentation. For this reason, the government had provided funds to anyone who claimed to have lived in the city. This approach, the professor told me, was subject to abuse as government officials were giving the money to friends of theirs who would give them a kickback. The professor wanted to know why the government did not use earlier versions of Google maps to identify properties that could be verified by the witness of neighbors if not by government documents to diminish the possibility of corruption.

Hence many residents resented the government — both for being the agent of destruction of their property and for what they felt was an inadequate response to their loss and their demands for restitution. But a deeper problem also lay in the wake of the army’s destruction of the city: the rise of a new militancy.

Already many young Muslims in the region were turning to a more militant expression of Muslim political power due to the frustration caused by the stalemate in the peace process. The destruction of Marawi by the military gave a new impetus to the anti-government sentiments and stoked the fires of radicalism. Not all of the members of the movement were killed in the encounter, and stories were circulating about how they had retreated to the mountains, where their numbers were expanding. They were joined, I was told, by many young men from Marawi and the surrounding region.

A view of the Maute group stronghold with an ISIS flag in Marawi City in southern Philippines May 29, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Erik De Castro
“Older people like me can see both sides,” the first professor I met told me, explaining that he and others could see that the army was trapped and that it was a lose-lose situation for both the sides in the Marawi standoff. “But younger people,” he said, with concern in his voice, “they don’t see the broader picture.” He also said that the army’s recourse to air power rather than fighting man-to-man in a house-to-house combat gave them the appearance of being weak and unmanly in the eyes of many of the young men in the city who felt that the army should have fought directly rather than behind the shield of technology.

The professor told me about talking with the son of one of his neighbors, a thirteen-year old boy whose house had been destroyed in the fighting. The professor reported that the boy was angry at the army and that when he grew older, he planned to join ISIS. The boy wanted to get an M-14 rifle and hunt down the Philippine tank driver who had destroyed his home and kill him.

In telling this story, the professor cautioned that this was an initial response from an immature boy and that he might see the world through calmer eyes as he grew older. He also thought that it was unlikely that the Maute Brothers Group and Hapilon’s Abu Sayyaf could remain intact without their charismatic leaders. Still, he thought it quite possible that a new extremist movement would emerge among the youth who were enraged over the destruction of Marawi. “It might be a new radical movement,” the professor said darkly, “one that is less concerned about religion and is instead fueled by a deeply anti-government sentiment.”

The mood in relief camps

When I returned to Manila, I had dinner with a former student who now works with the United Nation’s Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF), which had set up a number of relief camps in the area around Marawi to help the refugees. My former student had been there and met with many young people in their early teens, and while talking with them he tried to avoid any topic that was political or that would evoke traumatic memories. He would ask them about the future, what they would like to do when they grew up, he said.

“‘We want to join the militants’,” my former student reported them as saying. He did not know whether this anger would last, he told me, or whether it would grow into active participation in a radical movement. But he was worried. It would appear that although the Philippines army has destroyed the city, the war is far from over. It remains to be seen whether the signing of the Bangsamoro agreement will set a new tone and diffuse what has begun to be the stirrings of a new militancy in the region.

[Mark Juergensmeyer is the author of the book Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence (University of California Press, 2017).]

DND looking forward to working with PLA

From the Philippine Star (Jul 29): DND looking forward to working with PLA

“The defense department looks forward to working more with our counterparts in the PLA to arrive at mutually beneficial agreements and mechanisms for exchange, increase opportunities for cooperation and fostering greater understanding between our two countries,” DND Undersecretary Cardozo Luna said during the PLA’s 91st founding anniversary celebration at Shangri-la Hotel in Makati City.

With improved relations between the Philippines and China, the Department of National Defense (DND) is looking forward to working with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), a senior defense official has said last Friday.

“The defense department looks forward to working more with our counterparts in the PLA to arrive at mutually beneficial agreements and mechanisms for exchange, increase opportunities for cooperation and fostering greater understanding between our two countries,” DND Undersecretary Cardozo Luna said during the PLA’s 91st founding anniversary celebration at Shangri-la Hotel in Makati City.
Luna also noted that in the past few years, the Philippines and China have made significant gains in the field of defense cooperation as well as military-to-military engagements between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the PLA.

“We tackled areas of mutual concern such combatting terrorism, violent extremism and transnational crimes, the conduct of humanitarian assistance and disaster response and resolving disputes through peaceful means and open channels of communication at all levels,” he said.

For his part, Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua underscored that a favorable international environment of peace and stability is of crucial significance to China’s success, and it is something that Beijing will always “bear in mind.”

“The PLA will continue to contribute to peace, stability and prosperity,” Zhao stressed.

As this developed, Admiral Philip Davidson, head of the US Indo-Pacific Command, has called for an increase in navy, army and air force presence in the Indo-Pacific to deter Chinese aggression, with China now effectively able to control the South China Sea (SCS).

Davidson has also warned that the PLA will be able to use China’s SCS bases to challenge US presence in the region and any forces deployed to the islands would easily overwhelm the military forces of any of the other SCS-claimants.
But Zhao emphasized that the turnaround and betterment of Philippines-China relations and development has contributed to effective military-to-military exchanges and cooperation between the two countries.

“The past two years also witnessed increasing exchanges of visits at various levels and training programs between our two armed forces and military academies,” Zhao said.

The ambassador said China last year provided two batches of weapons and ammunition to the Philippines’ campaign against terrorism in Marawi. The third batch of assistance was turned over last week to the Philippines, sustaining China’s support to neutralize terrorism and violent extremism.

“These gratifying developments in our (relations) stand testimony to an overall picture of China-Philippines partnership,” Zhao added.

“Within a short span of two years, under the visionary guidance of our two leaders, China-Philippines relations have ushered in a new era featuring strengthened high-level exchanges, enhanced political mutual trust, expansive practical cooperation in trade, investment, infrastructure, tourism, agriculture, fisheries, poverty-alleviation, anti-terrorism, law-enforcement and people-to-people exchanges,” he said.

The Philippines and China, he said, are determined to “level up our friendship and partnership” and bring more tangible benefits.

“We do have our differences, but both countries agree to manage them through dialogues and consultations, so as to make sure the small percentage of disputes does not jeopardize the growth of our overall relationship and cooperation,” he said.

Sabah dusk-to-dawn curfew extended by two more weeks

From The Star Online (Jul 29): Sabah dusk-to-dawn curfew extended by two more weeks

KOTA KINABALU: The dusk-to-dawn curfew on Sabah's east coast has been extended by another two weeks to Aug 14, said Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Ramli Din.

He said the decision to extend the curfew was made based on continuous threats from cross-border criminals, including from kidnap-for-ransom groups.

Comm Ramli said the 6pm to 6am curfew has been extended for the 94th time, and will cover areas up to three nautical miles off Tawau, Semporna, Kunak, Lahad Datu, Kinabatangan, Sandakan and Beluran.

"There is a need to continue the curfew in these waters to prevent the encroachment of terrorists and criminals who can threaten the safety of locals, international researchers and tourists on islands," he said.

Ramli said according to intelligence, kidnap-for-ransom groups and Abu Sayyaf militants are still trying to commit cross-border crimes.

“We also want to ensure the safety of the people of Sabah who use the waters and are staying near the Esszone,” he said in a statement on Sunday (July 29).

Ramli added that the curfew was to facilitate enforcement and monitoring of boat activities in the area as well as establish a sense of security with nearby chalet owners and fishermen through the presence of a security team.

"I have also given the authority to all district police chiefs to issue permits to any eligible applicants who fit the criteria to conduct fishery activities in the areas affected by the curfew." he said.

The curfew was first implemented on 19 July 2014 following a series of kidnappings which saw the beheading of Sarawakian Bernard Then Ted Fed and the killing of several others, including a policeman and tourists.

Two NPA rebels surrender to Nolcom

From GMA News (Jul 29): Two NPA rebels surrender to Nolcom

Two members of the New People's Army surrendered to the Armed Forces of the Philippines' Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) on Thursday.

According to the Nolcom, the two NPAs whose names were not identified belonged to the Kilusang Larangang Gerilya (KLG) "AMPIS" of the Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Committee. One of them is the squad leader.

The surrender occurred at 10 a.m. in Baguio City.

Both surrenderees yielded without firearms.

The surrender was made possible after negotiations were done by two former rebels through the joint efforts of the AFP's 77th Infantry Battalion and 54th Infantry Battalion, Ifugao Provincial Police Offices, and Mt. Province PPO.

Military steps up its offensive vs communist rebels

From the Manila Bulletin (Jul 28): Military steps up its offensive vs communist rebels

The military has stepped up its offensive against the communist rebels amid the botched peace negotiations that led to President Duterte and Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison lambasting each other.

In Abra, soldiers clashed with 15 suspected communist rebels whom they have been hunting down after they catch up with the latter in Barangay Tabacda in Tubo town.

Lt. Col. Isagani Nato, spokesperson of the Northern Luzon Command, said troopers were immediately sent in the remote area of Tubo town after they were alerted of the presence of armed men in the area on Wednesday.

“There were casualties on the enemy side as reported by our men. This report is now being verified. There are no casualties on our side,” Nato said.

Earlier, elements of the 81st Infantry Battalion recovered an abandoned camp near the tri-boundary of Abra, Mountain Province and Ilocos Sur.

“The abandoned camp is being used as their clinic, the place can accommodate 30 people,” Nato said.

In Quezon, a communist rebel was killed in a firefight with elements of the 85th Infantry Battalion in San Andres Bundok in Atimonan town at around 5 p.m. on Friday.

Capt. Patrick Retumban spokesperson of the 2nd Infantry Division, said soldiers were immediately sent in the area after receiving reports of NPA sighting.

“They were extorting rice and money from the residents. They also ordered all the street lights to be turned off,” Retumban said.

The incident forced some of the residents to flee, some of them sought the assistance of the police and the military that eventually led to the operation.

The 4,000-strong NPA has been waging more than four decades of armed struggle against the government. Attempts of various administrations for a peace agreement always hit a snag.

The Philippines at Forefront of New Pentagon Maritime Security Initiative

Posted to Update Philippines (Jul 28): The Philippines at Forefront of New Pentagon Maritime Security Initiative

This is what the Philippines will be getting from the Maritime Security Initiative program of the US government, in which the PH will get the lion’s share of 85% of the $50 million allocated for countries in the South China Sea.

The summary is as follows:

1. Maritime & Joint Operations Center to improve the C2 between the Philippine Navy, Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine National Coast Watch Center (worth $15 million);
2. Improvement of Maritime Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR), involving the acquisition of a Tethered Aerostat Radar System to be based in Palawan (worth $18 million);
3. Providing a manned maritime patrol aircraft palletized ISR kit, and 2 roll-on/roll-off mission suite pallets to be used by the recently-acquired C-130T (worth $8.7 million);
4. USN-NAVSEA will help determine what C4 system will be needed for the Philippine Navy’s fleet of Hamilton-class frigates.

The OV-10 Bronco is alive and well in the Philippines

Posted to Update Philippines (Jul 29): The OV-10 Bronco is alive and well in the Philippines

The OV-10 Bronco had a long service career with the United States. It first saw action in Vietnam and stuck around through Desert Storm. Just a few years ago, the idea of bringing the Bronco back was floated — the OV-10 flew 82 sorties against ISIS targets and performed quite well. Despite that, the Bronco didn’t make a comeback in America. The DOD instead pursued the OA-X program.

But just because the Bronco won’t be serving with the U.S. military doesn’t mean its career is over.

Currently, eight Broncos are serving in the Philippines as light attack planes specializing in counter-insurgency operations. The OV-10 is very well-equipped. The World Encyclopedia of Modern Aircraft Armament notes that it packs four 7.62mm machine guns and can haul four 500-pound bombs or rocket pods.

A proposed OV-10X modification would see the Bronco equipped with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, a glass cockpit, improved sensors, and precision-guided bombs, like the Paveway laser-guided bombs or GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions. The OV-10X would also feature up to four .50-caliber machine guns, replacing the 7.62mm machine guns. It was rumored that this souped-up version of the Bronco would compete in the OA-X program a few years ago, but it’s looking unlikely that this variant will see the light of day.

PNP and BJMP Acquire 5.56mm Basic Assault Rifles

Posted to Update Philippines (Jul 29): PNP and BJMP Acquire 5.56mm Basic Assault Rifles

The Submission and Opening of Bid Envelopes (SOBE) for the bidding of 22,216 units of 5.56mm Basic Assault Rifles in a Combined Acquisition for the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Bureau of Jail & Management Penology (BJMP) with an ABC of Php2,054,980,000.00 happened yesterday with 3 bidders qualifying.

R. Espineli Trading was declared the lowest bidder with an offer worth Php1,532,504,112.00, 2nd lowest is Armscor Global Defense with an offer of Php1,632,876.00, and 3rd is JV of UDMC and Dasan with an offer of Php1,639,296,424.00.
R. Espineli is offering the IWI Galil Ace 5.56mm, Armscor is expected to have offered the Emtan Karmiel MZ-4 5.56mm rifle, while UDMC is could have offered their F5 5.56mm model, probably the DGIS model.

Post qualification Inspections will happen next. If the lowest bidder fails, the 2nd lowest bidder will undergo PQI, and if they fail, the 3rd will undergo PQI.

The JV with a foreign company has allowed UDMC to be qualified to join, but as expected they are pricing their products higher than most equivalent foreign models. Quality remains an issue though, although they might have benefitted from their JV with Dasan of Korea.

R.Espineli and its Galil Ace both have strong experience in passing the documentary, financial, and technical aspects of the bidding, and has a high chance of passing PQI and winning the contract. Buts its still worth monitoring any updates on this acquisition.

Trillanes seeks to increase combat pay for soldiers

From Rappler (Jul 29): Trillanes seeks to increase combat pay for soldiers
'The sad reality is that members of the armed forces bear the greatest degree of risk among civil servants,' says ex-Navy man Senator Antonio Trillanes IV
HIGHER PAY. Senator Antonio Trillanes IV in a Kapihan sa Senado session. PRIB Photo by Cesar Tomambo
HIGHER PAY. Senator Antonio Trillanes IV in a Kapihan sa Senado session. PRIB Photo by Cesar Tomambo

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Antonio Trillanes IV filed a bill seeking to increase the combat pay of deployed personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), his office said Sunday, July 29.

Through Senate Bill 1882 filed on Tuesday, July 24, former Navy man Trillanes called on the government to hike the danger pay from the fixed P3,000 a month to an adjustable 25% of a personnel's base pay a month.
What is combat pay? The combat pay is mandated compensation for soldiers and cops engaged in combat duties and operations.

Executive Order 201 of then president Benigno Aquino III said, "Officers and enlisted personnel of the AFP performing combat duties/activities and uniformed personnel of the PNP engaged in actual police operations...are entitled to receive Combat Duty Pay."

Big increase: If passed into law, Trillanes' bill will lead to at least the doubling of combat pay of uniformed personnel, as the salary of uniformed personnel under the Department of National Defense (DND) recently spiked.

Since January this year, AFP privates — the newbies in the force – have received P29,668 in base pay, or double of what they used to earn. Other officers got at least a 20% increase in their incomes.

Given the new spiked salaries, if Trillanes' bill turns to law, then new AFP personnel assigned to battle areas would receive P7,417.

Why just the AFP? For Trillanes, men and women of the AFP face greater risks than their comrades from the Philippine National Police or the Philippine Coast Guard.
"The sad reality is that members of the armed forces bear the greatest degree of risk among civil servants, particularly when they go about fulfilling their duties of protecting the State and the people," Trillanes said in his bill's explanatory note.

Where will the money come from? Trillanes pitched the Department of National Defense's savings to fund the pay increase.

5 alleged NPA members from Bukidnon surrender in Cordillera; now back in Bukidnon

From MindaNews (Jul 29): 5 alleged NPA members from Bukidnon surrender in Cordillera; now back in Bukidnon

Five alleged members of the New People’s Army from Bukidnon — aged 17 to 19 — who had earlier surrendered in Abra, Cordillera Administrative Region have been enrolled as beneficiaries of the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) in their home province.

A press release issued on Sunday by the military’s 4thInfantry Division said the former rebels, had been turned over to the E-CLIP committee of Bukidnon on Saturday and received cash assistance worth P10,000 each from the provincial government.

Brig. Gen. Eric Vinoya, commander of the military’s 403rdInfantry Brigade, said they immediately looked for the families of the former NPA combatants upon learning that they came from the province and coordinated their transfer back to Bukidnon.

The surrenderers were identified by the military though their aliases — Marco and Macoy, both18 years old, 19 year-old Deboni, and Marco and Joma, both 17 years old.

The press release said they surrendered to the 24thIB under 7thInfantry Division based in Barangay Tagodtod, Lagangilang, Abra Province on July 5, 2018.

Maj. Gen. Ronald Villanueva, commander of the Army’s 4thInfantry Division, said some members of the New People’s Army have been transferred to other parts of the country to give reinforcement to their dwindling forces.

“NPA terrorists continue to deceive fellow Filipinos just to recruit people and join their failed armed struggle,” he said.

He assured that military is willing to help the NPA fighters who want to surrender and live a normal life with their families.

“We will assist you in your enrolment to E-CLIP and your reintegration to the society” he said.

According to DILG, the E-CLIP is “locally-driven, managed and implemented” program with the Province or Highly Urbanized City (P/HUC) as the focal point of authority and management of the integration program to provide more sustainability and consistency.

Under E-CLIP, each former rebel would receive an immediate assistance of PhP15,000 and livelihood assistance worth P50,000.

The DILG said the program “veers away from the past practice of pre-packaged interventions designed at the national level. It responds to the circumstances, needs and concerns of former rebels through provision of assistance and seeks to consider their basic rights and situations as men and women.”

Moro people urged to register to ensure ratification of Bangsamoro law

From MindaNews (Jul 29): Moro people urged to register to ensure ratification of Bangsamoro law

CAMP DARAPANAN, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao  — Moro people of voting age should register with the Commission on Elections to boost the chances of ratification of the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao during the plebiscite, Engr. Aida Soliwan of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s social welfare committee said.

The law paves the way for the creation of a new autonomous political entity called the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) that will replace the 28-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

MILF supporters shout the Takbir during the Consultative Assembly on the Bangsamoro Organic Law inside Camp Darapanan in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on 29 July 2018. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

The ARMM is deemed abolished upon the ratification of the Bangsamoro law in a plebiscite in January 2019.

Soliwan issued the call during the MILF’s Bangsamoro Consultative Assembly attended by participants mostly from Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and North Cotabato. The MILF estimated the number at 90,000 but the area where the assembly was held is estimated to accommodate only about 30,000.

“We should see to it that we vote. Know who among your family members have not registered,” she said.

Soliwan also asked the MILF’s Central Committee to conduct a census in the Bangsamoro to know their exact population.

“Some say we number 3 million, others 5 million,” she added.

In the same gathering, Datu Antao Midtimbang, who represented Moro traditional leaders appealed to other armed groups in the Bangsamoro “to silence their guns” and give the new political entity a chance to prove its worth.

Midtimbang was apparently alluding to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, which broke away from the MILF over disagreements on the handling of the peace process with government.

The group has launched attacks in Maguindanao and North Cotabato. Military estimates place their strength at 300 to 500 fighters.

Dr. Safrullah Dipatuan, a leader of the United Bangsamoro Justice Party said one-third of the towns in Lanao del Sur will surely vote in favor of the Bangsamoro law.

He said these are the towns where there is heavy presence of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Force, the military wing of the MILF.

He added the mayors of these towns have committed to support the new entity.

An elderly Moro lady waits for the start of the Consultative Assembly on the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao inside the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s Camp Darapanan in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on 29 July 2018. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO
Ustadz Faiz Sapanton, of the MILF’s Western Mindanao Political Committee said what Congress passed was “not what we want” but we are “forced to accept it as a win-win solution.”

Mohagher Iqbal, chief of the MILF peace implementing panel, conceded that the law is only “85-percent compliant” with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the peace agreement signed by government and the MILF in March 2014.

He cited, for instance, that the law doesn’t include provisions on exclusive and concurrent powers, which were contained in the draft submitted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission to Malacanang.

Pulis na Dinukot sa North Cotabato ng NPA, pinalaya na!

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jul 28): Pulis na Dinukot sa North Cotabato ng NPA, pinalaya na!

DAVAO CITY – Personal na sinundo ni Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go sa kuta ng New People’s Army (NPA) ang dinukot na Deputy Chief of Police ng President Roxas, North Cotabato. Ayon sa report, ilang buwan din ang naging negosasyon bago pumayag ang NPA na i-turn over kay Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte si Police Inspector Menardo Cui na dinukot noong December 28, 2017.

Kaugnay nito, inatasan ni Pangulong Duterte si SAP Go na sunduin sa kuta ng NPA si Cui para i-turn over naman ito sa PNP-Region 11.

Sinaksihan din ng MINDANAO NEWS EXAMINER KIDAPAWAN ang nangyaring pagpapalaya kay Cui sa bulubunduking bahagi ng Marilog District, Davao City samantalang sinamahan din ng kalihim si Cui kay PNP-11 Director Manuel Gaerlan.

Matatandaang dinukot ng mga hindi nakilalang suspek si Cui noong December 28, 2017 na kalaunan ay inako ng mga rebelde.

Habang nasa kamay ng mga rebelde, nagpadala ng video si Cui na nagsasabing maayos ang trato sa kanya habang umapela siya kay Pa­ngulong Duterte na ituloy ang peace talks kahit sa pamamagitan ng back channel lamang samantalang nanawagan siya sa AFP ng pansamantalang suspension ng military operations sa lugar.

Si Pangulong Duterte ay kilalang kaibigan ng mga rebelde noong alkalde pa lamang ito sa Davao kung saan kasa-kasama si Go sa pagdalaw ng mga ito sa kuta ng mga rebelde. Pinayuhan ni Go si Cui na bago ang lahat ay unahin nya ang pagbisita sa puntod ng pumanaw na asawa.

Troops foil terrorists’ landmine attack in Bukidnon

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 29): Troops foil terrorists’ landmine attack in Bukidnon

Soldiers of the 8th Infantry Battalion (8IB) under operational control of the 403rd Infantry Brigade finds IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) at the roadsides of Malaybalay Bukidnon on July 19, 2018. (8IB)
MALAYBALAY CITY, Bukidnon --Soldiers of the 8th Infantry Battalion (8IB) under operational control of the 403rd Infantry Brigade thwarted the terrorists attempt to bomb a community in Sitio Nabawang, Busdi, Malaybalay City around 9:00 a.m, Wednesday, July 19.

This, after troops, responded to civilians’ reports that they saw armed men setting up IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) at the roadsides.

Responding troops engaged the terrorists in a five-minute firefight forcing the terrorists to flee.

Field reports showed no casualties on the government troops while government troops believed that there were rebels wounded during the firefight as globs of blood splotched along their withdrawal routes.

Lieutenant Colonel Ronald M. Illana, 8IB Commanding Officer, said the thwarted attack led to saving dozens of innocent lives and demonstrates that residents are players in the intelligence battle against the New People’s Army-Communist Party of the Philippines Terrorists (CNTs).

The troops recovered various explosives paraphernalia at the battleground, including a 70-meter electrical wire and empty shells of M16 and AK-47 rifle.

In a statement, Lt. Col. Illana condemned the CPP-NPA Terrorists for continuously violating the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law or CARHRIHL.

"This is a clear violation of the provisions of the CARHRIHL that prohibits the use of landmines. The use of such an explosive device poses great harm to civilians, especially when placed near communities. The CPP-NPA has grown desperate to win a losing battle that they have crossed the line and resorted to using weapons that could inflict damage to civilians," he said.

For his part, Brigadier General Eric C Vinoya AFP, Commander of the 403rd Infantry Brigade, appreciated the cooperation of local residents. He cited the communities’ waning support to the CNTs.

"Clearly, we can see that the CPP-NPA Terrorists are losing the support and sympathy of our people, who are now well aware of the lies and deception of this terrorist group. We commend the cooperation of the local residents in the area as this is very critical in our fight against a terror group that knows no bounds and clearly disrespects established agreements and rules of war," BGen. Vinoya said. (1Lt. Erwin P. Bugarin, CMO Officer, 8th Infantry Battalion, 4ID, PA/PIA 10-Bukidnon)

Sultan Kudarat town mayor, councilman survive grenade attack

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 29): Sultan Kudarat town mayor, councilman survive grenade attack

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao – Military and police units have been mobilized to hunt down two men who hurled grenades at the house of Mayor Ramon Abalos of Lambayong, Sultan Kudarat, and at the compound of the local police office on Saturday morning.

Lambayong Councilor Carlos Abalos and his cousin, Richard Abalos, town public supervisor, sustained minor injuries following the grenade attack inside the residential compound of Mayor Abalos at around 6:45 a.m.

The victims were immediately brought to a hospital in Tacurong City, some five kilometers from Lambayong.

Minutes after the explosion at the mayor’s home in Purok Pag-asa, Barangay Poblacion, the same attackers on a motorbike tossed another hand grenade at the compound of the Lambayong municipal police office.

Nobody was hurt in the attack.

The Abaloses were having coffee at the mayor’s residential compound when a bonnet-wearing suspects zipped by and lobbed the hand grenade that landed beside the mayor’s vehicle. The suspects then fled on a motorbike leading toward the police station and tossed the second fragmentation grenade.

Mayor Abalos believes the grenade attack was perpetrated by personalities involved in illegal drugs, attributing the incident to his all-out campaign against the proliferation of illegal drugs in town.

Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6ID) commander and Chief Supt. Marcelo Morales, police director for Region 12, said they have already directed their respective filed units to help hunt down the suspects who could be members of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

“The Army’s 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade in the Tacurong area has been ordered to coordinate with the police to run after the attackers,” said Capt. Arvin John Encinas, 6ID spokesperson.

Lambayong town is adjacent to Maguindanao province where the BIFF operates.

DND chief backs Duterte’s plan to hold talks with ASG

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 29): DND chief backs Duterte’s plan to hold talks with ASG

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has expressed his strong support to President Rodrigo Duterte's proposal to talk peace with the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) terrorists especially those who have not committed any capital offenses.

"Yes, I do. If we have peace talks with the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) why not the ASG? Especially those who have not committed capital offenses," he said in a message to reporters Saturday.

He clarified, however, that those who have brutally decapitated civilian and military hostages must be held accountable for their atrocities.

Duterte has renewed his call to dialogue with the ASG on Friday, a day after he signed the landmark Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), which seeks to create a new Bangsamoro political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

“Abu Sayyaf, mag-usap na lang tayo (let’s talk),” the Chief Executive said in a speech during his visit to fire victims in Jolo, Sulu.

“Ano bang gawain natin? Magpatayan tayong lahat? Ako, pwede niyo akong patayin maski saan. Anong makukuha ninyo? (What are we going to do? Kill each other? Me, you can kill me anywhere. But what will you gain?),” he added.