Saturday, August 11, 2018

DWDD: PARTNER IN DEVELOPMENT | 6ID supports government Peace and Development efforts

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Aug 9): PARTNER IN DEVELOPMENT  |  6ID supports government Peace and Development efforts

CAMP GEN EMILIO AGUINALDO, Quezon City (DWDD) – The 6th Infantry “Kampilan” Division fully supports the government’s Peace and Development efforts, like the anti-drug campaign of the administration.


This was the statement made by Brigadier General Cirilito E Sobejana AFP, in an interview by DWDD.

According to BGen Sobejana, jointly with the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), they have launched numerous operations against illegal drug groups like the recent recovery of numerous volumes of the illegal substance in the town of Datu Sinsuat.

BGen Sobejana added that if the joint operations would meet any resistance, the AFP is ready to support and respond.


Sobejana is optimistic that the region would benefit from the gained peace and development in the region. The 6ID is now pushing for an increase in tourism with their “terrorism to tourism” and “battlefield to oil field” slogans. He has assured the security of these developments in coordination with the Local Government Units (LGUs) and religious leaders in the region.


The continued implementation of Martial Law in Mindanao has made Mindanaoans more secure with the daily lives. The ordinary citizens have now felt the presence of their government through the delivery of basic services. He added that they respect the sentiments of some sector on their resistance to the implementation of martial law but the Mindanaoan themselves have felt the positive change with its continued imposition.

The AFP is in the forefront of the transformation ng Mindanao with the campaign of Peace and Development through the implementation of various livelihood programs in cooperation with the LGUs who will provide the much-needed resources. The AFP is also in the thick of mediating and encouraging civilian partners to assist in different projects that would make a positive impact on our countrymen.


BGen Sobejana fully-supports the conduct of localized peace talks in the pursuit of a lasting peace and development in the region. He believes that the talks would be more credible if you could we face the problem on the grounds. Direct talks with local rebel leaders can better resolve any issues of concerns since they know the problem very well. Compared to dealing with Communist leaders based in a foreign country that does not have a clear control of their members on the ground.

The AFP is not only involved in dealing with security threats but leads the way in resolving development concerns of the community. Sobejana added that the bottom line is that the problem is economic, like the lack of job opportunities and poverty. So the government is implementing a hard and soft approach on the matter to gain a sustainable effect and thus preventing them in being duped to joint any armed uprising. AES / MCAG

DWDD: COOPERATION | PN and RAN completes 4th Maritime Security Activity

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Aug 9): COOPERATION  |  PN and RAN completes 4th Maritime Security Activity

CALARIAN, Zamboanga City (DWDD) – Philippine Navy and Royal Australian Navy concluded its 4th Combined Maritime Security Activity through a Closing Ceremony held here at Officers’ Club, Naval Station Romulo Espaldon, August 7, 2018.

The closing ceremony was attended by Col. Hernanie S Songano PN (M)(GSC), Deputy Commander for Marine Operations as the Speaker and Lt. Col Judd Finger, Commander, Joint Task Group 629 with the officers and men from the Western Mindanao Command, Naval Forces Western Mindanao, and PN-RAN vessels.

“We have much to be thankful to you, the Royal Australian Navy – for leveraging the power to enact change and for helping us making our country safe. We do hope that this cooperation and partnership will continue to grow in the coming years and your government will not tire in contributing to the achievement of our goal to have a safe and strong maritime region, using means such as this maritime engagement,” message of the Deputy Commander for Marines Operations, NFWM.


Also, an After Action Review (AAR) was held prior to the closing ceremony to evaluate and assess the impact and outcome of the just-held maritime cooperation. Generally, the 4th MSA between the PN and RAN accomplished its objectives on improving the interoperability, capability and professional skills of personnel through the conduct of various drills and exercises on board.

The continuous partnership and cooperation by the Philippine Navy and Royal Australian Navy had helped in pre-empting any acts of terrorism, piracy and kidnapping in the Western Mindanao Command’s Area of Responsibility. This brought the two navies into a higher level of mutual cooperation while performing its task of protecting the people and maritime domain. NPAO / MCAG

Rebels claim killing mayor’s bodyguard

From the Visayan Daily Star (Aug 11): Rebels claim killing mayor’s bodyguard

They did it again.

The Leonardo Panaligan Command of the New People’s Army issued a statement yesterday claiming responsibility for the killing of the bodyguard of Guihulngan City Mayor Guido Reyes.

LPC spokesman Ka JB Regalado confirmed the successful military operation against Bunjing Bulado, who was killed on July 31, while on his way to his cock farm in Sitio Kinayan, Brgy. Bulado, Guihulngan City.

Regalado, in a statement issued by LPC, claimed that Bulado was in possession of firearms, and allegedly used them in indiscriminate firing, and was facing land-grabbing complaints before the revolutionary court.

Bulado was employed by the local of Guihulngan City government, Supt. Mario Baquiran, city police chief said. He was also reported to be a bodyguard of Mayor Reyes.

Regalado also reported the disarming of barangay kagawad Jomar Timtim and Danny Timtim on the same day in Sitio Lipata, Brgy. Balogo, Guihulngan City, who are also facing complaints of abuse, and indiscriminate firing, among others.

He also linked the two, who were disarmed of two 45 caliber pistols with magazines containing ammunition, to an armed group allegedly maintained by a barangay official in Guihulngan City.

Regalado said they also raided a mining site on July 9 in Brgy. Banwage, Guihulngan City, that are subjects of complaints by the residents in the area, that is being maintained by a teacher of the Negros Oriental State University-Guihulngan,and allegedly authorized by Mayor Reyes.

Last month, the NPA also claimed responsibility for the killing of a retired Army soldier, and a barangay chairman and his nephew in Guihulngan City.

Despite the deployment of the 94th Infantry Battalion in Guihulngan City, Regalado said they were able to carry out their military actions successfully.

REDS CLAIM ‘Marañon anti-environment’

From the Visayan Daily Star (Aug 11): REDS CLAIM ‘Marañon anti-environment’

The National Democratic Front‒Negros disputed the recognition given to Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon as “champion of the environment”.

He (Marañon) is most undeserving of this title and the broad masses do not owe him any gratitude for his contributions to the social, economic and environmental destruction of Negros, Frank Fernandez, NDF-Negros spokesperson said, in a statement he issued.

Marañon recently received the People’s Gratitude Movement award from the United Nations Environmental Programme during a recognition ceremony for Outstanding Contributions to the Environment at the UN Conference Centre in Bangkok, Thailand.

The award was in recognition of the governor’s contributions to the conservation, protection and rehabilitation of the environment, the UNEP award said.

The governor, who was one of the six awardees from the Philippines, was recognized for his initiatives over the years as mayor of Sagay City, congressman and governor of Negros Occidental, and as one of the founding members of the Visayan Sea Squadron.

His initiatives such the establishment of the 32,000-hectare Sagay Marine Reserve, the creation of Task Force Lawod which aims to protect the coastal waters of the province, and the rehabilitation of coastal resources through the establishment of the Blue Swimming Crab Hatchery and Seeding, resulted in the increase of economic opportunities for the marginal fisherfolk in the province, were noted.

Fernandez, however, accused Marañon of opening Negros to private and foreign companies who denuded the island's mountains and forests, hazardously extracted mineral resources and polluted its rivers, watersheds and seas.

The provincial government under Marañon uses deception and force in implementing its anti-people and anti-environment projects, Fernandez further claimed, noting also that it engages in pro-environment gimmickry to attract support especially from the middle class.

However, world-renowned environmental lawyer Antonio Oposa said that the award is a testament of the governor’s commitment and passion for the environment and is a very good example that people should look up to.

Fernandez further insisted that Marañon is an environment devastation advocate for supporting land conversions that harm the peasants' livelihood and the environment, citing the provincial government’s project, Negros First Ranch, in Murcia, that caused dislocation of farmers from their farms.

Instead of protecting the environment and people's rights, Marañon is siding with his Japanese clients, in connection with the construction of a ship recycling facility in Hinobaan, and is insisting on the illegality of the Department of Agrarian Reform's distribution of Certificates of Land Ownership to the farmers, the rebel priest added.

The $300-million ship recycling facility will surely destroy the surrounding ecology covering 15,000 mangroves and deprive the fisherfolk of their fishing grounds, Fernandez also claimed.

18 NPA supporters, militiamen surrender

From the Visayan Daily Star (Aug 11): 18 NPA supporters, militiamen surrender

The 62nd Infantry Battalion reported yesterday that 18 supporters of the New People’s Army pledged allegiance to the government, as they abandoned and denounced the armed struggle during a ceremony held in Brgy. Carabalan, Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental.

1Lt. Allen Mark Tacorda, 62IB Civil Military Operations officer, said the former rebels used to be Yunit Militia members and supporters of the NPA, who burned the CPP-NPA flag, as a symbol of their separation from the terrorist organization.

Tacorda said the former rebels were updated on the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program, that NPA members who want to surrender and live peacefully with their families may avail of.

Lt. Col. Egberto Dacoscos, 62IB commander, said he expects more NPA members to surrender, following their sustained information dissemination campaign on the deceptive tactics and atrocities of the CPP-NPA.

“The surrender of these former supporters of the CPP-NPA is a clear indication that they can no longer endure the barbarism and viciousness inflicted on them by this terrorist organization who feeds them with nothing but poverty and misery,” Dacoscos said.

At the same time, he also lauded the bravery of the 18 former rebels and the people of barangay Carabalan for denouncing the ruthlessness of the CPP-NPA terrorist organization.

The activity was witnessed by the Himamaylan police, represented by Senior Inspector Renante Salgado, deputy police chief, Father Ritchie Villaflor, Pastor Winston Villanueva Carabalan, the barangay council headed by Mldred Titular, Punong Barangay, and the Sangguniang Kabataan officials headed by Aurello Laja Jr. who is also the president of the Youth for Peace and Development Movement of the Philippines in Himamaylan City.

US Marine missing in Sulu Sea

From Rappler (Aug 11): US Marine missing in Sulu Sea

(3RD UPDATE) 'The Marine was reported missing while the ship was conducting routine operations in the Sulu Sea, August 9,' says the 13th Marine Expedition Unit

SEARCH OPERATIONS. US Navy, US Marine, and Philippine ships and aircraft are scouring the Sulu Sea and Surigao Strait for the missing US Marine. File photo from the US Pacific Fleet

SEARCH OPERATIONS. US Navy, US Marine, and Philippine ships and aircraft are scouring the Sulu Sea and Surigao Strait for the missing US Marine. File photo from the US Pacific Fleet

(3rd UPDATE) – A US Marine was reported missing in the Sulu Sea, triggering an "all-hands" rescue operation in an area where local terrorist group Abu Sayyaf Group operates.

"A combined effort of US Navy, US Marine, and Philippine ships and aircraft are currently searching for a Marine, assigned to the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) embarked aboard USS Essex (LHD 2)," the 13th MEU said in a statement on Friday, August 10.
The Philippine government facilitated diplomatic clearance for US assets involved in the search and rescue operation.

"We allowed the entry of rescue ships and aircraft," Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.

The Marine was reported overboard at 9:40 pm on Thursday, August 9. Multiple searches were also conducted inside the ship. The search continues within the Sulu Sea and Surigao Strait.
The Marine belongs to the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), which was aboard the assault ship USS Essex conducting "routine operations" in the area.

Lorenzana said the US Marine was reported missing in the "high seas" and dismissed concerns about local terrorist groups operating in the island of Sulu in the southwestern tip of the Philippines.
The US Navy has deployed its P-8 surveillance aircraft to help in the search. It has also sought the assistance of the Philippine Coast Guard, which immediately deployed a ship on Thursday.

"We initially dispatched air search and rescue team during the first few hours after it was reported but without positive result," said Western Mindanao Command chief Lieutenant General Arnel dela Vega.

US Navy Captain Gerald Olin, who is leading the search and rescue mission, said in a statement that there is an "all-hands effort to find our missing Marine."

“All our Sailors, Marines, and available assets aboard the USS Essex have been and will continue to be involved in this incredibly important search and rescue operation,” Olin said.

Colonel Chandler Nelms, 13th MEU commanding officer, for his part said: “As we continue our search operation, we ask that you keep our Marine and Marine’s family in your thoughts and prayers. We remain committed to searching for and finding our Marine.”

Iloilo’s top cop alerts units vs NPA attacks

From The Daily Guardian (Aug 11): Iloilo’s top cop alerts units vs NPA attacks

SUSPECTED New People’s Army members attacked the police station of Maasin, Iloilo on June 18, 2017. (File)

THE Iloilo Police Provincial Office (IPPO) reiterated its order to difference police stations and units to be on alert against possible rebel attacks.

Senior Superintendent Marlon Tayaba, Iloilo police director, issued the reminder after suspected New People’s Army (NPA) members raided a police station in Lapinig town in Northern Samar early morning of Aug. 10, 2018.

The incident left two cops injured.

Around 100 alleged communist rebels armed with high-powered guns overran the station at 1:44 a.m. Only six police officers were reportedly on duty when the raid happened.

“Although the order is for every police station and unit to be on their toes, we put emphasis on 15 police stations to be extra vigilant,” Tayaba said.

These police stations are San Joaquin, Miag-ao, Guimbal, Tubungan, Igbaras, Leon, Tigbauan, Alimodian, Maasin, Janiuay, Lambunao, Calinog, Bingawan, Lemery, and San Rafael.

Of the 15, Tayaba said they have told the towns of Tubungan, Igbaras, Leon, and Maasin to be extra cautious because of their proximity to the NPA’s escape routes.

Lately, the Iloilo police chief said there were no reports of NPA sightings in the areas where they are usually spotted.

“But all the more that we should be more cautious because it’s a deafening silence,” he added.

Last year, the IPPO conducted several simulation exercises in preparation for rebels attacks after NPA members overran the Maasin Police Station.

Aside from simulation exercises, unannounced inspections were also conducted.

Security measures in different police stations all over Western Visayas were even strengthened after the June 18, 2017 attack on Maasin PNP.

Around 40-50 armed rebels stormed the town center and easily overpowered the nine on-duty policemen.

The NPAs carted 11 M16 Armalite rifles. They also carted away 11 M16 rifle magazines and 11 short magazines all loaded with ammunition.

The rebels also took away personal belongings of the police officers who were on duty.

Military discovers NPA encampment in Davao City

From Politiko Mindanao (Aug 10): Military discovers NPA encampment in Davao City

The government troops have discovered an encampment of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) in Davao City, military said.

Capt. Jershome O Butt, acting public affairs office chief of Army’s 10 Infantry Division, said the camp was discovered recently while the soldiers were conducting combat operation.

The camp, which could accommodate about 150 rebels, was found in Sitio Laputan, Barangay Tambobong, Baguio District.

Recovered from the area were one battery of commercial radio with two chargers, bandoleer with one empty M16 magazine, cellular phone, medicines, six pairs of rain boots, water containers and other personal belongings.

U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Visits the Philippines

From The Daily Guardian (Aug 10): U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Visits the Philippines

ADMIRAL John C. Aquilino, U.S. Pacific Fleet commander, meets with U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim and Deputy Chief of Mission Michael Klecheski at the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines.

ADMIRAL John C. Aquilino, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, visited the Philippines August 7 to 9 to meet with Philippine military and political leaders and to underscore U.S. commitment to the Philippines and the Indo-Pacific region.

Adm. Aquilino assumed command of the Pacific Fleet on May 17, 2018.

While in the Philippines, Adm. Aquilino met with U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim, Philippine Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana, Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alan Cayetano, and Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Gen. Carlito Galvez.

Adm. Aquilino’s visit focused on enhancing the relationship between both countries’ navies.

Government, MILF to work together in rehabilitating Marawi City

From the Philippine Star (Aug 10): Government, MILF to work together in rehabilitating Marawi City


The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed an agreement that would enable the Joint Coordination, Monitoring and Assistance Center to help in the rehabilitation efforts in Marawi City.

The goverment and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on Friday agreed to revive a key cooperation mechanism during the siege of Marawi City to help in efforts to rehabilitate the war-torn town.

The government and the MILF signed an agreement on Thursday which would revive the Joint Coordination, Monitoring and Assistance Center, which was a key pact that helped in rescuing trapped civilians during the five-month war in Marawi City last year.

The agreement was "a very good testament of the effective partnership that happened between the Philippine government and the MILF during the Marawi siege," according to Undersecretary Nabil Tan, deputy presidential peace adviser and chair of the Government Implementing Panel for the Bangsamoro peace accords.

He said that President Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza decided to continue the operation of JCMAC.
According to Mohagher Iqbal, the chairman of the MILF implementing panel, the reactivation of the mechanism was a means for the group to help in the healing process and the residents in dealing with the difficulties of life following the destruction of their city.

“At least the people of Marawi City will feel that we really care for them, most especially the victims of the Marawi siege,” he said.

Iqbal said that the reorganization of the mechanism to help in efforts to build Marawi was still a work in progres. However, they were at least with the residents of the city in spirit and body, he said.

According to the agreement, JCMAC will provide the MILF as an "approachable and neutral mechanism" for Marawi residents and Lanao areas to raise their concerns with the government and to participate in rehabilitation efforts.

"The mechanism will also address emerging needs and challenges, particularly on the security situation on the ground and the rise of violent extremism," according to the text of the agreement.

JCMAC will also serve as a connector between the government and the people by giving a means for them to air their grievances and issues that cannot be brought directly to local authorities due to political differences.

It will also help in addressing the issue of extremism by partnering and assisting government agencies.

JCMAC was a key mechanism during the siege of Marawi that created peace corridors for the extraction of trapped civilians and for the delivery of food and other assitance to the victims.

The peace corridors were able to rescue at least 255 civilians and allowed local and international donors to pass through the critical Malabang area to Marawi City.

DOJ downplays ruling clearing 4 CPP leaders

From the Philippine Star (Aug 10): DOJ downplays ruling clearing 4 CPP leaders

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra issued the statement following a recent ruling by the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 19 declaring four key CPP leaders – former Bayan Muna representative Satur Ocampo and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Rafael Baylosis, Victoria Lucia Tauli-Corpus and Jose Melencio Molintas – as non-parties to the case.

The government’s bid in court to declare over 600 persons linked to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), as terrorists remains on track, an official said yesterday.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra issued the statement following a recent ruling by the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 19 declaring four key CPP leaders – former Bayan Muna representative Satur Ocampo and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Rafael Baylosis, Victoria Lucia Tauli-Corpus and Jose Melencio Molintas – as non-parties to the case.

Guevarra said the development was not a setback to the government’s proscription case against the communist rebels.

“In the first place, the only real respondents in the proscription case are the CPP and the NPA. It is these entities, not the named individuals, who are the party-respondents in the petition to declare them as terrorist organizations,” he stressed.

Acting Prosecutor General Richard Anthony Fadullon said the DOJ “will just have to resort to causing the service of summons by publication” as directed in the RTC ruling.
 Guevarra revealed that they only submitted to the court the list of individuals,
ncluding Ocampo, Baylosis, Corpuz and Molintas, with alleged links to the CPP-NPA solely for the purpose of service of summons to the two organizations.

In a resolution on July 27, RTC Judge Mario Madoza-Malagar ruled that Ocampo and Baylosis are non-parties since “the prayed-for declaration from this court is an organization, association or group of persons” while the two other denied being part of the group.

Last March, the DOJ filed before the court a motion seeking to declare communist leaders and their armed members as terrorists, submitting a list of over 600 names that included CPP founding chair Jose Maria Sison, alleged CPP leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, former peace panel chief Luis Jalandoni, human rights lawyer and former Baguio City councilor Jose Molintas and Cordillerans Joanna Carino, Windel Farag-ey Bolinget, Sherwin De Vera, Beverly Sakongan Longid and Jeannette Ribaya Cawiding.

The petition was filed following the termination of the peace talks between the government and the CPP in November last year.

In its petition, the DOJ cited Republic Act 9372, the Human Security Act of 2007, in seeking the declaration of the CPP and NPA officials and members as terrorists.

The petition, signed by Senior Associate State Prosecutor Peter Ong, accused the CPP-NPA of having an “evil plan of imposing a totalitarian regime.”

The Tripoli Agreement of 1976: Lessons, impact on the Mindanao peace process

From the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) (Aug 10): The Tripoli Agreement of 1976: Lessons, impact on the Mindanao peace process (by Rufa Cagoco-Guiam)

A FORTNIGHT AGO on July 27, 2018, President Duterte signed Republic Act No. 11054 or the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) that was finalized by the Senate and the House of Representatives bicameral conference committee, and which enrolled some amendments to the draft submitted by the Bangsamoro Transition Committee. A ceremonial signing event was held on Aug. 6, 2018. But the seminal document covering the peace process in Mindanao, The Tripoli Agreement, was signed in 1976, or over two generations ago. This guest article offers the backstory of negotiations for peace and development in Southern Philippines.

Ceremonial signing of the Bangsamoro Organic Law at Malacanan Palace on Aug. 6 2018, Photo by King Rodriguez, Presidential Photo

ALMOST 42 years ago, an important document signed in Tripoli, Libya became a benchmark in the history of the Mindanao peace process. On 23 December 1976, the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) signed the Tripoli Agreement, which created the first autonomous region in the southern Philippines.

More than just providing for the first autonomous region in Mindanao, the Tripoli Agreement symbolized the highly indefinite, open-ended and circuitous nature of the Mindanao peace process. The agreement also signalled the beginning of the internationalisation of intrastate conflict resolution in the Philippines, a departure from the so-called ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) convention of non-interference into member states’ internal conflicts. The new strategy involved the facilitation and mediation of international bodies like the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the good offices of a foreign government—that of Libya.

As the very first peace accord signed between the Philippine government and a Moro rebel group, the Tripoli Agreement was only a small step, but it was hoped it would be an important step in the right direction—towards lasting peace in the Bangsamoro, then in all of Mindanao and eventually in the entire country. Unfortunately, the accord started what became a protracted peace process on the wrong foot, and for the wrong reasons.

Considered one of the world’s longest-running internal conflicts, the armed hostilities in the southern Philippines involved the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and different iterations of Moro rebel groups, starting with the MNLF, which was created in the early 1970s.

After the signing of the Tripoli Agreement, some of the founding members of the MNLF, such as Ustadz Salamat Hashim, decided to form their own group. Part of the MNLF delegation present in Tripoli For the signing of the agreement in December 1976, Ustadz Hashim led the MILF from its founding years until his death in 2001.

A pyrrhic victory

As signing an agreement with the MNLF at the urging of a global power like the OIC was no small concession for Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, the agreement was considered a pyrrhic victory for the MNLF and a breakthrough for peace. However, it provided only false hopes to Philippine peace constituencies and did not fulfil its promise.

By 1977, a breakaway faction, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), announced their existence and launched offensives against Philippine government forces. The MILF claimed to be more moderate than the MNLF, stating that their struggle was aimed at attaining ‘genuine autonomy within the sovereignty of the Philippines’. In contrast, the MNLF’s battle cry demanded independence from the Philippine state.

As noted earlier, the Tripoli Agreement was a benchmark in the long history of the Mindanao peace process. For one, it firmed up the MNLFs’ position of belligerence vis-à-vis the Philippine government. This distinctive position came with the added bonus of the MNLF’s being accorded observer status in the meetings of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), a status that continues to the present day. For another, the Tripoli Agreement was evidence of the Philippine government’s acquiescence to a geopolitical game changer—the increasing political power of certain OIC countries, almost all of which were awash in black gold or oil.

It is widely known that President Marcos decided to seek Libya’s intercession after he learnt of the dwindling oil and fuel reserves in the Philippines at that time. Then and now, the country has been dependent on the Middle Eastern oil-rich member countries of the OIC for its oil supply. The OIC, which saw how Muslims were suffering during Marcos’ martial law, had earlier threatened an oil embargo on the Philippines should the latter refuse to start peace talks with the MNLF.

Ceremonial signing of the Bangsamoro Organic Law at Malacanan Palace on Aug. 6, 2018. Photo by King Rodriguez, Presidential Photo

Wily strategist

President Marcos consented to sign a ‘peace agreement’ with the MNLF under the aegis of the Libyan government, then headed by Muammar Qaddafi. After a series of meetings with Philippine government representatives, led by no less than the First Lady at that time, Imelda Marcos, Qaddafi facilitated the signing of the Tripoli Agreement in 1976.

However, wily strategist that he was, President Marcos found the means to hoodwink the MNLF into signing an agreement filled with provisions that lacked clarity in terms of future implementation, for example, mantra-like phrases such as ‘to be discussed later’, ‘to be fixed later’ or ‘to be determined later’. Eleven of the agreement’s nineteen provisions ended with either ‘to be discussed later’ or ‘to be fixed or determined later’.

For instance, the provision on the integration or ‘joining’ of MNLF forces to the Philippine military was to be ‘discussed later’. This specific provision started with a statement that defense and national security were the concern of the national or central government. This was a devious way of seemingly consenting to the demands of the other party to share in the powers of maintaining national security, but without operationalizing the granting of authority since the ‘joining’ of the MNLF to the Philippine military forces was to be ‘discussed later’. Opportunities for ‘later’ discussion of MNLF integration were not made available until after the signing of the Final Peace Agreement in September 1996.

Interminable wait

The sad consequences of the vague wording were that the ‘fixing’ or ‘later discussion’ stretched to an almost indeterminable time, spanning more than three decades and three presidential terms (1976 to 1996). And nothing was really ever fixed, even after former president Fidel V. Ramos initiated the peace process that led to the signing of the Final Peace Agreement (FPA) with the MNLF on 2 September 1996.

However, nothing was ‘final’ in the Final Peace Agreement. The guns of the MNLF may have been silenced, but a few hours after the FPA signing, the MILF launched its first major offensives in various areas of Mindanao where they enjoyed substantial support. These offensives signalled the need for a further peace process to be considered by the government, this time with a ‘new’ player—the MILF. To make matters worse, the series of retaliatory actions by the Philippine government in response to the MILF offensives created a distraction or detour that impeded the implementation of the full provisions of the FPA.

Incremental gains

After more than 17 years of painstaking negotiations with the Philippine government (1996–2013), the MILF seemed to have succeeded in forging several peace accords, including a new Tripoli Agreement signed in 2006. All the accords that provided incremental gains for the MILF can be subsumed within two major agreements: the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), signed in 2012, and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), signed two years later in 2014. The CAB incorporated all the unimplemented provisions in previous agreements, including those in the FPA and the original Tripoli Agreement.

The CAB provided for the creation of a body that was to formulate the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which was in keeping with the substantial provisions of the CAB, the result of bilateral efforts between the Government of the Philippines and the MILF peace panels.

A CAB-compliant BBL was supposed to be approved in the Philippine Congress in mid-2015, but the infamous Mamasapano tragedy, a serious and bloody distraction, occurred on 25 January 2015. Forty-four members of the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and twenty-four individuals, including women and children, lost their lives during the execution of Oplan Exodus, a PNP operation against suspected Malaysian terrorist Zulkiflin bin Hir (aka Marwan) and his close aide, Basit Usman. Marwan had earlier embedded himself among the Maguindanawon communities in a remote barangay of Mamasapano town, allegedly teaching local terrorist groups how to manufacture improvised explosives.

The marshland part of the town is popularly known as a ‘hotbed’ of various armed groups, including the MILF, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (a breakaway faction of the MILF), guns for hire and other lawless elements. The SAF elements reportedly carried out Oplan Exodus without coordinating properly with the Joint Coordinating Committee for the Cessation of Hostilities (JCCCH), created after the signing of several peace accords between the GPG and the MILF. The JCCCH is one of several peacekeeping bodies composed of elements from both the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the MILF to ensure that the terms of the peace accords are kept and hostilities are avoided while peace talks are going on.

Mamasapano tragedy

It was early dawn of 25 January 2015 when fully armed SAF swooped down on shanties in the area, believed to be where Marwan was sleeping. The PNP reported the operation as a ‘partial’ success: they killed Marwan, but Basit Usman escaped. But they paid a heavy price for their limited success in the death toll: 44 members of SAF and 25 civilians. The PNP, however, reported a different profile of the dead: 44 SAF, 18 MILF and five civilians. It was also believed that some MILF fired at the SAF causing their deaths.

After the tragic incident, the members of a predominantly Catholic House of Representatives renounced their previous statement of support for the first version of the CAB-compliant BBL. Consequently, almost all members of both the lower chamber (House of Representatives) and the upper chamber (Senate) condemned the incident, placing the blame on the MILF for the deaths of the 68 individuals.

With the assumption to office of the current Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, several peace advocates had high hopes that the CAB-compliant BBL, temporarily shelved after Mamasapano and the exit of former president Benigno S. Aquino III, would be enacted. Duterte, who is from Mindanao, had promised prior to his election that he would address the ‘historical injustices’ against the Bangsamoro by expediting the passage of the BBL.

Towards the last quarter of 2016, President Duterte created another Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) to draft a new version of the BBL that would get the nod of the two legislative houses. The new BTC was inclusive of both the MNLF and MILF as well as representatives of government and the indigenous peoples.
[Republic Act No. 11054   Download (PDF, 11.08MB)]

Carpet-bombed Marawi

A new BBL version was ready to be submitted when another distraction happened: the Marawi siege, which began on 23 May 2017. People’s optimism was again transformed into pessimism and despair.

For five months, a major part of the city of Marawi was ‘carpet bombed’ (President Duterte’s description of the air strikes) on a daily basis, almost destroying the city’s infrastructure. The strikes were in retaliation for the offensive launched by a ragtag group of ‘terrorists’ called the Maute Group, believed to be supporting the internationally feared terror group ISIS. In support of the massive and aggressive military action against the Maute, President Duterte also declared martial law in Mindanao, a situation that eerily harked back to the dark days of Marcos’ martial law in the 1970s.

Despite a series of lobbying efforts and some community-based consultations, the new BBL version garnered very little support from legislators. Both houses of Congress mangled the BTC version and further undermined the intent of granting genuine autonomy to the Bangsamoro—the main reason for all the previous agreements, especially the Tripoli Agreement.

Lessons from history
The fate of the new BBL version now hangs like the proverbial sword of Damocles in the hands of a bicameral committee tasked with reconciling the conflicting upper and lower house versions of the BBL. Peace advocates see only a tiny ray of hope in the members of this Congressional committee, many of whom are known to hold deep prejudices against the Bangsamoro.

More than four decades after the signing of the Tripoli Agreement in 1976, with all the twists and turns in the longstanding Mindanao peace process, there seems to be no hope in sight that the armed struggle of the Moro rebel groups will yield substantial gains in the Bangsamoro’s quest for self-determination.

Would the present peace process and the passage of a truly CAB-compliant BBL have succeeded if the circumstances surrounding the signing of the first Tripoli Agreement had been ‘proper’? Would the present context of the peace process have changed if the Tripoli Agreement had had a rational grounding, i.e. an understanding that it was time to address the long years of historical injustice and the legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro people rather than buttress the political interests of a dictatorship?

Such rhetorical questions lead us to a future that will recycle the lessons of history that have never been learnt.

[Rufa Cagoco-Guiam is a retired sociology professor at the Mindanao State University – General Santos city. This essay was commissioned by the Sharjah Art Foundation and first published for the exhibition ‘A Tripoli Agreement’ (July 14 – September 1, 2018) curated by Renan Laru-an.]

ASG member nabbed in Zamboanga City

From the Zamboanga Today Online (Aug 9): ASG member nabbed in Zamboanga City

An alleged member of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) was arrested by joint police and military personnel in Barangay Pasilmanta, Sacol Island, Zamboanga City, Tuesday.

Personnel of the 904th Maneuver Company, Intelligence Branch and Explosive and Ordnance Disposal (EOD) of the Regional Mobile Force Battalion 9 together Marine Battalion Landing Team 11, conducted a law enforcement operation that resulted to the arrest of Majid Isnilon, 25, of the said place.

A warrant of arrest for murder issued on March 31, 2017 by Judge Gracelina G. Bernardo, RTC9, 9th Judicial Region, Branch 17, Zamboanga City and another Warrant of Arrest for multiple attempted murder issued on January 29, 2018by Judge Roncesvalles B Filoteo, RTC9, 9th Judicial Region, Branch 32, Zamboanga City were served to Isnilon.

Seized from his possession were a color yellow and green detonating cord, 9 volts battery and a live MK2 fragmentation hand grenade.

Police Regional Office 9 (PRO9) spokesperson Chief Insp. Helen Galvez said that Isnilon was involved in numerous crimes such as extortion activities, the killing of Ronald Juela at Sitio Niyog-Niyog, Barangay Muti, this city; strafing incident of Rural Bus Transit, Inc. at Km-57, Barangay Buenavista, this city, that wounded several passengers; and the massacre of 8 fishermen off Siromon Island, Barangay Dita, this city.

The suspect is said to be an active member of the ASG under sub-leader Hatib Sawadjaan Hajan, a Sulu-based commander.

Isnilon is also allegedly connected to the group of ASG Sub-leader Jamilul Nasalun alyas “Abu Harris” where he served as spotter and messenger.

The suspect was turned-over to the Zamboanga City Police Office (ZCPO) for proper documentation and temporary detention prior to his turn over to the concerned courts.

Philippines: Former MILF Rebels Start Decommissioning of Firearms

From BenarNews (Aug 10): Philippines: Former MILF Rebels Start Decommissioning of Firearms


Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters conduct a drill at the group’s Camp Darapanan in Maguindanao province in the southern Philippines in 2014.  Felipe Villamor/ BenarNews                

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has begun decommissioning firearms following the historic passage of a law giving the former separatist group autonomy in the south, its chief peace negotiator told BenarNews on Friday.

But the 12,000-member MILF is prepared to help the government against a breakaway unit that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS), said Mohagher Iqbal, the group’s chief peace negotiator.
Under the Bangsamoro Organic Law, four million Muslim Filipinos will be allowed to form an elected parliament and administration in Islamic-majority areas of southern Mindanao and nearby islands, where five decades of insurgency have left more than 100,000 people dead.

The law will give them control over many local government functions, including taxation and education, and it will allow Muslim Filipinos to incorporate Islamic law into their justice system. The MILF will retain control of the autonomous region until elections are held later this year.

“The first pace of the decommissioning, about 30 percent, started after the law was ratified,” Iqbal said, but declined to give a specific figure.

“The second phase will start after the plebiscite and the last batch will happen after the plebiscite and appointment of the leaders that will form the Bangsamoro Transition Authority,” Iqbal said referring to the upcoming elections.

The Bangsamoro Transition Authority will take over from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which was a product of a peace agreement between government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
The MILF split from the MNLF in 1978, after the latter dropped the fight for independence. The MILF pressed on with the guerrilla warfare that had left many areas in the mineral-rich south underdeveloped, where large clans controlled local economy and politics.

But past governments have said that despite the millions in dollars poured into the ARMM, the area remains impoverished.

In Manila, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said officials are working with the MILF leadership to disarm their forces and the possible integration of qualified fighters into the military and police force.

“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 told reporters.

Other forces in Mindanao
Wahid Tundok, an MILF field commander based in Maguindanao, told BenarNews he could not say when he would surrender his weapons, noting other groups still pose threats.
“We are waiting for orders from our leaders. But I am happy the law was already signed by the president,” said Tundok.

Tundok’s forces was implicated in the deaths of 44 police commandos in a 2015 operation against a Malaysian terrorist. Iqbal appeared before a Senate hearing whose members later established that the police chief at that time failed to notify the MILF of the raid, leading to confusion and the gun battle.

Mansoor Limba of the Al Qalam Institute at the Ateneo de Davao University warned that smaller and more vicious armed groups such as Abu Sayyaf and the MILF’s breakaway unit, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters could launch attacks as the MILF forces were surrendering their weapons.

Limba said if the government failed to address the roots of discontent, peace in the south would remain elusive.

“Failure to give due attention and to give due solution to these concerns would only give reason for them to fan out more violence in Mindanao,” he said.

On July 31, 10 people and a militant died when a bomb detonated inside a van in Lamitan, a mixed Muslim-Christian city in Basilan island, also in the south.

The Islamic State claimed that one of its fighters, a Moroccan, staged the attack.

The claim has been discounted by the government, even as Interior Undersecretary Eduardo Año, told the Associated Press on Thursday that a foreign militant was behind the attack.

PNP pays tribute to departed SAF warriors

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 10): PNP pays tribute to departed SAF warriors

The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Friday remembered the heroism of at least 100 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos who paid the ultimate price of offering their lives as they fought against the enemies of the state.

Acting Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Eduardo Ano served as the guest of honor and speaker during the PNP-SAF Memorial Day 2018 held at SAF Headquarters in Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan, Taguig.

Ano said commemorating the gallantry and discipline of the SAF warriors who were killed while fighting to ensure the country’s peace and order should serve as an example to the other cops, especially those who are being linked to various illegal activities.

Among those remembered were the SAF44, or those killed in a deadly encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in January 2015 that led to the neutralization of Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan; and the ones who were killed to liberate the Marawi City from the hands of Maute Terror Group in May 2017.

Ano could not help but recall the time when he was still the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Marawi City was still under siege.

“Everytime I visited the main battle area during my stint as chief of staff, I make sure that I had time to see all the units especially the PNP-SAF, the Marines, Our SOCOM (Special Operation Command) units and truly I saw for myself how brave, how gallant they fought to the point na even their wounded personnel refused to be evacuated,” Ano said.

“Walang kapaguran. Even if sabihin namin na it’s time for you to take a rest for a while, they would not accept that. They just want to finish the job and you can see in their blood that they are truly gallant warriors. We are proud of them,” he added.

A field mass was held followed by a wreath-laying ceremony. The ceremonial ringing of bell was also conducted — a sound each for the names of the slain SAF troopers.

While Ano believes that only a number of cops were involved in illegal activities, he hopes that they would veer away from committing crimes because their role is to serve and protect the country and the public, and not be a cause of shame.

PNP: Alleged NPA members tried to lay siege in Lapinig municipal hall

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 10): PNP: Alleged NPA members tried to lay siege in Lapinig municipal hall

Armed individuals believed to be belonging from the New People’s Army (NPA) tried to lay siege in the Lapinig Municipal Hall in Northern Samar on Friday but were foiled by cops, the Philippine National Police (PNP) bared.

PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde (Kevin Tristan Espiritu / MANILA BULLETIN)

PNP chief, Director General Oscar Albayalde has ordered ground troops to hunt down at least 100 suspected NPA members who went on a shooting and looting rampage at the Lapinig Municipal Police Station before dawn Friday.

In response, Senior Superintendent Benigno Durana Jr., PNP spokesperson, stated that police maneuver units in Eastern Visayas were already mobilized to conduct the manhunt.

“An ‘all point’ bulletin has been raised in the entire Samar Island to possibly intercept the fleeing group of communist terrorists who attempted to lay siege on the municipal hall of Lapinig at 2 a.m. [Friday],” Durana said.

The Lapinig Municipal Hall was about 400 meters away from the town’s police station.

He said the personnel of Lapinig Municipal Police Station foiled the suspected communist rebels’ attack and “put up a stiff resistance” to drive them away.

According to a report reaching Chief Superintendent Mariel Magaway, regional director of Eastern Visayas Police Regional Office (PRO-8), suspected communist rebels attacked the Lapinig Municipal Police Station around 2 a.m. and peppered the on-duty cops with bullets.

The suspects arrived on-board two trucks and a number of motorcycles. They were also armed with high-powered firearms such as Uzi, M14, M16, M203 grenade launcher and submachine guns, according to Magaway.

The 15- to 30-minute firefight resulted to the wounding of two cops, Police Officer 2 Jerry Quilecol and PO1 Edizon Aguere.

Meanwhile, two cops who were earlier reported missing were already found.

They were identified as Inspector Noli Montebon, the chief of police of Lapinig, and PO2 Mark Mejedo, who claimed they sought refuge after they ran out of bullets.

Montebon said the Lapinig Municipal Police Station has 21 personnel including him.

However, on the time of the attack, only six cops were on-duty in the police station and they fiercely battled the 100-member armed group until they drove them away.

However, some members of the group managed to get some of the equipment from the police station.

Accounting of the looted police equipment have been conducted to determine what items were stolen by the suspects.

“All AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) units in Samar Island had been alerted as well and have joined pursuit operations [with] land-based and seaborne PNP units,” Magaway said.

Aside from the two cops who were initailly reported wounded, Durana said no further report of casualties were available from the side of the NPA and the police since clearing and consolidation operations remain underway in Lapinig as of writing.

With the attack, additional police personnel were deployed at Lapinig Municipal Hall to ensure the safety in the area.

Reinforcement units were also sejt to beef up the security in Lapinig town in case the armed suspects return.

10 NPA terrorists surrender in Batangas

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 11): 10 NPA terrorists surrender in Batangas

CAMP GEN. MATEO CAPINPIN, Tanay, Rizal- Ten members of the New People’s Army (NPA) Communist terrorist group have surrendered to the troops of the 730th Combat Group (730th CG), Philippine Air Force in Nasugbu, Batangas.

Major Engelberto A. Nioda Jr, Group Commander of 730th CG, on Saturday said that eight of the 10 terrorist rebels who surrendered were members of Platoon Jupiter, while the two others were from Platoon Galaxy, both of Sub- Regional Military Area (SRMA) 4C, Southern Tagalog Regional Party Committee (STRPC) operating in Batangas and Cavite.

The identities of the 10 NPAs members who are now in the military custody are withheld for security reasons, Nioda added.

In subsequent interviews upon their surrenders, the 10 NPA comrades said they decided to surrender to the authorities because of experiencing hardships and starvation while struggling to move in hiding places as they evaded government troops.

They also expressed frustrations and hopelessness over unfulfilled promises by their NPA comrades as the promises of having a good life where they can support their families failed and turned out to be all lies.

Brigadier General Arnulfo Marcelo B. Burgos Jr., Commander of the 202nd Infantry (UNIFIER) Brigade which exercises operational jurisdiction over the Calabarzon Region, said that the rebels surrender back to the folds of government “sends an underlying message that the insurgency in Batangas is now on the verge of collapse.”

"This is the result of the close coordination and collaboration between and among the security sector, government agencies, business entities, local government units (LGUs) and the general public,” Burgos said

Meanwhile, Major General Rhoderick M. Parayno, Commander of the 2nd Infantry “Jungle Fighter” Division (2ID) lauded efforts of the government troops against the communist-terrorists in the area.

He said the 2nd Infantry Division is pushing for the conduct of a localized peace talks with the NPA communist-terrorist group.

“We are winning the campaign against the NPAs in our area. The enemies are losing and on the run now. It’s not too late for them to surrender. A local peace talk is more realistic and has a very good chance of success since issues are addressed and resolved immediately,” Parayno said.

Also, Captain Patrick Jay M. Retumban, chief of the 2ID Public Affairs Office, said that the 10 who have surrendered so far will formalize their return to the fold of law when they take their “Oath of Allegiance” and turn over their firearms in a ceremony scheduled on Tuesday (Aug. 14) in Tanauan City, Batangas.

Retumban disclosed that the oath-taking ceremony and turn-over of firearms will be presided over and witnessed by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Department of National Defense (DND) Secretaries, Presidential Adviser for Southern Tagalog, Governor of Batangas and other top military commanders.

He added that during the turnover ceremony, the concerned departments and agencies will also launch the maiden implementation of the national government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) in Southern Luzon.

He said that E-CLIP is a holistic inter-agency approach of the government to end insurgency peacefully by encouraging rebels to join mainstream society through various grants and compensations which they can use to start-over and become responsible members of the society.

No notification of Balanginga bells' return yet: DFA

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 11): No notification of Balanginga bells' return yet: DFA

BALANGIGA BELLS. Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano tells reporters in Taguig City on Friday (August 10, 2018) that the government has yet to receive word from Washington on the return of the Balangiga Bells to the Philippines. Cayetano was commenting on a viral Facebook post saying that the US defense secretary had announced the return of the war booty to the Philippines. (PNA photo by Jess M. Escaros Jr.)

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Friday the government has yet to receive word from Washington amid circulating reports that the US defense secretary had announced the return of the Balangiga Bells to the Philippines.

"Wala pang official transmission sa amin sa DFA (The Department of Foreign Affairs has still not received any official transmission regarding the bells)," Cayetano said, when asked to confirm the veracity of a viral post on Facebook claiming such. As of posting, the post has more than a hundred shares already.

The latest development, he said, was the signing of the US National Defense Authorization Act of 2018, which gives the US defense chief the authority to decide on the bells' transfer.

"Ayokong pangunahan 'yung official na approval nila pero parang nago-open 'yung mga pinto, dati sarado. Dati kasi, Congress can block it, ngayon binigay nila 'yung desisyon sa defense (I don’t want to preempt the official approval but doors that were once closed seem to be opening. In the past, the US Congress could block it but this decision has been given to defense)," Cayetano told reporters in an interview in Taguig City.

While there are still "sensitivities" to address, the foreign affairs chief noted that both Filipino-Americans and Americans facilitating for the bells’ return are seeing developments favoring President Rodrigo Duterte's desire to get the war booty back.

"Sabi ng mga taong nag-aasikaso doon, both mga Filipino-Americans at mga Americans, maganda ang takbo. We're doing it quietly, diplomatically but mukhang may way forward (According to people in the US who are facilitating the return of the bells, both Filipino-Americans and Americans, things are going well. We’re doing it quietly, diplomatically, but it looks like there’s a way forward)," he said.

The bells were taken from the Balangiga Church in Samar by American troops as a war booty from the "Balangiga Massacre" in 1901.

One of the three bells has been displayed at the 9th Infantry Regiment in Camp Cloud in South Korea, while the other two have been at the former base of the 11th Infantry Regiment at the FE Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Duterte first demanded for the return of the bells during his second State of the Nation Address last year.

Before officially assuming his role as Ambassador to the US in 2017, Jose Manuel Romualdez said the bells may be returned to the Philippines "soon."

Prior to the US National Defense Authorization Act of 2018, Romualdez said Defense Secretary James Mattis has already assured Duterte that "he will do what he can" to bring back the war artifacts.

Defense chief orders bombproofing of all checkpoints

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 11): Defense chief orders bombproofing of all checkpoints

To prevent a repeat of the improvised explosive device (IED) blast in Lamitan City, Basilan last month, which killed 11 persons and wounded six others, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has ordered all military commanders to bombproof their checkpoint installations nationwide.

"(I ordered all military commanders) to bombproof all their checkpoints by placing barricades and other obstacles so that (the explosion would not hit them directly)," Lorenzana said Thursday when asked what measures could be implemented to prevent a repeat of the incident.

The defense chief added that troops and other military personnel should not cluster themselves near checkpoints and instead deploy themselves in formations that would provide them more protection.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) earlier said that it is still to identify the driver of the van loaded with IEDs that exploded near a military checkpoint in Lamitan City, Basilan last July 31, killing himself and nine others aside from wounding seven more people.

One of the seven wounded, however, died in the hospital early this week, raising the death toll for the blast to 11.

The van suddenly exploded while the troops were about to inspect the vehicle at a checkpoint in the boundary of barangays Bulanting, Colonia, and Maganda in Lamitan City.

The military is eyeing Abu Sayyaf leader Furuji Indama as the mastermind behind the blast, in response to the growing number of terrorists surrendering in Basilan.

US Defense decides to return Balangiga Bells to PH: Embassy

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 12): US Defense decides to return Balangiga Bells to PH: Embassy

The United States Embassy in Manila announced that the US Department of Defense already decided the transfer of Balangiga Bells to the Philippines.

"Secretary of Defense (James) Mattis has notified Congress that the Department intends to return the Bells of Balangiga to the Philippines," Trude Raizen, deputy press attache of the embassy, told the Philippine News Agency Saturday.

The US National Defense Authorization Act of 2018 gives the US defense chief the authority to decide on the bells' transfer.

While no specific date was set yet on the war artifact's return, Raizen said they were assured it will now be processed.

"We've received assurances that the Bells will be returned to the Catholic Church and treated with the respect and honor they deserve," she said.

"We are aware that the Bells of Balangiga have deep significance for a number of people, both in the United States and in the Philippines," she added.

The bells were reportedly taken from the Balangiga Church in Samar by American troops as a war booty from the "Balangiga Massacre" in 1901.

One of the three bells has been displayed at the 9th Infantry Regiment in Camp Cloud in South Korea, while the other two have been at the former base of the 11th Infantry Regiment at the FE Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

President Rodrigo Duterte made his first appeal on Washington to return the the war booty during his second State of the Nation Address last year.

4 NPAs surrender

From the Mindanao Times (Aug 10): 4 NPAs surrender

Four more New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) members surrendered to the 8th Infantry Battalion in Sitio Mahagwa, Barangay Hagpa, Impasugong, Bukidnon on Tuesday, Aug. 7.

1Lt. Tere Ingente, the spokesperson of 4th Infantry Division, said the rebels were members of Guerrilla Front 4B (GF4B).
One of the surrenderees was identified as alias Dalasigon, 43, who brought along his M1 Carbine rifle.

The three, she said were members of Milisyang Bayan identified as alias Lawin, 41; alias Bag-as, 27; and alias Jampee, 25, who were all from Barangay Hagpa. They also surrendered three homemade shotguns.

In his statement, Lt. Col Ronald Illana, the commander of 8th Infantry Battalion, said the surrenders were a result of the Community Support Program of the army.

“People in our priority areas are now aware of the CPP-NPA’s true intentions and that they do not want to take part of their failed armed struggle anymore,” Illana said.

Last July 16, two former NPAs of GF4B also surrendered their firearms to 8th IB headquarters in Impasugong, Bukidnon.

On the other hand, Brig. Gen. Eric Vinoya, commander of 403rd Infantry Brigade, assured the surrenderees that the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP) committee of Bukidnon will ensure their proper reintegration to the community.

“Once again, we appreciate the decision of our brothers to go down and embrace peace,” Vinoya said.

“Together with the other members of the ECLIP committee of Bukidnon, we will ensure your security and that all the assistance from the program will be given to you. You have made a good and very timely decision,” he said, addressing the surrenderees.

The rebel returnees also revealed to soldiers that the NPA promised them financial support of ₱5,000 and one sack of rice every month. They also claimed that they were forced to extort from farmers every month or during harvest.

Maj. Gen. Ronald Villanueva, the commander of 4th Infantry Division, said they received information that many of the NPAs are now waiting for the right time to surrender because of hardship. “Most of them are dismayed of the NPA terrorists’ failed promises and extortion. I encourage those who want to surrender, now is the right time to do it,” Villanueva said.