Monday, August 13, 2018

Western Command tightens security in Palawan

From the Philippine Information Agency (Aug 13): Western Command tightens security in Palawan

CAMP GENERAL ARTEMIO RICARTE, Puerto Princesa, Palawan, August 13 -- Western Command (Wescom) remains on heightened alert and continues to tighten its security posture in Palawan against all forms of threats, amidst circulating information on probable kidnapping in the Province.
"Wescom is grateful to our security partners and concerned citizens for proactively sharing with us vital security information. WESCOM is validating all these information and are taking appropriate actions. We remain on heightened alert. All our units are undertaking appropriate security measures," said LtGen Rozzano Briguez, Commander of Wescom.
Wescom's air and naval forces are conducting patrols, while its Marines and Army special forces are scouring the grounds and coastlines. We are supported by the PNP Maritime and Land Forces while the Coast Guard assists us in ensuring the safety of life at sea. We also intensified our information network activities and maintain strategic checkpoints in the Province.
 Wescom urges the public to remain vigilant and calm, and to report any unfamiliar faces, incidents or anything doubtful in their communities through its Hotline (09178960014) and/or any fastest means of communication possible.
The ASG, or any threat group for that matter, should not underestimate the Palaweños' vigilance and unity. They may try to come to Palawan but they will have a hard time to stage their acts because the whole Palawan is against them and will not allow them to do their crimes here.
"Wescom and the Palaweños take security and safety very seriously and we work together to ensure that these criminals will not be able to succeed with their evil plans. Even before this information came out, Wescom and the Palaweños have already united and established a strong foundation and mutual commitment to security, and we also have our reporting and info sharing mechanism in place," LtGen Briguez said.
The inter-agency security posture of Palawan against any threat remains strong. The LGUs committed their support through strong neighborhood watch and timely reporting system. Other sectors, like the tourism and business establishments, fisherfolks, yacht owners, etc. also committed their support by strengthening their respective security measures and timely reporting of any suspicious personalities and activities in their areas of concern.
With the involvement of all sectors, Palawan is ready to address these threats confronting us, always bearing in mind that security is a shared concern and responsibility of everybody. We continue to urge our people in Palawan to continue to proactively participate and cooperate in strengthening our security posture. (WESCOM)

Marines present seized NPA firearms, IEDs to Wescom chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 12): Marines present seized NPA firearms, IEDs to Wescom chief

RECOVERED NPA FIREARMS. (From left) Lt. Col. Darwin de Luna, commander of the 4th Marine Battalion Landing Team and Joint Task Group South (JTGS); Western Command commander, Lt. General Rozzano Briguez (middle, holding a recovered firearm), and Col. Charlton Sean Gaerlan, commander of the 3rd Marine Brigade (MBde) and the Joint Task Force Peacock (JTFP), during the presentation on Sunday of the recovered firearms following a clash with the NPA by government troops in Barangay Quinlogan, Quezon, southern Palawan. (Photo courtesy of Wescom Public Affairs Office)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Authorities presented the firearms, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), ammunition, and other subversive items recovered from an encampment of the New People’s Army (NPA) that was overran by government troops in Barangay Quinlogan, Quezon town, to Lt. Gen. Rozzano Briguez of the Western Command (Wescom) on Sunday morning.

Lt. Col. Darwin de Luna, commander of the 4th Marine Battalion Landing Team and Joint Task Group South (JTGS), and Col. Charlton Sean Gaerlan, commander of the 3rd Marine Brigade and the Joint Task Force Peacock (JTFP), led the presentation of recovered weapons to Briguez and other military officials.

The weapons and ammunition were recovered on August 8 following clearing operations at the site where a 45-minute firefight between the rebels and government troops.

Two insurgents were also arrested, but it was not clear if they were also presented to Briguez.

"After the clearing operations following the firefight, more items were recovered from the encounter site, including two IEDs, sniper scope, ammunition, cell phones, hand-held radios, uniforms, medical paraphernalia and other personal items of the CPP-NPA terrorists," a post by Wescom on its social media page said.

2 more NPA members, 5 couriers yield in Occidental Mindoro

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 12): 2 more NPA members, 5 couriers yield in Occidental Mindoro

CAMP GEN. MATEO CAPINPIN, Tanay, Rizal -- Two more members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and five couriers surrendered to the Army’s 4th Infantry Battalion (4IB) and local police in Occidental Mindoro on Friday.

In a report on Sunday, Lt. Col. Dennis C. Gutierrez, commander of 4IB based in Mindoro, said the NPA members and couriers were members of Kilusang Larangang Gerilya Silangan, Sub- Regional Military Area (SRMA) 4D, Southern Tagalog Regional Party Committee (STRPC) operating in Mindoro.

Gutierrez said the identities of the surrenderers, who are under military custody, have been withheld for security reasons.

He said the two NPA member told the military that they finally decided to surrender after the hardships and starvation they went through. They said they are tired and weary from wandering just to elude pursuit operations by government troops.

The five couriers, Gutierrez added, surrendered to authorities to clear their names from involvement in the communist group’s activities.

“Ginamit kami ng mga hukbo bilang mga kuryer o milisyang bayan. Ginamit kami nila bilang mga taga-hatid ng mga pagkaing nakokolekta sa mga tao sa barangay. Kami rin ang mga nagmamatyag o nag-mamanman sa sinumang tao na kumukontra sa kilusan (the NPA used us as couriers or militia. They deployed us as messengers/couriers of the food we collected from the village folks. We are also used to serve as surveillance personnel or informants on anybody who opposes their movement),” the couriers said, adding that the NPA's promises "were lies.”

Gutierrez added that the couriers expressed frustration and hopelessness over the NPA leaders’ unfulfilled promises of giving them PHP3,000 and a sack of rice quarterly, which could have supported their families.

“Nalagay sa peligro ang aming buhay dahil sa pagsuporta namin sa NPA, pero dahil nabalitaan namin na bukas at tinutulungan ng gobyerno ang mga katulad namin, kaya minarapat po namin na sumuko (Our lives were endangered because we supported the NPA, but after learning the government’s support and assistance, we have decided to surrender),” the couriers added.

Brig. Gen. Antonio G. Parlade Jr., commander of the 203rd Infantry Brigade, which has operational jurisdiction over Mindoro Island, said the rebels and couriers’ surrender signals the success of the community-based negotiations with the NPAs in the area.

“A resolution supporting the localized peace talks was already approved by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (provincial legislative councils) of both Oriental and Occidental Mindoro provinces on Aug. 6 and 7, 2018, respectively,” Parlade added.

Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Rhoderick M. Parayno, commander of the Philippine Army’s 2nd Infantry “Jungle Fighter” Division (2ID), hailed the efforts of the military troops against the NPA members in the area.

He reiterated that the 2nd Infantry Division has been pushing for the conduct of localized peace talks with the NPA communist terrorist group in Region 4-A (Calabarzon) and in the provinces of Occidental and Oriental Mindoro, Marinduque and Romblon.

Parayno was referring to the 10 NPA comrades who surrendered in Batangas three days ago through localized negotiations.

“We are expecting more NPAs to surrender within the next few weeks. A local peace talk is more realistic and has a very good chance of success since issues are addressed and resolved immediately,” he said.

Capt. Patrick Jay M. Retumban, chief of the 2ID public affairs office, said the 4IB commander will also formally present the surrenderers to the local government units (LGUs) and other government agencies in Mindoro.

Retumban added that both the Mindoro island-based military authorities and LGUs are facilitating the enlistment of surrendered NPA comrades and couriers’ in the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).

He said E-CLIP is the government’s holistic inter-agency approach and peaceful initiative to end insurgency by encouraging rebels to join mainstream society through various grants and compensations they can avail of to start life anew and become responsible members of society.

Samar officials urged to engage in localized peace talks

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 12): Samar officials urged to engage in localized peace talks

Village officials greet Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go before his speech at a covered court during the Samar Day celebration. (Photo from FB page of Bong Go)
CATBALOGAN CITY, Samar -- Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go on Saturday urged local officials to actively participate in the localized peace talks in line with the forthcoming issuance of an executive order for the planned localized talks with communist rebels.

Speaking before thousands of local officials at a covered court here, Go said local officials, including those in villages, can do something to attain lasting peace.

“The order will be signed and will be out soon to guide our local officials on how to engage with the communist rebels. We really need this because in some areas, some officials have to deal with NPA (New People's Army) for their safety,” said Go, who was guest speaker of Samar Day celebration.

President Rodrigo Duterte approved during the 28th Cabinet meeting on Aug. 6 the draft of the directive, which provides the framework that will aid local government officials in dialogue with the rebels.

The guidelines, as previously announced by Malacañang, include:

* Nationally orchestrated, centrally directed, and locally supervised and implemented

* Constitutional integrity and sovereignty will not be compromised.
Complete and genuine resolution of the local armed conflict that shall cover the New People's Army, organs of political power and Militia ng Bayan

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

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

* Substantive agenda will be based on the Medium Term Philippine Development Plan and Philippine Development Program 2040

The top presidential aide expects that these guidelines will help stop decades of bloody struggle by the NPA especially in poverty-stricken areas such as Samar Island.

Go previously recalled that when Duterte was still mayor of Davao City, he accompanied the latter several times in going to the mountains to talk to communists. He added that there had been a trust between the communist group and then mayor Duterte such that they have met with them even without bodyguards.

Sincere approach, he said, comes with various government projects such as the livelihood assistance offered by local government units, among others.

Samar province has been a stronghold of armed rebels due to their densely-forested mountainous areas, high poverty incidence, and issue of widespread landlessness, based on a 2013 study of William Norman Holden of the University of Calgary in Canada.

The NPA launched its first tactical operation in the country in Calbiga, Samar in 1974, when its members ambushed an Army scout patrol and seized a number of weapons.

In 1976, the NPA gained popular support among the inhabitants of Samar following its actions against cattle rustling gangs.

Military heightens security in Palawan vs ASG kidnapping plot

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 13): Military heightens security in Palawan vs ASG kidnapping plot

SECURITY TASK GROUP. Joint operatives and troops of the PNP Maritime Group, Philippine Coast Guard, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines while conducting regular security patrol off Honda Bay Islands, Puerto Princesa City. (File photo by CARF)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan – The military has heightened Palawan’s security alert following “credible” reports of a kidnapping threat by the extremist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

In a statement released late Sunday, Western Command (Wescom) commander Lieutenant General Rozzano Briguez said their air and naval assets have been on constant security patrol, while the Marines and the Army special forces “are scouring grounds and coastlines” to ensure Palawan’s safety.

He said they are being supported by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the province and its Maritime Group in securing all strategic points at sea and on land.

"Wescom is grateful to our security partners and concerned citizens for proactively sharing with us vital security information. Wescom is validating all this information and is taking appropriate actions. We remain on heightened alert. All our units are undertaking appropriate security measures," he said.

Briguez urged the public to remain vigilant and calm and to report suspicious personalities, incidents, or “anything doubtful” in their localities to their hotline number 09178960014, or any other fast means of communication.

Briguez’ statement was released by the Public Affairs Office (PAO) of Wescom after Provincial Legal Office (PLO) chief and Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) member, Atty. Teodoro Jose Matta, sent out text messages to local government unit (LGU) officials, community leaders, and tourism operators, warning them to be vigilant against members of a remnant unit of the ASG from Sulu province who are attempting to gain entry to Palawan.

Matta told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) they issued the information on the belief that the kidnap-for-ransom group’s threat is "credible enough."

“Wherever you go, there is a threat. It’s not only in the province that this is happening. Like other places in the country, our province is also threatened by remnants of this extremist group. Only this time, we believe the threat is credible enough so we alerted all our mayors and tourism operators, including barangay officials to be careful, be aware of their surroundings, and be vigilant,” Matta said.

He also said that Palawan’s safety and security does not only concern the military and the police, but also entails the awareness and cautiousness of the public.

“Governor Jose Alvarez and I, agree that the best weapon against terrorism threat is public awareness and vigilance to protect communities as a whole. What business we may lose in making this public is better than them (ASG) being able to really come in and do something more serious,” he said.

He said the heightened alert should put Palaweños at ease that all measures of security are being undertaken by the provincial government, in close cooperation with the military and the police, to sustain peace and order even in far-flung communities in the province.

Briguez also stressed that any group trying to pose danger to the province should not underestimate the attentiveness and unity of the Palaweños.

They can attempt to enter the province but they will have difficulty in perpetrating their atrocities as its residents will not allow them to do so.

"WESCOM and the Palaweños take security and safety very seriously and we work together to ensure that these criminals will not be able to succeed with their evil plans,” Briguez said.

He said even before the information came out, Wescom and the residents of Palawan have already formed a partnership and mutual commitment to ensure security and safety through an information-sharing mechanism.

This partnership against any threat, Briguez reiterated, remains strong with the backing of municipal and barangay officials through the conduct of neighborhood watch and timely reporting.

This is further strengthened by the commitment of the tourism and business sectors, fishing communities, yacht owners, and others whose support is key to maintaining peace and order in Palawan.

Briguez said Palawan is ready to address threats, always bearing in mind that security is a shared concern and the responsibility of all.

Panay island gets 15 add'l CAFGU detachments

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 13): Panay island gets 15 add'l CAFGU detachments

The Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) will have an additional 15 detachments on Panay Island, according to the Philippine Army’s 301st Infantry Brigade (301st IB) based in Camp Hernandez, Dingle, Iloilo.

Colonel Benedict Arevalo, Commander of the 301st IB, said the additional detachments would beef up the security and sustain the gains on the entire Panay island.

“We should not be complacent because our enemies have also the strength to become stronger especially that we have concentrated some of our forces outside Panay,” he said in an interview Monday.

Also, the additional detachments are in preparation for the 2019 mid-term elections.

“We want to put pressure on the armed groups so that they could not make any violent incident for the coming periods,” he said.

Arevalo further said the CAFGU detachments will be spread in the different priority areas around the island in addition to the 42 existing detachments.

He noted some of these will be located in the towns of Calinog, Maasin, Lambunao and Miag-ao in Iloilo province and towns of Tapaz and Dumarao in Capiz; while others will be in Aklan province.

Arevalo said they have already started recruiting about 500 CAFGU personnel to man these detachments.

The recruitment is being done at the 12th Infantry Battalion headquarters in Aklan.

Arevalo said most of the recruits are residents of localities in Panay.

Due to security reasons, Arevalo did not disclose how many CAFGU personnel will be deployed in each detachment, but he said it will be a “sizable number”.

“We will just finish the numbers and we will establish the detachments,” he said.

Arevalo hoped that all the 15 CAFGU detachments will be established before the end of the year.

Meanwhile, an estimated 200 members of the New People’s Army (NPA) are still active on Panay Island as of the moment, Arevalo said.

He reiterated his call among the public especially the youth that they should avoid believing in the promises of the rebels.

“It is always good to follow our laws. Joining the rebel groups will just harm you, not all that they say are true,” he further said.

Army brings warring Moro clans to settlement

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 13): Army brings warring Moro clans to settlement

PEACE PACT. Erstwhile enemies Bong Abdul, 33 (white shirt), and Kindaw Samama, 45 (striped shirt), shake hands after signing the peace covenant on Sunday (Aug. 12) as Maguindanao Assemblyman Khadafy Mangudadatu (behind them) and other local and military officials join the community prayer. (Photo courtesy of 33rd IB)
KIDAPAWAN CITY -- Army "peacemakers" on Sunday succeeded in bringing together to a “table of peace” Muslim families involved in a bloody family feud following weeks of negotiations.

The warring families agreed to end their conflict by signing a peace pact in front of local leaders and military officials, led by Col. Robert Dauz, commander of the Army's First Mechanized Infantry Brigade (MIB), in Buluan, Maguindanao.

Assemblyman Khadafe Mangudadatu, offered his home as a venue for the historic peace pact-signing ceremony.

Dauz said both parties embroiled in the conflict -- Bong Abdul, 33, and Kindaw Samama, 45 -- agreed to sign the peace pact in a
ceremony held at 9 a.m. at Mangudadatu’s house.

The families have been at odds since 2015 and both sides have lost several members in a series of armed confrontation.

Dauz said the Army unit worked with local chief executives and traditional leaders in resolving the conflict that had sparked armed violence in the past years.

“We applied the whole of government concept in addressing the issues that fueled the conflict among blood relatives. Both the Army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion and the 1st MIB worked in tandem to ensure the success of the negotiations on the ground,” the Army official said.

Abdul, village chairman of Midconding, Gen. Salipada K. Pendatun, Maguindanao, was grateful that the Army and local officials facilitated the conflict resolution.

“I could not describe my happiness today. Finally, my constituents can return to work in the 80-hectare farmland that was abandoned due to violent clashes during the past two years. We can now rebuild our lives,” he said, tears welling in his eyes.

His adversary, Samama, said his signing of the peace covenant was a clear indication he will no longer involve his family in inter-clan violence, in support of the government’s call for the peaceful resolution of minor conflicts.

“I swear to Allah that I will adhere to our agreement here. It is high time that we mend our broken ties as members of the same family,” said Samama, who lost a brother in the fighting last year.

Mangudadatu, for his part, said all residents must abandon the path of violence to support the peace and development agenda of the government.

“Let us stop this senseless infighting among relatives and instead, support President (Rodrigo) Duterte’s vision of achieving genuine peace and development in Mindanao,” said Mangudadatu who is related to both parties of the conflict.

Mangudadatu himself was injured during a family feud in Buluan 30 years ago.

Army’s 1IB troops clash anew with Reds in Quezon

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 13): Army’s 1IB troops clash anew with Reds in Quezon

CAMP GEN. MATEO CAPINPIN, Tanay, Rizal — Government troops belonging to the Army’s 1st Infantry Battalion (1IB) clashed anew with the New Peoples Army (NPA) Communist terrorist group in Sitio Cabungahan, Mauban, Quezon on Sunday afternoon.

Lt. Col. Jonathan Manio, Commanding Officer of the 1st IB, said the armed encounter occurred 3:15 p.m., immediately after receiving verified intelligence reports and information from concerned citizens.

Manio confirmed reports that the NPA terrorist group’s plan to burn construction equipment that were stationed for the Real-Mauban Road Project in eastern Quezon province.

He said the troops proceeded to the site to confirm the report when they encountered around 20 NPA rebels believed to be belonging to Platoon 4A1 of the Sub-Regional Military Area 4A1, Southern Tagalog Regional Party Commitee (STRPC).

He said firefight ensued and lasted for 30 minutes, leaving an undetermined number of casualties from the enemy side due to some traces of blood stains at the encounter site. The NPAs withdrew, bringing along their wounded comrades.

Manio reported two soldiers were wounded but are now in stable condition.

The pursuing soldiers recovered an M16 rifle that was left by the rebels.

Military report also said a group of NPA members burned the construction equipment of Monte Rock Quarry at Sitio Upper Abuab, Barangay Malanday in San Mateo, Rizal at around 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

According to the report reaching this camp headquarters, around 20 armed men with five female companions, some clad in police athletic uniforms, forcibly entered the quarry compound, disarmed the security guards and then burned the heavy equipment.
The NPA members were reported to have fled towards the San Mateo landfill on board the two quarry firm’s trucks, carting away laptops, radios and assorted cash.

Brigadier General Arnulfo Marcelo B. Burgos Jr., Commander of the 202nd Infantry (UNIFIER) Brigade, which exercises operational jurisdiction over Calabarzon Region, said the 1IB troops’ encounter has preempted NPA plans to sabotage the road construction project in Quezon.

Burgos condemned the latest arson incident perpetrated by the communist terrorist group in Rizal.

“The recent atrocities perpetrated by the NPA communist terrorist group targeting construction companies are clear manifestations of their anti- development objectives,” Burgos said.

Meanwhile, Major General Rhoderick M. Parayno, Commander of the 2nd Infantry “Jungle Fighter” Division (2ID), lauded efforts of the 1IB troops against the terrorists.

“The NPAs are attacking civilians. They don’t want development to reach the communities as this will limit their movement. Hitting soft targets will cover their weakness. This is their way of projecting strength. We will run after them,” Parayno said.

As of press time, the police has beefed up checkpoints in the area as pursuit operations are still ongoing.

Bomb expert hurt as Army foils bombing attempts in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 13): Bomb expert hurt as Army foils bombing attempts in Maguindanao
CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao – A military bomb disposal expert was slightly injured when an improvised bomb he was deactivating went off Sunday morning.

The accidental blast came hours after military bomb experts discovered several improvised bombs planted by IS-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao, where a brief encounter between the Army’s 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion (MIB) and the BIFF also transpired.

Capt. Arvin John Encinas, speaking for the Army's 6th Infantry Division, declined to identify the injured member of Army Explosive and Ordnance Disposal Unit for security reasons but said the personnel "is now out of danger.”

Encinas said 57th Infantry Battalion personnel discovered a suspected improvised explosive device (IED) in Barangay Kuloy, Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao and were trying to deactivate the ordnance when it went off at 11:30 a.m. Sunday.  It was the third IED that military bomb disposal experts tried to deactivate Sunday. Two other IEDs were defused earlier, also in Shariff Aguak.

Also on Sunday, elements of the 2nd MIB recovered high-powered firearms and medical supplies in a safe house used by the BIFF under Ismael Abubakar alias "Imam Bungos" in Barangay Malangog, Datu Unsay, Maguindanao.

Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Army’s 6th Infantry Division chief, said Malangog villagers alerted the Army about the presence of the BIFF in their area around 2 p.m. After a brief clash, the rebels fled toward the marshland.

At a rice field near the alleged BIFF safe house owned by local farmer Khadafy Abdulatif, the state forces recovered 20 assorted mortar rounds, 10 improvised blasting caps, a. 50-caliber Barrett sniper rifle, one M16 rifle, one M14 rifle, a .45-caliber pistol, two improvised explosive devices (hand grenade-type), three sacks of IED components, detonating cords, an ICOM antenna, assorted magazines and ammunitions, medical supplies like syringes, and other war material.

Sobejana lauded the civilians for quickly alerting the military about the presence of the BIFF in their village.

“We are very grateful for the trust and support you have shown your AFP, which boosted our morale and inspired us more to be of service to the people of Central Mindanao,” he said.

Sunday’s incident was preceded by a grenade attack carried out by suspected BIFF militants on a roadside detachment of the Army’s 57th IB in Barangay Labu-Labu, Shariff Aguak.

Around 7 p.m. Saturday, two men onboard a motorbike and believed to be BIFF members tossed two hand grenades towards the detachment. No soldier was hurt in the blasts, but a passerby identified as Nasser Kusain, 19, was hurt.

“Violent extremism and terrorism have no place in Central Mindanao. We condemn in strongest term the criminal and barbaric acts of these local terrorist groups,” Sobejana said.

Soldier hurt as troops, NPA rebels clash in Misamis Occidental

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 13): Soldier hurt as troops, NPA rebels clash in Misamis Occidental

Troops have recovered a high-powered firearm and food supplies following a clash over the weekend against New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Misamis Occidental.

A ranking military official said Monday that a soldier was injured in the clash.

Maj. Gen. Roseller Murillo, Army’s 1st Infantry Division commander, said the firefight occurred around 9 a.m. Saturday in Barangay Hoyohoy, Tangub City, Misamis Occidental.
Murillo said the clash broke out while troops of the Army’s 10th Infantry Battalion, headed by Lt. Col. Ryan Severo, were conducting an onsite verification of the reported presence and harassment of  residents by NPA rebels in Barangay Hoyohoy.

Murillo said the firefight lasted for about 40 minutes before the rebels fled towards the northeast direction. A soldier was slightly injured during the clash.

He said the troops have recovered an AK-47 rifle, two sacks of rice of 25 kilos each, dried fish and a backpack abandoned by the guerrillas.

“The armed confrontation between the troops and the NPAs in Misamis Occidental manifests the ever-widening support of the civilian community in totally wiping out the presence of the terrorist group in the province,” he said.

He urged the remaining NPA rebels to surrender and avail of government programs so that they can live peacefully with their families.

PH Navy now capable of using modern missile weaponry

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 12): PH Navy now capable of using modern missile weaponry

The Philippine Navy (PN) is now capable of using the missile weaponry and other equipment it is acquiring for its ongoing modernization program, the Department of National Defense (DND) said.

This is in wake of the successful test-firing of the Philippine Navy (PN)'s Rafael Advanced Defense Ltd. Spike-ER (extended range) surface-to-surface missile off Lamao Point, Limay, Bataan last August 9.

"Kasi bumili tayo ng missile hindi naman natin alam kung papaano gamitin at saka kung tatama tayo sa target, so ginawa nila, dinala nila dun sa may bandang (Bataan), naglagay sila ng target sa dagat, na six kilometers, tinarget nila, bull's eye naman, so happy-happy naman si (PN flag-officer-in-command) Admiral (Robert) Empedrad, ni-report niya sa akin na successful ang testing ng ating missile, so in short, okay naman yung nabili nating missile, kaya naman nating gamitin (We bought a missile yet we do not know how to use it and if it will reach the target. So what they did, they brought it in Bataan, they put a target in the sea, about six kilometers. When they targeted it, it was a bull's eye. So PN flag-officer-in-command Admiral Robert Empedrad was happy. He reported to me that the testing of the missile was successful. The missile that we bought is fine and we can use it)," Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in an interview Friday.

The weapon was fired from one of the PN's three Spike-ER armed multi-purpose assault craft (MPACs).

The said assault craft was constructed by the Subic-based Propmech Corporation and activated on May 22, 2017.

The PN MPAC Acquisition Project entered into a contract with Rafael, through SIBAT of Israel Ministry of Defense, for the supply and integration of the above-mentioned weapons systems to three Mark III MPACs.

On April 15, 2017, Lorenzana approved the notice to proceed with the project.

The Spike-ER system, which arrived in the country last April, is the PN's first missile weapon capable penetrating 1,000 mm (39 inches) of rolled homogeneous armor and having a range of eight kilometers.

Ammonium nitrate traced in Basilan blast: Lorenzana

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 12): Ammonium nitrate traced in Basilan blast: Lorenzana

Ammonium nitrate is among the components of the improvised explosive device (IED) that killed 11 people and wounded six others in Lamitan City, Basilan last month, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.

"Ang balita dyan is ammonium nitrate (ang ginamit). It is used for fertilizers, these people are expert in making bomb because they can use this ammonium nitrate (as an explosive agent) along with gunpowder and some triggering device," Lorenzana told reporters Friday.

Lorenzana, meanwhile, said checks are ongoing in Basilan, Sulu and Zamboanga to determine whether significant amounts of ammonium nitrate have been acquired there.

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

Another victim, one of the seven wounded, died in the hospital early this week raising the death toll to 11.

The said van suddenly exploded while the troops were about to inspect the vehicle at a checkpoint in the boundaries 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.

PH Navy now capable of engaging 'surface targets'

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 13): PH Navy now capable of engaging 'surface targets'


With the successful test-firing of its Rafael Advanced Defense Ltd. Spike-ER (extended range) surface-to-surface missile off Lamao Point, Limay, Bataan last Aug. 9, the Philippine Navy (PN) now is capable of engaging and destroying targets such as ships, or "surface targets" in naval parlance.

"This provides the Navy a significant capability against surface targets. This is also a milestone as your Navy prepares to acquire more sophisticated and powerful missile and weapons system," Navy spokesperson Cmdr. Jonathan Zata said Sunday.

The Spike-ER was fired from one of the PN's three Spike-ER armed multi-purpose assault craft (MPACs) and successfully hit a floating target six kilometers away.

The above-mentioned MPACs were constructed by the Subic-based Propmech Corporation and activated on May 22, 2017.

The PN MPAC Acquisition Project entered into a contract with Rafael, through SIBAT of Israel Ministry of Defense, for the supply and integration of the above-mentioned weapons systems to three Mark III MPACs.

On April 15, 2017, DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana approved the Notice to Proceed.

The Spike-ER system, which arrived in the country last April, is the PN's first missile weapon capable penetrating 1,000 mm (39 inches) of rolled homogeneous armor and having a range of eight kilometers.

PNP chief orders units to be vigilant vs NPA attacks

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 13): PNP chief orders units to be vigilant vs NPA attacks

The Philippine National Police (PNP) has directed its units in areas with known presence of Communist insurgents to be on their toes to prevent incidents similar to the attack on the town hall and police station of Lapinig, Northern Samar last week.

Speaking to newsmen, PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde said the PNP would also investigate the possible liability of police officials in the area in connection with the incident, which resulted in the loss of at least 10 service firearms from the PNP along with other equipment.

Part of the investigation would look into why there were only six policemen on duty at the time, Albayalde said. Albayalde noted that the incident was earlier reported as a mere harassment attack before the true extent of the ransacking was bared.

"(W)e are reminding our troops, especially in critical areas and infested to undertake target hardening measures," Albayalde added.

Albayalde said the decision to relieve the personnel involved should serve as a warning to other officials and the "need to emphasize our one strike policy against lackluster performance" by PNP personnel.

Police Regional Office 8 (Eastern Visayas) director Chief Supt. Mariel Magaway was relieved from his post following the attack by communist rebels early Friday morning and replaced by PNP Aviation Security Group director Chief Supt. Dionardo Carlos.

Albayalde also ordered the relief of all personnel of the Lapinig Municipal Police Station in Northern Samar and their immediate superior officers as investigation into the circumstances surrounding the raid is underway.

Reports said at least 100 New People’s Army members laid siege to the town around 2 a.m.

Two policemen, PO1 Edison Aguirre and PO2 Gerry Quilicol, were wounded in the reported initial firefight with the armed group. They were taken to the Gamay District Hospital for medical treatment.

Others relieved from their post were Insp. Noli Montebon, Lapinig chief of police; Chief Insp. Juan Byron Leogoe, commander of the 2nd Northern Samar Provincial Mobile Force Company; and Northern Samar provincial director Senior Supt. Romeo Campomanes.

PRRD fires ranking military officials over corruption

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 13): PRRD fires ranking military officials over corruption

President Rodrigo R. Duterte has fired at least 20 high-ranking officials and employees of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Health Service Command over alleged corruption at the V. Luna Medical Center in Quezon City, Malacañang said on Monday.

“It was brought to the President's attention that alleged corruption activities have been taking place at the V. Luna Medical Center,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Palace briefing.

He said Duterte has since read the reports of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) and AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Carlito Galvez.

Based on the report, Roque said corruption activities include anomalous purchases of equipment and fraudulent transaction, such as ghost purchases, splitting of contracts to circumvent the mandatory bidding processes, and conceiving fictitious suppliers.

Citing Galvez, Roque put the estimated number of sacked individuals at 20 but said he only had two names so far.

“I suppose the entire office that has to do with procurement will be relieved,” Roque said, noting that investigation has been concluded.

The two sacked top military brass officials were Brig. Gen. Edwin Leo Torrelavega, commander of the AFPHSC; and Col. Antonio Punzalan, head of the V. Luna Medical Center.

The respective chiefs of the management and fiscal office and the logistics office were also ordered relieved.

More anomalous transactions

Roque said Galvez has already released a memorandum relieving the military officials, which shall be effective upon their receipt. However, there has yet to be word on who will be their replacements.

“I think there will be widespread (removal) and many replacements to be appointed because according to the Chief of Staff, there will be no less than 20 individuals who will be relieved and subject to court martial procedure,” he added.

Roque said the AFP currently has a report involving one ghost transaction involving PHP1.491 million but a larger report involving hundreds of millions of pesos will be released in due course.

“Tomorrow, they (AFP) will be releasing a larger report. The report that they have now only involves ghost transactions, ghost deliveries involving PHP1.491 million but there are (a) series of transactions involving almost hundreds of millions of pesos. So they will be releasing subsequent reports in due course,” Roque said.

“This is not an isolated transaction. It involves quite a number of anomalous transactions,” he added. “Apparently it’s a conspiracy. It was institutional corruption in V. Luna.”

Roque was unsure whether medical equipment procured for the hospital were delivered, but noted that there were “definitely overpricing and other kinds of fraud committed.”

Aggravated, ballistic

Roque was mum on the details but explained that a report on the alleged corruption activities at the medical center came in during the last Cabinet meeting held on August 6.

He said Duterte was “very aggravated” in talking about corruption during the Cabinet meeting because there was the issue of both the Nayong Pilipino Foundation and the V. Luna Medical Center.

On Aug. 7, Duterte fired the entire board and management of the Nayong Pilipino Foundation (NPF) over the "ridiculous" lease of government property.

Roque said alleged irregularities at the V. Luna Medical Center did not start during the Duterte administration but “has been ongoing for a very long period of time.”

“He’s ballistic because only recently, he ordered that the sum of PHP50 million a month be released to V. Luna to make sure that V. Luna will have sufficient funds to cover all medical requirements of members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines only to find out that bulk of the funds or much of the funds may be going to pockets of corrupt officials of the Armed Forces,” the Palace official said.

“He was personally aggravated when the information on corruption was confirmed in V. Luna. Personally aggravated and angered,” Roque added.

Duterte has repeatedly said that he will not think twice about sacking officials involved in even “a whiff” of corruption.

DND backs Duterte’s purge of corrupt officials

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 13): DND backs Duterte’s purge of corrupt officials

The Department of National Defense (DND) expressed strong support for President Rodrigo R. Duterte's ongoing campaign to remove erring and corrupt officials from the government.

This was emphasized by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana Monday following the Chief Executive's relief of Armed Forces of the Philippines Health Service Command (AFPHSC) head Brig. Gen. Edwin Leo Torrelavega, AFP Medical Center (also known as V. Luna Medical Center) commander Col. Antonio Punzalan and the chiefs of the facility's Management and Fiscal Office and Logistic Office among others.

The above-mentioned officials are reportedly involved in the anomalous purchases of equipment and engaged in fraudulent transactions, including ghost-purchasing, splitting of contracts to circumvent mandatory bidding processes, and conceiving fictitious suppliers.

Aside from their immediate relief, these military officials will also be subjected to court martial proceedings.

"The relief of the AFP officials involved in the highly-questionable transactions at the AFP Health Service Command was (the) result of an internal investigation, which was initiated by the Defense and military establishments. A parallel investigation was also conducted by the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission," Lorenzana added.

The defense chief also said the incident is unfortunate, considering that the DND and the AFP are currently enjoying the trust of the Filipino people.

"It is unfortunate that this happened at a time when the DND and AFP enjoys the trust and confidence of the Filipino people. We will ensure that those responsible will be held fully accountable for their actions. The investigations of the other individuals who might possibly be involved are still on-going," he stressed.

Lorenzana, however, assured the public that the DND and AFP will not tolerate irregularities and vow to continue safeguarding the institution against similar incidents in the future.

AFP welcomes relief of erring officials, personnel in health units

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 13): AFP welcomes relief of erring officials, personnel in health units

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday said it welcomes President Rodrigo R. Duterte's relief and court martial order against the commanding officers of the AFP Health Services Command (HSC) and AFP Medical Center (also known as the V. Luna Hospital) and 20 others for their alleged involvement in anomalous transactions.

"The AFP welcomes the pronouncement made by Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque relieving from his post Brig. Gen. Edwin Leo Torrelavega, the Commander of the AFP Health Services Command and Col. Antonio Punzalan, the Commander of V. Luna Hospital, for them and around 20 others to face court martial proceedings," AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. said.

The relief of these officials stemmed from the outcome of two different but parallel investigations ordered by the AFP chief.

"The task to thoroughly collect material and relevant information regarding the case started sometime in the month of May 2018. The results of which I transmitted to Malacañang by way of a letter to the President sometime this month (August)," the AFP chief added.

The case will be tried under the military justice system and the accused will be proceeded against in court martial proceedings where they will be given the opportunity to be heard.

Galvez said these personnel will be charged with violation of Article of War 95 (Fraud Against the Government).

He, however, said this is without prejudice to other infractions of the Articles of War that may have also been violated; and the accused military personnel’s right to due process.

"As the AFP chief-of-staff and like our Commander-in Chief, President Rodrigo Duterte, I am both saddened and offended by this report. I am not prejudging the named Officers and Enlisted Personnel as the would-be recommendations of the courts martial will be submitted to me for approval and further submission to the Commander-in-Chief for final approval," he added.

"But I commit to the members of the AFP, to the Filipino People, and to our beloved President and Commander-in-Chief that I will render justice to all concerned without undue haste. As the President said during the last SONA (State-of-the-Nation Address) corruption is corrosive. And the warning that— 'I will get you!' And I am one with him in that desire. At ito na yun," Galvez said.

In line with this and based on the investigation, the AFP chief bared that he will order that reforms be instituted in the AFPHSC along with a major revamp in that unit to address the systemic corruption.

"I will cause the installation only of officers and staff with the necessary qualifications, competencies, integrity, and unquestionable reputation, to run this institution which is vital to the health and well-being of our personnel and their dependents," Galvez added.

Palace to probe Chinese military’s warning on PH aircraft in WPS

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 13): Palace to probe Chinese military’s warning on PH aircraft in WPS

Malacañang on Monday said an investigation will be held whether the Philippine military aircraft got a warning from Chinese military while conducting over flight over disputed West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said he has yet to get information about the reported Chinese military’s two warnings, including one to Philippine military aircraft.

“Investigation will be conducted but if the information is true, the good news is hindi naman nagpatakot iyong ating mga piloto. Tinuloy pa rin nila iyong lipad nila dahil mayroon naman tayong teritoryo doon (the good news is our pilots were not rattled. They continued their flights because we have territory there),” he said in a Palace press briefing.

According to media reports, the Chinese military ordered: “Philippine Military aircraft, I’m warning you again: Leave immediately or you will bear responsibility for all the consequences”.

The Chinese military also reportedly issued warning to the US military aircraft which also conducted over flights over the South China Sea.

The US military aircraft pilots have been told that China has “sovereignty of the Nashan Islands, Spratlys including inaudible reef and its adjacent waters”.

Roque said the Philippines will continue to assert its sovereignty in the WPS despite China’s refusal to recognize an arbitral tribunal’s ruling nullifying a nine-dash line map that China uses to claim nearly the entire South China Sea.

“They will not stop us. We will continue with our flights. We will assert our sovereignty. And if need be Filipino pilots will die for our sovereignty,” the Palace spokesman said.

The Philippines-China relations continued to improve under President Rodrigo Duterte's leadership which opted to discuss contentious issues, including WPS dispute, in a peaceful and friendly dialogues.