Monday, September 3, 2018

FROM REBELLION TO GOVERNANCE: The Challenges of Transition

Posted to the MindaViews section of MindaNews (Sep 1): FROM REBELLION TO GOVERNANCE: The Challenges of Transition

(Speech delivered by Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front at the 16thAsian Statesmen’s Forum in Jakarta, Indonesia on 26 August 2018)

Bismillahi Rahmnir Rahim

The organizers, fellow discussants, guests, ladies and gentlemen-
Assalamu Alaykum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh.

Good morning to all of you!

I am truly honored today to join a panel of distinguished panelists across Asia to discuss the political and economic situation in our respective areas.

I am pleased to share with you the current political and economic situation in our region – the Bangsamoro, which is south of the Philippines.

The region as you know has been for decades the situs of conflict that has claimed the lives of more than a hundred thousand people and stunted its development and progress. The conflict for decades appeared intractable and for several years we have been attempting to resolve it through negotiations.

However, just last month, the Congress of the Philippines passed, and immediately thereafter, the President of the Republic, Rodrigo Roa Duterte, signed into law this landmark legislation called the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro or RA 11054.
The Organic Law for the Bangsamoro is an attempt to translate into law the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the peace agreement we signed with the Philippine Government in 2014. The CAB in turn is an attempt to address the so-called Bangsamoro Question. The Bangsamoro Question is centered around the issues of historical injustice, identity, right to self-determination, equitable sharing on resources, free exercise of religion, culture and tradition, governmental relations between a sub-national entity and a central government.

The Law as it stands now addresses the aforesaid issues of identity, or more particularly, recognizes the Bangsamoro identity, grants territorial jurisdiction to the Bangsamoro political entity, establishes a parliamentary system of government for the Bangsamoro, allows the establishment of shariah court with expanded jurisdiction, provides for a share of the Bangsamoro in national taxes and grants the Bangsamoro an equitable share in the revenue generated from the exploration, development and utilization of natural resources within its jurisdiction.

In fine, the law, despite its inherent limitations, addresses many of the fundamental issues in the Bangsamoro question and allows it to evolve and continue the assertion and complete resolution of the issues between the Bangsamoro people and the Philippine government. But this time around, it is thru a democratic and peaceful means.

The last remaining hurdle for this law is the forthcoming plebiscite which is scheduled not earlier than 90 days nor later than 150 days after its passage.

As we prepare to transition from rebel to governance, may I candidly share with you some of the challenges that we face in the hope that valuable lessons across Asia may provide us insights on how best we can deal with these challenges.
  1. First is the challenge of transitioning around 30,000 to 40,000 of our combatants from fighters to productive civilians. The task of providing accompaniment programs for them and of insuring that they benefit from the dividend of peace is daunting.
  2. Second is the challenge of transitioning from revolutionaries to governance. The skills and practices that we may have accumulated over the long years of the revolution may not necessarily fit or be appropriate in running a government. Secrecy and stealth in guerilla warfare may run counter to the very idea of transparency and openness in government; destruction as an objective in military action may need to shift to construction in governance.
  3. Kick starting the economy in a region which has been in perennial conflict may take time as several issues need to be addressed more carefully such as a comprehensive economic and development plan, resource generation and allocation, a policy environment conducive to economic growth, and access to capital and market.
  4. Job generation and attractive investments into the region. Given the enormous numbers of our combatants who will transition into civilians and hopefully productive lives coupled with the low employment opportunity in the region, it is imperative that we create more jobs and attract more investments. How to deliver on this is easier said than done.
  5. Making peace and keeping the peace. The first true test of a successful implementation of a peace agreement is not just in making peace but more importantly in keeping the peace. While we may have addressed the vertical conflict between us and the Philippine government, we can anticipate an increase in horizontal violence. As our guns fell silent with that of the government, it is important to recognize and address the issue of the proliferation of guns in the hands of civilians and other private armed groups. There can be no effective governance in an environment of guns.
  6. Delivering the dividends of peace amidst high expectation. After a long and protracted war, many people in the region expect a sudden and dramatic change in their lives. We know of course that development and progress would take time but it is important to deliver quickly so that we can maintain a reasonable degree of hope and trust in our people as we gradually work on a more sustainable development for the region.
  7. Developing the trust between us and the national government. The long conflict created a divide between us and the national government. We need to work on increasing the trust and cooperation between us since we can only move forward as partners and not as adversaries.
As we move towards a successful implementation of our peace agreement, may we call on everyone to assist us and help us realize our aspirations as a people. Our success, I am sure will redound to the benefit not just of our country but of Asia in general.

Cardinal asks AFP, PNP, MILF and MNLF to “flush out the perpetrators” of Isulan bombings and “bring them to justice”

From MindaNews (Sep 3): Cardinal asks AFP, PNP, MILF and MNLF to “flush out the perpetrators” of Isulan bombings and “bring them to justice”

Mindanao’s lone Cardinal, Orlando Quevedo has called on the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police to work with the “now forces of peace” — the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Moro National Liberation Front — “to flush out the perpetrators” of the August 28 and September 2 bombings in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat and “bring them to justice.”

“As the religious Leader of all Catholics in the Archdiocese of Cotabato, I absolutely condemn these terroristic acts. I enjoin every true believer in the One True God, by whatever Name the Almighty and Merciful God is called, to pray for the victims and for their families,” Quevedo, the Archbishop of Cotabato, said.

Sultan Kudarat, a predominantly Christian province, falls under Quevedo’s archdiocese.

“I strongly urge our military, security and peace officers with the collaboration of the MILF and the MNLF, now forces for peace, to flush out the perpetrators and bring them to justice,” he said in a statement e-mailed to MindaNews shortly before noon of September 3.

Five persons have been killed and at least 40 others injured in the two bombings that came five days apart: three killed and 30 injured on August 28 when an improvised bomb exploded along the highway in Barangay Kalawag 3 near ‘ukay-ukay’ (second hand) stalls; and two killed and 14 others injured on September 3 when an improvised bomb exploded in an internet cafe adjacent to the Novo Department Store in Barangay Kalawag 2.

Quevedo said among the five slain in the two bombings were “two young men who are active in our Catholic youth ministry” while “scores of others, equally innocent, have been wounded.”

Jun Mark Palencia Luda, described by Sister Alice Original as a “very active youth catechist,” died on the spot at the internet cafe on September 2. In the earlier bombing, catechist Wilmark Lapidez, Youth District Coordinator, was also killed.

Cousins Jun Mark Palencia Luda, 18, and Marialen Datugan Luda, 15 were in the internet cafe working on an assignment when an improvised bomb exploded at around 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, 02 September 2018. Mark died on the spot while Marialen passed away Monday morning at the provincial hospital.

Mark’s cousin, Marialen Datugan Luda, who was among those in critical condition, passed away Monday morning, September 3, at the Sultan Kudarat Provincial Hospital.

Edna Domingo, Mark’s neighbor, told MindaNews in a telephone interview that Mark was in the internet cafe Sunday night to help his cousin Marialen on an assignment due for submission the next day, Monday.

Mark, 18, a catechist at the San Carlos Borromeo Church, was a college student at the Sultan Kudarat State University where Edna said he was taking up Drafting while Marialen, 15, was a Grade 10 student at the same university.

Addressing his statement to “all people of good will,” Quevedo said “true Believers in God have to cry out in outrage at the terrorist bombings in the town of Isulan, Province of Maguindanao.”

“All religions are religions of peace,” he stressed.

The Cardinal said the Islamic State reportedly claimed responsibility for the first bombing while some suspect the perpetrators were the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) that had earlier pledged allegiance to the IS.

“In either case, religion is distorted in order to commit brazen crimes that cry out to heaven,” Quevedo wrote.

Philippine National Police director general Oscar Albayalde has ordered the immediate relief of Sultan Kudarat provincial police chief, Sr. Supt. Noel Kinazo and Isulan police chief, Supt. Celestino Daniel.

Isulan Mayor Marites Pallasigue suspended classes in all levels in both public and private schools on September 3 “until the situation has normalized.”

2 Tedurays killed, 1 abducted in Maguindanao

From MindaNews (Sep 3): 2 Tedurays killed, 1 abducted in Maguindanao

Tribal leaders of Lambangian Teduray on Monday condemned the killing of two of its members and the abduction of another one allegedly by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Datu Hofer, Maguindanao.

Santos Unsad, deputy tribal chief of Timuay Justice and Governance, said the whole tribe of Teduday is now mourning the death of the victims and condemned the manner with which they were killed by gunmen on Saturday in Barangay Limpongo, Datu Hofer.

Unsad identified the victims as Nestor Daingan and Rene Usman, both farmers and living in Mt. Firis, their ancestral home in Datu Unsay, Maguindanao.

Another tribe member, Efren Daingan, was abducted by about 40 suspected BIFF members and feared to have been executed, too.

Unsad said the trio was among some 300 Teduday villagers displaced by repeated harassment by the BIFF near Mt. Firis.

“They were hogtied, shot and even hacked with machetes,” Unsad said.

But BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mama denied their group was behind the killings and abduction.

Froilyn Mendoza, former member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission and leader of Teduday Women Advocate, said the victims were all farmers who had been harassed by gunmen in the past.

She said Daingan was heading to Datu Hofer town hall to receive assistance as beneficiary of a local government project along with Usman who was on his way to the town center to sell corn.

Usman was planning to proceed to Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat to pay his last respects to a dead relative.

Daingan failed to claim his assistance while Usman lost his corn and did not make it to Esperanza because around 40 suspected BIFF members flagged them down, took their valuables, hacked and shot them.

Brig. Gen. Diosdado Carreon, 601st brigade commander, also believed the BIFF was behind the killings.

“We have plans against the perpetrators,” Carreon said. “We will protect the Tedudays,” he assured, adding an “oplan” (operation plan) is already in place.

Security forces fail to capture Zambo gunmen

From the Mindanao Examiner (Sep 2): Security forces fail to capture Zambo gunmen

Security forces have failed to capture a group of gunmen who abducted a couple and killed 6 people in Zamboanga del Norte province in southern Philippines.

But officials said the hunt continues in the province where several rebel groups are actively operating. Police said at least 5 gunmen were involved in the killings which occurred in Piacan village in Sirawai town on Saturday.

Chief Inspector Helen Galvez, a regional police spokesperson, identified those killed as Amsid Maugag Callun, Absar Julkanain Gumba, Kabiran Saliuddin Ginsing, Saddam Baitulla Tahir, Jaayri Bairulla Lumihig and Muslimin Adan. A minor, Jering Carbi, was also wounded.

She said the fate of the couple Rufo, 62, and Helen Roda, 64, is still unknown. The gunmen snatched the duo and used them as shield against pursuing soldiers. The armed men arrived by boat in the village.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Death toll in second Isulan blast rises to 2

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 3): Death toll in second Isulan blast rises to 2

The death toll in Sunday’s bombing incident in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, has risen to two, a report from the Police Regional Office (PRO)-12 said.

Supt. Aldrin Gonzales, PRO-12 spokesperson, said Marialyn Luda, 15, succumbed to her wounds and died around 10:15 a.m Monday at a hospital in General Santos City.

Marialyn’s cousin, Jan Mark Luda, 19 (not 18 as earlier reported), died hours earlier in the blast that took place around 7:30 p.m. Sunday inside the Prince Internet Café situated on the corners of Valencia and Valdez Streets in Barangay Kalawag 2.

“The cousins were doing separate research works for their respective school assignments inside the internet café when the bomb went off,” Gonzales said.

Eleven other blast victims remain under observation in various hospitals in Isulan and General Santos City.

On Aug. 28, a blast also ripped through a row of second-hand clothing stalls in Barangay Kalawag 3 here as this town was in the thick of celebration for its foundation anniversary and Hamungaya Festival.

Three victims died in the Aug. 28 blast while 36 others were injured.

Gonzales said separate investigations in the two explosions are ongoing.

Hunt on for BIFF members who killed farmers, burned houses

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 3): Hunt on for BIFF members who killed farmers, burned houses

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao – A military manhunt is ongoing against a group of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) who shot dead two farmers and burnt houses over the weekend in Datu Hoffer Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

A military report identified the fatalities as Teduray farmers Nestor Daingan and Rene Usman, both of both Sitio Buntod, Barangay Limpongo, Datu Hoffer Ampatuan.

“The victims were summarily executed around 8:45 a.m. Saturday (Sept. 1) in the vicinity of Sitio Buntod,” Capt. John Arvin Encinas, the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (ID) spokesperson, said.

Encinas said the perpetrators behind the incident were from the group of BIFF sub-leaders Jai Abubakar and Boy Sarong of the BIFF Khadafy Adbulatip-Bungos faction.

Responding government troopers brought the cadavers of the farmers to Barangay Limpongo after the incident for proper disposition.

Around 3 p.m. on the same day, the 40 strong-armed group of Abubakar and Sarong proceeded to Sitio Talib, Barangay Kumbintong in the same town and burned two houses owned by Teduray natives in the area.

“The series of incidents prompted the military-led Joint Task Force Central to take appropriate security measures that pushed away the terror group to flee towards the mountainous part of Barangay Macalag,” Encinas said.

In a statement, Brigadier General Cirilito Sobejana, 6ID commander, expressed condolences to the victims' families.

“We condemn the criminal and barbaric acts of the BIFF in the (Teduray) community that has been living peacefully to preserve their culture, traditions and ancestral homeland,” Sobejana said.

Sobejana said the military will go after the BIFF to safeguard the civilians and put an end to the terror group's atrocities.

Rebel leader, wife nabbed in Cagayan

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 3): Rebel leader, wife nabbed in Cagayan

An alleged leader of the New People’s Army (NPA) and his wife were arrested on Sunday in Sitio Nagtapulan, Naguilian village in Calayan island-town, Cagayan province, police said on Monday.

Senior Supt. Warren Tolito, Cagayan provincial police director, identified the arrested rebels as Edison Erese alias Ka Jingjing/Ronnel/Elmer and his wife, Divina.
Edison was tagged as an incumbent NPA Regional Operations Command staff member and armed staff of the Komiteng Rehiyon-Cagayan Valley of the communist group while Divina was a former medical officer of the Danilo Ben Command-West Committee operating in the region.

Edison is said to have replaced Victorio Tesorio, a third-ranked NPA leader, who was killed in a clash with government troops in Tarlac early this year.

Seized from the arrested couple were two caliber .45 pistols and two hand grenades.

"This is a breakthrough arrest as we were able to put a rebel leader into the justice system so that he can answer for the charges against him," Tolito told the Philippine News Agency in a mobile phone interview.

“The arrest exemplifies that justice has been achieved for the victims of the NPA atrocities in this side of the country. The PNP is continuously working to bring these culprits to the fold of the law,” he added.

The Erese couple was served an arrest warrant for their pending cases of illegal possession of firearms, qualified assault upon a person in authority and attempted murder issued by the Regional Trial Court-Branch 1 in Tuguegarao City and another for an arson case issued by the Regional Trial Court-Branch 8 in Aparri town.

Edison and his wife were brought to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG)-Cagayan field office for custody.

The arresting team comprised members of the CIDG, Cagayan provincial police and Calayan town police, Marine Battalion landing team, special operations platoon and other government agents.

Second blast hits an internet cafe in Isulan; kills 1, injures 15

From UNTV News & Rescue (Sep 3): Second blast hits an internet cafe in Isulan; kills 1, injures 15

Courtesy of JB Utto

SULTAN KUDARAT, Philippines – Barely a week after the explosion of an improvised explosive device (IED) in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, the town was again horrified by another blast that ripped through an internet café on Sunday night (September 2).

The explosion left one teenager dead and injured 15 others; four of them in critical condition, according to Isulan Mayor Marites Pallasigue.

Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Oscar Albayalde on Sunday (September 2) expressed sympathy to the victims and their families and called the perpetrators “cowards.”

“We strongly condemn the attack on the people of Isulan. We are saddened by the casualties brought about by this cowardly act perpetrated by people hell bent on their nefarious goals without regard for lives of the civilians,” Albayalde said.

Due to the incident, the PNP maintains a full alert status in Mindanao while martial law is in effect. The PNP Chief said he already ordered the hardening of security measures in the region especially in checkpoints and intensified intelligence gathering.

“Makakaasa kayo na tutugisin namin at hindi po kami titigil hanggat hindi napapanagot ang may kagagawan nito. I have instructed our men on the ground to increase patrol, tighten security in the area, and intensify our cooperation with all other allied forces,” the PNP Chief assured.

Meanwhile, Malacañang also condemend the incident and assured that authorities have already launched an investigation as they “vow to bring the perpetrators of this brazen attack to justice.”

“We will apply the full force of the law,” said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque in a statement.

Prior to Sunday’s blast, an IED exploded along the national highway in Isulan on Tuesday night (August 28) coinciding with the town’s week long celebration of its 7th Hamungaya Festival. The incident killed three persons and injured at least 30 others.

Sabah extends sea curfew over Abu Sayaff Group threat

From the Manila Times (Sep 3): Sabah extends sea curfew over Abu Sayaff Group threat

Persistent threats posed by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) prompted Sabah to extend its sea curfew over the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone) covering three nautical miles off the border of Tawi-Tawi’s chain of islands.

Malaysian media reported that the Sabah’s dusk-to-dawn sea curfew has been extended by yet another two weeks to September 13 over Tawau, Semporna, Kunak, Lahad Datu, Kinabatangan, Sandakan and Beluran.

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Ramli Din said the decision to extend the curfew, first imposed four years ago, came based on continuous threats from cross-border criminals, including kidnap-for-ransom groups and the Abu Sayyaf.

“There is a need to continue the curfew in these waters to prevent the encroachment of terrorists and criminals who can threaten the safety of locals, international researchers and tourists on the islands,” the Star Online quoted the official as saying.

He said: “We also want to ensure the safety of the people of Sabah who use the waters and are staying near the Eastern Sabah Safety Zone.”

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

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

Just last month, a group of at least 10 gunmen attempted to abduct a tugboat crew near Lahad Datu’s Tambisan area in Sabah. But the crew locked themselves in a room and quickly radioed for help that patrolling members of the Esscom responded immediately forcing the gunmen to escape. It said the armed men, believed from southern Philippines, sneaked into Sabah and boarded the tugboat on the evening of August 9.

Esscom commander Datuk Hazani Ghazali said the crew were ferrying palm oil from Felda Sabahat in Tengku and on their way to Kuantan when the gunmen came alongside their boat in Tambisan waters near the Tawi-Tawi chain of islands.

Malaysia and Indonesia have a border patrol agreement with the Philippines and share regular intelligence and conduct trilateral maritime patrols to prevent piracy and terrorism, including ransom kidnappings of sailors in the maritime borders.

The military has said that security is tight in the border to prevent Abu Sayyaf kidnappings inside Sabah or in the waters of Tawi-Tawi frequented by cargo boats.

Alleged NPA rebel leader, wife nabbed in Cagayan

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 3): Alleged NPA rebel leader, wife nabbed in Cagayan

An alleged leader of the New People’s Army and his wife were arrested on Sunday in the Cagayan town of Calayan, police said on Monday.

Edison Erese and his wife Divina were served arrest warrants by the police at Sitio (subvillage) Nagtapulan in Naguilian village.

The warrants were issued over charges of illegal possession of firearms, qualified assault upon a person in authority and attempted murder which are being heard by the Regional Trial Court-Branch 1 in Tuguegarao City and for an arson case issued by the judge of Regional Trial Court-Branch 8 in Aparri town.

Erese is allegedly a staff member of the NPA Regional Operations Command of the Komiteng Rehiyon in Cagayan Valley while Divina was reportedly a former medical officer of the Danilo Ben Command-West Committee which operates in the region, said Senior Supt. Warren Tolito, Cagayan provincial police director.

Erese replaced Victorio Tesorio who was killed in a gunfight in Tarlac province early this year.

Seized from the couple were two Cal. 45 pistols and two hand grenades, police said.

Erese and his wife were brought to the Cagayan field office of the Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.

Bicol communist rebels could be behind bombing at Masbate port — Durana

From the Manila Bulletin (Sep 3): Bicol communist rebels could be behind bombing at Masbate port — Durana

Communist rebels operating in Bicol could be behind the bombing on a port in Masbate that led to the destruction of boats of Philippine Army and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

Senior Supt. Benigno Durana, spokesman of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said the traces of the improvised explosive device (IED) recovered during the post-blast investigation would reveal the kind of bomb that the New People’s Army (NPA) usually makes.

Philippine National Police Spokesperson Senior Supt. Benigno Durana Jr. (Kevin Tristan Espiritu / MANILA BULLETIN)
“Our Crime Laboratory Office has recovered orange PVC pipes. We have seen this preferred signatures and materials of communist rebels,” Durana said.

At around 12:30 a.m. yesterday, a loud explosion ripped through the Masbate Port area in Masbate City.

Responding cops reported that two boats were damaged—a 25-footer rescue boat of the 21st Battalion of the Philippine Army and another 25-footer boat with Coast Guard marking.

Fortunately, there was no reported casualty during the attack.

Police are now conducting investigation to identify the persons behind the attack which occurred a few hours after the second bomb attack in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat that left two civilians dead.

2 suspected Reds killed in Aurora encounter

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 3): 2 suspected Reds killed in Aurora encounter

BALER, Aurora -- Two suspected members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) were killed in an encounter with government forces in Barangay Villa Aurora, Maria Aurora, this province on Sunday.

This was confirmed on Monday by Philippine Army’s 91st Infantry “Sinagtala” Battalion commander Lt. Col. Jose Mari F. Torrenueva.

“The two members of communist terrorists group were killed during an encounter with the 91st Infantry Battalion of the 7th Infantry Division, Philippine Army at 3:45 p.m. Sunday in Barangay Villa, Maria Aurora,” he said.

Torrenueva said a platoon headed by 2nd Lt. Hamilton D. Dawaton acted on a report from villagers regarding the extortion activities of the rebel group in their area.

He said when the government troops reached the place, the rebels, numbering about 20, immediately fired at them, prompting the soldiers to retaliate. Slain in the exchange of fire were two rebels whose identities were not yet available as of posting time.

No one was hurt among the government troops, according to Torrenueva.

He said the soldiers recovered one M653 rifle and one M16 rifle with an attached grenade launcher at the site of the encounter.

“Our forces will not stop hunting down those remaining CPP-NPA terrorists but will spare those who want to surrender,” Torrenueva said.

Muddying the Revolution

From the Jacobin (Sep 2): Muddying the Revolution (By Alex de Jong)
We should be honest about the Communist Party of the Philippines’ record, including its assassinations of left-wing activists.

The Communist Party of the Philippines cadre in 2016

Denis Rogatyuk’s interview with José Mariá Sison is remarkable for what it does not address. Among the issues the article ignores are the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) history of killing its leftist critics, and Sison’s part in this policy of murder.

As a representative of the NDF, an organization under control of the party, Sison has always fully supported the actions of the CPP. From their side, the party pays respect to him as the ideologue of their movement. The CPP’s politics are those of Sison, and vice versa. Sison is not the sole leader of the CPP but no matter his official status, he still has considerable influence over it.

Today, this organization is very different from what it was in its heyday, in the mid-eighties. During the nineties, the CPP went through a series of acrimonious splits after the faction around Sison blocked the organization of a party-congress and ended debates over political strategy by imposing a return to Maoist orthodoxy. When it stabilized at the end of the decade, the party was much more homogeneous and tightly organized than before.

It was during this decade that the CPP started its policy of assassinating other leftists and former members. Dozens of assassinations have been recorded. Most of them happen in the remote areas where the CPP’s armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), is strongest. Information is difficult to gather, and people are afraid to come forward, especially when they lack the protection of a strong organization. Better known are the killings in 2008 of several peasant activists linked to the social-democratic Akbayan Party. Other victims included members of the Maoist Marxist-Leninist Party of the Philippines (MLPP), the Revolutionary Workers Party-Mindanao, and other groups.

These murders are politically motivated. For example, one of the peasant organizers killed in 2008 had been told to cease his attempts to have the government’s bill on land reform implemented in his area. His activism went against CPP strategy which asserts that attempts at land reform should wait until the eve of their future nationwide seizure of power. The logic behind the CPP’s attacks was further made explicit in their refusal of the MLPP’s ceasefire offer. There could be no ceasefire because, a CPP spokesperson replied, the MLPP was also a revolutionary organization with an armed wing — hence, it was ”muddying the revolution.”

The CPP is the dominant organization of the Philippine left, and it uses lethal violence to maintain its position. Sison and the NDF defend this assassination policy. For them, there is only one genuine left in the Philippines; the CPP and its allies. All who disagree politically with this ”National-Democratic” movement are at best labelled “pseudo-progressive,” and often “counterrevolutionary.”

French socialist and solidarity activist Pierre Rousset wrote several articles about the background of the killings. In his words, the CPP’s policy targets the “whole independent Left and popular movements, whether reformist or revolutionary”; “the real ‘context’ which helps us understand the assassinations is the will of the CPP-NPA-NDF to impose its monopoly of power above the people’s movement.”

Around 2005, the issue attracted international attention. Around that time, the CPP killed a number of prominent former members and published an overview of so-called “counterrevolutionaries” in the Philippines and their supposed international links. The list included most of the non-National-Democratic Philippine left. Some of the people mentioned had already been killed, but others are still alive, among them the well-known activist Walden Bello. The killings and threats were condemned, among many others, by international organizations such as some 140 participants at the Word Social Forum, and Focus on the Global South. The European United Left-Nordic Green Left group in the European Parliamentary broke its links with Bayan Muna, the National-Democrats’ most prominent parliamentary organization.

These protests forced the CPP to stop targeting well-known, aboveground, figures of the broad left. But local and underground cadres are still at risk. Today, in the southern island of Mindanao, which is under martial law, specifically peace activists in indigenous communities are under threat from both the army and the NPA.

Sison and the NDF continue to claim the CPP has a right to sentence people in its “people’s courts.” They justify the killings with unproven accusations that often blend together charges of complicity with government forces, ordinary crimes, and personal attacks. Their response to international criticism is similar. Rousset, for example, was accused of cooperating with the CIA.

The killings perpetrated by the NPA are the most serious elision, but the interview omits other crucial questions as well. One example: there is an allusion to Sison suggesting Philippine president Duterte could be a Chávez-like figure. But Sison was not just simply wrong in his assessment of what Duterte’s presidency would be like — he helped to bring it about. During the campaigning period, Sison spoke highly of Duterte, claimed a Duterte presidency would be good for “national unity” and, unique in Philippine history, had (via Skype) a publicized sympathetic talk with the presidential candidate. During the same period, the NPA released several POW’s to Duterte, further bolstering his claim he would be able to reach a peace agreement with them. All this helped create sympathy for Duterte among the National-Democratic mass base.

After Duterte became president, Sison called for a “critical honeymoon period” between Duterte and the National-Democrats. Sison suggested that Duterte would soon sign an agreement with the NDF and implement far-reaching social reforms. The CPP spoke of an “alliance” being forged between it and the president. Leading figures from the Nation-Democratic movement entered the cabinet, despite the rapidly escalating violence of the “war on drugs.”

This violence did not come as a surprise. From the late eighties on, Duterte was the mayor of Davao City. Long before he became president, he organized a death squad that murdered hundreds, mostly petty criminals, drug addicts, and street children. Despite this, Duterte and National-Democratic leaders cultivated cordial links.

The total death count of Duterte’s “war on drugs” is in the thousands and is still increasing. Sison carries part of the responsibility for this.

The international left should support Philippine leftists when they are threatened by the state or by the NPA. During the latest protest on the occasion of Duterte’s State of the Nation Address, different groups, including above ground allies of the ND’s, mobilized together. Among younger activists, there is a chance to spread a more pluralistic culture. As an international left, we need to support this development instead of turning a blind eye to crimes committed by the CPP.

Gov’t troops kill 2 communist rebels in Aurora

Politiko Central Luzon (Sep 3): Gov’t troops kill 2 communist rebels in Aurora

Two New People’s Army fighters were killed Sunday in a clash with members of the Philippine Army in Aurora province, a military spokesperson said Monday.

In a statement, Capt. Catherine Hapin, public affairs officer of the Philippine Army’s 7th Infantry Division, disclosed that the 45-minute encounter took place in Barangay Villa, Maria Aurora town.

Hapin said elements of the 91st Infantry Battalion responded to information provided by residents about harassment activities, including extortion by the communist rebels in the area.

The “intense firelight” started at around 3:45 p.m., resulting in the death of two insurgents and the recovery of one M653 rifle and one M16 rifle with an attached M203 grenade launcher.

Maj. Gen. Felimon Santos, commander of the 7th ID, commended the civilians who are reporting “suspicious activities in their area” for their “increasing trust and appreciation of the Army’s sacrifices and dedication.”

Suspected NPA member killed in encounter in Bontoc

From GMA News (Sep 3): Suspected NPA member killed in encounter in Bontoc

An alleged member of the New People's Army was killed in an encounter with the military in Bontoc, Mt. Province, according to a report on Balitanghali on Sunday.

Authorities said the encounter occurred in Barangay Mainit.

The military coordinated with the police for the processing of the suspected NPA member who had gunshot wounds in the leg and chest.

The victim's father has already identified the fatality.

He said he did not know that his son joined the NPA.

Authorities recovered from the encounter site two M-16 rifles and food items.

Police are still investigating whether there were other casualties from the encounter.

PNP now pursuing suspects in latest Isulan

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 3): PNP now pursuing suspects in latest Isulan blast

Photo courtesy: Eunice Samonte, PTV

The Philippine National Police (PNP) is now conducting pursuit operations against the persons or groups responsible for the latest improvised explosive device (IED) attack in Isulan town, Sultan Kudarat, which killed two persons and wounded 11 others Sunday night.

"The Philippine National Police is mobilizing all available security forces in pursuit operations against persons responsible for the latest act of terrorism in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat yesterday (Sunday) even as we extend our sympathies to the family of the lone fatality in the explosion incident," PNP spokesperson Senior Supt. Benigno Durana said in a statement Monday.

Durana said the PNP joins the entire nation in strongly condemning this senseless act of terror for whatever motive its perpetrators may have.

An IED was detonated inside a public computer shop in Barangay Kalawag 2 in Isulan that resulted in the death of John Mark Luda, 18, and Marialyn Luda, 15, and injuries to 11 others, two of whom are in serious condition.

"While we express our heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family of the deceased and sympathy to the wounded, we assure them of our keen resolve and commitment to bring before the bar of justice those responsible for this dastardly and vicious act," Durana added.

Despite being on official mission abroad, PNP chief Director General Oscar D. Albayalde has already directed police units in Soccsksargen (South Cotabato, Cotabato City, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City) to further intensify conduct of checkpoints, police visibility patrols, and focused intelligence and law enforcement operations in close coordination with the AFP and other members of the security sector.

Albayalde is on official mission in Brunei Darussalam to head the PNP delegation in the annual ASEAN Association of Chiefs of Police Conference.

Albayalde also ordered the relief of Senior Supt. Noel Kinazo, provincial director of Sultan Kudarat, and Senior Supt. Celestino Daniel Jr., Isulan town chief of police, to pave the way for a thorough and impartial investigation into Sunday’s incident and a similar attack earlier.

Last Aug. 28, an IED exploded in Barangay Calawag 3, Isulan, killing three and wounding 37 others. The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters was tagged as the perpetrator behind the first and second IED attacks.

"The PNP will sincerely appreciate any information from our citizens that may help police to identify the suspects and prevent any similar incident from happening again. We likewise appeal to the public not to allow their normal productive lives to be disrupted by this incident and to immediately resume their normal activities to deliver a strong message that the people of Sultan Kudarat will not be cowed," Durana said.

Major dockyard repair awaits BRP Gregorio Del Pilar

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 3): Major dockyard repair awaits BRP Gregorio Del Pilar

A major dockyard repair awaits Philippine Navy (PN) flagship BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (FF-15) once she is pulled clear from Hasa-Hasa (international name Half-Moon) Shoal after grounding that resulted in the detachment of her starboard (right) propeller from the shaft.

This was disclosed by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Col. Noel Detoyato in an interview with reporters Monday.

The detachment of the starboard propeller was discovered by Coast Guard divers aboard BRP Sindangan (MRRV-4407) and Naval Special Operations Group aboard the grounded frigate during initial assessment dives conducted over the weekend.

Detoyato said the detached propeller was recovered by the divers and is repairable.

Also, the assessment dives indicated that the hull of BRP Gregorio Del Pilar is intact.

"The hull is intact, there is no leaking," Detoyato added.

Possible methods on how to extract the ship from Hasa-Hasa Shoal will be determined once the two tugs contracted from the Batangas-based Malayan Towage and Salvage Corporation arrived in the area.

M/T Vigilant and M/T Trabajador are expected in the area Monday. They were initially expected Sunday but were slowed down by the need to refuel.

Batangas to Hasa-Hasa Shoal is over 800 kilometers, Detoyato added.

Aside from the Coast Guard's BRP Sindangan and Navy's BRP Nestor Reinoso (PG-380), the BRP Benguet (LT-507), a landing ship, is now on-scene to help in the possible off-loading of non-essential equipment and personnel to lighten the ship in preparation for extrication.

Tide and wind conditions will be factored in during the retrieval operations.

The BRP Gregorio Del Pilar is one of three Hamilton-class cutters acquired by the PN from the United States Coast Guard and converted into frigates.

These ships have a gross tonnage of 3,250 tons, a length of 378 feet, beam of 43 feet, and draft of 15 feet while its propulsion systems consist of two diesel engines and two gas turbine engines, giving it a top speed of 29 knots.

These vessels have a cruising range of 14,000 miles and have a sea and loiter time of 45 days and armed with a 76mm Oto Melara automatic cannon, 25mm and 20mm light cannons and .50 caliber machine guns.

No timeline yet on BRP Gregorio Del Pilar removal

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 3): No timeline yet on BRP Gregorio Del Pilar removal

BRP Gregorio del Pilar photo taken by PAF Nomad C-87 on August 30, 2018

There is still no timeline to follow regarding the recovery of Philippine Navy (PN) flagship, BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (FF-15), which ran aground off Hasa-Hasa (international name Half-Moon) Shoal, Palawan Wednesday.

This was stressed by PN flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad in an interview with reporters Sunday.

He added that this will be only realized once the total extent of the damage is determined when the two privately-owned tugboats, which are expected to be on the scene by Monday, have arrived and managed to tow the frigate off the shoal.

"But sa ngayon (as for now) the ship is intact, the crew are (safe) and we are on top on the situation sa pagka-retrieve sa kanya (BRP Gregorio del Pilar)," Empedrad added.

Also, the PN chief said China, South Korea, and the US - along with the country's ASEAN neighbors - have all offered help in the ongoing recovery operations but the Philippines opted to go alone with the operations as waiting for them would take time. Initial reports indicated that the grounded frigate is recoverable.

BRP Sindangan (MRRV 4407) has arrived in the area 11 a.m. Friday and will be joined by the BRP Cabra (MRRV 4409) anytime soon to render any assistance needed to pluck out the grounded BRP Gregorio Del Pilar, especially if there is a need to remove non-essential personnel to lighten the ship.

BRP Nestor Reinoso (PG-380) is also on hand to provide help.

Earlier, military public affairs chief Col. Noel Detoyato said that two tugboats have left Batangas, one Thursday and one Friday, to help in the recovery operations. The BRP Gregorio Del Pilar is one of three Hamilton-class cutters acquired by the PN from the United States Coard Guard and converted into frigates.

These ships have a gross tonnage of 3,250 tons, a length of 378 feet, beam of 43 feet, and draft of 15 feet, while its propulsion systems consist of two diesel engines and two gas turbine engines, giving it a top speed of 29 knots.

These vessels have a cruising range of 14,000 miles and has a sea and loiter time of 45 days and armed with a 76mm Oto Melara automatic cannon, 25mm and 20mm light cannons and .50 caliber machine guns.