Sunday, October 7, 2018

PH, Australia conclude joint maritime exercise

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 6): PH, Australia conclude joint maritime exercise

Filipino and Australian sailors hold on board conference during the conduct of the 1st leg of the 5th Combined Philippine Navy-Royal Australian Navy Maritime Training Activity in the area of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM). (Photo courtesy: NFWM Public Information Office)
ZAMBOANGA CITY — The first leg of the 5th Combined Philippine Navy-Royal Australian Navy (PN-RAN) Maritime Training Activity has concluded in this part of the country, a military official said Saturday.

Rear Adm. Rene Medina, Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) commander, said the maritime activity, which culminated Friday, has benefitted both Navies in terms of inter-operability.

Medina said it has also complemented the current maritime security operations of Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) in terms of Naval presence and deterrence of movement of lawless groups at sea.

Medina said the activity was conducted in the maritime areas of Basilan and Tawi-Tawi and was participated by PN’s BRP General Mariano Alvarez (PS-38) and Her Majesty Australian Ship(HMAS) Launceston (ACPB94) of the RAN.

The culmination of the first leg saw the departure of HMAS Launceston from Tawi-Tawi en route to Naval Forces West Area in Palawan for the continuation of the 2nd leg of similar activity.

Medina said the joint exercise included maritime patrols in the waters Zamboanga Peninsula, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi as well as aboardship drills that enhanced the capabilities and readiness of crew on board the participating vessels.

The joint exercise kicked off on September 24 with the arrival of HMAS Launceston in this city.

Isulan bomb suspect killed in military operation

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 7): Isulan bomb suspect killed in military operation

HOMEMADE BOMBS. Improvised bomb materials recovered by military troopers on a safehouse by Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters during a law enforcement operation Friday (Oct. 6, 2018) in Sitio Lab, Barangay Kuloy, Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao. A suspected bomber linked to the recent Isulan, Sultan Kudarat bombings was neutralized during the operation. (Photo by 6ID)

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao — Government troops shot dead a suspect linked to the recent twin bombings in Isulan, Kudarat during a pre-dawn law enforcement operation in Maguindanao on Friday.

Major Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Army’s 6th Infantry Division commander, identified the slain suspect as Norodin Taib, an alleged member of the Islamic State - Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) faction that carried out the Aug. 28 and Sept. 2 bomb attacks in Isulan town.

He said soldier elonging to the Army’s 601st Infantry Brigade swooped down the safehouse of Taib in Sitio Lab, Barangay Kuloy, Shariff Aguak at around 2 a.m. Friday.

The suspect, however, resisted arrest by lobbing a grenade at the approaching soldiers.

“The grenade-throwing incident prompted the soldiers to neutralize him (Taib),” Sobejana said on Saturday.

Three other cohorts of Taib, who were with him at the time of the raid, managed to elude arrest.

Troops recovered one improvised explosive device, two improvised hand grenades, three cellphones and subversive documents from the radicals’ safehouse.

Pursuit operations are still ongoing against the remaining BIFF members in the interiors of Shariff Aguak town.

War between MILF, military ‘over’: AFP chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 7): War between MILF, military ‘over’: AFP chief

PEACE. Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Carlito Galvez Jr. (right) flashes the peace sign together with Moro Islamic Liberation Front chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim (2nd from right) during the AFP chief’s visit to Camp Darapanan, the MILF’s main camp situated in Barangay Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on Saturday (Oct. 6, 2018). (Photo courtesy of Alih Anso – Cotabato Media Group)

COTABATO CITY -- The decades-old armed fighting days between the military and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are over.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Carlito Galvez Jr. made this remark in a visit on Saturday to Camp Darapanan, the MILF’s main encampment situated in Barangay Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

Some 6,000 MILF supporters lined up along the Sultan Kudarat stretch of the highway from Quirino Bridge, which separates this city from Sultan Kudarat municipality at the northern side, to welcome Galvez and his party in going to the Darapanan camp shortly before noon Saturday.

Cordiality marked the visit of Galvez to the MILF camp with MILF chief Al Haj Murad Ebrahim himself leading the welcoming party.

“I finally declare the end of the war between the AFP and MILF. Let’s respect the peace in Mindanao,” Galvez said in his speech, which was met with cheers from a huge crowd of MILF leaders and peace supporters in attendance at the grounds of the former rebel camp.

Galvez said he is also looking forward to a strong partnership with the MILF through the forthcoming 2019 plebiscite for the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) that would pave the way for the creation of the new MILF-led Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), replacing the old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) setup.

The BARMM, through the plebiscite, would determine its proposed composition to include the cities and provinces under the current ARMM (the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan); the cities of Cotabato and Isabela in Basilan; the six towns in Lanao del Norte (Balo-i, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan, and Tangkal); and the 39 barangays in six North Cotabato towns that voted yes to inclusion in the ARMM in the 2001 plebiscite.

“Once I hang my uniform for good, it would be okay for me to push for the BOL for everybody. I will dedicate my service pro-bono,” said Galvez, who is set to retire from military service in December this year.

Prior to becoming military chief, Galvez, known by many here as a “soldier of peace,” served as co-chairman of the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities for the government side in the peace process with the MILF in 2015.

Several months later, he became commander of the Army's 6th Infantry Division based in Maguindanao before being appointed as AFP’s Westmincom chief based in Zamboanga City.

In April this year, Galvez assumed the AFP top post to succeed retiring chief of staff General Rey Leonardo Guerrero.

Ebrahim, for his part, expressed joy on the visit of Galvez to their camp, briefly describing it as “historical.”

“This visit represents the degree of progress we have made over the years in bringing significant cooperation between our military officers in our quest for peace in the Bangsamoro homeland,” he said.

Army official eyes more arrests of Reds in Negros

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 7): Army official eyes more arrests of Reds in Negros

BACOLOD CITY -- An official of the Philippine Army in Negros Occidental said more rebels under the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) would be arrested in the province.

“In coordination with the police, there will be more arrests here in Negros. With the active help of the local populace, the CPP-NPA terrorists will be suppressed and defeated,” Lt. Col. Patricio Tomales, commanding officer of 15th Infantry Battalion based in the southern town of Cauayan, said in a statement on Saturday.

This, after the recent arrest of suspected communist rebel Joebert Herrera, who has been identified as a platoon leader of the NPA’s South West Front of the Komiteng Rehiyonal-Negros.

Both the military and the police confirmed over the weekend the arrest of Herrera, 36, at his residence in Sitio Cambogui-ot, Barangay Camindangan in the neighboring Sipalay City on Oct. 4.

The suspect has arrest warrants for multiple frustrated murder and murder issued by the Regional Trial Court Branch 61 in Kabankalan City on Oct. 25, 2012.

Herrera, who was denied bail, is detained at the Sipalay City Police Station.

Tomales said the arrest of Herrera was a result of the coordination between law enforcement agencies and the cooperation of the people.

He added that the 15th IB will continue with its counter-terrorist operations for the safety and security of the people in the area they cover and also to attain peace and security in Negros Island.

No red-tagging; NPA recruitment in schools real

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 7): No red-tagging; NPA recruitment in schools real

The Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division has dismissed claims that the military is red-tagging schools in the reported recruitment of students by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

Capt. Eduardo Precioso Jr., chief of 3rd Division Public Affairs Office based in Iloilo City, said in a statement over the weekend the rebel group has been employing a “deceptive tactic” to recruit students in Central and Western Visayas to become fighters and cadres.

“There has been no red-tagging,” Precioso said, but he confirmed that the rebel recruitment is actually happening in certain schools.
He said what the Army is “trying to deliver is a message that the CPP-NPA terrorist is recruiting students in several schools through legal front organizations and school organizations.”

Precioso, however, said they prefer not to release the list of said schools.

“We cannot give the name of these institutions, though we all know there are schools that have become a source of NPA recruits and or being used as platforms for recruitment,” he added.

Precioso said the Philippine Army wants to inform the school administrators, students, and parents about what is happening the “soonest as possible to prevent the students from joining the terrorist group.”

“What we are trying to do now is to communicate with the school administrators to explain to them the deceptive way of the CPP-NPA and how to prevent this kind of situation to protect the students,” he added.

Precioso noted that students became vulnerable targets of the CPP-NPA after the Citizens Army Training (CAT) and the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) became optional.

“We have to push through with the implementation of mandatory ROTC before our youth will continuously fall victim to recruitment. We also urge the students to be critical in joining organizations that are affiliated with terror groups,” he added.

Army warns parents, schools vs. groups recruiting students for NPA

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 7): Army warns parents, schools vs. groups recruiting students for NPA 

The Army’s 10th Infantry Division based in Tuburan, Mawab, Compostela Valley has called on schools and parents to monitor groups mobilizing students to join mass actions and recruiting them to become cadres of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Maj. Gen. Noel Clement, commander of the 10th ID, on Sunday confirmed there are individuals in Davao personally recruiting students for mass actions.

"They are being organized to join," Clement said.
"Let me just emphasize that schools will always be targets, as there are many potential recruits there.”

To protect the students, Clement said the Army will reach out to school authorities and the parents to apprise them on "what activities they should look out for."

"Once they start joining mass movements, that’s a red flag already because the next step is immersion in the countryside, then join the armed group,” he said.

"Parents as well should look out for signs their children are being lured into joining these rallies and end up in encounters with government troops," he added.

He said this should be a concerted effort of the schools, students, teachers, parents, and government agencies.

The Armed forces of the Philippines (AFP) last week released a list of Metro Manila schools that have been possibly used as venues for arousing, organizing, and mobilizing of students by the communist armed group. The list is now subject of continuing validation by the AFP and the Philippine National Police.

"We are firm in our position that some of the schools in that list have been, and widely known to have been used, as fora for communist recruitment," AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said.

Arevalo had warned that some of the other schools in the list are being targeted.

AFP chief lauds sgt. majors’ role as mediators

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 6): AFP chief lauds sgt. majors’ role as mediators

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief-of-Staff, Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., has lauded the 200 sergeant majors and other non-commissioned officers for being the “indispensable bridge” between the enlisted troops and their commanders.

“You have done a remarkable job of acting as leaders and mediators by bringing to attention, the issues and concerns of our soldiers, particularly on their morale and welfare and discipline, which carry a great weight on the accomplishment of the AFP mission,” Galvez told the personnel who attended the three-day Year-End Consultative Meeting of Sergeant Majors in Fort Del Pilar, Baguio City that ended on Friday.

He also recognized 17 retiring and retired sergeant majors who were previously awarded for their exceptional work and service as command sergeant majors of their respective units.

The meeting also highlighted the Office of the AFP Sergeant Major’s deliverables in uplifting the morale and welfare of soldiers, best practices during the Marawi Crisis, and updates on scholarships for soldiers and their dependents.

“As the highest-ranking enlisted personnel of the AFP, the AFP Sergeant Major and our Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) plays a very important role in the efficient and successful functions and operations of the AFP. You are the ‘indispensable bridge’ that connects our enlisted personnel to the AFP leadership. You are the officer’s and soldier’s father, brother, mentor and guardian,” he added.

Galvez, in his speech, also quoted prominent French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte that “war is a matter of morale."

The consultative meeting was organized by the Office of the AFP Sergeant Major, which is celebrating its 49th anniversary this month and also in conjunction with the 22nd NCO Day held every October.

AFP chief visits MILF's Camp Darapanan

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 7): AFP chief visits MILF's Camp Darapanan

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff, Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr., visited the Moro Islamic Liberation Front's (MILF) Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao Saturday.

The visit highlighted the trust and confidence between the MILF and government and their efforts to bring lasting peace in the Bangsamoro homeland.

“Today, I came back to one the most revered place, a place I can call home because here lives those galant men I considered my brethren, those whom I had been working with for a peaceful Mindanao,” Galvez said in a statement Sunday.

Galvez also met with MILF Chairman Al Hajj Murad Ebrahim and was joined by top military commanders from the AFP and the Western Mindanao Command.

“I am pleased to receive the delegation of the Chief of Staff here in Camp Darapanan,” said Ebrahim, who was also joined by the Vice Chairman of the MILF Alim Solaiman, Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) chief-of-staff Almansour "Sammy" Gambar and the different front and base commanders in welcoming the visitors.

“Gen. Galvez is well known among our commanders, the friendship between the MILF and him is already strongly established due to the numerous incidents and challenges in the past that we have jointly faced and solved,” the MILF chair added.

Galvez expressed the sincerity of the AFP in helping propel the peace process following the guidance of President Rodrigo Duterte.

“The President is always very supportive and serious in his guidance to the AFP in sealing the peace process here in Muslim Mindanao," he added.

“Today I can now declare that the war between the Armed Forces and the MILF is finally over. To my commanders, let us embrace our brothers and sisters and give them respect and lasting peace that the Moro people deserve," Galvez added.

During the ceremony, the MILF leadership also awarded Gen Galvez with the "Soldier of Peace Award", the first to be given by the MILF organization to any military officer.

It was also the first time that about 6,000 MILF members coming from the different islands in Mindanao, going as far as Sulu and Basilan, lined up on both sides of the 5-kilometer road from Cotabato City to Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao where the MILF seat of government is located to welcome a visiting military commander.

“We have deployed BIAF (Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces) members as early as 7 o'clock in the morning to make sure that nothing could go wrong,” Eduardo Guerra, one of the members of the MILF Central Committee, said.

“It is also to show how we treasure the visit of the AFP Chief-of-Staff in our home.”

Galvez and his party left Darapan at 2 p.m. with the cordon honors still in place.

"This is really an amazing gesture of love which I will always treasure and cherish for my lifetime," Galvez said of the gesture.

“I would like to thank you for the warm welcome accorded to me and my staffs. As we were coming here, I was overwhelmed by the kind gesture na nakatayo lahat ng mga MILF brothers and sisters (where all MILF brothers and sisters were standing), young and old on the winding road waiting our long convoy to pass by. I will not forget that I was given so much importance, that was the longest honor given to me and probably in the history of giving honors to visiting guests,” he added.

When asked what the difference between the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the MILF peace process is, he said, “the CPP is deceptive, manipulative and insincere. They burned road project equipment, they executed thousands even their own comrades. They extort and always wanted to take advantage."

"They do not have the sense of honor or ‘Maratabat’ of the MILF."

After the visit, Galvez condoled with the family of the agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency who were killed in Lanao Del Sur on Friday.

He instructed the 6th Infantry Division Commander, Major General Cirilito Sobejana to make sure that all assistance be accorded to the family of the PDEA agents.

“In time of grief, the AFP will always be with PDEA in its fight against illegal drugs. We will do our best to help seek justice for the death of these dedicated gallant agents who died serving the country. With our PNP partner, we will seek justice no matter how long and how hard it will take," Galvez said.

Fate of other Magdalo soldiers' amnesty up to PRRD: Guevarra

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 7): Fate of other Magdalo soldiers' amnesty up to PRRD: Guevarra

It is up to President Rodrigo Duterte if he would grant executive clemency to 277 other soldiers since their amnesty records are missing from the archives of the Department of National Defense (DND), Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.

“For now, the focus is on Senator (Antonio) Trillanes’ amnesty grant. It is up to the President what he wants to do with the grant of amnesty to other individuals,” Guevarra said in a text message to reporters Saturday.

“Executive clemency involves the exercise of discretion, and the president as chief executive and commander-in-chief enjoys a lot of freedom in exercising this prerogative,” he said.

During last Friday’s hearing of the Makati City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 148 on the motion to issue an alias warrant of arrest and hold departure order (HDO) against Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, DND officials admitted that the agency has no records of the applications for amnesty of 277 soldiers involved in three incidents of uprisings from 2003 to 2007.

Two of these uprisings, the Oakwood mutiny in July 2003 and the Manila Peninsula siege in November 2007, were led by Trillanes, who was then a Navy lieutenant senior grade.

In 2011, the trial court dismissed the case against Trillanes and the other Magdalo soldiers by virtue of the amnesty given by former president Benigno S. Aquino III through Proclamation 75 issued in November 2010.

State prosecutors said with the proclamation issued by President Rodrigo Duterte, the court's order of dismissal issued seven years ago is considered void.

In President Duterte's Proclamation 572 issued on Aug. 31, Trillanes' amnesty was declared void ab initio (from the beginning).

Duterte said Trillanes failed to present the necessary requirements in the application of the amnesty for the Oakwood Mutiny, the Marine stand-off and the Manila Peninsula siege.

On Sept. 25, Makati RTC Branch 150 Judge Elmo Alameda granted the motion filed by DOJ in connection with the rebellion case against Trillanes and other Magdalo soldiers over the Manila Peninsula siege in 2007.

With Alameda's granting of the DOJ motion, Trillanes was arrested and booked for the rebellion case. He was, however, allowed to post a PHP200,000 bail.

Alameda said the Sept. 7, 2011 dismissal of the rebellion case against Trillanes can be considered void and has no legal and binding effect considering the issuance of Proclamation 572.

NCRPO to meet with CHED over 'CPP recruitment' in schools

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 7): NCRPO to meet with CHED over 'CPP recruitment' in schools

The National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) is set to meet with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) in connection with the alleged recruitment activities of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in the 18 universities and colleges in Metro Manila.

“Ang aking gagawin ay makipag-coordinate sa leadership ng Commission on Higher Education upang humingi ng konsultasyon kung ano ang mga hakbangan na dapat gawin ukol dito (I will coordinate with the Commission on Higher Education to consult them on what measures to be undertaken regarding this matter),” NCRPO head, Police Director Guillermo Eleazar, said in a radio interview Saturday.

While stressing that there is nothing new about recruitment by leftist groups in schools, Eleazar said they are continuously coordinating with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to validate the information.

“There is a term na infiltration. It connotes hindi po yan ina-allow or merong kaparaanan na gawin yun na hindi nalalaman ng management so yun po ang ating mga tinitingnan. (that it is not allowed or it is done in such a way which will not be known by the management of the schools and that is what we are looking at),” Eleazar said.

He added that this does not necessarily mean that police officers will enter schools' premises, unless students commit offenses.

"Kung ito o nagba-violate ng mga batas (If they are violating laws) like inciting rebellion o persecution, ibang usapan na po 'yon (that is another story)," he added.

“While it is true na gina-guarantee natin yung civil rights ng mga estudyante at mga schools persons, sa atin naman po ang pulis lagi lamang sa mga ebidensya. Hindi naman sinasabi natin na once itong mga sumasamang ito sa mga rally ito po ay mga recruits nila, not necessarily na ganun (that we guarantee upholding the civil rights of the students and persons from the schools, we at the police force always base our findings on evidence. It does not necessarily mean that those who join rallies are already considered recruits),” Eleazar said.