Thursday, October 18, 2018

DWDD: CLOSING CEREMONY | Electrical Installation and Maintenance (NC II) for former rebels, mass base supporters and their dependents

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Oct 18): CLOSING CEREMONY  |  Electrical Installation and Maintenance (NC II) for former rebels, mass base supporters and their dependents

“Malasakit at Pagbabago, TESDA susi sa kinabukasan.”
The 10th Infantry “Steady…On” Battalion under LTC SEVERO, CO 10IB, TESDA Misamis Occidental headed by Provincial Miraluna Baje-Lopez, TESDA Provincial Training Center-Plaridel under Engr Noel Econ, conducted the closing ceremony of the Electrical Installation and Maintenance NC II for fifty (50) Former Rebels, mass bases supporters and their dependents.



DWDD: WEAKENING | Two Dawlah Islamiya/Maute Members; Surrenders in Lanao del Sur

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Oct 18): WEAKENING  |  Two Dawlah Islamiya/Maute Members; Surrenders in Lanao del Sur


CAMP MAJOR CESAR SANG-AN, Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur (DWDD) – Two Dawlah Islamiya / Maute members surrendered to Joint Task Force Ranao in Lumbaca-Unayan, Lanao del Sur last Tuesday, October 16, 2018.

The two surenderees are: Mr. Mubarak Dimasangkay Bassit and Mr. Alinok Muntik.

They yielded to Lt. Col. Ian Noel Ignes, the Commanding Officer of 55th Infantry Battalion, under the Joint Task Force Ranao.

Accordingly, September last year, they’ve harassed BrgyPantar detachment in Lumbatan during Marawi siege as diversionary tactics while the Maute terrorist groups were fighting in Main Battle Area.

The surrenderees brought along one caliber 50 and one Garand rifle .

Custodial debriefing of the two is still on-going as of this posting.

“The continuous surrender of Mautes entails weakening of their organizational leadership and capabilities, and we encourage others to lay down their arms and live peacefully,” Maj.Gen. Murillo said.

This month alone, a total of ten Maute members surrendered to JTF Ranao. JTF RANAO / MCAG

On October 9, seven surrendered to the battalion and on the following day, a Maute sniper surrendered to 49th Infantry Battalion. JTF Ranao / MCAG

DWDD: ASSISTANCE | Another Set of Surrenderees receives E-Clip benefits from the Government

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Oct 18): ASSISTANCE  |  Another Set of Surrenderees receives E-Clip benefits from the Government

KIANGAN, Ifugao (DWDD) – Another Communist NPA Terrorist (CNT) member with thirteen (13) Militia ng Bayan (MB) members from Mt Province, Ifugao and Nueva Vizcaya surfaced, surrendered and presented themselves to the Secretary of the National Defense Hon Delfin ALorenzanaduring the Former Rebels Peace Summit at Headquarters Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM), Camp Servillano Aquino, Tarlac City on the 16th Day of October 2018.

The voluntary appearance and surrender of the active NPA and MB members was a result of the thorough arbitration of the troops of 54th Infantry “Magilas” Battalion from Mountain Province,Ifugao and Nueva Vizcaya. The former rebels were inspired by the stories of the previous surrenderees with the warm accommodation and treatment of the military personnel and the benefits they received from E-CLIPduring the visit of PRRD in Camp Melchor F Dela Cruz, Upi, Gamu, Isabela.

According to one surrenderee, the CNTsthreatened us that we will be treated inhumane if we will surrender to the government which is contradictory to our experience when we were with our Philippine Army facilitators in NOLCOM. We were treated like their own comrades, no gaps between facilitators and us returnees. We were considered part of their family that made us comfortable at all times. Before returning to our homes we had a bunch of gifts coming from the government; grocery items, cash gifts and certificate of house entitlement from the National Housing Authority. All these were given to us freely by the government through the E-CLIP program in return to our sincere and voluntary surrender to the folds of the law, the MB further stated.

LTC NARCISO B NABULNEG JR, Commanding Officer of 54IB stated, It’s heartwarming to know that the MagilasTroopers are doing their job passionately and with dedication that resulted to the voluntary surrender of the CNTs. To the brave ones, you did the right decision in returning to the folds of the law and embrace peace in the mainstream society, LTC NABULNEG added. To the CNTs remnants in Cordillera and Nueva Vizcaya, don’t be deceived by the CNT self is hideology that brought you in the dark path, the government widely open its doors for your return through the E-CLIP program. It’s not yet too late to embrace and be part of the long and lasting peace that we are all dreaming of, don’t waste your time hiding in the mountains but rather spend your time wisely with your family,after all, nothing is more important than to be with your loved ones and enjoy a peaceful and productive life,he further stated. 54IBCMO / MCAG

DWDD: COMMUNITYY DEVELOPMENT | DSWD partners with 52nd ECB to construct Lumad schools in Davao del Norte town

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Oct 18): COMMUNITYY DEVELOPMENT  |  DSWD partners with 52nd ECB to construct Lumad schools in Davao del Norte town

TALAINGOD, Davao Del Norte (DWDD) – The Eastern Mindanao Command (EASTMINCOM) of the Philippine Army, through the 52nd Engineering Brigade, has entered into an agreement with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Local Government Unit (LGU) of the Municipality of Talaingod, Davao Del Norte for the construction of classrooms intended for the children of the Indigenous People (IP) group Lumad in the town.


The project is under the DSWD Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS), one of the government’s poverty-alleviation programs implemented by the Department which uses the community-driven development (CDD) approach to empower communities in targeted poor and disaster-affected municipalities.

The project will initially be implemented in seven sites in Barangay Sto. Niño, Talaingod, which is considered a Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Area (GIDA).

Under the agreement signed by the parties, the implementation of the project shall adopt a convergence strategy and will use a “whole of nation approach,” wherein communities involved shall participate and the programs of different agencies involved will be integrated.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Eastern Mindanao Command represented by Brigadier General Dionisio Baudin, Commander of the 52nd Engineering Brigade, committed to providing security, technical assistance, limited labor, and supervision until the completion of the project.

In his message during the event, BGen. Baudin emphasized the sincerity of the military to carry out the project.

“The real job is after the signing of this agreement. We assure everyone that we are sincere and will carry out the task of building these classrooms for our IP children and youth,” he said.

Meanwhile, the DSWD, together with the Municipal Tribal Council, the local government of Talaingod, and the concerned barangay will be in charge of procuring materials and in monitoring of cultural sensitivity and the participation of the community and tribal beneficiaries in the overall implementation of the project.

Also present during the agreement signing were DSWD Region XI Assistant Regional Director for Administration Rebecca A. Santamaria, Talaingod Mayor Basilio Libayao, BGen. Antonio Rosario who represented EASTMINCOM Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, and other officials from the LGU and the military.

“We thank our army engineers for helping us provide our Lumad children in remote communities with access to basic social services,” Asst. Dir. Santamaria said.

“We at DSWD know that the IP sector is one of the most marginalized and disadvantaged in our society. This is why we do our best to reach out and extend basic social services to different IP groups through the implementation of our programs and services. We also continue to work together with our partners from the government to carry out initiatives that would improve the quality of life of our IP-kababayans while still preserving their culture,” Asst Dir. Santamaria ended. DSWD SMS / MCAG

DWDD: MARITIME EXERCISE | PH Navy sets sail for the first-ever ASEAN-China Maritime Exercise 2018

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Oct 18): MARITIME EXERCISE  |  PH Navy sets sail for the first-ever ASEAN-China Maritime Exercise 2018

CAPTAIN SALVO PIER, Sangley Point, Cavite (DWDD) – The Philippine Navy (PN) held a send-off ceremony earlier today at Captain Salvo Pier, Naval Base Cavite, Sangley Point, Cavite City for its Landing Ship, BRP Dagupan City (LS551) for the conduct of ASEAN-China Maritime Exercise (ACMEX) 2018 from October 21 to 28 2018 at Zhanjiang, China.

Giving of the medallion to the Commander, Philippine Fleet, Rear Admiral Danilo Rodelas, the Presiding Officer for the Send-Off ceremony of the PN contingent for ACMEX 2018 at Naval Base Cavite, Cavite City

Sideboys Honors given to the Presiding Officer for the Send-Off Ceremony of PN contingent for ACMEX 2018

The PN contingent led by CMDR SHERWIN RESPETO PN(GSC), the Commander, Naval Task Group 88 who will participate for the ASEAN-China Maritime Exercise 2018 at Zhanjiang, China

Commander, Fleet Marine Ready Force, COMMO TORIBIO ADACI JR AFP welcomed the participants and audience during the Send-Ceremony last 17 Oct 2018

Commander, Philippine Fleet wishes fair winds, clear skies and following seas to the PN contingent who will sail to Zhanjiang, China for days to participate in the ACMEX 2018

REAR ADMIRAL DANILO RODELAS AFP, the Philippine Fleet Commander and at the same time Presiding Officer during the Send-off Ceremony of PN contingent to participate in the ASEAN-China Maritime Exercise (ACMEX) 2018

Ceremonial Handshake, a form of saying “GOOD LUCK” to all the PN contingent who will sail to China for the naval exercise

Cast off of the last line with CPF, CFMRF and CSAF as BRP DAGUPAN CITY departed at Capt Salvo Pier



DWDD: CONSULTATION DIALOGUE | 33IB talks with residents of Brgy Langgapanan, Sultan Sa Barongis, Maguindanao (Video)

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Oct 18): CONSULTATION DIALOGUE  |  33IB talks with residents of Brgy Langgapanan, Sultan Sa Barongis, Maguindanao (Video)

BRGY LANGGAPANAN, Sultan sa Barongis, Maguindanao (DWDD)

Lt Col Harold M Cabunoc, the Battalion Commander of the 33rd Infantry (Makabayan) Battalion listens to the sentiments of the residents of Barangay Langgapanan, Sultan sa Barongis, Maguindanao during his visit at their community.
The people asked for the Army’s intervention in the ongoing clan war between rival MILF commanders of the 106th Base Command.

Lt Col Cabunoc has raised the issue to the Joint Ceasefire Committee to remove the armed MILF fighters from the community. He also stressed that the Philippine Army will not hesitate to use force against anyone who insists in perpetrating violence against hapless, peace-loving civilians.

The 33rd Infantry Battalion involves the people in resolving community issues that fuel armed conflicts.

Makabayan Warriors led by Lt Col Harold M Cabunoc visited Lasangan village in General Salipada K Pendatun, Maguindanao to collaborate with the local officials and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in addressing the security threats brought about by the presence of BIFF terrorists in the village.

The Makabayan Battalion uses the Joint Ceasefire Committee peace mechanisms in the conduct of its operations against peace spoilers who mingle with relatives in MILF communities around the AO.

Makabayan Warriors of Bravo Company led by Sgt Nadzmar D Yahcob, the Platoon Sergeant, visited Brgy Langgapanan to secure the evacuees who are returning to their homes.

The villagers were affected by the armed violence between MILF commanders who both wanted to control the extortion activities in the area.

The Makabayan Battalion supports the civil government in keeping the peace in former armed conflict areas.

The unit also facilitates the functioning of local government institutions to enable them build resilient communities. Photo by Pfc Jurry M Donasco / MCAG

DWDD: LAW ENFORCEMENT | Government forces arrest 4 BIFF members in Maguindanao

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Oct 18): LAW ENFORCEMENT | Government forces arrest 4 BIFF members in Maguindanao

PRESIDENT QUIRINO, Sultan Kudarat (DWDD) – Combined elements of the Philippine security forces nabbed four members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters during a dawn raid in General Salipada K Pendatun, Maguindanao at 5:00am on Wednesday, October 17.

The suspects offered no resistance when heavily armed soldiers and policemen suddenly emerged in their hideouts to serve the arrest warrants against Datu Parido Balabagan a.k.a. Commander Banog of the BIFF 2nd Division. Unfortunately, Commander Banog, along with 8 of his men, was able to escape using a secret passage behind the compound where he was hiding.

Four high-powered firearms were seized including one Cal 7.62mm M14 Rifle, one Cal 30 M1 Garand Rifle, two Rocket-propelled grenade launchers, three MK2 Hand grenades and assorted ammunitions.

Lt Col Harold M Cabunoc, the Commanding Officer of the 33rd Infantry “Makabayan” Battalion, identified the suspects as Ronex Langalen, 47, Anwar Abdullah, 26, Allakbar Sekung, 20, and Renante Milan, 37. They were handed over to CIDG-ARMM chief PSSupt James Gulmatico for the legal cases that would be filed against them.

Colonel Robert Dauz, the Commander of the 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade, said that the effort was part of the intensified law enforcement operations against peace spoilers.

“This is the outcome of our all-out effort against armed threats who attempted to attack the police station in Lambayong, Sultan Kudarat a few days ago. I hope that this incident would serve as a stern warning against the group of Commander Banog who have eluded arrest,” said Dauz.

Meanwhile, Major General Cirilito Sobejana has directed the 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade to hunt down the remnants of the BIFF in GSKP town.

“You must continuously pursue them so that we can prevent their atrocities against hapless civilians. We will maintain the great teammanship with our brothers in the PNP to synergize our efforts against the enemies of the state,” he said.

Lt Col Harold M Cabunoc, the Commanding Officer of the 33rd Infantry (Makabayan) Battalion, gives his guidance prior to the conduct of joint law enforcement operations against the members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters led by Datu Parido Balabagan a.k.a. Commander Banog early morning today. The combined elements of the PNP-SAF, CIDG-ARMM, 2nd Mechanized Battalion, and the 33rd Infantry Battalion netted four high-powered firearms during the operations

Members of the 33rd Infantry Battalion’s Mortar Section manned the mortars to provide indirect fire support for the operating troops.



Lt Col Harold M Cabunoc and PSSupt James Gulmatico questioned the suspected BIFF members who were arrested during the raid on Commander Banog’s hideout in Barangay Lumabao, General SK Pendatun, Maguindanao. 33IB CMO / MCAG

DWDD: RENEWED LIFE | Five (5) Day Rapid Reingtegration Program for Former Rebels

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Oct 18): RENEWED  LIFE  |  Five (5) Day Rapid Reingtegration Program for Former Rebels

Headquarters 10IB, Brgy Burgos, Oroquieta City (DWDD) – “Endings are not always painful because ending like what we are having now para sa probinsya for the last quarter of 2018 on my last term- are one of the best endings we have in terms of peace and order and conflict resolution in the province.” -Gov H.D. Ramiro

Provincial Government Misamis Occidental headed by Gov. Herminia D Ramiro, 10th Infantry “Steady…On” Battalion under Lieutenant Colonel Severo, Commanding Officer , 10IB, Department of the Interior and Local Government Misamis Occidental under Mr. Añasco, LGOO V, Misamis Occidental Provincial Police Office under Police Senior Superintendent Hebron, Provincial Director, 1st Civil-Military Operations Battalion under LTC M Valdez, CO 1CMO Bn, conducted the opening of the Five (5) day Rapid Reintegration Program for twenty six (26) Former Rebels.

Other inattendance were DOLE Mis Occ headed by Prov Dir Rodrigo, TESDA Mis Occ under Prov Dir Baje-Lopez, Rev. Fr Ernesto Lata Parish Priest IFI, Lopez Jaena, PGMO staff and partners from the media.


PRO XI monitoring Dawlah Islamiyah

From the Mindanao Times (Oct 17): PRO XI monitoring Dawlah Islamiyah

The Police Regional Office XI said they are currently monitoring the possible presence of members of the Dawlah Islamiyah terrorist group that might have settled in nearby areas of Davao City.
This developed after two leaders of the organized crime group linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) were killed during a police operation in Hagonoy town, Davao del Sur on Sunday.
In an interview with reporters at the sidelines of the launching of PRO XI's send-off ceremony for the Oplan Dabaw Kalinaw at the Davao City Police Office on Tuesday afternoon, Police Regional Director Marcelo Morales said they are continuously monitoring other members of the terrorist cell.
"So we are monitoring them just in case they will conduct atrocities," Chief Supt. Morales said.
The regional director said they are also monitoring some barangays in the region that might be penetrated by the terrorist members.
However, Morales said they have not monitored recruitment activities in the region.
Intelligence monitoring is being conducted to have sharing and fusion of information to get a clear picture as to the security situation in the whole Davao city.
He also advised the public to be vigilant and alert in reporting any suspicious activity they witness and to report immediately to the nearby authorities.
"So walang dapat ipag alala yung kababayan natin dahil ang inyong kapulisan at kasamahan sa AFP ay tuloy tuloy na ginagawa yung mga kanilang trabaho para ma monitor lahat ng grupo who plan to conduct atrocities in Davao," he said. (People should not worry because the police and AFP continue to do their job in monitoring groups that might conduct atrocities.)
"We are also coordinating in the community, barangay officials to have a wider coverage on our information gathering,” he added.
During AFP-PNP press briefing yesterday held at the Royal Mandaya Hotel, Sr. Supt. Ferlu Silvio, Jr., the provincial director of Davao del Sur Police provincial office (DSPPO), said they are now pursuing other members who were able to escape last Sunday night.
Silvio said they are coordinating with the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) to monitor their whereabouts.
He said bomb-expert brothers Norhan and Norton Sinapan came from the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Cotabato City.
“We are still conducting investigation on who are those comrades that had stayed in the houses where they were neutralized,” he added.

US brings in $25M aid to Marawi

From MindaNews (Oct 18): US brings in $25M aid to Marawi

In a small classroom here, United States Ambassador Sung Kim read a book to third-grade students after he distributed teaching kits and story books at the Amai Pakpak Elementary School last Tuesday.

United States Ambassador Sung Kim talk to third grade students at the Amai Pakpak Elementary School in Marawi City on Tuesday (16 October 2018) after turning over teaching kits and story books, part of the P1.35-billion aid package to improve economic and social conditions of communities directly affected by the Marawi siege. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDOdor kidor

Kim arrived here bringing P1.35 billion ($25 million) in aid to improve economic and social conditions of communities directly affected by the Marawi siege and help stop the ISIS expansion in the country.

He briefed Lanao del Sur Governor Bedjoria Soraya Alonto Adiong and Marawi Mayor Majul Gandamra about the aid that will eventually be handed over to Task Force Bangon Marawi, which is overseeing the rehabilitation work.

“We will help youth obtain the skills they need for employment, as well as link them to Mindanao’s thriving production and services sector to help them find gainful employment,” Kim said.

Kim said the new aid package brings the total US assistance to Marawi to nearly P3.2 billion ($59.1 million).

He said the new package would help the long-term recovery of displaced residents.

“As the situation evolves, so does the nature of our response to the crisis,” Kim said.

He outlined the assistance, which includes provisions for training of 175 madrasa educators and administrators.

The ambassador said there would also be vocational trainings for the displaced residents.

Photo: US Aid in Marawi

From MindaNews (Oct 19): US Aid in Marawi

Students of Amay Pakpal Central Elementary School in Marawi City greet United States Ambassador Sung Kim on Tuesday (16 October 2018), who arrived here bringing P1.35 billion ($25 million) in aid to improve economic and social conditions of communities directly affected by the Marawi siege. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

Duterte supporters rally vs. terrorism, radical groups

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 18): Duterte supporters rally vs. terrorism, radical groups

PRO DEMOCRACY RALLY. The Liga Independencia Filipinas, supporters of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte stage a rally in support of theadministration's fight against the CPP-NPA and other sectors in Mendiola, Manila on Thursday (October 18, 2018). (PNA photo by Gil Calinga)

More or less 3,000 supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte and representatives of various sectoral groups on Thursday staged a rally to promote democracy and condemn terroristic acts.

Members of Liga Independencia Filipinas (LIF) and various religious leaders, young people, farmers, seniors citizens, indigenous people and women's groups gathered at around 4 p.m. in Mendiola, Manila to express their support to Duterte's administration and its programs.

"Kami po ay dumalo rito dahil kami ay nagmamahal sa Diyos, sa bayan at sa pangulo dahil siya lamang ang may prinsipyo na kaya niyang baguhin ang ating bansa. Habang siya malakas pa ipanalangin nating magampanan niya ang pagkapangulo at ito na ang tamang panahon ng ating tunay na paglaya at pagunlad (We joined here because we love God, the country and the president because he has the principle to bring change to the country. While he's strong let us pray that he performs his roles as president and this is the time of true freedom and development)," Charis Basilican Church Archbishop Dedan Mallapre told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

Mallapre said he wants genuine change effected in the country so he is taking his faith and prayer into action by uniting Filipinos toward achievement of true peace and freedom.

"Every six years nagpapalit lamang ang administrasyon pero walang pagbabago. Narito na ang prosperity natin, ang pagkakataon para sa mga Pilipino na hindi na nila kailangan pang mag-abroad. Magkakaraon na po ng mga malalaking negosyo dito na puro produktong Pilipino kailangan lang po nating ibigin ang pangulo at ang gobyerno at ating mga kababayan (we change administration but no true change is happening. Here is our prosperity, the time for Filipinos not to go abroad. There will be business offering pure Filipino products we just need to love the president and the government and our fellowmen)," he added.

Abdul Banghulot Puengan, former regional director of National Commission on Indigenous People in Region 10, said they are one with LIF in condemning the activities of Communist Party of the Philippines–New People's Army (CPP-NPA) and other radical groups.

He said the CPP-NPA exploits and harasses the indigenous people in the provinces which is a clear violation of Republic Act 8371 that mandates the rights of indigenous people to peacefully live in society.

"Ang mga indigenous people ay isa sa mga vulnerable groups dahil wala po silang edukasyon. Madali sila malinlang ng makakaliwang grupo. Maraming maraming sitwasyon na ang mga tribal leaders ay hina-harass ng leaders ng makakaliwang grupo at kapag di sila sumunod sa mga makakaliwa, ito po ay pinapatay nila. Sila po ang naghahari sa mga ancestral domain ng ating mga katutubo. Ang mga kabataang katutubo ay nire-recruit nila upang maisali nila sa maling adhikain na pabagsakin ang ating gobyerno (The indigenous people belong to the vulnerable groups because they don't have education. It is easy for them to be fooled by the leftist groups. There are many instances where the tribal leaders are harassed by the leftist group leaders and if they don't obey, they're killed, they rule over the ancestral domain of our natives. The young natives are recruited to take part in overthrowing the government)," he said.

Meanwhile, Mufti Aleem Naquib Taher said he, together with other Muslim scholars, condemn violent extremism and terrorism perpetrated by the leftist group and supports Duterte's strong will to end it.

"Mahigpit naming tinututulan ang terorismo lalo na't inuugnay ang terorismo sa mga Muslim na walang katotohanan dahil ang Islam ay relihiyon ng kapayapaan. Ang panawagan ng pangulo ay kapayapaan sa buong bansa na aming sinusuportahan, gagabayan ng Diyos ang ating pangulo at kasama niya kaming may pananampalataya kahit saan siya magpunta (We strongly condemn terrorism especially that it is linked to Muslims which is not true because Islam is a religion of peace. The president calls for peace all over the country which we support, God will guide him and we believers will support him anywhere he goes),"he said.

The rallyists came from diffferent Muslim communities in the provinces and Metro Manila.

3 cops killed, 3 others hurt in CamSur ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 18): 3 cops killed, 3 others hurt in CamSur ambush

Three policemen detailed to Food and Drug Administration Director General Charade Puno were killed while three others were wounded when they were ambushed by suspected communist rebels in Lupi, Camarines Sur on Thursday.

Killed in the ambush were Senior Police Officer (PO) 1 Percival S. Rafael; PO3 Carlito S. Navarroza, and PO1 Ralph Jason D. Vida.

PO1 Jonathan P. Perillo, Ruby S. Buena, and Rodolfo F. Gonzaga were wounded in the attack, Camarines Sur police said.

Initial reports said that at about 9:10 a.m., the six police officers were on board a marked vehicle en route to Daet, Camarines Norte, where Puno was scheduled to attend an event, when they were waylaid by some 20 armed men, believed to be members of the New People's Army.

Puno was unharmed in the attack, police said.

Members of the 1st Camarines Sur Provincial Public Safety Company were able to immediately respond to the area, forcing the NPA members to withdraw.

The wounded police personnel were rushed to the Bicol Medical Center in Naga City for treatment.

Abu Sayyaf frees militiaman in Jolo

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 18): Abu Sayyaf frees militiaman in Jolo

Government troops have recovered the militiaman, who was seized by the Abu Sayyaf together with his wife, more than a month ago in Zamboanga del Norte, police said Thursday.

The Sulu Provincial Police Office said militiaman Rufo Roda was recovered around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in downtown Jolo, the capital of Sulu.

The police said Roda was taken to downtown Jolo by unidentified persons following successful negotiations led by a certain Al, a resident of Jolo, Sulu.

The police said that Roda, escorted by military intelligence personnel, boarded a commercial ferry Wednesday night en route to this city.

Roda and his wife, Helen, were seized by five Abu Sayyaf bandits following a clash in the evening of August 31 in Piacan, a coastal barangay in Sirawai, Zamboanga del Norte.

Five people were killed while a child was injured during the clash in Piacan, Sirawai. The police said there is no update yet on the condition of Roda’s wife, who remains in captivity.

The Abu Sayyaf bandits are still holding captives 10 people, including two foreigners--a Dutch and a Vietnamese.

Insurgency gains cited

From the Manila Standard (Oct 18): Insurgency gains cited

The Duterte administration’s implementation of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program is the primary reason why the insurgency in the country is now on a decline, Defense  Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.

“Our government is here, led by President Rodrigo Duterte. He will give everyone a chance to return to the fold of the law, live a new life in peace and make everyone able to contribute to development,” Lorenzana said in a statement sent to reporters Wednesday.

Through this program, more rebels are sending surrender feelers to the government, he said.

The DND chief made this comment during the final leg of the two-day Peace Summit for the Former Rebels at the Northern Luzon Command headquarters in Tarlac.

The event also included the surrender of firearms and the ceremonial acceptance of 125 FRs from Regions 1, 2, 3 and Cordillera.
E-CLIP is the flagship program of the Duterte administration that seeks to effect social healing and national unity through a whole-of-nation approach towards the higher objective of having just and lasting peace.

It also provides social equity to former members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front and the Militia ng Bayan by devising a different modality of providing benefits and services to the FRs, in order to reintegrate them into mainstream society.

Lorenzana also commended the efforts of all agencies under the Task Force Balik-Loob, headed by Defense Undersecretary Reynaldo Mapagu, which implements the E-CLIP by consolidating all the programs of TFBL lead and partner agencies, as well as local government units which implement the reintegration program in their localities through the E-CLIP Committees headed by provincial governors.

2 Reds face charges for killing Zambo Norte village exec

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 18): 2 Reds face charges for killing Zambo Norte village exec

Authorities have lodged a murder complaint against two suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels linked to the Oct. 2 killing of a barangay official in Zamboanga del Norte, police said.

Police Regional Office 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula) information officer, Chief Insp. Helen Galvez, said the case was filed before the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office in Dipolog City, capital of Zamboanga del Norte, on Wednesday.

Named as respondents in the murder case were Rolando Maglasang, alias Moben, of the NPA’s New Beautiful Country, and Africia Alvarez Rosete, alias Bambam, of the NPA’s Mindanao Regional Guerilla Unit.

Galvez said Maglasang and Rosete have been tagged by witnesses as among the eight rebels who allegedly killed Jose Rey Bongcawel, 44, a barangay councilor of San Isidro, Sergio Osmeña, Zamboanga del Norte.

Bongcawel was inside his residence when the rebels -- clad in camouflage uniforms and brandishing high-powered firearms – reportedly arrived and opened fire.

The barangay councilor suffered multiple gunshot wounds and died instantly.

Recovered from the crime scene were empty shells of M-14 and M-16 Armalite and AK-47 rifles.

Galvez said the murder case against the suspects was received by Prosecutor I Felin Legara-Comidoy.

She said the respondents remain at large.

6 NPA supporters surrender in Occidental Mindoro

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 18): 6 NPA supporters surrender in Occidental Mindoro

MINDORO SURRENDERERS. Six supporters of the New People’s Army (NPA) communist terrorist group, whose identities have been withheld, have voluntarily surrendered to the troops of the 4th Infantry Battalion (4IB) in Occidental Mindoro on Oct. 16, 2018, (Photo courtesy of 2ID-DPAO)

CAMP CAPINPIN, Tanay, Rizal -- Six supporters of the New People’s Army (NPA) communist terrorist group voluntarily surrendered Tuesday to the 4th Infantry Battalion (4IB) in Occidental Mindoro, military authorities announced on Thursday.

The Army’s 2nd Infantry “Jungle Fighter” Division (2ID) temporarily withheld the identity the six surrenderers.

Lt. Col. Dennis C. Gutierrez, commanding officer of the 4IB, said four of those who yielded are
members of the Milisyang Bayan (MB), a militia group; while the two others belong to Sangay ng Partido sa Lokalidad (SPL), a local branch of the NPA Communist terrorist group.


Gutierrez said MB is the the armed component of the NPA tasked to conduct attacks against government forces.
On the other hand,
the SPL is the political organ of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in the barangays, which provides mandates on the Arouse, Organize, and Mobilize (AOM) tactics of the NPA rebels.
In an interview by the military troops after surrendering, the surrenderers admitted they are “tired of the deception and false promises of the NPA that they will win against the government.”

"The NPA's propaganda is frustrating. We’re convinced by the government programs by seeing our comrades who surrendered before us, living peacefully with their families, something that we have never felt when we are under the NPA organization,” one of the surrenderers said.

Brig. Gen. Antonio G. Parlade Jr., commander of the 203rd Infantry Brigade, said the mass surrenders were made possible through the Community Support Program and collaborative efforts of the community-based negotiation in the area.

Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Rhoderick M. Parayno, 2ID commander lauded the efforts of the 4IB troops against the NPA communist terrorists in the area.

He said the 2ID is steadfast in its campaign in bringing back normalcy in the Area of Operation citing, “the snowballing of NPA surrenderers is a clear indication of the effectiveness of our strategies in winning over the NPA and its five-decade-old treachery. There are a lot of opportunities for the NPA communist terrorist group who would like to return to the mainstream society. We will pursue the conduct of the local peace talks since it has a great chance of success and resolve all issues immediately.”

According to Capt. Jayrald B. Ternio, officer-in-charge of the 2ID Public Affairs Office, the 4IB commander will formally present the surrenderers to the local government units and other government agencies in Mindoro.

Ternio said the surrenderers would be properly documented and processed under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program or E-CLIP, and receive immediate cash assistance and other benefits in the program.

He said the surrenderers can also avail of the government loan facility besides educational benefits which can be extended to the rebel’s immediate family members.

PNP gets 700 drone units to beef up security ops

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 18): PNP gets 700 drone units to beef up security ops

The Philippine National Police (PNP) has acquired 700 drones to beef up law enforcement, security and safety activities against possible attacks by communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels and other threat groups.

PNP chief, Director General Oscar Albayalde, said the drones will be issued to all police operating units, especially to elite units like the Special Action Force and provincial mobile groups.

“In other provincial mobile groups or other regional mobile groups, we do not have drones and it is not a standard to issue drones. Now, around 700 drone units are to be delivered and these will be deployed to various mobile groups. The use of drones in operations such as in rallies and internal security operations will now be a standard,” Albayalde told reporters on Thursday.

The PNP chief said that drones are important since these serve as part of the surveillance operations of the policemen, especially those involved in anti-insurgency operations.

“It’s part of surveillance, (especially) for ambush sites. Remember, ambush sites are grounds occupied by enemies. You cannot just enter that unless you will send an advance team. But if you have drones, you can detect these a few meters before reaching the critical area. That is very important. If the enemies see that, they will be distracted,” he explained.

The drones, worth PHP56 million at a unit price of PHP80,000, are set to be delivered either late this year or early next year.

Earlier on Thursday, three policemen were killed while three others were wounded in ambush by suspected New People's Army rebels in Barangay Napolidan, Lupi, Camarines Sur.

The casualties were assigned as security escorts of Food and Drug Administration Director General Nela Charade Puno.

Based on the investigation, the police vehicle was initially hit by a blast from an improvised explosive device before the cops were repeatedly shot.

The wounded cops, however, were able to put up a fight, which prevented the rebels from taking away their guns.

On Tuesday, suspected communist rebels also ambushed a group of policemen in Aurora that resulted in the death of PO2 Ronald Ruidera.

Albayalde, however, said that such ambush scenario has long been a modus of the communist rebels.

In Aurora for instance, he said the cops were lured into responding to a report of a truck burned in a remote area of the province, where they will be eventually ambushed.

A resurgent communist New People's Army in southern Philippines raises security threat in Mindanao

From Channel News Asia (Oct 18): A resurgent communist New People's Army in southern Philippines raises security threat in Mindanao (By Amy Chew)

President Duterte has designated the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New

President Duterte has designated the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People's Army, as 'terrorist organisations'. AFP/Noel CELIS
Security forces fighting pro-Islamic State (IS) militant groups in the troubled Mindanao island now have another battle on their hands, with the resurgence of the New People’s Army (NPA) - the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
Analysts have warned that the NPA is expanding its influence as abject poverty and military operations which displaced large numbers of civilians are pushing them into the arms of the communist insurgents.

The group's resurgence comes at a time when pro-Islamic State militants are deepening their presence on Mindanao, increasing the security threat in southern Philippines.

“Radicalisation due to forced evacuation of many people, especially indigenous peoples, is an important driving force in recruitment into the NPA,” said Francisco Lara, senior peace and conflict adviser of International Alert, an independent peace building organisation.
The CPP was formed in 1968 and its armed wing, the NPA, was set up a year later.

According to Luke Lischin, a terrorism researcher and academic assistant at the National War College of Washington DC, all the factors that drove people to join CPP and NPA five decades ago are still present today.
“Many of the historical drivers of NPA recruitment remain in place today - widespread poverty and income disparity, land exploitation, labour exploitation, human rights abuses, political marginalisation and discrimination in the rural hinterland, etc,” he said.

“Moreover, (President Rodrigo) Duterte has called for the bombing of indigenous peoples (who are supposedly supporting rebels) and carried out mass arrests of CPP party members.”

The destruction wrought by counterinsurgency campaigns in Mindanao has led to a massive displacement of civilians, whose woes are compounded by a rice shortage crisis.

Lischin pointed out that the number of NPA attacks spiked from 60 in 2016 to 260 in 2017, with the group killing or wounding 281 people last year.
He warned that the NPA, which is believed to have about 3,700 members, could pose a bigger threat than IS.

“IS in the Philippines is very loosely organised and fractious, limiting their ability to organise; for a period of time the (pro-IS) Maute brothers and Isnilon Hapilon served as capable leaders able to unite disparate groups, but now these groups lack such leaders,” said Lischin.

Abdullah and Omar Maute led a radical group composed of former Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerrillas and foreign fighters while Hapilon was a former leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group. In May 2017, they led pro-IS militants in a five-month siege of Marawi city before all three were killed, along with more than 1,000 people.

Lischin considers the NPA to be much more organised, with stronger military leadership and better developed social and political infrastructure compared to IS. The NPA has also existed for decades and has a national presence beyond Mindanao.

“The security threat posed by IS remains real, despite the victory of government forces in Marawi, but it is eclipsed by the communist insurgency due to the reach and scope of their operations,” said Lara of International Alert.

Duterte says gov’t ‘tried, but failed’ to broker peace with Reds

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 17): Duterte says gov’t ‘tried, but failed’ to broker peace with Reds

President Duterte is still not ready to resume the government’s peace negotiations with the Communists because of their continued involvement in atrocities against the people.

 The President admitted that his administration tried but failed to make peace with the Communist rebels.

President Rodrigo Duterte (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez / MANILA BULLETIN)
“I do not think there will be talks again,” Duterte said in a speech during a recent Philippine Army event in Taguig City.

“I will make peace with the enemies. We have tried. We failed with the NPAs (New People’s Army). I do not think that I’d ever be ready again to talk to them,” he said.

The President recalled that he used to go to the mountains to talk to the communists but lamented their insincerity given their attacks on troops and civilians alike.

Duterte, however, still offered assistance to any rebels who would lay down their arms and surrender to authorities. “Sabi ko sa NPA pagkain, medisina, magbigay ako [I told the NPAs I will give them food, medicines],” he said.

Duterte, however, ruled out giving the rebels any weapons and bullets, saying the military will be the one might run after him.

“Alam mo kung sinong papatay sa akin? Kayong mga army. Pagbaba ko dito, aambushin ako niyan [Do you know who will kill me? You, the Army. When I come down here, you’ll ambush me],” he added.

Early this month, the President ordered government troops to neutralize Communist rebels engaged in atrocities, saying there will no longer be any need to present any court warrant.

Duterte said the government was “not into crime prevention” but “neutralization” since the insurgents were committing rebellion “24 hours a day.”

The government earlier suspended peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), NPA and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) set last June, pending a review of the past signed agreements and public consultation.

Duterte has said peace talks would only resume provided conditions were met such as holding the negotiations in the country, ceasefire pact, no collection of revolutionary tax, and no coalition government.

STATEMENT: Suara Bangsamoro on the 1st anniversary of the ‘liberation’ of Marawi City

Posted to MindaNews (Oct 16): STATEMENT: Suara Bangsamoro on the 1st anniversary of the ‘liberation’ of Marawi City

Statement of Suara Bangsamoro, National Executive Council(NEC)
16 October 018

Homelessness and landlessness, the result of President Dutertes liberation of Marawi City

A year after President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of Marawi Citys liberation from the siege mounted by Maute and other ISIS-inspired groups, more than 27,000 displaced Marawi City residents continue to suffer homelessness and landlessness due to governments rehabilitation plan that prioritized the construction of a military camp and an economic zone.

Suara Bangsamoro supports the protest rally being held today by a group of displaced Meranaw residents who are until today barred by the government from returning to their communities citing various reasons including clearing operations and delays in groundbreaking ceremonies.

Suara Bangsamoro believes that the demands of protesting displaced Meranaw residents led by the Bangsamoro National Movement for Peace and Development and the Moro Consensus Group are just: immediate start of the reconstruction of their houses and not build more temporary shelters as a way to permanently prevent them from reclaiming their houses and properties in the ground zero, to construct their own houses if the government will not provide resources, to be part of the rehabilitation plan.

Task Force Bangon Marawi continues to exclude the displaced Meranaw residents from its rehabilitation plan of the 27 barangays identified as ground zero or the most affected areas (MAA), leaving most of them living in temporary shelters lacking basic services due to dwindling relief services after President Duterte declared the liberation of Marawi City. On the other hand, foreign and local business enterprises interests are prioritized in the rehabilitation and accommodating various schemes to favor those who will invest in the reconstruction of Marawi City into a military and economic zone.

With the destruction of their livelihood due to the incessant aerial bombardment of the ground zero areas in Marawi City, the continuing displacement makes it hard for the displaced residents to provide for their families. Adding to this burden is the rising food inflation in the country that makes it impossible for them to buy basic commodities without a steady income. Inflation in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is recorded the highest in Mindanao at 8.1% on August this year.

Suara Bangsamoro is one with the displaced Meranaw residents in holding the government accountable for most of the destruction of Marawi City due to its incessant aerial bombardment as a response to the Maute group siege. As a result of last years five months military operation against Maute and other ISIS-inspired groups who mounted a siege of Marawi City last year, at least 37 mosques, 44 madrasah facilities and 22 schools were destroyed due to aerial bombardment. At least three thousand cases of houses looted, mostly by the military who were left inside the ground zero areas.

We are one in the clamor of the displaced Meranaw residents for justice to the 1,000 who were killed due to the military operations, to the innocent civilians who were arrested, tortured into admitting they are Maute members and sympathizers, and continue to be detained due to trumped-up charges, and to all those whose lives were made vulnerable to killings, arrests and police and military abuses due to the blanket authority given by President Duterte through his declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao.

We support the human rights violation complaint filed by Sultan Abdul Hamidullah Atar of the Ranaw Multisectoral Movement at various human rights organization and agencies including the United Nations and the International Criminal Court in September together with other victims of human rights violations that testified at the International Peoples Tribunal (IPT) last September 18-19 in Brussels, Belgium.

We enjoin the rest of the Moro people and the rest of Filipino people to continue to expose the human rights violations brought about by President Dutertes declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao and fight his fascist and tyrannical rule.

125 ex-rebels get E-CLIP benefits

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 17): 125 ex-rebels get E-CLIP benefits

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has welcomed 125 former New People’s Army (NPA) rebels from Northern Luzon during the two-day peace summit at the head­quarters of the Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) in Camp Aquino, Tarlac City earlier this week.

Lieutenant General Emmanuel B. Sala­mat, NOLCOM chief, said the peace summit was realized through the joint efforts of the Philippine Army’s 5th Infantry Division and 7th Infantry Division and other key govern­ment agencies.

The peace summit was conducted to facilitate the distribution of the benefits to the rebel returnees through the Enhanced Comprehensive Localized Integration Pro­gram (E-CLIP).

The E-CLIP program extends reinte­gration assistance, firearm remuneration livelihood assistance, housing, conditional transitional grant, livelihood materials and implements or employment assistance, ac­cess to government service, loan and mar­ket access, medical assistance, alternative learning system, psychosocial assistance, college tuition and stipend, and legal as­sistance.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año, both represented President Duterte during the ceremonial acceptance of the consolidated firearms from the rebel re­turnees.

During the summit, two of the rebel re­turnees, “Ka-Angel” and “Ka-Cris,” recalled the struggles they experienced as NPA rebels, as well as the life-changing benefits they received after their surrender.

“NOLCOM will continue to work together with different government agencies and stakeholders to pursue its mission of bring­ing peace to the nation and strive to spark the consciousness of more NPA rebels to turn in to the government and to become productive citizens of the nation,” Lt. Gen. Salamat said.

Whatever happened to… the liberation of Marawi City

From the Southeast Asia Globe (Oct 18): Whatever happened to… the liberation of Marawi City (By Paul Millar)

One year ago, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte stood in the ruins of the southern city of Marawi and declared it ‘liberated’ from terrorist influence. But for the tens of thousands of civilians still unable to return to their homes, the ongoing presence of the Philippine military and the unflinching rule of martial law suggest not liberation but occupation.
Filipino protesters stage a demonstration marking the Marawi city siege first year anniversary, at the gates of Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, Philippines, 23 May 2018. The demonstrators called on President Rodrigo Duterte to end the Martial Law in Mindanao, citing cases of displacement of communities and alleged human rights violations committed by military on civilians Photo: Francis R. Malasig / EPA-EFE

A year since the guns fell silent, the Islamic City of Marawi is still in ruins. Five months earlier, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) had launched a desperate operation to capture the head of a terror group pledged to Islamic State. In retaliation, militants from the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups set churches and schools ablaze, raising their black flag above the ashes to declare the city a new caliphate in the global jihad. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were driven from their homes as the pounding of government artillery reduced the city to rubble. Only when the bodies of Isnilon Hapilon and Omarkhayam Maute, the commanders of the insurgent groups, were dragged from where government snipers had laid them out did the fighting end.

But the war still hangs heavy over Marawi City. Drieza Lininding, chairman of the Moro Consensus Group civil society organisation, said that tens of thousands of refugees from the fighting continued to languish in makeshift shelters, unable to return to the homes that they’d left behind.

“We still have more than 2,000 families – that’s more than 50,000 individual persons – who are still displaced,” he said. “Most of them are scattered around the Philippines.”

The capital of Lanao del Sur, a province of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Marawi City has long been an enclave of the Philippines’ Muslim Moro community. For decades, much of the southern island of Mindanao has struggled for independence from the Philippines’ predominantly Catholic central government in Manila – an insurgency that has seen tens of thousands of lives lost as different separatist groups splinter and unite and fracture once more as the nation lurches towards an uneasy peace.

Some people are now calling Marawi City occupied. Because for more than a year now, they’ve built this prison

With the rise of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups, violent Islamist splinter factions that have publicly pledged allegiance to Islamic State, the more moderate Moro Islamic Liberation Front has pursued a united front with President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, fighting side by side with the nation’s military on the streets of Mindanao. Next year, the group hopes to ride the ensuing wave of goodwill to self-rule in January through a nationwide vote on the creation of an independent Bangsamoro state. But for those who watched the Philippine military reduce the nation’s largest Muslim city to a burned-out husk in its fight against extremism, the prospect of peace is looking distant indeed.

Rooted as they are in centuries of Christian settlement in the predominantly Muslim region, these fears have hardly been helped by what critics see as a heavy-handed approach of the AFP that sees every Muslim in Mindanao as a potential soldier in an armed insurgency that has raged for decades. The Moro Consensus Group’s Lininding cited the government’s plan to build a 10ha military base at the site of the siege’s bloodiest battles as a sign that Duterte’s legions had not come as liberators, but as conquerors.

“It’s an invasion,” he said. “Some people are now calling Marawi City occupied. Because for more than a year now, they’ve built this prison – we cannot even visit our home, we were only allowed a few hours by the government to salvage whatever was left of our homes. It’s very sad for us. And the government is declaring this victory – what victory? From who?”
A view of ruins in Marawi city, Lanao del Sur province, Philippines, 23 May 2018 Photo: Linus Escandor II / EPA-EFE

Joseph Franco, a research fellow specialising in counterinsurgency at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said that resentment towards the military is growing: “Some community leaders are becoming more receptive to the idea that Marawi was a plot to destroy Islam. It is very conspiracy theory-ish but it is not a good sign if some known community leaders are starting to air this out.”

Many of those who have yet to return to the broken spires of Marawi feel alienated from an achingly slow reconstruction process that has seen the Duterte administration reach out to a consortium of Chinese companies that have pledged to help the local business community transform the gutted city into a thriving modern metropolis. For a people who pride themselves on having fought off the imperial ambitions of the Spanish, Americans and Japanese, the prospect of turning over the rebuilding of their homes to an apparently unaccountable foreign power hits a historically raw nerve.

Zachary Abuza, a professor at Washington, DC’s National War College, said that the government’s abortive approach to rebuilding the shattered city had planted the seeds for a resurgence in the kind of armed terror that brought the nation to its knees little more than a year ago.

“The next Marawi will be Marawi,” he told Southeast Asia Globe. “The residents and IDPs [internally displaced persons] remain seething with the government’s mishandling of reconstruction. This will not end well for the government. The appropriation of land for a large military base to provide security will only fuel resentment and insecurity. It is hard to imagine the government’s handling of this being much worse.”

Abuza was also scathing in his assessment of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ unchecked devastation of the city, unleashing the full might of its artillery on both militant and moderate alike.

“My takeaway about the AFP is that they remain poorly trained and led,” he said. “They continue to use artillery as a counterterrorism tactic, which is why Marawi looked like Raqqa. They do this in central Mindanao all the time, knowing all too well that it will lead to civilian casualties. And they engaged in some looting in Marawi, which doesn’t help their public image.”

Why is martial law still in place? Who are the enemies? Are we the enemies?

But for many of those who still rankle at the military’s excesses, the ongoing imposition of martial law across the entire Mindanao region makes any criticism of military rule untenable. Speaking to local media, University of the Philippines former law dean Pacifico Agabin said that Duterte’s decision to declare martial law gave the armed forces almost unlimited power over the people of Marawi.

“If the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is suspended, you cannot hold public meetings and speak against the government. Complete silence,” he said. “You cannot travel to the area where there’s fighting. Freedom of movement can also be suspended in places which the military determines [as unsafe].”

Lininding argued that the military were using the cover of martial law to suppress the rights of the local people.

“Why is martial law still in place? The fighting was settled almost a year ago,” he said. “Who are the enemies? Are we the enemies? We know that they want to suppress us, to instil fear among the people so we will turn a blind eye to whatever they’re doing. Because of the martial law, we can do so little. We cannot protest, we can only do so much on social media.”
Filipino soldiers next to damaged buildings in the ruined city of Marawi Photo: Merlyn Manos / EPA-EFE

Nor is it even clear how many innocent lives were lost during the street fighting, with initial reports of fewer than 300 Maute fighters slain rising to almost 1,000 when the fighting ended. With no reliable investigation into the number of dead, Lininding said, it was impossible to say just how many of the so-called terrorists killed in the assault had actually been members of Islamist groups.

“Until now, there is no clear data on how many civilians were killed at ground zero,” he said. “This is also a concern – some people are afraid to come forward and say, ‘My relative was lost in ground zero’ because the military might accuse their family or their loved ones of being Isis sympathisers or Isis members. We are being persecuted – and we can do so little.”

Perhaps most worrying is the perverse financial incentive that the outright war against Islamist terror – or Muslim independence – in Mindanao has created for the nation’s armed forces. Although the US has long supported the government’s counterterror operations in the Philippines’ restive south, the spectacle of a Philippine city under siege by Isis-linked militants has drawn increased financing for counterterror operations from as far afield as Singapore, Japan and Australia. Abuza said this surge in funding had created a moral hazard for a military already bloated by billions of dollars siphoned from international donors over the years – much of which was used mainly for personnel costs.

“They have no incentive to end the conflicts,” he said. “They are gravy trains. We need to ask very hard questions about corruption within the AFP. Where the hell did the Mautes and the Abu Sayyaf group get enough guns and ammunition for a five-month siege?”

Related reading:
Fighting claims lives of 44 Islamic State-affiliated fighters
UN warns martial law extension on Philippine island could worsen…
The ‘emir’ of Isis in Southeast Asia has been killed…

It is a question the Duterte administration cannot afford to ignore. Pointing to a series of recent skirmishes between the military and remnants of the Maute group, Abuza said he believed the war for Mawari was far from over.

“Marawi has once again put the Philippines at the centre of counterterrorism in Southeast Asia. It is the only place that militants can actually hold territory,” he said, adding that it was not yet clear whether the Middle East-based Islamic State was prepared to declare a formal caliphate-linked territory within Southeast Asia. “But it is clear that the militants in the region want it declared. To that end, foreign fighters will continue to make their way into the southern Philippines.”

Suspected BIFF member killed in clash with MILF in Maguindanao

From ABS-CBN (Oct 18): Suspected BIFF member killed in clash with MILF in Maguindanao

A suspected member of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) was killed in an encounter with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Barangay Pimbalakan, Mamasapano, Maguindanao on Thursday, the military said.

Authorities identified the fatality as a certain Saudi Sabang.

The firefight happened at 5 a.m. in Sitio Makalag while the MILF's Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces were conducting security operations in the area.
The gunbattle lasted for 6 hours before the BIFF withdrew to the town of Shariff Saydona Mustapha.

Major General Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Army's 6th Infantry Division, said MILF is determined to end terrorist activities in Central Mindanao.

BIFF is a breakaway group of MILF led by the late Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato.

He looked me in the eye and said we would die in the jungle

From ABS-CBN/ANCX (Oct 18): He looked me in the eye and said we would die in the jungle (By Ces Drilon)

Ten years ago, Ces Drilon, together with two ABS-CBN cameramen, were in Sulu to interview the controversial one-armed Abu Sayyaf leader Radulan Sahiron. But after many hours of walking to the Abu Sayyaf camp, they were told they have been kidnapped for ransom.

In this account the editor Carlo Tadiar asked her to write for the defunct publication Metro Him in 2008, the celebrated journalist recounts in great detail her 10 harrowing days in captivity, surviving the threat of being beheaded, and the arduous road to their release. But this piece is also about the two cameramen, Jimmy Encarnacion and Angel Valderama, who couldn't have been more dissimilar to the men who threatened their lives.

The mid-afternoon downpour had long stopped. But the man kept his camouflage raincoat on, with only the nose of his rifle jutting out. The rain did nothing to cool the air, so oppressive was the heat entrapped by the thick vegetation. I espied the man as he sat on the ground, the hood of the raincoat now hanging from his nape, his hair drenched with sweat. I wondered why he would not take his raincoat off. It was not until the following day that I got my answer. After I was told we were being held for ransom, I saw the man in the raincoat with only a T-shirt on and I realized he had only one arm.

He was Sulayman Patta. Commander Tek and Commander Harris were his aliases, I was to learn from the military, after our release. Among all our captors, he was the one I was to communicate with the most, having been assigned by the commander to relay his instructions to us. In the most frightening moment of our captivity, he looked at me with blazing eyes and told me that I and my team would die in the jungle.

Jimmy Encarnacion and Angel Valderama were members of my team for the coverage in Sulu. In the last two and a half years, they were my regular companions in my out-of-town coverages, which brought us to as far north as Ilocos Norte and as far south as Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. But this time, I was not to rely on them for our story to get to air in time for the evening news. I was to lean on them for our very survival. Jimmy and Angel were my protectors during our captivity. The respect they showed me was picked up by our captors who addressed me as “ma’am” as Jimmy and Angel did. The two would look after my welfare, even washing my soiled clothes for me. They had no recrimination for me, even if I had repeatedly asked them for forgiveness for bringing them into danger. In our darkest moment, Jimmy reached out for my hand and we prayed. Our quiet prayer gave me the strength and calmness I so desperately needed when all seemed so hopeless.

The man leading us is Sulayman Patta, who wore a camouflage raincoat, followed by the man we nicknamed Babyface because he used the toner with the brand RDL Baby Face Kalamansi. Babyface was very fastidious about his looks. He brushed and combed his hair all the time and sprayed himself with baby cologne. He also shampooed his hair regularly compared to other men. When we were walking to our freedom, and I complained that i was getting so sweaty, he sprayed me with his cologne.

All throughout our captivity, I marveled at our surroundings and how it was a stark contrast to the brutality of the men who had control over us. On our second day, I began to write a journal. And in one of my first entries, I wrote:

“During the day, when you gaze at the deep blue sky or at night as you look up to the darkness dotted with stars and a crescent moon, you wonder how the Sulu sky can shelter such cruelty.”

When I watched the sunset during the days of our captivity, I had to hold back my tears. It was my favorite time of day. When I admired the scenery, the men would mock me. It was very odd that the men did not appreciate their surroundings, especially when they claim the land as rightfully theirs. The contrast could not have also been starker between the band of armed men who held me and my news team. I was witness to the display of perverted masculinity among our captors, and yet in moments of utter hopelessness was uplifted by the quiet bravery of Jimmy and Angel.

This is me sitting on a hammock beneath our plastic roof, writing in my journal.

All throughout our nine nights in Sulu, I was surrounded by men. My only encounter with women was on the second day when we walked through a small community atop a mountain. I would look into their eyes as if begging for help, our kidnappers forbidding us from uttering a word. The few houses we saw became sparser and sparser as we moved deeper into the jungle. I always made sure I was never too far from Jimmy, Angel and Professor Octavio Dinampo, who arranged the interview with Radulan Sahiron, the reported new amir of the Abu Sayyaf Group. I had also learned through a source in the legislature, Sahiron, a former warrior of the MNLF who had joined the Abu Sayyaf, was sending surrender feelers to the Arroyo administration. The source had informed me Sahiron had written a letter to a top security official, exploring the possibility of laying down their arms. President Arroyo, in a meeting with several legislators from the south had reportedly given a Sulu congressman the go-ahead to initiate contact with Sahiron.

Throughout our ordeal, four to five armed men would be assigned to us as our closed-in guards, watching over us during the day. At night, one or two would always be on alert, taking turns to check on us. The group would make a list of assigned guards every hour as darkness enveloped our camp. In my journal, I wrote:

“I’ve always had a romanticized view of Sulu, that outlook was shattered today. What turned these young men into the monsters that they are? What went wrong? They laugh, chat and joke around like any other Pinoy male but they have a deep hatred and a warped sense of the Muslim struggle. My mistake was in being so naïve in hoping that the man I was to interview would present a different view of the Abu Sayyaf. I was wrong. Apparently the message never even got to him. Greed and hatred got in the way. If we are to believe the commander in charge, he just decided to form a team to kidnap us for ransom.”

This is our walk to freedom. We trekked for about six hours before we were released.

The Muslims’ quest for self-determination has been a running story I had been covering since I began my career as a journalist almost 25 years ago. I was present when the chief government negotiator under the newly installed Aquino government, Ambassador Emmanuel Pelaez, met with MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari for the first time in Sulu in 1987. In 2001, shortly after Gloria Arroyo assumed power, I had gone to Libya to cover the beginning of peace talks between the newly established Arroyo government and the MILF.

I had gone to the camps of the MNLF and the MILF and have seen their warriors brandishing their high powered firearms. But our captors whom I believed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf were of a different breed. Where I had been in search of an ideology, I had only found a lust for money.

A rendering of Abu Sayyaf's Sulayman Patta by CIDG.

It was not so much that they were men and I was the lone woman that kept me powerless and in fear. As a journalist who had dealt with men from various walks of life, gender was not a big issue for me. But these were men who used the barrel of the gun and their Islamic faith to get what they wanted: money. They did not perform any military drills during our time in the jungle but they were disciplined in practicing their faith. The men would lay down their arms to pray three times a day, spreading their plastic sacks on the muddy jungle floor. In the first days of our captivity, I had urged Professor Dinampo to join them in prayer, but he refused, saying he could not be with them who had a prostituted view of their faith. But as our stay in the mountains wore on, he had relented and the morning after Angel was released, he prayed with them at the crack of dawn.

The guns were not pointed at us all the time and in the end, not a single shot was fired, but we were always in fear, even when the men would crack jokes with Angel and Jimmy. On our third day, three young boys joined the group, one of whom told me he was 12. He bore an armalite while guarding me as I bathed in a spring. He said he never went to school, but he was old enough to carry a gun. I wondered as we returned to camp and as he sat in his hammock to watch over us if he really knew how to fire his weapon. Whenever the prospect of a lower ransom amount would be brought up as I spoke with my family, the men would regard us with contempt. They would pepper us with angry words, and the possibility that they would use their guns on us became very real. In one phone conversation I had with my sister Grech, she asked to speak to Commander Tek to tell him that our family could only afford P2M and to understand that ABS-CBN had a no ransom policy. One man remarked in the background, “Mag-umpisa na lang tayong magkuhay!” Alarmed, I had told my sister, “maybe we can borrow money from ABS-CBN.” The teenaged boys were particularly mean and would taunt and mock me. “Kawawa naman si ma’am, hindi nakikita ang mga anak niya." Kawawa naman si ma’am, they would recite in their high-pitched voices, over and over like a nursery rhyme. I was angered by them at first, and at one point, scolded one of them for their lack of respect; they were only as young as my sons. But then I realized, who could blame them with such men as their role models? As we walked to our freedom on our last day, I had urged a 17-year old boy, whom I had admired for his cooking skills, to go to school. His reply to me was, “No, I don’t want, I might even become an engineer.” These boys were convinced, bearing arms and fighting was the right path to take. His response broke my heart.

Our last camp prior to our being released. Leftmost is Prof. Dinampo, then Sulayman, then a man who introduced himself to Jimmy as "Brain Damage."

The fourth day

June 11 was our fourth day in captivity. It was my dad’s birthday. As a Lt. Colonel in the Philippine Army, it was he who had made places like Patikul, Maimbung and Jolo familiar to me. They were just postal addresses in his letters to me when I was in high school, when he served as a battalion commander in the south. But as a journalist and perhaps because of him, Sulu had a particular draw for me. My father had passed away in a helicopter crash fifteen years ago, but I could feel his presence in the depths of Sulu. I thought, this was a place where he had survived an ambush once, and in moments of despair I called on my father’s spirit for survival. Early in the day, as the Commander handed me my phone to call my family, I read a text my mother had sent, “Your release on your dad’s birthday will be his most beautiful gift to us.”

But it was not to be.

It was mid afternoon of that day when all the guns were pointed at us for the very first time. The men went berserk when I got off the phone with Vice Governor Lady Anne Sahidula. She had told me that all my family could afford to pay was P2M; the group was demanding P20M. Commander Tek, the one-armed man, was raving mad. When the phone was grabbed from me, he looked me in the eye and said we would die in the jungle. “Sanay naman kaming mabuhay sa gubat. Kaya naming mabuhay dito. Kayo mamamatay na lang kayo dito!” Jimmy's video camera was taken down from the camp. The men said they would just set fire to it. “Ang camera na ito ipapanggatong na lang namin!”

As I returned to my hammock, Jimmy said to me, “Ma’am ang mga baril nila nakatutuk lahat sa atin.” I was to afraid to look so I said to him, “Magdasal na lang tayo.” I began to pray the rosary, using my fingers to count my Hail Marys. Jimmy reached for my hand and we prayed quietly together. Before this, he whispered he had secretly taken footage of the camp we had just moved to. I realized that not only did we have to contend with the rage of the armed men over the ransom, we feared the footage may be discovered. Then my heart jumped when the men grabbed Jimmy and Angel, forcing them to kneel on the mud, tying their hands behind their back.

“Two million lang! Two million lang! Mababawasan pa yon!” one of our guards told Jimmy.

“Kailangan mag-ultimatum na tayo!” said Commander Tek.

If the full amount was not received by Indanan Mayor Alvarez Isnaji (the person they had chosen to receive the money for them) by 2 p.m. the following day, the men told us, Angel would be beheaded while Jimmy would film it with his video camera. “Ikaw Jimmy kukunan mo ang pagpugot ng ulo ni Angel, live!”

As for me, I was told to put makeup on. “Make-up ka nang make-up. Mag-make-up ka nang mabuti, para pag na-LBC ang ulo mo sa ABS-CBN, maganda ka!”

My line to my family was initially through my sister Grech, but later it was through my brother, Frank. His voice was always reassuring, calm and sober. I recall my voice breaking when he told me to be strong after I asked him to update all my insurance payments, “Remember, positive thinking,” he said. “Hang on, hang on. We’re doing everything we can.” I said sorry to him in another phone call and I was close to tears, “Don’t be sorry, don’t be. Everybody’s behind you here.”

But contact with my family was abruptly shut off when the crisis committee composed of ABS-CBN news executives, members of my family included, decided I should communicate solely with Vice Governor Sahidula. When I informed Frank about the ultimatum on Angel, it was to be our last conversation. The line was cut. It became the supreme test of faith for me. When I would try to call Charie Villa, my direct superior at the ABS-CBN newsroom, my call would be rejected. Grech’s phone was shut. There had to be a good reason, I explained to Jimmy and Angel. “May magandang dahilan kung bakit gano'n, hindi lang natin alam," I told them, "Huwag na tayong maghaka-haka pa, baka ma-depress lang tayo.” I discouraged any speculation. I told them we should not lose faith. We resolved to boost each other’s spirits. We agreed that if one is down, the others should cheer that person up. They were more than up to the challenge. I can only imagine the fear and the doubts running in their heads.

The possibility of rape
Our captors never laid a hand on me, until the eighth night of our captivity when I was roused from sleep in my hammock and my hands were bound in rope that they used to tie our plastic tents. And on our last day, I was slapped twice while talking on the phone to Senator Loren Legarda. The sound of the slap stunned me, but when the shock ebbed, I wondered why I didn’t feel any pain. Still, their brute force was palpable, even when they would lovingly clean their weapons in the morning before they would even have breakfast.

Jimmy Encarnacion and Angel Valderama as they appeared in the Metro Him feature. They were photographed by Milo Sogueco.

A number of the men wore their hair long. They had sachets of shampoo and hair conditioner with them. One proudly proclaimed he had a popular brand and gave me a sachet, the first time I bathed. The younger ones had toners and cotton to clean their face and keep acne away. We nicknamed one of the men “Babyface” because of his use of a particular brand called RDL Babyface toner. On the first day of our captivity, someone had taken the bronzer from my bag. On our last day, before we began our long walk to our freedom, the men had taken my cologne, pressed powder and make-up pouch. I was amazed that even in the depths of the jungle, the men would gaze at themselves in the mirror, cleaning their acne with toner and brushing their hair to a sheen.

The possibility of rape was a fear that hung heavy in the air for me. I never betrayed my anxiety to Jimmy and Angel. But the night Angel was freed, Commander Tek had hung his hammock so close to mine.

I had asked Professor Dinampo to speak to him as a fellow Tausug to keep a distance from me but he didn’t. In his testimony before the preliminary investigation on the case against the Isnajis, Professor Dinampo said that aside from the ultimatum on Angel, he overheard the men say they would rape me. It was the first time I had heard this from the Professor and my heart sank to the pit of my stomach. The Professor told the prosecution panel he kept it from me for fear I would become hysterical. That night in the jungle, when I heard the commander’s soft breathing as he fell asleep, I thought of reaching out for a bolo to slit his throat.

But survival was still primordial and I let the thought pass. It was not until the men who escorted Angel came back in a jubilant mood past midnight that they called the attention of Commander Tek, noting the closeness of our hammocks. They spoke in Tausug. After the exchange, the one-armed commander moved his hammock some distance from mine. The men had received part of the ransom then and were perhaps in a celebratory mood. Thoughts of rape were set aside.

The following day, Commander Tek teased me saying the men were jealous of him. “Nagseselos si Commander sa akin, ma’am,” referring to one man who always held my cellphone and the leader of the group that escorted Angel out of the camp. I ignored his comments. One time, one of the guards called my attention. I had folded my jeans below my knees to keep it from getting muddied up. The guard said such display was not allowed by the Muslim faith. “Ibaba mo ang pantalon mo, bawal yan sa aming mga Muslim.”

“Ayaw ko ding ipakita ang legs ko,” I told him as I rolled down my pants. I had to struggle to hide my revulsion.

With Prof. Dinampo

On the side of the authorities, there was Police Superintendent Winnie Quidato, the acting Chief of the Intelligence Division of the PNP-Intelligence Group and Marine General Juancho Sabban, head of Task Force Comet in Sulu. PSupt Quidato was just a voice on the phone for me at first. He introduced himself to me as an official of the DILG helping to secure our release. He had posed as a DILG official to monitor the movements of Mayor Isnaji and his son Jun, who was the initial contact of our kidnappers. It was his revelations after our release that convinced me that the father and son were not mere negotiators but were most likely co-conspirators of the group that held us.

On the morning we were released, the Isnajis were announcing the ultimatum had been lifted, as if they had complete control of the kidnappers. And yet up to the two o’clock deadline, Jimmy was threatened with being beheaded and I was being slapped. The revelation came as a shock to me.

General Sabban was a frequent contact in my various coverages in the south. He was beside me on our flight to freedom in the wee hours of the morning of June 18. He had picked us up from Mayor Isnaji’s residence shortly after our release. Upon seeing him, I apologized for not telling him I was in Sulu. Prior to my coverage, I had mulled telling him in confidence about my possible interview with Sahiron, but I had ditched the idea, planning to call him only after. I had thought confidentiality was of utmost importance for our safety. As a journalist, protecting one’s sources was primordial. But there was no need to say sorry; I believed he understood. I told him in the end, as I resigned my fate to God, I was hoping for his rescue mission. A text I had sent out to my family and ABS-CBN had apparently reached him, when about ten men left camp after Angel’s release, “Ten men left, and only about twelve men here. Now is the time to go delta.” Delta was my code for a rescue mission. He laughingly told me even President Arroyo had been informed about the message. Sabban’s men have since caught three suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf, one of whom had been caught on the video taken surreptitiously by Jimmy.

Jimmy’s video camera was kept in a plastic sack bag, but he had outwitted our captors. He told them he had to keep one side open so as not to trap the moisture inside. Jimmy had also told them the camera had to be cleaned and switched on daily and this was when he took video of them. In one moment of desperation, he confessed to me of being tempted to grab a gun from one of our young guards who kept watch while he bathed. But he said while he could have escaped, it would have put Angel and me in jeopardy. We were a team and we looked out for each other. No one’s interest was put above the others. It was vital for our survival. To be a real man does not mean having a gun and exercising dominance over the weak and defenseless; to be a real man is to show courage in the most trying and desperate of times.

During our ordeal, when death seemed imminent, my thoughts had turned to my sons, and I had scribbled a poem for them in my journal. They had endured my long hours in the field, when I would cancel family outings to hop on a plane at a moment’s notice to cover a breaking news story. I had just returned from a vacation in Los Angeles where one of my sons was taking college. We had just visited Disneyland, where they teased me no end for being too scared to enter one of its most popular attractions, the haunted house, when I would cover the most dangerous spots in the country for my news reports.

“It was a haunted house of make believe
And yet I was afraid to enter
And here I am deep in the lair of the Abu Sayyaf
That I so heedlessly sought admission
I open my eyes in the darkness
And in between the trees
Imagine figures floating, fleeting, watching
But all I make out in the darkness
Are the heavy steps that break the silence
And the guard opens his light on me and says
“ma’am, tulog ka ba?”
And for a second my hair rises on end
And I shiver in fear
How I wish
I had stepped in the haunted house of make believe my sons
Screaming in fright to your delight
My sons, I can’t wait
We will still do it someday"
Video grabs courtesy of ABS-CBN News
This story first appeared in Metro Him Magazine September - October 2008.