Wednesday, November 7, 2018

NDFP peace consultant Vic Ladlad arrested

From GMA News (Nov 8): NDFP peace consultant Vic Ladlad arrested

A National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant was arrested early Thursday morning, the spokesperson for the Philippine National Police said.

In a text message, Senior Superintendent Benigno Durana confirmed to GMA News Online the arrest of activist Vic Ladlad. Ladlad will be presented at the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) headquarters this morning.

Citing reports, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general Renato Reyes said Ladlad was accused of illegal possession of firearms and explosives, adding that two senior citizens with medical conditions were with the NDFP consultant when he was nabbed in Barangay San Bartolome, Novaliches in Quezon City.

"What would the three of them be doing with firearms and explosives? The evidence are obviously planted and are only meant to justify his indefinite detention," he said.

Reyes denounced Ladlad's arrest, saying that it was again an attack against the suspended peace negotiations between the government and communist groups.

"This is again an attack on the peace talks, dimming any hope for its resumption. The recent arrests of peace consultants such as Ladlad, Rafael Baylosis and Adel Silva tells us that the Duterte government is more interested in a military solution rather than a political solution to the roots of the armed conflict," Reyes said in a statement.

"Serious peace negotiations and existing agreements are being set aside in favor of political persecution and fascist measures," Reyes added.

For its part, human rights group Karapatan said Ladlad's arrest highlights the "climate of impunity" in the country.

"Kami po ay nangangamba na dahil dito sa palalang sitwasyon, with the recent arrest of NDFP consultant Vic Ladlad, nagpapatunay lamang ito na nagpapatuloy ang klima ng impunity sa ating bansa,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay in an interview on Dobol B sa News TV.

"Yung pagkaka-aresto po ni Ladlad ay tinuturing po naming paglabag sa Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees," she added.

Under JASIG, NDFP consultants are afforded immunity from "surveillance, harassment, search, arrest, detention, prosecution and interrogation or any other similar punitive actions" due to their involvement in the peace talks.

Palubay said the agreement is still in effect until it is revoked by both the government and the NDFP.

NDF consultant Vic Ladlad arrested for illegal possession of firearms

From Rappler (Nov 8): NDF consultant Vic Ladlad arrested for illegal possession of firearms

Vicente Ladlad's wife claims the guns and ammunition were planted

MANILA, Philippines – Vicente Ladlad, a consultant of the National Democratic Front (NDF), was arrested on Thursday, November 8, for alleged illegal possession of firearms.

According to the police report, a joint team of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) raided the house where Ladlad was staying in Barangay San Bartolome in Novaliches, Quezon City.

Two others, identified by cops as Ladlad's staff members, were also taken under police custody.

The raiding team said they recovered various rifles, pistols, ammunition, and grenades from Ladlad and his companions.

They were turned over to the Quezon City Police District at around 6 am on Thursday.

In an interview inside Camp Bagong Diwa, Ladlad's wife Fides said her husband was innocent. She claimed that the firearms were planted as part of the government's crackdown on communists since the peace talks with communist rebels bogged down under President Rodrigo Duterte.

The NDF is the political arm of the Communist Party of the Phiilippines.

Military’s hand seen in ‘Lumad’ schools closure

From the often pro-Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) online publication the Davao Today (Nov  7): Military’s hand seen in ‘Lumad’ schools closure

DAVAO CITY , Philippines — A group managing lumad schools in Davao del Norte said that the military here has a direct hand harassing volunteer teachers as well as threatening the closure of lumad schools.

Meggie Nolasco, executive director of Salugpongan Ta’tanu Igkanogon Community learning Center, named the Army’s 56th Infantry Battalion as the unseen hand in the latest string of harassment incidents which she claimed to sow terror and disrupted the schooling of lumad children in the hinterlands of Talaingod town.

LTC Ezra Balagtey, spokesperson of the Eastern Mindanao Command, belied Nolasco’s claim that they were behind the campaign to shut down the lumad schools in Davao region.

“The Department of Education has the regulatory function to close schools and not within the military purview. Eastern Mindanao Command believes in the importance of education as part of building blocks of peace particularly IP Education,” Balagtey said.

He added that the military has partnered with philanthropic organizations and other government agencies to build schools in various IP communities under the government’s “Build Lumad Schools” programs in Talaingod, Davao Del Norte.

The “Build Lumad Schools” project, according to Balagtey, is being implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the local government of Talaingod, and the Army’s 56th Infantry Battalion, and 52nd Engineering Brigade.

But Nolasco said the military is using tribal leaders to forcibly evict those who run the lumad schools including issuing grave threats against the school children and volunteer teachers.

She said threats instigated by the military come in various forms. For instance, in Tubucag campus, soldiers have encamped inside the school while in Dulyan, the military forced the parents of lumad school children to either surrender as rebels or pullout their children from the school.

In Nasilaban, soldiers have threated the community members to prove that they are on the side of the government by “forcing the village leaders to sign a letter of request for the lumad school’s closure ,” she added.

“The military has used this tactic of dividing the Lumad and force them in their aims to close down our schools. They use red-baiting, intimidation and disinformation in this counter-insurgency campaign but this is far from the truth,” Nolasco said.

In Davao region, there are 21 Salugpongan Ta’tanu Igkanogon Community learning Centers that were given permits to operate by the Department of Education (DepEd)

Of the 21 lumad schools, according to Nolasco, only 18 are currently operating (2 high schools, 11 elementary schools and 5 pre-schools) because of the constant threats that hamper the operation of these schools.

Back in Oct. 25, six soldiers from the Army’s 56th Infantry Battalion along with Datu Eli and DatuMoru, both tribal leaders from Nasilaban and Dulyan, informed them of their plan to close the STTICLI as they plan to establish a new school with new teachers.

Nolasco denounced the military for using Alamara-backed tribal leaders to pursue the closures of the lumad schools in Talaingod.

“These Datus, led by Datu Eli and DatuMorus, gave an ultimatum for the teachers to close the school and leave in one week,” she said.

Nolasco argued that lumad schools in Talaingod were recognized by DepEd and satisfactorily complied the requirements for these schools to continuously operate within the bounds of the law.

“There is synergy among the DepEd, school administration and PTCA to make sure that the school operates well and that it serves the interests of the community. As long as these requirements are met, the schools integrity remains intact,” she said.

She added the military’s intervention was meant “to foil the dreams of the lumad” as the government wants to pursue their so-called “development projects” by bringing in plantations and mining operations perceived to be detrimental to the interests of the lumad of Talaingod.

The education that STTICLC offers to the lumad in Talaingod is free, Nolasco stressed, adding that it also taught the lumad “to defend themselves against those who intend to devastate the ancestral domains and rob them of their right to self-determination.”

“The AFP should stop their ploy of recruiting and arming the paramilitary Alamara, and using Lumad leaders to pit against fellow Lumad in Talaingod,” she said.

Wounded soldier awarded in Nueva Ecija

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 7): Wounded soldier awarded in Nueva Ecija

FORT MAGSAYSAY, Nueva Ecija -- Pfc. Dennis D. Tara of the 91st Infantry Battalion (91IB) of the Philippine Army (PA) was awarded the Wounded Personnel Medal on Wednesday at the Fort Ramon Magsaysay Army Station Hospital (FMASH) here.

Maj. Gen. Felimon T. Santos, Jr., commander of 7th Infantry Division (7ID), personally pinned the medal on Tara, who was commended for his bravery and for exemplifying Filipino soldiery at its best.

Tara was hurt in an encounter between the 91IB and a rebel group last Nov. 1 in Barangay Malbang, Pantabangan, this province.

Despite being wounded, he did not back down and continued to provide fire support to his team until the enemy retreated.

After the firefight, Tara was immediately given first aid before he was transported to the FMASH where he is currently recovering.

Suspected NPAs tagged in village cop's slay

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 7): Suspected NPAs tagged in village cop's slay

Police investigators are looking at the possible involvement of members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the shooting to death of a barangay tanod (village watchman) in Barangay Mantiquil, Siaton town in south Negros Oriental.

An initial police report from Supt. Kat Ramos of the Negros Oriental Provincial Police Office (NORPPO) identified the victim as Diosdado Garson Estrabela, 62, of Sitio Quadra in Barangay Mantiquil.

Investigation showed that at around 6 a.m. Tuesday, the victim was at a farmland near his house when several bursts of what appeared to be gunfire were heard, according to his daughter.

The body of the victim was found at the crime scene, riddled with multiple gunshot wounds.

Estrabela's daughter told the police she saw the suspects walk away from the crime scene.

The suspects were three unidentified male persons wearing camouflaged pants, carrying long firearms, and believed to be NPA members, the police report said.

The authorities are still looking into the motive for the killing of the barangay tanod.

AFP chief vows more support for elite naval group

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 7): AFP chief vows more support for elite naval group

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Carlito Galvez. Jr. vowed to extend all possible support to the Naval Special Operation Group (NAVSOG) as parts of efforts to achieve peace.

“Rest assured that the AFP leadership will continue to support the NAVSOG and all units of the AFP as we work together to win the peace, preserve our way of life, and secure our country’s future,” Galvez said in his speech during the 62nd founding anniversary of NAVSOG on Tuesday.

The event took place at NAVSOG headquarters at Naval Base Cavite, Sangley Point, Cavite City.

The unit is considered one of the elite fighting forces of the AFP. Prior to the activity, arrival honors were accorded to the AFP chief followed by his conferment of Honorary SEAL Rites.

Historically, the NAVSOG traces its origin from the former Philippine Underwater Operations Team that was first established on Nov. 5, 1956 and pattered after the US UOT.

The team was composed of one officer and six enlisted personnel. The pioneer members of the team were called "frogmen" as they can operate in both land and water.

After years of improvement, UOT expanded its scope and core competencies, which includes all facets of special operations and unconventional warfare capabilities presently known as Naval Special Operations Group.

“Whether in the sea, air, and land (SEAL), the nation and our countrymen can very much depend on the mighty Navy SEALS in protecting the people and securing the State. To be welcomed as a member of such a vaunted force is indeed an honor, and I am privileged to join the ranks of honorary members of much distinction such as former DND Secretary Gilberto Teodoro and former AFP Chiefs of Staff Generals Alexander Yano, Ricardo David Jr., Emmanuel Bautista, and Rey Leonardo Guerrero,” Galvez said.

As one of the primary forces of the Philippine Navy and a vital component of the AFP’s Special Operations Force, NAVSOG performs varied and crucial roles in the realm of special operations, which include direct action missions, demolition raids, target assault, maritime sniper operations, gas and oil platform recovery and high risk visit board search-and-seizure operations.

“For the past years, these expertise and experience were instrumental in winning against our enemies, particularly in the series of operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group in different areas of the country,” the AFP chief added.

PH, Japan ink exchange of notes on defense, MRT3 rehab

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 7): PH, Japan ink exchange of notes on defense, MRT3 rehab

Photo courtesy of DFA Office of Public Diplomacy

The Philippines and Japan on Wednesday signed exchange of notes for two official development assistance (ODA) projects geared towards rehabilitating the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 and enhancing defense.

On Tokyo's grant aid for Philippine defense enhancement, Japan will be allotting some ¥10.68 billion or at least PHP5 billion-worth of spare parts and maintenance equipment of UH-1H helicopters to the Philippine Air Force (PAF) consisting of the following categories: airframe structure; dynamic power system, control system; rotor system; hydraulic system; electrical system; instrument system; accessory equipment; and others.

The UH-1H helicopters are used in the PAF’s activities related to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, transport, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

On the country's mass transport system, Japan's grant aid involves a ¥38-billion (around PHP17.79 billion) worth loan for the MRT3's complete rehabilitation.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Koji Haneda signed the Exchange of Notes at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Pasay City.

In his speech, Locsin noted how Japan has supported the Philippines’ development objectives.

“Throughout the years, Japan has vigorously and unfailingly supported the priorities of the Philippine government for the well-being of the Filipino people -- and through economic and development assistance as well as in enhancing our defense and security capabilities. It is help that has no agenda but friendship, decency, and a deep and abiding regard, as much for the safety and well-being of neighbors, as for oneself,” Locsin said.

“This is why we have elevated our relationship with Japan to a strategic partnership. Today’s Exchange of Notes affirms this ever-growing, mutually beneficial and gratifying relationship between our two countries and our two peoples,” he added.

Haneda, meanwhile, reflected on the successes of Philippine-Japan partnership, and how it remains to be committed to its “joint work”.

“With the signing of these two projects, let me assure you that we do not only mark our commitments on paper, we also pledge our all-out efforts in bringing these projects into successful completion,” Haneda said.

The exchanges of notes were witnessed by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorezana, Transportation Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John Batan, Finance Undersecretary for the International Finance Group lawyer Mark Dennis Joven, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)-Tokyo Senior Vice President Yasushi Tanaka, JICA-Philippines Chief Representative Yoshio Wada and officials from the DFA, the Departments of Finance, Transportation, and National Defense, the Japanese embassy and JICA.

Japan is the Philippines’ top ODA partner and has contributed significantly to the country’s development and capacity building measures in areas that include infrastructure, security, health, trade, tourism, human resources, agriculture, education, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, among many others.

The two countries celebrated the 60th anniversary of the normalization of their diplomatic relations in 2016.

8 Air Force attack helicopters to undergo maintenance

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 7): 8 Air Force attack helicopters to undergo maintenance

The military, through the Philippine Air Force (PAF) Bids and Awards Committee, is allocating PHP80.75 million for the acquisition of spare parts needed for the scheduled maintenance of its eight AgustaWestland AW-109 attack helicopters.

The parts are intended for AW-109 attack helicopters with tail numbers 815, 816, 819, 820, 821, 822, 823 and 824. Pre-bid conference is slated for Nov. 9, 9 a.m., at the PAF Center Conference Room, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City while submission and opening of bids is on Nov. 21, 9:15 a.m., at the same venue.

"The Philippine Air Force reserves the right to reject any and all bids, declare a failure of bidding, or not award the contract at any time prior to contract award in accordance with Section 41 of RA 9184 and its IRR, without thereby incurring any liability to the affected bidder or bidders," PAF Bids and Awards Committee chair, Brig. Gen. Ferynl Buca said the bid bulletin is posted at the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System.

The first two PAF attack AW-109s were commissioned last Aug. 17, 2015 while the remaining six were formally accepted for PAF service on Dec. 5 of that year.

The Philippines signed an eight-unit attack AW-109E order with AgustaWestland in 2013 for PHP3.44 billion.

PH Navy SEALs role against Abu Sayyaf hailed

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 7): PH Navy SEALs role against Abu Sayyaf hailed

AFP chief Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. speaks before members of the Naval Special Operations Group, during the military unit’s anniversary on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. PHILIPPINE NAVY PHOTO

The Armed Forces chief lauded on Tuesday the Naval Special Operations Group (NAVSOG) for its role against the state’s enemies.

The Navy’s NAVSOG served as the first line of defense at Lake Lanao when ISIS-linked terrorists attacked Marawi in 2017.

General Carlito Galvez Jr. cited the capabilities and competence of the unit, which is considered the country’s version of the US Navy SEALS.

“Your core competence makes you stand among the others,” Galvez said during NAVSOG’s anniversary rites at Sangley Point in Cavite.

“You are highly capable of conducting direct action missions, demolition raids, target assault, maritime sniper operations, gas and oil platform recovery and high-risk visit board search and seizure operations,” Galvez noted.

These skills have served the military well in its campaign against rebels and terrorists, he said.

“For the past years, this expertise and experience were instrumental in winning against our enemies,” said the AFP chief. He cited the operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group in different areas of the country.

NAVSOG later named Galvez, who was guest of honor and speaker at the event, as an honorary SEAL member.

“To be welcomed as a member of such a vaunted force is indeed an honor,” Galvez said.

He took pride in joining other honorary members like former DND Secretary Gilberto Teodoro and former AFP Chiefs of Staff Generals Alexander Yano, Ricardo David Jr., Emmanuel Bautista, and Rey Leonardo Guerrero.

Philippines: 100 foreign fighters joined ISIS in Mindanao since the Marawi battle

From the Defense Post (Nov 7): Philippines: 100 foreign fighters joined ISIS in Mindanao since the Marawi battle

Foreign fighters from 16 countries have traveled to Mindanao and joined Islamic State East Asia affiliate groups

ISIS militants with captured armored vehicles in Marawi, the Philippines. Image: @Terror_Monitor/Twitter

Foreign militants continue to flow into the southern Philippines, with more than 100 entering Mindanao since the end of the battle of Marawi, a Philippine terrorism expert told The Defense Post.

A year after Marawi city was recaptured from the clutches of militants, the southern Philippines remains an attractive destination for foreign fighters, and neighboring nations remain concerned that many issues relating to their citizens who were killed in the five-month battle have yet to be resolved.

More than 1,200 people, including around 900 militants, were killed in the battle that erupted on May 23, 2017 after Islamic State-affiliated groups took control of the city. Marawi was reduced to an utter ruin in five months of clashes between the Philippine security forces and militant groups, the country’s worst urban conflict.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who announced the official conclusion of the battle on October 23, 2017, later vowed not to let such an endeavor by militants happen again.

Last week, The Defense Post exclusively reported that the Armed Forces of the Philippines had identified 32 foreign fighters among militants killed in Marawi. At least two of those appeared to be children.

But a Philippine terrorism expert said the security situation is not getting better as foreign militants continue to stream into Mindanao, the country’s largest southern island.

“Since the liberation of Marawi until now, some 100 foreign fighters have entered Mindanao,” Chairman of the Board of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research Professor Rommel Banlaoi told The Defense Post, citing information he received from Philippine security and defense agencies.

“They have come to Mindanao to join several ISIS-affiliated groups,” Banlaoi said.

Most of the militants are from neighboring Indonesia and Malaysia, but there are also people from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Morocco, Spain, France, Tunisia, Iraq, Somalia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Pakistan, Bangladesh and China, he said.

“At least 60 of them have been identified by the Philippine authorities, and about 30 more [remain] unidentified,” Banlaoi said. “They often pretended to be tourists, businessmen, students and foreign workers.”

“Some who used the airports did not reach Mindanao,” said Banlaoi, who is also president of the Philippine Center for Intelligence and National Security Studies. “More than 10 of them were arrested, denied entry and deported mainly from the Manila and Clark international airports. Some are currently being detained. Others were able to proceed to Mindanao.”

Banlaoi said he cannot yet discern patterns in the new arrivals.

“I don’t have the basis to say whether the arrivals are steady, increasing or decreasing because much information about arrivals is not reported, monitored or discovered,” he said.

“All I can say is that the arrival of foreign fighters to southern Philippines continues despite arrests, detentions and deportations of others by the Philippine law enforcement authorities.”

This new figure of foreign fighter arrivals is around double the 48 the military estimated were in the country in January, when Major General Fernando Trinidad, then the Philippine military’s deputy chief of staff of intelligence, said foreigners were actively taking part in the training of terrorist recruits in Mindanao.

Trinidad claimed that 15 foreign fighters from Malaysia and Indonesia entered Mindanao in November last year, moving to Sarangani province to help the Maute group, one of the Philippine jihadist groups that is now part of Islamic State East Asia.

He said another 16 Indonesian militants had entered Mindanao to provide assistance and training to the ISEA-affiliate Abu Sayyaf group in Basilan and the Maute group in Lanao del Sur province.

Both groups were involved in the five-month battle with troops in Marawi city.

Banlaoi said local terrorist fighters welcome the foreigners because they provide funds and training, although they can learn from each other.

“The foreign militants also strengthen the global network of the local terrorists,” he said.

American University terrorism researcher Munira Mustaffa said people still go to Mindanao because they feel compelled to do so and feel the need to fulfil the group’s ambition and so-called prophecy.

“That the actual fighting is still ongoing presently in Mindanao gives them a sense of purpose, as opposed to Malaysia and Indonesia, where it’s just urban plotting,” Malaysian Munira told The Defense Post.

“I think having a guerilla-style siege in an urban setting such as Kuala Lumpur is not doable, considering the conditions i.e. the politics and security apparatus’ efficiency. In terms of proximity, it’s a lot easier and more convenient for them to reach Mindanao through various points and means.”

Sidney Jones, director at the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, believes care has to be taken with information from the AFP such as the number of newly arrived foreign fighters.

“This is especially when there isn’t a single concrete case of a foreign fighter who has arrived in the last few months,” Jones told The Defense Post.

“In August, there was a posting on ISIS media showing a camp of the Sawadjans in Sulu with fighters who were clearly foreign with one of them looking South Asian, but we don’t know when the photo was taken,” she said, referring to a family which leads an Abu Sayyaf faction.
Concerns over veteran militants entering the Philippines

International Islamic University of Malaysia deradicalization expert Ahmad el-Muhammady said it is important to determine whether the fresh arrivals are experienced fighters.

“Veterans especially from conflict areas like in Syria are capable of sharing their hard-learned skills such as making improvised bombs,” el-Muhammady, who is also an advisor to the Malaysian government, told The Defense Post. “It only takes one such an expert to bolster a terror group.”

“He can train more militants to become bomb makers, who in turn can pass on their knowledge yet to others. Bomb-making skills are the hardest to acquire. It’s a matter of life and death just to learn them, what more to share and actually use them.”

Terrorism analyst Pawel Wójcik said the non-Southeast Asian new fighters who made it to ISIS-affiliated groups across the southern Philippines are more likely to be inexperienced as they have been following the ‘hijra route’ that comes with the newly established ISEA wilayat, or province.

“Most of the experienced ones will be the regional fighters, from Malaysia and Indonesia, as usually they possess an actual militant past, connected to al-Qaeda or ISIS-aligned cells, with bomb-making capabilities and ideological backgrounds,” Wójcik told The Defense Post.

“Some are former [Indonesian terror group] Jemaah Islamiyah members, learning from the bomb-makers belonging to the al-Qaeda entity that has fought in Afghanistan and other theaters, but most obtained the skills by collaboration with the Abu Sayyaf or from ISIS-affiliated teams in Indonesia, especially in Poso (in Sulawesi, Indonesia], where the MIT [Mujahidin Indonesia Timur] has been operating.”

Wójcik said there also is the threat of returning fighters with skills from ISIS Central that would hugely improve the capabilities of the new ISEA wilayat.

“Also, some know-how sharing has already occured, as we witnessed in the Indonesian bombings in the recent two years, where IS affiliates used the kind of improvised bombs used in the Middle East,” he said.

Wójcik was referring to the bombings that included the latest ones in Surabaya, Indonesia in May in which 28 people including suicide bombers, who had used improvised explosive devices, were killed.
Old problems remain unresolved
The Philippines is now facing the issue of newly arrived fighters in addition to an earlier problem: many foreign fighters from the Marawi battle are still unaccounted for.

This writer reported for Free Malaysia Today last year that some 80 foreign fighters, mainly from Indonesia and Malaysia, were involved in the Marawi clashes.

Wójcik pointed out in that report that Western madia had mistaken “foreign fighters” in Marawi as those from Europe and the Arab world. Most of the foreign fighters in the Marawi war were from Indonesia and Malaysia, which Wójcik calls “regional fighters.”

The Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium was also quoted in the report as saying that it believed more than 30 Malaysian fighters had been in Marawi, accounting for almost half the total figure of foreign terrorists.

TRAC said the figure was based on their monitoring of chatter on ISIS-related communication channels.

The Defense Post reported in September that this year had seen previously unprecedented attempts by Europeans trying to join ISIS in the Philippines, with some successfully making the journey. Although only a handful of Europeans have succeeded, the risk that this is the beginning of a larger trend should be a concern for the Philippines, nearby nations, and Europe.

El-Muhammady told The Defense Post the information that fresh foreign terrorists from Europe, the Arab world and the Southeast Asian region underlines the need for a better counterterrorism cooperation between Asean nations and their European and Arab counterparts.

NPA clears slain cop in Dipolog buy-bust

From Panay News (Nov 8): NPA clears slain cop in Dipolog buy-bust

A police investigator inspects the site where Superintendent Santiago Ylanan Rapiz, a resident of Bacolod City, was killed in a shootout with operatives of the Philippine National Police’s Counter Intelligence Task Force and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency on Nov. 5, 2018 in Dipolog City. PHOTO FROM POLICE REGIONAL OFFICE-9 PIO
BACOLOD City – The New People’s Army (NPA) has condemned the killing of Superintendent Santiago Ylanan Rapiz in a buy-bust operation in Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte, calling on the Philippine National Police (PNP) for a swift investigation into the incident.

NPA Leonardo Panaligan Command spokesperson Ka JB Regalado said, based on their knowledge, Rapiz had not had any criminal record in Negros, and was not involved in the sale or use of illegal drugs.

Regalado said Rapiz was known to them as an athletic and soft-spoken police officer with a proven track record in the service.

The NPA believed Rapiz’s reassignment was manipulated by high-ranking police officials who have links to drug syndicates in Negros Occidental.

It similarly dismissed claims that Rapiz was a “narco cop” as tagged by President Rodrigo Duterte, further explaining that the slain police officer was “a thorn” to the side of Negros’ crime syndicates.

“Rapiz only became a part of the 13,000 victims of ‘Oplan Tokhang’ under the Duterte regime,” Regalado added.

On Monday evening, Rapiz was killed during a drug buy-bust operation conducted by the police’s Counter Intelligence Task Force (CITF) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) inside a school campus in Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte.

Rapiz, 54, was a resident Barangay Taculing in Bacolod City. He was one of seven police officers relieved and reassigned to Police Regional Office 9 for allegedly being “drug protectors” according to an affidavit by Berya drug group bagman Ricky Sereno.

Rapiz formerly held the position of police chief in Escalante City, Cadiz City, as well as being an ex-chief of Police Community Relation (PCR) in the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office and Bacolod City Police Office.

Chief Inspector Joseph Ortega, Dipolog police head, said Rapiz was playing basketball in the gymnasium of Andres Bonifacio College in Barangay Miputak, Dipolog City when he went out to meet the “poseur-buyer” at 7:40 p.m. Monday.

However, after receiving P50,000 in marked money for the suspected “shabu,” Rapiz reportedly sensed the authorities and quickly ran to the side of the gym while firing his pistol.

Ortega said the CITF and PDEA operatives fired back, hitting Rapiz. The police officer was declared dead upon arriving at Dipolog’s Corazon Aquino Memorial Hospital.

NPA: Probe Zamboanga police officer’s killing

From the Manila Times (Nov 8): NPA: Probe Zamboanga police officer’s killing

The Leonardo Panaligan Command (LPC) of the New People’s Army (NPA) has called for an inquiry into the killing of Supt. Santiago Rapiz by members of the Philipine National Police Counter-Intelligence Task Force (PNP-CITF) on Monday night in Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte.

JB Regalado, LPC spokesman, said in a statement on Tuesday that Rapiz, who used to head the Drug Enforcement Unit of the Bacolod City Police Office, prior to his transfer to Mindanao, “has no criminal record, nor any involvement in illegal drugs.”

Regalado described Rapiz as “a good athlete, a basketball player and a competent police officer, who was actively involved in the anti-illegal drugs campaign, wherever he was assigned.”

A police report said Rapiz, who was assigned as logistics officer of the Zamboanga Del Norte Police Provincial Office, was the subject of a buy-bust by the CITF operatives, in coordination with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and Chief Supt. Emmanuel Licup, Region 9 police director, at Andres Bonifacio College compound in Dipolog City.

The buy-bust led to an encounter after Rapiz, who was cornered, instead of giving up to authorities, took his gun and fired at the arresting CITF operatives, according to police reports.

Regalado said the NPA does not believe that Rapiz was among the “narco-cops” in Negros, contrary to allegations of PDEA and President Rodrigo Duterte, allegations that led to his reassignment to Dipolog City.

The transfer of Rapiz to Mindanao was part of maneuvering by ranking police officials in the Philippine National Police (PNP) who have alleged linkages to drug syndicates and politicians involved in illegal activities, he added.

Rapiz was among the 50 police personnel from Negros Occidental and Bacolod City reassigned to Mindanao and the Cordillera Administrative Region, by the defunct Negros Island Regional Police Office, after they were linked to illegal drug activities by a self-proclaimed member of a local drug group, who is now under the custody of a politician.

Rapiz had repeatedly denied the accusations against him.

Many of his colleagues in the police service in Negros Occidental were shocked by the incident, as some of them described Rapiz as a dedicated police officer, who rose from the ranks to become a police superintendent.

Rapiz used to serve as police chief of EB Magalona, the cities of Escalante and Victorias and commander of the 2nd Provincial Mobile Group of Negros Occidental, before he was reassigned to Mindanao two years ago.

Because of his crusade against illegal drugs, whose campaign did not spare anyone who are behind it, Regalado said, Rapiz was made a “sacrificial lamb” by the ranking officials of the PNP, using the CITF and the PDEA.

Rapiz was among the more than 13,000 victims of Oplan Tokhang of the Duterte administration, Regalado said, adding that Rapiz was known among Negrenses as a “good soldier,” as he cannot afford to fight against arresting police officers, who are CITF members.

At the same time, Regalado also raised the possibility that the P50,000 worth of illegal drugs allegedly taken from Rapiz was “ planted,” in order to justify the police claims that he resisted arrest.

Suspected NPAs tagged in village cop's slay

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 7): Suspected NPAs tagged in village cop's slay

Police investigators are looking at the possible involvement of members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the shooting to death of a barangay tanod (village watchman) in Barangay Mantiquil, Siaton town in south Negros Oriental.

An initial police report from Supt. Kat Ramos of the Negros Oriental Provincial Police Office (NORPPO) identified the victim as Diosdado Garson Estrabela, 62, of Sitio Quadra in Barangay Mantiquil.

Investigation showed that at around 6 a.m. Tuesday, the victim was at a farmland near his house when several bursts of what appeared to be gunfire were heard, according to his daughter.

The body of the victim was found at the crime scene, riddled with multiple gunshot wounds.

Estrabela's daughter told the police she saw the suspects walk away from the crime scene.

The suspects were three unidentified male persons wearing camouflaged pants, carrying long firearms, and believed to be NPA members, the police report said.

The authorities are still looking into the motive for the killing of the barangay tanod.

Army troops, Communist NPA terrorist clash in Misamis Occidental

From the Manila Bulletin (Nov 7): Army troops, Communist NPA terrorist clash in Misamis Occidental

A government soldier was wounded following two armed encounters between government forces and communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in two separate towns of Misamis Occidental early this week.


Troops from the Army’s 10th Infantry Battalion were on combat patrol operations when it encountered 15 NPA rebels in Panaon, Misamis Occidental, at about 4 p.m. Monday.

No government forces was hurt while there were undetermined casualties from the side of the NPAs due to bloodstains after the encounter.

At about 7:50 a. m., Tuesday, the pursuit troops of 14 Division Reconnaissance Company encountered the fleeing NPAs in Jimenez, Misamis Occidental.

One soldier was wounded while there were undetermined on the NPA side.

The troops also recovered two AK47 rifles, one M16 with M203 grenade launcher, one rifle grenade, blasting caps, IEDs, medical supplies and ammunitions.

“The combat operation was conducted in respond to the report of a concerned civilian regarding NPAs presence in their community,” Col. Bagnus Gaerlan, the 102nd Infantry Brigade Commander. said.

Major General Roseller Murillo, Joint Task Force Zampelan (Zamboanga Peninsula, Lanao) Commander, commended the troops and assures medical support to wounded soldier.

“The armed encounter could have been prevented if the NPAs surrendered and take advantage of the Enhance Comprehensive Local Integration Program of the government for them to go back to the mainstream society,” Murillo said.

The need for joint counter-terrorism frameworks in South-east Asia

From Today Online (Nov 7): The need for joint counter-terrorism frameworks in South-east Asia

Residents examining the wreckage of their home in Marawi, in the southern Philippines. The author says the siege of Marawi underscored the fact that South-east Asia was unprepared for the current and emerging wave of terrorism and demonstrated the need for new security architecture for the region.

Residents examining the wreckage of their home in Marawi, in the southern Philippines. The author says the siege of Marawi underscored the fact that South-east Asia was unprepared for the current and emerging wave of terrorism and demonstrated the need for new security architecture for the region.

The threat of violent-extremism in South-east Asia has evolved in two distinct phases: the Al-Qaeda centric phase and the Islamic State-centric phase.

During the Al-Qaeda-centric phase, as many as 400 terrorist fighters from the region headed to Afghanistan and Pakistan where they gained combat training and experience before returning home.

These fighters created Jemaah Salafiyyah in Thailand, Kumpulan Militan Malaysia (KMM), Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in the Philippines, and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) in Singapore and Indonesia.

In the IS-centric phase, IS-affiliated and associated groups such as Kumpulan Gagak Hitam and al Kubro Generation in Malaysia, Jamaah Ansharud Daulah in Indonesia and Islamic State Lanao (Maute Group) and IS in the Philippines emerged.

Since mid-2014, at least 63 groups in South-east Asia have pledged an oath of allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. Following the decline of IS in Iraq and Syria, the threat of IS has evolved as it becomes more decentralised.

This decentralisation phase of violent-extremism constitutes the third generation of jihadism in South-east Asia.

At its peak in 2014, IS spread to parts of the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Asia, particularly in South-east Asia. The immediate challenge that South-east Asia faces from this third generation of terrorism is the return of these foreign terrorist fighters from the Middle East.

According to estimates from the United States, as many as 31,500 fighters joined IS in Syria and Iraq.

According to the Indonesian Ministry of Defence, an estimated 800 of them are from South-east Asia, of which around 700 are from Indonesia alone.

In recent years, this IS-inspired generation of militants have carried out terrorist attacks in different parts of South-east Asia including the Thamrin attack in Indonesia in 2016, the Movida club attack in Malaysia in the same year and the Marawi siege in Philippines in 2017.

Unlike Al-Qaeda and JI in the early 2000s which operated discretely, IS, through its use of graphic videos, speeches and attack methods, has opted for open and indiscriminate warfare.

Moreover, several terrorist plots have since been disrupted by the security agencies, including a plan to fly an explosive-laden drone into the police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, an attempt to mount a suicide attack against the State Palace in Jakarta as well as a plan to fire a rocket at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.

The recent plots, which were uncovered by the security agencies, indicate that these terrorists were planning to make anthrax and botulinum in Malaysia and ricin and thorium in Indonesia.

In light of this, it is evident that the terrorists are determined to destabilise the region and sustain a province of the so-called caliphate in Southeast Asia (known as a wilayah).

Against this backdrop, it is important to take stock of measures enacted by governments and security agencies to mitigate the current and emerging threat.

The terrorist threat in South-east Asia has shifted dramatically after IS linked Filipino groups sieged Marawi city on May 23, 2017.

Although IS’ plans to establish a wilayah in Southeast Asia have been known since 2014, governments had underestimated the extent of the IS threat in the region.

Regional authorities were hesitant to share intelligence and failed to devise joint intelligence mechanisms until the fall of Marawi city to IS.

In 2017, the IS strength in the Philippines numbered between 1,000 and 1,200, where up to 40 fighters originated from Indonesia.

However, the data of the Philippines security agencies had indicated that the IS strength in Marawi did not exceed 50 militants, who were supported by drug cartel networks of up to 500 personnel.

It is estimated that as many as 16 IS-affiliated and associated militant groups were active in the Philippines ahead of the Marawi siege.

The most capable groups were IS Sulu and Basilan (400-570 fighters), IS Lanao (Maute Group, 263 fighters), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (406 fighters), and Ansar Khilafa Mindanao (7-37 fighters).

During the battle of Marawi, which ended in late-2017, the Armed Forces of the Philippines killed or captured around 986 terrorists.

The siege of Marawi is a warning for all the South-east Asian states to improve intelligence gathering and sharing to stay one step ahead of the terrorists.

In conventional and non-traditional warfare, intelligence sharing and collaboration is critical. Had the agencies under the ministries of defence and home affairs shared and exchanged intelligence, this attack could have been prevented or pre-empted.

Moreover, the siege of Marawi underscored the fact that South-east Asia was unprepared for the current and emerging wave of terrorism and demonstrated the need for new security architecture for the Asean region.


In the face of an evolving terrorist threat, a multilateral intelligence sharing platform to detect routes taken by the foreign terrorist fighters, location of their training camps, means and patterns of propaganda dissemination as well as sources and channels of their funding is vital.

At the 5th ASEAN Defence Minister’s Meeting in Singapore on October 19, defence ministers from the 10 Asean nations officially adopted Our Eyes Initiative (OEI), a regional platform which emerged earlier in July 2017 to facilitate strategic intelligence exchange on terrorism, radicalism and violent extremism among Asean Member States.

Under the OEI initiative, the Defence Minsters for Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Brunei agreed on five main components: the creation of a common database, exchange of personnel, joint training and operations, sharing of expertise as well as the sharing of resources and experience.

They have also agreed to establish a joint working group that may include Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in the future. As regional partners, the US, Australia, New Zealand and Japan have also agreed to join the OEI.

As seen by the brutal acts of violence in the shooting and beheading of prisoners, burning of churches, kidnappings and use of female captives in Marawi, the IS ideology and methodology has taken root in South-east Asia.

As such, it was a grave concern that the threat might spread from the Philippines to Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand.

Following this, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia developed the Trilateral Cooperative Arrangement (TCA) that disrupted terrorist hijackings and hostage-taking in the Sulu Sea.

The first component of TCA was the launch of the Trilateral Maritime Patrol (TMP) by Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines in Tarakan, Indonesia in June 2017.

Maritime Command Centres were established in Tarakan, Tawau in Sabah and Bongao in the Philippines whereas Singapore and Brunei were invited as observers.

In addition, Singapore has offered its Information Fusion Centre to facilitate maritime information sharing for the TMP.

The second component of TCA was the October 12 2017 launch of the Trilateral Air Patrol by Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines at the Subang Air Base in Malaysia.

Singapore and Brunei were likewise invited as observers. The planning for the third and fourth components, which involves national and joint land forces training and exercises and joint operations are currently underway.

These joint efforts can stem the continuing flow of funds and fighters to South-east Asia.

The creation of OEI was based on the principle that it takes a network to beat a network. If the terrorists in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore can train together in the Philippines, then the South-east Asian states should also engage in joint training, exercises and operations.

The Asean Defence Ministers’ Meeting in the Philippines in 2017 reviewed the range of measures to prevent the spread of the terrorist threat from Mindanao to the region.

Although the threat diminished after Marawi, the developments in Mindanao demonstrate the continuity of the threat.

For instance, the July 31 suicide bombing in Lamitan in Basilan by a Moroccan terrorist was the most significant recent attack.

The primary threat today no longer stems from inter-state conflicts, but from terrorist and criminal actors who are operating in both the physical and cyber space.

Hence, counter terrorism responses should not be limited to state actors. Governments must engage civil society organisations, the academia and the private sector to prevent and counter violent extremism.

Around the world, these actors have proven to be creative and effective in crafting initiatives to counter the terrorist threat and promote moderation.

While governments should lead and coordinate these efforts, civil society actors have a better reach within the respective communities.

Although the creation of the right counter terrorism architecture is certainly a work in progress, partnerships with countries in the region and beyond on both the operational and intelligence front have produced significant successes.

With more nations both within and outside the region requesting to join hands to collectively fight terrorism, OEI has the potential to grow and surpass Five Eyes, the intelligence alliance that comprises Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the US.

Extra-regional partners of South-east Asia, such as the US, have provided significant intelligence and operational leadership.

This includes a US-led counter terrorism operation against Bahrun Naim – an Indonesian fighter who has plotted several attacks on his home country and the Marina Bay in Singapore - in Ash Shafa, Syria on June 8.

The operation against Bahrun Naim has once again demonstrated the value of government-to-government cooperation in dealing with the changing threat landscape in South-east Asia.

It is also crucial that militaries, law enforcement and intelligence services closely monitor the ever-evolving landscape of in terrorism, extremism and exclusivism in the region.

[ABOUT THE AUTHOR: General (Ret) Ryamizard Ryacudu is Indonesia’s Minister of Defence. This piece, an update on a speech he delivered at a symposium organised by the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), first appeared on RSIS’ Counter Terrorist Trends and Analysis.]

Army disarms improvised bomb in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 7): Army disarms improvised bomb in Maguindanao

DISARMED. The pipe bomb disarmed by military bomb disposal experts that civilians found along the highway in Barangay Poblacion, Ampatuan, Maguindanao on Tuesday (Oct. 6, 2018). (Photo by 6ID)
CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao -- Military bomb disposal experts disarmed an improvised explosive device (IED) found Tuesday along the highway in Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

Concerned citizens reported around 1:30 p.m. the discovery of the IED along Barangay Poblacion to the Army’s 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion, which in turn contacted the Army's 32nd Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit for its removal.

The cellphone–triggered “pipe bomb” found inside a sack was safely deactivated by the EOD team, said Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, the Army’s 6th Infantry Division commander.

Sobejana said the IED had the capacity to severely inflict damage on both civilians and motorists passing by the highway.

“The 6ID expressed its thanks for the continued support and cooperation of the civilians by being vigilant on preventing bombing plots in Maguindanao,” Sobejana said.

Tuesday's discovery of the IED came barely two weeks after two roadside bombs were set off by suspected Moro militants, also in Ampatuan town, which missed a military convoy.

Maj. Arvin John Encinas, speaking for the 6ID, said the two IEDs that exploded on Oct. 26 had the “trademark” of the Islamic State-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

The BIFF has been known to plant IEDs along routes used by military vehicles in Maguindanao.

2 suspected BIFF shabu traders nabbed in North Cotabato

From GMA News (Nov 7): 2 suspected BIFF shabu traders nabbed in North Cotabato

Law enforcement agents arrested two drug traffickers reportedly helping fund the activities of a local Islamic State-inspired group.
Naravy Duquiatan, director for Region 12 of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, said Tuesday that Baljunaid Tumagantang Ali and Danny Ali Calungsod were arrested in separate operations early this week in Pikit town in North Cotabato.

Local officials in North Cotabato province have confirmed that the suspects, who are related to each other by blood,
have links with the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, or BIFF.

The sources, among them members of the inter-agency peace and order councils in different North Cotabato towns, said the two were among the more than 50 peddlers of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) in the province remitting proceeds of their activities to the group of BIFF leader Abu Toraife.

All three factions in the BIFF, one of which is led by Abu Toraife, operate in the fashion of the Islamic State.

Ali and Calungsod were arrested one after another in separate hideouts in Pikit by combined agents of PDEA-12, personnel of the Army’s 7th Infantry Battalion and the North Cotabato provincial police.

Duquiatan said the detained suspects are to be prosecuted for violation of the Philippine Dangerous Drugs Act using the shabu recovered from each of them as evidence.

Army officer, three others wounded in clash with Abu Sayyaf in Sulu

From the Manila Bulletin (Nov 7): Army officer, three others wounded in clash with Abu Sayyaf in Sulu

An Army officer and three other soldiers were wounded during a fierce gun battle against members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Patikul, Sulu on Monday.

Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, the spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Western Mindanao Command (AFP-WestMinCom), said the names of the wounded personnel – a second lieutenant, two corporals and a pfc – remain withheld.

All the wounded soldiers were promptly evacuated to Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista Hospital and were immediately given medical attention.

Amid the intensified conduct of military operations, Besana said troops from the Army’s 32nd Infantry Battalion under the Joint Task Force Sulu engaged in an armed confrontation more or less 50 members of the Abu Sayyaf under Radullan Sahiron in Sitio Kan Apo Aluk, Panglayahan, Patikul, Sulu at 1:40 p.m. Monday (November 5, 2018).

Heavy skirmishes ensued, which resulted to the wounding of the four soldiers while heavy casualties were reported on the enemy’s side based on human intelligence.

While scouring the encounter site, troops recovered 50 kilos of rice, personal belongings with blood stains, and assorted medicines.

“The Joint Task Force Sulu continues to intensify the conduct of offensives against the Abu Sayyaf to neutralize the remaining bandits,” said Lieutenant General Arnel B. Dela Vega, the Commander of the Western Mindanao Command.

“We extend our gratitude to the Local Government Unit and the populace for helping the government troops in fighting terrorism by means of giving information, thus, making it easier for us to neutralize the outlaws,” he added.