Monday, November 12, 2018

2 hurt in North Cotabato grenade attack

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 12): 2 hurt in North Cotabato grenade attack

A businessman and his security guard were hurt when unidentified men lobbed a grenade in front of a variety store in the North Cotabato town of Pikit Sunday evening.

Chief Inspector Teng Bacal, Pikit town police chief, identified the victims as Kim John Tañada, 28, and his security guard Christopher Monteciño, 39. Both are residents of Poblacion, Pikit.

Bacal said the suspects were on board a motorbike and tossed the grenade at about 8 p.m. as they passed by the roadside store.

Police believed personal grudge was behind the attack.

Tañada and Monteciño were first brought to Cruzado medical clinic but later moved to Kidapawan Doctors Hospital in Kidapawan City.

Bacal said the suspects fled toward Barangay Ladtingan, a gateway to the vast Liguasan marshland, which the military said is frequently used by the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) as jump off and extraction point for their criminal activities.

Bacal said police investigators are following up on a lead about the suspects’ identities.

He said shooting incidents have been rising in the town due to reprisals originating from family feuds in Pikit and nearby towns.

“Most of the victims and perpetrators though were not from Pikit,” the police official said, noting that since January, at least 40 cases of violence, mostly shooting incidents, have been reported in the town.

NPA fronts in Davao region down to 4: Army official

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 12): NPA fronts in Davao region down to 4: Army official

The strength of the New People’s Army (NPA) operating in the Davao Region is down to four guerrilla fronts from 11, according to the commander of the Army's 10th Infantry Division based in Tuburan, Compostela Valley province.

In an interview on Monday, Maj. Gen. Noel Clement, 10ID commander, said the NPA’s strength in the region has decreased due to the mass surrender of its members and mass-based organizations in different areas.

The 10ID covers Region 11, part of North and South Cotabato, and Trento of Agusan del Sur. It has 13 battalions.

“The NPA strength in the region reduced drastically not only regulars but also their mass base and legal fronts,” Clement said.

From January to November 8, 10ID records said the number of surrenderers is as follows: 495 NPA members, 668 Militia ng Bayan (MB), 238 Sangay ng Partido sa Lokalidad, 6,202 NPA supporters, and, 84 members of the left-leaning groups.

Forty-two NPA members were also arrested during the same period, including 10 MBs, three NPA supporters, and seven members of communist front organizations.

Also, during the same period, 187 firearms were recovered, 248 Improvised explosive devices (IED) were seized and 107 NPA camps discovered.

Capt. Jerry Lamosao, 10ID spokesperson, said the Army's Community Support Program (CSP) in the far-flung areas has resulted in the reduction of the NPA strength.

Navy fetes troops for rescue of Sulu kidnap victim

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 12): Navy fetes troops for rescue of Sulu kidnap victim

Rear Adm. Rene Medina, commander of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao (left), leads Monday the awarding of Bronze Cross Medal to gallant sailors and marines for the successful rescue a kidnap victim on November 1 in Sulu. (Photo courtesy: Naval Forces Western Mindanao Public Information Office)  

ZAMBOANGA CITY--The Philippine Navy bestowed Bronze Cross medals to gallant sailors and marines for the successful rescue of a kidnap victim from the hands of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Sulu.

Rear Adm. Rene Medina, Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) commander, and Capt. Richard Gonzaga, the deputy for fleet operations, led the awarding ceremony during the Flag Raising Ceremony Monday at the Naval Station Romulo Espaldon in this city.

The awardees are the following: Col. Armel Tolato, Philippine Marine Ready Force-Sulu commander; Maj. Junnibert Tubo, Marine Battalion Landing Team-3 (MBLT-3) commander; UO2 Christofert Tiktik and UO2 Carmelito Pinote of the Naval Special Operations Unit-6; SSgt. Ramil Diman and Sgt. Gilbert Hernandez of the Naval Intelligence and Security Group-Western Mindanao; and, Cpl. Janrey Camano of MBLT-3.

Medina said the giving of awards and recognition to the troops is one of the military traditions in recognizing their exceptional deeds in the performance of duty and shared sacrifices, as well as persistent efforts.

“It is also one way to boost the morale of the soldiers,” Medina added.

The awardees were involved in the successful rescue of Jose Duterte on November 1 in Barangay Kandayok, Panamao, Sulu.

The rescue of Duterte, 63, came after the troops managed to zero in on the location of the Duterte, who owns a coconut farm.

Duterte and his wife, Jessica, 53, were seized by five Abu Sayyaf bandits in the evening of March 3, 2017 while they were resting in their residence near the shore in Barangay Sta. Maria, Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte.

The Abu Sayyaf bandits freed Jessica on October 31, 2017 in Basilan province.

“This morning’s activity is a significant event as you join me to distinctly recognize the extreme service and hard work rendered by our comrades who successfully brought one of our kidnapped victims back to his family,” Medina said during the awarding ceremony.

He said NFWM will continue to deepen its commitment and dedication in the performance of its mandated task for a peaceful, safe and secured Western Mindanao.

Abu Sayyaf bandits are still holding captive nine hostages - a Dutch, a Vietnamese and seven Filipinos.

Extortion eyed in Lake Sebu heavy equipment burning

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 12): Extortion eyed in Lake Sebu heavy equipment burning

Police are eyeing extortion by suspected New People's Army (NPA) rebels as behind last Friday's burning of a heavy equipment in a remote village in Lake Sebu town, South Cotabato.

Insp. Ricky Frias, deputy chief of the Lake Sebu municipal police station, said Monday they received reports that the owner of the burned backhoe, Gemma Construction Supply Inc., had received extortion demands from the rebels.

Frias said the backhoe was parked near the road project site in Sitio Lamfenek, Barangay Lamfugon when it was burned by at least 10 suspected NPA rebels at around 10 p.m.

The suspects reportedly razed the equipment cement bags and fired several shots before leaving the scene, he said.

Frias said the suspects did not harm the backhoe operator identified as Mervin Papa.

"It was similar to what happened before involving several heavy equipment owned by the company," he said, referring to the burning by NPA rebels of four heavy equipment assigned to the same project by the Koronadal City-based construction firm in 2015.

The Department of Public Works and Highways had contracted the company for the concreting of road project connecting the municipality of Maitum in Sarangani and Lake Sebu in South Cotabato.

Frias said the suspects were believed to be members of the NPA's Front 73, adding that a police team had been sent to secure the area. The Army's 27th Infantry Battalion had also deployed additional troops to secure the site and pursue the suspects.

DND, AFP hold cybersecurity conference

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 12): DND, AFP hold cybersecurity conference

In line with ongoing efforts to secure the country's cyber infrastructure, the Department of National Defense (DND) conducted its Cyber Bayanihan 2.0 with private and public stakeholders last November 7.

The event is in partnership with the Cyber Group of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and private company Synetcom Philippines, Inc. and held at the AFP Commissioned Officers Club in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

With the theme, “Securing the Philippines’ Critical Cybersecurity Infostructure”, Cyber Bayanihan 2.0 focused on securing the country’s information technology infrastructure – otherwise known as infostructure – by integrating, updating, strengthening, designing, and implementing cyber Security Operations Center (SOC) capabilities and programs.

“I would like to express my gratitude to everyone here who continues to support one of the most important, albeit new aspect of the defense mission – cyber security,” DND Undersecretary Cardozo M. Luna said in a statement over the weekend.

The thrust and advocacy of the conference involved educating government agencies, communities, and vertical markets on how critical new technologies in cyberspace are in defending and preventing cyber threats from acquiring information from the stakeholders.

“This conference, which followed through from the Cyber Bayanihan 1.0 in 2014, now aims to bridge the gap between stakeholders’ cyber awareness and the implementation stage of a viable and strengthened government Security Operations Center (SOC).

This likewise complements the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) programs of the government to boost the country’s cyber defense capabilities,” he explained.

During the whole-day event, Director Nebuchadnezzar S. Alejandrino, chief of the Defense Situation Monitoring Center, tackled “Threats to Philippines Cybersecurity: A Defense Perspective” in his presentation, while other guest speakers from reputable IT companies such as Microsoft, Synetcom, Nexus, SES Networks, Nexus, AhnLab, ePLDT, Genians and Efficient IP shared their security solutions to help address the current cybersecurity threats and attacks on Cyber Space.

The participants who attended the conference were from the DND and its bureaus – the AFP, the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office, the Office of Civil Defense, and Government Arsenal; the Office of the Executive Secretary of the President; the House of Representatives; the Department of Finance; the Department of Justice; the National Bureau of Investigation; the Department of Public Works and Highways; the Department of Trade and Industry; the Department of Social Welfare and Development; the Department of Transportation; the Philippine National Police; the Department of Information and Communications Technology; the National Economic Development Authority; the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency; the National Security Council; and the Land Registration Authority.

Moreover, companies Synetcom Phil. Inc., Plexus Systems Inc., Easycall Communications Inc., One Delta, TDG, Easycall E-services, Inc., Transnational E-Business, Miescor Telecoms, Easynet, Microsoft, Transportify represented the private sector.

Neri named ISAFP head

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 12): Neri named ISAFP head

Major General Erwin Bernard Neri was named the new head of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP).

This was confirmed by AFP public affairs office chief Col. Noel Detoyato, in an interview with reporters Sunday.

Neri, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1988, will replace now Lt. Gen. Macairog Alberto, who was appointed as Philippine Army chief last Oct. 15.

Detoyato added that Neri became the acting head of ISAFP with Alberto's promotion as he is the unit's deputy chief.

"Major Gen. Neri will officially assume command of the ISAFP (sometimes this) week," he stressed.

The incoming ISAFP chief also served as commander of the 1001st Infantry Brigade in Compostela Valley and Task Force Davao.

NDF consultant's ATM card not among seized items in raid: QCPD

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 12): NDF consultant's ATM card not among seized items in raid: QCPD

The Quezon City Police District (QCPD) on Monday denied claims of the wife of National Democratic Front (NDF) consultant Vicente Ladlad that her husband's ATM card was among the items seized in a raid, which resulted in the latter's arrest last week.

“We would like to reiterate that the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) card of Communist Party of the Philippines Central Committee Member and Head of its National United Front Commission, Vicente Ladlad, was not among the confiscated items during the implementation of a Search Warrant for violation of Republic Act 10591, or the Comprehensive Law on Firearms and Ammunition last November 8, 2018 in Novaliches, Quezon City,” Chief Supt. Joselito T. Esquivel Jr., QCPD director, said in a statement.

The QCPD chief challenged Ladlad's camp to file a formal complaint, which he said, will give way for an investigation on the unauthorized withdrawal from Ladlad’s Landbank ATM card.

Esquivel also advised Ladlad's wife, Fides, to cooperate with the police instead, by giving details of the incident for them to be able to make a formal request for a record of transactions involving the ATM card from the bank.

“As of today, it is unfortunate that Ladlad’s wife keeps on throwing allegations but does not want to file formal complaints. She also previously claimed that her cellphone was stolen by officers, only to find out that it was in her lawyer's possession,” Esquivel said.

“With the filing of a formal request by Ladlad’s Camp, we could also request for the bank’s closed circuit television (CCTV) recordings to help us establish the identity of the person in the alleged unauthorized bank withdrawal,” he stressed.

Palace welcomes return of Balangiga bells

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 13): Palace welcomes return of Balangiga bells

Malacañang on Tuesday welcomed the scheduled return of the Balangiga Bells to the Philippines but withheld further comment until the church bells taken by the US army are delivered to the Philippines.

“We welcome any movement towards the return of the the Bells of Balangiga to the Philippines,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a press statement.

Panelo said President Rodrigo R. Duterte himself has mentioned his desire for the return of the church bells in his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) and several other speeches.

“The President himself, in his second State of the Nation Address, expressed his desire for the return of these bells explaining that they form part of our country's patrimony and they were taken at the cost of bloodshed of thousands of Filipinos,” he added.

Panelo, however, said that it is best to wait until the US fulfills its promise and celebrate only when the church bells are back in the country.

“Given that the possession of the bells have not yet been turned over to the Philippine government, we are withholding any further comment on the matter until the last bell has been properly delivered to the country,” Panelo said.

“In the words of the President himself: ‘It ain’t here until it’s here,’” he added.

Duterte has repeatedly mentioned that there was nothing to talk about with the US unless the church bells are returned.

“Di na naisauli 'yung Balangiga bells, wala tayong pag-usapan (They haven’t returned the Balangiga bells, we have nothing to talk about),” Duterte said in his speech in Davao City last August.

The President said he understands why American troops took it as a “trophy”, but still found it unacceptable how an entire village in Samar had to be killed.

“They say itong (these) bells was [sic] a trophy. I can understand it…pero kung yan kinuha mo (but when you seize them) and you killed everybody in the town in Samar,” Duterte said.

He acknowledged that it has been more than a century ago but pointed out that time alone was not enough to cure an injustice.

“Now you say, ah Duterte matagal na yun (that was a long time ago). Why? Can passage of time cure an injustice? Just because it was 100 years so it is erased?” Duterte said.

“Tapos yung bells doon andiyan (Then the bells are still there)? The memory still haunts everybody here because it was taken with blood and lives of our brothers and sisters,” he adde

Last August, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) bared that the details of the possible return of the Balangiga Bells to the Philippines will be made within the year.

The US embassy in Manila earlier said US Defense Secretary James Mattis notified the US Congress of their intention to return the war booty to the Philippines despite opposition from some American lawmakers.

American troops took the bells from the Balangiga Church in Samar as war booty following the "Balangiga Massacre" in 1901.

One of the three bells is displayed at the 9th Infantry Regiment in Camp Cloud in South Korea, while the other two are in the former base of the 11th Infantry Regiment at the FE Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

AFP supportive of all peace initiatives

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 13): AFP supportive of all peace initiatives

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) strongly supports all initiatives that will lead to a genuine and lasting peace.

This was stressed by AFP public affairs office chief, Col. Noel Detoyato, when sought for a comment on the possible meeting between President Rodrigo Duterte and peace negotiators of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) sometime this month.

"The supports peace initiatives and dialogues. We are always thinking positively that peace initiatives will result to favorable conditions towards peace that will benefit the peace-loving Filipinos," Detoyato said in a message to reporters Monday.

"(And) while your AFP is always prepared for war, we are also prepared for peace," Detoyato stressed.

Earlier, NDFP negotiating panel chair Fidel V. Agcaoili said he and Coni Ledesma have a scheduled a trip to the Philippines this month, in connection with their work as members of the NDFP component in the Joint Monitoring Committee under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

"We will be accompanied by Mr. Luis Jalandoni as Senior Adviser to the NDFP Negotiating Panel," he added.

Agcaoili said they have also been invited to meet with the new Norwegian Ambassador to the Philippines.

"In this regard, we welcome the the opportunity to meet with the President unless he does not want to or his military is against it," he added.

6 Army officers promoted anew

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 13): 6 Army officers promoted anew

The Philippine Army (PA) honored and conferred stars on six newly-promoted officers during flag-raising ceremonies in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City Monday.

Promoted to Major General were Brig. Gen. Roy T. Devesa and Brig. Gen. Cirilito E. Sobejana, heads of Training and Doctrine Command and 6th Infantry Division, respectively.

Meanwhile, the four others who were promoted to Brigadier General were Col. Thomas R. Sedano, of the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade, Mechanized Infantry Division; Col. William N. Gonzales, commander, First Scout Ranger Regiment, Special Operation Command; Col. Larry B. Mojica, head, 902nd Brigade, 9th Infantry Division; and Col. Francisco Ariel A. Felicidario, commander, 102nd Infantry Brigade, 1st Infantry Division.

“As you start another chapter in your military careers and savor the honor and pride that comes from your star, you should remember that from that star, exudes greater responsibility and higher level of expectations and standards of leadership”. Apparently, it will also demand greater sacrifice from us and even from our families," PA chief Lt. Gen. Macairog Alberto said in his speech.

“I want to congratulate you not only for your accomplishment, but also for your integrity, resourcefulness, enthusiasm and wisdom. Only few become brigadier generals, and fewer become major general and perhaps fewer become successful generals, I hope you are the fewer successful generals," he added.

The Philippine Army through the years had transformed to become a more dynamic and responsive organization through the Army’s Transformation Roadmap.