Monday, December 3, 2018

NPA owns up to slay try on ex-Samar town mayor last Nov 18

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 3): NPA owns up to slay try on ex-Samar town mayor last Nov 18

The communist insurgents have owned up the attempt to kill a former mayor in Samar province who was running for an elective post in next year’s elections.

The Arnulfo Ortiz Command of the New People’s Army, which operates in Samar province, claimed their special operations group merely carried out the decision of the people’s court to impose the death penalty on Aran Boller, ex-mayor of Matuguinao.

According to a statement, Boller was responsible for the alleged “series of unsolved killings and other acts of reactionary violence” in the town.

“Boller was found guilty as the criminal mastermind behind the series of unsolved killings and other acts of reactionary violence in the town,” said the Arnulfo Ortiz

Command in a statement.

Boller, who is gunning for a political comeback in the 2019 elections, was ambushed in Catbalogan City, Samar last November 18. He escaped death with a bullet wound in the right hand.

However, Boller, 42, who is running for mayor of Matuguinao, said he didn’t believe the ambush was perpetrated by the communist group.

“I doubt if that pronouncement really came from them. The town of Matuguinao is very peaceful and if there were killings there as they claimed, these could have been undertaken by some groups who had their own ideology and not mine as they alleged,” he said.

He maintained that the attempt on his life was carried out by his political enemies and not by the NPA.

The statement of the Arnulfo Ortiz Command was posted on Facebook by Roy Santos, information officer of the NPA-Communist Party of the Philippines in Eastern Visayas.

Boller denied allegations that he maintained a private army and was a military asset.

He said he was a “God-fearing” man who continued to enjoy the trust of the people.

Boller, nevertheless, admitted that the ambush made him think twice about running but he was prevailed upon by his supporters.

“I am running on the basis on the clamor of my people who have been suffering of extreme poverty because of the neglect of the current administration in Matuguinao,” he said.

The current mayor, Melissa de la Cruz, would seek to switch places with her younger sister, Carmel de la Cruz, who is the current vice mayor of Matuguinao.

Reds to declare holiday truce

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 3): Reds to declare holiday truce

Joma says break from fighting to give rebels time to enjoy celebration of 50th CPP anniversary

READY FOR WARNew People’s Army rebels rest near a rebel camp in North Cotabato during ceremonies for the release of a rebel prisoner in December last year. —BARRY OHAYLAN

Communist rebels are set to observe a holiday truce even after President Rodrigo Duterte had declared a full-scale war on the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, New People’s Army (NPA), according to CPP founder Jose Ma. Sison.

“It is to the interest of the people, the NPA and other revolutionary forces that there be the traditional holiday ceasefire,” Sison said in an online interview from his base in Utrecht, the Netherlands, on Sunday.

He said the break from war would allow guerillas and their families to “freely enjoy” the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the CPP on Dec. 26.
The CPP and NPA have been waging a protracted revolution against the government for the past 50 years and getting support mostly from victims of injustices, poverty and lack of land reform in remote rural areas.

Last say

Sison, however, said the CPP leadership based in the Philippines would have the last say on the holiday ceasefire.
It has become a tradition for the military and communist guerillas to observe a truce during the holidays through separate ceasefire declarations.

It has become common, too, for both sides to accuse each other of ceasefire violations.

Col. Noel Detoyato, public affairs office chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said the military would welcome such a declaration from communist rebels.

“I hope they are serious and it reaches down to the last man on the ground,” Detoyato said.

In a rush

Detoyato added that he hoped the truce extended beyond the holidays, though.

“We hope that it will be a ceasefire forever,” he said.

“Filipinos deserve peace,” he added.

Last week, President Duterte declared he was no longer interested in resuming peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the umbrella organization of underground rebel groups including the CPP and NPA.

The President said he would instead pursue a full-scale war on communist rebels.

“The earlier we finish the insurgency, the better for us all,” the President said in Davao City where he also sought the help of a tribal militia head accused of killing tribal leaders suspected of helping the NPA.

Sison predicted that the coming Christmas season “will be harsh and miserable” for poor Filipinos because of rising unemployment, low incomes and soaring prices of basic commodities.

“These difficult economic conditions are aggravated by Duterte’s final rejection of peace talks, deployment of more troops, threats of martial law, formation of death squads, among many others,” Sison said.


Sison claimed that even government forces “are already complaining against being overused and fatigued by Duterte’s constant orders of military operations.”

“They will be kept in the field even during the Yuletide season and not given time to rest and enjoy the holidays with their families,” Sison said.

Communist rebels remained active in the field.

In a report, the police chief of Magsaysay town in Davao del Sur province said a soldier was wounded when rebels clashed with members of the Army’s 39th Infantry Battalion.

Senior Insp. Cris Ian Taghap, Magsaysay police director, said troopers clashed with at least nine rebels.

Retired army officer: Localized peace talks bound to fail

From the Sun Star-Davao (Dec 3): Retired army officer: Localized peace talks bound to fail

RETIRED Army general Raymundo Jarque is not in favor of having localized peace talks because he said it is bound to fail.

Jarque, who has defected to the New People's Army before he retired from the military service, said he believes the localized peace talks will not succeed because the National Democratic Front (NDF) has the organization and a centralized ideology and direction.

“The government will have to deal with them properly. Father Luis Jalandoni of the NDF is from here and he is soft-hearted. I have talked to him in the Netherlands and he really cannot forget that he was tortured when he was the head of the Social Action Center here as a priest,” Jarque said.

“The government may not satisfy all the demands of the NDF. We suggest that instead of localized peace talks, the government will just open its communications especially in dealing with various problems and factors that we are facing today,” Jarque pointed out.

Jarque also expressed his willingness to help the government in achieving peace with the rebels.

Regional police chief asserts NPA, militants using IP schools for propaganda

From the Business World (Dec 3): Regional police chief asserts NPA, militants using IP schools for propaganda

SATUR C. OCAMPO is welcomed by supporters upon his return in Quezon City on Dec. 2. — PHILSTAR/MICHAEL VARCAS
LAW enforcement agencies in the Davao Region have asserted that militant organizations and the communist New People’s Army are using some schools in indigenous people (IP) communities for teaching their ideologies and using the students in their protest actions.

This developed as the group led by former Bayan Muna party-list representative and Saturnino “Satur” C. Ocampo and Alliance of Concerned Teachers party-list Rep. France L. Castro were released on bail following several cases of kidnapping and child trafficking slapped against over the incident in Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

The two flew back to Metro Manila on Sunday, where they denounced the charges in a press conference.

Police Regional Office Director Marcelo C. Morales, on the other hand, said they have reports of how the schools were being used outside the education mandate.

“There were reports that the children were taught with false ideals at school, far from the mandates of the DepEd (Department of Education),” said Mr. Morales.

The military, meanwhile, reported that in support of their cases against Mr. Ocampo’s group, about 1,000 members of IP communities in Talaingod, Davao del Norte staged a protest action against the militant organizations.

The report claimed that the protesters were headed by tribal leaders Datu Guibang Apoga, who founded the Salugpungan Ta’tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center and a self-confessed former sympathizer of the NPA and militant groups.

NPA killed in Sarangani clash with military

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 3): NPA killed in Sarangani clash with military

ALABEL, Sarangani – A New People’s Army (NPA) rebel was killed in a firefight with soldiers who were providing security to medical personnel dispatched to contain a measles outbreak in a mountain village in Malapatan town.

First Lt. Leah Canseran, civil military operations officer of 1002nd Infantry Brigade, said soldiers belonging to 73rd Infantry Battalion were escorting personnel from the Integrated Provincial Health Office to Barray Upper Suyan, Malapatan when they were waylaid by five suspected Communist rebels in hinterland village of Barangay Kihan, Malapatan over the weekend.

Canseran identified the slain NPA rebel as Sue Boding, an alleged member of NPA Guerilla Front 71 and a resident of Barangay Little Baguio, Malita, Davao Occidental.

“The firefight lasted for 20 minutes which resulted in the death of one NPA rebel,” Canseran said.

Troops recovered a .45 caliber pistol from the slain suspect.

Sarangani Governor Steve Solon had earlier sought the assistance of the military to serve as escort for the medical personnel he dispatched to contain an outbreak of measles in Barangay Upper Suyan which had killed at least 20 children and hospitalized 100 others.

Provincial officer Arvin Alejandro said some 1,500 children in Barangay Upper Suyan have been vaccinated to prevent the spread of the epidemic to nearby villages.

NPA not recruiting minors in Lumad areas: Ocampo

From ABS-CBN (Dec 3): NPA not recruiting minors in Lumad areas: Ocampo

Former congressman Satur Ocampo rejected Monday allegations that communist rebels are recruiting minors in Lumad areas.

Ocampo, who was arrested for alleged kidnapping and human trafficking of students of a Lumad school in Davao Del Norte, said the Communist Party of the Philippines–New People's Army has a "rule against recruiting minors."

"Definitely, that could not be a part of the program of the NPA," he told ANC's Headstart.

Satur Ocampo: We were rescuing Lumad students, teachers

However, this is not to deny that the armed wing of the communist movement is not present in the area, said Ocampo.

"The NPA operates in the hinterlands. It so happens that most if not all of the communities of the Lumads are in the hinterlands, so they become battleground areas. It is not surprising that the NPA has its main objective of organizing the people in the struggle for their own welfare,” he said.

“It doesn’t deny that there are Lumads who joined the NPA but they are not minors,” he added.

On the other hand, he said the military is also recruiting from the community for its Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit and organizing its paramilitary arm.

"The consequence is that the people are being divided and fighting among themselves," he said.

Ocampo said he was in Davao del Norte last week with 72 others for a "mission to bring food to the students, teachers, who were more or less confined in the Salugpungan Community School" in Talaingod town.

"The military, their paramilitary...concentrated on harassing them almost on a daily basis. Food that was being sent to them was intercepted," he said.

The mission was mounted by the administration of the school to help in the transport of food and to "urge the authorities to stop the efforts of the military to close the schools," said Ocampo.

He said he and ACT-Teacher Party-list Rep. France Castro went immediately to the provincial governor on Wednesday to follow up on the clamor from the school and seek permission from the civilian government so that they may go through the checkpoints of the military towards the schools, but they were unable to get anything even until the end of the working day.

The district superintendent of schools in the area, however, acknowledged that there was indeed an effort by military forces to shut down schools and "made it clear that the military has no authority to close the schools."

While all was set for their visit to the school on Thursday morning, they received a report later that night "that the school was already shut down and the students and teachers were forced out, they were walking on the highway and they called for support."

"Instantly, our mission was transformed into a mercy rescue mission—no time to coordinate with any of the officers who in the first place refused to give any permit to us," he said.

Ocampo and his group have since been allowed temporary freedom after posting a bail bond of P80,000 each.

Military to deploy intel agents, not hit squads vs NPA

From ABS-CBN (Dec 3): Military to deploy intel agents, not hit squads vs NPA

This photo taken on July 30, 2017 shows guerrillas of the New People's Army (NPA) in the Sierra Madre mountain range, located east of Manila. Noel Celis, AFP/File

The military on Monday said it will deploy intelligence units to hunt down the New People’s Army, not "death squads" as pushed by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Duterte last week threatened to unleash hit men against the NPA's Special Partisan Unit or "sparrows," who the communists deployed to kill police during the 1970s and 1980s rule of late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

Duterte says to form hit squad vs NPA ‘sparrows’

"We can have yung tinatawag nating 'yung counter sparrow unit na ano, mission intelligence... as what we have done also in Basilan, wherein there is also spate of killing being perpetrated," military chief General Carlito Galvez told reporters.

Jose Maria Sison, the exiled founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines, denied the existence of "sparrow" assassins and said Duterte was using it as a pretext to kill suspected rebels.

Sison likened it to Duterte's anti-drug campaign, in which thousands of people have been killed. Activists say many appear to have been executions, but police deny that and say all were shootouts with drug dealers.
Drug war death toll breaches 4,000 mark: PNP

Duterte has been dogged by accusations that he ran a death squad when he was mayor of Davao City and oversaw a fierce crackdown on crime. He denied the allegations.

Leftist group Bayan said in a statement Duterte was "inciting a killing spree against government critics, human rights defenders and just about everyone else tagged by the government as 'Red'."

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, among his staunchest critics, said Duterte was insecure about his hold on power.

"He wants to strike fear again into the hearts and minds of the Filipinos by forewarning that there would be another round of killings," said Trillanes, a former rebel soldier.

"Fear is his only way to keep people in check."

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Duterte's hit squad idea would be considered, but it would need clear operational guidelines and oversight.

"We will study it very closely," he said. "There is great danger of abuse or mistakes in these undercover operations."

Army denies NPA killed soldier claim

From the Visayan Daily Star (Dec 3): Army denies NPA killed soldier claim

The 303rd Infantry Brigade yesterday dismissed as fake news claims of the New People’s Army Armando Sumayang Command that an Army soldier was killed after they harassed a military outpost in Brgy. Asia, Hinobaan, Negros Occidental,on Nov. 27.

Rebel spokesperson Andrea Guerrero had claimed in a statement that a certain Jayr Calunan died during the harassment, while SSgt. Ricky Ignacio was wounded in action.

Col. Benedict Arevalo, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, clarified last night that there was no soldier casualty, except for the injury of Ignacio, who is now in stable condition.

The harassment of a detachment, being constructed in Brgy. Asia, Hinobaan, came several days for President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the deployment of additional military and police personnel in Negros Occidental and Oriental, as well as in Bicol and Samar, to suppress the lawlessness and violent activities of the CPP-NPA.

Guerrero further claimed that the harassment of the detachment was in response to the people's vehement demand for the end of militarization in the countryside, and an answer to the Armed Forces of the Philippines' (AFP) “all out war” declaration in Negros.

The rebel group spokesperson also accused the 15th Infantry Battalion of occupying schools, barangay halls and public markets and transforming houses of locals into their detachment.

She also alleged that residents were made to wear army uniforms and forced to guide combat operations.

Makabayan bloc eyes case vs Galvez for red-tagging France Castro

From Rappler (Dec 3): Makabayan bloc eyes case vs Galvez for red-tagging France Castro

ACT Teachers Representative France Castro says she would hold AFP chief General Carlito Galvez Jr accountable should anything bad happen to her

NOT A COMMUNIST. ACT Teachers Representative France Castro (center) attends work at the House since her brief detention in Davao del Norte over the weekend. Photo by Mara Cepeda/Rappler

NOT A COMMUNIST. ACT Teachers Representative France Castro (center) attends work at the House since her brief detention in Davao del Norte over the weekend. Photo by Mara Cepeda/Rappler

Progressive lawmakers are mulling filing a complaint with the Ombudsman against Armed Forces of the Philippines chief General Carlito Galvez Jr for accusing Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Representative France Castro of being a communist.

“We will file a case sa Ombudsman for the military. This statement, this very dangerous and baseless statement, 'di po puwedeng palagpasin namin 'to eh. Ginawa nila ito sa maraming lider ng mga akitibista (We cannot disregard this very dangerous and baseless statement. They have done this many activist leaders),” said Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao in a press conference on Monday, December 3.

“You know France. We've been here for almost 3 years under the 17th Congress. Now, you accuse us, you accuse her of being a top leader or a member of the CPP-NPA? She's a leader of ACT, which is affiliated with ACT Teachers. It has a different spelling. The Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) stands for something else,” he added in a mix of English and Filipino.
Galvez said on Monday that Castro and former Bayan Muna representative Satur Ocampo are “active” CPP-NPA members. The two leftist leaders, along with 16 others, were detained in Taguinod, Davao del Norte over the weekend for alleged human trafficking, kidnapping, and child abuse charges. They already posted bail on Saturday, December 1.

Ocampo and Castro, however,
maintained they have done nothing illegal, arguing they were on a humanitarian mission to help save Lumad students and teachers from a food blockade by the military.

Castro also warned Galvez that should anything happen to her, she would hold him accountable.

“Dalawampu't limang taon akong guro, public school teacher... Lider ako ng mga guro. Pinaglalaban namin 'yong mga legitimate na kailangan, welfare, karapatan ng mga guro. Hindi ako miyembro ng NPA, Galvez, nililinaw ko lang sa'yo at anuman ang sinasabi mong organization,” said Castro.

(I have been a public school teacher for 25 years... I am a leader among teachers. We fight for the legitimate needs, welfare, and rights of teachers. I am not a member of the NPA, Galvez, and I want to clarify whatever it is you're saying.)

“Kaya ito ay pagsasanganib ni Galvez ng aking buhay. So kung may mangyari sa akin, I will hold you accountable, General Galvez,” she added.

(Galvez is endangering my life. So if anything happens to me, I will hold you accountable, General Galvez.)

On Thursday, November 28, Ocampo, Castro, and 16 others were arrested at a checkpoint in Talaingod town after 14 minors were found in their convoy.

Police filed a complaint against the group, citing the absence of parental consent for them to bring the minors, aged 14 to 17, out of Talaingod.

But the Salugpongan Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center (STTICLC) Incorporated
said the children were students of the STTICLC school in Sitio Dulyan, Barangay Palma Gil in Talaingod, who were being evacuated due to alleged harassment by state forces.

Lumad group condemns CPP-NPA and release of Talaingod 18

From MindaNews (Dec 4): Lumad group condemns CPP-NPA and release of Talaingod 18

A group of Lumads (Indigenous Peoples) working closely with the military passed a resolution on Monday condemning the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) for alleged violation of Lumad rights, “infiltration” of the New People’s Army in their ancestral lands in Mindanao, and alleged child trafficking, kidnapping, and for the exploitation of 14 Lumad minors in Talaingod town in Davao del Norte last week.

Dated December 3, the resolution passed by the Mindanao Indigenous Peoples Council of Elders and Leaders (MIPCEL), also condemned the release of ACT Teachers party-list representative France Castro and Bayan Muna president Satur Ocampo and their companions, and declared as unlawful their entry into the Lumad communities.

Bae Pilar Libayao, municipal tribal leader and mandatory IP representative in Talaingod, Davao del Norte speaks at the Kapehan sa Dabaw in Davao City on December 3, 2018, denouncing the Communist Party of the Philippines nd New People’s Army. MIndaNews photo by ANTONIO L. COLINA IV

The resolution said it convened an “emergency meeting” on December 3 at the SM City Davao to “discuss the arrest” of Castro, Ocampo and 16 others in what has been collectively referred to as the Talaingod 18 “for illegally transporting the 14 IP minors form different provinces of Mindanao.”

Some 20 members of the MIPCEL gathered in the mall and signed the already prepared resolution during the Kapehan Sa Dabaw, a weekly media forum held every Monday.

At the Kapehan, MIPCEL chair Datu Lipatuan Joel Unad claimed the NPA is continuously oppressing the Lumads, taking advantage of their situation, and using the children for their own propaganda.

He said the NPA has not done anything good for them.

“They are bringing the Lumads to Haran (in Davao City). What is now their situation there? They are like prisoners? They are bringing our youth to Manila. They are like prisoners. They take advantage of the situation of the Lumad, of being uneducated. That’s so painful,” he said.

“They take the children of our tribe without consent from their parents. That is an oppression of our tribe,” he said.

“Spare us”

Bae Pilar Libayao, mandatory IP representative in Talaingod, claimed the groups associated with the communists bring chaos to their communities.

“We want them to spare us because there is already government that’s helping us. We want the government to be the one to help our children, to get educated,” she said.

Libayao said the Lumads who are staying at the Haran evacuation facility of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines have not returned home.

“If they want to help, they help for the good and not for the bad because we don’t want that,” she said.

She also said the NPA is preventing government projects like roads and housing in their communities, that they could not these projects implemented as the NPAs would ask for so-called “revolutionary tax.”


The MIPCEL resolution also urged the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippine and the United Church of Christ in the Philippines to investigate the nuns, pastors, and other religious leaders for allegedly helping the communists, and for the Commission on Human Rights to investigate the alleged human rights violations against the Lumads.

The MIPCEL resolution prohibits all non-government and government organization, schools and institutions to enter their communities without free prior and informed consent as provided for in the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act.

It also supports the closure of Salugpongan schools, Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and livelihood Development, Inc., Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation, Inc. and other schools that MIPCEL said were established by groups associated with the CPP and NPA.

The resolution invoked their right to uphold, secure and protect the rights of the IP “against the violence and damage caused by the CPP-NPA-NDF within the ancestral domain based on the IP’s political framework.”

It also urged the Department of Foreign Affairs, National Bureau of Investigation, Department of Justice, and Anti-Money Laundering Council to “engage the international funders and the local NGOs in our communities regarding the funding which 60% allegedly goes to the NPAs and only 40% goes to the project for the ICCs/IPs.”

“Systematic political persecution”

In a statement, Karapatan-Southern Mindanao spokesperson Jay Apiag deplored what he said was “brazen attack” of the Duterte administration against progressive groups and downplayed the accusations of the IP leaders who, he said, are “acting to defend the Lumad and how they pretend to safeguard their ancestral domain.”

“We firmly believe that this recent attack upon our fellow advocates clearly shows a systematic political persecution against those groups and individuals working for the good of the marginalized and less privileged,” he said.

The Talaingod 18 was on a National Solidarity Mission in the Davao del Norte hinterland town last November 29 and claimed to have “rescued” the children from harassment of a paramilitary group Alamara in Barangay Palma Gil, Talaingod where they were blocked by joint forces of the police and the military’s 56thInfantry Battalion.

Castro, Ocampo and company were detained evening of November 27 for allegedly transporting the minors without parental consent and on Thursday, the Talaingod Municipal Police Station, represented by its police chief, filed a complaint against the group for alleged kidnapping and failure to return minors, human trafficking and child abuse.

The Provincial Prosecutor on November 29 found probable cause in the child abuse complaint, recommended bail for 80,000 each and gave them 10 days to file their counter-affidavits. The group was granted temporary liberty Saturday night after posting bail of 80,000 each or a total of 1.44 million pesos.

Apiag said the charges filed against the group are ludicrous and desperate attempt of the government forces to cover up their “economic agenda” in the mineral-rich Pantaron range, also a source of water for Davao Region, Northern Mindanao, and Caraga.

Meggie Nolasco, executive director of the Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center, maintained that it was them and their students who are the victims of the incident.

She said the Salugpongan schools, which have permits from the Department of Education, were closed by the paramilitary group and the 56thInfantry Battalion.

“What is criminal here is Duterte’s state policy of martial law, killings, and the selling out of resources of ancestral lands in Mindanao,” she said.

Mindanao Week of Peace held with 'Kalilang' performances

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 3): Mindanao Week of Peace held with 'Kalilang' performances

The National Commission on Muslim Filipinos in Northern Mindanao (NCMF-10) has joined the Mindanao Week of Peace with a Meranaw cultural presentation dubbed as the "Kalilang for Peace" over the weekend.

NCMF-10 Acting Director Abdulnasser P. Masorong, Jr. said the cultural activity was their contribution to the Mindanao Week of Peace, which is institutionalized by Presidential Proclamation No. 127.

"Peace cannot be kept by force, it can only be achieved by understanding," Masoronga said, quoting the famous scientist Albert Einstein.

"Events like this should often be celebrated by millennials," he added, saying the youth remains the hope for a peaceful and prosperous country.

The NCMF-led event featured different types of ethnic dances to convey and express the language of peace and serenity, performed by the Dariday Cultural Dance Troupe.

Soldiering for peace in Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 1): Soldiering for peace in Mindanao

ZAMBOANGA CITY -- Muslim and Christian peace-builders in this city soldier on as they celebrate the 22nd year of the Week of Peace here from Nov. 29 to December 5.

The multi-sectoral parade that formally kicked off the celebration on Thursday, drew a few thousands of students and teachers from private and public schools, military, police and government personnel, urban poor, farmers, lumads, Muslim and Christian religious leaders, and members of civil society organizations.

The parade weaved around the city’s Pasonanca Park and culminated in a short program at the Boy Scout camp amphitheater there.

“Muslims and Christians and indigenous people walking together in the parade is symbolic of their shared desire for peace,” said Fr. Angel Calvo, president of Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ), which has spearheaded the celebration since its inception.

“This year, the Interreligious Solidarity for Peace, (ISP) notwithstanding the threats to peace by some misguided sectors of society, stands firm (on) its tenets of reaching out to all those who love peace and brotherhood,” said Hadji Ali Yacub, Muslim convenor of ISP, the flagship interfaith platform of PAZ.

This year’s theme is “Human Security: The Agenda for Peace and Hope”.

Pre-Week activities included a peace camp and mural painting of peace-themed art on the fences of the Zamboanga State Polytechnic College.

Apart from the opening day parade, the activities include the Festival de Cine Paz Mindanao, historical and solidarity journey to the Subanon community in Limpapa Barangay, Peaceweavers Awards Night, forum on the Bangsamoro Organic Law, and Indigenous Peoples Community Fun Day. The traditional closing day evening torch parade will culminate in a musical concert.

“The Week of Peace is a parable of hope. Its observance is now a tradition in the city,” Calvo said.

“This year’s theme is a fitting statement for a brighter and better world for the next generations of Muslims and Christians in Mindanao and the whole of Filipino nation,” Yacub said.

The peace overdrive was launched two years after PAZ was organized by a few concerned Catholic and Muslim religious leaders as the Abu Sayyaf staged a wave of kidnappings and terroristic atrocities in the region, including Zamboanga City, upending the local population’s sense of security.

Together with the Moro rebellion, the Abu Sayyaf has been giving the Western Mindanao region serious security problems.

The threats and attacks strengthened the resolve of the region’s peace advocates like PAZ and ISP.

Each Week of Peace observance is always grounded on current hard issues, such as the holding of the forum on the BOL during the present occasion.

As it has been in past years, the city mayor issued an executive order acknowledging the significance of the celebration.

Mayor Ma. Isabel Climaco-Salazar, in her latest executive order, “called upon the constituents of Zamboaga to actively participate in the week-long activities prepared by Peace Advocates Zamboanga and Interreligious Solidarity for Peace.”

The celebration is also recognized and endorsed by two previous Presidential proclamations.

Using radio, social media to advocate peace

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 1): Using radio, social media to advocate peace


Anti-social terrorists make use of almost unchallenged information and communication technology like Internet platforms to spread their culture of violence.

However, two Muslim peace advocates harnessed the reach and power of radio broadcast and social media to counter jihadist propaganda from influencing their fellow Muslims in Western Mindanao.

They fight fire with the proverbial water of eternal life.

The two radio program block timers are Abdulwahid Lutian and Mickdad Sali.

Lutian is an official of the Bureau of Quarantine office in Zamboanga City, while Sali is a police community relations officer at the Police Protection and Security Group of the Philippine National Police’s regional office in the Zamboanga Peninsula region.

“We use our radio program to reach out to our Muslim brothers, to educate them on the correct teachings of Islam, to bring back to the fold those who have strayed from the Islamic way,” said Lutian, who regularly anchors Al-Raisalah program.

Al-Raisalah is Arabic for “The Messenger”, according to Lutian. It is aired live every Saturday and Sunday, from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. over RPN-DXXX AM station in Zamboanga.

The transmission power, Lutian said, reaches most of the provinces in the Sulu area and up to the Lanao areas.

He is the main host and anchor, while Sali takes care of production chores or pinch-hits for him when he is not available.

Different bonafide Muslim scholars serve as resource persons in every episode. They have lined up 25 topics so far that will cover up to January next year. The program’s episodes are posted on its Facebook account.

Lutian said they discuss a wide array of topics in the program.

“Last Sunday, we talked why it is a sin for a Muslim to imbibe intoxicating alcohol,” Lutian said, adding that alcohol is prohibited in the Koran, as well as in the sayings of Prophet Muhammad.

The issues they have discussed or will discuss in the coming episodes include human rights, Shariah laws and its parts, health from the point of Islamic practice, burial ceremonies, voting rights, and peace and security.

Each on-air dialogue with the Muslim scholars, he said, makes it authoritative and authentic. All the scholars tapped to guest in the program are graduates of Islamic universities abroad, with diplomas on their majors, such as Shariah laws.

Lutian is a member of the technical working group of the Countering Violent Extremism and Terrorism (CVET) group of the city, which is headed by the city mayor.

“My radio program also aims to warn the youths from getting involved in extremism, by citing Koranic admonitions against violence and depicting the life of Prophet Muhammad as a man and model of peace,” he said.

The main theme of the radio program, he said, is oneness of Muslims with Allah.

“We want our Muslim brothers to follow the teachings of Islam to foster peace and harmony in Muslim societies and our relationship with people of other faith,” he said.

Lutian and Sali started their broadcasting tandem back in 2009 in a different station, which lasted until 2015.

During the Ramadhan fasting month earlier this year, the two conducted another program on topics related to fasting. They launched their ongoing program in DXXX last August.

Lutian said he and Sali carry out the radio projects on a voluntary basis, and are not getting paid for their services. A Muslim NGO pays for the airtime, he said.

“The radio programs from the start are our passion, from our sense of dedication to serve,” he said.

A few days ago, Task Force Zamboanga’s 11 Infantry Battalion bestowed on him a certificate of recognition for his radio outreach project and peace-making advocacies, during the battalion’s anniversary.

No doubt, the recognition is a salute to Lutian in his mission to promote peace and security and the Islamic way of better life for his brothers, redounding to inclusion among local peoples of other faiths.

Dureza resignation feared to dampen peace talks with Reds

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 3): Dureza resignation feared to dampen peace talks with Reds


Former Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Jesus Dureza (File Photo)

A leader of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) has expressed fear that the resignation of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Jesus Dureza, would undermine all the previous efforts to sustain the peace negotiations between the government and Communist rebels.

In a statement he posted on social media late Friday night, IFI Bishop Felixberto Calang, main convener of the Sowing the Seeds of Peace, said they are saddened by Dureza’s exit as government’s chief peace adviser on Nov. 27.

“He (Dureza) was instrumental in leading the peace talks up to the [fifth] round,” Calang said, referring to the series of negotiations conducted by the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in some parts of Europe in 2016 and early last year.

When President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in 2016, resuming the talks was on his priority list, even ordering Dureza to set the table for negotiations a few weeks into his presidency.

But on Nov. 23, 2017, Duterte signed Proclamation No. 360, formally terminating the peace negotiations with the rebels, citing the continued fighting and the attacks made by the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the NDFP, against the security forces.

Dureza, Calang said, “thought out of the box to hurdle the snags and pushed both formal and informal processes with urgency.”

With Dureza gone as the government’s chief peace adviser, Calang said they are worried that the negotiations might take a wrong turn and destroy everything that both sides of the negotiating table, as well as the third-party facilitators and other entities involved in the peace process, have built over the years.

“We also find that [Dureza] as a civilian voice in the peace talks was gradually marginalized by the increasing militarism from outside the panel. The shadow peace panel of the security sector has been looming large over the negotiations,” he noted.

“We fear that replacing Secretary Dureza with someone from the security sector will throw out the essence of the peace negotiations. It will transform the peace talks into a sounding board for surrender rather than a process of dialogue to commonly address the roots of the armed conflict,” he said.

The prelate added that the peace talks might become a “mere play in the ‘game of the generals.’”

Calang said they are apprehensive that the collateral damage of the resignation is the sound, rational, and people-center perspective.

“Even as the [government of the Republic of the Philippines] principal, President Duterte, was closing the doors on the talks, Secretary Dureza prodded for the sustaining of the talks,” he said.

The motive for the President’s acceptance of Dureza’s resignation and his consequent replacement, Calang said, must have been greater than Duterte and Dureza’s close personal relationship, which is important in a negotiation, where the peace adviser is virtually the alter ego of the principal.

In a statement, Dureza said he decided to step down for his failure to address the alleged corruption involving two of his subordinates in the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), which he headed, on the implementation of the “Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan” (PAMANA).

Pamana is the national government’s peace and development framework designed to respond and strengthen peace-building, reconstruction, and development in conflict-affected areas. OPAPP oversees the implementation of this program.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo, in a separate statement, said Duterte “has accepted, with deep regrets” Dureza’s resignation.

Panelo said Malacañang commended Dureza for taking full responsibility and issuing an apology under the principle of command responsibility for the transgressions committed by his two subordinates.

“His resignation has set a concrete example and put a true meaning to the value of ‘delicadeza’ and morality in governance. This is leadership by example,” he said.


On Nov. 28, President Rodrigo Duterte praised Dureza for having a delicadeza after the latter resigned from his post because of alleged corruption committed by two OPPAP assistant secretaries.

Duterte made this statement during his speech at the groundbreaking of the Panguil Bay Bridge here, Wednesday afternoon, a day after Dureza tendered his resignation.

"I came late because I have so many things to do because you know the peace process cannot wait. Secretary Dureza resigned and I accept it," Duterte said.

"I would not mention anything against Dureza but 'yong karamiham dito (most of these are)... many times that I fired so many people because 'yong corruption sa baba (because of the corruption beneath it)," he added.

He noted: "Kaya siguro si (probably why) Jess, under the principle of command responsibility, whether you really know about it or not, you have to take full responsibility."

The President said he likes Dureza's delicadeza because it is honoring one's self.

Balangiga Bells back to Eastern Samar Dec. 15

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 3): Balangiga Bells back to Eastern Samar Dec. 15

The Balangiga Bells will be back to its original place on Dec. 15, in time for the start of Christmas tradition of nine-day dawn masses, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced on Monday.
Lorenzana said the three bells will arrive at the Villamor Air Base on Dec. 11 with a simple military ceremony.
“We will look at the availability of President Duterte, but the target is to bring back the bells to Balangiga town by Dec. 15 in time for the Misa de Gallo,” Lorenzana told Eastern Visayas officials during the joint meeting of regional councils on development, disaster management, and peace and order held in this city.  
Misa de Gallo is a devotional nine-day series of masses practiced by Roman Catholics in the country in anticipation of Christmas.
The country’s defense chief said he got a call from the office of US Defense Secretary James Mattis about the schedule of the bells’ arrival in the country. 
The official said refurbishing of the bells is already completed and the artifacts are now ready for transit to the Philippines. 
“This is my good news to you that after 117 years, the bells will come where they should belong,” he said. 
On August 9, US Defense Secretary James Mattis notified US Congress of its intention to return the Balangiga Bells to the country. The decision followed a year-long consultative process with associated veterans’ organizations and government officials to ensure appropriate steps are taken to preserve the history associated with the bells. 
Over a century ago, American soldiers took the bells from Balangiga town’s church as war trophy. The bells’ ringing signaled the attack by the villagers against the invaders.
The Balangiga Encounter happened on Sept. 28, 1901, when town residents led by Valeriano Abanador initiated an attack against US soldiers. 
The villagers killed 54 American soldiers using bolos. It was the biggest defeat of the foreign troop during the Philippine-American war.
Around 2,500 Filipinos were killed by the US retaliatory attack. The Americans took the Balangiga Bells after they turned the town into a “howling wilderness”.
Balangiga town is about 98 kilometers east of Tacloban City. It is a fourth-class town in Eastern Samar, with a population of 14,085.

Tribal leaders, lumad youths eye raps vs. Ocampo, others

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 3): Tribal leaders, lumad youths eye raps vs. Ocampo, others

Tribal leaders Lipatuan Joel Unad, the chairman of the Mindanao IPS Conference for Peace and Development (MIPCPD), translates for Datu Guibang Apuga during the Kapehan sa Dabaw at SM City Annex on Monday. (PNA photo by Lilian C. Mellejor)

Tribal datus from Mindanao sign the Manifesto condemning the violation of their rights and infiltration of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) into their ancestral domain. The signing took place during the Kapehan sa Dabaw at SM City Annex on Monday. (PNA photo by Lilian C Mellejor)

DAVAO CITY -- The Indigenous Peoples (IP) Council of Elders in the Davao del Norte town of Talaingod and several lumad youths are eyeing criminal charges against Bayan Muna president and former House representative Satur Ocampo, ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro and their companions.

Lipatuan Joel Unad, chairman of the Mindanao IPs Conference for Peace and Development (MIPCPD), said Monday the charges being planned against Ocampo pertain to potential violations of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 2012.

Police last week filed cases against Ocampo, Castro and 16 others for allegedly violating Republic Act 10364 or the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012, in relation to Republic Act 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act, kidnapping, and failure to return a minor.

Informed consent
Unad described Ocampo's group as "intruders of the ancestral domain of the tribe."

The tribal leader pointed out that Ocampo's group did not seek the tribe's permission when they entered their ancestral domain, as well as in recruiting IP youths in activities organized by left-leaning organizations.

Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), he said, is enshrined in the IPRA Law that Ocampo's group had allegedly violated.

“Padayon ang among pag file sa kaso sa pagsulod nila sa ancestral domain (We will push the filing of cases against them,” he told local reporters during the Kapehan sa Dabaw.

A group of Lumad youths, he added, is also looking into pressing charges against Ocampo and his colleagues.


As this developed, some 42 tribal leaders signed a manifesto condemning the violation of the IP rights and the alleged Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) infiltration of tribal lands in Mindanao.

The manifesto, signed by the tribal leaders from Mindanao during the Kapehan sa Dabaw at SM Annex on Monday, cited the alleged trafficking and exploitation of 14 lumad minors in Talaingod town by Ocampo and others.

The tribal leaders also condemned the release of Ocampo and his companions while the investigation was ongoing.

The Mindanao Council of Elders also banned all non-government and even government organizations from tribal lands without first obtaining FPIC from the Council of elders.

Ocampo and his colleagues were released on bail Saturday evening.

The Bayan Muna leader said he and his group headed to Talaingod on the evening of November 28 following reports that the children and teachers of a tribal school were fleeing after the alleged forcible closure of the school by the Talaingod municipal government and the IP's Council of Elders.

Army activates task force for peace, dev’t in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 3): Army activates task force for peace, dev’t in Maguindanao

Brig. Gen. Diosdado Carreon, commander of the 601st Infantry “Unifier” Brigade based in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao, signs the Memorandum of Understanding creating Inter-Agency Task Force Magiting Monday. (Photo by 601st Brigade)

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao – The Army activated Monday an inter-agency task force as a support mechanism for the government’s anti-drug, anti-illegal logging, peace and development and disaster response initiatives, an official said.

Brigadier General Diosdado Carreon, commander of the Army's 601st Infantry “Unifier” Brigade based in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao, said the Inter-Agency Task Force “Magiting” (IATF-Magiting) aims to attain peace, progress, and prosperity in the area of responsibility of the Army’s 601st Brigade."

The task force is composed of the clustered municipalities of Rajah Buayan, Mamasapano, Shariff Saydona Mustapha and Sultan Sa Barongis, all of Maguindanao and under the area of operation of the 40th Infantry Battalion (40th IB), a unit under 601st Brigade.

Carreon signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Saturday that officially created IATF-Magiting along with Rajah Buayan Mayor Zamzamin Ampatuan, Mamasapano Mayor Tahirodin Benzar Ampatuan, Sultan sa Barongis Mayor Ramdatu Angas and Shariff Saydona Mustapha municipal administrator Datu Sajid Islam Uy Ampatuan who represented the town mayor.

The reactivation of IATF Magiting, Carreon said, aims to strengthen the collaboration between the above-mentioned municipalities to promote, administer and pursue the following mandates: development support, anti-illegal drugs campaign, peace and security, and disaster response operations.

The activity was witnessed by Col. Joel Abregana, the Army's 601st deputy brigade commander, Lt. Colonel Edgar L Catu, commander of the Army's 40th IB, and other local officials.

Mayor Zamzamin Ampatuan lauded the efforts of the 601st Brigade and the 40IB for creating the IATF-Magiting that centered on collaboration and strengthen the binds of the local chief executives to address pertaining to peace and development and disaster preparedness.

Carreon expressed his gratitude for the cooperation and active response of the local chief executives.

“Let us set aside politics,” Carreon said. “This is the right time to strengthen our ties, for the good of our constituents."

NPA 'member' posts bail for illegal possession of firearm

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 3): NPA 'member' posts bail for illegal possession of firearm

A suspected member of the New People’s Army (NPA) who was arrested for illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental posted bail on Monday, thus was released from police custody.

A report from the Guihulngan Police Station disclosed that the suspect, Joel Esolana Alcano, 25, married and a resident of Sitio Punong in Barangay Trinidad, Guihulngan City, was required to post bail of PHP120,000 for his temporary liberty.

Judge Mario Trinidad of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 64 issued the release order for Alcano after having posted bail, the police said.

Alcano was arrested around 10:30 a.m. last Friday in a checkpoint conducted by the 2nd Provincial Mobile Force Company of the Philippine National Police (PNP) here and the 94th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army under OPORD Sanib Puersa Dos 11/2018.

Seized from Alcano’s possession were a caliber .38 revolver with six live ammunition.

He was identified as allegedly a member of the CN1 of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army, the police report said.

More missiles in the pipeline for PH Navy

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 3): More missiles in the pipeline for PH Navy

More capable and powerful missile weaponry are now in the pipeline for the Philippine Navy (PN) following the successful integration of Rafael Advanced Defense Ltd.'s Spike-ER (extended range) surface-to-surface missile system into the fleet.

This was revealed by Navy spokesperson Commander Jonathan Zata when asked if more sophisticated missile systems and platforms are in the offing, and whether the Spike-ER heralded the formal entry of the PN into the missile age.

"(Yes). It (Spike-ER) ushered the Navy and the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) to the missile age and also prepares for the forthcoming acquisition of a more sophisticated and powerful weapons systems and capabilities," Zata told the Philippine News Agency Sunday.

The Spike-ER system, which arrived in the country last April, is the PN's first missile weapon that is capable of penetrating 1,000-mm (39 inches) of rolled homogeneous armor and has a range of eight kilometers.

It was first tested in Aug. 9 off Lamao Point, Limay, Bataan and again on Nov. 21.

The weapons were installed and fired by the PN's three Mark III multi-purpose assault craft (MPAC) constructed by Subic-based Propmech Corporation.

Zata added that the PN will gain more capability to operate modern naval weaponry with the arrival of the Pohang-class frigate, donated by the Republic of Korea (ROK), next year.

"The Pohang-class frigate from ROK will also be delivered by next year equipped with a better weapons system that the Navy can already use as it prepares for the delivery of the two purposely-built frigates starting 2020," he stressed.

The Pohang-class frigate is equipped with a primary and secondary gun systems, sensors and torpedoes for anti-submarine missions as well as sensors for anti-air operations, Zata revealed.

Earlier, the PN spokesperson said their high-speed MPACS can also be utilized against large surface targets intruding into the country's territorial waters.

Zata said this is the essence of the "swarming tactic" developed by the Navy for its MPAC fleet.

In the said tactic, large numbers of MPACs will be deployed to engage large surface threats.

"(In the said tactics) numerically superior of fast, agile and missile-equipped MPACs will engage and neutralize targets," the PN spokesperson pointed.

He added that the MPACs can be also optimized for hit-and-run raids if needed.

AFP always evaluating troop missions

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 3): AFP always evaluating troop missions

Even before the issuance of Memorandum Order 32, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is always conducting "operational needs inspection" to determine whether its troops on the ground are accomplishing or meeting their missions.

This was emphasized by AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo in an interview with DZRH Sunday.

"Alam po ninyo (You know), even before the issuance of MO 32, ang (the) AFP po ay nagco-conduct ng tinatawag naming (conducts what we call) operational needs inspection, if I may call it that way, where ina-assess po natin (we assess) how are (we) faring with respect to our mission (and) our timetable. Paano po natin ito na-accomplish (How we have accomplished it) based on the situation on the operation, on the ground," he added.

With this procedure, Arevalo said the military is able to make necessary adjustments in terms of troop deployments if needed.

He added that such procedure is essential in preventing the spread of lawless violence in other parts of the country.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, earlier, said Memorandum Order 32 will allow the deployment of strike forces against rebel groups operating in these provinces, which includes Samar, Bicol and Negros Oriental and Occidental.

He added that the order was warranted because New People's Army forces in the above-mentioned regions are still quite formidable.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea issued Memorandum Order No. 32 on Nov. 22 amid "sporadic acts: of violence" allegedly committed by lawless groups particularly in the provinces of Samar, Negros Oriental and Occidental, and Bicol Region.

"There is a need to reinforce the directive of the President in order to prevent further loss of innocent lives and destruction of property and bring the whole country back to a state of complete normalcy as quick as possible,” he said in the memorandum order.

AFP to recommend 1-year extension of martial law in Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 3): AFP to recommend 1-year extension of martial law in Mindanao

Outgoing Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. on Monday said the military will recommend a year-long extension of martial law in Mindanao.

"We have recommendations already, nakikita po namin ang lahat ng (we see that all) RPOC (Regional Peace and Order Councils) and also the local government units and even the Comelec (Commission on Elections) and other agencies are recommending for extension of at least one year," he added.

The proposed extension is aimed at reducing or eliminating terrorism threat on the island, Galvez stressed.

"(Year-long martial law extension is recommended) so that we can substantially make significant dent on terrorism," Galvez said during flag-raising ceremonies in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City Monday.

The AFP chief said this is the military's position as there is clamor for an extension of martial law considering that terrorism is still present in Mindanao.

"(Our) position (is), because there is really a clamor for the extension considering that terrorism is still lurking in the area, nakita natin, nagkaroon tayo ng (We saw them like) Basilan bombing, and then recently we have an encounter in Sulu. The Sulu problem still persists, and we have also some bombings in Isulan and General Santos and also continuous bombing in Maguindanao so there is really a need to constrict and limit the maneuver space of the terrorist to the maximum, we have a very weak terrorism law so with that martial law is need to completely defeat the terrorism," he added.

Galvez added that their recommendation will be submitted to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and most probably during the command conference with the new AFP chief this coming Dec. 12 after which their findings will be presented to the President.

Malacañang earlier said it would depend on the recommendation of the AFP on whether martial law will be extended after the end of the year. Martial law in Mindanao was declared on May 23, 2017 following attacks launched by the Maute Group in Marawi City.

The House of Representatives, in a special joint session in July last year, granted the extension of martial law until Dec. 31, 2017 at the President's request.

The Senate and House of Representatives, convening in a joint session early December, granted the Chief Executive's request for the extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus for a period of one year from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2018.

Reds maneuvering truth on Ocampo arrest: DavNorte guv

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 3): Reds maneuvering truth on Ocampo arrest: DavNorte guv

Davao del Norte Governor Anthony del Rosario on Monday said leftist organizations use indigenous people (IPs) “to push their own agenda,” and accused them of maneuvering the truth.

This, after former Bayan Muna party-list lawmaker Satur Ocampo and his companions were charged Friday with kidnapping and human trafficking over the transport of minors in Davao del Norte.

In a statement, del Rosario denied Ocampo’s allegations that a paramilitary group forcibly closed the Salugpongan Ta’TanuIgkanogon Community Learning Center, Inc. (STTICLCI) in Dulyan, Palma Gil village, Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

The so-called ‘right defenders’ exploited the issue to demonize the government and raise funds for their benefit,” he said.

He said it was the local government unit and tribal leaders who pushed for the closure after seeing Salugpongan schools being used as platforms by leftist groups for anti-government propaganda and armed struggle.

“We cannot allow a few cunning individuals to mar our development momentum in the Lumad municipality,” del Rosario said.

Del Rosario called on the leftist groups to stop exploiting the Lumads and start working closely with the government instead.

"The incident revealed how the age-old conflict between the government and those who seek to overthrow it took its toll on our innocent and disadvantaged IP brothers and sisters," he said.

"Time and again, we have proven that genuine pro-poor governance is the key to alleviating the lives of our Indigenous People," he added.

Ocampo and 17 others, tagged as ‘Talaingod 18’, were arrested last Wednesday evening for violating Republic Act No. 10364 or the Expanded Anti-Trafficking of Persons Act of 2012 after allegedly holding 14 minors without parental consent and permit from the LGU.

The leftist group, however, defended this move, saying it is part of a fact-finding mission on the Salugpongan schools’ closure.

AFP chief insists Lumad schools used as NPA breeding ground

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 3): AFP chief insists Lumad schools used as NPA breeding ground

Outgoing Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff, Gen. Carlito Galvez said the Salugpungan Community Learning Center and ALCADEV Lumad School are being used as breeding grounds of the New People's Army (NPA).

This was emphasized by the military chief in an interview with reporters shortly after flag-raising ceremony in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City Monday.

"Ang nakikita natin (sa) (What we see in) Talaingod (Davao del Norte), yung (the) Salugpungan, at saka (and) ALCADEV, ginagamit talaga yan (are being used). The people must know that the Salugpungan at saka yung (and the) ALCADEV is a breeding ground for NPA, yung ginagawa nila (former Bayan Muna Representative) Satur Ocampo na dinadala dito sa (What they do is that they bring them here in) Manila. This is an exposure. 'Yung lima na nag-surrender dito sa north na galing dun sa ALCADEV at saka galing din dun sa areas ng mga (The five who surrendered in the north who came from ALCADEV and those who came from the areas of the) IPs (Indigenous People). Ito yung talagang nagpapatunay na talagang itong si (This really proves that) (ACT-Teacher Partylist Representatives France) Castro at saka itong si (and) Satur Ocampo, they are active members of the (Communist Party of the Philippines) CPP-NPA," he added.

Galvez also said this claim is already attested by Lumad leaders.

"So ngayon, nakikita natin ang last bastion na lang ng CPP-NPA is yung IPs kasi yung mga Indigenous People ito na lang ang pinaka-vulnerable sector na kaya nilang lokohin (Now, we see that the last bastion of the CPP-NPA is the IPs because the Indigenous People are the most vulnerable sector whom they can deceive)," he added.

Ocampo, Castro and several others were accused of violating Republic Act 10364 or The Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012 and Article 270 of the Revised Penal Code which defines and provides penalty on the offense of kidnapping and failure to return a minor.

Ocampo and Castro claimed they are part of a humanitarian mission in Talaingod, Davao del Norte due to reports that students of these Lumad schools were fleeing the area following their closure.

AFP to conduct more intel ops vs. NPA hit squads

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 3): AFP to conduct more intel ops vs. NPA hit squads

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will beef up intelligence operations to foil New People's Army (NPA) hit squads from attacking off-duty military personnel.

This was disclosed by AFP spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo in a message to reporters Monday.

"While it still remains an idea (to form a unit tasked to hunt or neutralize NPA hit squads) of the President as of this time, we will continue to step up our intelligence some more, continue to remind our troops to be extra vigilant during 'Liberty', Rest and Recreation', or otherwise non-combat activities to prevent them from falling prey to treacherous NPA attacks," Arevalo said.

Arevalo said the creation of the new unit highlights President Rodrigo Duterte's determination to stamp out the NPA liquidation squads.

The President earlier mulled the idea of creating the AFP's own liquidation squad to specifically go after NPA hit squads targeting security personnel.

"I do not want to second guess what's in the mind of the President by calling it Duterte Death Squad (DDS). But to us, it could've carried his name with it to show that he is personally resolved and determined to stamp out this terrorist NPA's liquidation squads," he added.

If the AFP is to be asked, Arevalo said the military can call it by another name like Team Counter-NPA Liquidation Squad and other similar names.

"We advocate a creation of teams comprised of elite soldiers to form that Team and we do not want its success to be referred to as the death squad of the President whose only intent as the Commander-in-Chief is to realize his care and compassion to the men and women of the AFP (and the welfare of their families) who may be victimized by the NPA," the AFP spokesperson said.

Galvez wants 'almost 2-year term' for AFP chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 3): Galvez wants 'almost 2-year term' for AFP chief

Outgoing Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr. is hoping that the tenure for the military's highest position will be set for "almost two years" to ensure continuity in their programs and reforms.

"(We are hoping that) a tenure of almost two years for (AFP) chief-of-staff (will be set so that) magkaroon talaga ng continuity, that is what we are asking. Magkaroon sana ng ganoong (That we have such) tenure (the AFP chief-of-staff), to (plan and see into fruition) the reforms that we can make for two years," Galvez said.

He also expressed confidence that the AFP can defeat all security threats within the term of President Rodrigo Duterte.

"I'm very, very confident that we can finish all the conflicts in two to three years’ time, with the kind of President that we have, a very supportive President, we are very confident that we can finish all threats in his time," Galvez added.

The outgoing AFP chief is a member of Philippine Military Academy Class of 1985 and will step down on Dec. 12 upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56.

Galvez also said he is very fulfilled with his 30 years of military service, especially during his term as AFP chief.

"I'm very fulfilled kasi yung lahat ng gusto kong mangyari sa (everything that I wanted to happen for the) Armed Forces, with the help of our superiors, yung mga predecessors ko (my predecessors), we were able to instill discipline and tinatawag nating (what we call) institutional reforms. As of now, the Armed Forces have enjoyed good image wherein our legitimacy and our purpose of serving the people and the state has been recognized by the Filipino people," he said.

Galvez added he wants troops to remember him as the AFP chief who helped make the military's financial institution very strong and imbued an integrity program aside from helping weed out corruption in the institution.

PRRD to study AFP, PNP’s proposal to extend martial law

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 3): PRRD to study AFP, PNP’s proposal to extend martial law

Malacañang on Monday said President Rodrigo Duterte will evaluate the recommendation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) to extend martial law in Mindanao for a year.

“Of course, the President will always evaluate whatever recommendation that the AFP and PNP will give him,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a Palace media briefing.

Earlier, outgoing AFP chief-of-staff, Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. said the AFP’s decision was based on recommendations from Regional Peace and Order Councils, Commission on Elections, local government units and other agencies to extend martial law “at least one year” in Mindanao.

“Given the support of martial law in Mindanao even by the Catholic bishop and the citizens there, the President may be persuaded to grant, approve the recommendation,” Panelo said.

“But of course, that’s the prerogative of the President,” he added.

Panelo said the safety of the people in Mindanao is always the basis of any extension of martial law.

“If the threats remain and there is still an ongoing rebellion, then constitutionally, the basis would be valid for continuation of martial law,” Panelo said.

Duterte placed Mindanao under martial law on May 23, 2017 following attacks launched by the terrorist Maute Group in Marawi City.

At the height of the six-month Marawi conflict in July last year, the House of Representatives granted Duterte’s request for martial law extension until Dec. 31, 2017.

The House and the Senate granted anew the President’s request for the extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus for a year, from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2018.

Panelo said it would still be up to the two houses of Congress whether or not to extend martial law.

“Again, the Constitution grants them the authority to decide whether or not it will extend martial law. So, we leave it to them,” Panelo said.

NPA hit squad operating under another name: PNP

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 3): NPA hit squad operating under another name: PNP

They may no longer be called the Special Partisan Unit (SPARU) of the New People's Army (NPA) but the group continues to carry out assassinations, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, Director General Oscar Albayalde, said on Monday.

Albayalde said these hitmen are responsible for the deaths of 136 people, mostly soldiers, policemen, local officials and rebel returnees in the past three years.

“Over the past three years, there had been 136 hits on soldiers, policemen, rebel returnees, local officials, and tribal leaders by the CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front) attributed to its Special Partisan Unit/Special Operations Group (SPU/SOG), based in the “red areas,” Albayalde told reporters in a press briefing on Monday.

“These hit squads are now popularly referred to as the Sparrows. But they are not based in urban areas like the former Sparrow Unit, but only get out from the red area (normally rural area) to do special partisan operations like liquidation, murder or assassination, as directed by the Regional Party Committee,” he added.

The latest assassinations carried out by the NPA hit squad, according to Albayalde, was the killing of two Army soldiers at the Las Navas public market in Northern Samar last Nov. 27, the assassination of Philippine Navy Sr. Chief Petty Officer Jesus Saavedra in Pio Duran, Albay and the botched assassination of ex-Mayor Aran Boller of Matuginao, Samar in Catbalogan City.

Albayalde clarified that he was referring to the notorious hit squad, the defunct Alex Boncayao Brigade (ABB) of the Manila-Rizal Regional Party Committee of Filemon Lagman, belonging to the rejectionist wing of the CPP-NPA-NDF led by Arturo Tabara and Romulo Kintanar.

He said that it was disbanded by the pro-Sison reaffirmist wing of the communist movement in early 1990’s during its 2nd Rectification period.

“But since then, the pro-Sison reaffirmist wing also adopted its Sparrow-like operations against their perceived enemies reportedly including the assassinations of Popoy Lagman, Arturo Tabara and Romulo Kintanar in early 2000,” Albayalde said.

“There is strong possibility that it will stage more hits depending on how the communist movement would want to utilize the Special Partisan Unit/Special Operations Group specialized capability for small unit missions against vulnerable targets,” he added.

The issue about the NPA squad was revived after President Rodrigo Duterte was quoted saying that he wants to create a government version of hit squad targeting communist rebels.

“Probably these incidents prompted the President to look into this deeper and probably ito yung sinasabi nya that we would create a special unit to address specifically this problem,” Albayalde said.

Albayalde said he has yet to receive instructions from the President regarding the matter.

"Wala pang (there is still no) specific guidance dyan (on that)," he added.

Earlier, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said they will study and look very closely on President Duterte's proposal to form a unit that will go after the communist rebels' hit squad.

PRRD defends police over arrest of Ocampo

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 3): PRRD defends police over arrest of Ocampo

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday defended the police’s action to arrest former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and several others for kidnapping and human trafficking.

“I support the police and the military. You know an ordinary person, lalo na kung senador ka (especially if you are a senator), you must be aware that you cannot remove children from one community to another without the consent of the parents,” Duterte said in a media interview after conferring the posthumous Quezon Service Award on the late senator Miriam Defensor Santiago at the Malacañang Palace.

Duterte said what Ocampo and 17 others have done “is actually kidnapping” since parents have complained that their children were brought by Ocampo’s group without their consent.

“Eh nagreklamo ‘yung mga victims (The victims complained). You heard they were lectured upon by the Lumads. And it’s like controlling the lives of the natives,” Duterte said.

“Iyan ang mahirap sa komunista, ginagamit nila ang Lumad. Kaya ang karamihan ngayon ang namamatay Lumad (That’s the problem with the communists, they are using Lumads. That’s why many of those killed were Lumads),” he added.

He said the government has to get back the Lumads and tell them that the New People’s Army (NPA) will destroy them.

“When they (the communists) started to go to the mountains and wage a war there, they recruited ang pinaka vulnerable (the most vulnerable), the Lumads,” Duterte said.

Duterte said Ocampo’s Bayan Muna as well as Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and Gabriela are fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

“Bakit pa tayo magbobolahan? (Why we should fool each other?) Satur Ocampo is fronting Bayan. Bayan is a front of the CPP. We know that KMU, Gabriela, they’re all communist fronts or being used by the communists. Alam ninyo lahat yan. (All of you know that),” Duterte told the media.

“I will defend my soldiers and my policemen for sure because I think that they are right,” he added.

The military and police arrested Ocampo and 17 others, including ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro, at a checkpoint in Talaingod in Davao del Norte on Nov. 26 for transporting students of Lumad school Salungpungan Learning Center without permission from their parents.

Ocampo’s group was released after posting bail.