Wednesday, December 5, 2018

2 pro-ISIS fighters yield in southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner (Dec 4): 2 pro-ISIS fighters yield in southern Philippines

Two pro-ISIS militants, who were part of the Maute group that laid siege on Marawi City in southern Philippines last year, have surrendered to the military as security officials urged other radical fighters to return to the fold of the law.

Capt. Clint Antipala, a spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division, said the duo also handed over a sniper rifle and an M1 rifle to the 55th Infantry Battalion during the December 3 surrender.

Maj. Gen. Roseller Murillo, the division commander, said the continuous surrender of Maute militants entails weakening of their organizational leadership and capabilities.

“We will continuously work together with stakeholders in order to encourage more Maute or pro-ISIS groups to surrender peacefully and return to the fold of the law,” he said.

The deadly siege lasted 5 months with security forces battling hundreds of militants in close combat that displaced over 200,000 people. Hundreds were also killed and wounded in the battle.

Pro-ISIS militants shoot 2 military drones in South

From the Mindanao Examiner (Dec 5): Pro-ISIS militants shoot 2 military drones in South

Pro-ISIS militants shot a pair of military drones hovering near their encampment where security forces battled a huge group of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters or BIFF in southern Philippines.

The military has confirmed that two of its drones deployed in the troubled province of Maguindanao were both shot by militants, but it did not elaborate on the extent of damage suffered by the air crafts.

Soldiers fired several rounds of howitzer on suspected BIFF encampment in Ampatuan town as troops advanced to capture the remote area in Salman village from the militant group, blamed by authorities for terrorism and spate of attacks on civilians and military in Maguindanao and nearby provinces.

Sporadic fighting erupted on Tuesday and continued until the next day after troops were dispatched in the town where BIFF gunmen had converged and were suspected of preparing to launch offensives against security forces, and probably targeting police and military posts in Maguindanao, one of 5 provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.

There were no immediate reports of casualties from both sides, but raw military intelligence reports suggest that there had been a sizeable number of militants either killed or wounded in the battle.

The fierce fighting coincided with the surrender of many pro-ISIS militants in Maguindanao, a known stronghold of the rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF which signed an interim peace deal with Manila in 2014.

It was unknown whether any member of the MILF took part or fought alongside BIFF, a brake away faction of the rebel group which is campaigning for an autonomous region in the mineral-rich, but volatile Mindanao. The BIFF pledged allegiance to ISIS and has been fighting for the establishment of a caliphate in the South.

Tagalog News: YLS dinaluhan ng mahigit 100 kabataan sa Cantilan

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 5): Tagalog News: YLS dinaluhan ng mahigit 100 kabataan sa Cantilan

Featured Image

LUNGSOD NG TANDAG, Dis. – Umabot sa 107 kabataan ang lumahok sa “1st Cantilan Youth Leadership Summit” (YLS) na matagumpay na ginanap sa Libtong Cove, sakop ng Barangay General Island, Cantilan, Surigao del Sur noong Nobyembre 22-25, 2018, ayon sa opisyal ng military.

Napag-alaman mula kay Captain Francisco Garello Jr., na nagmula pa sa 17 barangay na sakop ng bayan sa Cantilan ang mga kabataang lumahok sa nasabing aktibidad.

Dagdag pa ni Garello, layunin nito na mapanatili sa kaisipan at sa puso ng bawat kabataan ang adbokasiyang boluntaryo para sa kapayapaan, maging responsible, at produktibong myembro ng lipunan na may mahusay o tamang na kaalaman.

Isa sa mga lumahok ang nagpaabot ng kanyang ekspektasyon patungkol sa kanyang nais na makamtan o malaman sa nasabing pagtitipon. Sinabi ni Evelyn Angeles na, “dumalo ako para malaman ang tamang gawi ng isang lider, at upang magiging magandang halimbawa sa mga kabataang katribu ng aming barangay."

Samantala, dumalo din si Mayor Philip Pichay bilang pangunahing pandangal at tagapagsalita, kung saan ibinahagi niya ang ang salitang “hanap-buhay” na may kahulugan na “maghanap ng paraan para mabuhay” bilang pagbigay inspirasyon sa mga kabataang dumalo. Binigyang diin pa ng opisyal na kung nakatuon dito ang mga kabataan, siguradong maganda ang maging kinabukasan ng mga ito, dahil mailalayo ito sa mga aktibidad na maaring makakasira ng kanilang kinabukasan.

Binigyang diin din ni Lt. Colonel Xerxes Trinidad, commanding officer ng 36IB na kabilang sa kanilang mandato ang pagsilbihan at proteksyunan ang mamayang Pilipino at binigyang diin nito na mapahalagahan ang isa sa mga sector ng lipunan, ang mga kabataan.

“With this summit, as part of our security awareness campaign, our hope is to save the youth from being exploited and recruited by the CPP-NPA Terrorist and other lawless elements,” sabi pa ni Trinidad.

Ang nasabing pagtitipon ay sinuportahan ng lokal na pamahalaan ng Cantilan sa pakikipagtulungan na rin ng 36IB, Philippine Army na siyang nag-organisa na gawin ang aktibidad sa nasabing bayan sa unang pagkakataon.

Farming curbs insurgency in Leyte’s remote village

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): Farming curbs insurgency in Leyte’s remote village

Village officials and military pose for a photo opportunity after the delivery of piglets in Villa Aurora in Burauen, Leyte. (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Army's 78th Infantry Batallion)

PALO, Leyte -- From being a rebel-infested and impoverished community, the upland village of Villa Aurora in Burauen, Leyte has gradually transformed to become this year’s top achiever in agribusiness in the province.

For village chief Winefredo Urtola, 63, their recognition as the best in compact integrated farming this year is a dream come true. Villa Aurora is a farming village 21 kilometers away from the town center and one of Burauen town’s remote communities.

“Back in 1980s, our village was a hotbed of communist rebels as many of our villagers joined the NPA. Two years ago, there was an attempt to recruit new members in a nearby community, but nobody from Villa Aurora bothered to listen to them because people have been busy with farming and all our children are in school,” Urtola told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Tuesday.

Urtola recalled how the 68-member organization worked hard to learn the art of raising high-value crops and livestock. Their total assets rose to about PHP5 million since they launched the project in December 2013, just a month after Super Typhoon Yolanda destroyed their main source of living -- coconut trees and abaca.

To start the business, each of the members contributed about PHP500 capital and PHP112 membership fee. The provincial government provided seedlings, fertilizers, piglets, and marketing assistance.

“When the governor noticed that we are diligent in producing high-value crops, the local government constructed five bridges and concreted the road leading to our village. Basic services and the market are now very accessible to us,” Urtola said.

Leyte Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla said the compact integrated farming was not really meant to fight insurgency, but primarily to raise the income of people in rural communities and arrest malnutrition among children.

“The root cause of insurgency is poverty and this program has been addressing poverty. I am happy that this has become one of the counter-insurgency measures in the province as we envision to making farming profitable for poor families,” Petilla added.

The compact farming program has already covered 210 villages in Leyte province this year.

Since the program’s launch in 2011, enrolled villages have experienced dramatic economic development from major improvements of infrastructure and an increase in food production.

The most successful is Villaconzoilo, an upland village seven kilometers away from the town center of Jaro, Leyte.

Aside from being the most impoverished area in the province in the past, the village was also affected by insurgency.

“The village has consistently achieved zero malnutrition rate and zero crime incidence over the past years,” the governor noted.

From producing high-value vegetables with a start-up capital of PHP1,800 from members’ contributions, the village evolved into a top farm-tourism destination in the province.

The organization managed to raise PHP20 million in assets with more than PHP4 million cash in the bank, and cultivates a 20-hectare farmland.

This is the second year the provincial government recognized farmers’ organization in Leyte. As winner, Villa Aurora farmers’ group received cash prize of PHP250,000 and a plaque of recognition.

This year’s runners-up are Macanip Integrated Farmers Association from Jaro, Leyte; Hipusngo Farmers and Fisherfolk Association from Baybay City; Sitio Sogod Farmers Association from Batbatngon, Leyte, and Canosa Ville Integrated Home-based Association from Palo, Leyte.

The event is the biggest gathering of farmers and fisherfolk from different towns in Leyte. Also recognized are 24 farmers’ associations, which passed the preliminary and final evaluations on their respective compact farming, hog fattening and breeding, egg laying, fisheries, community involvement projects, among others.

Soldiers overrun NPA camp in Quezon town

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): Soldiers overrun NPA camp in Quezon town

CAMP GEN. CAPINPIN, Tanay, Rizal -- Government troops of the 1st Infantry Battalion (1IB) on Tuesday overran a temporary encampment of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Sampaloc, Quezon which the military described as possible preparation for their Dec. 26 anniversary celebration.

Lt. Col. Jonathan S. Manio, 1st IB Commanding Officer, said the troops assaulted the rebels’ position in the remote village of barangay San Bueno while conducting Focus Military Operation (FMO).

Manio said the government troops’ assault stemmed from an intelligence report and a tip-off from civilians about the presence of members of the NPA Military Regional Guerilla Unit (MRGU).

The insurgents were conducting their extortion activities in the vicinity of the village as residents were gripped in fear, he said.

He said government forces engaged some 20 NPA terrorist rebels to a 30-minute gun battle at around 11:30 a.m. Tuesday where three soldiers were slightly wounded but are now in stable condition after medical treatment.

Troops believed the NPA suffered an undetermined number of casualties as they found traces of heavy blood stains at the clash site. The retreating rebels brought along their wounded comrades as they fled the battle site, Manio said.

The soldiers recovered one M16 rifle loaded with magazine and ammunition, personal belongings and other war materiel.

Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Arnulfo Marcelo B. Burgos Jr., Commander of the 202nd Brigade who has operational jurisdiction over Calabarzon Region, said the recent troops’ encounter in Sampaloc, including last month’s successive encounters in General Nakar town stemmed from voluntary information and tips from concerned civilians.

“It clearly shows that the NPAs are indeed losing mass base support due to their extortion and terror acts towards the people," Burgos said.

Maj. Gen. Rhoderick M. Parayno, Commander of the Philippine Army’s 2nd Infantry "Jungle Fighter" Division (2ID) lauded efforts of the 1IB.

He said this latest encounter with the NPA terrorists is a big setback to the upcoming Dec. 26 anniversary preparations of the outlawed communist party.

He said the Communist Party of the Philippines and its military armed, the New People’s Army, have been notorious in staging hostilities such as harassments, raids and ambuscades against soft government posts and installations to highlight significant events in the terrorist movement.

“We will be relentless on our combat operations until the yearend and we will give the CPP/NPA no time to celebrate their futile cause,” Parayno said.

“If they want to be with their families and live peaceful and lead normal and productive lives, I guarantee their safety and I'll make sure that they receive all the benefits due them offered by the government," Parayno added reiterating his appeal for the rebels to return to the fold of the law.

As of posting time, government troops are still conducting pursuit operations and checkpoints in coordination with the local police against said group of NPA rebels.

Army deploys peacekeepers for troubled NoCot village

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): Army deploys peacekeepers for troubled NoCot village

Several of the guns used in the Dec. 1, 2018 ambush in Matalam, North Cotabato, which were seized by authorities from 16 suspects. (Photo courtesy of the Police Regional Office – 12)

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao -- The Army in North Cotabato on Tuesday deployed two teams of infantrymen to act as peacekeepers in a remote village in Matalam, North Cotabato following an ambush by gunmen on members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) that killed three and injured four others recently.

Brig. Gen. Alfredo Rosario Jr., commander of the Army's 602nd Infantry Brigade, said the soldiers will prevent further violence resulting from the Saturday ambush, which was triggered by a land dispute.

Rosario also met with local leaders of the MNLF and civilians, who armed themselves to protect their lands and farms from harassment, to get their commitment and prevent similar violence in the future.

The victims, all members of the MNLF–Nur Misuari faction, were on board three motorbikes heading to their farms in Barangay Kibudoc, Matalam when ambushed by gunmen last Saturday.

The fatalities were identified as George Dilangalen, During Panga, and Mohammad Angeles, all MNLF members who died at the scene due to multiple gunshot wounds.

Wounded were MNLF members Jomer and Datu Ali, both surnamed Sultan, and also siblings Samsudin and Suharto Dilangalen. The ambush was preceded by a series of shooting and counter shooting involving farmers disputing ownership of vast parcels of land in the village.

Responding policemen arrested 16 persons, including four minors, and seized high-powered firearms from them.

The arrested farmers claimed they have equipped themselves to defend their lands from armed MNLF members, who are also farmers in the area.
Rosario said only military and police personnel are currently allowed to carry guns in the village.

“No member of the MNLF or civilians are permitted to carry firearms in Barangay Kibudoc,” he said.

Army-BIFF clash erupts in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): Army-BIFF clash erupts in Maguindanao

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao -- Fresh fighting sparked anew Tuesday night between government forces and Islamic State-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao.The fighting occurred some 800 meters away from the site of the 2009 Maguindanao massacre in Barangay Salman, Ampatuan, Maguindanao, according to Lt. Col. Alvin Iyog, commander of the Army’s 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion.

“No casualty was reported on the government side so far,” Iyog told reporters here Wednesday.

Major Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, the Army's 6th Infantry Division commander, said the situation remains under control and far from the national highway linking Cotabato City, Maguindanao, and Isulan in Sultan Kudarat.

Overnight, the Army used 105 howitzer cannons on Sitio Narra, Barangay Salman, where about 50 members of the BIFF - Karialan faction were sighted by residents.

"Evacuating residents were protected by military forces," Sobejana said.

Iyog said BIFF snipers fired at the Army drone called “bird’s eyes” while it was hovering over the village of Salman.

He said the group was headed by Abu Rusda and Diok, both sub-commanders of the Karialan BIFF faction.

An Army intelligence officer said the group had plotted to launch attacks against government forces in the towns of Shariff Aguak, Datu Hoffer, and Ampatuan.

EU vows continued support for Mindanao peace process

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 4): EU vows continued support for Mindanao peace process

The European Union (EU) has reiterated its support for the Mindanao peace process during the launch of Mohagher Iqbal's book retracing the Bangsamoro's challenges to self-determination.

EU Ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen was among the attendees at the launch of the book, "Negotiating Peace: An Insider’s Perspective to the Bangsamoros’ Struggle for Self-Determination", in Cotabato City on Monday.

In his speech, the envoy congratulated the author as he cited continuous and extended EU initiatives directly supporting the peace process in Mindanao.

Jessen noted that EU has been the biggest contributor to the multi-donor Mindanao Trust Fund (MTF) since 2006. He said the bloc provides direct humanitarian assistance to the displaced populations in Marawi affected by the siege in 2017.

"Over the last 10 years, the EU has worked to build a long-lasting relationship with OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process) and MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front), based on mutual trust, and on a transparent and efficient policy dialogue for the success of the peace process," he said.

"The EU remains one of the major foreign development partners to provide comprehensive support to Mindanao and the peace process through an integrated approach supporting directly the political settlement and longer-term economic development of Mindanao," he added.

On the same day, Jessen also signed the Declaration of Intent for the Contract between EU and the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPCS).

"We are also responding to the needs expressed by MILF leaders to contribute to build their capacities, by signing a declaration of intent with CPCS, and we stand ready to further assist in the coming transition period," he said.

Jessen said the EU is "currently assessing" the modalities for deploying a mission on election observation for the plebiscite on the Bangsamoro.

Military unit vs. NPA hit squad to be formed this month

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): Military unit vs. NPA hit squad to be formed this month

The unit that will be tasked to counter New People's Army (NPA) hit squads will be formed sometime this month, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Tuesday.

He added that the core of the anti-SPARU (Special Partisan Unit) formation will be made up of personnel from the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), who will be augmented by intelligence personnel coming from the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force.

"I think now the core of this unit will be (from) ISAFP. Meron namang intel units ang Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines so they could form the core of this anti-SPARU unit," Lorenzana said in an interview with CNN Philippines' The Source.

The DND chief said he supports the formation of the special unit in order to protect military personnel from the attacks of the NPA hit squads.

"I’m supporting it per se. I support the anti-SPARU unit that will protect our soldiers but I said let us be very careful in organizing these people. Some quarters are saying we’ll get civilians to do it I think no, this will be very difficult for civilians to do this (as) they might think they have blanket authority to just kill anybody they suspect of being NPA. I want soldiers to be our anti-SPARU unit members and this should be supervised by officers," he added.

The Chief Executive mulled the creation of such units following reports that 136 people, majority of them military, police, and rebel surrenderees, were assassinated by the rebels in the past three years.

DND chief won't support nationwide ML

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): DND chief won't support nationwide ML

While he supports the military's recommendation to extend martial law in Mindanao by another year, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Tuesday said he is not inclined to back calls to place the entire country under martial rule.

"No, I will not recommend nationwide martial law. In fact the President said in many occasions that he is not inclined to declare ML nationwide," he said during an interview with CNN Philippines' The Source Tuesday.

The DND chief justified his decision to support the military recommendation to extend martial law in Mindanao by citing the presence of terrorists on the island and the need to neutralize them.

"For one, there are still terrorists lurking in Mindanao, there are still remnants of (the) Maute (Group) since they are very small, it's difficult to look for them and they are still in Central Mindanao and some of them are protected by the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters) in (the) Liguasan Marsh area, there are still ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group) in Jolo and Basilan, not so much in Tawi-Tawi, Tawi-Tawi is a little more peaceful than other islands," Lorenzana stressed.

"Second is the BOL (Bangsamoro Organic Law) plebscite will occur in January (21) and I think we should be there also to protect the plebicite and then there's this mid-term elections," the defense chief added.

Also, the need to extend martial law in Mindanao was heightened by reports that foreign terrorist groups are making incursions at the country's southern border.

"Because we have a very porous southern border, the news is that, although we cannot confirm it on the ground, there are incursions of terrorists coming from Malaysia and Indonesia. but we are still validating this news," he stressed.

Earlier, Malacañang 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.

NCIP condemns Satur Ocampo for alleged trafficking of minors

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): NCIP condemns Satur Ocampo for alleged trafficking of minors

The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) condemned Bayan Muna president and former solon Satur Ocampo and his companions' activities which included the alleged trafficking of 14 Lumad minors.

In a statement released on Monday, NCIP also condemned Ocampo's group for what they call as disregard of the right of Ata-Manobo Indigenous Cultural Communities (ICC) or Indigenous Peoples (IPs) of Talaingod, Davao del Norte to
"free and prior informed consent, manipulations and misinterpretations as to the true intent of the schools, and lack of recognition of community authority and customary laws."

The NCIP also lauded national and local authorities for the quick action in stopping the attempt to transport the minors and said they condemn activities of any group that takes advantage of the IPs to advance their own agenda.

"We express our strong support to IP leaders, elders in Talaingod led by Bai Pilar Libayao, Datu Guibang Apuga and Datu Lumansad Sibogan and other IP leaders for bravery standing up to protect the rights of ICCs, IPs especially the young," the statement read.

It also urged the public to "recognize and respect the IPs rights to self-determination", particularly their free and prior informed consent, their customary laws, and political structures within their ancestral domains.

Earlier, Ocampo's group claimed that they rescued the children from alleged harassment of a group Almara which allegedly forcibly closed the Salugpungan Learning Center, a community-based Lumad school, in Sitio Dulyan, Barangay Palma in Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

Meanwhile, Municipal Tribal Office of Talaingod representative Bai Pilar Libayao said there was no conflict in their community hence there was no need to rescue the children.

Libayao added it is the non-government organizations that bring conflict to the community, saying they teach IPs to fight against the government.

Totoy Loyod, a resident of Barangay Palma, said Ocampo's group did not ask him to allow them to bring his daughter Jonelyn.

He added the teachers told him that his daughter was brought to the United Church of Christ in the Philippines Davao to participate in a mass rally.

Ata-Manobo Municipal Tribal Council of Elders leader Datu Gibang Apuga issued a resolution requesting for the closure of the concerned school because "the Salugpungan schools did not secure the free and prior informed consent of the ICC and IP community".

Apuga said there was a misrepresentation of the school's nature to the parents and students as it teaches hatred toward the government instead of academic lessons, and lack of respect for tribal leadership and customary laws.

Reds' PH anthem version meant to fight gov't, demean troops

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): Reds' PH anthem version meant to fight gov't, demean troops


'REVISED' NATIONAL ANTHEM. Documents seized by government troops from the Salugpongan Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center Inc (STTICLC) in Barangay Mangayon, Compostela Valley on January 25, 2014 show a different version of the national anthem allegedly being taught to Lumad children.

MANILA – The New People's Army’s (NPA) attempt to teach minors an alternative version of the Philippine National Anthem "Lupang Hinirang" is part of their efforts to fight the government and demonize troops tasked to protect the country from such threats.

This was disclosed by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief, Col. Noel Detoyato, when asked if the military is aware of such efforts by the rebels, especially those operating in the Davao Region.

"That has been confirmed years ago by a minor who was once in a Salugpungan school. It (“Lupang Sinira”, the rebel version of “Lupang Hinirang”) teaches the children to fight the government and it demonizes the soldiers," Detoyato said in a message to the Philippine News Agency (PNA) Wednesday.

"Schools are supposed to teach children love of country and be responsible Filipino citizens and contribute to nation-building. The national anthem they are teaching in Salugpungan is not an alternative version. It is a bastardized version and is an insult to the Filipinos and to our national heroes who fought and died just for the national anthem to be sung freely by the Filipinos of today and Filipinos of tomorrow," he added.

Earlier, former Bayan Muna pepresentative, Satur Ocamp, denied claims that minors in the Davao Region are being taught the "Lupang Sinira", as stated by Philippine National Police Director General Oscar Albayalde.

His claim, however, was junked after documents recovered by military units in Compostela Valley back in January 2014 showed a copy of the "Lupang Sinira", which is sung to the tune of "Lupang Hinirang" and has the following lyrics:

"Bayang mahiwaga sa malayong Silangan

Alab ng puso, sa dibdib mo'y apoy

Lupang sinira, bayan ng magigiting

Alab ng puso, sa dibdib mo'y buhay

Sa nayon at lungsod itinatag makabayang pamahalaan

May tilamsik ng dugo at awit sa paglayang minamahal


Ang pula ng watawat mo'y tagumpay na nagniningning

Ang karit at kamao niya'y hindi magdidilim

Laya ay langit kaluwalhati't pagsinta

Buhay ay lupa sa piling mo

Sa nayon at lungsod itinatag makabayan pamahalaan

May tilamsik ang dugo at awit sa paglaya minamahal

(Repeat Chorus).

DND chief nixes holiday truce with Reds

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): DND chief nixes holiday truce with Reds

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Wednesday said he will not recommend any suspension of military operation (SOMO) against the rebel groups this Yuletide season.

"No. I have objected to a SOMO. We shall not allow the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) to use a SOMO to celebrate their 50th anniversary," the defense chief said in a message to reporters.

Lorenzana's views were echoed by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, in a press briefing.

"I think the Secretary of National Defense has already spoken that he is not inclined to recommend suspension of military operations this Yuletide season. If the AFP is going to be asked, we are not inclined to recommend the said SOMO," he added.

Arevalo said firming up the decision is the fact that the rebels have not shown any sincerity in the previous years.

"We see that in the past they have not been sincere with any suspension of military operations, they continue with their terroristic and criminal activists, extortion, harassments, etc. and we do not want to give them opportunity to gather and mass up to joyfully celebrate their 50th anniversary (which is slated on December 26)," Arevalo stressed.

Despite this, the AFP spokesperson said the declaration of SOMO is always up to the President's decision.

"Ang tanong naman natin is (The question is) are we recommending, so sabi natin ang (what we said is the) Secretary of National Defense has mentioned, has already stated that he is not inclined to recommend, ang Armed Forces ay ganun din (it is the same for the Armed Forces). But of course, the President has the last say," he added.

Duterte eyes Galvez as next OPAPP head

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): Duterte eyes Galvez as next OPAPP head

President Rodrigo Duterte is eyeing outgoing Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Carlito Galvez Jr. as the next head of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), Malacañang announced on Wednesday.

“The President announced his intention to appoint Carlito Galvez Jr. to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process” during Tuesday night’s Cabinet meeting, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.

Galvez, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1985, will step down on Dec. 12 upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56.

He had served the military for 30 years, including eight months as top official of the AFP.

Last week, Jesus Dureza resigned as Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, taking full responsibility for the corruption allegations against two OPAPP officials – Undersecretary Ronald Flores and Assistant Secretary Yeshter Donn Baccay.

During the inauguration of the Bohol-Panglao International Airport, Duterte announced he regrets accepting the resignation of Dureza, a high school classmate at the Cor Jesu College in Digos City, Davao del Sur.

Duterte fired Flores and Baccay over allegations of corruption. Both were involved in the OPAPP support services and implementation of the PAMANA (Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan) projects.

AFP chief stands pat on rebel tag on Ocampo, Castro

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): AFP chief stands pat on rebel tag on Ocampo, Castro

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff, Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr. stands firm on his statements that former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and ACT-Partylist Rep. France Castro are active members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA).

"The AFP chief-of-staff stands pat by the statement he made the other day (Monday). He questions the motive of Mr. Satur Ocampo and ACT Partylist Rep. (France) Castro in going to Talaingod, Davao Del Norte at the dead of the night, in spiriting away 14 minors from Salugpungan Learning Center to unknown destination without appropriate courtesies to local government executives, devoid of any parental authority or permission," military spokesperson Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said in press briefing Wednesday.

He added the incident has all the indications of kidnapping.

"If there is anything, they must be afraid of, it is not their so-called 'red tagging' by the AFP. It is the cases legally and validly filed against them and the mounting evidence against their infamous version of 'rescue'," the AFP spokesperson said.

Arevalo added that the AFP chief cannot be cowed by reports that the party-list representatives are filing a case against him.

"He has been incarcerated in the past for fighting for what he believes in. All his prime spanning nearly four decades, he has been putting his life and limb and that of his men on the line in the name of protecting the people and securing the state. What else can be more patriotic than that as against enemies of peace and development?" the AFP spokesperson added.

Arevalo also said the AFP chief will not succumb to propaganda and lies of the enemies of the state who belong to front organizations of the CPP.

"He will not cower in fear for this terrorist organization that has exploited and killed Lumad tribesmen and their leaders and even fellow NPAs on mere suspicion of being government assets; NPA that murders their own people who plans to leave their inutile struggle and return to the folds of the law and their families," he said.

New Sulu-bound infantry division activated this month

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): New Sulu-bound infantry division activated this month

To fully neutralize Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) terrorists in Sulu, the military will formally activate a new infantry division sometime this month.

"The unit shall be oriented, armed, and equipped to address the peculiarity of the enemy, weather, and terrain; as well as enemy techniques, tactics and procedure; and other variables that are unique to the island province of Sulu," Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said in a press briefing Wednesday.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the new unit will be activated on December 17.

With the activation of this unit, the AFP will now have 11 infantry divisions, one mechanized infantry division, one Army artillery regiment and various support and logistics units.

"The President expressed concern that, despite the AFP garnering major victories in Sulu, government security forces continue to incur casualties. The AFP leadership, and in response to the clamor from the local government executives, has recommended the activation of a division-sized unit that shall be permanently stationed in Sulu Archipelago," Arevalo added.

The AFP spokesperson said creating a new infantry division is a much better option that moving an existing unit from elsewhere in the country.

"Hence, the (proposed) activation of the 11th Infantry Division is envisioned to effectively and efficiently engage and decisively defeat the lingering security threat in Sulu in the soonest time possible. For the time being, the units already in the area: Two Infantry Brigades, Two Infantry Battalions; Two Special Forces Battalions, among other Navy-Marines units will initially man the Division," he added.

Other component units and capabilities to find, fix, shoot, move, and communicate to fully compliment the Division will be gradually filled up until 2022, Arevalo added.

More than 20K rebel returnees, IPs, PWDs get TESDA training

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): More than 20K rebel returnees, IPs, PWDs get TESDA training

More than 20,000 rebel returnees, indigenous peoples, and persons with disabilities (PWDs), have received skills training from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) since 2016, an official of the agency said on Wednesday.

Elmer Talavera, Executive Director of the National Institute for Technical Education and Skills Development (NITESD) at TESDA, bared this, noting that more resources for specialized groups -- not only financial resources, but also collaborative engagements at the national level -- is needed to address their plight.

“If I may recall, since 2016 there are more than 20,000 rebel returnees that have availed of training programs with TESDA in cooperation with our brothers on the ground, rebel returnees, PWDs, relatives of persons killed in action, wounded in action,” Talavera said in a press briefing in Malacañang.

Talavera said TESDA continues to “keep tab” on the employment of rebel returnees since they find it more difficult to find jobs.

“We will keep tab on these successes on employment of rebel returnees. We know that our industry is not that open,” Talavera said.

To date, he said TESDA is prioritizing skills training leading to self-employment or entrepreneurship -- for rebel returnees right after finishing their qualifications.

“More entrepreneurial rather than forcing them to being (minimum) wage employee, because we cannot easily erase the stigma, it’s a hiring practice,” Talavera said.

“But if they can start on their own, set up their own enterprise, there’s future in and things going on the ground,” he added.

Talavera said the target rebel returnees they plan to train for 2018 to 2019 is 19,800.

Since 2016, TESDA has trained a total of 24,486 IPs; 20, 550 drug surrenderers, and 23,330 inmates.

Earlier, TESDA Director General, Secretary Isidro Lapeña vowed to further improve the agency’s various technical vocational education training (TVET) programs.

Lapeña continues to visit all regional and provincial offices to get a better understanding of TVET program implementation before the year ends.

PNP, AFP recommend 1-year ML extension in Mindanao: Albayalde

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): PNP, AFP recommend 1-year ML extension in Mindanao: Albayalde

Police and military officials have signed a document recommending to President Rodrigo Duterte a year-long extension of martial law in Mindanao, Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief, Director General Oscar Albayalde, confirmed.

“We have just signed a document together with the outgoing military chief of staff (Gen. Carlito Galvez) recommending the extension of martial law in Mindanao for another one year,” Albayalde said in a TV interview on Wednesday.

Citing PNP data, he said crime volume in Mindanao dropped by 32.8 percent since January this year.

“Because of the martial law, we have a drastic improvement on the peace and order situation in Mindanao where the crime volume dropped by 28,853 or 32.8 percent -- because of the implementation of martial law and because of the forces present there now conducting target hardening measures, military operations, police operations, checkpoint operations,” he said.

Albayalde said most notable is the 44.2-percent decrease on index crimes, which include murder, physical injuries, and homicide cases.

The freedom to conduct operations and implementation of security measures under martial law has also resulted in the confiscation of some 10,000 loose guns in Mindanao, he added.

“So, these are all the good effects of martial law in Mindanao,” Albayalde said, adding that it resulted in the people of Mindanao feeling safer now.

He said there has been no reported incident of human rights violation since the declaration of martial law in the island.

“That's one thing good. We haven't heard of any or a single case of human rights violation in Mindanao since the implementation of martial law. These are all allegations by the same sectors of society, but no case was ever filed. These are all allegations and not even substantiated,” he noted.

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.