Friday, December 7, 2018

IP elders, ex-rebels insist NPA recruits kids

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 7): IP elders, ex-rebels insist NPA recruits kids

The Mindanao Indigenous Peoples Council of Elders (MIPCEL), together with some former youth rebels, on Thursday insisted that the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) has been recruiting minors from the hinterlands of Mindanao to join the leftist movement.

Asenad Bago, 20, a former student of a Salugpungan Learning Center in Talaingod and a former member of the CPP-NPA, said the group starts the recruitment in schools where parents entrust their children to live and study for years.

"Kapag nag-aral ka roon, lahat ng kapatid mo at magulang mo, magpirma (sila) na 'di ka uuwi sa magulang mo, at doon ka lang sa eskuwelahan (When you enroll there, your parents, even your siblings, must sign allowing you to stay at the school for a long period)," he said in an interview.

Bago said this effectively indoctrinates minors who are away from their parents' guidance.

"Kung mag-sem break kami sa Davao na, kasama ang mga NPA (When we take a semestral break, we often spend it in Davao together with the NPA)," he said.

The first time he entered the wooden Salugpungan structure, which he called school, the 20-year-old Manobo believed it will be the first step toward his dream job, to be an engineer.

Bago said he was taught mathematics, and how to read and write inside the school, but he also learned ways how to dismantle weapons. More often, he led some 20 or more students his age to hold a demonstration protest in Davao City, sometimes in Kidapawan, and Cagayan de Oro.

"Ang mga kasama namin, minsan pupunta rito sa Maynila at doon sa Surigao del Sur. Kung minsan mga 20 kami at ako 'yong nagma-manage sa mga bata papunta, mga 14 pataas (Others often visit Manila and some in Surigao del Sur to hold rallies. At times, we are around 20 people and I personally manage the children coming with me, they are 14 years old and above)," he recalled.

Datu Awing Apoga, 25, a son of the Salugpungan school founder, said he was 12 years old when he became active in the movement.

"Gusto ko na rin noon, talagang napalagay sa isip ko na talagang kung makarinig ako ng government, gusto kong patayin na lahat (I liked it then and I conditioned my mind that if ever I hear the word 'government', I would kill all of them),"he said, although he denied ever killing a person.

"Nakahawak na ako ng baril, pero wala (akong pinatay). Pero yung mga ano namin, kaklase ko po (I already held a gun, but I have never killed anyone. But my classmates had done it)," he admitted.

In 2015, Apoga recalled how they were brought to Manila to air their concerns and demands. He stayed in the city for at least a month.

"Nagsigaw-sigaw kami rito na tulungan niyo kami, magpagawa kami ng daan, kalsada (We yelled when were here. We demanded that roads be built for us)," he said.

"Hindi pa kami nakauwi sa amin, naka-prepare na ang gagawa ng kalsada roon. 'Pag uwi namin, nandoon na, mga dalawang araw lang kaming nakauwi sa amin, sinunog na nila ang backhoe, 'yong mga NPA po (We did not come back for a month, but they are already preparing the roadwork there. When we came home, we only stayed for two days and they're already burning the backhoe)," he added.

Apoga said he was more active in rallies and it was also during a demonstration when realization hit him.

"Naisipan ko bakit napunta kami rito sa Manila, naglakbay kami kahit mainit sa mga daan para magsisigaw, pero 'yang mga isinisigaw namin hindi naman totoo 'yan (I asked what we are doing in Manila, we walked the streets even though it was hot, our demands were not even true)," he confessed.

"Doon ko na-realize, 'di na ako...ayoko na. Hindi nakabubuti sa amin (That's when I realized, this is it. I don't want this anymore. It's not really helping us)," he said.

In a press conference at the Armed Forces of the Philippines headquarters in Manila, MIPCEL chairman Lipatuan Joel Unad said the NPA targets communities where settlers are particularly uneducated.

"Pinipili nila (ang) mga ignoranteng tribo, doon sa mga 'di marunong magbasa, doon sa mga parents na walang alam kundi magtanim ng kamote, maghanap ng usa at baboy ramo, iyon ang pinupuntahan nila (They choose those ignorant tribes. Those who don't know who to read, whose parents' only livelihood is to plant sweet potatoes, to hunt for deer and wild boars. That's their target)," he said.

Showing parts of the MIPCEL Resolution No. 20, Series of 2018, Unad, who personally submitted the document at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) office in Quezon City, urges the body and other groups to start a probe over alleged human rights violation against IPs in the region.

Unad said the 52 IP signatories to the resolution represent 18 major tribes in Mindanao.

"'Yong nag-attend ng emergency meeting almost 51. Ang context doon, i-condemn ang ginawa ni Satur Ocampo. Pangalawa, declaration na kailangan ipasara na ng DepEd (Department of Education) ang Salugpungan, kung hindi nila maipasara, ang IP mismo ang magpapasara (Thos who attended the emergency meeting reached almost 51. Its context is to condemn the actions of Satur Ocampo. Second, a declaration that the DepEd must close Salupungan. If it can't close it down, the IPs would close it for them)," he said.

Unad and Datu Jomar Bucales submitted the MIPCEL resolution before the CHR office Thursday.

The resolution surfaced right after former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and 17 others were arrested over alleged trafficking and kidnapping of 14 minors who were students of the Salugpungan Ta'Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center Inc.

Ocampo denied the kidnapping, claiming their group was in Talaingod to bring food and other supplies at the learning center.

In a recent interview, he also belied reports on the leftist movement recruitment of children, citing a "rule" of the CPP-NPA against enlistment of minors.

Defeating NPA a priority of incoming AFP chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 7): Defeating NPA a priority of incoming AFP chief

Incoming Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief-of-Staff, Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., said defeating the New People's Army (NPA) will be a priority once he assumes post next week.

In an interview with reporters Thursday, Madrigal said the task is doable as both the local and national government work together in combating the NPA threat.

"Defeating the NPA is not the only part of the campaign, it is also important to cut off their support system," he said in Filipino.

Madrigal said agencies must start implementing a "culture of peace and development" and attend to the need of the people residing in the conflict-affected areas.

The incoming AFP chief is a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1985 and a classmate of outgoing military head, Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr.

Madrigal, who is also the 51st AFP chief-of-staff, served notably as 4th Infantry Division commander, Southern Luzon Command and Eastern Mindanao Command chief.

His appointment as next AFP chief was approved last Dec. 5 by President Rodrigo R. Duterte as Galvez will be retiring on Dec. 12. Madrigal is set to retire on September 28, 2019.

PCG commissions 2 patrol boats for anti-smuggling ops

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 7): PCG commissions 2 patrol boats for anti-smuggling ops

The Philippine Coast Guard has commissioned French patrol boats into its service for its anti-smuggling operations across the country. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Coast Guard)

MANILA -- The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has commissioned two additional French-manufactured patrol boats for its anti-smuggling operations across the country, an official said Friday.

“The primary mission of the patrol boats is the campaign against smuggling. Three will be jointly operated by PCG and Bureau of Customs,” Capt. Armand Balilo, PCG spokesperson, said in a text message to reporters.

The sea vessels BRP Malamawi (FPB 2403) and BRP Kalanggaman (FB 2404) arrived at Subic Port on Thursday, completing the acquisition of four patrol boats under the implementation of the Philippine Ports and Coast Guard Capability Development Project.

In October, patrol boats BRP Boracay (FPB 2401) and BRP Panglao (FPB 2402) arrived in the country.

The acquisition of the patrol boats was made through a contract signed by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) with French shipbuilder, Ocea SA, to strengthen the enforcement in maritime safety and security, and marine environmental protection.

Meanwhile, the PCG also announced that an 82-meter offshore patrol vessel is scheduled to be delivered by August 2019, which is also part of the Philippine Ports and Coast Guard Capability Development Project.

The project involves the supply, delivery and maintenance of four brand new 24-meter patrol boats and one 84-meter offshore patrol vessel to be purchased by DOTr for the use of the PCG.

The PCG said these sea vessels may be deployed to deter piracy incidents in southern Mindanao and defend the country’s territorial claims over the West Philippine Sea.

The French government has provided a loan worth 97.03 million euros through Official Development Assistance (ODA) using the remaining balance of the Greater Maritime Access (GMA) RoRo Port Projects of the Arroyo administration.

AFP to brief Senate on proposed martial law extension

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 7): AFP to brief Senate on proposed martial law extension

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will hold a security briefing with senators next week to tackle the proposed extension of martial law in Mindanao, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Friday.

Sotto said the briefing will be held in executive session on Monday at 10 a.m. before they resume consideration of the proposed 2019 national budget.

“Monday morning, may briefing kami ng AFP (We have a briefing from the AFP)," he told reporters in a text message.

Martial law in Mindanao was declared on May 23, 2017 following attacks launched by the Maute Group in Marawi City. Since then, Congress has twice granted the Chief Executive’s request for the extension of martial law in the region, with the last one expiring on Dec. 31, 2018.

The AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) have recommended at least another year of extension, citing the continued presence of terror threats and the upcoming plebiscite on the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and mid-term elections as basis.

Meanwhile, Sotto said President Rodrigo Duterte has also sent him a message, informing him of a possible joint session of Congress by Wednesday to tackle the issue.

“I’m still waiting for the President’s letter re: joint session,” Sotto said.

In relation to this, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said he is hoping that the joint session would be called in the morning, and not in the afternoon, so as not to further delay the passage of the 2019 national budget.

He said a joint session in the afternoon would derail plans to pass the budget on second and third reading by Wednesday, hold a bicameral conference committee meeting, and convene a special session the week before Christmas to ratify the measure.

Because of this, Zubiri said he is appealing to MalacaƱang to call the joint session in the morning so that they will still have time to finish the budget in the evening.

“Kasi ang plano po namin kung magtatawag sila ng special session ng umaga, punta po kami ng Kongreso para dun at babalik po kami ng hapon (Our plan is to go to the House in the morning for the joint session and be back at the Senate in the afternoon.) At least by 1 o'clock, we resume consideration on the budget bill so that we can take up at least another eight hours to 10 hours that day,” he said.

“Hopefully we'll be able to approve it that day (Wednesday) for third and final reading,” Zubiri said.

CPP ceasefire declaration not AFP’s concern

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 7): CPP ceasefire declaration not AFP’s concern

If the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) wants to declare a unilateral ceasefire then that is their lookout, Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson, said Friday.

"Well, that being unilateral, eh nasa sa kanila yun (it's up to them) if they would like to declare it but insofar as the AFP is concerned, sinasabi natin na (we are saying) we are not inclined to recommend to the President a holiday truce this time," he added.

And in justifying this decision, Arevalo cited the rebels’ insincerity and refusal to abide on commitments set up for past holiday ceasefires.

The AFP spokesperson said rebels are using the lull to recruit, regroup and refurbish their forces, noting that insurgents are also looking for maneuver space to celebrate their 50th founding anniversary on December 26.

"So ayaw natin silang bigyan ng pagkakataon na makapag-propagandize (we would not give them a chance to conduct propaganda), we will not recommend, we will not reciprocate. To me, to us, it’s a gambit na gusto nilang gawin para sa ganun sumagot tayo (they want us to respond) but we already learned our lessons in the past," he added.

The CPP-NPA ceasefire is slated to begin on 12:01 a.m. of Dec. 24 to 11:59 p.m. of Dec. 26 and on 12:01 a.m. of Dec. 31 to 11:59 p.m. of January 1, 2019.

COC to prevent misunderstanding in WPS: Lorenzana

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 7): COC to prevent misunderstanding in WPS: Lorenzana

A code of conduct (COC) in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) within three years or earlier would reduce miscalculations and misunderstanding in the hotly-contested maritime area, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Friday.

Speaking to reporters at the sidelines of the Pilipinas Conference organized by the Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute, Lorenzana said it would be a "very good sign" if the document is crafted within the timeline set by China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

"The problem in the West Philippine Sea is the danger of miscalculations, misinterpretation. If we have this COC, we have the assurance that when we do something in accordance (with) the COC, then there will be no misunderstanding," he said.

There is no indication yet if the document would be legally binding. However, for Lorenzana, what is important is that the people on the ground and all concerned parties will commit to abide by the contents of the COC.

"What's important is the troops on the ground, the navy ships, the air force pilots and all those people there could understand that the conduct is being covered by this COC," he said.

China, the Philippines and several littoral states have overlapping claims in the South China Sea.

The draft framework of the COC was approved during the ASEAN Summit held in Manila last year. Following its adoption, China and the bloc held a series of negotiations on a single draft COC negotiating text in 2018.

During his speech, Lorenzana acknowledged the "continuing militarization" in the strategic waters, which poses a serious challenge not only to Manila but also to regional peace and stability.

The Duterte administration has pursued a "calibrated, comprehensive, and constructive approach" in engaging China but it does not mean the Philippines has turned its back on the favorable arbitral ruling on the South China Sea, Lorenzana said.

"The Philippines continues to view the ruling as valid and legitimate. We have not and will never give up any part of our territory or sovereign rights over our exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the Kalayaan Island Group," he noted.

The defense chief said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) also continues to show presence within the country's EEZ.

"Our naval units performed 3,836 surface missions with a total steaming of 120,696 hours covering an area of 143,445 square nautical miles. Moreover, our air units provided 5,550 flying hours in 3,490 sorties," he said.

Balangiga bells to arrive in Manila Dec. 11: Lorenzana

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 7): Balangiga bells to arrive in Manila Dec. 11: Lorenzana

President Rodrigo Duterte will personally witness the arrival of the three Balangiga Bells in the Philippines on Tuesday, Dec. 11, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Friday.

Lorenzana said the aircraft that will bring the war artifact will arrive at the Villamor Airbase in Pasay City before noon.

"I will go around with Ambassador Sung Kim, we will look at the bells, then I will sign documents that I am accepting the bells from them," the defense chief said.

While President Duterte will be present, he will not deliver a speech during the ceremony.

"There will be three speeches, one from Secretary James Mattis to be read by his representative, then Ambassador Kim, and me," Lorenzana told reporters at the sidelines of the Pilipinas Conference organized by the Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute in Makati City.

Lorenzana said the bells' return to its homeland will serve as a closure to the dark episode in US-Philippine relations.

He said the first request to bring back the bells was made in 1935 by Eugenio S. Daza, the plotter and leader of the Battle of Balangiga.

In 1994, then president Fidel V. Ramos also made a pitch to get the war booty back.

"I was in Washington DC back then. We have been working for the return, but nothing happened because there was no US government involvement then," Lorenzana said.

Asked if the President would visit Washington following the bells' return, Lorenzana said Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez is currently in talks with the Chief Executive.

"Ambassador Romualdez is here trying to talk to the President to go there next year," he said.

"The plan is there but he will still being convinced by Ambassador Romualdez," he added.

Key Samar infra projects halted due to NPA presence

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 6): Key Samar infra projects halted due to NPA presence

CONSTRUCTION STOPPED. A portion of the road in Las Navas, Northern Samar where concreting was terminated due to NPA threats. (OPAPP photo)

TACLOBAN CITY -- The presence of New People’s Army (NPA) in Northern Samar has discouraged contractors from implementing multi-million infrastructure projects meant for impoverished and conflict-stricken communities, a regional official of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) confirmed on Thursday.

Imelda Bonifacio, OPAPP program manager for Eastern Visayas, said construction firms have abandoned at least three projects for fear of NPA’s extortion activities and being caught in the crossfire between government troops and armed rebels.

Citing reports from the Philippine Army, communist rebels have asked contractors to allocate 10 percent of the project cost to the NPA movement or else face the consequence of attacks.

“The mere report of their presence discourages implementers to pursue the projects. These areas are critical and they are scared of being a victim of crossfires as there are continuing operations in these areas,” Bonifacio said.

On Monday, the Regional Development Council (RDC) has identified three terminated Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) infrastructure projects in Samar provinces funded under the 2016 budget of OPAPP.

These are the PHP71-million bridge construction in Motiong, Samar; PHP114.7-million box culvert construction in Las Navas, Northern Samar; and PHP192-million road construction also in Las Navas town.

Other than the prevailing peace and order situation, aggravating the project implementation concern is the absence of access roads, subcontracting issues, unworkable ground conditions, and lack of manpower and equipment.

Top officials in Eastern Visayas have elevated to Cabinet secretaries the discussion on delayed and terminated infrastructure projects meant for impoverished and conflict-stricken areas on Samar Island.

Members of the RDC, Regional Peace and Order Council and the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council deferred on Monday the approval of the proposed transfer of implementation of delayed projects from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to the Philippine Army.

In a joint meeting at the city hall here, RDC co-chair Roy Bernard Fiel said the “best option” to resolve the issue is for DPWH Secretary Mark Villar, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, and the new Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process to talk about implementation arrangements.

Lorenzana, who joined the meeting here, vowed to talk to Villar on the process of transferring the implementation of infrastructure projects.

“It is easier for the Army to carry out terminated and not yet started projects. We are willing to accept projects in problematic areas,” he said.

About five PAMANA projects intended for 2018 have yet to start. Based on RDC records, these are the PHP63.63-million farm-to-market road in Mapanas, Northern Samar; PHP36.44-million bridge in Mapanas town, PHP98.5-million road connecting Lope de Vega and Silvino Lobos towns in Northern Samar, PHP197-million road in Las Navas, Northern Samar; and PHP9.6-million Villa Conzoilo farm-to-market road in Jaro, Leyte.

Brig. Gen. Ramon Evan Ruiz, commander of the Army’s 53rd Engineering Brigade, said the projects can be undertaken by two engineering battalions but their implementation will be scheduled and on selective basis only due to limitations in equipment and personnel.

“The recurrent problems such as road right of way, access road, delinquent contractors are to be addressed first by local governments and national government agencies prior to the transfer,” Ruiz said.

The engineering brigade will also check the program of works to determine if the remaining funds are enough to finish the projects and if cost estimate is responsive to the current prices of materials, maintenance, rental of equipment, and labor.

Ruiz also appealed to speed up the execution of agreement between the DPWH and Department of National Defense to implement terminated projects.

DPWH Regional Director Nerie Bueno said passing the responsibility to another agency will further delay the actual construction due to the tedious process of doing so.

“We understand the need to fast-track these projects, but terminating a project and giving it to another entity will take at least six months,” Bueno told council officials.

She added that some projects labeled by the RDC as not yet started have already been bid out and awarded to winning contractors with good track records.

The RDC’s discussions on delayed PAMANA projects have started in the second quarter of this year. Earlier, the body already passed two resolutions to help expedite the project and conduct problem solving sessions.

PAMANA is the national government’s convergence program that extends development interventions to isolated, hard-to-reach and conflict-affected communities, ensuring that they are not left behind.

Hunt on for gunmen in Maguindanao town poll bet's ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 6): Hunt on for gunmen in Maguindanao town poll bet's ambush

Police have launched a manhunt against four gunmen who ambushed and injured a candidate for town councilor in Parang, Maguindanao Wednesday afternoon.

Senior Supt. Madzgani Mukaram, Maguindanao police provincial director, said police already have obtained information on the identities of the suspects and the vehicle used in the 4:30 p.m. ambush in Sultan Kudarat town, Maguindanao.

“Police follow-up operations are underway,” Mukaram said without elaborating further.

Khadafy Karudin Pendi, a candidate for councilor of Parang, Maguindanao was hit in the leg during the ambush.

Pendi's companions were unhurt. They were identified as Amelia Abo, a town councilor who is running for vice mayor of Parang in next year’s election, Hammy Makapeges Manabilang, also a candidate for town councilor, Bai Shahara Salasal, and their driver Kim Basag.

The victims were on a Honda Jazz vehicle (AOA 3243) and were heading toward Cotabato City from Parang when ambushed by the gunmen along the national highway in Sultan Kudarat.

“We believe the incident was election-related because Abo and her companions have no known enemies,” Mukaram said.

Peace advocate slain in Maguindanao shooting

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 6): Peace advocate slain in Maguindanao shooting

DATU ODIN SINSUAT, Maguindanao – A peace advocate who has been campaigning for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) was shot dead while inside a passenger van in Datu Unsay, Maguindanao Wednesday night.

Police identified the victim as lawyer Nasser Laban, 48, of Cotabato City.

Laban has been moving around, conducting fora and speaking about the BOL.

Senior Supt. Madzgani Mukaram, Maguindanao police director, said the victim was on board a passenger van going to Cotabato City with about 10 other passengers when shot at about 6 p.m.

Mukaram said while the van was traversing the isolated stretch of the national highway in Barangay Meta, Datu Unsay, one of the passengers asked the driver to pull over so he can disembark.

“Before the man alighted from the van, he shot Laban on his head using a .45-caliber pistol,” he said. The gunman then left on board a motorbike driven by an accomplice.

Kaliman Sangkad, 35, the van driver, was hit by stray bullets and is now in critical condition.

Mukaram said the family was surprised by the incident because, on top of being a known peace advocate, Laban has no known enemy.

Muslim preacher shot dead in busy Baguio public market

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 6): Muslim preacher shot dead in busy Baguio public market

MUSLIM PREACHER SHOT. Bedejim Abdullah, a Muslim leader in Baguio and known preacher, died from several gunshot wounds inflicted by a lone gunman in front of the Kayang Business Center inside the Baguio public market on Thursday morning (Dec. 6, 2018). Police are still probing the motive of the killing. (PNA file photo)

BAGUIO CITY -- Muslim preacher and leader Bedejim Abdullah was gunned down at the city’s public market before noon on Thursday.

According to Chief Insp. Eddie Bagto, Baguio City Police Office Station 1 commander, the shooting incident occurred around 11 a.m. Thursday in front of Kayang Business Center, where Imam Bedejim Abdullah of Kilometer 6, La Trinidad, Benguet was attacked.

During the attack, a stray bullet hit a still unidentified saleslady in her knee.

Both Bedejim and the saleslady were taken to the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center (BGHMC), where the former died while being treated at the emergency room.

The saleslady is now undergoing operation at the same hospital, Bagto said.

Police said Bedejim was walking towards Kayang Business Center when a male suspect -- who was seen in a CCTV footage wearing black jacket, ball cap and white mask -- suddenly shot him several times in his back and ran to the direction of Abanao Street, where he disappeared.

The site where the shooting occurred was about 200 meters away from the headquarters of the Baguio City Police Office.

Troops, MNLF 'clash' in Zamboanga Sibugay sports event

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 6): Troops, MNLF 'clash' in Zamboanga Sibugay sports event

Troops belonging to the Army's 102nd Infantry Brigade and Moro National Liberation Front members on Wednesday 'clashed' in a sports event in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay. (Photo courtesy: Army's 1st Infantry Division Public Affairs Office)

ZAMBOANGA CITY -- Some 200 Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) members "clashed" with troops of the Army’s 102nd Infantry Brigade (IB) during a sports fest in Zamboanga Sibugay province.

Col. Bagnus Gaerlan, 102nd IB commander, said the sports event was held at the grounds of the brigade headquarters in the province's capital town of Ipil on Wednesday.

“The dual meet aims to unite the MNLF and 102nd Infantry Brigade as partners in bringing peace and development in our area of responsibility,” Gaerlan said.

The sports fest consisted of fun and ball games that include raising the team's banner, tug-of-war, obstacle course, basketball, and volleyball.

Accompanied by their families, the MNLF participants came from 14 of the 16 municipalities of Zamboanga Sibugay and three from Zamboanga del Norte.

Hadji Abdullah Usman, an MNLF commander, said the games seek to strengthen friendship between the MNLF personnel and government troops.

“We must unite in bringing peace and prosperity in our country,” Usman added.

Both the military and MNLF officials said similar friendly games will be held in the near future.

Indonesian hostage of Abu Sayyaf escapes in Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 6): Indonesian hostage of Abu Sayyaf escapes in Sulu

Government troops have taken custody of an Indonesian fisherman following his escape from the hands of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits in the hinterlands of Sulu.

Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) information officer, on Thursday confirmed that Usman Yusuf, 30, was now in the hands of the military but he had no details on the matter yet.

The Sulu Provincial Police Office reported that Yusuf was taken into custody when he was seen wandering in Barangay Bual, Luuk, Sulu around 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Police said Yusuf escaped from the hands of his captors in Bud (Mount) Bawis, Panamao and ran towards a residential area in Bual, Luuk.

Intelligence personnel of the Marine Battalion Landing Team-1 (MBLT-1) found Yusuf and brought him to Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista Station Hospital in Barangay Busbus, Jolo, Sulu, police added.

Besana said Yusuf will be taken to the Westmincom headquarters and will be turned over to Indonesian authorities.

The ASG bandits seized Yusuf and his boat skipper, Samsul Saguni, 40, from a fishing vessel around 1 a.m. on September 11, 2018, near Gaya Island, Semporna, Malaysia. They were brought to Talipao, Sulu.

The names of Yunus and Saguni were not on the list of hostages that authorities had previously released since there was no confirmation they were taken to Sulu.

With Saguni on the list, there are now six hostages -- three foreigners and three Filipinos – still in the hands of the ASG bandits in Sulu.

Intensified pursuit ops force BIFF to abandon camp in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 6): Intensified pursuit ops force BIFF to abandon camp in Maguindanao

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao -- The military has intensified its pursuit operations against the ISIS-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) resulting in the discovery of an encampment in Ampatuan, Maguindanao on Thursday.

1Lt. Juvylito Lisondra, commander of the Army’s 21st Mechanized Company of the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion, led the team of soldiers and police in reaching the site, where about 50 heavily armed BIFF members were sighted by civilians on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The military launched overnight artillery offensives using 105 howitzers against the BIFF members, who were massing in Sitio Narra, Barangay Salman in Ampatuan.

“Our operation foiled BIFF plots to launch attacks against Army bases in Maguindanao,” Lt. Colonel Alvin Iyog, 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion chief, said.

The site was about 800 meters away from Sitio Masalay, where 58 people, 32 of whom were journalists, were mercilessly killed, in what is now known as the 2009 Maguindanao massacre.

“The rebels have fled deep into the mountains of Maguindanao,” Lisondra told reporters here.

The village, where the encampment was found, is overlooking the said three adjoining towns, including the national highway and several military installations like detachments, company and battalion headquarters.

Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the 6th Infantry Division (6ID), lauded the civilians for reporting the BIFF sightings to them. He also lauded the soldiers for responding in time.

The clearing operation on Thursday was backed by six armored personnel carriers and two MG-520 attack helicopters.

Sobejana said the rebels belonged to the BIFF-Karialan faction led by Commander Abu Rusdia.

The 6ID commander has ordered the Army’s 601st Infantry Brigade in Maguindanao and the 1st Marine Brigade operating in Lebak, Sultan Kudarat and South Upi in Maguindanao to put up blocking forces against the fleeing BIFF radicals.

NPAs attack banana firm, 6 guards injured

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 7): NPAs attack banana firm, 6 guards injured

KIDAPAWAN CITY – Members of the New People's Army (NPA) harassed a banana plantation in Arakan, North Cotabato and fired rifle grenades that injured six security guards Thursday night, police said.

Senior Supt. Maximo Layugan, North Cotabato police director, said the NPA stormed the processing plant of Lapanday Banana Group of Companies in Barangay Dallag, Arakan, North Cotabato at 8:45 p.m.

The security guards returned fire, triggering a brief gun battle, until the rebels fled deep into the forest, Layugan said.

Senior Insp. Jose Mari Molina, Arakan town police chief, said the rebels have been demanding revolutionary tax from the banana plantation but it was repeatedly ignored by the company.

Molina identified those injured as Jerry Cansico, Ramar Embay, Naseran Embana, Joel Algocoy, Nelson Ampugo, and Christoval Felix, all security guards of the banana firm.

Molina believed the rebels also suffered casualties as there were blood stains in their escape route.

Police and soldiers have been deployed in the village of Dallag, where the banana plantation was located, to prevent future NPA harassments.

Top CPP leader, wife nabbed in Cavite

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 7): Top CPP leader, wife nabbed in Cavite

TRECE MARTIRES CITY -- Joint operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), local police and military units arrested a ranking official of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and his wife in Bacoor City shortly after midnight Thursday.

Senior Supt. William M. Segun, Cavite provincial police director, identified the arrested suspects as Rey Claro Casambre, 67, a regular member of CPP’s Central Committee and his wife Patricia , 65, Patricia, 65, executive director of the Philippine Peace Center. Both are residents of 15 Damian corner Dagohoy Sts., Molino, Bacoor City.

Photos courtesy of PNP-CIDG

Casambre is said to be the CPP’s National Education Department secretary and a member of the National Democratic Front (NDF) Negotiating Panel.

He is also the head of the National United Front and the one orchestrating all activities of Kilusang Mayo Uno, Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) and other “legal fronts” of the CPP.

Casambre is also alleged to be the main actor in the MAT (Movement Against Tyranny) and other destabilization plots.

The couple was arrested aboard a silver Toyota Altis (XKS 821) while cruising along Barangay Niyog, Molino Boulevard, this city at about 12:10 a.m. Friday.

Casambre's arrest was based on warrants for murder under Criminal Case No. 2520-18 and attempted murder (two counts) under Criminal Cases No. 2521; 2522-18 dated Nov. 23, 2018, all issued by Presiding Judge Emilio G. Dayanghirang III of Regional Trial Court, Branch 32 of Lupon, Davao Oriental.

The serving of warrants was led by CIDG-National Capital Region together with operatives from CIDG 4-A, Cavite Provincial Police Office, Joint Task force-NCR, 202nd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army; the 730th Combat Group of the Philippine Air Force and the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The arresting team also seized from the suspect a Colt Commander .45-caliber pistol with one magazine, seven live ammunitions, one bundle of detonating cord; a fragmentation grenade; two cellphones; one MacBook laptop; PHP6,000 cash and the Toyota Altis car.

The arrested suspects were taken to the CIDG-NCR office in Camp Crame for documentation and proper action.

Last month, operatives of National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) and military team arrested NDF consultant Vicente Ladlad and his two companions, Alberto and Virginia Villamor in raid in Quezon City.

The raid was conducted by virtue of a search warrant issued by Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 89 Judge Cecilyn E. Burgos-Villavert against the three suspects for violation of RA 10591.

Recovered from the raid were two assault rifles, two .45-caliber pistols, one .9mm-caliber pistol, hundreds of rounds of ammunition for said firearms, four hand grenades, electronic equipment, and subversive documents.

PNP probes 17 NPA atrocities vs. Mindanao IPs

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 7): PNP probes 17 NPA atrocities vs. Mindanao IPs

DAVAO CITY -- From sexual abuse of Salugpungan students to the murder of tribal leaders, a team of lawyers and investigators from the Philippine National Police (PNP) are digging deeper into the alleged atrocities committed by the New People's Army (NPA) against the Indigenous Peoples (IPs) of Mindanao.

Supt. Louie Padillo of the Davao del Norte Provincial Police Office (DNPPO) on Friday said the team is in the process of collating all affidavits of the tribal leaders and victims in the alleged 17 atrocities committed by the rebel group.

Padillo, who is one of the DNPPO lawyers, said the police already has a detailed list of the 17 atrocities.

Senior Supt. Harry Espela, chief of the Regional Investigation Division, said they are gathering more pieces of evidence to back up the statements of the tribal leaders and former students of the Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon or the Salugpungan Community Learning Center (SCLC).

The 17 atrocities include the June 25, 1989 massacre in the village of Rano, Barangay Binaton, Digos, Davao del Sur, where 39 churchgoers were massacred by armed men believed to members of the NPA.

The tribal leaders also cited the murder of Talaingod mayor Jose Libayao in September 2001, and the killings of many other members of the cultural communities from 1983 to 2017.

Records obtained from the Police Regional Office in Region 11 (Davao Region) showed there are already more than 300 IPs reported killed by the NPA from 1983 to 2007 -- most of them from Region 11 (114 killed) and Region 13 or Caraga Region, 110.

From 2012 to 2017, the recorded killings reached 87, PRO-11 records show.

Investigators are also looking into the possibility of filing charges against some members of the NPA who abused Salugpungan students.

During the press conference on Friday at the Davao City Police Office, Datu Asenad Bago and Datu Manuel Salangani both claimed they were sexually abused when they were with the NPA.

The other atrocities that were listed by the tribal leaders are: supplanting traditional leaders and replacing them with the members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front (CPP-NDF), the political arm of the NPA; making the ancestral domain as NPA's guerrilla base; collecting revolutionary taxes; setting up informal schools and using them to radicalize IP children; deceiving and agitating IP leaders to go on "Bakwits" from their ancestral domain to the town centers and cities like in Haran in Davao City, and among others.

Datu Joel Dahusay, a Matig Talomo Manobo, said the lives of the IPs under the NPA was "very difficult."

Dahusay, one of the Salugpungan teachers, had left the struggle after realizing the teachings of NPA were to deceive people.

He said he stopped teaching because the classes were oriented towards radicalizing the children to be communist rebels.

Lanao Norte town residents surrender 10 firearms

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 7): Lanao Norte town residents surrender 10 firearms

Residents of Nunungan town in Lanao del Norte surrendered 10 high-powered firearms to military authorities on Thursday. (Photo courtesy of the Army's 1st Infantry Division Public Affairs Office)

PAGADIAN CITY, Zamboanga del Sur -- Residents of the Lanao del Norte town of Nunungan have surrendered 10 loose high-powered firearms to military authorities, officials said Friday.

Brig. Gen. Thomas Sedano Jr., commander of the Army's 2nd Mechanized Brigade, said the surrender of the firearms on Thursday was made possible by Nunungan’s local government.

“We thank them for their trust and support to our troops in contributing to the peace and development in the municipality (of Nunungan),” Sedano added.

He said the firearms included eight Garand rifles, one caliber .30 machine gun, and one 40-mm. grenade launcher.

Major Gen. Roseller Murillo, commander of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, has commended the efforts of the troops and stakeholders involved in the surrender of the firearms.

“The continuous surrender of loose firearms will minimize the crimes and atrocities and will further lead to a more progressive community,” said Murillo, who is also commander of the Joint Task Force Zampelan (the Zamboanga Peninsula and Lanao provinces).

“We will continuously work together with stakeholders in bringing just and lasting peace in our area of operation,” he added.

Aurora ex-rebel receives financial aid from gov't

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 7): Aurora ex-rebel receives financial aid from gov't

BACK TO THE FOLD OF LAW. Aurora acting Governor Rommel Rico Angara hands over checks worth PHP65,000 as financial assistance to former NPA rebel "Apple/Rudy/Rohel" on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018. Also in photo from left to right are: Provincial Administrator Guy Tuzon, Ariel Espinosa from the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Camay Joy Dedero from the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office, Ofelio Tactac from DILG-Aurora, Senior Supt. Cosme Abrenica and Lt. Col. Jose Marie F. Torrenueva II . (Photo by Jason de Asis)

BALER, Aurora – A former rebel operating in this province was awarded a financial assistance under the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) on Thursday.

Lt. Col. Jose Mari F. Torrenueva II, commander of the 91st Infantry “Sinagtala” Battalion of the Philippine Army, and acting Governor Rommel Rico T. Angara handed over checks worth PHP65,000 as immediate and livelihood assistance to former rebel, alias Apple/Rudy/Rohel, from Maria Aurora town, this province, at the Provincial Governor’s Conference Room, Provincial Capitol, in Barangay Suklayin here.

The event was also attended by officials of the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s (DILG) provincial office, headed by lawyer Ofelio A. Tactac Jr., Camay Joy Dedero from the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO), and Senior Supt. Cosme A. Abrenica, director of the Aurora Provincial Police Office.

“We are thankful for acting Governor Angara and the other stakeholders in this province for being active in implementing the E-CLIP,” Torrenueva said.

He said the former rebel was a regular member of the New People’s Army (NPA) who fell victim to the deception of the communist group. "Apple", he said, decided to voluntarily surrender to the 91st Infantry “Sinagtala” Battalion last February 27.

“The immediate assistance worth PHP15,000 and livelihood assistance of PHP50,000 were given as part of the implementation E-CLIP program of the government to a former rebel who returned to the folds of the law,” he said.

The surrenderer took an oath of allegiance and pledged his commitment, loyalty and support to the government. He, however, declined to be interviewed for fear of his life and his family's safety.