Saturday, December 8, 2018

Schools network rejects AFP claim of communist recruitment

From the Philippine Star (Dec 9): Schools network rejects AFP claim of communist recruitment

The SOS Network said there is no truth to the military's claim that Lumad schools are being used to recruit rebels. Lila Shahani, file

The Save Our Schools Network on Saturday denounced what it said were the military's "fabricated lies" against Lumad schools, which the government has painted as recruitment areas for the communist New People's Army.
The statement was released as the Armed Forces of the Philippines stood by its claim that schools like Salugpongan Community Learning Center in Talaingod, Davao del Norte that provide education to indigenous peoples' communities are being used to allegedly radicalize Lumad youth into joining the NPA and the Communist Party of the Philippines.
"The AFP keep on repeating lies just to make it the truth but the Filipino people are wiser than that. The Filipino public is not buying the AFP's deviousness. They want us to veer away from their real agenda and that is to extend Martial law in Mindanao and continue with plundering Mindanao’s vast resources," Eule Rico Bonganay, a member of SOS Network said in a release. Bonganay is also secretary general of children's rights group Salinlahi.

In an undated statement on its website, the AFP said that it stands by its statement linking Rep. France Castro (ACT Teachers) and former Rep. Satur Ocampo (Bayan Muna) to the CPP-NPA. Castro, Ocampo, and 16 others were arrested and charged last week for failing to show documents that the 14 minors they were traveling with when stopped at a checkpoint were there with their parents' consent.

RELATED: Duterte’s red-tagging endangers activists – militant groups

It claimed that party-list groups affiliated with national democratic activist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan "are known CPP-NPA front organizations operating under the umbrella of the National United Front Commission of the CPP." The military also said the arrest of Castro, Ocampo and the others show "that the activities of Ocampo and Castro in Talaingod is part of a bigger machinery and scheme involving what the CPP-NPA has dubbed as 'Lumad schools'."

The AFP claimed that "Ocampo and Satur kidnap IP children away from their families to be used as mascots for their international solidarity works."
AFP: Schools at 'center of CPP-NPA exploitation'

The AFP statement also listed schools—including Salugpongan, "Tribal Filipino Program in Surigao del Sur", and Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development—that it said "are at the center of CPP-NPA exploitation of the native Mindanawons who are being radicalized at a very young age by CPP-NPA supporters who pose as concerned teachers."

In October, the AFP also named colleges and universities in Metro Manila where films on martial law were supposedly being shown to students to recruit them into communism. The announcement, as well as the military claim of the existence of a "Red October" plot that failed to materialize, was met with denials from school administrations and condemnation from the art and film making communities.

RELATED: AFP 'red-tagged' schools using unverified information

In a series of interviews in early 2018, a volunteer teacher at Alcadev—one of the schools in the AFP list—said that subjects taught at the schools include Math and Science. Students are also taught History, sewing and basic carpentry, reading and writing in English and Filipino, and scientific and sustainable agriculture.
Harassment at Lumad schools

Salugpongan, Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur and Alcadev have reported being harassed by military and paramilitary forces this year and in 2017.

In 2015, tribal leaders in the Alcadev school were murdered on school grounds. The alleged leader of the paramilitary group linked to the killings has since been seen at checkpoints in Lianga, Surigao del Sur as well as in activities and videos denouncing the IP schools.

"We, in SOS Network, have documented 535 cases of attacks on Lumad schools under the Duterte administration's reign of terror and martial law in Mindanao," Bonganay said Saturday.

SOS Network said that "on the 28th of November, teachers and students fled Sitio Dulyan, Barangay Palma Gil in Talaingod, Davao del Norte because of threats of being killed by the para-military group ALAMARA at the instigation of the 56th [Infantry Battalion] of the AFP." Castro, Ocampo, and the others said that it was against this kind of harassment that they were "rescuing" the minors from.

RELATED: DepEd: No order to close down Lumad schools

Rorelyn Mandacawan, a student of Salugpongan, is quoted by SOS Network as saying the schools "are manifestations of our unity. We treasure it because it teaches us not just how to read and write but to love our ancestral land and defend it from those who want to steal it away from us."

Mandacawan claimed in the SOS Network release that security forces "are the ones who bomb our communities, kill our families and tribe members, displace us from our homes and ancestral land, coerce our fellow Lumad to forcibly close our hard-earned treasure and that is our school."
Investors on ancestral domain

In February, President Rodrigo Duterte said he would take care of looking for investors for ancestral domain, saying "you have been given ancestral domain. The problem is, you aren't using it."

Among the areas he mentioned that he wants opened to investment are Mount Talomo — part of the Apo-Talomo mountain range in the Davao region — the Anda Valley Complex in Surigao del Sur and Mount Kitanglad in Bukidnon.

"If you say you don't want to mine, then don't. No mines. If you say it will pollute your area, we'll block it," he also said. He said, though, that IPs who agree to have mines put up in their ancestral domains are free to do so.

"It's impossible not to mine. But if you say you don't want it, I won't coerce you. I will ban it," he said.

Under the law, IPs have the right to decide for themselves how their ancestral domain will be used and developed. Activities like mining, which some Lumad communities oppose, require free and informed prior consent from the IP community.

Competing claims on who is the rightful representative of an IP group complicates issues on the use of ancestral domain.

Arms cache recovered from Nuev Ecija NPA camp

From the Philippine Star (Dec 9): Arms cache recovered from Nuev Ecija NPA camp

Soldiers recovered an arms cache in an abandoned camp of the New People’s Army (NPA) on the Caraballo mountain range in Barangay Minuli, Caranglan, Nueva Ecija on Friday.

Maj. Gen. Felimon Santos Jr., 7th Infantry Division commander, said seven M16 rifles, various types of ammunition, three improvised explosive devices, bomb materials, 13 cell phones and accessories and a binocular were found stuffed in a drum unearthed at the scene.

Santos said villagers reported the presence of the NPA camp in the area.

Two suspected Abu Sayyaf members to be jailed and caned, pending further probe

From The Star Online (Dec 5): Two suspected Abu Sayyaf members to be jailed and caned, pending further probe

KOTA KINABALU: Two suspected Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) terrorists who were nabbed in Sabah in November have been jailed and given a stroke of the rotan for entering the state and staying here illegally.

The duo - Abdul Abrera, 39, and Majid Abu Bakar, 33 - were among 14 illegal immigrants charged at the Kota Kinabalu Sessions Court for immigration offences here Wednesday (Dec 5).

Abdul Abrera pleaded guilty to living in Sabah illegally since 1995 while Majib pleaded guilty to entering Sabah illegally two months ago.

Sessions Court judge Azreena Aziz ordered Abdul to be jailed five months and to be given a stroke of the rotan while Majid is to be jailed for four months, and caned once.

The other illegal immigrants aged between 18 and 55 also pleaded guilty to entering Sabah illegally. Some also pleaded guilty to having expired passports.

All of them were sentenced to five months jail and to be caned once.

According to sources, the two suspected terrorists will be investigated under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) after this.

They were first arrested based on immigration offences, as investigators are gathering evidence to probe and charge the duo under Sosma.

Duterte: Bayan Muna, KMU, Gabriela are communist fronts

From the Manila Times (Dec 7): Duterte: Bayan Muna, KMU, Gabriela are communist fronts

AT long last, we have a president so bold, and so not a pulitiko that he tells it like it is, what the political class and media have known for years but do not say for various reasons.

Duterte recently declared that a group of so-called party-list organizations — he specifically pointed to Bayan Muna, Gabriela and Kilusang Mayo Uno — are communist fronts directed by the Maoist Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the goal of which is to violently overthrow our Republic and install its one-party dictatorship.

Included among these are the other members of the so-called, misnamed Makabayan bloc in our Congress: Act Teachers, Anakpawis and Kabataan.

The Communist Party calls these and similar bodies as “mass organizations,” at the core of which is what is called the party group, consisting of three or more cadres. (In schools, factories and territorial areas, it is called the party branch.)

After this command cell are widening circles of members who are gradually brainwashed to become party members. The heads of these party groups report to a higher party organ for guidance.

These communist party-list organizations easily manage to get seats every election, not only because the Communist Party’s 50-year network nationwide is mobilized and turned into electoral campaign machines. The party’s New People’s Army (NPA) allegedly even threaten voters in the hinterlands to vote for its candidates or face violent retaliation. The communists also strike deals with local politicians to support their candidates in exchange for the latter’s safety when campaigning even in the remotest municipalities.


Communist ideologue Sison apparently impressing Cory, who freed him in 1986 a week after she took power.
The fact that these are communist fronts has been common knowledge among journalists, politicians, the military, and people in areas heavily influenced by the NPA or the CPP. Only either the most naïve journalists or those sympathetic to the communists do not see, or pretend not to see this fact.

Propaganda success

It has in fact been the communists’ tremendous propaganda success that their fronts are referred to by media with such virtuous adjectives as “militant”, “progressive,” and “nationalist.” The Philippine Daily Inquirer and the news website Rappler among a few others for instance routinely call these communist fronts’ collective as the “progressive” Makabayan bloc.

There is nothing progressive about these communist fronts. Their ideology, which the party officially claims as “Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought,” is of 19th century-vintage, totally debunked by the collapse of the Soviet Union (1922-1991) that tried to implement it and miserably failed at the cost of tens of millions of lives.

The purveyor of its “Mao Zedong Thought” component, the People’s Republic of China, has almost totally abandoned it except for its dictum of one-party rule. And when it did, China started to become the economic and military superpower it is now.

There is nothing “progressive” in the communist goal of plunging our country into what they romantically call “people’s war.”

What communist sympathizers, especially academics and students from UP, romanticize as a noble guerrilla war, will, in the worst case scenario, lead to a bloody civil war in the country so horrible that the Syrian or Yemeni civil wars will look like frat wars. The communists’ 50 years of “armed struggle” has already resulted in at least 100,000 Filipinos — civilian and military — killed by the New People’s Army.

What flag is really theirs? Party-list organizations Duterte claims are communist fronts. (The one on the left is the official flag of the Communist Party of the Philippines.)

There is nothing “nationalist” in the Communist Party’s thinking, except in its lip-service to what its founder Jose Ma. Sison way back in the 1960s referred to as “nationalist industrialization,” which neither he nor his ilk can even explain with rigor. Its purported nationalism is merely its vitriolic stance against the US, which of course was required by its Soviet and then Chinese communist mentors during the Cold War.

Our telecoms industry has been dominated for two decades now by foreigners — the Indonesian tycoon Anthoni Salim in the case of the PLDT conglomerate, by Singapore Telecom in the case of Globe Telecoms. Global capitalists who own at least a third of these firms’ through the stock market also siphon off millions of dollars yearly out of the country. Yet the Communist Party hasn’t said a single word to point this out, or call for its followers to “expose and oppose” such foreign control.

Source of funds

Why? Because these companies have allegedly become among the biggest sources of funds for the CPP and the NPA, reportedly in the range of P200 million or so. Why would they do that?

Because paying the NPA what it euphemistically calls “revolutionary taxes” is a lot cheaper than employing heavily armed security guards to protect their over 12,000 cell sites outside the metropolises, many of which are in remote areas. Cheaper certainly than having to erect new towers when these are destroyed by the NPA, especially since no insurance company would cover such destruction which would be defined as “civil unrest.”

How can the communists and their fronts claim to be makabayan when they are receiving money from foreign global capitalists?
Nationalism has never been in the DNA of the Communist Party, nor of Sison and his comrades who believe in a boundary-less world ruled by their mythical international proletariat. There is not even a hint of the nation we call the Philippines in the Communist Party’s flag and anthem. Its constitution declares: “The Party flag and emblem shall be red with the hammer and sickle in gold at the middle. The Party anthem shall be the “Internationale (the anthem of all communist parties since the late 19th century).”

The CPP and the NPA in fact was able to grow in the late 1960s to early 1970s because of the huge amounts of money poured into its coffers by the Chinese Communist Party, whose leader Mao during that period still believed in exporting communist revolution. The Chinese in 1971 and 1972 even tried to smuggle 10,000 rifles that they themselves manufactured, copies of the American M-14.

Seven in Beijing

 Sison — who has been living for 30 years in the Netherlands, a colonial and imperialist country which now clothes, feeds, and houses him — even deployed starting in 1970 seven of his trusted subordinates to Beijing to receive orders from and beg support from the Chinese communists. (The lurid, scandalous details of this are in the fictionalized account Secrets of the 18 Mansions, by Mario Miclat, one of those seven cadres.)

A big factor really for Marcos’ decision to impose martial law in 1972 was the threat — which also worried the Americans who therefore threw their support for the strongman — that China calculated a communist-led revolution in the Philippines would tie down US forces so much that all of Indochina — Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and even Myanmar — would easily fall to the more advanced communist insurgencies there.

The communist party-list representatives mean that in the very heart of our democratic system — the Congress — has been lodged a group that is part of an armed conspiracy out to overthrow democracy itself, using its very institutions.

These have become powerful propaganda tools for the communists. Newspapers routinely have headlines screaming that “solons” are against “martial law in Mindanao” or this or that policy of government.

Read the news article itself, though , and you will find that the “solons” are usually the most talkative of the communist lot, or those who have strong links with media, often ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, and Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago.

Sison’s rantings

 Indeed, press releases of the CPP, Sison’s rantings, Kilusang Mayo Uno, and its underground mass organizations such as Kabataang Makabayan and Makibaka naturally don’t get as much media mileage as those of communist party-list representatives, who portray themselves simply as “pro-people” congressmen.

The offices of the communist party-list congressmen have also become effective venues for communist organizing and political work, as these are disguised as legitimate activities of “members of Congress.” Communist cadres and NPA travelling through cities are known to have IDs issued by the congressional offices of this communist party-list representatives.

How much of the over P50 million each that party-list representatives receive from Congress for their ‘expenses’ are funneled to the NPA?
Corazon Aquino, the saint of the Yellow Cult, freed Sison, who had been captured by military intelligence in 1976 at the cost of many lives, a few days after she assumed power in February 1986. She let him escape to the Netherlands from which he has continued to direct the communists for two decades, and get international financing for his insurgency.

But Aquino’s bigger contribution to the communist movement is that she ordered the constitutional convention she set up in 1987 to institutionalize the party-list system in the Constitution itself, purportedly in order to allow marginalized sectors to be represented in Congress.

Ironically, this party-list system has only allowed two different, opportunistic entities, hardly marginalized sectors, to get seats in Congress, and who answer to no one but themselves: unscrupulous big businessmen who want some form of political clout, and the communists.

Tug Crewmember Repels Pirates with Flare Gun

From the Maritime Executive (Dec 7): Tug Crewmember Repels Pirates with Flare Gun


Abu Sayyaf members in an undated video still (file image)
On Wednesday, the crew of an Indonesian tugboat successfully repelled four armed attackers near Pegasus Reef, located in the piracy-prone waters off Sabah, Malaysia.

According to local media, a speedboat with four men aboard approached the tugboat Magtrans II on Wednesay evening. The boat's occupants opened fire as they neared, striking the master, Didy Saviady. The aggressors boarded and most of the crew retreated within the tug. According to local police, one crewmember on the third deck returned fire with flare guns, discharging about ten rounds and causing the attackers to abandon their attempt.

Police commissioner Datuk Omar Mammah told Malaysian media that Saviady sustained a gunshot wound in the left thigh, and he was evacuated to a hospital in Lahad Datu.

The identity of the attackers is unknown. The majority of previous hijacking and kidnapping attempts in the Sulu-Celebes Sea region have been linked to the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group, which is based in the Sulu archipelago.

During the inquiry into the attack on the tug, police forces discovered a fishing boat drifting without any occupants, left with its engine running. The boat's owner later reported that the four fishermen who normally operate it had gone missing. Commissioner Mammah said that it is not yet certain whether the fishermen were kidnapped, as no one has yet claimed responsibility for an abduction or demanded a ransom payment.

Separately, on the day of the attack on the tug, Abu Sayyaf militants freed an Indonesian fisherman who had been captured off Sabah in September. The victim, Usman Yusuf, 35, was released to authorities near Jolo, Sulu.

Gunmen attack Indon boat off Sabah

From the Mindanao Examiner (Dec 7): Gunmen attack Indon boat off Sabah

An Indonesian tugboat crew member was wounded after gunmen attacked their vessel off Sabah despite a tight security being imposed by the police following threats of Abu Sayyaf kidnappings in the rich eastern Malaysian state near the Philippine border of Tawi-Tawi.

A map shows Pegasus Reef in Sabah in Malaysia where the attack occurred December 6, 2018. ( / Mindanao Examiner)

Four gunmen on a speedboat opened fire on a tugboat and hitting its skipper Didy Saviady off Pegasus Reef late Thursday. The attackers managed to board the Magtrans II tugboat, but the wounded crew man, who was on the top deck, fired a parachute signal rockets at the gunmen who quickly fled, according to Malaysian media reports.

Sabah police said the attack was a piracy attempt, although no individual or group claimed responsibility for the assault on the boat.
Police commissioner Datuk Omar Mammah said the Indonesian man had been shot in the left thigh and was taken to hospital in Lahad Datu town by a marine police team.

The boat, which has 13 crew members, left the coastal town of Bintulu in Sarawak on December 2 to collect timber in Papua New Guinea.

It was unknown whether the raiders were Abu Sayyaf militants or Filipinos with links to the notorious terrorist group, blamed by Malaysia and the Philippines for the spate of ransom kidnappings inside Sabah.

The attack occurred the same day that the Abu Sayyaf freed a kidnapped Indonesian fisherman Usman Yusuf in the town of Luuk in Sulu, one of 5 provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.

The 35-year old Yusuf was quickly brought to a military base in the capital town of Jolo after soldiers recovered him around 7.30 in the morning in Bual village. Yusuf was kidnapped along with another Indonesian man Samsul Saguni, 40, in September 11 off Gaya Island in Sabah’s Semporna town and brought to Sulu, one of 5 provinces under the Muslim autonomous region. But the fate of the second hostage remains unknown.

The release of Yusuf came after the Chief of the Indonesian Consul-General’s Office in Sabah, Sulistijo Djati Ismojo, appealed to Malaysia to resolve the kidnapping of its citizens.

It was unknown whether ransom had been paid to the kidnappers in exchange for Yusuf’s release. In September The Abu Sayyaf had previously released other Indonesian hostages to Nur Misuari, chieftain of the former rebel group Moro National Liberation Front and his wife Tarhata; and a former Indonesian army general Kivlan Zein.

In September 14 this year, the militant group, whose leaders pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, also released to the MNLF 3 other Indonesian hostages Hamdam Salim, Subandi Sattuh and Sudarlan Samansung, who were kidnapped at sea off Sabah in January.

In August 2016, civilians recovered 2 of seven Indonesian sailors Ismail and Mohamad Soyfan in the same village of Bual. The duo was part of a crew of tugboat Charles kidnapped in June of the same year after militants on speedboats intercepted the vessel while heading to Samarinda in East Kalimantan following a trip from the Philippines.

The remaining hostages – Ferry Arifin, the skipper; M. Mahbrur Dahri, Edi Suryono, M.Nasir, and Robin Piter were eventually freed by the Abu Sayyaf to Misuari on October 2, 2016. The Abu Sayyaf is still holding at least three more foreigners and three Filipinos in southern Philippines.

Four ‘rogue’ Moro rebels die in Mindanao clash

From the Gulf Today (Dec 7): Four ‘rogue’ Moro rebels die in Mindanao clash

Four members of a “rogue” Moro rebel group that pledged allegiance to the Daesh extremists in the Middle East were killed in an encounter in Maguindanao province even as Malacanang Palace announced the appointment of a soon-to-retire top military officer as the next presidential adviser on the peace process.

The military confirmed the killing of the four members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) who were foiled in their attempt to hoist the black Daesh flag in a remote ‘barangay” (village) in the town of Ampatuan, Maguindanao on Tuesday.

Major General Cirilo Sobejana, an Army infantry division commander, said concerned residents reported the presence of heavily-armed BIFF men at the village where they planned to raise the Daesh flag.

The military said the BIFF was founded by the late veteran field commander Ameril Umbra Kato of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who seceded with about 1,000 of his armed followers due to major policy differences with the front leaders over the conduct of their peace talks with the government.

The MILF and the government later signed an historic peace agreement aimed at helping bring just and lasting peace to troubled Mindanao that resulted in Congress approving the Bangsamoro Organic Law that was later signed by President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte.

But the BIFF said they would continue to oppose the law which mandates the government to set up a new Bangsamoro political entity whose initial territory is to come from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) composed of the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi as well as Marawi City.

In a related development, Malacanang Palace announced the appointment of General Carlito Galvez, who is to retire on Dec.12 as the chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, as the next presidential adviser on the peace process.

Malacanang said Galvez is to replace Duterte’s close friend and political ally then secretary Jesus Dureza who resigned from his post following the president’s announcement that he has dismissed two of Dureza’s aide for alleged rampant corruption.

Malacanang lauded Dureza for his “delicadeza” in resigning although he was not involved in the scandal, pointing out it spoke highly of his commitment as an honest public servant to help Duterte in his war on corruption, drugs and rampant criminality.

Gov't, MILF kick off campaign for Bangsamoro plebiscite

From Rappler (Dec 7): Gov't, MILF kick off campaign for Bangsamoro plebiscite
MILF peace panel head Mohagher Iqbal says the landmark law is a 'formula for peace' that will benefit Muslims and non-Muslims

 CAMPAIGN. Officials from the MILF and government call on the public to participate in the Bangsamoro plebiscite as its campaign period kicks off on December 7, 2018. Photo courtesy of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process

CAMPAIGN. Officials from the MILF and government call on the public to participate in the Bangsamoro plebiscite as its campaign period kicks off on December 7, 2018. Photo courtesy of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process 
Government officials and leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) urged the public to unite and take part in the plebiscite to ratify the landmark Bangsmaro Organic Law (BOL) in January 2019.

“The BOL is for the welfare not only of the Bangsamoro people but (also of) non-Muslims residing in the Bangsamoro areas…. The BOL is a formula for peace, development, and progress,” MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal said in a statement Thursday night, December 6.

The campaign period for the plebiscite started Friday, December 7, and will end on January 19, 2019.
The law seeks to abolish the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and replace it with the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), which would have greater fiscal autonomy, a regional government, parliament, and justice system.

Voting is scheduled to take place on two dates. The first will be on January 21, 2019 in ARMM, Cotabato City, and Isabela City. The second voting for Lanao del Norte, North Cotabato, and local government units that petitioned to be included will take place on February 6, 2019.

'For all, inclusive'

Iqbal was joined by former presidential adviser on the peace process Jesus Dureza, who echoed the MILF leader’s sentiments. He said the BOL was not only for Moros, but was “for all and is inclusive.”

“We should continue to support this effort…if we don’t get this last chance with President [Rodrigo Duterte] we may never have it again in the future,” Dureza said.

Despite resigning from his post last month, the former chief peace adviser gave assurances that he would continue to support peace processes in the country in his “personal capacity.”

The BOL is the culmination of a peace deal signed between the MILF and past administrations. It also builds upon the gains of previous Moro peace agreements since the 1970s. (DOCUMENT: Bangsamoro Organic Law)

Former president Benigno Aquino III had wanted it passed before he stepped down, but a botched police operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, in 2015 derailed its passage.

Taking chances: Members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) also rallied for the law and said residents in Bangsamoro areas should “give the BOL a chance.”

“The BOL will put an end to the conflict dahil nagkasundo ang mga revolutionary movements (because revolution movements are in agreement with it). It will put an end to the marginalization that we have and it will provide an effective governance for the region,” BTC Commissioner Jose Lorena said. (READ: MNLF faction reiterates support for Bangsamoro Organic Law)

BTC Commissioner Maisara Dandamun-Latiph said the BOL was not just a piece of legislation but a “peace document.” (READ: Bangsamoro law to be 'vaccine' vs terrorism)

The landmark law is being questioned in court.

Governor Abdusakur Tan II of Sulu filed the first Supreme Court petition to block the law, citing questions on constitutionality.

During the campaign period, the BTC and MILF face the challenge of making sure people understand and accept the new law.

Otherwise, the BOL may fail to get enough votes in the plebiscite, sending years’ worth of negotiations and legislative work down the drain. (READ: After Bangsamoro law, a bright yet bumpy path to peace)

Voting in: Based on the law, the region would be initially composed of the current ARMM – Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Basilan, Maguindanao, and Lanao del Sur – pending a regional plebiscite.

Also included in the Bangsamoro region are 6 municipalities of Lanao del Norte and 39 barangays of North Cotabato, provided that the province and their municipalities, respectively, vote to lose jurisdiction over them. These areas previously voted to be included in the ARMM during the 2001 plebiscite under Republic Act No. 9054, but their mother units voted against it.

Neighboring local government units of the proposed new region may apply for voluntary inclusion.

Farmers troop to Manila to protest killings, militarization

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 8): Farmers troop to Manila to protest killings, militarization

Farmers and peasant sectors trooped to Mendiola in Manila Friday to protest what they claimed are human rights abuses committed within their ranks.


Members of peasant organizations carried makeshift coffins and cadavers to allegedly represent the situation of ‘Filipinos ‘being killed like chickens’ by the government.

The militant groups Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Tanggol Magsasaka said they have documented 173 farmers and land reform advocates who have been killed.

Danilo Ramos, KMP chairman, said “farmers, fisherfolks, peasant women and rural youth all suffer from Oplan Kapayapaan.

He described it as the government’s main weapon against its own citizens saying “this policy of militarization and killings have become the norm under the current Martial-law like conditions imposed across the country’’.

“This has resulted in even more difficult situations for farmers already downtrodden by perpetual poverty and landlessness,’’ Ramos said.

In a statement, the militant group said the government, through the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP) and other forces have unleashed an arsenal of attacks against farmers, poor peasants, indigenous people and the rural population.

Ramos added that majority of the 1,450 individuals illegally arrested and 148 individuals harassed with trumped-up criminal charges were farmers.

He complained that local KMP leaders are included in the government’s fake terror list, local wanted list and the AFP’s hit list.

The KMP noted that majority of the more than 500 political prisoners still languishing in jails nationwide are farmers charged and convicted with criminal and non-bailable cases as a result of their efforts to advance farmers’ rights and genuine land reform.

The peasant group and its members will join the even larger nationwide protests and mass actions on International Human Rights Day on December 10.

Año cites police, military for arrest of two ‘big fishes’ of CPP-NPA

From the Manila  Bulletin (Dec 8): Año cites police, military for arrest of two ‘big fishes’ of CPP-NPA

Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo M. Año has cited the police and the military for the arrest of two “big fishes” of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) in Cavite.

DILG officer-in-charge Eduardo M. Año (DILG / MANILA BULLETIN)

The combined efforts of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) led to the arrest of Rey Claro Casambre and Patricia Casambre, both Central Committee members of the CPP-NPA.

The DILG said former has a standing warrant of arrest (WOA) for murder and attempted murder.

Año said Casambre is the head of the National United Front and is the one orchestrating all the activities of the Kilusang Mayo Uno, Kadamay and other Communist front organizations.

He is also connected to the Movement Against Tyranny (MAT) and destabilization plots against the government.

He commended PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group Director Chief Supt. Amador Corpus, particularly its National Capital Region Field Unit (CIDG-NCRFU) and the Cavite PNP Provincial Police Office, with special credit to the efforts of the Intelligence Service of the AFP.

“Keep up the good work. Continue to be instruments of peace as we strive to open our doors to those who are willing to turn their backs on the communist movement and join mainstream society,” Año said.

He described the arrest as “a big victory” for the national government as Rey Casambre is one of the trusted leaders of exiled communist leader Jose Maria “Joma” Sison.

The DILG chief assured the public that the two will be tried in accordance with existing laws as they were immediately brought to CIDG-NCRFU for proper documentation and disposition.

“In the PNP-led operation ‘Oplan Pagtugis’ and ‘Paglalansag Omega’, the Casambres were legally taken into custody. We assure the public that they will be given due process as the cases move forward,” he added.

PNP reports disclosed that Casambres were collared in Brgy. Niyog 3, Molino Boulevard in Bacoor, Cavite while they were on board a silver car with plate number XKS-821 on December 7, 2018, 12:01 a.m.

Seized from the couple were some high caliber firearms including one Colt Commander Cal. 45 pistol; one magazine for Cal. 45 pistol; seven live ammunition for Cal. 45; one bundle of electric detonating cord; and one fragmentation grenade. Also confiscated were two cellphones, a Macbook laptop and P6,000 cash.

Ano said Rey Casambre has verified WOA for murder under Criminal Case No. 2520-18 and two counts of attempted murder on Criminal Case Nos. 2521 and 2522-18 dated November 23, 2018.

The warrant was issued by Presiding Judge Emilio G. Dayanghirang III of the Regional Trial Court, 11th Judicial Region, Branch 32, Lupon, Davao Oriental.

Philippines to complete Pag-asa Island repairs by 2019

From Philippine Star (Dec 7): Philippines to complete Pag-asa Island repairs by 2019

The Philippines is expecting to finish the repairs of the runway on Pag-asa (Thitu) Island in the West Philippine Sea by the end of 2019, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Friday.

In May, Washington-based Asian Maritime Transparency Initiative released satellite imagery showing repairs have begun at the Rancudo Airfield on Pag-asa Island, one of the largest features in the Spratly Islands.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed that the Armed Forces of the Philippines recently started constructing a beach ramp and a mooring bollard on the island.

"When completed, these will facilitate the transport of materials for repair and concreting of the airstrip," Lorenzana said in a speech at the Pilipinas Conference 2018 in Makati City.
As part of its efforts to protect national territory and uphold sovereignty, the armed forces also facilititated hydrographic reconnaissance and site survey of Mavulis Island in Batanes.

This is for the construction of a fisherman's shelter on the country's northernmost island.

Lorenzana stressed that the military continuously shows presence within the country' exclusive economic zone.

"We have intercepted intrusions to Philippine-claimed features. Littoral monitoring detachments and littoral observatory stations provided common air and maritime operating picture in the West Philippine Sea, Philippine Rise and other parts of the Philippine territory," he said.

A few weeks ago, Lorenzana revealed that Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua tried to block the government's plan to rehabilitate structures on Pag-asa Island.

"When he learned that we're going to repair our runway in Pag-asa, he came to me and said, 'No,'" Lorenzana earlier said at a maritime forum.

Lorenzana answered to Chinese envoy by pointing out that it was proper for Manila to improve every facility on Pag-asa as Beijing already developed Subi Reef.

China has reportedly installed surface-to-air missiles, anti-cruise ship missiles and electroning jamming equipment on Fiery Cross, Mischief and Subi Reefs.

'Don’t be in a hurry to die': Australian motto for Philippines troops

From the Sydney Morning Herald (Dec 8): 'Don’t be in a hurry to die': Australian motto for Philippines troops

Australian soldiers have been sharing a motto with Philippines troops: “Don’t be in a hurry to die.”

After decades of training from the United States, Philippines soldiers have absorbed elements of a more gung-ho American approach. But they are getting a different emphasis from an Australian training mission: patience, caution, survival.

It is wisdom the Filipinos are taking on board after their tough, five-month fight last year to retake their southern city of Marawi from more than 1000 Islamic State-linked insurgents, at a cost of at least 165 soldiers’ lives.

Philippines marines during training with Australian troops in Palawan.Credit:Kate Geraghty

On the island of Palawan, which neighbours the restive province of Mindanao, Australian troops have been training Filipinos in urban warfare. The Herald and The Age have been given exclusive access to the mission.
Some techniques are obvious only with the hindsight gained from doing it for years, as the Australians have been doing in Iraq and Afghanistan, in contrast to the Filipinos who have traditionally fought in jungles.

It includes simple things such as “offhand shooting” - being able to operate a gun with either hand so you can keep your body protected while shooting around corners.

How Australia is helping fight terror in the Philippines


With many insurgent armed groups plaguing the country and the memory of the deadly Marawi siege, the Philippine military is getting training from the ADF in urban warfare.

“They never had to plan for this in the jungle, because obviously there you are never shooting around corners,” says Major Luke Holloway, who has been commanding the Australian team on Palawan.

The hope is the Philippines forces will fare better in another Marawi-type siege. It was a brutal fight that all but levelled the city of 200,000 residents; in the words of one Filipino soldier, “a wake-up call” for the country’s military.

The city of Marawi in southern Philippines was almost destroyed in the months-long siege.Credit:AP

Despite prospects for political improvement in the southern Philippines, experts believe extremist groups will continue to recruit and attack. Troublingly, they have deep connections to jihadists both in the Middle East and in other parts of South-east Asia, such as Indonesia.

The combination of this latent transnational network and the possibility that another round of IS-style inspiration might unite the various groups and send them on the offensive right on Australia’s doorstep is what prompted Canberra to offer the 80-strong training assistance force to Manila last year.

“We’ve always been aware and concerned about a flow of foreign terrorist fighters … that have been radicalised even further with extremist views that will return back to their homelands ... particularly in the South-east Asia region,” says Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld, the Australian Defence Force’s chief of joint operations.

“We want to make sure there’s no transfer of terrorism from one location to another … and ideally prevent them affecting us in homeland Australia.”

The “don’t be in a hurry to die” motto is part of the urban movement combat shooting training, in which Philippines marines are being trained to enter and clear buildings. It means moving in pairs, systematically covering each corner of each room.

Private Brodie Smith (right) observes a Filipino marine as he enters a mock building during training.Credit:Kate Geraghty
It is one of the most dangerous things a soldier can do, explains infantry platoon commander Captain Thomas Grawich.

Doorways are known as “fatal funnels” because they bunch soldiers together into a target. Two soldiers can cover two or three corners after opening a door, but there is always a blind spot. Manoeuvres to get the upper hand use surprise and lure an enemy into giving away their own position. The worst thing you can do is enter a door and just stand there.

It is all based on doctrine that has been developed over years by Australia’s special forces units.

On a rifle range that sits on the grounds of a low-security prison farm, the Filipinos are learning marksmanship techniques. Philippines combat shooting is about where Australian doctrine was 20 years ago.

One trick they are being taught is to raise their weapon and fire quickly, even if they haven’t sighted a target perfectly. Speed is essential because the first bullet puts an enemy on the defensive. The precise aim can come with the second and third rounds.

A Filipino marine fires at a target during training.Credit:Kate Geraghty
“The simple lesson from engagements like Marawi is that the guy who shoots first is the guy who is going to survive,” says Major Holloway.

Corporal Aaron Harch and Private Brodie Smith, from the Brisbane-based 8/9 RAR, say most of the Philippines marines are halving the time it takes them to squeeze off their first round.

Marine Staff Sergeant Crisanto Casarino is a case in point: he’s gone from about 1.5 seconds to 0.7 seconds with a few days’ training. That’s likely the difference between life and death.

“They still need to move with speed and aggression,” Harch says. “But they also need to gain as much awareness as possible. Threats will come from every angle. So they need to be thinking about their stance and movement, so that regardless of anything that happens they’ll more instinctively respond with control and accuracy. A lot of it is just muscle memory and rote learning.”

Australian Army Sapper Nicholas Field and Lance Corporal Callum Leete instruct Philippine marines during training at Marine Base Gregorio Lim.Credit:Kate Geraghty
At Marine Base Gregorio Lim, south of the capital Manila, Australian snipers Private Ryan Hudson and Corporal Joe Hollis are teaching Filipino counterparts about sharpshooting in cities. Finding the right position and staying concealed are critical.

Snipers work in teams of two, one shooting and the other spotting through binoculars to see where shots land and what is going on around the narrow focus of the rifle sight.

Private Hudson shows a pair of local snipers - who cannot be named because their identities are protected - how to put up a black curtain inside a room for concealment. They will shoot through holes cut in the curtain and tiny gaps in the walls. That’s how hidden they have to stay. The curtain means that unless someone is standing right outside peering into the room, the snipers will be very hard to see.

Even so, snipers are so valuable they need self-protection options. “You have to make sure you have an escape route,” Private Hudson explains. “You can use early warning systems, like putting glass or rubble on the ground so you can hear anyone approaching.”

Army Scout Rangers officer Major Alberto Balabat, who commanded troops in Marawi, said the insurgents there had some very good snipers. “We were in shock," he says. "We were very surprised that the enemy was very much prepared and more skilled than we’d seen before.”

Another marine special forces officer, who cannot be named, recalls how he and his men would take off their helmets and poke them above cover to draw insurgents' fire so they could identify their position.

Beyond the urban combat training, the Australians are also helping the Filipinos with advice on policing the porous sea border between the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia and stopping the movement of potential fighters and weapons, says the commander of the training mission, Army Lieutenant-Colonel Gavin Ware.

"We've trained with over 7000 members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in exercises that have included urban combat techniques, maritime security coordination skills and air operations,” he says.

An upcoming plebiscite to deliver greater autonomy to the Philippines’ Muslim-majority southern regions should go some way to alleviating some of the political volatility and the grievances of disaffected young people that make them easy recruits for extremists.

But experts don’t believe the problem will go away. Steven Rood, a visiting fellow of the Australian National University who has worked in Mindanao for over a decade, said some groups, such as the decades-old Abu Sayyaf and the newer Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), won’t be satisfied with autonomy.

“They’re going to try and prove that autonomy doesn’t help and what you need is a caliphate,” Rood says. “They will try to be the spoilers.”

Just this week, BIFF fighters clashed heavily with Philippines soldiers an hour outside the major city of Cotabato, where Australian trainers were based for much of the past year before they moved to Palawan.

Filipino marines during urban combat training.Credit:Kate Geraghty
One persistent problem, he and others say, is the Philippines government’s failure to quickly reconstruct Marawi, which was all but razed as the military blasted the IS fighters out. Former residents remain in camps and are getting angry, having been told they won’t have new homes until 2022. That feeds into the IS narrative that it was the military, not the insurgents, who destroyed Marawi.

“Nothing’s happening,” Rood says. “The tragic slowness of this entire process is going to help [insurgent] recruiting.”

Air Marshal Hupfeld also alludes - if diplomatically - to the slow reconstruction. “That’s very clear to the armed forces of the Philippines, yet that’s a whole-of-government approach that the ... Filipino government needs to take in terms of reconstruction,” he says.

It was a brutal and desperate fight. The Philippines forces often levelled buildings to get at the insurgents inside. They used flamethrowers and even Molotov cocktails. They faced everything from booby-trap bombs known as IEDs to civilians who had been forced to carry weapons by the insurgents.

Captain Ramsel Dugan, the commander of an elite Philippines Army Scout Ranger company who spearheaded the killing of key insurgent leader Amin Baco and captured 39 hardcore fighters, says he’d learnt a lot about moving patiently, especially to avoid IEDs.

“In Marawi, we were very time pressured,” he says. “What I observed in the Australian instructors is to do it slowly but surely in order to avoid casualties.”

AFP defends appointment of new Air Force chief

From Tempo (Dec 8): AFP defends appointment of new Air Force chief

Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo on Friday said there is nothing irregular in the designation of Lt. Gen. Rozzano Briguez as the new commanding general of the Philippine Air Force vice Lt. Gen. Galileo Gerard Kintanar Jr.

Arevalo said Kintanar was replaced not for corruption or anomalies as insinuated by some posts in social media.

The AFP spokesperson reiterated that the recent change in the PAF leadership is part of the ongoing movement in the top AFP hierarchy.\

“A few days ago, with the retirement of Lt. Gen. Rafael Valencia, his post as the Inspector General was filled by Lt. Gen. Paul Atal who yielded his post to Major Gen. Noel Clement. That rendered the latter’s post as commander, 10th Infantry Division, vacant. We expect further movements in the top level AFP leadership with the impending retirement of Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. as AFP chief of staff,” Arevalo said.

“As has been announced, Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr. replaces him and thereby renders his post as commander, Eastern Mindanao Command, vacant.”

“The Board of Generals has convened to deliberate on the movements in the AFP’s top posts,” he added.

Arevalo said as a dynamic organization, AFP officers are accustomed to such movements. “The end view is to ensure continuity and seamless transitions in command and leadership that bear on accomplishing our 83-year old mandate of protecting the people and securing the state,” Arevalo said.

China delaying code of conduct – Lorenzana

From the Manila Times (Dec 8): China delaying code of conduct – Lorenzana

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Friday expressed hope that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and China would be able to finalize in three years a binding Code of Conduct to address tensions in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Lorenzana was one of the speakers at the Albert del Rosario Institute Stratbase forum held at the Manila Peninsula Hotel in Makati City on Thursday.

“I hope China fulfills its promise because it is actually China trying to delay this for the past six years already,” Lorenzana told reporters in a chance interview.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (second from right) greets former Foreign Affairs secretary Albert del Rosario. PHOTO BY RENE H. DILAN

In November this year, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said China expects results in 2021.

“If we have this Code of Conduct, then we have assurance that we will do something in accordance with the conduct and then, there will be no misunderstanding and miscalculations,” Lorenzana said.

He added that he prefers to have the code finished by next year since the issue not only involves the Philippines and China but other Asean countries.

The Code of Conduct was discussed during the Asean meeting in Singapore in October.

Gregory Poling, director of the US think-tank Center for Strategic and International Studies, meanwhile, said that the administration of former US president Barrack Obama failed to use the mutual defense treaty with the Philippines in addressing disputes in the South China Sea.

He said the Obama administration “failed” to clarify that the mutual defense treaty between Manila and Washington should be applied in case the Philippines is attacked by anyone.

“The Philippines could have felt bolder to push back, in Scarborough Shoal for instance, and the Chinese could have been more reluctant to use force,” Poling told The Manila Times in an interview.

Air Force chief opts for ‘early retirement’

From Malaya Business Insight (Dec 7): Air Force chief opts for ‘early retirement’

LT. Gen. Galileo Gerard Kintanar is stepping down as Philippine Air Force chief, opting to bow out of the service a year earlier than the mandatory retirement age of 56, according to the Department of National Defense.

Lt. Gen. Rozzano Briguez, chief of the AFP’s Western Command based in Puerto Princesa City, has been named by President Duterte as Kintanar’s replacement.

Reports on Briguez’ new post came out late Wednesday. Copies of his appointment paper, dated December 5, were released by Malacañang only yesterday.

The paper said the designation was effective December 5 but Kintanar, up until yesterday, has yet to be formally replaced as Air Force chief.

No date has been set for Briguez’ assumption as Air Force chief, and no announcement has been made on Briguez replacement as chief of Wescom, which supervises all operations in the South China Sea.

“He said he will retire,” said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana of Kintanar, who assumed the top Air Force post in October last year. Kintanar is reaching the retirement age of 56 in January 2020.

“General Kintanar simply opted for early retirement,” said Arsenio Andolong, spokesman of the Department of National Defense.

Asked why Kintanar is opting for early retirement, he said, “I don’t know, for whatever reason.”

Col. Noel Detoyato, chief of the AFP public affairs office, said Kintanar’s exit is not related to any corruption case. “It’s just to give way to a more junior officer (Briguez),” said Detoyato.

Kintanar is a classmate of retiring AFP chief Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. at the Philippine Military Academy class of 1985. Briguez is from PMA Class of 1986. Kintanar got his third star earlier than Briguez.

Detoyato described Briguez as a “one of the intellectuals of (PMA) Class 1986 and highly regarded.”

“Max Defense,” a defense blog, implied that Kintanar was ordered relieved because his position on the acquisition of combat utility helicopters is contrary to that of Duterte administration officials.

Reports said the Air Force is pushing for the acquisition of Bell helicopters while Duterte officials want less-capable helicopters. The government has allotted P12 billion for the helicopter project.

Asked to comment on Max Defense statement, Detoyato said: “It’s the opinion of Max Defense forum.”

He said the relief of Kintanar will not affect the modernization program of the Air Force. “The funds are there, the technical working group is there. Projects under the modernization program are thoroughly studied.”

AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said there is “nothing irregular” with the replacement of Kintanar as Air Force chief.

Arevalo said Kintanar “was replaced not for any issues of corruption or anomalies as insinuated by some posts in social media.”

“This recent change in the PAF leadership is part of the ongoing movement in the top posts in the AFP hierarchy,” said Arevalo.

Duterte warns soldiers, police against being captured alive by rebels: Kainin niyo baril niyo!

From Politiko (Dec 8): Duterte warns soldiers, police against being captured alive by rebels: Kainin niyo baril niyo!

President Rodrigo Duterte would rather that soldiers and police commit suicide when they are caught by communist rebels than be held hostage.

In a speech in Davao City Friday (December 7), Duterte said all policemen and soldiers have been given three magazines with their firearms so they could use one on themselves when they are captured by the enemy.

“Iyong dalawa i-deploy ninyo. ‘Pag naubos isa, pansak (insert/replace) ‘yung isa. ‘Pag naubos ‘yung isa… Be sure to count the numbers. Be sure to leave three bullets in the magazine kasi ‘pag na-corner na kayo, p***** i** ninyo kainin ninyo ‘yang baril ninyo. Kalabitin mo,” he said at the closing ceremony of a motorcycle training course.

Duterte said he does not want to see a policeman or soldier held hostage by the New People’s Army because they will only be tortured and publicly humiliated.

“Kainin mo ang bala mo. Die with dignity. Tutal mamatay man talaga tayong lahat,” he said.

Duterte joked that he would accompany a soldier or policeman in killing himself in case they are both caught by communist rebels.

Madrigal: military will not recommend holiday ceasefire with NPA

From MindaNews (Dec 8): Madrigal: military will not recommend holiday ceasefire with NPA

The military will not recommend a suspension of military operations (SOMO) to reciprocate the Communist Party of the Philippines’ declaration of a five-day holiday ceasefire, Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, outgoing chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command and incoming Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (CSAFP), said.

The CPP declared a unilateral ceasefire from 12:01 a.m. of December 24 to 11:59 p.m. of December 26, the same day it celebrates its 50th anniversary — and from 12:01 a.m. of December 31 to 11:59 p.m. of January 1, 2019.

Asked to comment on the CPP’s declaration of a unilateral ceasefire, Madrigal, who will assume the post of APP Chief of Staff on December 12 when Gen. Carlito Galvez retires, responded by sending through SMS the statement AFP spokesperson Col. Edgard Arevalo issued last Wednesday.

Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, outgoing Eastern Mindanao Command chief and incoming Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Madrigal will assume the post of Chief of Staff on Wednesday, December 12, when Gen. Carlito Galvez reaches the mandatory age of retirement. MindaNews file photo by H. MARCOS C. MORDENO

“Declare sila kunwari ng ceasefire to make it appear that they are advocates of peace this Christmas and for us to reciprocate. And if the AFP will not reciprocate, they will surely make an issue out of it and make it appear like we are peace spoilers,” Arevalo said.

He said communist guerrillas would take advantage of the truce “to regroup, refurbish, and recruit” but government forces will not give them that leeway as they have “already learned from our lessons in the past”

Cease and desist

In a statement dated December 3, the CPP ordered all units of its armed wing, New People’s Army (NPA), and people’s militia, to cease and desist from carrying out offensive military campaigns and operations against the military and police but directed them to stay on alert for active defense mode and maintain “a high degree of militancy and vigilance” against hostile actions or movements of the government forces.

The CPP said the public can visit their families and friends in areas controlled by the NPA for as long they do not commit crimes or have no “outstanding warrants for their arrest.”

It added the military can take a brief leave from their offensives to spend time with their families during the holidays.

It warned it would cancel the unilateral ceasefire if it sees the government forces continue their alleged offensives against communities and attacks against the activists but it “can also be extended by a few days if positive conditions arise.”

50 years

The CPP urged all revolutionary forces to celebrate its anniversary by “heightening all forms of resistance against the US-Duterte fascist regime and its scheme of extending martial law in Mindanao, exercising de facto nationwide martial law powers, giving the military full control of various government agencies and programs and employing the military and police to manipulate the results of the 2019 elections.”

It added the government “pipe dreaming when it declares it can completely defeat the armed revolution by middle of next year,” claiming the NPA “continues to gain strength nationwide, mount tactical offensives, carry out agrarian revolution with the peasant masses and build organs of political power across the entire country.”

Outgoing AFP Chief of Staff Galvez last month said the military will eliminate the NPA by next year.

“We are confident by 2019 we will be finishing the CPP-NPA,” Galvez told reporters during his visit at the Eastmincom on November 13.

Govt’ body finds 2 Army commanders in Mindanao liable for human rights violations

From MindaNews (Dec 8): Govt’ body finds 2 Army commanders in Mindanao liable for human rights violations

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has found two military commanders liable for human rights abuses in connection with the killing of seven tribal members in a remote village on December 3 last year.

Erlan Deluvio, CHR Region 12 director, identified the military officials as Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, commander of the 33rd Infantry Battalion (IB) based in Sultan Kudarat province, and Lt. Col. Benjamin Leander, then commander of the 27th IB based in South Cotabato.

Datu Victor Danyan Sr., chair of the T’boli Manobo S’daf Claimants Organization based in far-flung Sitio Datal Bonlangon, Barangay Ned here, and six other community members were killed on December 3, 2017 in what human rights and militant groups described as a massacre.

The two officials are “liable for human rights violations for their utter failure to exert earnest efforts in distinguishing combatants from non-combatants under the principles of distinction of International Humanitarian Law,” Deluvio said in an October 5 resolution for which Cabunoc and Leander, who was replaced as 27th IB commander last January, sought a motion for reconsideration.
Deluvio junked their appeal last Monday, December 3, coincidentally the first anniversary of the killing.

Datu Victor Danyan of Datal, Barangay Ned, Lake Sebu, chair of the T’boli-Manobo S’daf Claimant Organization (TAMASCO). File photo taken in 2007, courtesy of LRC-KSK

In their defense, the military officials stressed there was a legitimate encounter between soldiers and New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in the area that resulted in the deaths of the tribal chieftain and six others.

Two soldiers were also killed during the encounter.

Cabunoc appeared unfazed by the findings of the CHR, saying it will be the court that will decide on the merits of the case.

“I will never falter in performing my constitutional mandate of protecting the people against armed aggression by the communist terrorist NPA and their auxiliary forces like the group of Victor Danyan,” he said in a text message.

“If Datu Victor was fighting for his rights, I am also obliged to defend the plantation workers of Dawang Coffee Plantation against the planned attack by the NPA terrorists who supported Victor’s armed followers in seizing lands from Consunji,” the official added.

In the CHR’s nine-page resolution, Cabunoc and Leander claimed the military operation was triggered by intelligence reports that the NPA’s Platoon Arabo and Platoon My Phone had merged at Sitio Datal Bonlangon allegedly to launch an attack against coffee producer Silvicultural Industrial Inc., which is owned by the Consunji Company.

The slain tribal leader’s group did not give its consent for the renewal of the coffee company’s Integrated Forest Management Agreement 022, which expired on December 31, 2016.

Company officials could not be reached for comment.

Human rights advocates and Indigenous Peoples hold a rally in Koronadal City, in front of the provincial capitol of South Cotabato on December 11, 2017 to protest the death of Datu Victor Danyan and six others in the village of Ned in Lake Sebu town on December 3. MindaNews photo by BONG S. SARMIENTO

Witnesses presented by the military claimed that Danyan and the NPA rebels were allegedly hatching a plan to attack the coffee plantation on December 10 last year in line with the tribe’s bid to reclaim their lands.

Inconsistent with ‘encounter’ claim

In its investigation, the CHR-12 found Danyan’s community is not a guerilla base and the NPA camps pointed by the military are detachments of the militiamen and company guards.

The CHR’s autopsy results on the seven cadavers showed that five suffered from gunshot wounds, one caused by a “blunt force and traumatic injuries to the head and body,” and the other by a stab wound.

“It appears to the commission that the cause of death of the two victims seems to show inconsistency with the claimed encounter by the respondents,” Deluvio said.

Deluvio urged Congress to order the preventive suspension of the two military officials pending further investigation of their human rights cases.

He also called on President Rodrigo Duterte to consider a total ban on large business ventures that encroach on ancestral lands in the region, to avoid a repeat of the tribal members’ killings.

Meanwhile, Dande Dinyan, the new Tamasco chairperson, urged the military, the communist rebels and private company guards to stay away from their community as they continue to search for justice for the victims a year after their deaths.

In a statement in Filipino, Dinyan lamented the lack of “deeper official investigation” on the case, apparently unaware that the CHR-12 had already issued a resolution on the case that the respondents sought to reconsider.

Dinyan said they want state and non-state armed actors to stay away from their community to pave the way for a thorough probe not just of the killings but also other excesses that have occurred in their community over the years.

“Our human rights have been trampled for a long time…We are calling on the government to conduct a serious investigation of all the things that happened in our community, including the deaths of Datu Victor and the (six) others,” said Dinyan, who also strongly belied allegations that the seven who were slain were communist rebels.

Lumads asserting their rights

The Task Force Tamasco, a coalition of human rights organizations and indigenous peoples rights’ advocates, including the Oblates of Notre Dame-run Hesed Foundation, Inc., blamed officials and members of the 27th and 33rd Infantry Battalions for the death of the seven tribal members.

“They have long struggled and protested against land grabbing and the corporate abuse on their land. They were not rebels. They were Lumads (indigenous peoples) asserting their rights under the law,” the task force said in a statement.

Sister Susan Bolanio, Hesed Foundation executive director, said the tribe continues to mourn the death and the lack of justice for the victims.

“It’s painful to remember. It makes me cry again,” the nun said in a Facebook post.

Bolanio, who had earlier served as Director of the Social Action Center of the Diocese of Marbel, has been among those accused of being a member or supporter of the communist movement, an allegation she has repeatedly denied. She described the slain tribal leader as a well-meaning person who fought to reclaim the land of their ancestors.

For over a decade, the Hesed Foundation has been assisting the tribe with livelihood and development projects.

Manobo woman recalls NPA's deceit, abuses

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 6): Manobo woman recalls NPA's deceit, abuses

With high hopes of getting free education, 22-year-old Alice (not her real name), a Manobo tribe member in North Cotabato, joined the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. (MISFI) and even offered her services as a secondary school teacher.

She recalled being recruited by members of the communist rebels March this year. She said the rebel leaders enticed them with a promise of good education and good life.

However, as she stays longer in the organization, she realized that she and the other recruits have been deceived.

As a teacher, she said the topics they are being asked to teach came from political instructors of the communist armed group New People's Army (NPA) which she said are against the values she stands for as they are being asked to teach how to fight the government and practice deceit.

"Para sa akin masakit talaga, kasi Filipino lang versus Filipino ang nag-aawayan, hindi po tama. Nung naisip ko po na hindi talaga siya tama, bumalik na po ako sa gobyerno (It's really hurtful for me because it's Filipino versus Filipino. It's not right. When I realized that it's not really right, I decided to return to the fold of government)," she said.

Alice also narrated the hardships she went through while part of the said organization.

"Mahirap po talaga. Minsan mayroong pagkain, minsan wala. Tapos akyat nang akyat, lakad nang lakad sa bundok. Gabi lang po kami may pahinga (Life was really hard. Sometimes we do not have food. We climb mountains all day. We get to rest only at night)," she said, describing their treks somewhere in Davao where they were brought by the group.

But aside from the physical ordeal they went through, what was more striking were the sexual abuses their leaders committed against them. Alice, along with her sister and two cousins, all minors, were allegedly molested and raped by their commander and squad leader.

Seeing the realities in the organization she entered, Alice wanted her way out. However, being guarded by NPA members, she had no chance to escape.

"Kapag magtagal ako dun (MISFI), wala naman po akong magagawa dun at wala rin akong kinabukasan. Hindi ko rin matulungan ang mga relatives ko (If I stay longer in the MISFI, I have no future there. I can't help my relatives)," she said.

After her six-month ordeal, Alice managed to escape from the organization in September. But Alice's story will not end on this particular incident.

Alice was one of the indigenous peoples (IPs) presented by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Thursday, to narrate the realities that happened to rebel recruits like her.

Realizing that her life is in danger because of her escape, Alice sought government help.

"Yung pagbalik ko po sa gobyerno, maganda po tinutulungan po ako ng mga sundalo. Kahit saan ako pupunta sasamahan nila ako (Now that I've returned to the government fold, soldiers help me. They even accompany me wherever I go)," she said.

She also denied accusations made by the communist groups that military personnel commit abuses against members of IP groups.

"Hindi po totoo yung sinasabi nila na yung mga sundalo ang nangre-rape ng mga sibilyan. Sila po talaga yung gumagawa ng pangre-rape at pang-aabuso sa ibang tao. Sinisira po nila ang aming karapatan bilang isang babae. Sa totoo lang, mas mababait pa nga yung mga sundalo kumpara sa kanila (The accusations by the CPP-NPA that the soldiers rape civilians are not true. They are the ones who commit rapes and abuses. They destroy our rights as women. The truth is that soldiers are nicer than them)," she said.

Now a partner of government, Alice receives financial aid from the government which she uses to help her family.

She also called on her former colleagues and communist leaders to return to the government fold.

"Maganda ang proyekto na binibigay ng gobyerno sa atin. Huwag natin sayangin ang panahon (This is a good project being given to us by the government. Let us now waste the time to change and be productive)," she said, appealing to the government to help other victims like her.

Ex-Bayan Muna officer now a gov't asset

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 6): Ex-Bayan Muna officer now a gov't asset

Being a member of communist revolutionary groups for most of her life, 29-year-old Magdalena Gano now takes on a different role in her community.

Growing up with limited access to education, Gano said her community was lured to be educated in the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS) offered by communist groups.

She said her parents allowed her to study in TRIFPSS with hopes of her getting a good education.

"Wala kaming pera na pang-aral sa akin so dun na lang kami sa libreng school. Lumipas ang panahon, nag-iba na ang tinuturo sa amin, lagi na kaming magra-rally, dinadala kami kahit saan (We don't have money to finance my studies, so we opted for the school that offered free education. As time passed by, things being taught to us changed. We are always asked to attend rallies and we're brought anywhere)," she said.

Gano spent 14 years with the Communist Party of the Philippines - New People's Army (CPP-NPA) and its political wing Bayan Muna, from her childhood days up to the time she decided to leave the group in 2016.

During her stay with the leftist movement, Gano said she goes by the name "Cecil".

She narrated that she joined various rallies organized by the leftist groups, including the Manilakbayan in 2016 but admitted that her participation did not result in anything good.

"Pag-uwi ko, nakaisip ako na yung pamilya ko napabayaan na. Nagsama-sama ako wala naman akong nakuha. Naisip ko na susuko na lang ako (When I come home, I always think that I have neglected my family. I went with the movement, but I got nothing from it. So, I decided to just quit)," she said in an interview.

Gano said she also realized that some of the values of the CPP-NPA is not in line with her own values and principles.

"Bakit tinuturuan ang mga batang magsinungaling? Doon ko naisip-isip na hindi tama itong grupong napasukan ko. At saka sa sarili naming tribo, nasasaktan ako na lokohin ko yung tribo ko (Why are they teaching children to lie? That was the point when I thought I was in the wrong group. It pains me when I deceive my own tribe)," said Gano, a member of the Manobo tribe.

She also admitted that the CPP-NPA charges revolutionary taxes as she herself collected them from establishments in their area, with threat of arson for those unwilling to pay.

She said the turning point for her to return to the government fold was when her uncle was killed by communist rebels on mere suspicion of being an intelligence officer for the military.

At that point, she asked her superiors to transfer her from the armed group NPA to its political wing Bayan Muna.

From the highlands to the lowlands, she got an opportunity to be offered to return to her normal life when she talked to her former communist comrades who have surrendered to authorities.

From that point onward, Gano devoted her time helping her community by convincing her tribe mates to enroll their children in Department of Education-accredited schools.

Being a former rebel surrenderer, she was offered to train to be part of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU). Since June this year, Gano has been working with CAFGU, tasked with organizing tribes and communities for meetings and dissuading them from joining leftist groups. With her allowance, she said she is able to save money and help her family.

Gano admitted that she and her parents still get threats from the NPA for speaking up and joining CAFGU. She, however, is unfazed by this.

"Kung hindi ako tatayo, sino ang tatayo? Papano yung mga katribo kong api-apihin? (If I won't stand up and speak out, who will? What will happen to my tribe mates who are being abused?)," she said.

PH Navy shares blessings with Laoag coastal residents

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 8): PH Navy shares blessings with Laoag coastal residents

Philippine Navy personnel based in northern Luzon visited this city on Thursday to share their blessings with some coastal residents.

Commodore Nichols Driz said their distribution of wheelchairs, and conduct of medical and dental mission at the Metro Gabu here are their way of sharing the blessings they received this year.

“As soldiers, we have been away from our families. So, in the spirit of Christmas, we wish to share our blessings as we find time to engage in this kind of pre-Christmas activities,” Driz said during a simple program held at the village hall of Metro Gabu.

In cooperation with volunteer doctors at the Laoag City Health Office and reservists of the Philippine Navy, three Laoag barangays (34A, 34B and 35) were selected as beneficiaries of the medical and dental mission.

Navy personnel also turned over some sports equipment to the school principal and fed the pupils of Gabu Elementary School.

A senior citizen and a person with disability were also given a wheelchair and crutches, respectively.

In his message, Senior Provincial Board Member Matthew Manotoc, who served as the guest of honor during the distribution program, lauded the Philippine Navy for its efforts to protect the community and ensure the comfort and health of the public.

“Sometimes, we do not have direct contact with them, that is why we cannot understand their role. Today, they are here with us, sharing what they got,” Manotoc said.

With the proximity of the Ilocos region to other Southeast Asian countries, the Naval Forces Northern Luzon is one of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' wide support commands, combating terrorism and insurgency in this northern part of the country.

Jungle Fighter bags DOH Red Orchid Award 2018

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 8): Jungle Fighter bags DOH Red Orchid Award 2018

CAMP CAPINPIN, Tanay, Rizal -- The Department of Health (DOH) has presented its Red Orchid Award to the 2nd Infantry (Jungle Fighter) Division (ID) for enforcing a “No Smoking Policy" at the camp.

Major Gen. Rhoderick M. Parayno, commander of the 2ID, together with Col. Jose Augusto V. Villareal, 2ID Chief of Staff; and Lt. Col. Ma Asuncion C. Bayos, Chief Nurse of the 2nd Army Station Hospital, received a plaque from DOH representative Dr. Noel G Pasion, chief of the Local Health Support Division, during the 2018 Red Orchid Regional Awarding Ceremony at the Icon Hotel along Timog Ave., Quezon City last December 5.

The 2ID garnered a total score of 91 percent to 100 percent based on the DOH’s set criteria for implementing a 100-percent Tobacco-Free Environment and following the World Health Organization’s “MPOWER” Framework.

“(The) 2ID has been enforcing the ‘No Smoking Policy’ since 2015 and as evident in its undertakings, the Jungle Fighters will and always be genuinely committed to live a healthy lifestyle in an environment free from tobacco smoke,” Parayno said.

The Red Orchid is the highest score for the DOH Orchid Award, a search for 100-percent Tobacco-Free provinces, municipalities, cities, government offices, government hospitals and DOH centers for Health Development. It is followed by the second highest award, the Pink Orchid, and the third tier, the White Orchid.

The awards were conceptualized to fight tobacco use and to work for a tobacco-free environment. Tobacco use has been identified as the major contributor in cardio-vascular diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes and cancer.

The 2ID is the first to receive such award among the Philippine Army Major Units. The division will continuously implement the “No Smoking Policy” and establish firm regulations against public smoking.