Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Duterte creates task force to address causes of communist insurgency

From Rappler (Dec 11): Duterte creates task force to address causes of communist insurgency

The task force, chaired by President Rodrigo Duterte himself, seeks to improve the quality of life in areas experiencing clashes with communist rebels

NPA. A new executive order creates a task force to address causes of armed communist conflict, such as poverty and lack of jobs. File photo by Karlos Manlupig

NPA. A new executive order creates a task force to address causes of armed communist conflict, such as poverty and lack of jobs. File photo by Karlos Manlupig

President Rodrigo Duterte signed an executive order (EO) creating a national task force to address causes of armed conflict with communists at the local level.

EO No. 70, signed on December 4, seeks to do this by ensuring the provision of social services, employment opportunities, and improved quality of life in communities that have been experiencing, or are vulnerable to, armed communist conflict.

Adopting the "whole-of-nation" approach of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the strategy is an affirmation that a "purely military option in combating terrorism and extremism" is not enough. (READ:
Guns not only answer vs NPA, says next military chief Madrigal)

"Towards this end, the Government shall prioritize and harmonize the delivery of basic services and social development packages in conflict-affected and -vulnerable areas," reads the EO.

A National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict was created to supervise the delivery of such services. Chaired by the President himself and vice-chaired by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr, the task force is composed of various national government agencies and two private sector representatives.

It will craft a National Peace Framework that will contain plans and programs for inclusive and sustainable peace and for addressing the root causes of insurgencies and conflicts.

Crucially, it also allows for localized peace talks with communist groups.

"The Framework shall include a mechanism for localized peace engagements or negotiations and interventions that is nationally orchestrated, directed, and supervised, while being locally implemented," reads the order.

Last July, Duterte approved guidelines for localized peace talks, or negotiations between local communist rebels and local government units. This was after Duterte terminated the national government's talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

The CPP rejected the guidelines for localized peace talks.

Opapp eyes to seal RPA closure agreement before 2022

From the Sun Star-Bacolod (Dec 12): Opapp eyes to seal RPA closure agreement before 2022

THE Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (Opapp) is eyeing a closure or fulfillment of the agreement signed between the government and the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa-Pilipinas or Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPM-P/RPA-ABB) before President Rodrigo Duterte’s term will end on 2022.

Milo Ibrado, special assistant the secretary of Opapp, said on Tuesday, December 11, they are now finishing the implementing documents, which define almost all particular aspects of the peace process.
In the 2000 agreement, there were areas that were not very clear, he said.

“There was before an implementing document during the time of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo but it was not very clear, so we have a final implementing document that will define all aspect of implementation and majority of these programs and projects will be implemented in three years period from now on, so probably until the end of the term of the President,” Ibrado said.

He said the implementing document will be signed and what is left now is the concurrence of all the departments concerned like the Department of National Defense, Department of Interior and Local Government, Social Welfare and Development Office, and Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The said agencies have already signed except the Department of Justice, which is very important because of the legal aspect.

"We are awaiting that final concurrence from the DOJ which is the last agency," he added.

He pointed out it that one of the major concerns is the alleged political offenders or political prisoners wherein 50 of them are incarcerated or others were at large facing cases. The guidelines state that when they committed the offenses, it was during the time that they were working for a political cause and there were various offenses from murder down to the destruction of properties.

“Those who were not yet convicted will be considered for amnesty while those who were convicted will be considered for a pardon. This is part of the process. The Presidential Committee on Granting of Bail and Pardon handles the matter. Within the next three years, we have the commitment to the peace agreement,” Ibrado said.

Ibrado made the statement during the Community-Based Forest Management Agreement (CBFMA) awarding ceremony held at the Provincial Capitol Social Hall in Bacolod City on Tuesday, December 11.

The CBFMA is intended for the Peace and Development Community in Kabankalan City.

Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer Edgardo Rostata said that in Negros Occidental, there are three CBFMAs -- in Kabankalan City with 178 hectares, Cadiz City with 232 hectares, and San Carlos City with 230 hectares that will serve as settlement areas for the profiled members of the RPM-P/RPA-ABB as beneficiaries.

The program is covered with the Memorandum of Agreement as Tenurial Instrument within the protected area where the members of the Kapatiran will serve as forest guards.

Veronica Tabara of RPM-P/RPA-ABB and Kapatiran said this program is already part of the agreement between the government and their group in 2000.

"Under the 2000 agreement in the cessation of hostilities, we have agreed to stay all together in the area as temporary shelter," she said, adding that Opapp will assist them in building their houses at the settlement areas with the help of the army's engineering brigade.

“We also have areas being worked out in E.B. Magalona with 70 members, and in Hinigaran settlement area, with 40. We also have in Antique, Aklan, Iloilo, and Bukidnon. We will build houses and have livelihood projects based on the tenurial instrument on the guidelines of the DENR's CRMF Community Framework Plan,” she said.

“We will help in the reforestation project. This is nationwide. Our objective is to help. We just want to have a decent life as mainstream members of the society,” Tabara added.

“This is in preparation for the closure agreement although we don't call it closure agreement because the peace process has no closure as it is always a process because of conflicts and problems along the way. So we call it clarification based on the implementing document that we signed,” she added.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources Assistant Secretary Joan Lagunda said they have three commitment under the program and it is to provide employment, as 100 of them were hired as forest guards.

“We have 42 in Panay Island and 58 here in Negros Occidental. We are done with our homework and we will just give technical assistance in the framework,” she said.

83rd Armed Forces of the Philippines Anniversary and Change of Command Ceremony

From the Presidential Broadcast Staff RTVM (Dec 11): 83rd Armed Forces of the Philippines Anniversary and Change of Command Ceremony
Camp Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City
December 11, 2018

DepEd, AFP monitor community schools

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 11): DepEd, AFP monitor community schools

An official of the Department of Education (DepEd) said Monday the department is closely working with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to monitor community schools reported as "breeding grounds" for future members of New People's Army (NPA).
"We are closely working with the AFP because this is not just an issue of education, national security also," DepEd Undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla said in an ambush interview.

Sevilla added DepEd will make sure that all schools, especially the community schools in far-flung areas, have permits to operate to ensure "proper regulation and control over the management of such institutions".

Meanwhile, Col. Noel Detoyato, AFP public affairs office chief, told Philippine News Agency (PNA) that there could be a possibility that some DepEd officials and personnel were threatened by the NPA to allow the operation of Salugpungan schools in the Davao Region.

"We are monitoring them, and we are banking on the actions to be taken by the DepEd to resolve this matter," Detoyato said.

US Ambassador Sung Kim: ‘Balangiga bells are now home’

From the Philippine Star (Dec 12): US Ambassador Sung Kim: ‘Balangiga bells are now home’

Philippine Air Force personnel unload the Balangiga bells yesterday at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City.

One hundred seventeen years after they were pulled down from the belfry of a Samar church by US troops as war booty, the bells of Balangiga “are home now, in the Philippines, where they belong,” US Ambassador Sung Kim said yesterday.

Kim and Philippine officials led by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana welcomed the arrival of the bells at Villamor Air Base.

Kim said the bells took a “very long road home,” with countless Filipinos and Americans working tirelessly for decades to make their return possible.

Also present at the handover ceremony were US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Joseph Felter, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., US Indo-Pacific Command chief Admiral Philip Davidson and Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez.

“By returning the bells, the United States could restore to its friend and ally an important symbol of national independence and demonstrate our commitment to a relationship of two sovereign nations, two equal partners and mutual respect,” Kim said.

The return of the bells was the “right thing to do,” he added.

He said the bells should be returned rightly to the people of Balangiga and to the Church of San Lorenzo de Martir where they had hung for years before US soldiers on a punitive expedition took them away in September 1901.

The American soldiers were on a mission to avenge the death of their comrades at the hands of Filipino guerrillas in an attack signaled by the ringing of the bells.

The soldiers had orders from Gen. Jacob Smith to turn the town into a “howling wilderness” by razing the town and killing every Filipino male 10 years and above or anyone capable of carrying a rifle.

“May they ring in peace and bear testament to the ties and values which bind our two great nations for generations to come,” Kim said.

“The return of the bells of Balangiga lets us reflect on the US-Philippine relationship – where we have been, where we are, where we are going,” Kim said. “Having now served over two years as US ambassador to the Philippines, I am convinced that our relationship remains ironclad, consecrated by the service and sacrifice of the Americans and Filipinos who fought side by side for freedom,” he maintained.

Before their return to the Philippines, two of the bells were at the Warren USAF Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming and the third was on display at Camp Red Cloud in South Korea.

Lorenzana, for his part, said the bells were a symbol of a people’s struggle during a dark period in Philippine-American history.

“After 117 years, the bells of Balangiga are coming home and will once again take its place in Balangiga Church. There was a time when the bells of Balangiga pealed to a different beat, encompassing a dark and painful episode in history which nonetheless teaches a lesson that nobody wins in war,” he said.
Decades of work

Since former president Fidel Ramos first raised the issue of the bells with president Bill Clinton in 1993, Kim said virtually every Philippine president has pressed for the bells’ return.

In his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year, President Duterte strongly demanded the return of the bells.

“President Duterte made a forceful appeal for the bells’ return during his 2017 State of the Nation address. I was there and heard his passionate call loud and clear,” Kim added.

US embassy spokesperson Molly Koscina said on Monday that a number of presidents, secretaries, Filipino and US ambassadors had worked for the return of the Balangiga bells, amid protests from some US veterans.

“So there were some legal issues really. It’s time for the bells to come back but it was not due to any particular event or any particular statement. People have been working on this for many many years,” Koscina said.

The return of the bells, she said, should remind the new generation of the sacrifices of Filipinos and Americans who fought side by side for freedom.

“We fought together for freedom and to protect democratic values across the Indo-Pacific region. In World War II and in Korea, our soldiers fought, bled, died and sacrificed side by side. Together they made possible the peace and prosperity we enjoy today,” he said.

While efforts to have the bells returned had spanned several administrations,

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Romulo Valles said the administration deserves praise for its relentless pursuit of the bells’ return.

“With this, we express our profound gratitude to the Philippine government for its years of vigorous efforts to reclaim these bells. We thank in particular our present government, with the leadership of President Duterte, for bringing a most successful and happy conclusion to all these efforts,” Valles, who is also Davao archbishop, said in a statement.

“The return of these three church bells, which, for the Catholic Church, are priceless religious treasures used for generations to call Her faithful to prayer and worship, affords us an opportunity to understand and appreciate history better with a more mature perspective. It also demonstrates that the path to healing and reconciliation may be arduous but is never impossible,” Valles maintained.

The CBCP president also said he is grateful to the US government for finally giving back the bells.

“We also appreciate the very wise gesture of the US government in finally bringing back the bells of Balangiga to where they should belong, thereby giving ourselves the experience of a deeper sense of justice and respect between our peoples and consequently letting our friendship grow stronger,” he added.

Military chaplain Oscar Florencio also said that he was grateful to those who contributed to the return of the bells.

“This return is also a deeper meaning of reconciliation and healing of the aged wounds of war and anger. We hope and pray that truly magnanimity of hearts and healing of wounds and misunderstanding will prevail,” Florencio said.

USS Greeneville and Emory S. Land host Philippine delegates aboard ship, submarine during port visit

From the Defense Visual Information Distribution System (DVIDS) (Dec 11): USS Greeneville and Emory S. Land host Philippine delegates aboard ship, submarine during port visit

USS Greeneville hosts Philippine delegates aboard submarine during port visit

Photo By Petty Officer 2nd Class Jordyn Diomede | PUERTO PRINCESA, Philippines (Dec. 10, 2018) – Lt. j.g. Aaron Sims, assigned to the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Greeneville (SSN 772), shows members of the Philippine Navy how to operate a periscope during a tour of the submarine, Dec. 10. Land is in the Philippines on a scheduled port visit to provide maintenance, hotel services, and logistical support to submarines and surface ships in the 5th and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility. Land's visit promotes ongoing theater security cooperation efforts furthering the longstanding partnership between the United States and Philippine navies. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jordyn Diomede/Released


PUERTO PRINCESA, Republic of the Philippines – The crews of USS Greeneville (SSN 772) and the submarine tender USS Emory S. Land (AS 39) welcomed Philippine officials aboard today for a tour and opportunity to meet and have lunch with submarine force crewmembers.

Cmdr. Terry A. Nemec, Greeneville’s commanding officer, hosted Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Deputy Commander of Naval Forces West, Capt. Carlos Sabarre, as well as Capt. Edwin Nera, head of the Philippine Navy Submarine Group for a tour of the Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine to highlight the importance of the U.S.-Philippine alliance to maintain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

“The U.S. and the Filipino navies work well together on a number of fronts and we’re pleased to have opportunities such as these, along with continued participation in bilateral and multilateral exercises,” Nemec said.

Emory S. Land also facilitated a tour of the ship for the distinguished guests and their staffs, and a meet and greet with some of the 139 active duty and civilian crewmembers of Filipino descent.

“The crews of the Greeneville and Land continue to impress our regional partners with their dedication and professionalism during recent visits,” said Capt. Michael D. Luckett, Land’s commanding officer. “I personally want to thank them and let their loved ones know they are working tirelessly to make a difference in a dynamic environment.”

The visitors were delighted to meet Filipino-American crew members who spoke to them in Tagalog about their shipboard jobs and quality of life, and any family members they had still living in the Philippines.

Among them was Senior Chief Electrician’s Mate Jeff Maigue – born and raised in Subic, Philippines – whose older brother is also a Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy.

“Many of us joined the U.S. Navy to seek new and better opportunities, myself including, and one of the best opportunities we get is meeting new people everywhere we go,” Maigue said. “You realize there is more that unites people than divides them, and you'll find that with our regional allies in the Philippines.”

“There is something special about meeting others who share the same common language and also are sailors like me,” he said.

Emory S. Land is one of two forward-deployed submarine tenders and is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations to conduct maintenance and support of deployed U.S. naval force submarines and surface vessels in the Indo-Pacific region.

Greeneville measures more than 360 feet long and weighs more than 6,900 tons when submerged. It was christened Sept. 17, 1994 and commissioned on Feb. 16, 1996 at Naval Station Norfolk. The Greeneville arrived at its current homeport of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in March 1997.

Duterte turns to military for (almost) everything

From Rappler (Dec 12): In 2018, Duterte turns to military for (almost) everything

With 2018 ending, Duterte's Cabinet is now one-third former military and police men. He has turned to ex-generals to 'fix' Boracay and soldiers to overhaul the Bureau of Customs.

Wearing camouflage uniform, President Rodrigo Duterte places his right hand lightly on the trigger of a Chinese-donated sniper rifle and uses its telescope to aim.

He is surrounded by soldiers of the Armed Forces’ Special Operations Command in Fort Magsaysay, members of the Presidential Security Group, and his aide, deftly taking a selfie as the President fires a shot.

Duterte, a gun enthusiast, enjoys these moments. Donning battle gear is his way of being one with his soldiers. It’s no coincidence that the public saw Duterte in military uniform in the days leading to end of the Marawi siege in October 2017.

Some groused about how he wore the uniform the wrong way – with top buttons open, revealing his white undershirt, and sleeves rolled.

Here was a man who projected himself as a disciplinarian yet could not be made to follow the smallest rules on military attire.

Yet the year 2018 was when we saw Duterte increasingly rely on the military – both in terms of the institution and the individuals shaped by its training.

By the end of 2018, a third of Duterte’s Cabinet are now retired military men. The President has established a pattern of naming all of his Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chiefs of staff into high-ranking civilian positions upon their retirement.

2018 was the year of the Boracay closure and the Bureau of Customs shake-up – policies Duterte assigned to former and active-duty soldiers. Before the year was over, he had tapped the military to run after policemen entering casinos.

And just as military rule in Mindanao was wrapping up, Duterte asked for yet another extension, affirming his trust in soldiers to solve the region’s problems. On Wednesday, December 12, Congress approved his request.

2018 is also the year when the rehabilitation of Marawi City’s most devastated area kicked off – a major government effort again in the hands of a retired military general.

TOP ADVISERS. Former military generals Eduardo del Rosario (left) and Delfin Lorenzana are in President Rodrigo Duterte's Cabinet. Malacañang photo

The appointment of more retired soldiers and police generals to civilian government posts coincided with the departure of Duterte’s Leftist appointees.

Former anti-poverty commission chief Liza Maza resigned after murder charges were filed against her and 3 other Leftists (the charges were eventually dismissed). Duterte had fired Labor Undersecretary Joel Maglunsod, apparently for his ties with the Left.

Yet it was also in 2018 when Duterte moved against the military’s own. He brazenly issued a proclamation attempting to void Senator Antonio Trillanes IV’s amnesty and put him behind bars. The attack on Trillanes, a former Navy officer, ruffled some feathers in the military and led to a rare presidential outburst directed at troops.

Rappler looks at Duterte’s increasing dependence on the military institution and how this may be impacting his governance style and Philippine democracy as a whole.

Militarizing the bureaucracy

Of the roughly 30 members of the Duterte Cabinet, 8 are retired military men and one is an ex-police official – or a 3rd of the Cabinet. Many of them are former military chiefs.

They are:
  • Interior Secretary Eduardo Año (former AFP chief)
  • Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana
  • Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista (former Army chief)
  • Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu (former AFP chief)
  • Information and Communications Technology Secretary Gregorio Honasan
  • Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Carlito Galvez Jr (former AFP chief)
  • Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council Chairperson Eduardo del Rosario
  • Technical Education and Skills Development Authority Director-General Isidro Lapeña (former police general)
  • National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr (former AFP chief)
Several times in the year, Duterte found it necessary to explain his preference for former military men when it comes to government work. Military men, unlike “bureaucrats,” never debate with him, he said. They are action men who will execute orders faithfully and promptly.

“Who dug through the landslides in Cebu? Who? The military. Military, they are utility boys. They are the first to die. They are the ones whom you call to pave the road if no one else is there to pave it,” was how he put in in a speech on October 31.

He sneered at civilian government officials.

“Talagang dedebatehin ka sa mga gagong ‘yan. Kung may ipagawa ka, kung ano pang idagdag na pangpahirap. Instead of just looking for a way to tailor-fit or to dovetail the project, marami ang ano,” he said on December 5.

(The fools will really debate with you. If you have them to do something, they will add something to make it more difficult. Instead of just looking for a way to tailor-ft or to dovetail the project, they have so many things to say.)

SOLDIERS IN THE BEACH. Soldiers simulate a terror attack and hostage-taking on the beaches of Boracay Island. Photo by Adrian Portugal/Rappler

It’s for this reason, apparently, that Duterte put former AFP chiefs Eduardo Año and Roy Cimatu, now Cabinet secretaries, in charge of the 6-month Boracay rehabilitation. Though Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo Puyat and Public Works Secretary Mark Villar were also at the front lines of the effort, Duterte credited Año and Cimatu for the “successful” rehabilitation.

“Do you think Boracay would have been cleaned up if it weren’t for Año and Cimatu? Año is from the DILG and Cimatu was once assigned in Davao,” said Duterte on October 31 in Cagayan de Oro.

Marawi City would also supposedly have been worse off if he had not tapped former general Eduardo del Rosario as the rehabilitation czar.

“Then Marawi, there was a massive destruction. I got a general who was assigned in my city. Sabi ko (I said), ‘You fix it within 6 months.’ And he did. Kaya natapos (That’s why it was finished),” said Duterte.

While the government finally kickstarted the reconstruction of the city center last October 30, Del Rosario admits full rehabilitation won’t be completed until after a few years.

To obey, comply

Duterte’s preference for the military man likely emanates from a certain thinking of how soldiers operate.

Former national security adviser Jose Almonte told Rappler that, whether right or wrong, most people tend to believe this about soldiers: “A military is reputedly not conversant in economic, political, social-cultural matters. They are only experts in combat operations so by extension they are good in following orders. If you can manage people in combat well you can manage a situation well without combat.”

Even if a soldier is given a seemingly impossible task, the soldier will do everything to execute the order.

“That is the training of the military, to obey, to comply. They are not trained to complain,” said Almonte.

Such training is thought to apply to a soldier even after they retire and take over government posts, technically, as civilians.

But Almonte sought to dispel the idea that all soldiers don’t engage in debate. After all, he pointed out, military generals must also consult with junior officers assigned to intelligence, operations, and logics as well as other sectors like local governments before deciding on a course of action.

The only difference with the military is, “Once a decision is made after that debate, everybody follows. Anyone who will not follow will be court martialed for disobedience,” said Almonte.

Military response as default?

After back-to-back shabu-smuggling scandals in the BOC, Duterte had had enough. Apart from changing the bureau's leadership, Duterte revealed his trump card: the military.

Last October 28, he ordered a military “takeover” of the controversy-mired bureau.

But after pushback from critics, Duterte clarified his order. Soldiers would not take over BOC posts but would supervise personnel to ensure contraband don’t slip in again.

Duterte felt there was another pesky problem requiring the military’s assistance: corrupt cops. He said he wanted the elite Scout Rangers to monitor policemen who insist on visiting casinos.

For Ateneo de Manila political science professor Carmel Abao, this shows the military response is Duterte’s "default."

“His default is the armed institutions, instead of civilian institutions,” she said.

He might also be turning more and more towards the military because he knows he is running out of time. By end-2018, Duterte will be approaching the halfway mark of his 6-year term. Duterte has already admitted he “underestimated” the “magnitude” of the drug problem and extent of police corruption.

“It could be a function of age. You get impatient. You don’t have time. It might also be a function of machismo,” said Abao.

That Duterte has asked for yet another extension of his martial law declaration in Mindanao shows he wants to “normalize” the militaristic response to the region’s security problems, said Abao. The specific clash that necessitated the declaration, the Marawi siege, may be over but Duterte still thinks military rule is necessary to solve the remaining problems.

Davao days

To understand Duterte’s dealings with the military and police, one must look to his days as Davao City mayor.

He himself admitted he draws on his experience in Davao for his work as president. In fact, many of his appointees now were once soldiers and policemen he worked with when he was mayor: Del Rosario, Lorenzana, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency chief Alex Monteagudo, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority boss and former customs commissioner Isidro Lapeña, among others.

Duterte’s sister Jocellyn Duterte, in a previous interview with Rappler, recalled Duterte had been comfortable with law enforcers and military men from a young age.

MAYOR DAYS. As Davao City mayor, Rodrigo Duterte cultivated his ties with soldiers and policemen assigned to his city. File photo from Davao City Government

He had often hung out with security men assigned to him while his father was governor of the undivided Davao region. Throughout his life, Duterte would come to appreciate the compansionship of police or military types. His first assistant, Jimboy Halili, the man Bong Go replaced, was a former lieutenant and aide of a Philippine Constabulary officer.

Duterte’s longtime driver in Davao City is a policeman. Even one of his nurses is a policewoman.

As mayor, Duterte would come to rely on the police and military more and more as he tried to stop the tide of violence engulfing Davao. Clashes between communist groups and hit squads in the early days of Corazon Aquino’s administration washed the city’s streets in blood.

The crisis called for a violent solution and Duterte was there to provide it.

“He was mayor for 23 years in a frontier city with a long history of violence so an important aspect of his leadership I think was how to deal with those kinds of conflicts, literally involving violence force, coercion,” said former University of the Philippines political science department chairman Temario Rivera. (READ: How Duterte handles crisis, controversy during his presidency)

Talk to many Davaoeños and they will say they appreciated Duterte’s approach. It brought peace and security.

As mayor, Duterte showered the police and military with incentives – monthly allowances, fish and rice, payment of hospital bills, among others.

TALK TO TROOPS. President Rodrigo Duterte addresses soldiers in Marawi City a month before its liberation from extremist groups. Malacañang file photo

Throughout his presidency, Duterte regularly visited military camps and even active warzones to distribute Gloc pistols, watches, smartphones, and cash. He succeeded in increasing the take-home pay of soldiers and policemen.

Two decades after confronting Davao City’s bloodbath, Duterte is still governing the much bigger, noisier Philippine democracy as a frontier town mayor.

It’s partly because the militaristic response is what Duterte knows best. It’s his comfort zone.

“That’s his style of governance. That’s even his style of patronage. If you vote for him, he will promise you security, safety,” said Abao.

His top concerns as President are framed as issues requiring a violent response – the crackdown on illegal drugs and criminality.

While the two can be approached in different ways – drug addiction as a health issue and criminality as a poverty issue – Duterte sees them primarily as security concerns that require armed coercion.

The cost: Civilian institutions

When an increasingly desperate President turns to soldiers and police for the task of governing, what happens to democracy and democratic institutions?

“The casualties are the political institutions. There is also less room for citizens to play a role,” said Abao.

Politics, in a democracy, is about “dealing with constraints,” such as an independent Congress and judiciary, overlapping and conflicting interests of a myriad of stakeholders and sectors, and reaching a compromise to get something done.

This takes a lot of consultation and consensus-building, no doubt exasperating for an “action man.”

Abao fears that a default militaristic response would be used to take “shortcuts” and implement “simplistic” responses to complex issues – thereby limiting the space for real political discourse.

In a smaller base like Davao City, Duterte might be able to get away with it, but not on the national stage.

“In a local setting, you can afford to be simplistic in how you deal with problems because it’s a smaller population, more homogenous population. When you’re a national figure, you have to go through so many levels. You’re talking about an entire Senate, an entire Congress,” said Abao.

Duterte has already displayed, in dramatic fashion, his aversion to dissent, an indispensable component of real political discourse.

He has publicly insulted critics – from world leaders to a Supreme Court chief justice.

He has threatened media outlets critical of him, threats that were quickly followed by legal cases.

He has sent one opposition senator to jail and is determined that another meets the same fate.

Many fear Duterte’s increasing reliance on the military is another redflag for authoritarian tendencies and a future when soldiers will once again be weaponized against the people.

But Almonte, a former soldier who served in top civilian posts, is not worried about the Philippine military.

While the Philippines has a history of presidents using soldiers for less than noble deeds, the Armed Forces today will withstand such attempts.

Without referring to Duterte specifically, Almonte said, “The collective sense of the military is to protect the nation and the state…Even if you multiply their salary 1,000 times, in the end, once the people and the state are compromised by anybody, whether it is the president or an external invasion, the Armed Forces and the police will always side with the people.”

As time ticks for the Duterte presidency, Philippine democratic institutions will be tested against an impatient commander-in-chief determined to do things his way or not at all.

DWDD: AFP@83 | AFP Change of Command Ceremony

From Katropa DWDD-CRS Virtual RTV (Dec 11): AFP@83 | AFP Change of Command Ceremony

Image may contain: 7 people, people standing and outdoor

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Image may contain: 7 people, people standing

DWDD: FOCUSED MILITARY OPERATIONS | NPA neutralized, 2 weapons recovered in an encounter in Agusan Del Sur

From Katropa DWDD-CRS Virtual RTV (Dec 12): FOCUSED MILITARY OPERATIONS | NPA neutralized, 2 weapons recovered in an encounter in Agusan Del Sur

TALACOGON, Agusan del Sur (DWDD) – Troops of the 26th Infantry “Ever Onward” Battalion (26IB) neutralized a New people’s Army terrorist in an encounter in the mountainous area of KM 27,Barangay Mahayahay, San Luis, Agusan del Sur on December 8, 2018.

 The encounter occurred between troops of the 26IB and the NPA’s Guerilla Front 88 (GF88) of the North Central Mindanao Regional Command (NCMRC) led by an Alias Trunks or Nap-nap (identified as Gerondio Domino) after government forces held Focused Military Operation in the area..

“Nakatanggap kami ng mga impormasyon na may mga presensya ng teroristang NPA sa kanilang lugar,kaya nagsagawa kami agad ng combat operation sa area para maprotektahan ang komunidad at mga tao doon laban sa pangaabuso at pananakot ng mga teroristang ito.” According to Lieutenant Colonel Romeo Jimenea, Battalion Commander, 26IB.

The encounter lasted for 30 minutrd afterwhich the terrorists escaped in different directions leaving behind weapons and personal belongings including: two (2) M16A1 rifles, ammunition an AK47 rifle and Cal. 22 revolver, one (1) Hand Grenade, 35 pieces of Blasting cap, three (3) mobile phones, 2 radio, medical paraphernalia, food stuffs, personal paraphernalias and subversive documents. Also recovered were 25 cots inside a temporary NPA camp.

Based on initial investigation, the remains of NPA terrorist was recovered and identified as an Alias Kilyan, 25-years old, team leader and a Political Officer (Giyang Pampulitika) of Skwad 2, Sandatahang Yunit Pangpropaganda (SYP) Platun, that handles recruitment of Lumads and younths of the area.

“Ang katulad ni Alyas Kilyan ang dapat na pangunahing tinutugis dahil sila ang ugat ng mga propaganda at kasinunalingan ng komunistang grupo, na siya ring pangunahing dahilan bakit madami pa rin sa ating mga kababayan ang nalolokong sumapi sa kanilang grupo, lalo na ang mga kapatid nating Lumad,” explained Jimenea.
Currently, police are conducting an investigation on the identity of the dead NPA through the help of the Local Government of San Luis.

According to Brigadier General Andres Centino, Commander, 401st Infantry Brigade, “Nalulungkot kami na mayisa na namang buhay ang nawala kapalit ng walang kwentang ideolohiya ngteroristang NPA. Hindi kami nagkulang ng pagpapaalala sa kanila na sumuko na,magbalik loob, at kunin ang pagkakataon na makapagbagong- buhay, kasama ang inyongpamilya. Nasasayang ang inyong buhay sa pakikipaglaban sakabundukan, samantalang ang inyong mga pinuno ay nagpapakasarap samasaganang buhay sa syudad.”

Meanwhile, military forces have intensified their pursuit operation in the area where the terrorist could have possibly ran to. The area is more or less 500 meters from a nearby elementary school, where concerned parents have expressd fear for their children. “Matatapos na ang taon, atsa natitirang NPA, hindi pa huli para sumuko kayo at maisama sa Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program ng ating pamahalaan. Marami na sainyo ang nakatanggap ng tulong at nagbagong buhay na, huwag nyong pabayaangalipinin kayo habang-buhay ng kasinungalingan ng teroristang CPP-NPA,” added Centino. 36IB / MCAG

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DWDD: IP SUMMIT | Advancing the Culture of Peace; Empowering the Subanen People

From Katropa DWDD-CRS Virtual RTV (Dec 12): IP SUMMIT | Advancing the Culture of Peace; Empowering the Subanen People

OZAMIZ CITY (DWDD) - The Local Government of Ozamiz in partnership with the 10th Infantry Battalion, and Alpha Company 1st Civil Military Operations Battalion will be conducting a One-day Indigenous People Summit on Dec 15, 2018 at 7'o clock in the morning at the Big Hall, Bethamy Gardens, Ozamiz City. 10IB / MCAG

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DWDD: NEW LIFE | NPAs yielding this Xmas, Welcome to surrender to TF BalikLoob

From Katropa DWDD-CRS Virtual RTV (Dec 12): NEW LIFE | NPAs yielding this Xmas, Welcome to surrender to TF BalikLoob

CAMP GEN EMILIO AGUINALDO, Quezon City (DWDD) – The Task Force Balik-Loob is welcoming with open arms members of the New People’s Army who will decide to return to the folds of the law this Christmas. ...

This was the statement made by Defense Undersecretary Reynaldo Mapagu in an interview by DWDD after Task Force Balik Loob (TFBL) launched recently “Christmas campaign” with the theme “Balik-Loob, Balik-Pamilya Paskong kay Saya”.

USec Mapagu ensured all surrendering NPA members that they will receive appropriate and necessary assistance from the government. It was learned that a multitude of NPA members, facing various criminal charges, have sent surrender feelers but are afraid to do so with the fear of being arrested because of the cases they are facing.

 But Mapagu clarified that the AFP has no powers to give out pardons or amnesty to NPA members facing charges, although the government may provide legal assistance to them through the Public Attorney’s office (PAO) and by providing livelihood assistance through the Enhanced Comprehensive Local integration Program (E-CLIP).
Meanwhile, Mapagu added that according to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the government would allow NPA members to come down from their mountain lairs and be with their families this Christmas Season, as long as they are not armed.

Sec Loreanza also reiterated that the government will not declare a Suspension of Military Operations (SOMO) after the CPP-NPA-NDF has declared a unilateral ceasefire for Christams and New Year. AES / MCAG

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DWDD: SHARING | 8IB conducts Info and Awareness Campaign

From Katropa DWDD-CRS Virtual RTV (Dec 12): SHARING | 8IB conducts Info and Awareness Campaign

IMPASUGONG, Bukidnon (DWDD) - The 8th Infantry “Dependable” Battalion conducted Information and awareness campaign to the Business Administration students of Bukidnon State University regarding the illegal recruitment of CPP-NPA Terrorist. ...

The activity was also participated by a former rebel and now a member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Pvt Marila D Taquin also known as "Ka Monique".
She shared some experiences about her life in the mountain and how did she recruited by the CTGs in her testimony. 8IB / MCAG

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DWDD: COURTESY CALL | New FSRR Commander visits WestMinCom

From Katropa DWDD-CRS Virtual RTV (Dec 12): COURTESY CALL | New FSRR Commander visits WestMinCom

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Newly promoted Brigadier General William N. Gonzales, commander of the First Scout Ranger Regiment of the Philippine Army, visited the Western Mindanao Command on December 7, 2018 purposely to pay courtesy call to the Commander, Western Mindanao Command....

He was welcomed with a company-sized military honors rendered by the officers and enlisted personnel of the command.

He was then received by the Chief of Unified Command Staff Colonel Leonardo I. Peña and the Command Staff at the Laong-Laan Hall, Headquarters, Western Mindanao Command.

BGen Gonzales was conferred with his first star by the Commanding General Lieutenant General Macairog S. Alberto of the Philippine Army last November 12, 2018 MCAG / WESTMINCOM

DWDD: Statement of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on the Third Congressional Extension of Martial Law in Mindanao

From Katropa DWDD-CRS Virtual RTV (Dec 13): Statement of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on the Third Congressional Extension of Martial Law in Mindanao

"The Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines are grateful for the overwhelming vote of confidence of our legislators as well as the strong support of the Filipino people, especially of the Mindanaoans, which made possible the third Congressional Extension of Martial Law in Mindanao....

The AFP will continue to uphold its mandate of defending the sovereignty of our state, upholding the integrity of our territory and protecting the democratic way of life of our people, with full respect for human rights, international humanitarian law and the primacy of the rule of law.

Pakaiingatan po namin ang tiwalang ito mula sa sambayanan at makakaasa po kayo na hindi ito masasayang."

Red-tagging of activists condemned

From Panay News (Dec 13): Red-tagging of activists condemned

RED-TAGGING. Who’s behind the proliferation of posters such as this one in Iloilo City tagging several people – mostly activists and members of cause-oriented groups – as communist-terrorists? A “cheap red-scare tactic” was how the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan describes the posters. IAN PAUL CORDERO/PN

ILOILO City – Posters have mushroomed across this city tagging as communist-terrorists several members of cause-oriented groups, activists and human rights lawyers.

A “cheap red-scare tactic” was how the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) in Panay Island described the posters.

The posters featured the photos of 47 people; the most prominent was Maria Concepcion “Concha” Araneta Bocala, a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

Bayan-Panay staged a picket yesterday at Plazoleta Gay here to protest what they dismissed as a vilification campaign against the “progressive and democratic left.”

In a statement, the Kabataan party-list in Region 6 described as cowards those behind the posters for “hiding behind the veil of anonymity.”

At the bottom right of the posters were the words “By: Panay Alliance of Victims of CPP-NPA-NDF.”

The Kabataan party-list believed the police and military were behind the posters.

The government’s anti-insurgency campaigns in the past linked legal organizations and personalities to the communist movement in the countryside, drawing a very thin line between armed combatants and legal activists, it said.

The party-list warned of possible killings and enforced disappearances resulting from the posters.

In 2007, the group recalled, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights Philip Alston pointed out the responsibility of the government, military and police in the killings and disappearances of hundreds of activists and those accused of supporting communist rebels.

This is one of several posters proliferating across Iloilo City tagging as terrorists several members of cause-oriented groups, activists and human rights lawyers. At the bottom right of the poster are the words “By: Panay Alliance of Victims of CPP-NPA-NDF.” IAN PAUL CORDERO/PN

“We condemn these cheap acts against our leaders. No one is to be blamed but those who are paid to protect the interests of those who are in power,” according to the Kabataan party-list in a joint statement with progressive youth groups Anakbayan and League of Filipino Students.

Without the militancy of cause-oriented groups, they said “we are not able to pursue policy reforms and advance the welfare of the youth and the people…Without our campaigns, the government will continue to deny the youth and the Filipino people our constitutional guarantees and welfare.”


In a related development, on Dec. 4 during a hearing at the House of Representatives, the Committee on Human Rights led by chairperson Cong. Cheryl Deloso-Montalla approved a bill for the recognition and protection of human rights defenders.

The measure outlines the rights of human rights defenders against red-tagging, vilification, threats, harassment, judicial harassment and other violations.

It also establishes the obligation of State actors in exercising extraordinary diligence in investigating reports of such violations, as well as the accompanying penalties on State actors who will violate the rights of human rights defenders.

The substitute bill, a harmonized version of House Bills 1617 and 8128 authored by progressive party-list congressmen Carlos Zarate, Ariel Casilao, Sarah Elago, Antonio Tinio, France Castro, Emmi de Jesus, Arlene Brosas and Edcel Lagman, was deliberated upon and passed 11 years after the first proposed bill on human rights defenders was filed by former congressman Satur Ocampo and other legislators in 2007.

MILF: BDA sends IT officers to Turkey for TV Broadcasting Training

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Website (Dec 9): BDA sends IT officers to Turkey for TV Broadcasting Training

Bangsamoro Development Agency selected IT officers to undergo a two-month Television Broadcasting Training in Ankara, Turkey from October 16- December 14, 2018. The Training was organized by the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT).

The training aims to enlighten the participants in the technical know-hows to provide programs and services that inform, educate, enlighten, and enrich the public and help inform civil discourse essential to the Bangsamoro Region through the use of social media and TV network.

TRT was founded on 1 May 1964 as an independent public entity under the provisions of a special law with the aim of carrying out radio and TV broadcasts on behalf of the state. The constitutional amendments in 1972 defined TRT as “A neutral public economic entity”.

Today, TRT serves as a public service broadcaster whose independence and neutrality is provisioned under the constitution that broadcasts on radio, TV and all other media. Its mission is to expand understanding, challenge assumptions, encourage debate and influence positive behavior. And its vision is to be a catalyst for positive change.

The current participants of the Training are: Banyamen Cabuntalan, Zainodden I. Victor, Muhammad Haidar A. Midtimbang, Monhamir M. Guinaid, and Jamaile A. Edsa.

Amongst the topic of the training that are being tackled are: Set Design; Lighting; Video-Camera Training; Image Recording; Camera Control Training; Image Definition and Subtitle; Sound Training; and Animation & Graphic Training.

One of the highlights of the training is the Sharing Experience of the TRT Executive Managers who are: Kurtlu? ZEYDAN, TRT 1 Channel Coordinator who talked about “How to establish the identity of a channel?”; Yener TEK?N, Manager, Department of Studio and Program Transmission Systems talked about “How to establish the studios with the aim of broadcasting?”; Süleyman ERDAL, Head of TRT External Services discussed “International Journalism”.

Other TRT Executives who also shared their experiences to the participants includes Fatih ?AH?NGÖZ, Deputy of TRT Haber Coordinator who talked about “Election Broadcasting” and ?brahim ACAR, Editor/New Media Channel Coordinatorship talked about “Television Technologies and New Media Broadcasting.”

Furthermore, Haluk KOÇ, Reporter/TRT News Channel Coordinatorship discussed about “Making News Programs” and Ahmet Gormez, Manager/TRT News Channel Coordinatorship-TRT Foreign News shared his insights on “Broadcasting in extraordinary situations and Conflict Journalism”

A Turkish poet once said “If there is a road, there is a possibility to walk on it”.

MILF: Massive support shown in BOL campaign launch

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Website (Dec 11): Massive support shown in BOL campaign launch

Hundred of thousands of supporters of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) flocked to Cotabato City for the kickoff rally on Monday December 10 to officially launch the massive campaign for the law.

Clad in green shirts printed with “Yes to BOL”, the participants occupied the compound of the ARMM and both lanes of the 676-meter Gov. Gutierrez Avenue leading to the venue were closed to traffic from early morning up to noontime.

MILF Chairman Al haj Murad Ebrahim, also the President of the United Bangsamoro Justice Party UBJP, was keynote speaker for the event that was jointly spearheaded by the Peace Implementing Panels of the Government of the Philippines GPH and MILF.

Ebrahim profusely thanked the participants who withstood the scorching heat.

“Alam ko ang inyong sakripisyo ngayon, dahil noon pa man ay nagsakripisyo na kayo,” he told the very big crowd. I am aware of your sacrifice today, just as you have sacrificed ever since.

Ebrahim emphasized the nature of the BOL, calling it as the “product of so many struggles.”

“This is not an ordinary law … because it was bought with the blood, tears and sacrifices of our people.”

The MILF Chairman, who has made his public appearance in the ARMM for the first time, also underscored the fact the passage of the BOL also marks the first time that a law is agreed upon by all parties to the peace process, referring to the MILF, MNLF and the GPH.

“If this BOL has not been passed, I don't’ know if another similar law can be still be possible,” he said.

For such reason, he appealed to the few who are still opposing the ratification of BOL to be “objective in evaluating the BOL.”

“Until now those who oppose cannot cite any provision that they don't like, because there is no wrong in the BOL,” he also stressed.

He urged those anti-BOL to set aside parochial political interests to give way to the collective aspiration of the greater Bangsamoro society.


The four-hour long rally was graced by cross-section of the Bangsamoro.

ARMM Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman warmly hosted the delegates headed by the MILF Chairman and some officials of the MILF Central Committee and UBJP.

Traditional leaders, elected local government officials, businessmen, youth, indigenous peoples, ulama and Catholic Church representatives were given time to address the mammoth crowd.

Plebiscite is scheduled on January 21, 2019 for the ARMM, Isabela City and Cotabato City.

For the province of Lanao del Norte, the municipalities of Aleosan, Carmen, Kabacan, Midsayap, Pikit and Pigcawayan in the province of North Cotabato, and all other areas contiguous to any of the Bangsamoro core areas where a) the local government of such area, by way of resolution, asked for inclusion in the plebiscite, b) or at least 10% of the registered voters in a local government unit, by way of a petition, asked for inclusion in the plebiscite, the plebiscite will be held on February 6, 2019.

Similar rallies are also being planned to be held in other areas covered by the plebiscite.

Cotabato City professionals, including medical doctors, together with UBJP party officials and volunteers were seen collecting thrashes after the crowd dispersed.

MILF: Kick-Off Campaign for BOL Plebiscite Draws Over a Hundred Thousand participants

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Website (Dec 11): Kick-Off Campaign for BOL Plebiscite Draws Over a Hundred Thousand participants

In Photo- MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim delivers his message during the kick-off campaign rally at ORG Compound, Cotabato City on December 10, 2018

Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao — Over a hundred thousand of people from all walks of life rallied behind the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) during the kick-off campaign-rally held yesterday (December 10) at the Office of the Regional Governor Compound of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in Cotabato City.

The participants most of them wore green t-shirts printed with “Yes to BOL” came from various provinces of Mindanao and cities gladly listened to prominent speakers from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Regional Governor Mujiv S, Hataman of ARMM, security sector, religious sector, traditional leaders, and many more.

They all called for a resounding victory in the upcoming plebiscite scheduled on January 21 and February 6, 2019.

MILF Chair Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim narrated the Bangsamoro’s struggle for peace and recognition of their identity as he urged everyone to give BOL a chance to succeed.

“I don’t think that there will be another law if BOL fails. So I appeal to everyone to be objective in evaluating BOL,” he said.

Government Peace Implementing Panel Chair Undersecretary Nabil A. Tan in his message emphasized the dividends of peace the law will bring to the region, which had been beset by decades of conflict.

“This is for peace, permanent peace that we have been dreaming of for Mindanao,” Tan said,

The Chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Peace Implementing Panel Mohagher Iqbal, said the law’s inclusive provisions ensure that every sector will benefit in the Bangsamoro region.

“This is for all. No one will be left behind. This is for all of us,” Iqbal said.

In a message read by Bangsamoro National People’s Congress Chair Muslimin Sema, current MNLF Central Committee Chair Yusop Jikiri urged the Bangsamoro to continue their peaceful efforts towards realization of Bangsamoro aspirations.

In photo- MNLF National People’s Congress Chair Muslimen Sema delivering a message on behalf of MNLF Chairman Yusoph Jikiri.

“We rewrite the history books to instill in the minds of those that will come after us that the demand for a just, dignified, and lasting peace requires revisiting the past before facing the future,” he said. “We rewrite the history books to end centuries of hatred, mistrust, and injustice that caused and affected the lives of millions of Filipinos.,” Jikiri said in his message read for him by Chairman Sema.

ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman threw his full support for the campaign as he urged the Bangsamoro to participate in the campaign and the plebiscite.

“Let us remember that on January 21, the power is in your hands. The creation of BOL will not be possible without you,” Hataman said.

Fr. Clifford Baira said Christian communities will support the new Bangsamoro Region.

“Our simple formula is to engage the people of the Bangsamoro. Let them be part of the governance in the inclusive quest for peace in Mindanao,” he said.

Representative from the indigenous people Upi Mayor Ramon Piang Sr. gave assurance that the Lumad will step up their campaign for the plebiscite.

Representatives from the youth, traditional leaders, women, and the business community also committed to campaign for the law in their respective communities.

The campaign period for the plebiscite started on December 7 with peace rallies from all over the country including Cotabato City and Manila. It will end on January 19, 2019.

MILF: Tandubas Peace Advocates holds Information-Drive to Community Madrasa Students

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Website (Dec 12): Tandubas Peace Advocates holds Information-Drive to Community Madrasa Students

In Photo: Tirso S. Tahir, BLMI Officer lecture hundreds of Madrasa students and their Arabic Teachers on BOL at Mahadul Ulum Al Arabi Islami, Ungust Matata, Tandubas, Tawi-Tawi on Decemebr 8. 2018

Tandubas, Tawi-Tawi-- Responsive to the issues and concerns of Arabic Teachers and Students of Madrasa Mahadul Ulum Al Arabi Al Islamie of Ungus Matata, Tandubas Tawi-Tawi,  the Tandubas Peace Advocates kicked off their Information-Drive Campaign on Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) on December 8.

Their BOL campaign formally started on December 7.

In his welcome message, Ustadz Abdulbasit Damsik expressed his profound gratitude to peace advocates for the campaign that enlightens the Arabic Teachers and students on the benefits of BOL to the Moro people and their communities.

”With the upcoming Bangsamoro Government, we are pinning hope that our madrasa in Tandubas will be improved and can cater to the needs of our teachers and students so that the quality of Arabic Education will improve. We call on our Moro leaders to give priority to our community,” Ustadz Damsik said.

“The BOL when ratified is the reflection of our faith, culture and identity, as such we pledged to support it by voting yes on January 21st next year,” he added.

Mr. Tirso S. Tahir, of the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) explained the salient features of BOL and its advantages to Madrasa Teachers and its Students. He also underscored the Sharia’h Justice System and other provisions related to education and socio-economic provisions.

Moreover, Tahir also gave basic comparison between the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and how these two Organic Laws came into being and why it needs to be changed from ARMM to BARMM.

In the open forum, the students asked if their Madrasa can get some assistance from the Bangsamoro Government, and improve their socio-economic condition?

Currently, Madrasa Mahadul Ulum holds their class every Saturday and Sunday inside the MSU Extension College gymnasium. It has no permanent building, and amenities to cater to it’s over a hundred students and teachers. They need immediate intervention and assistance from the government, private individuals or entities.

The activity was organized by Hadji Hasmin Hiya, Peace Advocates and Community Organizer in partnership with United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD) Tandubas Tawi-Tawi chapter, and Moro Religious sectors and Community Da’wah Group.

MILF: Editorial - Cotabato City should be part of BAR

Editorial posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Website (Dec 8): Cotabato City should be part of BAR

Without preempting what the voters will write, yes or no, in their ballots on plebiscite day on January 21, 2019, it is our humblest and sincerest wish that Cotabato City should decide to be part of the future Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BAR). It has nothing to lose but everything to gain. 

The Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) contains provisions for the general interests of the people and is very inclusive: No sector is left out, especially the migrant settlers, indigenous people, women, traditional leaders, religious leaders, and the youth. Aside from share in the internal revenue allocation (IRA), Cotabato City will also partake of in the annual block, estimated to be from 70 to 80 billion annually, for the Bangsamoro Government, and is also entitled to get from the shares of the Bangsamoro Government in taxes, revenues, and other collections in the exploitation and utilization of mineral resources in the Bangsamoro.

Currently, Cotabato City, notwithstanding not being part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), has benefitted tremendously from the huge volume of money circulating here; thanks to the money of the ARMM, influx of foreigners, sprouting of UN agencies, and other international non-government organizations (INGOs). As a consequence, big malls, restaurants, hotels, and banks are also on the rise. If the BAR, which is far bigger and more moneyed than the ARMM, is established and Cotabato City remains the capital, the more it reaps in benefits. It is an opportunity not open to other areas or cities in the ARMM.

The benchmark of 100,000 population necessary for the creation of one district, Cotabato City with a present population of 300,000 might be entitled or allocated at least two district representations in the Bangsamoro Parliament.

Geographically, Cotabato City is a natural component of Maguindanao province; it is located at the center, bounded in the north by Sultan Kudarat, in the south by Datu Odin Sinsuat, and in the east by Kabuntalan. Its source of water is either from Datu Odin Sinsuat or Sultan Kudarat.

In term of ethnicity, the tribal affiliation “Maguindanao” has its root in Cotabato City where a creek called “Maguindanao” still exists (but heavily polluted). It flows from the Catholic Cathedral down to the back of Tam’s Bakery. However, in more precise description, the ethic tribe got its nomenclature from a place in Cotabato City and environs which is flooded almost throughout the year; because, Maguindanao means “people of the flooded plain”.

Historically, the sultanate of Buayan (based in Buayan, Datu Piang) had its legitimacy also rooted in Cotabato City. Oral traditions say that out of the union of Sharif Kabunsuan and Putri Tunina, the adopted sister of Rajah Mamalu and Rajah Tabunaway, came three daughters, two of whom were married to the two sons of Rajah Buayan. From these unions came into being the Sultanate of Buayan, because legitimacy to rule in the traditions of Maguindanao and Sulu, and to a certain extent, also Maranao, is the presence of so-called royal blood in these native rulers who inherited it from the prophet of Islam (pbuh).

One can imagine, therefore, the strong yearning, if not outright hurting, if Cotabato City is detached from the territory of the Bangsamoro Government.

Cotabato City, once the center of conflict in 1974-1975, will become the hub of peace, progress, and cooperation amongst its diverse population, because a yes vote is a vote for peace, justice, and development, while a no vote is vote for uncertainty.

It is not true to say that Cotabato City had never been affected by the war in Mindanao. In fact, hard battles were fought here; PC Hill was hit by mortar barrages many times. However, hardest hit places were Biniruan (now Poblacion 4), Kakar (now Poblacion 8) Bubong (now Kalanganan 11), and Pagalamatan (now Tamontaka 3); even the vicinity of Notre Dame University was a scene of bitter fighting. The fiercest, however, was fought in Biniruan on July 14, 1974. Government troops suffered over 100 dead including one army major, and lost 86 high caliber firearms.

At present, Cotabato City has 116,228 registered voters. Out of these, 64.77% are Muslims and 35.33% are Christians.

We urge everyone to vote wisely on the basis of what is good for the people (of Cotabato City). LEADERS COME AND GO!

Gov’t fulfills peace commitment, awards 3 resettlement areas

From the Visayan Daily Star (Dec 12): Gov’t fulfills peace commitment, awards 3 resettlement areas

The Department of Environment Natural Resources yesterday awarded three resettlement sites in Negros Occidental to former members of a breakaway rebel movement as a major step towards fulfilling commitments of the government to a peace agreement with them.

The target is to meet all commitments of the government to the peace agreement with the Rebolusyonaryong Partidong Manggagawa-Pilipinas/ Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade/Tabara-Paduano Group before the term of President Rodrigo Duterte ends, Milo Ibrado Jr., special assistant to the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, said.

After 18 years, at last government commitments to the peace process are being delivered, Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon said at the turnover rites at the provincial Capitol in Bacolod City yesterday.

The former rebels will also be covered by the Negros Occidental Comprehensive Health Care Program of the provincial government, he said.

The RPM-P/RPA-ABB-TPG entered into a peace agreement with the Philippine government in the year 2000. The Visayas-based RPM-P/RPA/ABB has converted itself into the Kapatiran para sa Progresong Panlipunan (Brotherhood for Social Progress), described as a socio-economic and political organization pursuing social justice as a key to lasting peace and genuine progress.

The DENR turned over tenurial instruments for 178 hectares in Kabankalan City, 232 hectares in Cadiz City and 230 hectares in San Carlos City for resettlement sites of 330 of their 727 members nationwide, Veronica Tabara, RPM-P/RPA-ABB-TPG chairperson, said.

The Cadiz and San Carlos sites are covered by memorandums of agreement, and in Kabankalan City by a Community Based Forest Management Agreement, she added.

The resettlement areas will be known as peace and development sites where the former rebels will be provided with houses, livelihood and jobs, and tasked with reforestation and protecting the forests, she said.

Other resettlement sites in EB Magalona and Hinigaran in Negros Occidental, Antique, Aklan and Bukidnon are also in the pipeline, Tabara added.

Tabara said her group broke away from the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army because they nolonger wanted to pursue a violent armed struggle to bring about change.

Community Resource Management Frameworks for the turned over sites will be drawn up, DENR Assistant Secretary Joan Lagunda said.

Government has, so far, hired 43 members of the breakaway rebel group in Panay and 58 in Negros as forest guards, she added.

Ibrado said that under the peace agreement, government has committed to providing shelter, livelihood, social protection and civil and political rights to the former rebels.

“We would like to finish the settlements next year through a multi-agency effort”, he also said.

As part of the peace process being awaited are the granting of amnesty by the Department of Justice to about 50 detained political prisoners yet to be convicted, and pardon to those convicted, Ibrado also said.

Duterte grants aid for Cafgu members

From the Visayan Daily Star (Dec 11): Duterte grants aid for Cafgu members

President Rodrigo Duterte has signed an executive order granting PHP7,000 per month financial support for each member of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) Active Auxiliary units.

In an Executive Order No. 69 signed by Duterte on Dec. 4, the qualified CAFGU Active Auxiliary (CAA) member will receive the financial assistance covering months of November and December 2018.

“There is a need to provide financial support to members of the CAA units, in recognition of the invaluable assistance they provide to the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) in dealing with security threats, their indispensable service in maintaining local peace and order and meeting local insurgencies, and the faithful performance of their duties, which they carry out at great risk to themselves and their families,” the EO read.

In 1987, former president Corazon Aquino signed EO 264 creating CAFGU through the mobilization of CAA units, to complement and support the regular forces of the AFP in dealing with internal and external security threats.

Duterte said only duly-appointed CAA members appearing in the AFP roster shall be entitled to financial support.

Rallyists torch Duterte effigy, carry coffins

From the Visayan Daily Star (Dec 11): Rallyists torch Duterte effigy, carry coffins

About 2,000 protesters brought nine “coffins”each with names of the Sagay 9 victims and burned an effigy of President Rodrigo Duterte to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, at the Bacolod City public plaza, yesterday.

Members of the Karapatan Negros, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and their allied groups, marched from the South Capitol Road, while their other contingents came from Lizares Street and converged at the Bacolod.

Among their callswere for justice to be served to the Sagay 9 victims, slain lawyer Benjamin Ramos of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, and all victims of human rights violations.

They said they do not want the Sagay 9 victims, Ramos and other human rights victims to end up as‘statistics’.

Michael dela Concepcion, Bayan secretary general, said yesterday that the situation in the Philippines is far from what the different nations have signed in the UDHR.

“More than a month has passed since the Sagay 9 massacre and the slay of Ramos, but still justice is distant. There is no deeper investigationby the authorities, showing disrespect for human rights,” dela Concepcion said.

The government should uphold human rights, but it is the Duterte administration that violates it, dela Concepcion said.

He said the nine coffins symbolize the nine farmers killed in Sagay, who until now have not attained justice.

Each coffin has the name of the Sagay 9 victims, symbolizing that they were not yet buried because until now they have not been given the justice they deserve. The protesters also reenacted their own version of the Sagay incident during the rally.

Meanwhile the effigy of the president riding on a motorcycle was burned to show their dislike for the crimes perpetuated by riding-in-tandem suspects and the way the administration of Duterte, its military and the police, continue to violate human rights, dela Concepcion said.

“When Duterte sits in the position, the style of killings of extra-judicial killings is riding-in-tandem,” dela Concepcion said.

Clarizza Singson-Dagatan, secretary general of Karapatan Negros, said yesterday that the Duterte Death Squad that the President wanted to activate is also a violation of human rights.

“It is proven in history that ‘riding-in-tandem’ is the number one suspect in the killing of leaders of progressive organizations and the lawyers,” Dagatan said.

Another human rights violation under Duterte regime is placing Negros under a state of emergency through Memorandum Order 32, Dagatan said.

“The Memorandum Order 32 will only result in more human rights violations in Negros island,” dela Concepcion added.

Meanwhile, the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, in a statement sent to the media, said that they are “appalled” and called “deplorable” the rights situation in the Philippines, as they commit to be the voice of the millions of victims rendered voiceless and helpless by the state security.

It called on the people to denounce gross human rights violations, to long for lasting peace, and to resume the peace talks at the soonest time.

NPA No. 1 human rights violator in Negros: Army

From the Visayan Daily Star (Dec 11): NPA No. 1 human rights violator in Negros: Army
The Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade yesterday tagged the New People’s Army as the number one human rights violator in Negros Island.

Col. Benedict Arevalo, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, said they recorded 26 liquidation and murder incidents, three attempted liquidation, five arson, three disarming incidents, and one each for ransacking, sabotage and disarming in Negros Island, this year.

Many of the killings and liquidation activities were also claimed by the NPA, including burning and destruction of heavy equipment in central and southern Negros.

Arevalo said that the 303IB is one with Negrenses in condemning the human rights violations committed by the CPP-NPA against civilians, including arson, numerous killings, extortion activities and recruitment of minors to join their organization.

In connection with the Human Rights day celebration, Arevalo said he also condemned militant left leaning human rights group and their affiliated organizations, that also use lies and deception to discredit the government and manipulate the people’s minds.

Not all who shout human rights are genuine advocates, Arevalo said, adding that several, if not many of them, are bogus, who are openly or secretly supporting the NPA.

Arevalo also stressed that he has yet to hear from the self-proclaimed human rights groups and their cohorts condemn the NPA who admitted publicly killing people and burning equipment.

He enjoined Negrenses to condemn human right violations publicly admitted by the NPA, including those bogus human rights groups, who are trying to fool the people.