Sunday, December 16, 2018

CPP: AFP suffers 14 casualties in 2-week Christmas offensive, bombings in Northern Mindanao

Propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Website (Dec 17): AFP suffers 14 casualties in 2-week Christmas offensive, bombings in Northern Mindanao 

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) suffered at least 14 casualties in more than two weeks of all-out military offensive and massive bombardment at the height of preparations for Christmas and New Year holidays in the boundaries of Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon and Agusan del Sur provinces, according to initial reports from field commands of the New People’s Army.

“After declaring it will not observe a ceasefire this holiday season, the AFP ordered its forces to go on an all-out offensive and massive bombardment in the vain hope of stopping the people to gather in the NPA guerrilla zones to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP),” said the CPP.

According to NPA-Northcentral Mindanao Spokesman Malem Mabini, the AFP mobilized more than 400 combat troops from the 8th Infantry Battalion (IB), the 58th IB, Charlie Company of the 4th ID, the 4th Division Reconnaisance Company, the Special Action Forces, Scout Rangers at local CAFGU units. From December 2 to December 14, at least 43 6×6 military trucks roared into rural villages to transport enemy soldiers into the battle zone.

“By mounting non-stop combat operations and incessant shelling and bombing, however, the AFP is spoiling the peace and holiday preparations of the residents in the community. Also, they have doused on the high hopes of their foot soldiers to have a brief respite during the holidays to be with their families,” said the CPP.

The AFP conducted almost daily artillery shelling and aerial bombardment using MD-520 attack helicopters which traumatized civilian residents in the area. Soldiers pounded the area with at least 14 rounds of artillery from 105 Howitzers on the evening of December 7, 11 rounds on December 8, scores of rockets from MD-520, 15 rounds of artillery on December 12, 11 rounds of artillery on the evening of December 13, and scores of rockets fired from attack helicopters from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on December 16.

As a result, the livelihood of Lumad residents in the area has been severely affected especially in Sitio Lakbangan and Sitio Kalhaan in Barangay Minalwang, Claveria, Misamis Oriental, as well as in Barangays Kalabugao, Bulonay and Hagpa in Impasug-ong, Bukidnon and in Sitio Kulili, Barangay San Vicente, Esperanza, Agusan del Sur.

Going on active defense posture, local NPA units in the area carried out guerrilla strikes resulting in at least four encounters with operating troops of AFP over the past few days. On December 6, an encounter broke out in Barangay Minalwang, while the three other encounters happened in Barangay Mahagwa on December 7, 8 and 13.

AFP troops suffered at least 14 casualties. Based on reports of local residents, the enemy brought out two cadavers in Barangay Jagpa on December 7, 2018. At midnight, several ambulances entered Barangay Calabugao to pick up at least 12 wounded soldiers.

More Abu Sayyaf members surrender

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 17): More Abu Sayyaf members surrender

TIRED OF FIGHTING Eight members of Abu Sayyaf opt to surrender to the 18th Infantry Battalion led by Lt. Col. Ivan San Jose in Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan, on Saturday morning. —JULIE ALIPALA

UNGKAYA PUKAN, Basilan — A few months ago, 63-year-old farmer Ben Asani decided to give up two decades of banditry and voluntarily surrender to the 18th Infantry Battalion (IB).

“I am old, my knees are too weak to run in the forest,” said Asani, who had been a member of the Abu Sayyaf group since the time of its slain founder, Abdurajak Janjalani.
“Besides, I also want to have a house like the ones given to former Abus,” Asani told the Inquirer in an interview at the 18th IB headquarters in Barangay Bohe Pahu in Ungkaya Pukan.

Asani’s daughter, Ling, was one of the witnesses when he swore an oath to help the government fight the Abu Sayyaf.

“I am happy,” the 15-year-old Ling said in Tagalog. “We can sleep at night with less worry. I can go to school and finish my education.”

“Hopefully, we can have a house like the others who surrendered earlier to the military,” she added.

The houses were provided by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) under a program for surrendered bandits.

“I hope and pray that I will get one in the future. I know those houses are for surrendered Abu Sayyaf, because I am one of the carpenters who built those houses,” Asani said.

Aside from the housing, other surrendered bandits said the prospect of being able to come out of hiding and walk about free of the fear of being shot, killed or arrested were more enticing.

One of those was 49-year-old rubber tapper Abdul Anjilul, who claimed he was not really a member of the notorious bandit group.

“I gave them food and materials, but the people in barangay tagged me as Abu Sayyaf,” Anjilul said.

200 have surrendered
“I went into hiding but I am tired of being hunted down even if my only mistake was to be a supporter,” said Anjilul, who has seven children. “I need to clear my name so I surrendered with my Garand.”

Col. Fernando Reyeg, brigade commander of the 104th Army Brigade and head of Joint Task Force Basilan, said more than 200 former Abu Sayyaf were now registered under the Program Against Violent Extremism (PAVE) in Basilan.

“They started surrendering in 2016 when the Duterte government opened its doors to bandits who want to start clean,” Reyeg said. “We are doing a lot of confidence-building measures to bring them back to mainstream and live normal lives.”

Lt. Col. Ivan San Jose, commander of the 18th IB, said eight Abu Sayyaf had surrendered over the past two months and they had turned over one M16, 1 carbine and 14 vintage M1 Garands.

Both officers said all surrenderers would be provided assistance under PAVE, although those who gave up recently might not be qualified for benefits under ARMM programs that were going to end soon.

But San Jose said this matter could be solved.

26 NPA rebels, supporters surrender

From the Manila Times (Dec 16): 26 NPA rebels, supporters surrender

GAMU, Isabela: A group of communist New People’s Army (NPA) members and supporters have surrendered to local authorities and the 54th Infantry Battalion (54th IB) at Poblacion, Ambaguio town in Nueva Vizcaya.

According to the 5th Infantry Division (ID), this is the fourth batch of surrenderers within its area of responsibility that included an
NPA regular member, 25 Militia ng Bayan (MB or People’s Militia) members and three supporters.

Major Jefferson Somera, 5th ID spokesman, said the group also surrendered three high-powered firearms including an M16 carbine and Garand rifles to the authorities.

Witnessing their surrender and oath-taking were Ambaguio town Vice Mayor Francisco Gullunan, representatives of national go­vernment line agencies, barangay (village) officials, the Philippine National police and the 54th IB.

Lt. Col. Narciso Nabulneg Jr., 54th IB commander, said the surrender was a result of an overwhelming support of the local officials and people of Ambaguio to the military’s community support program.

“The effort of our troops is second only to the initiative of the locals and their officials. The feeling that there are people ready to support you instead of cursing you made the [surrenderers] change their mind in favor of the government,” Nabulneg added.

Col. Henry Doyaoen, the newly installed 503rd IB commander, said intervention of the local officials would keep local peace talks in motion.

“The local government units (LGUs) know who are their supporters and the communist NPA and their supporters. By invol­ving themselves in this program, we will free Ambaguio town from their influence in the near future,” Dayoaen added.

Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Perfecto Rimando Jr. said he was optimistic that they would totally free the people of Ambaguio and Asipulo-Tinoc (Ifugao) boundaries from the NPA’s Kilusan Larangan Guerilla-Nona Del Rosario Command.

“We will also facilitate the surrenderers’ benefits under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program,” Rimando said as he called on the remnants of the communist NPA members in Ifugao, Isabela and Cagayan provinces to lay down their arms and avail themselves of the Eclip.

“We will help you build your lives and be with your families this Christmas,” he added.

This year, a total of 241 individuals surrendered consisting of 58 NPA regulars, 12 of whom were captured, four killed, 42 surrendered, and 183 militia members and supporters.

AFP readies elite unit for major security concerns

From the Philippine Star (Dec 16): AFP readies elite unit for major security concerns

The Army has activated an elite brigade of troops trained to deal with major security threats.

Army chief Lt. Gen. Macairog Alberto yesterday said activation of the 1st Brigade Combat Team (1st BCT) is in support of the national government’s security agenda.

“Let us always be reminded that we are duty bound to secure our country’s sovereignty and the integrity of our national territory,” Alberto told the officers and men of the newly-formed 1st BCT at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija.

The 1st BCT will be headquartered at Fort Magsaysay. The elite fighting force will be the Army’s rapid deployable unit to any area of strategic significance across the country.

The unit is composed of two infantry and one mechanized battalions as well as field artillery and engineer combat battalions, military police, explosive ordnance, chemical, nuclear and biological experts as well as a medical platoon.

The 1st BCT’s primary task as a contingency force is to provide operational flexibility when called into action by any of the unified commands of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The 1st BCT is scheduled to train under “Salaknib” joint exercises involving Filipino and American forces. The newly formed combat team will also be representing the Army in next year’s joint Philippine-US Balikatan exercises.

Galvez is 3rd AFP Chief of Staff named as Presidential Peace Adviser

From MindaNews (Dec 16): Galvez is 3rd AFP Chief of Staff named as Presidential Peace Adviser

The incoming Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process is the fourth retired general and third Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to head the 25-year old Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

Newly-retired General Carlito Galvez told MindaNews he will formally assume the post of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (PAPP) on December 20.

President Rodrigo Duterte named Galvez as Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (PAPP), succeeding lawyer Jesus Dureza who resigned on November 27, 2018 after Duterte fired two of his subordinates due to corruption.

“By the way, before I forget, si General Galvez will join the Cabinet next week as the Secretary of the Peace Process Office,” President Duterte said at the change of command from Galvez to Gen. Benjamin Madrigal in Camp Aguinaldo on December 11.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim assists Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Carlito Galvez as he wears the jacket marked with Bangsamoro Organic Law that the MILF gave Galvez when the latter visited the MLF’s Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on 6 October 2018. MindaNews photo by FERDINANDH B. CABRERA

The two other retired chiefs of staff who were named PAPP are the late Manuel Yan who served from 1994 to 2001 under the Ramos and Estrada administrations and Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., from May 2008 to January 31, 2009 under the Arroyo administration.

Esperon took over the PAPP a week or so after his retirement, Galvez will also take over a week after his retirement. Esperon and Galvez both took over the post from Dureza.

Another retired Army General, Eduardo Ermita, served as PAPP from 2001 to 2003, under the Arroyo administration. He was AFP Deputy Chief of Staff from 1986 to 1988 and Vice Chief of Staff in 1988. Avelino Razon, a retired police general who served as chief of the Philippine National Police, also served as PAPP, although only for a few months in 2009.

Yan was AFP Chief of Staff from 1968 to 1972, served as Ambassador from 1972 to 1992, and was Foreign Affairs Secretary for a few months in 1987. He also chaired the government peace panel in the negotiations with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) from 1992 to 1996, with Ermita as his vice chair.

Yan signed the Final Peace Agreement on September 2, 1996 with MNLF chair Nur Misuari, after four years of negotiations.


Esperon was Chief of Staff from 22 July 2006 to 12 May 2008. He was named PAPP a week later, taking over from Dureza who was named Press Secretary. But his stint at the OPAPP was brief (until January 31, 2009) as he was moved to head the Presidential Management Staff.

Under Esperon’s watch, the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) forged the Memorandum Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), initialed in Kuala Lumpur and was supposed to have been formally signed on August 5, 2008 in Kuala Lumpur. However, the Supreme Court a day earlier issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) barring the government from signing the agreement.

Esperon initialed the MOA-AD with then government peace panel chair Rodolfo Garcia, a retired Vice Chief of Staff.

The aborted signing triggered yet another wave of violence and displaced at least half a million residents and while government and the MILF each declared a suspension of military operations in late July 2009, talks resumed only in December 2009.

From Santos to Galvez

Before Galvez, the OPAPP has had eight PAPPS but 10 changes of administration since its birth in 1993 as Teresita Quintos-Deles and Dureza served as PAPP to two Presidents: Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Benigno Simeon Aquino III for Deles, and Arroyo and Duterte for Dureza.

The first PAPP was Oscar Santos (1993-1995), followed by Yan (1994-2001), Ermita (2001-2003), Deles (2003-2005), Dureza (2005-2008), Esperon (2008-2009), Razon (2009), Annabelle Abaya (Oct 2009- 30 June 2010), Deles (01 July 2010 to June 30, 2016) and Dureza (July 1, 2016 to November 27, 2018).

Dureza succeeded Deles twice, in 2005 and in 2016. Two retired Chiefs of Staff succeeded Dureza: Esperon in 2008 and Galvez in 2018.

The 56-year old Galvez (see other story),a member of P Philippine Military Academy’s PMA Class 1985, spent most of his military career in Mindanao as company, battalion, brigade, division commander and head of the Western Mindanao. Command. He assumed the post of Chief of Staff on April 19, 2018.

Meranaws call for justice for slain Imam, raise a million pesos reward money

From MindaNews (Dec 17): Meranaws call for justice for slain Imam, raise a million pesos reward money

Some 5,000 Meranaws gathered in Matampay Sunday to demand justice for an Imam slain in Baguio City and raised a million pesos to contribute to the reward money for anyone who could provide information that could lead to the arrest of the perpetrator.

Abdullah, an Imam who taught at the Discover Islam Baguio, and volunteered his services at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), was shot dead along Kayang Street, at 11:30 a.m. on December 6, “a killing we view as an act of terrorism conducted in broad daylight,” Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) said in a statement.

Meranaw protesters in Marawi City seek justice for Imam Bedejim Abdullah and set on fire a tarpaulin showing images from a CCTV camera of the suspected killer during a prayer and indignation rally on Sunday, December 16, 2018. The Maranaws raised a million pesos to contribute to the reward money for the arrest of the perpetrator. MindaNews photo by RICHEL V. UMEL

Meranaw leader Agakhan Sharief said they are still awaiting updates on the case of Abdullah. The motive behind the killing, he said, is not clear and while the CCTV camera captured images of the perpetrator, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Baguio City has not identified the criminal. “Posibleng hindi taga Baguio City ang killer” (it’s possible the killer is not from Baguio).

“Nanawagan kami kay President Rodrigo Roa Duterte na bigyan pansin ang kaso sa pagpatay at bigyan ng hustisya ang pagkamatay ni Imam Abdullah” (we call on President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to give attention to the killing of Imam Abdullah and the call for justice), Sharief said.

The Maranaws burned a tarpaulin showing images of the suspect as caught on CCTV camera.

Hataman described Abdullah, also vice chair of the multi-sectoral Regional Advisory Council of the Cordillera police, as a “vocal supporter of non-violent efforts to eradicate extremism, the same position we take in the ARMM.”

He said Abdullah’s death “is a loss not only for Muslims, but to all peace-loving people.

He called on authorities in the Cordillera Administrative Region to conduct a thorough investigation into Abdullah’s slay and deliver justice to him and his family.

“Justice is the strongest foundation for peace, and we trust that our call seeking justice for Abdullah will be heard and heeded,” Hataman added.

Imam Bedejim Abdullah photo posted on his FB page on November 28, 2018.

In a statement, the PMA said it recognizes and appreciates Abdullah’s nearly 17 years of “invaluable support to the command,” for his “altruistic involvement and participation,” especially in providing religious and moral values program” to the Muslim community there, “in support to the Character Development of the cadets.”

The PMA also urged the public to report to the nearest police station any information that could lead to the arrest of the perpetrators.

Catanduanes gov welcomes ex-NPA reb, inks pact on integration program

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 17): Catanduanes gov welcomes ex-NPA reb, inks pact on integration program

VIRAC, Catanduanes  – A former rebel in this island province has surrendered his firearm to Catanduanes Governor Joseph Cua.

The handover ceremony was held at the Capitol Conference Room on November 27, 2018 where the rebel returnee received P15,000 as initial cash assistance from the governor and another P15,000 from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). The cash support were in addition to the numerous benefits that he received from DILG’s key partners in government.

The benefits were part of the Task Force Balik-Loob under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), a centerpiece program of the government’s localized peace process, which integrates and consolidates the benefits and services of all national and local agencies and local government units for former rebels and their families.

In his testimony, the rebel returnee shared some stories of his plight. A native of San Miguel, Catanduanes, he was not able to attend school and was orphaned at a young age. He worked as an abaca farmer before he was recruited in the communist group.

Governor Cua lauded the rebel returnee for his courage in embracing the government and the rule of law underscoring the importance of peace-and-order situation in the development of the community.

According to him, peace and order is vital in the development and progress of the province since investments will be based from peace and order situation of the province.

In this connection, Cua signed Executive Order No. 42, series of 2018, which constitutes the E-CLIP committee in the provincial level.

The committee will be chaired by the governor. It will also include its co-chairman, Brigader Commander Bondoc; and member-representatives, Ma. Rosella N. Taraya (PSWDO), Director Uldarico S. Razal (DILG – Catanduanes), Police Senior Insp. Jonathan O. Panganiban (PNP Catanduanes) and Rev. Fr. Renato Dela Rosa (CSO).

The committee was tasked to ensure the convergent efforts in the delivery of the identified services of the E-CLIP, among others.

The local chief executive also lauded the commitment of agencies in peace efforts and their pledged assistance.

Meanwhile, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) 902nd Brigade Commander Peale Jon L. Bondoc assured rebels planning to surrender of security and safety, along with the dedicated assistance of the police and armed forces and inter-agency support, in their reintegration process.

He also explained the mechanism of E-CLIP, stressing that the program does not only cater to the armed rebels, but also Militia ng Bayan members and rebel supporters.

He clarified that a validation process is also done before being enrolled to the program which is based on interviews to other returnees.

The E-CLIP is a whole-of-nation approach to end the cycle of violence brought by insurgency, he added. Brig. Gen. Bondoc called on for support from government and private agencies, especially media partners to help in disseminating information on the program.

Alert up in Sultan Kudarat after grenade blast in mayor’s home

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 16): Alert up in Sultan Kudarat after grenade blast in mayor’s home

Google map of Lambayong, Sultan Kudarat

Police authorities in Lambayong, Sultan Kudarat set up more checkpoints around town following the grenade attack at the home of town Mayor Ramon Abalos on Friday night.

“The police are on alert, we are not taking any chances,” Supt. Aldrin Gonzales, speaking for police in Region 12, told reporters in an interview Saturday after two men on a motorbike lobbed a fragmentation grenade at Abalos’ home in Barangay Poblacion, Lambayong, around 7 p.m.

No one among the police security escorts of Abalos was injured.

The mayor was also not home at the time of the incident.

Senior Insp. Herman Luna of the Lambayong police office said it was the second grenade attack against the official’s house this year.

On July 29, riding-in-tandem suspects also hurled a hand grenade at the compound of Abalos’ home at around 7 a.m.

In the first attack, town Councilor Carlos Abalos, the mayor’s bother, and his cousin, Richard Abalos, town public supervisor, sustained minor injuries.

The same suspects hurled another grenade toward the main entrance of the town police office as they sped off towards Barangay Tinumigues in Sultan sa Barongis town of Maguindanao.

The motive of the grenade attacks remains unknown.

Peace, friendship dominate Balangiga Bells handover

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 16): Peace, friendship dominate Balangiga Bells handover

WARM GREETINGS. President Rodrigo Duterte shakes hands with Catholic church officials led by Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines President and Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles before the handover of the Balangiga bells in Balangiga, Eastern Samar on Saturday (December 16, 2018). The gesture earned cheers from the crowd. (Photo courtesy of PPD)

BALANGIGA, Eastern Samar -- It was indeed a day of friendship and peace in this town when President Rodrigo Duterte witnessed the handover of Balangiga Bells seized by the US government for 117 years.

The President arrived at around 5 p.m. Saturday at the town’s covered court where hundreds of government officials, Roman Catholic priests, and residents gathered to witness the historic event.

After greeting Cabinet officials at the left side of the covered hall, Duterte proceeded to the other side to shake hands with top church officials led by Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President and Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles, whom the Chief Executive identified as his “personal spiritual guidance counsellor.”

The President’s friendly gesture to the CBCP leader has elicited big applause from the crowd as people watched the blow-by-blow event on big screen set up by the Presidential Broadcast Staff Radio-Television MalacaƱang.

The President also shook the hands of Borongan, Eastern Samar Diocese Bishop Crispin Varquez, Papal Nuncio to the Philippines Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, Archbishop of the US Military Ordinariate Timothy Broglio and other church officials seated in front facing the stage.

“The rest of the Filipino nation joins the Diocese of Borongan in celebrating this historic event. Indeed, this victory is the result of the optimism and solidarity and patriotism of those behind the bells’ return, just like when our forefathers fought for freedom against foreign domination more than a century ago,” Duterte told the crowd.

US Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission John Law and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Joseph Felter represented the US government at the return ceremony of the Balangiga Bells in this town.

“The return of the Bells of Balangiga demonstrates the enduring strength of the U.S.-Philippine alliance and the deep bonds of friendship between the peoples of our nations, as we work together to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the US Embassy said in a statement.

Minutes before the handover ceremony, Valles told reporters that “the bells’ repatriation underlines deeper appreciation of respect and friendship.”

Varquez echoed Valles’s statement saying the bells’ homecoming “is a symbol of peace and reconciliation and remind us that we have to move on from the Balangiga Encounter.”

A few hours after the handover, a post circulated on social media claiming that priests, including top church officials, were earlier told to go out of the venue since Duterte only wants Valles to be in the area.

The post also claimed that “priests present were asked to remove their Roman collars so as not to offend the President. Also, chairs were placed in front of the priests to cover them.”

Facebook user Aloysius Trejo observed in the video that “the President cordially greeted and shook hands with church officials and even waved to other local priests at the far end of the row while on his way to the stage.”

“It is not a directive of the President. Before his speech, he greeted the Apostolic Nuncio and even called Archbishop Valles his personal spiritual guidance counsellor,” he said.

Another Facebook user Nnie Que tagged the post as “malicious and makes no sense other than to sow intrigue.”

Borongan diocese officials are unavailable for comments on the issue.

Militiaman’s wife slain in DavNor NPA attack

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 16): Militiaman’s wife slain in DavNor NPA attack

The wife of a member of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) died when armed men believed to be members of the New People's Army (NPA) attacked the house of the couple in Barangay Palma Gil, Talaingod, Davao del Norte on Saturday.

Capt. John Louie Dema-ala, public information officer of the 56th Infantry Battalion, said the victim was identified as Gina Mantayona, 23, whose husband, Mario, is an active member of CAFGU.

Dema-ala said Mario was on duty when two armed men attacked the couple’s house.

He said one of the armed men was identified as
Rommel Tausan, member of the NPA's Guerrilla Front 55.

"They conducted liquidation attempt against Gina Mantayona, wife of CAA Mario," he added.

According to a report from the Police Regional Office (PRO)-11, Gina, who sustained a gunshot at the right portion of her abdomen, died on Saturday night at the Davao Regional Medical Center in Apokon, Tagum City where she was transferred from the Davao del Norte Hospital-Kapalong Zone on board a motorcycle due to her critical condition.

Chief Insp. Jason Baria, spokesperson of PRO-11, said the Talaingod Municipal Police conducted checkpoints to track the perpetrators in their possible escape.

Baria said a follow-up investigation is ongoing.

Lt. Col. Edwin Paredes, 56th IB commander, said the NPA's desperate move to inflict casualties is evident considering that Sitio Nasilaban is under the control of Datu Guibang, one of the tribal leaders who abandoned the communist armed group to support of the government.

Paredes said an army unit is currently coordinating with the Talaingod municipal police station for the appropriate conduct of investigation and documentation for the filing of cases against the NPA.

This latest attack came following an order from the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA (CPP-NPA) leadership to mount offensives in response to the martial law extension in Mindanao.

Baria said the CPP-NPA order prompted the police leadership to stay on high alert for possible tactical engagement of the CPP-NPA members against government and prized civilians.

Meanwhile, PRO-11 director Chief Supt. Marcelo Morales has ordered the Talaingod police to dig deeper into the incident and the arrest of the perpetrators.

“We condemn such vicious attacks on the civilians by the CPP-NPA,” Morales said.

Authorities are eyeing a case for violation of Republic Act 9851 against the NPA and the Communist Party of the Philippines leadership for hitting on civilians without direct participation in hostilities.

RA 9851 is an act defining and penalizing crimes against international humanitarian law, genocide, and other crimes against humanity, organizing jurisdiction, designating special courts and other related purposes.

Family of ex-rebs reunites, sets new beginning this Christmas

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 16): Family of ex-rebs reunites, sets new beginning this Christmas

FORT MAGSAYSAY, NUEVA ECIJA -- The first day of the Christmas season in Philippine Catholic Church is a day of another beginning for Rachel Galario, a former amazon of the New People's Army. She and her former communist partner have been reunited and had their child christened on Sunday morning here.

Rachel's partner, Allan Halop, has recently surrendered to the government and returned to the fold of the law.

Allan turned himself in to authorities a week after he escaped from his comrades last Nov. 21.

His team encountered the government troops several times, causing him and his comrades to get tired and starve.

He then realized that he wanted to live a normal life and that he wanted to see his partner and their daughter.

He sought the help of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the 91st Infantry (Sinagtala) Battalion.

He voluntarily divulged information on the location of their firearms and war materiel’s depot, resulting in numerous recoveries of the PNP and the Army.

Prior to this, Rachel was one of the female rebels, who were captured by the government. But she was able to apply for bail and sought refuge from the military for her and her daughter, who was only one month old at that time.

After few months of separation, this Sunday morning’s event was the first time for the two rebels to see each other and also the first time for Allan to see their daughter.

Incidentally, it was also the first time for Allan's sister to see him after quite a long time.

The Army had exerted efforts to reunite the family. After 18 years of being separated, the siblings have finally held each other before the christening of Allan’s daughter.

As part of the Christmas celebration of the 703rd Infantry (Agila) Brigade under its commander, Colonel Rowen S. Tolentino, the unit organized the christening of the three-month old baby of the two former rebels.

The occasion was facilitated by Major Alexander Dawa, the Catholic Chaplain of 7ID. Tolentino, alongside Lieutenant General Macairog S. Alberto, commanding general of the Philippine Army and Major General Felimon T. Santos Jr., commander of the 7th Infantry (Kaugnay) Division of the Philippine Army, stood as the godfathers of the baby girl.

A presentation of firearms recovered during the 2nd semester of 2018 was also conducted after the christening of the child.

The recoveries were conducted by the four battalions under 703rd Brigade – 48th Infantry (Guardians) Battalion, 69th Infantry (Cougar) Battalion, 84th Infantry (Victorious) Battalion, and 91st Infantry (Sinagtala) Battalion.

The firearms and war materiel were the results of the Community Support Programs (CSP) of the battalions.

The firearms and war materiel recovered were one squad automatic weapon, 22 assorted high-powered rifles, 11 Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), and a hand grenade.

Major General Felimon T. Santos Jr. expressed his delight on the reunion of the former rebels and the christening of their child.

“Finally, the surrenderers will celebrate Christmas as a family," Santos said.

He also gave assurance to the former rebels that the Army will continue to keep them safe and secure and will provide assistance for their application for the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).

Santos commended the efforts of the 703rd Infantry (Agila) Brigade.

He said it is an honor to have hardworking individuals under his command.

He also appealed to the media to help the Philippine Army disseminate matters regarding the E-CLIP and be an instrument for the surrender of rebels, who are still fighting the government.

Army activates rapid deployment force

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 16): Army activates rapid deployment force

In line with efforts to establish a compact and rapid deployment force, the Philippine Army (PA) on Saturday activated its 1st Brigade Combat Team (BCT) at the the New Special Operation Command (SOCOM) site, Fort Ramon Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.

"This creation emanates when the Army, being the premier land force of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, deliberately started to develop in 2016 a strategic territorial defense concept which aims to establish a compact, responsive and modern force capable to engage in conventional and/or unconventional warfare, disaster relief and rescue operations, and other non-traditional roles," Army spokesperson, Lt. Col. Louie Villanueva said.

He added that the 1st BCT will be the Army’s rapid deployable unit with the right force-mix to any area of strategic significance. It shall consists of maneuver components which includes two infantry and one mechanized battalions, maneuver support consists of specialized enablers such as field artillery and engineer combat battalions, reconnaissance company and units from signal, intelligence, civil-military operations, military police, explosive ordnance, CBRN (chemical biological radiological and nuclear), and sustainment components composed of a forward service support unit and a forward medical platoon.

Present during the activation ceremony was Army commander, Lt. Gen. Macairog S. Alberto.
"Let us always be reminded that we are duty bound to secure our country’s sovereignty and the integrity of our national territory. Our ancestors had sacrifices their precious lives and we are now duty bound to sustain it and be the best exemplars of public service to meet the aspirations and expectations of the Filipino," Alberto said.

“I know there will be challenges but I am very confident that this is the most perfect force-mix of combined arms in pursuit of our organizational transformation for us to be more relevant, effective and efficient formidable fighting force. We are gaining grounds but let us not be contended with it. We must continuously adopt on the constant state of today’s operational challenges," he added.

Villanueva said the BCT is a contingency force that could provide operational flexibility and will be the Unified Command’s decisive force in times of crisis and/or armed conflict situations.
The establishment of BCT is geared towards capacitating the Army into a joint, combined arms force capable of addressing various threats and challenges across the Army’s range of operations.

With its given characteristics as a mix-force, it can be employed in various situation both in peacetime or wartime.

Meanwhile, the 1st BCT headquarters shall be established at Fort Magsaysay to exercise command and control of its attached component units.

The unit, which will be commanded by Brigadier General Leopoldo Imbang Jr., will be temporarily attached to 7th Infantry Division. The unit is also set to be placed under Tactical Control (TACON) of Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) for consolidation and organizational training.

"It is committed to train with our US counterparts in the upcoming SALAKNIB and the AFP-US Balikatan Exercises which aims to further develop its capability in terms of conducting combined arms operations and in preparation for its future employment," Villanueva added.

400 AFP scholars get Xmas packs from PAGCOR

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 16): 400 AFP scholars get Xmas packs from PAGCOR

With the Yuletide Season now in full swing, 400 scholars of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Saturday received Christmas gift packs from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).
In a statement, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief, Col. Noel Detoyato said recipients are children of active, wounded, and deceased military personnel who are continuing their studies through the help of the AFP Educational Benefits System.

They came from various areas in National Capital Region and Luzon participating in the third “Pamaskong Handog ng PAGCOR” that started in 2016, he added.

AFP deputy chief-of-staff for personnel, Major Gen. Erickson Gloria, presided over the event held at the General Headquarters Canopy Area in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

He represented Vice Admiral Gaudencio Collado Jr, AFP deputy chief-of-staff, who is also the chairman of the AFP Educational Benefit System.

“I express my appreciation to PAGCOR for being one of our partners in recognizing the gallantry of our soldiers. Our partnership is very instrumental in turning the lives of soldiers’ children towards the fulfilment of their dreams,” Gloria added.

Also present in the activity is Lt. Col. Antonio Dulunuan Jr, AFP Educational Benefits System Office (AFPEBSO) chief and Jimmy Bondoc, PAGCOR vice president for corporate social responsibility.

The AFP, through the AFPEBSO, continues to partner with other agencies and organizations as part of its mission to uplift the morale and welfare of its members. It also conducts fund-raising projects to further support its growing number of grantees.

Following the gift-giving activity, the AFPEBSO held the draw for its “P50 Mo, Aral Ko” raffle project.

Winners received up to PHP80,000 worth of prizes. The proceeds of the ticket sales will be used to boost financial assistance being given to current grantees.

As of December 2018, the AFPEBSO is serving more than 3,500 grantees nationwide. Most of which are dependents of soldiers who were either killed or wounded in battle.

Since its establishment in 2001, the office has already helped around 5,000 dependents to finish their studies through various law-mandated and partnership programs.