Wednesday, December 19, 2018

4 soldiers, two civilians wounded in NPA attack in Catarman

From Rappler (Dec 19): 4 soldiers, two civilians wounded in NPA attack in Catarman

Members of the 43rd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army are waylaid while bringing food to their fellow soldiers

WOUNDED. A civilian wounded in the attack in Catarman, Northern Samar. Photo courtesy of DPAO, 8ID PA

WOUNDED. A civilian wounded in the attack in Catarman, Northern Samar. Photo courtesy of DPAO, 8ID PA

CATBALOGAN CITY, Philippines – Suspected communist rebels ambushed a military vehicle of the 43rd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army Tuesday, December 18, in Catarman, Northern Samar, wounding 4 soldiers and 2 civilians.

Captain Francis Agno, spokesperson of the 8th Infantry Division Philippine Army to which the 43rd IB belongs, said Wednesday, December 19, the attack happened in Barangay McKinley. The soldiers of Charlie Company were on their way to deliver food to their comrades who were conducting Community Support Program in the area.

Agno said an explosion sparked the attack followed by intense gunfire.

He identified the victims as Private Rolly B. Dizon; Private First Class Rorey O. Montopar; Private Joel Lacabe and Corporal Jose Jerome L. Ballano. The civilians were Sherly Robenacio, 35 , and her son Christian Robenacio, 17, of Barangay Hinatad, Catarman, Northern Samar.

All the victims were brought to a hospital.

The soliders were onboard an unmarked Lite Ace Van heading towards Catarman proper when they hit an anti-personnel mine. The waiting members of the New People's Army then opened fire at the disabled vehicle.

Agno said the Army soldiers fired back resulting in a 5-minute gun battle. Two civilians who were in the area were wounded during fierce exchange.

The NPA rebels escaped towards different directions, said Agno.

Meanwhile, Lt. Colonel Apollo B. Herrera, commanding officer of the 43rd IB condemned the barbaric act, particularly the use of anti-personnel mines.

According to Herrera, the incident has brought not only misery but caused panic to the innocent civilians.

Cornillo Robenacio, husband Sherly Robenacio said, "What is happening to us is torture. It is brutal, the NPA did no good things to us."

43rd IB s now preparing to file criminal cases against the NPA rebels.

The military is now on red alert. This means there will be no Christmas break for the soldiers in Northern Samar to ensure the safety of its area of operation and to prepare for another possible violent move of the rebels.

Collecting evidence

From the Mindanao Times (Dec 18): Collecting evidence

· Authorities set to bring case vs. NPA to EU
The Police Regional Office will submit evidence they will recover in Talaingod, Davao del Norte on the summary execution of Lumad leaders by the New People's Army (NPA) to the National Task Force (NTF) that they will eventually present to the European Union.
“We will file a case because this is a clear case of human rights violation of our Lumad brothers," said Chief Supt. Marcelo Morales, the police regional director.
In a press briefing on Monday held at the Talaingod Municipal hall, Morales said they will conduct the investigation based on the evidence that they will gather.
"The evidence that we will be sending to the National Task Force will be submitted to the EU so we can expose the human rights violations committed by the NPA against Lumad brothers,” the police regional director said.
On Monday, the first day of Oplan Lakbay-Hukay aiming to recover remains of Lumads believed to be executed by the rebels, agents recovered in Sitio Dulyan the alleged remains of Datu Ulas Salangani who was reportedly stabbed and gunned down by NPA members sometimes in September of 2015.
"Our witnesses are those families and relatives of the victims who saw how their loved ones were killed,” Morales said.
The police director said the relatives can attest that the bodies found belong to their relatives “because they were present or they were the one who buried the victim."
He said the police will conduct forensic examination to the bodies that will be found through DNA testing to establish identification.
Morales said the NTF is collating evidence of summary execution conducted by the communist group around the country.
“This is not only in Davao region but the whole Philippines,” Morales said. “This will strengthen our complaints.”
Mayor Basilio Libayao is supporting the Oplan Lakbay-Hukay so “the community will know the evil acts of the Communist group.”
"We are happy and we are longing for this,” said Libayao, himself a Lumad lader.
“Hopefully, it will continue so that the victims will be given justice and the suspects will be punished."
On Monday, police and military operatives, in coordination with the tribal community and town government, exhumed the remains of Datu Salangani.
Chief Insp. Jason Baria, PRO spokesperson, said the victim just came from a meeting at the town proper when armed men arrived at 9 p.m. on that day.
“He was stabbed and gunned down,” Baria quoted the widow of the victim.
Relatives buried Salangani’s body beneath their house, as they fled the area. The house was no longer standing when they made the digging on Monday.
Baria said the family is asking for justice and a proper burial for the victim.
The police spokesperson said the recovery of the body proved the statements of the complaining relatives of the victims.
“They identified the responsible NPA members because he used to frequent the area before,” Baria said.
Police and military said they will be digging more graves in six identified sitios.

TALAINGOD MAYOR: NPA a bane to Lumad villages

From the Mindanao Times (Dec 18): TALAINGOD MAYOR: NPA a bane to Lumad villages

The local chief executive of Talaingod and the indigenous people mandatory representative in Davao del Norte revealed that their tribal leaders have been targeted for a long time by the New People's Army (NPA).

Mayor Basilio Libayao, in a press briefing on Monday at the municipal hall, said since communist guerrillas penetrated the Lumad communities, the harassment and killings of the the tribal leaders remain unabated.

The mayor also bared that with the Oplan Lakbay hukay it will just show that there are many datu or tribal chieftain and lumad members that were killed by the NPAs that were just buried somewhere.

"We see what's happening to the Lumads and datus. We don't even know where they are buried, there are also many others that they killed who were only left on the road just like my father, the former mayor of Talaingod whom they also killed,” he said.

He said the Armed Forces of the Philippines has been helping secure the communities before government services can follow. Based on Libayao's assessment, almost 95% of the communities are already secure but there are pockets of violence perpetrated by the NPA.

"(The NPA) is what's dragging down our town and that's why we are really hurt because almost all of our tribal leaders are being killed,” he said.

The mayor also confirmed that the NPA and non-government organizations have been taking away their children. They only learned later that the kids were brought to protest rallies in Davao City and Manila.

Bae Pilar Libayao, the IP mandatory representative in Talaingod, said all they are hoping for is peace in the community but they couldn't achieve that while the NPA is still there. She said they have written a list of Lumads killed by the NPA.

She said the rebels will just cover the bodies of the tribal leaders with banana leaves.
When they ask for the body of the person they killed, the NPA could no longer remember where they left it. She's grateful fo the presence of the soldiers because they feel more secured.

"That is why we are asking help from you," Libayao said.

Capt. John Louie Dema-ala, the civil -military operations (CMO) officer of the 56th Infantry Battalion, said there's no letup in their campaign to drive away the NPAs from the community.

“For now, the soldiers and PNP are doing their best … we have already six detachments and at the same time the community support team in Sitio Dulyan and Nasilaban to relay the government services to the community, "Dema- ala said.

Chief Supt. Marcelo Morales, the director of Police Regional Office XI, also said they will continue to coordinate with the AFP to provide security to the communities in Talaingod. They also planned on placing a police desk in Talaingod.

Ex-rebels get gifts

From the Mindanao Times (Dec 18): Ex-rebels get gifts

Forty former rebels received early Christmas gifts from the 36th Infantry Battalion in an activity held at its headquarters in Mambago, Barangay Dayoan, Tago, Surigao del Sur.

The battalion partnered with the Fraternal Order of Eagles Club and Tago Pacific Eagles Club of the activity, which was also attended by their families and friends.

Rayvic Geli, Tandag City councilor, said the activity was part of their principle of brotherhood and community service. The rebels got grocery packs for the traditional noche buena.

For his part, Engr. Amado Gurrea, the club president of Tago Pacific Eagles Club, thanked the 36th IB for giving them an opportunity to share their blessings.

In a statement, Lt. Col. Xerxes A. Trinidad, commanding officer of the 36th IB, said, “the gift packs are minimal compared to what you all essentially need but what matters here is the heartfelt giving and commitment to support the FRs."

“It’s heartening and joyful to see families are together during Christmas especially for you, all FRs present today," he further said.

"You have seen the futility of the armed struggle and now cherishing the fruit of your decision to surrender and go back to the folds of the law,” he added. “I urge all of you to be productive and never look back on the path of violence and continue to choose life in peace with your families."

Col. Brawner assumes post as brigade commander in Marawi

From MindaNews (Dec 19): Col. Brawner assumes post as brigade commander in Marawi

Col. Romeo Brawner Jr. assumed as new commander of the 103rd Infantry “Haribon” Brigade of the Philippine Army in Kampo Ranao here on Tuesday, after Brig. Gen. Geronimo Ponio ended his tour of duty in this war-ravaged city.

Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., during ceremonies installing him as commander of the 103rd Infantry “Haribon” Brigade in Marawi City on 18 December 2018. MindaNews photo by RICHEL V. UMEL

Brawner was designated earlier as the regiment commander of the Civil Military Operations Group.

Brawner took over the command from Ponio, who is now commander of the Joint Task Force Ranao vice Brig. Gen. Ramiro Manuel Rey, who is now chief of the Special Operations Command.

Brawner said there are three main operational objectives to sustain in his new command.

First is to continue to run after the remnants of the ISIS-Maute group. He lauded the efforts of Ponio and the battalion commanders in doing such job.

He pointed out that the brigade has contributed to the neutralization of so many members of the Maute ISIS group. “Neutralization is not only killing them but would also mean catching them or [forcing them to] surrender,” Brawner said.

Second, to make sure that next year’s elections would be “honest, orderly, Peaceful.”

There will be two electoral exercises in his are next year – the plebiscite for the Bangsamoro Organic Law and the midterm polls, which will elect local officials and members of both houses of Congress.

“I am optimistic that we will be able to do just that to achieve an honest and peaceful election. Why? Because I witnessed that in the last barangay elections, for the first time nobody died [of election-related violence] in Marawi City and Lanao del Sur and we are hoping the same for next year,” Brawner said.

He pointed out that the Armed Forces nor the Philippine National Police cannot keep the peace without the help of the people, especially of the candidates and their followers. “We need everybody’s help to ensure peaceful elections,” Brawner said.

His third objective is to continue to support the rehabilitation of Marawi through the Joint Task Force Ranao and Task Force Bangon Marawi. “We will ensure that the environment here will be secured and peaceful so that the rehabilitation will go unhampered,” Brawner said.

Maj. Gen. Roseller Murillo, commander of the First Infantry “Tabak” Division, encouraged Brawner to “make your presence felt and make a difference.”

Murillo also lauded Brawler’s predecessor, Ponio, who he said prevented “the spillover of the conflict outside the main battle area” in Marawi.

Brawner, 50, is a member of the “Makatao” Class of 1989 of the Philippine Military Academy.

He recalled first visiting Marawi 32 years ago when he was in high school, to witness the promotion of his uncle, Felix Brawner Jr., upon earning the latter’s first star.

“We stayed at Signal Hill and in front of it is the so called Sacred Hill,” Brawner said. He recalled seeing flashes of light from Sacred Hill when soldiers engaged rebels in a firefight.

Brawner said that before coming to Marawi, he recalled an advice from his uncle. “Gen. [Felix] Brawner reminded me that when I will be in Marawi, the first thing I should do is to respect the culture of the people, and to make sure that the soldiers are disciplined,” he said.

NPAs capture 2 soldiers, 12 militiamen in Agusan attack

From MindaNews (Dec 19): NPAs capture 2 soldiers, 12 militiamen in Agusan attack

Taking advantage of the bad weather, New People’s Army rebels sneaked into a military patrol base, taking captive 2 soldiers and 12 militiamen in barangay New Tubigon, Sibagat town, Agusan del Sur Wednesday.

Sibagat, Agusan del Sur

Sandara Amihan, spokesperson of the NPA Northeastern Mindanao region, said the NPA raid on the military detachment, located some 10 kilometers from Sibagat town, was carried out “without a single shot fired.”

“Fourteen soldiers and militiamen have been captured and are being treated as POWs (prisoners of war). We will treat them accordingly,” Amihan told RMN-DXBC local radio in Butuan City.

The attack came a day after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police to stop accepting NPA rebels who wish to surrender and instead “to kill them all.”

Duterte also ordered the “hamletting” of lumad villages for their protection after expressing frustration with the peace talks with the National Democratic Front.

The order came after NPA rebels attacked the police station in Magallanes town in Sorsogon last Monday, wounding a policeman and a civilian.

AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Benjamin Madrigal said the weather at the New Tubigon military detachment was rainy, and thus taken advantage by the rebels.

“Most of the troops were in their bunkers and did not notice the rebels because of the noise of the rain,” Madrigal told MindaNews by phone.

A PNP report identified the captured soldiers as Corporal Eric Manangan and PFC Darlino Carino, of the 3rd Special Forces Battalion.

The names of the militiamen are not available as of press time.

The same report said the rebels took 17 M16 rifles, 4 M14 rifles, 2 M4 rifles, and an M60 machine gun.

The rebels also took a Harris radio and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

Maj. Gen. Ronnie Villanueva, commanding general of the 4th Infantry Division based in this city, said a board of inquiry will leave for Sibagat today to investigate the incident.

“There are so many questions that are left unanswered. The team will find what really happened,” Villanueva said.

Special Forces teams and soldiers from nearby battalions are now pursuing the rebels who have fled to the hinterlands with their captives.

5 ex-NPA rebels in Ilocos get E-CLIP benefits

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 19): 5 ex-NPA rebels in Ilocos get E-CLIP benefits

Five former New People’s Army (NPA) rebels, who surrendered to the soldiers assigned to the army’s 81st Infantry Battalion in Ilocos Sur, received their benefits from the national government through the Enhanced-Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).

Lt. Col.  Charles DZ Castillo, commander of the army’s 81st Infantry Battalion, said his unit facilitated the provision of the benefits for the five former NPA rebels.

 “On Dec. 7, each of the five former NPA rebels got  E-CLIP  benefits with a total amount of P65,000  in a simple ceremony at the provincial capitol in Vigan City,” said Castillo.

Of the total amount, P15,000 was the initial assistance and P50,000 was livelihood assistance.

Ilocos Sur Governor Ryan Luis V. Singson administered the awarding rites with the presence of the ranking officials of the army’s 81st IB and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Provincial Director Virgilio Sison.

The five former NPA rebels surrendered within the last quarter of 2017 to second quarter of 2018.

Since July 2016, Castillo said the army’s 81st IB has already facilitated the E-CLIP benefits for 35 former NPA rebels.

He said the primary initiative of his unit is to bring peace and development in Ilocos Sur and to encourage the NPA rebels to return to the the folds of the law.

E-CLIP is a complete package of assistance for the NPA members, who surrender to the government.

“The benefits that the former NPA rebels received will be of big help for them to start life anew. This is also enough reason for them to completely renounce the armed struggle,” said Castillo.

NICA seeks help in eliminating violent extremism

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 19): NICA seeks help in eliminating violent extremism

Assistant Reg'l. Dir. Emil G. Respeto discusses Anti-Terrorism for the participants of the Public Advocacy Forum and Engagement on Countering HIV/AIDS, Illegal Drugs, and Violent Extremism held on November 27, 2018 in Dumaguete City. (PIA/Cebu)

CEBU CITY -- National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA-7) represented by Assistant Regional Dir. Dr. Emil G. Respeto called on the community to help in eliminating violent extremism in the country by reporting suspicious activities properly.

According to the Counter Terrorism Yearbook 2018 of the Australian Strategic Planning Institute, the Philippines is now the site of the greatest terrorism threat in Southeast Asia following the attacks in Marawi which lasted for 5 months.

The siege eventually led President Duterte to declare Martial Law in Mindanao.

In a forum held November 27, 2018 in Dumaguete City, Respeto reiterated that security is not just the concern of AFP or the PNP but everyone else's.

He said there are more civilian citizens than police officers so it is crucial for the people to help maintain peace and order in the community.
He then gave pointers on how to report suspicious activities properly. 

  • First, identify what is ordinary and extraordinary in your surroundings. Know who your neighbors are so you can easily point out when someone looks new to your place.
  • Be wary of people doing surveillance. People who carry around a camera, binoculars, and the like and record their surroundings and draw maps and blueprints are already red flags.
  • Recognize impostors. Look out for people who are soliciting donations for charities you do not recognize, workers who are in incomplete uniform, and those who carry falsified documents.
Respeto reminded the participants that when reporting a suspicious person or vehicle, include distinguishing details, such as hair color, facial hair, race, age, sex, size, scars, tattoos, and disabilities for people, and model, color, body damage, bumper stickers, accessories, and license plate number for vehicles.

He added that extremist groups are now using social media to recruits members.

When reporting about a suspicious social media activity, reports must include what was posted, why it is suspicious, where it was posted, and who posted it.

In the same forum, NICA-7 Chief of Operation Erwin Alviola added that the labor, youth, and indigenous people sectors are the usual targets for recruitment of insurgent groups.
However, he encouraged the participants that these groups are not enemies but they lack understanding of the programs of the government.

Alviola reminded the parents to monitor their children to make sure they do not get affiliated with leftists.

Tagalog News: PA-MID, mga partner nagsagawa ng gift-giving activity sa Capas

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 19): Tagalog News: PA-MID, mga partner nagsagawa ng gift-giving activity sa Capas

Nagsagawa kamakailan ng community service at gift-giving activity ang Mechanized Infantry Division o MID katuwang mga mga partners nito sa Maruglu Elementary School, Capas, Tarlac.  Bukod sa mga regalo, nagkaroon din ng libreng medical check-up para sa mga bata, pamamahagi ng libreng gamot, feeding program at libreng tsinelas at mga laruan. (Cherie Joyce V. Flores/PIA 3)
CAPAS, Tarlac -- Humigit kumulang 400 na mag-aaral ng Maruglu Elementary School sa bayan ng Capas ang nakinabang sa community service at gift-giving activity na isinagawa ng Mechanized Infantry Division o MID ng Philippine Army katuwang ang Go Share Foundation at iba pang partners nito.

Ayon kay MID Commander Major General Gilbert Gapay, ang aktibidad ay alinsunod sa pagdiriwang ng papalapit na kapaskuhan gayundin sa kanilang Armor Adopt-A-School Program na nabuo upang magbigay ng serbisyo at tulong sa mga indigent elementary students.

Aniya pa, ang nasabing programa ay hindi lamang isinasagawa sa lalawigan ng Tarlac kundi sa buong Pilipinas mula Aparri hanggang Jolo upang maabot at matulungan ang mga kabataan na magkaroon ng magandang kinabukasan.

Batid din ng MID ang hirap sa pag-aaral ng mga bata upang mabigyan sila ng magandang kinabukasan kaya naman patuloy ang kanilang hanay sa pagbibigay ng saya at pag-asa sa mga kabataan lalo’t ngayong panahon ng kapaskuhan.

Bukod sa mga regalo, nagkaroon din ng libreng medical check-up para sa mga bata, pamamahagi ng libreng gamot, feeding program at libreng tsinelas at mga laruan.

Dagdag ni Gapay, ang tunay na kahulugan ng pasko ay hindi sa mga regalong ito kundi higit na mahalaga ang pagbibigayan, pagmamahalan at pag-asa na sa kabila ng hirap na nararanasan sa buhay ay laging mayroong dahilan upang magpatuloy na lumaban sa buhay.

Payahag niya pa sa mga estudyante, na narito lamang ang Mandirigmang Armor bilang kanilang mga kuya at ate na handa silang tulungan sa panahon ng pangangailangan hindi lamang tagapagdala ng katiwasayan at seguridad kundi pagtulong sa bawat kabataan tungo sa magandang kinabukasan.

PNP Caraga initiates wedding ceremony of former rebels

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 20): PNP Caraga initiates wedding ceremony of former rebels

The Philippine National Police (PNP) in Caraga initiated the wedding ceremony of former New Peoples Army (NPA) rebels at the St. Ignatius de Loyola Chapel of PNP Caraga headquarters early morning Sunday, Dec. 15.

The couple tied the knot in a ceremony officiated by the Regional Pastoral Officer, PCInsp. Mark Virgil J. Ibardolaza in the presence of PNP Caraga Regional Director PCSupt. Gilberto DC Cruz, members of the regional staff and other police personnel.

The newlywed were former members of the Guerilla Front 21, Northeastern Mindanao Regional Committee and surrendered to Regional Intelligence Division last July 27, 2018.

All expenses including the bridal gowns and accessories, ‘barong’ of the groom, floral decoration, wedding rings, cakes, and reception were sponsored by PNP Caraga in support of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) of the government.

The region’s top cop congratulated the couple who have been blessed with two children.

“We appeal to the active members of the NPA and Militia ng Bayan to give up their arms and avail the E-CLIP. Our government is sincere in giving them programs if they would choose the right path for peace,” RD Cruz added.

Rebels fire at 2 CAFGU sites in Capiz

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 19): Rebels fire at 2 CAFGU sites in Capiz

Members of the New People’s Army (NPA) indiscriminately fired against two detachment sites of the Philippine Army’s Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) Active Auxiliary early Tuesday morning.

No one was hurt from the troops of the CAFGU, said Lt. Col. Sisenando Magbalot Jr., Commanding Officer of the 61st Infantry Battalion (61IB), said in an interview.

Magbalot described the incident as just an “early morning exercise” of the rebels.

“It was just a short burst of fire and a sort of nuisance but there was no intention to inflict casualty. It is more of indiscriminate firing,” he said.

Magbalot said the first incident took place in the CAFGU site in the village of Abangay, Tapaz, Capiz around 1 a.m. when about three to six members of the Igabon Platoon of the NPA's Komiteng Rehiyon Panay-Central Front Committee (KRP-CFC) sprayed the detachment with bullets.

The gunfire lasted only for 10 seconds and the rebels immediately left the area, Magbalot said.

Around 1:46 a.m. of the same day, Magbalot said another CAFGU detachment site in the nearby village of Katipunan experienced the same incident also for short period of time. No one was hurt from the government side.

“They even did not directly fire on the camp but maybe upwards,” he said.

Magbalot said the incident is may be part of the ongoing preparations of the rebels for their 50th founding anniversary of the communist movement on December 26.

“They may want to present this as part of their accomplishment,” he added.

Meantime, Captain Eduardo Precioso, Spokesperson of the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) based in Jamindan, Capiz, also shared the same thought.

He said that the incident is just a normal undertaking of the rebels before they celebrate their anniversary.

“Their actions have no tactical effect on the troops, but they have instilled fear on the community living nearby the detachment sites. Rest assured that the 3ID are on alert to protect the community,” he said.

Civilian status restored for 50 ex-NPAs in Bukidnon

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 19): Civilian status restored for 50 ex-NPAs in Bukidnon

A total of 50 former members of New People’s Army (NPA) who surrendered to the government earlier this year had their civilian status restored during a ceremony here on Wednesday (December 19).

A press release by the Army's 403rd Infantry Brigade (IB) said the restoration of civilian status meant that the former NPA rebels have already regained protection as provided under the International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

The IHL, adopted during the Fourth Geneva Convention in 1949, provides protection for civilians in armed conflict situations.

The 403IB said the restoration of civilian status comes with the assistance from the government through the "Enhanced-Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP)."

Governor Jose Maria R. Zubiri Jr., chairman of the E-CLIP committee in Bukidnon, handed-over "start-up" cash assistance to the former rebels, which include immediate assistance worth PHP15,000, livelihood assistance of PHP65,000, as well as firearms remuneration.

The 50 surrenderers consisted of NPA regulars and "Militia ng Bayan" members, the military said, adding most of them belong to the Indigenous People (IP).

Earlier this year, some 100 former rebels also received the same E-CLIP benefits, while 223 more surrenderers are waiting in line.

The military said the surrender of the former rebels were usually facilitated by relatives, friends, and barangay officials who accompany them to the authorities.

In his speech during the ceremony, Maj. Gen. Ronald Villanueva, acting commander of Eastern Mindanao Command, assured the former rebels that their rights will be fully protected under the IHL.

Villanueva noted that even the NPA cannot target former NPA rebels under the IHL statute.

"As long as you do not participate directly in the armed conflict, whoever harms you will face public condemnation," the military official said.

Lorenzana dismisses 'militarization', 'puppet' claims

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 19): Lorenzana dismisses 'militarization', 'puppet' claims

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana delivers his message as guest speaker in the Regional Peace and Order Council meeting in Legazpi City, Dec. 18, 2018. (Photo by Mar Serrano)

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Tuesday defended President Rodrigo Duterte against new claims of promoting "militarization" in government by militant groups.

He also assailed the tagging by the Bagong Alyansa Makabayan Bicol (BAYAN-Bicol) of the Chief Executive as a “military puppet” after issuing a directive sending additional military troops and policemen to Bicol to quell lawlessness.

Lorenzana was here as guest at the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) meeting. In an ambush interview, he belied such claim by saying: “That’s not true. It is unfair to tag the President as a puppet just because of the directive placing some areas specifically Bicol under a state of national emergency because of lawlessness".

An official of Bayan-Bicol, who asked not to be named, alleged in an earlier interview that “the deployment of additional soldiers and policemen and placing Bicol region under a state of national emergency is a de facto martial law".

The militant group claimed that the President's military strategist has designed a plan disguised as lawless violence taking place in some parts of the country in order to establish military rule across the country.

Lorenzana, however, said Bayan and other groups are masquerading as a militant front but in truth are communists.

He even cited that in various protest rallies by these so-called militant groups, their printed messages urge the people to rebel and fight the government.

“They are saying it’s a legal front but still they are asking people to fight the established government,” Lorenzana said.

On claims of militarization, he stressed that “there is no law that bans retired military officials to join and serve the government – wala ba kaming karapatan (do we have no right)?".

“We did not question the President when he appointed in his Cabinet four left-leaning officials," Lorenzana added, referring to Judy Taguiwalo as secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Rafael Mariano as secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform, Liza Maza as lead convenor of the National Anti-Poverty Commission and Terry Ridon as chief of the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor.

“No. We did not complain or question them even though we know they belong to the communist front,” he said.

"In fact, the President has given them the chance to serve so what is so wrong about retired military officials being appointed in the government service?" Lorenzana said.

NegOr town deputy police chief shot dead

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 19): NegOr town deputy police chief shot dead

Unidentified riding-in-tandem men shot dead in broad daylight Wednesday the deputy police chief for operations of Guihulngan City in northern Negros Oriental.
Based on initial police reports, Senior Insp. Porferio Gabuya Jr. was inside the San Vicente Ferrer Enterprises along the national highway across the Bureau of Fire Protection office in Guihulngan City, when the two suspects on board a Mio black motorcycle shot him around 10:25 a.m.

The suspects’ faces were covered with shirts and dark sunglasses and were armed with an M-4 rifle, while the motorcycle did not have a plate number, the police report said.

Gabuya was rushed to the Guihulngan District Hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival.

Senior Supt. Raul Tacaca, Acting provincial police director disclosed that Gabuya was assigned to Guihulngan City just last October.

According to Tacaca, the attack was believed to be perpetrated by the New People's Army (NPA), which had earlier announced repeatedly that it would be going after government law enforcement authorities.

“Sa Guihulngan kasi, alam naman natin na merong presence ng mga armed, lawless elements. Iyan ang pinakamalaking angulo nga tinitignan natin, yung sa SPARU (We are aware of the presence of armed, lawless elements in Guihulngan and that is the biggest angle that we are looking at, that of the SPARU),” Tacaca said, referring to the NPA’s hit squad.

But he said the cops are also looking at other possible motives.

Tacaca said he has reminded the police stations to be extra vigilant, as the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, might launch further tactical offensives as its founding anniversary on Dec. 26 is fast approaching.

Troops rescue wife, 2 children of ASG member

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 19): Troops rescue wife, 2 children of ASG member

Government troops have rescued three people, including two children, who were trapped during a recent firefight in Sulu, a top military official said Wednesday.

Rear Admiral Rene Medina, Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) chief, identified the rescued individuals as Manah Solaiman, 27 and her two daughters, who were aged 7 and 2.

Medina said they were rescued on Saturday on Minis Island, Patikul, Sulu, the site of the recent clash between Marine troops and Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits.

Seven ASG bandits and a soldier were killed while three other soldiers were wounded during the December 12 firefight when the troops launched an amphibious operation on Minis Island, Patikul.

Medina said troops from the Naval Task Group Sulu and Philippine Marine Ready Force-Sulu were conducting clearing operation when they rescued Solaiman and her two daughters in a mangrove area of Minis Island.

The mother and her children were immediately provided with food and water and taken to the Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista Station Hospital for medical check-up and proper assistance.

Based on the military interview with her, Manah said she and her two daughters were trapped when the firefight broke out on December 12, prompting them to hide in the mangrove area.

Manah bared that she is the wife of ASG member Jackie Solaiman alias Jackie Chan.
Medina said the Fleet-Marine troops will continue to intensify focused military operations to pre-empt any attacks by the ASG and other lawless groups.

41 NPA rebs, 162 supporters yield in 2 Zambo provinces

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 19): 41 NPA rebs, 162 supporters yield in 2 Zambo provinces

Former New People's Army rebels who surrendered in separate occasions in two Zamboanga provinces undergo an orientation conducted by the military and police authorities. (Photo courtesy: Army's 1st Infantry Division Public Affairs Office)

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Forty-one New People’s Army (NPA) rebels and 162 supporters have separately surrendered to authorities in the two Zamboanga provinces, a military officer said Wednesday.

Col. Bagnus Gaerlan, the Army’s 102nd Infantry Brigade commander, said 38 of the NPA surrenderers were classified as "Militia ng Bayan"--the NPA's frontline troops, and two full-time NPA cadres.
Gaerlan said those who yielded on Saturday to the Army's 44th Infantry Battalion in Kabasalan, Zamboanga Sibugay, consisted of 22 NPA militiamen and 59 mass-based supporters.

Three NPA rebels and two Militia ng Bayan members surrendered on the same day to the Army's 53rd Infantry Battalion in San Miguel, Zamboanga del Sur. The surrenderers included 72 supporters’ mass-based supporters.

In Titay, Zamboanga Sibugay, 14 Militia ng Bayan members and 31 civilian supporters surrendered on Tuesday to the Army’s 44th Infantry Battalion, he said.

“Their surrender will be a setback for the upcoming 50th Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) anniversary because of weakening mass-based support,” Gaerlan said, referring to the December 26 founding anniversary of the communist rebel movement.

Gaerlan said the military will facilitate the enrollment of the surrenderers to the government's  Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).

"We commend the LGUs (local government units), barangay officials, and other stakeholders who implemented the localized peace talks,” the military official added.

Maj. Gen. Roseller Murillo, the Army’s 1st Infantry Division and Joint Task Force Zampelan commander, called on the remaining NPA members "to return to the folds of law and take advantage of the E-CLIP and spend the Yuletide season with their families.”

Manhunt launched vs. suspects in North Cotabato ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 19): Manhunt launched vs. suspects in North Cotabato ambush

Police and military units are hunting down the riding-in-tandem suspects behind the ambush and wounding of a mother and son in a remote village here Tuesday afternoon.

Supt. Joan Maganto, Midsayap town police chief, said the local police and the Army’s 34th Infantry Battalion have agreed to launch a joint manhunt against the two men, who attempted to kill Noria Mamalinta, 47, and her son, Ali Salem Mamalinta, 23.

Maganto said the Mamalintas, who are residents of Barangay Mudsing here, were riding a motorbike when tailed and fired upon by the motorcycle-riding men in neighboring Barangay Tugal at past 2 p.m.

“The mother sustained bullet wounds in her legs while her son, in his arms,” Maganto said.

They were immediately brought to the hospital following the incident.

Maganto said witnesses and the victims have already provided police investigators with vital information that could help locate the suspects.

Police investigators have eyed “rido” or family feud as the motive behind the slay attempt.

PRRD calls on village chiefs to resist CPP-NPA

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 19): PRRD calls on village chiefs to resist CPP-NPA

President Rodrigo Duterte is calling on barangay officials and tribal leaders to strongly resist the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) and cooperate with the government in ending the communist insurgency in the country.

President Duterte made the call and voiced concerns over the continued harassment by the CPP-NPA in the countryside in his speech during the Barangay Summit on Good Governance on Tuesday the Rizal Memorial Colleges Gym here.

An obviously exasperated Duterte lambasted the communist rebels anew for their continued attacks, not only on Indigenous Peoples (IP) groups, but even the families of soldiers and government militiamen.

"We can kill each other but not the children or the wives of the soldiers," the President said, referring to the December 15 incident in which the NPA shot the wife of a Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) member inside their residence in Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

“Don’t mess up with families. Dili apil sa prinsipyo sa gobyerno ang asawa ug mga anak (The wives and children are not part of the government),” he said.

Duterte underscored the role of barangay officials in the government’s anti-insurgency campaign, and in the efforts to end the communist rebellion during his term.

The President said barangay officials have a better grasp of their respective areas and know who among their residents are NPA supporters or combatants.

“Alamin ninyo kung sino ang mga militia (Know who are the members of the militia). They are the shadow government,” he said.

Duterte called on barangay officials to fight in defense of their communities.

“Like the police and the military, you are a person of authority,” he told the village leaders, even as he offered to back them up in the performance of their mandate.

The President said the government is "fully-equipped" to fight the CPP-NPA, which is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.

Duterte noted that next to police and military troops, barangay officials are the common target of CPP-NPA atrocities.

“You are well aware of that. They will really kill you,” Duterte said.

The gathering of barangay officials from different cities and towns of Davao region aims to promote awareness about the national government’s campaign against illegal drugs, criminality, corruption, violent extremism and Federalism; discuss national and local issues affecting barangay governance; and to consider future approaches to strengthening cooperation between the national government and the  barangay governments to effectively and efficiently deliver quality services to the public.

It was also attended by the Indigenous Peoples’ Mandatory Representatives (IPMR) in the municipalities and cities, and tribal leaders.

The summit was organized by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

Manhunt on after NPA abducts 2 soldiers in Agusan Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 19): Manhunt on after NPA abducts 2 soldiers in Agusan Sur

New People's Army (NPA) rebels abducted two soldiers following a predawn raid on a military patrol base in the Agusan del Sur town of Sibagat Wednesday.

An estimated 50 rebels reportedly belonging to the NPA's Guerilla Front Committee 21 also carted away a number of firearms, the Army's 4th Infantry Division said in a press release.

4ID was unable to name the abducted soldiers as their families have not yet been informed of the incident.

Lt. Col. Rhoderick Parallag, commanding officer of the Army's 3rd Special Forces Battalion, said a combined team of police and military personnel belonging to the Army's 3rd Special Forces Battalion are pursuing the rebels as of posting time.

Parallag reminded the NPA that under the International Humanitarian Law, the rebels are compelled to protect the rights of their detainees.

The rights, he said, mandate the NPA to inform the families of the abducted soldiers of their capture, including their conditions.

Parallag added that the soldiers also have the right to contact their families.

4ID said a Board of Inquiry (BOI) has been created to investigate the circumstances that resulted in the NPA raid.

It added that "proper sanctions" will be meted out against personnel who are "proven to have neglected their duty."

DND inks defense deal with Turkish SSB

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 19): DND inks defense deal with Turkish SSB

The Department of National Defense (DND) and the Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB) of the Republic of Turkey signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on defense cooperation on Tuesday.

The signing took place at Philippine Air Force headquarters in Villamor Air Base, Pasay City, DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in a message to reporters.

The MOU was signed by DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana for the Philippines and President of Defense Industries of Turkey, Prof. Dr. Ismail Demir.

The MOU will focus on government-to-government acquisition, as well as the development, production, co-production, and transfer of defense technology between the DND and the SSB.

Severe sanctions await AFP personnel in arms pilferage mess

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 19): Severe sanctions await AFP personnel in arms pilferage mess

Stiff penalties will be meted to personnel found guilty of weapons and ammunition pilferage involving military stocks, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal said Tuesday.

"(If any military people are found involved), yung (the) full force of the law, apply the full force of the law para sa mga ito (to these individuals), we are professionalizing the Armed Forces, and definitely itong mga ito (these people) have no place in the ranks of the Armed Forces kung meron (man) (if there are any)," he added in an interview with reporters.

Madrigal said that he has already talked to Philippine Army head Lt. Gen. Macairog S. Alberto and the Army logistics people regarding the weapons and ammunition with alleged AFP markings, which were seized by police during an operation in Valenzuela City last Sunday.

Also arrested in the entrapment operation were Edgardo and Rosemarie Medel.

In the same operation, authorities seized two assault rifles, a handgun and 12,893 rounds of live ammunition for an M-60 light machine gun and an M-16 automatic rifle.

"I had it investigated. actually (I have) talked also with the Commanding General of the Army, tapos Army logistics people, yung, definitely yung (the) firearms are not part of our inventory, 'yung (the) ammo na tinitingnan namin (that we are looking at) based dun sa initial (probe), sabi nga (as I have said) at first glance, makikita mo na yung mga ammo boxes na, pag nag-distribute kami ng bala (you will see that when we distribute ammo boxes, when we distribute bullets), (our) boxes (are colored) olive drab. Ito, either ipini-prepare before na lagyan siya o talagang nakahiwalay ito (This one, either it is being prepared to be filled up or it is really separated), we are investigating that. Kaya ang (tinitingnan) natin, mga (This is why we are looking at) lot numbers. Meron na kaming (We already have) initial (information), hindi lang natin mai-divulge kasi hinahabol natin, tinitingnan natin yung (information), para mahuli natin (We just can't divulge it because we have to look closely at the information so we can catch the culprits)," the AFP chief added.

AFP public affairs office chief Col. Noel Detoyato earlier said the markings on the seized ammunition boxes will also play a key role in the ongoing investigation.

He also assured the implementation of strict handling and control of military ammunition, as well as the conduct of a periodic inventory and wall-to-wall counting to account for each and every cartridge.

Army formally activates 11th Infantry Division

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 19): Army formally activates 11th Infantry Division

The Philippine Army (PA) formally activated the 11th Infantry "Alakdan" Division during formal ceremonies presided by President Rodrigo R. Duterte at the covered court of the Kuta Heneral Teofilo Bautista, Barangay Busbus in Jolo, Sulu Monday.

PA commanding general Lt. Gen. Macairog S. Alberto was also present in the activation ceremonies, Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Louie Villanueva said in statement Wednesday.

The 11th Infantry Division was provisionally activated last Dec. 1.

The President officiated the symbolic unfurling of the unit colors, the Army’s traditional way of recognizing the birth of a new unit and commencement of its given mission.

The event was also highlighted by the assumption of Brig. Gen. Divino Rey C. Pabayo as the commander of the new division.

The 11th Infantry Division will be comprised of basic maneuver elements, combat support and service support components.

"The creation of another Army division aims to strengthen the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) current troop deployment in Sulu as well as to have a permanent presence and dedicated force that will address the peace and order problem in the area," Villanueva added.

The activation of the 11th Infantry Division aims to address the security threats posed by the Abu Sayyaf Group in Sulu and nearby areas known to be bulwarks of the terror group.

While the AFP has been relentless in curbing the problem and significantly attained numerous tactical victories, the lawless elements remained resilient due to the evolving traits of terrorism, which became global in nature.

In his message, Alberto told officers and enlisted personnel of the new unit that "your distinct gallantry and heroism in the fight against terrorism and insurgency was already ingrained in the hearts and minds of every Filipinos."

"As we intensify our effort to finally address the security concern in this corner of our country, I assure everyone that the Philippine Army is in better position now to provide the necessary combat essential tools so that you could better accomplish your task. Amidst complexities, I guarantee the 'Sulu-anon' that the 11ID composed of professional soldiers will do their very best to bring normalcy and tranquillity in the area,” he added.

Bicol attacks show Reds' insincerity of holding peace talks

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 19): Bicol attacks show Reds' insincerity of holding peace talks

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said on Wednesday that the series of violent attacks by communist terrorist rebels in the Bicol Region shows the insincerity of the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF) and the futility of holding peace talks with them.

“Mapanlinlang ang CPP/NPA/NDF. Kunwari ay gustong makipag-usap sa pamahalaan pero binabakbakan naman ang mga puwersa ng militar at kapulisan. Wala talagang saysay na makipag-usap sa kanila (The CPP/NPA/NDF are deceitful. They appear to be negotiating with the government but they are continuously attacking the military and the police. Talking to them would get nowhere),” DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año said in a news release.

Peace talks with the Reds, Año said, are futile because they only back down on their word as shown by their attacks on government troops.

“The CPP has shown its true colors. What use are the Oslo peace talks and the ceasefires if the other side is not truly interested in genuine peace?” he said.

The NPA was behind the series of attacks on government troops on Monday night, including the attack on a police station in Magallanes town, Sorsogon that wounded a civilian and three policemen.

The CPP last week ordered its armed wing to intensify attacks against government forces, allegedly in response to the one-year extension of martial law in Mindanao.

“We must all stay on guard at this time of heightened threat to the Filipino people. I'm ordering all Philippine National Police (PNP) units to be on full alert following the attacks in Bicol,” Año said.

Police forces, upon orders of PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde, have been deployed to 10 provinces in Samar, Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental and the Bicol Region to take on a defensive stance against communist terrorist groups.

Año said the DILG will continue to pursue localized peace negotiations with NPA units because they are not giving up on peace.

“Now that President Rodrigo Duterte has signed Executive Order (EO) No. 70 series of 2018, we at DILG will at once get the ball rolling in this whole-of-nation approach to end local communist insurgency and achieving sustainable peace in the country,” Año said.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Dec. 4, 2018 signed EO No. 70 series of 2018, creating the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, which is headed by Duterte himself as chair and the National Security Adviser as vice chair.

The DILG serves as one of the nine-member agencies of the task force and will assist in the crafting of the National Peace Framework within six months following the issuance of the EO.

“Mas may mapapala pa tayo sa localized peace talks kesa sa CPP/NPA/ NDF dahil ang makakausap ng mga local chief executives ay yun mismong mga rebelde sa lugar. Hindi nagkukulang ang pamahalaan sa pagsusulong ng tunay na kapayapaan. Lahat ng pinto at bintana, binuksan na natin para maging posible ito (We can get more results in localized peace talks than talks with CPP/NPA/NDF because the local chief executives themselves would talk with rebels in the area. The government has not been remissed in pushing for peace. All the doors and windows have been opened so that this could be possible),” Año said.

PRRD won't allow violation of peace talks: Palace

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 19): PRRD won't allow violation of peace talks: Palace

Malacañang said Wednesday President Rodrigo R. Duterte is open to end bloodshed but will "never allow" New People’s Army (NPA) rebels to violate the peace talks.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this response when asked if the government is still open to peace talks despite Duterte’s remarks about showing no mercy to the NPA rebels.

“The President is always open to end bloodshed in this country. He doesn’t want any killing among Filipinos but for as long as they violate the terms of the peace talks, then the President will not allow it to happen,” Panelo said in a Palace media briefing.

In front of barangay leaders, Duterte expressed frustration over attacks carried out by NPA rebels in Sorsogon and Davao region despite the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) declaration of a unilateral Christmas ceasefire.

“Because of the violence enacted by the NPA, I don’t think it’s a good idea to push through with the peace talks,” Duterte said in his speech during the Barangay Summit on Good Governance held in Davao City on Tuesday night.

Duterte believed the insurgency issue will not be addressed “through talks because truthfully, they haven’t really fully immersed themselves in the actual government system where they ought to do daily activities that would ensure their union with government”.

“A while later, in the middle of the night, they attacked Magallanes in Sorsogon and other attacks there. Here in the Davao region, the wife of a CAFGU (Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit) was their victim. How is that morally acceptable?” he said.

Duterte said the NPA rebels do not deserve mercy “because you are a cruel and brutal people.”

“Don’t surrender anymore because if I see you again, I will shoot you. Wala nang surrender-surrender (No more surrender) because you are a cruel and brutal people,” the President said.

“I’ll just finish you off. Why? If I don’t do it, you go again around the community asking for money and killing them if we don’t give. So, you are already in a continuous crime of rebellion 24 hours a day. Why do I need to have a warrant? By the fact that you are a rebel, you are a 24-hour violator of the Revised Penal Code of rebellion,” he added.

Panelo said the CPP should have shown sincerity when they declared a Christmas truce.

“If you’re going to have a truce, you might as well show your sincerity by not doing anything contrary to what your intention is,” he said.

Panelo said the Palace is still keeping its decision not to reciprocate a holiday truce declared by the CPP based on the recommendation of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

Lorenzana reportedly said the CPP might use the holiday truce to strengthen its force in time for its 50th anniversary on December 26.

US seeks robust engagement with PH in 2019

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 19): US seeks robust engagement with PH in 2019

The United States expects better engagement with the Philippines in 2019 through increased military exercises, closer partnership on the economic front, and improved people-to-people ties.

"As I've mentioned, the exercises will continue, (I) expect it to be more robust than this year (and) I think our economic partnership will continue to grow. Filipino and Americans have deep respect for each other, I expect that to deepen in the years ahead," US Ambassador Sung Kim said in a CNN Philippines interview Wednesday.

Kim said the US-Philippines relations grew stronger in 2018 with the historic return of the Balangiga Bells to its original home in Eastern Samar.

"(It) symbolizes the state of the (US-Philippines) relationship, the depth of the relationship, and the mutual respect we have for each other," he added.

"Where we are going is I think the most exciting, I really believe the potential for this country and our relations is great. On the economic front, we continue to deepen our trade and investment ties," he said.

The envoy further said the share of American and Filipino nationals in both countries also reflects the two nations' positive people-to-people ties.

"People-to-people ties cannot be ignored, we have four million Filipino-Americans contributing to American society, (while) we have 250,000 Americans living in the Philippines. Our embassy continues to be the largest in visa-issuing, which means we continue to invite and send Filipino to the US for business, education, etc. I think our ties will continue to deepen in the years to come," he said.

Focused on exploring ways to improve Manila and Washington's partnership, Kim noted that the US does not consider the growing relations between China and the Philippines a concern.

"The fact that Philippines is interested in improving relations with China is not surprising and is not by itself a concern. I think all of the countries in the region wants to have a productive, constructive relationship with China, especially on trade and investment," he said.

"What I focus on is making sure that US-Philippines alliance continues, strong even as the Philippines improves relations with other countries including China," he added.

Kim, on the other hand, maintained that US would continue its commitment to uphold the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, where Beijing and Manila have overlapping claims.