Saturday, December 22, 2018

Come home this Christmas, 2ID top brass tells NPAs

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 22): Come home this Christmas, 2ID top brass tells NPAs

CAMP CAPINPIN, Tanay, Rizal – A top military brass commander of the Philippine Army’s 2nd Infantry “Jungle Fighter” Division (2ID) here is appealing to the New People’s Army (NPA) communist terrorist group to give up their armed struggle and come home to celebrate Christmas and the New Year with their families and loved ones in peace, love and joy, even for a lifetime as they return to normal lives.

Major General Rhoderick M. Parayno, Commander of the Army’s 2ID made the appeal to the communist insurgents in his speech before various stakeholders and the media in a fellowship gathering at this camp’s Division Training School early Thursday evening.

“We are banking on the help of our various stakeholders, local government chief executives and the media especially this Christmas Season to help us convince our brothers who got lost to just come back to the folds of the law. Be productive and responsible citizens,” Parayno said.

The 2ID commanding general encouraged the NPAs to come home this Yuletide Season so they could feel how one could really enjoy living in a democratic country where one is free and productive and that one does not have to fear for anything that could happen to them any moment.

“Iba rin kasi yung feeling na umuuwi ka sa inyong bahay, na naroroon ang iyong pamilya, kayakap mo ang iyong mga anak. Kasi, pag nakaramdan ka ng ganyan, you will suddenly realize na ba’t ba ako nagpapakahirap, samantalang pwede naman pala ako mabuhay ng tahimik at produktibo (it’s a different feeling to be at home and be around with your family and hug your children. Because, if you could feel that way, you will suddenly realize why do I have to suffer this way, when I could rather live in peace and be productive),” Parayno said.

He said the return of fellow Filipinos who have lost the cause for their armed struggle against the government could instead help their respective communities at the local level, help the government by starting to first be back in the mainstream and concentrate on their families.

“Kasi pag maganda ang kinalabasan ng management ninyo sa pamilya (because if the management of your respective family could turn out well), then that can easily radiate to the community, to the barangays and even to the towns and local governments,” the 2ID commander added.

He assured that the government, along with the Local Government Units (LGUs) and various government agencies and the Enhanced Comprehensive Livelihood Integration Program (E-CLIP) stand ready and are hopeful to assist the rebel returnees.

He announced that already the island provinces of Marinduque and Romblon have been declared “insurgency-free” with Batangas province coming next by this month as processes have been undertaken for the rebels' continuing surrenders in recent months.

“In Mindoro alone, we had recorded a total of 89 surrenderees just for two months this November and December. And of this 89, karamihan dito about 70 plus of them are members of the ‘Militia ng Bayan’ na nasa barangay who are full-timers, meaning nag-take oath sila sa NPA. Kapag may offensive na gagawin, sila ay dadaanan, bibigyan ng armas at isinasama sa mga opensiba (many of these around 70 plus of them are members of the militant armed group in the villages who are full-timers, who have taken their oath with the NPA. If there is an offensive to be conducted, these members would be tapped, given arms and be part of the offensives),” Parayno said.

Parayno also said remaining “gray areas” in the hinterlands of Rizal, Laguna and Quezon, as the armed insurgents no longer have strong presence in the urban centers due to combined military and police efforts in cooperation with the LGUs, forcing the NPA comrades to hide in the highlands.

“Nung pinadala natin ang isang batalyon sa Umiray ay mas lalong sumikip ang kanilang mundo kaya bagamat hindi sila nagsurrender sa atin, doon sila sumirender sa 7th Division kasi ang Umiray ay nasa boundary ng 7th Division, area ng Aurora province and North Quezon (when we deployed a battalion in Umiray, their (NPAs) scope has eventually waned until they surrendered instead to the 7th (Infantry) Division as Umiray lies at the boundary of the 7th division, at the jurisdiction of Aurora province next to North Quezon),” Parayno said.

He said the NPAs surrendered in Umiray as it is the most accessible area of the military jurisdiction, an indication that these efforts only prove the armed insurgency has declined in the military and police areas of operation.

“Pinakaimportante dito, yung mga encounters namin (The most important point here is that the encounters) since September are all products of information given to us by the civilians. Kung mangagaling sa mga communities ang reports (if the reports came from the communities), we are immediately verifying the information and then we act on the report,” the 2ID commander said.

MILF chief welcomes 'inclusive business model' for Bangsamoro

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 22): MILF chief welcomes 'inclusive business model' for Bangsamoro

The chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) expressed support for the concept of “inclusive business model” during the launch of the Business Sustainability Framework in the Bangsamoro (BSFB) here Friday.

In his message read by Edward Guerra, co-chair of the Government and MILF joint normalization committee, MILF chief Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said "the inclusive business model is the one best suited for the region where poverty incidence is 48 percent, the highest in the country.”

“This BSFB launch could not have come at a more appropriate time as we prepare for a new political arrangement with the national government,” Murad added.

In a statement, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Regional Board of Investments (RBOI) said the inclusive business model, “while attaining for profit, also benefits the poor.”

“It attends to the higher calling of benefiting low-income communities, not through charitable acts but through the inclusion of the poor in the business operations providing them livelihood that will build a dignified society,” the agency said.

For Murad, the continuing engagement of the business sector and other stakeholders in the region “is a testament of their confidence in our ability to transition smoothly into what we envision is a better future with a more stable policy environment for the business sector.”

The BSFB launch was led by the RBOI-ARMM, together with the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) and Hineleban Foundation Inc. (HFI).

The BSFB was crafted through the Brokering Business Investments in the Bangsamoro to Achieve Inclusive Development and Growth or BRIDGe project funded by the Australian government.

The BRIDGe project is designed to increase investments that would hasten the development and peaceful integration of Muslim Mindanao into the national economy.

RBOI-ARMM said it is the concept of inclusive business that is a major strategy for poverty reduction as it integrates and enables low-income communities to participate in the value chain of a company’s core business, either as employees, suppliers, distributors, retailers or consumers who are then able to access goods and services at affordable prices and improve their lives.

Lawyer Ishak Mastura, RBOI chair, said the inclusive business model is part of BOI/RBOI Investment Priorities Plan 2017-2019 so that businesses having this kind of model can enjoy fiscal incentives from the RBOI.

“Next year, we will be turning-over the BSFB to the new government and we expect them to carry the ball of investment promotion and investments towards sustainable and inclusive development,” Mastura added.

The BSFB was first launched in Manila last September 28.

DENR to renew services of ex-rebels as forest guards

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 22): DENR to renew services of ex-rebels as forest guards

HIRING OF FOREST GUARDS TO CONTINUE. Simon Elmer C. Colacion, Regional PAMANA Coordinator, says the services of 100 members of the Kapatiran Para sa Progresong Panlipunan, Inc. (Kapatiran) hired as forest guards will continue in 2019. (Photo by Perla Lena)

ILOILO CITY -- A total of 100 members of the Kapatiran Para sa Progresong Panlipunan, Inc. are assured of the continuity of their service as forest guards with the approval of the PHP9.6 million intended for their salaries next year.

The Kapatiran is an association of former rebels, particularly of the Rebolusyonaryong Partidong Manggagawa Pilipinas, Revolutionary Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPM-P/RPA-ABB).

Under the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program implemented by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and in partnership with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), some Kapatiran members were hired as forest guards under the National Greening Program (NGP).

Simon Elmer Colacion, Regional PAMANA Coordinator, said during a media forum held this week that they will be receiving PHP8,000 per month as honorarium.

The forest guards are spread across the four provinces of Western Visayas, with Negros Occidental getting 58; Antique, 22; Aklan, 14; and Iloilo with six forest guards.

“They are profiled members of the RPA and assessed by the OPAPP,” he said, adding that should there be requests for additional guards, it still has to go through the OPAPP.

In Aklan, the forest guards monitor and watch over forestlands, and provide support to regular forest rangers in the conduct of forest protection activities.

They also help serve show cause orders to non-compliant establishments on Boracay Island.

They cover the municipalities of Madalag, Malinao, Makato, Tangalan, Ibajay, Nabas, Malay and Buruanga, measuring 44,239 hectares.

The PAMANA program is the national government’s peace and development framework to respond to and strengthen peace-building, reconstruction and development in conflict-affected area.

In support of the program, the DENR is committed to provide employment to members of the RPM-P/RPA-ABB Tabara Paduano Group (TPG), enroll the Kapatiran to the NGP and identify peace and development community sites for the group.

Colacion said the group has been responsible for maintaining peace and order in Aklan.

“At present they (rebel returnees) are engaged in various income-generating projects and some were hired as forest guards,” he said.

The Aklan and Negros Occidental chapters of the Kapatiran were awarded a tenurial instrument called community-based forest management agreement (CBFMA).

With the CBFMA, members have tenurial security to develop, use, and manage specific portions of forest lands within their peace and development community (PDC) sites, resulting in the promotion of forest protection and utilize and sustain forest products.

Two of the four PDC sites in Aklan and Negros Occidental were awarded the CBFMA -- Ibajay, Aklan and Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental.

The PDCs in the cities of Cadiz and San Carlos in Negros Occidental entered into an agreement with the DENR to develop and protect portions of the Northern Negros Natural Park.

Davao police now on 'double full alert' amid NPA attacks

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 23): Davao police now on 'double full alert' amid NPA attacks

The city and regional police raised the security level in Davao to double full alert following incidents in other provinces where the communist New People’s Army (NPA) launched attacks against government troops.

Chief Supt. Marcelo Morales, Police Regional Office (PRO)-11 director, ordered all police units and stations to conduct checkpoints and apply simulation exercises.

“I am reminding all police units on their security awareness and consciousness in order not to give opportunity for the enemy to attack,” Morales said, citing the pre-dawn attack by the communist rebels in Sibagat, Agusan del Sur last Wednesday, December 19.

In the incident, some 50 NPA combatants abducted two soldiers and 12 militiamen, and seized high-powered firearms including 17 M16 rifles and two R4 assault rifles.
Morales said there is also need for the police to enhance intelligence gathering and coordination with other law enforcement units, including the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“We will maintain high alert -- full alert,” Morales said in an interview on Friday.

Senior Supt. Alexander, Tagum Davao City Police Office head, assured that "while the people are enjoying Christmas, policemen will secure and protect them."

Tagum said he cannot discount possibilities that enemies will launch harassments. “We don’t want surprises here. Tanan alert (All are alert),” Tagum said.

Tagum said police stations have already set up their assistance desks outside of the building, citing a deceptive tactic used by the NPA to ask help from the police.

“We have to entertain people seeking police assistance at the perimeter of the station,” Tagum said. Tagum assured that the city police is ready for the holiday season, with a total of 2,025 cops deployed in all areas.

The city, he said, is also getting augmentation from the Regional Maneuver Force Battalion.

Suspected Abu Sayyaf nabbed in Manila: NCRPO

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 22): Suspected Abu Sayyaf nabbed in Manila: NCRPO

A suspected member of the Abu Sayyaf, who was involved in kidnappings, has been arrested in Tondo, Manila, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Director Guillermo Eleazar said on Saturday.

Eleazar identified the suspect as Sudais Asmad, 25, native of Landang, Zamboanga del Sur, and residing at the Baseco Compound, Block 9, Tondo in Manila.

He was arrested in Barangay 271 in Binondo, Manila at about 10:05 p.m. Thursday for kidnapping and serious illegal detention charges.

Asmad, allegedly a follower of Abu Sayyaf Group leader Furuji Indama, was reportedly in Manila to receive financial support from sympathizers, and other unknown missions.

Operatives of the Regional Special Operations Unit (RSOU) of NCRPO served the warrant of arrest against the suspect. The enforcers also recovered a pistol, a magazine loaded with four live ammunition, and a chamber loaded with one live ammunition during the police operation.

Eleazar said investigation showed that Asmad was part of the Abu Sayyaf group that kidnapped 15 employees of the Golden Harvest Plantation in Lantawan, Basilan from June to October 2001. One of the victims identified Asmad as one of the kidnappers and provided an affidavit of his involvement in the crime.

Asmad is said to be the liaison and escort/guide of Balik Islam from Luzon to Basilan province and was also alleged to be part of a group from Basilan that was supposed to augment the local terrorist group under Isnilon Hapilon during the Marawi Siege in May 2017.

The suspect and the recovered pieces of evidence were brought to the RSOU for investigation and proper disposition.

The suspect is under the custody of the RSOU in Camp Bagong Diwa. In addition to his kidnapping charges, Asmad will also face charges for violating Republic Act No. 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act of 2013.

PRRD thanks soldiers for sacrifices ahead of Christmas

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 23): PRRD thanks soldiers for sacrifices ahead of Christmas

President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Saturday night greeted his troops and their families ahead of Christmas, assuring them that the government will continue to pursue the modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“As we celebrate the Holidays, I would like to extend my greetings to our troops’ respective families and loved ones who have also shared the risks and sacrifices of our soldiers as they faced today’s security challenges,” Duterte said in his speech at Camp General Manuel Yan Sr. in Compostela Valley.

Duterte particularly recognized the AFP’s 10th Infantry Division for their efforts in combating communist insurgency in Mindanao noting that the surrender of almost 8,000 communist rebels and the recovery of some 700 firearms this year was a feat on its own.

He called on troops to remain committed to their sworn duty to protect Filipinos and at the same time assured them of his full support as the government continues to ensure the security of Mindanao.

The President also vowed to continue the government’s AFP Modernization Program to allow them to perform their duties more effectively and look after slain soldiers’ families.

Meanwhile, Duterte expressed confidence that the AFP will continue to ensure peace across the nation in the years to come.

He said although he could not include another visit to see his troops in his schedule on Christmas day, he reiterated his commitment to watch out for their welfare.

“Merry Christmas, especially to your family. We'll just pray that you're in good health and just be careful,” Duterte said.

In the same speech, Duterte urged the military to “destroy” communist rebels as he insisted on his refusal to subscribe to their five-day holiday ceasefire declaration.

“We do not subscribe to their ceasefire. We are ready for anything and I said change your paradigm. Do not fight them. Destroy them. Destroy them. Kill them,” Duterte said.

Destroy NPA, Duterte tells troops

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 23): Destroy NPA, Duterte tells troops

Don’t just fight, but destroy communist rebels, President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Saturday told the military as he reiterated his refusal to subscribe to their five-day holiday ceasefire declaration.

“We do not subscribe to their ceasefire, we are ready for anything. Change your paradigm, do not fight them, destroy them. Destroy them, kill them,” Duterte said in a speech at Camp General Manuel Yan Sr. in Compostela Valley.

Duterte said eliminating all members of the New People’s Army was the only way to achieve law and order in the country.

“Law and order, means you have to destroy, not really fight, but destroy the Communist Party of the Philippines, including its legal fronts and infrastructure,” Duterte said.

“Unless we are able to destroy every one of them, ang ating mga anak o apo ninyo ganun pa rin ang haharapin (our children and grandchildren will face the same problems),” he said.

Duterte also asked the soldiers to remain committed to their sworn duty to protect Filipinos, noting that he never doubted their capabilities to keep the nation safe from all threats.

Meanwhile, the President also called on communist rebels anew to abandon their extremist activities and return to the fold of law.

“[Discard] the outmoded ideology that has led you astray and reintegrate into society, so you can lead more dignified lives,” Duterte said.

In an earlier speech, Duterte said NPA rebels do not deserve mercy because they are “cruel and brutal people” and would rather have the military finish them off.

“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,” Duterte said.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said communist rebels should show sincerity when they declare a Christmas truce insisting that Palace is firm on its decision not to reciprocate the holiday truce.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the Communist Party of the Philippines could use the holiday truce to strengthen its force in time for its 50th anniversary on December 26.

Umano’y miyembro ng Abu Sayyaf, huli sa Binondo

From Remate (Dec 22): Umano’y miyembro ng Abu Sayyaf, huli sa Binondo

Arestado ang isang hinihinalang miyembro ng Abu Sayyaf Group sa Binondo, Maynila Biyernes ng gabi.

Kinilala ang suspek na umano’y may kasong abduction ilang taon na ang nakalilipas na si Sudais Sali Asmad, 25, delivery boy, tubong Landang, Zamboanga, del Sur, at kasalukuyang nakatira sa Baseco Compound.

Si Asmad ay naaresto ng pinagsanib na puwersa ng National Capital Region Police Office’s Regional Special Operations Unit at Intelligence Group ng PNP sa Elcano St., Binondo matapos makatanggap ng impormasyon ang pulisya sa kanyang kinaroroonan.

Kinilala din ni NCRPO Director Police Director Guillermo Eleazar ang suspek sa alyas na “Abu Nas”, Alias “Suhud”, “Jul” at naakusahan ito ng pagkidnap sa 15 indibidwal.

Inaresto ito sa bisa ng warrant of arrest na inisyu noong January 28, 2008 ni Hon. Judge Leo Jay Principe, Presiding Judge RTC Branch 1, 9th Judicial Region Isabela ,Basilan sa kasong kidnapping at serious illegal detention.

Lumabas sa imbestigasyon na 15 empleyado ng Golden Harvest Plantation na matatagpuan sa Barangay Taira, Mantawan, Basilan ang kanilang kinidnap noong Hunyo hanggang Oktubre 2001.

Isa sa naging biktima ang positibong nagturo at nagbigay ng kanyang affidavit laban sa partisipasyon ni Asmad

Parte rin si Asmad ng grupo mula sa Basilan Province na dapat mag-augment sa grupo ng local terrorist sa ilalim ng Isnilon Hapilon sa panahon ng Marawi Siege.

Nasa Maynila umano ito upang tumanggap ng financial support mula sa mga sympathizers ng Dawlah Islamiya.

Nakuha sa suspek ang 45 kalibre pistol at magazine na loaded ng limang bala.

Police nab alleged Abu Sayyaf member in Binondo

From ABS-CBN (Dec 22): Police nab alleged Abu Sayyaf member in Binondo

Image result for Sudais Sali Asmad

Police arrested suspected Abu Sayyaf group member Sudais Sali Asmad in Binondo, Manila Friday night. Photos from the National Capital Region Police Office's Regional Special Operations Unit

MANILA - Police on Friday arrested an alleged member of the Abu Sayyaf Group in Binondo district here for abduction cases filed against him more than 10 years ago.

An initial police report said Sudais Sali Asmad, 25, was arrested at 10:05 p.m. Friday in a joint operation of the National Capital Region Police Office's Regional Special Operations Unit and the Philippine National Police Intelligence Group on Elcano Street.

Police served him a January 2008 arrest warrant for seven cases of kidnapping and serious illegal detention pending in a Basilan court.

Operatives recovered a caliber .45 pistol with one magazine loaded with 5 bullets, the report said.

Police said Asmad is a member of the bandit group "under the umbrella of the Daulah Islamiyah under the group of Furuji Indama."

Daulah Islamiyah, an organization linked to the terror group Islamic State, includes the Maute family, whose members were behind the 5-month siege of Marawi City in 2017.

Police said Asmad "served as the liason and escort" and "guide of Balik Islam," or those converting into the Islamic faith, from Luzon to Basilan.

"Accordingly, he stayed in Manila to receive financial support from the sympathizers of the Daulah Islamiyah," the report read.

Half a century of conflict

From the Business Mirror (Dec 23): Half a century of conflict


HALF a century after it was formed to wage a protracted guerrilla war against the government, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) continues to assert that the movement is still making great strides to achieve its goals, a claim which defense and military officials strongly dispute.

Both parties have made their own assertions as the CPP marks its golden anniversary in three days, and days after its guerrillas captured two soldiers and 12 militiamen in Agusan del Sur. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana believes the abduction could be used by the rebels as leverage for the resumption of the peace talks that President Duterte permanently scuttled last month.

The CPP’s struggle, direction

CPP founder Jose Ma. Sison, who has been in exile since 1986 in the Netherlands, asserts that the CPP has systematically strengthened itself “ideologically, politically and organizationally,” and it is now more entrenched among communities across the country.

When it was founded under the theoretical guidance of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism on December 26, 1968, the CPP only had 80 members, mainly from Manila, Central and Southern Luzon.

“Now it has more than 70,000 members nationwide in all regions and provinces of the country and it is deeply rooted among the workers, peasants, indigenous peoples, youth, women and other sectors of Philippine society,” Sison told the BusinessMirror.

“The CPP has organized and led local organs of political power in thousands of barangays, who constituted the people’s democratic government of workers and peasants [PDG] in order to oppose the reactionary government of big compradors, landlords and corrupt bureaucrats based in the urban areas,” he added.

The PDG is in charge of various functions, including public education, land reform, production, mass campaigns, health and sanitation, arbitration and justice, self-defense, cultural work and others.

The rise of the PDG, Sison said, was borne by the growth in strength and advance of CPP’s military arm, the New People’s Army (NPA), whose strength, according to Lorenzana, is ebbing.

Lorenzana said the gains that Sison is claiming are merely based on propaganda and, as it is, skirt the factual condition on the ground—with what is actually happening within the revolutionary movement around the country.

Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Benjamin Madrigal said the CPP’s clout has been on a steady decline, something that Sison refused to admit.

During its Second Congress held on October 24 up to November 7, 2016, which the underground movement said was attended by leading cadres representing the 70,000 members of the CPP, the congress elected a new central committee and political bureau with a five-year term.

The new central leadership represented the CPP’s “most advanced cadres and integrates young, middle-aged and senior cadres to ensure the smooth transition of leadership to the next generation.”

It was during this meeting, and even with the CPP’s Central Committee plenum in December, also in 2016, where the rebels hatched the three-year plan to oust President Duterte should he refuse to go into a coalition government with the Left, according to Lorenzana.

He said the plot was reinforced during the plenum of the NPA’s military commission in January 2017. The alleged plot was among the reasons the military recommended the termination of talks with the CPP’s political arm, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Lorenzana said the meetings were held while the government and the rebels were observing a unilateral cease-fire, which the NPA, he said, had also used to recruit members.

The umbrella organization

The CPP carried out and adopted the policy of having a united front by organizing the NDFP in order to reach Filipinos, and which it founded on April 24, 1973. It considered the umbrella organization as its most “solid realization.”

Sison said the NDFP currently counts 18 formations or groups, which included the CPP, NPA, the Christians for National Liberation, the revolutionary organizations of the people of the Cordillera, Aetas, Moros, Lumad and other national minorities, and the underground mass organizations of workers, peasants, youth, women, teachers, cultural workers, lawyers, health professionals, scientists and technologists, and from other sectors.

Sison did not identify these groups, but said the mass organizations and movements of people serve as the foundation of the CPP, NPA and the NDFP.

“They have patriotic and progressive members and followers who run into millions. They uphold the rights and interests of all the oppressed and exploited people in various classes and sectors. They continuously learn the conditions, needs and demands of the people and they struggle for national and social liberation against foreign domination and the local exploiting classes,” he said.

The military maintains that members of the central committee of the CPP form the backbone of the NDFP and what is only left of the umbrella organization is the NDFP itself, the CPP and the NPA.

According to Lorenzana, at least 16 “high-value targets” from the central committee have been neutralized.

The armed wing

On March 29, 1969, the CPP founded its armed wing, the NPA, in the Second District of Tarlac with only 60 fighters, who shared nine automatic rifles and 26 “inferior firearms.”

“Now the NPA is in the thousands with high-powered rifles, supported by tens of thousands of people’s militia acting as the local police force in barangays and hundreds of thousands in self-defense forces of the mass organizations,” Sison said.

The communist founder claimed the rebels are operating in more than 110 guerrilla fronts, covering a big part of 73 out of the 81 provinces in 17 regions outside Metro Manila.

The NPA is assisted by the people’s militia and self-defense units of mass organizations. It follows the strategic line of protracted people’s war, carries out agrarian revolution and guarantees the building and functioning of the people’s democratic government.

Sison said the NPA was the strongest “people’s army” that was assembled since the defeat of the Philippine revolutionary army by the US in 1902 and since the backbone of the Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan was broken in 1952.

He claimed that the current armed strength of the NPA in terms of high-powered rifles is bigger than the 5,600 recorded in the 1985 plenum of the CPP Central Committee.

“This is contrary to the claim of the enemy that the NPA had 25,000 in the mid-1980s and that it has only 2,000 to 4,000 now. And yet the tyrant Duterte and his military minions claim to have caused the surrender and death of more than 7,000 Red commanders and fighters, victimizing the civilian population and privately collecting reward money for the purpose,” he said.

The NPA, Sison said, has an effective national operational command, with several departments, including political, personnel training, intelligence, logistics, ordnance, medical and technical, and with lower levels of command down to the basic level.

Lorenzana said, however, the rebels are being decimated to the point that it was already forced to deploy even young fighters from the Visayas and Mindanao to Northern Luzon, particularly in the province of Abra.

He cited the recent surrender to the military in Abra of six Visayan-speaking young fighters from Mindanao.

Military Public Affairs Office chief Col. Noel Detoyato said the former rebels were transported from Butuan to Manila by legal fronts of the CPP, where they joined rallies before they were deployed to Abra as fighters.

Detoyato claimed the number of rebels in the area of the Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) has greatly dwindled.

“About 70 percent of their members in the Eastmincon is Lumad and most, if not all, have already surrendered,” he said.

The military reported that from January up to November this year alone, a total of 10,986 rebels and members of the Sangay ng Partido sa Lokal, Militia ng Bayan, underground organizations and mass supporters have been neutralized, arrested or have surrendered. At least 280 encampments were also seized.

Lorenzana said the government has also cleared 210 barangays from the influence of the NPA and dismantled three guerrilla fronts and broke or captured territorial commissions such as those from Northern and Southern Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

The defense secretary said the massive and steady stream of surrenders from the Left was the principal reason they constituted the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) under the reinvigorated Task Force Balik Loob, headed by Defense Undersecretary Jose Mapagu.

Peace talks nil

The CPP doubts that the scuttled peace talks could still be resurrected and pursued under the Duterte administration despite a recent resolution from the House of Representatives urging the government to revive and continue the negotiations.

“Duterte has been carrying out an all-out war policy since he became president. And he has terminated the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations so many times and has even deployed Duterte death squads to murder any suspected potential or actual member of the NPA by using the same modus operandi of extrajudicial killings in Oplan Tokhang against drug suspects,” Sison said.

Still, he said, the NDFP remains open to peace negotiations with the government in order to stop Duterte’s drive for a “fascist dictatorship and to demand social, economic and political reforms to address the roots of the armed conflict and lay the basis for a just and lasting peace.”

As the government and the rebels are at war, Sison said the CPP and the NPA have the right to defend themselves and carry forward their revolutionary cause through the people’s war for national and social liberation.

But Lorenzana shot down any effort for both parties to return to the negotiating table, claiming the talks were being used by the rebels, not for the objective of peace, but to further their ideological goal.

“If we sit down with them, our obsession is for peace. But for the NDFP and Sison, the peace talks are just part of their struggle,” he said. “Peace is not the end goal for them. The CPP-NPA is oriented to grab power and establish a communist rule.”

End of insurgency in 3 years

Sison said it would be “impossible” for the government to end the revolutionary movement within the remaining term of the administration by way of intense military operations.

The President has recently ordered the deployment of additional forces in the Bicol region, Samar and Negros provinces, areas where the rebels are reported to be still strong, in order to end what he called the lawlessness and terrorism that he attributed to the rebels.

“The reactionary military is the instrument of US imperialism and the local exploiting classes of big comprador, landlords and corrupt bureaucrats, now chiefly represented by the tyrannical Duterte regime. In contrast, the CPP, NPA and other revolutionary forces are the instruments of the oppressed and exploited people for their national and social liberation.”

“It has worked out the strategy of protracted people’s war by which the NPA accumulates armed strength in the countryside until it is possible to seize political power in the cities. The armed revolution advances wave upon wave as a result of the struggle to seize weapons from the enemy side, carry out agrarian revolution and build the mass base in the countryside,” he said.

The communist founder said the President himself is “unwittingly” helping the armed revolution “by abusing and violating the national and democratic rights of the people, thus driving them to join the revolution, and by sending his troops to the countryside for ambush by the NPA.”

“Therefore Duterte is aptly described as the best unwitting recruiter of the CPP. He is also the chief transport and supply officer of the NPA,” he said.

According to Sison, the Duterte administration cannot simply end the CPP and the NPA with mere military force.

“The CPP and NPA have outlasted all regimes, including the 14-year Marcos ‘fascist dictatorship’ that have boasted of finishing them off,” he said.

“They will continue to exist and grow stronger long after the rule of Duterte, whether he can last until the end of his term in 2022 or whether he succeeds in his mad drive to establish a fascist dictatorship through Cha-cha [Charter change] for a bogus kind of federalism.”

He said an overstretched military cannot defeat the rebels spread across the country.

Sison said 75 of the total 98 maneuver battalions of the military are concentrated in Mindanao under conditions of martial law. Forty-four battalions are deployed against the NPA areas and 31 against Bangsamoro groups.

“Meanwhile, the guerrilla fronts in Luzon and the Visayas have even better opportunities for launching and winning offensives against the overstretched 23 maneuver battalions that are deployed against them,” he said.

“As it has been able to do repeatedly, the NPA can take advantage of gaps in the enemy encirclement operations and conduct counter-encirclement operations and annihilate the vulnerable parts of the enemy forces in Mindanao. The party and the NPA can use the basic tactics of guerrilla warfare, as well as more complex tactics against both the military and police forces of the enemy,” Sison added.

Lorenzana, however, said the continued neutralization of the rebels and the massive surrender of their colleagues and their supporters all point to the demise of the rebel movement.

This situation was the basis for Duterte’s earlier declaration that the CPP-NPA would be over by next year.

The military is more modest, with no less than Lorenzana reiterating that they could end the insurgency within Duterte’s administration.

He said the localized talks, wherein the local government units are taking the lead, would take the communist experiment to its “coffin.”

Amid such claim and counterclaim, the one burning question left is: Will the country ever know peace after half a century?

Bulatlat: Reds in Bicol vow to frustrate Duterte’s ‘counterinsurgency’ ops

From the pro-Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)/National Democratic Front (NDF)/New People's Army (NPA) online propaganda publication Bulatlat (Dec 22): Reds in Bicol vow to frustrate Duterte’s ‘counterinsurgency’ ops

“In any war, the people are the most decisive and so, the military will never be able to crush the Party.”

New People’s Army guerrillas hold a drill somewhere in Bicol region in preparation for the 50th anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea / Bulatlat)

BICOL REGION – A few weeks after President Rodrigo Duterte signed Memorandum Order No. 32 ordering the deployment of more troops to Bicol, Samar and Negros, the Romulo Jallores Command of the New People’s Army (RJC-NPA) declared that Duterte would fail to end the longest-running armed revolution in the world.

In a press conference somewhere in the mountainous part of the region last week, Raymond Buenferza, spokesperson of the RJC-NPA, said in Filipino, “The people’s army will never ever be defeated.”

Buenferza said that MO no. 32 and the subsequent Executive Order No. 70 outlining the government’s ‘national task force to end insurgency’ signal more rights violations in the region and in the entire country.

The NPA spokesperson said that the military targets civilians, adding that there have been 77 victims of extrajudicial killings in the region since Duterte assumed the presidency.

Buenferza said the NPA units in the region, in response to the “heightening calls for justice,” carried out 87 tactical offensives in 2018, killing 68 state security forces and wounding 48 others.

He cited the NPA ambush on a convoy of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Lupi, Camarines Sur on Oct. 18 as punishment to policemen engaged in “anti-drug” operations. Three police officers were killed.

Buenferza said the Army’s 9th Infantry Battalion (IB) and the Task Force Bicolandia failed to crush the revolutionary movement in Bicol in 2018.

With the deployment of 49th IB, 42nd IB, Special Action Forces and Duterte death squads in the region, Buenferza said, the NPA in Bicol would have the opportunity to punish these units for their crimes against the people.

Using civilian agencies for military purposes

The revolutionary groups in Bicol also criticized EO 70 for including 14 civilian agencies in the so-called National Task Force To End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

Under the EO, civilian agencies such as the Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Education, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Justice, among others, are mandated to provide support to the task force.

Buenferza revealed that military units have signed memorandum of agreements with local government units in Bicol, forcing the latter to report activities of the revolutionary movement.

Michael Robredo, spokesperson of the NPA-Norben Gruta Command operating in West Camarines Sur, said that even before EO 70, soldiers have been occupying public places such as barangay halls and schools and even homes of civilians. “They are forcing people to provide information about the NPA,” Robredo said.

OptimisticSamuel Guerrero, spokesperson of the New People’s Army Celso Minguez Command, is confident that the Duterte administration will fail to crush the revolutionary movement.

Still, the revolutionary forces in the region are confident they will continue to gain more strength.

Buenferza said that despite the continuous military operations in the region, the NPA has gained more strength and the mass base of the revolutionary forces has widened.

Samuel Guerrero, 69-year-old spokesperson of the NPA-Celso Minguez Command, said this is because the revolutionary movement is deeply rooted among the masses.

“In any war, the people are the most decisive and so, the military will never be able to crush the Party,” (referring to the Communist Party of the Philippines),” he said in Filipino.

Guerrero, who has been a guerrilla for 27 years, said the NPA is not just a fighting force but also implements agrarian revolution, participates in agricultural production, provides services to the poor, among others.

As the 50th anniversary of the CPP draws near, Guerrero looks forward to victory.

“They only comprise one percent of the population. If all the oppressed and the exploited would unite [against the ruling elite], we could defeat them,” he said.

NPA couple, son surrender ammo marked ‘Govt Arsenal’

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 22): NPA couple, son surrender ammo marked ‘Govt Arsenal’

SURRENDERERS. (From left) Civil Military Operations Officer of the Army’s 1003rd Infantry Brigade, Capt. Erick Wynmer Calulot; Police Regional Office 11 (Davao region) Director, Chief Supt. Marcelo Morales; and Davao City Police Director, Senior Supt. Alexander Tagum present to the press three communist rebel surrenderers in Camp Sgt. Quintin Merecido in Davao City Friday (Dec. 21, 2018). The three, who were operating in the boundaries of Davao City, Bukidnon, and Davao del Norte, also yielded firearms and ammunitions. (PNA photo by Lilian C. Mellejor)

DAVAO CITY -- A family of three, who are members of the New People's Army (NPA), have surrendered to the Davao police and handed over firearms and ammunitions marked “Government Arsenal” issued to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The surrenderers -- identified only as Olegario, 52, his wife Lucena, 49, and son Jesriel, 27, all of Sitio Banarao, Barangay Talandang, Tugbok District, this city -- were presented in a press conference at the Police Regional Office 11 (Davao region), Camp Sgt. Quintin Merecido in Buhangin here Friday. Their full names were withheld for security reasons.

PRO-11 Director, Chief Supt. Marcelo Morales, said all three were active members of the
NPA under Pulang Bagani Command 1 operating in the boundaries of Davao City, Bukidnon, and Davao del Norte.

Morales said the family will undergo further debriefing for other vital information, especially on their involvement in NPA activities in Davao.

Davao City Police Chief, Senior Supt. Alexander Tagum, said the couple used to be land tenants but left after the landowner accused them of qualified theft and filed a case against them.

They became members of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and eventually joined the NPA in 2015 after the communist movement promised to help them with their case.

Tagum confirmed the couple’s pending case for qualified theft. However, he said, someone has already committed to raise the money for their bail.

During the initial interview, the couple’s son, Jesriel, admitted he was one of those who burned the Lapanday box plant last year. Lapanday lost billions of pesos in that incident.

According to Tagum, the information from the three surrenderers would be vital to the campaign against the NPA. He said Jesriel also has information on the 14 NPA members, who were the subject of a police operation in Langub, Maa sometime in September, and in Victorio's Beach last month. Twelve of them are still at large.

The family’s house was reportedly an NPA rendezvous and firearms repository.

Government arsenal

During their surrender, the family handed over firearms and ammunitions bearing lot number issued by the defense department to the AFP.

The surrendered firearms and ammunitions consisted of a homemade Ingram Sub Machine Gun with more or less 50 rounds of live ammo; a 9-mm. pistol with live ammo; eight pieces of M203 live ammo; and two fragmentation grenades.

The ammunitions, which bear government markings and lot number, will now be the subject of an investigation by a task force, which Morales said he would create to trace the ammo’s source and how they landed in the hands of the NPA.

He said he would invite a military judge advocate so that the investigation would be fair.

Task Force Balik Loob process 300 former NPAs, rebel supporters

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 21): Task Force Balik Loob process 300 former NPAs, rebel supporters

Some 300 New People’s Army (NPA) members, supporters and members of the Communist group’s Underground Mass Organizations (UGMO) were presented by the Army’s 19th Infantry Battalion (19th IB) to Task Force Balik-Loob (TFBL) in two separate ceremonies held at Magpet, North Cotabato on Wednesday, December 19.

A cache of three garand rifles with magazine, a homemade M14 rifle, 11 homemade shotguns, a landmine and two pistols were also handed over by the surrenderers during the program.

Army 19th IB Commander Lt. Col. Ehrlich Noel Paraso, said the surrenderers are mostly Indigenous Peoples from barangays Bangkal and Kinarum of Magpet town who voluntarily turned themselves in to the military through the
Community Support Program (CSP).

“These people, who will now rejoin us in our quest for just and lasting peace in this part of Mindanao were just victims of the promises and blatant lies of the Communist New People’s Army (CNTs) and their allied organizations,” Paraso said.

Army First Lt. Prolen Bonacua, Commanding Officer of Alpha Company, 19th IB who facilitated the “Balik-Loob Program”, said more or less 300 persons, who claimed to be former full-time members of the NPA and Milisyang Bayan (MB) submitted themselves to the unit a few weeks ago.

“We decided to hold these ceremonies to make them fully aware about the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP). But they will still undergo validation before they are enrolled with the program”, Bonacua said.

Major Aristotle Antonio, representative of Task Force Balik-Loob (TFBL) discussed the salient features of the E-CLIP, and how a would-be beneficiary can avail of its benefits. Private institutions were also invited to discuss their programs and services for the former NPA rebels.

Jonnavey Juan, representative of the Davao City-based Endonela Institute of Technology Foundation Incorporated (EITFI), said they have skills training programs in partnership with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) that will help the surrenders land jobs.

On the other hand, Bae Anna Jessa Mae Crisostomo, President of Indigenous Peoples Youth Movement for Peace and Progress (IPYMPP), discussed the plight of the Indigenous Peoples (IPs) after years of having been under the influence of the NPA.

During the program, local officials of Barangays Kinarum and Bangkal signed two resolutions, declaring the CPP-NPA-NDF (CNN) and its allied organizations persona non grata in their respective villages.

Last year, President Duterte signed an Executive Order declaring the CPP-NPA as terrorists and subsequently warning anyone to be sanctioned according to law if found cuddling or cooperating with the terrorists.

Wanted NPA member nabbed for killing two farmers

From the Sun Star-Bacolod (Dec 21): Wanted NPA member nabbed for killing two farmers

A MEMBER of the New People’s Army (NPA) was arrested in Barangay General Luna, Sagay City, Negros Occidental Wednesday night, December 19.

Ricky Cañete, 40, was served with an arrest warrant for two counts of murder and frustrated murder issued by Sagay City Regional Trial Court Branch 73 Judge Reginald Fuentebella on July 27, 2018.

Police Chief Inspector Antonio Benitez Jr. said the suspect was involved in the killing of two farmers and injured another farmer in the said village during an attack on the farm workers’ bunkhouse on May 22, 2016.

The NPA captured then later released a paramilitary man in Barangay General Luna. They also burned the two bunkhouses and mounted their flag on the fence.

Benitez said the arrested NPA member was one of the identified perpetrators who committed the crime.

He has other colleagues but one of them was killed a few months ago in the city while others remain at large, the city top cop said.

Benitez said Cañete hid for almost two years by transferring from one house to another to evade arrest from the authorities.

Cañete is now detained at the custodial facility of the police station but he will be transferred to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology once the commitment order comes out.

Army colonel: Be aggressive vs NPA

From the Sun Star-Bacolod (Dec 21): Army colonel: Be aggressive vs NPA

COLONEL Benedict Arevalo, commanding officer of the 303rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army in Negros Occidental, ordered his men to be aggressive in running after the members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

This came following the death of a police officer in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental on Wednesday, December 19.
Senior Inspector Porferio Gabuya Jr., deputy for operations of Guihulngan City Police Station, was having a coffee with a colleague when two unidentified assailants on a black motorcycle attacked him in Barangay Poblacion.

The Negros Oriental Police Provincial Office (Norppo) is looking at the possibility that the NPA was behind the attack since the city is considered as rebel-infested area.
“Regardless if they deny it, it’s always good for the troops and police to be always alert and be security conscious at all times,” Arevalo said.

They are focusing on the NPA-perpetrated killings while the police focus on the criminalities, he added.
“I have just reminded our troops to be alert and vigilant in preventing these incidents from happening again,” Arevalo said.

“Our aggressiveness against the NPAs will be able to thwart their terroristic plans,” he added.

Norppo has yet to determine the motive of the killing and its perpetrators but they are also studying the cases handled by Gabuya particularly in illegal drugs.

Gabuya was transferred to Negros Oriental two months ago from Cebu Police Provincial Office.

Authorities are also trying to find out the reason for his relief in Cebu.

Apolinario Gaitmaitan Command (AGC) said the NPA-Negros has nothing to do with the death of Gabuya.

The AGC condemns the spate of killings under the regime of President Rodrigo Duterte and the culture of impunity perpetuated by him.

In July 2017, Superintendent Arnel Arpon, former chief of Guihulngan City Police Station, along with four personnel of the city police station were killed in an ambush perpetrated by the NPA in Barangay Magsaysay, when they responded to a call for assistance from Councilor Edison de la Rita, who was also killed by the group in Barangay Poblacion in April 2018.

Police Arrest IS-Linked Militant Suspect in Southern Philippines

From BenarNews (Dec 21): Police Arrest IS-Linked Militant Suspect in Southern Philippines

A military vehicle passes ruins in an area where government troops battled Islamic extremists in Marawi, Philippines, June 15, 2018.

A military vehicle passes ruins in an area where government troops battled Islamic extremists in Marawi, Philippines, June 15, 2018.

A Filipino allegedly working with Islamic State (IS) militants was arrested in the southern Philippines, police said Friday, as government forces hunted for remaining members of a group of extremists blamed for last year’s attack on Marawi city.

The suspect, Jamio Sala, a 30-year-old member of Ansar al-Khilafah Philippines (AKP), was captured Wednesday evening when police raided a militant warehouse in General Santos City, regional police commander Chief Supt Eliseo Tam Rasco said.

“We got hold of information from concerned civilians about his presence. He was part of a team that planned to set off bombs in the city,” Rasco told BenarNews. “A fragmentation grenade was recovered from his possession during the raid at his home.”

Sala allegedly worked with a Singaporean bomber identified as Salahuddin Hassan, who was involved in a bomb attack in the town of Malapatan in Saranggani province that wounded seven people in 2010.

Jamio Sala [Courtesy Philippine National Police]

AKP, also known as Ansar Khalifa Philippines or Khalifa Islamiyah Mindanao, is an IS-sympathizer group in the southern Philippines whose members are trained mostly in building bombs.

Previously, authorities said AKP has been in contact with Filipino militants from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country’s main Muslim separatist force that signed a peace deal with the government in 2014.

While it did not play a role in last year’s siege of Marawi city, AKP allegedly recruited militant fighters for a five-month battle with government forces. The group is also known for helping foreign militants in the southern island of Mindanao.

Its founder, Jaafar Sabewang Maguid, was killed in a firefight with police in January 2017.

Sala’s arrest followed government action earlier this month to extend martial law in the entire south for one more year, with officials justifying the move by saying that militant groups remained a threat in the southern region. Many of those groups are believed to be recruiting fighters, officials said.

At least 1,200 people, mostly militants, were killed in the battle of Marawi which ended in October 2017.

More troops deployed to fight Abu Sayyaf

From the Gulf Today (Dec 22): More troops deployed to fight Abu Sayyaf

A newly-created  unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines has been deployed to go after the Daesh-inspired Abu Sayyaf terrorists on the island province of Sulu in Mindanao, according to the country’s  military chief.

General Benjamin Madrigal said the Army’s  11th Infantry “Alakdan” Division would have its own civic-military and field battalions to deal with the Abu Sayyaf which gained notoriety through a spate of kidnap=for-ransom cases that have often been marred by the beheading of their  foreign and Filipino hostages.

But aside from the Abu Sayyaf, the new unit, to be headed by Brigadier General Divino Roy Pabayo, was also ordered to address other major concerns  especially rising  criminal activities in Mindanao, Madrigal said.

Meanhile, Rear Admiral Rene Medina, the head of the Naval Forces in Mindanao, reported the rescue of the wife of an Abu Sayyaf member and her two children following a recent clash on an island off the town of Patikul, Sulu.

Medina said Marines and Navy men rescued the wife and her two children aged 7 and 2, after hiding for three days in a mangrove forest following a clash last week between government forces and the terrorists.

Heavy fighting forced the housewife and her two children to leave their home and avoid being caught in the crossfire that resulted in the death of seven terrorists and and a Marine, the military said.

The military blamed the Abu Sayyaf, meaning “bearer of the sword,” and the Maute Group that both pledged allegiance to the Daesh extremists in the Middle East for laying siege on Marawi City on May 23, 2017.

The siege prompted President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte to cut short his official visit to Russia and declare martial law over the whole of troubled Mindanao.

In a joint session, Congress  has since extended the declaration thrice as requested by Duterte, the latest of which was to take effect from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 this year.

According to the military, Daesh leaders ordered the Abu Sayyaf and the Maute Group to capture Marawi, the capital city of Lanao del Sur, and convert it into a caliphate to be used for their expansion plans in Southeast Asia.

Over 300 breakaway rebels get settlement areas

From Panay News (Dec 22): Over 300 breakaway rebels get settlement areas

More than 300 former members of a breakaway rebel group in Negros Occidental were awarded three settlement areas as part of the government’s commitment to a peace pact signed 18 years ago.

The beneficiaries belonged to the Tabara-Paduano Group of the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Pilipinas / Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade, or RPM-P / RPA-ABB.

The group took on the name Kapatiran para sa Progresibong Panlipunan, Inc. as part of its institutional transformation.

One of the settlement areas was in Kabankalan City. It was intended for 80 beneficiaries.

The other two were in Cadiz City for 73 beneficiaries and in San Carlos City for about 180 beneficiaries.

These areas were under by the Community-Based Forest Management Agreement, or CBFMA, which is covered by a memorandum of agreement as tenurial instrument within the protected area where members of the Kapatiran serve as forest guards.

“Tutulong ang OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process) sa amin para magkaroon ng housing,” said Kapatiran chairwoman Veronica Tabara, who represented the group during the awarding of the areas at the Social Hall of the Negros Occidental provincial capitol.

Environment assistant secretary Joan Lagunda, OPAPP special assistant to the secretary Milo Ibrado Jr. and Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. led the awarding of the sites.

Under the peace agreement, Kapatiran members will stay together in one area as part of the cessation of hostilities, Tabara noted.

“We will build houses and set up livelihood projects based on the tenurial instrument under the guidelines of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Community Resource Management Framework Plan,” she said.

Lagunda said the DENR was employing the beneficiaries as forest guards.

For his part, Ibrado said they aim to fulfill the commitments of the peace agreement before the term of President Rodrigo Duterte ends in 2022.

“There was an implementing document during the time of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo but [the timeline] was not very clear,” he said.

“We have a final implementing document that will define all aspects of implementation and majority of these programs and projects will be implemented in three years from now,” he added.

A breakaway group of the New People’s Army, the RPM-P / RPA-ABB signed the peace agreement with the government on Dec. 6, 2000.

They later split into two – the Tabara-Paduano Group led by Veronica Tabara and Stephen Paduano, and the Nilo de la Cruz Group.

Eventually it was only the Tabara-Paduano Group that pushed through with the peace agreement with the government.

Aklan, Negros ex-rebels to cultivate communities

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 21): Aklan, Negros ex-rebels to cultivate communities

For a 25-year-period, former communist rebels in Aklan and Negros Occidental provinces can now develop their own upland communities.

Simon Elmer Colacion (DENR 6 / MANILA BULLETIN)
This is after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issued a Community-Based Forest Management Agreement (CBFMA) to selected groups of former members of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA/ABB- Tabara Paduano Group).

Simon Elmer Colacion, DENR project coordinator, said the CBFMA is part of the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

The creation of Peace and Development Community (PDC) sites is going beyond giving livelihood to former rebels, which DENR-6 has previously hired them in protecting forestlands.

Colacion said the PDC sites are holistic approach that makes the former rebels fully support government’s initiatives and continue living peacefully. He also credited DENR-6 Regional Director Jim Sampulna for CBFMA, which is seen to hasten the process instead of waiting several years to use the land.

Negros Occidental has the biggest identified PDC sites with 641.64 hectares. These are found in the cities of Cadiz, Kabankalan and San Carlos.

The PDC sites in Ibajay town, Aklan province has a total area of 57.51 hectares.

Meanwhile, DENR-6 has hired 100 former rebels as forest guards for its national greening program in Aklan, Antique, Iloilo, and Negros Occidental.

Galvez officially assumes as presidential peace adviser

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 21): Galvez officially assumes as presidential peace adviser

Former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr. officially assumed as the new presidential peace adviser during the handover rites held at the main office of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) in Ortigas, Pasig City on Thursday (December 20, 2018).

Former presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza (left) and Former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr.  (OPAPP / MANILA BULLETIN)
In his speech, Galvez said his experiences in armed conflict has made him more determined to choose peace in trying to solve political disputes in the country. “Have you seen the tears of a dying man? I did many times… It is very painful,” Galvez said. “We cannot go back to war anymore,” he added.

Galvez said some critics “have pointed out that I come from an institution that manufactures war machines. But let me tell you, having been in the military for decades made me see the ugly head of armed conflict. In my early days in the military service, I was wounded in a battle somewhere in the Davao area. That experience has made me choose the path of peace.”

In his farewell speech, former presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza said he has “great confidence” that he is handing over the reins of OPAPP ‘to someone I have known… for a long time. There is no other person who can deal with peace than a person who faces war daily in his life as a military person,” he said.

Galvez, who assumed as the 11th presidential peace adviser, is not the first retired general to lead OPAPP. The first military man to assume the position of peace adviser was General Manuel Yan, who later became an ambassador.

It was under Secretary Yan that the final peace agreement between the government and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was signed.

Other military men who served as peace advisers were Generals Eduardo Ermita and Hermogenes Esperon. Gen. Avelino Razon, a former chief of police, was also named peace adviser. Other former top military men also led the government peace panels in the peace negotiations.

Galvez thanked President Duterte for his trust and confidence, saying he will do his best to be a good secretary as the entire peace processes in the country is “at the critical crossroads.”

“We have the plebiscite in Mindanao to win. We have also EO 70 to accomplish. And we have other equally important peace tables that we need to continue to engage with,” he said.

EO 70, which Duterte signed on December 4, 2018, directs the adoption of a national peace framework and institutionalizing the whole-of-nation approach to attain “inclusive and sustainable peace” to address the root causes of the armed conflict.

At the same time, Galvez vowed to institute reforms at OPAPP, saying the bottom line is that the agency needs to deliver the services the public deserves. “Checks and balances, along with fairness, transparency, and accountability, will be the cornerstones of my policies as we restructure our organization,” he said.

“I’m committing myself to be a good secretary. I’ll put my honor, integrity, and position on the line,” he added.

Ending insurgency top priority, says AFP chief

From the Philippine Star (Dec 22): Ending insurgency top priority, says AFP chief

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr. made the statement during his visit to the headquarters of the major service commands on Wednesday.
Ending the country’s insurgency problem remains one of the top priorities of the military.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr. made the statement during his visit to the headquarters of the major service commands on Wednesday.

“One of our topmost priorities is to ultimately end insurgency and bring lasting peace in the country,” Madrigal told the troops and officials.

He said achieving the insurgency-free goal would need a holistic approach.

“To achieve total victory against local communist insurgents, we must continue focusing on capacitating ourselves in peace consistency building, stakeholder leadership, community dialogues and nation-building efforts,” he stressed.

Madrigal first visited the headquarters of the Philippine Navy, the Naval Station Jose Andrada in Manila and gave his message to the sailors and marines, reminding them on critical supply control and monitoring of issuances.

“The Navy I saw when I was a cadet is far different compared to the Navy of today. The Navy has improved a lot and is already comparable to our neighbors’ navies,” he said.

Madrigal was joined by key military leaders when he visited the headquarters of the Philippine Air Force at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City.

He then proceeded to the headquarters of the Philippine Army at Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City where he also gave his Christmas message and command guidance to soldiers.

“On a side note, Christmas is fast approaching. Let me extend my warmest greetings to every officer, enlisted personnel and civilian human resource. Allow me to also remind you of your physical security and personal security during vacation,” he said.

Madrigal also reiterated his message to all uniformed personnel as well as the civilians working in the AFP.

He encouraged them to work together and practice the culture of leadership, culture of unity and culture of peace to reach the AFP’s ultimate goal to achieve just and lasting peace in our country.

“Let us give them our genuine and honest public service,” he said.
No more negotiations

As this developed, a senior military commander in Mindanao is closing the door on any possible negotiation with the communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels for the release of hostages.

Maj. Gen. Ronald Villanueva, division commander of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division based in Cagayan de Oro City, said he wanted to discharge from the service the troops kidnapped by the NPA.

Villaneva took note of reports that the troops were sleeping when they were attacked.

Villanueva earlier told a local radio station that they will no longer conduct rescue operations for the kidnapped soldiers and leave their fate to the NPA.

“Had they put up a fight, even if outnumbered, I will personally award them. And if they die, their families will receive benefits due them from the government…but they’re cowards,” Villanueva remarked.

Philippines ready to protest China's actions in West Philippine Sea — Lorenzana

From the Philippine Star (Dec 21): Philippines ready to protest China's actions in West Philippine Sea — Lorenzana                          

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the government would protest any action of China that would be deemed inconsistent with the Philippines' national interest.

"If we see Chinese actions that are not consistent with our national interest, we are going to protest China," Lorenzana said in a press conference Thursday.

The Philippine Navy will also continue to maintain its presence in the West Philippine Sea amid China's aggressive actions in the disputed waters.

Lorenzana said the crew of BRP Sierra Madre, a Navy ship that ran aground on Ayungin Shoal in 1999, would stay in the area.

"We will still continue with our activities there. We will patrol regularly… [and] continue strengthening our islands. We have nine islands," Lorenzana said.

The secretary added that the Armed Forces of the Philippines would continue its resupply missions to the crew of Sierra Madre.

In the past months, there have been reports that the Chinese Coast Guard has been harassing Filipino troops conducting resupply missions to Ayungin Shoal.

The government also intends to provide housing for troops on Pag-asa Island, one of the largest features in the Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea.

"We have allotted funds for the shelter of our troops because right now, they only have huts there. We should give them good shelters, barracks, especially in Pag-asa," he said.

The repairs of the dilapidated runway on Pag-asa Island is expected to be completed by next year. A beaching ramp is also being constructed on the island to enable the military to bring in materials and equipment to repair the runway.

Lorenzana earlier bared that Beijing tried to block the government's plan to rehabilitate structures on Pag-asa Island.

The secretary said Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua approached him upon learning that the Philippine government is going to repair the runway.

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