Monday, December 24, 2018

Rebels say POWs being treated well

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 21): Rebels say POWs being treated well

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) assured the family of the two soldiers and 12 militiamen captured by elements of its military arm New People’s Army (NPA) in Sibagat, Agusan del Sur on Wednesday, are being treated well.

“All prisoners-of-war who were captured after surrendering during the raid in Agusan del Sur are being treated leniently,” the CPP said in a statement.

The soldiers and militiamen were abducted in a pre-dawn raid of a patrol base of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) Auxiliary Unit in New Tubigon Area in Sibagat, Agusan del Sur.

It said these men in captivity will be released soonest so long as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) relents in its offensive.

“In order to pave the way for their orderly and safe release and give them the opportunity to be with their families this Christmas,” the statement said.

The party urged third-party facilitators to coordinate and cooperate with the local NPA command.

The statement was issued even as field unit commanders of the AFP in Northeastern Mindanao (Caraga region) questioned the sincerity of the CPP-NPA’s earlier declaration of holiday ceasefire.

According to commanders of the Army’s 401st and 402nd Infantry Brigades and other special forces battalion “signified the NPA’s lack of intention to observe ceasefire this holiday season”.

“They used their (NPAs) announced truce in their tactical movement by attacking government forces and soldiers on the ground,” said an angry battalion commander assigned in Agusan.

“These terrorists are really not sincere in their announcements (Holidays truce),” another battalion commander in Surigao del Sur said, adding “hindi mo talaga yan sila maasahan sa kanilang pananalita (no one can really rely on their word).”

NPA attacks soldiers in Northern Samar: 1 dies, 2 hurt

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 22): NPA attacks soldiers in Northern Samar: 1 dies, 2 hurt
TACLOBAN CITY — A soldier was killed while two others were wounded after they were attacked by members of New People’s Army (NPA) in a Northern Samar town, the military said Saturday.

Killed during the armed fight was Private First Class Alvin Avila, who died on the spot, while the wounded soldiers were identified as Private Ivan Anthony Ignao, who was hit on his abdomen, and Private Michael Ocasla, who was hit on his forehead.

Capt. Francis Agno, spokesperson of the 8th Infantry Division based in Catbalogan City, Samar, said the soldiers were part of the first squad of the community support program of the 20th Infantry Battalion based in Las Navas, Northern Samar and under the command of Lt. Col. Noli Lapizar.

The soldiers were attacked by about 30 NPA members in Barangay Caputo-an of said town around 6:20 a.m. on Saturday.

Government troops, led by Cpl. Cabanero, subsequently retaliated. The firefight lasted for an hour.

The killed and wounded soldiers were brought to a hospital in Catubig town, also in Northern Samar.

Government troops are on alert for anticipated NPA attacks as the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) is set to celebrate its 50th founding anniversary on December 26.

Opinion: Abrigo: NPA’s golden anniv, what lies ahead?

Opinion piece by Danny Abrigo from the Sun Star-Davao (Dec 24): Abrigo: NPA’s golden anniv, what lies ahead?

THE Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) was founded by Jose Maria Sison on December 28, 1968. The party’s dogma is on the structure of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and maintained combatants named New People’s Army for a guerrilla war.

From merely 500 NPA warriors, it grows to more than 10,000 during the Marcos martial law and again nose-dived to 500 after three decades when their founder Joma is on exile in the Netherlands. But when the martial law in Mindanao was declared the number bounced back to almost a thousand fighters. This time the terrorist-communist is in a desperate point of struggle, recruiting even minors from the hinterland to upsurge strength. Their purpose is to encircle the city from the countryside. I said desperate because this school-aged children under the “white paper theory” were trained to fight, but do not exactly understand what they are fighting for.

Seriously, the government in so many instances offered and granted amnesties from top to bottom of the chart; cabinet positions were given to communist allies; seats in Congress were attainable through party list system if only to conciliate them; “pabahay” and “puhonan” for the resolute and surrenders; peace talks were conducted here and there but to no avail.

What do you need b***sh*t terrorist communists? Even the townsfolk in Talaingod became impatient of your old song pretending to declare a unilateral ceasefire from 12:01 of December 24 to 11:59 in the evening of December 26, and expect the government to reciprocate in the essence of Christmas, yet for 49 years you lied and made atrocities for a yearly offering to your founding anniversary. Shame on you!

This time Lieutenant General Benjamin Madrigal, the newly-installed Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will piss your 50th anniversary carpet.

Madrigal is the 35th AFP chief since the communist founding in 1968, who vowed to bring into finale the armed struggle of the CPP-NPA-NDF against the Philippine Government. His strength is more than 135,000 soldiers whose boots are firmly grounded to defend the republic against communism-terrorism.

Gov’t ceasefire body chief steps down

From ABS-CBN (Dec 24): Gov’t ceasefire body chief steps down

A Philippine government consultant has quit following disagreements on how to proceed with peace negotiations to end nearly 50 years of Maoist rebellion in the country.

Francisco “Pancho” Lara Jr. stepped aside as chief of the government peace panel’s ceasefire committee, saying additional demands by President Rodrigo Duterte “torpedoed” certain areas of negotiations.

The committee led discussions on Duterte’s demand for a bilateral truce with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Lara acknowledged that the ceasefire was part of the president’s original agenda, but not the “localized” peace talks or the demand for communist leader Jose Maria Sison to come home from The Netherlands.

“I think those additional issues torpedoed the discussions of a ceasefire and the other reforms because then, the bar had been raised higher,” Lara told ABS-CBN News.

Lara said his decision to quit would allow Duterte’s new peace adviser, former military chief Carlito Galvez, to pick a new ceasefire chairman who “is trusted by the military and the president.”

“I chaired discussions on vital sections of the military and probably, they would like to take it on themselves,” said Lara, who relayed his decision to government peace panel member Hernani Braganza.


The government and NDFP peace panels earlier signed a June 8 stand-down agreement in preparation for an interim peace accord that was to be inked later that month.

The preliminary peace agreement was supposed to include a coordinated unilateral ceasefire, which was a step closer to a more binding bilateral deal.

But military officials cautioned Duterte against the stand-down agreement, doubtful that the rebels would keep their word.

The president then opted to review preliminary agreements signed by his peace panel.

“I know that based on my discussions with the military that they probably want something else rather than a ceasefire,” Lara said.

“I think they want to prosecute the war as it is happening right now.”


Government troops have intensified operations against the communist movement's armed wing, the New People’s Army, following Duterte’s order to “destroy” them, including the communist legal fronts.

READ: Duterte orders military to ‘destroy’ CPP

The rebels stepped up attacks as well ahead of their unilateral ceasefire during the holidays.

Continued offensives by the NPA on government forces, despite ongoing peace talks, angered Duterte, who had been visiting slain or wounded troops.

The president’s insistence on a bilateral ceasefire as a demand for formal talks was a break from the “talk-and-fight” scenario, where the two sides would continue to negotiate even if their forces clashed on the ground.

“Puwedeng walang ceasefire pero tuloy ang negotiation. Pero 'yung wala nang ceasefire, wala pang negotiation, 'yun 'yung problema,” Lara said.

(It is ok to have no ceasefire but the negotiations continue. But to have no ceasefire and no negotiation, that's the problem.)

“I would rather that if you really cannot convince your groups on a ceasefire, then just go on with the negotiations even if there is no ceasefire.”

2 killed, 4 hurt in Samar, Kalinga NPA encounters

From the Manila Times (Dec 24): 2 killed, 4 hurt in Samar, Kalinga NPA encounters

Four days before the 50th anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), separate encounters between government forces and New People’s Army (NPA) rebels resulted in the killing of a Philippine Army soldier in Las Navas, Northern Samar and an active member of the auxiliary force in Kalinga province, while four others were wounded, including two rebels.

Capt. Francis Agno, chief of the civil military operations and spokesman for the 8th Infantry Division based in Camp Lukban, Maulong, Catbalogan City, told The Manila Times that a squad of soldiers led by Cpl. Cabanero of the 20th Infantry Battalion (20IB) was patrolling along Barangay Capotoan in Las Navas town when they encountered about 30 rebels at about 8:30 a.m. on Saturday.

Killed in action was Private First Class Alvin Avila while wounded were Privates Ivan Anthony Ignao and Michael Ocasla.

Agno said the rebels also attacked the reinforcement troops under Lt. Latuga that rescued the wounded soldiers.

The wounded were brought to Catarman Hospital for treatment while the slain soldier was brought to the 803rd Brigade headquarters based in Camp Somoroy in Catarman.

Lt. Col. Noli Lapizar, commanding officer of the 20IB based in San Jorge, Las Navas town ordered his men to intensify their combat operations even during Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Earlier, an encounter also happened in Barangay Hinatad, Catarman town where four soldiers and two civilians were wounded.

Attack on Cafgu base

 In Kalingan, an active member of the Army’s auxiliary force was killed after about 30 NPA members attacked a Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit patrol base in Barangay Western Uma, Lubuagan town on Sunday.

Maj. Ericson Bulosan, of the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) public information office, said also wounded were at least two NPA rebels who were seen being carried along bloodied by their comrades.

He said the indiscriminate attack of the NPA is deplorable as it was perpetrated while the people in the community were preparing for their Christmas celebration.

“This only manifests the rebel groups’ disregard of the welfare and well-being of the people,” Bulosan said, adding that the CPP and the NPA broke their own vow of a unilateral ceasefire for the yuletide season.

Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat, Nolcom commander, had issued a reminder for all troops to be more vigilant this holiday season when people in remote areas are more vulnerable to attacks of the terrorist groups.

Salamat said Nolcom would continue to pursue and persistently conduct focused military operations to target terrorist groups and prevent them from performing hostile activities that hinder the peace, development and security in Northern and Central Luzon.

Meanwhile, the 503rd Infantry Brigade was placed on heightened alert and currently conducting combat and pursuit operations against the fleeing NPA.

Can a Hotbed of Islamic Insurgency in Philippines Reinvent Itself for Tourism?

From The Daily Beast (Dec 23): Can a Hotbed of Islamic Insurgency in Philippines Reinvent Itself for Tourism?

It has one of the most beautiful mosques in the world, but decades of violence have plagued Mindanao. Now a potential peace deal has provided hope, and maybe, visitors.
Jacob Maentz
On an overcast Tuesday morning, thousands of stone-faced, slightly fidgety soldiers with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the largest rebel group in Southeast Asia, have assembled in a palm-encircled clearing at the group’s headquarters outside Cotabato City on the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines. A flag bearing the army’s sigil and slogan—“Victory or Martyrdom”—quivers in the breeze, as the voice of an imam reading from the Quran crackles over the PA system. Once the prayer has finished, Sammy al Mansour, the 68-year-old chief of the army, rises from his chair alongside his fellow rebel leaders and ascends the podium.

Barrel-chested with wide jowls and close-cropped hickory hair, Sammy is a battle-hardened guerrilla. He began ambushing Filipino army soldiers when he was 17 and spent the next 40 years leading Islamic revolutionaries in a bloody struggle for independence, during which he suffered several wounds, including a near-fatal bullet through the hip. Yet today, his speech is no warrior’s rallying cry.

“The peace process must be taken seriously,” he declares to the soldiers, all of whom are unarmed and dressed in matching white polos rather than their standard tiger-patterned battle fatigues. Also in attendance are journalists and NGO workers, invited by the Moro Front, which is increasingly open to outside visitors. The rights of Mindanao’s Muslims, Sammy goes on to say, can only be secured by rejecting extremism and embracing legitimate politics. The soldiers raise a tepid cheer. The time for war has passed.

With the twilight of an insurgency, peace has dawned on Cotabato City. A deal between the government and the rebels—in which they’ve ceded the fight for an independent Islamic state in exchange for regional autonomy—is but one sign of the gradual transformation of an area long plagued with poverty, violence and corruption. Security has improved, and commercial development is flourishing. But the specter of terrorism, frustration among the youth and an uncertain future for the rebel army threaten to plunge Cotabato back into chaos.

Some 20 minutes from the Moro Front headquarters, along a winding road with rumbling gravel trucks and stalls dangling bunches of stubby bananas, lies Cotabato City, whose ramshackle settlements spread over low hills into a wide floodplain braided with swollen, muddy rivers. Cotabato was once considered the most dangerous city in the Philippines. Throughout the decades-long separatist war—during which Filipino soldiers reportedly massacred and raped Muslim civilians and desecrated mosques—insurgent skirmishes were frequent. In 2005, the then-US ambassador to the Philippines called the city a “doormat” for terrorists. Sundown was a de facto curfew, with abductions, bombings, and political assassinations common.

Now, colorful government billboards boast of dramatic reductions in crime. On warm tropical nights, residents stay out late to peruse shops for jeans and pirated DVDs, or eat soft-serve at the new McDonalds. In the atrium of an unfinished mall, two dozen young people practice Zumba surrounded by small boutiques selling Adidas shoes, Giordano handbags, and Fubu T-shirts. The city’s first modern supermarket recently opened, with a full produce section, stale muzak and aisles of imported foodstuffs bathed in fluorescent light.

Foreigners landing at Cotabato’s single runway airport usually have their passports checked and are asked to identify their NGO, assumed to be visiting for one of the many international development gatherings that churn through the city’s two secure hotels. But there is a nascent tourism industry. The city government has been holding cultural exhibitions and promoting local attractions. After a dinner of goat biryani at an Arab restaurant, a young Saudi tourist introduces himself, saying that before heading to the resort island of Palawan, he and his friends are visiting Cotabato to see the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque, the largest in the Philippines and considered, with its gold domes and towering 140-foot high minarets, a masterpiece of Islamic architecture.

3 Abu Sayyaf bandits surrender in Sulu

From Politiko (Dec 23): 3 Abu Sayyaf bandits surrender in Sulu

Three members of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) have surrendered to the military in Sulu, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) said.

Ban Abdulbaki, 27, and Adih Abdulbaki, 24, both residents of Upper Binuang, Talipao, Sulu and followers of ASG sub leader Idang Susukan, yielded to the 32nd Infantry Battalion in Talipao Saturday, December 22.

They also turned over one M16 A1 rifle and one Garand rifle.

Another Abu Sayyaf member submitted himself to the troops of the 545 Engineer Construction Battalion at Barangay Sainsusuk, Maimbung, Sulu on the same day.

Alnajir Sajiron, alias Putong Asimon, also turned over his M16 rifle to the troops.

“The Western Mindanao Command calls on the other Abu Sayyaf bandits to voluntarily surrender. Let us end terrorism here in Mindanao in a peaceful way,” said Westmincom chief Lt. Gen. Arnel B. Dela Vega.

2 recruits of IS-inspired group yield in Cotabato City

From MindaNews (Dec 24): 2 recruits of IS-inspired group yield in Cotabato City

Reporters interview Bai and Datu in Cotabato City on 23 December 2018, after their surrender. MindaNews photo by FERDINANDH B. CABRERA

Two self-confessed recruits of an Islamic State-inspired group called Dawlah Islamiyah Cotabato that is said to have built a cell in the city surrendered to authorities on Sunday and vowed to cooperate to prevent further violence.

The alleged militants, a 24-year old woman and a 21-year old male neighbor, surrendered accompanied by their parents and relatives to reveal what they know about the group.

Alias Bai and Alias Datu admitted they were part of Dawlah Islamiyah Cotabato (Islamic State of Cotabato).

Bai said the group lured her into joining through its outreach programs for children and Muslim orphans three years ago.

Reporters asked if the two surrenderers were involved in the nigh market bombing in Davao City two years ago and in the Marawi siege last year.

But Joint Task Force Kutawato commander Col. Wilbur Mamawag said they could not give yet the full details about the surrenderers, who were still undergoing custodial investigation.

He added they will try to convince more members of the group to surrender.

The task force will secure the surrenderers amid threats of retaliation and make them undergo a de-radicalization process.

Datu, who was a graduating student at the time he was recruited, regretted his decision as he was forced to stop his studies and could not find a decent work to help his family after he joined the group.

Bai and Datu said the group recruited n their village and in schools targeting young Muslims.

Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi, head of the inter-agency task force of Cotabato City said the Dawlah Islamiyah Cotabato has at least 300 active youth members.

She said it took them a year to convince Bai and Datu to surrender amid their parents’ fear they might be killed by government forces.

“They were really involved and they’re here to voluntarily surrender, which is better than hiding not knowing what would happen while the arrest warrants are still subsisting until now,” she said.

The two surrenderers’ names were included in the martial law order released by the defense secretary.

Information gathered by military intelligence units said Bai and Datu were among those brought to the mountainous part of Barangay Butril, Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat for a supposed religious mission.

But they ended up in a combat training ground of ISIS-linked Ansar Al Khilafah led by slain leader Commander Tokboy.

In 2015, the 1st Marine Landing Team led the raid on the training ground which killed seven of Tokboy’s men including foreign nationals believed to be Malaysian and Indonesian bombers.

Cebuano News: Pres Digong mitunol og P65,000 hinabang sa KR

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 24): Cebuano News: Pres Digong mitunol og P65,000 hinabang sa KR

TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol—Gitunol mismo ni President Rodrigo Roa Duterte sa iyang pagbisita sa Bohol niadtong Nobyembre 27 ang tag P65,000 nga tagsatagsa nga hinabang sa mga kanhi rebelde, nga karon kauban na sa reporma (KR).

Didto sa una nga kalihukan sa Presidente sa pagbisita sa Bohol ug kini didto sa Camp Rajah Sukatuna sa Carmen, Bohol, gitunol pinaagi sa ceremonial nga turn-over ngadto sa mga kanhi rebelde ang P50,000 isip abag sa kapanginabuhi-an ug lain nga P15,000 nga dinali-an nga tabang sa mga rebelde nga karon mipili na nga manginabuhi nga malinawon.

Mikabat sa 30 ka mga KR ang midawat sa hinabang sa kagamhanan nga gitunol mismo sa commander in chief sa Armadiong Kusog sa Pilipinas, si Presidente Duterte.

Ang 30 nga midawat sa hinabang, gikan sa Sevilla ug Antequera clusters, segun pa sa Office of the Provincial Social Welfare and Development.

Gani, alang sa mga kanhi sakop sa kalihukan nga walhon apan mitahan dala ang ilang armas, may dugang pa nga programa ang Armandong Kusog sa Nasud.

Kadtong may ikabalik nga light machine gun, makadawat og P200,000, samtang ang may dala nga M14 carbine, may P60,000.00 ug kadtong maka-uli og M16 Armalite, may P50,000.

Kini bisan pa man nga padayon pa nga gihangyo sa Bohol ang Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) nga ibalik na ang tabang pinansyal aron ikapundo sa kapanginabuhi-an sa nga kanhi rebelde, nga karon giila na nga kauban sa reporma.

Kahinumduman nga ang OPAPP naghatag og hinabang sa mga kanhi rebelde, nga karon kauban na sa reporma.

May gipatukod na gani nga mga kabalayan sa mga kanhi diha sa kalihukan didto sa Danao ug sa Ubay, samtang may gitanyag pa nga mga yuta nga tikaronon aron lamang gayud may saligan na nga kapaninapi-an ang mga kanhi rebelde.

Samtang gipaningkamotan sa kagamhanan nga mahibalik sa paghisgutay sa kalinaw ang mga sakop sa New People’s Army aron undangon na ang kapid-an na ka tuig nga pag-alsa batok sa kagamhanan, padayon pang nagmagahi ang pipila ka siak nga bahan sa kadtong mga rebelde nga buot nang manginabuhi nga malinawon.

Gani, sa mga panahon nga gisuspenso ang mga operasyon dala sa mga gitamud nga panahon sa kalinaw, mao usab kini ang panahon nga gigamit sa mga rebelde aron palig-onon ang ilang opensiba, diin kasagaran, kini mga dugoon nga pag-asdang.

Tungod sa liput nga pamaagi, mimandu na si Presidente Duterte nga lutoson na hinuon ang mga rebelde ug siksikon ang mga lugar nga gilubloban niini, aron hingpit na nga pukanon ang armadong pakigbisug.

Apan, gipasabut sa Presidente, padayon gihapon ang kagamhanan nga mohangop sa mga motahan na kay nabutaan sa hiwi nga ideyolohiya.

New 10th Infantry Division chief up to the challenge to normalize threat level

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 24): New 10th Infantry Division chief up to the challenge to normalize threat level

Brig. Gen. Jose Faustino Jr., the new 10th Infantry Division commander answers questions from the media.

MAWAB, Compostela Valley  - Brigadier General Jose Faustino Jr. was installed as commander of the Philippine Army's 10th Infantry Division during a ceremony at Camp General Manuel T. Yan Sr. here on Friday, December 21.

Faustino replaced Major General Noel Clement, who headed the division since May 2017 and is now at the Central Command of the Philippine Army in Cebu.

Previously, Faustino occupied key positions in the field such as chief of staff of the Philippine Army, assistant chief of the Unified Command Staff for Intelligence, commandant of the Philippine Military Academy and commander of the 501st Infantry Brigade in Sulu.

The new commander is a well-decorated officer with recognitions including distinguished service stars, silver wing medal, silver cross medal, bronze cross medals, military commendation medals and military merit medals.

Faustino said it was going to be a challenge to sustain the momentum that the division has taken.

“10ID is in a very good position right now. We will push it even harder and ‘yong level ngayon ng threats na kino-confront ng 10ID, will be further normalized within next year.”

Faustino said he will sit down with his staff, brigades, and battalions under the division to come up with next year’s target based on the targets of the Eastern Mindanao Command and the higher headquarters.

The commander hailed the brigades and battalions, saying he has seen good reports based on the records.

4 killed, 4 injured as MILF factions clash in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 25): 4 killed, 4 injured as MILF factions clash in Maguindanao

Google map of Datu Abdullah Sangki, Maguindanao

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao -- Four members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were killed while four others, including two civilians, were wounded as two MILF factions traded bullets in Datu Abdullah Sangki, Maguindanao on Sunday, the military reported.

The warring MILF groups are locked in a long-standing family feud over ownership of vast parcels of land in Barangay Kaya-Kaya of the town.

Over a hundred civilians have fled to safer grounds after the groups of Datu Item and Commander Bravo Lindungan, both of the MILF 106th Base Command, began trading shots and 40-mm mortar fires around 9 a.m. Sunday.

Reports reaching the office of Chief Supt. Graciano Mijares, police director for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), showed that the two warring MILF leaders are squabbling over ownership of lands, some of which are planted to banana for export.

The MILF fatalities were identified as Kage Lasam, Saudi Endal, and a certain Paking and Sury, while those wounded were named as Agus Endal and a certain Bryan, all under Datu Item’s group.

Maj. Arvin Encinas, spokesperson of Army’s 6th Infantry Division (ID), said some civilians were also injured in the crossfire.

They were identified as Denden Guiapal, 17, of Barangay Kaya-Kaya, and Jana Sangki, 25, of adjacent Barangay Kakal.

“The civilian victims went out too late. They were caught in the crossfire and hit by stray bullets,” he said.

Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, 6th ID chief, directed the Army’s 601st and 1st Mechanized Brigade to help local officials and the MILF leadership in settling the conflict peacefully.

The displaced families are now being attended to by the local government of Datu Abdullah Sangki.

PROCOR condemns NPA attack on CAFGU base in Kalinga

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 25): PROCOR condemns NPA attack on CAFGU base in Kalinga

Chief Supt. Rolando Nana (File Photo)

The Police Regional Office Cordillera (PROCOR) has condemned the Communist New People’s Army Terrorists (CNT) for attacking the CAFGU Active Auxilliary (CAA) Patrol Base in Uma, Lubuagan, Kalinga at dawn Sunday, December 23, which led to the death of the base commander and injury to three other personnel.

"PROCOR condemns to the highest degree the treacherous harassment and burning perpetrated by CNTs to the CAA Patrol base in Agagama, Uma, Lubuagan, Kalinga, early dawn of December 23, 2018," Chief Supt. Rolando Nana said in a statement posted on the the unit's official Facebook page late afternoon on December 24.

Nana said the CNT’s have been sowing fear and civil disturbance for the last 50 years.

"They have launched attacks to government troops in PRO 5, PRO 10 and now in PROCOR; this is besides murdering Government servants, AFP, and PNP personnel who are serving and protecting the community," the statement added.

"They have shown their true color by violating the ceasefire they themselves declared. This is a manifestation that the Communist NPA Terrorists (CNTs) are not sincere in pursuing Peace," Nana said.

He further said the PROCOR will endeavor to help seek justice for the death of Sgt. Elon Bayang, the CAA Cadre, and the wounding of three others.

"Their acts of gallantry, even to the extent of giving up their lives to defend their base, inspire us more," Nana said.

The police general also said that the about 30 member-terrorist unit had left one of their own, who died in the 15-minute exchange of fire.

"The CNT’s too have lost a comrade during their attack. The lifeless body of Commander/Squad Leader Roy Tongdo also known as "Rex" from Balbalan, Kalinga, was left behind by those whom he believed would fight side by side with him to death. Indeed the CNT’s are just after their communistic goal at the expense of their brethren."

The PROCOR chief reiterated their plea to the public to help the government end the terrorist activities of the NPA by providing information of their presence in the community.

"We would like to encourage every Cordilleran to help in the Government's efforts to end the terroristic acts of the CNT’s by reporting and not supporting any of the activities of these lawless elements."

Earlier, the Fifth Infantry Battalion (5ID) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), which has operational jurisdiction over the CafGU, had called on the public to report sightings of NPAs in the communities including their extortion activities that sow terror to the people, especially those in far-flung communities.

Sacrifices of soldiers on Xmas duty appreciated: AFP chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 25): Sacrifices of soldiers on Xmas duty appreciated: AFP chief

As the nation celebrates Christmas Day, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief-of-Staff, Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, told soldiers on duty during the holidays that their sacrifices in protecting the country is very much appreciated.

"While most of us will be away from our families in this festive holiday due to our respective duties, I still hope that we can all find time to get in touch and remember that our sacrifices will ultimately reach home one way or another," Madrigal said in a message forwarded to reporters late Monday.

He also took the opportunity to greet every soldier, airman, sailor and marine a very Merry Christmas.

"On this day, let us remember Jesus Christ, (was) born unto us to lead among His apostles, disciples, and friends; whose immersive and inclusive leadership and sacrifice continue to inspire nations to this day," he said.

The AFP chief also greeted "fellow workers" in the government a happy Christmas.

"I hope that in each one of us the fire of public service, humility, and compassion is rekindled and fanned by this celebration," he said.

And while sworn to defend the country against all threats, Madrigal also expressed his wish for a peaceful celebration and conclusion of the Yuletide holidays.

"Lastly, I wish for the peaceful and joyous celebration for every Filipino and every community that share in the happiness of this occasion. The bliss of this season encourages every soldier to continue to work even harder in the performance of our mandate. In this season of love, hope, and thanksgiving, may we all come together as one to fulfill our dream of a more peaceful and prosperous Philippines," he said.

Take security precautions during Yuletide, AFP chief tells troops

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 24): Take security precautions during Yuletide, AFP chief tells troops

With the Christmas Season about to go full blast, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal reminded all military personnel to take the necessary security precautions during the holidays.

He issued this advise following a recent visit to the Philippine Army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

“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,” Madrigal said.

He also urged all military and civilian personnel to contribute to the AFP's transformation roadmap.

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

“Suklian natin ng mabuti at tapat na serbisyo ang magandang suporta na binibigay sa atin ng ating Presidente at ng mga kapwa natin Pilipino. Let us give them our genuine and honest public service,” the AFP chief emphasized.

Be vigilant on Reds' 50th founding anniversary: AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 24): Be vigilant on Reds' 50th founding anniversary: AFP

With communist rebels poised to celebrate their 50th founding anniversary on Dec. 26, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday advised the public to take the necessary security precautions and remain vigilant for possible attacks by the terror group.

"The AFP advises the Filipino people to take extra caution and remain vigilant against attacks from terrorist group Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) as part of their founding anniversary specially that Mr. Joma Sison has ordered them to escalate attacks and violence during this Christmas Season," military public affairs office chief, Col. Noel Detoyato, said in a message to the Philippine News Agency.

The NPA, the rebel group's armed wing, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union.

"The threat of heightened atrocities marks another year of violence and manifests their nature as a terror group that works to undermine the government, disrupt national development, and damage public and private properties -- all to the inconvenience of the Filipino people," Detoyato said.

And with only atrocities to show for their 50th year of existence, the CPP-NPA-NDF has nothing to celebrate and no achievement to be proud of, he stressed.

"Our soldiers on the ground and at all levels of command will continue to monitor and conduct security operations against the CPP-NPA-NDF. We are ready to secure any community threatened by them specially during this season of christmas celebration," the AFP official added.

Also, Detoyato reminded rebels seeking to return to their families and the mainstream society that their lines of communications are always open for surrenderees.

"Our lines of communication are also open to those who wish to take this opportunity to abandon the armed struggle and violence perpetrated by the CPP-NPA-NDF and embrace a life of peace and prosperity with their family," he said.

PH Navy expands presence with missile, blue water capability

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 24): PH Navy expands presence with missile, blue water capability

2018, which will end in a few days time, can be considered as a banner year for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, especially the Philippine Navy (PN), as it formally entered the missile age and demonstrated its capability to sail beyond its territorial waters during deployments to the US, South Korea and Russia.

This is aside from projected deliveries of new assets for 2019, such as the AgustaWestland AW-159 "Wildcat" helicopters and the "Pohang"-class frigate donated by South Korea to the Philippines.

The PN's formal entry to the missile age took place off Lamao Point, Limay, Bataan last Nov. 21, when three of its multi-purpose assault craft (MPACs) fired the newly-acquired and installed Rafael Advanced Defense Ltd. Spike-ER (extended range) surface-to-surface missile during a capability demonstration witnessed by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Navy flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad.

During the exercise, the MPACs fired two Spike-ER missile rounds, which hit two surface targets. The said craft also utilized remote-controlled .50 caliber machine guns to neutralize another target.

An AgustaWestland AW-109 attack helicopter armed with 2.75-inch high-explosive rockets also provided air support to the MPACs by firing its weapons. "Impressive. Not one (missile) round was wasted," Lorenzana said in describing the Spike-ER capability demonstration, which he witnessed aboard the BRP Davao Del Sur (LD-602).

He said this is no mean feat considering that the seas were quite rough at the time. "(Modern) technology has come to the Navy and we will use this technology to protect our seas," the DND chief emphasized.

A single Spike-ER missile round costs an estimated PHP10 million, which makes accuracy for the PN a virtue.

The first test-firing of the Spike-ER missile took place last Aug. 9 in the same location.

The weapon was fired from one of the PN's three Spike-ER armed MPACs.

The MPACs were constructed by the Subic-based Propmech Corporation and activated on May 22, 2017.

The PN MPAC Acquisition Project entered into a contract with Rafael, through SIBAT of Israel Ministry of Defense, for the supply and integration of the weapons systems to three Mark III MPACs.

On April 15, 2017, Lorenzana approved the Notice to Proceed.

The Spike-ER system, which arrived in the country last April, is the PN's first missile weapon capable of penetrating 1,000-mm (39 inches) of rolled homogeneous armor and has a range of eight kilometers.

More missile-armed MPACs needed to defend PH waters

Empedrad, meanwhile, said missile-armed MPACs can be utilized to defend Philippine waters through the so-called "swarming tactic", where these craft will be committed to engage larger and more capable ships posing a threat to the country's waters.

The PN chief added that the Navy needs an additional 42 MPACs to further enhance its capabilities to defend the country's waters.

"Based on our matrix, dapat magkaroon tayo ng (we should have) 42 of these type of vessels, (the) MPACs. (We only have) nine, (with another) three coming over next year with the same missile capability. So kung sabay-sabay gumalaw yan (If these ships will operate simultaneously), when we are under siege, I think this will do harm to any threat whether internal or external," Empedrad said last Nov. 21 aboard the strategic sealift vessel BRP Davao Del Sur.

MPACs are high-speed naval craft capable of speeds in excess of 40 knots and can be utilized for a variety of naval missions like patrol and fire support missions for troops.

It can also be armed with machine guns, missiles and a variety of other weapons.

In the same briefing, Lorenzana said the Spike-ER missile system acquisition will be followed by big-ticket items like frigates and corvettes, which will also be armed with more powerful and longer-range missiles.

He also added that the Spike-ER is an indication that the PN is now being upgraded and modernized to be at par with its neighbors.

Aside from deterring intruders off Philippine waters, the PN's brand-new MPACs are also ideal for suppressing pirate threats in Sulu waters, the defense chief added.

He added that with its high-speed and modern armament, the MPAC is well suited in neutralizing pirates and other threats infesting the same waters. Empedrad supported this observation by the defense chief as the MPAC's secondary weapn, the remote-controlled .50 caliber machineguns are ideal for anti-piracy missions.

"(The) .50 caliber (machineguns) can be used for pirates. Certainly we will not use (a Spike-ER) missile to destroy (a) small banca na naka-board na Abu Sayyaf, but we can use the .50 caliber machinegun, (it's the MPAC) secondary capability. Automated siya, (and) kahit maalon we can hit the target very accurate(ly)," he added.

And when it comes to using the expensive Spike-ER missiles, Empedrad said that they have a doctrine to use when its comes to the usage of the weapon. "For the missile, we have a doctrine (to follow) when to fire the missile because it’s (worth) PHP10 million. Alangan naman iputok namin sa isang bangka ang PHP10 million na missile, so lugi tayo diyan (Of course, we won't fire on a boat a missile that is worth 10 million. It's uneconomical)," he added.

More missile weaponry in the pipeline for PH Navy

With the successful integration of the Spike-ER surface-to-surface missile in the PN's MPAC squadron, more capable and powerful missile weaponry are now in the pipeline for the Navy, according to Navy spokesperson Commander Jonathan Zata.

"(Yes). It (Spike-ER) ushered the Navy and the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) to the missile age and also prepares for the forthcoming acquisition of a more sophisticated and powerful weapons systems and capabilities," he said.

Zata added that the PN will gain more capability to operate modern naval weaponry with the arrival of the Pohang-class frigate next year.

"The Pohang-class frigate from ROK will also be delivered by next year equipped with a better weapons system that the Navy can already use as it prepares for the delivery of the two purposely-built frigates starting 2020," he stressed.

The Pohang-class frigate is equipped with a primary and secondary gun system, sensors and torpedoes for anti-submarine as well as sensors for anti-air operations, Zata disclosed.

Progress steady in construction of Navy's first missile-armed frigates

The construction of the first missile-armed frigate by South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) is proceeding smoothly, Empedrad said.

"(Construction for) our (first-missile) frigate is moving forward, darating na siya sa February (or) March of 2020, all systems go and we should very happy, we should be happy for our country," he said.

The keel-laying for the first-missile-armed frigate took place last Oct. 16 in Ulsan, South Korea while the steel-cutting for the second ship took place last Sept. 17.

HHI is expected to lay the keel of the second frigate by the first quarter of 2019.

The Philippines and HHI signed a PHP16 billion contract for two missile-armed frigates with another PHP2 billion set aside for its weapon systems and munition. The projected delivery date of the first frigate is by 2020 while the second one will be in 2021.

“The ceremony was conducted at the building dock number 6 of the Special and Naval Shipbuilding Division of HHI. Three blocks of the first PN frigate (with HHI Project Number 159) was installed on the dock,” Capt. Sergio Bartolome, the PN officer supervising the project, earlier said.

Keel-laying formally starts starts the ship's construction and is among the four highlights of a vessel's life, with the other three being launching, commissioning and decommissioning.

The keel is also considered the backbone of any ship and breaking or destroying will result in the destruction and sinking of any water craft. The steel-cutting for the first frigate took place last April.

PN blue-water capability boosted thru international exercises

For the first time in its history, two PN ships, the BRP Davao Del Sur and BRP Andres Bonifacio (FF-17), joined this year's "Rim of the Pacific" (RIMPAC) exercises, which took place in Hawaii on June 27 and ended Aug. 2.

Also deployed were around 700 sailors and marines.

RIMPAC is the world's largest joint and combined naval exercise.

The said assets and personnel participated in several RIMPAC exercises, which include helicopter cross-decking, live-fire exercises, a special operations training, ground-air-integration, and replenishment-at-sea among others.

Lorenzana said international exercises like RIMPAC will greatly help in boosting the naval service for prolonged operations at the seas.

"(RIMPAC) is also a good chance for our personnel to experience planning and execution of combined naval operations as well as establish the Navy's capacity for prolonged operations overseas," he added.

Meanwhile, RIMPAC also proves that despite lacking modern ships and weapons, the PN has proven itself capable of operating with its more modern naval counterparts.

"It (the exercise) also validated the age old principle that it's always the men behind the guns that will ultimately make the difference. That inspite of the current capabilities of the Navy we were still able to perform very well and at par with our more modern partners," Zata said.

He added that many lessons can still be gleaned once the after mission report of the PN contingent is submitted and evaluated.

"The Philippine Navy’s participation to RIMPAC 2018 trumpets the Command’s commitment in promoting multilateral cooperation to strengthen relationship and cooperation among participating navies of the world," the PN spokesperson earlier said.

Aside from RIMPAC, the Navy made history with BRP Tarlac (LD-601) making the first-ever port visit of a Filipino warship to Vladivostok, Russia.

The ship and its 300-man contingent aboard left Manila South Harbor last Sept. 21 and arrived in time for her scheduled Oct. 1 to 6 port visit.

During its visit to Russia, the ship and the contingent aboard it participated in several activities, which enhanced their relationship with their Russian counterparts.

Aside from this, PN personnel also got a chance to tour the Kilo-class diesel-electric submarine "Komsomolskna-Amure 877" and the Russian Marine Firing Range.

Also, Russian Marines conducted a capability demonstration and had their Philippine Marine Corps counterparts ran obstacle courses and perform pistol firing exercises.

Originally, BRP Tarlac was supposed to participate in the International Fleet Review (IFR), which was held on Jeju Island, South Korea in honor of the 70th anniversary of the ROK Armed Forces last Oct. 11 to 15.

However, the ship experienced engine problems on its way to Vladivostok, forcing it to stay in Russia for two more days to repair the damages.

BRP Tarlac was supposed to leave on Oct. 6 but the damage moved its departure date to Oct. 8.

BRP Tarlac arrived on Jeju Island, South Korea on Oct. 12, a day late for the IFR.

Despite this, Empedrad said the PN contingent was able to attend all other activities in connection with the IFR.

Another Navy milestone, in terms of overseas deployment, is the participation of BRP Dagupan City (LC-551) and the 200-man contingent aboard her in the first-ever ASEAN-China Maritime Exercise (ACMEX) that took place in Zhanjiang in Guangdong, China last Oct. 21 to 28.

The participation of the PN had greatly addressed inter-operability issues between the participating navies.

"Itong exercise (this exercise) will reduce the issue of inter-operability so maganda yung nakakapag-communicate yung barko natin sa barko ng China (and it's good that our naval ships can now communicate with China and other ASEAN navies), so it's a good exercise and hope we'll have more of this in the future," Empedrad said.

And despite being quite dated, the PN chief bared that the crew of the BRP Dagupan City showed their skills and resulted in the PN winning the communication drill exercise.

“Sending one contingent to represent the PN is a strong statement that we are one with the community of maritime nations who believe in unity and collaboration especially in addressing mutual concerns such as calamities that may affect any nation anytime,” the PN chief earlier said.

The ACMEX 2018 was an exercise hosted by the Republic of Singapore Navy and the China People's Liberation Army Navy that aimed to promote regional cooperation between ASEAN member states navies and focused on maritime safety and search and rescue at sea with emphasis on the use of Code of Unplanned Encounter at Sea (CUES).

In Zhanjiang, the PN contingent actively participated in activities that served as great avenues for learning and enhanced its relationship with the participating navies.

During the shore sub-phase, activities such as diving operations and seminar exchange, medical seminar exchange, and flight deck familiarization, among others, were conducted.

While on the sea sub-phase, the communication drills, ships group formations, joint search and rescue, cross helo deck landings and replenishment at sea approaches in accordance with the CUES were also conducted. BRP Dagupan City and the 200-man contingent aboard her left Sangley Point, Cavite last Oct. 17 and arrived in Zhanjiang on the 20th.

Commissioned in PN service during the 1990s, BRP Dagupan City has a displacement of 4,265 tons at full load. It measures 273 feet long, has a draft of 12 feet and has a top speed of 12 knots.

Earlier, Defense spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said the proposal for a joint ASEAN and Chinese naval exercise was submitted during the ASEAN Defense Minister Meeting in Singapore last February.

Anti-submarines choppers, more air assets for PH fleet

With the pending arrival of the Navy's first two AgustaWestland AW-159 "Wildcat" anti-submarine helicopters by the first quarter of 2019, the PN will now have the capability to detect and engage underwater targets.

"It is a big leap essentially dahil (because) with this capability, we now have this tool (capable) of securing not only the surface waters that we have but also underwater," Zata noted.

Prior to the acquisition of the AgustaWestland AW-159 "Wildcat" anti-submarine helicopter, the PN has no capability to detect and engage sub-surface threats.

"(And with the arrival of the AW-159), we can detect submarines, we can detect underwater vehicles and also the capability to engage underwater vehicles within our territory, so it’s a tremendous leap from our current inventory," Zata stressed.

He said the AW-159 will be based aboard the two new frigates being constructed by HHI and whose deliveries are scheduled for 2020 and 2021.

The PN spokesperson said the aircraft will be fitted with sensors and weapons capable of neutralizing sub-surface threats.

Earlier, the Department of National Defense (DND) said initial flight-testing is now ongoing for the two Philippine-ordered AW-159 anti-submarine helicopters.

The aircraft were acquired for PHP5.4 billion, including its munition, mission essential equipment and integrated logistic support.

"As confirmed by the Commander Naval Air Group. The (first) AW-159 have just started initial test flight as part of the manufacturer's trial. It is still scheduled for a series of test flights before scheduling its handover to the Philippines. According to CNAG, the flight signals the completion of the first unit," Andolong earlier said.

The AW-159 (previously called the Future Lynx and Lynx Wildcat) is an improved version of the Westland Super Lynx military helicopter.

The helicopter has been ordered for the Royal Navy and British Army. It is capable of speeds of 291 km/h (181 mph), range of 777 km (483 miles), ferry range of 963 km (598 miles) and an endurance of one and a-half hours (four hours and 30 minutes if fitted with auxiliary fuel).

The AW-159 can also be armed with rockets, machine guns, missiles, torpedoes and depth charges.

Meanwhile, the PN's surveillance and monitoring capability was boosted with the formal donation of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force of three more Beechcraft King Air TC-90 patrol aircraft last March 26.

"The (donation) is expected to boost the capability of the PN and enhance the capacity of its personnel primarily in conducting maritime security and sovereignty patrols, as the Navy stays true to its commitment to protect the seas and secure the nation's future," then PN spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna said.

He added that the PN has more than sufficient personnel to operate and maintain the Japanese-donated Beechcraft King Air TC-90 aircraft.

Some six pilots, along with the necessary maintenance officers, have completed the maintenance training in Sendai and Tokushima, Japan, prior the turned over of the aircraft last March 26.

The TC-90, which is part of the Beechcraft King Air aircraft family, was offered by Japan shortly after the Agreement Concerning the Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology was finalized last Feb. 29, 2016.

The first two TC-90s were delivered to the Philippines on March 27, 2017 while the last three aircraft were handed over to the PN last March 26.

The aircraft have a range of over 1,000 nautical miles, and a cruising speed of 226 knots. These are capable of carrying eight passengers along with the pilots.

As of this time, the Navy is operating around six Norman Britten "Islander" patrol aircraft, five AgustaWestland combat utility helicopters and one Robinson R-22 training helicopter.

Palace defends Duterte order to destroy NPA

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 24): Palace defends Duterte order to destroy NPA

MalacaƱang on Monday defended anew President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s order to his troops to reject the unilateral ceasefire declared by communist rebels and instead “destroy” them, stressing that it was the Chief Executive’s constitutional duty to protect Filipinos.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this remark after Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Maria Sison called Duterte an “abominable violator of human rights” after the President, in a speech, urged security forces to eliminate all members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

“The President's order to destroy the CPP-NPA and all its legal fronts is pursuant to his constitutional duty to protect the people,” Panelo said in a statement.

Panelo said the CPP-NPA, which has been around for 50 years, “was established for the purpose of seizing political power from the constituted government.”

He pointed out that members of the CPP-NPA have “waged a continuing rebellion and engaged in the killing of soldiers, policemen, civilians, destroying properties, extorting money from businessmen and landlords.”

Moreover, he said NPA members have been kidnapping civilians and men in uniform, committing acts of terrorism, and even exterminating their own comrades.

Panelo said these atrocities alone showed that it was the CPP-NPA violating human rights, disobeyed laws, and infringed the Constitution with impunity.

“In doing these atrocities the CPP-NPA aided by -- and in conspiracy with -- its legal fronts, violated the human rights of their victims, disobeyed the laws of the land, and infringed the Constitution with such impunity in order to destroy the democratic way of life enshrined in the Constitution as crafted by its framers and ratified by the sovereign people,” Panelo said.

“It is Jose Ma. Sison, as founder of the CPP-NPA, that aims to destroy the government that should rightfully get the dubious distinction of being the leading ‘abominable violator of human rights," he added.

Because of these crimes, Panelo said it was only the inherent right of the state to defend itself and the President is mandated to protect the government and the governed.

Panelo reminded Sison that the government will ensure that it continues to send its forces to annihilate those who seek to dismantle the democratic society.

“The CPP-NPA in sowing violence against the people will reap violence from its protector. That is the irreversible law of karma or the law of cause and effect,” Panelo said.

Lay down arms

Meanwhile, Panelo called on communist rebels anew to lay down their arms and return to the fold of law, assuring them of livelihood, education for their children, among other benefits.

“We call on our brother rebels that have chosen to thread the path of destruction and bloodshed. It is not too late to return to the fold of the law,” Panello said.

“Your families await the warmth and the joy of your return. Let us end the internecine among Filipinos,” Panelo said. “The road to peace and reconciliation is more desirable than the road to bloodshed and destruction. There is honor in returning to the rule of law."

Duterte, in a speech before troops in Camp General Manuel Yan Sr. in Compostela Valley said destroying all members of the NPA 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.

Earlier, Duterte described the NPA as “cruel and brutal people” and would rather have the military finish them off than call for a holiday truce.