Friday, December 28, 2018

25 communist rebels surrender in Vizcaya

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 28): 25 communist rebels surrender in Vizcaya

Lt. Colonel Narciso Nabulneg of the Philippine Army reports to the members of the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) in Nueva Vizcaya the surrender of at least 25 communist rebels and 3 supporters to government forces in the upland town of Ambaguio. (Photo by PIA-Nueva Vizcaya)

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya -- Twenty five Communist rebels and their supporters recently surrendered to government forces in the upland town of Ambaguio, Philippine Army officials said.

Lt. Colonel Narciso Nabulneg, commanding officer of the army’s 54th Infantry Batallion based in Kiangan, Ifugao, said the surrenderers, who were members of the Militia ng Bayan, were part of the fourth batch of communist rebels who returned to the folds of the law.

According to Nabulneg, NPA surrenderers brought in three high-powered firearms which included Garand and M16 Carbine Rifles.

“This was a result of our continuing communication with the remnants of the NPA operating within the boundaries of Nueva Vizcaya and Ifugao provinces. We expect that others will do the same as we intensify our program for the NPA rebels,” he added.

The army official said the surrender and oath taking of the NPA rebels was also witnessed by municipal and barangay officials of Ambaguio town led by Mayor Arnold Dinungon.

He further said that the surrender of the communist rebels also resulted in the discovery and recovery of subversive documents and other subversive materials.

Nabulneg added that they were also able to overrun an NPA main camp along the borders of Tinoc-Asipulo towns in Ifugao.

Peace and Order in Davao Region gets positive grade

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 28): Peace and Order in Davao Region gets positive grade

Lt. Colonel Ezra Balagtey, spokesperson Eastern Mindanao Command

DAVAO CITY -- The military in the Eastern Mindanao graded the peace and security effort here as good in 2018.

Lt. Colonel Ezra Balagtey, spokesperson of the Eastern Mindanao Command attributed this rating to the economic growth in both Caraga and Davao Regions, dismantling of rebel fronts in Eastern Mindanao, windfall of surrenders among the rebels, reduction of mass-based support, support of the president to the security sector and the initiatives of local government units in promoting peace in their respective areas.

He said it is clear that the economy in Eastern Mindanao is vibrant in 2018 due to peace and security, with Caraga registering a growth rate in its Gross Domestic Product at four percent and a growth rate of two percent in Davao Region, respectively.

Balagtey said the military is also happy with the signing of the Executive Order No. 70 which institutionalizes the whole of nation approach in solving the insurgency problem.

“This approach is crucial in addressing both the armed component and the root cause of societal problems,” Balagtey said.

He also cited the need to strengthen the role of the barangay chairs in facing the insurgency problem since strong leadership is needed to address the concerns of the people.

Balagtey observed that most often, the barangay chair’s role is ousted whenever shadow governments are established in the countryside.

He said the military is considering that some barangay chairs who are also in cahoots with the rebels.

“We are gathering pieces of evidence against them and eventually sue them in court,” Balagtey said.

He assured that the military follows strictly the law in the conduct of their responsibility to the people by through observing the rules of engagement and respect for human rights and humanitarian law in the conduct of security operations.

Fear of military offensives prompted NPA rebels to surrender in SulKud

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 28): Fear of military offensives prompted NPA rebels to surrender in SulKud

Four New People’s Army (NPA) rebels surfaced to lay down their arms in the hinterland village of Masiag, Bagumbayan in Sultan Kudarat on Sunday.

Ka ‘Carding’, the communist group’s political instructor and platoon medic serving the defunct PlatoonTuro-turo, handed over his M1 Garand rifle. He was accompanied by three of his men who brought with them a KG9 submachine gun, two revolvers, a 9mm pistol, and three MK2 fragmentation grenades.

“We were very afraid to die in battles that we could not win. We also wanted to spend Christmas with our family,” said Ka Carding in Ilonggo dialect.

Carding and his men were among the remnants of the communist terrorist group that established the Daguma Sub-Region Party Committee about two years ago. The series of surrenders of his comrades led to the gradual collapse of the communist terrorist movement in Bagumbayan and Senator Ninoy Aquino.

“We have lost the support of the people when the 33rd Infantry Battalion took over to assist the local government here. Our cadres retreated to adjacent towns, leaving us in hiding in the forest,” said Carding, a two year veteran of the communist ‘protracted war’ in the countryside.

Lt. Col. Harold M Cabunoc, the Commanding Officer of the Army’s 33rd Infantry (Makabayan) Battalion, personally received the former rebels at his camp in President Quirino town.

“I welcome you all with open arms. Let us remember that Christmas is about forgiveness, reconciliation, and hope,” said Cabunoc who received the former rebels from Captain Winston Cacatian, the mediator.

At about 11:30am, Col Robert Dauz, the Commander of the 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade, personally received the former communist rebels at the brigade’s headquarters in Tacurong City.

“I am very glad that you are finally enlightened about the government’s genuine care for the lumads (indigenous people). We will help you return to your communities so that you can rebuild your lives,” said Dauz.

As of today, 203 former NPA rebels had surrendered to the 33rd Infantry Battalion since the unit took over responsibility of the communist insurgency in Sultan Kudarat in March 2017. Sixty five of the former rebels had been granted social benefits through the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP). (DPAO, 6ID)

50 ex-rebels vow to support gov’t, receive E-CLIP aid

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 29): 50 ex-rebels vow to support gov’t, receive E-CLIP aid

Featured Image

403rd Brigade Commander Col. Edgardo Y. De Leon talks on how the government’s Enhanced Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), through the inter-agency Task Force Balik-Loob, works for those CPP-NPA and Militia ng Bayan who surrendered. (RLRB/PIA Bukidnon)  

MALAYBALAY CITY, Bukidnon—Fifty former rebels of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) pledged to support the government by taking the oath of allegiance before governor Jose Maria R. Zubiri Jr. here, Wednesday, December 19.

In a simple rite, the surrendered CPP-NPA regulars and Militia ng Bayan—with 24 years old as the youngest and 63, the eldest—received a total of 2.08 million pesos as financial aid from the government’s Enhanced Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) ranging from P15,000 to P65,000 awarded by Defense Undersecretary Reynaldo B. Mapagu.

Ex-rebels turn over firearms where they will receive hefty sum as remuneration varying from P2,000 per unit (for low-powered guns) to as high as P279,000 (for heavy machine gun) depending on the condition and caliber of surrendered weapons. (PIA Bukidnon)

Col. Edgardo Y. De Leon, 403rd Brigade Commander said the ex-rebels also turned over firearms where they will receive hefty sum as remuneration varying from P2,000 per unit (for low-powered guns) to as high as P279,000 (for heavy machine gun) depending on the condition and caliber of surrendered weapons.

Composed of 3 females and 47 males led by top rebel leader and CPP-NPA political instructor alias “Ka Monica,” the ex-rebels revealed their struggles in the mountains.

In an interview, ‘Ka Monica’ bared her frustrations on CPP-NPA’s deceptions and exploitation of economic and social discrimination issues after serving as Political Instructor of Front 4B operating in Misamis Oriental; Front 88 in Agusan Sur; Front 89 in Pantaron Range; and Front 68 in Kitanglad area.

“After 20 years of leading a nomadic life, finally, I decided to pack up and leave because I realized that I will be stuck in a foxhole at war for life. I will be raising unschooled children. It really is a wasted opportunity for me and my comrades to have joined the organization when we could do better here with the government’s assistance, like this E-CLIP,” she said.

Usec Mapagu, who also chairs the government’s Task Force ‘Balik-Loob’ explained that the E-CLIP offers livelihood assistance and a reintegration package that includes capacity development training, educational assistance, and health services, among other benefits.

The E-CLIP Committee of Bukidnon led by Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr, together with Col. Edgardo De Leon, Commander of the 403rd Infantry "Peacemaker" Brigade; Richard D. Macas, Provincial IP Mandatory Representative; PNP provincial director Benedicto T. Pintor; and the representatives from DILG and Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office, facilitated the giving of E-CLIP assistance.

In a speech, Major General Ronald C. Villanueva, 4th Infantry Division commander, urged the 50 ex-rebels to convince their comrades still in the hinterlands to surrender because the E-CLIP ends December 31, 2019.

“After that, very bad things can happen anytime to those rebels still in the mountains,” he said.

He also calls for the nation’s more than a hundred million people to unite and support the government’s peace and development efforts.

19 ex-NPA rebels start processing E-CLIP benefits

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 29): 19 ex-NPA rebels start processing E-CLIP benefits

A total of 19 members of the New People’s Army (NPA), who yielded to the Army's 89th Infantry Battalion and who have been enrolled in the Enhanced-Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), are on their way to avail of their benefits.

The rebel returnees will also undergo psychosocial intervention through counseling and stress debriefings, as well as join a moral recovery program through the assistance of the religious sector and the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the battalion’s civil-military operation officer, 1st Lt. Mibert Bonzato, said on Thursday.

Bonzato noted that being enrolled in E-CLIP also enables the former rebels to access medical assistance, shelter, legal assistance, and security protection. They were also enrolled in PhilHealth.

He said the rebel returnees will likewise undergo training to develop their skills in livestock production, backyard poultry, swine dispersal, fishery, as well as short courses in cosmetology.

Each of the 19 rebels has received PHP65,000 in livelihood assistance from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

Bonzato said the DILG has also allocated PHP5 million for the establishment of a halfway house that would provide the surrenderers an environment for total healing, in preparation for their reintegration into mainstream society.

309 Abu Sayyaf terrorists neutralized in 2018: AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 29): 309 Abu Sayyaf terrorists neutralized in 2018: AFP

Col. Noel Detoyato, AFP public affairs office chief, in this file photo

Military operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group have resulted in the neutralization of 309 terrorists from January 1 to December 26 this year, an official of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said.

The figure is broken down into 201 surrendered terrorists, 76 killed, and 32 arrested, AFP public affairs office chief Col. Noel Detoyato said late Thursday, when asked for an update on the terrorist group.

Of those who surrendered, 74 were from Basilan, 120 from Sulu, four from Tawi-Tawi, and three from Zamboanga del Sur.

Military units were also able to recover 207 high-powered firearms and 30 low-powered ones from January 1 to December 26. Also seized were 13 improvised explosive devices and 11 terrorist camps.

Earlier, AFP Chief-of-Staff Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal said efforts to neutralize the terror threat will continue.

"We'll also keep up the pace of diminishing the existence of terrorist cells and other armed peace spoilers so we can protect our people and insulate our community from their clout of fear," Madrigal said.

This, he said, is being done with the ongoing anti-violent extremism initiatives being supported by concerned agencies and the Muslim communities.

Ex-NPA rebels being trained to become soldiers

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 29): Ex-NPA rebels being trained to become soldiers

Former members of the New People's Army (NPA), who surrendered to the government, are being trained to become soldiers under the 4th Division Training School (DTS) in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon.

In a documentary produced by the 4th Infantry Division released on Facebook last December 26, the surrenderers will undergo intensive training under the government's Integrated Territorial Defense System (ITDS).

The ITDS aims to address communist insurgency by complementing military operations with a holistic community support approach.

Candidate soldiers in the program are grateful that President Rodrigo Duterte's administration has kept its promise of providing them a new life after leaving the communist group.

One of the candidate soldiers in the program is 22-year old Reynaldo Gambota, a former NPA commander.

Gambota admitted being a runner, recruiter, and rally organizer for the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) – NPA -National Democratic Front (NDF).

"One of the reasons why I got interested to join the NPA was to know the real reason why we experience hardships. Another reason is because my relatives on (my) mother's side were NPA members," said Gambota, who was exposed to the NPA’s influence since he was 13 years old.

However, he said he experienced greater hardships being an NPA member, which made him surrender.

"Rain or shine, night and day, we would walk and pass through different areas. If there was an operation/encounter, at times we would not eat for three days. It takes us a long time to find food. We did not even have a single peso as salary. Our visits to our community/families were limited," Gambota said.

He denied the CPP-NPA-NDF's allegation that they were forced by the military to surrender. "No one forced me to surrender. They did not even hurt me. I voluntarily surrendered to soldiers because I want a new life," he said.

Gambota said that while he also undergoes hardship in training to become a soldier, he knows these will pay off.

"I can see a future here where I'll be able to provide for my family. The hardships have something in return. In the NPA, you go through hardships until you die, without providing a better future for your family," he said.

Abu Sayyaf gunman reportedly seeking kidnap targets

From The Star Online (Dec 29): Abu Sayyaf gunman reportedly seeking kidnap targets

KOTA KINABALU: After successfully snatching three Indonesian fishermen in Sabah waters three weeks ago, rising Abu Sayyaf gunman Al Mujir Yadah is back on the prowl along the sea border of eastern Sabah.

Al Mujir, who is a member of the notorious Abu Sayyaf group under sub-commander Hatib Hajan Saw­adjan, is believed to be lurking in the Tawi Tawi chain of islands that straddles along Sabah’s east coast.

According to regional intelligence sources, Al Mujir and another Abu Sayyaf gunman, Salip Mura, were spotted on Dec 21 at Tawi Tawi’s Sibutu island, which is close to the sea border of Semporna and Lahad Datu.

According to the sources, the 18-member group, which comprises Abu Sayyaf and Tawi Tawi-based kid­nap-­for-ransom members, was heavily armed and moving about in two speedboats.

They are believed to be looking for kidnapping targets in Semporna or Sandakan waters.

Intelligence sources had earlier said that Al Mujir led a group that snatched six people, including three Sandakan-based fishermen and two Indonesians, in the Pegasus Reef area on Dec 5.

Al Mujir is believed to have been involved in local kidnappings in Jolo, but has shifted to carrying out cross-border kidnappings for the Abu Sayyaf.

The Eastern Sabah Security Com­mand has remained on high alert since earlier this year and has stepped up patrols along the vast sea border.

Following the latest kidnapping incidents, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal ordered security forces to take a more offensive approach to deal with cross border kidnappers.

Hector Janjalani convicted over 2000 Basilan kidnapping

From the Philippine Star (Dec 27): Hector Janjalani convicted over 2000 Basilan kidnapping

Government forces arrested Hector Janjalani in Quiapo, Manila in December 2000. He s the brother of slain Abu Sayyaf founder Abubakar Abdurajak Janjalani and Khadafy Janjalani, who took over in 1998. The Abu Sayyaf has been involved in various kidnapping and bombing incidents in Basilan and Sulu.

A local court on Thursday convicted Hector Janjalani, brother of the late Abu Sayyaf leader Khadaffy Janjalani, over the kidnapping of several villagers, including school children, in Basilan in 2000.

The Pasig Regional Trial Court Branch 261 found Hector Janjalani guilty beyond reasonable doubt on 18 counts of kidnapping and serious illegal detention, under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code.

The court sentenced him to serve reclusion perpetua—or up to 40 years in jail— without the possibility of parole with every count.

Janjalani was arrested in Manila in December 2000. He is currently detained at Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig.

One of the accused—Daud Barud, alias Dad Daim—was convicted on 52 counts of the same charge.
Judge Florian Gregory Abalajon ordered Janjalani and Barud to pay each of the victims or their heirs P75,000 for civil indemnity, P75,000 moral damages and P30,000 for exemplary damages.

The same court earlier convicted 66 Abu Sayyaf extremists over the 2000 kidnapping incident, where 52 teachers and students from two schools in Tumahubong, Sumisip, Basilan were taken.
READ: 66 Abu Sayyaf men convicted over Basilan kidnapping

The victims were them held in a house in Puno Mahadiji in a remote jungle surrounding the towns of Sumisip, Maluso and Isabela.

Four of the victims, including Fr. Rhoel Gallardo and three teachers, were found dead on May 3, 2000, their bodies bearing signs of torture.

Among those originally charged were Abu Sayyaf leaders Khadaffy Janjalani, Aldam Tilao alias “Abu Ahmad Sabay” and Isnilon Hapilon.

The three were killed in separate government-led operations.

Philippines: Security In South Rides On Autonomy Vote – Analysis

From Eurasia Review (Dec 29): Philippines: Security In South Rides On Autonomy Vote – Analysis (By By Jeoffrey Maitem, Mark Navales and Richel V. Umel)

Flag of the Philippines.

Flag of the Philippines

A failure to ratify a Muslim autonomy law in the southern Philippines early next year could ignite fresh violence in the troubled region, with Islamic State-linked militants potentially exploiting the situation to boost their waning ranks, analysts warn.

On Jan. 21 some two million voters are expected to vote on ratifying the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL). President Rodrigo Duterte signed off on it in July, four years after the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) ended a separatist rebellion, which began two decades earlier and left tens of thousands of people dead and parts of the south in deep poverty.

If the law fails to bring development – as promised by MILF leaders-turned-politicians – it could drive many southerners back into the arms of militant groups, said Ramon Beleno III, head of the political science and history department at Ateneo De Davao University in Davao City.

“There are challenges ahead like how it will be implemented. There is opposition from other sectors. And if it they are not addressed, that situation will lead to another armed group,” he told BenarNews.

The law gives people in the south control over many local government functions, including taxation and education, and will allow Muslim Filipinos to incorporate Islamic law into their justice system.

The upcoming plebiscite is expected take place in the predominantly Muslim provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur. It will also include six towns in Lanao del Norte and the cities of Cotabato and Isabela in Basilan.

However, with a few weeks left before the vote, large segments of the Muslim population have not been educated about the concept of autonomy and the implications of BOL, according to Beleno.

“Many people do not understand it. There must be massive explanation on the ground about the consequences if they accept it or not. There were many promises under the new set-up, but if they are not met, we will have a problem,” he said.

Under the set-up MILF would gradually disarm, with its members integrating into the Philippine armed forces.

But the absence of the former fighters from the frontlines could lead to a power vacuum, which more hardline groups inspired by Islamic State (IS) militants could fill, MILF chief Murad Ebrahim has warned.

BOL: ‘A political experiment’

Already, militant groups are testing the resolve of the army and police.

In late July 2018, a car bomb set off by militants at a checkpoint in southern Basilan island killed 10 people. Meanwhile, dozens of militants who escaped from southern Marawi city last year after a five-month battle with government forces are busy with frenzied recruitment efforts, the military has said.

“The BOL will require the MILF to stop fighting the Philippine through a military struggle and this will be a big contribution to peace in Mindanao,” Rommel Banlaoi, and expert at the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, told Benar.

“However, there are still threats to peace emanating from the military activities of other groups,” he said.

Apart from holdover militant veterans of the Marawi battle, the military should be wary of extremist groups, including the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Abu Sayyaf, and watch out for a possible revival of the Ansar al-Khilafah Philippines (AKP), Banlaoi said.

Among other things to consider, MILF’s many fighters would be left to relearn military discipline under the strict guidelines of their former battlefield foes, he said. The government has estimated MILF’s strength at 10,000 fighters, but the former rebel group has claimed that its forces are three times as big.

Banlaoi said he recently visited MILF areas in the south, and he had reason to believe that “there can be more than a million armed people who can fight on behalf of the MILF.”

“Thus, BOL will require the MILF leadership to tell all their armed followers in their mass base not to use their arms to fight the central government,” he stressed, while acknowledging that the process of decommissioning MILF’s entire arsenal could be difficult.

The Bangsamoro Organic Law is not a “panacea” for multifaceted problems of conflicts in the south that have been aggravated by the presence of IS, Banlaoi argued. Rather, it is a “political experiment that we all hope will work,” he said.

Also, he said, the law could not be expected to “automatically stop the influx of foreign fighters” to the south, and could “even attract some foreign fighters to come to the south to oppose what they perceive as cooptation with the infidels.”

In such a case, he warned, MILF and the new Bangsamoro government must not lose time formulating ways to prevent more foreign fighters from infiltrating local territory.

“Otherwise, foreign terrorist fighters working in tandem with local fighters can undermine the peace aspired by all,” Banlaoi stressed.

The south’s Muslim population is not entirely united behind BOL. Some local groups have expressed their opposition to the autonomy law.

In October, Sulu provincial Gov. Abdusakur Tan II questioned its legality in a petition before the Supreme Court, arguing that the law was unconstitutional.

And Cynthia Giani, the mayor of Cotabato city, has been actively campaigning against her city’s inclusion in the expanded autonomous region.

“Whatever comes out of the plebiscite, we really have to respect it but I believe that no matter how hard you campaign to residents of Cotabato City, they have a mind of their own. What the people feel is different from what Manila people perceive,” Giani said.

MILF leaders, at the same time, have warned of trouble brewing should the measure be defeated in next month’s vote, particularly in Basilan, the bailiwick of the Abu Sayyaf Group, and in Cotabato, an administrative capital of the Muslim government.

The Abu Sayyaf, or Bearers of the Sword, is the most brutal of militant groups operating in the southern Philippines. It has been engaged mostly in banditry, kidnapping and bombings.

One of its commanders, Isnilon Hapilon, became the head of the Philippine Islamic State faction. In May 2017, he led an attack and take-over of Marawi city, a major Muslim trading hub. The siege and ensuing five-month battle destroyed the city and left at least 1,200 people dead, mostly militants.

“There should be smooth acceptance from the people. Otherwise, it will spark another group to come out,” Beleno, the political scientist, said.

Samar villagers stage anti-NPA rally

From PTV News (Dec 27): Samar villagers stage anti-NPA rally


AGAINST NPA. The anti-New People’s Army (NPA) rally in Calbiga, Samar. The town used to be a one of NPA stronghold on Samar Island. (Photo from FB page of Philippine Army 87th Infantry Battalion

More than 300 residents from 12 upland villages of Calbiga, Samar joined a peace rally at the town’s plaza, expressing opposition to recruitment activities being conducted by the New People’s Army (NPA).

The activity organized by the Philippine Army 87th Infantry Battalion (IB) based in Calbiga, Samar counters the 50th anniversary celebration of the armed struggle of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on Wednesday.

Lt. Col. Rommel Cabanayan, 87th IB commander, said placards condemning the extremists were displayed. These were later burned by the protesters to express their disgust with the anti-government movement.

“The gathering was to evade the public of getting into the trap of the rebels who have been trying to entice them of good words. Also, it was intended to encourage the radical members to go back in the arms of the government and avail the government aid intended for them,” Cabanayan said in a phone interview Thursday.

The town’s president of association of village chiefs Miguel Cabornay and local police chief Senior Insp. Michael Ray Cañete were among the resource speakers.

The Samar provinces have been the stronghold of armed rebels due to its densely-forested mountainous areas, high poverty incidence, and issue of widespread landlessness, according to a 2013 study of William Norman Holden of the University of Calgary in Canada.

The NPA launched its first tactical operation in the country in Calbiga, Samar in 1974, when its members ambushed an Army scout patrol and seized a number of weapons.

In 1976, the NPA gained popular support among the inhabitants of Samar following its campaign against cattle rustling gangs.

Philippines: 6 Suspected Communist Rebels Killed in Gunbattles

From BenarNews (Dec 27): Philippines: 6 Suspected Communist Rebels Killed in Gunbattles

Guerrillas provide security for Jaime Padilla (center), a leader of the Maoist-inspired New People’s Army rebels, in the Sierra Madre mountain range, east of Manila, July 30, 2017.

Guerrillas provide security for Jaime Padilla (center), a leader of the Maoist-inspired New People’s Army rebels, in the Sierra Madre mountain range, east of Manila, July 30, 2017.   AP                    
At least six people were killed Thursday as security forces launched a massive drive against alleged supporters of communist guerrillas in the central Philippines, police said.

Police officers, backed by the army, were serving arrest warrants in the towns of Guihulgan and Mabinay in Negros Oriental province, but the suspects fought back, leading to gunbattles, officials said.

“We followed the process in the implementation of search warrants and service of arrest warrants, but they resisted arrest,” Senior Superintendent Raul Tacaca, provincial police chief, told reporters.

But Karapatan, a human rights NGO, claimed that the slain men were civilians, not rebels. A local unit of the communist guerrilla group New People’s Army (NPA) also said the dead were not among its members.

The violence took place a day after the 50th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on Wednesday. The CPP is the mother unit of the NPA, which has been waging one of Asia’s longest-running rebellions.

Karapatan said police served 82 search warrants and arrested the captains of three villages – Kasingan, Banwage and Tacpao – and also a couple whose son was among the five fatalities.

Tacaca earlier told reporters there was also another fatality in Sta. Catalina town.

Military spokesmen were not immediately available to comment.

The alleged firefight came a day after suspected NPA rebels set off a homemade bomb in the southern province of Compostela Valley, wounding 11 soldiers.

Combined troops under 10th Division Reconnaissance Company and the 25th Infantry Battalion were conducting patrol operations in the village of Tinago in the town of Monkayo after officials received intelligence reports that the rebels were planning to mount attacks to mark their anniversary.

“Civilians told our men on the ground they were conducting recruitment in the area and forcing civilians to attend the rebel group’s anniversary,” local army spokesman Capt. Jerry Lamosao said. “We dispatched a team and they [the rebels] detonated an improvised bomb.”

He said troops were on heightened alert because guerrillas attacked troops elsewhere in the south on Christmas Day, although there were no reported casualties on either side.

The incidents occurred while the NPA was celebrating its half-century. The NPA earlier declared a five-day unilateral cease-fire for Christmas Day and New Year.

President Rodrigo Duterte had ruled out declaring a traditional cease-fire with the insurgents this year, and three days prior had ordered the military to instead destroy the rebel infrastructure.

“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 during his visit at the military camp of 10th Infantry Division in Compostela Valley’s Mawab town.

"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.

But Sandra Sidlakan, a spokeswoman for the NPA’s Guerrilla Fronts 21 and 30 in the south, belittled Duterte’s directive as mere posturing.

“This enabled us to still commemorate our 50 years, as well as share to our comrades our achievements and milestones throughout the campaign, further strengthening the morale in our ranks,” Sidlakan said in statement.

In his anniversary message, exiled communist party leader Jose Maria Sison said Filipinos had the right to overthrow Duterte, whom he alleged has become increasingly tyrannical.

"Duterte is the abominable No. 1 violator of human rights and is the precise target of the Filipino people’s exercise of their sovereign right to free themselves from tyranny and to undertake all necessary actions to oust him from his position," Sison said from the Netherlands.

"He has brazenly used his armed minions to commit mass murders and other human rights violations," Sison said. ‘He has arrogantly pushed his scheme of fascist dictatorship.”

The NPA has been waging a guerrilla campaign in the countryside during the past five decades. Military estimates placed the NPA strength at more than 5,000 men scattered in more than 60 guerrilla fronts throughout the country.

With China in vicinity, Philippine turns to US, seeks review of defense treaty

From Al Arabiya (Dec 27): With China in vicinity, Philippine turns to US, seeks review of defense treaty

A Philippine Navy battle ship mandated to defend maritime sovereignty. (Supplied)

With China’s new structural presence in the South China Sea, the Philippine government through Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin is turning to US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo to discuss issues in the South China Sea.

The arranged meeting of Locsin and Pompeo took place amidst the reported presence of newly-constructed Chinese structure in Bombay reef in the West Philippine Sea (or South China Sea).

The 90-feet modest structure was reportedly topped by a dome and solar panels. Aside from the South China issue, Locsin and Pompeo also discussed counter-terrorism and the Korean Peninsula tension.

With the reported additional structure of China, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he wanted a thorough review of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty after Philippine officials continue to raise doubts that if the US will indeed help defend the Philippines in case of foreign attack.

Consequently, it is not clear which provision of the Treaty the Department of National Defense wanted to review but for some experts the existing Mutual Defense Treaty has benefitted the Philippines after the treaty was forged in 1951.

Eduardo Sanson is one of Philippine’s legal luminaries and Dean of WMSU’s College of Law. (Supplied)

Experts defends 1951 treaty

Lawyer Eduardo Sanson, a geopolitical expert and dean of the College of Law of Western Mindanao State University (WMSU), told Al Arabiya that as a result of the 1951 mutual defense treaty, no aggressor ever dared to attack the Philippines since 1951.

“After the second world war, would-be aggressors had to think twice at invading the Philippines because they know the United States will come into the defense of the Philippines,” Sanson added.

In Washington, Pompeo also reaffirmed its security commitment to the Philippines during the Washington meet between Locsin and Pompeo.

In the Philippines, opposition lawmakers are presently challenging the Duterte administration to make a stand or stage a diplomatic protest on the presence of China structures and naval assets moving within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.

One lawmaker, opposition senator Kiko Pangilinan in a press statement said the Philippines should file a diplomatic protest and not simply be as meek as lamb in the face of these assaults on our sovereignty.

In response, Lorenzana made a bold statement that the Philippines is willing to launch a diplomatic protest on China if China’s actions in the West Philippine Sea are inconsistent with Philippine national sovereignty.

Entrance façade of Western Mindanao Command, one of the Philippine’s largest military headquarters outside Manila. (Supplied)

China-Philippine relations
The announcement of Lorenzana came when the Duterte administration has been initiating moves to bring Philippines and China economically closer. China has been providing financial assistance and foreign direct investments to the Philippines providing job opportunities that are helping locals in terms of employment.

To supplement this, the Philippines was a recipient of the $ 3 million equipment from China in the building of Marawi, a war-torn city, in the Southern Philippines. China also pledged to help repair roads and bridges in the same battle-torn city and is working to provide 100,000 Filipinos teaching jobs in China.

Moreover, China, which also signed 29 trade deals with the Philippines, was also the only country to ask the UN to support the Philippines war against drugs that generated criticism from human rights groups. While some Western states stood against Duterte’s campaign against drugs, China stood by the Philippines.

Thus, it would be an awkward move for the Philippines to launch a diplomatic protest and at the same receive continuous aid and support from China. While the US has the Mutual Defense Treaty to call the Philippines as one of Asia’s oldest allies, China on the other hand, is also becoming one of Philippine’s closest Asian ally despite the dispute in the South China Sea.

With this, it would be difficult for the Philippines to launch a diplomatic protest against China amidst the expansive structures in the West Philippine Sea.

A banner of the Army engineers who are at the forefront of this campaign. (Supplied)

50th CPP anniversary: Looking through five decades of violence and peace talks (Pt. 1)

From the Manila Times (Dec 28): 50th CPP anniversary: Looking through five decades of violence and peace talks (By Jumel Gabilan Estrañero)

First of three parts
BEFORE 2018 ends, another year has been celebrated by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) for its 50th founding anniversary last December 26. According to a CPP spokesman, “This enabled us to still commemorate our 50 years as well as share to our comrades our achievements and milestones throughout the campaign, further strengthening the morale in our ranks.” (Sandara Sidlakan, spokesperson for Guerrilla Fronts 21 and 30 of the New People’s Army or NPA in northern Mindanao.)

On the other hand, the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division commander, Maj. General Rhoderick Parayno, said that 164 rebels had surrendered in Calabarzon. “The (CPP) has lost its relevance [and] is just living on propaganda,” Parayno said. “Those who understand their plight, their cause, are surrendering. They’ve not only lost 50 years. They have wasted 50 years.”

According to the military, more than 1,120 regular NPA fighters and 9,577 members of the “militia ng bayan” nationwide had surrendered to government forces from January 1 to November 28 this year.

Serving as a background of this long-hailed communist insurgents and terrorists, the CPP was established along Maoist lines on Dec. 26, 1968, by then university professor Jose Maria Sison and a handful of followers who broke away from the old Soviet-oriented party. Three months later, on March 29, 1969, the core group formed the NPA with guerrillas to replace the old Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan.

Various guerrilla platoons held their own celebrations on their respective fronts. The rebel terrorists had received calls from individuals, politicians and different groups supposedly wanting to attend the celebration. The CPP has been good in boosting the morale of their comrades even in the midst of alleged military offensive by the AFP. “Even before Christmas Day, the Army offensive in the different areas in Surigao del Sur has been relentless and has intensified but it has not broken our will and we have still managed to commemorate and celebrate the 50th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines,” Sidlakan said.

Currently, the military stepped up its counterinsurgency operations after President Rodrigo Duterte canceled peace talks to end the 50-year communist insurgency in November 2017. Duterte has also moved to proscribe as terrorists the CPP, NPA and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the Marxist umbrella representing the rebels in the negotiations.

In a separate statement, the regional committee of the CPP on Panay Island said NPA offensives in the area increased 13 percent over last year and recruitment grew 12 percent, the biggest since 1993. It said the members of village-based rebel militia units also rose 35 percent.

Lies, deception, violence

 The CPP is also good at lying about its continued deception of the masses. Sidlakan said military offensives were continuing on December 26, with guerrillas reporting clashes in San Miguel town, Surigao del Sur province, and Sibagat town, Agusan del Sur province. Those who died, it said, were unarmed and noncombatant members of the party’s regional education and propaganda staff.

With the youth sector as the party’s backbone, students of the University of the Philippines (UP) or Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) are easily recruited to become members of the CPP, or worse, join the heavily armed terrorist group NPA. I remember the Anakbayan saying before, “The arrest is alarming since the reactionary military forces have a track record of violent and inhumane treatment of their captives, especially women.” Of course, this is mere Anakbayan propaganda.

If there is any organization responsible for recruiting women to fight our soldiers, it is the Anakbayan group. For many years, we have been saying that Anakbayan was one of the above-ground allied fronts of the CPP and the NPA. Also, Anakbayan charges the Armed Forces of the Philippines for their violent behavior, but in truth if there was no armed insurgency by the NPA or Anakbayan, then there wouldn’t be any need for soldiers to patrol the hinterlands of Negros island. The fact that the AFP does not reveal the identities of any of its captives is a proof of the AFP’s adherence to international and humanitarian law. But the NPA which accuses the military of violations of human rights, they are far worse in the sense that they are recruiting innocent and underage students to fight their lost cause.

Further, the heavy equipment of a private construction firm in South Cotabato were recently burned by the NPA. Supt. Aldrin Gonzales, spokesperson for the regional police, said 10 members of the NPA set ablaze a backhoe of Gemma Construction at the village of Lamfugon, Lake Sebu town, in South Cotabato.

In addition, on October 4, NPA rebels also burned a truck, 20 sacks of fertilizers and 18 hectares of lemon at a plantation in Agusan del Sur. The plantation at the village of Balit in San Luis town iss owned by a Charity Ampong, who has been accused by the rebels of being “despotic” towards her workers.

Let us remember that since 2015, more than a dozen heavy equipment of private firms engaged in road construction and concreting in the upland towns of South Cotabato, have been burned by the rebels. The NPA’s stand on this kind of crime is like acting a la Robin Hood. Blaming the government or company owner while giving pitiful concern for the people in the locality. Words like the workers can only have their time to rest during lunch break but they are required to rest in sheds or else their wages will be deducted.

Meanwhile, this is not the first time they have acted like this. In a statement last year, the NPA owned up to the burning of quarry equipment in Koronadal City. These equipment are valuable not just for local construction but also for agricultural uses. Clearly this is the work of the NPA, which has been mulcting the construction companies. Destruction of property is a big crime of humanity, an economic sabotage endangering the lives of many Filipinos.

Recruitment of minors

 The statement of former Bayan Muna party-list representative Satur Ocampo that communist rebels are not recruiting minors as fighters, is a blatant lie. The statement/claims made by Ocampo and the group of teachers and minors from the Salugpungan Learning Center last month are conflicting. The group of teachers and minors said that the police and military were involved in dispersing them from their school and boarding house so they sought the help of Ocampo’s group. Ocampo claimed in a television interview that as a rule, the CPP-NPA-NDF is against the recruitment of minors so definitely that could not be part of the program of the NPA.

Why do they have to take the law into their own hands, by allowing themselves to rescue the teachers and minors as they keep on saying? Were there no honest military men and police men anymore in the area? They could have asked the help of the mayor or the governor in the first place as a matter of protocol. Ocampo must know that as a former party-list representative, one must at least pay a courtesy call. Or maybe he just wanted to bypass the law?

They said that “We have consent from parents of the children when they were evacuated.” Also, they said they didn’t have time to call the police because their dispersing was already happening. And yet you can get the consent of every parent of those children in that very situation and that fast? But you don’t have time to call the police?

Everyone knows that the NPA recruits children. So, what’s new? It’s just that they were caught red-handed.

(To be continued)

[Jumel Gabilan Estrañero, a defense analyst/researcher for the government while teaching political science and international affairs. He specializes in defense security, strategy and policy, South China Sea, terrorism, global and regional politics, and special intelligence.]

NPA weakening as 22 more yield – AFP

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 28): NPA weakening as 22 more yield – AFP

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, Jr. said on Thursday that as more members of the Communist New People’s Army surrender, it will continue to weaken their organization.

CHRISTMAS DAY SURRENDER – Army officers welcome the 19 of 22 communist rebels who surrendered in Barangay Ilang0Ilang, Loreto town, Agusan del Sur, on Christmas Day. (Armed Forces of the Philippines photo)

Madrigal made the remark after 22 high-ranking NPA members from Agusan del Sur, Agusan del Norte and Bukidnon provinces surrendered to the Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4th ID) a day before the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) celebrated its 50th founding anniversary on Dec. 26.

“They once again lost members who finally understood that they are not fighting for the Filipino people, but for their selfish leaders who use them to extort money and demonize the government. Happy anniversary indeed to the Communist Party of the Philippines,” Madrigal said in a statement.

Three NPA terrorists with three firearms from Bukidnon also surrendered to the 8th Infantry Battalion last Dec. 23 while an NPA terrorist from Agusan del Norte surrendered to the 23rd Infantry Battalion on Dec. 24.

A whole unit of the CCP-NPA operating at the boundary of Agusan Sur and Compostela Valley surrendered on Christmas Day. The 19 rebels surrendered with their leader who is known as “Boss Mark” and other commanding officers, secretary, squad leaders, medics, and members, to the 75th and 26th Infantry Battalions.
They brought along their firearms –an M16 rifle, an M203 grenade launcher, three M16 Bushmaster rifles, two M16 Elisco rifles, a baby M16, four pistols, thousands of ammunitions, several war materiel and subversive documents.

Madrigal said the rebels who surrendered are undergoing debriefing at the 401st Brigade of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division.

“We are hoping that more leaders and members snap back to reality and realize that they can never have the upper hand on their so-called war,” Madrigal said.

The AFP chief said the communist terrorists had conducted atrocious attacks in the past weeks. He said they had lost more than 11,500 cadres in 2018.

“The CPP-NPA have no reason to celebrate and no achievements to be proud of. We are reminding them that their options remain the same: we are ready to accept them and they can avail of the benefits of ‘balik-loob’ or they might just die for a lost cause,” Madrigal said.

Army 4th Infantry Division (4th ID) commander Majo. Gen. Ronald C. Villanueva said the NPA members surrendered due to corruption within the CPP-NPA leadership.

It was reported that the rebels cited lies, deceit, corruption and crimes within their organization as the reasons that pushed them to give up.

“We welcome their surrender, it’s the best decision they have made for themselves and their families. They will be enrolled in the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP),” Villanueva said.

“I’m calling on all NPA members to return to the fold of the law while you still have your chance. Your families are waiting for you. The senseless ideology of the CPP-NPA will not solve your problem, let us work together to end insurgency and live a peaceful and meaningful life before 2019 comes,” he said.


Meanwhile, Army 303rd Brigade Commander Colonel Benedict Arevalo, on the occasion of the celebration of the CPP’s anniversary by NPAs in Negros, said that CPP-NPA-NDF is either dreaming or hallucinating as they claim victory for the 50 years of their struggle.

He said if the NPAs could have won or taken over the country it should have been a long time ago.

“Yes, anybody is free to dream for as long as that dream will make better persons or organizations; but if it will make monsters out of them just like the three-headed monster as the CPP-NPA-NDF, then that dream should stop! So, the CPP-NPA-NDF should stop dreaming or hallucinating! Their sinister aspirations will never be a reality! The people will never support the reign of terror, hatred and deception of the CPP-NPA-NDF,” Villanuva said.

“Fifty years of lies is just too much for the people to take. The CPP-NPA-NDF should stop believing in their own propaganda before they suffer living in their make believe wonderland detached from reality,” Villanueva said.

NUJP denounces 'CPP legal front' tag

From the Sun Star-Bacolod (Dec 27): NUJP denounces 'CPP legal front' tag

THE National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) denounced the accusation that it is “legal front” of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

A certain Mario Ludades, who claims to be a former ranking officer and founder of the CPP, accusing the NUJP of being one of the supposed “legal fronts” of the revolutionary movement.

In a statement, the national director stressed it was not the first time the NUJP has been the target of such lies.

The organization was also one of those identified as “enemies of the state” in the PowerPoint presentation “Knowing the Enemy” created in 2005 by the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and which the military showed in schools and other venues, the statement said.

In the case of Ludades, who identifies himself as spokesman of the “No to Communist Terrorist Group Coalition” and an indigenous people’s leader in the Cordillera region, it does not take rocket science to guess who is behind him and the lies he spouts, it added.

“The charge of being a ‘legal front’ of the communists is so absurd it is tempting to dismiss it outright. Nevertheless, we are treating it seriously because it puts the organization, its officers and members in potential risk,” the statement said.

Also, websites of alternative media outfits Bulatlat and Kodao – which both house NUJP chapters – were taken down almost simultaneously before noon.

That these assaults on freedom of the press and expression took place on the 50th founding anniversary of the CPP is clearly no coincidence, it said.

The takedowns of Bulatlat and Kodao, which state security forces have also time and again accused of links to the revolutionary underground, bear similar signs as the attack that led to the shutting down of the NUJP in 2016.

The attack on the alternative media outfits happened soon after they posted stories about the CPP.

They also come after an incident last week when armed men in civilian clothes believed to be military or police operatives were seen in the vicinity of the office building that houses Kodao and a number of activist organizations that the government openly tags as “front organizations” of the communist revolutionary movement.

“We stress that the ‘alternative media’ are a legitimate part of the Philippine media community whose take on current events and issues broaden the national discourse and provide an invaluable contribution to the growth of democracy,” NUJP said.

Only those who seek to suppress freedom of thought and of expression would seek to silence them and, for that matter, independent media as a whole, it added.

“If Ludades and his handlers, and those behind the taking down of the Bulatlat and Kodao sites, couldn’t be more wrong if they think they can intimidate us with stupid stunts like these,” NUJP said.

“The NUJP and all independent Filipino journalists have not and will never be cowed into giving up the continued struggle for genuine freedom of the press and of expression in the country. This is not a boast. It is a fact,” it added.

More than 11K NPA rebels, supporters yield in 2018

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 28): More than 11K NPA rebels, supporters yield in 2018

A total of 11,605 New People's Army members and supporters have surrendered to the government, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said.

Col. Noel Detoyato, AFP public affairs office chief, said on Thursday the figure is from Jan. 1 to Dec. 26 this year.

Of this number, 1,222 are regular NPAs; 1,398 are "Militia ng Bayan" operatives; 408 "Sangay ng Partido sa Lokalidad"; 1,133 "Underground Mass Organization" members and 7,444 others are considered as supporters of the communist terrorists.

During military operations, 120 were killed and 196 were arrested.

The number of seized high-powered firearms was placed at 787 while low-powered ones totalled to at 1,074. Some 546 improvised explosive devices and 310 camps were also seized during military operations.

AFP chief-of-staff, Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, earlier said the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) celebrated its 50th anniversary Wednesday without any real achievement with its members fighting for a lost cause.

"Again, as far as we are concerned, the CPP-NPA have no reason to celebrate and no achievements to be proud of. We are reminding them that their options remain the same: we are ready to accept them, and they can avail of the benefits of 'Balik-Loob' or they might just die for a lost cause," he said.

The NPA, the Communist Party of the Philippines' armed wing, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union.

Palace to address travel advisory issued by US

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 28): Palace to address travel advisory issued by US

Malacañang on Friday assured it would look into the travel advisory issued by the United States to the Philippines for lack of security measures at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

“We are looking into the United States Department of Homeland Security's travel advisory, including their recommendations on how the government may tighten its current security measures, particularly as regards the safety of our airports,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.

“Ensuring the safety of the traveling public is one of the critical interests of our government in view of the looming threat of terrorism,” he added.

Panelo said the government intends to use the inputs of the Philippines’ global partners, including international assessment bodies, such as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), whose latest security audit findings were found to be "generally satisfactory" with ICAO standards of safety and security.

He assured that the Philippine government, through the Department of Transportation (DOTr), the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), and the Office for Transportation Security (OTS), are prioritizing the implementation of strict security measures at the country’s premier airport.

Panelo said procurement of more X-ray machines, walk-through metal detectors, and alarm systems is among the recommendations.

“We are aware, however, that all these take time and, as airport authorities explained, they expect such equipment to be installed and utilized only in the second quarter of 2019,” he said.

“We thus laud the existing efforts of our various officials in the transport industry who have tirelessly made sure that our passengers reach their destinations from our transit stations safely and efficiently. 'Tanim bala,' for one, is a thing of the past,” he added.

Panelo, also Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, said the administration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte remains “fully committed in our continuing efforts to enhance and secure our airports and eventually protect and ensure the safety of travelers."

Lorenzana orders review of 67-year-old US-PH military pact

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 28): Lorenzana orders review of 67-year-old US-PH military pact

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Friday he has directed a review of the 67-year-old Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the Philippines and the United States, to see if it is still relevant to the Philippines' "national interest.”

“I have just directed our lawyers to start looking into it,” Lorenza said in a Palace press briefing.

“That’s 1951. It’s a 67-year-old treaty. Is it still relevant to our national interest? That’s what we should look at. Let us look at it dispassionately, without considering about past ties, about future ties—dispassionately,” he said.

Lorenzana said the end goal of the review is either
“to maintain it, strengthen it, or scrap it”.

He said the provisions of the 1951 MDT should be reviewed whether it is “still valid or still relevant today”.

“It’s been a long time, 1951 against 2018 is a long time already,” Lorenzana noted.

When asked if the disputed West Philippine Sea will be part of the review, Lorenza replied: “Everything, everything, everything. The dynamics going on all over the world.”

Lorenzana said even the National Defense Act of 1935 should be reviewed if it is still relevant to the country’s history.

“The National Defense Act of 1935 is still the law that is being followed by our military. It was 1935, for a long time, much has happened,” Lorenzana said.

“So, that is part of the law that I am trying to review also so that if we can, maybe, we could convince Congress to amend it, to align it with what is happening now in our life as a nation,” he added.

FVR attends unveiling of SAF 44 Monument

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 28): FVR attends unveiling of SAF 44 Monument

(Photo courtesy of Mel Bergado)

Former President Fidel V. Ramos was the guest of honor and speaker at the inauguration of the Special Action Force Museum, SAF 44 Memorial and Black Beret Monument held in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig Metro Manila last Dec. 17.

Ramos founded the SAF when he was still the chief of the Philippine Constabulary (PC), now the Philippine National Police (PNP). He paid tribute to the 44 SAF troopers killed in a gun battle with Islamic terrorists in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on Jan. 25, 2015.

He cited the bravery of the SAF troopers, who were outnumbered and pinned down during the fierce firefight that lasted for hours that also killed 18 of the terrorists, including Zulkifli Abdhir, a Malaysian terrorist bomb maker.

However, five innocent civilians were also killed in the crossfire.

As the founder of SAF, Ramos was shocked and saddened, when news broke out about the killing of 44 young SAF troopers.

Ramos, former chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and later Defense Secretary before he was elected as the 12th President of the Philippines, organized the SAF as an elite force of the PC, trained to fight in the jungle and in urban areas.

Despite his age at 90, Ramos still has the stamina to play golf, visit friends, and attend social functions. His memory remains sharp as ever.

Sayyaf bandit nabbed in Zamboanga City

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 28): Sayyaf bandit nabbed in Zamboanga City

A TEAM of police and military operatives on Thursday arrested Ben Mungakay alias Boy Negro, 57, an alleged member of the Urban Terrorist Group (UTG) of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Zamboanga City. (Photo courtesy of Police Regional Office-9 public information office)

ZAMBOANGA CITY--A police and military team arrested on Thursday an Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandit in a law-enforcement operation in this city, an official said Friday.

Chief Supt. Emmanuel Luis Licup, Police Regional Office (PRO-9) director,
identified the arrested individual as Ben Mungakay, 57, a member of the ASG’s Urban Terrorist Group (UTG).

Licup said Mungakay was arrested through a warrant of arrest for serious illegal detention around 4 a.m. Thursday in Barangay Curuan.

Mungakay is one of the followers of ASG sub-leader Marzan Ajijul. Police said he was involved in the kidnapping of Doroteo Gonzales, a carpenter, on April 25, 2009 in Barangay Buenavista here.

The ASG bandits beheaded Gonzales after his family failed to pay the PHP25 million ransom in exchange for his release.

Gonzales severed head was found on May 17, 2009 in the town of Al-Barka, Basilan province.

Licup said Mungakay was placed under the custody of the Police Station 2 of the Zamboanga City Police Office (ZCPO).

Group formed to check projects in rebel-infested areas

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 28): Group formed to check projects in rebel-infested areas

CONSTRUCTION STOPPED. A portion of the road in Las Navas, Northern Samar where concreting was terminated due to NPA threats. (Photo courtesy of OPAPP)

TACLOBAN CITY -- A technical working group (TWG) has been formed to find out concerns and recommend solutions on the delayed construction of government infrastructure projects in conflict-affected areas of Samar Island.

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Regional Director Bonifacio Uy, in a mobile phone interview on Friday, said the Regional Development Council (RDC) has already approved the resolution creating the TWG. The group will have its first meeting early next year.

Uy, the RDC vice chair, said the group is composed of officials from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), Philippine Army 8th Infantry Division, and concerned local government units.

“There is a need to create a group that will look into prevailing issues in the implementation of projects in conflict-affected areas, such as the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA), and identify recommended actions that have to be undertaken to avoid similar issues in the future,” Uy told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

PAMANA is the national government’s convergence program that extends development interventions to isolated, hard-to-reach and conflict-affected communities, ensuring that they are not left behind.

Early this month, the RDC has identified three terminated PAMANA infrastructure projects in Samar provinces funded under the 2016 budget of OPAPP.

These are the PHP71-million bridge construction in Motiong, Samar; PHP114.7-million box culvert construction in Las Navas, Northern Samar; and PHP192-million road construction also in Las Navas town.

Initially, the region’s highest policy-making body identified some major setbacks of project implementation such as threats from the New People’s Army, absence of access roads, subcontracting issues, unworkable ground conditions, and lack of manpower and equipment.

Top officials in Eastern Visayas have elevated to Cabinet secretaries the discussion on delayed and terminated infrastructure projects meant for impoverished and conflict-stricken areas on Samar Island.

The RDC’s discussions on delayed PAMANA projects have started in the second quarter of this year. Earlier, the body already passed two resolutions to help expedite the project and conduct problem solving sessions.

The council also passed a resolution endorsing the transfer of implementation of delayed PAMANA projects to the engineering brigade of the Philippine Army. The document also requested concerned agencies to expedite the execution of an agreement to facilitate the project construction turnover.

2 soldiers critical after Cotabato shooting

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 28): 2 soldiers critical after Cotabato shooting

SEALED OFF. Police close down with police yellow tape the area in Sinsuat Avenue, Cotabato City, where a riding-in-tandem attacked and shot two Army on Friday (Dec. 28). (Photo courtsey of City Transport Traffic Office)

Authorities said they are hunting down motorcycle-riding gunmen who shot and critically-wounded two Army personnel along Sinsuat Ave. here Friday morning.

Senior Supt. Rolly Octavio, city police director, identified the wounded soldiers as Private First-Class Michael Haudar, 27, and Nerwin Delfin, 26, whose rank was not immediately known.

Haudar and Delfin remain in critical condition at a hospital here, Octavio said.

The victims, both members of the Army’s 37th Infantry Battalion based in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, were riding a motorbike along Sinsuat Ave. when tailed by riding-in-tandem suspects who shot them at close range shortly before 9 a.m.

“The attackers sped off following the incident, leaving the victims sprawled on the pavement,” Octavio told reporters here.

Both victims sustained gunshot wounds in various parts of their bodies.

Octavio said probers are working on the identities of the gunmen, who used a blue Bajaj motorcycle with a plate number they declined to reveal, pending police follow-up operations.

"Witnesses saw the plate number of the motorbike the assailants used during the attack," he said.