Saturday, December 29, 2018

Halfway house for ex-rebels, militiamen to rise in Ilocos Norte

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 29): Halfway house for ex-rebels, militiamen to rise in Ilocos Norte

A PHP5-million halfway house for former rebels and Militia ng Bayan members will soon rise in the province of Ilocos Norte.

The province, represented by Governor Ma. Imelda Josefa ‘Imee’ Marcos, will be signing a memorandum of agreement with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Region 1 for the construction of a halfway house for former New People’s Army (NPA) rebels anytime soon.

According to Provincial Board Member Ramon Gaoat, chair of the committee on social welfare, Ilocos Norte has been chosen as site of the facility, which will serve as a temporary shelter for rebel-surrenderers.

In a special session conducted on Friday afternoon, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan passed a resolution authorizing the governor to enter into a MOA with the DILG for the establishment of the project.

Gaoat said the specific location of the halfway facility is still being assessed.

Under a memorandum circular of the DILG, local government units are mandated to provide social services to former rebels willing to go back to mainstream society.

The halfway house serves as the processing center for them while they undergo rehabilitation and healing sessions.

Various skills training, livelihood assistance and scholarship grants will also be given to them and their immediate family members as part of the government’s efforts to end insurgency movement in the country.

5 NPA surrenderers hold ‘best ever’ Christmas family reunion

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 29): 5 NPA surrenderers hold ‘best ever’ Christmas family reunion

The Philippine Army’s 2nd Infantry 'Jungle Fighter' Division's towering Christmas tree and Nativity Scene at the Camp Gen. Mateo Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal where members of former New People’s Army, who surrendered to the 1st Infantry Division military troops in Batangas last December 21, held a reunion with their families. (Photo by Saul E. Pa-a)

CAMP CAPINPIN, Tanay, Rizal -- Five of the nine New People’s Army (NPA) rebels, who recently surrendered to government forces in Batangas, described their “best Christmas ever” as they reunite with their families this holiday season.

On Friday, Major General Rhoderick M. Parayno, commander of the Army’s 2nd Infantry “Jungle Fighter” Division (2ID), welcomed the former rebels and congratulated them “for choosing their families over their comrades, for choosing peace over conflict and for choosing to be productive members of society over being extortionists who terrorize their fellow Filipinos.”

Military officials said the identities and locations of the former NPAs, who surrendered last Dec. 21 are being withheld as part of the strict security protocol being observed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Parayno has reiterated the AFP’s call for peace while assuring the former rebels’ safety, including that of their families.

He earlier made the call for the rebels to come home before Christmas and feel the peace, love, joy and bonding with their families last Dec. 20, which inspired the rebels to yield to authorities.

“The NPAs have lost their relevance. They have not only lost 50 years, they wasted 50 years of their lives pursuing their false ideology,” Parayno said.

According to military officials, a former rebel admitted they have no regrets for turning themselves in to authorities.

“I almost forgot the real spirit of Christmas because of the wrong cause. It is a great feeling to celebrate this (Christmas) together with my family, without experiencing fear. I hope my comrades would feel the same way,” the rebel surrenderer said.

The rebels voluntary gave up five days before the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) marked its 50th founding anniversary on December 26.

As surrenderers fall under his operational jurisdiction, Brig. Gen. Arnulfo Marcelo B. Burgos Jr., commander of the Army’s 202nd Infantry “Unifier” Brigade, said the insurgents surrendered to the elements of 1st Infantry Battalion (1IB), who facilitated their safe return to the government and reintegration to the mainstream of society.

“They are just some of the remnants of the terrorist organization operating in the province which is now on the final stages of dismantling following the series of major debacles against our forces last year and the mass surrender of 13 former rebels before both the Secretaries of National Defense (SND) and the Interior and Local Government (SILG) last August in Tanauan City,” said Burgos.

The five rebels have shared their “best Christmas ever” experience as they were reunited with their respective families, according to Lt. Col Jonathan Manio, Commander of the Army’s 1IB.

“Nine former rebels surrendered to our unit, laid down their arms and decided to live in peace,” Lt. Col. Jonathan Manio, commander of the Army’s 1IB, said, pointing to the rebels’ frustrations after experiencing hardships in evading military operations.

Meanwhile, Captain Patrick Jay Retumban, chief of the 2ID public affairs office, said the 202nd Brigade has recorded 24 surrenderers from Laguna, Batangas and the 1st and 2nd Districts of Quezon in 2018 alone.

Retumban said that out of the 24 surrendered rebels, 18 have already availed of the benefits under the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) while the rest are expected to be awarded next month.

He added that the E-CLIP is a holistic inter-agency approach of the government to end insurgency peacefully, by encouraging rebels to join mainstream society through various grants and compensations to help them start over their normal life.

Upon validation and approval of their enrollment to the program, each former rebel will receive PHP65,000 representing the immediate and livelihood assistance to former NPAs.

He said the package of benefits covers housing, education, and health care, among others, which the government is offering in its effort to unify the country and attain genuine, lasting peace.

MNLF-led BOL forum attracts 5K people in Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 29): MNLF-led BOL forum attracts 5K people in Sulu

Yusop Jikiri, Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Central Committee chairperson, addresses the thousands of residents who attended the forum on the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) at the Mindanao State University campus in Patikul, Sul, on Saturday. (Photo by Ely E. Dumaboc)

PATIKUL,  Sulu – Some 5,000 people on Saturday gathered at the Mindanao State University campus for a forum on the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

Initiated by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the forum was held barely three weeks before the plebiscite for the ratification of the BOL on January 21, 2019.

Yusop Jikiri, MNLF Central Committee chairperson, said they initiated the forum to properly inform the residents here about the BOL “since most of them think that it is just like the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao).”

The ratification of the BOL would create the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) that will replace the present ARMM.

“The BOL is for the people and not for any political party or person,” Jikiri told the participants to the forum, who included relatives of MNLF members and residents of the different towns of this province.

Jikiri said the MNLF's support for the BOL is anchored on the belief that it will translate to better governance through the principle of self-determination.

“The creation of BARMM will be good for us--Muslims, Christians and Indigenous People,” he said.

“This is the reason why we join the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) in pushing for its ratification,” he added.

He acknowledged, however, that “we are not expecting a 100 percent 'yes' vote since there is opposition” to the BOL in this province.

One of the opponents for the BOL's ratification is former Gov. Abdusakur Tan, who is pushing for the federal form of government.

Lawyer Jose Lorena of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) has urged the residents to support the passage of the BOL, saying it seeks to spur development and progress in the region.

“Let us give the BOL a chance for the region to be at par with the other regions that are already progressive,” he said.

Army troops in MisOr spend Xmas with ex-rebels, evacuees

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 29): Army troops in MisOr spend Xmas with ex-rebels, evacuees

Soldiers under the 58th Infantry Batallion in Balingasag, Misamis Oriental play with evacuee children from Sitio Kamansi, Lagonglong town as they visited their relocation site on Dec. 27, 2018. (58-IB Photo)

Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ 58th Infantry Battalion spent their Christmas holiday with the evacuees from Sitio Kamansi, Lagonglong town, Misamis Oriental, and three formers rebels who surrendered during Christmas Eve.

In a press released on Saturday, the battalion unit said it went to the evacuees at their temporary relocation site in Old Kibanban, Barangay Kibanban, in Balingasag town, Misamis Oriental province on December 27.

Members of the 58IB gave gifts to some 28 families and joined some parlor games for the children and adults. This was also supported by the local government of Lagonglong.

As early as June 2018, around 30 to 60 families have fled from their homes in Sitio Kamansi and took temporary shelter at the grounds of Misamis Oriental Provincial Capitol here in the city.

They evacuated due to the ongoing armed conflict between military troops and members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

As of December 30, some of the families are still staying at the capitol compounds.

Lt. Col. Anthony Derilo, 58IB commanding officer, said their goal was to reach out to these families during the holiday season.

“Much as I want to have them spend Christmas in their homes in Sitio Kamnsi and others in their beloved Sitio Anahaw, the CPP-NPA Terrorist and NDF Organizer kept on threatening and preventing them to go back and using them as a means to pressure the government to pull out military detachment in their areas," he said as quoted in the press release.

Also quoted was Lagonglong town mayor Jay Alber Puertas, who was responsible in organizing the activity with the Barangay Council of Banglay. Other stakeholders also gave the evacuees some gifts.

“We want to extend the spirit of Christmas to these families with the Army’s 58IB and let them feel the love and joy this season brings,” Puertas said.

Meanwhile, 58IB officials said they also accepted the surrender of three NPA members of Sub-Regional Committee-1 at its headquarters in Sitio Migbanday, Poblacion, Claveria town, Misamis Oriental last December 24.

The three former rebels, known with the aliases Kiwan, Jaydams, and Anak, were all under the “Sentro de Grabidad platoon Ryan of Guerilla Front Toto."

The press statement added that the three brought with them an M16 rifle, an M1 Carbine and a .45-caliber pistol. The three were said to have surrendered to Datu Kailingan, an indigenous peoples’ leader.

They were turned over to 58IB to have their requirements processed to avail of the government's Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).

As per report, the former rebels surrendered because of the hardships in the NPA units, which turned out to be contrary to what the rebel group promised through their propaganda.

Former rebels with their firearms during their surrender to the 58th Infantry Battalion on December 24. (58-IB Photo)

The former rebels were reported to have claimed that they "suffered hunger and fatigue during the continued Army’s focused military operations, in order to ensure the peace in Misamis Oriental."

“I welcome these FRs to our unit and partake with the season of love and happiness that Christmas brings. Our unit will ensure that they will be given a better future away from conflict and violence with their families. These only shows that corruption is flagrant in the NPA and all they said were just lies, empty promises and propaganda to deceive the Filipinos in joining them. To the rebels out there, we welcome you to our unit and we will help you to get the better life you longed for under the E-CLIP program," Derilo said in the statement.

Don’t listen to communists, Duterte tells farmers

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 29): Don’t listen to communists, Duterte tells farmers

President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Saturday urged farmworkers to refrain from being persuaded by communist rebels assuring them anew that land reform will continue under his administration.

Duterte made this remark during the distribution of certificates of land ownerships award (CLOA) to agrarian reform beneficiaries in Kidapawan City, Cotabato.

“Bakit kayo makinig sa mga komunista? Bakit kayo makinig kay Sison (Why do you have to listen to communists? Why do you have to listen to Sison)?” Duterte said referring to Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Maria Sison.

Duterte criticized Sison for acting as if he was the only “thinking Filipino”, stressing that although he agreed with Reds’ efforts to push for land reform, he did not agree with pushing for efforts to resume peace talks without them laying down their arms.

“Sang-ayon kami sa land reform ninyo. Sang-ayon ako sa mga bagay, social justice. Pero huwag ninyong ipadaan sa armed struggle (I agree with your efforts to push for land reform. I agree with some things like social justice. But don’t settle this through armed struggle),” Duterte said.

Duterte added that he has asked Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones to prioritize placing government lands in Quezon, Bicol, and Negros under land reform.

“I-land reform mo lahat ang gobyernong lupa bago ako matapos pagka-Presidente (Distribute all government lands before my term ends),” Duterte said.

He noted that even without the communists, there will always be friction for as long as there is no real land reform.

Meanwhile, Duterte reminded members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines to be “neutral” and not support any candidates running for next year’s midterm elections.

“Huwag kayong makialam sa election. Huwag kayong magpabor sa kandidato ko at huwag kayong pumabor doon sa kalaban. Neutral kayo (Don’t get involved in elections. Don’t favor candidates and don’t side with the opponents. You should be neutral),” Duterte said.

CPP-NPA members, 'stragglers with no direction': Esperon

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 30): CPP-NPA members, 'stragglers with no direction': Esperon

The members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People's Army (CPP-NPA) are 'stragglers' whose ideology does not fit in the Philippines, National Security Adviser (NSA) Secretary Hermogenes Esperon said.

"Ang Communist Party at New People's Army ay talagang nagsimula sa kasinungalingan at panggigipit at mga illegal na activities (The CPP-NPA really started in deceit, extortion, and illegal activities)," Esperon said in an interview posted by Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar on Facebook on Sunday.

In the video interview, Esperon enumerated the crimes which the CPP-NPA has been involved, which included the 1971 Plaza Miranda bombing, extortion from local businessmen and politicians, mass murder of comrades, and violation of indigenous peoples’ rights.

He said the CPP-NPA cannot deny these as their own comrades confessed the organization's involvement in these crimes.

"Ngayon gising na gising na ang ating mga katutubo lalo na diyan sa Mindanao, talagang umaalma na sila, alam na nila yung ginagawang tunay ng New People's Army at Communist Party of the Philippines (The indigenous peoples, especially those in Mindanao, their eyes have now been opened, they now resist as they now know the real doings of the NPA and CPP)," he said.

Screenshot of the video interview uploaded in PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar's Facebook page

Esperon also called party-list organizations Gabriela, Kabataan, Anakpawis, Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT Teachers) and labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno as "terrorist front organizations".

"Hindi ko sinasabi na lahat sila ay NPA ngunit sinusuportahan nila yung NPA, tingnan mo yung nangyari dun sa Talaingod, sinong makikita mo dun? (I'm not saying they are all NPA but they support the NPA. If you take a look at the Talaingod incident, who can we see there?)," Esperon said.

He said ACT Teachers party-list representative France Castro and former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo as among those arrested in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, after allegedly holding 14 minors without parental consent and permit from the LGU.

"Kinuha nila yung mga batang yun upang gawing mga warriors... Kung hindi sila front organizations, why can't they condemn the New People's Army? Iligal ang New People's Army dahil ang pag-armas at labanan mo ang gobyerno (They got these children to train them as warriors. If these groups are not front organizations, why can't they condemn the New People's Army? The NPA's doings are illegal because they are armed to fight the government)," Esperon said.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte has called on barangay officials and tribal leaders to strongly resist the CPP-NPA and cooperate with the government in ending the communist insurgency in the country.

The US State Department and the European Union have both tagged the CPP and NPA as terrorist organizations.