Sunday, January 6, 2019

Military intel report contradicts Duterte’s reason to seek martial law extension – Lagman

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 5, 2019): Military intel report contradicts Duterte’s reason to seek martial law extension – Lagman

A military intelligence report submitted to an opposition lawmaker has allegedly repudiated claims by President Rodrigo Duterte that “rebellion persists in Mindanao.”


Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said Maj. Gen. Fernando Trinidad of the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) made this revelation in a report submitted to the solon’s office on December 13, 2018.

According to Lagman Trinidad was relieved from his post four days after sending him the report. The military official was replaced by Brig. Gen. Pablo M. Lorenzo.

“Only in the Philippines does rebellion exist without a single rebel,” stressed Lagman in a press statement released Saturday.

Lagman said Fernando reported that ‘for the entire year that martial law was extended over Mindanao, “not a single person had been captured, arrested or charged with rebellion.”

While four persons were arrested, not one of them was charged with the crime of rebellion, disclosed the opposition solon.

Lagman said the report contradicted the claim of Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, Jr. before Joint Session of the Congress that during the second extension a total number of 143 individuals were arrested and all were charged with rebellion,” Lagman stated.

“It is unmistakable that no one was apprehended or indicted for rebellion because in fact rebellion, which is an armed uprising against he government for the purpose of removing the country or a portion thereof from the allegiance to the Republic, does not actually exist,” Lagman pointed out.

The report was one of the documents submitted by Lagman and members of the House Magnificent Seven to the Supreme Court where a petition questioning the legality of the second extension of Mindanao martial law has been filed.

The seven opposition lawmakers decried the recent extension of martial law as “void” for being unconstitutional.
Congress voted to approve Duterte’s martial law order in Mindanao, a second extension that started in 2017 when Maute rebels placed Marawi City under siege.

Aside from Lagman other signatories of the 46-page petition were Reps. Tomasito Villarin (Akbayan Partylist); Teddy Baguilat, Jr., (LP, Ifugao); Edgar Erice (LP, Caloocan City); Gary Alejano (Magdalo Partylist), who all belong to the Magnificent 7 opposition group.

Also signing as petitioners were Reps. Christopher Belmonte (LP, Quezon City) and Arlene “Kaka” Bag-ao (LP, Dumagat Island).

The petitioners asserted that the Resolution of Both Houses No. 16 dated 12 December 2018 mocks the 1987 Constitution because:

(1) Rebellion does not exist and persist in Mindanao;
(2) Public safety is not imperiled;
(3) Another year of extension unduly prolongs the martial law regime; and
(4) Proclamation No. 216 which originally imposed martial law a suspended the writ in Mindanao has become functus officio and cannot anymore be extended.

IN PHOTOS: Russian vessels visit Philippines as 2019 begins

From Rappler (Jan 6, 2019): IN PHOTOS: Russian vessels visit Philippines as 2019 begins

(UPDATED) The visit will 'enhance and sustain the promotion of peace, stability, and maritime cooperation' between the Philippines and Russia, says the Philippine Navy

GOODWILL VISIT. Philippine Navy officials and members of media stand on the dock to welcome 3 Russian Navy vessels upon their arrival at Pier 9, Manila, on January 6, 2019. All photos by Inoue Jaena/Rappler

GOODWILL VISIT. Philippine Navy officials and members of media stand on the dock to welcome 3 Russian Navy vessels upon their arrival at Pier 9, Manila, on January 6, 2019. All photos by Inoue Jaena/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Vessels of the Russian Navy docked in the Philippines for a goodwill visit from Sunday to Friday, January 6 to 11.
The Russian Navy's large anti-submarine ship Admiral Pantellev, guided missile cruiser Varyag, and large sea tanker Boris Botuma kicked off their goodwill visit to the Philippines at Pier 9, South Harbor, in Manila on Sunday.
In a statement, the Philippine Navy said the visit "aims to strengthen the relationship" between them and the Russian Navy.
"It will further enhance and sustain the promotion of peace, stability, and maritime cooperation of the two countries through naval diplomacy and camaraderie," the Philippine Navy said.
The Russian embassy also said it is confident that there would be "further fruitful cooperation" between Russia and the Philippines.
"There is a certain degree of symbolism to the fact that the New Year 2019 starts with [the] current visit of the Russian Pacific Fleet Detachment to Manila. For each person, these days bring an opportunity to come up with new plans and intentions, to hope for prosperity, happiness, and well-being," said the Russian embassy in a statement.
A customary meeting procedure with a designated vessel from the Philippine Navy was first held near Corregidor Island. A welcome ceremony and port briefing were then conducted upon the arrival of the Russian Navy's vessels at South Harbor.
A Russian Navy contingent previously arrived at South Harbor on June 9, 2018, for a 5-day goodwill visit to the Philippines. The Philippine Navy had received the Russian Navy large anti-submarine ships Admiral Tributs and Admiral Vinogradov, as well as the large sea tanker Pechenga.
In October 2018, the Philippine Navy's vessel BRP Tarlac also made a historic port call to Vladivostok, Russia.
These visits come as President Rodrigo Duterte vows to move closer to China and Russia, rivals of the Philippines' long-standing ally, the United States. (READ: Despite new friends, Philippines sticks it out with U.S. in 2018)

P500k bounty up for arrest of suspects in Cotabato City blast

From MindaNews  (Jan 5, 2019): P500k bounty up for arrest of suspects in Cotabato City blast

The Cotabato City local government unit offered a P500,000 reward for anyone who can provide information leading to the arrest of the two suspects in the New Year’s Eve blast in Cotabato City that killed two persons and wounded 34 others.

Chief Supt. Eliseo Rasco, Police Regional Office-12 director, disclosed this on Saturday as the police released photographs of the two suspects extracted from the closed circuit television camera of the South Seas Mall.

The improvised bomb exploded on the sidewalk fronting the mall entrance where vendors were selling New Year party horns.

SOCO personnel examine the blast site outside the South Seas Mall in Cotabato City. Photo courtesy of Division Public Affairs Office, 6th Infantry Division

The lethal explosion occurred three weeks before the plebiscite for the ratification of Republic Act 11054 or the Organic Law for theBangsamoro Automous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) on January 21 in the proposed core territory.

The Commission on Elections also set February 6 for voters in Lanao del Norte, six towns in North Cotabato and other areas that petition for inclusion in the future BARMM.

Once ratified, the BARMM will replace the 28-year-old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The creation of the new Bangsamoro region is the key component of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the final peace deal signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2014.

The police revealed the bounty and the pictures of the suspects as Cabinet secretaries and top military and police officials appealed for sobriety regarding the Cotabato City blast.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. and top military and police commanders met with local officials in Cotabato City on Thursday to assure the city of a peaceful conduct of the upcoming plebiscite.

A report from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said Lorenzana went to Cotabato City to “prevent speculation and “finger-pointing” in the bomb attack.

“We are here to defuse the tensions and we don’t want to escalate the conflict,” Lorenzana said.

Among those who attended the dialogue were Cotabato Mayor Frances Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi, Maguindanao 1st district and Cotabato City Rep. Bai Sandra Sema and Sammy Gambar Al-Mansoor, Chief of Staff of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, the armed wing of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Lorenzana said a presentation made during the security briefing led by 6th Infantry Division commander Maj. General Cirilito Sobejana suggests the bombing had the signature of a local terror group.

“Until we get to the bottom of this, we consider this incident a terror attack,” he said, adding the initial investigation “points to the Daulah Islamiyah terror group.”

The Defense Chief said their intention in going to Cotabato City was to ensure the people “to have a free and peaceful elections and plebiscites.”

“Rest assured that your military and police are doing their best to ensure that you can vote freely according to your choice,” he said.

Lorenzana also called on the people to weigh the benefits of the BOL.

Meanwhile, in the same OPAPP report, Galvez and Westmincom chief Lt. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega asked the leaders to stay calm following the attack.

“We can’t win peace by force, but by persuasive diplomacy and understanding,” Galvez said.

AFP Chief vouches for National Task Force vs insurgency

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 5, 2019): AFP Chief vouches for National Task Force vs insurgency

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr looks forward to the operationalization of the Executive Order No. 70 or the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict in 2019.

In an interview Wednesday, January 2, Lt. Gen. Madrigal stressed the need for all government agencies - both national and local government units - to come together to totally eradicate the root causes of conflict and violence.

"We have made significant progress and have headways in our campaign to end insurgency, but to reach what we can call a complete victory, we need to create communities that are conflict-resilient and we need local and national government agencies to attain this," Lt. Gen. Madrigal said.

In 2018, consolidated data from ground units of the AFP indicate a total of 12,017 CPP-NPA members and supporters have been neutralized.

The figure includes 130 that were killed and 264 that were apprehended in legitimate security and law enforcement operations.

A total of 11,623 have also surrendered including 1,227 regular NPA fighters. AFP units also confiscated 1,920 assorted firearms and seized 316 enemy encampments.

Madrigal added that a series of meetings and plannings is on-going to operationalize E.O. Nr 70 and create a National Peace Framework anchored on the Whole-of-Nation approach institutionalized as a national policy.

"Aside from focusing on our enemies, we also have to look at our people and communities through a people-centered strategy to make our communities resilient from communist recruitment, propaganda, and exploitation," Lt. Gen. Madrigal said. (AFP)

1998 Basilan battle hero appeals for medical aid

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 5, 2019): 1998 Basilan battle hero appeals for medical aid

The soldier who helped neutralize Abu Sayyaf leader, Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani, in 1998, deemed a hero in the Philippine military, is now the one searching for a champion to help him seek medical treatment.

Incapacitated after another ambush where he suffered a gunshot wound in his spine, Master Sgt. Jose Juanillo Tubil said he has difficulty sleeping due to pain.

Tubil, who lives in Isabela, Basilan, has reached out to Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco, executive director of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security, for assistance to come to Manila to seek treatment.

Egco said he has forwarded Tubil's request to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for proper action.

In a story titled “An Almost-Forgotten Story of Heroism”, narrated by Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc and posted on Facebook by Josephine Jaron Codilla, it was said that Tubil, then a Scout Ranger, guided them in two operations in February and December 1998 against Janjalani and his group, including the one that eventually resulted in the terror leader’s death.

"Janjalani died in the same house where we confiscated high-caliber rifles. He and his men were killed by Ranger Tubil and at least 10 other CAFGU (Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit) from Barangay Ulami sometime in December 1998,” the post read.

“Tubil reinforced the beleaguered members of the PNP (Philippine National Police) led by PCI Romo who tried to arrest the ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group) leader but was met with overwhelming fires, killing him and some of his men.” It said Ranger Tubil was in Sta. Clara during that time.

“Without any order from his higher ups, he and his neighbors (CAFGU) rushed to Tandung Ahas to help the policemen. Coming from behind, they shot the ASG one by one in an intense firefight," the post added.

“Though wounded in the heavy fighting, he led his men victoriously against more or less 50 ASG bandits.”

Tubil was later awarded the Distinguished Conduct Star.

Cabunoc, in the post, called Tubil a "forgotten hero" in the Lamitan story, especially now that “he is incapacitated after being ambushed by heavily armed men years ago.”

Cops release images of Cotabato bombing suspects

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 5): Cops release images of Cotabato bombing suspects

BOMBING SUSPECTS. The images of the two Cotabato bombing suspects extracted from closed-circuit television footage. The duo were seen placing the second bomb inside the South Seas Mall before the initial blast that ripped through the mall’s fa├žade along Don Rufino Alonzo St. on Dec. 31, 2018. The bomb attack left two persons dead and scores of others injured. (Photo courtesy of Cotabato City Police Office)

COTABATO CITY -- Police on Friday night released the images of two suspects captured on closed-circuit television (CCTV) as they placed the second improvised bomb inside the South Seas Mall minutes before an initial bomb exploded last December 31.

The bombing left two people dead and injured 34 others.

At a news conference, Senior Supt. Oliver Enmodias, head of the Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) - SouthSeas, presented to the media the two images of suspects, one about 25 to 30 years old and the other, about 50 to 60 years old.

Retired Police Supt. Rolen Balquin, city civil security chief, said the local government of Cotabato has offered a PHP500,000 cash reward for anyone who can provide information leading to the arrest of the suspects.

“They were captured on CCTV placing a bag beside a Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office lotto outlet adjacent to the baggage counter at the second floor of South Seas Mall,” Enmodias told reporters.

The two suspects placed the bag minutes before an improvised bomb ripped through a row of sidewalk vendors’ stalls in front of the mall's main entrance.

Bomb experts later discovered the improvised bomb at the second floor while conducting clearing operations after the 1:59 p.m. blast that ripped through the main entrance/exit doors of the mall along Don Rufino Alonzo St.

“They were clearly captured by CCTV and we have strong evidence they were behind the bombing,” Enmodias said.

Both Enmodias and Senior Supt. Rolly Octavio, city police director, appealed to the public to help authorities locate the suspects.

'Most wanted' BIFF member falls in ComVal

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 5, 2019): 'Most wanted' BIFF member falls in ComVal

Cristobal Dimpo Jikiri alias Ustadz Gulam Jikiri (left), a member of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF) and the thrid most wanted person in Davao Region, is being fingerprinted by a police officer following his arrest on Friday in Pantukan, Compostela Valley province. Photo courtesy of PRO-11

Police arrested a member of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF) at a checkpoint in the Compostela Valley town of Pantukan Friday afternoon.

Chief Insp. Jason Baria, spokesperson of the Police Regional Office 11 (Davao region), said Cristobal Dimpo Jikiri, also known as Ustadz Gulam Jikiri, is listed as the third "most wanted" BIFF member in the region. Baria said
Jikiri, 71, is a Davao Oriental-based member of the BIFF, a breakaway faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS).

Jikiri, who is wanted for murder, was heading back to Davao Oriental when arrested at a checkpoint in Barangay Tambongon, Pantukan, he said.

Before the arrest, police said Jikiri was sighted several times at his brother's residence in Tambongon.

Chief Supt. Marcelo Morales, PRO-11 director, said the arrest of Jikiri was part of the government's continuous campaign against terrorist elements.

Morales noted that police units in the region have been carrying out arrest warrants against wanted persons, even during the holiday season.

Two hours before New Year ’s Eve, police arrested murder suspects Robert Calipsan, Jobert Dinglasa Calipsan, and Jeccris Calipsan Dinglasa in Digos City.

On Thursday, Davao City policemen also arrested 18 persons wanted for various crimes.

Village dad slain, wife hurt in SoCot gun attack

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 6, 2019): Village dad slain, wife hurt in SoCot gun attack

An incumbent village councilor was killed while his wife was wounded in a gun attack on Saturday night in a village in Polomolok town, South Cotabato province.

Chief Supt. Eliseo Tam Rasco, regional director of the Police Regional Office-12, identified the victims as barangay councilor Dima Macaludos and wife Rohania, residents of Purok Maguindanao in Barangay Lumakil, Polomolok.

He said the couple were on their way home around 6 p.m. aboard a Kawasaki Baja motorcycle when they were waylaid by two motorcycle-riding suspects.

Citing a report from Supt. Samuel Cadungon, Polomolok police chief, he said the couple just came from the public market at the town proper.

Upon reaching a portion of Purok Pag-asa in Lumakil, Rasco said two men aboard a tailing Honda XRM motorcycle shot the victims several times.

The police official said Dima was hit on the head while Rohania sustained a gunshot wound on her left leg.

Responding police operatives launched pursuit operations but failed to catch up with the suspects, who were last seen heading towards Purok Maguindanao in Lumakil.

Recovered at the scene were four fired cartridge cases and a fired bullet from a .45-caliber handgun.

Rasco said the village official was rushed to the Howard Hubbard Hospital in Barangay Cannery but was declared dead upon arrival by attending doctors.

He said Rohania was brought to the Polomolok Municipal Hospital and is now in stable condition.

Rasco said investigators are eyeing several angles, including work-related circumstances, as possible motive.

“(Dima) was the chair of the barangay peace and order council and actively participated and supported our campaigns against illegal drugs and criminality,” he said.

He said they have assigned a special team that will lead the investigation and track down the suspects.

Russian flotilla in PH for goodwill visit

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 5, 2019): Russian flotilla in PH for goodwill visit

Three Russian naval vessels will be arriving Sunday at Pier 9, South Harbor, Manila for a five-day goodwill visit from January 6 to 11.

The large anti-submarine ship Admiral Pantellev, the guided missile cruiser Varyag, and the large sea tanker Boris Botuma will be docking approximately at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, Philippine Navy (PN) spokesperson Commander Jonathan Zata said in a message to reporters Friday night.

"Welcome ceremony and port briefing will be conducted upon arrival of the Russian vessels after a customary meeting procedure with the designated PN vessel at the vicinity of Corregidor Island," Zata added.

Last October, the BRP Tarlac (LD-601) and its 300-man contingent made the Philippine Navy's first-ever port visit to Vladivostok, Russia.

The visit lasted for six days and the PN contingent got a chance to visit and tour a Kilo-class diesel electric submarine aside from inspecting a Russian Marine firing range.

Army deploys more troops to 'Usman'-battered Bicol

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 5, 2019): Army deploys more troops to 'Usman'-battered Bicol

Aerial photo showing intense flooding in Camarines Sur after Tropical Depression (TD) 'Usman' brought about heavy rains during its landfall last December 29, 2018. (Rey Baniquet/Presidential Photo)

The Philippine Army (PA) has deployed additional troops to support search, rescue and retrieval (SRR) operations in the Bicol region, which was heavily affected by landslides and floods due to Tropical Depression Usman.

In a statement Saturday, Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Louie Villanueva said Army chief, Lt. Gen. Macairog S. Alberto, ordered the deployment of four SRR teams from the 525th Engineer Combat Battalion of the 51st Engineer Brigade to augment the 9th Infantry Division in its humanitarian assistance and disaster response effort.

Over the week, heavy flooding and massive landslides were reported in Bicol, particularly in the provinces of Albay and Camarines Sur, which already claimed the lives of more than 50 people.

Rescue teams from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Philippine National Police, and Bureau of Fire Protection are exerting all efforts to locate and provide the necessary assistance to the people, especially those who have been isolated by floods and landslides.

Aside from the SRR teams, the PA also facilitated the transport of various rescue equipment, medical supplies, carpentry tools, cadaver bags, folding beds, shovels and portable generators to complement the disaster response effort of local government units and other concerned government agencies in the area.

On Friday, President Rodrigo Duterte, along with other government and top military officials, visited some heavily affected areas to personally oversee and assess the situation.

The provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur, and Sorsogon were placed under state of calamity last Dec. 30 due to heavy rains.

"Moreover, as part of its vision to become relevant and responsive, the Philippine Army continuously improve its organizational capability in support of the government’s effort in providing the necessary services to our people," Villanueva said.

Locsin reaffirms PH-US alliance in Washington

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 5, 2019): Locsin reaffirms PH-US alliance in Washington

(Photo courtesy: Philippine Embassy in Washington)

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. met with United States National Security Advisor John Bolton to "deepen" the Philippines-US ties.

According to the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC, the two officials recognized the role of the two nations' alliance in maintaining regional peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.

This is the first time Locsin met with Ambassador Bolton since he became the Philippines' top diplomat.

Locsin said the meeting was "vastly enlightening, frank, wide-ranging yet sharply focused on the key issues."

Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez accompanied the Foreign Affairs chief in the meeting, which took place on Friday (Washington DC time).

The meeting comes a week after the Department of National Defense called for the review of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the US and the Philippines.

Last week, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana called for the MDT's review to see if it is still relevant to the Philippines' "national interest.”

Former Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations Lauro Baja agreed that the 1951 MDT must undergo reassessment to determine whether or not the pact is still attuned to current regional and global dynamics.

"For the Philippines, the review will provide the opportunity to re-examine and clarify the degree and depth of US commitment to defend us, including the area of coverage of the Treaty," he told the Philippine News Agency.