Thursday, January 31, 2019

Sayyaf ransom used to fund Jolo cathedral bombings

From BenarNews/Mindanao Examiner (Jan 30, 2019): Sayyaf ransom used to fund Jolo cathedral bombings

SULU – A former fighter of the Indonesian militant group, Jemaah Islamiya, said the deadly twin bombings on a cathedral in the southern Filipino town of Jolo was largely funded by ransom paid to free an Indonesian hostage of the pro-ISIS Abu Sayyaf group.

Abdullah Sandakan, who is based in Sabah, told BenarNews that the attack on the church on January 27 was planned by the Abu Sayyaf.

“This attack was on their calendar. This is done by the pro-Islamic State faction of ASG and they have been planning it for quite some time. They were just waiting for the ransom money, which they used for the bombing. Twelve days is more than enough time for them to source and buy the explosives, prepare their people to carry out the bombing,” he said.

The ex-JI militant was referring to Indonesian fishing boat captain Samsul Sanguni, who was released by the Abu Sayyaf on January 15 in Sulu province.

Sanguni along with another Indonesian fisherman, Usman Yusuf, were kidnapped at sea near Gaya Island in Sabah’s Semporna town and brought to Sulu. The 35-year old Yusuf was freed in December in Bual village in the town of Luuk. The release of Yusuf came after the Chief of the Indonesian Consul-General’s Office in Sabah, Sulistijo Djati Ismojo, appealed to Malaysia to resolve the kidnapping of its citizens.

Malaysian media reported that the Abu Sayyaf had demanded P20 million from Sanguni’s employer and militants threatened to kill him if ransom is not paid. In a video sent by militants to his family, Sanguni appealed to his employer to save him from death. The clip shows Sanguni – both hands tied behind his back – inside a freshly dug hole in a forested area and guarded by heavily armed militants as he cried and pleaded for help.

Sandakan said part of the ransom money paid to the Abu Sayyaf was also used to pay villagers who sheltered the militants. “The money is given to the villagers for sheltering them and also to win them over,” he said, warning that more kidnappings would take place around the waters of eastern Sabah and the Sulu Sea to raise funds for terror attacks and other activities.

“The kidnappings will not stop and neither will the bombings. The success of the Jolo bombing may even encourage them to try to carry out bombings in Manila,” he warned.

Jemaah Islamiya, a group affiliated with al-Qaeda, was blamed for Indonesia’s deadliest terrorist attack, the Bali bombings that killed 202 people 17 years ago.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the cathedral attack, saying, two suicide bombers carried out the deadly mission. This was also confirmed by President Rodrigo Duterte, who cited military and other intelligence reports. He said the bombers were a man and woman, probably Indonesian couple. Other reports suggested the bombers were a Yemeni couple.

In September last year, the Abu Sayyaf released four Indonesian hostages to Nur Misuari, chieftain of the former rebel group Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and his wife Tarhata, and a former Indonesian army general Kivlan Zein.

But despite the anti-terror campaign in Sabah, Abu Sayyaf militants still managed to kidnap three more Indonesian fishing crew members off Sabah and had been taken to Sulu, Malaysian media reported.

It said the trio – Heri Ardiansyah, 19; Jari Abdullah, and Hariadin, 45, were working for a fishing company in Sandakan town and had been seized by 7 gunmen on the night of December 5 near Pegasus Reef – an area where four armed men also attacked a tugboat two days later and wounded an Indonesian crew in what police said was a failed abduction.

Sabah police, citing intelligence sources, said identified the kidnappers as Abu Sayyaf commanders Al Mujir Yadah and Hajan Sawadjaan, who teamed up with another militant commander, Indang Susukan. The group was tagged as behind the spate of ransom kidnappings in Sabah waters and attacks on fishing boats there.

The militants have been targeting Indonesian fishermen because their employers and Jakarta are paying ransoms to the Abu Sayyaf which it uses to purchase weapons, recruit members and to finance kidnappings and terror attacks in the country. The Abu Sayyaf is still holding nearly a dozen foreign and local hostages in the restive region. (BenarNews. Additional report from Mindanao Examiner.)

PH Navy's first 2 anti-submarine choppers to arrive in May

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 1, 2019): PH Navy's first 2 anti-submarine choppers to arrive in May

The Philippine Navy’s (PN) first two anti-submarine helicopters, the AgustaWestland AW-159 "Wildcat", are set to arrive in May.

"Anti-submarine helicopters are in the process of being acquired (and) additional info from the PN (said) they will arrive in May 2019," Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a message to the Philippine News Agency (PNA) when sought for an update on the aircraft Thursday night.

These aircraft, upon integration, will provide the PN the capability to detect, monitor and if necessary, engage surface and sub-surface threats.

Earlier reports said the two ASW helicopters are undergoing flight-tests in the United Kingdom.

Acquisition contract for the helicopters is worth PHP5.4 billion, including their munition, mission essential equipment, and integrated logistic support.

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

The helicopter has been ordered for the Royal Navy and British Army.

It is capable of speeds of 291 km. per hour, a range of 777 km., a ferry range of 963 km., and an endurance of one-and-a-half hours (four hours and 30 minutes if fitted with auxiliary fuel).

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

ASG hand strongly eyed in Jolo blasts: Lorenzana

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 1, 2019): ASG hand strongly eyed in Jolo blasts: Lorenzana

The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is being eyed as the main perpetrators of the bloody twin bomb blasts in Jolo, Sulu that claimed the lives of 22 persons and wounded at least 97 others last January 27.

"Yes! Our source(s) (are) local and outside (intelligence), including the so-called East-Asia ISIS (Islamic State) website. Besides, only the ASG (the Sawadjaan faction) has (a) tie-up with the ISIS," Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a message to the Philippine News Agency late Thursday when asked if they are looking into the possible involvement of the terror group in the incident.

Lorenzana was referring to Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, a sub-leader of the ASG.

The defense chief earlier said the intelligence community is monitoring the presence of 40 foreign terrorists scattered in Central Mindanao, Basilan, and even in Jolo, Sulu.

"Whether there are foreign terrorists, either Indonesians or Malaysians, you cannot easily identify them because they look like us, unless they speak," he added.

When asked on what the government is doing in the wake of the Jolo, Sulu bomb blasts, Lorenzana said the entire area had been locked down.

"When the blast occurred in Sulu, we locked down the whole town. It means everybody coming in will be inspected and those going out are also inspected. We are also monitoring the movement of the people there. They have curfew there. I think 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. (and) it was being imposed by the military even before the blasts occurred," he added.

NDF/NDF-Cagayan Valley: NDF-Cagayan Valley condemns killing of Felix Randy Manayao, NDF Consultant and servant of the masses

NDF Cagayan Valley propaganda statement posted to the National Democratic Front Philippines (NDFP or NDF) Website (Jan 30, 2019): NDF-Cagayan Valley condemns killing of Felix Randy Manayao, NDF Consultant and servant of the masses

Salvador del Pueblo
NDF-Cagayan Valley
January 30, 2019

NDFP peace consultant Randy Felix Malayao /JB

The NDF in Cagayan Valley region, with all its allied organizations and member individuals, condemns the murder of NDF Consultant Felix Randy Malayao by death squad elements of the 5th ID at 2.30 am today inside a bus while on a stop at Darapidap, Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya.

His death is the latest among the fascist US-Duterte regime’s attacks against the people, in a desperate and bloody attempt to fulfill his forecast that the revolutionary movement can be crushed by the middle of the year. At the time of his death, Comrade Felix was covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees that stipulates, among others, that consultants like him should not be harmed nor arrested.

Comrade Felix was a humble servant of the masses, who spent 33 years of his life arousing, organizing and mobilizing the people against an unjust ruling system. He was an exemplary revolutionary, whose favorite motto was “Others First.” He lived among the peasants and workers of Cagayan Valley, later serving as the region’s representative to the NDF-GRP Peace Talks, all the while performing other revolutionary duties.

He was abducted and tortured in 2008 before being imprisoned for four years, but steadily returned to the people’s movement after being released. It is a proof of his unwavering commitment to the people that the US-Duterte regime’s men had to kill him while sleeping, in the dead of the night, because they could not stop him otherwise.

We call on all justice-loving citizens of the region to join various actions to protest Comrade Felix’s murder and to seek justice for his death and countless other more victims of Duterte and the 5th ID’s bloody war.

It is foolish of the ruling class to expect that it can crush a powerful revolutionary movement by cowardly killing its leaders and members. The longer the US-Duterte regime struggles to retain in power by employing brutality, the stronger and more tenacious the people will become. Deaths like Comrade Felix’s give them enduring inspiration.

NDF/Sison: NDFP is reconsidering policy of being open to peace negotiations due to the cold-blooded murder of Malayao and other Duterte crimes

Jose Maria Sison propaganda statement posted to the National Democratic Front Philippines (NDFP or NDF) Website (Jan 30, 2019): NDFP is reconsidering policy of being open to peace negotiations due to the cold-blooded murder of Malayao and other Duterte crimes

Statement of Jose Maria Sison
NDFP Chief Political Consultant
January 30, 2019

NDFP peace consultant Randy Felix Malayao /JB

NDFP consultant Randy Malayao was not yet murdered by the armed minions of the Duterte regime when I reiterated yesterday the policy of the NDFP of being open to peace negotiations even with the regime. The heinous murder manifests the scheme of the Duterte regime to shun peace negotiations in the first place, escalate its attacks on the people and their leaders and use its all-out war on the revolutionary forces and people as the very excuse for imposing a fascist dictatorship on the people.

In view of the murder of NDFP consultant Randy Malayao, the NDFP and all revolutionary forces within its fold are now in the process of reconsidering its policy of being open to peace negotiations with the GRP under the Duterte regime and are more than ever determined to carry out the overthrow of the the treasonous, tyrannical, murderous and corrupt Duterte regime.

It can be expected therefore that the murder of Randy Malayao and other criminal offenses of the Duterte regime will result in the intensification of revolutionary armed struggle nationwide against a regime hell-bent on going down in history as a butchering monster and enemy of the cause of just peace. The blood of martyrs is never shed in vain. It inspires the greater resistance of the people to tyranny.

NDF/NDF Negotiating Panel: On the Brutal Murder of NDFP Consultant Felix Randy Malayao

NDF Negotiating Panel propaganda statement posted to the National Democratic Front Philippines (NDFP or NDF) Website (Jan 30, 2019): On the Brutal Murder of NDFP Consultant Felix Randy Malayao

Press Statement
NDFP Negotiating Panel

January 30, 2019

We, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel express our outrage and strongest condemnation on the brutal murder of Felix Randy Malayao, a publicly known consultant of the NDFP on political and constitutional reforms.

We condole with Ka Randy’s family, friends, comrades and colleagues as we give him our highest honor for his invaluable contributions to the revolutionary movement and the NDFP’s peace efforts.

He participated in the peace talks two years ago and was one of its spokespersons during the formal negotiations. He was an indefatigable worker in the service of the people and was ever ready to present the side of the NDFP in fora, seminars and consultations on the peace talks in the Philippines and overseas.

Ka Randy was a torture victim and a political prisoner for years under the Macapagal-Arroyo regime. He had been acquitted of all charges and was protected by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee (JASIG) as an NDFP peace consultant.

His killing may very well be a portent of worse moves against NDFP consultants for the peace talks many of whom, such as Vic Ladlad, Adel Silva and Rey Casambre, among others have already been arbitrarily arrested and slapped with trumped up charges.

From unilateral cancellation by the GRP to the flip-flopping statements of Duterte on the negotiations, the peace talks have been stalled as the Duterte government treads the path of all-out war and persistent attacks against the NDFP and its personnel for the peace negotiations.

Ka Randy’s brazen murder indicates an escalation of attacks against peace consultants and serves as a further serious obstacle to the resumption of the peace negotiations with the Duterte government.

The NDFP Negotiating Panel remains committed to the attainment of a just and last peace in the Philippines through peace negotiations. The militarist and terrorist government of Duterte, however, is hell-bent in sabotaging the pursuit for just peace as it intensifies attacks against the NDFP and enables brazen acts such as the murder of Ka Randy.

The heroes hall of the Philippine revolution welcomes Ka Randy. His martyrdom and his untiring work will always be remembered and inspire the struggle against tyranny and for a just peace.###

Fidel V. Agcaoili

NDF/Sison: On the brazen intrigue of Chief Superintendent Espino

Jose Maria Sison propaganda statement posted to the National Democratic Front Philippines (NDFP or NDF) Website (Jan 31, 2019): On the brazen intrigue of Chief Superintendent Espino

Comment by Jose Maria Sison
NDFP Chief Political Consukltant
January 31, 2019

NDFP Consultant Randy Felix Malayao /JB

The false claim of Chief Superintendent Mario Espino, the regional director of the Philippine National Police in Cagayan Valley, that the murder of Randy Malayao was done by the NPA is a brazen intrigue of the vilest kind.

It has two malicious and evil purposes: 1. to cover up the criminal responsibility of the murdering agents of the Duterte regime and 2. to set the stage for further murders of suspected revolutionaries, peace and human rights advocates and critics by the death squads of the Duterte regime in the PNP and AFP.

Espino is playing the role of intriguer for the benefit of Duterte and his death squads. Duterte and all his armed minions are digging their own graves because they are goading the NPA to launch more tactical offensives by way of demonstrating that they are targeting those responsible for the rising and expanding crimes of state terrorism.

In the face of the propaganda of the Duterte regime to cover up the murder of Randy Malaya and further crimes of state terrorism, there is no other effective way for the NPA to prove the falsity of intrigues and attain a measure of justice for the victims but to deliver more lethal blows on those perpetrating the crimes of state terrorism.

Rebel recruitment of minors hit

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 31, 2019): Rebel recruitment of minors hit

A top military official yesterday slammed the continued recruitment of minors by the New People’s Army, following the recent surrender of a 19-year-old “red fighter” to the 94th Infantry Battalion in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental.

Rebel returnee Efren Canumay, alias Ka Arnel, confessed that he was 17 years old, when he joined the NPA two years ago, after he was recruited at his residence in Brgy. Binubuhan, Guihulngan City, the military said.

Maj. Gen. Dinoh Dolina, 3rd Infantry Division commander, said the continued recruitment of minors blatantly violate the provisions of RA 7610, or the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act that state that children shall not be recruited by armed groups, nor be allowed to take part in fighting, or used as guide, couriers, or spies.

Dolina reminded parents to be wary and watchful over the whereabouts and activities of their children for they are the vulnerable targets of the recruitment strategy of the CPP-NPA and its support groups.”

Ka JB Regalado, spokesman of the Leonardo Panaligan Command, yesterday issued a statement that Canumay is not a member of the NPA.

Regalado also debunked military claims that they are recruiting minors, and dismissed the Army claims as plain propaganda.

Canumay revealed that he is a member of Squad 1, Sentro de Grabidad Platoon, Central Negros operating in Guihulngan City, and part of the group that harassed 94IB troops conducting Community Support Program in Barangay Tacpao, Guihulngan City on Jan. 19, Dolina said.

No casualty was reported on the government side, but three were injured among the fleeing rebels, as confirmed by Canumay, Brig. Gen. Ignacio Madriaga, 302nd Infantry Brigade commander.

The 94IB recovered a 45 caliber pistol with ammunition, 13 magazines of M16 and AK 47 assault rifles with 218 rounds of ammunition, nine ammunition of M14, a Baofeng commercial radio, and three ball caps, that were left behind by the fleeing rebels.

Dolina said Canumay is living proof of CPP-NPA fabricated stories.

‘NPA kills brgy tanod’

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 31, 2019): ‘NPA kills brgy tanod’

Six New People’s Army rebels shot and killed a barangay tanod Tuesday in Brgy. Carol-an, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental, a military official said yesterday.
Lt. Col. Egberto Dacoscos, 62nd Infantry Battalion commander, said that the victim he identified as Cornelio Morales was grabbed and shot, in front of his daughter and several others, at a waiting shed in Sitio Camandag of the barangay.
Morales, a barangay tanod of Carol-an, succumbed to multiple gunshot wounds, including a fatal injury on the head, Dacoscos, who condemned the brutal killing of the victim, said.

The gunman appeared to be a minor, according to witnesses he added.

Dacoscos said that the involvement of the NPA in the killing of Morales was further confirmed, after showing pictures of some CPP-NPA personalities to the witnesses.

“This is a clear violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarial Law,” he stressed.

Dacoscos also called on Negrenses to help in putting to a stop NPA atrocities and human rights violations, by reporting any information on their activities and locations.

Negros gets add’l troops

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 31, 2019): Negros gets add’l troops

Negros Island got two more companies of Army soldiers, composed of about 220 troops, to be placed under the supervision of the 302nd and 303rd Infantry Brigades.

The Bravo Company of the 94th Infantry Battalion yesterday arrived at the port of Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental, on board a Philippine Navy vessel.

Capt. Eduardo Precioso, 3rd Infantry Division Public Affairs Office chief, said that the 94IB Bravo Company was previously under the supervision of 301st Infantry Brigade in Iloilo for six months.

The rejoining of the Bravo Company with its mother unit now assigned in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental, came after the recent activation of the 61IB Delta Company, also in Panay.

On top of the 94IB Bravo Company troopers, Col. Benedict Arevalo, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, yesterday said that they also got an additional 100 neophyte soldiers, who recently graduated from military training at Camp Macario Peralta in Jamindan, Capiz, who will be assigned to the different Army battalions in Negros.

Arevalo said the deployment of 220 additional troops in Negros, is in compliance with the Memorandum Order Number 32 issued by Malacañang to suppress lawless violence and acts of terror of the NPA in Negros and in other areas of the country.

Ka JB Regalado, spokesperson of the NPA Leonardo Panaligan Command, issued a statement claiming that the additional troops are aimed to replace those they had killed in their successful tactical operations.

Regalado added that they are not afraid the deployment of more troops in Negros, as he claimed that they have the support of the people.

Arevalo said the deployment of more troops in Negros is a boost to their campaign against the CPP-NPA in Negros island.

He also reiterated his order for Army troops to aggressively run after the NPA rebels and prevent them from conducting atrocities and extortion activities, noting also that the election campaign period will start next month.

The 3ID is now recruiting 200 more soldiers to further beef up the army units in Regions 6 and 7.

Photo: Soldiers of the 94th IB Bravo Company arrive at the Dumaguete City Port in Negros Oriental

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 31, 2019): Photo: Soldiers of the 94th IB Bravo Company arrive at the Dumaguete City Port in Negros Oriental


Soldiers of the 94th IB Bravo Company and their vehicles arrive on board a Philippine Navy vessel at the Dumaguete City Port in Negros Oriental, yesterday.

WESTMINCOM: Troops clash with Ajang-Ajang members in Sulu

From the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) Website (Jan 31, 2019): Troops clash with Ajang-Ajang members in Sulu

Soldiers of the 1st Scout Ranger Battalion clashed with about 20 members of the Abu Sayyaf/Ajang-Ajang group under Macrin in Barangay Latih, Patikul, Sulu at 7:20am today (January 31).

Said gunfight ensued for five minutes with no casualty incurred on the government troops.

As of this posting, operating troops pursue the fleeing bandits.

Military on alert vs. foreign terror cells in Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31, 2019): Military on alert vs. foreign terror cells in Mindanao

Government forces in Central Mindanao are on alert following intelligence reports indicating that foreign jihadists have entered the region.

Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6ID) and military led-Joint Task Force Central (JTF Central), cited an intelligence report showing that about 30 to 40 foreign terrorists may have set foot in the provinces under the 6ID's area of jurisdiction.

Sobejana bared this during Wednesday’s Provincial Peace and Order Council meeting here, adding that the foreign terrorists could have merged with local terror groups operating in Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.
The 6ID covers the provinces of Maguindanao, part of Lanao del Sur, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.

“The Islamic State-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) operates in these provinces. The group is behind the series of bombings in the region,” Sobejana said.

Earlier, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said suicide bombers could have carried out the Jolo cathedral bombing last Sunday.

Lorenzana noted that body parts left at the blast site remained unclaimed at an Army morgue in Jolo and an indication it was the body of a suicide bomber.

Sobejana said the report about the possible entry of foreign terrorists in Mindanao was a big challenge for security forces, and that the public has a crucial role to play in preventing violent extremism.

Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu, whose province is a known lair of the BIFF, vowed to help the Army locate the “peace spoilers.”

“There should be no place for these terrorists in Maguindanao,” Mangudadatu said.

Army condemns NPA murder of village watchman in southern Negros

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31, 2019): Army condemns NPA murder of village watchman in southern Negros

The Philippine Army has condemned the killing of a village watchman by the New People’s Army (NPA) in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental on Tuesday afternoon.

The 62nd Infantry Battalion (62IB) identified the victim as Cornilio Morales, a resident of Sitio Camandag, Barangay Carol-an, who was gunned down in front of his daughter and their neighbors.

Lt. Egberto Dacoscos, commanding officer of 62IB, in a statement on Wednesday assailed the rebel group’s criminal and barbaric act against an unarmed civilian.

“This is a clear violation of Article 4.4 Part IV of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL),” he said.

Article 4.4 states that “civilians together with their property shall be distinguished from combatants and, together with their property shall not be the object of attack”.

Maj. Gen. Dinoh Dolina, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, on Thursday also condemned the CPP-NPA terrorists’ “inhumane act” in killing Morales.

“Once again, they proved that they are the true human rights violators in Negros. Killing the innocent and defenseless civilian in front of his child is a heartless act that only terrorists do,” he added.

Dolina assured the Negrenses they will not allow such terroristic act to happen again.

“We will not stop going against these communist terrorists until justice is served to the families of the victims,” he added.

According to the military report, six communist rebels seized Morales around 5 p.m. while he was in a waiting shed with his daughter and other residents. The rest were told to lie on the bellies.

One of the rebels, who looked like a minor, shouted, “Pasensya na, napag-utusan lang” (Sorry, just following orders), then shot Morales, the report added, citing accounts of civilian witnesses.

Dacoscos urged Negrenses to help stop the NPA atrocities and human rights violation by reporting information on their activities and whereabouts through hotline numbers (0975)133-6243 and (0977)601-5416.

Both the United States and the European Union declared the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army as a terrorist group.

SoCot eyes 8 poor 'sitios' for outreach program

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31, 2019): SoCot eyes 8 poor 'sitios' for outreach program

The provincial government of South Cotabato is targeting to cover at least eight poor communities for its flagship outreach program in the next two months.

Jerry Gamo, head of the South Cotabato Barangay Affairs Unit (BAU), said Thursday the preparations are underway for the rollout of weekly outreach activities, which is expected to benefit some 9,000 residents.

Gamo said the outreach activities include free medical and dental consultations and treatment, provision of hygiene kits and medicines, free haircut, circumcision for boys, umbrella and shoe repair, free massage, vaccination of pet animals, and distribution of fruit tree and vegetable seedlings.

The identified areas for the outreach are Sitio Tablu of Barangay Lamdalag, Lake Sebu, Sitio Kule of Barangay Salacafe in Tboli, barangays New Pangasinan and General Paulino Santos in Koronadal City, Barangay Duengas of Surallah, Barangay Kipalbig of Tampakan, Barangay Klinan 6 of Polomolok and Barangay San Vicente of Sto. Niño.

“These sitios and barangays were identified as priorities based on an earlier mapping that we conducted,” Gamo said, adding they will also conduct supplementary feeding to schoolchildren and distribute food packs to residents.

The official said the provincial government has allotted an initial PHP4 million for the outreach activities this year.

The outreach program, dubbed “Gugma kag Serbisyo para sa Katawhan”, is a regular initiative of the local government that aims to provide the basic needs of residents in poor and far-flung communities in the area.

It seeks to inform communities of the different services of the government, reduce the prevalence of preventable or communicable diseases in localities, and address issues of the communities through dialogues.

It is supported by the medical team of the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion and various non-government organizations.

220 soldiers boost anti-insurgency campaign in Negros Island

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31, 2019): 220 soldiers boost anti-insurgency campaign in Negros Island

NEW ASSIGMENT. New soldiers of the 62nd Infantry Battalion, prepare for deployment to their companies in Negros Island on Wednesday (Jan.30, 2019) to help strengthen internal security.  (Photo courtesy of 303rd Infantry Brigade, Philippine Army ) 
A total of 220 troopers of the Philippine Army have been deployed to Negros Island to strengthen internal security operations.

Col. Benedict Arevalo, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade based in Murcia, Negros Occidental, said on Wednesday he welcomes the arrival of the additional troops that will boost their campaign against the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).
He said that with a stronger Army force in the island, the troops will run more aggressively after the communist terrorists and prevent them from conducting atrocities and extortion activities.

“Our number is enough to pursue the NPA. With the support of the communities, local government units, and government agencies, the number will continue to grow until these terrorists will have no more to run to,” Arevalo said.

On Wednesday, 120 soldiers of the 94th Infantry Battalion’s Bravo Company arrived in Negros Oriental, coming from their six-month deployment with the 301st Infantry Brigade in Panay Island.

A total of 100 new soldiers, who underwent training with the 3rd Infantry Division in Jamindan, Capiz, were also recently assigned to the different Army battalions in Negros Island.

According to the 303rd Brigade, the deployment of 220 more troops in Negros is based on Malacañang’s Memorandum Order No. 32 issued on November 22, 2018.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea released the directive amid “sporadic acts of violence allegedly committed by lawless groups particularly in the provinces of Samar, Negros Oriental and Occidental, and Bicol Region.”

Maguindanao peace body to ask SC to junk petitions vs. BOL

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31, 2019): Maguindanao peace body to ask SC to junk petitions vs. BOL

A copy of the resolution passed by the Maguindanao Peace and Order Council authorizing Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu to initiate a legal action seeking to junk all petitions against the Bangsamoro Organic Law. (Photo courtesy of Maguindanao PPOC)

BULUAN, Maguindanao -- Local officials of Maguindanao province have authorized Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu to file a petition before the Supreme Court and ask the High Tribunal to junk all petitions against the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

“It was overwhelmingly approved and ratified by the people of the Bangsamoro government core territory, what can you ask for,” Mangudadatu told reporters after presiding over the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) meeting Wednesday here.

“If the BOL is rejected by the SC despite its constitutionality and legality, violence might erupt in Mindanao because the Bangsamoro will feel they were shortchanged or dupe,” Mangudadatu said in the vernacular.

“Our petition will ensure genuine peace will prevail in the island,” the governor added. “The petitions were the handiwork of peace spoilers who do not want peace in the Bangsamoro homeland.”

Mangudadatu noted that 90 percent of the people in the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has approved and ratified Republic Act 11054 or the BOL last January 21.

“The ‘yes’ vote won overwhelmingly. To avoid delays we, the PPOC, decided to intervene and will petition the SC to junk all these unfounded petitions questioning the legality of BOL,” Mangudadatu said.

All the 36 town mayors of Maguindanao are behind the PPOC move, Mangudadatu said.

Muslims in Cebu assure concord with gov't amid Mindanao attacks

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31, 2019): Muslims in Cebu assure concord with gov't amid Mindanao attacks

MUSLIMS IN CEBU. Dr. Ijoden Hadji-Azis Mamacol (right), chairperson of Sugbo Ustadz and Imam Organization and secretary of Cebu Islamic Center, poses with other Muslim leaders in one of their civic missions in Cebu. (Photo contributed by Dr. Ijoden Hadji-Azis Mamacol)

CEBU CITY -- The leader of ustadz (Muslim teachers) and imams (Muslim priests) in Cebu on Thursday assured that the Muslim community in the province remains cooperative with the government’s peace and order efforts amid the recent deadly attacks in separate places in Mindanao.

“Here in Cebu, nagpasalamat ta tungod kay ang atong mga Muslim brothers mo-cooperate sa peace and order programs sa atong gobyerno (we are thankful because our Muslim brothers are cooperative to the peace and order programs of our government),” Dr. Ijoden Hadji-Azis Mamacol, chairperson of the Sugbo Ustadz and Imam Organization, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in an interview.

Mamacol is also the secretary of the Cebu Islamic Center and of the Rotary Club of Cebu Fort San Pedro.

He said he is hoping that Christians and Muslims in Cebu will continue to strengthen their relationship despite the bombing incidents at the Jolo cathedral and in a mosque in Zamboanga City.

“About what happened in Jolo and in Zamboanga City, I just hope that the Filipinos would not think that there is a war of religion,” Mamacol said, adding that what happened in Mindanao pertains to “war of terrorism.”

According to him, the ustadz and imams in Cebu gathered after the two incidents to discuss the possible reason of the attacks.

The Muslim teachers and priests, he said, have different opinions but they concluded that the attacks have something to do with terrorism.

“It has nothing to do with Islam,” he emphasized in a separate statement sent to PNA.

The Muslim community in Cebu is committed to maintain peace and order, he said, as he assured that the ustadz and imams in the province will render full cooperation to the authorities.

The Cebu Islamic Center headed by community president Arafat “Tony” Saripada, also assured that the good relations between their community and other sectors will be sustained.

Saripada urged different camps speculating about the two attacks to stop the “blame game” and better leave the investigation to experts.

4 men on CCTV footage of Jolo blast 'innocent': PNP

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31, 2019): 4 men on CCTV footage of Jolo blast 'innocent': PNP

The four persons of interest in the twin bomb explosions that ripped through a church in Jolo, Sulu who have surrendered to authorities to clear their names, are now deemed innocent.

“They were removed as persons of interest in connection with the bombing incident in Jolo, Sulu. Yesterday, they freely went to the police station to give their sworn statement that they were not involved in the incident. They denied involvement in the bombing of the (Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral) in Jolo, Sulu,” Senior Supt. Bernard Banac, PNP spokesperson, told reporters Thursday.

He said the four were immediately released upon verification of their statements.

Banac also said based on the probe of the Special Investigation Task Group (SITG), there was no alias Kamah among the four persons who surrendered.

“As of now, we continue to hunt down and probe those behind the bombing of the cathedral in Jolo, Sulu, especially the bandit ASG,” he said.

On Wednesday, Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) information officer, identified the four as Alshaber Arbi, 18; Gerry Isnajil, whose age was not provided; Alsimar Mohammad Albi, 24; and a 17-year-old male.

Besana said Arbi, a Grade 11 student of the Kalingalan Caluang National High School, and Isnajil, a teacher in the same school, were among those caught by a closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera after Sunday's twin blasts at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Barangay Walled City, Jolo, Sulu.

On the CCTV footage, Arbi was the person in a ponytail while Isnajil was the man in maroon baseball cap with a red backpack.

Besana said Arbi and Isnajil surrendered to Senior Supt. Pablo Labra II, Sulu police director, at about 10 a.m. Wednesday to clear their names.

He said that Alsimar and his 17-year old brother submitted themselves to Labra at about 3 p.m. on the same day for the same reason.

He said the investigation showed that prior to the explosion, the two went to a pharmacy to buy medicine for Alsimar’s mother who is confined at the Integrated Provincial Health Office hospital.

After buying medicine, a loud explosion occurred at the church and Julius immediately went near the vicinity when the second explosion occurred.

According to Besana, Alsimar called his younger brother to stay away just as the suspects who were seen behind him fled the vicinity.

According to the brothers' statements, the two did not know the identities of the suspects and that they came out for fear that authorities would hunt them down.

PNP tags 2 persons of interest in Zambo mosque blast

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31, 2019): PNP tags 2 persons of interest in Zambo mosque blast

The Philippine National Police (PNP) is now looking for two persons of interest behind Wednesday's grenade explosion at a mosque in Zamboanga City.

“Yung grenade throwing sa Zamboanga City, may two persons of interest. Kasalukuyang kinikilala na ito dahil mapapansin natin, wala tayong nakuhang CCTV (footage) dun sa lugar at may kadiliman ang lugar (We have two persons of interest in the grenade throwing in Zamboang City. We are currently determining their identities because as we have noticed, we do not have CCTV footage from the area and it is a bit dark there),” Banac told reporters in a press briefing on Thursday.

Banac's remarks were echoed by Chief Supt. Emmanuel Luis Licup, Zamboanga Peninsula police director, noting that they already have a lead on the incident.

Licup, however, said they cannot divulge other information related to operational matters.

“We have ordered all our provincial directors to get in touch with other faith-based groups and in fact yesterday (Wednesday), all of our provincial offices have conducted their own and in the city, it was led by no less than the mayor herself,” Licup said.

At present, the PNP continuously conducts case conferences and gets support from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), other government agencies and the intelligence community regarding the incident.

Shortly after midnight on Wednesday, two persons were killed and three others were injured in a grenade blast at the Maharlika mosque in Sitio Logoy Diutay in Barangay Talon-Talon.

AFP checking on 'Ajang-Ajang' hand in Jolo blast

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31, 2019): AFP checking on 'Ajang-Ajang' hand in Jolo blast

Investigations are still ongoing to determine the extent of the involvement of the Ajang-Ajang, a subgroup loosely affiliated with the Abu Sayyaf Group, in the twin explosions that killed 22 persons and wounded more than a hundred others in Jolo, Sulu last January 27.

This was disclosed by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Col. Noel Detoyato when sought for an update on the incident Thursday.

"Pursued pa rin ang involvement ng Ajang-Ajang subgroup ng ASG, kasi sila ang may pattern of atrocities sa lugar na yan (We are still pursuing the involvement of the Ajang-Ajang subgroup of the ASG because they are have a pattern of atrocities in that place)," he said in a text message to the Philippine News Agency.

When asked if the angle of a suicide bombing is still being investigated, Detoyato said this is still strongly considered.

"Yung (The) angle ng (of a) suicide bomber as a method of delivery and execution, is also strongly considered. Whether there were foreigners involved in the execution, that is still being verified," he added.

When sought to comment on the recovery of two sets of alleged body parts from the blast site, Detoyato said these consists of unclaimed human remains, which do not belong to one person.

"Unclaimed body parts, which by inspection (confirmed) not belong(ing) to only one person and by the way it was shredded into pieces, it was very close to the explosive," the AFP public affairs office chief stressed.

Parts recovered include a head, hands, torso, feet, part of the back, scalp, jaw and hair.

Detoyato said the remains were recovered from the church entrance, walls and pews, road in front of the main entrance and its floor.

House hopes to pass ROTC bill by Feb.6

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31, 2019): House hopes to pass ROTC bill by Feb.6

A ranking leader at the House of Representatives said Thursday they hope to approve the bill reviving mandatory Reserved Officers Training Corps (ROTC) training for senior high school students on third and final reading by February 6 before Congress goes on recess for the national campaign for the mid-term elections.

Deputy Speaker and Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu said the House leadership under Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been pushing for the immediate passage of consolidated House Bill (HB) No. 8961 since it was classified as urgent by President Rodrigo Duterte.

“We hope to pass the measure next week before we go on break,” Abu said in a text message to reporters.

“The approval of the substitute bill was prioritized as the mandatory ROTC bill was classified as a priority bill of President Duterte,” he added.

The urgency of passing the bill was apparent Wednesday when plenary deliberations on HB 9861 started just hours after the proposed measure was approved by the House Committee on Basic Education and Culture headed by Cebu Rep. Ramon Durano VI.

The consolidated bill was mostly based on HB 5113 that was filed by Abu.

The panel’s approval came more than two months after Duterte urged Congress to expedite the restoration of mandatory ROTC for senior high school students “to instill patriotism and love of country among the youth.”

With majority of lawmakers supporting the bill, Abu said he expects HB 8961 to be approved on third and final reading before Congress adjourns on February 6.

Under the proposed measure, a mandatory basic ROTC program would apply to “all students in grades 11 and 12 in all senior high schools in public and private educational institutions.”

The bill also states that ROTC training shall be a requirement for graduation.

While Basic ROTC is a requirement for graduation, the bill leaves Advance ROTC courses in the hands of the students.

Students undergoing basic and advance ROTC shall be provided with free hospitalization in any government hospital in case of accident or injury during the training.

Meanwhile, the following students may be exempted from the program: those who are physically or psychologically unfit; those who have undergone or are undergoing similar military training; those who are chosen by their school to serve as the school’s varsity players in sports competition; and those who may be exempted from training for valid reasons as approved by the Department of National Defense, upon recommendation by an educational institution where the concerned student is enrolled.

The proposed measure also provides the incentives for graduates of the ROTC program.

As mandated by the measure, graduates of Basic ROTC shall be eligible for commissionship/lateral entry and enlistment in the AFP, Philippine National Police, Coast Guard, Bureau of Fire Protection, and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.

Graduates of basic ROTC who have completed a four-year baccalaureate degree shall be considered first level Civil Service eligible.

On the other hand, graduates of advance ROTC who have finished a four-year baccalaureate degree shall be considered second level Civil Service eligible.

Duterte ‘most likely’ to attend China’s Belt & Road Forum

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31, 2019): Duterte ‘most likely’ to attend China’s Belt & Road Forum

President Rodrigo R. Duterte is “most likely” going to attend the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in China this April, Malacañang said on Thursday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo has yet to confirm the President’s attendance but noted that his preference to keep ties between Philippines and China might convince him to be there.

“I haven’t talked to him -- but most likely given the President’s inclination to be friendly with China, baka (perhaps). Hindi ko pa alam, (I don’t know yet),” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.

Panelo said the President’s attendance in the Belt and Road Forum will be among the topics to be discussed in the next Cabinet meeting.

Earlier, Chinese Ambassador to Manila Zhao Jianhua said that China is looking forward to another meeting between Duterte and President Xi Jinping during the Belt and Road Forum.

"China has sincerely invited President Rodrigo Duterte to attend the aforesaid forum. We are looking forward to the 7th meeting between the leaders of our two countries," Zhao said during a speech in Makati City.

Zhao also expressed confidence their meeting will chart "a more magnificent blueprint" for the China-Philippines bilateral relations.

During his official state visit to the Philippines in November 2018, Xi invited Duterte to attend the Road and Belt Forum, which China will host again in 2019.

Xi’s invitation came as the two leaders witnessed the exchange of 29 agreements, including memorandum of understanding on Belt and Road Initiative cooperation.

“The two sides will seek greater complementarity between China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the Philippines’ development strategy move forward cooperation around the three pillars of security, development, and people-to-people ties and then make our cooperation more comprehensive and balanced,” Xi said in his speech.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative is meant to strengthen infrastructure, trade and investments and people-to-people linkages between China and some 65 other countries.

In May 2017, Duterte and 28 heads of state and government leaders attended the first Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing.

DFA to validate China’s maritime rescue center on Kagitingan Reef

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31, 2019): DFA to validate China’s maritime rescue center on Kagitingan Reef

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) will validate the reported maritime rescue center constructed on Kagitingan reef in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), Malacañang said on Thursday.

“Let’s wait for (DFA) Secretary (Teodoro) Locsin (Jr.). He must know something that I do not know or anybody,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a Palace press briefing.

On Jan. 29, Chinese-state run news agency Xinhua reported that China's Ministry of Transport opened a maritime rescue center “to better protect navigation and transport safety” in the WPS or South China Sea.

“We will leave it to the DFA Secretary. We will not be preempting. Always the President’s style is, we’ll leave it to the departments. Because he is friends to all, enemies to none -- that’s the policy,” Panelo said.

“Hindi pa nga natin alam kung talagang may structure doon eh (We don’t even know if there really is a structure there). Right now, we don’t know yet. Kahit nga state media eh, di ba may false news. Paano kung false news pala iyon (Even in state media, there’s false news. What if it’s false news?),” he added,

Panelo said Locsin would be the best person to determine whether there has been “communication” between the governments of the Philippines and China regarding the maritime rescue center.

“If that has been validated, then Secretary Locsin will make his position on the matter, we will leave it to him first. Eh sa ngayon hindi pa naman validated eh (But now, it has not yet been validated),” he added.

Panelo said he saw no problem with the construction of a maritime rescue center if it was done with permission and will not affect the country’s claim over the contested waters.

“I don’t think establishing a distress center is bad…because it will be helping everybody in distress,” Panelo said.

“They didn’t say that they asked permission from the government. I will wait for Secretary Locsin to say something on the matter,” Panelo said.

Panelo said the Palace will give China the benefit of the doubt but assured that that government will protest anything that intrudes into the Philippine sovereignty.

“We will give them the benefit of the doubt. If we, for instance, if we see anything that will be inconsistent with what they are saying,” Panelo said.

“Of course the government will always protest on anything that intrudes into our sovereignty,” he added.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte earlier decided to temporarily shelve an international arbitration court’s verdict that trashed China’s nine-dash line map to give way to friendly bilateral talks between both countries.

Gov't to pursue peace talks amid Malayao murder

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31, 2019): Gov't to pursue peace talks amid Malayao murder

The national government has vowed to continue to push for peace amid the recent killing of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Randy Malayao.

Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) negotiating panel chairman Silvestre Bello III said he believes there are some people who would like to put to waste the efforts of government to make peace with the insurgents.

“Misguided elements may have been on the loose to put to waste whatever is left of the gains of the peace initiatives of the Duterte administration,” Bello, also concurrent Department of Labor and Employment Secretary, said in a statement issued on Thursday.

“But we, in the GRP Negotiating Panel, remain unperturbed even as the slimmest ray of hope for the just and peaceful settlement of the armed conflict with the CPP-NPA-NDF is dimmed further with the silencing of the purveyors of peace,” Bello added.

Bello noted that they were saddened upon learning of the incident.

“We take the report with shock and disbelief. The assassination was rather cowardly," he said, appealing to those who are pushing for peace to be spared from senseless violence.

“Guided no less by the wisdom and determination of President Duterte to attain enduring peace, we plead that those seeking ways to peace be spared,” Bello said.

“It is our ardent hope that the life sacrificed by Malayao serve to give new life to our common desire for that elusive peace,” he noted.

Malayao, 49, was shot while asleep inside a bus in Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya Wednesday.

Russia reaffirms commitment to help PH combat terrorism

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31, 2019): Russia reaffirms commitment to help PH combat terrorism

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte greets Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev who paid a courtesy call on the President at the Malacañan Palace on January 31, 2019. (Photo of Albert Alcain/Presidential Photo)

The Russian government has reaffirmed its commitment to help the Philippines combat terrorism, Malacañang said Thursday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this remark after Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev met with President Rodrigo R. Duterte during a courtesy call on Thursday afternoon.

During their meeting, Panelo said Khovaev expressed sympathies to the President for the victims of the twin bomb attacks in Jolo, Sulu which killed 22 people and injured at least 97 others.

“The Russian ambassador reiterated their condolences for the deaths caused by the twin explosions in Jolo and condemned the incident while reaffirming their country's commitment to help our nation combat terrorism,” he said in a statement.

“Russian Ambassador Khovaev likewise renewed Russia’s commitment to strengthen their cooperation to help our national defense and significantly improve its capabilities,” he added.

Panelo said Duterte, meanwhile, thanked the Russian Ambassador for his condolences and expressed appreciation for their shared commitment to combat terrorism and violent extremism.

According to him, Khovaev also bared that Russia intends to build a long-term relationship with the Philippines based on trust and confidence.

Duterte also renewed the commitment to further expand and deepen cooperative ties with Russia.

Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a telegram sent to Duterte, stated Russia's "readiness to further step up interaction" with Philippine partners in combating terrorist threat in all its forms and manifestations.

“A crime committed against civilians who had congregated for church services is shocking in its cynicism and cruelty. I expect that the masterminds and perpetrators of this crime will sustain the punishment they deserve," Putin said.

"People in Russia share the grief of the victims’ friends and families and hope for a prompt recovery of the injured," he added.

Aside from the Russian ambassador, Israeli Ambassador Rafael Harpaz also met with the President the same day to relay condolences to the families of victims of the Jolo twin blasts, emphasizing that terrorism and violent extremism must end.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte receives a token from Ambassador of Israel to the Philippines Rafael Harpaz who paid a courtesy call on the President at the Malacañan Palace on January 31, 2019. (Albert Alcain/Presidential Photo)

Harpaz, meanwhile, reported to the President that Israel had already ratified the agreements on opening and improving opportunities for overseas Filipinos in Israel.

He was particularly referring to an agreement for caregivers and those working in the hotel industry, which Panelo described as “a direct result of President Duterte’s historic visit to Israel.”

The Israeli envoy also expressed hope regarding forging stronger ties between the Philippines and Israel in agriculture and trade.

Duterte reaffirmed the commitment of the Philippine government to strengthen cooperation between the two countries across many fields.