Friday, February 1, 2019

Guihulngan residents protest against CNT atrocities

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 1, 2019): Guihulngan residents protest against CNT atrocities

About 400 local folks from all walks of life staged another condemnation rally to show their extreme resentment against the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army Terrorist (CNT) in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental on Thursday.

While carrying their placards, the protesters led by alias Ka Glen conducted the condemnation rally at Sitio Cambairan, Barangay Trinidad and denounced the killing rampage and other terroristic activities of the communist terrorist group in the area which victimized innocent and defenseless civilians.

The activity was highlighted by the burning of two CPP-NPA flags.

Also present during the activity to show their support were Mr. Gian Mijares, Guihulngan City Administrator; Engineer Giovanni Enabe of the City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (DRRMO); Dr. Fontina Cruz from the Department of Health (DoH); and Honorable Melbourne Bustamante, the Barangay Chairman of Trinidad.

In his message, Bustamante urged his constituents to withdraw their support for the communist terrorist group who are actually the ones deceiving them and destroying the bright future of our fellow Filipinos especially the youth.

It was recalled that hinterland residents of Guihulngan City also conducted a condemnation rally against the CPP-NPA Terrorists in Barangay Linantuyan last January 14, 2019 to express their disgust over the murder of Civilian Armed Auxiliary member

Based on military records, the CNTs committed more or less 40 incidents of atrocities in Negros; mostly murder cases where majority of the victims are defenseless barangay officials and civilians.

Brigadier General Ignacio Madriaga, the Commander of the Army’s 302nd Infantry (Achiever) Brigade emphasized that the series of condemnation rallies against the CNTs is a strong indication that the people are already fed up with the communist terrorist group.

“This is their way of showing that these communist terrorists are no longer welcome in their community. And these rallies are a clear sign that the claim of the CPP-NPA that the people support them is not true and is just another of their many lies,” Madriaga said.

Madriaga also called on the people especially those who suffered from the ruthlessness of the CPP-NPA Terrorists to stand against them and join others who boldly denounce their brutality and crimes against humanity.

Army commander denies 27 casualties claimed by NPA rebs

From the Daily Guardian (Feb 2, 2019): Army commander denies 27 casualties claimed by NPA rebs

Col. Benedict Arevalo, commander of the Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade, denied claims by the New People’s Army (NPA) that at least 27 government troopers were killed in action in January 2019 through “sniping” and other offensive operations the rebels launched in Negros.

“We do not hide our casualties” Arevalo said.

If true, he said such number of casualties cannot be covered up.

“It is plain and simple propaganda,” he added.

Arevalo casualties of war are considered heroes and “we give them recognition for fighting for our country, for our freedom, why would we hide them?”

He added that dependents of soldiers are also being informed if they are killed in action.

“So there is no sense at all why we would hide our casualties,” he further said.

In a press statement sent through Facebook messenger, the Apolinario Gatmaitan Command of the New People’s Army claimed that at least 27 troopers were reportedly killed in their “sniping and offensive operations against the government troops in Negros."

Army patrol base harassed by NPA

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 1, 2019): Army patrol base harassed by NPA

MULANAY, Quezon – The military and police are still tracking the group of New People’s Army (NPA) that ha­rassed a military patrol base in this town Wednesday night.

The Mulanay police received information that the 59th Infantry Battalion of Cafgu, Anonang patrol base personnel and the rebels were exchanging gunfire at around 8:10 p.m.

After the brief encounter, the rebels retreated towards a mountainous por­tion of the town.

There were no casualties on the part of government.

Don’t “crush” Abu Sayyaf perpetrators, debrief them

From the Interpreter (Jan 31, 2019): Don’t “crush” Abu Sayyaf perpetrators, debrief them

The horrific bombing of the cathedral in Jolo last Sunday underscores the need for the Philippines government to understand more about the operations of pro-ISIS groups in Mindanao. The best way to get that information is to find, arrest, and debrief the perpetrators of violent extremist crimes.

Instead, the focus of the Philippines military, encouraged by US Special Forces, has been on killing, “crushing”, and bombing suspected hideouts via airstrikes – virtually ensuring that vital information is lost.

It is long past time to focus more on information-gathering and less on bombing the Abu Sayyaf Group to smithereens.

After the “liberation” of Marawi, the city that was taken over by a pro-ISIS coalition in May 2017 and held for five months, it was clear that several leaders had survived, and there was a good chance that the coalition’s components would disperse and regroup. They also were believed to have access to millions of dollars looted from Marawi homes and banks.

Throughout 2018 there were persistent reports of recruiting around Marawi in the Lanao del Sur province by Humam Abdul Najid, alias Owayda alias Abu Dar. Abu Dar, an ethnic Maranao, had been with the Maute brothers, leaders of the Marawi siege, until the very end. The Mautes were killed but Abu Dar has been fighting ever since.

Fighting also continued in and around Maguindanao province in central Mindanao by a pro-ISIS faction of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) led by Esmael Abdulmalik alias Abu Toraife, an ethnic Maguindanaon who never joined the Marawi siege but who has used fighters from other pro-ISIS components – reportedly including a few foreigners. He has kept up attacks to this day on fellow Maguindanaons in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and government forces.

Then there is the rash of bomb attacks:

31 July 2018: the Philippines’ first suicide bombing in Lamitan, Basilan, carried out by a man with dual German-Moroccan nationality with the nom de guerre of Abu Kathir al-Maghribi. He had come into Basilan from Jolo. The Abu Sayyaf group (ASG) on Basilan, led by Isnilon Hapilon who was killed in Marawi, was a key component of the ISIS coalition. Hapilon was the overall amir for the coalition, which called itself the “East Asia Wilayah”, or the East Asia province of Islamic State.

28 August and 2 September 2018: bombings in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat province of a night market and internet café respectively. Sultan Kudarat is home base to another element of the coalition, Ansar Khilafah Philippines (AKP). The AKP leader, Mohammad Jaafar Maguid known as Commander Tokboy, was killed in January 2017 but some of his fighters continue to cause trouble in the area. AKP traditionally had close links to Indonesian extremists. It also hosted training camps for pro-ISIS fighters in late 2014-2015, in the lead-up to Marawi.

16 September 2018: a bombing at a clinic in General Santos city wounded eight; there were no fatalities. Police said the suspects were remnants of the AKP working with a criminal gang called the Nilong Group.

31 December 2018: a bombing outside the South Seas Mall in Cotabato City killed two and injured 34. A young suspect linked to the Abu Toraife faction of BIFF turned himself in while another was being sought.

27 January 2019: the Jolo cathedral bombing. Three days later, government officials were making contradictory statements about whether the bombs were remotely detonated or suicide attacks and whether foreigners were involved. ISIS immediately claimed responsibility over its online media, and extremist Telegram sites circulated a graphic poster showing an ISIS fighter standing on top of a mountain of skulls, over a kneeling Duterte, as if ready to behead him. The caption read “The Fighting Has Just Begun #EastAsia”.

Instead of vowing to crush ASG, instead of setting huge bounties on the heads of key leaders to encourage their killing, and instead of relentless airstrikes that displace and alienate local populations, Philippine security forces should be making a concerted effort to capture pro-ISIS suspects alive so they can get information to connect the dots and answer some critical questions:

To what extent is there communication and coordination among the different pro-ISIS components in Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan and Jolo?

Who in Mindanao is communicating with ISIS media outlets?

What is known about the money trail from Marawi?

What is known about the wives, daughters and mothers of top pro-ISIS operatives and their personal networks? The mother of the Maute brothers, now in prison, proved to be a critical figure in arranging support and refuge for her sons. Why hasn’t more attention been paid to women operatives?

Who has replaced the Malaysian national Dr Mahmud Ahmad (killed in Marawi), as fund-raiser and chief recruiter for foreign nationals?

How many foreign fighters are with different pro-ISIS components, where are they from and when did they arrive? (Estimates range from under ten to over 40 on Jolo alone.)

What kind of explosives training is taking place and who are the instructors? In particular, where is Abu Nida alias Zacaria, an Indonesian in Mindanao since 2003 and with the ASG since 2005 who was an important trainer for ASG-Basilan and the AKP before the Marawi siege?

How, if at all, are recent kidnappings linked to the surge in pro-ISIS activity?

How important is the Sabah-based support network for different ASG factions?

Despite martial law in Mindanao, there have been relatively few arrests. As of this month, according to data from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Manila, the number of people arrested from pro-ISIS groups was only 44 – and that was down from 67 in July 2018 because many had been released on technicalities. 15 of the 44 were women.

At the same time, the Philippines army has encouraged many fighters to surrender, and the media is full of reports of ten ASG surrendering here, two or three teenage Maute fighters there. But it is not clear who debriefs them, how the debriefings are shared or who has the experience or interest to ask about cross-group, cross-regional ties – let alone ISIS links. Those with outstanding criminal warrants are supposed to be turned over to the police, but the police say they have little information about who is being held in military custody.

It is long past time to focus more on information-gathering and less on bombing the ASG to smithereens – because it is ultimately better intelligence that will help prevent another Jolo.

LOOK: The face of prime suspect in Jolo blast

From CNN Philippines (Jan 31, 2019): LOOK: The face of prime suspect in Jolo blast

CNN Philippines obtains a photo of 'Alias Kamah,' the prime suspect in the twin blasts in a Jolo cathedral.
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 31) — CNN Philippines has obtained a photo of "Alias Kamah," tagged as the main suspect behind the deadly bombing of a cathedral in Jolo, Sulu.

Police said Kamah is the brother of a slain Abu Sayyaf member and part of the Ajang Ajang group, which operates under the Abu Sayyaf – a terror group that has pledged allegiance to ISIS.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Source on Thursday, Philippine National Police chief Dir. Gen. Oscar Albayalde said Kamah has been a long standing threat to the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo.

Authorities raided Kamah's house on Tuesday. They killed suspected Ajang Ajang member Ommal Usop, but Kamah evaded arrest.

The twin blasts in Jolo killed 22 and injured a hundred others.

Sulu police: Suicide bombers behind Jolo twin blasts

From ABS-CBN (Feb 1, 2019): Sulu police: Suicide bombers behind Jolo twin blasts

(2ND UPDATE) Suicide bombers were behind twin blasts in Jolo Cathedral Sunday that left 22 dead and at least 100 hurt, Sulu police said Friday.

This confirmed President Rodrigo Duterte's earlier statement that the bomb attack on the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Cathedral in Jolo was a suicide bombing.

Authorities had to check the information after witnesses said they saw a
"suspicious" woman leave a package near one of the pews at the church.

Sulu Provincial Police director Senior Supt. Pablo Labra said several eyewitnesses pointed to a man and a woman who they believe were responsible for the bombings.

Testimonies, according to Labra, indicate that the woman took a seat inside the church while the man walked out.

The woman, who was wearing a gray-looking jacket, carried a backpack and did not leave before the first blast. The second bomb, meanwhile, was on the male bomber when it exploded, Labra said.

Labra added that as of Friday, two pairs of severed legs remained unclaimed, indicating that these may belong to the suicide bombers.

Results of a DNA test on the severed body parts will be out in a few days, Labra said. He, however, declined to comment on the nationality of the bombers.

At least 4 persons of interest, including the alleged brother of a slain Abu Sayyaf official, surrendered to authorities earlier this week to clarify that they had nothing to do with the bombing.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack, and the military is looking at the involvement of the IS-inspired Abu Sayyaf group in the incident.

The blasts occurred while Mindanao remained under martial law.

Who Is Abu Sayyaf? The Group Behind The Deadly Church Bombing In The Philippines

Posted to the New Hampshire Public Radio Website (Jan 28, 2019): Who Is Abu Sayyaf? The Group Behind The Deadly Church Bombing In The Philippines

Originally published on January 28, 2019 8:51 pm
Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit


The president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, got a firsthand look today at the devastation from a cathedral bombing in the southern city of Jolo. The explosion, during Sunday Mass, killed at least 20 people and wounded more than a hundred others. A militant group aligned with ISIS has claimed responsibility. Michael Sullivan has more on the group's troubled history in the region.

MICHAEL SULLIVAN, BYLINE: In May 2017, fighters from the Abu Sayyaf and other ISIS-linked groups occupied much of the city of Marawi on the island of Mindanao. It took the Philippines' military five months to dislodge them and declare victory, leaving much of the city in ruins and many of the fighters dead - down but not out.

SIDNEY JONES: I think you can be very sure that what happened in Jolo is not the last gasp of a group on the edge of extinction.

SULLIVAN: Sidney Jones is director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict in Jakarta, Indonesia.

JONES: I think you have to put this in the context of a lot of other pro-ISIS activity in Mindanao since the end of the Marawi siege.

SULLIVAN: After that siege, she says, the authorities said that ISIS in the southern Philippines was defeated. But it wasn't. The coalition of groups involved dispersed into different areas, Jones says, but they didn't go away.

JONES: And there have been a persistent series of bombings in different parts of the Philippines of which this is the biggest.

SULLIVAN: Including the first suicide bombing carried out by a foreigner last July that killed 10 people. Zachary Abuza, a professor at the National War College who tracks Southeast Asian terror groups, predicts Sunday's bombing will become a useful propaganda tool for ISIS to recruit more.

ZACHARY ABUZA: If you are a foreign fighter from Southeast Asia, you are now going to be more attracted to go into the Abu Sayyaf simply because they are demonstrating their ability to continue the fight.

SULLIVAN: He says the timing of Sunday's attack - less than a week after an overwhelming majority of Muslims in the south voted for an autonomy plan aimed at ending decades of conflict - is no accident.

ABUZA: They're trying to provoke a heavy-handed government response that will, in turn, alienate the local community.

SULLIVAN: And that kind of response, says Sidney Jones of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, would be a huge mistake - one that's been made before.

JONES: One of the worst tactics used by the Philippines government is the idea that you eradicate terrorism by killing those involved, not by understanding who's involved and not by trying to look at the network.

SULLIVAN: Networks that show no sign of being shut down anytime soon. For NPR News, I'm Michael Sullivan in Bangkok.
Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Commander Bravo urges Lanao voters: Vote 'yes' for peace

From Rappler (Feb 1, 2019): Commander Bravo urges Lanao voters: Vote 'yes' for peace

The alternative is continued violence, warns the MILF commander as Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato gear up for the February 6 Bangsamoro plebiscite
PITCH FOR PEACE. Commander Bravo and his troops in a video message posted on January 31, 2019
PITCH FOR PEACE. Commander Bravo and his troops in a video message posted on January 31, 2019

Vote "yes" to pave the way for peace and development in the Bangsamoro region. Or face continued violence.

This was the message of controversial Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) commander Abdullah Macapaar, better known as Commander Bravo, in a
video that his group posted on Facebook on Thursday, January 31, five days before the scheduled second Bangsamoro plebiscite in 6 towns of Lanao del Norte and 67 barangays (villages) in North Cotabato. (READ: Now that the BOL is ratified, what's next?)

Bravo commands the MILF's Northwestern Mindanao Front in Lanao del Norte, which is campaigning hard for the inclusion of 6 towns in the soon-to-be-formed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

He is up against the Dimaporo clan, which has ruled the province for at least 4 decades and which is against any of Lanao del Norte's town inclusion in BARMM.
Last January, the government brokered a dialogue between Bravo and the Dimaporos to ensure a peaceful plebiscite in Lanao del Norte. It was under the Arroyo government, after all, when Bravo led attacks against communities after peace negotiations bogged down during that period.

“I ask that we unite for peace and development by voting yes to the inclusion of the 6 towns of Lanao del Norte in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM),” Bravo said in Filipino.
The commander of the MILF's Northwestern Mindanao Front said the creation of a new and expanded Bangsamoro region will ensure a better future for "our children and Lanao del Norte."

Bravo appealed to voters to "not give us a reason to continue our armed struggle or remain resentful towards you."

“We don't want trouble," Bravo said. "Voting yes means that you want peace and you give us an opportunity to live in peace. And we will take this as a debt of honor,” Bravo said.

“Voting no will be a violation of our right to live in peace," he stressed, noting that this is what the government and MILF want to avoid. A "no" vote "will only cause violence in Lanao del Norte," Bravo said.

2nd plebiscite

The February 6 plebiscite will be the second to be held for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law and the creation of BARMM.

This is the culmination of the peace process began by the previous Aquino administration and the MILF aimed at granting genuine self-rule for Moros and ending decades of conflict in Muslim Mindanao.

The first plebiscite held on January 21 in resulted in a big "yes" win for the BOL in the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao as well as Cotabato City.

Leaders of the MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front who attended a forum in this city on Friday, February 1, appealed for a free and credible second plebiscite.
They asked the military and the police to ensure the peace, and for President Rodrigo Duterte to call on politicians to support the BOL.

“We decry the incitement of disdain among Christians towards Muslims and lslam perpetrated by these forces whose political interests go against... Moro empowerment,” their joint statement said.

“We decry the massive misinformation and disinformation perpetrated by these forces whose political fortunes are dependent on making the Moros in Lanao del Norte subservient to their self-centered aims,” the statement added.

Año: Sources say Jolo 'suicide bombers' were Indonesians

From Rappler (Feb 1, 2019): Año: Sources say Jolo 'suicide bombers' were Indonesians

The DILG chief sees a connection between the Jolo cathedral bombing and the Basilan blast in July 2018, both of which supposedly involved foreigners linked to ISIS

AFTERMATH. Two bombs detonate at the Jolo, Sulu cathedral killing civilians hearing mass and Armed Forces personnel who later rushed to rescue survivors. Photo from AFP-WestMinCom

AFTERMATH. Two bombs detonate at the Jolo, Sulu cathedral killing civilians hearing mass and Armed Forces personnel who later rushed to rescue survivors. Photo from AFP-WestMinCom

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said initial information from sources identified two Indonesians behind the deadly Jolo Cathedral bombing.

Año, on Friday, February 1, emphasized that this piece of information must still be verified.

"Ang talagang nagpasabog doon ay Indonesian suicide bombers (The ones behind the bombings are Indonesian suicide bombers)," he said in the Barangay Summit on Peace and Order in Palo, Leyte.

"Hindi pa tapos yung ginagawang investigation but I have sources na itong pagsabog ay project ng Abu Sayyaf at itong foreign terrorist na related sa ISIS (Islamic State group)," he later on said in an interview with reporters.
(The investigation is not over but I have sources who said the bombing was a project of Abu Sayyaf and this foreign terrorist related to ISIS.)

Año said information from his sources matched details made public by President Rodrigo Duterte – that the suicide bombers were a husband and wife team.

Members of the Abu Sayyaf, including one of the suspects, a certain "Alias Kamah," served as guides for the foreigners since they did not know the local dialect.

The Abu Sayyaf had also helped in studying targets for the attack, surveillance, and bringing the couple to the Jolo Cathedral.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had previously said he received information that the couple were Yemeni but that DNA tests were needed to confirm this.

According to Año, there are body parts found in the cathedral that were not claimed by any Jolo resident, making authorities believe they belong to the bombers. The forensic tests have not yet been completed, he said.

Related to Basilan blast, Marawi siege

Año, a former military intelligence chief, said he sees no connection between the Jolo cathedral bombing and the Zamboanga City mosque bombing.

What may be related, he said, is the Jolo blast and the deadly bombing in Lamitan City, Basilan on July 31, 2018.

Lorenzana had said at the time that the blast also appeared to be a suicide attack. Año said what links the two attacks is the alleged involvement of a foreign ISIS member in the Basilan blast.

"The Lamitan, Basilan bombing and the Jolo cathedral bombing, they are connected. Itong nagpaputok sa Basilan, si Abu Kathir Al-Maghribi, galing 'yan sa Jolo, sa Sulu. Bumaba lang 'yan, pumunta lang 'yan sa Basilan before the bombing," said the interior chief.

(The one behind the explosion in Basilan, Abu Kathir Al-Maghribi, came from Jolo, in Sulu. He just went to Basilan before the bombing.)

The military had announced after the Basilan blast that Abu Sayyaf Basilan commander Furuji Indama had a hand in it.

Año also thinks the Jolo explosion is related to the 5-month siege of Marawi City by groups allied with ISIS.

"When they attacked Marawi, nagtatak sila ng IS Mindanao (they branded it IS Mindanao). Sa tingin ko, dugtong pa rin ito sa Marawi crisis (In my view, this is an extension of the Marawi crisis)," he said.

As to the timing of the Jolo blast, he said it may have been related to the first Bangsamoro plebiscite, only in so much as the end of the polls may have led soldiers to let their guard down.

"They have been trying to do that as easly as last year. Nagkaroon lang sila ng pagkakataon ngayon, siguro nakita nila na medyo nagrelax ng kaunti yung nagbabantay doon sa katedral kasi natapos na yung BOL," he said.

(They got their chance maybe because they saw that the guards in the cathedral relaxed a bit since the BOL plebiscite had just ended.)

But Año emphasized that soldiers had been guarding the church 24 hours a day.

Moro youth might rebel if Lanao del Norte votes ‘no’ – MILF lawyer

From Rappler (Feb 1, 2019): Moro youth might rebel if Lanao del Norte votes ‘no’ – MILF lawyer

In the February 6 plebiscite, should the votes of the 6 municipalities and their mother province differ, the municipalities will not become part of the new Bangsamoro region

FIGHTING DISENFRANCHISEMENT. Salahoden Benhamza, legal officer for the MILF's Northwestern Mindanao Command, said a 'No' vote during the Lanao del Norte BOL plebiscite could disenfranchise Moro youth during a press briefing on February 1, 2019, in Cagayan de Oro City. Photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

FIGHTING DISENFRANCHISEMENT. Salahoden Benhamza, legal officer for the MILF's Northwestern Mindanao Command, said a 'No' vote during the Lanao del Norte BOL plebiscite could disenfranchise Moro youth during a press briefing on February 1, 2019, in Cagayan de Oro City. Photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – A victory for the "no" vote in the Bangsamoro plebiscite in Lanao del Norte on February 6 will result in the disenfranchisement of Moro youth in the province, a lawyer of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front's (MILF) said.

With the Bangsamoro Organic Law already ratified by the current Muslim region last January 21, a plebiscite will be conducted in parts of two other provinces on whether they want to be part of the expanded region that the BOL will create.

Six municipalities in Lanao del Norte – Tagoloan, Balo-i, Pantar, Munai, Tangacal and Nunungan – will vote on whether they want to be included in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), while the rest of the province (except Iligan City) will vote whether they will allow the 6 towns to be carved out of the mother local government unit.

North Cotabato will have a similar plebiscite, also on February 6, on the inclusion of 67 barangays or villages in the BARMM.

Should the votes of the concerned localities and their mother provinces differ, then the localities will not become part of the BARMM.

“If there is a failure for the 6 towns to join the BARMM, we are expecting that there will be a group that will surface – a group of young people, and that's what we are afraid of,” Salahoden Benhamza, legal officer of the MILF Northwestern Mindanao front, said in a press briefing on Friday, February 1.

“Not all members of the MILF are educated, or have a mature mind,” Benhamza added.

Three of the provinces that comprise the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao – which BARMM will replace – are the poorest in the country: Lanao del Sur with 66.3 poverty incidence, Sulu with 49.6 poverty incidence, and Maguindanao with 48.8 poverty incidence.

“There are many members of the MILF that are young. They may not be able to stop themselves because of the frustration and because of expectations from the peace process, like livelihood and scholarship programs so they can go to school, if they can't join the BARMM,” Benhamza said.

A tale of anger retold

The narrative of Moro youth joining rebel groups or violent extremists has been repeatedly retold.

In 2008, Abdullah Macapaar, alias Commander Bravo of the MILF's Northwestern Mindanao Command, attacked the towns of Kausawagan, Bacolod, and Kolambugan after the Supreme Court voided the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) during the administration of president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Civilians took the brunt of the anger that Macapaar unleashed in the coastal towns of Lanao del Norte.

Benhamza said disenfranchized Moros created and started their own groups, which held grudges against the government.

“If you look at the war in Marawi, that was a result of the delay of the peace process,” Benhamza said. “That is why you have BIFF, Maute, Abu Sayyaf – they are a result of the failed peace process.”

Moro youth lacking access to education and better employment and economic activities are a prime source for recruitment by rebel groups.

The MILF itself is a breakaway group of the Moro National Liberation Front after the MNLF, under Nur Misuari, signed the peace agreement in 1996 in this city.

The Abu Sayyaf Group started out as a revolutionary movement but quickly transitioned into criminality and eventually into terrorism.

The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) is a breakaway group of MILF under the command of the late Ameril Umbra Kato.

The Maute group was led by a son of former MNLF fighter Cayamoro Maute. The Maute group is made up of second-generation fighters who wanted to prove themselves in the eye of the former rebels.

Regardless of the outcome of the plebiscite in Lanao del Norte, the BARMM was already ratified in its core territories. The new Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) will take hold of the new BARMM until a set of new officials are elected in 2022.

DSWD provides aid to Samar families displaced by clashes

From the Mindanao Examiner (Feb 1, 2019): DSWD provides aid to Samar families displaced by clashes

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) 8 (Eastern Visayas) has distributed relief assistance to families displaced by the ongoing battle between soldiers and communist rebels in San Jorge town, Samar province.

A total of 66 families or 264 individuals from Bay-ang and Calundan villages in San Jorge received family food packs, mosquito nets, and blankets, the DSWD said Thursday.

Of the 66 families, 34 or 136 individuals are in evacuation center while 32 families or 128 persons are temporarily living with relatives.

These families fled their communities as gunfight erupted between the Philippine Army under the 63rd Infantry Battalion (IB) and New People’s Army (NPA) in the two upland villages three weeks ago.

Government troops have been patrolling in upland communities of San Jorge to pursue communist rebels who attacked 63rd IB soldiers by detonating anti-personnel landmines. The ambush slightly injured nine soldiers.

Families from the two interior villages of San Jorge left their homes for safety and sought shelter in evacuation centers.

DSWD-8 social welfare and development team leader Carissa Mendoza said they have been monitoring the situation of the evacuees to ensure that they are well taken care of.

In a statement, the Army said village officials have initiated the mass evacuation for fear of being caught in the crossfire.

“The Army’s 63rd Infantry Battalion has not restricted the residents to return to their homes. On the other hand, some of the residents of Calundan voluntarily evacuated from the area for fear of being attacked by the NPA, turning them into a setback from the terrorist organization’s losses,” it said.

“Currently, the residents are now situated at the evacuation center located in San Jorge. They are provided with their basic needs through the municipal and local government units, the DSWD, and other stakeholders. Individuals with ailments were checked by the volunteer doctors and free medicines were given to them through the medical missions,” it added.

The Department of Education also sent teachers to tutor displaced students so they won’t miss out their lessons during their stay in the evacuation center.

Both the United States and European Union have declared the Communist Party of the Philippines – NPA as a terrorist group.

14 insurgents yield to military in Mindanao

From the Mindanao Examiner (Feb 1, 2019): 14 insurgents yield to military in Mindanao

The Philippine military on Friday announced the surrender of over a dozen communist insurgents in the restive southern region of Mindanao where guerrillas are fighting for a separate Maoist state.
Army Major General Felimon Santos Jr., chief of the Eastern Mindanao, said 13 insurgents had surrendered to the 25th Infantry Battalion in Compostela Valley’s Monkayo town. He said the group also handed over three rifles, one improvised explosive device and 40 kilos of ammonium nitrate and 190m pieces of blasting caps, including documents from the New People’s Army or NPA.

Military photos released to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner show the surrendered NPA rebels and assorted weapons.
He said another NPA squad leader, whose name was not made public by the army, also yielded to the 88th Infantry Battalion in Arakan town in North Cotabato province.

“The surrenderees are presently undergoing custodial debriefing by our military units. They will be subsequently subjected to needs assessment interview by government agencies concerned in preparation for their enrolment with the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program which prepares them in their return to the mainstream society,” Santos said.

The program, launched several decades ago and evolved with different names throughout years, aims to lure rebels to surrender peacefully and return to the fold of the law. It also provides financial aid in exchange for weapons surrendered by rebels and this is on top of livelihood skills training and housing program for each of them so they start a new life with their family.

There was no immediate statement from the NPA on the surrender of the rebels.

Army slams CPP-NPA terrorists for brutal killing of a civilian

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 1, 2019): Army slams CPP-NPA terrorists for brutal killing of a civilian

CAMP PERALTA, Jamindan, Capiz – The 3rd Infantry (Spearhead) Division, Philippine Army, condemned to the strongest possible terms the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) terrorist’s inhumane act of killing the civilian at Sitio Camandag, Brgy Carol-an, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental on January 29, 2019.

“The CPP-NPA terrorist once again, 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 and it is a clear violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law on which the CPP-NPA-NDF is one of the signatories,”
Major General Dinoh Dolina, the 3ID Commanding General said.

Dolina said, “we will not allow this terroristic act to happen again especially to the people whom we ought to defend. We will not stop to go against these Communist terrorists until justice is served to the families of the victims.”

Cornilio Morales, a village watchman of the aforementioned barangay, sustained multiple gunshot wounds after he was brutally killed in front of his daughter and other villagers.

Civilian witnesses positively identified the suspects as members of the CPP-NPA-terrorist and later confirmed upon seeing the pictures of the perpetrators from the military files.

Dolina also slammed human rights group “Karapatan” for keeping mum to the brutality of the CPP-NPA terrorist.

“Where are the Karapatan and other human rights groups? This is the right time for you to show up and prove that you are true human rights defenders. We are challenging you to conduct an impartial investigation and help the families of the victim attain justice. Come out and condemn the ruthlessness of the CPP NPA Terrorists,” he urged.

He also encouraged the religious sector particularly the social action centers to hear the cries of the mourning family of Morales and spend time with them and the community to find out the true nature of the communist terrorist group.

Dolina likewise called on the Negrenses to continue cooperating with the government troops by providing information and whereabouts of the CPP-NPA terrorists especially those who are behind yet another brutal crime to stop them from casting violence against the people.

Former rebel receives financial aid from LGU-Capiz

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 1, 2019): Former rebel receives financial aid from LGU-Capiz

CAMP PERALTA, Jamindan, Capiz – A former rebel from Cuartero town in Capiz received Php10,000.00 financial assistance from the Capiz provincial government, January 29.

Task Force Balik-Loob chairperson Undersecretary Reynaldo Mapagu, who attended the Enhanced – Comprehensive Local Integration Meeting Program (E-CLIP) in the province together with Capiz Provincial Social Welfare and Development Officer Maria Barnes and 301st Infantry (Bayanihan) Brigade commander Col. Alberto Desoyo awarded the financial assistance to Alias Jr.

Due to fatigue and extreme hunger, Alias Jr. voluntarily surrendered to the government authorities last year.

Since 2014, approximately 50 former rebels in the province each received Php10.00, worth of financial assistance from the provincial government of Capiz.

“This is the government’s way of showing its sincerity to help those who voluntarily returned to the fold of the law and we are expecting more surrenders as we intensify our anti-insurgency campaign with the overwhelming support of various sectors in Panay,” Desoyo said.

In 2018, the 61st Infantry (Hunter) Battalion, under the leadership of Lieutenant Sisenando Magbalot Jr., facilitated the surrender of 59 Militia ng Bayan and three regular members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Cuartero town.

“The dwindling number of the communist terrorists and the demoralization within the organization due to deceptions, false promises and most of all internal corruption are also significant factors of the growing number of surrenderers,” Desoyo added.

For his part, 3rd Infantry (Spearhead) Division commander Major General Dinoh Dolina reiterated his call to the remaining members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA terrorist to lay down their arms, abandon the bloody and senseless armed struggle, and start a new life.

“Your government together with your Army, police and the people of Panay are more than willing to welcome and help you return in the mainstream society. Come down and avail the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) for you to regain your future,” Dolina said.

16 former NPAs, supporters receive assistance under E-CLIP

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 1, 2019): 16 former NPAs, supporters receive assistance under E-CLIP

Featured Image

ASIPULO, Ifugao - - Sixteen former members of the New Peoples Army (NPA) and Militia ng Bayan (MB) are the latest beneficiaries of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) in the province.

The recipients consisting of two NPAs and 14 MBs who have returned to the folds of the law last quarter of last year, received government assistance during a simple ceremony here facilitated by the local government unit, Department of Interior and Local Government, and other government offices.

Ka Cindy and Ka Iyung (not their real names) received each a total amount of P65, 000 while the 14 MBs were granted P15, 000 each.

Joseline Niwane, Provincial Social Welfare and Development Officer (PSWDO), explained that the Php50, 000 was livelihood assistance while Php.15, 000 was for immediate assistance.

The two former rebels were happy with their new-found freedom after they were captured/rescued in November last year in an encounter. They said they will use the money to start a new business.

Lt. Col. Narciso Nabulneg, Jr., Commanding Officer of the 54th Infantry Battalion, said that this only proves the sincerity of the government in implementing its localized peace talk and integration program for the former rebels through the concerted efforts of all government offices and LGUs.

“The 54th IB is much willing to help in facilitating your surrender to have a normal life in the mainstream society. To the remaining NPAs in the provinces of Ifugao, Mt. Province, Benguet and Nueva Vizcaya, it’s time to embrace the government’s program and be a part of the nation building as what your other comrades did,” Nabulneg said.

E-CLIP is locally driven, managed and implemented to provide more sustainability and consistency. It veers away from the past practice of pre-packaged interventions designed at the national level.

 The program responds to the circumstances, needs and concerns of former rebels through the provision of assistance and seeks to consider their basic rights and situations as men and women. (JDP/MBL- PIA CAR, Ifugao)

Tabak chief cites role of media in nation-building

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 1, 2019): Tabak chief cites role of media in nation-building

 Featured Image

TUKURAN, Zamboanga del Sur -–The 1st Infantry (Tabak) Division, Philippine Army recognizes the vital role of media in nation-building and in promoting peace and security in the region.

MGen. Roseller Murillo, Tabak Commander, in his message read by BGen. Nixon Fortes, Assistant Division Commander for Admin and Logistics during the election of officers of the Tabak Defense Press Corps (TDPC) held at Tabak Beach Resort here, said it is the desire of the commander to strengthen partnership among media practitioners.

“The Philippine Army recognizes your value as our channel for quick means of disseminating information and educating the public in various trends,” Fortes said quoting the Tabak commander.

“It is my desire to strengthen and deepen the partnership with our media practitioners because you are the partners of Tabak in our information and dissemination campaign,” he added.

Murillo said through the years, media play an important role in the lives of every Filipino.

The Tabak chief said the media practitioners’ capability to administer a swift relay of information is a revitalizing force particularly in the conduct of non-combat operations of the Philippine Army, to establish and maintain close ties among soldiers, government and non-government authorities, that will eventually lead to the accomplishment of AFP’s mission.

Meanwhile, GMA-7 stringer Ellen Ajijul, newly elected TDPC president, said she is grateful to the division for exerting efforts in the revitalization of the group after three years of dormancy.

Ajijul acknowledged the importance of military and media partnership in promoting peace, security and development.

“It is such an honor to be elected as your president and I am humbled that you have placed your trust and faith in me. I will continue to lead the TDPC to represent you with utmost dedication, transparency, and honesty,” she concluded.

The other newly elected officers were : Vice President - Gideon Corgue (PIA), Secretary -Divina Suson (PDI), Cristy Basadre (DXMG Radyo Bisdak), and Auditor –Rey Garcia (Mindanao Observer).

Minimal troop movement for 2nd BOL polls: AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 1, 2019): Minimal troop movement for 2nd BOL polls: AFP

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Friday the movement of troops for next week's second Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) plebiscite will only be minimal.

"AFP will make the necessary security adjustments in the wake of the Jolo incident. However, since troops are already pre-deployed, troop movement will be minimal," AFP public affairs office chief Col. Noel Detoyato said in a message to the Philippine News Agency (PNA), when asked if there will be additional security preparations for the plebiscite in the wake of the twin bomb blasts in Jolo, Sulu that killed 22 people and wounded at least 97 others last January 27.

Detoyato earlier said the military will take "extra precautionary measures" to secure the second BOL plebiscite.

"We will take extra precautionary measures in the advent of the Jolo incident. Meanwhile, our troops are advised to be always on the alert for any changes in the security protocols to anticipate the fluid situation. All other security arrangements stay the same," he said.

The second BOL plebiscite on February 6 will be held in the province of Lanao del Norte, except Iligan City; the municipalities of Aleosan, Carmen, Kabacan, Midsayap, Pikit, and Pigkawayan in the province of North Cotabato; and the 28 barangays to be included in the region.

The military deployed more than 10,000 troops and support units to help secure the BOL plebiscite, alongside the Philippine National Police.

AFP not ruling out suicide bomb angle in Jolo blasts

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 1, 2019): AFP not ruling out suicide bomb angle in Jolo blasts

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday clarified that it is not discounting the possibility the twin blasts that hit a church in Jolo, Sulu is the handiwork of suicide bombers.

"The AFP has not since ruled out the possibility of suicide bombing. We are, however, still pursuing leads from the ongoing investigation and testimonies of survivors that point to other possibility that it may not be suicide bombing," said AFP spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo in a text message to reporters.

Arevalo was reacting to the Sulu police’s claim that the January 27 attack that killed 22 persons and wounded at least 97 others is a case of suicide bombing.

"The President and Commander-in-Chief, Rodrigo Duterte has made a declaration that the Jolo blast is possibly a handiwork of suicide bomber(s). We say that he has access to various — even unlimited — sources of information. And that possibility is among the focus of our investigation," he added.

Regardless of who perpetrated the brutal attack, Arevalo said the entire military is committed in neutralizing and prosecuting these terrorists for the murder of churchgoers.

"There may be a breach of security but not security lapse. A truism is that there is no impenetrable barrier. The AFP may have foiled 99 out of 100 attempts; but a singular successful try doesn’t mean government security forces have been remiss of their job. The fact that five soldiers, now six, made the ultimate sacrifice during the blast prove that they religiously performed their level best to protect and rush to the rescue of the victims of the blast," Arevalo said.

He said they need the utmost cooperation of people to comply with the security measures being implemented by security authorities.

"We hear complaints of parishioners being prevented to bring backpacks, knapsacks and boxes to the church; as well as oppositions to regulations prohibiting the bringing (of) bottled water inside MRT coaches. We implore the collaboration of the citizenry. These measures may entail discomfort or inconvenience to us, but we have to do our share of sacrifices in the name of collective security and common good," he said.

Ex-NPAs to get housing units after cops, soldiers waive rights

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 1, 2019): Ex-NPAs to get housing units after cops, soldiers waive rights

FREEDOM RESIDENCES. Marcelino Escalada Jr, the secretary general of the Housing Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) and general manager of the National Housing Authority, and Philippine Army Commanding General Lt General Macairog Alberto lead the inspection of the housing units for the former New People's Army (NPA) rebels in Cuambogan, Tagum City, on Friday afternoon.

TAGUM CITY-- The National Housing Authority (NHA) is set to award a total of 50 housing units to the first batch of New People's Army (NPA) surrenderers from Davao del Norte and Davao Oriental.

This, after personnel of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) — the original beneficiaries of the project — decided to waive their rights in favor of the former NPAs.

During Friday's visit at the housing site in this city along with NHA officials, Lt. General Macairog Alberto underscored the importance of prioritizing rebel returnees in the government's housing program to attract more communist insurgents to return to the mainstream society and live peaceful lives.

Alberto was with NHA General Manager Marcelino Escalada Jr. and other Army officials to inspect the "Biyaya ng Pagbabago"
Freedom Residences, a three-hectare area in Cuambogan, this city, which is touted to be the first settlement for rebel returnees in the country.

Escalada, who is also secretary general of the Housing Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), said that initially a total of 31 former rebels will the first occupants of the first 50 completed units.

No less than President Rodrigo Duterte will head the turn-over, he said, which is tentatively set at the end of the month.

Escalada said each housing unit costs PHP450,000 with a floor area of 33 sq. meters, featuring a loft and extra seven sq. meters for laundry area.

He said Freedom Residences has a total of 375 units, with provisions for a training facility to provide NPA surrenders with necessary livelihood skills.

Some two hectares will also be developed as a commercial area where owners can engage in small business, he added.

The 31 ex-NPAs are among the first 50 beneficiaries that have been fully evaluated by the government through the Enhanced-Comprehensive Local Evaluation Program (e-CLIP).

Maj. Gen. Felimon T. Santos Jr., commander Eastern Mindanao Command, added that aside from the E-CLIP programs, Army units have also been directed to "work closely with other government agencies and stakeholders for them to come up for a comprehensive program" for former rebels.

"Critical to the FRs (former rebels) is the post-surrender intervention and social preparation,  which allows them to be integrated into mainstream society as a productive and law-abiding citizen," Santos noted.

Davao Norte town declares Satur Ocampo 'persona non grata'

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 1, 2019): Davao Norte town declares Satur Ocampo 'persona non grata'

Former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and 17 others are no longer welcome in Talaingod municipality after local officials declared them "persona non grata" following last year’s incident involving the alleged trafficking of tribal students.

A resolution unanimously approved by the Talaingod Municipal Council on January 14 cited the November 2018 incident when Ocampo and his companions were arrested for bringing with them 14 minors without travel permits and, in some cases, without the knowledge of the children's parents.

The local officials also expressed the sentiments of the Ata Manobo tribal leaders, who earlier condemned Ocampo and his companions for violating the rights of the tribe
and the alleged intrusion of the New People’s Army (NPA) into tribal lands.

Ocampo's 17 companions who were also declared "persona non grata" are France Castro, Meggie Nolasco, Pastor Edgar Ugal, Rev. Ryan C Magpayo, Pastor Eller A. Ordeza, Rev Jurie Jaime, Jesus Madamo, Maryro Poquita, Maria Conception Ibarra, Jenveive Pabara, Merhay Talledo, Maricel Andagkit, Marcial Rendon, Ariel Ansan, Mariane Aga, Nerfa Awing, and Wingwing Daunsay.

Aside from trafficking charges, Ocampo and his colleagues are facing child abuse and kidnapping cases.

The town's tribal leaders have also accused Ocampo of failure to seek a Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) before entering into the tribe's ancestral domain.

Ocampo had earlier said he and his colleagues were headed to Talaingod with the minors for a fact-finding mission on the supposed abuses committed by the military in the area.