Wednesday, February 6, 2019

House bill requiring ROTC for Grades 11, 12 one step away from passage

From Rappler (Feb 6, 2019): House bill requiring ROTC for Grades 11, 12 one step away from passage
If passed into law, the House bill would bar a senior high school student from graduating if he or she fails to complete the ROTC program
CADETS IN FORMATION. Competing cadets in the Ultimate ROTC Challenge 2018 attend the opening ceremony prior to the start of their respective events. Photo by the DND
CADETS IN FORMATION. Competing cadets in the Ultimate ROTC Challenge 2018 attend the opening ceremony prior to the start of their respective events. Photo by the DND

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives approved on second reading the bill that would make the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program mandatory for Grades 11 and 12.
Legislators approved House Bill (HB) 8961 on Wednesday, February 6, through viva voce voting or a vote of ayes and nays.
The bill needs only one more round of votes, the 3rd and final reading, before hurdling the House. With the 17th Congress expected to adjourn by Friday, February 8, HB 8961 would likely be passed in May, when session reopens.
The Senate's version of the bill is still being deliberated at the committee level.
HB 8961 says the conduct of military training under the ROTC “shall apply to all students in Grades 11 and 12 in all senior high schools in public and private educational institutions.”
The goal behind the proposed two-year mandatory ROTC is “producing well-trained and prepared reservists for military and civic service.”
“The ROTC training is aimed to instill patriotism, love of country, moral and spiritual virtues, and respect for human rights and adherence to the Constitution,” said HB 8961.
But "in no way should the ROTC be used for political gains, to teach and instill particular ideology, and as a mechanism for hazing and abuse.”
Before approving the bill on second reading, legislators agreed to remove the provision requiring public and private universities and other higher education institutions to establish an advance ROTC course for students who would volunteer to take them.
President Rodrigo Duterte restated in November 2018 that he wanted ROTC to become mandatory for students. But Duterte had also claimed in public speeches that he himself tried to skip ROTC as a student.
Who would be exempted? Only students whom the Armed Forces of the Philippines surgeon general or his or her medical officer deem as physically or psychologically unfit for the ROTC program would be exempted, “in pursuance to the recommendation of the educational institutions where the concerned student is enrolled."
What would be the punishment for non-completion of the training? Any student who would not complete the mandatory ROTC program would not be allowed to graduate. This would also be a ground for compulsory military training.
A school that would refuse to offer the required ROTC program would be subjected to “administrative sanctions” by the Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, or the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
Why is the mandatory ROTC program criticized? Lawmakers against HB 8961 have argued that making the ROTC program mandatory for senior high school students would expose them to corruption.
“Instead of addressing the woes on basic education caused and worsened by K to 12, Duterte and Congress are prioritizing subjecting students to mandatory military service instead, which is a hotbed of abuses, and has a long history and culture of abuse, corruption, and impunity,” said Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago.
ROTC was previously implemented at the college level, but it was scrapped in 2002 after an investigation showed that a University of Santo Tomas student was murdered after he exposed alleged corruption in the program.
The UP Vanguard – an alumni organization composed of graduates of UP ROTC courses – has said it does not want ROTC to be required among Grades 11 and 12 either.
They said the proposal would violate the Philippines' declaration in its ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention of the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
Instead, the UP Vanguard wants the ROTC program to be made mandatory for college students once again.

Why the Philippines wants to review the mutual defence treaty with the United States

From the Observer Research Foundation (Feb 6): Why the Philippines wants to review the mutual defence treaty with the United States (By Premesha Saha)
Delfin, Lorenzo, MDT, South China Sea, Philippines, South China Sea, Premesha Saha, ARIA
Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte with US President Donald Trump
Philippines’ Defence Secretary, Delfin Lorenzana at a press briefing at Camp Aguinaldo in late December last year spoke of the need for a review of the 1951 Mutual Defence Treaty (MDT) with the United States given the growing security concerns in the South China Sea. The Defence Secretary had mentioned, given the ambivalent stand of the United States with respect to the Philippines’ claim in the West Philippine Sea (as referred to by the Philippines), “the government had three options after the review: Maintain it, strengthen it, or scrap it.” The main premise of the MDT is “that the Philippines and the U.S. would assist each other when either of them is attacked by a foreign force.”
The MDT between the Philippines and the US was signed on August 30 1951, in Washington, D.C. After the Philippines gained independence on July 4 1946, a strong American presence persisted. Under the 1947 Military Bases Agreement, a number of US military bases were set up in the Philippines. Most notable ones being the Clark Air Base and the Subic Bay (US naval station).  The bases were maintained and operated by the US until 1991 and 1992 respectively. Philippines has been the oldest treaty ally of the US in Southeast Asia. Besides the MDT, the two countries have signed other agreements as well like the Visiting Forces Agreement in 1998, The Enhanced Defence Cooperation in 2014. After the 1992 withdrawal of the US from Manila, the relationship between the two countries improved further in the economic, defence and the security realms. The major thrust of the security relationship rests on the 1951 MDT. Scholars have even branded the US as the Philippines’ ‘security umbrella’. In his September 2018 meeting with US Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, Lorenzana had said, “Most in our defense establishments agree that the Philippines-US alliance remains robust based on an enduring history of close engagement and our unwavering commitment to work together on shared values.” Therefore, the current statement of Delfin Lorenzana in December last year “that this treaty was signed in the Cold War era, do we still have a Cold War today? Is it still relevant to our security? Maybe not anymore” comes as a surprise.
The MDT has raised many grievances in the present times. Article 4 of the MDT reads, “Each Party recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific area on either of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes.”
The main point of objection is the absence of an ‘instant retaliatory clause’ but to go through the constitutional processes, that is the need to consult the US Congress before taking any retaliatory action. Furthermore, Article 5 of the Treaty is, “an armed attack on either of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack on the metropolitan territory of either of the Parties, or on the Island territories under its jurisdiction in the Pacific Ocean, its armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific.” This clause has again triggered a lot of debate in Manila as to “what “Pacific” refers to. Does it mean the Pacific Ocean or the Pacific area of operations which encompasses everything west of the US West Coast up to the Indian Ocean?”
Philippines is currently facing its biggest external threat in the form of an expansionist China in the South China Sea according to Filipino analysts like Richard Heydarian. The Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague had awarded the Philippines sovereign rights and defined its maritime entitlements over three disputed areas in the Spratlys: Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal and Recto (Reed) Bank. Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off Zambales was declared as a common fishing ground over which no country has control. But China had completely ignored the ruling and built fortified artificial islands in the South China Sea including in the Panganiban Reef. The Chinese sealed off Panatag and harassed resupply operations to Filipino troops on Ayungin. The Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin has said in a statement recently that the Philippines will protest against the Chinese opening a maritime rescue centre in the Fiery Cross Reef. The territorial dispute is listed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as the primary source of the country’s external threat.
This has prompted Manila to demand that the US takes a stronger stand in the South China Sea issue in favor of its erstwhile treaty ally. Though the US is undertaking Freedom of Navigation and overflight exercises in the South China Sea, it still remains non-committal on whether it will defend the Philippines in times of an armed attack. The US had in the past taken no stand during the takeover by the Chinese of the Philippines’ claimed Mischief Reef in 1995 and also during the 2012 Scarborough Shoal standoff between the Philippines and China. This has not gone down well in the Filipino defence, security circles and most importantly the country’s citizens.

With the current government under Duterte, a sea change in the policy towards China was noticed. The South East Asian nation has had a rollercoaster relationship with Beijing as the nations are at odds over the South China Sea.
However in an address on the eve of Chinese New Year, the leader of the Philippines said the “friendship and cooperation forged between the Philippines and China” had led to “greater prosperity and economic growth”. Philippines unlike in the past where it was too pro- US, is now like most other countries in the region following a hedging strategy, which means the US needs to do much more to keep the trust of its treaty ally intact. Under the Trump administration, US’s Asia Policy has become a dicey one. On one hand, we saw President Trump pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but on December 31 2018, the release of the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (ARIA) is focused on the promotion of American interests in the Indo-Pacific region in terms of defense and security partnerships. In the ARIA, the US “promotes a joint Indo-Pacific diplomatic strategy in Asian waters through joint maritime exercises in the East China Sea and the South China Sea.” It also reaffirms its treaty commitments to countries like the Thailand and the Philippines. Though the ARIA mentions about the appropriation of US$150,000,000 to the Indo-Pacific region for each fiscal year from 2019-2023. But at the same time, financial assistance will be subjected to a budget cut in countries such as Cambodia, Myanmar and US’s closest security ally in ASEAN, the Philippines, due to human rights issues. According to academics, Academics Gregory Poling and Eric Sayers, “if the Philippines withdraws from the MDT it would be a severe blow to US interests in the Indo-Pacific.”
The Philippines desire is now for a stronger MDT, or to upgrade the MDT whereby the Kalayaan Island Group (island chain claimed by the Philippines in the South China Sea) and the Scarborough Shoal falls within the gambit of the Treaty.
This in a way is reflective of the yearning of smaller countries in this region for a more proactive role to be played that caters to their interests by the Big powers like the US. This yearning presents both challenges and opportunities for the Big Powers. Even countries like the US in the current times despite the ongoing trade war with China is delicately balancing its relations with Beijing.  So to claim outright that it will take the side of its treaty ally during a clash with its very crucial trading partner puts the US in a tough spot. The Scarborough Shoal 2012 standoff had also put the Asia Pivot policy of the Obama administration under test and many had questioned the genuineness of the policy when the US maintained a neutral stand in the standoff. Philippines’ wish for a stronger MDT has again put the US in a difficult situation. The US-Philippines 2014 Enhanced Defence Co-operation Agreement (EDCA) also depends on the MDT. That agreement allows the US to construct facilities and pre-position and store defence equipment, supplies and material within Philippine military bases and to deploy troops on a rotational basis there. Given the Philippines’ change in attitude towards China and its new hedging strategy, according to Poling and Sayers, “continuance of the treaty and the EDCA is critical to US interests in the region, not necessarily to those of the Philippines whose relations with China may suffer.”

The Indo-Pacific concept is becoming a hot topic of discussion and with India trying to win over the ASEAN countries to include them in her Indo-Pacific policy, this desire of the Philippines for the Major powers to embark on a more active role in sensitive disputes like the South China Sea indeed presents a challenge for India.
India is revamping her Indo-Pacific policy through its Act East and thereby also needs to take cognizance of the demands of the smaller countries in the Southeast Asian region beside countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore. The ASEAN has always believed in ‘consensus’ and the visions and desires of all the member countries will be taken into account when the ‘ASEAN vision or concept of the Indo-Pacific’ is formulated at the end of the ongoing deliberations on the Indo-Pacific at the platform of the ASEAN and the East Asia Summit. The ASEAN countries have propagated for an “inclusive Indo-Pacific framework”, therefore at the end, picking sides will not be a viable option for either the Big powers in case of sore issues like the South China Sea and even for the smaller countries in the emerging dynamics of the Indo-Pacific and the changing global order. Therefore, these demands of the smaller countries needs to be tackled by India with a lot of caution and diplomatic acumen.
[Premesha Saha is an Associate Fellow with ORF’s Strategic Studies Programme. Her research focuses on Southeast Asia, East Asia and the South Pacific — spanning the Eastern Indian Ocean.

Premesha’s other research interests include: Indonesia’s maritime strategy, the emerging dynamics of the Indo-Pacific region, India and Southeast Asia, India’s Act East Policy, Asia-Pacific multilateralism.
Premesha has also published a chapter titled ‘The Genesis of the Scarborough Shoal Dispute between the Philippines and China’ in Prof. Manmohini Kaul and Dr. Anushree Chakraborty (edited) India’s Look East to Act East Policy: Re-examining the emerging issues and partnerships in Indo-Pacific; New Delhi: Pentagon Press.
Her PhD thesis is titled, ‘Indonesia’s Maritime strategy in the Indian Ocean.’ She has published extensively in peer reviewed journals as well as newspapers like Maritime Affairs, The Indonesia Quarterly and The Jakarta Post.]

PAF, USAF wrap up air exercises

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 5, 2019): PAF, USAF wrap up air exercises

Members of the Philippine and the United States air forces have successfully completed the 12-day Bilateral Air Contingent Exchange – Philippines (BACE-P), the seventh of a series of a joint military training and increased mutual cooperation at Cesar Basa Air Base in Pampanga


According to the United States Embassy in Manila, the BACE-P was conducted from January 21 to February 1 and provided an opportunity for U.S. Air Force F-16s and PAF FA-50s fighter aircraft to practice “interfly training” and conduct subject matter expert exchanges including intelligence, flight line, and maintenance operations.

This year’s iteration of BACE-P was described as “unique” for its incorporation of the US F-16 Fighting Falcons in the joint training. The first BACE-P was conducted on April 16, 2016.

In a separate statement, Col. Christopher Faurot, commander of the BACE-P 13th Expeditionary Air Squadron, said having the F-16 fighter allowed the USAF to interact with their Philippine counterparts along with their FA-50s, and in turn, helped to strengthen interoperability and training between the two sides.

“Through this engagement, our bilateral forces increased their interoperability and our partners demonstrated that they are a disciplined, professional and highly motivated force,” he said.

In addition to interfly training between the US F-16s and the PAF’s FA-50s, both sides also conducted expert exchanges on topics that include crash recovery, communications, flight line, and maintenance back-shop operations.

On the last day of the training, both sides engaged the participation of a large force.

Lt Col. Tom Kanewske, a pilot with the 121st Fighter Squadron, 113th Wing, D.C. Air National Guard, described the experience working with their PAF counterparts as both “terrific” and “wonderful.”

“As part of the bilateral engagement we’ve really focused on the sharing of best practices, so whether it’s our air-to-air and air-to-ground training with them as pilots or also reaching out to their ground forces — their forward air controllers — to that cross-sharing of information across survival specialists or maintainers, that level of engagement is something we don’t normally get in the international bilateral format, so it’s really been wonderful,” he said.

BACE-P officials noted that such bilateral engagement really matters as it consistently promotes interoperability, builds upon the foundation of a strong U.S.-Philippines’ alliance, and reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the Indo-Pacific region.

“We have seen a great degree of coalescing around joint tactics so the ability to see that improvement over a two-week time period provides us all the more momentum we need to keep these engagements on schedule and continue to show that overall joint improvement,” Kanewske added.

For his part, Maj. Mario Mendazo, a PAF FA-50 pilot with the 7th Tactical Fighter Squadron, expressed his appreciation for the bilateral exchange, saying that the U.S. Air Force shared with them a lot of knowledge that they can apply in the near future.

“During our exchange, I learned a lot when it comes to fighter operations, specifically air-to-air and air-to-ground. Air-to-air-like intercepts of different kinds of targets, threats airborne, and … threats on the ground specifically dealing with close air support missions,” Mendazo explained.

With such joint training and exchanges, Mendazo said he sees a “stronger alliance in the future and brighter days ahead for the two countries.”

Kanewske echoed Mendazo’s statement regarding the importance and necessity of continuing to foster and develop the USAF-PAF partnership.

“These degrees of engagements will only further our combined strategic objectives and we see the Philippine Air Force and the [Armed Forces of the] Philippines in general as a major contributor to the overall regional stability in the Pacific,” he said.

The conclusion of the BACE-P cooperation came in the light of the Philippine government’s latest admission that US troops have been providing assistance to the Philippine Army in its operations against terror attacks, specifically in Sulu area following the Jolo cathedral twin bombings.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said US forces were the first to rescue wounded Filipino soldiers who were flown to Zamboanga and have been helping the AFP track the terrorists even before the occurrence of the Jolo church bombing.

CPP/NPA-NCMR: Highest salute to Revolutionary Martyr Ka Joker

NPA-North Central Mindanao Region propaganda statement  posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Website (Feb 4, 2019): Highest salute to Revolutionary Martyr Ka Joker

Malem Mabini
NPA-North Central Mindanao
New People's Army
February 04, 2019

The New People’s Army – North Central Mindanao Region (NPA-NCMR) gives its highest salute to Ricardo ‘Ka Joker’ Manili, political prisoner, who died under Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal regime last January 22, 2019 due to a cardiac arrest. Ka Joker served as one of the region’s revolutionary cadres who helped strengthen its foundations, aided in rectifying its errors, and even until today, his invaluable contributions continue to ignite and inspire the revolutionary spirit of the people. Until his very last breath within the confines of the enemy’s prison cell, he embraced the genuine spirit of a Communist revolutionary.

Ka Joker offered the best and most fruitful years of his life to serving the masses. The people inspired Ka Joker and their democratic interests became his own and because of his selflessness and firm grasp of his Communist ideals. It would be almost impossible for the people to forget the peasant leader because he stood firm and never wavered even after his capture last May 2, 2016.

Even during Ka Joker’s incarceration, he continued to keep the interests of the people at heart. His captors would even accuse him of being part of revolutionary mass actions even in jail because of his spirit and indignation for what is right and revolutionary. Even in his last moments, he was able to write and self-criticize, grasping firmly the theory of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.

Ka Joker’s life is an example that revolutionaries should emulate. He offered his life to serving the masses and ultimately, the armed revolution. Spending his final breaths in the hands of the enemy showed his valiance in serving the people wholeheartedly.

The NPA-NCMR pays its utmost salute to Ka Joker especially now that our region is facing great challenges; military operations in the city and the countryside, forced surrender of NPA and legal activists, grave devastation of the movement’s mass bases, and the brutal blanket of Martial Law which legalizes the violent attacks on the people. Now more than ever do we need the militant and fighting spirit that Ka Joker carried with him until his final heartbeat to further bring our struggle to greater heights and ultimate victory.

CPP/CPP-NCMR: Ka Joker, a revolutionary martyr

CPP-North Central Mindanao Region propaganda statement  posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Website (Feb 4, 2019): Ka Joker, a revolutionary martyr

Communist Party of the Philippines
Norsen Manggubat
February 04, 2019

The Communist Party of the Philippines – North Central Mindanao Region (CPP-NCMR) pays its highest respect to Ricardo ‘Ka Joker’ Manili who have made the supreme sacrifice by selflessly giving up his life in the service of the people.

Ka Joker, 64 years old and a political detainee under the fascist regime of Rodrigo Duterte, suffered from comatose after he tumbled and bumped his head on the ground. He was rushed to the provincial hospital but was transfered to Butuan Doctors due to the public hospital’s incapability to accomodate such case. After five days, January 22, 2019, he died under the close-guarding of the state forces.

Ka Joker, who was also fondly called by the masses and his comrades as ‘Ka Tiyo’ or ‘Ka Giwgiw’, was a local mass leader in their barangay around 1980’s. He then became a member of their local Party branch. In 1983, he joined the New People’s Army (NPA) with his brother.

He was among the region’s revolutionary cadres who advanced the Party’s ideological, political and organizational principles. He was one of the few cadres who could execute both political and military duties.

As a political officer, he effectively elevated the ideological consciousness of the Party cadres and members, Red armies and the masses. Ka Joker was active in tranforming the current decadent culture through his engagements in revolutionary cultural activities. He was even fond of composing his own piece, making the plight of the masses and their alternatives as its subject.

As a commanding officer of the NPA-Sub Regional Operations Command in Agusan, he led several victorious tactical offensives concluding to the confiscation of more rifles from the enemy which aided in the advancement of the armed revolution in the region. One of these glaring offensives was the annihilation of the 4th Division Reconnaisance Company, who were supposed to raid the NPA camp, last August 2004 in Manawang, Ginabsan, Buenavista, Agusan del Norte.

He was also adored by the peasant masses for being at the forefront of waging their democratic interests through agrarian revolution.

Ka Joker was captured last May 2, 2016 while heading to a venue where a prisoner-of-war was to be released. He was then charged with dubious trumped-up cases. As Duterte took office, Ka Joker was among the 160 sickly and elderly political prisoners who were promised of amnesty as part of the state’s good will on the resumption of the peace negotiations between the NDFP and the GRP. But until his last breath, Ka Joker endured the regime’s repugnant conduct.

Amidst the state’s brutal and inhumane treatment against political prisoners, Ka Joker showed his example of hard struggle. He potently slammed the enemy that they could never hamstring the revolutionary nor the revolutionary movement by putting its cadres behind bars. Aside from the lack of safeguard as an elderly and sickly political prisoner, Ka Joker was also deprived from being admitted to a recommended hospital. Adding insult to the wound, it was his family and friends who paid the hospital bills during his surgery. The reactionary government, that was supposed to guarantee his medical condition, did not lay a single penny.

Ka Joker’s courage to the last breath makes him live beyond death. His invaluable contributions would always be remembered through the ever widening and deepening revolutionary struggle. Ka Joker and the hundreds of revolutionary martyrs blazed the steeped hills with their blood and it’s up for the young cadres to follow the bloodstained pavement of freedom.

The revolutionary situation is always fertile for the people to avenge the blood of Ka Joker, of the revolutionary martyrs, and transform it to revolutionary valor. With the ever worsening economic and political crisis under the moribund rotten system, the revolutionaries need to grasp the militant spirit Ka Joker taught us. His death will never be in vain, but will rather inspire the people to further intensify the struggle to achieve a just and free society.

NDF: Tribute to Comrade Felix Randy Malayao

Tribute posted to the National Democratic Front Philippines (NDFP or NDF) Website (Feb 6, 2019): Tribute to Comrade Felix Randy Malayao

When they murdered you in your sleep, it woke up even more people to the cause you fought for: a just and lasting peace, genuine freedom, democracy and prosperity to the Filipino people. To the very end, Felix Randy Malayao was a revolutionary and exemplary son of the people.

From the outpouring of rage, grief and condemnation following his brazen killing, we can see a life of service to others that Randy lived.

We see a multifaceted man with the core of a revolutionary – an exceptional student, a youth leader, excellent writer-journalist, scientist, peasant and worker organizer, fraternity brother, almost-chef, prison basketball tournament organizer, teacher to fellow inmates, jail cell“mayor” and even “adviser” to the jail warden, political prisoner, torture victim, internationalistand a warrior for peace and justice.

As a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel for the peace talks and its Reciprocal Working Group on Political and Constitutional Reforms (RWG-PCR), Randy showed sharpness of grasp of the condition of the people, political acumen honed by revolutionary work, and enthusiasm to the work that marked how he performed every task given to him in the revolutionary movement.

Randy was methodical, patient and a superb organizer who easily adapted to whatever task, wherever it was – organizing a student conference, blooming in jail, and working as an NDFP consultant.

From his student days when he led the formation of progressive student groups and encouraged student publications to the folds of progressive journalism, to his organizing years in northern Philippines, Randy was highly-regarded by the people he met and worked with.

Even the fascism of the State and the bars of jails in Cagayan and Isabela could not contain his determination to continue to be of service to the people. He was abducted in May 2008 and tortured for days before being surfaced then charged with multiple criminal cases. After years in prison, he was eventually acquitted and freed.

His stories while in prison are now legends. He was generous to his fellows in jail – be it in sharing resources he received from families and friends, or imparting his knowledge to them. The initiatives he started and organized including literacy programs, gardening and team- building friendly tournaments were deeply appreciated by everyone.

As a consultant of the NDFP Negotiating Panel for the peace talks and its Reciprocal Working Group on Political and Constitutional Reforms (RWG-PCR), Randy showed sharpness of grasp of the condition of the people and enthusiasm to the work that marked how he performed every task given to him in the revolutionary movement.

As an NDFP consultant, Randy went all over the Philippines and also overseas for consultations and education. He endeared himself to many from all walks of life.

For all he was and all he accomplished, Randy was humble, self-critical and ever aiming to improve his work and those around him.

Those who knew him for decades said that Randy’s favourite song was “You’ve Got to Do More than That” that he first heard in an international gathering of students. He did not only give more, he gave it all.

Randy once said in an interview: bloom where you are planted. Indeed, Randy, wherever the revolution took you, you bloomed and made many people around you bloom, as well. Soon, the enemies of the people will tremble at the beautiful sight of a revolution in full bloom that you helped tender and grow.

You are a martyr, a hero whom the enemies could not face awake. They are cowards as they could only traitorously murder the likes of you – civilians, activists and non-combatants – — but cower from the true people’s army and the armed revolution raging in the countryside.

Ka Randy, you shall forever be extolled in our people’s struggle until victory!Long live your memories! Mabuhay ka!

For the Negotiating Panel
National Democratic Front of the Philippines

NDFP Negotiating Panel Chairperson
Fidel V. Agcaoili

NDFP Negotiating Panel members
Julie de Lima
Coni Ledesma
Benito Tiamzon
Asterio Palima

NDFP Senior Adviser
Luis Jalandoni

NDFP Chief Political Consultant
Prof. Jose Maria Sison


MILF: Editorial - The oddity in Lanao Del Norte

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Website (Feb 6, 2019): Editorial - The oddity in Lanao Del Norte

There is something strange happening now in Lanao Del Norte, in relation to the forthcoming plebiscite on February 6. The Dimaporo clan led by the father-and-son-tandem, Abdullah and Khaled, opposed bitterly the inclusion of the six municipalities in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), but surprisingly they have supported the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) in Lanao Del Sur.
What a completely strange oddity or behavior? A case of opportunism at its worst degree? Or simply an intense internal contradiction between what is good for the many and what is good for themselves.

The Dimaporos of Lanao have been in power for the past 60 years.

Mohammad Ali Dimaporo was a known ally of former President Ferdinand Marcos. A guerrilla fighter during World War II, Ali went into politics after the war and represented the then undivided Lanao in Congress in the 1950s.

He was Lanao del Norte representative from 1966 to 1972, and Lanao del Sur congressman from 1987 to 1995. He was also governor of Lanao del Sur from 1960 to 1965.

Despite the Jabidah Massacre in 1968, where several Muslims recruited for a mission to invade Sabah were killed in a massacre on Corregidor Island, Ali remained loyal to Marcos and was appointed governor of Lanao del Sur in 1976. He “brought back to life” those trainees who were massacred but they turned out to be Ilocanos, thanks to the expose’ made by the late Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. And worse, Ali bragged that he would do everything ordered to him by Marcos, including jumping into the sea, just to show his intense loyalty to his boss.

Ali’s son Abdullah followed in his footsteps in the 1980s; and so, his daughter-in-law, Imelda Quibranza Dimaporo, and grandson and granddaughter, Khaled and Aliah, respectively.

In so far as we can stretch our imagination, the ugliest face of dynasty in the country is with the Dimaporos in Lanao Del Norte. No dynastic family, except perhaps the Marcoses in Ilocos Norte, has been in power in such a long period of time, like the Dimaporos.

Power is really addicting, because it goes with it everything, money, fame (or infamy), etc.

Because of the double majority in reckoning the yes votes, meaning, yes votes must win in the municipality and the yes votes must also win in the province, it seems there is virtually no chance for the towns of Balo-i, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangka to become part of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). But what is paramount is that the yes votes must win in the said six municipalities, at least, their desire and aspiration to join the autonomous entity for the greater number of the Bangsamoro people will not die a natural death. After all, right to self-determination is dynamic and cannot be foreclosed by time and event.

Sayyaf slain, another nabbed by troops in Sulu clash

From Eastern Mindanao Command (Feb 6, 2019): Sayyaf slain, another nabbed by troops in Sulu clash

Soldiers clashed anew with Abu Sayyaf militants, yielding to the death of a bandit and the arrest of another in Maimbung, Sulu yesterday afternoon (February 5).

Troops of the 41st Infantry Battalion also recovered three M14 rifles, an M16 rifle, and a bandolier with M14 magazine and ammunition following a 20-minute armed engagement with the group of Hassan in Barangay Saying Susuk at around 5:10pm yesterday.

The neutralization of the Abu Sayyaf militants came amid the continuing offensives launched by the 11th Infantry Division, Philippine Army to crush the militants, who are behind the bomb attacks on a cathedral in Jolo, Sulu.

Soldiers identified the arrested bandit as Murtasil Paradjil, alias Muster Ibla, who incurred wounds during the gunfight.

Government troops extricated and brought Paradjil to Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista in Bus-bus, Jolo, Sulu.

“Your armed forces continue to adhere to the rules of engagement and the principles of International Humanitarian Law, which dictate the protection of hors de combat in armed conflicts, despite the fact that our adversaries only resort to non-conventional methods in armed engagements,” said Lieutenant General Arnel Dela Vega, the commander of the Western Mindanao Command.

“This adherence to the laws only ensures the legitimacy of our tactical offensives and our operational accomplishments against terrorists on the ground,” he added. “Still, we will ensure the proper treatment and recuperation of Paradjil.”

Reports from the Joint Task Force Sulu disclosed that the said militants belong to the group of Hassan under Idang Susukan. The same group engaged soldiers of the 5th Scout Ranger Battalion in Patikul on February 2.

“The Abu Sayyaf militants are now on the run after the ferocious gunfight with the scout rangers. They are now splintered into small groups to evade the pursuing government troops,” said Brigadier General Divino Rey Pabayo, the Joint Task Force Sulu Commander.

“Government forces are still in pursuit of the Abu Sayyaf as we speak,” he added.

Meanwhile, responding troops extricated a wounded soldier, who is currently recuperating at the KHBSH.

Guns, ammunition seized by gov’t forces in Sultan Kudarat

From Eastern Mindanao Command (Feb 6, 2019): Guns, ammunition seized by gov’t forces in Sultan Kudarat

Government troops seized two firearms in a clearing operation in Sultan Kudarat on February 3.

Combined forces of the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion and the Lambayong Municipal Police Station acted upon a reported sighting of 10 armed men in Barangay Zeneben, Lambayong, Sultan Kudarat at 5am on Sunday.

Upon searching and clearing, operating troops recovered an M79 Grenade Launcher and a 12-gauge shotgun with ammunition from Bai Mashia Sangkai and Amando Ebad.

Both personalities and firearms are in the custody of the PNP for documentation and for filing of appropriate charges.

“The cooperation and support of the residents in the area led to the success of the combined operation,” said Major General Cirilito Sobejana, the Joint Task Force Central Commander.

Major General Sobejana said troops will continue to support the law enforcement operations of the police.

Lieutenant General Arnel Dela Vega, the commander of the Western Mindanao Command, said, “We will sustain our support to the law enforcement operations and maximize our intelligence operations to assist the police in securing the area.”

Army: NPA backs party list groups

From the Visayan Daily Star (Feb 6, 2019): Army: NPA backs party list groups

The New People’s Army in Negros is supporting a senatorial candidate and some partylist groups in the May 13 elections, a ranking military official yesterday said.

But Col. Benedict Arevalo, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, withheld the names of the partylist groups, a senatorial candidate, as well as some mayoralty aspirants in Negros, who are being supported by the NPA.

Arevalo also said that the Provincial Joint Security Coordinating Center is validating old lists of candidates in previous elections who had availed of the services of private armed groups.

The Philippine Army tagged the NPA as the biggest private armed group and number one threat to the May 13 elections.

As to the imposition of permit to campaign fees by the NPA to candidates, Arevalo said they are expecting it, although they have not yet received such reports, as of this time.

Supt. Joem Malong, spokesperson of the Western Visayas police, also revealed yesterday that some candidates in Region 6 reportedly availed of the services of the NPA and private armed groups, for election purposes.

“We would like them to know that we are validating this and will take action on information against them,” Malong said.

The Department of Interior and Local Government earlier issued a warning to local chief executives extending or getting support from the terrorist organizations, including the CPP-NPA.

Arevalo, who met and discussed election security concerns yesterday with Provincial Comelec Supervisor Salud Milagros Villanueva and Senior Supt. Romeo Baleros at Camp Alfredo Montelibano Sr. in Bacolod City, said they are still looking at five towns in Negros Occidental, mentioned earlier as possible election hotspots.

The municipalities of Moises Padilla, Isabela, Toboso, EB Magalona and Salvador Benedicto have been mentioned earlier by the PNP as possible areas of concerns during the midterm elections, citing the expected intense political rivalries and presence of armed rebels.

But Arevalo said it is still subject to validation by the Regional Joint Security Coordinating Center (RJSCC).

During the PJSCC meeting, Arevalo said it was agreed that there will be a weekly security conference, in relation to the May 13 election, so that they can immediately act on whatever election-related incidents may take place.

Tagalog News: 9th ID pinaigting ang kampanya kontra insurgency

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 6, 2019): Tagalog News: 9th ID pinaigting ang kampanya kontra insurgency

LUNGSOD NG NAGA - - Mas pinaigting ng kasundaluhan sa rehiyon Bicol lalo na dito sa Lalawigan ng Camarines Sur ang kampanya kontra insurgency.

Noong Sabado, Enero 2, nakaharap ni 9th Infantry (Spear) Division Commander Major General Fernando T. Trinidad sa kampo ng 83rd Infantry Battalion, Barangay Mabalodbalod, Tigaon, Camarines Sur ang mga myembro ng media sa ginanap na Press Briefing sa naganap na engkwentro sa probinsiya ng Camarines Sur at Awarding Ceremony.

Matatandaan na anim na CPP-NPA Terrorists Group (CNT) ang napatay at maraming high-powered firearms ang naagaw sa nangyaring engkuwentro sa Barangay Lupi, Tinambac, Camarines Sur bandang alas 6:25 ng umaga noong Enero 30.

Ayon kay Trinidad, hindi sila tumitigil sa kampanya alinsunod na rin sa kautusan ni Pangulong Rodrigo Roa Duterte na tapusin na ang insurgency sa bansa.

Nanawagan siya sa mga rebeldeng New People’s Army (NPA) na nasa bundok na bumaba na, magbalik loob sa pamahalaan at tanggapin ang alok na tulong ng gobyerno.

Sinabi ni Trinidad na dalawa lang naman ang puwedeng gawin ng mga kalaban ng pamahalaan. Una, bumaba sila at tanggapin ang alok na tulong ng pamahalaan na may magandang programa ngayon at ang pangalawang optio nila, na makipaglaban sa mga tropa ng pamahalaan.

Ipinaliwanag ni Trinidad na isa sa mga programa ng gobyero para sa mga sumukong rebelde ay ang Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP) na may kumpletong package. Anya, sa pagbaba ng mga magbabalik loob sa pamahalaan ay mayroon silang matatanggap na tulong, pera at tirahan.

PNP chief convenes security forces in Lanao del Norte

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 6, 2019): PNP chief convenes security forces in Lanao del Norte

Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director Oscar Albayalde arrives at Tubod Central Elementary School to check polling precints for the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOl) plebiscite, February 6, 2019. (Wilnard Bacelonia/PIA-ICCC)

TUBOD, Lanao del Norte -- After three incidents of explosions in three different towns here, Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director Oscar Albayalde visited today a polling center here and met with Lanao del Norte PNP, officials of the Philippine Army, and the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to discuss updates on security measures for the ongoing Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) Plebiscite in the province.

In a press briefing at Tubod Central Elementary School, Albayalde ordered the security forces to strengthen the checkpoints along major roads in the province.

He also assured that PNP does not allow armed MILF members to enter polling centers without proper authority from COMELEC.

"They can observe outside the polling centers provided that they will not intimidate the voters. They are not authorized to bear firearms or carry any deadly weapon. They are also not allowed to wear their uniforms or anything with markings labeling their units or group while observing. If they start intimidating people, they will be arrested," Albayalde said.

He added that both PNP and AFP comprising of almost 4,000 troops in Lanao del Norte are ready for any untoward incidents.

All security forces were also instructed by Albayalde to stay with the plebiscite committee in polling centers until they have brought the ballots to the canvassing area.

Lanao del Norte Provincial Election Officer Joseph Hamilton Cuevas (left) with PNP Chief Director Oscar Albayalde outside a polling precinct at Tubod Central Elementary School, Tubod, Lanao del Norte. (James Umaran/PIA-ICC)

Meanwhile, the PNP chief shared that they have already identified persons of interest involved in the recent explosions in the towns of Lala, Kauswagan, and Sultan Naga Dimaporo.

"The explosion incidents are still being investigated. We are reviewing the CCTV footages. They most probably belong to the same group but different persons," Albayalde said.

The official also assured that the augmentation forces will stay in their posts until the peace and order situation in the province returns to normal.

After the press briefing, Albayalde visited a polling precinct in Tubod Central Elementary School with Lanao del Norte Provincial Election Supervisor Joseph Hamilton Cuevas.

Since the start of voting this morning, PNP has not recorded any election-related incidents.

3 blasts recorded in Lanao Norte day before BOL plebiscite

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 6, 2019): 3 blasts recorded in Lanao Norte day before BOL plebiscite

ILIGAN CITY -- Another explosion occurred in Sultan Naga Dimaporo town in Lanao del Norte at about 10 p.m. Tuesday evening.

This was the third explosion that happened in the province on the eve of the plebiscite in Lanao del Norte, which will decide the fate of the province's six municipalities on the question of inclusion in the new Bangsamoro government.

A personnel of the Explosive Ordnance Division checks on a motorcycle in front of a Catholic church in Barangay Maranding, Lala, past 2 p.m. Tuesday (February 5) while the confirmation mass for some 800 youth is ongoing. (Photo by Divina M. Suson)

At past 4 p.m. on the same day, an explosion occurred in Barangay Maranding, the business center of Lala town, while another blast occurred in Kauswagan town, minutes later.

Lala is 60 km. away from Kauswagan while Sultan Naga Dimaporo is about 20 km. from Lala.

The three towns are not part of the six municipalities proposed to be included in the Bangsamoro area.

Col. Alex Aduca, commander of the Joint Task Force Plebisito, said a small improvised explosive device (IED) was thrown by unidentified person, on board a hauler truck locally called the “kumong-kumong", along the highway in front of a gasoline station while another IED exploded at the back of the municipal hall in Kauswagan.

The explosive in Kauswagan, according to Aduca, was wrapped in plastic and was placed besides a dump truck.

No casualty has been reported in the three blasts.

Checkpoints have been intensified after the explosion.

"We don't do just plain view explosion. We will check every vehicle that passes," Aduca said.

Meanwhile, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) 10 (Northern Mindanao) has not received an official request or order from the national office to temporarily disrupt signals on Wednesday, the day of the Bangsamoro Organic Law plebiscite.

"There's no request as far as our regional office is concerned," said Teodoro Buenavista Jr., regional director of NTC-10.

This was in response to stories circulating on social media that there will be no signal throughout the province during the conduct of the plebiscite.

Cops nab wanted MILF commander in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 6, 2019): Cops nab wanted MILF commander in Maguindanao

Google map of Datu Montawal town (formerly Pagagawan) in Maguindanao

Authorities in Maguindanao arrested Tuesday night a wanted field commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the town of Datu Montawal (formerly Pagagawan) in Maguindanao.

Chief Insp. Erwin Tabora, police chief of Datu Montawal town in Maguindanao, identified the MILF official as Hamsa Abdullah Pandita, known as Commander Transceiver of the MILF, who was arrested on multiple murder, frustrated multiple murder, and arson charges.

“Pandita did not resist arrest during the 8 p.m. law enforcement operation but denied the charges against him,” Tabora said.

The wanted MILF official was unarmed when police arrived in Barangay Poblacion, where he was attending a family post-wedding gathering.

“His (Pandita) companions did not put up resistance and allowed the MILF official to go with the legal process of clearing his name,” a relative who asked not to be named told reporters in the vernacular.

Tabora said a tipster provided the police with information about Pandita’s presence at the wedding event.

Senior Supt. Ronald Briones, Maguindanao police director, said an augmentation force was sent to the Datu Montawal municipal office, where Pandita is being detained.

Poll bets urged to reject NPA extortion demands

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 6, 2019): Poll bets urged to reject NPA extortion demands

Col. Erickson Rosana (center), Asst. Chief of Staff for Operation of the 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) urges politicians on Wednesday (Feb. 6, 2019) not to give in to extortion demands of New People's Army. (Photo by Ma. Leonora Estanque)

ILOILO CITY -- The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is calling on candidates not to give in to extortion demands of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

Col. Erickson Rosana, Assistant Chief of Staff for Operation of the 3rd Infantry Division (3ID), in a press conference on Wednesday, bared they received reports from election candidates, especially from the Central Panay area, about armed groups asking for payment in exchange for permit to campaign (PTC).

Moreover, the AFP will subject to validation the information that there are politicians who have contacts with the NPA.

“We will release the names once we have fully validated the data and the Regional Joint Security Control Center (RJSCC) will be responsible for that,” Rosana added.

The national headquarters of the AFP has already validated the presence of terrorist groups in four barangays in Western Visayas while 10 additional barangays will still be subjected to validation.

Once a barangay is identified as infiltrated by NPA or armed groups, the AFP will deploy troops in the area and at the same time an investigation will be conducted to determine why the barangay was infiltrated.

Rosana also emphasized that once a barangay is cleared, it doesn’t mean that they could not be infiltrated again.

The AFP assured the public that it will strengthen and focus their military operations on the hinterland areas to prevent the terrorist groups from sabotaging and destroying the peaceful conduct of the mid-term elections.

Meantime, it was revealed that Western Visayas has 88 NPA surrenderers since last year.

“They were forced to surrender due to our intensified combat operations coupled with social pressure from various sectors,” Rosanna said.

The AFP also called on remaining members of the communist terrorist group to avail of the Enhanced-Comprehensive Local Integration Program of the government for them to start a new life.

9 ex-rebels in Bataan receive financial aid

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 6, 2019): 9 ex-rebels in Bataan receive financial aid

CASH AID. Bataan Governor Albert Garcia (left) joins former members of the New People's Army in a group photo after as he gives them financial assistance of PHP10,000 each on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Army's 7th Infantry Division)

FORT MAGSAYSAY, Nueva Ecija -- Nine former members of the Marxist-Leninist Party of the Philippines - Rebolusyonaryong Hukbong Bayan (MLPP-RHB) from the province of Bataan who surrendered to the Philippine Army’s 48th Infantry (Guardians) Battalion (IB) received financial assistance on Tuesday.

Brig. Gen. Lenard T. Agustin, acting commander of the Army’s 7th Infantry (Kaugnay) Division, said Wednesday that Bataan Governor Albert Garcia awarded the PHP10,000 aid to each of the surrenderers.

Agustin said the former rebels brought with them one improvised M14 rifle with 26 live ammunition, two caliber .38 revolvers with 13 live ammunition and one hand grenade when they surrendered at one of the patrol bases of the 48th IB on November 26, 2018.

He said the granting of cash assistance to the former rebels is through the initiative of the 48th IB under the leadership of its commanding officer, Lt. Col. Arnel B. Cabugon.

He, however, clarified that the cash assistance awarded is also an initiative of the provincial government of Bataan and excluded from the Enhance Comprehensive Localized Integration Program (E-CLIP) benefits.

“The awarding of financial assistance is just first of the many benefits that the former rebels will enjoy. I call on the rebels who are still in the mountains to lay down your arms and be with your families. The 7th ID is always open to help you go back to the folds of the government,” Agustin said in a media interview.

The E-CLIP program extends reintegration assistance, firearm remuneration livelihood assistance, housing, conditional transitional grant, livelihood materials and implements or employment assistance, access to government service, loan and market access, medical assistance, alternative learning system, psychosocial assistance, college tuition and stipend, and legal assistance to rebels who return to the fold of the law.

ASG 'bandit' killed, another captured in Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 6, 2019): ASG 'bandit' killed, another captured in Sulu

An Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) follower was killed while another was captured in a clash as government offensive continues against the ASG bandits behind the January 27 bombing of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu.

Col. Gerry Besana, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) information officer, said the firefight occurred in Barangay Saying Susuk, Maimbung, Sulu at about 5:10 p.m. Tuesday.

Besana said the troops were conducting focused military operations against the church bombers when they clashed with a group of ASG bandits led by sub-leader Idang Susukan.

The firefight that lasted for about 20 minutes resulted in the death of an ASG bandit and the capture of ASG follower Murtasil Paradjil, who was injured during the firefight.

Government troops brought Paradjil to the Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista Station Hospital in Barangay Bus-Bus, Jolo, for treatment.

Besana said the troops recovered three M-14 rifles, an M-16 rifle, and a bandolier with M-14 magazine and ammunition from the clash site.

He disclosed that a soldier was wounded during the firefight. No identity was released except that the wounded soldier belongs to the Army’s 41st Infantry Battalion.

The Joint Task Force Sulu said the ASG involved in Tuesday’s firefight was the same group that clashed with the Army’s 5th Scout Ranger Battalion on February 2.

“The Abu Sayyaf militants are now on the run after the ferocious gunfight with the scout rangers. They are now splintered into small groups to evade the pursuing government troops,” said Brig. Gen. Divino Rey Pabayo, Joint Task Force Sulu commander.

Pabayo said the troops are tracking down the ASG bandits, who fled following the 20-minute firefight in Maimbung on Tuesday.

PNP conducts probe into 3 explosions in Lanao Norte

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 6, 2019): PNP conducts probe into 3 explosions in Lanao Norte

The Philippine National Police (PNP) is conducting a probe into the explosions that rocked three Lanao del Norte towns a day before the second Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) plebiscite.

PNP spokesperson Senior Supt. Bernard Banac said Wednesday the explosions are under investigation to identify the suspects and security is in place to ensure that the plebiscite runs smoothly and safely.

“The PNP security operations in Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato are well in place to make the plebiscite today (Wednesday) safe, peaceful and orderly,” Banac said in a message sent to reporters.

“We call on our people to remain vigilant and report to the police any suspicious person or thing they may find,” he added.

At past 4 p.m. Tuesday, an explosion occurred in Barangay Maranding, the business center of Lala town. Another blast occurred in Kauswagan town, minutes after. Lala is 60 km. away from Kauswagan while Sultan Naga Dimaporo is about 20 km. from Lala.

Another explosion occurred at the premises of the MSU Municipal High School in Sultan Naga Dimaporo town in Lanao del Norte at about 10 p.m.

The three towns are not taking part in the plebiscite on the question of inclusion in the Bangsamoro area. Only voters in the towns of Tangkal, Tagoloan, Munai, Pantar, Nunungan, and Baloi will be participating in the plebiscite – along with voters in several North Cotabato areas.

A total of 7,312 security forces from the PNP (5,573) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (1,739) were deployed on the ground for the second BOL plebiscite to be held in the provinces of Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato.

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

The first plebiscite for the BOL on January 21 was held in Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu, Maguindanao, Tawi-Tawi, Cotabato City and Isabela City.

Duterte meets kin of soldiers killed in 2 Sulu tragedies

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 6, 2019): Duterte meets kin of soldiers killed in 2 Sulu tragedies

President Rodrigo R. Duterte has met with families of the soldiers killed in two Sulu tragedies -- the twin bomb blasts in Jolo on January 27 and the encounter with Abu Sayyaf bandits in Patikul on February 2.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the private meeting with the families of the six soldiers killed in Jolo and Patikul took place at the Matina Enclaves, Davao City.

Panelo noted that Duterte offered sympathies to the soldiers’ families, honored their heroism, and assured them of assistance on Monday.

“The President condoled with the bereaved families and honored the fallen soldiers for their heroism by awarding them the Order of Lapu Lapu (rank of Kalasag),” Panelo said in a statement.

“He comforted the grieving families and assured them of the government's assistance in terms of housing, livelihood, employment and educational assistance, among others,” he added.

Panelo said that the President was accompanied by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., and Philippine National Police Director Oscar Albayalde.

Also present were Philippine Army Commander Lt. Gen. Macairog S. Alberto and former Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go.

The twin bomb attacks at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu killed 22 people and injured more than 90 others on January 27.

Meanwhile, eight people were killed, including three Abu Sayyaf bandits, while 33 others were wounded in a firefight in Patikul, Sulu on February 2.

The encounter took place after Duterte, on January 29, ordered troops to pursue Abu Sayyaf bandits, convinced that they were behind the twin blasts.

"We are sure of that. Nobody can perpetuate that kind of terrorism thereabout (in the area). I have no doubt," Duterte said in a chance interview after the groundbreaking of the new site of the San Lorenzo Ruiz General Hospital in Malabon City.

"That is what the military told me and that is what the police relayed to me and I am guided by what the government workers would tell me," he added.

The Netherlands, EU urged anew to cancel Joma's asylum status

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 6, 2019): The Netherlands, EU urged anew to cancel Joma's asylum status


Members of an anti-communist group stormed the Dutch Embassy anew as it called for the repatriation of communist leader Jose Maria "Joma" Sison.

The group of Liga Filipinas Independencia, who slammed the National Democratic Front's "senseless struggle and killings," submitted its formal petition on Wednesday to the Embassy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands.

"As a coalition of 38 national organizations nationwide and different sectors of society, we condemn the atrocities and terrorism perpetuated by the CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front) in the past years. And you have granted the devil Joma Sison a refuge," said Nolan Tiongco, leader of the Liga Filipinas Independencia.

They also called on members of the European Union to cancel Sison's asylum status and bring him back to the Philippines to face the various cases that have been filed against him and the CPP-NPA.

"We appeal to the kind and democratic heart of your (The Netherlands) government and the EU, to cancel Sison’s asylum together with his band of terrorist so that they could face trial in our country. They are facing criminal and acts of terrorism offenses that they have committed. Don’t give them safe haven and refuge and scapegoats," Tiongco said.

"We don't know what your moral and legal basis for giving this barbaric terrorist group asylum in your country. Giving them safe haven is giving hell to our country," Tiongco added.

Around 50 persons, who claimed to be former members of the NPA, said they decided to return to the fold of the law after realizing the "hideous system" within the 50-year-old rebellion.

"The CPP-NPA-NDF has only killed thousands of Filipinos, destroyed many lives and billions worth of properties. Joining that organization as a teenager was our greatest regret and now we are making it our duty to wake up everyone," the anti-communist group said during the rally.

The embassy has acknowledged and received the formal letter but has yet to issue an official statement.

The anti-communist group has been appealing to Filipinos and the international community to take part in ending the rebellious movement.

The NPA, the armed wing of the CPP, is listed as a terrorist organization in the United States and European Union.

DOJ files raps vs. 5 in Jolo church bombing

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 6, 2019): DOJ files raps vs. 5 in Jolo church bombing

Government lawyers filed criminal charges Wednesday before the Jolo Regional Trial Court (RTC) against five suspects in the Jolo cathedral bombing.

"The information was filed at the RTC in Jolo. The evidence and witnesses necessary to prosecute the case are in Jolo. Hence, it would be more efficient to hold trial there unless compelling reasons exist for the transfer of trial to Manila," Justice Undersecretary and spokesperson Markk Perete told newsmen.

"As of now, we have yet to receive any request from our prosecutor to effect such transfer," he added.

Perete said Provincial Prosecutor Rommel Cancio filed an information for the complex crime of multiple murder with multiple frustrated murder against Mukammar L. Pay alias Kammah; Albaji K. Gadjali alias Apah; Radjan B. Gadjaliq, Kaiser Gadjali and Said Alih.

Authorities earlier said seven other identified suspects and several John and Jane Does are still at large.

The suspects have been named respondents in the cases for 23 counts of murder, frustrated murder and damage to property filed by the Sulu Police Provincial Office.