Saturday, February 9, 2019

2 NPAs surrender, yield EIDs to Army

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 8, 2019): 2 NPAs surrender, yield EIDs to Army

Two Communist New People’s Army (NPA) terrorists (CNTs) surrendered on Thursday to the 71st Infantry Battalion (71st IB) in Purok 8, Barangay Nueva Visayas, Mawab, Compostela Valley (ComVal) province, according to First Lt. Jhocell D. Asis, Civil Military Operation (CMO) officer of the 71st IB.

Asis added the former rebels also yielded powerful bombs weighing at least 15 kilos each.

In a statement sent to The Manila Bulletin late Thursday afternoon, the 71st CMO officer said the two regular NPA fighters, whose names were withheld for their safety, were accompanied by Mawab town Mayor Ruperto S. Gonzaga III when they voluntarily presented themselves to the command group of the 71st IB led by Lt. Col. Estevyn E. Ducusin.

They yielded three powerful Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDS) weighing at least 15 kilos each.

The ex-rebels said the bombs were already planted in strategic places and intended to inflict damage on the military and the public. But their conscience reportedly convinced them to dig up the bombs and surrender these to the Army, Asis said.

They former members of Guerilla Front 27 (GF 27), Sub Regional Committee 2 (SRC2) of the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines)-NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Command (SMRC), the 71st CMO officer said.

One of those who surrendered was a 25-year-old vice political instructor and vice commanding officer, while the other was 24 years old and was a squad medical officer.

The latter said it was his father’s involvement in the movement that persuaded her to join the NPA. When her father killed during an encounter in Barangay Parasanon, Maragusan last 2016, she learned that his body was just abandoned by his comrades.

This was a complete lie to what her father’s companions told her that he was still alive.

2 Abu Sayyaf suspects in 2001 Basilan abduction case arrested

Posted to UNTV News & Rescue (Feb 8, 2019): 2 Abu Sayyaf suspects in 2001 Basilan abduction case arrested

(L-R) Harub Jaljalis aka Indal; Pinky Ani Hadjinulla

Eighteen years since the kidnapping and beheading incidents at Golden Harvest Plantation in Basilan in 2001, authorities finally arrested on Sunday (February 3) two elusive suspects in the crime.

Harub Jaljalis alias Indal, 45, and Pinky Ani Hadjinulla, 37, have been positively identified by survivors of the Golden Harvest Plantation incident as among the abductors. The two are alleged members of the Islamist terrorist organization, Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said Indal, who was arrested at a canteen in Zamboanga City, is a bomb maker for the Radullan Sahiron faction of the ASG. He received bomb-making training from Indonesian and Middle Eastern jihadists. He also served as an escort for a number of high-profile terrorists.

Indal has been known to work closely with Pinky Ani Hadjinulla who was arrested inside a shopping mall in Zamboanga City.

NBI Counter Terrorism Division chief, Atty. Raoul Manguerra said, “In a way we tried to neutralize this cell of Indal and Pinky Hadjinulla. Pinky Hadjinulla, we believe, conducts reconnaissance around Zamboanga to know possible targets either kidnapping or to commit other atrocities like throwing grenades.”

Authorities believe that the arrested suspects employ such tactics to create chaos in Zamboanga, Basilan Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, particularly after the series of bombings in these areas.

“They can conduct a series of bombings and kidnapping incidents to divert the focus and the attention of the law enforcement and the security forces in the area,” said NBI Deputy Director Ferdinand Lavin.

Authorities are still looking into the suspects’ possible involvement in the recent Jolo and Sulu blasts.

1ID: New Team Tabak Commander

From the 1st Infantry (Tabak) Division Website (Feb 8, 2019): New Team Tabak Commander

Brigadier General Roberto T Ancan, AFP assumed office as the Commander of the 1st Infantry (TABAK) Division, Philippine Army, on February 7, 2019, replacing Maj. Gen. Roseller G Murillo AFP, who compulsory retired from the service. Since its establishment on May 5, 1936, Brig. Gen. Ancan now becomes the 45th Commander among the lineage of noble Officers to lead the unit tasked to serve the communities and protect the land in its Area of Responsibility in Zamboanga Peninsula, Lanao Province and Misamis Oriental.

The new 1st Division Commander hails from the province of Victorias, Negros Occidental and is a member of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) “Hinirang” Class of 1987. An Airborne Ranger and well-rounded military officer with expertise in training, operations and managerial acumen. He is a graduate of Master in Management Major in Public Management.

Earlier in his military career, he was a platoon leader of the 11th and 66th Infantry Battalion, Company Commander of the 11th Scout Ranger Company, First Scout Ranger Regiment (FSRR), Special Operations Command (SOCOM). He also rendered service on training as Course Directors in Scout Ranger Training School in Mindanao and Combat Arms School, Training and Doctrine Command.

Brig. Gen. Ancan also served at management branch of Office of Assistant Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations G7, and Personnel G1 of the FSRR, SOCOM. He also became the Commanding Officer of the 66th and the 72nd Infantry Battalion of the 10th Infantry Division.

His previous assignments speak well of his leadership by example, excellent performance and remarkable influence, which put him in various sensitive key positions as Commander of the AFP Peace Keeping Operations. Chief of Staff of the FSRR, SOCOM, PA and the 3rd Infantry Division based in Jamindan Capiz.

Prior to his new post, he was the commander of the 1002nd Infantry Brigade based in Malungon, Sarangani.

A recipient of a long list of rightfully earned awards and commendations, the highest of which is the Distinguished Service Star that sets the bar high for all Tabak Troopers to emulate.

MILF: Result of North Cotabato plebiscite was a landslide in favor of BARMM- Sinarimbo

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Feb 10, 2019): Result of North Cotabato plebiscite was a landslide in favor of BARMM- Sinarimbo

Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao-Sixty-three (63) villages in North Cotabato is set to join the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) after the yes vote won overwhelmingly in 7 municipalities in the just-concluded plebiscite.
Only four (4) of the villages whose petitions were approved by COMELEC where the yes vote failed to muster majority votes.

The four barangays that did not make it to the BARMM were Galidan in Tulunan town, Balatican in Pikit and Pagangan and Lower Mingading in Aleosan said North Cotabato Board Member Kelie Antao.

Antao campaigned hard for the Yes vote throughout the campaign period.

Results of the canvassing of the municipal plebiscite results were slated to be flown to Manila Friday for submission to the National Plebiscite Board of Canvassers, which shall officially declare the results, according to a report by Inquirer Mindanao.

Lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, Secretary General of the United Bangsamoro Justice Party, the political party of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said the result of the plebiscite in North Cotabato was a landslide in favor of the BARMM.

Sinarimbo thanked North Cotabato leaders, headed by Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza, for backing the Bangsamoro Organic Law, which was ratified by a majority of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao during the first plebiscite on January 21, the Inquirer Mindanao also said.

Inquirer Mindanao said that based on the results from the municipal Plebiscite Board of Canvassers for Wednesday’s plebiscite, 22 villages in Pikit will become part of BARMM; 13 villages in Midsayap; 12 in Pigcawayan; seven in Carmen; seven in Kabacan; and two in Aleosan.

Sinarimbo said the poll outcome would pave the way for long-term stability in North Cotabato, a province affected by the Moro rebellion. (Source: Inquirer Mindanao)

CPP: Highest honors to Comrade Jose Ma. Sison

Propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Website (Feb 10, 2019): Highest honors to Comrade Jose Ma. Sison

Great communist thinker, leader, teacher and guide of the Filipino proletariat and torch bearer of the international communist movement.
Resolution of the Second Congress of the Communist Party of the Philippines
November 7, 2016
The Second Congress of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) extends its profound appreciation and expresses deepest gratitude to Comrade Jose Ma. Sison for his immense contribution to the Philippine revolution as founding chair of the Party, founder of the New People’s Army and pioneer of the People’s Democratic Government in the Philippines.
Ka Joma is a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist extraordinaire and indefatigable revolutionary fighter. He applied dialectical and historical materialism to expose the fundamental nature of the semicolonial and semifeudal social system in the Philippines. He put forward an incisive class analysis that laid bare the moribund, exploitative and oppressive rule of the big bourgeois compradors and big landlords in collusion with the US imperialists.
He set forth the program for a people’s democratic revolution as immediate preparation for the socialist revolution. He always sets sights on the ultimate goal of communism.
Ka Joma was a revolutionary trailblazer. In his youth, he joined workers federations and helped organize unions. Ka Joma formed the SCAUP (Student Cultural Association of the University of the Philippines) in 1959 to promote national democracy and Marxism-Leninism and wage ideological and cultural struggle against the religio-sectarians and anti-communist forces among the student intellectuals. Together with fellow proletarian revolutionaries, he initiated study meetings to read and discuss Marxist-Leninist classic writings.
Under Ka Joma’s leadership, the SCAUP organized a protest action in March 1961 against the congressional witchhunt of the Committee on Anti-Filipino Activities which targeted UP faculty members accused of writing and publishing Marxist materials in violation of the Anti-Subversion Law. Around 5,000 students joined the first demonstration with an anti-imperialist and anti-feudal character since more than ten years prior. As a consequence, Ka Joma became a target of reactionary violence and survived attempts on his life. Unfazed, he and the SCAUP continued to launch protests against the Laurel-Langley Agreement and the Military Bases Agreement and other issues as land reform and national industrialization, workers rights, civil and political liberties and solidarity with other peoples against US acts of agression up to 1964.
He and other proletarian revolutionaries eventually joined the old merger Socialist and Communist Party in 1961. In recognition of his communist and youthful fervor, he was assigned to head the youth bureau of the old Party and appointed as member of the executive committee. He initiated meetings to study the classic works of Marx, Lenin, Mao and other great communist thinkers which challenged the stale conditions of the old Party.
He founded the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) in November 1964 and led its development as one of the most important youth organizations in Philippine history. As KM chair, and as a young professor and militant, he went on campus tours and spoke before students as well as young professionals to espouse the necessity of waging a national democratic revolution. His speeches compiled in the volume Struggle for National Democracy (SND) served as one of the cornerstones of the national democratic propaganda movement. The KM would eventually be at the head and core of large mass demonstrations during the late 1960s up to the declaration of martial law in 1972.
As one of the leaders of the old party, Ka Joma prepared a political report exposing and repudiating the revisionism and opportunism of the successive Lava leadership as well as the errors of military adventurism and capitulation of the Taruc-Sumulong gang of the old people’s liberation army. The old party had deteriorated as an out-and-out revisionist party.
Despite Ka Joma’s effort, the old party proved to be beyond resuscitation from its revisionist death. Gangsters in the old party would carry out attempts on his life to snuff the revolutionary revival of the Filipino proletariat.
As Amado Guerrero, Ka Joma led the reestablishment of the Communist Party of the Philippines on the theoretical foundations of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. He prepared the Party constitution, the Program for a People’s Democratic Revolution and the document Rectify Errors and Rebuild the Party and presided over the Congress of Reestablishment held in Alaminos, Pangasinan on December 26, 1968. In 1969, he authored Philippine Society and Revolution which presents the history of the Filipino people, analyzes the semicolonial and semifeudal character of Philippine society and defines the people’s democratic revolution. He prepared the Basic Rules of the New People’s Army and the Declaration of the New People’s Army and directed the Meeting of Red commanders and fighters to found the New People’s Army (NPA) on March 29, 1969.
He led the Party in its early period of growth. He wrote the Organizational Guide and Outline of Reports in April 1971 and the Revolutionary Guide to Land Reform in September 1972 which both served to direct the work of building the mass organizations, organs of political power, units of the people’s army and the Party, as well as in mobilizing the peasants in waging agrarian revolution. He authored the Preliminary Report on Northern Luzon in August 1970 which served as a template in the work of other regional committees.
While directing the development and training of the New People’s Army from its initial base in Central Luzon to the forests of Isabela in Cagayan Valley, he also guided the youth activists in waging mass struggles in Metro Manila against the US-Marcos dictatorship.
Ka Joma was ever on top of the revolutionary upsurge of the students and workers movement in 1970 and 1971. Chants of Amado Guerrero’s name reverberates in Manila and other cities in harmony with calls to join the people’s war in the countryside.
The CPP grew rapidly in its first few years under Ka Joma’s leadership. The Party established itself across the country and led the nationwide advance of the revolutionary armed struggle. He personally supervised the political and military training of Party cadres and NPA commanders in the forested region of Isabela from where they were deployed to other regions.
In 1971, he presided over the Central Committee and presented the Summing-Up Our Experiences After Three Years (1968-1971). He prepared in 1974 the Specific Characteristics of Our People’s War which authoritatively laid out the strategy and tactics for waging people’s war in the Philippines. In 1975, he authored Our Urgent Tasks, containing the Central Committee’s report and program of action. He served as editor-in-chief of Ang Bayan in its first years of publication.
In the underground movement, Ka Joma continued to guide the Party and the NPA in its growth under the brutal fascist martial law regime of dictator Marcos. He issued advisories to underground Party cadres and mass activists. Inspired by the raging people’s war in the countryside, they dared the fascist machinery and carried-out organizing efforts among students and workers.
The first workers’ strike broke out in 1975 preceding the growth of the workers movement. Large student demonstrations against rising school fees and the deterioration of the educational system were carried out from 1977 onwards completely shattering the terror of martial law.
Ka Joma continued to lead the Party in nationwide growth until 1977 when he and his wife Julie were arrested by the wild dogs of the Marcos dictatorship while in transit from one guerrilla zone to another. He was presented by the AFP to Marcos as a trophy. He was detained, subjected to severe torture, put under solitary confinement for more than five years interrupted only by joint confinement with Julie in 1980-1981, and later partial solitary confinement with one or two other political prisoners from 1982-1985.
While in prison, Ka Joma was able to maintain contact with the Party leadership and revolutionary forces outside through clandestine methods of communication. With the collaboration of Ka Julie, lifelong partner and comrade of Ka Joma, they produced important letters and advisories. In 1983, Ka Julie released the article JMS On the Mode of Production which served as a theoretical elucidation and clarification of the nature of the semicolonial and semifeudal social system in order to cast away confusion brought about by claims of industrialization by the US-Marcos dictatorship. It counterattacked claims made by pretenders to socialism who insist that the Philippines had become a developing capitalist country under the fascist dictatorship.
A powerful upsurge of the anti-fascist mass movement followed the assassination of Marcos archrival Benigno Aquino in 1983. This was principally propelled by the workers and student movement which could mount demonstrations of 50,000 or greater from the late 1970s and early 1980s. In 1984, Ka Joma released the paper On the Losing Course of the AFP under the pseudonym Patnubay Liwanag to assess the balance of forces and to signal to or sway the Pentagon to better drop Marcos, which would entail causing a split in the AFP. In September 1984, the Pentagon acceded to the Armacost formula and decided to join the US State Department and other US agencies to drop him. By early 1985 Reagan signed the National Security Directive with definite plan to ease out Marcos.
Ka Joma also asserted the need to weaken the reactionary armed strength in the countryside and expand the people’s army to a critical mass 25,000 rifles and one guerrilla platoon per municipality as constructive criticism of the plan to carry out a “strategic counter-offensive.”
The anti-fascist upsurge culminated in a people’s uprising supported by a military rebellion of elements in the reactionary AFP. The Party’s persevering and solid leadership of the anti-fascist movement and revolutionary armed struggle created favorable conditions that led to the overthrow the US-Marcos dictatorship in 1986. Despite strong opposition by the US and reactionary defense establishment, the Aquino regime was compelled to open the detested gates of the Marcos dungeons allowing Ka Joma to be released.
He wasted no time resuming revolutionary work. In a few months time, he mounted a major lecture series to propound a critical class analysis of the Corazon Aquino regime and expose it as representative of big bourgeois comprador and landlord rule. The series of lectures which later comprised the volume Philippine Crisis and Revolution countered the “political spectrum” analysis of populists which pictured the Aquino regime as a bourgeois liberal regime to goad the revolutionary forces along the path of class collaboration and capitulation.
These populists as well as other charlatans carried out a campaign to undermine the basic analysis of classes and production system in the Philippines to justify the convoluted concept of a strategic counter-offensive wishfully thinking that the people’s war can leapfrog to strategic victory bypassing the probable historical course. A number of key leaders of the Party and revolutionary forces were drawn to the self-destructive path of insurrectionism and premature regularization and military adventurism. This would later bring about grave and almost fatal losses to the Party and the NPA, as well as to the urban mass movement.
Forced to exile in 1987 by the Aquino regime which canceled his passport and travel papers, Ka Joma sought political asylum in The Netherlands while on a lecture tour. He eventually resided in Utrecht and work with other comrades in the international office of the National Democratic Front. Although thousand of miles away from the Philippines, he continued to maintain close contact with the Party leaders in the country and provide advise and guidance to help them in their work.
Ka Joma served as one of the steadfast exponent of the Second Great Rectification Movement launched by the 10th Plenum of the CPP Central Committee in 1992. The Party leadership actively sought Ka Joma’s theoretical insights and analysis. In preparing the key document Reaffirm Our Basic Principles and Rectify Errors, the Party leadership referred to Ka Joma and the Party’s founding documents which he authored. With Ka Joma’s full support, the rectification campaign of 1992-1998 united and strengthened the Party to ever greater heights.
Ka Joma also played a key role in authoring the paper Stand for Socialism Against Modern Revisionism which illuminated the path of socialist revolution during the dark hours of the complete restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union in 1990 touted in the monopoly bourgeois mass media as the fall of socialism, a refutation of communism, and the “end of history” and final victory of the capitalist system.
Reflecting Ka Joma’s sharp Maoist critique of modern revisionism, the paper presented a clear historical understanding of the process of capitalist restoration in the USSR from 1956 onwards. This served as key to understanding the continuing viability of socialism and to inspiring the Filipino proletariat to persevere in the two-stage revolution and the international proletariat to carry forward the socialist cause.
Ka Joma’s Utrecht base eventually became a political center of the international communist and anti-imperialist resistance movements. He played an important role in the centennial celebration of Mao Zedong in 1993 which served as a vigorous ideological campaign to reaffirm Marxist-Leninist views and to proclaim Maoism as the third epochal development of Marxism-Leninism.
Up to the early 2000s, he also played a lead role in the formation of the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations (ICMLPO) which serves as a center for ideological and practical exchange among communist and workers parties which stood for socialism and opposed modern revisionism. He provided valuable insights and practical assistance to numerous communist parties from Asia to Europe and the Americas.
Over the past decade, he has led the International League of People’s Struggles or the ILPS which has served as coordinating center for anti-imperialist movements around the globe. He authored the paper “On imperialist globalization” in 1997 which clarified that the proletariat remains in the era of imperialism and socialist revolution.
Because of his role in guiding the advance of the international anti-imperialist struggle, Ka Joma was put in the crosshairs of US imperialism. He was included in the US list of “foreign terrorists”, together with the CPP and NPA. At 68 years old, he was arrested in 2007 by the Dutch police and detained for more than 15 days.
Since 1992, together with the NDFP Negotiating Panel, Ka Joma has also ably represented the interests of the Filipino people and revolutionary movement in peace negotiations with successive representatives of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP). He has been appointed as Chief Political Consultant of the NDFP Negotiating Panel and has deftly guided it in negotiations with the GRP over the past 25 years.
Over the past several years, Ka Joma continued to provide invaluable insights into the domestic crisis and the situation of the revolutionary forces. He continues to provide advise to the Party and the revolutionary forces in the Philippines on resolving the problems of advancing the revolution to a new and higher stage.
He has set forth critical analysis of the objective international conditions. He has put forward a Marxist-Leninist critique of the capitalist crisis of overproduction which is at the base of the international financial crisis and the prolonged depression that has wracked the global capitalist system. He has reaffirmed that we are still at the historical epoch of imperialism, the last crisis stage of capitalism.
Ka Joma is the torch bearer of the international communist movement. Through the dark period of capitalist restoration, he has kept the flames of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism burning and inspired the proletariat to take advantage of the crisis of global capitalism, persevere along the path of socialism and communism and bring the international communist revolution to a new chapter of revival and reinvigoration.
The Second Congress of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) resolves to give the highest honors to Comrade Jose Ma. Sison, great communist thinker, leader, teacher and guide of the Filipino proletariat and torch bearer of the international communist movement.
In recognition of Ka Joma’s immense contribution to the Philippine revolution and the international workers movement, the Second Congress further resolves:
1. to instruct the Central Committee to continue to seek Ka Joma’s insights and advise on various aspects of the Party’s work in the ideological, political and organizational fields.
2. to endorse the five volume writings of Jose Ma. Sison as basic reference and study material of the CPP and to urge the entire Party membership and revolutionary forces to read and study Ka Joma’s writings.
The Second Congress of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) is certain that with the treasure of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist work that Ka Joma has produced over the past five decades of revolutionary practice, the Party is well-equipped in leading the national democratic revolution to greater heights and complete victory in the coming years.

Troops clash with ‘rebels’ in Cauayan

From Panay News (Feb 10, 2019): Troops clash with ‘rebels’ in Cauayan

Government troops clashed with alleged members of the communist New People’s Army in Barangay Tiling, Cauayan, Negros Occidental.

The Alpha Company soldiers of the 15th Infantry Battalion (IB) based in Barangay Tiling have engaged in a 30-minute gunfight against the alleged rebels that started around 1:30 p.m. on Friday, a police report showed.

An M-16 rifle, 11 magazines, a rifle grenade, commercial radios, subversive documents, and the alleged rebels’ personal belongings were recovered after the firefight, the report added.

Reports showed that the suspected rebels were conducting extortion activities in the area.

Lieutenant Coronel Patricio Tomales, commanding officer of 15th IB, said the information from Barangau Tiling residents paved the way for their immediate response.

Gov’t soldiers after suspected rebels who fled from Mabinay

From the Cebu Daily News (Feb 9, 2019): Gov’t soldiers after suspected rebels who fled from Mabinay

Materials reportedly belonging to suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) after the army raided on what seemed to be their hideout in Barangay Bagtic, Mabinay town. / PHOTO COURTESY OF AFP – CENTRAL COMMAND

The Central Command (Centcom) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is now conducting a hot pursuit operation against suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) following an encounter with the communist rebels in Mabinay town, Negros Oriental on Friday afternoon, February 8.

A Centcom press release issued today, January 9, said that the encounter happened in Sitio Baliw, Barangay Bagtic, Mabinay town around 1:30 p.m. on Friday.

The firefight happened after soldiers acted on information received from some concerned citizens, who reported the presence of suspected rebels, who were said to be trying to set up a base camp in their community.

“We were able to hit the enemy for about 30 minutes and later pushed them out of the encounter site recovering several items such as one M16 rifle with 11 magazines, one Anti-Personnel Mine, one rifle grenade, one commercial radio, personal belongings, and subversive documents,” said Lieutenant Colonel Patricio Tomales, the commanding officer of the 15th Infantry Batallion.
The Centcom press release said that no one from the government’s side was injured or killed during their gun battle, but soldiers saw blood traces which made them conclude that they managed to wound some of their enemies.

China sent paramilitary force as PHL builds on Pagasa Island

From the Business World (Feb 8, 2019): China sent paramilitary force as PHL builds on Pagasa Island

THE CHINESE government deployed a paramilitary force in December last year in response to the ongoing construction by the Philippine government of a beaching ramp on Pagasa Island, also known as Thitu, according to American-based think tank Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI).

“China has responded to this new construction by deploying a large fleet of ships from Subi Reef, just over 12 nautical miles southwest of Thitu. These include several People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) and China Coast Guard (CCG) ships, along with dozens of fishing vessels ranging in size from 30 to 70 meters,” said AMTI in its report on Feb. 6.

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana said last Feb. 4 that the rehabilitation of Pagasa Island and the construction of a beaching ramp there is continuing.

The Philippines, which won an arbitral ruling in an international court on the disputed waters, claims Pagasa in the Spratlys group of islands as part of the West Philippine Sea.

Cop injured in encounter, war materials recovered

From the Visayan Daily Star (Feb 9, 2019): Cop injured in encounter, war materials recovered

Armed skirmishes between government forces and the New People’s Army rebels in Salvador Benedicto, Negros Occidental and Mabinay in Negros Oriental, yesterday led to injuries of a policeman, and recovery of assorted war materials, as well as the arrest of a suspected NPA member.

Police Officer 3 Shaun Francis Nelmida suffered minor injuries after an encounter with suspected New People’s Army rebels at 1 a.m. yesterday in Salvador Benedicto, Negros Occidental.

Troopers of the 605th Regional Mobile Force Battalion led by Senior Inspector Peter John Celino responded to reports of the presence of NPA rebels in Sitio Kalipas, Brgy. Igmaya-an, Salvador Benedicto, that triggered a gunbattle for five minutes.

Supt. Joem Malong, spokesperson of the Police Regional Office 6, yesterday said that those encountered by police mobile group troopers were believed to be the advance security team of the main group of the NPA rebels.

Nelmida sustained injuries from a blast from his rifle during the encounter. He is now being treated for his injuries at a private hospital in Bacolod City.

Supt. Joem Malong, spokesperson of the Police Regional Office 6, said yesterday that a suspected NPA member was arrested during pursuit operations.

The arrest of the alleged NPA member, whose identity has not been released yet by the police, also yielded a 22 caliber rifle and binoculars.

Troopers of the 15th Infantry Battalion also recovered assorted war materials, including an M16 assault rifle with 11 magazines containing ammunition, an anti-personnel mine, a rifle grenade and an ICOM radio after an encounter with 10 suspected NPA rebels in Sitio Baliw, Brgy. Bagtic, Mabinay, Negros Oriental.

The gunbattle lasted for about 30 minutes and the rebels fled in various directions, leaving behind the explosives, assault rifle and its ammunition, subversive documents and personal belongings.

No casualty was reported on the government side and troops are still in pursuit of fleeing communist rebels they had encountered in Mabinay town as of this time.

Hindi lang pangbakbakan! Soldiers join in outreach program in Maguindanao town

From Politiko Mindanao (Feb 8, 2019): Hindi lang pangbakbakan! Soldiers join in outreach program in Maguindanao town

Soldiers from the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion, together with the provincial government of Maguindanao, have conducted an outreach program in Ampatuan town.

Lt. Gen. Arnel B. Dela Vega, commander of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said this only showed that the armed forces are not only deployed on battlefields.

“Your armed forces do not only operate on battlefields; we also conduct civil military operations together with our partner stakeholders to help the people in far-flung areas,” he said.

During the one-day outreach program in Barangay Tomicor, Ampatuan Tuesday, February 5, 448 residents availed free medical and dental check-up and 25 children were circumcised, Westmincom said.

The military and the provincial government also distributed hybrid corn seeds to 10 beneficiaries, 200 school bags, 200 hygiene kits, 211 pairs of slippers, and 400 food packs.

Major General Cirilito E. Sobejana, commander of the Joint Task Force Central Mindanao, thanked the provincial government for continuously conducting this kind of program together with the military.

In Pikit’s war zones, voters say “yes” to Bangsamoro means “no more war, no more bakwit”

From MindaNews (Feb 8, 2019): In Pikit’s war zones, voters say “yes” to Bangsamoro means “no more war, no more bakwit”

BULIOK, Pikit, North Cotabato (MindaNews / 08 Feb) – Two-month old Myrhana Mangaguil was in deep slumber on the lap of her aunt, Hamira Abubacar who was resting on a shaded bench near the gate of the Buliok Elementary School shortly before 9 a.m. Wednesday. Hamira was waiting for Myrhana’s mother to finish voting in the plebiscite on the proposed inclusion of Buliok in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Myrhana slept peacefully, unmindful of the noise from voters looking for their names on the lists posted on the wall nearby and those walking towards their voting precincts to decide on her future.

Two-month old Myrhana Mangaguil sleeps peacefully on the lap of her aunt, Hamira Abubacar at the Buliok Elementary School in Pikit, North Cotabato, shortly before 9 a.m. on plebiscite day, 06 February 2019. Abubacar says her vote to the inclusion of Barangay Buliok in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is for Myrhana, that she may grow up not experiencing war and displacement. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

“Insha Allah si Myrhana hindi na magbakwit,” said the 33-year old Hamira, who, like thousands of residents in war-torn villages like hers, can no longer recall how many times she has had to evacuate in their lifetime. “Di ko na matandaan. Ilang beses na.”

Unable to graduate from high school because wars disrupted classes and yes, their livelihood, Hamira worked as domestic helper in Kuwait and later Oman, for ten years.

She came home three months ago and has decided to stay home because “Insha Allah, may Bangsamoro na” (We now have a Bangsamoro).

“Wala nang gyera. Kapayapaan na. (War is over. It’s peace now), said Hamira.

Hamira’s narrative of wars and displacements in her Barangay Buliok, and hope in the coming of the Bangsamoro government, is shared by many in the voting precincts also visited by MindaNews on plebiscite day — in Rahaj Muda, Bagoinged, Barungis, Kabasalan and Bulol.

In Kabasalan Elementary School, housewife Normina Subpingan, 34, voted “yes” to assure the future of her eight children.

Soldiers secure the Kabasalan Elemenraty School, a polling center in Barangay Kabasalan, Pikit, North Cotabato on 6 February 2019, plebiscite day on the proposed inclusion of their village in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Normina believes joining the BARMM will mean her children will live in peace and will be able to finish school. Like Hamira, she cannot say how many times she has had to flee from war. Even her children have had to flee “mga limang beses” (around five times).

Normina said the cycle of evacuations hampered her studies, making her complete only her Elementary years. Her eldest is now in high school and she dreams all her children will be able to finish school, uninterrupted by wars.

In Barangay Bagoinged’s elementary school, farmer Kirino Eslail, 75, father of eight and grandfather to 10, voted “yes” to each of the 23 questions Pikit’s voters had to answer on the biggest ballot among all areas where the plebiscite on the BARMM was conducted on January 21 and February 6.

“Kalilintad,” the Maguindanaon word for “peace,” is 75-year old farmer Kirino Eslail’s answer when asked what his “yes” vote means. Eslail voted “yes” to the proposed inclusion of Barangay Bagoinged in Pikit, North Cotabato, in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) during the plebiscite on February 6, 2019. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

“Kalilintad” (Peace), the farmer replied when asked what his vote signified. “Madakl” (Several times) was his response when asked how many times he has had to flee from war in the last 50 years.

Twenty-three out of 42 barangays in Pikit – including these former battlegrounds of the Moro liberation fronts (Moro National Liberation Front and later the Moro Islamic Liberation Front) and government forces — were proposed for inclusion in the BARMM.

Twenty-two out of the 23 will be joining the BARMM, based on results from the Municipal Plebiscite Board of Canvassers. Barangay Balatican voted “no” but Commissioner Omar Sema of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission manifested before the Board on Thursday that they would file a petition for a declaration of failure of plebiscite in Balatican where he said “no free election” was conducted due to threats and intimidation.

The municipal hall of Pikit in North Cotabato, is part of Barangay Fort Pikit which is one of 22 barangays whose proposed inclusion in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) has been approved by majority of the voters in the town. Only 20 of Pikit’s 42 barangays will remain with North Cotabato. Mayor Sultan Sumulong says they will file a petition to have the municipal hall and the plaza be included in Barangay Poblacion instead, to allow what remains of Pikit to retain its town hall. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Of the 22 that will now join the BARMM, 11 had actually voted for inclusion in what was supposed to be an expanded Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in the plebiscite on August 14, 2001 – among them Hamira’s Barangay Buliok, Kirino’s Bagoinged and Normina’s Kabasalan.

The Commission on Elections last month approved the petition of 12 other barangays in Pikit that petitioned for inclusion in the BARMM, among them Barungis, Bulol and Rajah Muda.

“Wala nang gyera”

For Hamida Sailon, 60, owner of a sari-sari store and a voter of Bagoinged, voting “yes” means “wala nang gyera” (war is over).

Her wish for her grandchildren is that their lives will no longer be disrupted by wars. “Hindi na sana magbakwit at sana makapamuhay nang maayos” (They will no longer evacuate and their lives will be better). Like Hamira, Normina and Kirino, she cannot remember how many times she has had to flee from war, the evacuations ranging from a month to a year.

Bagoinged Barangay captain Faisal Haron, 67, voted “yes” because the many wars in his village and neighboring areas have destroyed so many lives (“maraming buhay nasira dito”).

He is optimistic that under the Bangsamoro, “doon namin makamit ang kapayapaan, umangat kabuhayan ng mga tao” (we will achieve peace and the lives of the people will improve). He hopes the Bangsamoro leadership will ensure the livelihood of residents and the improvement of their road as well.

At the Barungis Elementary School in Barangay Barungis, Dimacaling Alpong, 58, carried his grandddaugher Bai Linang, his 9th grandchild who is “almost one year old,” while waiting for his wife to finish voting. Bai Linang’s mother, Dimacaling said, is a teacher in the school and was busy with her election duties.

Dimacaling Alpong of Barangay Barungis in Pikit, North Cotabato carries his granddaughter Bai Linang while waiting for his wife to finish voting on plebiscite day, 06 February 2019. Dimacaling hopes her granddaughter will never experience war in her lifetime. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

Dimacaling hopes Bai Linang will never experience war in her lifetime. “Kami na lang makaranas, huwag na sila” (We have experienced that. Spare them).

Gulam Guimbalanan, 52, barangay captain of Kabasalan, said being part of the BARMM will bring an end to wars and displacements.

“Wala nang gyera, wala nang bakwit” (No more war, no more evacuees), he said.

A member of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, the soon-to-be-decommissioned armed wing of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front waits for his turn to check his name on the voters’ list outside a voting precinct in Kabasalan Elementary School in Barangay Kabasalan, Pikit, North Cotabato, on 06 February 2019. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

Hundreds of mujahideens – many of them first time voters – trooped to the polls in the villages often mentioned as the places of origins of residents who seek refuge in evacuation centers in the cycle of wars here.

Among them was their commander — Acmad Abas — more popularly known as Kumander Jack, head of the Eastern Mindanao Front based in the MILF’s Camp Rajah Muda, who was accorded special treatment (as MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim was on January 21 in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao) at his voting precinct in the Rajah Muda Elementary School.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Eastern Mindanao Front commander Jack Abas casts his vote at Rajamuda Elementary School in Pikit, Cotabato Province on Wednesday (6 February 2019) during the plebiscite on the inclusion of 67 barangays in 7 towns in the province in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). Mindanews photo

Teacher Mohanie Abas, a poll clerk in one of the clustered precincts near where the MILF commander voted, said more voters turned up at the plebiscite than in the barangay elections in May last year.

She also noted that voters “na may grudge” (referring to those involved in ‘rido’ or clan disputes), “nagkita sila harap-harapan, walang tension” (they saw each other face to face here but there was no tension).

“Yung may grudge nagkaisa sila dahil sa BOL (They were united for the Bangsamoro organic law), she said.

Pikit’s fate: 20 barangays remain with North Cotabato, 22 joining BARMM

From MindaNews (Feb 8, 2019): Pikit’s fate: 20 barangays remain with North Cotabato, 22 joining BARMM

Among the seven towns in North Cotabato where residents voted Wednesday on the proposed inclusion of 67 villages in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), Pikit stands out for losing 22 of its 42 barangays to BARMM.

Only Barangay Balatican out of the 23 proposed for inclusion voted “no.”

The municipal hall of Pikit in North Cotabato, is part of Barangay Fort Pikit which is one of 22 barangays whose proposed inclusion in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) has been approved by majority of the voters in the town. Only 20 of Pikit’s 42 barangays will remain with North Cotabato. Mayor Sultan Sumulong says they will file a petition to have the municipal hall and the plaza be included in Barangay Poblacion instead, to allow what remains of Pikit to retain its town hall. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

The 22 barangays that voted “yes” and whose proposed inclusion was approved by a majority of the voters in the entire town, include Rajah Muda, base of the Eastern Mindanao Front in Camp Rajah Muda, the third largest camp of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the soon-to-be-decommissioned armed wing of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

All quiet now. The headquarters of the Eastern Mindanao Front of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, the soon-to-be-decommissioned armed wing of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Camp Rajah Muda in Pikit, North Cotabato on 7 February 2019, a day after the plebiscite where majority voted for inclusion of Rajah Muda in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. MIndaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

They also include Barangay Nabundas, the village of Mayor Sumulong Sultan and Barangay Fort Pikit, where the national historical landmark and the municipal hall on a hill are located.

Sultan, who served as mayor from 2006 to 2013; returned as mayor in 2016 and is seeking reelection under President Rodrigo Duterte’s Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino-Laban (PDP-Laban), told MindaNews Thursday that only one out the 23 proposed for inclusion in the BARMM, will remain with Pikit.

But lawyer Omar Sema, a Commissioner of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission manifested before the Municipal Plebiscite Board of Canvassers that they will file a petition to declare a failure of plebiscite in Balatican, claiming there was “no free election because of threats and intimidation.”

Sema told MindaNews that voters shied away from the polls because of threats and intimidation from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)-Nur Misuari faction.

Atty. Omar Sema, Commissioner of the Bangsamoro Transition (R) inspects a copy of the Plebiscite Return for Clustered Precincts 0024A, 0025A, and 0026A of Barangay Balatican with Board of Canvassers chair Edwin Wahab (L) during the canvassing of plebiscite votes for Pikit, North Cotabato on 7 February 2019. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

In an earlier interview, Sultan told MindaNews that he goes with the President’s pronouncements that the Bangsamoro law will be good for everyone.

“Ganon si President … ganon na rin sa akin. Makakabuti yun sa kanila … Alam natin kanilang theme is maganda, para sa kapayapapan, para sa kaunlaran ng Bangsamoro. Mahirap naman mag-against tayo doon kasi gusto na nila mamuno so bigyan na natin sila ng time, ng pagkakataon na maka-autonomy sila.” (That’s what the President said … I’d say the same. It will be good for them ….We know the theme is good, for peace, for progress of the Bangsamoro. It’s difficult if we go against them because they want to govern so let’s give them the time, the chance to have their autonomy).”

Sultan is willing to be mayor of a town very much less than its original size and population, and therefore, very much less its current 300 million pesos internal revenue allotment (IRA). The IRA is based, among others, on land area and population.

“Gusto natin magserbisyo. Pero ito siempre, ang importante ang kabutihan ng BARMM” (I want to serve. But of course what is important is what will be good for the BARMM).

The interest of the majority, not self-interest, should be served, he said, adding, “ang importante makuha ang minimithi ng Bangsamoro” (What is important is we get what the Bangsamoro aspires for).

BARMM but still vote NorthCot in May

Sultan said the separation from Pikit of barangays that will go to BARMM will not be immediate.

As registered voters in North Cotabato, residents of the villages who will go to the BARMM will still vote for municipal officials of Pikit, officials of the province and congressional district because their cluster-of- villages-for-BARMM will not likely be constituted into a municipality or merged with neighboring Maguindanao towns or villages, before the May 13, 2019 elections.

The 80-member Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) which will govern the Bangsamoro and exercise all powers and functions of the Bangsamoro Government during the three-year transition period has yet to be appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The sun sets over the vast fields of Barangay Rajah Muda in Pikit, North Cotabato on 7 February 2019. The Municipal Plebiscite Board of Canvassers completed its canvassing of results of the February 6 plebiscite on the inclusion of 23 of 42 barangays of Pikit in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The results show that 22 barangays will join the BARMM while 20 will remain with Pikit. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

RA 11054 provides that the Bangsamoro Parliament “may create, divide, merge, abolish, or substantially alter boundaries of municipalities or barangays in accordance with a law enacted by the Parliament.”

But even granting that the BTA will be constituted this month as MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim hopes, it will still not be able to attend to the creation a new town or merge it with contiguous barangays in Maguindanao before the May elections because it has yet to pass its own Bangsamoro Local Government Code.

RA 11054 mandates the BTA to accomplish these “priority legislations”: the Code of Parliamentary Rules and Procedures, Bangsamoro Administrative Code, Bangsamoro Tax and Revenue Code, Bangsamoro Electoral Code, Bangsamoro Local Government Code, Bangsamoro Education Code, Bangsamoro law for Indigenous Peoples, Bangsamoro Civil Service Code.

A NorthCot town hall under BARMM?

MindaNews asked Mayor Sultan on Thursday what will happen to Pikit’s town hall when Barangay Fort Pikit where it belongs, has voted to join the BARMM?

Sultan said they will file a formal request that given its historical value, the town hall and the plaza be made part of the adjacent Barangay Poblacion.

Mayor Sumulong Sultan of Pikit, North Cotabato. Of 42 barangays in Pikit, 23 were were proposed to be included in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Only one, Barangay Balatican, voted “no” to inclusion. Based on the results of the February 6, 2019 plebiscite, 22 of Pikit’s barangays will join the BARMM while 20 others will remain with Pikit. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Pikit was the site of the first Agricultural Colony in Mindanao established by law in 1912, its first batch of colonists or what would now be referred to as “settlers” and often generically referred to as “Christians,” arriving here on June 17, 1913 from Cebu. Colony no. 1 was composed of 120 colonists who were given lands in the villages of Ladtingan, Calawag, Ginatilan, Panicupan, Manding and Inug-ug .

Five more colonies were set up in 1914 and 1915 in Paidu Pulangui, Silik, Makasendeg, Pagalungan and Talitay.

Panicupan and Makasendeg are among the 22 barangays that will be part of the BARMM.

Nabundas, the village of Mayor Sultan, is also one of the 22. Since Nabundas will be joining the BARMM, MindaNews asked the mayor about his political plans considering he will no longer be qualified to run for Pikit mayor by 2022.

Sultan replied: “Kung ito pa rin gusto ko, pwede ako mag-transfer dito (If this is still what I want, I can transfer residence) one year or six moths before election.”

Sultan’s daughter, Muhyryn Sultan-Casi, the incumbent Vice Mayor, is also seeking reelection while his wife, Dulia, a provincial board member, is running for Representative of the first congressional district.

“It’s possible that you will be mayor of Pikt and maybe your daughter will be mayor of that new town?” MindaNews asked.

“May possibility,” Sultan replied, adding the have constituents to attend to.

The mayor said he hopes that the town’s employees will be absorbed by the government unit that will be created from out of the 22 barangays.

Freshwater fish sold for 70 to 80 pesos a bunch at the newly-built fish landing facility of Barangay Rajah Muda in Pikit North Cotabato on February 7, 2019. The barangay is also the base of Camp Raja Muda, home to the Eastern Mindanao Front of the armed wing of the soon-to-be-decommissioned Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Mindanews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Sultan is confident that the history of mass evacuations in Pikit will end once the BARMM is in place. “Oo kasi wala na mang gulo. Ang Bangsamoro ay para sa kapayapaan (Yes, because there will be no more trouble. The Bangsamoro is for peace), he said.

MILF: We are for peace in Lanao Norte

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 8, 2019): MILF: We are for peace in Lanao Norte

Ismael Disumalong a.k.a. Kumander Ultimax (center) of MILF's 102nd Base Command North-Western Mindanao Front emphasizes the call of MILF for a smooth and peaceful elections. (Photo by Jason Casas/PIA ICCC)

BALO-I, Lanao Norte -  "Walang mataas at walang mababa, pantay-pantay tayong naghahangad ng kapayapaan (No one is atop or below in our quest for peace)," Kumander Ultimax of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) said in today’s (Feb. 6) voting on the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

Ismael Disumalong a.k.a. Kumander Ultimax of MILF's 102nd Base Command North-Western Mindanao Front emphasized the call of the MILF for a peaceful and orderly Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) plebiscite in the entire Lanao del Norte.

Kumander Ultimax said “the MILF wanted a peaceful BOL plebiscite and our presence in some polling precincts would cause no harm against anyone.”

"The MILF's central committee has ordered us not to violate the peace and ceasefire agreement," Disumalong added.

He further clarified that whatever would be the result of the plebiscite will be respected by the front.

When asked if “No” votes wins in Balo-i, he said: "There's no problem about that and we understand the voters’ decision.”

He further explained that if the six municipalities in Lanao del Norte would be included in the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), “rest assured the tri-people will be given equal access to all opportunities for the Bangsamoro.”

"Lumads, Christians, and Muslims will be protected by the Bangsamoro government," Dimasilong assured.

"This [BOL] is not only for the MILF, but this is also for everyone," he pointed out.

The notion of placid plebiscite

Despite some untoward incidents happening in some other areas of Lanao del Norte a day before the plebiscite, conduct of plebiscite in Balo-i town was peaceful one.

Sonia Canoy, teacher and member of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI), was optimisitc that the peaceful election would continue until the end of the canvassing period.

"So far, we are having a smooth and orderly balloting here in Balo-i," Canoy said.

Canoy revealed that they are not worried about the presence of the MILF members in the polling precincts saying," they are not doing anything against us, and we are confident that this plebiscite would end up peacefully.

Meanwhile, the security sector maintained that Balo-i town has been consistently peaceful and orderly during elections.

Japan will be major donor to BOL implementation: envoy

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 9, 2019): Japan will be major donor to BOL implementation: envoy

As the second Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) plebiscite capped off on February 6, Japanese Ambassador to Manila Koji Haneda said his country would be a "major assistance donor" to the Philippines in its implementation.

"We already extended assistance to the BOL process and we hope that this would be a success, this is very important to Mindanao and the Philippines but it will give very positive impact in the region," Haneda told reporters on the eve of Foreign Minister Taro Kono's official visit to the Philippines.

"We have been and we are going to be a major assistance donor to the Philippines as far as the BOL is concerned," he added.

The envoy said the Bangsamoro peace process is among the areas Kono and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. would be discussing in a bilateral meeting in Davao on Sunday. But among others, the two envoy would also discuss Japan's "economic assistance on various projects" including on infrastructure.

The Commission on Elections en banc, sitting as the National Plebiscite Board of Canvassers, proclaimed the ratification of the BOL after canvassing all four Certificates of Canvass of the first BOL plebiscite last January 21.

On Wednesday, the second phase of the plebiscite concluded with a 75 percent voter turnout from the towns of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan, and Tangkal in Lanao del Norte; and in the municipalities of Aleosan, Carmen, Kabacan, Midsayap, Pikit, and Pigcawayan in North Cotabato.

In a recent interview, Japan International Cooperation Agency Senior Representative Yo Ebisawa said Tokyo's support to the peace process in Mindanao "was there" even before the approval of the BOL in July 2018.

On its implementation, Ebisawa told the Philippine News Agency that Tokyo would fund projects for the reintegration of ex-combatants into the society and the new autonomous political entity that will be established in 2022.

Senator, 5 others get Army reserve ranks

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 9, 2019): Senator, 5 others get Army reserve ranks

Six newly-commissioned Philippine Army (PA) reserve officers, including a lawmaker, were donned with new ranks in a ceremony that took place at the PA headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City on Friday.

In a statement Saturday, Army public affairs office chief, Lt. Col. Louie Villanueva, named the new reserve officers as Lt. Col. Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the Senate committee on economic affairs and energy; Lt. Col. Anthony Bravo, Coop-Natcco Party-list representative; Lt. Col. Roel A. Sacho, Policy Development and Planning Division Chief of the Department of Science and Technology; Lt. Col. Dindo Jose P. de Viterbo, Project Officer IV of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office; Lt. Col. Joseph Ross S. Jocson, president of Allen Packaging System Corp.; Lt. Col. Ricardo J. Gamboa, vice president of the Development Academy of the Philippines; and Major Joseph B. Encaco, Assistant Secretary of the Presidential Management Staff.

Army chief, Lt. Gen. Macairog Alberto, welcomed the newly-commissioned reserve officers who represented a cross-section of the society.

“As we sustain our momentum under the Army Transformation Roadmap, we enjoin our newly commissioned reserved officers to live up to the oath they have taken and the responsibility of the rank they now carry. I expect you to embolden our core values of honor, patriotism and duty,” Alberto said.

On behalf of the newly-commissioned officers, Gatchalian said being a part of the PA reserve force is one way of showing love of country.

“We can demonstrate our love for country by working abroad and sending money back home, do business to lift up our economy, and by working in the government to serve our people. In my case, it is by wearing the Army uniform itself, which is truly an honor and opportunity. This is worthy because it represents sacrifices and willingness to offer our life beyond the call of duty, for my family, country and people,” the senator said.

The donning of ranks in the military symbolizes the conferment of authority and responsibility of the commissioned officers.

This is in line with the priority thrust of the PA, which is to develop a capable reserve force as part of the Total Force Concept.

The Total Force Concept highlights the importance of developing, integrating and sustaining the country’s reserve force to complement the Army’s operational requirement in times of war and emergencies.

PH role in US Indo-Pacific strategy cited

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 9, 2019): PH role in US Indo-Pacific strategy cited

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Walter Douglas in a press conference in Manila on August 29, 2018. (PNA photo by Joyce Ann L. Rocamora)

MANILA -- A ranking US State Department official reaffirmed the Philippines' role, as a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), in advancing Washington's bid for an open and free Indo-Pacific region.

"ASEAN centrality is absolutely essential in what we do and the Philippines is a key player in ASEAN," US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Walter Douglas said in an interview on the sidelines of the US-Philippines Think Tank Conference in Makati on Friday.

"Coming here is a great opportunity. I get to speak about the Indo-Pacific. People spoke about it. I think that's just one more way we could advance the Indo-Pacific vision to encompass all of ASEAN, but the Philippines has obviously been a key player in all that," he added.

Back in 2018, Douglas announced that the Philippines is to receive a large chunk of security assistance from the US, a recognition of the "long-term partnership" Washington has with Manila on the security front.

In July 2018, the US Embassy in Manila also announced a contribution amounting to about USD26.5 million to boost Philippine law enforcement agencies' counterterrorism efforts over the next two years.

Citing the robust cooperation between the two nations, Douglas said he sees a "very bright" future for US-Philippines ties.

"The future will be very bright that way but we do have to make sure we understand what each other wants and what each other's looking for as we do go forward," he said.

The recently concluded US-Philippine Think Tank Conference tackled various issues of mutual interest to Manila and Washington, such as responding to regional challenges in Asia and the future of its 67-year-old military alliance.

The two countries' security alliance is rooted in the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, the Philippines’ sole and longest defense pact with another state.

The Philippine government first floated the proposal to review the agreement and make it relevant to the region’s changing security environment in December 2018.

In the conference, Ambassador Sung Kim said "if there are any adjustments that would be useful, certainly we would welcome an opportunity to make adjustments."

Troops seize NPA weapons in central Negros clash site

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 9, 2019): Troops seize NPA weapons in central Negros clash site

The firearms, ammunition and other weapons as well as personal items recovered by troopers of the Philippine Army’s 15th Infantry Battalion after their encounter with communist rebels in Mabinay, Negros Oriental on Friday afternoon (Feb. 8, 2019). (Photo courtesy of 15th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army)
Troopers of the Philippine Army’s 15th Infantry Battalion (IB) recovered weapons left behind by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels after an encounter in Mabinay, Negros Oriental on Friday afternoon.

Items found included an M16 rifle, 11 firearm magazines, some ammunition, a rifle grenade, an anti-personnel mine, a hand-held radio, subversive documents, food items, and personal belongings, such as clothes, several pairs of boots and slippers.

Lt. Col. Patricio Tomales, commanding officer of 15th IB headquartered in Cauayan, Negros Occidental, said in a statement on Friday night their troops responded to reports from residents of Sitio Baliw in Barangay Bagtic that the rebels were extorting rice and money from them.

At 1:30 p.m., soldiers of the Alpha Company engaged in a 30-minute firefight with the rebels, who fled after the encounter.

These troopers were among those who fought during the five-month Marawi siege before their deployment to Negros Island, Tomales said.

Mabinay town, situated at the boundary of Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental, is included in the coverage area of the southern Negros based 15th IB.
Tomales thanked the residents for providing their troops timely information on the presence of the rebels in their community.

“This proves the Communist Party of the Philippines - New People’s Army terrorist is losing hold of their masses and the people are already fed up with their lies and terror,” he added.

Tomales said information on the sightings or extortion activities of the NPA rebels can be reported to the 15th IB’s hotline number (0945) 5045757.

Capt. Eduardo Precioso, spokesperson of the 3rd Infantry Division, on Saturday echoed Tomales’ statement that the communist rebels have lost mass base support.

Precioso lauded the residents for their continued support to the anti-insurgency operations of government troops.

“Your bravery to stand with the government in implementing peace and order is of great help,” he added.

Both the United States and the European Union have declared the CPP-NPA as a terrorist group.

Bacolod police taps Muslim community for peace and order drive

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 9, 2019): Bacolod police taps Muslim community for peace and order drive

MEETING FOR PEACE. Senior Supt. Henry Biñas (center), officer-in-charge director of Bacolod City Police Office, and the chiefs of the 10 police stations meet with the leaders of the local Muslim community (left) to discuss peace-related issues at the city police headquarters on Friday afternoon (Feb. 8, 2019) (Photo courtesy of Shiela G. Gelera)
BACOLOD CITY -- The Bacolod City Police has engaged the local Muslim community in promoting peace and order in the city.

Bacolod Police OIC Director, Senior Supt. Henry Biñas, met with Muslim leaders at the Bacolod police headquarters on Friday afternoon to discuss various peace-related issues in the wake of the recent bombing incidents in Mindanao. “They agreed to cooperate with the police,” he said.

Biñas noted that both parties agreed to exchange information relevant to peace and order.

“They expressed full support to us and committed that if they have information, they will let the police know,” he added.

Imam Abulkhair Carcauga, overall imam of Muslim communities in Bacolod, said they support peace for Bacolod City “101 percent.”

“We from the Muslim community, from whatever tribe, are one with the police for peace and for the maintenance of peace and order,” he added.

Carcauga said they agreed to share information with the police if they learn of any terror threat to the city.

“We should inform them so they can immediately act on it,” he said.

Carcauga added that for now, they don’t have any actual data yet on the total population of Muslims living Bacolod.

“But there are Muslims anywhere in Bacolod. The Maranaos, who are business people, are everywhere. We live in Bacolod with our families so we also want peace in the city,” he added.

Biñas said that even the Bacolod police does not have a detailed inventory of Muslim presence in the city.

He added that they will ask the Muslim community to provide data so the police can come up with an estimate of their population.

Army intensifies operation vs. NPA in NoCot

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 9, 2019): Army intensifies operation vs. NPA in NoCot

Military forces in North Cotabato have stepped up operations against a band of communist guerrillas following a clash on Friday that left two soldiers slightly injured.

Lt. Col. Rhojun Rosales, commander of the Army’s 39th Infantry Battalion, said the prompt response by government troops to a civilian tip-off about the presence of New Peoples’ Army (NPA) in Barangay New Baguio, Makilala town, prevented rebel attacks on government installations and on a banana plantation in the area.

“They have been massing there, planning to attack Army detachments and burn banana plantation equipment,” Rosales said on Saturday.

When the soldiers arrived in Sitio Badok, the rebels opened fire, triggering a gun battle that lasted from 10 a.m. up to about 12 noon.

He said Army personnel, despite being outnumbered by about 30 NPA guerrillas, forced the rebels to retreat deep into the mountains in the boundaries of North Cotabato and Davao del Sur.

Air strikes from the Philippine Air Force sent the rebels scampering to various directions, the military official said.

To prevent the communist rebels under NPA Guerilla Front 72, who were headed by Commander Burjak, from coming back, military detachments have been established in the village to protect the civilians and the workers of the banana plantation in the area.
During clearing operations on Friday afternoon, government forces recovered two anti-personnel mines, eight blasting caps, 50 meters detonating wires and other communist stuff in an area where the rebels hid for several days.