Tuesday, February 19, 2019

MILF: Tan: “Give MILF a chance”

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Feb 20, 2019): Tan: “Give MILF a chance”

Photo courtesy by OPAPP

“Sana pagbigyan ng tao, followers, and politicians ang Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) kasi this [Bangsamoro Organic Law] is a chance of a lifetime,” Deputy Presidential Peace Adviser Nabil Tan appealed during an interview with a media network yesterday in this city. (We hope that the public, followers, and politicians would give MILF a chance because Bangsamoro Organic Law is once in a lifetime)

“Implementing this agreement is like the finale. Otherwise, we will be falling into the trap of violent extremism,” Tan added.

COMELEC’s recent proclamation of the official results of the plebiscites on the BOL held on January 21 and February 6 will pave the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the interim government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

The BTA will be composed of 80 members who were appointed By by President Rodrigo Duterte. It will be led by a chief minister and two deputy chief ministers.

Incumbent officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) government will also be part of the interim body until their term of office ends on June 30, 2019.

With the BOL’s ratification, the ARMM is abolished and will be replaced by the BARMM which will have a Parliamentary form of government.

“Mayroong significant tasking ang BTA tulad ng important legislations na dapat mapasa. Unang-una ‘yong Bangsamoro Administrative Code, Bangsamoro Revenue Code, Bangsamoro Electoral Code, Bangsamoro Local Government Code, Bangsamoro Education Code,” Tan said.

(The BTA had its significant tasking such as important legislations that need to be passed. First is the Bangsamoro Administrative Code, Bangsamoro Revenue Code, Bangsamoro Electoral Code, Bangsamoro Local Government Code, and Bangsamoro Education Code)

The BTA, he added, may also craft a Bangsamoro Civil Service Code but it will still be subject to the review and approval of the Civil Service Commission.

MILF in governance
When asked how ready the MILF is to handle the affairs of government, Tan said “no one is 100 percent ready”.

“However, they are ready in terms of [having the] determination to achieve good governance. Iba ‘yong sincerity nila [MILF] to govern and avoid corruption,” he added.

In line with the BTA’s operationalization, the national government is asking the help of various academic institutions such as the Development Academy of the Philippines and Ateneo de Manila University in mentoring the MILF on the fundamentals of governance.

The ratification of the BOL will also lead to the implementation of the Normalization track of the GPH-MILF peace agreement wherein 30 percent of all MILF combatants will be decommissioned.

“We have prepared for the socio-economical packages for the combatants and their families. We are also preparing for the whole transformation of the camps. I hope we’d have one direction that is corruption-free and effective in governance,” Tan said.

The plebiscite for the ratification of the BOL was held in the core territories of the ARMM, Cotabato City, and Isabela City in Basilan. A total of 1,737,767 votes were cast with a voter turnout of 87.80%.

On the other hand, 63 out of the 67 barangays in North Cotabato voted for their inclusion in the BARMM.

NDF/Sison: Duterte’s positive comments on peace talks welcome – Joma

Jose Maria Sison propaganda statement posted to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP or NDF) Website (Feb 20, 2019): Duterte’s positive comments on peace talks welcome – Joma  

Response to Duterte Statements

By Jose Maria Sison, NDFP Chief Political Consultant
February 20, 2019

The statements of Duterte at the 9th anniversary of the Mindanao Development Authority in Davao City on February 19, 2019 are mixed. They carry positive and negative content as well as serious and joking expressions. But they seem to be better than entirely hostile statements.

I prefer to welcome the positive content and serious expressions about being open to peace negotiations and to let NDFP chief peace negotiator sort out Duterte’s statements with GRP chief peace negotiator DOLE Silvestre Bello III.

I cannot try to answer the mixed statements of Duterte publicly because to do so can make me appear as the one mixed up. It is best to let the negotiators meet and do their job.

Agcaoli and Bello are competent representatives of the NDFP and GRP. They are conscious of seeking a common ground by responding to the needs and demands of the people and striving to agree on social, economic and political reforms as basis for a just and lasting peace.

PRRD open for NDFP negotiator to come home

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20, 2019): PRRD open for NDFP negotiator to come home

President Rodrigo Duterte said he is open to allowing the National Democratic Front of the Philippines' (NDFP) chief negotiator to come home.

"I think Atty. Agcaoili has sounded off he is coming again to talk. And I told the military and the police just allow him," said President Duterte, referring to Fidel Agcaoili, chief negotiator of NDFP--the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

This, as Duterte hinted about the possible resumption of peace talks between the government and the communist rebels that has been suspended in 2017, following the series of attacks on government forces by the NDFP's armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA).

Duterte underscored the importance of addressing the barest "sentiments" of the rebel organization to achieve peace, but made it clear that there should be no conditions if the talks resume.

"So with the NPAs, unless we somehow reduce to the barest minimum their sentiments, their hunger for justice, social justice, there will be no peace in the land," the President said in his speech during the 9th anniversary of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) and the 25th anniversary of the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asian Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) on Tuesday here.

The prospects of resuming the stalled peace negotiations, however, did not mean Duterte agrees with the "style" of CPP founding chairman Jose Maria Sison.

"I am not saying that I am now in agreement with Sison. I don’t like his style but I do not hate him. We are friends and we can be friends," the President said of his former college professor.

Duterte said he just wants to give time for the communist leader "to kindly find time to talk sensible peace."

"We have been at it for 52 years. I do not think that if you have not succeeded in just about five years, it’s a lost cause," he said.

"We go to the table and to talk about it. And if he proposes something which is not acceptable and I would say, “No, I cannot accept that." And if I propose something and he does not relish it, then maybe he can go back to the Netherlands," Duterte said.

The President said Sison can never come back if there’s no guarantee from the CPP-NPA-NDFP that they are committed to achieving peace.

He emphasized that the government is "on a waiting period about the appropriate time to talk about peace.”

"You know, if you allow this to go awry and if you are not careful with your words and you talk about reckless and all about fighting, this country can never succeed to rise and progress--even if you give one president five to 10 years. No way," he said.


In an interview at the sidelines of the MinDA event, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the resumption of talks remains uncertain unless the communist rebel group "sincerely commits to stop the attacks and extortion while negotiations are ongoing."

In November last year, Agcaoili and some members of the NDFP were supposed to arrive in the country in relation to their work as members of the NDFP's component in the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

It was canceled for fear that they will be arrested once they set foot in the Philippines.

Panelo said there was nothing to fear because it was already assured that they will not be arrested.

Although the resumption of talks is still uncertain, Panelo said the rebels "should grab at it.”

“It’s about time that they realize that their 52 years of struggle is just a fantasy now," he said.


Duterte urges joint efforts to end piracy at sea

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20, 2019): Duterte urges joint efforts to end piracy at sea

President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Tuesday night called on members of the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) to exert combined efforts to end piracy at sea.

“I call upon the BIMP-EAGA. We are doing commerce. Our navies must be vigilant. We have to be one in our patrols,” Duterte said during the 25th anniversary of the BIMP-EAGA in Davao City.

Duterte, who described pirates as having “no souls”, also ordered his military to finish them off.

“Let me be very clear to the heads of states. My orders to my navy is to blast them off the earth. If there are pirates in our territory or in the high seas, my orders are: Blast them to kingdom come,” he said.

Duterte described justice for victims of piracy as “a mirage actually floating in the seas” since pirates are easily freed.

“It’s just the same. They are arrested. They go to prison. You do not have witnesses because the victims, once they are freed, they would not even wait for a minute to issue a statement. They go home because they are scared. So justice seems to be an illusion. It’s a mirage actually floating in the seas,” he said.

The President also urged Indonesia and Malaysia in particular, to “band together” to address economic issues.

“So once again, Indonesia, Malaysia, we have to band together. The world is changing, including the economy. It could go either bad or very bad or it could go well, but we will have to go into a bad level and I hope we can survive it,” Duterte said.

Meanwhile, he lauded the BIMP-EAGA for enabling effective mechanisms for socio-civic endeavors, political education campaigns, and the establishment of agro-economic zones across the nation.

“Indeed, these efforts highlight the importance of our collaborative efforts in realizing lasting peace and sustainable growth across Mindanao,” Duterte said.

“Together, let us pursue more progressive and inclusive strategies for growth in the region as we work towards the advancement of every Mindanawon,” he added.

Duterte said he is also counting on their “unwavering commitment” to contribute to efforts to improve people’s lives through peace and development.

He expressed hope that their cooperation would translate to opportunities in trade and investment, transportation, agri-business, tourism, energy, and environmental protection and management, among others.


NPA rebel killed in Bukidnon clash

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Feb 19, 2019): NPA rebel killed in Bukidnon clash

A SUSPECTED member of the New People's Army (NPA) was killed on Monday, February 18, as troops continued their pursuit operations after the Valentine's Day encounter which claimed the lives of two soldiers in Sitio Green Valley, Barangay Dalwangan, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon.

Captain Ryan Layug, civil military officer of the 403rd Brigade, said the NPA scampered during the firefight n Lantapan, Bukidnon and left their dead comrade behind.
The troops captured one M653 high powered rifle. The encounter site is adjacent to an NPA hideout where the soldiers found 3 sacks of rice.
The firefight on Monday brought the number of NPAs killed to five.

"The Special Forces tracked and reached the NPAs in Lantapan, Bukidnon after being tipped off by civilians. This is a clear manifestation that they are unwanted to IP communities and farmers in the area" Col Edgardo De Leon, 403rd Brigade Commander said.

Residents of Sitio Green Valley earlier declared the NPA as persona non-grata.

"We will defend our people and communities from these terrorist at all cost. That is our mandate," Brigadier General Franco Nemesio Gacal, commander of the 4th Infantry Division said.


NPA member killed in Misamis Occidental clash

From Politiko Mindanao (Feb 20, 2019): NPA member killed in Misamis Occidental clash

An alleged member of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) was killed in an encounter with the government troops in Misamis Occidental.

The clash occurred Monday, February 18, at Barangay San Pedro, Alora town following report of the presence of armed elements who were recruiting the youth and extorting from the populace.

“The encounter was the result of the information received by our troops from a concerned civilian who reported the presence of an armed group in their community while we are conducting community security operations,” said Lieutenant Colonel John Andrada, Commanding Officer of the 10th Infantry Battalion.

Firefight lasted for 30 minutes after which the enemies scampered to different directions.

Andrada expressed belief that more rebels were wounded during the firefight as manifested by the blood stains seen in the area.

While scouring the encounter site, troops recovered one AK 47 rifle, three magazines, and subversive documents with high intelligence value, he said.

Additional troops were deployed to run after the fleeing rebels while members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) conducted investigation in the encounter site.

Gov't still open to hold talks with Reds: Lorenzana

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20, 2019): Gov't still open to hold talks with Reds: Lorenzana

The government is not closing the door for peace talks with the communist rebels, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Tuesday.

"(PRRD's statement means) that the government has not closed the door for peace talks. The President has enumerated some conditions for the resumption of peace talks like cessation of their extortion (their so-called revolutionary tax), no burning of equipment, no attack on military, police and civilians," Lorenzana said in a message to reporters.

These are some of the atrocities being carried out by the CPP-NDF's armed wing, the New People's Army, which is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.

Lorenzana was referring to a statement by President Rodrigo R. Duterte urging the military to allow National Democratic Front chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili to return home in order to resume negotiations.

He revealed that Agcaoili is already in the Philippines since last week.

“His whereabout is (still) unknown," Lorenzana said.

Lorenzana said the ball is already in the hands of the Communist Party of the Philippines-NDF if they would like to resume peace negotiations.

Earlier, Lorenzana clarified he is not against the peace talks for as long as the CPP-NPA-NDF is sincere in the efforts to attain lasting peace.

But should the peace talks be used for the rebels' armed revolution, Lorenzana said he is against it.


AFP to Reds: Surrender now while there is still time

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 19, 2019): AFP to Reds: Surrender now while there is still time

CAMP BANCASI, Butuan City – The area command chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Mindanao on Tuesday urged the remaining members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) to “surrender now while there is still time”

Maj. Gen. Felimon T. Santos, AFP EastMinCom Commander

“Yield peacefully while there’s a chance,” said Maj. Gen. Felimon T. Santos, Jr, area command chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMincom).

The AFP EastMincom chief called on the remaining members of the CPP-NPA who are still running in the mountains of Agusan, Surigao and Compostela Valley provinces, including in some parts of Davao Region, Bukidnon and North and South Cotabato to surrender peacefully while there is still a chance for them to live normal lives.

“We call on our peace-loving communities also to continue to assist and help our field units by helping the NPAs who want to surrender and be part of our quest for peace which everyone is longing for,” stressed Maj. Gen. Santos.

The AFP EastMincom chief made this statement after seeing the exodus of CPP-NPA members and supporters who voluntarily gave up in Surigao del Norte, North Cotabato last week.

The AFP Eastmincom has already received 938 regular members of the NPA through its various field units.

Based on its records, Eastmincom already received a total of 1,217 Militia ng Bayan members and 434 Sangay ng Partido sa Lokalidad–NPA’s community-based support groups–and 8,932 mass supporters, from January 2018 to early February this year.

Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Franco Nemesio M. Gacal, commanding general of the Army’s Northeastern and Northern Mindanao 4th Infantry (Diamond) Division (4thID) also on Tuesday said that more former rebels are coming out and are being processed by the military and the local government units as the 4th ID embarked on a “peaceful war.”

The 4th ID commander reiterated the army’s “peaceful war” approach in addressing the multi-dimensional nature of communist terrorism. “This approach is aimed at ‘combating’ or solving the socio-economic issues in remote villages being exploited by the communist terrorists,” he said.

“Peaceful war is not literally ‘war’ through the use of military weapons, but it is a unique form of warfare sans violence, through the delivery of social services by government and non-government entities,” Brig. Gen. Gacal said.

He said the “peaceful war” will eliminate the reasons for rebellion and bring lasting peace and sustainable economic growth”.

In a ceremony last week, the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) Committee of Misamis Oriental, co-chaired by Gov. Yevgeny Vincente B. Emano and 403rd Infantry Battalion Commander Col. Edgardo De Leon, handed over start-up financial assistance for livelihood amounting to P65,000 each to 31 former NPA regular members, most of whom are from IP communities in the various parts of the Northern Mindanao region.

The former rebels surrendered to the government, effectively regaining protection provided by the International Humanitarian Law (IHL), the 4th ID chief added.

Under President Duterte’s Administrative Order No. 10, the inter-agency Task Force ‘Balik-Loob’ was created to administer the E-CLIP program to expedite the government’s reintegration efforts for former CPP-NPA members.


10 CPP-NPA members, supporters yield in ComVal province

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 19, 2019): 10 CPP-NPA members, supporters yield in ComVal province

BUTUAN CITY – The peace and development effort of the Army’s 71st Infantry (Kaibigan) Battalion (71st IB) is continuously gaining ground as another batch of Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) members and mass supporters gave themselves up at the units ‘Balik Loob’ Assistance Center in Sitio Upper Lahi, Barangay Magnaga, Pantukan, Compostela Valley (ComVal) province on Tuesday.

First Lt. Jhocell D. Asis, Civil Military Operation (CMO) officer of the 71st IB said one of the surrenderee is a regular member of the NPA Milisya ng Bayan (MB), along with his wife, also a regular member of the weakened Guerrilla Front 2 (WGF 2), Sub-Regional Committee 2 ((SRC 2) of the CPP-NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Command (SMRC).

“The couple and their child official gave themselves up to 71st IB commander Lt. Col. Esteveyn E. Ducusin on Tuesday morning,” the 71st IB CMO officer said.

The identities of the couple and seven other members are being withheld for their safety and security.

The couple disclosed their secret participation in several anti-government rallies and demonstrations in Tagum City, Davao City and other areas in Southern Mindanao, claimed the 71st IB CMO officer.

The surrenderees are currently assisted by the 71st IB and local government units for their enrolment in the government’s E-CLIP program.

“Your troops are your custodian for peace and development. Seeing you today only meant that we have performed our duties,” Lt. Col. Ducusin said.

“We all wanted to give you a peaceful life doing what is right. All of you are victims and it is our duty to deliver you from the communist’s deception,” the 71st IB commander added.

The surrenderees are residents of Sitio Tugop, Barangay Kingking, Pantukan, ComVal province, the 71st IB report added.


Eight hostages held by NPA in Agusan del Sur released —military

From GMA News (Feb 20, 2019): Eight hostages held by NPA in Agusan del Sur released —military

The New People's Army on Tuesday released in Agusan del Sur eight hostages remaining in its hands, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said.

The hostages were said to be released in the vicinity of Purok 9, Sitio Hugmakan, Barangay San Juan in Bayugan City at 2:25 p.m.

In a statement, the military said the NPA released the hostages "due to fear of lost mass support due to condemnations by various communities and their mounting serious violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL)."

The military quoted Charlita Quiao, wife of one of the hostages, as saying that the abduction was "the worst experience our family ever encountered that brought the family in chaos due to fear and sadness." Aside from her husband, her son-in-law was also said to have been taken hostage by the rebel group.

The AFP said the hostages will be given time to be with their families but will undergo medical and psychological treatment as well.

The rebel group previously released six abducted government militiamen also in Agusan del Sur on Thursday, according to the military.

Another two hostages were freed on Monday in Barangay San Antonio in the municipality of Remedios T. Romualdez, Agusan del Norte "due to fatigue and pressure from the pursuing Army and PNP [Philippine National Police] troops," the military added.

On Friday, 295 Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) gunmen and their supporters voluntarily surrendered in Gigaquit, Surigao del Norte, the military said.

After the municipalities of Sibagat, Agusan del Sur and Gigaguit, Surigao del Norte initiated action against the NPAs, more areas declared the CPP-NPA as "persona non-grata," the AFP added.

Brigadier General Franco Nemesio M. Gacal, commander of the Philippine Army 4th Infantry Battalion, said the AFP will continue its intensified efforts against the rebel group.

"Terrorist acts and unreasonable demands by the NPA will never resolve peace and development concerns. Intensified efforts against NPA terrorists will push through. We will do our best, with the cooperation of cognizant government bodies to put an end to insurgency by addressing issues and concern of Conflict Affected Areas (ConAAs) in 4ID area of responsibility. The Board of Inquiry (BOI) will continue with their deeper investigation to find out exact details and to come up with a fair and just decisions of the command," he said.


‘NPA attacks in South Cotabato meant to show they’re not a spent force’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb  19, 2019): ‘NPA attacks in South Cotabato meant to show they’re not a spent force’
The New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, attacked Monday night security forces in a remote village in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato to show they are still a force to reckon with, 50 years after they were organized, a military official said on Tuesday.

Lt Col. Jones Otida, commander of the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion, said the communist rebels simultaneously harassed a militia patrol base and troops securing a road project in Barangay Lamfugon around 8 p.m, Monday.

Our troops repulsed the attackers and nobody was wounded from our side, he said on local radio.

He noted that two groups of 10 individuals each from the NPA Guerrilla Front 73 simultaneously fired at the government troops in the area.

Otida said militiamen and soldiers assigned in the area also prevented the rebels from burning the heavy equipment used in the construction of a road to the remote village in the area.

“We believe this (harassment against our troops) is a prelude to their golden anniversary commemoration next month,” Otida said. “They want to send the message they are still strong,” he said.

The NPA, which the military has classified as a terrorist organization, was formed 50 years ago on March 29, which also marked the start of the campaign period for local candidates this year for the May 13 mid-term elections.

The campaign period for senatorial candidates and party-list groups already kicked off on February 12.

Otida urged political candidates not to give in to the communist guerrillas’ demands for permits-to-campaign in rebel-controlled areas.

He also reminded candidates of a circular issued by the Department of the Interior and Local Government to refrain from supporting the NPA and left-leaning candidates.

Otida said the NPA rebels collect permit-to-campaign fees amounting to P50,000 for municipal council candidates, P50,000 to P100,000 for municipal mayors and P500,000 for senatorial bets.

Otida said the military would do its best to secure communities from communist rebels.

2019 Jolo Bombing: Bid To Derail BOL Peace Deal? – Analysis

From the Eurasia Review (Feb 19, 2019): 2019 Jolo Bombing: Bid To Derail BOL Peace Deal? – Analysis (By Syed Huzaifah Bin Othman Alkaff)

The 27 January attack by the Abu Sayyaf Group on a Catholic church in Jolo seemed to signal that not all groups in the southern Philippines support the Bangsamoro Organic Law peace deal.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte visits the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, capital of the southern province of Sulu, Jan. 28, 2019. HO/Office of the President/Courtesy Bong Go

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte visits the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, capital of the southern province of Sulu, Jan. 28, 2019. Photo Credit: HO / Office of the President / Courtesy Bong Go

Peace deal or not in Mindanao, the Jolo attack of 27 January 2019 on a Catholic church came some 25 months after the Marawi siege, sending a clear sign that the southern Philippines will remain a zone of conflict and violence for some time to come. With a long and protracted history of violence, often seen in binary Christian-Muslim antagonisms, the issue of perceived Muslim marginalisation is unlikely to dissipate.

This is all the more as Marawi, despite massive inflows of international assistance, remains a wrecked city with thousands of displaced people still living in camps. This may provide demonstrable evidence of neglect by the Christian-dominated Philippines authorities, leading to a possible pipeline of ready-made recruits for the jihadi groups.

Post-Marawi Attacks

While the Philippines’ security forces had successfully ended the Marawi siege, the threat posed by Islamist jihadists has not been eliminated. This was evident by reports of regrouping by the jihadists in Mindanao, especially in Jolo, Basilan and other strongholds of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and its breakaway factions, including the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) led by Abu Turaifie.

While the Islamist terrorists’ key preoccupation was on regrouping after the Marawi setback, jihadi attacks have continued such as that by the ASG in Lamitan City in July 2018 and the BIFF in Cotabato in August and September 2018. While the ASG and BIFF are regarded as the key threats, there are also other ASG splinters which pose a security challenge, such as the Tanum group under Hatib Sawadjaan. The latter is the father-in-law of Amin Baco who was involved in the Marawi siege.

Another group which has attracted security notice is a key Tanum sub-unit, the Ajang-Ajang group, with many members whose relatives have been killed by the security forces. Small but dangerous, the Ajang-Ajang group has been involved in robberies and kidnappings. Its leader, Surakah Ingog, was killed by security forces in August 2018.

Both the Tanum and Ajang-Ajang groups have been active in criminal activities in the Jolo region, are violent, and include foreign fighters in their ranks.

January 2019 Jolo Bombings

A twin-bombing occurred on 27 January 2019 at a Catholic cathedral in Muslim-majority Jolo city, Sulu, during mass, killing 20 and injuring more than 80. Seven of those killed were members of the security forces. The high alert maintained by security forces prior to the attack, partly due to martial law imposed since May 2017, indicated that there was high expectation of a possible bombing, later confirmed by police reports.

The IS had claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that two suicide bombers undertook the mission of ‘martyrdom’. Initially, the Philippines police had claimed that closed-circuit television cameras showed images of Alias Kamah, the brother of Surakah Ingog, being at the church prior to the bombing even though this was challenged by others.

The latest claim by the authorities is that this was a suicide bombing conducted by an Indonesian couple. However, this has been disputed by the Indonesian government on the basis that there was no credible evidence backing the claim.

Probable Motivations and BOL

While the guessing game remains, there were always fears that ASG elements, especially the Ajang-Ajang faction, would undertake revenge killing, partly to retaliate against the death of Surakah Ingog. As the security forces have been hunting Ajang-Ajang elements, the attack could have been a retaliation against the security apparatus, and to avenge the large-scale deaths of ASG fighters at Marawi.

The Jolo attack could also be linked strategically to IS’ defiant response to its current predicament. Despite suffering serious setbacks in Iraq and Syria, IS has continued to claim that its fighters are active and on the offensive in the Philippines, as they are elsewhere in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and parts of Africa and the Middle East.

In this light, the Jolo attacks could well be a major surge by the ASG to signal that the group is alive and combat-active despite losing key leaders such as Isnilon Hapilon and Amin Baco as well as hundreds of fighters.

Finally, the key event that could have triggered the attack was the recent referendum in Muslim-majority Mindanao for greater self-rule and autonomy, known as the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL). Interestingly, the ASG and its breakaway factions have opposed the vote. In the self-rule vote, Sulu was the only province that voted against it by a margin of 54% to 46%. A successful vote for the BOL would have meant demobilisation of weapons and neutralisation of terror groups such as the ASG and its various sub-groups.

The Jolo attack could be to punish the Christians who were believed to have supported the peace deal, with the church violence being a targeted warning to others of what to expect if the peace deal is carried out. In short, the victory vote for self-rule could augur trouble and more attacks in future, especially if the MILF-led local government implements the deal in cooperation with Manila and the security forces.

Ramifications of Attack
While not all jihadi groups in southern Philippines are pro-IS, the continued military operations against all jihadi groups will provide IS with a much-needed theatre to operate in the region. This has added ramifications for the region given the connections between jihadists from Malaysia and Indonesia with terror groups in the Philippines, especially the ASG.

Whether any foreign fighters were involved remains to be confirmed but the professional use of IEDs, especially the two-phase attack in Jolo, may well signal foreign involvement in the attack. Despite their failure in Marawi, the overall mission of the jihadists has endured, possibly aided by skilled foreign fighters.

This is all the more plausible as the whereabouts of many Southeast Asian returnees remain unknown. Many could well infiltrate into southern Philippines to join existing terrorist groups, especially with pro-IS groups, to aggravate the security threat in the region.

[Syed Huzaifah Bin Othman Alkaff is an Associate Research Fellow with the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR), a constituent unit of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. Jasminder Singh is an alumnus of RSIS.]


Chinese Militia Aside, Philippines to Keep Building on Disputed Islet

From the Voice of America (Feb 18, 2019): Chinese Militia Aside, Philippines to Keep Building on Disputed Islet

FILE - Filipino soldiers stand at attention near a Philippine flag at Thitu island in disputed South China Sea, April 21, 2017

China and the Philippines became friends in 2016 after four years of struggling for control over a shoal where both sides fish. The friendship has held, but in December and January, China moved as many as 90 ships close to another islet they dispute to monitor Philippine construction of a beaching ramp.

The naval, coast guard and idle fishing vessels just watched, but Philippine officials know China has the more powerful military. Still, the Philippines is expected to keep building on the islet, called Thitu, without hurting relations with China.

"It will continue, but there seems to be no effort on the part of the Philippine government to try to at least say something or file a diplomatic protest regarding the number of boats that have responded to the development," said Maria Ela Atienza, a University of the Philippines political science professor.

China values its friendship with the Philippines to keep Manila's ally, Washington, out of the maritime dispute, scholars believe, so it moved ships near Thitu in a way that raises alarm without stopping island construction or causing other material setbacks.

Authority in the Spratly Islands
The 37-hectares (90 acres) belongs to a bigger sovereignty dispute over the South China Sea where it's located.

China claims about 90 percent of the 3.5 million-square-kilometer waterway, competing for sovereignty with five other governments, including the Philippines. Beijing has taken a lead militarily over the past decade to access the sea's fisheries, oil and gas.

Scarborough Shoal, over which the two countries sparred from 2012 to 2016 before making amends, is in the same sea.

On Thitu, one of nine Philippine-held islands in the sea's Spratly chain, the beaching ramp should be finished in early 2019, the Philippine defense secretary, Delfin Lorenzana, has said.

Resident housing, a fishing port, desalination plant, solar energy project and marine research facilities are eventually due on the islet with a population of about 100 people, the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, under the Center for Strategic & International Studies, a U.S. research group, said.

Chinese ships ranging from 30 to 70 meters in length arrived in December and January from Subi Reef, a Chinese-controlled feature about 22 kilometers (14 miles) away, the initiative said.

FILE - Philippine troops march as a Philippine Air Force C-130 transport plane carrying Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces Chief Gen. Eduardo Ano and other officials, sits on the tarmac at the Philippine-claimed Thitu Island.

Still friends, still building
The Philippine defense secretary said earlier this month construction will continue on Thitu Island. An official in the armed forces called the ships "no cause for worry," according to a Feb. 14 report by the domestic news website Inquirer.net. Manila did not formally protest to Beijing over the ship movement.

These reactions by Philippines officials will keep alive the friendship that President Rodrigo Duterte arranged in mid-2016, effectively letting island construction continue without incident, experts believe.

"I don't expect this to have a major impact on Sino-Philippine relations as long as the Chinese can refrain from violence, but it is a reminder of why the armed forces and defense bureaucracy in the Philippines have been unwilling to fully buy into Duterte's embrace of Beijing," maritime initiative director Gregory Poling said.

The lack of violence may even be remembered as a concession from China, said Alan Chong, associate professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

"It's probably a nicely shrouded provocation to the Philippines, but it cannot be drummed up any further, because there will be voices that point out it's a concession," Chong said. "China will continue its provocations. The fact that they haven't sent warships and aircraft means their provocations are reduced to a nonconfrontational level."

FILE - The Vietnamese-claimed Southwest Cay island in the Spratly island group is seen from a Philippine Air Force C-130 transport plane during the visit to the Philippine-claimed Thitu Island by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces Chief Gen.
More ship movement
China has sent its "militia" to "intimidate and harass" other maritime claimants before, Poling said. Hundreds of idle, pro-government Chinese fishing vessels operate near Subi Reef, he added.

Beijing and Manila have grown used to "cat-and-mouse" games in the Spratly Islands, said Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow with the Singapore Institute of International Affairs. Last year, someone from China planted the Chinese flag on a Sandy Cay, a Spratly feature normally under Philippine control.

Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also claim all or parts of the South China Sea. Another Chinese "paramilitary force" about the size of the one that visited Thitu Island backed up a Chinese oil firm that had parked a rig in waters contested by Vietnam in 2014, Poling said.

China will probably send more fleets near islands controlled by other countries once it buries a year-old trade dispute with the United States, which believes China should keep the sea open internationally, Oh said.

"I don't see China having major movements in the South China Sea over the next few — let's say months or so — and that's because they are focusing on these trade negotiations, and they would not like to get distracted. But after the trade negotiations are settled, we might see some major movements of China in the region," he said.

US Marine Commander stresses significance of US-Philippine alliance in Indo-Pacific

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 19, 2019): US Marine Commander stresses significance of US-Philippine alliance in Indo-Pacific

The Commander of the US Marine Forces Pacific’s (MARFORPAC), Lieutenant General Lewis A. Craparotta, visited the Philippines from February 16 to 18, highlighting the importance of the US-Philippine alliance to the Indo-Pacific region.

File photo of AFP Chief of staff and former Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen Benjamin Madrigal. (Keith Bacongco / FILE / MANILA BULLETIN)

During his visit, Craparotta met with Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Benjamin Madrigal Jr. and Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) Commandant General Alvin Parreño, where they discussed the U.S. Marine Corps-AFP partnership.

Craparotta then joined Parreño in delivering the opening remarks at the U.S. Marine Forces Pacific Marine-to-Marine Staff Talks, a bilateral exchange in which members of the U.S. and Philippine Marine Corps discuss opportunities to increase collaboration in the future.

“This Philippine Marine Corps-MARFORPAC Marine to Marine Staff Talks promotes cooperation and interoperability between our forces. As the warriors from the sea and the crisis response force, we the Marines have always been ready and responsive to address the defense and security challenges of the Pacific region,” Parreño said.

“These topics also strengthen the trust and confidence that we have and promotes mutual security interests as well as contributing to global and security, peace security and stability,” he added.

Craparotta also discussed specific lines of effort outlined by former AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. and Commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Admiral Philip S. Davidson, which will frame the U.S. and Philippine Marine Corps’ exercises and activities in the future.

“This week we are here to focus on training, readiness, [and] interoperability, not just for today and 2020, but really for the future,” Craparotta said.

“This is a long and lasting critical partnership for the region,” he added.

Craparotta’s visit to the Philippines, his first since taking command of MARFORPAC in August of 2018, reaffirmed the U.S. Marine Corps’ close ties with the PMC.


Chinese newspaper misquotes AFP chief on presence of militia in Spratlys

From the Philippine Star (Feb 18, 2019): Chinese newspaper misquotes AFP chief on presence of militia in Spratlys                          

Satellite imagery from Dec. 20, 2018 shows Chinese vessels near Pag-Asa Island in the West Philippine Sea.

In an attempt to downplay the presence of maritime militia in the South China Sea, a Chinese newspaper has wrongfully quoted Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr.

In an article published February 17, Chinese newspaper Global Times accused Washington-based think tank Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) of "misreading" satellite images of Pag-asa Island, one the largest features in the Spratly Islands.

Global Times claimed that Madrigal "has played down AMTI's report that Chinese vessels have been gathering near [Pag-asa Island], saying that no reports of increased number of Chinese vessels had been received."

What the AFP chief actually said was that there were no reports of Chinese ships interfering with the Philippine government's upgrade of the facilities on Pag-asa Island.

"We have not received any report that there are hampered activities there. But of course, we are continuously monitoring," Madrigal told reporters in a mix of Filipino and English last week.

Earlier this month, AMTI released a report showing that People's Liberation Army Navy, Chinese Coast Guard ships and fishing vessels have increased near Subi Reef, which is 12 nautical miles from Pag-asa Island.

The Philippine government is currently constructing a beaching ramp on the island, as well as repairing the island's dilapidated runway.

According to AMTI, fishing vessels deployed in the area appear to be part of Chinese maritime militia as they have no gear indicating fishing activity.

Satellite imagery dated January 11 showed that Chinese navy and coast guard ships were spotted near Pag-asa Island while there was no Philippine Navy vessel in sight.

"The drop in the number of government vessels, mirroring the reduction of the militia presence, suggests Chinese forces have settled into a pattern of monitoring and intimidation after their initial large deployment failed to convince Manila to halt construction," AMTI said.

Global Times, on the other hand, insisted that the Chinese vessels were not directly engaged on activities on Pag-asa Island as the island was not seen on satellite images released by the think tank.

The Chinese newspaper pointed out that the photos only show the lagoon around the island.

In downplaying the presence of maritime militia in Philippine waters, Global Times also accused Manila of illegally occupying Pag-asa Island, which is under the jurisdiction of the municipality of Kalayaan in Palawan.

"According to some common sense, vessels and airplanes sending supplies to Zhongye Dao (illegally occupied by the Philippines) depart from Palawan Island, which is located southeast of Zhongye Dao. Therefore, the Philippines' supply ships and planes commute in the east and south areas of Zhongye Dao," the report read. China refers to Pag-asa as "Zhongye Dao."

The Chinese newspaper also claimed that the AMTI report was only attempting to "make a fuss" by confusing Pag-asa Island with the lagoon around the island and reefs near it.

It also insisted that activities of Chinese ships in the area were within normal range and that fishing boats from the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia also operate in the area.

"Waters near Zhongye Qunjiao (Pag-asa Island and reefs) have long been Chinese fishermen's traditional tropical fishing grounds in the South China Sea," it said.

Following reports of presence of Chinese militia near the Spratlys, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier called on other claimants to respect Philippine sovereignty as the country repairs its facilities on Pag-asa Island.

"We expect other countries to respect Philippine sovereignty and to conduct themselves in a civilized manner befitting members of the global community," Lorenzana said in a statement.

Stressing that Pag-asa Island has been part of the Philippines since 1978, Lorenzana said improving the safety, welfare, livelihood and personal security of Filipinos on the island is part of the government's constitutional mandate.

"These planned modest improvements are basic but nonetheless highly essential in delivering social services to raise the standard of living and improve the quality of life of Filipino citizens on the island," the Defense chief said.


U.S.-Philippines ties: 2019 developments

From the Philippine Star (Feb 18, 2019): U.S.-Philippines ties: 2019 developments

Lt. Gen. Lewis Craparotta, commander of US Marine Forces Pacific's, conducts a three-day visit from February 16-18 to discuss the US Marine Corps' partnership with the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Craparotta met with Philippines military chief Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr. and Gen. Alvin Parreño, Marine Corps commandant, according to a US Embassy news release.

"As the warriors from the sea and the crisis response force, we the Marines have always been ready and responsive to address the defense and security challenges of the Pacific region," Parreño said in his opening remarks during the bilateral meeting over the weekend.

Craparotta, meanwhile, discussed efforts to frame the US and Philippines' Marine Corps' future activities.

"This week we are here to focus on training, readiness, [and] interoperability, not just for today and 2020, but really for the future," Craparotta said. "This is a long and lasting critical partnership for the region."

WESTMINCOM: Army troops take part in Rido settlement in Basilan

From the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) Website (Feb 19, 2019): Army troops take part in Rido settlement in Basilan

Through the efforts of the troops of the 18th Infantry Battalion led by Lieutenant Colonel Ivan San Jose and the local government of Albarka, the 21 years of conflict/rido between the residents of two (2) barangays of Kaulongan Island, namely, Look Visaya and Sangkahan; and three (3) coastal barangays, namely, Kujon Lennuh, Cambug, and Bucalao all in Albarka, Basilan has finally come to an end through a settlement held at the 18IB Headquarters in Barangay Bohe Pahu, Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan at 10:30 am today (February 19).

Said momentous event was witnessed by Colonel Fernando M. Reyeg, the commander of Joint Task Force Basilan.

In his message, Colonel Reyeg expressed his sincere gratitude and appreciation especially to those who were primarily involved in the conflict for allowing at their own freewill for peace to finally reign in their community.

He also thanked the leadership of 18IB, the local government of Albarka, and the members of the Basilan Ulama Supreme Counsil (BUSC) for making the said event possible.

The long standing conflict/rido in these barangays had severely crippled the economy, education, and the normal delivery of basic government services in the area.

“The rido settlement is tantamount to peace and development in the Municipality of Albarka,” said Lieutenant General Arnel B. Dela Vega, commander of the Western Mindanao Command.

“Rest assured that the Western Mindanao Command through the Joint Task Force Basilan will continue to fulfil its mission to secure and uphold peace and tranquility in the province of Basilan,” he added.


WESTMINCOM: Communist terrorist slain in MisOcc clash

From the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) Website (Feb 19, 2019): Communist terrorist slain in MisOcc clash

Acting on a report of the presence of armed elements that were recruiting the youth and extorting from the populace, troops of the 10th Infantry Battalion encountered undetermined number of Communist NPA Terrorists (CNT) in Barangay San Pedro, Aloran, Misamis Occidental at 9:40 am yesterday (February 18, 2019), which resulted to one enemy killed.

“The encounter was the result of the information received by our troops from a concerned civilian who reported the presence of an armed group in their community while we are conducting community security operations,” said Lieutenant Colonel John Andrada, Commanding Officer of the 10th Infantry Battalion.

Firefight lasted for 30 minutes after which the enemies scampered to different directions bringing with them their wounded members as manifested by the blood stains seen in the area.

While scouring the encounter site, troops recovered one AK 47 rifle, three magazines, and subversive documents with high intelligence value.

Colonel Bagnus Gaerlan, the 102nd Infantry Brigade Commander said, “We already identified their (CNT’s) lairs and they have no place to go. We call on those NPA terrorists to lay down their arms peacefully, be given proper medication and we ensure them that their rights will be respected.”

Brigadier General Roberto T. Ancan, Commander of the Joint Task Force ZamPeLan said that the Army together with the local government units, the civil society organizations, other stakeholders, and the peace-loving people of Misamis Occidental continue to send upon them (CNT) to listen to the call for peace of the people.

“Listen to the call of the people, lay down your arms, return to the folds of the law and avail the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP),” BGen Ancan added.

He also expressed his sympathy to the family and relatives of the NPA terrorist who was killed. “It is very tragic that he has taken arms against the people of Misamis Occidental when only through peace can development and social justice be achieved.”

Additional troops were deployed to run after the fleeing terrorists while members of the Philippine National Police Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) conducted investigation in the encounter site.

Troops of the 10IB are also in close communication with the barangay officials to ensure the safety and security of the residents in the area.

“I commend the troops of the 10th Infantry Division under the Joint Task Force ZamPeLan for their prompt response to the report,” said Lieutenant General Arnel B. Dela Vega, commander of the Western Mindanao Command.

“Rest assured that we will unceasingly conduct intensified operations against these menaces of society,” he added.


WESTMINCOM: JTF Central allays fear of conflict

From the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) Website (Feb 19, 2019): JTF Central allays fear of conflict

A peace dialogue was initiated by the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion and the 6th Civil Military Operation Battalion with Datu Item Ampatuan, 106th Base Commander of Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, at old Madrasah in Barangay Dimampao, Datu Abdullah Sangki, Maguindanao at 10am on February 18.

The peace dialogue was orchestrated after fake news and rumors came out that the military will attack the MILF community and cause massive evacuations in the area.

After knowing that fake news, Major General Cirilito Sobejana, the Joint Task Force Central Commander, immediately instructed Lieutenant Colonel Alvin Iyog, the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion Commanding Officer, and Major Aslim Ulangkaya, of the 6th CMO Battalion, to talk with the MILF ground commanders, the local community, and the religious leaders.

Major Jimmy Amoloy, the 2MechBn Executive Officer, and Major Ulangkaya engaged with Datu Item Ampatuan religiously to dispel the fear of the community.

“We have similar objectives, which is the peace and progress for our people”, said the emissaries of Major General Sobejana.

The community also agreed in the establishment of a military patrol base in the area as part of the community’s deterrence against any threat groups.

“We have a good package, one that we believe will create wide optimism, a prelude to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao”, said Commander Ampatuan.

Major General Sobejana also expressed his gratitude to the community of Datu Abdullah Sangki town for their cooperation to end the dialogue with a positive result.

“In war, we cannot get enough, but in talking, we can get more than we expect and we are here in full support and cooperation with all your noble intentions and undertakings,” added Major General Sobejana.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant General Arnel Dela Vega, the commander of the Western Mindanao Command, said: “Peace is best achieved by cultivating harmony and understanding. That is why we try to include everyone and push for peaceful engagements with those who are at stake.”


EASTMINCOM: Troops foil NPA sabotage

From the Eastern Mindanao Command (EASTMINCOM) Website (Feb 19, 2019): Troops foil NPA sabotage
NSFA, Panacan, Davao City - Patroling Civilian Active Auxiliary (CAA) and troops from 27th Infantry Battalion (IB) foiled a possible NPA sabotage after they encountered the terrorist group on February 18, 2019, at 8 o' clock in the evening at Sitio Lamfinik, Brgy. Lamfugon, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato.

In a report made by Col. Adonis Bajao, Commander of 1002nd Infantry Brigade, the troops were securing an ongoing road construction project in the area when they received information on the presence of NPAs planning to burned heavy equipment that was being used in the project.

Accordingly, the NPAs numbering to about seven scampered to different direction after a 20-minute skirmish. There was no reported casualty on both sides in the said skirmish.

Meanwhile, MGen. Felimon T. Santos Jr., Commander of Eastern Mindanao Command committed the full support of the military in the security of government flagship program in Eastern Mindanao.

"Our security and military operations are committed to establishing a psychologically secured environment which allows the implementation of government projects in the hinterlands that will benefit our marginal and isolated communities," MGen. Santos said.

Currently, the 10th Infantry Division under MGen. Jose Faustino Jr., in coordination with the different Government Agencies, is implementing a Critical Infrastructure Protection and Security Operations (CIPSO) to secure and protect government projects and in support of the "Build Build Build" Program of the government in Regions 12 and 13.
Source:  Public Information Office, Eastern Mindanao Command

Former NPA fighters get assistance

From the Visayan Daily Star (Feb 19, 2019): Former NPA fighters get assistance

The 11 former New People’s Army red fighters in Negros , who surrendered last year to the Philippine Army, are receiving P21,000 each, in line with the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration (E-CLIP) Program package of the Department of Interior and Local Government for former rebels.

The P231,000 “Reintegration Assistance” to former rebels, who surrendered to the 62nd Infantry Battalion and 3rd Civil Military Operations Battalion, was turned over yesterday by DILG provincial officer Carmelo Orbista to Col. Benedict Arevalo, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander.

Aside from the initial financial assistance, Arevalo said that former rebels are also entitled to receive P50,000 livelihood assistance from the government, through the E-CLIP.

On top of that, former rebels who surrender firearms will also receive a renumeration, that will depend on the guns surrendered, the amount of which will not be less than P50,000, he added.

“This shows the sincerity of the government to accept rebel returnees, who are willing to go back to the folds of the law”, Arevalo said.

Of the 11 former rebels, seven surrendered to the 62IB and 4 to the 3CMOBn, military records show.

The DILG is encouraging local chief executives to support the entry into mainstream society of former communist rebels through E-CLIP of the interagency Task Force Balik-Loob.

The expanded benefit package for communist rebel surrenderers of the E-CLIP, includes enrolment in the DepEd’s Alternative Learning System and issuance of certification of completion of elementary or high school education. Their spouses or children can also get matriculation and stipend for college education.

 Former rebels also get livelihood materials or employment assistance through referral to government agencies or private companies as well as housing assistance or housing units from the National Housing Authority.

 E-CLIP beneficiaries also get a monthly modified conditional cash transfer from the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps); livelihood materials or employment assistance; and free legal assistance through the Department of Justice - Public Attorney's Office, among other benefits.


‘More than 30 officials supporting NPA’

From the Visayan Daily Star (Feb 19, 2019): ‘More than 30 officials supporting NPA’

More than 30 incumbent local government officials in Negros Occidental were reported yesterday by the Philippine Army to have been supporting the New People’s Army.

Col. Benedict Arevalo, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, said yesterday that local government officials are giving financial and logistical support to the NPA, who, in return, avail of their services, as private armed goons, during and even before elections.

Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. said local officials should know that they should not support the NPA because they are against the government. Those who support the NPA are also against the government, he said.

The NPA supporters, whom Arevalo did not identify, include mayors, vice mayors, while majority of them are councilors.

Arevalo said exposing those who are supporting the NPA, is not meant to judge them. “We would like to remind them not to support the CPP-NPA,” he added, stressing that the rebel group has already been categorized by the European Union (EU), as a terrorist organization.

“If our reports (against them) are strong enough, we will forward them to the Department of Interior and Local Government for investigation”, he added.

Arevalo also reminded local government officials of a memorandum circular that prohibits local government officials from supporting the NPA. Although the intelligence reports are already verified, he admitted that they will not hold water legally.

“Since there are technicalities and legalities involved, we are also very careful not to implicate unnecessarily those politicians,” Arevalo further said.

DILG Secretary Eduardo Año had earlier issued a warning to all governors, mayors and candidates about directly or indirectly giving material and political support to the communist rebels.

Section 4 of the Republic Act (RA) No. 10168 otherwise known as "The Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012,” states that those found guilty shall suffer the penalty of reclusion temporal in its maximum period, to reclusion perpetua and a fine of not less than P500,000 nor more than P1-million.


Continue working for the country and the people, PMA alumni urged

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 19, 2019): Continue working for the country and the people, PMA alumni urged

PMA Cadets carry the Philippine and the Academy flags for the opening ceremony of the 2019 Philippine Military Academy Alumni Homecoming at Fort Gregorio H. Del Pilar on February 16. (CCD/PIA CAR)

BAGUIO CITY - - Continue making national interest a priority to ensure a better Philippines for the younger generations.

Philippine Military Academy Superintendent LtGen. Ronnie Evangelista made this call to his fellow Cavaliers during the PMA Homecoming at Fort Gregorio H. Del Pilar here over the weekend. (Feb. 16)

Evangelista outlined the significant role that PMAers can play in nation building, be it in the active service or in retirement, because as PMA graduates their sense of loyalty, exceptional leadership, unwavering character, wisdom and integrity set them above the normal standards.

“PMAers are everywhere, in the uniformed service, in the private sector and in government agencies. We may be a minority in the community but we can influence in making things happen as most of us are in the decision making level,” he said.

“All of us in our personal capacity, let us put our personal interest in the backseat and make national interest a priority. I know we can do this. Let us put our efforts together. Let us connive and coordinate. Remember the Academy, it is where we draw our strength it is where we forge our tri – honor virtues of courage, integrity and loyalty,” Evangelista added.

2019 PMA Alumni Homecoming Guest of Honor DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu delivers his keynote message. A member of PMA Class 1970, Cimatu is the most senior among the 10 cavaliers serving in the cabinet of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. (CCD/PIA CAR)

PMA Alumni Homecoming 2019 guest of honor, DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu (PMA Class 1970), in his keynote message, also talked about plebe hood and political will, a trait of character that is important to truly serve the interest of the people and in helping the President in his quest for a better Philippines.

“A non – politician like me will define political will as a determined resolve to accomplish something no matter how difficult and regardless of obstacles,” Cimatu stressed.

“Having undergone plebe hood and the fourth - class system (inside PMA), I can categorically say that if one passed plebehood, one had acquired a character impute with a strong will, political will, if you may, a will that does not wilt under pressure,” he added.

Cimatu shared that as DENR Secretary, he accepted the President’s directive to lead the rehabilitation of Boracay knowing the difficulty and magnitude the order entails. The operation was successful and he is now taking the cudgels of cleaning - up the historic Manila Bay.

“I just did what I had to do. After all, as a trained soldier I have never backed down from a challenge,” he said.

Cimatu also acknowledged his fellow cavaliers in the Cabinet, “I am more than certain that all of them possess the political will to deliver what is required of their jobs in support of the President’s quest for a better Philippines.” There are about 10 PMAers who are current Cabinet members.

Around 2,000 cavaliers attended the 2019 PMA Alumni Homecoming with Cavalier Delfin Castro of Class 51 as the oldest at 93 years old and Cav. Angelika Fernandez of Class 2019 as the youngest at 21.


Andanar: PCOO officials sent to Europe, part of NTF to End Communist Armed Conflict

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 19, 2019): Andanar: PCOO officials sent to Europe, part of NTF to End Communist Armed Conflict

Communications Secretary Jose Ruperto Martin M. Andanar stressed that officials of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) sent to Europe are part of the government's official delegation to clarify the issue on "involuntary disappearances," anti-communist terrorist groups, among others.

In a statement issued Monday (Feb. 18), he clarified, PCOO, being a committee member of the National Task Force (NTF) to End Communist Armed Conflict pursuant to Executive Order 70, provides communications support in terms of messaging and content to the anti-Communist Terrorist Groups efforts.

“The engagement of PCOO in the NTF alongside relevant agencies of gov’t in the security cluster is necessary in the adoption of a National peace framework as directed by the President by putting together the context, messaging and communication plan for the whole-of-nation approach to be executed by the NTF,” Andanar, in his statement said.

To maximize the official trip, the PCOO delegation found it an opportune time to bring the Press Freedom Caravan in Brussels and Geneva.

“The Communications Department has been holding Press Freedom caravans locally and internationally to bring government closer to Filipinos even those in the international community,” Andanar said.

The first caravan in a foreign country was conducted in Bangkok, Thailand last January 2019.

Andanar said the caravan is a side event in-between official meetings with officials from the EU Parliament, Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID), European Commission, and leaders of the Filipino community.

The Secretary also clarified a radio interview regarding the arrest of Maria Ressa, the chief executive officer of Rappler, that was taken out of context.

“My radio interview was taken out of context. I only used Ressa’s case as an example of what might be raised in the caravan; We didn’t know much about the Ressa case when we prepared for this trip,” the Secretary said.

He clarified that the arrest of Ressa happened two days after the official delegation left for Europe.

“Nobody from the delegation was aware it was coming. In any case, it is just natural for me to instruct the PCOO officials in Europe to answer possible queries about Ms. Ressa,” Andanar said.

He assured the public that no public funds are wasted in the official mission which came about from a directive from the National Security Council.

“All engagements in Bosnia, Brussels and Geneva are all part of PCOO mandate to deliver and disseminate information relation to policies, programs, and achievements of the President and Executive Branch,” he assured.

He bared that the PCOO may also set up and maintain local and international field offices to ensure that accurate information from the President and the Executive Branch is promptly and efficiently relayed.


Don’t support CPP-NPA, Army tells NegOcc officials

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 19, 2019): Don’t support CPP-NPA, Army tells NegOcc officials

The Philippine Army urged local government officials in Negros Occidental not to support the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), which has been tagged a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union.

Col. Benedict Arevalo, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade based in Murcia, Negros Occidental, made the call on Monday after he disclosed that more than 30 incumbent elected officials in the province have been providing support to the NPA.

He did not identify these officials, but Arevalo said they include mayors, vice mayors and councilors.

The Army official said these officials provide financial and logistical support to the communist rebels, who then act as armed group for them, especially during elections.

“We remind them not to support the CPP-NPA,” Arevalo said.

Any individual or organization found to be providing any form of assistance to the CPP-NPA or their affiliated organizations could be sanctioned not only under Philippine laws, but also by countries that consider the communist guerillas as terrorists.

Earlier, Armed Forces of the Philippines public affairs office chief, Col. Noel Detoyato, said that once the Department of Justice officially declares the CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization, the military can go after the rebel group’s supporters and financiers.

“It will come as a huge aid to us, we can have the support of the international community in cutting off any forms of help that the terror group receives,” Detoyato said.


'NPA members' gun down ex-village peacekeeper in NegOr

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 19, 2019): 'NPA members' gun down ex-village peacekeeper in NegOr

A former member of the Barangay Intelligence Network (BIN) was shot dead by around 40 suspected members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) in the municipality of Bindoy in Negros Oriental.

The victim was identified as Reynaldo Jimenez Loqueloque, 43, married, and a resident of Sitio Abaka in Barangay Nalundan, Bindoy. He was watching television around 7:45 p.m. when the suspects allegedly forced their way in, pulled him outside and shot him on the head.

Loqueloque died on the spot, a police report from the Negros Oriental Provincial Police Office (NOPPO) said.

The Bindoy police received the information on the ex-BIN member’s death around 6 a.m. Tuesday through his son, Reynel C. Loqueloque.

The younger Loqueloque told the police that the suspects who shot his father shouted, “Mabuhay ang kilusan”! (long live the movement) and introduced themselves as members of the CPP-NPA.

The suspects also left a red flag with the logo of the NPA at the crime scene.

The police are still digging deeper into the possible motive of the shooting.


4 suspects in MILF exec killing nabbed in NoCot

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 19, 2019): 4 suspects in MILF exec killing nabbed in NoCot

AMBUSH SUSPECTS. Mugshots of the four suspects in connection with the ambush-slay of June Pananggulon, chief of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front 108th Base Command, and wounding of his companion, in Barangay Gaunan, M’lang, North Cotabato, on Sunday (Feb. 17). (Photo courtesy of PRO-12)

COTABATO CITY – Joint police and military operatives arrested on Monday four suspects in the recent killing of a Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) official and the wounding of his companion in the North Cotabato town of M’lang.

Police identified the suspects as Junior Akmad Abdul, 26; Phonnex Bitol Anog, 42; Nindie Sinumalong Dengkang, 26; and Tengan Tantong Anog, 42. They were arrested in Barangay Gaunan, M’lang, where they reside.

In a report on Tuesday, Chief Supt. Eliseo Tam Rasco, the director of Police Regional Office 12 (Soccsksargen), said that the suspects were simultaneously arrested at 5:30 p.m. Monday at their respective homes in the village.

“They were caught flat-footed by the arresting team,” Rasco said.

Seized from the suspects were one Carbine rifle, one M14 rifle, one M16 rifle, assorted ammunition and magazine, and an unregistered Kawasaki Bajaj motorcycle.

Rasco said the suspects were arrested following the ambush-slay of June Pananggulon, chief of the 7th Brigade-MILF 108th Base Command, and the wounding of his companion, identified as Toto Mangulayan, on Sunday afternoon.

The victims were onboard a motorbike when waylaid around 4 p.m. near the banana farm of Pananggulon in Barangay Gaunan.

A pursuit operation was immediately launched by joint elements of the M’lang police, the North Cotabato Provincial Public Safety Mobile Force Company, and the Army’s 7th Infantry Battalion following the incident.

Supt. Giovanni Ladeo, M’lang town police chief, said the four suspects, believed to be members of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), had a heated argument with Pananggulon before the shooting.

Senior Supt. Maximo Layugan, provincial police director, said the shooting was triggered by a long-standing family feud involving Pananggulon and the perpetrators.


2 NPA rebs killed in Bukidnon, Misamis Occidental

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 19): 2 NPA rebs killed in Bukidnon, Misamis Occidental

Two members of the New People's Army (NPA) were killed in separate clashes in Misamis Occidental and Bukidnon provinces on Monday, military officials said.

Lt. Colonel John Andrada, commander of the Army's 10th Infantry Battalion (10IB), said the encounter in the Misamis Occidental town of Aloran occurred after the troops received information from "concerned civilians" of the NPA's presence in Barangay San Pedro, around 9:40 a.m.

"These armed men were trying to recruit the youth to join their movement and to extort the populace according to the civilians," Andrada said.

Col. Bagnus Gaerlan, commander of the Army's 102nd Infantry Brigade, called on the rebels "to lay down their arms peacefully, be given proper medication and we ensure them that their rights will be respected".

Brig. Gen. Roberto Ancan, commander of the Army's 1st Infantry Division, expressed sympathy to the family and relatives of the dead NPA combatant.

In Bukidnon, the Army's 1st Special Forces Battalion said a rebel was killed during a pursuit operation launched after the NPA attacked an Army detachment in Malaybalay City on February 14.

Four NPA communist terrorists were also killed during the February 14 attack.

Col. Edgardo de Leon, commander of the Army's 403 Brigade, said the Special Forces managed to track down the fleeing insurgents in Lantapan town, Bukidnon, after being tipped off by civilians.

Brigadier General Franco Nemesio Gacal, commander of Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID), vowed that government troops will continue to "defend the people and communities from the NPA at all cost".

The NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, is listed as a terrorist organization by the European Union and the United States.


Suspected activist leader in Pangasinan shot dead

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 19): Suspected activist leader in Pangasinan shot dead

An activist leader allegedly affiliated with Anakpawis party-list was shot dead here Monday evening.

Supt. Marceliano Desamito Jr., chief of the Bayambang Police Station, said the victim, Roberto ‘Ka Bobby’ Mejia, was riding his tricycle after selling his farm produce at the Bayambang Public Market, when killed by still unidentified men.

“The victim suffered four gunshot wounds in different parts of his body. He was rushed to the hospital, but he was declared dead on arrival,” Desamito said in an interview Tuesday.

His companion, Miguelito Mejia, was unharmed, he added.

Mejia is the leader of Ulopan na Umbaley ed Camp Gregg Military Reservation, an affiliate of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Pangasinan chapter in this town.

Reports from the victim’s colleagues say that ‘Ka Bobby’, as he was fondly called, was one of the leaders, who actively participated in the six-hectare ‘bungkalan’ campaign in Barangay Sancagulis here subjected to land grabbing, Desamito added.

The Bayambang police is still conducting a thorough investigation on the incident.

KMP-Pangasinan and the local chapter of Anakpawis condemned the killing and demanded justice for Mejia.


Reds responsible for death of UPLB stude in Laguna clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 19): Reds responsible for death of UPLB stude in Laguna clash

An official of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said the New People's Army (NPA) is responsible for the death of a University of the Philippines-Los Baños student in last week's clash in Laguna province.

"The UPLB student is a victim of the CPP-NPA-NDF's (Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA-National Democratic Front) continuous deceit and brain-washing of the vulnerable youth," AFP public affairs office chief Col. Noel Detoyato said Monday.

The UPLB veterinary student was reportedly recruited by the NPA earlier this year and was killed in an encounter with Army troops last February 14.

"They are recruited, taught to wield arms, and eventually meet their untimely and unfortunate death fighting government security forces. The hands of these communist terrorists are stained with the blood of misled youths who could have been productive citizens that support the government’s peace and development initiatives," he added.

Detoyato earlier said that such action by the NPA, a listed terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, should be condemned.

"The schools are supposed to be places where patriotism, discipline and nation-building are being inculcated to our children but the CPP-NPA-NDF (are) exploit(ing) these places," he said.


AFP welcomes expanded training with PNP to neutralize threats

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 19): AFP welcomes expanded training with PNP to neutralize threats

Cross-training between elite police and military units will result in the neutralization of threat groups in the country, an official of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said on Monday.

The AFP issued the comment in the wake of reports that the Philippine National Police (PNP) plans to expand the cross-training of its elite units with the Philippine Army to improve their capability in internal security operations (ISO).

"The AFP and PNP have always been working hand-in-hand in terms of implementing internal security operations in the country," said Col. Noel Detoyato, AFP Public Affairs Office chief, in a message to the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

Aside from giving the PNP greater inter-operability with the military in running after communist rebels and terror groups, it also beefs up the intelligence networks of the AFP and PNP, Detoyato said.

"The AFP and PNP’s strengthened ISO efforts have and will continue to benefit both forces in terms of neutralizing more threat group members, encouraging more surrenders, and strengthening the security forces’ intelligence network," he added.

Army upgrades EOD units equipment

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 19): Army upgrades EOD units equipment

Explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) units of the Philippine Army (PA) are constantly upgrading their equipment to improve their capability, an official said Tuesday.

"Currently (the EOD units are) a fresh setup. Though the effort continues on aspect of upgrading its equipment," said Lt. Col. Louie Villanueva, Army spokesperson, in a message to the Philippine News Agency (PNA) when asked if there are plans to beef up its EOD units.

Each EOD company is composed of 50 personnel and are equipped with bomb suits, hooks, and lines, among others.

These units were formed to counter and neutralize threats posed by the continued usage of landmines and similar weapons by the New People's Army (NPA), the PA spokesperson earlier said.

Villanueva said these EOD units are usually deployed via detachments to each infantry divisions to defuse landmines.

The PA is composed of 11 infantry divisions, one mechanized infantry division and one artillery regiment.

A division is composed of between 6,000 to 10,000 officers and enlisted personnel.

"Currently, we have three EOD companies deployed in three main geographical areas (Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao) supporting Army combat units," Villanueva said.


AFP, DND hail SC ruling on martial law extension

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 19): AFP, DND hail SC ruling on martial law extension

Defense and military officials on Tuesday lauded the decision of the Supreme Court (SC) which upheld the constitutionality of President Rodrigo Duterte's extension of martial law in Mindanao until December 31 this year.

"The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as an institution constitutionally mandated to protect the people and secure the state is elated that the Supreme Court, with the Associate Justices voting 9-4, upheld the constitutionality of the President’s extension of Martial Law (ML) in Mindanao until 31 December 2019," AFP spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, said in a message to reporters Tuesday.

He added that the military is also pleased to note that Congress, in a joint session in December 2018, voted 235-28-1 granting the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao.

"These are affirmations of two things: first, of the existence of serious threats that attempt to rise publicly and take arms against Government to remove from the allegiance of government and its laws territory of the Philippines or any part thereof and deprive the President any of his powers or prerogatives; and second, of the AFP’s unwavering commitment to suppress and defeat all such threats," Arevalo said.

He added that the AFP leadership under Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, Jr. vows that every soldier, airman, sailor, and marine shall lawfully and conscientiously enforce martial law to crush all threats --especially local and international terrorists groups and their supporters —that are determined to dismember the country and undermine the integrity of its territory by establishing a “wilayat”or ISIS province in Mindanao.

"General Madrigal, Jr. thanks the Supreme Court, Congress, and the people for their trust and confidence on their AFP. He calls on fellow Filipinos to take security a personal commitment for the safety not only of each other but of their families as well," Arevalo said.

Meanwhile, the Department of National Defense (DND) also lauded the SC's decision upholding the constitutionality of the martial Law extension in Mindanao.

"The public can rest assured that our brave Defenders will remain steadfast in their duties to safeguard our communities from the threat of rebellion, terrorism, and violent extremism, and ensure that the implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) will remain unhampered and protected from possible peace spoilers," DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in a statement forwarded to reporters.

As this develops, DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana also expressed his gratitude to the SC for agreeing with their position and said that this will greatly help in ongoing anti-terror efforts.

"I thank the SC for agreeing with us. This has and will continue to greatly help our counter-terrorism and fight against rebellious forces in Mindanao," he added.

Congress, in a joint session December 12, has 235 in favor, 28 against, and one abstention during its voting to approve the extension of martial law in Mindanao until Dec. 31, 2019.

The AFP recommended another year-long extension of martial law in the island in a bid to totally neutralize terror groups still operating in Mindanao.

Martial law in Mindanao was declared on May 23, 2017 following attacks launched by the Maute Group in Marawi City.

The House of Representatives, in a special joint session in July last year, granted the extension of martial law until December 31, 2017 at the President's request.

The Senate and House of Representatives, convening in a joint session early December, granted the Chief Executive's request for the extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus for a period of one year from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2018.


CPP/NPA-Central Negros: Militarisasyon sa Central Negros, Lumalaganap

NPA-North Central Mindanao propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Website (Feb 18): Militarisasyon sa Central Negros, Lumalaganap

JB Regalado
NPA-Central Negros (Leonardo Panaligan Command)
New People's Army
February 18, 2019

Sinakop ng operasyon militar ng mga tropa ng 94th IBPA at 62nd IB apat na araw ngayon mula pebrero 14 ang mga baranggay sakop ng Magallon at Guihulngan City.

Pebrero 17, 2019 nagkampo ang mga nasabing tropa sa paaralang
elementarya, sa tabuan (pamilihan ng mga residente sa lugar), ng Sityo Agogolo, gayundin sa So. Baryo-daan kapwa sakop ng Brgy. Montilla. Hanggang sa kasalukuyan napanatili parin ang mga presensya ng militar sa mga Baranggay ng Macagahay na nananatili sa Brgy. Hall. Habang may nagkakampo rin sa kabahayan sa So. Enarawes, So. Kansemba, So. Tibobong
kapwa sakop ng Brgy. Quinten Remo, Magallon, Negros Occidental. May naiulat ring mga presensya ng militar sa Brgy. Sandayao, Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental.

Kinokondena ng mga residente ang lumalaganap na militarisasyon dahil nagdulot ito ng pangamba, pinsala sa kanilang kabuhayan sa pagsasaka dahil sa takot, pag-aaral ng mga kabataan, at mapayapang pamumuhay ng mga residente sa kani-kanilang lugar.
Pinapanawagan na pagtibayin ang nagkakaisang hanay at labanan ang tiraniya at pasistang pang-aatake ng rehimeng US-DUTERTE.

Biguin ang Oplan Kapayapaan at patalisikin ang militaristang pangulo na si Duterte.

Antabayanan ang mga updates sa mga kaganapan.