Wednesday, February 20, 2019

NPA frees captured government troops to Bong Go, Baste Duterte

From the pro-Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) online publication the Davao Today (Feb 20, 2019): NPA frees captured government troops to Bong Go, Baste Duterte

Private First Class Darlino Alipayo Cariño Jr. and Cpl. Eric Bulado Manangan of the Army’s 3rd Special Forces Battalion and six members of the Civilian Active Auxiliary (CAA) sign the release papers during the turn-over ceremony on Tuesday, February 19, at Barangay San Juan, Bayugan City. (Mara S. Genotiva/

AGUSAN DEL SUR, Philippines – Communist rebels turned over two soldiers and six militiamen taken as captives for months to former Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go and Presidential son Sebastian “Baste” Duterte in a formal ceremony held the hinterlands of Barangay San Juan, Bayugan City, Agusan del Sur on Tuesday morning, February 19.

The New People’s Army (NPA) freed Private First Class Darlino Alipayo Cariño Jr. and Cpl. Eric Bulado Manangan of the Army’s 3rd Special Forces Battalion and six members of the Civilian Active Auxiliary (CAA).

The eight were held as prisoners of war (POWs) after the NPAs launched a surprise attack on a military detachment in Barangay New Tubigon, Sibagat, Agusan del Sur last December 19.

The six militiamen were identified as Jemuel Bocales Acibido, Rolando Bad-i Quiao, Jan-jan Malubay Iligan, Gabriel Cedo Iligan, James Jimpayan Iligan, and Abel Gano Iligan.

Go told reporters that a friend of Sebastian who happened to be PFC Cariño’s cousin asked for help to facilitate the release of the captive troops.

Both Go and Sebastian expressed their gratitude to the rebels during the ceremony for their lenient treatment to the prisoners.

“Malaki ang tiwala namin ni Presidente Duterte na hindi niyo sila sasaktan. Talaga naman noon po ay tinuturn-over sa amin na walang sakit at hindi niyo sinasaktan. Ilang beses na ito nangyari noon. Kahit ‘yung pinakahuling sentimo sa loob ng pitaka ninyo [prisoners] ay talagang binabalik ninyo [NPA],” said Go in his speech during the ceremony.

Aside from Go and Sebastian, the freed government troopers were also received by officials of the local government unit of Agusan del Sur headed by Governor Adolph Edward Plaza and church leaders who acted as third-party facilitators led by Sr. Emma Tersita E. Cupin.

The NPAs also released the other six militiamen last week in the same village.

READ: NPA frees 6 militiamen in Agusan Sur

Two more soldiers, First Special Force Battalion (FSFB) Bernabe Salanay and CAA AJ Rigenal Kiem, were freed by the NPA on Monday, February 18 in the mountainous parts of Barangay Tagbongbong, Remedios T. Romualdez town in Agusan Del Norte.

A total of 16 troops were already released safely by the NPAs in Agusan province, the most number of captives held by the rebels in a series of attacks within a month last year.

NPA’s head of the custodial unit, Ka Arina Magdiwang told reporters that the release is in response to the appeals various parties and individuals “who expressed support for a negotiated settlement on the issue of prisoners of war.”

Magdiwang added that their release is in compliance with the peace accords and international humanitarian laws.

A physician attended the prisoners prior to their release and stated that they are in good health.

The released troops expressed gratitude to their captors for the lenient treatment they received while being held POWs.

“Nagapsalamat mi sa NPA sa pag atiman sa amoa sa bukid, bisan gamay wala mi pasakiti. Salamat kaayo sa tanang mga kauban,” said Janjan Iligan.

“Salamat kay wala jud mi pasakiti, bisan kusi wala,” Jemuel Acibido added.

Ka Maria Malaya, spokesperson of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines-North Eastern Mindanao (NDFP-NEM), in a written statement read during the ceremony, stated that the release of Agusan 16 POWs “is a concrete measure of goodwill” on the part of the NDFP in support of the reopening of the formal peace talks.

The formal peace talk was stalled after President Rodrigo Duterte declared Proclamation No. 360 in November 2017.

60 local communists, supporters surrender in Capiz

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 20): 60 local communists, supporters surrender in Capiz

About 60 so-called militia ng bayan and mass base supporters of the New People’s Army (NPA) voluntarily surrendered to the Army’s Community Support Teams in Capiz, the military said Wednesday.


They took their oath of allegiance to the government after deciding to renounce and withdraw their support from the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA following their surrender last February 15 and 16.

Thirty seven of the surrenderees are militia ng bayan members and 23 are mass base supporters residing in Barangays Carataya, San Antonio, and Mahunod-Hunod all in Cuartero town, Capiz. The three barangays are known influenced areas of the local communist group.

The Army’s 61st Infantry Battalion Community Support Program (CSP) Teams facilitated the surrender ceremony, and witnessed by Colonel Orlando Edralin, deputy commander of the 301st Infantry (Bayanihan) Brigade; and members of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Lieutenant Colonel Sisenando A. Magbalot Jr., commanding officer of 61st IB, lauded the 60 surrenderees for their courage in standing-up against the communist group.

“The surrender of communist mass base supporters is a clear indication that these people are fed up with the atrocities and ruthlessness of the group, which has been victimizing their families, relatives and friends,” he said.

Earlier, Colonel Alberto O. Desoyo, commander of the 301st Infantry Brigade, said that since last year, 70 surrenderees have already availed themselves of the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) in Panay Island alone.

“The Army, in partnership with various government agencies, actively promotes the benefits of the E-CLIP to persuade more NPA members to renounce violence and return to the peaceful confines of mainstream society,” Desoyo said.

Maj. Gen. Dinoh Dolina, commander of the 3rd Infantry (Spearhead) Division, said they see the continued weakening of the local communist group’s strength and will to pursue armed struggle with the surrender of their mass base supporters,

Dolina called on the remaining militia ng bayan and supporters to withdraw their support and abandon these communist terrorists who only feed them with nothing but misery and poverty.

Military links CPP-NPA to recent Negros killings

From GMA News (Feb 21, 2019): Military links CPP-NPA to recent Negros killings

The military on Thursday linked the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), to the recent killing of two people in Negros Oriental.

The Army's 3rd Infantry Division identified the victims as Jonybert Sabeco, a former member of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army (RPA), and Reynaldo Loque-Loque, a civilian.

"[The killing] is a very serious human rights matter wherein CPP-NPA Terrorist boastfully claiming the responsibility of killing civilians," said 3rd ID commander Major General Dinoh Dolina in a statement.

"It is a clear violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) on which the CPP-NPA-NDF is one of the signatories," he added.

The military said unidentified members of CPP-NPA "brutally killed" 40-year-old Sabeco on Tuesday and shot 30-year-old Loque-Loque on Monday outside his house in Barangay Nalundan in Bindoy.

Dolina said the killings contradict the statements of the CPP-NPA and its support groups that they are freedom fighters and human rights defenders.

"These are deceptive slogans designed to mislead the people," Dolina said. "The truth here is they don't value human rights and human life. They are the true murderers and human rights violators."

The also linked the CPP-NPA to the murder of a village watchman who was killed in front of his daughter in Barangay Carol-an, Kabankalan City.

NPA rebel arrested in Bulacan

From the Philippine Star (Feb 21, 2019): NPA rebel arrested in Bulacan

A New People’s Army rebel, who is facing murder and frustrated murder charges, was arrested in Norzagaray, Bulacan yesterday.

The military witheld the identity of the rebel, who has standing warrants of arrest issued in 2011. The suspect was collared in Barangay Bigte at around 10:30 a.m.

Personnel of the 7th and 9th Infantry Divisions (IDs), Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and Bulacan police launched the operation based on tips by villagers.

Brig. Gen. Lenard Agustin, 7th ID acting commander, said they would continue to hunt down rebels with pending warrants even as he urged them to surrender to authorities.

Rebels surrender in Iloilo, Lanao Sur

From the Philippine Star (Feb 21, 2019): Rebels surrender in Iloilo, Lanao Sur

The New People’s Army (NPA) suffered another blow after 37 members of the Militia ng Bayan and 23 supporters abandoned the rebel group.

They surrendered on Feb. 15 and 16 to the Army’s Community Support teams.

According to 1Lt. Hazel Joy Durotan, spokesperson for the Armys 61st Infantry Battalion (IB), those who surrendered are residents of Barangays Carataya, San Antonio and Mahunod-Hunod in Cuartero, Capiz – considered to be insurgency-influenced barangays.

“They took their oath of allegiance to the government after they decided to renounce and withdraw their support from the NPA,” Durotan said.

Meanwhile, a sub-leader of the Islamic State-inspired Maute group surrendered to the military on Tuesday in Lanao del Sur, according to security officials.

Troops foil NPA from burning heavy equipment

From the Manila Standard (Feb 19, 2019): Troops foil NPA from burning heavy equipment

Army troops foiled an attempt by New People’s Army terrorists to burn down heavy equipment being used in a road construction project following a clash in South Cotabato Tuesday evening even as an NPA rebel was killed in a separate skirmish in Misamis Occidental Monday.

Lt. Col. Ezra Balagtey, Information Officer of the Eastern Mindanao Command said the plan by the NPA to set fire to a heavy equipment was aborted after they were intercepted by soldiers from the 27th Infantry Battalion in Sitio Lamfinik, Brgy Lamfugon, Lake Sebu town at about 8 p.m.

Balagtey said troops under Col. Adonis Bajao, commander of the 1002nd Infantry Brigade were securing an ongoing road construction project at the said area when they spotted about seven NPA rebels acting suspiciously.

A 20-minute gun battle erupted after which the NPA team scampered to different direction.  The brief clash did not inflict any casualty on both sides.

On Feb. 14, an NPA rebel band torched four heavy construction equipment—three backhoes and a bulldozer being used in a road widening project at Kaliwa Dam in Infanta, Quezon.

After the burning, the NPAs fled towards the boundaries of Laguna and Quezon but were intercepted by pursuing army troopers from the 1st Infantry Battalion, sparking a firefight which killed a rebel who turned out to be an undergraduate student of veterinary Medicine at the University of the Philippines Los Baños identified as John Carlo Capistrano Alberto.

Major. Gen. Felimon Santos Jr., commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command which has jurisdiction in South Cotabato said his troops are committed to guard government flagship program in his turf.
“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,” Santos said.

In Misamis Occidental, a NPA rebel was killed during an encounter with government troops from the 10th Infantry Battalion in Brgy. San Pedro, Aloran town.

Capt. Clint Antipala, public affairs officer said the death of the still unidentified rebel fighter came following a tip from civilians on the presence of NPAs prompting soldiers to respond.

Antipala said that while the troops were scouring the area, they were fired upon by the rebels, forcing the soldiers to retaliate.  The troops claimed to have inflicted casualties on the rebels as they saw blood stains along the route where the rebels retreated.

The escaping rebels abandoned an AK-47 rifles with three magazines and several subversive documents.

From rebels to rulers, MILF faces new ‘struggle’ in Bangsamoro governance

From ABS-CBN (Feb 20): From rebels to rulers, MILF faces new ‘struggle’ in Bangsamoro governance

Moro Islamic Liberation Front Chairman Murad Ebrahim votes in the Bangsamoro Organic Law Plebiscite on Jan. 21, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Muslim rebels who once fought for secession have been cleared to help run a new self-governing region in the southern Philippines, their leader said Wednesday, admitting that governance would present “another level of struggle” for long-time combatants.

Murad Ebrahim, chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), is expected to take the role of chief minister of the 3-year transition government of the new Bangsamoro autonomous region.

He will be joined by fellow MILF central committee members and front commanders, whose eligibility earlier came under scrutiny because of criminal cases that might still be pending.

“It is all cleared,” he told ANC’s Early Edition.

Abdullah Macapaar alias Commander Bravo will also be appointed as one of 80 members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), Murad said.

Macapaar led deadly attacks in Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato in 2008 after the MILF and the government failed to sign a peace deal.

The Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, under then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, raised fears that it would lead to the creation of a sub-state for Muslims in Mindanao.

“He will be appointed,” Murad said, noting that the National Bureau of Investigation had cleared Macapaar of any pending cases.

Murad said Macapaar, leader of the MILF’s 102nd Base Command, would initially serve as a member of parliament.

Depending on the capability and qualifications, members would be tapped for ministerial positions, the MILF chairman said.

The group is awaiting the amnesty proclamation of President Rodrigo Duterte within the year to facilitate the transition of combatants to civilian life under the “normalization phase” of the peace process.

Members of the BTA were supposed to take their oath in Malacañang on Wednesday but the ceremony was reset to Feb. 22, said Murad.

Forty one of them were nominated by the MILF while the rest were handpicked by the government.

The transition body is expected to take over governance of the old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao the following week.

Murad acknowledged the pressure of governing a region long beset by poverty and violence.

“We are in another level of struggle that is to transform from the revolutionary organization to governance,” he said, recalling that some MILF leaders where to countries such as Malaysia and Turkey for training.

“We know that it would not be easy for us.”


The BTA, he said, would still be using the old P32-billion budget for ARMM to deliver on the promise of improved education, social services, and infrastructure this year.

Congress allocated an additional P30 billion for the new government’s operations, but Murad said the much bigger “block grant” would have to wait until next year.

The new region also stands to receive P50 billion in “special development fund” after 2019 to help rebuild areas devastated over years of armed conflict.

Murad said the new parliament would decide how to help rehabilitate Marawi, the Islamic city attacked by Islamic State-linked local terrorists in 2017.

The once bustling city was reduced to rubble as security troops launched airstrikes and engaged Maute terrorists in close-quarter combat for 5 months.

“We will see what we can do on how we could be of help,” Murad said. “We are also talking with international community. We find that international donors are also very interested in helping rehabilitate Marawi.”

A Philippine alternative to China's takeover of Subic shipyard

From Nikkei Asian Review (Feb 20): A Philippine alternative to China's takeover of Subic shipyard

Nationalizing the strategic port could save jobs and build a national industry
It is high time for the Philippine government to build a domestic naval industry.    © Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Philippines
The possible Chinese purchase of a strategic shipyard in the Philippines has provoked an angry backlash in the country, reflecting simmering anxieties regarding President Rodrigo Duterte's Beijing-friendly stance. But there is an alternative solution which would save jobs, build a key national industry and maintain security.

Unable to service $1.3 billion in debt, the Philippine subsidiary of South Korean shipbuilder Hanjin filed for bankruptcy protection in January. It sought help from the Philippine government to rescue its Subic Bay facility, once the world's fifth largest shipbuilding yard, and save the jobs of its 3,000 workers.

The Duterte administration then announced Chinese interest in the purchase of the 300-hectare yard. Ceferino Rodolfo, managing head of the Philippines' Board of Investments, said last month that at least two Chinese companies had expressed an interest.

Without providing details, officials implied that the facility was being offered for a bargain price, having lost close to 80% of its value in the past two years alone. The identity of the two Chinese bidders has not been disclosed, reflecting government concern over a potentially negative public response. The authorities have mentioned no other potential bidders.

The Subic complex, once home to America's largest overseas naval base, is a highly strategic site facing the South China Sea. The U.S. Navy continues to enjoy regular access to the area with its prized deep-water port facilities, which also host visiting warships from Manila's traditional allies, including Japan and Australia.

Unsurprisingly, the Philippine military establishment has vehemently opposed a Chinese takeover of the site, reflecting lingering concerns about Beijing's intentions. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has instead advocated for Philippine Navy takeover of the facility than handing a strategic shipyard to the Chinese.

Since the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013, Chinese companies have become involved in the construction and operation of more than 40 ports in 34 countries. Two Chinese companies, China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO) and the China Merchants Group, have taken over operations at a number of strategic port facilities across the world, from Piraeus in Greece to Darwin in Australia.

On paper, the acquisitions are purely for commercial purposes, with Chinese companies providing capital and logistics capacity for the sustained operation of several busy ports.

Yet, there are legitimate fears that China's intentions transcend purely commercial purposes and are intended for different ends, namely securing a grip on strategic assets and facilities on global shipping lanes.

In particular, the Philippines defense establishment is concerned about replicating the experience of Sri Lanka, where the state-affiliated China Harbor Engineering Company has secured a 99-year-lease over the Hambantota port under a controversial debt-for-equity settlement.

During a visit to Manila in November, Chinese President Xi Jinping signed a package of agreements, including on Philippine participation in the BRI. The Hanjin port facility takeover is likely part of China's broader efforts to secure access to key facilities in the Philippines under a Beijing-friendly presidency.

Duterte has warmly welcomed big-ticket Chinese investments, including the prospective entry of China Telecom into the heavily protected telecommunications sector. The State Grid of China already has a 40% stake in the Philippines' national grid.

Chinese companies have also stepped up investment in sensitive locations, including the Clark special economic zone, the former site of America's largest overseas air base, as well as in the vicinity of key military bases such as the Bautista air base, which lies close to several disputed features in the Spratly Islands.

Filipino strategists fear an "economic cabbage strategy," similar to what has occurred in the South China Sea, where Chinese entities surround and dominate an area layer by layer with an expansion of their investment footprint.

Subic, which lies less than 100 km northwest of Manila and just over 100 nautical miles from the contested Scarborough Shoal, is an enticing prospect for China. Under a previous administration, Manila proposed American positioning of equipment as well as upgrading military facilities in the area.

At least two Chinese companies had expressed an interest in the purchase of the 300-hectare shipyard. © Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Philippines

Duterte, however, has blocked the move, limiting American access to visits by its warships. Now, China has a historic opportunity to take over large portions of the area and monitor other countries' military activity in the area.

Leading legislators such as Senator Grace Poe have openly opposed any Chinese takeover of "critical and strategic national assets." Last month, senators, led by deputy senate President Ralph Recto, cited national security considerations in blocking a $400 million deal between the China International Telecommunication Construction Corporation and Philippine security agencies for the installation of 12,000 surveillance cameras across the country.

The Philippine defense establishment has instead proposed nationalization of the shipping yard to save the jobs and develop the industry.

Recognizing public sentiment and sensitive to the demands of the military, Duterte seems to have welcomed the suggestion. Under Phase 2 of the Philippine defense modernization program, the country is allocating $5.6 billion for new acquisitions, with growing focus on naval assets and platforms.

With defense spending rising and a generally healthy economy, it is high time for the Philippine government to build a domestic naval industry. The Duterte administration has consistently touted the need for an "independent" foreign policy and build-up of domestic steel and manufacturing sectors.

Conscious of the risks of nationalizing the industry, the Philippine government is considering some private non-Chinese investment in the yard, which will not only save jobs but also contribute to the development of domestic shipping for commercial and military purposes.

Neighboring countries such as Indonesia have already produced their own warships, with the Philippines among their clients. By taking over the Hanjin shipyard, potentially through a public-private consortium, Manila would acquire greater strategic self-reliance, build new employment opportunities, and gradually scale up a nascent military-industrial complex. Above all, it would protect strategic Philippines assets and facilities from potentially hostile actors.

Richard Heydarian is a Manila-based academic, columnist and author; his latest book is "The Rise of Duterte: A Populist Revolt Against Elite Democracy."

US Marines commander to push for joint activities with PHL

From the Business World (Feb 19, 2019): US Marines commander to push for joint activities with PHL

UNITED STATES Commander of the Marine Forces Pacific (US MarForPac) Lt. Gen. Lewis A. Craparotta met with top military officials in his three-day visit to the Philippines from Feb. 16 to 18, to discuss opportunities for collaboration with the Philippine Marines Corps (PMC).

In a statement on Monday, the US Embassy said both the US and Philippines Marines unit held a bilateral exchange called the Philippine Marine Corps-MarForPac Marine-to-Marine Staff Talks during Mr. Craparotta’s visit.

The Philippine side was represented by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, Jr. and PMC commandant Major Gen. Alvin A. Parreño.

The US Embassy said Mr. Craparotta discussed the “specific lines of effort” previously outlined by former AFP chief Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. and US Indo-Pacific Command Admiral Philip S. Davidson that will frame the US and Philippine Marine Corps exercises and activities.

He also emphasized that the US military and its Philippine counterpart have a “long and lasting critical partnership for the region.”

“This week we are here to focus on training, readiness [and] interoperability, and not just for today and 2020, but really for the future,” he was quoted as saying.

Last September, Messrs. Galvez and Davidson signed agreements on security cooperation activities for 2019 during the Mutual Defense Board and Security Engagement Board Meeting in Quezon City.

The move signaled increased joint security activities between the two countries totaling 281 for 2019, higher than the 261 in 2018, according to the AFP.

For his part, Mr. Parreño said in his opening remarks that the Philippine Marines have been ready to address the defense and security challenges in the Pacific region.

“These Philippine Marine Corps-MarForPac Marine to Marine Staff Talks promote 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,” Mr. Parreño was quoted as saying.

“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.

The US Embassy noted that Mr. Craparotta’s first visit to Manila reaffirmed the US Marine Corps’ close ties with the PMC.

The Philippines has long depended on the US for military hardware and support. Last July, the US military provided equipment worth P178 million that would provide increased protection to the members of the Philippine Marines Corps during operations.

The two countries also have three standing military agreements, the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

Bangsamoro oathtaking reset to Feb. 22; but who will take oath?

From MindaNews (Feb 20, 2019): Bangsamoro oathtaking reset to Feb. 22; but who will take oath?

From February 21 to February 20 and finally, February 22.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Murad Ebrahim enters the lobby of the Manila Prince Hotel on Wednesday (20 February 2019). The MILF delegation has been billeted at the hotel leading to the oathtaking ceremony for members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority on Friday. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

The oathtaking of 80 members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), initially targeted for February 21 and reset to February 20 on February 15, was rescheduled to February 22 evening of February 19, when the possible Presidential appointees and other guests from the Bangsamoro areas have all arrived.

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) had earlier sent out invitations to the February 20 oathtaking and “ceremonial confirmation” of the canvass results of the January 21 and February 6 plebiscite on RA 11054 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Carlito Galvez, Jr. confirmed evening of February 19 that the February 20 event had been rescheduled two days later.

Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the Peace Implementing Panel of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said he received a message about the postponement from Galvez at 7:07 p.m. on February 19 allegedly because the signing of appointments has not been finished.

As of 4 p.m. Thursday, the names of the appointees have yet to be divulged although some of the nominees – from both government and the MILF – could be seen at the lobby of the Manila Prince Hotel where part of the MILF delegation is billeted.

Galvez and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana welcomed the MILF delegation with a dinner Wednesday. Galvez returned to the hotel Thursday morning for a series of meetings that as of 4 p.m. had not been finished.

The MILF, which will lead the BTA in the three-year transition until June 30, 2022, nominated 41 to the BTA while government nominated 39.

The Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro on October 15, 2012 and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro on March 27, 2014 signed by government and the MILF paved the way for the creation of a new autonomous political entity that would replace the 28-year-old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

RA 11054 named the new entity as the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Carlito Galvez Jr. arrives at the Manila Prince Hotel on Wednesday (20 February 2019) for a series of meetings with the MILF delegation. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

MILF delegation

The MILF has a 300-member delegation attending the oathtaking of the members of the interim government for which they waged an armed struggle to assert their right to self-determination.

Among the delegation is the MILF Central Committee headed by Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the MILF and commander in chief of the soon-to-be-decommissioned Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), BIAF chief of staff Sammy Al-Mansour, Iqbal, Bangsamoro Transition Commission chair Ghazali Jaafar.

Also present are five of the MILF’s seven front commanders, including Abdullah Macapaar alias Kumander Bravo of the Lanao del Norte-based North Western Mindanao Command and Akmad Abas alias Kumander Jack of the Pikit, North Cotabato-based Eastern Mindanao Front.

Iqbal said two front commanders could not make it due to illness.

He said base commanders are also here to witness the historic event.

Safe conduct passes have been issued by the government to allow for the commanders who may have pending cases, to attend, Iqbal said.

The MILF nominees to the BTA include members of the Central Committee and officials of the BIAF.

Murad defended the MILF’s decision to include front commanders in the BTA.

“Ang BTA is transition of the MILF from revolutionary to governance. The main target of transformation is the MILF top leadership both holding political and military assignments. The Central Committee is the top political leadership and in the military, the highest level of Commanders and that is the Chief of Staff and the Front Commanders. In a revolutionary organization, there is no distinction between civilian and military. All are revolutionaries. So in governance, there is no distinction between those holding political or military assignments. All can participate. In fact, many of those holding military positions were political officers before. Likewise many of those in the political positions came from the military wing,” Murad said.

Murad was Vice Chair for Military Affairs and Chief of Staff of the BIAF when Salamat Hashim was chair and commander in chief. He served concurrently as MILF peace panel chair when peace talks resumed in 2001 after then President Joseph Estrada’s “all out war” against the MILF in 2000. Murad served as peace panel chair until July 2003 when Hashim died and he succeeded as chair. Iqbal succeeded Murad as peace panel chair.

Duterte wants to talk peace again with communists

From MindaNews (Feb 20): Duterte wants to talk peace again with communists

President Rodrigo R. Duterte told the military and the police to allow National Democratic Front (NDF) peace panel chair Fidel Agcaoili if he wants to return to the country to talk peace with his government (GRP) panel despite the President’s previous threats to arrest and detain communist consultants.

Speaking during the 9th Anniversary of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) and 25th Anniversary of the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area at the SMX Convention Center here, Duterte expressed interest to re-open the GRP-NDF peace talks.

“I think Atty. Agcaoili has sounded off. He was coming again to talk,” he said.

He said he told the military and the police to just allow Agcaoili to come home. “We are on a waiting period about the appropriate time to talk about peace,” the President noted.

On the possible resumption of the GRP-NDF peace negotiation, Duterte said: “I am not that cruel.” But he told Communist Party of Philippines (CPP) chairman Jose Maria Sison not to make demands.

In a statement on Wednesday, Sison said he welcomes the positive remarks of the President about being open to peace negotiations and allow Agcaoili “sort out Duterte’s statements with GRP chief peace negotiator Silvestre Bello III.”

Sison said it is best to let the negotiators meet and do their job as he cannot “answer the mixed statements of Duterte publicly because to do so can make me appear as the one mixed up.”

The peace negotiation with the communists rebels was aborted with Presidential Proclamation 360 on November 23, 2017 allegedly “for lack of sincerity” on the part of the communists.

Duterte recognized the need to address their sentiments, including social justice, to attain peace.

“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. Some other time they say I would kill for money. But since Sison is my professor, I will kill him for nothing. Except that before he goes to the blue yonder, kindly find time to talk sensible peace,” the President said.

Without peace, Duterte said there is no way for Sison, his former professor in political thought, to return to the country.

Duterte told Sison to refrain from making any demands.

“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 Netherlands,” he said, asking Sison to stay there permanently and get “two wives and start breeding a new family there.”

In a follow-up interview, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the communists should grab the offer of the President to talk and realize “that their 52 years of struggle is just a fantasy now.”

Panelo said Agcaoili said he can return to the country but maintained they should not set any conditions.

“The President wants them to stop the extortion and the killings. Ever since that’s his condition,” he said, referring to the New People’s Army, the communists’ armed wing.

Duterte to talk to Misuari ‘to craft something more expansive’

From MindaNews (Feb 20): Duterte to talk to Misuari ‘to craft something more expansive’

President R. Duterte reiterated on Tuesday that he will talk to Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chair Nur Misuari to “craft something more expansive in his area,” recognizing that agreements with any revolutionary front should take place simultaneously.
The President made the pronouncement just as the 80 members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) prepare for their oath-taking, following the successful ratification of Republic Act 11054 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (OLBARMM), the enabling mechanism of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed between the government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2014.

The BTA will govern the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) until 2022.

“Nur, to his everlasting credit, someday he would be recognized as one statesman above just being – or aside from being a revolutionary warrior. Until now Nur has kept his silence and I have repeatedly stressed that there will be a time when he and I will talk and it should be soon,” Duterte said.

The President graced the 9th Anniversary of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) and 25th Anniversary of the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area at the SMX Convention Center here.

He said one of the challenges in the Philippines is having to deal with several rebel fronts.

“And by the grace of Allah, we have reached the agreement desired by the Muslim Maguindanao leadership – Murad, Jaafar and company,” he said.

Duterte added he told the military that he cannot allow peace to move slowly, telling them that they have to work hard to achieve it in the remaining three years of his administration.

“We have to work hard and I think it should be now,” he said.

“Let us try to see if we can craft something more expansive in his area and giving concessions to the Moro which is really the correct thing, and also reconfigure the territories,” Duterte said.

295 NPA members surrender in Gigaquit town

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 20, 2019): 295 NPA members surrender in Gigaquit town

SURIGAO CITY, Surigao del Norte -- A total of 295 members and supporters of the Communist Party of the Philippines - New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) voluntarily surrendered to the Community Support Program (CSP) teams under 30th Infantry “Python” Battalion (30IB), 4th Infantry Division, Philippine Army at around 11:00 o’clock in the morning on February 15, 2019 at Barangay Camam-onan, Gigaquit town.

Among the surrenderers were 28 Militia ng Bayan (MB) and 267 Underground Mass Organization (UGMO) members who also yielded seven assorted firearms to Gigaquit mayor Elvira Egay and 30IB battalion commander Lt. Col. Allen Raymund Tomas.

The surrenderers pledged their oath of allegiance to the government followed by the declaration of the CPP-NPA as “Persona non Grata” headed by Inday Flor B. Bangga, barangay chairperson of Camam-onan.

Barangay Camam-onan was among the barangays declared as conflict-affected areas (Con-AAs) in the province which was also among the barangays declared as Peace and Development Zone (PDZ) that was launched on August 28, 2018.

In his message, Tomas said the LASICAM Complex (Lahi,Sico-Sico, Camam-onan) were identified as stronghold of the CPP-NPA for the past decades but due to the conduct of Community Support Program (CSP) activities and the entry of government projects and interventions, they were able to address issues, regain the trust and support of the masses.

Meanwhile, Brigadier General Franco Nemesio M Gacal, commander of 4ID commend Tomas and his troop, together with the officials of the local government unit of Gigaquit, for the big accomplishment.

“Indeed, peace and development is multi-dimensional that requires a whole-of-nation approach in order to effectively address perennial problems of the communities particularly in Con-AAs,” Gacal said. (Lt. Ken Enciso, CMO-30IB, Philippine Army/PIA-Surigao del Norte)

Former NPA team leader surrenders to 75IB, Phil. Army

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 20, 2019): Former NPA team leader surrenders to 75IB, Phil. Army

BISLIG CITY, Surigao del Sur - A former team leader of the New People’s Army (NPA) voluntarily surrendered to the folds of law.

This was made possible through the efforts of Intel Operatives of Charlie Company, 75th Infantry (Marauder) Battalion, 4th Infantry Division, Philippine Army as he brought with him one US Cal. 30 carbine with one magazine loaded with ammunition at Sitio Kalingayan, Brgy. Consuelo, Bunawan, Agusan del Sur at around 8:00 a.m. on Feb. 14, 2019.

The surrenderer was identified as Jeffrey Piodos y Labandero alias ‘Mao/ Mac Mac’, 24 years old, single and a resident of Purok Triumph, Brgy. Sta. Cruz, Rosario, Agusan del Sur.

Labandero left the group to return to the folds of law, start a new life and work hand in hand with the government in achieving peace and harmony.

Lt. Col. Jaime Datuin, commanding officer of 75IB welcomed the surrenderer on his decision and willingness to be one with the government again.

“To the remaining members of the terrorists group, I know you are suffering in the hinterlands; you do not have food and proper rest; your family is suffering from loneliness of not having you with them. Give yourself a chance to be with your family and live a life away from fear and hunger,” he said.

Also, Brigadier General Andres Centino, 401st Brigade commander, lauded the Marauder troopers for another accomplishment.

“The achievement of your troops with their initiative and efforts for the surrender of another member of NPA exemplifies the dedication of the Marauder Battalion in attaining the mission of 4th Infantry (Diamond) Division. The act of surrender manifests how they understand the purpose of our troops which is to search and run after them to maintain the safety of every civilian in our area of responsibility,” Centino said. (75IB/PIA-Agusan del Sur)

More troops in pursuit of fleeing CNTs amid MisOcc encounter

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 20, 2019): More troops in pursuit of fleeing CNTs amid MisOcc encounter

ALORAN, Misamis Occidental -- Additional troops are now in Misamis Occidental following an encounter in Aloran town in Misamis Occidental after the fleeing Communist NPA Terrorist (CNT).

One Communist NPA Terrorist (CNT) was killed in an encounter with the 10th Infantry Battalion (10IB) in Brgy. San Pedro, Aloran at around 9:40 a.m on Feb. 18, 2019.

Prior to the encounter that lasted about 30 minutes, residents of the barangay reported to 10IB personnel the presence of CNTs who were trying to recruit the youth to join their movement 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 Lt. Col. John Andrada, 10IB Commander.

The troops scoured the scene of encounter and recovered one AK 47 rifle, three magazines and subversive documents with high intelligence value.

Blood stains were seen along the CNT’s withdrawal routes believed to be those of wounded members.

“We already identified 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," said Col. Bagnus Gaerlan, 102nd Brigade Commander.

Meanwhile, BGen. Roberto Ancan, commander of the 1st Infantry (TABAK) Division, said the Army together with the local government units, the civil society organizations, other stakeholders and "the peace-loving people of Misamis Occidental continue to call upon the NPA terrorists to listen to the call for peace of the people, lay down your arms, return to the folds of the law and avail of the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).”

He also expressed 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 lead development and social justice be achieved,” Ancan added.

Members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) conducted investigation in the encounter site.

Troops of 10IB are also in close communication with the barangay officials to ensure the safety and security of the residents in the area. (1ID DPAO/PA)

Maute group sub-leader yields to military in Lanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20, 2019): Maute group sub-leader yields to military in Lanao

PAGADIAN CITY, Zamboanga del Sur -- A sub-leader of the Islamic State for Iraq and Syria (ISIS)-inspired Maute group has surrendered to military authorities in the province of Lanao del Sur, military officials said Wednesday.

Lt. Col. Edgar Allan Villanueva, Army’s 49th Infantry Battalion commander, identified the Maute group sub-leader surrenderer as Aloyodan Bantak alias Ibrahim Bantak, who surrendered around 10 a.m. Tuesday in Lumba Bayabao, Lanao del Sur.

Villanueva said the surrender of Bantak was facilitated by the local government unit of Lumba Bayabao. Bantak turned over a caliber 5.56 milimeter sniper rifle, two grenade launchers, and ammunition.

“Our initial debriefing found out that he was involved in November 2016 Butig Siege and he is the recruiter of the group of Owaida Marohombsar alias Abu Dar,” Villanueva said.

Bantak’s surrender came a day after three Maute group members surrendered to the military in Sultan Dumalondong, Lanao del Sur.

The surrender of the three, who turned over one M2 Carbine rifle with ammunition, was witnessed by Mayor Jamel Kurangking of Sultan Dumalondong.

Col. Romeo Brawner, the Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade commander, reiterated the military's commitment to stamp out remnants of the Maute group that was responsible for the five-month siege of Marawi last year.

“Our efforts will be continuous against the Daesh-inspired Maute terrorists in order to achieve a peaceful and progressive community,” Brawner said.

False info on 'armed men' causes mass evacuation in CDO

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20, 2019): False info on 'armed men' causes mass evacuation in CDO

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY -- Individuals who spread false information about the supposed presence of armed men that caused hundreds of families here to flee Tuesday evening will be held liable, officials said.

Col. Edgardo de Leon, commander of the Army's 403rd Infantry Brigade (403IB), said they already identified a person of interest behind the false information that sent some 190 families evacuating from the upland village of Tagpangi to seek safety.

De Leon said the suspect may face legal charges for alarm and scandal.

Janjan Calam, a village councilor of Barangay Lumbia where the families sought temporary shelter, said the evacuees started converging around 8 p.m. Tuesday at a covered court.

Calam said the City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (CDRRMO) responded by sending personnel and rescue vehicles together with food and medicines.

City administrator Teodoro Sabuga-a Jr. said that by 1 a.m. Wednesday, personnel from the City Social Welfare and Development (CSWD) assisted the families to return home.

De Leon said a team of personnel from the Army's 4th Infantry Division (ID) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) immediately conducted validation in the area and found the information to be false.

"It is akin to a bomb scare. It will cause undue panic to the community," said De Leon said, whose unit covers Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental, and parts of Bukidnon.

Calam hailed local officials for responding immediately by providing vehicles to transport the evacuees back to their homes.

Cops recover weapon from former NPA in Bukidnon

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20, 2019): Cops recover weapon from former NPA in Bukidnon

Authorities seized a pistol from a former member of the New People’s Army (NPA) here during a raid Tuesday evening.

Police report said the search warrant was served to Arnel Daluniag at his residence in Purok 3A in Brgy. Can-ayan
in violation of Republic Act No. 10591, also known as the "Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act".

Aside from the seized cal. 9mm Norinco pistol, authorities also recovered a steel magazine assembly and nine bullets. Police said Daluniag was a former combatant of the NPA's Front Committee 89 based in the village where he resides.

Police saod Daluniag is the son of NPA leader Armando Daluniag of the North Central Mindanao Regional Committee (NCMRC) operating in the hinterlands of Bukidnon and Agusan del Sur.

The joint raiding team was composed of personnel from the First Bukidnon Provincial Mobile Force Company (PMFC), Criminal Investigation Detection Group (CIDG), the Army's 43rd Military Intelligence Company (MICO), and Charlie Company of the Army's 8th Infantry Battalion.

Ex-RPA member gunned down by NPAs in south Negros

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20, 2019): Ex-RPA member gunned down by NPAs in south Negros

SCENE OF THE CRIME. Policemen gather information from possible witnesses at the scene where Jonybert “Jun-Jun” Sabeco was gunned down by four New People’s Army rebels in Purok Letter, Barangay Camansi in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. (Photo courtesy of 15th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army)
BACOLOD CITY -- A former member of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army (RPA) was gunned down by members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental, the military said on Wednesday.
In its report, the Philippine Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade identified the victim as Jonybert “Jun-Jun” Sabeco, 40, of Sitio Cara-an, Barangay Tampalon.
Sabeco, a father of six, was shot by four communist rebels while on his way home on board a motorcycle in Purok Letter, Barangay Camansi around 7 a.m. on Tuesday after he brought his eldest child to school. The gunmen also took his wallet.
Sabeco was the second victim of CPP-NPA atrocities in Kabankalan City in three weeks after the killing of  Cornelio Morales, a village watchman of Sitio Camandag, Barangay Carol-an, who was shot dead by communist rebels on January 29.
In a statement, Col. Benedict Arevalo, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade, said in killing Sabeco, the CPP-NPA clearly violated the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
“We will use their admission of the killing to document for the higher headquarters a report to the European Union to further confirm that the EU is correct in naming the CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization,” Arevalo said.
The CPP-NPA has been tagged a terrorist group both by the United States and the European Union.
On Tuesday night, the NPA posted on a social media that one of its units in Southwest Negros punished Sabico, whom they claimed was an active member of the RPA and a military intelligence asset.
The RPA is a former breakaway group of the CPP-NPA. The Tabara-Paduano Group of the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPM-P/RPA-ABB) has an ongoing peace talks with the government.
Arevalo said the CPP-NPA’s latest violent act and the previous incidents in Kabankalan are clear proofs that they are indeed terrorists and do not respect human rights.
he added.“I once again challenge the Kaparatan, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, and the rest of the militant leftist organizations to condemn such terroristic acts if they are not bogus human right advocates. They had been very silent about the human rights violations of the NPA,”
Lt. Col. Patricio Tomales, commander officer of 15th Infantry Battalion based in the neighboring Cauayan town, said in a separate statement that the CPP-NPA destroyed the family and the future of Sabeco’s young children.
He also assailed the leftist groups for their silence on the NPA atrocities in Kabankalan, describing the groups as bogus human rights advocates.

'Tabak' division hosts Army’s Mindanao-leg shootfest

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20, 2019): 'Tabak' division hosts Army’s Mindanao-leg shootfest

Participants of the 12-day Mindanao leg of the Philippine Army Marksmanship Assessment and Evaluation 2019 aim for the target at the firing range of the Army's 1st Infantry Division in Camp Sang-an, Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur. (Photo courtesy of Western Mindanao Command Public Information Office)
ZAMBOANGA CITY--The Army's 1st Infantry “Tabak” Division is hosting the 12-day Mindanao Leg of the Philippine Army Marksmanship Assessment and Evaluation (PAMAE) 2019 and Marksmanship Instructor Trainers Forum (MIFT) at Camp Sang-an, Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur.

The activity, which is being held in Camp Sang-an, Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur, kicked off on Monday and ends on March 2.

Brig. Gen. Roberto Ancan, 1st Infantry Division commander, said the PAMAE--a shooting or marksmanship competition--and the MITF, aim to assess the skills of personnel assigned with the different combat units of the Philippine Army.

Ancan said the marksmanship event includes one match for pistol, men’s category; one match for pistol, ladies category; one match for rifle (carbine) and one match for machine gun.

Ancan, the keynote speaker of the competition, said the event is being conducted simultaneously on the three major islands of the country.

The best shooters will be selected to augment the pool of quality marksmen to compete in international competitions such as the ASEAN Armies Rifle Meet (AARM), he added.

Seeing action in the 12-day Mindanao leg competition are participants from four infantry divisions, namely the Cagayan de Oro City-based 4th Infantry (DIAMOND) Division; Maguindanao-based 6th Infantry Division; Compostela Valley-based 10th Infantry Division; and the Zamboanga del Sur-based 1st Infantry Division.

“This activity is not only about competition. As soldiers, we need to continuously enhance our warfighting skills for us to be able to perform best our mandate of protecting our people from any threat,” Ancan said.

Army warns public vs. joining 'Black Friday protest’

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20, 2019): Army warns public vs. joining 'Black Friday protest’

Capt. Eduardo A. Precioso Jr , chief of the Public Affairs Office of the 3rd Infantry (Spearhead) Division of the Philippine Army warns of the Black Friday Protest which serves as platform for communist-terrorists to recruit new members. (Photo by Leonora Estanque)

ILOILO CITY - The Philippine Army (PA) has warned school administrators, teachers, parents and students to be wary about the Black Friday Protest dubbed as “Pambansang Walk-out sa School at Trabaho” on February 21 and 22.

Capt. Eduardo A. Precioso Jr., chief of the Public Affairs Office of the Army's 3rd Infantry (Spearhead) Division, said their main concern is the schools because the protest will become a platform for the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) to recruit students.

“This is where the recruitment starts. If they see an aggressive student during these activities, they will start talking to that student, recruit and then teach the student how to fight,” Precioso said during Wednesday’s regular press conference held here at Camp Martin Delgado.

The Army official is asking school administrators to monitor the activity and be on the look-out for and report to them suspicious individuals.

“We should keep an eye on this, especially on the aggressive students,” Precioso said.

He added that some teachers are encouraging the students to join mass protest, even checking their attendance to make sure that students attend rallies.

Teachers should protect and guard the students because it is their responsibility as the second parents, he said.

“It's okay to join the mass protest. It's a form of freedom of expression, right to assembly, it's in the Constitution. Only this is used as a platform for recruitment. They (CPP-NPA) are wise in persuading the students,” Precioso said, citing the University of the Philippines student who was killed recently in an encounter.

“We just want it to be peaceful, do not hold guns, do not create chaos,” he added.

Precioso also said they already have an initial coordination with the Department of Education about reports they received from parents and students regarding the upcoming protest.

The Black Friday protest purportedly aims to bring to government attention various concerns, such as on tuition hike and salary increase.

It will take place in different universities, colleges and high schools in Western and Central Visayas Regions.

Palace open to resumption of peace talks with Reds

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20, 2019): Palace open to resumption of peace talks with Reds

Malacañang on Wednesday expressed its openness to resume peace talks with communist rebels.

"They're welcome to come if they want to talk. Hindi sila aarestuhin (They won't be arrested)," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a Palace briefing.

Panelo said the government is willing to resume peace talks if the communist rebels will stop their extortion activities and attacks on police forces.

"Pwede naman silang magset ng condition sa parte nila, kung reasonable at pwede nating ibigay (They can set conditions if these are reasonable and government can give it)," he added.

Panelo took a swipe at Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison after the latter said their organization needs funds to finance their struggle against the government.

"Kailangan nila ng resources, finances, kailangan ng extortion activities kasi yun ang nagpi-finance sa kanilang pakikipaglaban sa gobyerno, hindi dahil meron silang pamahalaan (They need resources, finances, extortion activities because these finance their fight against the government, not because they have a government of their own)," he said.

Panelo said the concern of the communist group on being arrested is "misplaced."

"Kaya nga tayo mag-uusap, bakit naman kayo aarestuhin? (The reason why you will come is for us to talk, why would you be arrested then?)," he said.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Tuesday said the government is "on a waiting period about the appropriate time to talk about peace".

The CPP-NPA, in previous reports, has been allegedly tagged in cases of extortion, mass murder, and violation of indigenous people's rights.

The US State Department and the European Union have both tagged the CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization.

Malacañang hopes Bangsamoro transition body ‘to lead effectively’

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20, 2019): Malacañang hopes Bangsamoro transition body ‘to lead effectively’

Malacañang on Wednesday said that it expects the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) to “lead effectively” as its officials are set to take their oath of office before President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Friday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that while previous entities have received complaints regarding their leadership, he was hopeful that the BTA would learn from their mistakes.

“Certainly, you must remember there have been complaints in the governance in the previous entities,” Panelo told Palace reporters.

“Hopefully this new one, given the fact that they have learned their lessons, I’m sure they will lead this time effectively unless they will answer to the Muslim people,” he added.

Panelo said that the executive has yet to receive the list of members that will govern new the Bangsamoro region until elections in 2022, but expressed confidence that Duterte will ensure a “balanced composition” of members.

“Antayin nalang natin (Let’s just wait for it), I’m sure the President will know how to balance the composition,” Panelo said.

The 80-member BTA will be appointed by the President.

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

Following the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), the ARMM will be replaced with a new Bangsamoro Region that will have more power to govern themselves.

DND ready to impose mandatory ROTC in senior high schools

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20, 2019): DND ready to impose mandatory ROTC in senior high schools

An official of the Department of National Defense (DND) expressed on Wednesday the readiness of the agency to implement the mandatory Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) in Grades 11 and 12 nationwide once the bill is signed into law.

During the subcommittee hearing of the Senate committee on education, arts and culture on the revival of mandatory ROTC, DND Undersecretary Cesar Yano said the department is “essentially ready” to operationalize the organization, training, and administration of the program in Grades 11 to 12.

Yano noted that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has directed the Armed Forces of the Philippines Major Services to continuously undertake the necessary preparation and initiatives, such as constant engagement with the Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, including the updating of relevant data, and preparing the training staff.

“This is to ensure the AFP’s readiness to implement the program as soon as the bill is signed into law,” Yano said.

Yano said the DND chief has also instructed that all reserve commands of the AFP would be promoted to be two-star generals.

He said the DND backed the proposal to require mandatory ROTC for Grades 11 and 12 rather than in college to “capture a bigger clientele”, citing data that there are only 2 out of 10 high school students who go to college.

“We want to get a bigger portion so we want to bring it to Grades 11 and 12. Because if we are going to retain the practice of doing it in college, we will be missing a bigger portion of our youth,” Yano said.

Yano said the mandatory ROTC bill is not “military-centric” but focused on values formation.

He said the measure has three major aspects in the program of instruction:

-enhancing students' consciousness "in the ethics of service, patriotism and nationalism, respect for human rights, appreciation of the role of national heroes in the historical development of the country, strengthen ethical and spiritual values, develop personal discipline and leadership, and to encourage creative thinking for scientific and technological development";

-basic military training to "motivate, train, organize, and utilize for national defense preparedness or civil-military operations";

-and civic training for the "development of and improvement of health, education, ecology and environmental protection, disaster risk reduction and management, human and civil rights awareness, and law enforcement.

Collaboration needed to beat NPA infiltration in schools: AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20, 2019): Collaboration needed to beat NPA infiltration in schools: AFP

To stop the New People's Army (NPA) infiltration in schools, proactive collaboration is needed among various government organizations, parents and learning institutions, an Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) official said Wednesday.
The military issued the statement when asked what the AFP and the government could do to stop the infiltration of schools and recruitment of students by the communist rebels. 
"This problem needs the proactive collaboration among different government organizations, parents, learning institutions, and other agencies. We need to keep educating them about the deceitful tactics of these communist terrorists and warn the parents, universities, and the students themselves to be discerning about the people who approach them, and the organizations they join in," AFP Public Affairs Office chief Col. Noel Detoyato said in a message to the Philippine News Agency (PNA).
The New People's Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.
Detoyato also dissuaded students from  joining the ranks of communist rebels as they will only be used to further grow the terror organization.
"The students who join them are being agitated, and they use their idealism to fight for what they think is right, not knowing that eventually, they will be required to undergo 'immersion' in the armed group and have no other choice but to integrate in the NPA, an armed organization of the CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front) as fighters," he said. 
"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 added.