Saturday, March 9, 2019

'They fooled us': the men who left Isis in the Philippines

From The Guardian (Mar 8, 2019): 'They fooled us': the men who left Isis in the Philippines

As the caliphate in Syria crumbles, men who fought for ‘true jihad’ in Marawi tell of how the suffering of civilians made them flee

The bullet-riddled domes of Marawi’s grand mosque serve as reminders of the brutal siege of 2017 by Isis affiliate the Maute Group in the southern Philippines.

 The bullet-riddled domes of Marawi’s grand mosque serve as reminders of the brutal siege of 2017 by Isis affiliate the Maute Group in the southern Philippines. Photograph: Erik de Castro/Reuters

As Isis’s last stronghold in Syria burns, half a world away in the Philippines are men who know how it feels to watch a caliphate crumble.

If Alex could turn back time, he would. He wouldn’t have languished in Marawi City with his 13-year-old son in May 2017 and they wouldn’t have taken the guns the Isis-linked Maute Group handed out on the day that marked the start of a five-month conflict that destroyed the city.

“They said ‘they’re the ones fighting for the true jihad. We’re going to fight to the death to defend our religion and we will reap our rewards in the afterlife,” 38-year-old Alex* tells the Guardian, in one of the first sit-down interviews with a former Isis fighter in the Philippines.

His son died in the ensuing siege. He also lost relatives and friends.

Alex’s testimony comes as Isis fighters in the Syrian town of Baghuz are trapped by advancing Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Syrian regime and Russia. The last days of Isis in the Middle East have finally come.

Marawi one year after the battle: a ghost town still haunted by threat of Isis

But in the Philippines the memory of war is still fresh.

“I was worried because I don’t think my son knew how to hold a firearm. But he said he wanted to fight and I couldn’t do anything to stop him,” says Alex. “I only wanted to fight for the true Islam. They fooled us. What we did was really wrong.”

Close to two years after the siege began, Alex says the memories are painful and the violence feels “like a bad dream”.


An example of the vessels Maute Group fighters would use to enter and exit the fight in Marawi. Photograph: Philippines military/Western Mindanao command

In 2017, the Maute Group laid siege to the city under the banner of Isis, leading to the deaths of more than 1,000 people. More than a year later, the military is still fighting remnant fighters determined to recruit.

The battle area remains a ghost town as government rehabilitation work continues to suffer delays, meaning about 50,000 residents – or a quarter of the city’s population – are still unable to return to their homes.

Alex says he left the fighting in Marawi after about two months, stricken by guilt when he saw how civilians had died and suffered. He escaped Marawi by threatening a boatman who was delivering ammunition to the battle. His son refused to leave with him.

Until his surrender last year, Alex had been on the run, both from soldiers who knew his name, and from surviving Maute Group fighters who regarded him as traitor. He later learned about his son’s death.
‘I want a peaceful life.

“I’m tired of running. I just want a fresh start and a peaceful life,” says Alex. It is the prayer of about 135 former fighters who have surrendered, hopeful of government promises that they can begin a new life if they give up their guns.

The Philippines government is seeking to reintegrate the former fighters back into the community, one of the measures in the campaign to prevent the possible resurgence of Isis in the country.

“The spirit of reconciliation is the main concept behind this endeavour,” says Colonel Romeo Brawner, the military commander on the ground. “While the government is addressing the needs of the IDPs [internally displaced persons], it is also seeking for a solution to the problem of violent extremism and terrorism.”


A Filipino soldier patrols an area of Marawi city reclaimed from the Maute Group in 2017. Photograph: Francis R. Malasig/EPA

Alex wouldn’t call himself a die-hard Isis follower. He was recruited to join the Maute Group in April 2016 by a local religious leader in his home town of Piagapo, which shares a border with Marawi. He twice rejected calls to fight for Isis – first in Butig in 2016 and then in Piagapo just a month before the siege of Marawi.

But the death of Alex’s religious leader in the Piagapo clashes drove him and many of his friends to avenge his death. His 29-year-old cousin Asis* was part of that group.

Former Maute Group fighters in the Philippines, Asis [middle], with ‘Alex’ on right. Photograph: Carmela Fonbuena/The Guardian
“I got angry. I really wanted to avenge his death,” Asis told the Guardian. He volunteered to fight and, within a week of the battles, sailed to Marawi with nine others on a boat delivering ammunition. They were told they would receive their firearms in Marawi, and that their families would receive P25,000 (about £370) each.

Alex and Asis fought fiercely at first, both armed by the training they received from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the main rebel group that has since signed a peace agreement with the government. Their fighting experience as former MILF fighters was perhaps why they were targeted by Isis recruiters, they say.

The MILF will now lead a new autonomous Muslim region that promises to fight extremism in the region.

Like, Alex, Asis also left the fighting in Marawi after about two months, along with 16 other fighters who disagreed with the group’s decision to keep civilian hostages. After a standoff with other fighters, they boarded two boats and risked sailing away. “If they didn’t let us go, we would have fought each other there,” Asis says.

Life on the run was difficult. Alex and Asis sought refuge in the mountainous towns around Marawi when even their relatives shunned them. Yet they felt they had “no choice” but to surrender when their families grew scared as the military began knocking on doors to look for them, says Asis.

They know their former colleagues are also hunting them. “They call us traitors. They will kill me if they saw me. But I will kill them first,” says Asis.

But outreach from the government – in the form of livelihoods and financial help – has improved matters.

“We’re better. We can stay with our families now,” said Alex. “I now have friends in the military. Who would have thought that I could make friends with the soldiers I used to fight?” says Asis.

* Not their real names

12,000 MILF fighters to be decommissioned under Philippines’ peace pact

From the Arab News (Mar 9, 2019): 12,000 MILF fighters to be decommissioned under Philippines’ peace pact

Fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) man a checkpoint along a road leading to the group's main camp in the southern island of Mindanao in the Philippines. (AN file photo)

  • The Philippine government and the MILF signed a peace pact last year to end the decades-long conflict
  • Under the peace pact, the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao was expanded and the MILF plays a main role in governance

  • MANILA: With the new autonomous Bangsamoro government in place in Mindanao, south Philippines, the implementation of the peace process between the government of the Philippines and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) forces is now underway, which includes the decommissioning of 12,000 combatants “within this year,” according to Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr.

    The normalization track of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) has four major components: Security, a socio-economic development program, confidence-building measures, and transitional justice and reconciliation.

    It is one of two primary tracks of the CAB, the final peace agreement signed between the government and the MILF in 2014 after four decades of conflict that killed over 120,000 people.

    Last Monday, an executive order (EO) on the execution of the normalization track was approved by President Duterte and Galvez said both sides are working double time to finalize its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) which include the decommissioning of MILF combatants, surrendering their weapons and the transformation of several camps into productive communities.

    "The IRR will contain the work plan and other activities covering the three-year period. It will also cover critical timeline, the scope of work, and all the programs for the security, socio-economic programs, and transitional justice," Galvez said.

    Right at the heart of the security component is the decommissioning of MILF combatants and the disbandment of private armed groups, and at least symbolically, that phase began back in 2015 when 145 former MILF rebels turned over their weapons to the International Decommissioning Body.

    According to Galvez, 35 percent of remaining combatants will be decommissioned in 2020, and the rest in 2021-22 before the signing of exit agreements.

    In an interview with Arab News in 2018, MILF's Eduardo Uy Guerra, chairman of the Joint Normalization Committee, said the MILF had trained more than 100,000 fighters.

    Most notably, he said most of the firearms were owned by the combatants themselves, and that even when MILF members were towing their buffalos, they kept their guns on hand — just one example of the deep-rooted nature of the decades long civil conflict.

    According to Galvez, there were planned rehabilitation programs to transform “combatants and camps into peace-loving individuals and productive, sustainable villages and communities.”

    Roman Catholic priest Eliseo Mercado, policy adviser at the Cotabato-based Institute for Autonomy and Governance, cited the importance of the decommissioning process, but said it was less about how many fighters were decommissioned, and more about the building of confidence.

    "After decommissioning, where do you put them? It's important for the government to ensure they will not be dislocated. They must have livelihood, have the opportunity to become entrepreneurs, or give them employment in the BARMM. Without this, what will you do with those thousands of people? They will go back to lawlessness," he said.

    How ISIS Is Rising in the Philippines as It Dwindles in the Middle East

    From the New York Times (Mar 9, 2019): How ISIS Is Rising in the Philippines as It Dwindles in the Middle East

    Soldiers inspecting vehicles last month in Zamboanga, the Philippines, the gateway to the southern islands of Jolo and Basilan, where the nation’s Muslim minority is concentrated and local insurgencies have long battled the state.CreditCreditJes Aznar for The New York Times

    BASILAN, the Philippines — Across the islands of the southern Philippines, the black flag of the Islamic State is flying over what the group considers its East Asia province.

    Men in the jungle, two oceans away from the arid birthplace of the Islamic State, are taking the terrorist brand name into new battles.

    As worshipers gathered in January for Sunday Mass at a Catholic cathedral, two bombs ripped through the church compound, killing 23 people. The Islamic State claimed a pair of its suicide bombers had caused the carnage.

    An illustration circulated days later on Islamic State chat groups, showing President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines kneeling on a pile of skulls and a militant standing over him with a dagger. The caption on the picture sounded a warning: “The fighting has just begun.”

    Image: Soldiers securing a post on the island of Basilan, the Philippines.CreditJes Aznar for The New York Times

    The Islamic State’s territory in Iraq and Syria, once the size of Britain, has shriveled after four years of American-backed bombing and ground combat by Kurdish and Shiite militia fighters. What is left is a tiny village in southeast Syria that could fall any day.

    But far from defeated, the movement has sprouted elsewhere. And here in the Mindanao island group of the southern Philippines, long a haven for insurgents because of dense wilderness and weak policing, the Islamic State has attracted a range of militant jihadists.

    Image : On Basilan, local officials say that the island is now safe from the Abu Sayyaf separatists who began fighting from the jungles in 1991.CreditJes Aznar for The New York Times

    “ISIS has a lot of power,” said Motondan Indama, a former child fighter on the island of Basilan and cousin of Furuji Indama, a militant leader who has pledged fealty to the group. “I don’t know why my cousin joined, but it’s happening all over.”

    The group first made a big push for southern Philippines recruitment in 2016, circulating videos online beckoning militants who could not travel to its self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Hundreds of fighters poured in from as far away as Chechnya, Somalia and Yemen, intelligence officials said.

    The next year, militants who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State took over the city of Marawi in Mindanao. By the time the army prevailed five months later, the largest Muslim-majority city in the country lay in ruins. At least 900 insurgents were killed, including foreign fighters and Isnilon Hapilon, the Islamic State’s East Asia emir.

    Image: On a visit to a cathedral in Jolo that was bombed by militants, President Rodrigo Duterte and his aides trampled over evidence, church officials said.CreditMalacanang Palace, via Associated Press

    Mr. Duterte declared victory over the Islamic State. But his triumphalism apparently has not deterred its loyalists from regrouping.

    “ISIS has money coming into the Philippines, and they are recruiting fighters,” said Rommel Banlaoi, chairman of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research. “ISIS is the most complicated, evolving problem for the Philippines today, and we should not pretend that it doesn’t exist because we don’t want it to exist.”

    Since the Jan. 27 cathedral bombing on the island of Jolo, the Philippine military has responded with airstrikes and 10,000 soldiers in Jolo, according to Col. Gerry Besana, spokesman for the regional military command in the city of Zamboanga.

    Image: Soldiers carrying the casket of Cpl. Nemesis Salviejo, a special forces soldier killed in a battle with Abu Sayyaf in Jolo last month.CreditJes Aznar for The New York Times

    American surveillance drones monitor the southern Philippine archipelago, where the nation’s Muslim minority is concentrated and local insurgencies have long battled the Christian-majority state.

    But even as the military offensive intensifies, the government avoids conceding that the Philippines is in the global slipstream of Islamist extremism. Top officials have played down incidents in which the Islamic State has sent foreign fighters and financing to the Philippines for deadly attacks. The violence, they often say, is squabbling between Muslim clans, or common banditry.

    Within a week of the Jolo cathedral bombing, the police declared the case solved, blaming a local militant group, Abu Sayyaf, with scant acknowledgment of how many of its insurgents have partnered with the Islamic State.

    Image: A house for former Abu Sayyaf members built by the government.CreditJes Aznar for The New York Times

    Visiting the Jolo cathedral, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Mr. Duterte and his entourage trampled over evidence, church officials said. Forensic investigators were kept from the crime scene for days. Dogs gnawed on body parts.

    “We are asking for an independent investigation because it was too quick, too soon to say it’s a closed case,” said Jefferson Nadua, a parish priest. “This is a serious matter that needs to be looked at more deeply because the threat is not just local. It’s maybe coming from outside, from ISIS.”

    For decades, local insurgencies like Abu Sayyaf, which launched a campaign of bombings and beheadings, have thrived in the lawless wilderness and seas stretching toward Malaysia and Indonesia.

    Image: Soldiers returning from the front line in Jolo at an airbase in Zamboanga, in the southern Philippines.CreditJes Aznar for The New York Times

    In the 1990s, after Filipinos returned from the mujahedeen battlefields in Afghanistan and hard-line madrassas in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, local grievances fused with global calls for jihad. In a crescent-shaped swath of Southeast Asia, militants dreamed of a caliphate free of secular governance.

    Jemaah Islamiyah, the Qaeda offshoot that killed more than 200 people in a Bali nightclub in 2002, trained recruits in Philippine jungles.

    Later, as the Islamic State constructed its caliphate in the Middle East, it connected disparate militants in the Philippines under one ideological banner, said Sidney Jones, the director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict in Jakarta, Indonesia.

    Image: Students at a Muslim school playing with mobile devices in Zamboanga.CreditJes Aznar for The New York Times

    “The government didn’t recognize its strength in attracting everyone from university-educated students to Abu Sayyaf kids in the jungle,” Ms. Jones said. “Whatever happens to the pro-ISIS coalition in Mindanao, it has left behind the idea of an Islamic state as a desirable alternative to corrupt democracy.”

    Basilan officials say the island is now safe from the Abu Sayyaf separatists who began their fight in 1991. No foreign fighters are hiding in the jungles, the local authorities insist, and they claim that the rebels have been reduced to about 20 trapped stragglers.

    But Colonel Besana puts the overall number of militants on Basilan at perhaps 200, and their leader has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

    Image: In 2017, militants who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State took over the city of Marawi in Mindanao. By the time the army prevailed five months later, the largest Muslim majority city in the country lay in ruins.CreditJes Aznar for The New York Times

    Mr. Indama, the former fighter who says he left Abu Sayyaf last year because he rejected the Islamic State’s ideology, claimed he saw foreign operatives in the Basilan jungle camps.

    The idea that no overseas fighters have stolen onto Basilan was shattered last July when it was the site of the first suicide bombing in the Philippines.

    The Islamic State claimed that the attack, which killed 11 people, had been the work of a Moroccan recruit. The Philippine authorities initially denied the attack had been by a suicide bomber, much less a foreigner. Weeks later, they admitted it had been carried out by a German-Moroccan suicide bomber.

    Last year, a Spaniard was arrested in Basilan with bomb-making materials. An Egyptian carrying $19,000 in cash was also stopped on his way to Basilan, according to Mujiv Hataman, the governor of the autonomous Muslim region of the Philippines.

    Mr. Hataman, who travels by armored convoy, expressed worry that if the bombing raids intensify in Jolo, militants will slip undetected into Basilan via small boats. Already, they travel among Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines over poorly patrolled seas.

    “One problem goes away and another starts,” Mr. Hataman said.

    Interior Secretary Eduardo Año has blamed the Jolo attack on an Indonesian couple, although Indonesian investigators say there is little evidence.

    Colonel Besana acknowledged that a number of foreign fighters were hiding in the Jolo hills, under the command of Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, who is believed to have replaced Mr. Hapilon as the regional Islamic State emir.

    The Islamic State’s lure seems never far from the surface in the southern Philippines. At a government ceremony in Basilan where houses were awarded to former Abu Sayyaf rebels under a long-gestating peace deal to bring autonomy to the Muslim south, security was so heavy that they were outnumbered by Philippine soldiers.

    Jem Habing, 22, a former Abu Sayyaf fighter who said he had joined at age 11, like many children in his village, seemed noncommittal when asked if he might rejoin.

    “They convinced me that if you die in battle, you will be rewarded in the hereafter,” he said. “They said it was the right path.”

    Alleged Abu bandit arrested in Zamboanga City

    From ABS-CBN (Mar 8, 2019): Alleged Abu bandit arrested in Zamboanga City

    Police recovered bomb components inside the suspect's house in Zamboanga City. Contributed photo

    A suspected Abu Sayyaf bandit was nabbed in Sitio Asinan in the village of Kasanyangan in Zamboanga City Friday morning.

    Police identified the bandit as Benwagas Salapuddin, also known as Nidz Ahamad and Midel Isnaji, said to be a follower of the late Abu Sayyaf sub-commander Muamar Askali in Sulu.

    Police Lt. Col. Edilberto Alvarez of the Zamboanga City Police Office said Salapuddin has standing arrest warrants for double murder, multiple frustrated murder, and multiple attempted murder in relation to the January 2015 bombing near the Zamboanga City bus terminal.

    The attack killed one and wounded around 50 others.

    The bomb, an improvised explosive device, was planted in a red car parked along the road near a bar and just across the bus terminal.

    The car was intentionally set on fire by the suspects before the bomb went off.

    The loud blast happened a few minutes after firefighters arrived in the area. It tore through some nearby business establishments, wounding a number of workers and passersby.

    Alvarez said Salapuddin was one of the suspects in the planning and execution of the attack.

    Police also recovered bomb components inside Salapuddin’s house, including 2 plastic bottles of ammonium nitrate, 1 detonator leg wire, toggle switch, batteries and pyrotechnic powder.

    However, Alvarez said they are still investigating if the suspect is planning to mount another attack in the city with the bomb components found in his house.

    The Jolo, Sulu native has been in the city for more than a year now working as a security guard in one of the public schools, police said.

    Authorities said a tactical interrogation is necessary before Salapuddin will be presented to court and eventually turned over to the Zamboanga City Reformatory Center.

    Army clashes with 30 NPA guerillas

    From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Mar 9, 2019): Army clashes with 30 NPA guerillas

    NO ONE among the government soldiers under the 8th Infantry Battalion (8IB) were wounded when they clashed with around 30 communist guerillas under the New People’s Army (NPA) in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon on Friday, March 8.

    The military said they “likely” wounded some communist guerillas based on stains and trails of blood seen along the encounter site and the withdrawal route of the enemy.
    The rebels were believed to be members of Platoon 1, SDG Dario, Sub Regional Committee 2, Northern-Central Mindanao Command.

    The firefight lasted for about 30 minutes, and the Army confiscated 200 pieces 7.62mm ammunition for AK47, medical paraphernalia, two backpacks, two handheld radio, 1.5 meters detonating cord, and other subversive documents.

    Commander Lieutenant Colonel Ronald Illana said there will be no let-up in their focused military operations as they are hunting down all NPA units operating in their area of responsibility.

    Illana said the group his men encountered was the same unit who gunned down Police Officer 3 Jerry Tropel of the Malaybalay of Malaybalay City Philippine National Police last February 27.

    “To all those who still remain with the NPA terrorist group, it is not too late to follow the path of your comrades who laid down their arms,” Illana said.

    “The government has prepared the necessary assistance for all of you should you decide to go back to the folds of the law including livelihood and cash aid, employment, and housing benefits,” he added.

    Meanwhile, NPA's political arm, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) continue to call on the public to continue the people's fight against a tyrannical regime.

    In a statement during the International Women's day, NDFP's southern Mindanao women's organization - the Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan (Free Movement of New Women - Makibaka) - continue the fierce tradition of strong women resisting and fighting along the line and program of the national democratic revolution against the semi-colonial and semi-feudal system.

    Its spokesperson, known only as Ka Teresa, said in a statement by criticizing President Rodrigo Duterte.

    “At the helm of this regime is Rodrigo Duterte, who is misogyny personified. He is a chauvinist who claims to cherish the memory of his late activist mother but reduces our worth to our sexual organs and orders his rabid dogs in the Armed Forces of the Philippines to mutilate women who dare defy his tyranny and dictatorship,” the statement said.

    “He (Duterte) is a barefaced liar who has long taken credit for the hard work of activist women in Davao City in realizing pro-women programs and legislations in order to deodorize the stench of his deeply-entrenched sexism,” the statement added.

    EU, Belgium trace funding for CPP fronts—AFP Exec

    From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 9, 2019): EU, Belgium trace funding for CPP fronts—AFP Exec

    A top military official has confirmed that the European Union and Belgium were looking into an Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) report seeking to stop unwitting international financial aid to leftist groups which the military claims to be “fronts” for the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

    AFP deputy chief of staff for civil military operations Brig. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. confirmed reports that the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, created last year, already met with officials of the European Union, European Parliament and the European Commission to request that Belgium and EU member countries stop giving aid to nongovernment organizations in the Philippines claiming to be “marginalized” and “pro-poor” but are actually “identified communist terrorist front organizations.”

    “The EU and Belgian government gave their commitment to look into our report to make sure they are able to take appropriate action,” Parlade said.

    PH Defense chief more worried over US, China ‘coming to blows’ than disputed seas

    From the Manila Times (Mar 8, 2019): PH Defense chief more worried over US, China ‘coming to blows’ than disputed seas

    DESPITE assurances from the US and China, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana admitted that what was worrying him about the situation in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) was the “two of them coming to blows” because this would “involve us.

    Lorenzana said Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua informed him that China “would never attack us.”

    Zhao said on Wednesday that the Philippines should be worried about the “other side,” which he did not name.

    Zhao’s statement came as Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in a visit to the country last week said that it would protect the Philippines if the situation in the disputed waters would escalate.

    Lorenzana said, however, that the Philippines would not want to get involved in any war and has been pushing for the review of the 1951 Philippines-US Mutual Defense Treaty.

    Philippines, Malaysia Pledge Cooperation against Terrorism

    From Radio Free Asia (Mar 7,2019): Philippines, Malaysia Pledge Cooperation against Terrorism

    President Rodrigo Duterte and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad agreed on Thursday to boost the fight against terrorism and peacefully address territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea amid concerns about Chinese aggressiveness.

    Mahathir, 93, is in Manila for the first time since his stunning electoral triumph last year.

    “We resolved to ramp up cooperation to address security issues, particularly on terrorism, piracy and transnational crimes, including the fight against the illegal drug trade,” Duterte said during a joint news conference. “We resolved to address security issues.”

    Mahathir’s visit comes shortly after voters in the southern Philippines agreed to establish the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The region was created five years after a peace deal – brokered partly by Malaysia – ended the separatist rebellion of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

    Mahathir, who also made official visits to the Philippines during his first stint as prime minister, in 1987 and 1994, said he discussed “security matters” with Duterte.

    “We discussed a wide range of issues on bilateral relations between Malaysia and the Philippines, as well as regional and international issues of mutual concern,” he said.

    Mahathir said he assured the Philippine leader of Malaysia’s commitment to “address the serious issue of terrorism and violent extremism.”

    Together with Indonesia, he said, Malaysia and the Philippines had agreed to “undertake unilateral maritime and air patrols to tackle the growing security challenges.”

    The three nations began trilateral patrols in June 2017 after pro-Islamic State militants launched a siege in the southern Philippine city of Marawi. Fighter jets pounded the militants with heavy bombs during a five-month battle that ended in October 2017 and killed at least 1,200 people, including Isnilon Hapilon, the acknowledged IS leader in the Philippines.

    Mahathir said Manila and Kuala Lumpur must “boost economic ties,” as he assured Duterte of Malaysia’s “desire to continue to be of help in the development of Mindanao.”

    But he warned that extremism would continue to pose a problem.

    “I see things getting worse in the future,” Mahathir said. “The reason is very simple: We refuse to acknowledge the causes. Terrorism is caused by something. Identify the cause. Try and deal with the cause, and eliminate the causes then there’ll be less extremism.”

    “But ignoring the cause and trying to fight against extremism as if it is conventional war, you’re not going to succeed,” he said.

    Mahathir tells Beijing: Clarify ‘ownership’
    The two leaders also discussed China’s continuing militarization of the South China Sea, the disputed region that is also claimed by Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, as well as by Beijing’s rival, Taiwan.

    Duterte, an ardent Chinese backer, has preferred to engage Beijing on friendlier terms, encouraging investments in the Philippines among others. He has made trips to China and personally encouraged investors there to come in.

    Duterte had also set aside a 2016 ruling of an international arbitral tribunal that junked China’s vast claims in the sea region, after his predecessor, Benigno Aquino, took Beijing to court for illegally occupying a territory west of the Philippines that, according to analysts, was clearly within Manila’s exclusive economic zone.

    Last week, Washington assured Manila of military backing should it come under attack in the South China Sea. But the Philippine defense secretary, Delfin Lorenzana, has instead called for a review of the country’s mutual defense treaty with the United States, fearing that the Philippines would be sucked into war into a regional war.

    “We emphasized the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety and freedom of navigation and overflight over the South China Sea, as well as the peaceful settlement of disputes,” Duterte told reporters Thursday.

    “This is, without resort to the threat or use of force, in accordance with the universally recognized principles of international law,” he said.

    Before the news conference, Mahathir said in a television interview that Beijing should clarify what it meant by “ownership” in the South China Sea, as he emphasized that the region, where more than U.S. $5 trillion of global trade passes through each year, must remain open to navigation.

    “We have to talk to China on the definition of their claims and what is meant by their ownership or so-called ownership they claim to have so that we can find ways of deriving some benefits from them," Mahathir told ANC television in Manila.

    Mahathir also said that while he respected Manila’s economic strategy, any infusion of investments in the Philippines should be properly defined.

    Foreign direct investments “should not involve huge numbers of foreigners to live in the country,” he said, clearly alluding to a Philippine Senate inquiry last year that showed at least 200,000 Chinese had flocked to the country since Duterte took power in 2016.

    “So long as they are not going to be permanent resident is not a danger to the Philippines,” Mahathir said.

    “But if huge number of any foreigners … live and stay in the country or even to influence economy, then you have to do some rethinking whether it is good or bad or the limits that we have to impose on them,” he said.

    Mahathir noted that Beijing had been accused of using debt-trap diplomacy, in which Beijing intentionally extends excessive credit with the alleged intention of extracting economic or political concessions from the debtor country.

    “If you borrow huge sums of money from China and you cannot pay, you know when the person is a borrower he is under the control of the lender,” he said. “So we have to be very careful about that.”

    Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.

    China downplays US commitment to defend Philippines

    From the Philippine Star (Mar 8, 2019): China downplays US commitment to defend Philippines

    Beijing downplayed Wednesday night the renewed commitment of the US government to come to the aid of the Philippines if the latter is attacked in the South China Sea.

    Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua said the region should be more concerned about other countries that are destabilizing peace and stability in the region than about China initiating any move.

    “Maybe, you would expect the Chinese side to be very concerned about these remarks. We are concerned more (if) it’s about the peace and stability in the South China Sea. Everybody, every country, will suffer if peace and stability becomes something to the opposite, that it’s chaos or conflict,” the Chinese ambassador said in a chance interview at Malacañang last night.

    “So I think it is in the common interest of all countries, including China, including the United States and ASEAN countries, that we keep the peace and stability there and we keep the freedom of navigation in the whole South China Sea open,” he added.

    Zhao was asked for reaction on the assurance US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave last week to President Duterte that the US would defend the Philippines against any imminent attack in the South China Sea as this is covered by the Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the US.

    “Well, we are worried about possible attacks from the other side. We don’t worry about China attacking anybody because it is not our policy,” he said.

    When pressed if he is referring to the US, Zhao said: “The other side, use your imagination.”

    In the same interview, Zhao said the embassy is still going to verify reports that Chinese vessels are driving away Filipino fishermen at Pag-asa Island.

    “I took note of the media report but whether it is authentic or not, it is something that is subject to clarification. I read in the newspaper also that your Secretary of National Defense has already denied, there is no such thing that happened in that area,” he added.

    The embassy is working with the Department of Foreign Affairs regarding the reports.

    Zhao gave assurance that “we are checking and we are in close coordination with DFA and we will be checking whether it is true or not, but rest assured China is committed to peacefully settle the disputes we have and we are working very well in managing our differences.”

    He also said that China is committed to work on the Code of Conduct between China and ASEAN countries to ensure stability in the South China Sea and the rest of the region.

    “In the meantime, we are working on the COC, Code of Conduct, and the Filipino side is the country coordinator for China-ASEAN relationship so we are hoping that we can make further progress in our joint efforts to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea,” he added.
    Wrong time to review MDT

    Meanwhile, former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario said the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) may be reviewed and improved but it is the wrong time to undertake an official review as China is seen to exert both external force and internal influence to achieve results for its sole benefit.

    He said there is no need to review the MDT “given this official assurance that the US will defend the Philippines against any attack in the South China Sea,” referring to Pompeo’s statement that US obligations under the MDT are “real.”

    Bulatlat: Groups decry continuing US intervention, martial law extension

    Posted to the pro-Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) online propaganda publication Bulatlat (Mar 6, 2019): Groups decry continuing US intervention, martial law extension

    MANILA- Indigenous people, women, and youth groups marched to various government offices on Tuesday to condemn the extension of Martial Law and the US military intervention in the country.

    According to a statement from Save Our Schools, the decision of the Supreme Court is a blatant disregard of its mandate of protecting the interest of the Lumad people and their communities. Students from Mindanao wrote letters addressed to the Supreme Court justices stating their “anger and disappointment” over the decision.

    Apart from the Supreme Court, members of Save Our Schools Mindanao, Kasalo-CARAGA and other Mindanao-based organizations also held protest actions before the Department of Justice and the United States embassy, where they assailed its role in human rights abuses.

    “US Aggression in this new millennium is embodied by Martial Law in Mindanao, counter-insurgency programs such as Oplan Kapayapaan, and the bloody Oplan Tokhang,” said League of Filipino Student chairperson Kara Tagaoa.

    Tagaoa also criticized lopsided deals with the United States such as the Mutual Defense Treaty, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement, and the Visiting Forces Agreement as new forms of colonial imposition of US interest over Philippines.

    Groups will march again on March 8 during International Women’s Day celebration at Mendiola, Liwasang Bonifacio and Luneta.

    Text and photos by JOMARI ALEJANDRO HERRERA

    CPP/NDF-Negros: Hublasan ang matiplangon nga “Land Reform” ni Duterte! Ipakig-away ang matuod nga reporma sa duta!

    NDF-Negros propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Website (Mar 8, 2019): Hublasan ang matiplangon nga “Land Reform” ni Duterte! Ipakig-away ang matuod nga reporma sa duta!

    Frank Fernandez
    National Democratic Front of the Philippines
    March 08, 2019

    Patay na ang land reform sa idalum sang rehimen Duterte. Sa likod sang ginahambal ni Duterte nga ipanagtag ang duta kundi mangin magalala ang pangpang-agaw, rekonsentrasyon sang duta kag land use conversion pabor sa mga dalagku agalon may duta, mga multi-national corporation kag mga dumuluong nga plantasyon.

    Ang gintanyag ni Duterte nga land reform isa ka pagpanginto kag taphaw para pahupaon ang lehitimo nga paghimakas sang mangunguma para sa matuod nga reporma sa duta. Kung seryoso man gid si Duterte ginahangkat ko siya nga unahon niya ipanagtag ang pila ka linibo ka ektarya nga madugay na sa kontrol sang mga despotiko agalon may duta pareho nila ni Eduardo Cojuanco Jr, Gob. Alfredo Marañon, Magsie Peña kag mga pamilya Arroyo, Zayco, Alvarez, Ledesma, Lacson, Golez, Tevez, Montilla, Hinojalez, Trebol, Sola, Lamata. Apang klaro sa masang mangunguma nga indi ini matabo. Tungod supak ini sa makasahi nga interes sang nagahari nga sahi nga ginatiglawasan mismo ni Duterte. Ginbayuan lang ni Duterte sang “land reform” apang ang kamatuoran sa likod sini, gusto ni Duterte nga magpabilin sa agalon may duta kag lokal kag dumuluong nga kapitalista ang malagpad nga kadutaan paagi sa iya paggamit sang poder batok sa iya mga kritiko kag kontra sa pulitika.

    Tinipik lang 1,609.22 ektarya sa 3,423 ka mga Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) ang ipanagtag sa mga benepisyaryo kumpara sa masobra sa 43,000 ektarya sa Negros nga nagpabilin sa gihapon sa kamot sang 269 ka mga agalon may duta. Indi matuod nga panagtag tungod isa ini ka daku nga negosyo nga mahimu nga bayaran ini sang mga mangunguma antes makuha ang CLOA. Ini isa ka daku nga insulto sa siyam ka mamumugon sa kampo nga brutal nga ginmasaker sang mga ahente sang estado sa Sagay City, Negros Occidental kag sa bug-os mangunguma nga nagahimakas para sa matuod nga reporma sa duta.

    Ang pagpatuman sang matuod nga reporma sa duta, indi simple nga sa hambal lang. Kundi ini ginahimakasan kag ginabuhisan sang dugo. Tungod wala sa 1% nga agalon may duta nga simple lang ipanagtag ang duta gikan sa ila ginpang-agaw sa 75% nga mangunguma nga amo ang matuod nga nagakultibar sang duta. Naggasto sang linibo-libo nga kantidad sang kwarta kag nagbatiti sang ila mga private goons agud magdepensa sang ila makinaugalingon nga interes kag manggad gikan sa pagpanghimulos kag pagpamigos sa magagmay nga mga mangunguma.

    Pasismo kag militarisasyon ang sabat sang rehimen Duterte sa nagasingki nga paghimakas sang masang mangunguma kag sa iban pa nga sektor sa katilingban. Nagalala ang brutalidad nga pamaagi sang Oplan Kapayapaan kag Whole-of-Nation-Approach idalum sa diktaduryang pasista-terorista ni Duterte. Sa Negros, ang nagpadayon nga Synchronized Enhanced Managing Police Operation (SEMPO) ukon Oplan Sauron lokal nga bersyon sang Memorandum Order 32 ni Duterte. Halin sa Disyembre 27, 2018 hasta subong wala untat ang extrajudicial killings (EJKs), paggamit sang korte kontra sa masa sa pagpasaka sang patupato nga kaso, pagsabwag sang kakugmat indi lang sa kaumhan pati na sa kasyudaran, pagpanunog sang kabalayan, red-tagging, pagpanglagas sang mga lider masa kag pagwasak sa mga lehitimo nga paghimakas sang mga ginapigos kag ginahimuslan. Mahimu nga matabo ang ikaduha nga bugso sang SEMPO nga mas malala pa nga paglapas sang tawhanon nga kinamatarung pareho sa Central Negros. Base sa impormasyon may yara sa Northern Negros sang 224 ka personalidad, mga politiko, progresibo, aktibista kag lider mangunguma ang mahimu nga pasakaan sang patupato nga kaso kag sa pinakangil-ad amo ang pagpamatay.

    Dugang pa nga ginatulod sa krisis ang mga mangunguma kag mamumugon sa kampo sa pagpasar sa Rice Import Liberalization Law sadtong Pebrero 14 kag ang plano nga pagpasar sang sugar liberalization. Ang ini nga mga laye nagasunod sa neoliberal nga polisiya sang imperyalistang US. Ang pinakatinutuyo sini amo ang pwersahan nga pagwasak sa industriya sang humay kag kalamay sa Pilipinas kag sa sini itulod ang kumbersyon sang mga malapad nga agrikultural nga kadutaan pakadto sa dalagku nga dumuluong nga plantasyon, turismo, economic zone, minahan kag iban pa nga indi produktibo kag makahalit sa dunang manggad.

    Samtang yara pa si Duterte sa poder wala sang matuod nga reporma sa duta nga matabu. Wala na sang iban pa nga padulongan nga makasolbad sa gutom kag kapigaduhon bangud sa kawad-on sang duta kundi ang ululupod nga kusog sang anakbalhas upod sa NPA kag tanan nga rebolusyonaryo nga pwersa para sa paghimakas sa matuod nga reporma sa duta. Yabe ang paglunsar sang armadong paghimakas kag agraryong rebolusyon sa kaumahan sa pagwasak sang pyudalismo sa kaumahan. Sa minimum ang paglunsar sang mga paghimakas kag aksyon masa batok sa pyudal kag mala-pyudal nga pagpanghimulos pareho sang pagpanubo sa usura, pagpataas sang sweldo kag pagpanubo sang bahinay sa produkto. Sa maksimum ang pagkumpiska sang mga kadutaan halin sa mga despotikong agalon may duta paagi sa New People’s Army (NPA) kag libre nga pagpanagtag sang duta sa mga mangunguma. Nagasubay ini sa programa sang pungsodnon demokratiko nga rebolusyon sang banwa paagi sa pangmalawigon nga inaway banwa padulong sa sosyalismo.

    Nagapanawagan ang National Democratic Front – Negros sa tanan nga rebolusyonaryo nga pwersa nga pakusgon ang paghimakas. Ang malapad nga kaakig sang mangunguma kag pumuluyo dapat dal-on sa malapad nga paghulag sang masa. Kinahanglan nga pukawon, organisahon kag pahulagon ang dalagkuan nga isip sang mangunguma agud ilunsar ang tanan nga porma sang paghimakas para pamatukan ang pagpang-agaw sang duta, land use conversion, liberalisasyon sang bugas kag kalamay. Dapat nga pabakuron ang aton hanay para atubangon ang de facto Martial Law sa Negros kas sa bilog pungsod kag iduso ang tawhanong kinamatarung. Upod sa NPA pabayaron ang rehimen ni Duterte kag AFP/PNP sa ila utang nga dugo sa pumuluyo ilabe na sa masobra sa 50 nga biktima sa EJKs sa Negros pareho sa Sagay 9 masaker, biktima sa SEMPO ukon Oplan Sauron, kay Atty. Benjamin Ramos kag sa tanan nga mangunguma kag pumuluyo nga biktima sang inhustisya.

    Pamatokan ang tiraniya ni Duterte!

     Maghimakas, indi mahadlok!

    CPP/NPA-Quezon: Isa ang patay at tatlo ang sugatan sa SAF-PNP sa pananambang ng NPA-Quezon

    NPA-Quezon propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Website (Mar 8, 2019): Isa ang patay at tatlo ang sugatan sa SAF-PNP sa pananambang ng NPA-Quezon

    Eliza “Ka Eli” de la Guerra
    Deputy Spokesperson
    Apolonio Mendoza Command
    NPA-Quezon / New People's Army
    March 08, 2019

    Matagumpay na nailunsad ng mga pwersa ng NPA-Quezon sa ilalim ng Apolonio Mendoza Command (AMC-NPA-Quezon) ang kontra-atake laban sa nag-operasyong tropa ng SAF-PNP. Ganap na alas 8:12 kaninang umaga, Marso 8, 2019 nang tambangan ng NPA-Quezon ang labindalawang (12) elemento SAF-PNP na lulan sa isang elf truck na nagresulta sa pagkamatay ng 1 opisyal ng SAF-PNP at 3 malubhang sugatan sa mga tropa ng SAF-PNP habang wala ni anumang kaswalti sa panig ng NPA-Quezon. Tumagal ng 3 minuto ang palitan ng putok at ligtas na nakaatras ang mga pwersa ng NPA-Quezon habang patuloy na namutok ng mahigit isang oras ang mga pwersa ng SAF-PNP sa direksyon na wala namang kalaban.

    Ang mga naambus na opisyal ng pulisya ay bahagi ng laking batalyong pinagsamang pwersa ng SAF-PNP at 2nd ID-PA na mahigit nang isang buwan na naglulunsad ng kontra-insurhensyang operasyon para diumano’y durugin ang NPA sa ilalim ng pakana ng rehimeng US-Duterte na National Task Force to End Communist Insurgency at upang pigilin at takutin ang mga magsasaka, mga katutubong Dumagat at Remontado at mamamayan ng Real, Infanta at Hen. Nakar, Quezon na tumututol sa mapanira at kontra-mamamayang KALIWA DAM at mga Sierra Madre Dams. Ang mga pwersa ng SAF-PNP at 2nd ID-PA ang protector ng mga dayuhan at lokal na malalaking kapitalista na kumikita ng limpak-limpak na tubo sa mga proyekto sa kapariwaraan ng mga mamamayan at katutubo sa nasabing lugar.

    Pinagbunyi ng mamamayan ng lalawigan ng Quezon ang matagumpay na kontra-atake ng NPA-Quezon para sa patuloy na pagtatanggol sa interes ng mamamayan at pagbibigay -katarungan sa kanilang dinaranas na kaapihan sa kamay ng mersernaryong mga tropa ng PNP-AFP, na wumawasak sa buhay, kabuhayan at ari-arian ng mamamayan. Pasalubong din ito sa ika-50 anibersaryo ng pagkatatag ng NPA sa Marso 29, 2019.

    Ang tagumpay ng aksyon ng NPA na magkontra-atake para magtanggol sa interes ng mamamayan ay dagdag pang patunay na mabibigo ang layunin ng Rehimeng US-Duterte na durugin ang rebolusyonaryong kilusan sa taong 2019. Patuloy na susuportahan ng mamamayang Pilipino ang CPP-NPA-NDFP habang tuloy-tuloy na kamumuhian nila ang Rehimeng US-Duterte dahilan sa mga kasalanan nito sa mamamayang Pilipino, tulad ng tuloy-tuloy at malawakang pagpatay sa mahihirap, sa tabing ng kanyang kontra-drogang kampanya, patuloy na pagpapahirap sa mamamayan at mabigat na pasaning buwis dulot ng isinabatas ng TRAIN Law, pagbebenta ng soberanya ng Pilipinas at pagkatuta sa Tsina at sa Imperyalistang US, malaganap na paglabag sa karapatang pantao sa ilalim ng Martial Law sa Mindanao at de facto Martial Law sa Negros, Samar, Bicol at sa buong bansa at tuloy-tuloy na atake sa buhay at kabuhayan ng mga mahihirap, habang lubos na itinataguyod at sinusuportahan ang interes ng mga panginoong maylupa, malalaking burgesyang komprador, mga oligarkiya sa Pilipinas, at mga dayuhang monopolyong kapitalista.

    Mawawala sa kanyang kapangyarihan ang rehimeng US-Duterte subalit mananatili ang CPP-NPA-NDFP at patuloy itong maglilingkod ng lubos sa sambayanang Pilipino. Patuloy itong maglulusad ng digmang bayan hanggang sa tagumpay!




    NDF/Kababaihan-Eastern Visayas : Filipina, end Duterte’s reign of terror! Join the New People’s Army and smash the feudal-patriarchal system!

    Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan-Eastern Visayas  propaganda statement posted to the National Democratic Front Philippines (NDFP or NDF) Website (Mar 9, 2019): Filipina, end Duterte’s reign of terror! Join the New People’s Army and smash the feudal-patriarchal system!


    MARCH 08, 2019

    On behalf of the revolutionary movement in Eastern Visayas, MAKIBAKA, the national democratic underground mass organization of women, extends its highest salutations to all the toiling Filipinas on the occasion of the International Working Women’s Day. We raise our fists high for all the exploited and oppressed women who in various fields – whether as homemaker, activist, or Red fighter – struggle against the feudal-patriarchal system upheld by the US-Duterte regime.

    The Filipina woman today suffers greatly under the worsening conditions of a rotting semicolonial and semifeudal society. By the sweat of her brow she toils in backbreaking labor in the factories, farmlands and in homes, receiving little to no compensation while abused and reduced to a mere child-rearing machine. Millions of poor families rely on her strong will and wit to weather the skyrocketing prices of commodities, the diminishing value of daily wages, and increasing unemployment. She suffers harassment from workplace superiors who threaten taking away her job if she makes so much as a peep.

    No woman is spared from the wrath of the monster borne out of this system: Duterte, terrorist leader of the regime, who has openly called for such obscene acts of violence against her and her people. In the countryside, she is forced to flee with her family as her community is shelled and terrorized by his all-out war, while in the cities, her home is either demolished or remains a relocation promise unfulfilled. He represents the worst of macho-fascism, attacking the womanhood of workers, peasants, teachers, domestic helpers, overseas workers, journalists, church people, lawyers – all women from different walks of life.

    But the Filipina should take pride in that she has won the ire of such a tyrant for her courageous acts of defiance. Every day she inspires the millions of Filipinos to stand up to this misogynist and persist toward toppling his dictatorship.

    As we celebrate today the victories of the Filipina women’s liberation movement, let us also remind ourselves that this feudal-patriarchal system that oppresses her can only be finally smashed through the victory of the national democratic revolution and going on to socialism. The Filipina can only be free if the Filipino people are free.

    We women thus find our place in the national democratic revolution: as activists, members of underground mass organizations, Party comrades and full-time Red fighters. The struggle embraces us and gives us a platform not only to advance women’s issues but to assert our equal position with men. In the people’s army we serve as Red commanders, political officers, medics, educators, propagandists, and cultural workers – roles we could never attain elsewhere. The Filipina is freed by grasping the power of the gun.

    As the country is at a crossroads amidst deepening political and economic crises, we are called upon to take advantage of such favorable conditions for people’s war and contribute to its advancement and ultimate victory. Let us be part of the rich revolutionary history of the New People’s Army which for fifty years under the guidance of the Party has given us a voice and paved the way for our liberation.

    As we face another fascist dictatorship in the making, let us emulate the example of Evelyn Dublin, martyr of Southern Leyte, who, after leaving her comfortable life as a teacher and serving full-time in the NPA during martial law, made the ultimate sacrifice of laying down her life so that a few more fascist troops can be killed.

    Long live the revolution! Long live the revolutionary Filipina!

    Oust the macho-fascist Duterte! Serve the people and join the New People’s Army!

    NDF/Kababaihan-Southern Mindanao : Women’s Day banner call: Unite and fight Filipino women’s No. 1 enemy—US-Duterte regime

    Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan-Southern Mindanao  propaganda statement posted to the National Democratic Front Philippines (NDFP or NDF) Website (Mar 8, 2019): Women’s Day banner call: Unite and fight Filipino women’s No. 1 enemy—US-Duterte regime  


    On this historic day of women’s collective actions becoming a worldwide force to be reckoned with, Filipino revolutionary women under the banner of Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan (MAKIBAKA) continue the fierce tradition of strong women resisting and fighting along the line and program of the national democratic revolution against the semi-colonial and semi-feudal system. As we celebrate the International Women’s Day, we recognize and vow to overthrow the primary enemy of Filipino women and the entire Filipino people today: the US-Duterte regime.

    At the helm of this regime is Rodrigo Duterte, who is misogyny personified. He is a chauvinist who claims to cherish the memory of his late activist mother but reduces our worth to our sexual organs and orders his rabid dogs in the AFP to mutilate women who dare defy his tyranny and dictatorship. He is a barefaced liar who has long taken credit for the hardwork of activist women in Davao City in realizing pro-women programs and legislations in order to deodorize the stench of his deeply-entrenched sexism.

    Duterte is a rabid patriarchal tyrant who preys on hapless poor women and children with his disastrous policies and persecutes activist women and vocal women figures from the opposition and the media. Protected by his equally macho fascist military generals and avaricious cronies from the ruling bourgeois-comprador, landlords and his imperialist masters, he basks in utter impunity, perpetuating abuses against Filipino women and their children while pillaging and destroying their homes and livelihood.

    The US-Duterte regime exacerbates the inherently miserable state of women in the country. In the rural areas, already deprived of land to till, peasant women will suffer greatly as a result of Duterte’s enactment into law of the rice tariffication measure which will flood the country with initially cheap imported rice. With rice cartels controlling supply and price of rice in the country and the criminal neglect that the reactionary government has long perpetrated against peasants, rice farmers, women comprising almost half of them, fear the loss not only of their incomes but their land as well.

    Lumad mothers, especially in Mindanao, grieve as their Lumad schools, which they painstakingly built themselves amid long decades of government neglect, are being systematically closed down by AFP troops and their paramilitary forces Bagani and Alamara. The AFP’s heightened militarization and the attendant fascism under martial law and Oplan Kapayapaan force Lumad and peasant women, along with their families, to flee their communities and livelihood. While women and their families are being driven away, the corrupt Duterte regime affectionately welcomes large foreign plantations and mining companies that rape and exploit the peasants and Lumad’s resources and ancestral land.

    In the towns and cities, the torment endured by mothers and wives of the thousands of victims of Duterte’s genocide against poor people, activists, mass movement leaders, peace advocates, the religious and even hapless children via Oplan Kapayapaan, his martial law and Oplan Tokhang are being aggravated by the fascist regime’s impunity. The sentence of death has already been meted against the urban poor who find no work because of absent national industrialization, while Chinese workers are being given work and allowed to stay in the country. Those who do find employment are beset with depressed wages that barely sustain decent family living and permanent contractualization. In the midst of all these, more and more women are forced to find work abroad, an alarming number of whom fall prey to human trafficking, sexual harassment or rape.

    However, these very forms of oppression—under the auspices of neoliberal policies being implemented through stark fascism—enflame further the hatred of the fighting Filipina and arouse more and more women to rally to the cause of the revolutionary struggle against US imperialism, landlords, bourgeois-compradors and bureaucrat capitalists. Despite the desperate red-tagging of the US-Duterte regime against all forms of dissent in vain attempt to suppress and discredit legitimate demands, coupled with forced surrenders of civilians in the countryside, women in their millions continue to resist in order to realize genuine agrarian reform, higher wages, the end to contractualization and other democratic rights.

    More importantly, more and more women are choosing to join the highest form of struggle—advancing the revolutionary armed struggle being waged by the New People’s Army. Women Red fighters, majority of them from the youth sector, are undertaking varied military and political tasks in the NPA. They are military commanders, political officers, intelligence operatives, medical officers, cadres for instruction, propagandists or production planners in various units and formations of the Red army. They are tempered in the people’s protracted war, proving their revolutionary mettle in the face of fierce hardship and sacrifice, especially in Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao. Their increasing number and all-round participation in the revolutionary armed resistance is a big slap on the face of Duterte’s misogyny and macho-fascist rule.

    While the ruling class is in mayhem with the upcoming midterm elections, Filipino women will reject Duterte’s favored candidates as more and more of them realize the futility and circus that is the reactionary elections. They understand clearly that only through the national democratic struggle will there be any significant and worthwhile change in the lives of the Filipino people.

    In the face of intensifying oppression and fascism as in the time of the Marcos dictatorship, Filipino revolutionary women learn the lessons of history and continue to stand by their class interests as workers, peasants, petty-bourgeoisie, urban poor and national minorities in order to end the brutal rule of the US-Duterte regime, attain revolutionary justice for the Filipino people and realize genuine social change though the national democratic revolution.

    Women unite, struggle to oust the fascist US-Duterte regime!

    Forward the national democratic revolution to greater heights!

    (sgd.) KA TERESA
    Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan
    Southern Mindanao

    MILF: GPH-MILF hammering out guidelines for implementation of normalization phase

    Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Website (Mar 8, 2019): GPH-MILF hammering out guidelines for implementation of normalization phase

    Cotabato City— The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are hammering out the guidelines for the implementation of the normalization phase of their peace process, which includes the decommissioning of 12,000 combatants “within this year,” according to Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr., an article posted on line by reported on Friday.

    The article also said that President Duterte approved Monday the executive order on the implementation of the Annex on Normalization, one of the tracks under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the final peace deal signed by the government and the MILF in 2014 after four decades of conflict.

    Galvez said both sides were targeting to finish the implementing rules and regulations of the normalization aspect next month.

    The normalization process has four major components such as the security aspect, socioeconomic development program, confidence-building measures, and transitional justice and reconciliation.

    The security component involves the decommissioning of MILF combatants and putting their weapons beyond use, and the disbandment of private armed groups.

    The MILF-Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) has about 40,000 members scattered all over Mindanao.

    Under the normalization track, Galvez said the MILF forces would be decommissioned in four phases, of which the ceremonial decommissioning of 145 combatants was completed in 2015 under former President Benigno Aquino III.

    “Thirty percent, or more or less 12,000 combatants, [are] scheduled [for decommissioning] late this year,” Galvez said as quoted by Thursday.

    Another 35 percent will be decommissioned in 2020, while the remaining will be done in 2021-2022 before the signing of the exit agreements, he added. (Source:, 3-10-19)

    MILF: Malaysia keen on investing in Bangsamoro in wake of BOL ratification

    Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Website (Mar 8, 2019): Malaysia keen on investing in Bangsamoro in wake of BOL ratification

    Sultan Kudarat, maguindanao- Recognizing a positive outlook on development in the region following the ratification of the Bangsamaoro Organic Law (BOL) that will establish a stronger autonomous Bangsamoro Region, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad said that Malaysia is keen on investing in Mindanao.
    During two-day official visit to the country, Mahathir said Malaysia would look at infusing investments in Mindanao as the long-restive south faced a transition to the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

    “We must be helpful, we are close by, we are neighbors. Whatever happens in southern Philippines affects Malaysia. We want southern Philippines to be stable, peaceful, and we can then find opportunities here as much as we can help in contributing towards development through maybe foreign direct investment,” said Mahathir in an exclusive interview with ABS-CBN News’ Cathy Yang.

    He cited how conflict stunts a country’s growth, and that energizing the economy could curb violence, ABS-CBN News quoting him saying.

    “A country at war, a country that is unstable will never grow, will never develop… We welcome peace wherever it happens and we think that in the case of Mindanao, it is now able to make use of opportunities to grow that part of the Philippines,” said the Malaysian leader.

    “And that I think when the economy is doing well, the tendency for violence is much reduced,” he added, ABS-CBN News said in its report.

    “The Philippines may look at “models” -- how other countries uplifted conflict-stricken regions -- in helping Mindanao progress,” Mahathir said.

    “Now the southern Philippines is a special area where because of the violence, it has not been able to develop. Look at other areas where the situation is quite similar and adopt this way of developing their country that has succeeded in other countries,” said Mahathir.

    Malaysia is the Third facilitator in talks between the Philippine Government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that started in 2001 when then Pres. Gloria Macagal-Arroyo asked the country to facilitate the peace negotiation.

    The GPH and MILF signed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamor0 (FAB) in 2012, and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in 2014.

    In July 2018, the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) was passed by Congress, then signed by President Rodrigo Duterte, and ratified during a plebiscite on January 21st, and February 6, (Source: ABS-CBN News, 3-7-19)

    MILF: Japan, ILO ink $2.6-M Bangsamoro water supply project

    Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Website (Mar 7, 2019): Japan, ILO ink $2.6-M Bangsamoro water supply project

    ILO Philippines Director Khalid Hassan and Ambassador Koji Haneda sign the exchange of note on a project to ensure water and jobs in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Witnessing the signing are OPAPP Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. and Food and Agriculture Organization Philippine Representative Jose Luis Fernandez. (Photo by Joyce Ann L. Rocamora)

    More households in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao will soon have access to safe and potable water through a USD2.6 million-worth project that will build a community-based water supply in the region.

    On Wednesday, the Japanese government and the International Labor Organization (ILO) inked a deal that would aid in the construction of water supply and recovery systems in the region using local workforce.

    The initiative is expected to benefit over 1,800 workers and at least 12,000 households in the conflict-affected areas.

    "I look forward to seeing more households in the Bangsamoro region gain better access to potable water, averting vulnerabilities to water-borne diseases caused by unsafe sources," Ambassador Koji Haneda said during the signing ceremony.

    "Aside from making optimum use of these water infrastructure, I hope the beneficiaries will also find opportunities for decent work and better living conditions through this project with the ILO," he added.

    Khalid Hassan, director of ILO Philippines, said the project would serve as "one of the centerpieces" for ILO's centenary "as interventions in the Bangsamoro areas are meant to create jobs" while advocating the decent work agenda.

    "Using a peace lens, the project will reach out to returning combatants, vulnerable youth, indigenous peoples, and men and women displaced and vulnerable to conflict," he added.

    In the ARMM, only 53 percent of families have access to safe water-- lower than the national average of 85 percent, based on the 2016 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority.

    SOLCOM: Commander SOLCOM, Lieutenant General Gilbert Italia Gapay. promoted

    Posted to the Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) Website (Mar 8, 2019): Commander of SOLCOM promoted

    The Commander of Southern Luzon Command AFP received honors on March 7, 2019 for being promoted to the next higher rank.

    Newly promoted Lieutenant General Gilbert Italia Gapay AFP is one of only three generals conferred with the next higher rank effective March 01, 2019. The Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines, General Benjamin R Madrigal Jr AFP, pinned his ranks on March 04, 2019.

    Lt Gen Gapay is a member and top of Philippine Military Academy Class 1986. He became the 34th Commander of SOLCOM on January 15, 2019.

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    SOLCOM: Government Troops Preempt Another NPA Arson Attempt

    Posted to the Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) Website (Mar 8, 2019): Government Troops Preempt Another NPA Arson Attempt

    Combined Army and PNP forces conducting strike operations preempted another NPA arson attempt in Quezon Province after they encountered undetermined number of communist terrorists belonging to Platoon 1 of SRMA-4A at Sito Salok, Brgy Magsaysay of Infanta town at around 8:07 a.m. Friday.

    Initial reports indicate that four government security forces were wounded while massive losses are expected on the enemy side based on the heavy bloodstains along their withdrawal route after the 30-minute firefight.

    ​Brigadier General Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr, Commander of the 202nd Infantry (UNIFIER) Brigade which has operational jurisdiction over the area, said that the encounter site was about 3 kilometers away from the area of Northern Builders, the contractor of Kaliwa Dam project whose equipment were burned by the NPA terrorists last February 7.

    ​He added that the “the encounter is a result of our continuing operations to punish the enemies of the state who are terrorizing helpless private companies who refuse to give in to their extortion demands.” He ended his statement by reaffirming the soldiers’ “unwavering commitment to protect the numerous projects in the brigade’s area of operations since it will pave the way for prosperity and development which our people will enjoy.”

    ​Kaliwa Dam is one of the 76 ongoing flagship and developmental projects in CALABARZON.

    ​Lt Col Christopher Diaz, Commander of 80th Infantry Battalion, said that the military operation was intelligence-driven and a calibrated response to an information given by a reliable source that “a group of NPAs will conduct atrocity in Infanta specifically the burning of construction equipment belonging to Northern Builders.”

    ​He added that the wounded soldiers have been evacuated and are being given the best possible medical attention while “additional forces have been deployed to pursue the fleeing terrorists who have been on the run trying to escape the long arms of the law.”

    ​The military believes that this group is part of the NPA unit which they encountered in Luisiana, Laguna in February 14 wherein John Carlo Alberto alias Damian/Iñigo, a student of UPLB, was killed after he was recruited and deceived by the communist terrorists to join their armed group as a fighter.

    ​Major General Rhoderick Parayno, Commander of the Philippine Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, expressed his gratitude to the people of Infanta for voluntarily providing information to the security forces saying that “this is not only a testament of their trust to their soldiers but a manifestation that they are already tired of the NPAs’ anti-people and anti-development terroristic actions.”

    ​He said that such claim is supported by the fact that “the local officials of Real and Infanta expressed their intentions to declare the NPA terrorists as persona non grata” in their respective towns.

    ​MGen Parayno lauded his soldiers for their “readiness to respond to our people’s plight and their willingness to sacrifice their lives and limbs for the greater good of the very people whom we have sworn to serve” while reiterating his call to the few remaining NPAs in Region 4A “to choose their families over their comrades, to choose peace over conflict and to choose to be productive members of the society over being extortionists who terrorize their fellow Filipinos.”

    ​The names of the wounded soldiers are being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

    NOLCOM: Deputy Commander Promoted

    Posted to the Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) Website (Mar 4, 2019): NOLCOM Deputy Commander Promoted

    Congratulations on your well-deserved promotion, BGEN Arwel Oropesa

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    WESTMINCOM: Suluanos avail services offered in the all-in-one mission facilitated by the Marines

    Posted to the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) Website (Mar 9, 2019): Suluanos avail services offered in the all-in-one mission facilitated by the Marines

     The Marine Battalion Landing Team 3 has again succesfully and safely facilitated another all-in-one mission yesterday (March 8) in Barangay Kanlagay, Kalingalan Caluang, Sulu.

    The activity was participated by various stakeholders, including the Panamao District Hospital, Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista Station Hospital, Kalingalan Caluang Rural Health Unit, and Eye Global Foundation, Inc.

    Services offered include medical and dental check-up, haircut, eye examination, and others.

    The activity benefited a number of less fortunate residents from Kalingalan Caluang, Sulu.

    WESTMINCOM: Troops seize Abu’s high-powered gun after clash with Susukan’s group in Sulu

    Posted to the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) Website (Mar 9, 2019): Troops seize Abu’s high-powered gun after clash with Susukan’s group in Sulu

    Headquarters, Western Mindanao Command, Camp Navarro, Calarian, Zamboanga City- March 09, 2019.

    Military seized a high-powered firearm of Abu Sayyaf militants after a 20-minute armed engagement with the group of sub-leaders Idang Susukan and Angah Adji Sulu this morning, March 9.

    The ferocious gunfight with soldiers of 2nd Special Forces Battalion yielded to the seizure of an M16 rifle and two bandoliers of terrorists in Barangay Upper Binoang, Talipao, Sulu at 6:30am today.

    Operating troops delivered mortar fires and cleared withdrawal route of evading enemies.

    BGen Divino Rey Pabayo, Jr., Commander JTF Sulu, reiterated that the AFP in Sulu is committed in hunting down the ASG to secure the peace and continued development of Sulu.

    We will sustain deliberate operations to hunt down and neutralize Abu Sayyaf militants in their strongholds,” said Lieutenant General Arnel Dela Vega, the commander of the Western Mindanao Command.

    WESTMINCOM: AFP cascades FOI manual, inducts staff in Manila

    Posted to the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) Website (Mar 9, 2019): AFP cascades FOI manual, inducts staff in Manila

    The military cascaded its manual on Freedom of Information and inducted its officers and staff in a seminar held in Camp Aguinaldo yesterday, March 8.

    The Armed Forces of the Philippines crafted the FOI manual, providing standing operating procedures, remedies, and administrative liability relative to the implementation of Executive Order No. 2. Consistent with the Constitution, the said executive order operationalized the people’s right to information and the “state policies of full public disclosure and transparency in the public service.”

    “The public has the right to know the right information at the right time. An informed populace is a source of national power, and right information can empower Filipinos of informed decision,” said Colonel Noel Detoyato, the AFP Public Affairs Chief.

    WestMinCom spokesperson Colonel Gerry Besana and other FOI action officers and staff of unified commands and military units pledged their oath of commitment in a ceremony presided by Lieutenant General Salvador Mechor Mison, Jr., the AFP Vice Chief of Staff. Under the AFP’s FOI Manual, the AFP Public Affairs Chief shall receive, assess, evaluate, and transmit an FOI request filed by a citizen to cognizant offices or units, such as the unified commands.

    The manual also provides that requested information shall be located and retrieved, or that denial of the request on valid grounds shall be communicated by cognizant offices or units with the PAO, AFP.

    The military can deny an FOI request if the identity of the requesting party is fictitious or illegitimate; if t is prompted by sheer idle curiosity or ulterior motive; if t is contrary to law, morals, good customs, or public policy; if it is made for a commercial purpose; or if it will compromise national, operational, and personnel security.

    Based on recommendations of cognizant offices and units, the AFP Chief of Staff shall solely approve or deny the release of the requested information. As the FOI receiving officer, the AFP Public Affairs Chief shall communicate approval or denial of such request with the requesting party.

    The FOI manual also provides requesting parties with remedies in case of denial and sanctions administrative penalties under the Articles of War and the Civil Service rules.

    Assistant Secretary Michel Kristian Ablan, of the Presidential Commission Operations Office, cited national security defense, international relations, and data privacy, among others, as exceptions to E.O. No. 2.

    The cascading and leveling seminar was held at Dimalupig Hall in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City at around 8am today. “We commit to serve with transparency and uphold people’s constitutional right to be informed in the spirit of republicanism.

    As true servants and defenders of Filipinos, we advance this governmental objective as a mechanism for efficiency and legitimacy,” said Lieutenant General Arnel Dela Vega, the commander of the Western Mindanao Command.

    “Delineating reasonable limitations, freedom of information will bear positive outcomes, especially in policy processes, as people will be more involved.”

    WESTMINCOM: Susukan’s brother hurt, another Sayyaf slain as troops pound terrorists in Sulu

    Posted to the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) Website (Mar 9, 2019): Susukan’s brother hurt, another Sayyaf slain as troops pound terrorists in Sulu

    Idang Susukan’s brother incurred serious wounds, while another Abu Sayyaf militant died in two gun battles with military troops in Sulu this morning, March 9.

    The Joint Task Force Sulu, under Brigadier General Divino Rey Pabayo, Jr., said engaged troops retrieved the remains of Abu Sayyaf member Rakib Dahsul after scouring the encounter site in Barangay Upper Binuang, Talipao today.

    A follower of Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Apoh Mike, Dahsul was involved in kidnapping activities perpetrated by the group of Apoh Mike.

    Brigadier General Pabayo, Jr. said Idang Susukan’s brother, identified as Jaber, was seriously wounded in the armed engagement.

    Soldiers also seized two M16 rifles, magazines, and ammunition.

    Troops of the 2nd Special Forces Battalion exchanged gunfire with the group of sub-leader Anga Adji in Barangay Upper Binuang at 6:30am today.

    “Deliberate offensives against terrorists will be launched by the JTF Sulu to debilitate and inflict more casualties on the adversary,” said Lieutenant General Arnel Dela Vega, the commander of the Western Mindanao Command.

    “While we are advancing on our campaign, we will sustain our offensives and employ more pressure on the terrorists.”