Saturday, March 30, 2019

AFP-CRS: Army extends medical care to arrested NDF consultant

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP-CRS) Facebook page (Mar 31, 2019): Army extends medical care to arrested NDF consultant
National Democratic Front consultant and former Catholic priest Francisco Fernandez and his wife, Cleofe Lagtapon, were accommodated and given appropriate medical treatment at the Army General Hospital (AGH) after his arrest on Sunday, March 24, 2019.

Fernandez and his wife were arrested by personnel of the Laguna Provincial Police Office by virtue of a warrant of arrest for murder and for violating Republic Act 10591 or th...e Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act when several pistols and grenades were found in his possession in his residence in Nagcarlan, Laguna.

According to Brigadier General Benedict Arevalo, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade based in Murcia, Negros Occidental, Fernandez is Secretary of the New People’s Army Komiteng Rehiyonal-Negros and has four standing arrest warrants for murder. “It took some time before we got a breakthrough on the location of Frank Fernandez,” he added, pointing out that the Army’s efforts became a law enforcement operation wherein the Philippine National Police carried out the apprehension based on the warrants of arrest issued by the courts.

After the arrest, the couple were initially brought to the Asian Hospital and Medical Center in Alabang, Muntinlupa to undergo physical examination when Fernandez complained of chest pains. They were eventually transported to AGH upon the request of Police Chief Superintendent Edward Carranza, CALABARZON Regional Director for security reasons.

“We have received information that some of his comrades will attempt to free the couple from our custody. The police has primary custodial responsibility over the couple but we requested the Army, which has secondary responsibility, to accommodate them in their secure medical facility”, said Carranza.

“We assure the public that his medical needs are being met and his rights are upheld. Our doctors all have taken their Hippocratic Oath and do not discriminate against anyone who needs medical attention”, said Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, Army spokesperson. | Philippine Army

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CPP/NPA-Central Negros: Pagpamatay sang mga mangunguma, Ginakondenar sang LPC- NPA

 NPA-Central Negros propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Website (Mar 31, 2019): Pagpamatay sang mga mangunguma, Ginakondenar sang LPC- NPA

JB Regalado
NPA-Central Negros (Leonardo Panaligan Command)
New People's Army
March 31, 2019

Mabaskog nga ginakondenar sang Leonardo Panaligan Command- New People’s Army ang nahitabo nga operasyon sang mga pwersa pangseguridad sang estado sa pagpanguna sang 94th IBPA, PNP-Canlaon, SAF kag iban pa nga nagresulta sa pagkamatay sa Walo (8) tanan ka mga mangunguma subong nga aga, Marso 30, 2019, sa sakop sang Canlaon City, Negros Oriental.

Indi makatarunganon ang nahitabo nga pagpamatay bangud ang mga biktima lunsay mga inosente kag mga sibilyan sanday Edgado “Gadong” Avelino kag sa iya utos nga si Ismael Avelino isa ka lider sang asosasyon sang mangunguma sa idalom sang Kahugpungpungan sa Gagmay’ng Mag-uuma sa Oriental Negros (KAUGMAON- Canlaon City Tsapter) sa KMP kag ang mag-amay nga sila Rogelio kag Ricky Recumuno pareho nagapuyo sa Brgy. Panubigan, kag sa iban pa ka mga wala makilal-an ginpamatay nga mangunguma sa So. Manggapa, Brgy. Masulog, Oval kag Brgy. Bayog sakop sang kapareho nga syudad. Subongman, ang illegal nga pag-aresto kay Corazon Javier nga gintamnan sang granada.

Nagbunga ini sang grabe kahadlok kag kakugmat bangud sa kawad-on sang seguridad sang mga pumuluyo sang Canlaon kag katambi nga mga Banwa kag syudad sakop sang Negros oriental. Sa subong, napaidalum sa militarisasyon kag yara sa 500 ang presensya sang mga pwersa pang seguridad sang estado ang naga operasyon sa nasambit nga syudad.

Kung may aton mahinumduman may kaangid ang nasambit nga operasyon sa nahitabo nga One-time Bigtime Operation SEMPO (Sychronize Enhanced Managing Police Operation)/ Oplan Sauron sa Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental nga nag-utas sang anum (6) tanan ka kabuhi sang mga inosente nga sibilyan, masobra sa 50 ka mga illegal nga ginpang-aresto sa planted nga armas kag himu-himo nga mga kaso, pagsunog sang mga balay, grabe nga militarisasyon sa kaumahan, kag pagpang- redtagging sa mga organisasyon mga lider mangunguma.

Ginpanawagan sa bilog nga pumuluyo nga maghimakas kag indi mahadlok nga iduso ang demokratiko nga kinamatarong para malab-ot ang matuod nga hustisya!


Sgd: JB Regalado
Central Negros Guerilla Front

CPP/NPA-Mountain Province: Gear up for bolder and greater victories to forward the people’s war!

NPA-Mountain Province propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Website (Mar 31, 2019): Gear up for bolder and greater victories to forward the people’s war!

Magno Udyaw
NPA-Mountain Province (Leonardo Pacsi Command)
New People's Army
March 31, 2019

The Leonardo Pacsi Command (NPA – Mountain Province) is one with all revolutionary forces and the Filipino people in commemorating the 50th anniversary of the New People’s Army.

Together with all revolutionary forces and the Filipino people, we look back at the triumphs of our 50-year struggle and gear up for bolder and greater ones to forward the People’s War towards the strategic stalemate.

On this occasion, we salute all Red commanders, political officers, full-time Red fighters, and the people’s militia who have wholeheartedly and painstakingly offered their lives in service to the masses, the peasants, the laborers, and the national minorities. Arduously they have upholded and defended the interests of the Filipino people, and bravely they have countered the attacks of the US-Duterte regime’s fascist troops.

We honor the toiling masses who have inexhaustibly forwarded the armed struggle, and our allies and friends whose support to the revolutionary cause remains fervent.

We give our highest salute to all the martyrs of the revolution, particularly Noe “Ka Gilbert” Magkachi, a Bontoc youth who died in Mainit last August, whose ultimate sacrifice will help bring forth in his ili and the Cordillera a new generation of young and valiant Red fighters.

In the face of relentless fascist attacks of the US-Duterte regime against the people and the revolutionary movement, the NPA has steadily grown and surmounted the enemy’s intensifying all-out offensives and focused military operations.

In the past year, the LPC mounted a number of tactical offensives – the most recent being the ambush of troops of the Regional Mobile Force (RMF) in Bauko last March 29 – and upheld its active defense as it carried on its political tasks of arousing, organizing, and mobilizing the masses. Also of note is the successful offensive last July 15 during which not less than four high-powered rifles were confiscated by Red fighters.

Under the leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the LPC has remained steadfast to its mandate of dismantling the State’s fascist machineries – troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), and Citizen Auxiliary Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) – which serve as the security force of large, plunderous companies in energy, logging, and mining and are responsible for countless human rights violations themselves.

The LPC struck blows against and confiscated materiel from units such as the 54th Infantry Battalion, 81st IB, and RMF, thereby countering tendencies of military conservatism, among other weaknesses identified in the midst of the current rectification movement.

In light of the Duterte government’s permanent withdrawal from peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the LPC will launch bolder and greater offensives against its armed agents that maintain the status quo for imperialists, big bourgeois compradors, and landlords – the very kind of peace saboteurs that has oppressed the Filipino people for the longest time.

Committed to just and lasting peace, the LPC will never kneel to Duterte’s harassment and fearmongering, nor will it conform to the delusional localized peace talks, repressive “peace zone” policies, and deceptive surrender campaigns.

Amid the worsening socioeconomic crisis and the onslaught of fascist attacks of the US-Duterte regime, the justness of waging armed struggle grows clearer.

As the people’s army in Mt. Province, the LPC is committed to carry out its tasks along with the entire revolutionary movement to overthrow the US-Duterte regime, advance the People’s War, and gain greater victories for the Filipino people, up until genuine democracy, justice, peace, and freedom are attained!

CPP/NDF-Bicol: Pinagtatakpan ni Duterte ang Kanyang Kaugnayan sa Malaking Sindikato ng Droga na Pinamumunuan ni Michael Yang at Allan Lim

NDF-Bicol propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Website (Mar 31, 2019): Pinagtatakpan ni Duterte ang Kanyang Kaugnayan sa Malaking Sindikato ng Droga na Pinamumunuan ni Michael Yang at Allan Lim

Maria Roja Banua
National Democratic Front of the Philippines
March 31, 2019
Pinatunayan lamang ng patuloy na pagtatanggol at paglilinis ng Malacañang sa pangalan ni Michael Yang, dating Presidential Economic Adviser ni Duterte, na may basbas at pinakikinabangan ni Duterte ang malawakang operasyon ng ilang mga pinapaburang sindikato ng iligal na droga sa bansa, kabilang ang grupo ni Michael Yang.  Ito ang isa sa mga tuntungan ni Duterte upang ganap na makontrol ang suplay ng iligal na droga sa bansa at maipwesto ang sarili bilang ‘drug overlord’.   Samantala, patuloy na tinutugis at pilit na dinudungisan ang pangalan ng mga nagsasagawa ng imbestigasyon at nakadiskubre sa malapit na koneksyon ni Duterte at ilan niyang pinakamatatapat na tauhan, kabilang si Special Assistant to the President Bong Go, sa grupo nina Michael Yang at Allan Lim.
Kamakailan lamang, ilinantad sa publiko ni dating PSSupt. Eduardo Acierto ang ulat na kanyang sinumite kaugnay dito.  Ayon sa ulat na ito ni Acierto, malinaw na ilinatag ng isang ‘informant’, alyas ‘Panther’, ang kaugnayan nina Duterte at Bong Go kay Michael Yang, alyas ‘Dragon’.  Sina Michael Yang, kasama si Allan Lim, ay tinukoy na utak ng malalakihang pagpuslit ng shabu at operasyon ng mga laboratoryo sa paggawa nito sa Mindanao at Luzon.  Kabilang dito ang pagpuslit ng P11 bilyong halaga ng shabu noong 2018 na itinago sa mga ‘magnetic lifters’ na natagpuan sa Maynila at sa Cavite kung saan nakabase si Lim.  Nagsimula ang patung-patong na mga akusasyong ito kay Michael Yang noon pa mang nagsisilbi si Duterte bilang alkalde ng Davao City.
Ayon mismo kay PDEA Chief Aaron Aquino, tinalakay kay Duterte sa pamamagitan ni Bong Go ang nasabing ulat.   Subalit sa halip na magsagawa ng puspusang imbestigasyon upang patotohanan ang mga ilinahad ni alyas Panther sa ulat ni Acierto, itinalaga pa si Michael Yang sa gabinete bilang Presidential Economic Adviser noong Enero 2018, ilang buwan bago naganap ang pagpuslit ng tone-toneladang shabu.  Kahina-hinala na sa kabila ng mga kontratang nagpapatunay sa pagkakatalaga ni Michael Yang sa pusisyong ito, papaling-paling ang pahayag ng Malacañang hinggil dito.
Matapos nito, ilinabas naman ni Duterte ang kanyang sariling ‘special report’ na naglalaman ng listahan ng mga narco-police.  Ilinagay sa unahan ng listahan si Acierto at itinuro bilang utak sa nasabing pagpuslit ng P11 bilyong halaga ng shabu.  Isinama rin sa listahan ang iba pang miyembro ng isang ispesyal na yunit ng PNP-Drug Enforcement Group na nagsagawa ng imbestigasyon sa sindikatong kinabibilangan nina Michael Yang at Allan Lim.  Ilinagay din ang Bureau of Customs (BOC) sa kontrol ng militar upang tiyaking hindi mailalantad ang iba pang impormasyong magpapatunay sa partisipasyon ng pangkating Duterte sa pagpuslit ng shabu.  Kahina-hinala din na nito lamang Pebrero, nasunog ang upisina ng BOC kung saan nakaimbak ang lahat ng rekord ng mga transaksyon ng nasabing tanggapan.
Higit na makabuluhan ang ulat na ito ni Acierto sa harap ng patuloy na pagkalantad sa mamamayan ng huwad na gera kontra-droga.  Upang muling mapatingkad ang kampanya laban sa droga, pinatampok sa balita ang pagpasok sa bansa ng 276 kilo ng shabu na nagkakahalaga ng P2.9 bilyon ilang buwan bago ang Eleksyon 2019.  Muling nagkaroon ng tuntungan si Duterte para maglabas ng panibagong listahan ng mga narco-pulitiko.  Kataka-takang wala ni isa sa kanyang pangkatin, alyado, kapartido at kapamilya ang nasa listahan gayong may malinaw na mga tuntungan ng upang magsagawa ng imbestigasyon.  Kabilang dito ang pagkakasabwat ng kanyang anak na si Paolo Duterte at kanyang manugang na si Mans Carpio sa pagpuslit ng P6.4 bilyong halaga ng iligal na droga sa bansa na naipabalita noong Mayo 2017.
Nananawagan ang NDF-Bikol sa mamamayang Pilipino na panagutin at ibagsak ang rehimeng US-Duterte bilang utak ng lumalawak na operasyon ng iligal na droga sa bansa.  Ang ‘gera kontra droga’ na kumitil sa puu-puong libong mamamayan ay isang gerang ilinunsad ni Duterte upang maging ganap ang kanyang pagiging ‘drug overlord’.  Dapat ilantad ang tangka ng rehimen na itago ang isinawalat na ulat ni Acierto upang pabanguhin ang imahe nito at matiyak ang pagkapanalo ng kanyang pangkatin sa darating na halalan.

WESCOM intensifies role as ‘protector’ of Palawan in 43rd anniversary

From Palawan News (Mar 29, 2019): WESCOM intensifies role as ‘protector’ of Palawan in 43rd anniversary

Western Command (WESCOM) celebrates its 43 years of service on Friday, March 29, 2019, with Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Vice Admiral Gaudencio Collado Jr. (left). Under the leadership of Vice Admiral Rene Medina, the WESCOM anniversary’s theme is “Team WESCOM @ 43: Kaakibat sa Paglilingkod, Kabalikat ng Palaweño Tungo sa Patuloy na Kapayapaan, Kaunlaran at Matatag na Palawan.” (Photo courtesy of WESCOM Public Affairs Office)

The Western Command (WESCOM) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is intensifying its role as the “protector” of the province of Palawan as it marked its 43rd Anniversary on Friday.

Vice Admiral Gaudencio Collado Jr., AFP deputy chief of staff, said the military’s higher command will always sustain its full support to the WESCOM that is in charge of maintaining Palawan’s peace and order, including Kalayaan municipality in the West Philippine Sea.

“We highly recognize the Bayahinan [spirit] that remains instilled in this Command and its advocacy for peace. To everyone, thank you for being one with us in protecting and maintaining peace in the area of Palawan and the well-guarded West Philippine Sea,” Collado said during the anniversary program.

WESCOM commander Vice Admiral Rene Medina (seated 1st from left) with AFP deputy chief of staff Vice Admiral Gaudencio Collado Jr., WESCOM deputy commander, Brigadier General Lauro Tianchon, and the awardees during the Command’s 43rd years of service on March 29, 2019.

Collado represented AFP Chief of Staff General Benjamin Madrigal during the event.

WESCOM commander Vice Admiral Rene Medina, meanwhile, recognized his unit’s success in conducting air, land, and naval operations.

“We are looking forward to the support and commitment of the province of Palawan, particularly on peace and security. We believe that we really need to strengthen our [combined] efforts so that we can maintain the image of Palawan as a [prime] tourist destination in the Philippines. We will not accept it if there will be any untoward incident that will transpire in Palawan, particularly kidnapping,” Medina said.

During the event, WESCOM recognized its outstanding personnel, units, and assets.

The Combat Service Support Company of the Year Award was given to the Joint Task Force Peacock (JTFP) while the Combat Company of the Year award was bestowed to the 212th Marine Company (MC) of the Marine Batallion Landing Team-12 (MBLT-12).

The other awardees were BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS16) as Best Ship of the Year; NV312 as Best Aircraft of the Year-Fixed Wing, and PZL W-3A SOKOL as Best Aircraft of the Year-Rotary Wing.

The uniformed and civilian personnel who were awarded were Commander Emerson David as Officer of the Year; TSgt. Sheryl Debraliz Petalver as Enlisted Personnel of the Year; Winifredo Paduga as Civilian Employee of the Year, and Judy Sonio as Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) Active Auxillary of the Year.

Awarded with the Kalayaan Group of Island Campaign Medal and Ribbon (KGICMR) were S2GM John Philip Mendez, S2RD Axel Betita, S2QM Jose Evanecer Sevilla Jr, S2ET Jerwin Basallote and F2MR Henry Luis Fernandez.

WESTMINCOM: 19 more NPA members yield to gov’t forces in Sultan Kudarat

Posted to the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) Website (Mar 30, 2019): 19 more NPA members yield to gov’t forces in Sultan Kudarat

Nineteen more members of the New People’s Army surrendered to government forces in Sultan Kudarat on the day of the communist group’s founding anniversary, March 29, 2019.

The communist terrorists yielded to the local government of Sultan Kudarat, the Sultan Kudarat Provincial Police Office, and the 33rd Infantry and 39th Infantry Battalions.

The former rebels also laid down 13 high-powered firearms, explosives, and ammunition.

They belong to different communist fronts operating in the provinces of Cotabato, Davao del Sur, Sultan Kudarat, and South Cotabato.

“Their surrender on the very day of the NPA’s supposed founding anniversary is a very clear indication that its ranks continue to decline due to the relentless efforts of the troops on the ground to hunt them down while providing space for them to peacefully surrender,” said Colonel Efren Baluyot, 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade Commander.

Major General Cirilito Sobejana, Joint Task Force Central Commander, lauded this recent accomplishment.

“The surrender of these communist terrorists shows that the localized peace negotiations, led by the provincial government of Sultan Kudarat, are very effective. This is also a clear manifestation that those who were duped by the NPA in joining their ranks have realized that the government cares for them and that they are welcome to join the peace-loving people of Sultan Kudarat,” said Sobejana.

The returnees will receive livelihood assistance, payment for the surrendered firearms, as well as housing, through the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program.

The program is under the supervision of Sultan Kudarat Province under Governor Pax Mangudadatu.

Lieutenant General Arnel Dela Vega, Western Mindanao Command chief, said, “We support all peaceful mechanisms that bridge synergy and that build hopes for our brothers and sisters, who were deceived by communist terrorists, to rebuild their lives.”

“We sustain all efforts and work with our peace partners to address insurgency and to encourage remaining rebels to surrender and trust the government,” he added.

WESTMINCOM: Gov’t forces nab lawless elements, seize firearms in Maguindanao

Posted to the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) Website (Mar 30, 2019): Gov’t forces nab lawless elements, seize firearms in Maguindanao

Government troops nabbed lawless elements and seized high-powered firearms of the group after a joint operation in Maguindanao today, March 30.

Military and police forces nabbed Guiaman Lumbos, Ali Lumbos, Samsudin Lumbos and Digna Lumbos Dirangaren by a search warrant for violation of the comprehensive law on firearms and ammunition in Barangay Langkong, Matanog today.

Troops also seized a Caliber .30 improvised sniper rifle, two M16 assault rifles, an M14 rifle, a Carbine rifle, an M16 rifle with an M203 Grenade Launcher, a hand grenade, ammunition, and magazines.

Government troops were composed of personnel of 37th Infantry Battalion, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-ARMM, and Maguindanao Provincial Police Office.

The suspects and the recovered items are now in the custody of CIDG-ARMM for appropriate filling of cases and disposition.

“The successful operation was made through the collaborative effort and the deliberate planning of security forces in the area of operations,” said Lieutenant Colonel Roberto Go Jr., 37th Infantry Battalion Commanding Officer.

“As an agent in promoting peace and development, the 603rd Infantry Brigade will actively support the law enforcement operation of the police to deter lawless elements from creating amuck and fear in the community,” said Colonel Wilbur Mamawag, 603rd Bde Commander,.

“In the quest for peace and development, unity is the key to success,” said Major General Cirilito Sobejana, Joint Task Force Central Commander.

“The operation would not be accomplished if not for the help of the civilian community who provided vital information,” he added.

“The spate of accomplishments of military and police forces only prove that, if we synergize efforts, we will effect operations with substantial gains. We assure you that this cooperation among security forces will be sustained to effectively address lawless violence in Mindanao” said Lieutenant General Arnel Dela Vega, Western Mindanao Command chief.

Ex-fighters, kin ready for decommissioning

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 31, 2019): Ex-fighters, kin ready for decommissioning

Photo by Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU)
MAGUINDANAO – Babu Psung, 60, from Sultan Sa Barongis, Maguindanao, was among the hundreds of Bangsamoro residents who witnessed the inauguration of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao on March 29. She is the wife of a grizzled MILF combatant.

In an interview, she shared her journey from being a perennial evacuee or “bakwit” of armed conflict to becoming a catalyst of peace and development. She attributes this life-changing transformation to the gains of the peace process.

Babu Psung recalled how she and her family lived in constant fear of when the next armed conflict will break out in the community. She had never gotten used to the sound of gunfire although her husband had been a combatant long before they were married.

This is the reason why she could not hold back her tears when she learned that her family will finally be leaving behind a dark chapter in their lives.

With the formal decommissioning of her husbands and thousands of MILF fighters, she believes that the Bangsamaoro people can look ahead to a brighter future.

"Natuntayan nami dn sa noget den a nyabay (decomissioning) na ipedtagu dn su mga tambak ka di ren penggamiten; dikna ip'd-surender uged na ip'dtagu (We already learned that this (decommissioning) will put weapons beyond use. This is not to surrender them but just to set them aside.)," she said.

Photo by OPAPRU

Asked about her expectations on how the next steps of the process will affect them, she answered, "Nya katundug na kabagenggay sa mga project a para sa tanan. Dikna maya ipendwal bu isa-isa uged a project a magamit nu madakel para sa uyag-uyag (The next phase is the implementation of projects for all. These are not dole outs but livelihood projects that will benefit everyone.),” she added

She said her whole family and the rest of their community fully support the Normalization Track, adding they are ready and excited for the decommissioning process to begin.

‘We are ready’

Meanwhile, among the combatants who are set to undergo the decommissioning process is Bapa Imam, 60, who became a combatant since the Martial Law era.

Imam recounted the hardships he and his comrades experienced during the decades-long armed struggle.

"Mabagel ged i kab'ng-gyera sa'ntu a timpu, malegen i natala name (Battles were intense during those times. It was a hard time for us.),” he said.

Photo by OPAPRU

When asked on how he felt that the Bangsamoro people have achieved their long held dream of genuine and meaningful self-governance and will be part of the decommissioning process, he said, "Nya nami ganggiginawa samaya na gapyay ginawa nami sa nasampay nami pan inya (We feel genuinely happy that we are able to witness [these milestones]).”

Imam concluded by expressing the collective aspirstions of the combatants to be decommissioned: "Kab'nggobyerno anya na mana bun ig - u malebug sa pulu na malebug bun taman sa baba. Pangeni-Ngenin ta na mapya i proseso ka 'ndu malingaw i katamanan (Governance can be compared to running water; fuzzy water upstream leads to fuzzy water downstream. Let us pray that clear processes will guide us along the way).”

Normalization Track
The major components under the Normalization Track are security, socio-economic development, confidence-building and Transitional Justice and Reconciliation.

The Joint Normalization Committee (JNC), which is under the oversight of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), will oversee the conduct of activities under the Normalization Track of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

The CAB was signed by the Philippine Government and the MILF in 2014, which ended more than four decades of armed conflict in Mindanao.

Police: 14 Suspected Leftists Killed in Central Philippines

From BenarNews (Mar 30, 2019): Police: 14 Suspected Leftists Killed in Central Philippines

Guerrillas of the New People's Army, armed wing of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines, stand in formation in the Sierra Madre mountain range, east of Manila, July 30, 2017.

Guerrillas of the New People's Army, armed wing of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines, stand in formation in the Sierra Madre mountain range, east of Manila, July 30, 2017. AFP                    

Police killed at least 14 people on Saturday, eight of them in one city alone, in what authorities initially described as a massive law-enforcement activity but later admitted were simultaneous operations against communist guerrillas in the central Philippines.

A dozen others with suspected links to the New People’s Army (NPA) were arrested, police said.

“They were suspected of being the ones who attacked and killed policemen and soldiers here,” Col. Raul Tacaca, police provincial director, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, referring to the slain men. Tacaca did not elaborate.

The police operations took place a day after the NPA, armed wing of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines, marked its 50th founding anniversary Friday.

Local police spokesman Edelberito Euraoba said eight people were killed during gunfights in Canlaon city, four in the town of Manjuyod and two in Santa Catalina town in Negros Oriental province.
Police officers were serving arrest and search warrants on the suspects when they were fired upon, Euraoba told reporters.

Among those slain were alleged leaders of local peasant organizations that authorities believe were “legal fronts” of the NPA.
Tacaca said in a statement that the targets of the operations were believed to be responsible for attacks on police and military personnel, among other offenses.

“In the course of the operation, casualties are imperative to neutralize the threats to lives and properties. However, preservation of human rights, including that of the subjects for operations, are properly observed,” Tacaca said.

He said that the operations were launched in response to growing incidents of violence, including alleged harassment of government forces in Negros, and was also aimed at ending what he termed as “terroristic activities.”

But human rights groups accused the police of targeting leaders of legal organizations, pointing out that among those slain was Edgardo Avelino, leader of a local farmers union and his brother, Ismael, who was also an activist. They said the victims were local farmers, not outlaws.

“This is unconscionable. We strongly demand and immediate and independent investigation on this incident,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary-general of human rights group Karapatan, or the Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights.
Palabay emphasized that the Negros region has been a “consistent target” of escalating police and military operations. Similar operations in December also in the region left six dead.

“As we condole with the families of those killed, we join our voices in the call for justice and accountability for these heinous crimes perpetrated by the government,” she said.

A woman described as Edgardo’s wife told local radio station Brigada News-San Carlos that 10 men barged into their home and shot her husband dead. The men had claimed to have a search warrant, a document that she said they never saw.

Rebel returnees receive financial aid

From the Philippine Star (Mar 31, 2019): Rebel returnees receive financial aid
KORONADAL CITY, Philippines — Nineteen former New People’s Army (NPA) rebels received P20,000 in financial assistance from the provincial government of Sultan Kudarat on Friday.
The surrenderees are former members of the NPA’s Guerilla Fronts 72 and 73 who operated in Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato and Davao del Sur.
Col. Efren Baluyot, First Mechanized Brigade commander, said the former rebels turned over grenades, ammunition and 15 high-powered firearms.

Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, 6th Infantry Division commander, said they would help facilitate the reintegration of the surrenderees into local communities.

Sobejana said the former rebels would also receive livelihood and other humanitarian support through the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program or E-CLIP.

Efforts intensified to decommission MILF fighters

From the Philippine Star (Mar 30, 2019): Efforts intensified to decommission MILF fighters


President Rodrigo Duterte and Hadji Ahod Ebrahim of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindano jointly led Friday’s symbolic inauguration of BARMM in Cotabato City. Unson

Efforts to decommission Moro rebels to hasten their return to mainstream communities in the Bangsamoro region are now underway.

The Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB), the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process are now coordinating on the implementation of the program, officials told The STAR on Saturday.

The process is based on peace compacts between Malacañang and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, whose figurehead, Hadji Ahod Ebrahim, most known by his nom de guerre, Murad Ebrahim, is now chief minister of BARMM and concurrent head of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, or BTA.

Ebrahim first announced on Friday, while President Rodrigo Duterte was at the Bangsamoro capitol here to inaugurate the BARMM, that they have submitted to the IDB the list of MILF members subject to decommissioning.

“We are confident the decommissioning process will proceed smoothly. The government is assured of our cooperation on that matter,” Ebrahim told reporters via text message on Saturday morning.

Ebrahim, during the first ever session here on Friday of the Bangsamoro interim parliament, said they will focus on five initial solutions --- education, health, economic development, strategic infrastructures and moral leadership --- to underdevelopment in conflict-affected areas.

In a statement emailed Saturday, the IDB confirmed having received from the MILF the list of combatants to be decommissioned based on a procedure agreed by the group and Malacañang in previous peace talks.

The IDB, jointly established early on by the government and the MILF, functions on a “term of reference” agreed by both sides as its operational guideline.

The IDB said it is grateful to Turkey, Norway, Brunei, Germany, Australia and Japan for supporting the Bangsamoro peace initiative, particularly the restoration of normalcy in areas where there are MILF enclaves.

The five countries have committed to help in the decommissioning of MILF members.

The governments of Norway, Brunei, Japan and Malaysia have also been helping oversee for two decades now the implementation of the 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities between Malacañang and the MILF.

The provincial government of Maguindanao reiterated on Saturday its readiness to provide college scholarships to children of MILF members who are to undergo disarmament by the IDB.

The now outgoing three-termer Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu told reporters via online Messenger that the Maguindanao Program for Education and Community Empowerment, or MagPEACE, still has 2,000 slots for poor but deserving students with good academic standing.

“We are open to accommodating qualified children of MILF members due for decommissioning,” Mangudadatu said.

The MagPEACE has facilitated, since its inception eight years ago, the schooling of more than 3,000 students who are now employed professionals.

The program has produced teachers, veterinarians, a lawyer, a medical technologist and a doctor of medicine.

Mangudadatu said the MagPEACE is even willing to help children of members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters who surrendered in batches in recent months.

The BIFF, which is not involved in the peace process between the government and the MILF, operates in the fashion of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

“We are doing this because we support the education thrust of BARMM and we in the provincial government are certain that education is one best remedy to the poverty caused by armed conflicts in Moro areas,” Mangudadatu said.

Ebrahim said he is thankful to the provincial government of Maguindanao for complementing BARMM’s peace and development efforts.

Ebrahim said the MILF also got elated with how provincial and municipal executives in Maguindanao campaigned for the ratification via the January 21 plebiscite of BARMM’s charter, the Bangsamoro Organic Law (Republic Act 11054).

The RA 11054 paved the way for the replacement of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with BARMM, a product of more than 20 years of peace talks between the MILF and the national government.

Philippines: War widows of Abu Sayyaf fighters suffer stigma

From Al-Jazeera (Mar 30, 2019): Philippines: War widows of Abu Sayyaf fighters suffer stigma
More than four decades of continuous conflict has made Mindanao a region of war widows
[See video report]
Conflict in the Mindanao region of southern Philippines has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in the past half-century.

Multiple armed groups operate in the area, and many wives left behind suffer from the stigma of being widows of Abu Sayyaf fighters.

Al Jazeera's Jamela Alindogan travelled to a small village in Basilan to hear their stories.

Duterte to BTA: Bangsamoro’s future “is now in your hands;”region awaits release of budget

From MindaNews (Mar 30, 2019): Duterte to BTA: Bangsamoro’s future “is now in your hands;”region awaits release of budget

“Your region’s future is now in your hands,” President Rodrigo Duterte told members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the body that will govern the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) until June 30, 2022, during its inauguration Friday at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex here.

“To my dear Bangsamoro sisters and brothers in the BTA, the power to chart the course of your region’s future is now in your hands. I trust that you will wield this power with utmost care, the future of succeeding generations of the Filipinos, especially the Moro of Mindanao, depends on it,” said Duterte who, before reading his prepared speech, expressed his “extreme happiness .. that we were able to realize at least a part — maybe not all, but a part of what the entire country would have wished for the Moro people of Mindanao.”

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte beats the agong to signal the inauguration of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex in Cotabato City on March 29, 2019. Joining the President is BARMM Interim Chief Minister Al Haj Murad Ebrahim. ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

In his nine-minute speech, the President said the BARMM, which he described as the new autonomous entity “that we had envisioned to address the injustices of the past and plot the new course towards a more promising future for Mindanao and the rest of the country,” promises “a new dawn for the Moro.”

He reiterated his “solemn promise to you, a sacred one which I promised also to Allah for his blessings, that in my term and for the next three years, we will all work and truly work for the benefit of the Bangsamoro people.”

Duterte’s six-year term ends at noon on June 30, 2022, the same day the BTA steps down to give way to the first set of elected officials of the BARMM.

Where’s the budget?

The President was expected to have said something about the biggest problem of the BTA in its five-week existence – the budget – but no pronouncement was made specifically on that matter.

The new region, supposedly “more autonomous” than the two other previous attempts to install an autonomous region – the Regional Autonomous Governments under President Ferdinand Marcos and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) under President Corazon Aquino – is still awaiting the release of the 1.2 billion peso transition fund and the transfer of the 32 billion peso ARMM budget for 2019 to the BARMM.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte shares a light moment with Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) Interim Chief Ministter Al Haj Murad Ebrahim on the sidelines of the inauguration of BARMM at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex in Cotabato City on March 29, 2019. Also in the photo is Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Carlito Galvez Jr. KARL NORMAN ALONZO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

In fact, two of the BTA’s four resolutions passed during the inaugural session in the morning, authorized interim Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim (real name of MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim) to “request for the release of the transition fund” and “to request for the transfer of the current year’s appropriations for the ARMM to the BARMM.”

Ebrahim said “the banging of the agong” by the President as soon as he entered the SKCC at 6:21 pm. (more than three hours after his expected arrival), “marks a new beginning for the Bangsamoro.”

The BTA had its inaugural session in the morning where they passed the resolutions before Ebrahim delivered his inaugural address.

But in his welcome remarks in the evening where the President was to address the BTA, Ebrahim said nothing about the two resolutions on the budget releases as he focused on their “new kind of jihad, jihad against poverty, against want and against neglect.”

He announced that they had submitted a list of the first 30% of combatants who will be decommissioned. The CAB provides for the decommissioning of 30% of weapons and combatants after the ratification of the Bangsamoro law.

Swearing before Koran

Before the Bay’a or taking of the oath of moral governance before the Koran, Ebrahim explained that when they started the revolution to assert their right to self-determination, they took an oath before the Koran. “Today as we start our governance, we will also do the same,” he said.

Ebrahim recalled that as they were guided in their armed struggle by the tenets of Islam, they will also be guided by the teachings of Islam “in delivering the trust given to us to run the Bangsamoro government, the brand of governance that Islam advocates — that is, moral governance.” The audience applauded.

“We vow to make moral governance as the foundation of this leadership,” he said as he thanked the President for making the event “more significant and historic.”

He expressed the BTA’s birthday greetings to the President who turned 74 the day before.

Five weeks, five years

The inauguration came exactly five weeks to the day members of the BTA took their oath before President Duterte in Malacanang; one month and three days after the turnover rites from the ARMM to the BARMM; and five years and two days since the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

The new entity has a deadline of 60 days to pass its transition plan which shall contain the proposed organizational plan, as well as, the schedule for implementation.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers his speech during the inauguration of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex in Cotabato City on March 29, 2019. ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Under RA 11054 or the Organic Law for the BARMM, the transition plan is to be implemented within 15 days from its approval.

The law also mandates the BTA to pass priority measures such as the Bangsamoro Administrative Code, Bangsamoro Revenue Code, Bangsamoro Electoral Code, Bangsamoro Local Government Code, and Bangsamoro Education Code as well as a Bangsamoro Civil Service and a law to recognize, protect, promote, and preserve the rights of the indigenous peoples in the BARMM.

Correct historical injustices

Duterte called upon the Bangsamoro at the start of this new chapter in the country “to take advantage of this opportunity and finally correct the historical injustices and forget the bitterness of the past so that we may embrace each other as Filipinos.”

He said the new government must be one that serves “all Muslims, Christians, Lumads, and other indigenous peoples, and every Filipino who also call Mindanao their home.”

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers his speech during the inauguration of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex in Cotabato City on March 29, 2019. ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

“We entrust this responsibility to the distinguished members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority under the able leadership and through the vision of Chief Minister Al Haj Murad Ebrahim. Sir, sumasaludo ako sa inyo,” Duterte said.

He said he hopes the BARMM “will not just live up to its aspirations and principles embodied in the past peace agreements with different Moro fronts, but also promote good governance, transparency, accountability, and inclusive political empowerment.”


At the start of his speech, Duterte said he hoped that “in due time,” he would be “able to fix also the western part and I hope to talk to our brother Nur Misuari on the western side.

Misuari is the founding chair of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) which has split into various factions, the first of which was the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the late 1970s.

The government signed two peace agreements with the MNLF under Misuari – the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 Final Peace Agreement.

The MNLF faction under Yusoph Jikiri and Muslimin Sema was represented in the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) that drafted the Bangsamoro law. Misuari’s faction did not nominate anyone to the BTC.

The MNLF under Jkiri and Sema has at least 10 representatives in the BTA – nine nominated by the government and one nominated by the MILF.

Among the 76 members appointed by the President, MindaNews counted 19 from the island provinces or what Duterte refers to as “the western part” — eight from Sulu, seven from Basilan and four from Tawi-tawi.

Peace and Justice

The BARMM comprises the core areas of the ARMM – the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan – and the additional areas of Cotabato City and 63 barangays in North Cotabato that voted for inclusion in the BARMM.

Among the chief executives of the BARMM, only Maguindanao Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu attended the inauguration.

Retired Cardinal Orlando Quevedo wasn’t able to attend the inauguration due to a previous commitment but he told MindaNews he sent word to Ebrahim and MILF Peace Implementing Panel chair Mohagher Iqbal (now Minister of Eduction), that he is “with you in mind and heart.”

“My greetings and best wishes to everyone, especially to President Duterte. To him I express my deep gratitude for his BOL (Bangsamoro organic law) support. May the Bangsamoro thrive in peace and justice under God the Most Compassionate, “ Quevedo said.

Bangsamoro Transition Authority elects officials; Balindong is Speaker

From MindaNews (Mar 30, 2019): Bangsamoro Transition Authority elects officials; Balindong is Speaker

A former Deputy Speaker for Mindanao in the House of Representatives, was elected Speaker of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) during the inaugural session Friday of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Lawyer Ali Pangalian Macaorao Balindong, 79, four-term Representative of the second district of Lanao del Sur who was appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2018 as member of Consultative Committee that reviewed the 1987 Constitution, was one of two nominees to the Speakership.

He was nominated by Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the Peace Implementing Panel of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The other nominee is 47-year old lawyer Laisa Alamia, who served as Executive Secretary and Secretary of Social Welfare and Development of the now defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Alamia is now the Minority Leader.

Four-term Lanao del Sur second district Representative and former Deputy Speaker for Mindanao Ali Pangalian Balindong was elected Speaker of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) last Friday at the inaugural session of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim MIndanao. Behind him on the extreme right is Hatimil Hassan of Basilan, who was elected Deputy Speaker. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

The 69-year old Basilan-based Hatimil Hassan of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was elected Deputy Speaker.

At the turnover from the ARMM to the BARMM on February 26, interim Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim (MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim) named Ghazali Jaafar, 1st Vice Chair of the MILF who chaired the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, as Speaker and Balindong as Deputy Speaker who would serve as Speaker while Jaafar was recuperating.

Jaafar passed away in a hospital in Davao City on March 13.

Others elected to the posts — all of them running unopposed (except for the Speaker) — were Lanang Ali, Jr. as Majority Leader, Prof. Roby Angkal as Secretary-General and Dan Dimakenal as Sergeant at Arms.

The first part of the inaugural session was the announcement of the appointment of Sheikh Khalifa Usman Nando as the Wali, the ceremonial head of the Bangsamoro Government.

Republic Act 11054 or the Organic Law for the BARMM provides that the Wali “shall only perform ceremonial duties such as opening the session of the Parliament, administering the oath of office, dissolving the Parliament upon the advice of the Chief Minister after a vote of no confidence against the government of the day, calling for election of a new Parliament, and attending to public ceremonies.

Sheikh Khalifa Usman Nando is the Wali, the ceremonial head of the Bangsamoro Government. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

Nando took his oath before Ebrahim and in opening the inaugural session, said the BARMM is the “beginning of the harvest of the great sacrifices” that they had to go through as a people “in order to make this new autonomous government a success.”

The Wali mentioned the leaders of the MILF who had passed away – chair Salamat Hashim, Abdulaziz Mimbantas of Lanao del Sur, Dr. Saleh Long of Sulu and Jaafar of Maguindanao, and others who “made efforts and sacrifices which led to the establishment of this new autonomous government.”

“One of the reasons behind our people’s backwardness,” he said, “is the lack of education which is the basis of progress. The ignorance and poverty among our people led to injustices and the spread of strife and enmity among its members, destabilized the security of the region and the people,” he said.

He cited the need to “fight racial and fanatical differences, instill the seeds of tolerance and mutual respect.”

Seventy-five members were present during the roll call. The BTA is supposed to be an 80-member body that will govern the BARMM until June 30, 2022.

President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed 76 and has yet to appoint four. The MILF is recommending Mujiv Ali, eldest son of the late Jaafar, to be appointed as his replacement.

The law provides that the elected officials of the ARMM be automatically part of the BTA until June 30 this year, when their terms shall have lapsed.

The ARMM has 26 elected officials but one died in office, leaving only 25. But ARMM Governor, Mujiv Hataman, opted to resign from the BARMM to focus on Basilan where he is running for the lone congressional seat; and Assemblyman Khadafeh Mangudadatu has been appointed regular member of the BTA.

If the President had completed the appointments of 80 BTA members, the total number of BTA members would have been 103 until June 30 this year. But as of inaugural day, the BTA has 98 members – 75 appointees and 23 elected ARMM officials.


Friday’s session ended at 11:40 a.m. after Murad’s inaugural address. The afternoon event was the Bay’a or swearing by the Koran in the presence of President Rodrigo Duterte who was expected to arrive mid-afternoon to bang the gong “to signal the inauguration “ of the BARMM. He arrived at 6:21 p.m.

The inaugural session of the predominantly Moro revolutionaries-turned-parliamentarians was not without bloopers. The first blooper was the playing of the national anthem, the video showing images of flag-raising rites of ARMM and its officials, the very same ARMM that the BARMM replaced.

Interim Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao delivers his inaugural address Friday morning, 29 March 2019 at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex inside the BARMM Compound in Cotabato City. MIndaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

Before Balindong, the seasoned Speaker, took over as presiding chair, Ebrahim, who was long-time Vice Chair for Military Affairs and Chief of Staff of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) before he assumed the chairmanship of the MILF in 2003, looked and sounded awkward as presiding chair.

He groped for the right parliamentary wordings and declared the Speaker “appointed” even before the election could be held.

When the voting eventually happened after a long-extended-supposedly-three-minute-recess to clarify matters such as having another candidate to form the basis for the majority and minority, Ebrahim said the voting would be by viva voce but a number of MPs (Member of Parliament) raised their hands. Soonafter, Ebrahim was heard saying “stand up” after asking who were for Balindong and who were against, and later declared the vote for Balindong “unanimous” even as there were a few who did not stand up.

At one point in the session, Ali, 36, then still designated as Acting Majority Leader, declared MP Nabil Tan out of order even as the 63-year old Tan, a veteran legislator who served as the first Majority Leader of the ARMM in 1990 and was ARMM Vice Governor as well, was recognized by Ebrahim, then the presiding chair.

Before the session under Balindong adjourned, Tan stood up to ask that Ali’s declaration of him as “out of order” be expunged from the records of the Parliament. The smiling Tan then delivered a short lecture on how majority leaders should conduct themselves. “The majority leader only recommends,” he said.

Day of triumph

Balindong, who recalled he was a member of the legal panel of the then undivided Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF; it later broke up into three factions – MNLF under Nur Misuari, MILF under Salamat Hashim and MNLF Reformist Group under Dimas Pundato), described the inaugural session as “the day of triumph.”

“We are now officially the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or the BARMM… we are practically free to build our won future,” Balindong said. The crowd applauded.

Sheikh Khalifa Usman Nando, the Wali of the Bangsamoro Government, and Speaker Ali Pangalian Balindong of Lanao del Sur watch from their table onstage as interim Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim administers the oath of the elected officials of the Bangsamoro Parliament. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS
He acknowledged the struggle and sacrifices of the Moro people and how “we will not be standing here right now” without their labor and dedication.”
The BTA, he said, will “propel the Bangsamoro forward to enduring peace and economic prosperity.”

“Now is the time to drop our weapons and start picking up the broken pieces of our identity,” he said. He called on the Moro people to join hands and “collectively rebuild the Bangsamoro.”


In his 17-minute inaugural address, Ebrahim urged the members of Parliament to “always be conscious of the day when we shall be asked how we fulfilled the task and discharged the responsibilities.”

He said the BARM is “founded on the sacrifices of the Bangsamoro” and must be driven “by our collective aspirations for the affirmation of our distinct historical identity, and the right to chart our political future through democratic process.”

He acknowledged the “heavy burden” on them to “give justice to the centuries old struggle and sacrifices.”

Ebrahim also reminded the audience hat the leadership of the BARMM and the BTA, is an “amanah,” a trust given to them and a responsibility that they have to account for.

NPA has ‘no reason to celebrate’ after capture of Negros leaders

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 30, 2019): NPA has ‘no reason to celebrate’ after capture of Negros leaders

Brig. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, commander of 303rd Infantry Brigade based in Murcia, Negros Occidental. (PNA Bacolod file photo)

BACOLOD CITY -- The top official of the Philippine Army in Negros Island said the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), has nothing to celebrate in its five decades of existence.

Brig. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade based in Murcia, Negros Occidental, said in a statement on Friday that the arrest of Francisco “Frank” Fernandez and Cleofe Lagtapon, the top two communist rebel leaders in Negros, does not give the rebels a reason to celebrate.

“There’s no reason to celebrate. Fifty years of killings, extortion and violence is never worth celebrating,” he added.

The NPA marked its 50th foundation anniversary on Friday, three months after the CPP also observed its 50th year last December 26.

“Once again, I urge the NPAs to rethink their situation because the CPP and the National Democratic Front (NDF) is just manipulating them for their selfish interests,” Arevalo said.

The CPP and its political wing, the NDF, are only sowing discontent and hatred against the government and the society, he added.

Arevalo again called on the NPA fighters in Negros, numbering between 200 and 300, to surrender to be able to lead normal lives together with their families and loved ones.

“We still extend our hand of reconciliation to those who want to have a second chance. Don’t wait until it’s too late,” he added.

Fernandez, 71, an NDF consultant, and his wife Lagtapon, 66, were arrested along with Ge-Ann Perez, 20, in a joint operation of the police and the military in Liliw, Laguna on March 24.

They are facing charges for illegal possession of firearms and explosives, and violation of the election gun ban.

Fernandez himself had four warrants for murder and multiple murder when he was arrested. He is now under hospital arrest with Lagtapon in Luzon.

Groups seek gov't protection from NPA atrocities

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 30, 2019): Groups seek gov't protection from NPA atrocities

Indigenous peoples from Davao City bring placards calling for protection from the New People's Army (NPA) atrocities during a peace rally at Rizal Park, Davao City on Friday.

DAVAO CITY – Around 500 members of the indigenous peoples (IPs) community, former communist rebels and peace advocates held simultaneous rally across Davao region, calling for protection from New People's Army (NPA) atrocities.

The IPs, led by their tribal chieftains from Paquibato, Marilog, Baguio and Calinan Districts in Davao City, and Talaingod, Davao del Norte, joined the activity still fearful of their security as they continue to receive threats from communist insurgents.

In an interview, Datu Joel Unad, the chairman of the Mindanao Indigenous Peoples Council of Elders, said the rally aims to consolidate and organize former rebels, especially from the areas where there are threats from their former comrades.

He said this will also show to the government that they have abandoned the armed struggle to be productive members of society.

Unad said the IPs, especially the former rebels, now rely on the government to protect them and provide them with livelihood as they struggle for peace and development.

He said 85 to 90 percent of the IP communities, which had been affected by the communist insurgency, are contributing to the peace efforts in the region.

He, however, pointed out that these communities are still vulnerable to NPA threats if they are not protected.

He noted that the IP communities are in the hinterlands, which are still NPA lairs and where the insurgents are free to move around.

“Panawagan sab ni sa mga opisyal sa army nga palig-onon ang pag-protekta kanila kay hadlok gihapon sila sa mga armado ilabi kadtong wala pa nagbaba (This is a call to the officials of the military to strengthen the security and protection of the IP communities because the people still fear of the armed group especially those who are have not surrendered yet),” Unad said.

If there is no government protection, Unad said the IPs will continue to live in fear and under threat.

Simultaneous peace rallies were also held in the provinces of Davao del Norte (Tagum), Davao Oriental (Mati City), General Santos, and Kidapawan City, which are under the area of responsibility of the Philippine Army's 10th Infantry Division.

Korean Army official returns to ‘Yolanda’-hit Leyte areas

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 30, 2019): Korean Army official returns to ‘Yolanda’-hit Leyte areas

REVISITING THE SCHOOLS. The delegation from South Korea pose with children and teachers during a visit in Kiling Elementary School in Tanauan, Leyte on Friday (March 29, 2019). Col. Lee Chul Won, top official of the South Korean Army, visited 13 of the 37 schools Korean soldiers fixed in the towns of Dagami, Tolosa, Tanauan, Palo, and Tacloban City after 'Yolanda'. (Photo by Roel Amazona)

PALO, Leyte -- A top official of the South Korean Army, who came to help Leyte province recover after the 2013 monster typhoon “Yolanda”, was pleased to see the progress of the former devastated areas.

Five years after the contingent completed its post-disaster project, Col. Lee Chul Won came back to the province Thursday and Friday to personally see the schools they have repaired.

“I am extremely proud to see that the region has overcome the typhoon and is continuing its development,” Lee told local officials on Friday.

“The sight of the Leyte citizens welcoming us with a smile brought joy to my eyes. We remember your goodwill and kindness throughout our deployment. Your immense support ensured that we operated and returned to our country with no casualty,” he added.

During his visit, Lee went to 13 of the 37 schools they have fixed in the towns of Dagami, Tolosa, Tanauan, Palo, and Tacloban City.

The South Korean military official also distributed financial assistance to 10 poor students in each school he toured, as well as to school principals.

“I was so happy to see all of you studying in the school we have rebuilt,” Lee said. “Follow the lessons of your teachers and concentrate in your studies. Be great students, contributing to the Philippines and the whole world.”

Lee recalled how the South Korean forces took it as pride to be able to help the victims of “Yolanda” on their road to recovery.

“We saw this as repaying the favor we received from your grandfathers who fought alongside us in the Korean War against communist forces,” he said.

Lee was referring to the historical moment when the Philippines was the first Asian country to send combat troops to the Korean War from 1950 to 1953, with the Philippines sending more than 7,400 soldiers under the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea (PEFTOK).

The presence of the PEFTOK in Korea was in response to the United Nations call for assistance to enforce its mandate to help dislodge North Korean and Chinese forces from a demilitarized zone.

Aside from repairing government facilities in 2014, the Korean army also fixed four houses of Filipino war veterans who fought in the Korean War and provided military honors to a deceased war veteran.

Sofio Lobrigo’s house from Dagami was among those repaired by Koreans. He participated in the Korean War from 1952-1953 in Chulwon, Gangwondo. Lee handed over a hearing aid to Lobrigo on Thursday.

The officials also visited war veteran Segundino Grisola Sr. of Carigara, Leyte. He received a wheelchair and a hearing aid.

Joining Lee in the two-day visit were his daughter, Korean actress Lee Jia, Korean Embassy Counselor Kim Jang Hyun, retired Brig. Gen. Kim Bonghwan, Korean Parliament General Director Sin Dong Un, and several other officials.

A few days after the super typhoon flattened central Philippines on Nov. 8, 2013, the South Korean government sent its 540-men Araw contingent to Leyte province in two batches.

The Koreans completed their project in December 2014. The troops were the second largest overseas deployment of South Korea.

The contingent rebuilt 67 buildings, including 37 schools and eight hospitals. Their medical mission treated 41,000 patients and their soup kitchens fed 62,000 people. The contingent also taught the Korean language to elementary, high school, and college students.

They opened a vocational training school, teaching selected survivors on engine mechanics and heavy equipment operation.

When they left Leyte, the Korean government turned over PHP200-million worth of heavy equipment to the national government through the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Naval Forces Central has new commander

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 30, 2019): Naval Forces Central has new commander

NEW NAVFORCEN CHIEF. Philippine Navy Acting Flag Officer in Command, Rear Admiral Rommel Jude G. Ong (center), hands over the Naval Forces Central (Navforcen) command flag to Commodore Dorvin Jose L. Legaspi (right), who replaced Commodore Loumer P. Bernabe as Navforcen commander, in a change of command ceremony on March 29, 2019, at the Naval Base Rafael Ramos, Barangay Looc, Lapu-Lapu City. The Naval Forces Central supervises all naval operations in the three regions in the Visayas. (Photo by Naval Forces Central PAO)

CEBU CITY – The Philippine Navy has named a new commander, who will oversee naval operations in the Visayas.

The navy’s acting Flag Officer in Command (FOIC), Rear Admiral Rommel Jude G. Ong, presided over the change of command ceremony Friday, handing over the command’s flag to new Naval Forces Central (Navforcen) commander, Commodore Dorvin Jose L. Legaspi.

Legaspi took the helm as the highest naval commander in the Visayas, supervising naval operations within the Navforcen operational jurisdiction, replacing Commodore Loumer P. Bernabe, in a rite held at the Naval Base Rafael Ramos, Barangay Looc, Lapu-Lapu City.

Ong gave recognition to Bernabe’s accomplishments as the Navy’s top naval officer supervising the naval operations in the Eastern, Western, and Central Visayas regions.

Bernabe held the post as Navforcen commander for two years and six months, Ong said.

Ong noted Bernabe’s major accomplishments as Navforcen chief, including the PN's yearly participation in Cebu’s fiesta in honor of Señor Santo Niño.

The Navforcen has actively been participating in the fluvial parade for the holy image of the Santo Niño, held on the third Saturday of every January.

Naval officers and men, as well as its reservists, also join other branches of service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in securing Sinulog parade routes.

In coordination with its Naval Reserve Center stationed at the pier area here, Navforcen has also been active in medical and civic action missions, such as giving free medical check-up, dental service, feeding, free haircut, and river clean-up.

Ong also recognized Navforcen’s active role in ensuring safety and security of the Visayan maritime domain.

Recognizing his meritorious and valuable services in taking major responsibility of elevating the Visayas region’s efforts to address maritime security, Bernabe was pinned with a Distinguished Service Medal.

After his stint at the Navforcen, Bernabe will assume on Sunday (March 1) his new post as the Philippine Navy’s Chief of Naval Staff, in a ceremony at the Headquarters, Philippine Navy, Naval Station Jose Andrada, Roxas Boulevard, Manila.

Bernabe, a native of Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija, is a member of Philippine Military Academy “Hinirang” Class of 1987.

In last Friday’s ceremony, Navforcen personnel greeted Bernabe as he was celebrating his birthday that day.

Legaspi is a member of the PMA “Makatao” Class of 1989 and the former Deputy Commander of the AFP’s Western Command before assuming post as commander of Navforcen.

Ensign Maria Amanda Precious Zamuco, Navforcen public affairs officer, said in a statement that the “change of command ceremony is a time-honored tradition in the military service that represents a formal transfer of authority and responsibility for a unit from one commander to another."

Zamuco said the rites also emulates the important ability of each naval officer to assume post to better serve the organization.

She said the “Philippine Navy is a dynamic organization that continuously enhances its efforts in creating a strong and credible organization, and an armed forces source of national pride.”

Zamuco said the Central Command of the AFP, through the Navforcen, “will continue building strong partnerships to create a maritime environment suitable for our country’s economic growth, development and sustainment, and ensuring the security of the maritime domain.”

Body lauds start of MILF decommissioning process

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 30, 2019): Body lauds start of MILF decommissioning process


The Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB), jointly established by the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), on Friday lauded both peace panels for taking the initial steps to help former fighters have a new life.

This, after interim chief minister Ahod “Al-Haj Murad” Ebrahim of the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) told President Rodrigo Duterte of the commencement of the first phase of the decommission process.

“Mr. President, last Monday (March 25) the MILF already submitted the list of its combatants and weapons for decommissioning, representing the first phase of a process,” Ebrahim told Duterte, who was the special guest of the BARMM inauguration at Shariff Kabunsuan Complex here Friday.

The President, in his speech, responded that he was extremely happy with the development of the BARMM and the peace process in Mindanao as well.

"We were able to realize at least the part, maybe not all, but the part of what the entire country could have wished for the Moro people of Mindanao,” the President said.

In an interview by newsmen on the sidelines prior to the ceremony, Ebrahim estimated the former armed MILF combatants at some 12,000 in strength.

“That is why we owe the President a lot for his sincerity to finally solve the Mindanao conflict,” he said.

In a statement, the IDB said that in the steadfast aspiration of enduring peace, the decommissioning will render possible the transition of MILF combatants into, and ensuring them the opportunity to pursue productive lives as civilians in the peaceful communities of the Bangsamoro.

IDB is tasked by the GPH and the MILF to oversee the decommissioning of MILF forces and their weapons.

“We are deeply honored to continue our work with all stakeholders, as we embark on the next phase of the Bangsamoro normalization process,” the IDB said.

The IDB functions on a term of reference earlier agreed by both sides as its operational guideline. Its member-countries include Turkey, Norway, and Brunei Darussalam, with assistance from the governments of Germany, Australia, and Japan.

External firm to audit EU funds allegedly used by CPP-NPA

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 30, 2019): External firm to audit EU funds allegedly used by CPP-NPA

The European Union (EU) on Friday said an external company would be auditing EU's grants to non-government organizations (NGOs) in the Philippines that were allegedly funneled to the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA).

"The EU now will verify and evaluate these documents. A financial audit by an external company is due to be conducted in April," the EU Delegation in Manila said in a statement.

The Philippine government on March 28 submitted documents and pieces of evidence to EU Programme Manager on Governance Louis Dey and Belgian Ambassador Michel Goffin, asking the two parties to "immediately cease" the release of funds.

The EU has yet to verify the allegations as it noted that the NGO concerned is registered and continues to operate legally in the Philippines.

"Should the allegations be established, the EU immediately would take full legal action," it said.

Meanwhile, the Belgium embassy in Manila said it takes the claim seriously and has immediately started investigating the matter, together with European authorities.

"The funding of non-governmental organizations is subject to strong legal requirements under Belgian law. Should these abuses be established, the Belgian government will not hesitate to stop its support and to seek to recover the amounts already disbursed," Goffin said in a statement.

The bloc underscored that CPP and the NPA are recognized by the EU as terrorist groups, which means that no asset can be held in EU by these organizations.

PH backs UN resolution vs. financing terrorism

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 30, 2019): PH backs UN resolution vs. financing terrorism

The Philippine government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), on Saturday announced its co-sponsorship of a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution combatting the financing of terrorism.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. himself stressed that “money is the lifeblood of terrorism" as he highlighted the country's initiatives to combat the illicit financing of terrorism before the UNSC in New York City.

By law, he said the Philippines defined “terrorist financing as a separate crime” and is working on amendments to the Human Security Act to address the exploitation of cyberspace for terrorism.

According to the DFA, Manila has also adopted the 2018-2022 National Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Strategy.

During his remarks before the UNSC, Locsin cited the need to monitor funds going to non-profit organizations and the relationship between terrorism and the illegal drug trade.

Last Wednesday, Locsin supported calls for the European Union to "immediately cease" the flow of funds to local groups in the Philippines fronting for the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army, which is listed as a terror organization by the bloc itself.

Locsin also pointed out that while remittance agencies have been used as a channel for terrorist financing, the challenge is to balance the requirements of counter-terrorism and the needs of overseas Filipino workers, as remittances account for 9.8 percent of the country's gross domestic product.

AFP confident of proving cases vs. CPP-NPA front groups

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 30, 2019): AFP confident of proving cases vs. CPP-NPA front groups

AFP spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo. (PNA file photo)

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Saturday expressed confidence in proving their cases before the European Union (EU) and Belgium against the supposed groups acting as legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA).

"We are confident that we will succeed in proving our cases. Soon, the flow of funds to organizations like Ibon Foundation, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, Anakbayan, and other front organizations will stop. It will also halt the many years spent and millions of pesos funneled to support the terrorist movement," AFP spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, said in a statement.

Arevalo said the EU and Belgium committed to investigate its donations allegedly funneled to the communist legal front groups.

"It (EU) even committed to enlist a third party firm to audit the funds they donated to NGOs (non-government organizations) we reported to have links with the terrorist CPP-NPA. Even Belgium has reported that it is taking the claim seriously and is now conducting an investigation pursuant to the submission to ensure that their donations comply with their 'strict legal requirements'," he said.

The AFP, he said, is thankful to the EU and Belgium for their keen interest on the matter.

"It shows that they desire to ensure that their support do not end up with organizations that actually or indirectly support terrorist activities," he added.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon on Tuesday formally wrote to the European Union (EU) to "immediately cease" its funding being funnelled to communist front groups.

Among the listed local non-government organizations (NGOs) acting as CPP fronts were the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV); IBON Foundation; Karapatan; Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc.; the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines; the Salugpungan Ta'tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center Inc.; Alliance of Health Workers; the Kilusang Mayo Uno; Gabriela; and the Alliance of Concerned Teachers.

The EU and the Belgian embassy in Manila on Thursday received the initial documents and pieces of evidence against a number of groups allegedly fronting for the CPP-NPA.

Gov't recovers guns from CPP-NPA leader's safehouse

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 30, 2019): Gov't recovers guns from CPP-NPA leader's safehouse

Photos courtesy of Rea Gaza/ Radyo Pilipinas

Police and military personnel on Friday recovered firearms and explosives from a house of a Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) ranking official in a raid in Marikina City.

According to a report, joint elements of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Regional Special Operations Unit (RSOU), PNP-Special Action Force (SAF) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines Joint Task Force (JTF)- NCR served a search warrant at the safehouse of Renante Gamara located at 34-A Chrysanthemum St., Loyola Residents, Civic Organizations Brgy. Barangka, Marikina City at about 5:27 a.m.

The search warrant was issued by Executive Judge Cecilyn E. Burgos-Villavert of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, Branch 89 dated Mar. 28, 2019.

The Marikina safehouse was said to be previously occupied by Ryan Dizon, alias Chef, and Gamara, a member of the central committee of the CPP-NPA.

Dizon, who was identified as the owner of said safehouse, was not around during the operation.

A resident of said area, who also acted as one of the witnesses during the search, confirmed the real identities of Gamara and Dizon.

During the search in the room occupied by Dizon, operatives seized four subversive documents, a seafarer’s identification card, and a record book.

Recovered from the room of Gamara were two hand grenades, a cal. 9mm pistol, 9mm magazine with six live ammunitions, five different photographs of Gamara, and a black pouch.

The confiscated evidence were brought to RSOU office for proper documentation while the confiscated two hand grenades were properly turned-over to the Marikina City Police Station for safe keeping and examination.

Gamara, who was earlier arrested after a search warrant was served at a safehouse at 162 General Bautista Street, Poblacion II-A, Imus City, Cavite on March 21, remains in detention at RSOU Custodial Facility while Dizon will be facing criminal charges.

Cases of violation of Section 28 of Republic Act 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulations Act of 2013 and RA 9516 or Illegal Possession of Firearms, Ammunition or Explosives will be filed against the suspects.

“Rest assured that we will conduct follow-up operations for the apprehension of Dizon to face the charges filed against him," said Police Maj. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, NCRPO chief.