Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Philippines Humanitarian Country Team - 2019 Marawi Humanitarian Response, Early Recovery and Resources Overview for the Displacement Caused by Conflict in Marawi City

Posted to the Relief Web (Apr 4): Philippines Humanitarian Country Team - 2019 Marawi Humanitarian Response, Early Recovery and Resources Overview for the Displacement Caused by Conflict in Marawi City

REPORTfrom Humanitarian Country Team in the Philippines
Published on 04 Apr 2019

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Key Figures As of 12 October (DSWD)

73,000 displaced people

230,000 returned people

125,000 affected children

300,000 people in need

300,000 people targeted

$43.6M required (US$)


In May 2017, conflict between security forces and armed insurgents in Marawi City in Lanao del Sur displaced at least 360,000 people. The Government of the Philippines led the provision of relief assistance with support also coming from local, national and international humanitarian agencies. The Philippines Humanitarian Country Team and its partners guided by the Government’s Task Force Bangon Marawi provided a coordinated response to the priority humanitarian, protection and early recovery needs of vulnerable people severely affected by the conflict.

While most people have now returned home, upwards of 73,000 may remain in temporary settlements around Marawi City for some years, according to Government estimates.

Maintaining the necessary momentum of humanitarian assistance to people who remain displaced by the conflict, and their host communities, is the primary purpose of the strategy outlined in this document, as well as looking to complement the Government-led recovery and rehabilitation programme. In 2019, the Humanitarian Country Team will prioritize assistance to those still displaced in transitional shelters and camps and to support sustainable early recovery under the overall guidance and leadership of Government at the national, provincial and city levels.


The Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), has the highest number of people displaced by armed conflict, crime and violence in the Philippines. The majority of the displaced people are from the Marawi conflict. As of October 2018, 73,266 displaced persons are living in evacuation centres, homebased with relatives and in transitional shelter sites waiting to return home to rebuild their lives. However, their homes, businesses and livelihoods in the most affected area of the city were destroyed by the conflict and remnants of bombs and other unexploded ordnance remains a threat. The Government estimates that it will take 3 to 5 years to reconstruct this part of the city, comprising 24 Barangays.

Displaced women, children, elderly and other vulnerable people will continue to require sustained humanitarian assistance including protection in their current locations until they can return home or achieve a secure and sustainable future. In the coming months, the Government plans to relocate the occupants of the remaining evacuation centres to transitory sites in Marawi city with limited basic services. While plans to rebuild road and bridge infrastructure, rehabilitate institutions and economic infrastructure gains momentum, the provision of food, shelter, health, water & sanitation, education and protection services to meet the immediate needs of the displaced remains limited.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development estimates 230,250 people have so far returned to the 72 Barangays in Marawi City that were partially damaged by the conflict. This community also looks to the restoration of their businesses and livelihoods to meet their basic needs, including education and health requirements for their children. Rehabilitation of schools, water systems, health infrastructure and income-earning remains a challenge. The most vulnerable segment of the community –children under five, women, girls, and boys– require to be targeted with programmes and projects to assist them in recovery. Employment of youth in the productive sector, including agriculture, fisheries, and income generating business, as well as in peace-building and counter-extremism programmes is essential.

The Humanitarian Country Team works closely with the Government of the Philippines at the national and Mindanao level to support the priority humanitarian needs of people displaced and affected by the Marawi conflict. It is also coordinating with Regional, Provincial and Local Government agencies to identify opportunities to assist in early recovery efforts. As of October 2018, the food security and agriculture sector had identified a 69 percent food gap impacting the displaced people. Only 6 of the 15 Barangay health stations are functional and lack visiting doctors. 

Reproductive health and addressing genderbased violence and management remains a challenge. Inadequate clean water supply and sanitation – particularly the desludging of latrines and hygiene promotion – need to be maintained for the displaced people and returnees. Both transitional shelter and relocation sites require to be maintained, particularly those that are tented.

A protection assessment in August 2018, found that about 18,000 displaced people do not have identification card or birth registration documents, including Philippines Health Cards. Displaced people are also not receiving adequate information on their status or when they can return home. Regular and meaningful consultation with displaced communities and provision of information remains an important component of the return and recovery process.

Fierce gun battle erupts in Comval province’s far-flung town

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 4, 2019): Fierce gun battle erupts in Comval province’s far-flung town

CAMP BANCASI, Butuan City – An undetermined number of Communist New People’s Army Terrorists (CNTs) were believed killed or wounded when a 20-minute fierce gun battle erupted between government forces and communist insurgents in Southern Mindanao.

, First Lieutenant Jhocell D. Asis, Civil Military Operations (CMO) officer of the 71stInfantry (Kaibigan) Battallion (71st IB) said their operating unit also seized several war materials,lower receiver M16 Rifle, 1 long magazine of M16 Rifle, bomb materials including Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), 1 blasting cap, 1 homemade shotgun with 1 magazine loaded with live bullets, 150 meters tripwires, 1 transistor radio, and subversive documents with high intelligence value.
“Our operating troops also seized from the encounter site several food stuffs, batteries, three water containers, three back packs with personal belongings and hammocks,” the 71st IB CMO officer said.

The clash took place at 9:45 a.m. on Sunday, March 31, in Sitio Dasuran, Barangay Golden Valley, Mabini, Compostela Valley (Comval) province, where the March 28, 2019 encounter also happened, she said.

No one was injured on the government side while several CNTs were believed killed or wounded.

Lt. Col. Esteveyn E. Ducusin, commanding officer of the 71st IB commended the troops for the relentless pursuit operations against the CNTs.

“We believe that they are still the same terrorist group that our troops encountered three days ago,” the 71st IB commander said.

“We are always in pursuit of those who refuse to heed the call for peace. We are in focused military operations to keep the pressure on the terrorist group for them to surrender or else be destroyed,” said Lt. Col. Ducusin.

“We continue to hunt down the terrorist group to protect the community from their deceptive recruitment, extortion activities, and atrocities,” Lt. Col. Ducusin added.

MILF: Editorial - Imperative of People’s Support to the BARMM

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Website (Apr 1, 2019): Editorial - Imperative of People’s Support to the BARMM

The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) has been successfully inaugurated on March 29, 2019 with no less than President Rodrigo Roa Duterte gracing the historic occasion with his presence.

In his speech, President Duterte referred to the inauguration of the BARMM as opening a new chapter in our history even as he said that the new autonomous region is 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.”

“This momentous event brings us a step closer to the realization of our decades-old dream of a peaceful region that is governed by the autonomous government that serves all Muslims, Christians, lumads, and other indigenous peoples, and every Filipino who also call Mindanao their home,” Duterte said.

Duterte also expressed his hope “that the new Bangsamoro regional government 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.”

Addressing particularly the members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), Duterte said:

“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.”

Yes, facing the challenges lying ahead for the BTA is no less daunting. But with the kinds of the personalities of the leaders appointed to lead the BARMM, we see no reason why we will not succeed in addressing the various issues that presently confront our people especially the less privileged and the marginalized ones.

It is high time, then, that the BARMM constituents – the Moros, the Christian Settlers and the Lumads – realized the imperative of rallying behind the leadership of the new regional government.

What used to be a mere dream for all of us, that is to have a regional government responsive to our needs, is now in our hands.

MILF: ICM Al Haj Murad urges residents to monitor performance of officials

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Website (Apr 3, 2019): ICM Al Haj Murad urges residents to monitor performance of officials

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

Sultan Kudarat, maguindanao- The Interim Chief Minister of the Bangsamoro Autononomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) wants residents to participate in the attainment of “moral governance” by “reporting the performance, or the lack thereof, of our regional and local officials,” Mindanews said in its report on April 1.

According to the report, Ahod “Al Haj Murad” Ebrahim made the call in his inaugural address last Friday at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex, as he noted how the Bangsamoro region is still mostly at the bottom of the human development indices.

“There is a need to be more rational in the planning, allocation and distribution of resources and more importantly in the implementation of programs, project and activities,” he said during his speech at the SKCC.

He spoke of many “wonderful plans” that were often unfinished. “In the evaluation and monitoring,

Al Haj Murad said that, we shall now involve our people in reporting the performance, or the lack thereof, of our regional and local officials.”

Al Haj Murad said that the government they were inaugurating was “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 described the BARMM as the third attempt. Cynics refer to as “the third experiment.”

In the same article by Mindanews, Al Haj Murad spoke of “five pillars” of the BARMM’s governance: education, health, economic development, strategic infrastructure and moral leadership.

Al Haj Murad noted durirng his message in the morning that in almost all human development indices, the Bangsamoro is still at the bottom.

He said the BARMM and BTA leadership is an “amanah, a trust given to us and a responsibility for which we have to account for” and reminded officials to “always be conscious” of the day when they shall be asked to account for what they have done and what they have failed to do, Mindanews quoted him saying.

Al Haj Murad said that they would prioritize the approval of the Transition Plan that will define the organizational structure of the BARMM and the gradual phasing out of offices.

Al Haj Murad also explained during his message his policy that the plans, programs and projects of the BARMM, as well as the assistance of local and international partners, “must always establish a link towards the normalization process that is also on-going for former combatants and their communities.”

Philippine Navy chief, landing dock ship to attend China fleet review

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 3, 2019): Philippine Navy chief, landing dock ship to attend China fleet review

The Philippine Navy will send its strategic sealift vessel BRP Davao Del Sur (LD-602) to take part in China’s multinational fleet review later this month.

Navy Flag-Officer-in-Command Vice Adm. Robert Empedrad said the Philippine Navy’s participation was “part of goodwill.” The review is being held to mark the 70th founding anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army Navy.

Empedrad said he will also be attending the event.

“Asean Navy chiefs will be coming. I heard more than 30 chief of the Navy are attending the celebration,” he told

This will be the first time that the Philippine Navy will be sending a ship to a Chinese fleet review. The voyage from Philippines to China would take five to six days.

The Navy vessel will anchor off Qingdao City in eastern Shandong province from April 21 to 24.

RELATED: Philippines to send ship to Chinese navy’s fleet review

The celebration is expected to show off China’s growing naval might and to display a friendlier image to its counterparts amid criticisms for its activities in the South China Sea.

Earlier in January, the Navy said the decision to send a ship for the event was “in keeping with the President’s policy in engaging not only with our traditional ally and strategic partners but other countries as well.”

The visit comes amid fresh reports of China’s swarming of boats around Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island (Thitu) in the Spratly Islands. More than 600 vessels were recorded to have come and go in the last three months.

Dozens of Chinese maritime militia were maintaining a presence near the sandbars on a daily basis. The military said these are occasionally “complemented by Chinese Coast Guard to sustain assertive presence there.”

Both the Philippines and China are maritime adversaries over the South China Sea, where they have overlapping claims. Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan also claim parts of the strategic sea route.

President Rodrigo Duterte has played down the maritime dispute as he sought for economic investments from China. He also set aside a ruling by a United Nations-backed tribunal that junked China’s massive claims in the South China Sea. 

Philippine military probes reported breach of its database

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 3, 2019): Philippine military probes reported breach of its database

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is looking into the reported intrusion of its database that leaked information of thousands of its military personnel.

Pinoy LulzSec claimed it hacked several websites of the government, including the Philippine Army’s, and private firms as an April Fool’s joke on Monday. It said it was able to access basic files for 20,000 soldiers.

The same hacking group exposed records of millions of registered Filipino voters in 2016.

‘Not hacked’

But Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala denied their database was hacked and said the information obtained were from exposed dump files of an old database.

“Contrary to what has been reported, the Philippine Army Network was not hacked by a certain group known as Pinoy Lulszec, who is somehow vying for attention. The data extracted came from exposed dump files of an old database that was being migrated from a third party Internet Service Provider to the Philippine Army Network in December 2018,”
he told reporters.

He said the issue was already addressed as early as January 1, 2019 but LulzSec made it appear that the supposed hacking was carried out on April 1. 

Nonetheless, Zagala said they are investigating how the hackers were able to access the information.

“Rest assured that all other data in our network is secured and that further security assessments are being done to prevent a repeat of this incident,” he said.

52 kilos of landmines seized in Compostela Valley

From the Philippine Star (Apr 4, 2019): 52 kilos of landmines seized in Compostela Valley

Several landmines weighing 52 kilos were seized in Compostela Valley on Monday.

In a report to Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) chief Lt. Gen. Felimon Santos Jr., Lt. Col. Esteveyn Ducusin, 71st Infantry Battalion commander, said soldiers recovered the explosives in Maco and Mabini towns.

Santos said landmines weighing seven kilos and a 150-meter trip wire were recovered in Sitio Banban, Barangay Anitapan in Mabini.

Four landmines weighing 10 to 15 kilos each planted along the road in Barangay Magangit, Maco were also seized.

The military said residents provided information that resulted in the recovery of the landmines.

Extortion eyed in Sultan Kudarat blast

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 3, 2019): Extortion eyed in Sultan Kudarat blast

ISULAN, SULTAN KUDARAT– Police authorities are eyeing extortion as a possible motive for the bomb attack on Wednesday at a local restaurant here which injured 18 people including six minors.

An injured victim of a bomb attack Wednesday on local restaurant in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat is being treated at a local hospital (JOSEPH JUBELAG / MANILA BULLETIN)

Isulan police chief PLt. Col. Junny Buenacosa said investigators are eyeing extortion as a possible motive into the blast triggered by an improvised explosive device at the entrance of Carlito’s Restaurant along the national highway in Barangay Kalawag, here past 3 p.m. Wednesday.

“It’s an isolated incident which was perpetrated by suspected extortionists,” Buenacosa said.

He said that prior to the attack the owner of the restaurant had earlier sought police assistance after he had received an extortion try through text messages supposedly coming from a local armed group.

He said the attack was meant to harass and scare the management of the restaurant.

Police investigators had already identified the suspects behind the attack and assured that a thorough probe will be conducted for the filing of criminal charges against the perpetrators.

The injured victims were identified as Randy Tranquillero, Guiamadel Nurhana, Datu Joven Guiamadel, Tristan Casipe Dan Laguerder, Karl Denver Laguerder, Bai Amina Japitana, 8 years old, Watchel dela Cerna, Salyka Falcoagpet, Montasser Masunlog, Nasser Montasser, Malidas Bai ali Mindal, Malidas Mindatu Mindal, Che-Che Malidas, John Mark Sumandal, Johnny Garcia Jenny Pabagaman.

Isulan Mayor Maritess Pallasigue said the local government will provide assistance for the hospitalization of the victims.

She ordered the police to expedite the investigation and hale the perpetrators to justice.

Police had placed the entire locality under heightened alert following the recent bomb attack.

At least four people and 50 others were injured in the spate of bomb attacks that rocked this capital town on August 28 and September 2 last year.

Authorities blamed the ISIS-inspired Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters as behind the previous attacks.

ADF and military partners train in humanitarian relief during Balikatan 19

From Defense Connect (Apr 2, 2019): ADF and military partners train in humanitarian relief during Balikatan 19

A major international military exercise in the Philippines, jointly hosted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and US Indo-Pacific Command, has launched from Manila.

Exercise Balikatan 19 is designed to enhance regional military co-operation and interoperability during times of disaster or humanitarian crisis. This year’s focus is the ability to respond effectively to humanitarian and civic assistance events and security operations in south-east Asia.

The exercise also includes a range of military training and community relations activities, which involve Australian Defence Force Special Forces, medical, engineering, and chaplaincy personnel. This is the 36th year for Balikatan and the sixth year of the ADF actively participating.

Chief of Joint Operations, Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld said the Australian Defence Force’s ongoing support to the annual exercise underscores Australia’s commitment to regional security and stability.

"The exercise allows us to build our relationship with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the United States Indo-Pacific Command," AIRMSHL Hupfeld said.

"Through this partnership, we aim to increase our ability to co-ordinate a multilateral response to a disaster or humanitarian crisis in a complex and ever-evolving regional security environment."

Conducted on Luzon and Palawan islands, Exercise Balikatan focuses on delivering humanitarian civic assistance programs, role playing maritime security scenarios and conducting a field training exercise.

More than 60 ADF personnel from the Navy, Army, Air Force and Defence Science and Technology are taking part in the exercise.

Exercise Balikatan allows the ADF to further build its Defence ties and military-civilian co-ordination skills with the Philippines and US, as well as enhancing Asia-Pacific regional security and stability.

"The United States, the Philippines and Australia’s long-standing relationship has resulted in a significant and ongoing contribution to regional security," AIRMSHL Hupfeld said.

This year is the fifth time the ADF has participated in Exercise Balikatan. Exercise Balikatan 19 concludes on 12 April 2019.

US Navy’s USS Wasp and F-35B aircraft join Balikatan exercise

From Naval Technology (Apr 3, 2019): US Navy’s USS Wasp and F-35B aircraft join Balikatan exercise

USS Wasp F-35B Balikatan military exercise

The US Navy’s amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) and the US Marines Corps’ F-35B Lightning II aircraft are taking part in the annual military exercise Balikatan.

Balikatan 2019 is the 35th iteration of the exercise between the Philippines and the US. It also involves participation from Australia for humanitarian and civic assistance projects and special operations forces training.

USS Wasp commanding officer captain Colby Howard said: “We are excited to visit the Philippines for the first time since Wasp was forward deployed to Seventh Fleet. Balikatan is a great opportunity for the Navy, Marine Corps team and our allies from the Republic of the Philippines to learn from one another, and further improve our ability operate together.”

“The 35th iteration of Exercise Balikatan is aimed at improving both Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and US Forces’ interoperability.”

The exercise will involve around 4,000 Filipino, 3,500 American and 50 Australian troops and will run until 12 April.

This is the first time the F-35B aircraft is participating in the exercise. According to the US Navy, the participation of USS Wasp alongside the F-35B represents increased military capability to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific.

It will also demonstrate the ability of these naval assets to forward deploy to support an ally in the event of a crisis or natural disaster.

Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are also expected to join Balikatan 2019 for an International Observers Program, which aims to promote greater defence cooperation with ASEAN and other key allies and partners.

The current iteration will focus on enhancing maritime security and amphibious capabilities. The drills will also seek to improve multinational interoperability through military exchanges.

Philippines Exercise Director lieutenant-general Gilbert Gapay said: “The 35th iteration of Exercise Balikatan is aimed at improving both Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and US Forces’ interoperability through trainings that are focused on mutual defence operations and counterterrorism.

“The goal of such is to enhance both militaries’ employment of forces and assistance in the event of crises that threaten the safety and security of the nation.”

Balikatan exercises useless, waste of money, must be stopped —solon

From GMA News (Apr 3, 2019): Balikatan exercises useless, waste of money, must be stopped —solon

Anakpawis Party-list Representative Ariel Casilao called for the end of Balikatan joint military exercises between Filipino and American soldiers as it is 'useless' and a 'waste of resources'.

In Divine Reyes' report on Super Radyo DzBB, Casilao said, "This annual Balikatan exercises, annually reminds us of how it is useless for the Filipino people as obviously, it failed to enable the armed forces to defend the national territory from foreign aggressors."

Since 1998, the yearly "Balikatan" has not improved the capability of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to defend the country against Chinese "encroachment" in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), the lawmaker said.

According to him, China has been building structures on some islands in the WPS since 1995 and Sino expansion activities in the disputed sea have continued to date.

Even the territorial waters of the island municipality of Pag-asa is now under Chinese control despite the Visiting Forces Agreement forged in 1998 with US, paving the way of the Balikatan exercises, Casilao said.

"Filipino taxpayers have paid $11.6 million or about P600 million for these missiles, but they are unused against foreign aggressors, to uphold national sovereignty and territory," he said, asserting that it is apparent that Balikatan exercises was never designed against foreign aggression, but for counter-insurgency and facilitation of US military intervention.

However, according to GMA News Online's interview with the Armed Forces of the Philippines' Chief of Public Affairs Noel Detroyato, the conflict with China is exactly why they train themselves because they train for any eventualities.

Detroyato emphasized that trainings and exercises are a big part of preparing soldiers for any possible security issue.

He said, "Resources are never wasted on training... Kasi for us hindi naman pang giyera lang to. We are also the country's first line of defense kapag may calamities and other eventualities."

"Preparation for calamities, anti-terrorism is never a waste of money. It must be a continuous training," Detroyato added.

This year's joint US-Philippine military drills began with humanitarian activities in mid-March. Proper military exercises were set from April 1 to 12, 2019.

Antique to declare 5 towns election ‘hotspots’

From Panay News (Apr 3, 2019): Antique to declare 5 towns election ‘hotspots’

SAN JOSE, Antique –The Provincial Joint Security Coordinating Center (PJSCC) has recommended five additional towns categorized as election “hotspots” in the province.

“The five towns are Culasi, Hamtic, Sebaste, Sibalom, and Valderrama,” said Antique Provincial Police Office deputy director for operations Lieutenant Colonel Norby Escobar on Tuesday.

Escobar said these five towns are infested with New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

The recommendation was submitted by the PJSCC to its regional office about two weeks ago and still waits for approval.

“The PJSCC’s recommendation will be approved by its regional and national offices,” said Escobar.

Placing the five towns under election hotspot will serve as basis for the deployment of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), especially in hinterland areas.

“As of now, there is only one hotspot, which is San Remigio,” he said.

He said that San Remigio was the first town to be recommended by the PJSCC months ago to be categorized as election hotspot because of the presence of the NPA.

NPA leader, 2 others fall in Negros Occidental

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 3, 2019): NPA leader, 2 others fall in Negros Occidental

Clashes also erupt in cities of Kabankalan and Himamaylan

NPA leader, 2 others fall in Negros Occidental

TOP REBEL Police say Abraham Villanueva (right), secretary of the New People’s Army’s Southwest Front (Armando Sumayang Command), has pending arrest warrants for arson and frustrated murder. Seized from Villanueva and his companions, Jomar Villarojo and Rona Magbanua, during their arrest in Kabankalan City were a gun and hand grenades. —CARLA P. GOMEZ

BACOLOD CITY — A high-ranking leader of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Negros Occidental province and his two companions were arrested on Monday night by a team of policemen and soldiers in Kabankalan City.

Brig. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, said the rebel leader, Abraham Villanueva, secretary of the NPA Southwest Front, or the Armando Sumayang Command, had pending arrest warrants for arson and frustrated murder.

Villanueva is also known by his aliases “Tikboy” and “Gamay.” Arrested with him were Rona Magbanua, alias “Cheche,” 18, of Hinobaan town, and Jomar Vilarojo, alias “Tiny,” 28, of Kabankalan.

Magbanua, known as Cheche, is the finance and logistics officer of Southwest Front Platoon 1, while Villarojo, known as Tiny, is among the NPA’s fighters, said Lt. Col. Patricio Tomales, 15th Infantry Battalion commander, said.

Seized from the group were a .45-caliber pistol and three fragmentation grenades.

Armed men

Their arrest came six days after former Catholic priest Frank Fernandez, Kometing Rehiyonal-Negros head and National Democratic Front of the Philippines consultant, was arrested with his wife and another companion in Laguna province.

Arevalo said they received a tip about the presence of armed men at Sitio Amian Ilawod in Barangay Tampalon, Kabankalan. When government troops went to the village, they saw the three wearing shirts marked “PKP @50,” which were used by rebels to mark the NPA’s 50th founding anniversary.

Arevalo said Villanueva and his companions did not resist arrest.

A 20-minute clash, however, ensued early on Tuesday in the area when soldiers and policemen encountered a group of NPA rebels who were believed to be companions of Villanueva.

Recovered from the clash site were an M16 rifle, bullets, cellular phones, electronic gadgets, a transistor radio, a pair of binoculars, medical kit and antigovernment documents.

Hacienda attack

Police said another group of NPA rebels on Tuesday burned four tractors, a truck, a sugarcane loader and bunk houses of farm workers at Hacienda Nieva in Barangay Tooy, Himamaylan City, about 28 kilometers north of Kabankalan.

Police Lt. Col. Ervin Glen Provido, Himamaylan City police chief, said about 30 armed rebels attacked the hacienda and gathered 20 farm workers in one place, before they started burning the vehicles and equipment.

The hacienda’s lone security guard escaped and reported the incident to the police.

The suspects, who identified themselves as NPA rebels, fired their guns as they left, Provido said.

On Monday, more than 1,700 people evacuated after a clash between government soldiers and rebels broke out at Barangay Quintin Remo in Moises Padilla town.

A soldier was hurt while three improvised bombs were recovered after the exchange of gunfire between soldiers and about 20 NPA rebels believed to be among those who shot and killed reelectionist Moises Padilla Councilor Jolomar Hilario in neighboring Barangay Inolingan on Sunday.

Graduation ceremonies in some schools in the remote village of Quintin Remo were disrupted by the skirmishes.

At least 1,700 residents in the subvillages of Santos-Santos, Lomlom and Upper Mamballo fled their homes.

Farming, tourism suspension

In Mountain Province, all farming and tourism activities had been suspended in Bauko town on Monday due to pursuit operations conducted by the police against communist rebels who killed a policeman and wounded another during a March 29 clash at Mt. Kapuwaw.

Arsenia Addon, Bauko tourism officer, advised residents to “confine their activities to barangay centers or populated areas,” and to steer clear of the rugged mountains straddling Bauko and Tadian town in Mountain Province, and parts of Buguias town in Benguet province.

On Sunday, residents reported hearing gunfire and explosions in the borders of Bauko and Tadian.

Members of the NPA Leonardo Pacsi Command fled toward this area after engaging the Cordillera police’s Regional Mobile Force Battalion in a 15-minute firefight in Bagnen village.

Pat. Wilfredo Padawil was killed in the clash that injured Police Cpl. Irpeel Lapniten.

Communist front’ tags on NGOs shrink democratic spaces — group

From the Philippine Star (Apr 3, 2019): ‘Communist front’ tags on NGOs shrink democratic spaces — group

In this September 25, 2018 photo, members of local rights group Karapatan condemn the killing of human rights defender Mariam Uy Acob (Facebook/Karapatan, Released)

The “baseless” accusations of government officials that some non-governmental organizations are fronts of communist rebels worsen the situation of democratic and civic spaces in the country, a network of development workers said.

In a press release, the Council for People’s Development and Governance said that tagging the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, IBON Foundation and Karapatan as front organizations of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, is an attempt to discredit their work.

“Political and economic interests wish to veer attention away from legitimate concerns on rights violations and development problems in the country. That is why they’re orchestrating allegations that ‘communists have infiltrated’ the United Nations, that rights defenders have supposedly been ‘projecting false news’ internationally,” Liza Maza, CPDG spokesperson, said.
CPDG also slammed the move of the government to send a delegation to a UN session in Europe last February, wherein government officials responded to issues of human rights abuses in the country.

The network of development workers said the purpose of the trip was to “deodorize” the human rights situation in the Philippines, while shifting the blame to some NGOs through “baseless” claims that funds from the European Union and Belgian government are being diverted to communist rebels.

The European Union said it would investigate the claims that funds from the regional bloc are going to communist insurgents after the Philippine government formally requested the probe in March. Karapatan said it is open to an “impartial and participative audit.

“Their disinformation campaign is part of the trend in the last years: from the sweeping ‘terrorist’ tag against more than 600 persons in 2018; the killings of farmers, unionists, indigenous peoples, and lawyers; to the new Securities and Exchange Commission memo for non-governmental organizations that subjects them to unnecessary exposure and risks,” Maza said.

She added: “As we go further into the Duterte administration, democratic spaces shrink even further.”

Preemptive evacuation ordered in 3 Mt. Province villages after series of PNP-NPA clashes

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 3, 2019): Preemptive evacuation ordered in 3 Mt. Province villages after series of PNP-NPA clashes

Local officials in Bauko, Mountain Province have ordered the preemptive evacuation of residents in at least three communities following the series of clashes between the police and communist rebels there.

The Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council in Bauko town has asked residents in the sub-villages of Cotcot, Luagan, and Malupa to temporarily seek shelter at the town’s multipurpose function hall as government troops launched a pursuit operation against the rebels.

Police and members of the New People’s Army (NPA) have been engaging in gunfights since March 29 in the forested area bordering the towns of Bauko and Tadian.

The latest clash took place on Tuesday, killing Cpl. Marlon Casil and wounding eight of his companions, according to Police Regional Office Cordillera Spokesman Maj. Carolina Lacuata.

Wounded from the government troops were Corporals Marcelo Bayeng, Ramadick Meloy, Clifford Gama, Edwin Keya, John Calcaligong, Pat. Erwin Calixto, Staff Sergeant Salvador Agallatiw and Master Sergeant Alphedes Alvaro.

The policemen belong to the Cordillera Regional Mobile Force Battalion.

On March 29, Pat. Wilfredo Padawil was also killed during an encounter with the NPA while the government troops were conducting Internal Security Operations in Bauko.

EASTMINCOM: Community prevented NPA landmine attack

Posted to the Eastern Mindanao Command (EASTMINCOM) Website (Apr 3, 2019): Community prevented NPA landmine attack

NSFA, Panacan, Davao City - Communities have prevented two instances of NPA landmine attacks after they tipped-off the location of the laid landmines in Maco, Compostela Valley on April 1, 2019.

In a report made by Ltc Esteveyn E Ducusin, Battalion Commander of 71st Infantry Battalion to Lt. Gen. Felimon T. Santos Jr., Commander of Eastern Mindanao Command, the first instance came when responding troops were able to locate a seven kilos International Humanitarian Law banned landmine and 150 meter trip wire laid along the barangay road at Junction, So. Banban, Special Barangay of Manasa, Barangay Anitapan, Mabini, Compostela Valley.

On a second instance, another information coming from the community led to the recovery of three ten kilos and one 15 kilos IHL banned landmine interconnectedly laid along the Barangay road in Barangay Magangit, Maco, Compostela Valley Province.

The crude improvised landmine has been an alternative weapon of the CNTG to augment their dwindling number of firearms brought about by the significant numbers of firearms being surrendered and captured.

For the first quarter, a total of 218 firearms and 69 IHL banned landmine were captured and surrendered in the Eastern Mindanao Command's whole area of responsibility; most of which were accomplished because of the support and information of the communities.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. Santos expressed his appreciation for the cooperation and expression of support from the communities.

"We appreciate the continuous support of the communities. Providing information on the plans and whereabouts of the CNTGs is another form of expression of the communities in denouncing the presence of CNTGs and their realization on the destructive and anti-people ideology being spoused by the CNTG," Lt. Gen. Santos said.

For the first quarter of 2019, 21 Barangays, Tribal Groups, Municipal, and Provincial Government in Eastern Mindanao passed their Resolutions declaring the CNTGs as persona-non-grata in their respective communities.

Source: Public Information Office, Eastern Mindanao Command, AFP

Rebels burn farm equipment,bunk houses in Himamaylan

From the Visayan Daily Star (Apr 3, 2019): Rebels burn farm equipment,bunk houses in Himamaylan

Suspected New People’s Army rebels burned farm equipment and bunk houses of farm workers in Hacienda Nieva, Brgy. Tooy, Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental, Monday night.

Torched by three suspected NPA rebels were four tractors, a 10-wheeler truck, and a sugar cane loader, and two bunk houses, Police Lt. Col. Ervin Glen Provido, Himamaylan City police chief, said yesterday.

The burned farm equipment are owned by businessman Miguel Hinojales.

Estimated damage was placed by the police at more than P1 million.

Police investigation showed that about 30 armed rebels swooped down on the hacienda compound, and gathered 20 farm workers in one place, before burning the equipment.

Before burning the bunk houses the rebels also told the farm workers to get their personal belongings.

The lone security guard managed to escape, and report the incident to the police.

The suspects, who identified themselves as NPA members, fired their guns while withdrawing from the scene of incident, Provido said.

The motive for the burning was still being established by the Himamaylan police, although the armed suspects told the farm workers that they are angry with Hinojales, Provido added.

Recovered from the scene of incident were three fired cartridges and live ammunition of an M-16 assault rifle, and two empty containers of gasoline.*

‘Category Red’recommended forMPadilla

From the Visayan Daily Star (Apr 3, 2019): ‘Category Red’recommended forMPadilla

The Provincial Joint Security Control Center has recommended placing Moises Padilla town under “Category Red” or an election area of grave concern, and five other areas in Negros Occidental under “Category Orange”, Acting Provincial Election Supervisor Salud Milagros Villanueva said yesterday.

The PJSCC, composed of the Comelec, Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Police, made the recommendation to the Western Visayas Regional Joint Security Control Center that is set to convene of Friday, she said.

Moises Padilla was recommended to be placed under Category Red because of intense political rivalry, and the presence of armed groups, Villanueva said.

She cited the presence of the New People’s Army in Moises Padilla where killings, the latest of which was of Councilor Jolomar Hilario on Sunday, have occurred.

Recommended to be placed under “Category Orange”, or areas of immediate concern, are Isabela, Kabankalan City, Himamaylan City, Hinoba-an and Toboso because of the presence of armed groups, she said, citing encounters between the Army and NPA in those areas.

11 rebels face rapsfor councilor’s slay

From the Visayan Daily Star (Apr 3, 2019): 11 rebels face rapsfor councilor’s slay

Eleven suspected members of the New People’s Army believed to be fleeing from an encounter site in Brgy. Quintin Remo, Moises Padilla, were intercepted and arrested by the police on Monday in Brgy. Sebucawan, Isabela, Negros Occidental.

Four of the 11 arrested suspected NPA rebels were positively identified by witnesses as among those involved in the killing of Moises Padilla Councilor Jolomar Hilario on Sunday in Brgy. Inolingan, Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental, town police chief Capt. Junji Liba yesterday said.

Liba said that the 11 suspected NPA rebels, who included two minors, were intercepted by 2nd Provincial Mobile Force Company troops, who had served as the blocking force of the 62nd Infantry Battalion soldiers, who figured in an encounter on Monday in Sitio Santos-Santos, Brgy. Quintin Remo, Moises Padilla, a barangay adjacent to Brgy. Sebucawan, Isabela.

Moises Padilla police investigation showed that the 11 persons claimed to be cane cutters. However, no cane cutting tools were recovered from the intercepted persons, who were
inconsistent in their statements given to the police, Liba said.

Liba added that Misel Hilario, wife of the slain Moises Padilla councilor, identified the four suspects who had entered their compound on Sunday.

Murder charges are now being readied by the police against the 11 suspected NPA rebels, now detained at Moises Padilla Police Station jail.

Additional police personnel have already been dispatched by the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office to augment the Moises Padilla Police Station, in response to the series of violent activities perpetrated by the New People’s Army in the hinterland barangays of the town.

The running gun battle between Army soldiers and NPA rebels in Brgy. Quintin Remo, Moises Padilla, led to the dislocation of more than 2,700 residents, who yesterday began returning to their homes, Liba said.

Other evacuees were temporarily staying at the Mamballo, Montilla, Coyaoyao barangay covered courts, and the Nacorohan Elementary School, while waiting for advice from authorities to return to their homes.

The 62nd Infantry Battalion soldiers, who were scouring the encounter site, recovered three anti-personnel mines, including detonating accessories, such as a 300-meter electric wire, blasting caps, M-203 grenade launcher ammunition, two magazines of a AK-47 rifles, and two back packs containing personal belongings.

Brig. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, yesterday said that the running gunbattle lasted for more than one hour, as the NPA rebels tried to delay the pursuing troops while trying to extricate their injured companions, to the extent of detonating two anti-personnel mines.

An Army soldier was slightly injured in the gunbattle.

Arevalo also said residents of the area had mistaken injured and killed communist rebels,who were wearing military uniforms, as Army soldiers.

NPA leader, 2 others nabbed

From the Visayan Daily Star (Apr 3, 2019): NPA leader, 2 others nabbed

Another ranking leader of the New People’s Army and his two companions were arrested Monday night by the military and police at Sitio Amian llawod in Brgy. Tampalon, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental.

The capture of Abraham Villanueva, alias Tikboy and Gamay, who is the secretary of the NPA South West Front, also known as the Armando Sumayang Command, was followed by an encounter yesterday in the same place, that yielded war materials.

Villanueva has pending arrest warrants for arson and frustrated murder, Arevalo said.

Also captured were Rona Magbanua, alias CheChe, 18 of Brgy. Asia, Hinobaan, and Jomar Vilarojo, alias Tiny, 28, of Brgy. Camansi, Kabankalan City.
Brig. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, said yesterday that Villanueva and his two companions, were wearing black NPA sweat shirts printed with PKP (Partido Komunistang Pilipinas) @50 and black jogging pants, when they were captured.

The arrest of Villanueva and his companions, that was made through information relayed to the 15IB, 604th Regional Mobile Force Company and the Kabankalan police by concerned residents, also yielded a.45 caliber pistol with a magazine containing five ammunition and three fragmentation grenades, Arevalo said.

Magbanua served as finance and logistic officer of South West Front platoon 1, where Villarojo also served as a red fighter, Lt. Col. Patricio Tomales,15IB commander, said.

The continued combat operations in the area by 15IB and 604th RMF Company also led to an encounterwith about 20 NPA rebels believed to be the companions of Villanueva, yesterday morning.

After an almost 20-minute gunbattle, the rebels scampered in various directions, leaving behind an M-16 rifle with a magazine containing 20 live ammunition, 175 rounds of a M-60 machine gun link, 21 ammunition for an AK-47 assault rifle, two cellular phones, a Smart phone, tablet with charger, netbook, storage device for a laptop, transistor radio, Pentax binoculars, a medical kit, blood pressure apparatus, and subversive documents.

The arrest of Villanueva came more than a week after Communist rebel leader Frank Fernandez, secretary of the Komiteng Rehiyonal-Negros/Cebu/Bohol/Siquijor, and his wife and deputy, Cleofe Lagtapon, were arrested in Laguna.

Photo: Abraham Villanueva, secretary of the NPA South West Front, captured along with two companions

From the Visayan Daily Star (Apr 3, 2019): Photo: Abraham Villanueva, secretary of the NPA South West Front, captured along with two companions


Abraham Villanueva (left), secretary of the NPA South West Front, also known as the Armando Sumayang Command, and his two companions, Jomar Villarojo and Rona Magbanua, who were captured Monday night in Brgy. Tampalon, Kabankalan City. (Army photo)

52 clashes, 15 rebel deaths recorded from Jan-March

From the Mindanao Times (Apr 4, 2019): 52 clashes, 15 rebel deaths recorded from Jan-March

Since January this year, the army recorded a total of 52 clashes, resulting in the death of 15 rebels and the arrest of nine others.Capt. Regie Go, the spokesperson of 4th Infantry Division, said that in the first three months, they also received 495 surrenderees from the regular NPA guerrillas and members of the Militia ng Bayan, Sangay sa Partido sa Lokalidad, and underground mass organizations.

They also recovered 111 firearms and 34 anti-personnel mines, and dismantled 41 NPA hideouts.

He said the members of the New People’s Army have nowhere to hide as more and more local government units have proclaimed them persona non grata.

The barangay and municipal councils, as well as the provincial boards of Surigao del Sur, in the municipality of Sibagat and Brgy San Pedro; San Luis in Agusan del Sur; Barangay Camam-onan, Gigaquit, Surigao Del Norte; and nine barangays in the province of Bukidnon have passed resolutions in this regard.

A case was filed by the 403rd Infantry Brigade, headed by its commander, Col. Edgardo De Leon, against the NPA for violating the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) in the first quarter of 2019.

“They violated the IHL and harmed civilians in Bukidnon province. They burned a banana harvesting machine, backhoes, and a boom spraying machine owned by the different private companies in the area. They also brutally killed two soldiers in Barangay Dalwangan, Malaybalay City on Valentine’s Day. They must pay for the crimes they have committed,” De Leon said.

On the other hand, Caraga and Northern Mindanao vowed to adopt and implement Executive Order 70, known as Peace and Development Zones. The Regional Peace and Order Council and the Regional Development Council have pledged to effectively address the root causes of insurgency, as part of the government’s “whole of nation approach.”

Maj. Gen. Franco Nemesio M. Gacal, commander of the 4th ID, said, “I am very happy that the LGUs (local government units), LGAs (local government agencies) and other sectors in Northern Mindanao and Caraga regions are standing up and are now ready to fight with us in our “peaceful war” efforts.

“I hope more barangays, municipalities, cities, and provinces will join us so that we will be able to achieve the long-lasting peace we have longed for,” he said.

“I am expecting more surrenders to come as we continue with our localized peace efforts and I am seeing how the CPP-NPA terrorists continue to disintegrate in our area because of the concerted efforts of government forces, LGUs, LGAs and other stakeholders,” he added.

18 hurt in Isulan blast

From MindaNews (Apr 3, 2019): 18 hurt in Isulan blast

The blast site outside Carlitos Chicken restaurant. Photo courtesy of 6th Infantry Division

DATU ODIN SINSUAT, Maguindanao – Eighteen persons were wounded when an improvised explosive device went off in front of Carlitos Chicken restaurant in Brgy Kalawag 2, Isulan, Sultan Kudarat around 3pm on Wednesday.

The victims were immediately brought to nearby hospitals.

A mechanized military team proceeded to the area to secure and cordon the explosion site.

An EOD team inspects the blast site. Photo courtesy of 6th Infantry Division

An Army explosive and ordnance disposal team conducted an investigation at the blast site and all military checkpoints were ordered to implement security measures.

“We expressed our sympathy to the victims of this barbaric act perpetuated by the peace spoilers who are sowing terror and fear to the community,” said Joint Task Force Central Commander, Major General Cirilito E. Sobejana.

“We will strengthen further the security measures in Isulan and other parts of the AOR. We will also exert our best efforts to apprehend the perpetrators and give justice to the victims,” Sobejana added.

Casualties from Isulan bombing now at 18 (See photos inside)

From the Mindanao Examiner (Apr 3, 2019): Casualties from Isulan bombing now at 18 (See photos inside)

Security officials said the casualties in Wednesday’s bombing outside a restaurant in downtown Isulan in the southern Philippine province of Sultan Kudarat have risen to 18 from six earlier reported by authorities.

“The casualties in the blast are now pegged as 18,” said Maj. Arvin Encinas, a spokesman for the 6th Infantry Division.

He said soldiers and policemen recovered from the blast site broken parts of a 9 volt battery and fragments of a cell phone, believed used to detonate the bomb, and concrete nails, including pieces of plastic container which were all part of the improvised explosive that went off outside the Carlito’s Chicken.

“We are still investigating who was behind this dastardly act. We also tightened security in the town to help local police force guard Isulan,” he told the Mindanao Examiner regional newspaper.

Photos released by the 6th Infantry Division to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner show police investigators searching for the remains of an improvised explosive device that went off April 3, 2019 outside the Carlito’s Chicken in Isulan town in Sultan Kudarat province in southern Philippines.

Town Mayor Marites Pallasigue said the blast occurred in front of the restaurant along the highway. She said the attack came as a surprise and that they had no intelligence report of an imminent attack or terror threats in Isulan. “Wala kahit ano, walang threat, wala lahat, walang intell report kahit na ano sa amin,” she said, adding, her town is generally peaceful, although an ISIS bombing in August 28 last year killed two people and left at least three dozen others wounded.

“Generally, our place is peaceful. I don’t know what happened or why this is happening to our place now,” she said.

Former presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza, in his Facebook account, said 2 children were killed in the powerful explosion. “Two kids already confirmed dead! Gov. Pax Mangudadatu just informed me. He is now rushing from GenSan to the site,” he wrote.

But Encinas said there were no reports of Dureza’s claim. “No, we have no report about it,” he said.

A video posted on Facebook showed civilians running and screaming as black smoke billowed in front of the restaurant. The clip, recorded from a cell phone by another civilian, can be viewed here:

No individual or group claimed responsibility for the attack, but the previous motorcycle bombing was claimed by ISIS, according to SITE Intelligence.

The blast coincided with the town’s 61st founding anniversary and occurred while the whole region is under martial rule. The motorcycle was parked along the highway near several shops in Kalawag village when it exploded around 8.30 p.m. and two other improvised explosives were recovered not far from the area.

At least 35 people wounded in the blast were rushed to hospitals. And an adult and child died from the bombing.

The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters or BIFF whose leaders have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, also claimed responsibility for last year’s attack in the town. The BIFF, whose members were mostly former Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters, is one of several pro-ISIS militant groups fighting for the establishment of a caliphate on Mindanao.

Security forces have been fighting militant groups in the southern region the past years. The blast occurred following President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to the armed forces to crush terrorism.

MID reassures robust units, civil-military engagements vs insurgency

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 3, 2019): MID reassures robust units, civil-military engagements vs insurgency

Newly-installed Army Mechanized Infantry Division Commander Major General Robert Dauz reassures robust infantry unit and civil-military engagements to combat terrorism and insurgency. (Cherie Joyce V. Flores/PIA 3)

CAMP O’DONNELL, Capas, Tarlac -- Army Mechanized Infantry Division (MID) reassured robust units and civil-military engagements in the fight against terrorism and insurgency.

In his speech during the Change of Command Ceremony, newly-installed Commander Major General Robert Dauz highlighted the mark of excellence of MID and the importance of right mix of triad operations in serving the people and securing the land.

“As I assume the responsibility and leadership of MID, our perspective is to have an infantry that is well-meaning-serious army with robust infantry units to perform its core purpose,” he stressed.

“With this, combined with the contribution of every member of the organization or through inclusive approach, we will build and bring the MID to greater heights,” Dauz furthered.

Based on Executive Order No. 70 series of 2018, the whole-of-nation approach is institutionalized as a government policy for the attainment of inclusive and sustainable peace.

“We will employ strong foundations of approaches and these should be a combination of combat, civil-military and information operations,” Dauz said.

The Division also intends to maximize the professional expertise of the members of the Multi-sectoral Advisory Board to further attain the Army Transformation Roadmap.

“As we embark to write the next chapter of our history, let us not lose sight of our responsibilities as citizens of our country and as armors with a core purpose of serving the people and securing the land,” Dauz emphasized.

“Let us keep the spirit of winning burning in our hearts and minds. Let us fight to win the peace fight under the rule of law,” he furthered.

Dauz is a member of the Philippine Military Academy “Maringal” Class of 1988.

He served as the Commander of various units such as Commandant of The Armor School, 5th Light Armor Battalion that was subsequently reclassified as the 4th Mechanized Infantry Battalion, Security and Escort Battalion, 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade and Joint Task Force “Talakudong” in Maguindanao.

Peace rally calls on NPA members to go mainstream

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 3, 2019): Peace rally calls on NPA members to go mainstream

Featured Image

DAVAO DEL NORTE —Hundreds pitched support for national government’s thrust to end insurgency in a peace rally held on March 29 at the Rotary Park in Tagum City.

Raising calls for members of the New People’s Army (NPA) to seek government support, participants to the rally were former rebels who returned to the fold of the law. Also joining the peace gathering were members of indigenous peoples (IP) communities, people’s organizations, socio-civic organizations while others were from local government units.

Army reservists, personnel of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and people from the academe joined the peace rally “held in pursuit of peace in the provinces of Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley Province.”

Civil Military Operations (CMO), Captain Alan B. Apara of the 1001st Infantry Brigade in an interview said that part of their calls hoisted in placards were “work as one government for peace”, “good governance is the key to counter insurgency”, and “encourage NPA to go back to mainstream”.

The core of their calls was “peace” and that they were urging for NPA members to leave their underground movement while assuring them that President Rodrigo Duterte would help them live a normal way of life.

The peace rally in Tagum City was held simultaneously with the same event in Davao City where a candle-lighting event was an add-on feature of the call for peace.

Provincial government of Davao Oriental organized a Public Service Day that coincided with the March for Peace that took off from the Baywalk in the City of Mati to the Provincial Capitol Covered.

Among those that joined the Peace march rally in Davao Oriental were peace volunteers, peace advocates, women and youth groups, local and national line agencies aside from personnel of the military and the police.

7 hurt in Sultan Kudarat restaurant blast

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 3, 2019): 7 hurt in Sultan Kudarat restaurant blast

Google map of Isulan, Sultan Kudarat

ISULAN, Sultan Kudarat – A suspected improvised explosive device left in front of a roadside restaurant here injured at least seven persons, including the restaurant’s security guard, on Wednesday afternoon.

Citing initial information, Lt. Col. Aldrin Gonzales, speaking for Regional Police Office 12 (Soccsksargen), said the blast occurred in front of Carlito’s Restaurant at past 3:30 p.m.

Gonzales said military and police bomb disposal experts are still in the area conducting a post-blast investigation.

“We have still to receive an official report of the blast incident from our investigators on the field,” he said in a phone interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

Sketchy reports said six of the victims were rushed to the Sultan Kudarat provincial hospital, while one was taken to a private hospital.

Police recovered cut nails in the blast site.

The explosion occurred near the site of one of two blasts that hit the town last year.

Separate blasts rocked this town on August 28 and September 2 last year, leaving five persons dead and 45 others injured.

Southern Iloilo upland tourist spots 'back to normal': Army

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 3, 2019): Southern Iloilo upland tourist spots 'back to normal': Army

ENJOY THE MOUNTAINS. Tourists can now enjoy mountainous attractions in southern Iloilo such as the Tinagong Dagat in Barangay Ongyod in Miagao after the Armed Forces of the Philippines on Tuesday (April 2, 2019) lifted its previous advisory for tourists to avoid the mountain areas for them not to be caught in crossfires. Authorities anticipate that local tourists will make time to enjoy the mountains of Iloilo especially with the celebration of the Holy Week in the third week of April. (Photo courtesy of JB Ralutit)

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said tourists can now enjoy normal activities in mountainous tourist spots of southern Iloilo.

Lt. Col. Sisenando Magbalot, commander of the 61st Infantry Battalion (61IB), said the Army lifted its advisory for tourists to avoid mountainous spots in the towns of Igbaras, Miagao, and San Joaquin in Iloilo province on April 2.

The Army on March 27 advised tourists to avoid going to tourist attractions in the mountains as part of its preventive measures for the 50th founding anniversary of the New People’s Army (NPA) on March 29.

Magbalot anticipated that the rebels will mark their celebrations with atrocities and harassment of AFP detachments.

The AFP aimed to protect tourists being caught in crossfires as series of clashes occurred in Barangay Mulangan, Igbaras, Iloilo on March 17; Barangay Osorio-2 in San Remegio, Antique on March 19; Sitio Igburay, Barangay Lacay Doldol, Igbaras, Iloilo on March 20; and the latest encounter on Sitio Burak, Barangay Alimodias, Miagao, Iloilo on March 24.

“But now we are done with our operations in these areas and we can now encourage tourists to do their normal activities in the mountain tourist spots. We are now doing security operations, not the pursuit operations that we did previously,” Magbalot said in an interview on Tuesday.

He anticipates that local tourists will make time to enjoy the mountains of Iloilo especially with the celebration of the Holy Week in the third week of April.

“We understand that tourists will take their leave and enjoy outdoor activities and we assure that we will secure them,” he added.

Magbalot said that his previous reminder to tourists was discussed among the concerned local government units. He said he will coordinate with the municipal mayors that the reminder has been lifted.

Magbalot also noted that municipal mayors in the mentioned local government units had been supportive of government troops.

These areas include Kabugsokan Falls in Barangay Dalije and Tinagong Dagat in Barangay Ongyod in Miag-ao; and Mt. Opao and Mt. Napulak in Igbaras attract tourists during Holy Week, Miagao Municipal Mayor Macario Napulan said in previous interviews.

NegOr joint police-military ops within operational standards: Centcom

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 3, 2019): NegOr joint police-military ops within operational standards: Centcom

The Central Command (Centcom) on Wednesday said the joint police and military operations conducted in different localities in the first district of Negros Oriental that resulted in the death of 14 people were within the operational standards in implementing lawful orders of the court.

Lt. Gen. Noel Clement, Centcom commander, said that simultaneous service of 36 search warrants issued by executive judges of Regional Trial Courts in Cebu and Negros Oriental was part of legitimate anti-communist and law enforcement operations.

The warrants were issued for alleged violation of Republic Act 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act of 2013.

“The operations were implemented as part of the security standards in our efforts to maintain peace and order especially that the elections are nearing,” Clement said in a statement.

He added that the simultaneous implementation of 36 search warrants resulted in the arrest of 16 personalities who were subjects of the court order and the recovery of 53 assorted firearms and explosives broken down as follows: eight rifle grenades, two grenades, nine .45-caliber pistols; 25 .38-caliber revolvers; one .357-caliber revolver; four shotguns, and four homemade rifle/pistols.

Meanwhile, six of the subjects of the warrant were able to elude arrest.

Clement expressed confidence that the human rights body probing the incident will exercise objectivity.

“We appeal to the sense of fairness of the CHR to exercise integrity of their mandate of conducting investigation, that such should be based always on solid evidence and objective factual bases, rather than on pre-judgment and pre-conclusion that can only muddle the issues rather than attaining truth and objectivity," he said.

It can be recalled that a day-long joint military and police operations against the New People’s Army (NPA) in Negros Oriental on Saturday, March 29, resulted in the death of 14 and capture of 16 of the group's alleged members.

Reportedly, those who were killed engaged the authorities in a shootout as the latter served the search warrants. Eight of the fatalities were from Canlaon City, four from Manjuyod, and two from Santa Catalina, all in Negros Oriental.

The operation was called “Oplan Sauron 2.0,” an internal security operation plan against personalities connected to the Communist Party of the Philippines, NPA, National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) in the first congressional district of Negros Oriental and a follow-up to the December 27 to 29, 2018 operation dubbed as “Oplan Sauron,” the report said.

The joint operations covered Ayungon, Canlaon City, Guihulngan City, Mabinay, Manjuyod, Siaton, Santa Catalina, Tanjay City, and Vallehermoso towns in the said province.

2 NPA rebels abandon unit, yield to troops in Sarangani

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 3, 2019): 2 NPA rebels abandon unit, yield to troops in Sarangani

Frustrated with their “uncertain cause,” two members of the New People’s Army (NPA) fled from their unit in Sarangani province over the weekend and surrendered to government troops.

Lt. Col. Jones Otida, commanding officer of the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion (27IB), said Wednesday the rebels surrendered in the outskirts of Kiamba town, Sarangani while reportedly “on the run” early Sunday.

Otida said their troops were in the area as part of the continuing focused military operations against the NPA.

“They grabbed the chance to escape from their group and then surrendered to our pursuing troops,” he said.

Otida identified the returnees as aliases Ban-Ban and Toto, who were reportedly under the NPA’s Front 73 operating in Sarangani and South Cotabato provinces.

Ban-ban had been an NPA member for nine years and alias Toto was with the group for four years, the military official said.

The two surrendered three high-powered firearms composed of one AK-47 and two M-16 Armalite rifles, assorted bullets, camouflage uniforms, handheld radio and several subversive documents, he said.

“They were tired and felt hopeless with their situation in the mountains as they were always on the run. So they decided to just come down,” Otida said.

The Army official said the two also expressed frustration about the NPA's failure to provide them the promised benefits when they joined the organization.

Otida said the 27IB will endorse the inclusion of the returnees into the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program so they can avail of livelihood and other support assistance from various government agencies.

The surrenderers are also eligible to receive financial remuneration for the surrendered firearms, as well as security to protect them against possible retaliation from their former comrades.

MILF to remain neutral in 2019 polls

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 3, 2019): MILF to remain neutral in 2019 polls

Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao interim chief minister Ahod “Al Haj Murad” Ebrahim (in white polo) in one of his sorties in Maguindanao. (Photo courtesy of Bangsamoro Media Group)

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will remain neutral in the 2019 national and local elections but would allow its members to vote according to their conscience.

“The MILF, as an organization, will remain neutral, but will not stop its members from voting,” Chief Minister Ahod “Al Haj Murad” Ebrahim of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) said in a radio interview here Wednesday.

The chief minister explained that the MILF is already a partner of the government but its organizational policy remains.

“Such policy prohibits the organization from issuing statements in support or against a particular candidate in the local and national positions,” he said.

The MILF is also not campaigning for or against any political party but will not prevent its members from joining the elections.

Ebrahim, also the chair of MILF central committee, said the MILF will soon issue guidelines on how to choose leaders and the qualifications they must possess.

The chief minister said the MILF will let its members choose their candidates for national and local positions, adding the organization may only provide guidelines on how to choose the right leaders running for office.

AFP to provide area security during campaign season

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 3, 2019): AFP to provide area security during campaign season

With the campaign for local polls now in full swing, military troops are instructed to provide area security to prevent any threats against these activities.

"In the advent of the start of the local campaign period, the Chief-of-Staff, Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., has reiterated his instructions to AFP field units to always anticipate the security needs of the candidates by providing area security," Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief, Col. Noel Detoyato told the Philippine News Agency when asked on how the military plans to secure the countryside during the campaign season.

The campaign period for local election formally started last March 29 and will last for some six weeks.

While fulfilling this duty, the AFP official reminded troops to remain non-partisan.

"And while doing this mandated task, they must maintain to be non-partisan and to make sure voters will enjoy the freedom to vote for their chosen candidate without fear or intimidation," Detoyato added.

‘Balikatan', other exercises to continue: AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 3, 2019): ‘Balikatan', other exercises to continue: AFP

(PNA photo by Joey O. Razon)

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will continue conducting the "Balikatan" and other exercises in line with its goal to further professionalize the ranks of Filipino military personnel.

In a message to the Philippine News Agency (PNA) Wednesday, Col. Noel Detoyato, AFP public affairs office chief, said negative comments are to be expected from the ranks of the Communist Party of the Philippines - New People's Army (CPP-NPA) as military exercises will result in the enhancement of the fighting skills of Filipino troops.

"Rebels will always be against the 'Balikatan" or any other trainings and exercises, whether unilateral, bilateral or joint and combined because they are afraid that war fighting will improve and they would not be able to cope (with it)," he added.

This year's "Balikatan" will run from April 1 to 12. Participating troops will conduct counter-terrorism training, amphibious operations, live-fire training, urban operations training, aviation operations, bilateral planning, subject matter expert exchanges, and humanitarian and civic assistance projects throughout Luzon.

Some 4,000 Filipino, 3,500 American, and 50 Australian troops have been deployed to participate in these exercises.

"Just like any adversaries, they are afraid that their opponent will improve in skill, equipment and capability because it will spell defeat for their armed struggle. Notwithstanding, the AFP will always conduct these exercises and trainings because we believe that it is only through these activities that the AFP can be assured to improve the services that we deliver to the Filipinos," Detoyato said.

The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.

AFP naval, air units regularly patrol Pag-asa Island: spox

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 3, 2019): AFP naval, air units regularly patrol Pag-asa Island: spox

Naval and air units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are regularly conducting "maritime domain awareness" patrols off Pag-asa Island, its spokesperson said.

"Ang Navy vessel po natin doon ay hindi naman po siya stationary because alam naman po ninyo, we respond to different missions. But what we can assure you, regularly meron po tayong barko ng Navy diyan at ang mga barko rin pong iyan ang ginagamit natin sa ating daily mission and operations diyan sa iba pa nating walong mga features and islands and islet na binabantayan ng inyong Sandatahang Lakas ng Pilipinas, partikular ng inyong Navy, diyan po sa West Philippine Sea (Our Navy vessel there is not stationary because, as you know, we respond to different missions. But what we can assure you is regularly we have Navy ships there and those are what we use in our daily mission and operations there and in eight other features and islands and islet that are being guarded by your Armed Forces of the Philippines, particularly your Navy, in the West Philippine Sea)," AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said in an interview with DZMM Tuesday.

The military official was responding to a question on whether the Navy has deployed assets to the area following reports claiming that hundreds of Chinese vessels of various types were swarming Pag-asa Island.

Arevalo also bared that these naval patrols are augmented by Air Force aircraft.

He clarified that the military has yet to receive reports of Filipino fishermen being harassed or subjected to any act of aggression by these Chinese vessels.

"Wala naman pong pagha-harass, wala naman pong ganoong report. And as a matter of fact, ine-encourage po natin, una, ang ating mga mangingisda na i-ulat po sa atin kung sila ay nakararanas ng ganitong klaseng harassment o kung anuman iyong kanilang nakita na paglabag sa kanilang karapatan, kumbaga. At ikalawa po, ay ginagawa po nating encouragement pa rin sa kanila ang ituloy nila ang kanilang ginagawang pangingisda diyan, dahil wala naman nga pong harassment na nauulat sa atin. We encourage them to continue with their daily fishing diyan, sapagkat iyon naman po ang kanilang kabuhayan at ikinabubuhay (There is no harassment. There is no such report. And as a matter of fact, we encourage, first, our fishermen to report to us if they experience this kind of harassment or whatever they see as a violation of their rights. Second, we encourage them to continue their fishing activities because no report of harassment has reached us. We encourage them to continue with their daily fishing there, because that is their livelihood)," Arevalo said.

He noted that while there are confirmed sightings of Chinese ships in the area, the number is not as high as the more than 600 reported.

"Ang malinaw po diyan ay parang nagkaroon ng double counting. Kasi for one quarter - January, plus February plus March, equals one quarter ay 627. Pero actually, some of the vessels come in and go out. Kaya ang binilang po natin iyong ‘bow number,’ iyong numero doon sa bow at iyon pong — meaning, sa harapan ng barko at ang total po noon (the front of the ships and the total) is around 275 (for one quarter) (What is clear is there has been double counting. Because for one quarter -- January, plus February, plus March, equal one quarter -- is 627. But actually, some of the vessels come in and go out. What we counted is the ‘bow number’, the number in the bow, the front of the ships, and the total is around 275 (for one quarter)," Arevalo said, adding that on the average, this translates to more than 80 ships per month.

It is also likely that these vessels are observing ongoing improvement works on Pag-asa Island, such as the beaching ramp and repairs to the runway, he pointed out.

"At ang atin pong obserbasyon ay nandoon sila upang magpakita ng kanilang presensiya. At the same time, meron po kasi tayong proyektong ginagawa diyan sa Pag-asa Island, naibabalita n’yo naman po iyan sa maraming pagkakataon, at ang atin pong tingin dito ay kasama iyon sa kanilang minamanmanan (Our observation is that they are there to show presence. At the same time, we have a project there on Pag-asa Island. That has been reported several times, and the way we see it is, that is part of what they are watching closely)," he added.

Participating PH troops told to learn everything in 'Balikatan 2019'

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 3, 2019): Participating PH troops told to learn everything in 'Balikatan 2019'

Filipino troops, participating in this year's "Balikatan" exercises, have been urged to learn everything they can from their foreign counterparts.

"In the same note, I also like to address the Filipino soldiers who shall be participating in 'Balikatan' 35-2019. I urge you to maximize and make the most out of this experience and opportunity to acquire knowledge and to apply the learnings into concrete outputs so that we could better perform our duties in serving our people and protecting our state," Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief-of-Staff Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., said on Monday.

Some 4,000 Filipino and 3,500 American troops are taking part in the exercises that began April 1 and winds up on April 12.

The exercise also includes the participation of 50 members of the Australian Defence Force for humanitarian and civic assistance projects and special operations forces training.

In the two-week maneuvers, participating troops will conduct counter-terrorism training, amphibious operations, live-fire training, urban operations training, aviation operations, bilateral planning, subject matter expert exchanges, and humanitarian and civic assistance projects throughout Luzon.

Philippine military assets expected to participate in the maneuvers are the landing dock platform BRP Tarlac (LD-601), the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS-16), and FA-50 light-fighter trainers.

"All of us understand how threats on security constantly evolve, including the non-traditional security challenges at present. As we have this year's 'Balikatan', we will shoulder the load together to prepare for these scenarios and should a crisis or national disaster occur in the future, we will be ready," Madrigal said.

Meanwhile, seven nations have deployed military personnel to act as observers.

"This year, seven countries are sending their respective delegations. We have Japan, Canada, New Zealand, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and the United Kingdom," the AFP chief added.