Thursday, April 25, 2019

AFP-CRS: CPP-NPA-NDF in Calabarzon on the verge of collapse

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Command (AFP-CRS) Facebook page (Apr 25, 2019): CPP-NPA-NDF in Calabarzon on the verge of collapse

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AFP-CRS: PNP lays plans to secure former rebels

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Command (AFP-CRS) Facebook page (Apr 25, 2019): PNP lays plans to secure former rebels

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Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental councilor killed in ambush

From Tempo (Apr 25, 2019): Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental councilor killed in ambush

Two persons, including a councilor, were killed in an ambush at Barangay Inolingan, Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental Thursday morning.

Killed were Councilor Michael Garcia, and Mark Garcia, nephew and brother of Vice Mayor Ella Celestina Garcia-Yulo, respectively.

Police Major Junji Liba, town police chief, said the two fatalities were on board a pick-up truck when their vehicle was riddled with bullets.

They came from a campaign sortie when about 20 unidentified armed men on board a vehicle and motorcycle fired at them at close range.

No other injuries were reported.

The vice mayor was riding another vehicle when the incident happened but she was unharmed.

Garcia-Yulo is running for mayor in the town against incumbent Mayor Magdaleno Peña while the councilor was seeking reelection in this year’s May 13 elections.

Liba said they cannot yet tell if the assailants were gun-for-hire or members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Police have yet to establish the motive of the killing but Brigadier General Benedict Arevalo, commander of 303rd Infantry Brigade of Philippine Army, said the incident was considered to be an election-related violence.

On April 3, the town was declared by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) an area of immediate concern under red category, following the death of Councilor Jolomar Hilario in Barangay Inolingan on March 31 perpetrated by NPA.

Manila set to block Chinese bidders from largest shipyard

From Nikkei Asian Review (Apr 25, 2019): Manila set to block Chinese bidders from largest shipyard

National security concerns over Subic Bay outweigh warmer bilateral ties

A newly-built ship is seen at Hanjin Heavy Industries' shipyard in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone in January 2018. (Photo courtesy of HHIC-Phil)

The Philippine government is set to exclude Chinese bidders from acquiring the country's largest shipyard, situated at the entrance to the highly sensitive South China Sea, amid concerns over Beijing's growing military presence in the region and its potential threat to national security.

The shipyard collapsed in January after South Korea’s Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction and its Philippine unit defaulted on $1.3 billion in loans. A number of foreign bidders have declared their interest in acquiring the facility, including at least two from China.

Nikkei Asian Review has learned that Manila's Department of Trade and Industry has adopted the Philippine defense ministry's position that a Chinese takeover of the financially troubled shipyard could compromise national security, according to sources in the government.

"The issue of national security and sovereignty takes precedence over anything else," a trade official told Nikkei. "If an appropriate government agency, which in this case is the Department of National Defense, has already signified reservations, then we take that into consideration."

The remarks are another sign that President Rodrigo Duterte's administration has begun to push back against Chinese encroachment in Philippine-claimed areas of the South China Sea, and mark a setback for Beijing as it tries to deepen ties with strategic Philippine industries.

Chinese companies have recently clinched telecom and infrastructure deals, and are poised to secure more as Duterte makes a four-day visit to Beijing from Wednesday to attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.

But earlier this month, Manila publicly rebuked Beijing over the ongoing presence of Chinese ships near the Philippine-controlled Spratly Islands, as Duterte's political opponents attack his China-friendly policies ahead of midterm elections in May.

"I think that there was a need to maintain administrative unity and limit criticism from popular groups since elections are coming up," said Alvin Camba, a doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins University who watches Chinese investment in the Philippines.

While the government's position does not formally bar Chinese companies from bidding for the shipyard, another official told Nikkei that "it will be difficult for them to get it."

Philippine government officials stressed that Chinese investments in the local shipping industry were still welcome, just not in Subic Bay.

The shipyard is located in Subic Bay, which until 1992 was home to one of the biggest U.S. deepwater naval bases in the region. A key hub for U.S. forces during the Vietnam war and cold war, its importance has been underlined more recently amid rising tensions over Beijing's disputed claims to more than 80 percent of the South China Sea.

The Philippine Navy indicated that it would be prepared to take a stake in the shipyard to guarantee its independence, with Navy spokesperson Jonathan Zata welcoming the trade department's position.

"If a government agency has taken note of our recommendation, we are happy to fulfill our mandate of protecting our country's maritime interests," he told Nikkei.

Two unidentified, state-backed Chinese shipyards approached the trade department in January regarding Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Philippines, and Chinese shipbuilders were in touch with trade officials until last month.

The companies were told to talk to the banks instead, the trade official said, adding that the government's position has been made clear to creditors.

Five Philippine banks have agreed to convert $412 million in debt into equity, making them part-owners of the shipyard once a process is completed. But Chinese companies appear nowhere in sight as the search for a white knight begins.

"At least five" foreign companies have visited the shipyard, said Jomi Deveras, a senior vice president at Rizal Commercial Banking, one of the local creditors.

Asked whether a Chinese group had come forward, Deveras said: "Not that I am aware of."

While multiple foreign interests had expressed interest in the shipyard, Rosario Bernaldo, the receiver administering the rehabilitation process, said no Chinese companies "have approached me" so far.

Dutch shipbuilder Damen Group, France's Naval Group and casino tycoon Enrique Razon are among those believed to be considering a bid, as well as unidentified American, Japanese and European companies.

The search for the shipyard's white knight has been largely a private sector initiative, but the Philippine government has been keen to play a role in the rescue given the yard's economic and strategic importance.

"We cannot not consider it,'' Nestor Tan, chief executive officer of BDO Unibank which is also part of the five-bank consortium, told Nikkei, referring to the government's position. "It will definitely be a factor in the decision [in choosing a white knight]."

Hanjin has invested $2.3 billion in the 300-hectare facility since 2006, making it the largest foreign investor in the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, a special economic zone.

The shipyard had delivered 123 vessels through 2018, making the Philippines one of the largest shipbuilding nations. It employed over 30,000 during its heyday before reducing staff to a few hundred for maintenance work when it closed in February.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in January that Duterte was open to a state-backed rescue of Hanjin, in which the Philippine Navy would own a stake. But Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said he wanted the private sector to resolve the debt default issue before the government made a move.

Duterte May Discuss Buying Chinese Arms With Xi At BRI Summit - Defense Undersecretary

Posted to Urdu Point (Apr 24, 2019): Duterte May Discuss Buying Chinese Arms With Xi At BRI Summit - Defense Undersecretary

Duterte May Discuss Buying Chinese Arms With Xi at BRI Summit - Defense Undersecretary

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte may discuss purchasing Chinese military equipment during his talks with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of the upcoming Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, the Philippine defense undersecretary, Cardozo M. Luna, told Sputnik in an interview

MOSCOW (UrduPoint News / Sputnik) Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte may discuss purchasing Chinese military equipment during his talks with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of the upcoming Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, the Philippine defense undersecretary, Cardozo M. Luna, told Sputnik in an interview.

The three-day summit, devoted to the Beijing-promoted Belt and Road Intuitive (BRI) transport and infrastructure project, will kick off in the Chinese capital on Thursday.

"[As] part of the defense cooperation ... we're also buying equipment from China. So that is part of the talk that might be developed there [at the BRI forum]. Our secretary of defense will be with the president when he goes there," Cardozo Luna said.

The undersecretary did not rule out that Duterte might also "bring up the topic of the West Philippine [Sea - the name for the South China Sea in Philippine official government use]," during the talks in Beijing.

For decades, the Philippines and China have been in dispute over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea � a major shipping route and home to fishing grounds that is also potentially rich in gasand oil.

China maintains that it has historic claim to the territory, but in 2013, the Philippines sought international arbitration to settle the dispute, claiming that its geographical proximity to the Spratlys justified its claim to the islands. In 2016, a UN court backed the Philippines' case, but Chinaboycotted the ruling.

WESTMINCOM: Signing of Peace Covenant held in 2nd District of Sulu

Posted to the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) Website (Apr 25, 2019): Signing of Peace Covenant held in 2nd District of Sulu

Marine Battalion Landing Team-3 in coordination with the Philippine National Police, spearheaded the Peace Covenant signing held in Panglima Estino, Sulu on Tuesday, April 23.

It was participated by representatives from the Commission on Elections, Department of Education, religious leaders, and the aspirants for the 2019 midterm election.

The activity was done purposely to ensure a peaceful, orderly, honest and credible election on May 13, 2019 in the 2nd District of Sulu.

“Our primary concern is the safety and protection of the electorates. We sought the oath of the candidates to be united, for a peaceful and orderly election,” said LtGen Arnel Dela Vega of the Western Mindanao Command.

WESTMINCOM: Marines undergo Open Water Divers Training in Zambo City

Posted to the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) Website (Apr 25, 2019): Marines undergo Open Water Divers Training in Zambo City

Marine Battalion Landing Team – 11 conducted the Open Water Divers Training Class 06-19 last April 08-16 2019 at the Headquarters, Inshore Boat Battalion, Naval Station Romulo Espaldon, Barangay Bagong Calarian, Zamboanga City.

The training was facilitated by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI).

It is part of the unit’s thrust to develop the personnel’s skills tailor-fitted to complement their amphibious operations capability.

WESTMINCOM: Insurgents weakening, says Army’s 61IB officer

Posted to the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) Website (Apr 25, 2019): Insurgents weakening, says Army’s 61IB officer

Major General Dinoh Dolina, Commander of the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, paid a courtesy visit to the Western Mindanao Command earlier today (April 25).

He was accorded with the traditional arrival honors by the officers, enlisted personnel, and civilian employees of the command.

He was then received by WestMinCom Commander Lieutenant General Arnel B. Dela Vega and his Command Staff at the Laong-Laan Hall of this command.

3rd Infantry Division is currently based at Camp General Macario Peralta Jr., Jamindan, Capiz.

Insurgents weakening, says Army’s 61IB officer

From Panay News (Apr 26, 2019): Insurgents weakening, says Army’s 61IB officer

The New People’s Army (NPA) is weakening, according to the Philippine Army’s 61st Infantry Battalion (61IB) commander, Lieutenant Colonel Joel Benedict Batara.

To bolster his point, he cited an incident in Barangay Panuran, Lambunao, Iloilo on April 23.

Troops of the 61IB proceeded to Barangay Panuran after having been alerted by concerned citizens about the presence of armed men there.

But when they reached the village around 6:30 a.m., what greeted the soldiers were lots of abandoned belongings in a remote, secluded area.

According to Batara, the rebels obviously hurriedly fled after getting wind that government troops were coming their way.

“Hindi nila kaya mag-engage sa ating mga tao kaya tumakbo sila,” said Batara.

The rebels, he added, belonged to NPA Panay’s Baloy Platoon led by Ka Andoy.

Batara believed the rebels were in the area for extortion activities.

“They may also be planning tactical offensives against government forces,” he said.

Batara called on the local populace to continue reporting to authorities any suspicious groups or persons in their areas.

Tuesday last week, April 16, the 61IB foiled the NPA’s plan to harass the Jalaur River Multipurpose Project (JRMP) Stage II in Calinog town which was adjacent to Lambunao. Its troops encountered around 10 rebels in Barangay Masaroy, Calinog.

Batara said his battalion received information about the plans of the rebels to conduct ambushes and burn heavy equipment at the mega dam construction site.

The P11.2-billion JRMP II held its ceremonial groundbreaking just this Feb. 27.

Makabayan condemns assassination

From the Visayan Daily Star (Apr 25, 2019): Makabayan condemns assassination

The Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan (Makabayan) bloc yesterday filed a House resolution strongly condemning what they called the cold blooded assassination of Escalante City Councilor Bernardino “Toto” Patigas Sr., 72, and called for justice for his death.

Patigas, a reelectionist councilor, was driving his motorcycle on his way home from a campaign sortie, when he was waylaid along the highway by two assassins who shot his leg and finished him off with a shot to the forehead while he was sprawled on the ground wounded, in Barangay Washington, Escalante City, Negros Occidental 4:30 p.m. Monday.

Patigas, who was the Escalante City coordinator of Bayan Muna Partylist since 2010, was a long time human rights defender having once also served as secretary general of the North Negros Alliance of Human Rights Advocates. He was also a survivor of the 1985 Escalante massacre.

Before his murder, he had received death threats, was subjected to trumped up criminal charges, vilified and harassed due to his human rights work, the resolution said.

In April 2018 Patigas’ name and picture, together with that of slain human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos and 60 other individuals and rights advocates, was included in a poster of alleged communist personalities circulated in Negros Island by suspected state agents, the resolution said.

The murder of Patigas, apparently, is just part of an active systematic and lethal campaign against progressive candidates and their supporters in the months leading to the May 13 elections, the Makabayan bloc said, citing killings in other parts of the country.

There is also a visible nationwide vilification campaign directed against members and candidates of the Makabayan, the resolution also said, pointing out that posters and banners with malicious red-tagging are being put up in Metro Manila and in the provinces.

The resolution also said that actual campaign posters of Makabayan candidates are systematically defaced with the same red tagging slogans.

“These virulent attacks are certainly cause for grave alarm as these put the rights and safety of the Makabayan bloc members, campaigners and supporters in jeopardy and serious danger,” the resolution said.

As members of the House of Representatives they should not only condemn these killings and attempts to silence voices of dissent in the country, but should do everything to ensure that justice is given to the victims of state impunity, including Patigas, the Makabayan bloc said.

The resolution was authored by representatives Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna Partylist ), Antonio Tinio and France Castro (ACT Teachers Partylist), Arlene Brosas and Emmi De Jesus (Gabriela Women’s Party), Ariel Casilao (Anakpawis) and Sarah Jane Elago (Kabataan Partylist).*

Former tribal warrior amplifies call for closure of 'Salugpungan' school

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 25, 2019): Former tribal warrior amplifies call for closure of 'Salugpungan' school

Datu Guibang Apoga (middle) is leading the call for the closure of the Salugpungan Ta'Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Centers as they are allegedly operated by the New Peoples Army.

TALAINGOD, Davao del Norte —Having waged a tribal war with the government in the hinterlands of Bukidnon and Davao del Norte alongside the communist group New People’s Army (NPA), Datu Guibang Apoga is pressing for the closure of a school allegedly operated by the NPA.

In his recent testimony during an inquiry of the House Committee on Indigenous Cultural Communities and Indigenous Peoples, Datu Apoga brushed aside allegations that the military had used its influence over the Ata-Manobo community at Sitio Nasilaban in Barangay Palma Gil to close the Salugpungan Ta’ Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center in the area.

Chaired by Representative Allen Jesse C. Mangaoang, the committee sent a team on April 17 to Sitio Nasilaban in coordination with the Presidential Adviser on Indigenous Peoples Concerns and the Mindanao Indigenous Peoples’ Council of Elders.

Describing himself as an elderly who had gone weary of continuing the rebellion, Apoga professed of having desired for “peace and order” to set in his Ata- Manobo community in Sitio Nasilaban, an hour and a half away from the municipal hall of Talaingod in Davao del Norte.

Initiated closure of Salugpungan

Apoga owned up initiating the closure of the Salugpungan School in Sitio Nasilaban together with other Ata-Manobo tribal leaders because he had seen the danger of such school which he said had sown division among the members of his tribe, as some of them went elsewhere to join protest rallies against the government.

“Kami ang nagtukod ana, kami pud mismo ang nagsirado (We built it, we were the ones who closed it),” he said in native tongue interpreted by his daughter Maling Apoga.

“Dili na tinuod nga militarya ang nagpasirado anang eskwelahan kundili kami mismo ang nagopasierado sa eskwelahan tawag ug salugpungan. (It is not true that the military closed it but we closed the school called salugpungan),” he said added.

A "Salugpungan" school in Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

In November 2018, Apoga sent a letter to the Municipal Peace and Order Council (MPOC) asking for intervention regarding the operation of Salugpungan School which he, together with other tribal leaders, wanted closed.

The content of the letter was read during the MPOC meeting on November 16, 2018. A resolution signed by more than 10 tribal leaders regarding their bid to stop the operation of Salugpungan School in Nasilaban was also read during that MPOC meeting.

The resolution signified their unified stand against the continued operation of the Salugpungan school which they allegedly found to have been twisting teachings for students to “go against the government.”

The military cares

Apoga said he realized that tales about the recent atrocities of the military were lies. Recalling his years in rebellion, he said they were told that once they saw a military, “we should run away for we would be killed.”

Apoga said members of his tribe who were gripped by fear went their separate ways and had even gone beyond his way of calling them back together as they went with the flow of “bakwits.”

Maling Apoga admitted having gone with the bakwits, the vernacular for evacuate.

“Sige lang mi pasabuton nga magbakwit ta dido para atong ipakita sa gobyerno ang atong kusog isip mga lumad, nga diay dili maayo nga sige ug bakwit batok gobyerno, sige gunit karatola nga magdaut sa gobyerno (We were made to understand that we have to evacuate there so we would show the government the power of indigenous peoples. We realized it’s not good to always go on evacuating and to go on holding banners bringing down the government.),” Maling said.

As Datu Apoga and daughter Maling returned to the fold of the government, even the commanding officer of the military was there to meet them. Contrary to what they were made to believe, they were taken cared for, Maling said.

“Gipalangga man siya sa mga sundalo; gidawat siya ug maayo… ug gina suportar pa jud siya maam (He was cared for; he was received well and supported.)," Maling told the Office of the Presidential Adviser on IP Concerns, referring to the way the military treated Datu Apoga.

Westmincom fetes soldiers in ‘Abu Dar’ killing

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 25, 2019): Westmincom fetes soldiers in ‘Abu Dar’ killing

GALLANTRY IN ACTION. Lt. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, leads the awarding of medal to four soldiers on Wednesday, April 24, for the successful military operation that resulted in the death of four terrorists, including Dawlah Islamiya leader Owaydah Marohomosar alias Abu Dar. (Photo courtesy: Westmincom Public Information Office)

ZAMBOANGA CITY -- The Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) has awarded medals to four soldiers for gallantry in action during the military operation that killed the leader of the Islamic State (IS)-inspired Dawlah Islamiya in Lanao del Sur.

Lt. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, Westmincom chief, led Wednesday's awarding ceremony at the headquarters of the Joint Task Force Zampelan (Zamboanga Peninsula and Lanao provinces) in Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur.

Col. Gerry Besana, Westmincom information officer, said that the Gold Cross Medal was presented to 2nd Lt. Jophet Orbeta and the Military Merit Medal to Sgt. Jayar Penetrante, Sgt. Arcee Formanes, and Pvt. Romy Villamor, of the Army’s 49th Infantry Battalion.

Besana said they were recognized for the successful focused military operation in Tubaran, Lanao del Sur last March 14 that resulted in the death of four terrorists, including Owaydah Marohomsar alias “Abu Dar”, the leader of the Dawlah Islamiya, formerly known as the Maute group.

“Abu Dar” is regarded as the successor of Isnilon Hapilon, the self-declared "emir" of IS in Southeast Asia who was also killed in Marawi along with Maute brothers Omarkayam and Abdullah.

Besana said dela Vega congratulated the members of Team Tabak and Joint Task Force Zampelan for their dedication and professionalism “in the conduct of our focused military operations.”

“Let this (recognition) be an added, not a primary, motivation in our efforts to quell terrorism in the area of operations. We should remain focused on the task at hand and, for sure, we will never go wrong in as far as each and every responsibility of the personnel of JTF (Joint Task Force) Zampelan is concerned,” dela Vega was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, dela Vega also reminded ground commanders under JTF Zampelan to maximize and allow personnel to exercise their right of suffrage during the command conference held at the headquarters of the task force on Wednesday.

“We must ensure that there will be no failure of elections in any polling centers. Otherwise, it will reflect on us that we are incapable of ensuring the conduct of an orderly, peaceful, and credible election,” he said.

He said military units must have contingency plans “to promptly address any situation and proceed with the elections.”

TESDA-12 eyes more skills training for ex-NPA rebels

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 25, 2019): TESDA-12 eyes more skills training for ex-NPA rebels

The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority in Region 12 (TESDA-12) has joined hands with a peace advocacy group in South Cotabato to facilitate the skills training for former New People's Army (NPA) rebels in the area.

Rafael Abrogar II, TESDA-12 director, said Thursday they are exploring various skills training for at least 70 former rebels in partnership with the People’s Advocacy for Collaboration and Empowerment Inc. (PEACE).

Earlier this week, Abrogar said he met with PEACE officials to discuss the initial activities, in coordination with the Army's 27th Infantry Battalion and TESDA-South Cotabato provincial office.

"We discussed possible assistance programs, especially the technical training offered by the office that our former rebels may avail," Abrogar told reporters.

The official said they will conduct consultations and area study with the prospective beneficiaries to determine the specific skills that they need and other assistance from TESDA's programs.

He said the TESDA provincial office is also preparing a project proposal regarding the skills training to ensure that these would lead to livelihood and employment opportunities for the rebel returnees.

"We are committed to assisting the needs of our returnees as they also strive to become productive citizens," Abrogar said.

Last month, TESDA-12 conducted profiling of at least 100 NPA rebels in the province who surrendered these past years for the provision of skills training.

Abrogar said the move is in compliance with instructions from TESDA Director General Isidro Lapeña to assist former rebels who are recipients of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program to gain “life-changing economic opportunities.”

He said the returnees will undergo training on construction-related skills for possible employment later on in various infrastructure projects in the province under the national government’s flagship “Build, Build, Build” program.

SC affirms raps vs. soldiers, cops in 'illegal detention' of Morong 43

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 25, 2019): SC affirms raps vs. soldiers, cops in 'illegal detention' of Morong 43

The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered the Sandiganbayan to proceed with the prosecution of military and police officers implicated in the alleged illegal detention of 43 suspected communist rebels in Morong, Rizal, more than nine years ago.

In a 12-page resolution, the tribunal’s 3rd Division turned down the motion for reconsideration filed by retired Lt. Gen. Jorge Segovia, retired Major Gen. Aurelio Baladad, Major Gen. Joselito Reyes, and Brig. Gen. Cristobal Zaragoza; and police officers Marion Balonglong, Allan Nobleza, and Jovily Cabading.

They had sought the reversal of the resolutions issued by the anti-graft court on June 7 and July 25 in 2017 denying their motion to quash the criminal case filed against them by the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the arrest of the group known as the “Morong 43”.

Health workers Jane Balleta, Samson Castillo, Mercy Castro, Merry Clamor, Gary Liberal, Reynaldo Macabenta, Alexis Montes, and Teresa Quinawayan filed the charges against them on May 3, 2012 accusing the military and police of failing to inform them of the basis for the arrest and for failing to provide counsel to the Morong 43.

The Morong 43 were arrested by the military in Morong, Rizal in February 2010 on suspicion that they were communist rebels.

They claimed that they were mere health workers illegally detained for 10 months on charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. They were released in December 2010 after prosecutors withdrew the criminal charges filed against them.

The accused cited the Ombudsman’s inordinate delay in the resolution of the preliminary investigation of their case and that the unreasonable delay by the Ombudsman constituted a violation of their right to the speedy disposition of their case.

Ruling otherwise, the SC held that there was no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Sandiganbayan in denying the accused a motion to quash the information.

“To emphasize, a simple mathematical reckoning of time shall never suffice. Rather, each case shall be scrutinized according to the facts and circumstances peculiar thereto. Considering that the perceived delays in the instant case were justified, the case against the petitioners shall not be dismissed,” the SC ruled.

Contrary to the claim of the petitioners that there was a lull in the investigation, the SC said records show that numerous proceedings took place during the two-year period.

Refute NDF Panay exec claims, 'Reds-linked groups' dared

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 25, 2019): Refute NDF Panay exec claims, 'Reds-linked groups' dared

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Deputy Chief-of-Staff for Civil-Military Operations, Major Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr.,

A ranking official of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) on Thursday challenged progressive militant groups to denounce the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) Panay for publicly linking them to the communist movement.

"The Kamatayan (Makabayan) bloc led by Atty. Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna, (Rep. Carlos) Zarate, Sarah Elago of Kabataan must be so enraged with NDFP Panay spokesperson for revealing to the public what this Kamatayan bloc has been denying all these time," Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Deputy Chief-of-Staff for Civil-Military Operations, Major Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr., said in a message to reporters.

Parlade was referring to statements made last April 24 by NDF Panay spokesperson Concha Araneta on the 46th anniversary of the NDFP.

"On their 46th NDFP anniversary last 24 April, Concha Araneta practically admitted that all these organizations under the NDF umbrella are all one and the same with the CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army) in the armed revolution. Araneta proudly proclaimed last Tuesday, the 46 years of NDFP's contributions as they 'celebrate with heads high the indispensable role in advancing the Philippine revolution'. NDFP Panay is so proud for 'inflicting casualties of not less than 50 enemies' in Panay. Indeed, 'the NDFP have continually filled the ranks of the CPP-NPA', as NDF (Panay)'s Concha proudly proclaims," he added.

The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

"She (also) stated that 'members of the Kabataang Makabayan, Makibaka, PKM, Revolutionary Council of Trade Unions, and allied organizations of the NDF have continually filled in the ranks of the NPA and CPP, immersing themselves with the masses in the countryside and cities while others perform underground work in urban areas," the military official added.

The organizations mentioned by Araneta, he said, are not allied organizations of the "Kamatayan Bloc or the NDF" but underground mass organizations (UGMOs) embedded in legal front organizations.

"They are, in fact, the underground mass organizations (UGMO) embedded in these legal front organizations. Why undeground? Because they know they are doing illegal activities to topple democracy, violent terrorist actions against the people, and seditious acts that can put them in jail," he added.

Parlade said other NDF allied organizations include Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, KMU, ACT, ANAKBAYAN, MAKABAYAN, MIGRANTE, LFS, Gabriela, Kabataan, Karapatan, Katribu, Kalikasan, Courage, Kadamay, IBON, PISTON, NUPL, NFSW, Pamalakaya, PDG and so many others, most of which are also members of the International League of Peoples Struggles (ILPS), which is chaired by CPP founding chair Jose Maria "Joma" Sison.

"The Kamatayan Bloc members running for office are cadres of the Communist Party of the Philippines. They cannot represent any of the Party Group of the UGMO if they did not take an oath to the CPP,” he added

He said Kabataan party-list Rep. Sarah Elago is a cadre of Kabataang Makabayan (KM), the underground mass organization (UGMO) of Anakbayan while, France Castro of ACT is cadre of the its UGMP KAGUMA and CONTEND.
“Just like Atty. Edre Olalia, Neri Colmenares is also a cadre of the underground mass organ LUMABAN or Lupon ng mga Manananggal ng Bayan, hiding under the CPP front NUPL. Again, it's not a typo. They are true blood-suckers who cannot denounce the CPP and the NPAs for their terroristic acts,"
Parlade said.

The NTF ELCAC official also scored Colmenares and other progressive group leaders for having the temerity to run for national office as senator and yet having no qualms in destroying democracy which allowed them to participate in the electoral process.

"You are all running for national office and aspire to be a senator of the land. Whose interest will you represent? Why don't you explain to the people this duplicity of yours? You join the democratic process thru the party-list and then destroy democracy. You join the legislative, get elected and use your funds to destroy your country. How do you reconcile your oath to this democratic state with that of the CPP Constitution's establishment of a 'proletarian dictatorship'? (Art 3 Section 7 of CPP Constitution and Programs series May 2016). You are using the democratic process to establish a dictatorship. And what are your agenda in your campaign: anti-dictatorship, anti-fascist, pro-people?" Parlade said.

He added that this a classic revolutionary dual tactics.

"It's time the voting public should know everything about you. You cannot hide truth by running to the Supreme Court. Truth is the only way to freedom and these is what the people are craving for now. It's time you lay down your cards," he said.

First female artillery chief shines in Balikatan

From the Philippine Star (Apr 21, 2019): 
First female artillery chief shines in Balikatan

AFP chief Gen. Benjamin Madrigal lauded Lt. Col. Lea Santiago for her accuracy in hitting distant targets during the combined joint live fire exercises held at Crow Valley in Capas, Tarlac.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is beaming with pride over the performance of its first female artillery battalion commander in the just-concluded joint Balikatan Exercises with the US military.

AFP chief Gen. Benjamin Madrigal lauded Lt. Col. Lea Santiago for her accuracy in hitting distant targets during the combined joint live fire exercises held at Crow Valley in Capas, Tarlac.

“For your information the commander there is the first female battalion commander in the artillery. We saw how accurate the fire they delivered during the (live) fire exercises,” Madrigal said.

A graduate of Philippine Military Academy of Kalasag-Lahi Class 1997, Santiago, formerly Cadet Lorenza at the academy, is not a newbie to her new post.

Her assignment in Mindanao has further honed her artillery skills, a well-earned experience that she took along with her when she was designated the Army’s first female artillery battalion commander recently.

And if there is one important thing that the AFP has learned from this year’s joint exercise, women can really perform, if not surpass, their male counterparts in combat.

Meanwhile, Madrigal said China’s warning against the US in its continuing freedom of navigation operations (FONOPS) in the South China Sea is an independent action that has no effect on other states.

“Actually, we all continue to undertake our own respective independent actions out there,” Madrigal said.

He added on the part of the Philippines these undertakings – securing and guarding the country’s maritime and territorial boundaries – is being carried out with mutual respect with other forces.

However, Madrigal pointed out the AFP wants freedom of navigation in the South China Sea open and unhampered.

Malaysia says ISIS militants use Sabah to cross into Philippines

Posted to the Mindanao Examiner (Apr 25, 2019): Malaysia says ISIS militants use Sabah to cross into Philippines

Malaysia said Sabah is being used by ISIS militants in crossing into the Philippines to establish bases and wage terrorism there.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun was quoted by Malay Mail on Thursday as saying that militants are looking for new bases to operate from because of attacks by allied forces on ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq.

He said Sandakan City and Tawau town in Sabah are being used by militants to enter conflict zones in Southern Philippines and also in Rakhine Myanmar.

“We are aware that in Southeast Asia, Tawau and Sandakan are being used as transit points by militants to enter Southern Philippines and Myanmar. That is for South-east Asia. In European countries, we know they are looking at Balkan states such as Bosnia and a few other nations,” he said, adding that this was from intelligence gathering and the exchange of information with police agencies worldwide.

Harun said the police are closely monitoring the matter and arrests from time to time had been made to keep militants in check. “We are also monitoring social media to check the spread of Islamic State ideology,” he said.

The report also quoted Harun as saying that the number of ISIS militants are on the decline due to allied campaign. “At one time, there were some 45,000 fighters but now, we have been informed the numbers have dropped to 35,000,” he said.

In March, Malay Mail reported that the police arrested 9 people with suspected links to an African-based terror group behind alleged plans to launch large-scale attacks in several countries. It said two of the suspects, an Egyptian and a Tunisian national, are believed to be fighters with the Ansar Al-Shariah Al-Tunisia, which is part of the al-Qaeda terror network operating in North Africa.

The two, aged 21 and 22, came to Malaysia as a transit point with the help of 7 others, five of them Egyptian nationals and two Malaysians, who provided lodgings and paid for other expenses including plane tickets to the country.

Harun’s statement coincided with President Rodrigo Duterte’s warning that ISIS and Abu Sayyaf militants may be targeting Zamboanga and told foreigners to stay away from there.

Citing a credible intelligence report, Duterte, addressing participants in the 7th Union Asia Pacific Regional Conference in Pasay City, said: “There’s a certain place which I would not recommend to anybody to go there, not just as yet, is Zamboanga. Some Europeans go there for the bird watching and they are captured and eventually they are decapitated even after the payment of ransom.”

“It is the ISIS actually. It used to be the Abu Sayyaf. Now it’s an Abu Sayyaf territory. They do nothing but to kill and destroy,” he added.

But Duterte may have confused Zamboanga City to Tawi-Tawi province when he said that some Europeans birdwatchers were kidnapped and eventually decapitated by militants.

There had been no kidnappings of foreign birdwatchers in Zamboanga City but in February 2012, Abu Sayyaf militants under Hajan Sawadjaan and suspected Moro National Liberation Front members kidnapped two European wildlife photographers Lorenzo Vinciguerra, from Switzerland; and Ewold Horn, 54, from Holland, in the coastal village of Parangan in Panglima Sugala town in Tawi-Tawi.

Vinciguerra had escaped from his guards and recovered by soldiers in December 2014 after he allegedly killed one of his guards – Juhurim Hussien – with a bolo. The fate of Horn is still unknown.

Philippine authorities blamed the Abu Sayyaf and ISIS in the twin suicide bombings of a Catholic cathedral in Jolo town in Sulu province early this year. The attacks, carried out by an Indonesian couple, had killed and injured dozens of people, mostly soldiers guarding the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on January 27.

The attacks on the church occurred 2 years after hundreds of Abu Sayyaf and pro-ISIS militants and civilian supporters took over Marawi City in Lanao del Sur province. The city was recovered by troops after 5 months of house-to-house and close-quarter battle that killed and wounded hundreds of soldiers, militants and innocent civilians trapped in Marawi.

Duterte’s warning came after ISIS suicide bombers struck churches and hotels in Sri Lanka that killed over 300 people on Easter Sunday.

Zamboanga Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco Salazar said security is tight in the city and assured locals that police and military forces are in heightened alert. “We heightened the security in the city of Zamboanga and we continue to maintain a heightened level of alert as a pre-emptive measure following the Sri Lanka bombings,” she said.

Police said it is maintaining a high level of alert in Zamboanga, especially in places of worships, according to its spokesperson, Captain Shellamae Chang. (Zamboanga Post)

Communist NPA terrorists continue to surrender to Army unit in AgSur

From the Mindanao Examiner (Apr 25, 2019): Communist NPA terrorists continue to surrender to Army unit in AgSur
More members of the New Peoples Army (NPA) continue to surrender to the 26th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army as the government troops conduct intensified focused military operation against the remaining members of the NPAs who are operating in the boundaries of Agusan del Sur and Bukidnon areas.

Three regular members of the communist terrorist group laid down their arms to 26IB on April 12, 2019 as a result of the continuous security operations conducted in the municipalities of San Luis and Talacogon, Agusan del Sur.

This is also part of the security preparation for the upcoming local and national elections.

Alias ‘Angelo’, squad leader of Platoon 2 of Guerilla Front 88 surrendered, together with alias ‘Renan’, team leader, Squad 2, Platoon 1 and alias ‘Bamse’.

They brought along with them one AK47 rifle with three magazines and 30 live ammunitions, one M16 rifle with one magazine and 20 live ammunitions, one Caliber 45 pistol with one magazine and six ammunitions, one KG9 pistol with five ammunitions, and five grenade launcher ammunitions.

Guerilla Front 88 was almost dismantled on 2017. With their estimated manpower of 30 members, 15 had already surrendered from 2015 to date, while 13 died in encounters.

“These surrenderees were the remaining members of GF88, that is why we are eager to neutralize these terrorists by hook or by crook to dismantle them totally,” emphasized Lieutenant Colonel Romeo Jimenea, battalion commander of 26IB.

Angelo admitted that they conducted recovery efforts and massive recruitment to fill-up their depleted number, but only few were deceived to join.

LTC Jimenea relayed that it was the time when Angelo started to doubt his higher command’s leadership, and decided to think for himself and his family.

“We were only fooled by them, and as I see it, we have no more direction in what we are fighting for. It is useless to continue on this fight. That is the truth that must be realized by other NPAs, they are no more fighting for the people, but only for their few selfish leaders who live like kings in the plain, while we fight hard in the mountains,” Angelo said.

It can be recalled that from January to date, a total of 12 regular NPAs with 13 firearms have yielded to 26IB. They are being processed for enrollment to the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP), where they will receive various assistance from the government to help them return to their normal lives.

Brigadier General Andres Centino, 401st Brigade Commander said “we are actively supporting the localized peace talk that the national government is promoting. That is why we are pushing these communists rebels to the edge, to offer them no other options than to surrender or die. With the overwhelming support of the peace-loving people of Agusan del Sur, we are positive that we can successfully dismantle all other NPA fronts in Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Sur.”(By 26IB, Philippine Army)

11 NPA rebels in Southern Tagalog yield, says military

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 25, 2019): 11 NPA rebels in Southern Tagalog yield, says military

Duterte renews call to Reds: Stop extortion, taxation and we will resume talks


LUCENA CITY – Eleven alleged New People’s Army (NPA) rebels operating in Southern Tagalog surrendered to the government on Wednesday, the military said Thursday.

The rebel returnees also turned over three firearms during the closing ceremony of the Indigenous People’s (IP) Summit held at Cavinti, Laguna, Capt. Patrick Jay Retumban, public affairs chief of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, said in a statement.

Each of the surrenderers received government grants worth P65,000.

“It is the first of the more than P700,000 worth of benefits to 20 former rebels who were enrolled by the military in the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP),” Retumban said.

Under the E-CLIP, the government’s reintegration program, the communist rebels returning to the fold of the law may avail of livelihood, medical, educational, housing, and legal assistance from the government.

Brig. Gen. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr., the Army commander who has operational jurisdiction over Southern Tagalog Region, said a total of 111 former Maoist-inspired guerrillas who surrendered had turned over 62 firearms to the government since August last year.

“It is a clear indication that the government is winning the campaign against insurgency in this part of the country,” Burgos said.

Retumban said the IP summit, which was implemented by the military to protect the indigenous people from the influence of the communist guerrillas, was attended by 23 Dumagat tribe leaders from Quezon province.

“The IPs should be given importance since they are very critical and one of the most vulnerable parts of our society who often end up as victims of the NPA’s deception to further their protracted people’s war,” Undersecretary Allen Capuyan, the Presidential Adviser in IP Affairs, said.

Bulatlat: Frank Fernandez and company transferred to civilian jail

From the Communist Party of the Philippines-affiliated online propaganda publication Bulatlat (Apr 23, 2019): Frank Fernandez and company transferred to civilian jail

Lagtapon (left) and Fernandez (right) at the cancelled arraignment last April 22 in Sta. Cruz, Laguna. (PILC photo)

Arrested National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant Frank Fernandez, wife Cleofe Lagtapon and companion Ge-ann Perez have finally been transferred to a civilian jail facility Monday despite efforts by the Philippine Army to keep them incommunicado inside Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City.

Following their scheduled arraignment for alleged illegal possession of firearms and explosives before the Sta. Cruz (Laguna) Regional Trial Court Monday, April 22, the three were finally committed to the Laguna Provincial Jail.

Their arraignment, however, did not push through because of their limited and ineffective access to counsel.

In an announcement, the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) said Fernandez and company were kept inside the Army General Hospital (AGH) since March 25 without communication to the outside world save for a few visits.

PILC also told Kodao that aside from its repeated refusal to allow PILC lawyers to visit the three, the Philippine Army also deliberately ignored an April 3 Commitment Order by the Branch 33 of the Sta. Cruz Court to transfer Fernandez, Lagtapon and Perez to a civilian jail facility.

“No less than Lt. Gen. Macairog Alberto, Army commanding general, denied the written request of Public Interest Law Center managing counsel Rachel Pastores to enter Fort Bonifacio on April 16, 2019, saying that only one counsel [PILC’s Maria Kristina Conti] was recognized by the court,” PILC said.

Aside from Conti, however, Fernandez and company have formally engaged PILC’s Pastores, Amilyn Sato and Carlos Montemayor as lawyers during their inquest proceedings in Sta. Cruz last March 25.

‘No visits from lawyers and doctors’

According to an Omnibus Motion to the Court filed through their lawyers last April 17, Fernandez and company complained of being denied visits from their lawyers and doctors.

Efforts by PILC and National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers counsels to gain access to their clients were denied.

Doctors who also sought ways to check up on the three were turned away by the Philippine Army.

Fernandez and Lagtapon asked the Court to require the Philippine Army to respect their right to counsel and to provide them unhindered access to them for adequate and effective preparation for their defense.

Fernandez also asked for a hospital check up and confinement, complaining that the AGH does not appear to be fully-equipped to treat his coronary artery disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and hyponatremia (low sodium concentration in the blood) as diagnosed by Philippine Army doctors themselves.

Casambre now in Bicutan

Earlier this month, Fernandez’s fellow NDFP peace consultant Rey Claro Casambre had been transferred to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City after spending weeks at the “noisy, hot and cramped” Bacoor City Jail.

Casambre was clandestinely trasferred from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-National Capital Region detention facility in Camp Crame to Bacoor last April 3 without his family and lawyers being informed of the move.

Aside from Casambre and Fernandez, Reynante Gamara, Vicente Ladlad, Rafael Baylosis and Adelberto Silva had been arrested in succession since President rodrigo Duterte ended the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the NDFP in November 2017.

All had been charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives, which they deny.

Baylosis, however, was ordered released by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court in January after pieces of evidence presented against him were found insufficient.

Japan-Philippines Defense Cooperation in Focus with Ministerial Meeting

From The Diplomat (Apr 24 2019): Japan-Philippines Defense Cooperation in Focus with Ministerial Meeting

The interaction reinforced the ongoing activity in the security aspect of the strategic partnership.

Japan-Philippines Defense Cooperation in Focus with Ministerial Meeting

Image Credit: MOFA Japan

Last week, Japan and the Philippines held another iteration of a defense ministerial meeting. Though the interaction is just one of many developments their relationship, it is not without significance for the defense relationship and broader bilateral ties as well.

As I have noted in these pages, while Japan and the Philippines have long had a bilateral relationship, the development of the defense aspect of ties has been accelerating over the past few years, covering various issues including not just defense equipment and transfer, but also critical capacity-building and broader regional cooperation in areas ranging from cybersecurity to maritime security. Some of that has continued in spite of changes on both sides of the wider Japan-Philippines strategic partnership, including the rise of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Japan moving into the Reiwa era.

That has continued on into 2019 as well. To take just one example, last month, both sides finally broke groundon a new agreement where Japan offered helicopter spare parts to the Philippines, making the Manila the first Southeast Asian country to receive such a deal from Tokyo, following the conclusion of other deals including one for TC-90s which also had broader significance beyond just the bilateral relationship.

Last week, the defense aspect of the relationship was in the headlines again with the visit of Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to Japan. Lorenzana was in Japan for a series of interactions including ministerial talks with Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya.

During the meeting, Lorenzana and Iwaya discussed the state of defense ties, regional and global issues of common interest, and potential avenues to further strengthen the defense relationship. Per a statement by the Philippine Department of National Defense (DND), both sides agreed to deepen cooperation in several areas, including collaboration in multilateral fora, capacity building, defense industry and logistics, and exchanges in various areas by the Japan Self Defense Forces (JSDF) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), including humanitarian assistance and disaster response between ground forces, ship repair and maintenance between maritime forces, and professional airmanship between air forces.

To be sure, this is just one of several interactions between the two sides. More specifics will also be outlined in future meetings through 2019 and beyond, be it scheduled meetings such as the next iteration of the Japan-Philippines Vice Ministers’ Defense Dialogue, to be held sometime this year, or discrete interactions that will make headlines, like the goodwill visit of the JSDF’s largest destroyer, JS Izumo, to be expected in July 2019.

TPMT cites Marawi City rehabilitation as one of crucial components in Bangsamoro transition

From the Business World (Apr 24, 2019): TPMT cites Marawi City rehabilitation as one of crucial components in Bangsamoro transition

THE INDEPENDENT Third-Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) of the Bangsamoro peace process, in its 5th Public Report released on Tuesday, said the “immediate rehabilitation” of war-torn Marawi City is one of the crucial components in the region’s transition under the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

In a statement, the TPMT said it is “imperative” for the stakeholders to “monitor and support efforts to ensure the immediate rehabilitation of Marawi City that respects and responds to the proposals of the local residents especially of the most affected area.”

It added, “Programs that will holistically and proactively prevent violent extremism should also be developed.”

Last week, the military announced that the last remaining leader of the Maute group that laid siege to Marawi, identified as Owardah Marohombsar alias Abu Dar, was killed in an encounter in Tuburan, Lanao del Sur on March 14.

“Right now, they are already leaderless. Although we are still closely monitoring through our intel in the communities if the ideology of Dawlah Islamiyah will still remain,” Lt. Col. Gerry M. Besana, spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command, said in an interview.

Colonel Romeo S. Brawner Jr., 103rd Infantry Brigade commander, said in a statement, “We will not rest until we neutralize all the other remnants of this terrorist group.”


Another recommendations of the TPMT in its latest report covering the period July 2017 to February 2019 is for the government “to implement a viable plan on the disbandment of private armed groups, as this will greatly impact the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) decommissioning process and the security situation in the region during the transition.”

The decommissioning of MILF combatants is part of the Normalization Track under the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB). An Executive Order that will serve as a framework for the normalization and its timeline is now being drafted, Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez Jr. announced last month.

Last April 23, top military and police officials, and front and base commanders of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces of the MILF met in Maguindanao in a security and socio-economic forum for the implementation of the Normalization Track.

In a statement, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) said Mr. Galvez stressed during the forum “the need to strengthen relationships among the parties for the successful implementation of the Normalization track, which deals largely on the decommissioning of the MILF combatants and their weapons, and the transformation of their camps into peaceful communities.”

The other recommendations of the TPMT are:

• Discuss and agree on the way forward so that the CAB provisions that have been deleted or amended in the BOL may still be implemented;

• Finalize and implement an overall transition plan. It should lay down the primary and essential steps to be undertaken to ensure a smooth administrative and bureaucratic transition from ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to Bangsamoro ARMM, including priority parliamentary actions and development programs for the BTA (Bangsamoro Transition Authority) as well as the necessary trainings for BTA officials and staff;

• Revisit the Normalization Program and if necessary make amendments to the CAB in terms of policing as this may entail changes to the schedule of the various normalization components;

• Start implementing key recommendations of the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission; and

• Further strengthen efforts to make the process more inclusive, and particularly for the MILF-led BTA to demonstrate their sincerity and willingness to partner with all groups in the region.

“The collective commitment of all parties to continue to strive for peace has been impressive,” the TPMT said, “with continued diligence in implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro the foundations of a peaceful future for Mindanao will strengthen.”

The TPMT — established in 2013 as part of the peace process between the Philippine government and the MILF — is currently chaired by former European Ambassador to the Philippines Alistair MacDonald with the following members: Karen Tañada of the Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute, Rahib Kudto of the United Youth for Peace and Development, Huseyin Oruc of the IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, and Sam Chittick of Asia Foundation.

4 soldiers cited for neutralizing Abu Dar

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 25, 2019): 4 soldiers cited for neutralizing Abu Dar

Four Army soldiers have been awarded citation medals for their exemplary role in the March 14 military surgical operation in Lanao del Sur that reportedly led to the killing of Dawla Islamiya leader Owayda Marohombsar alias Abu Dar.

Lt. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega, Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) chief, pinned a gold cross medal on 2nd Lt. Jophet Orbeta and military merit medals on Sergeants Jayar Penetrante and Arcee Formanes as well as Private Romy Villamor, all of the 49th Infantry Battalion, on Wednesday, April 24.

Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega pins the medal on one of four awardee-soldiers involved in the March 14 killing of Dawla Islamiya leader Abu Dar during formal rites in Labagan, Zamboanga del Sur on Wednesday.  (WESTMINCOM / MANILA BULLETIN)

The awarding rite was held at the headquarters of the military’s Joint Task Force ZamPeLan in Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur, WestMinCom public information office (WMC-PIO) said in a statement.

The WMC-PIO said the four medal recipients were also cited for recovering several high-powered firearms and grenades in the operations Tubaran, Lanao del Sur where Dar was reportedly killed.

Gen. Dela Vega commended the four awardees’ higher officers in the Team Tabak and Joint Task Force ZamPeLan for their “continuing dedication and professionalism in the conduct of our focused military operations” against terror threats.

“Let this (recognition) be an added motivation in our efforts to quell terrorism in the (WestMinCom) areas of operations. We should remain focused on the task at hand and, for sure, we will never go wrong…,” he told the awardees and their officials.

The awarding rite came a week after the national military hierarchy announced having received a DNA-test report confirming that the person slain in the March 14 operations was Dar himself.

Dar was reportedly involved in the planning and implementation of the May 23, 2017 siege in Marawi City by combined militants of the Dawayla Islamiya led by now slain brothers Omar and Abdullah Maute and a number of Abu Sayyaf guerillas led by Isnilon Hapilon.

After the deaths of the Maute brothers and Hapilon in a five-month fighting ensuing from the siege, Dar was reportedly designated by Daesh hierarchies as the leader of Dawla Islamiya in Mindanao.

Soldiers hunt down Samar rebels involved in bloody clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 25, 2019): Soldiers hunt down Samar rebels involved in bloody clash

MOURNING. Philippine flag inside the base camp of Philippine Army 46th Infantry Battalion in Calbiga, Samar at half-mast after a fire fight with communist rebels that killed six soldiers and wounded six others early Tuesday (April 23, 2019). Soldiers are in pursuit of the rebels involved in a fierce gun battle. (Photo by Sarwell Meniano)

CALBIGA, Samar -- The Philippine Army is pursuing New People’s Army (NPA) rebels who were involved in a fierce gun battle that killed six government troops and wounded six others early Tuesday.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Philippine Army 8th Infantry Division Commander, Major Gen. Raul Farnacio, said they will not stop until all armed rebels behind the attack are captured.

“We will not stop chasing them. I directed a pursuit operation against the fleeing rebels and acknowledge the civilians for providing the information on the presence and activities of the communist terrorist,” Farnacio said.

Killed were Corporals Junurimbran Mamalo Jr. and Edgar Abing, Privates 1st Class Arthur Garcia and Rufino Paster Jr., and Privates Danilo Constantino Jr. and Elben Lagrimas.

Wounded on the government side were Sgt. Gilbert Benito Jr., Cpl. Reymart Vigilia, and Pfcs. Darwin Magoncia, Mark Kevin Frigillana, Joseph Salonga, and Rex Espanol.

The army believes there were also casualties on the enemy side, as indicated by blood stains along their escape route.

The Philippine Army said an undetermined number of NPA members detonated anti-personnel mines at about 2:45 a.m. when they spotted patrolling soldiers in the upland village of Beri, some 12 km. from the Calbiga town center.

After the blast, soldiers of the 46th Infantry Battalion based in Calbiga engaged the terror group in hours of fierce gun battle that lasted until Tuesday morning.

The NPA, which has been engaged in a five-decade armed struggle, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.