Thursday, May 9, 2019

GPH, MILF ceasefire panels ink pact for peaceful, credible elections

Posted to PTV News (May 8, 2019): GPH, MILF ceasefire panels ink pact for peaceful, credible elections

Representatives of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to the Coordinating Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) on Tuesday signed a Memorandum of Mutual Understanding on “ceasefire-related functions” for the upcoming May 13 national and local elections.

The GPH and MILF were represented by their respective chairmen, Armed Forces of the Philippines Brig. Gen. Cirilo Thomas P. Donato Jr. and Butch P. Malang.

Cotabato City acting election officer, Atty. Mark Chrystal Sorilla and International Monitoring Team (IMT) Mission 14 Head of Mission, Maj. Gen. Dato’ Ya’cob Bin Haji Samiran witnessed the signing of the memorandum.

Also present during the signing were GPH CCCH Head Secretariat, Col. Joel Mamon; GPH Ad Hoc Joint Action Group chairman, Police Brig. Gen. Madid Paito; MILF Ad Hoc Joint Action Group OIC-Chairman Anwar Alamada; and, 6th Infantry Division assistant commander, Brig. Gen. Juvymax Uy.

The memorandum prescribed guidelines to be observed by the GPH and MILF CCCH, with concurrence of the IMT, as the body carries out heightened special ceasefire-related functions to safeguard the GPH-MILF ceasefire agreement and the Bangsamoro peace process during the election period.

In particular, the document identified specific coordinating and monitoring functions and responsibilities of the concerned parties.

The memorandum covers conflict-affected areas in Mindanao, particularly in identified volatile and election hot spot zones within the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and other adjacent areas.

Its implementing time-frame will be from May 7 to 19, considered the most critical period of the mid-term elections.

In his message during the signing ceremony, Sorilla noted the significance and timeliness of the memorandum signing, saying this move is expected to boost confidence in the conduct of a peaceful and credible election in the region.

“With the active involvement of various groups, we can now rest secure and are hopeful that the forthcoming elections will not only be peaceful but also credible wherein the true will of the people will be expressed,” he said.

“Their decision to whom shall entrust the future of BARMM will be respected as this will be reflective of the political, cultural, and democratic ethos of the Bangsamoro People,” Sorilla added.

The election officer also called on the people to help preserve the integrity of the elections.

“Let us be conscious and conscientious of our constitutional duties to protect the sanctity of the ballots and safeguard the supreme will of the people. We will succeed together because we are working together,” Sorilla said.

The memorandum is anchored on Commission on Elections Resolution Numbers 10429, 10460, and 10527; the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro; and the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

It is also in line with the GPH-MILF Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities; GPH-MILF Agreement on Peace and its Implementing Guidelines for the Security Aspect; and instructions from the principals of the joint ceasefire body with the participation of IMT.

The 2019 national and local elections coincide with the observance of the holy month of Ramadan, which is commemorated by members of the Muslim faith around the world.

It is the first election to be held after the establishment of the BARMM.

West Philippine Sea advocates meet with Philippine defense chief

Posted to the Marianas Variety (May 9, 2019): West Philippine Sea advocates meet with Philippine defense chief

Representatives of the National Youth Movement for West Philippine Sea headed by Jose Antonio Custodio, NYMWPS adviser, military historian and defense analyst, met with Philippine Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on April 29, 2019 to discuss current issues affecting the group’s advocacies. The meeting was remotely coordinated by Saipan-based Dr. Celia Lamkin, NYMWPS founder and global chairperson who is based in the Marianas.

The National Youth Movement for West Philippine Sea is a global non-violent movement composed of volunteer-members across the globe whose social media presence has been actively campaigning for the preservation of Philippine territory after the U.N. tribunal on July 12, 2016 rejected Beijing’s historic claims to most of the South China Sea. The group has likewise expanded its advocacy to include social responsibility — lending support to the fishermen in the areas whose livelihood and ways of life have been severely affected by the blatant territorial bullying of the Chinese aggressors.

In September 2017, the group had an audience with Lorenzana, during which he proudly shared the development plan for Pag-asa. Pag-asa is the second largest naturally occurring island in the Spratlys archipelago, and is the sole village of Kalayaan town in Palawan. It is also claimed by China but is under Philippine control and is home to some 340 people.

The April 29, 2019 meeting paved the way for the group to share its projects and plans to Lorenzana. Highlighted in the report were the February 2019 gift-giving initiatives of NYMWPS with the marines stationed in the BRP Sierra Madre at Ayungin Shoal and the residents of Pag-asa Island, Kalayaan Island Group. The events were held at the Western Command and the Kalayaan Municipality Extension grounds in Puerto Princesa city.

Corollary to this, and to promote sustainability of its initiatives in uplifting the morale and well-being of the 200 residents of Pag-asa and the military stationed in Kalayaan Islands, the group presented upcoming plans to have some projects in cooperation with the Department of National Defense, Western Command in Puerto Princesa City, the Kalayaan local government unit headed by Mayor Roberto del Mundo, Pag-asa Health Center staff and NYMWPS Pag-asa Island Coordinator.

In his email to Dr. Lamkin, Lorenzana conveyed his appreciation for the opportunity to have met the NYMWPS delegation and was pleased with the report of Jose Antonio Custodio regarding the achievements and activities of the NYMWPS since their last meeting in 2017 up to present, and expressed the willingness to consider and to collaborate with the group in planned projects.

Maute sub-leader surrenders in Lanao del Sur: military

From ABS-CBN (May 9, 2019): Maute sub-leader surrenders in Lanao del Sur: military

A sub-leader of the Maute group that laid siege to the southern city of Marawi in 2017 has surrendered to authorities in Lanao del Sur, the military said Thursday.

With the surrender of Hilal Biston alias Pakistan on Wednesday, the military hopes more members the group will turn themselves in, said Col. Romeo Brawner, commander of the military's 103rd Infantry Brigade.

Biston fought military troops in neighboring Piagapo and Butig townsb before the 5-month siege that destroyed large swaths of Marawi, said Brawner.

Some Maute fighters have surrendered in the last 2 years, but the military remains on alert against possible Maute attacks, he said.

Marawi and the towns of Marantao, Bacolod Kalawi and Malabang, were earlier deemed as the most critical areas in Lanao Del Sur for Monday's elections, where additional troops will be deployed.

Clashes in Cotabato force 280 families to flee homes

From GMA News (May 9, 2019): Clashes in Cotabato force 280 families to flee homes

KIDAPAWAN CITY, Cotabato —Skirmishes between security forces and communist insurgents on Thursday drove 280 families from their homes, a local official said.

Sporadic firefights erupted early Thursday morning as troops from the Army's 72nd Infantry Battalion clashed with New People's Army guerrillas in remote Barangay Kinarum in the town of Magpet.
Kinarum Barangay Chairman Ruben Lanaja told the police that 280 families of Sitio Kirundong are temporarily taking refuge in the barangay basketball court.

Lanaja told Magpet Police's Captain Rolando Dillera that NPA insurgents from the 53rd Front Committee fired at the 72nd Infantry Battalion troopers as the soldiers were doing their routine foot patrol.

The ensuing firefight lasted for almost 20 minutes, triggering the evacuation of Sitio Kirundong residents.

“We are now tending the needs of the evacuees,” Chairman Lanaja told Captain Dillera in a phone conversation.

Village officials have sought the assistance to the town’s social welfare office for food packs for the evacuees, Dillera added.

On the other hand, Dillera said there are no casualties on the military's side, citing military report.

Thursday's encounter in Magpet took place two days after members of the 91st Infantry Battalion clashed with same group of insurgents in a remote village in Arakan town on Tuesday, that also caused temporary displacement of residents, who have since returned to their homes a day after the clash.

Piñol to head Soccsksargen dev’t and security cluster

From the Philippine News Agency (May 9, 2019): Piñol to head Soccsksargen dev’t and security cluster

Department of Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol during the inauguration of Solar-powered Irrigation System (SPIS) project in Mlang, North Cotabato in early April. (Contributed photo)

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol has been designated as head of Soccsksargen development and security cluster under the task force created to address development concerns and security issues and ending communist insurgency in the country.

Piñol, who is from Mlang in North Cotabato, said Soccsksargen is one of the least developed regions in the country but “has one of the better potentials.”

Soccsksargen or Region 12 is composed of the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong and Kidapawan and the provinces of South Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato where the communist-led New People’s Army is also active.

He said the agriculture department intends to address the root of communist rebellion in the region and convince local communist leaders that it is futile fighting the government.

As the alter ego of the President in the region, Piñol will preside over joint meetings of Regional Development Councils and Regional Peace and Order Councils “to harmonize peace, security and development efforts assigned in the region.”

His function as cluster head under the Cabinet Officers for Regional Development and Security (CORDS) set-up also includes articulating the issues and concerns of the region during cabinet meetings.

CORDS is an offshoot of the recently created by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

Piñol is also tasked to assist the Office of the President in addressing in the speedy, orderly and efficient resolution of problems in government operations in the region.

The new mandate, he said, will further boost efforts to improve programs and projects at the agriculture department.

Piñol also expects the agriculture sector to bounce back and register higher growth in the remainder of the term of President Rodrigo Duterte who is putting a premium on agricultural productivity.

“Our budget has been increased and augmented and we are now implementing programs that will boost and enhance productivity,” Piñol added.

Other Cabinet secretaries who were also designated as regional CORDS head are: Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez for Region 11, Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar for the National Capital Region: National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., for Region 1; Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III for Region 2; Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez for Region 3; Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año for Region 4-A, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi for Region 4-B; Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu for Region 6; Presidential Adviser for the Visayas Michael Lloyd Diño for Region 7; Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council Secretary Eduardo del Rosario for Region 8; Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Joselito Bautista for Region 9; Communications Secretary Martin Andanar for Region 10; Cabinet Secretary Karlo Alexei Nograles for Caraga Region; Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana for Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao; and Budget Secretary Janet Abuel for Cordillera Administrative Region.

Clashes leave 1 soldier, 3 rebels dead in northern Philippines

From Xinhua (May 9, 2019): Clashes leave 1 soldier, 3 rebels dead in northern Philippines

Three rebels and a soldier have been killed in clashes between government security forces and New People's Army (NPA) rebels in the northern Philippines, the army said on Thursday.

Maj. Noriel Tayaban, the spokesperson of the Philippine Army's 5th Infantry Division, said clashes broke out in Jones town in Isabela province on Tuesday and Wednesday. He said troops were conducting security operation in San Sebastian village around 5:30 a.m. local time Wednesday when they engaged with about 15 NPA insurgents.

Three rebels were killed, he said, adding that troops recovered an M16 assault rifle, an anti-personnel mine, an anti-tank mine, assorted ammunition, seven blasting caps, detonating core, electrical tale, eight backpacks, six cell phones and supervise documents.

On Tuesday, Tayaban said a soldier was also killed and a militia man was injured in an ambush staged by the NPA guerrillas also in San Sebastian village in Jones town.

He said two men were sent to the village to inspect a military road project when they were attacked.

The NPA rebels, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), continue to wage small scale armed attacks against the military after the Duterte administration scrapped the talks with the armed group in 2017.

The armed group marked the 50th anniversary of their rural rebellion on March 29.

The CPP and their front organizations have been attempting to negotiate a peace pact with five Philippine presidents before the current leader, President Rodrigo Duterte, but negotiated settlement remains elusive and peace talks have repeatedly stalled.

Duterte, whose single, six-year term ends in June 2022, said in March that he has no more plans to reopen the talks during his tenure.

2 killed in NPA attack Negros Occidental

From the Manila Bulletin (May 9, 2019): 2 killed in NPA attack Negros Occidental

About 30 armed men believed to be New People’s Army (NPA) fighters killed two members of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army -Alex Bongcayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) and wounded three others in an attack at Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental, Wednesday, the military reported.

Suspected New People’s Army attacked a settlement area of RPA-ABB in Barangay Locotan, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental Wednesday. (PHOTO COURTESY OF ROJO TAMAYO / VIA GLAZYL MASCULINO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Brig. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, commander of the Army 303rd Infantry Brigade, identified the slain RPA-ABB members as Jhoenel Marbebe, 26; and Florencio Vergara, 58, both residents of Barangay Locotan, Kabankalan.

Wounded were Jonatan Pragandos, 40, of Barangay Tabugon; Ranel Banista, 20, of Barangay Bantayan; and Andres Montebon, 56, of Barangay Locotan.

Police investigation showed that the victims were sleeping at the Peace and Development Community building when armed men burst in at 1 a.m.

The victims were occupying five rooms in the building, police said.

Another RPA-ABB member who was hogtied in a room was able to escape when the armed men searched the other rooms.

A certain “Regalado Bunda” exchanged fire with the attackers with a .60 caliber machinegun for about 10 minutes until his gun jammed.

Two of the wounded were brought to Bacolod City and the other to the city’s district hospital.

The attackers reportedly took several rifles, a .45 caliber pistol, and the machine gun.

In a press statement released Thursday, Ka Juanito Magbanua, spokesperson for the NPA’s Armando Sumayang Jr. Command, owned the attack.

Magbanua said, “the NPA offensive is a response to the long time demand of the people to punish the RPA-ABB for their bandit activities that sow terror, kill farmers, steal and extort, for being gun-for hire, and for taking part in the reactionary government’s counter-insurgency program aimed at destroying the revolutionary movement.”

3 reds killed in Isabela

From the Manila Bulletin (May 9, 2019): 3 reds killed in Isabela

Soldiers killed three suspected communist rebels in a clash in Jones town of Isabela where campaign materials were also seized, which the military said are proof that the New People’s Army (NPA) has been supporting local national candidates.

Maj. Gen. Pablo Lorenzo, commanding general of the 5th Infantry Division, said the clash erupted when his men raided a lair of the communist rebels on Wednesday in Purok 7 in Barangay San Sebastian based on the tip of local residents.

“The cadavers of the three rebels were recovered along with an M16 rifle, improvised explosive device, and other materials,” said Lorenzo.

Maj. Noriel Tayaban, spokesman of the 5th Infantry Division, said among the materials seized were campaign materials for local candidates.

Among those seized were campaign materials for a senatorial candidate, party-list groups and mayoral and vice-mayoral candidates of Jones, Isabela.

“The campaign materials confiscated is a proof that the NPA has links with some candidates and party-list groups,” said Tayaban.

The military has been accusing NPA of having links with militant national candidates and party-list groups.

It also the NPA of collecting money from local candidates in exchange for support and access on areas controlled by the communist rebels.

Recently, more than 300 local officials, most of the barangay officials, were tagged as paying the NPA with money.

In the 2016 elections, the military said the NPA raked in some P200 million from permit to campaign fees.

CPP: Gear to resist Duterte’s scheme to rig elections

Editorial/statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Website (May 6, 2019):
Gear to resist Duterte’s scheme to rig elections

The broad masses of the Filipino people, all their patriotic and democratic forces, the political opposition and various sectors must firmly unite, gear for and resist the scheme of the Duterte fascist regime to rig the upcoming midterm elections.

Duterte needs to rig the upcoming midterm elections because his senatorial candidates in the Hugpong ng Pagbabago and PDP-Laban have no chances of winning in fair elections. They are widely discredited as his agents and lackeys, and are notorious for their corruption, bloody record in mass killings and martial law, involvement in the illegal drug trade and treachery to the country’s patrimony and national sovereignty.

Various sectors consider the upcoming midterm elections as an opportunity to express the people’s grievances against the Duterte regime and an additional arena of struggle to resist Duterte’s tyranny and push for his ouster.

The only chance that Duterte’s candidates will dominate the senate race is by rigging the elections. Driven by his ambition to put all branches of the Philippine government (especially the Philippine Senate) under his control, push forward with his charter change scheme for pseudo-federalism to mask his dictatorial plans and perpetuate his bureaucrat capitalist rule, Duterte is determined to do everything to see the results of the upcoming elections go his favor.

Duterte’s campaign managers have manufactured surveys and bombarded broadcast, print and social media with ads and paid influencers, and have employed Red-tagging and counterfeit narco-listing against political oppositionists to make it appear that his candidates are set to win the elections. Military and police forces have been deployed across the country and are openly campaigning against anti-Duterte forces across Mindanao and in so-called hot spots. Duterte has control of the Comelec and its non-transparent and insecure electronic vote counting system. It has disenfranchised and disempowered electoral watchdogs.

The upcoming midterm elections is about to become one of the dirtiest in Philippine history. Duterte will have to commit massive electoral fraud if he wants to have commanding control of the Senate, as well as majority control of the House of Representatives. Bolstered by his false electoral victory, Duterte will carry out more brutal suppression against the people.

Widespread cheating to favor Duterte’s candidates are bound to spark wide-scale public outrage and mass protests. The conditions are becoming ever favorable for the united front of various anti-tyranny forces to further expand, strengthen and become bolder in fighting Duterte and demanding his ouster.

As Duterte prepares to commit massive cheating, these forces must be ready to draw in the broadest possible range of groups and individuals to help expose and oppose electoral fraud, in addition to such outstanding issues as Duterte’s unexplained wealth, dictatorial ambitions, overlordship and involvement in the drug trade, mass killings, rights abuses and brutalities in his all-out war, sell-out to China, servility to the US military, and so on.

Duterte relentlessly employs Red-baiting, threats and intimidation, promises of reform, political accommodation and other duplicitous methods to weaken the resolve of the people and drive a wedge among the various forces ranged against his tyranny and authoritarian schemes. They must unite more firmly in order to withstand the regime’s tactics to divide the broad opposition forces.

They must be able to put forward a united stand in order to inspire and embolden the Filipino people to act and rise up in their numbers. By manifesting broad unity, they can further draw in the more decent elements in the bureaucracy, military and police to support the people’s struggle against the Duterte regime, and persuade his imperialist masters to drop him soon lest their strategic interests be pulled down together with Duterte’s imminent fall.

The worsening crisis under the Duterte regime is undermining the entire ruling system. The rottenness of the semicolonial and semifeudal system, including the reactionary elections, is being laid bare. The national democratic forces must continue to arouse, organize and mobilize the Filipino people, especially the workers and peasants, and other democratic sectors.

The mass-oriented organizations, alliances and party-list groups must do their utmost to wage widespread anti-imperialist, anti-feudal and antifascist mass struggles and help further strengthen the people’s united front against the Duterte fascist regime.

The New People’s Army (NPA) must mount tactical offensives against the fascist military units especially those which have been committing gross abuses, including those which have been deployed across the country to being used by Duterte to rig the upcoming elections. They must continue to wage revolutionary armed struggle and take advantage of the situation to advance extensive and intensive guerrilla warfare across the country and continue to carry forward the people’s war.

NDF/Sison: Duterte has no basis for filing cases against those he offends with diagrams

Jose Maria Sison propaganda statement posted to the National Democratic Front Philippines (NDFP) or NDF) Website (May 9, 2019): Duterte has no basis for filing cases against those he offends with diagrams

CNN Philippines

Comment by Jose Maria Sison
NDFP Chief Political Consultant

Duterte cannot file cases against the victims of his slander. He has merely used the long discredited method of guilt by association through mere innuendoes and trial by publicity in the absence of any evidence that is presentable to the appropriate court of law.

His matrices are worthless drawings and are pure bullshit. They do not amount to evidence against anyone except as evidence of Duterte’s mental derangement. I do not think that any foreign intelligence agency had to provide the drawings to him. Anyone with the mental capacity or deficiency of Duterte can make such drawings.

It is the victims of slander who should be filing cases in court against Duterte but he is still immune to prosecution while he is president, unless the Lower House has enough members to impeach him and the Senate has enough members to try and convict him.

If he steps down in 2022 or if before that he is ousted by the mass movement in connection with the withdrawal of military support from him, then he will be subject to prosecution and trial before the ICC for the mass murders that he has incited and enabled.

It is also under conditions that Duterte is no longer out of power the the victims of his slander and other crimes would have the opportunity to bring him to court. That’s why he is expected to rig the elections and establish a full-blown fascist dictatorship.

UBPJ: READ | Message of MILF Chair and Interim Chief Minister Ahod (Al Haj Murad) Ebrahim on the observance of the Holy Month of Ramadhan 1440AH

Posted to the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP) Facebook page (May 6, 2019: READ | Message of MILF Chair and Interim Chief Minister Ahod (Al Haj Murad) Ebrahim on the observance of the Holy Month of Ramadhan 1440AH

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AFP-CRS: COMELEC urged to probe recovery of militant partylist election pamphlets in NPA lair

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP-CRS) Facebook page (May 9, 2019): COMELEC urged to probe recovery of militant partylist election pamphlets in NPA lair

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AFP-CRS: 4 lawless elements arrested in a joint AFP-PNP operation

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP-CRS) Facebook page (May 9, 2019): 4 lawless elements arrested in a joint AFP-PNP operation

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AFP-CRS: CPP-NPA-NDF purge not a myth

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP-CRS) Facebook page (May 9, 2019): CPP-NPA-NDF purge not a myth

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AFP-CRS: An apolitical and non-partisan Armed Forces of the Philippines

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP-CRS) Facebook page (May 9, 2019): An apolitical and non-partisan Armed Forces of the Philippines

AFP-CRS: AFP to deploy 35,000 troops to augment poll security

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP-CRS) Facebook page (May 9, 2019): AFP to deploy 35,000 troops to augment poll security

AFP-CRS: Seized documents in NPA lair show MAKABAYAN Bloc link to CPP-NPA

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP-CRS) Facebook page (May 9, 2019): Seized documents in NPA lair show MAKABAYAN Bloc link to CPP-NPA

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WESTMINCOM: Marine troops spearhead HOPE caravan in Sultan Kudarat

Posted to the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) Website (May 8, 2019): Marine troops spearhead HOPE caravan in Sultan Kudarat

A caravan was spearheaded by the 1st Marine Brigade, in the municipalities of Lebak and Kalamansig, all of Sultan Kudarat on Sunday (May 5), purposely to apprise the public of the efforts and the oneness of the government agencies in the campaign for an honest, orderly and peaceful election (HOPE).

The activity was participated by representatives from the different public and private sectors including the Election Officers from the Commission on Elections; Municipal Police Stations of Lebak and Kalamansig; Bureau of Fire-Lebak; 2nd District, DPWH; Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting; Lebak bikers; Lebak and Kalamansig Tricycle Operators and Drivers Association; Marine Reservists; 1st Marine Brigade; Marine Battalion Landing Team-2; and Marine Battalion Landing Team-5.

The caravan started at Kalayaan Park, Municipality of Kalamansig and ended at the Lebak Kiosk, Lebak, Sultan Kudarat.

During the closing ceremony, Marlon P. Suganob, the Election Officer of Lebak encouraged the people to participate and exercise their right to vote and stressed on the campaign against vote buying.

In his remarks, Suganob said, “huwag ipagpalit ang boto sa pera o anumang bagay na may halaga”.

Meanwhile, Brigadier General Eugenio V. Hernandez, commander of the 1st Marine Brigade, assured the public that in the upcoming election the Marines will do their mandate to secure and protect all polling centers and the community.

“The political process does not end on Election Day, we have to stay involved in the process by continuously paying attention to what they had promised,” said Major General Cirilito E. Sobejana, Commander, Joint Task Force Central.

“Your AFP will never be below you, will never be above you, but always beside you,” MGen Sobejana added.

The activity ended with the releasing of doves that signify the oneness of all sectors in the campaign for peaceful election.

“This is one activity where all the line agencies gather to strengthen solidarity in preparation for the 2019 midterm elections on Monday,” said Lieutenant General Arnel Dela Vega, commander of the Western Mindanao Command.

“I personally commend the troops of the 1st Marine Brigade for initiating such activity,” added LtGen Dela Vega.

WESTMINCOM: Dawlah Islamiyah member yields in Marawi

Posted to the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) Website (May 9, 2019): Dawlah Islamiyah member yields in Marawi

A Dawlah Islamiyah/Maute Group member and supporter yielded to 103rd Brigade Commander, Colonel Romeo S. Brawner at 3pm yesterday, May 8.

Hilal Pamaloy Biston a.k.a Pakistan, a resident of LDSPPO compound, Barangay Langcap, Marawi City, submitted himself to Colonel Brawner at the Headquarters of the 103rd Brigade in Kampo Ranao, same city.

Biston also turned over his M16A1 rifle and one short aluminum magazine.

Said personality is currently undergoing custodial debriefing.

“We encourage the remaining DI/MG members, who are still in doubt, now is the time for you to return to the mainstream of society,” said Lieutenant General Arnel B. Dela Vega, commander of the Western Mindanao Command.

“Task Force Balik Loob has prepared reintegration packages for all surrenderors, to provide them and their families with social equity and a chance to be productive members of the society,” LtGen Dela Vega added.

WESTMINCOM: Government forces conduct ‘Oplan Bakal Sita’ in Sibugay Province

Posted to the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) Website (May 9, 2019): Government forces conduct ‘Oplan Bakal Sita’ in Sibugay Province

Joint elements of the Bravo Company of the 44th Infantry Battalion under 1st Lieutenant Bryan Sonny Arlegui and PNP personnel of Siay Municipal Police Station, conducted mobile patrol and Oplan Bakal Sita at Barangay Camanga, Siay, Zamboanga Sibugay Province at 10:30 am Tuesday (May 7).

The operation resulted to the arrest of Roberto Palmiro Lajo, 43 years old, married, and a resident of Purok 5, Barangay Camanga, Siay, for the violation of COMELEC Gun Ban and Republic Act 10591 (An Act Providing for a Comprehensive Law on Firearms and Ammunition and Providing Penalties for Violations Thereof).

Seized from Lajo were one Caliber .45 Colt, one Caliber Caspian, two magazines and nine ammunitions.

The arrested personality and recovered items are now in the custody of Siay MPS for filing of appropriate charges and proper disposition.

“Your AFP and PNP work together to stop lawlessness and violence as the election day is nearing,” WestMinCom Chief Lieutenant General Arnel Dela Vega said.

“We will be more vigilant and more steadfast in our joint law enforcement operations to prevent the lawless elements from disrupting the peaceful and orderly conduct of the 2019 Midterm elections,” added LtGen Dela Vega.

NPA raid: 2 killed, 3 injured

From the Visayan Daily Star (May 9, 2019): NPA raid: 2 killed, 3 injured

Two members of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade died, while three others were wounded when about 30 suspected New People’s Army rebels raided their resettlement site in Sitio Mambinay, Brgy. Locotan, Kabankalan City.
Killed were Florencio Vergara, alias Bogie, and Jonel Marabebe, while those injured were identified by the police as Jonathan Pagados, Ramil Banista and a certain Ruel.

Brig. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, yesterday said that the RPA-ABB members, who were securing government projects being constructed for them by the government, fought back against the rebel attackers for almost 10 minutes, at about 1 a.m. yesterday.
Ka Juanito Magbanua, spokesman of the Apolinario Gatmaitan Command, immediately issued a statement, also yesterday, claiming responsibility for the raid.

Magbanua said that their successful offensive against the RPA-ABB was in response to what he claims was a long time demand of the people for justice.

He had also linked the RPA-ABB to the massacre of nine farm workers in Sagay City, serving as alleged goons of a family in Salvador Benedicto, for killing Alexander Seballos and Councilor Eden Bacordo and two in 2017, murder of Judge Henry Arles, and three members of the Bargamento family in Manapla, among other alleged numerous crimes.

The 700-strong RPA-ABB, that was founded by the slain Arturo Tabara, former secretary of the CPP-NPA Visayas Commission, and Abang Lingkod partylist Rep. Stephen Paduano, its former national commander, is a breakaway faction of the New People’s Army, that entered into a peace agreement with the government in 2000.

The government, though its PAMANA program, is presently constructing a day care center, school building and a water impounding facility at the resettlement site of the RPA-ABB in Brgy. Locotan, Kabankalan City, as part of the economic package given to them.

Police investigation showed that Banista was sleeping inside a school building when he heard a burst of gunfire.While he was trying to seek a cover, Banista was hit in the back, although he managed to escape.

There were also reports that the fleeing NPA rebels took the firearms of the slain and injured RPA-ABB members.

As an offshoot of the peace agreement, the government put up resettlement sites for the members and families of RPA-ABB, which is now known as Kapatiran, also in the cities of Cadiz and San Carlos, Negros Occidental, aside from Brgy. Locotan in Kabankalan City.

IN PHOTOS: PH, U.S., Japan, India flex muscles in South China Sea

From Rappler (May 9, 2019): IN PHOTOS: PH, U.S., Japan, India flex muscles in South China Sea

Their sail comes as China continues with its rapid military expansion in the South China Sea, which has reached even the part that belongs to the Philippines

SHOW OF FORCE. Six ships from 4 countries unite in sailing the South China Sea. Photos from the Philippine Navy

SHOW OF FORCE. Six ships from 4 countries unite in sailing the South China Sea. Photos from the Philippine Navy

MANILA, Philippines – Navies from the Philippines, United States, India, and Japan flexed their muscles in the disputed South China Sea after coming together for the ASEAN-Plus Defense Ministers' Meeting Maritime Security Field Training Exercise (ADMM-Plus MARSEC FTX) 2019 in Busan, South Korea.

"Navies from the Philippines, India, Japan, and the US transited international waters to Changi, Singapore, where the second phase of ADMM-Plus MARSEC FTX 2019 will be concluded," the Philippine Navy said in a statement on Thursday, May 9.

(READ: South China Sea covered by PH-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty – Pompeo)

The four-country fleet was comprised of the following vessels:

Philippine Navy patrol vessel, BRP Andres Bonifacio (PS17)
United States Pacific Fleet vessel USS William P. Lawrence (DDG-110).
Japan Maritime Self Defense Force vessel JS Izumo (DDH-183)
Japan Maritime Self Defense Force vessel JS Murasame (DD-101)
Indian Navy ship INS Kolkata (D63)
Indian Navy ship Shakti (A57)

According to the Philippine Navy, the exercise aimed to "deepen the partnership" among the allies, oil up their coordination, and promote "freedom of safe navigation in the region."

The sail came as China continues with its rapid and intrusive expansion in the South China Sea, which has reached even the part that belongs to the Philippines.

Here are photos of their trip:

Sighting of armed men in GenSan’s boundaries alarms police

From MindaNews (May 9, 2019): Sighting of armed men in GenSan’s boundaries alarms police

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – Police personnel here are closely watching the city’s boundary areas due to previous sightings of armed elements that might emerge and disrupt the conduct of the local and national midterm elections on Monday.

Lt. Renato Dungca Jr., spokesperson of the city police office, said Thursday they have assigned special teams to monitor and secure several barangays situated at the boundaries of the city with the neighboring Sarangani and South Cotabato provinces.

He said these will be augmented by personnel from the Army-led Joint Task Force GenSan and the 1002nd Infantry Brigade.

Dungca specifically cited Barangay San Jose, the closest village to Tboli town in South Cotabato, that had reported movements of New People’s Army rebels in the past years.

They are also monitoring barangays close to Maasim, Alabel and Malungon towns in Sarangani, he said.

“We consider these as white areas due to records of the presence of armed individuals,” he said in a media briefing.

But he clarified that these areas are not considered as election hotspots and they have not declared any barangay as such in the city.

For Monday’s elections, Dungca said they will deploy a total of 721 police personnel in strategic parts of the city.

He said their deployment in polling centers will start with the delivery of the Vote Counting Machines (VCM) on Friday.

Security escorts were assigned for the scheduled transfer starting 4 a.m. of the VCMs from the hub of courier F2 Logistics to the 55 polling centers and 341 precincts, he said.

“Starting from the delivery of the machines, our security deployment will be 24/7 since these will remain in the precincts until election day,” he said.

Dungca said teams will also be deployed in public convergence areas and vital government facilities.

He added that they have personnel on standby who were trained to function as electoral board members in case some of the teachers assigned in remote areas will back out from poll duty.

Army’s 3ID deploys troops to secure 2019 midterm elections

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 9, 2019): Army’s 3ID deploys troops to secure 2019 midterm elections

CAMP PERALTA, Jamindan, Capiz, May 9 -- It’s all systems go for the 3rd Infantry (Spearhead) Division, Philippine Army as more than 5,000 troops were deployed to secure the 2019 national and local elections in Central and Western Visayas last May 6.

The deployment of troops was formalized through a Send-Off Ceremony of Force and Resources at the Headquarters, Police Regional Office 6 (PRO6), Camp Martin Delgado in Iloilo City.

It was attended by COMELEC 6 Assistant Regional Election Director lawyer Tomas Valera, DIPO-Visayas Police BGen Bartolome Tobias, Police Regional Office 6 Director BGen John Bulalacao, Army’s 301st (Bayanihan) brigade commander BGen Alberto Desoyo, and 302nd Infantry (Achiever) brigade commander BGen Ignacio Madriaga.

In his message delivered by BGen Desoyo during the ceremony, 3ID commander MGen Dinoh Dolina reminded the troops that it is their utmost duty to ensure that the people will have a clean, honest and peaceful election as the whole region is expecting that they will be able to carry-out their poll duties.

The troops’ deployment will serve as an augmentation for the Philippine National Police (PNP) members who will take frontline election duties in areas that need extra security particularly those listed in the election hotspots and “Red” areas.

Last April 27, the 303rd Infantry (Brown Eagle) Brigade deployed 150 soldiers to Moises Padilla town in Negros Occidental following the order of COMELEC to send additional troops in the said town after the bloody killings involving local officials.

Further, Dolina enjoined everyone to help ensure orderly, credible and peaceful elections.

“It is a common knowledge that the obligation to keep democracy in this country is a shared responsibility. As the state has obligations to its citizens, in return all of the citizens are also obliged to protect democracy under our existing laws. Let us do our part in this exercise of democracy,” he said. (JBG/Capt. Eduardo Precioso Jr./3ID-PA/PIA)

CAFGU member sacrifices life, saves villagers from NPAs

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 9, 2019): CAFGU member sacrifices life, saves villagers from NPAs

Featured Image

SAN AGUSTIN, Surigao del Sur – Approximately 30 Communist New People’s Army Terrorists (CNTs) deliberately fired on the Community Support Teams, operationally controlled by the 3rd Special Forces (3SF) Battalion, Philippine Army, while on immersion in Sitio Magkahunao, Barangay Buhisan, San Agustin, this province.

Government troops immediately fired back to protect themselves from the perpetrators. Close Air Support (CAS) was also employed to loosen the strong resistance of the CNTs attack and to facilitate the extrication of the government forces.

The firefight lasted for 30 minutes, which resulted in the untimely demise of CAFGU Active Auxiliaries (CAA) Angelo Mariano, 32 years old and a resident of Barangay Magaud, Loreto, Agusan del Sur.

Lt. Col. Joey Baybayan, Commander of 3SF Battalion, said that the deployment of the Community Support Program (CSP) teams started last May 2, 2019 which aims to establish and develop disaster and conflict resilient communities in San Agustin.

“CAA Mariano is among the CSP operators deployed in Sitio Magkahunao in order to achieve long lasting peace and development. He lost his life fighting to protect the people from the terroristic acts of the CNTs,” he said.

Baybayan further said that the 3rd Special Forces Battalion grieves as they lost a comrade.

“We also extend our deepest sympathy to the bereaved family and friends of CAA Mariano," he added.

"His death is a clear manifestation of his heroism and patriotism; always ready sacrifice everything at the expense of losing his own life. His sacrifice will not go in vain for the battalion will seek justice and file appropriate criminal charges against the CNT perpetrators," Baybayan said. (3SFBn/401st Brigade, PA/PIA-Agusan del Sur)

Another Agnor village disowns CPP-NPA terrorist; NPA members surrender

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 9, 2019): Another Agnor village disowns CPP-NPA terrorist; NPA members surrender

BUENAVISTA, Agusan del Norte – While another barangay in the municipality of Buenavista, Agusan del Norte declares the Communist Party of the Philippines - New Peoples Army (CPP-NPA) Terrorists and its Allied Organization persona non-grata (PNG), two regular NPA members, four Militia ng Bayan and 27 members of Underground Movement (UGMO) pledge their loyalty and allegiance to the government on May 6, 2019.

The barangay council unanimously declared the CNTs and their cahoots as PNG in their area.

They voiced out their manifestation that the people are fed-up on the deception, extortion and manipulation of the CNTs in their community.

Moreover, an NPA regular member alias Maymay turned-in one cal. 45 pistol as a sign that he is leaving the underground organization.

He said "grabe gyud akong nasinatian sa ilalom sa grupong CPP-NPA. Ang ilang mga pasalig wala natuman. Akong pamilya na ingon nila suportahan, napasagdan. Ang ilang propaganda puro pamakak (I had a bitter experience being with the NPA in the underground organization. All their promises were not fulfilled. My family did not receive any support from them. Their propaganda are all lies)."

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Colonel Francisco L. Molina Jr, Commanding Officer, 23rd Infantry Battalion commended the Barangay Officials and residents of Brgy Simbalan in their pursuit for a peaceful environment.

“Our soldiers are committed in its mandate of serving the people and securing the land. We are happy that the people are now helping by declaring the CNTs as PNG," he said.

"We also encourage the members of the CNTs to stop doing criminal and terroristic activities. Instead, they must join us in pursuit of peace and progress. We partner with other agencies in pushing for development in geographically, isolated and disadvantaged areas,” Ltc Molina added. (1Lt Roel Maglalang, CMO Officer, 23IB PA/PIA Agusan del Norte)

Centcom ready for Monday’s elections

From the Philippine News Agency (May 9, 2019): Centcom ready for Monday’s elections

The Central Command (Centcom) on Thursday said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Visayas is ready for Monday’s election and are fully committed to ensuring a peaceful and orderly balloting.

Lt. Gen. Noel S. Clement, commander of Centcom that has jurisdiction over the three regions in the Visayas, said the military will “vigorously impose its mandates in accordance with the directive from the Commander-in-Chief, President Rodrigo Duterte, for a clean democratic process in installing the next elective officials.”

Clement said Centcom operationally controls the two Philippine Army units in the Visayas -- the 3rd Infantry (Spearhead) Division in Jamindan, Capiz and the 8th Infantry (Storm Troopers) Division in Catbalogan, Samar. Each of the Division oversees three Infantry Brigades spread all throughout their respective jurisdiction, and each brigade supervises three infantry battalions.

Clement said the AFP in the Visayas is mandated to render full support to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in ensuring a clean conduct of election at the same time will continue to live up to their mandate of securing the land.

“We support the Comelec and PNP (Philippine National Police) in this coming midterm elections. The commanders on the ground will continue to assess the situation in their respective areas of operations, and we will continue the conduct of security operations while election is ongoing,” Clement said in a message sent to the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

The Task Force Cebu has deployed troops to augment existing police personnel in areas in Cebu listed as hot spots, its head, Col. Noel Baluyan, said. Baluyan is concurrently the deputy commander of the 302nd Infantry (Achiever) Brigade based in Carmen, Bohol.

Lawyer Jerome Brillantes, supervisor of Comelec-Cebu, said in a radio interview that the existing PNP security forces in the violence-hit town of San Fernando in southern Cebu have been augmented with squads from Task Force Cebu.

He said soldiers will also be assisting the police in securing the election in this city, amid reports on armed men harassing residents and village officials in the mountain barangays claiming to be supporters of certain candidates.

Meanwhile, Clement commended the troops for participating in the local absentee voting (LAV) held in different military units in the Visayas last April 29.

He said over 2,500 military personnel in the Visayas participated in the local absentee voting, 44 are from the Centcom headquarters.

Clement said the purpose of allowing soldiers to vote early was to give them the opportunity to exercise their constitutional right of suffrage in advance as these troops are part of the personnel to be deputized by the Comelec to render election duties in the different polling places in the Visayas on Monday.

Army unit’s ‘loudspeaker ops’ enjoin Maguindanao residents to vote

From the Philippine News Agency (May 9, 2019): Army unit’s ‘loudspeaker ops’ enjoin Maguindanao residents to vote

SAY IT LOUD. Using a public address system, Army Lieutenant Colonel Elmer Boongaling, 33rd Infantry Battalion chief, calls out to people of General Salipada K. Pendatun town of Maguindanao to come out and vote on May 13, 2019. He assured the people of their security on Wednesday (May 8, 2019) for the forthcoming political exercise. (Photo courtesy of 33rd IB)

An Army battalion commander has kept himself busy reaching out to locals in nearby Gen. Salipada K. Pendatun town of Maguindanao to go out and vote for the May 13 polls.

Lt. Col. Elmer Boongaling, the commander of 33rd Infantry Battalion (IB), had hopped from one village to another on Wednesday in his personal campaign to help voters exercise their rights of suffrage.

“This is one way of ensuring peaceful, orderly and credible elections on Monday,” Boongaling said in an interview by reporters here Thursday. The town of Gen. Salipada K. Pendatun is situated some 20 kilometers north of here.

Bringing along his subordinates and onboard a KM-53 military truck, Boongaling moved from one village to another conducting a dialogue with residents. The Army official dubbed the activity as “loudspeaker operation” as he brought with him a public address system.
“We visited three villages on Wednesday and more villages are in our schedule until Saturday this week,” he said.

In attendance in his “loudspeaker operation” on Wednesday were elders, community leaders, and religious leaders.

“This activity aims to inform the public, particularly the registered voters, to participate and exercise their right to vote,” Boongaling said in a statement.

He also promoted a campaign by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) of “Pila, Pasok, Boto, Uwi” procedure for a swift and orderly conduct of the polls.

Boongaling has assured the public that the military will remain apolitical and will perform its mandated duty to secure and protect the election process in order to achieve orderly and peaceful midterm elections.

Army in Samar braces for NPA attacks on election day

From the Philippine News Agency (May 9, 2019): Army in Samar braces for NPA attacks on election day

DRY RUN. Soldiers of 43rd Infantry Battalion and policemen of Lope de Vega, Northern Samar prepare for a dry run of its contingency plan for possible attacks of New People’s Army based on actual scenario. Government forces hold the dry run at the municipal police station of Lope de Vega, Northern Samar on Wednesday (May 8, 2019). (Photo by Philippine Army 43rd Infantry Battalion)

The Philippine Army is ready to prevent possible attacks by the New People’s Army (NPA) in Samar province on election day, a top military official said.

Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Division’s commander ,Brig. Gen. Eliezer Lozañes, said they have already laid out their contingency plans last week to boost their preparation against attacks of members of the terrorist group.

“We are ready, but we cannot say that we will be able to prevent violence 100 percent since our enemies have no other intentions, but to look for opportunities to attack government forces,” Lozañes told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Wednesday.

The military is specifically giving more attention to some remote communities in Samar and Northern Samar provinces influenced by communist rebels.

“We have contingency plans for these areas, but I hope the community will help us prevent unnecessary loss of lives by reporting to us the presence of armed men,” Lozañes added.

The army official said violent attacks are expected in the next few days considering that rebels want to impress politicians from whom they collected permit to campaign and permit to win fees.

“The NPA is always a threat to the government any time of the year since they have fighters and firearms.”

The Commission on Elections and security agencies have identified 11 areas of grave concern this election season due to intense political rivalry and armed threats. Officials refused to name specific towns, but they said most of these areas are in Samar and Northern Samar provinces.

On Wednesday, the national government has deployed 8,710 men in uniform to secure the mid-term polls on Monday. Of the total, 5,832 of them are policemen and 2,878 are from the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

During the send-off ceremony, Eastern Visayas police deputy regional director Brig. Gen. Ariel Arcinas asked policemen to brace for possible terrorist attacks.

“Always be on alert for terrorism since we don’t discount threats. We don’t want to be caught on surprise,” Arcinas said.

Of the 8,710 deployed personnel, 2,576 of them were assigned in Leyte, 938 in Southern Leyte, 244 in Biliran, 1,935 in Samar, 1,134 in Eastern Samar, 1,509 in Northern Samar, 194 in Ormoc City, and 180 in Tacloban City.

Improved security in NegOcc settlement site sought after NPA attack

From the Philippine News Agency (May 9, 2019): Improved security in NegOcc settlement site sought after NPA attack

SITE OF THE REBELS RAID. The settlement area of the Kapatiran, formerly the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade Tabara-Paduano Group, at Sitio Mambinay, Barangay Locotan in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental. The site was attacked by communist rebels on Wednesday (May 8, 2019) leaving two Kapatiran members dead and three others injured. (Photo courtesy of DYHB RMN Bacolod)

The Philippine Army is coordinating with the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Bongcayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) to strengthen security measures in its southern Negros settlement site attacked by the communist rebels during the wee hours on Wednesday.

Brig. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade, said on Thursday that government troops are still conducting pursuit operations against the perpetrators who killed two and injured three former members of the RPA-ABB, a breakaway rebel group.

“An investigation is being conducted to prevent similar incidents from happening. We are improving our monitoring in the area,” he said.

Police report showed that Jhonel Marbebe, 26, and Florencio Vergara, 58, were killed after an estimated 40 members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) raided their settlement area at Sitio Mambinay, Barangay Locotan in Kabankalan City around 1 a.m.

Injured were Andres Montebon, 56; Jonatan Pragandos, 40; and Ranel Banista, 20.

The communist rebels carted away eight long and short firearms, the police report showed.

Arevalo said they are implementing a closer coordination between the RPA-ABB and the nearest Army detachments and units.

“The Army and the RPA will meet and come up with recommendations to improve security arrangements,” he added.

The victims are members of the Tabara-Paduano Group (TPG) of the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Pilipinas/RPA-ABB (RPM-P/RPA-ABB), which took on the name Kapatiran para sa Progresibong Panlipunan Inc. (Kapatiran) as part of their institutional transformation after signing a peace agreement with the government on December 6, 2000.

The Locotan site is one of three settlement areas in Negros Occidental awarded to the group by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process last December as part of the government’s commitment to the peace pact.

The settlement areas are covered by Community-Based Forest Management Agreements (CBFMAs). In Kabankalan City, there are 80 beneficiaries; Cadiz City, 73 beneficiaries; and San Carlos City, about 180 beneficiaries.

The CBFMA is covered by the memorandum of agreement as tenurial instrument within the protected area where members of the Kapatiran serve as forest guards.

The RPM-P/RPA-ABB, a breakaway group of the CPP-NPA, had split into two after the peace pact was signed. Only the TPG led by Veronica Tabara and Stephen Paduano continued the process of finalizing a draft closure agreement with the government.

On Thursday, Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez strongly condemned the atrocity in the Locotan settlement site perpetrated by the CPP-NPA, which is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, United Kingdom, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

5 NPA rebels yield in Sarangani

From the Philippine News Agency (May 9, 2019): 5 NPA rebels yield in Sarangani

Five members of the New People's Army (NPA) operating in the hinterlands of Sarangani and South Cotabato provinces surrendered to government forces in the area on Wednesday night.

Brig. Gen. Eliseo Tam Rasco, director of the Police Regional Office 12 (Soccsksargen), said Thursday the rebels voluntarily yielded, along with their firearms, in Barangay Nalus, Kiamba town in Sarangani at around 7 p.m.

Rasco said the surrender was facilitated by personnel of the 1204th police mobile force company, led by Major Paulino Asirit and under the direct supervision of Regional Mobile Force Battalion (RMFB) 12 chief, Lt. Col. Barney Condes.

They were backed by elements of the Sarangani police's intelligence branch, Regional Intelligence Division, Regional Intelligence Unit, 42nd Company of the 4th Special Action Force Battalion, Maitum and Kiamba municipal police stations, and the Army's 27th Infantry Battalion.

A report released by PRO-12 identified the returnees as Larry Landong alias "Weather", 20; Bilana Landong alias "Bob", 50; Busog Bilangan alias "Busaw", 23; Moly Landog alias "Noel", 19; and Loni Landong, 40.

The five, who were listed as residents of Sitios Tungkay and Lomuyon of Barangay Ned in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, were previously under Platoon Samsung of the NPA's Front 73.
The unit operates in the upper valley towns of Lake Sebu and Tboli in South Cotabato and Maasim, Kiamba and Maitum in Sarangani.

They surrendered an AK47 rifle with serial number BO 76966 and loaded with a magazine carrying three live bullets; an M16 Armalite rifle with defaced serial number loaded with 10 live bullets; a homemade M79 grenade launcher with three live ammunition; a caliber .45 pistol with serial number 254720 and a magazine with five bullets; a caliber .22 homemade rifle with six live bullets; a fragmentation grenade; and various subversive documents.

Rasco said the returnees were immediately brought to the PRO-12 headquarters in Barangay Tambler here for custodial debriefing and documentation.

He said they will be assessed for inclusion in the government's Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program or E-CLIP.

Rasco said under the program, the former rebels will receive financial and livelihood assistance, remuneration for the surrendered firearms and other benefits from various government agencies.

On Tuesday morning, 15 NPA rebels under Front 73's Platoon Cherry Mobile that operates in parts of Sultan Kudarat province also surrendered voluntarily in Lebak town.

The surrender was facilitated by the RMFB-12, Sultan Kudarat police and the 1st Marine Brigade.

The 20 surrenderers were formally presented by PRO-12 to Philippine National Police Chief, Gen. Oscar Albayalde, who visited the regional headquarters on Thursday.

The United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines have declared the Communist Party of the Philippines - NPA as a terrorist organization.

Collective efforts needed to heal 'relatively unhealthy' reefs in WPS

From the Philippine News Agency (May 9, 2019): Collective efforts needed to heal 'relatively unhealthy' reefs in WPS

Marred by trash and illegal fishing, the reefs of Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) were diagnosed "relatively unhealthy" by Filipino scientists, who recently concluded a joint marine science research in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

"If you are a diver, relatively, it's not in its healthiest state," Dr. Deo Florence Onda, PROTECT WPS chief scientist, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in an interview Wednesday.

Onda was referring to the Sabina Shoal or Escoda Shoal, the first site surveyed by the University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI), during its two-week expedition with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB) and the Department of Agriculture Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR).

PROTECT WPS or Predicting Responses between Ocean Transport and Ecological Connectivity of Threatened ecosystems in the West Philippine Sea is the first joint undertaking by the three institutions, which seeks to establish a connection with the far-flung features of WPS to the mainland.

"It's not as colorful compared to other reefs that we've seen before. At Sabina, when we dived, patay (dead) eh, most of the corals are dead, you would see large pits and you would know that it's dynamite," Onda said.

The same was observed in Thitu Island or Pagasa Island. "Most of the corals are dead," he said, suspecting that the harmed reef environment extends beyond the areas they had covered.

"If this is happening in the KIG, this might also be happening in the other parts of Spratlys, and if we can all work together, we could sustain the ecosystem there," he said.

Sabina Shoal and Pagasa Island, two of the numerous features in the KIG, are a cluster of islets in the Spratlys also claimed by China, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam. These two were among the eight sites visited by the PROTECT WPS team from April 22 to May 5.

The PROTECT WPS sees that every reef in the KIG are connected and each has a role to play and is vital to mainland Philippines' food security, and possibly to other littoral states in the region.

Crates of plastics

During the expedition, the UP-MSI team collected about six crates of trash ranging from bottles to plastic labels that bear foreign and Filipino brands, indicating human impact in the area.

One of the crates of trash collected by the UP-MSI team during its expedition to the KIG. (Photo courtesy of UP-MSI/Dr. Deo Onda)

"It's because of the currents, but the fact that it's accumulating in the area, through time it happens, you would have to ask yourself, after ten years, what happens to these places?" Onda said.

"What if there are invasive species or pathogenic microorganism, those that cause disease, what will happen if those clung to the plastic and the plastic drifted to the island? The species and the whole ecosystem in that island become threatened," he added.

Entering the KIG, the PROTECT WPS team were joined by a school of dolphins racing the R/V Kasarinlan and leaping out of the water as if welcoming the scientists in the open seas.

Seeing this, Onda said the mere presence of micro and macro plastics alone is alarming, citing the reported death of marine animals due to ingestion of trash.

The Filipino scientists' silhouette reflected on the surface water as dolphin pods race with R/V Kasarinlan in the KIG. (Screengrab from UP-MSI video courtesy of Dr. Deo Onda)

"There have been a lot of reports that the dolphins are dying because they ingest plastics and there are a lot of dolphins in the area. The garbage doesn't decrease, if in 10 years that's the environment there, then there's a lot of implication. We don't directly know it yet but it's one thing that we should find out," he said.

New sighting of seaweed species

In terms of discovery, the UP-MSI professor said the team has to analyze more, but based on visual inspections, PROTECT WPS crew Dr. Michael Roleda and Dr. Wilfred Santiañez already noted the presence of some species that have not been reported in the area before.

"These newly reported presence could indicate KIG as an important resource for possibly economically important seaweeds," Onda said.

"What if these new species have other usages? Biologically, they are serving a certain function in the environment, it keeps it in balance, economically, it means new potential sources of products for the Philippines," he added.

Onda said the PROTECT WPS program is allotting at least one year to analyze the entire data gathered during the trip, but one possible recommendation it could come up with is the science-backed establishment of marine protected areas (MPA) in the KIG.

"Ultimately, our goal is to help with the management. This project and the past expeditions would be very helpful because the National Security Adviser said they have the intention of proclaiming some parts of the KIG as MPAs," he added.

"But the thing with MPA is that 'what are you protecting?' If you don't know, how will you protect?" he asked. "So this scientific data it will help with that -- legislation, policy, management, and approaches."

The government is planning to declare Pagasa Island and Eastern Kalayaan as MPAs

Earlier, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said the Philippines also considers inviting other nations in the designation of marine protected zones.

“A marine protected area gives you choices whether there should be no fishing at all or no exploitation of resources or it could be managed. That way we protect the environment, we sustain the environment so it’s a good activity that where we can join all other, we can invite nations to join us," he said during his visit in Beijing.

Network of MPAs

Onda said sustaining the region is "a collaborative effort" and not a one country success.

"Personally, I think there should also be an international collaboration to do more in-depth scientific research around the Spratly Islands... (and that) there should be a network of MPAs in the area," he said.

According to the UP professor, scientific research could also be used in crafting documents and agreements concerning the protection of the South China Sea.

"The best decision is based on facts. Science is science, whether you accept it or not it remains a fact," he pointed out. "All of us benefit from this region, if it dies, Southeast Asia will suffer. Most of the fisheries come from that area. For the Philippines, WPS is the second most important fishing ground," he said.

Dr. Jay Batongbacal, director of the UP-Institute of Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, agreed that it would be "useful" to have the study as a reference - both to existing documents and ones that are still being crafted, such as the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea.

"The scientific study that they have done and the result of that study would always be useful because it contributes to a science-based decision making which is what you really need in order to establish an effective marine protected area," he told the PNA in an interview.

"In the Code of Conduct, if they are considering provisions to further encourage cooperation, then they could include it in the COC a part which deals with the joint establishment of marine protected areas without prejudice to their respective claims. Outside the COC process, they could do a separate agreement to do the same thing as an implementation to the China-ASEAN declaration for a decade of coastal and marine environmental protection in the South China Sea," he said.

Galvez condemns CPP-NPA attack on settlement community

From the Philippine News Agency (May 9, 2019): Galvez condemns CPP-NPA attack on settlement community

KABANKALAN CITY, Negros Occidental -- Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez Jr. strongly condemned the attack carried out on Wednesday by around 30 members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) in a settlement area here.

Galvez described the attack that killed two members and injured three others of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army – Alex Boncayao Brigade – Tabara Padua Group (RPA-ABB-TPG) which entered into a peace agreement with the government as “a brazen assault against concrete peace gains and efforts on the ground.”

“This attack only shows the gruesome and inhumane methods the CPP-NPA would utilize in order to promote their twisted brand of ideology,” said Galvez on Thursday.

The incident happened in a settlement site being prepared for mainstreaming and socio-economic reintegration of members of the RPA-ABB-TPG as part of the peace deal forged between the group and the government.

Galvez said such attacks have no room in a civilized and democratic society, which is governed by the rule of law.

“By carrying out this assault and killing their former comrades who only wanted to lead peaceful, productive lives, they (communists) have once again shown their true colors,” he said.

“Through their actions, they have demonstrated that human lives are worthless as they aggressively pursue their self-serving objectives,” he added.

Galvez said the perpetrators of the attack shall be brought to justice and face the full force of the law.

“I assure you that the government will exhaust all means necessary for the victims and their families to get the justice they rightfully deserve,” he said.

This is the reason, Galvez said, why the national government is gearing up for the implementation of Executive Order No. 70 which outlines a Whole-Of-Nation-Approach in dealing the decades-long communist insurgency in the country.

“Under this approach, localized peace engagements will be carried out in conflict-affected areas throughout the country,” he said.

Galvez explained these engagements are an innovative approach to peace-building, wherein they will be led by local government units and other local leaders in in the community.

“Local leaders know the real situation on the ground. Therefore, they are in the best position to respond and make decisions based on the existing realities in their respective communities,” he said.

Galvez said President Rodrigo Duterte has committed to put an end to the communist problem and will be utilizing the gamut of government institutions and resources to achieve this goal.

“The President has made a pledge to the Filipino people. He will do everything in his power to honor his word and finally bring genuine and enduring peace to our country,” he said.

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

NYC chair denies red-tagging accusation

From the Philippine News Agency (May 9, 2019): NYC chair denies red-tagging accusation

National Youth Commission (NYC) chair Ronald Cardema on Thursday denied red-tagging accusation, saying it was the former New People’s Army (NPA) members who claimed they were former members of legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP-NPA).

In an interview with ANC’s Early Edition, Cardema said a CPA-NPA leader, who surrendered to the government, revealed two weeks ago that he was a former Bayan Muna member while his wife was with Gabriela.

“After 23 years, he surrendered to government. Pinaliwanag talaga nya sa amin na sila talaga ay nagrerecruit gamit ang mga (He explained to us that they really recruit using) legal fronts,” said Cardema without naming the former CPP-NPA leader.

“Kaya hindi ito red-tagging kung ang mga sumusukong NPA na ang nagsasabi na sila'y miyembro dati ng Bayan Muna at mga legal fronts ngayon (So this is not red-tagging if those NPA members who surrendered have identified themselves as former members of Bayan Muna and its legal fronts)," he said.

Cardema also denied accusation that he is threatening the left-leaning personalities and groups in his Facebook post.

"We want peace and order in this country and we want everybody to enjoin us. Hindi naman po natin sinasabi na lahat papatayin. Ang sinasabi natin kung kailangang may makulong, ikukulong natin iyan (I did not say kill them all. What I mean is that if there is a need to incarcerate people, we should incarcerate them)," he explained.

Cardema said there is nothing wrong with dissenting and criticizing the President and his administration but it should not be through an armed struggle.

While he commends Bayan Muna for not being corrupt, Cardema questioned the group’s support to the CPP-NPA which is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, United Kingdom, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

"Ang mali lang po talaga sumusuporta kayo sa CPP-NPA (What is wrong is you're supporting CPP-NPA). We have proof. The government has proof," he said.

In the same interview, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate denied the accusations and said their organization is a legitimate party-list group.