Wednesday, May 15, 2019

MILF prepares UBJP party for 2022 polls as BARMM transitions in post-midterm elections

From Business World (May 14, 2019): MILF prepares UBJP party for 2022 polls as BARMM transitions in post-midterm elections

SULTAN KUDARAT, MAGUINDANAO — Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) Chief Minister Murad Ebrahim, also chair of the former rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), cast his vote Monday, his first time to participate in national elections.

“We have always believed that the solution to the problem is a political one, not a military one. We were just forced to use weapons for survival and defense in the past,” he said in an earlier interview with BusinessWorld, remembering that the struggle started when “genocidal campaigns against the Moro people were committed” and worsened when Former President Ferdinand R. Marcos declared Martial Law.

Since the 71-year old joined what he calls the “Bangsamoro struggle” in 1969, his first participation in elections was in January this year for the ratification of Republic Act 11054, the Bangsamoro Organic Law.

As the BARMM, a fruit of the peace deal between the government and the MILF, transitions within the next three years with the elected officials in Monday’s midterm polls, Mr. Murad said they will also be preparing the MILF’s United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP) for the 2022 elections.

“UBJP will be our political wing. Everyone who will be elected to be part of that party will work towards achieving our goals,” he said.

“The problem with most of our candidates (now) is that they cannot fulfill their campaign promises because these are individual commitments, but if the program is a program of a political party, and everyone is working towards achieving the goal, that will be more viable,” he said.

When asked to comment on the recurring violent incidents and reports of vote-buying in the region, the chief minister said the BARMM government aims to address those concerns.

“This is included in our moral governance. Until we erase the evils in our system, we will have a hard time attaining progress.”

NEWS UPADATE: Three members of the 79th Infantry Battalion sustained abrasions following an encounter against 30 rebels of the New People's Army

From the Panay News Facebook page (May 15, 2019): NEWS UPADATE: Three members of the 79th Infantry Battalion sustained abrasions following an encounter against 30 rebels of the New People's Army

NEWS UPADATE: Three members of the 79th Infantry Battalion sustained abrasions following an encounter against 30 rebels of the New People's Army at Sitio Puting Tubig , Baranagy Minautok, Calatrava, Negros Occidental at 05:30 a.m. of May 15. 

The gun battle lasted for an hour afterwhich the rebels had withdrawn.

The injured troops are now in good condition.

Upset win: Army general beats Sara’s Salcedo

From the Panay News Facebook page (May 15, 2019): Upset win: Army general beats Sara’s Salcedo

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ILOILO – Retired Philippine Army general Jon Aying is the incoming mayor of the municipality of Sara. He defeated Vice Mayor Jesus “Jay-r” Salcedo, son of outgoing Mayor Ermilita Salcedo, in Monday’s midterm elections.

Aying’s win puts a break to the three-decade Salcedo dynasty in the northern Iloilo municipality.

“Our priority is to end criminality, corruption and poverty in Sara,” said Aying yesterday.

The former commander of the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division wanted to change the negative impression on Sara as a municipality with a serious law enforcement problem.

The people of Sara should feel safe, he stressed.

Aying, a resident of Sitio Proper, Barangay Aspera, Sara, was the candidate of Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) of President Rodrigo Duterte. He got 13,739 votes.

Salcedo, on the other hand, got 11,803 votes. He was the candidate for mayor of the Nacionalista Party.

Aying assured the people of Sara of “matarong nga pang-gobyerno” (righteous governance).

As a former law enforcer, said Aying, he understood what were needed to make Sara peaceful and orderly, and free from guns and goons.

“Klaro sa akon ang taktika, procedure, proseso kag estratihiya pang-militar kag pulis kon paano ma-neutralize ang ining mga maitom nga malain ginhawa nga nagahatag kakugmat kag kriminalidad sa aton mga pumoluyo,” said Aying.

Aying’s running mate, Jess Salcedo – a distant relative of the incumbent Salcedo mayor and vice mayor – also won with 12,326 votes, defeating Jay-r Salcedo’s running mate Esa Aldeguer who got 11,754 votes.

The former soldier said he was not satisfied with the performance of the Salcedos.

“Kon kuntento man lang ako, indi ako magpadalagan mayor,” said Aying who launched the movement Katilingban sang Katarungan, Katawhayan, Kauswagan sang Sara when he decided to run for mayor in October last year.

The mayor-elect said he would also implement more infrastructure projects in Sara such as public school buildings, bridges, and farm-to-market roads.

“Wala ko ‘ni gin gusto. Ang mga pumoluyo nga Saranhon nagasinggit sang patago kag ginaduso ako nga magdalagan mayor,” said Aying./PN

NPA leader, his son killed in clash with troops in Butuan

From the Mindanao Times (May 15, 2019): NPA leader, his son killed in clash with troops in Butuan

An NPA high-ranking commander and his son were killed in an encounter with troops of the 23rd Infantry Battalion, under the 402nd Infantry Brigade, in Butuan City, Agusan del Norte at 11:30 a.m. on May 11.

Lt. Col. Francisco Molina, the 23rd IB commander, identified the father as Gerardo “Hyde” Sembrano alias Bong, the leader of the Front Operational Command, Guerrilla Front 4A of North Central Mindanao Regional Committee.

Meanwhile, His son was identified as Alvin Sembrano alias Benot, a member of the NPA’s liquidation unit or Sparu. Both were killed during a five-minute clash between the guerrillas and the soldiers.

Troops recovered one .45 caliber pistol, one .40 caliber pistol, seven magazines with bullets, and three mobile phones.

Molina said that Bong was responsible for numerous crimes, atrocities, harassment, and extortion activites in Caraga. He had pending arrest warrants for murder, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, multiple attempted murder, robbery with frustrated homicide, and arson.

Bong also led the attack on detachments in San Mateo, Butuan City in 2018 and Dulag Patrol Base in Butuan City in 2017. He also reportedly led the team in torching a construction equipment in Barangay Bit-os in Butuan City in 2017.

Likewise, he said Benot participated in several killings, extortion, and harassment in Butuan City and Buenavista, Agusan del Norte.

Molina thanked the residents for providing them with information that led to the deaths of the two rebels.

“The lost of lives could have been prevented if they chose to abandon armed struggle and go back to the folds of the law,” he said.

“The death of alias Bong provided relief to many. The farmers can now have higher harvest since they will not be forced to give anymore to the said group, ” he added.

“The investors can put up their business in the area without fear of extortion. The contractors can proceed freely with their projects. And the people can move freely without being threatened,” he further said.

Ex-NPAs urge Caraga rebels to rejoin gov't

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 15, 2019): Ex-NPAs urge Caraga rebels to rejoin gov't

SURIGAO CITY, Surigao del Norte -- The former members of the new people’s army (NPA) terrorist group are urging their former allies who are still active in the resistance against the government to find their way back to the mainstream society.

Edward Gultia, a teacher who previously served the Tribal Filipino Program in Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS) for 19 years, revealed that the school is not accredited by the Department of Education and is run by New People’s Army (NPA).

“What were inculcated to us during exclusive gatherings in a secluded and mountainous part in Surigao del Sur where these NPA rebels inhabit are plainly the same with what were being taught to the students of TRIFPSS,” revealed Gultia, adding that the learners would grow up hating the government.

Sonny Boy Acebedo, a former student of the TRIFPSS, also shared how the NPA rebels had indoctrinated the students by influencing them to adopt radically different beliefs against the government, and by teaching them on how to manipulate and use firearms at a very young age.

According also to Datu Jomar “Nahikyad” Bocales, municipal tribal chieftain of Lianga, Surigao del Sur, the ideas and principles taught in the TRIFPSS and Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, Inc. (ALCADEV) schools are contrary to the democratic system of government, wherein the Lumad students were motivated for rebellion.

This, according to him, was confirmed by his contacts within the circle of the NPA movement.

Rico Maca, indigenous peoples mandatory representative (IPMR) of San Miguel municipality in Surigao del Sur, also said that the NPA operators of the TRIFPSS and ALCADEV schools barred the implementation of DepEd’s Indigenous Peoples Education (IPEd) curriculum framework in the area.

“It’s very obvious to see how these TRIFPSS and NPA are closely related. In fact, they are even into killing of the Lumad leaders who support the imposition of IPEd in the communities," he said.

The former NPAs hope for the active rebels to return and profess their loyalty anew to government so they could live a more meaningful and peaceful life.

3 soldiers injured in northern Negros clash

From the Philippine News Agency (May 15, 2019): 3 soldiers injured in northern Negros clash

Three Army soldiers belonging to the 79th Infantry Battalion (79IB) were slightly injured during a clash with communist rebels at Sitio Puting Tubig, Barangay Minautok in Calatrava, Negros Occidental on Wednesday morning.

A report from the 303rd Infantry Brigade said the troopers sustained shrapnel wounds after the New People’s Army (NPA) fired an M203 grenade launcher.

The three are now in stable condition, it added.

In a statement, Lt. Col. Emelito Thaddeus Logan, commanding officer of 79IB, said the continuous encounters of their troops with the NPA show that the communities no longer want the enemies’ presence.

“We will relentlessly pursue the NPAs and stop their illegal and extortion activities,” he added.

Logan, however, said the Philippine Army also gives a chance to the communist rebels to surrender peacefully and enjoy the benefits provided by the government.

At around 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday, government troops encountered some 30 NPA fighters in a firefight that lasted for about an hour.

According to the 79IB, there could have been five casualties on the side of the NPA, based on the bloodstains found. Local residents also provided information on the possible number of casualties.

The troops recovered a magazine with eight rounds of ammunition for Garand carbine rifle, three mobile phones, two power banks, a memory card, a hammock, and 10 kilos of rice, among others.

Last April 17, troops of 79IB also encountered a group of communist rebels in Barangay Marcelo, Calatrava, which left three NPA guerrillas dead.

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

6ID lauds peaceful conduct of polls; vows to secure counting

From the Philippine News Agency (May 15, 2019): 6ID lauds peaceful conduct of polls; vows to secure counting

The military here declared that Monday’s elections in its area of responsibility (AOR) have been generally peaceful with no major untoward election-related violence.

Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the 6th Infantry Division (6ID), said the 6ID personnel performed well their mandated task to help ensure orderly, peaceful and violence-free elections.

"While the counting of votes is ongoing, we call on the general public to remain vigilant and immediately report any suspicious person or items in their vicinity to prevent the occurrence of violent incidents that may disrupt the counting process,” Sobejana said in a statement Tuesday.

Sobejana, also concurrent head of Joint Task Force Central (JTFC), is the commander of government forces stationed in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, 11 municipalities in North Cotabato and five coastal towns of Lanao del Sur.

He attributed the peaceful conduct of balloting to close coordination and synchronized efforts between the 6ID and security forces with the Commission on Elections prior to the political exercises.

The 6ID chief did not claim sole credit to the peaceful election as he also acknowledged the contribution of all stakeholders. “I admitted though that there were minor and isolated incidents that occurred in our AOR but that did not affect the entirety of the electoral process,” he said.

Four explosions rocked Cotabato City on the eve of Election Day and on the night after the voting ended.

Explosions were also reported in Barangay Dalican, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao. There were no reported injuries or casualties in the bombings that the police described as pure harassment and merely aimed at sowing fear among communities.

The Army also addressed effectively the attempt of unarmed Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members to enter Cotabato City allegedly to observe the elections.

They were prevented by the soldiers and the matter was endorsed to the government and MILF coordinating committee on the cessation of hostilities.

Although some Voter Registration Verification Machines (VRVMs) and Vote Counting Machine (VCM) malfunctioned, Sobejana said all election paraphernalia were delivered safely and secured.

Three days prior to the election, Sobejana ordered the deployment of soldiers in all polling centers to provide security and assistance to the election committee and to the electorate.

“We will continue to monitor the electoral process and assure that the JTFC will remain on alert until the election period is over,” he said.

Martial law played key role in securing Mindanao polls: AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (May 15, 2019): Martial law played key role in securing Mindanao polls: AFP

Martial Law in Mindanao proved a vital factor in ensuring the relatively peaceful conduct of Monday's mid-term elections in the island.

"In Mindanao where there are a number of identified election areas of concern, Martial Law proved to be a serious deterrent to lawless groups who may intend to disturb free polling," said Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson, Marine Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, on Tuesday when asked by reporters on what other factors the military can attribute the relative non-violent elections.

Aside from this, Arevalo attributed the success and relative peacefulness of the elections to the peoples’ cooperation with the security measures laid by the AFP and the Philippine National Police.

"And likewise to the citizens’ active involvement in reporting unusual developments or movements in their localities," the AFP spokesperson said.

In a 235-28-1 vote, the Congress, in a joint session on December 12, 2018, approved the extension of martial law in Mindanao until December 31, 2019.

The AFP recommended another year-long extension of martial law in Mindanao island to totally neutralize terror groups still operating in Mindanao. Martial law in Mindanao was declared on May 23, 2017 following attacks launched by the Maute Group in Marawi City.

The House of Representatives, in a special joint session in July 2017, granted the extension of martial law until December 31, 2017 at the President's request.

The Senate and House of Representatives, convening in a joint session early December, granted the Chief Executive's request for the extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus for a period of one year from January 1 to December 31, 2018.

Also, the AFP spokesperson vigilance on the part of security forces ensured that there will be sufficient forces groups planning to disrupt the polls.

"Vigilance and anticipation enabled us to immediately act and counteract efforts, anticipated or unexpected, that may or tend to disrupt our planned peaceful and orderly conduct of the elections," he added.

When asked on why there were no reported New People's Army (NPA) attacks on the day of the elections, Arevalo attributes this to meticulous planning and preparation by government security forces and the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

"Meticulous planning and preparations seamlessly executed by government security forces and the Comelec and their commanding presence in the polling areas deterred possible NPA atrocities. In Mindanao where there are a number of identified election areas of concern, Martial Law prevented serious breach of law and order especially by various private armed and threat groups," he said.

SC affirms CA ruling vs. AMWSLAI membership expansion

From the Philippine News Agency (May 15, 2019): SC affirms CA ruling vs. AMWSLAI membership expansion

The Supreme Court (SC) upheld a Court of Appeals (CA) decision stopping the Air Materiel Wing Savings and Loan Association, Inc. (AMWSLAI) from amending its by-laws to expand its membership base to include 24 additional agencies of the executive department.

AMWSLAI members consist of personnel of military and police personnel and their dependents.

The SC’s Second Division said the appellate court did not commit any error in ruling that Regional Trial Court of Pasay City, Branch 119 (RTC) gravely abused its discretion when it granted AMWSLAI's petition for certiorari on Sept. 11, 2015 and issued a writ of preliminary injunction, preventing the Monetary Board of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP-MB) from implementing its June 26, 2015 denying AMSWLAI appeal to allow its expansion.

“As correctly ruled by the CA, AMWSLAI should have filed an appeal before it under Rule 43 of the Rules of Court (Rules) - and not a petition for certiorari before the RTC under Rule 65 of the same Rules - considering that the CA has appellate jurisdiction over resolutions of public respondent which are issued in the exercise of its quasi-judicial functions,” the SC said.

“Accordingly, the RTC did not have jurisdiction to act on the above-mentioned certiorari petition, much more issue the ancillary writ of preliminary injunction against public respondent,” it added.

In its June 29, 2018 decision by Associate Justice Maria Filomena Singh, the CA’s Tenth Division granted the petition filed by the BSP-Monetary Board seeking the reversal of the Pasay RTC ruling in favor of AMWSLAI.

Under Republic Act No. 8367, otherwise known as the “Revised Non- Stock Savings and Loan Association Act of 1997,” membership in Savings and Loan Associations (SLA), such as AMWSLAI must be limited to a “well-defined group.”

The Monetary Board is vested with the authority to ensure that SLAs comply with this requirement.

However, in May 2014, AMWSLAI sent a letter-application to the Intergrated Supervision Department I (ISD) of the BSP for the approval of its proposed amendment to its by-laws to give way for the expansion of its membership to cover employees of 24 other agencies of the Executive Department, as well as their relatives by consanguinity and affinity.

Boxing champ Ancajas gets first hero’s welcome

From the Philippine News Agency (May 15, 2019): Boxing champ Ancajas gets first hero’s welcome

International Boxing Federation super flyweight champion and Navy reservist, Jerwin Ancajas, was given a hero’s welcome upon his arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Tuesday after his successful match with challenger Ryuichi Funai in Stockton, California last May 5.

Ancajas, who is a member of the Naval Reserve and has a rank of Chief Petty Officer, was welcomed by officers, men and women of the Philippine Navy (PN), Naval Reserve public affairs officer Capt. Jerber Belonio said in a statement.

He won his fight against Funai via a seventh round technical knockout.

The ring side doctor stopped the fight after determining that Funai has taken too much damage to be able to continue the fight. Ancajas, during a press briefing, expressed his heartfelt gratitude for the welcome ceremony.

“It was my first time to be accorded this kind of welcome,” he said.

The boxing champion thanked the PN for its full support especially during the period of his five-week training at Marine Base Gregorio Lim, Ternate, Cavite, prior to the fight.

ASEAN naval exercises formally end in Singapore

From the Philippine News Agency (May 15, 2019): ASEAN naval exercises formally end in Singapore

This year's ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting - Plus Maritime Security Field Training Exercise (ADMM-Plus MARSEC FTX) 2019 formally concluded in Changi, Singapore on Monday.

The closing ceremonies took place at the naval base, RSS Singapura. The Philippines’ BRP Andres Bonifacio (PS-17), one of the country's most capable offshore patrol vessels, joined 18 other warships, 10 aircraft, and more than 1,500 personnel during the exercise conducted in the waters off Busan and eastern Singapore from April 29 to May 13.

“The Philippine Navy (PN) had achieved its goal in this exercise. We were able to enhance our maritime operational capability to multilateral level, thereby increasing our readiness and interoperability while engaging our partner navies,” Navy contingent head and Naval Task Group 80.6 commander, Capt. Roy Vincent T. Trinidad, said in a statement Wednesday.

The Navy, while in Singapore, is expected to participate in other activities, such as the Maritime Information Sharing Exercise 2019 that coincides with the 10th Anniversary Commemoration of the Information Fusion Center and the International Maritime Defense Exhibition 2019.

The PN’s participation in these international engagements manifested its commitment in promoting multilateral cooperation in a multinational environment for peace and stability among ASEAN and other regional navies.

ADMM-Plus MARSEC FTX 2019 was co-chaired by the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Singapore. Participating navies arrived at Changi Naval Base last May 12, after a weeklong transit from the Republic of Korea to Singapore.

The second part of the ADMM-Plus MARSEC FTX 2019 took place, with the Singapore Navy as co-host. In this phase, an exercise on information-sharing to track vessels of interest was conducted, along with cross-deck landings and replenishment-at-sea drills. Australia, Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam joined in the second part of the exercise, which culminated in a photo exercise.

Singaporean Chief-of-Defense Force, Lt. Gen. Melvyn Ong, presided over the closing ceremony where he thanked all the participants for the commitment rendered in this exercise, saying it reflects the abiding value of the ADMM-Plus to regional security with the aim to strengthen peace and stability in the region.

“This year’s exercise continues with the same aim of focusing on practical cooperation; build up trust and confidence within the ADMM plus navies,” Ong said.

“This is an opportunity for us to strengthen the security and peace and maintain cooperation in the region. Today, all of us are to remain committed to peace and stability, to secure these rules based maritime waters reinforced by practical cooperation,” he added.