Sunday, May 19, 2019

29 pro-NPA Mindoreños surrendered—military

From the Business Mirror (May 20, 2019): 29 pro-NPA Mindoreños surrendered—military

A total of 29 supporters and sympathizers of the New People’s Army have surrendered to security forces in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, during the past two weeks, the military said.

Col. Marceliano Teofilo, commander of the Army’s 203rd Infantry Brigade who has operational jurisdiction over Mindoro island, said the rebel supporters are members of the Sangay ng Partido sa Lokalidad (SPL) and Milisyang Bayan (MB).
Teofilo said the SPL and MB are components of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the NPA, and were tasked as spies, foodstuff and tax collector and even “recruiters.”
Eighteen of those who surrendered are members of the Mangyan Buhid Tribe.

“The rebels decided to return to the fold of the law due to our relentless combat operations and CSP [community support programs] in the GIDAs [geographically isolated and disadvantage areas],” Teofilo said.

“Our troop deployment in Mindoro is continuous and we will not stop until the CPP-NPAs only option left is to surrender,” he added.

The surrenderees have undergone several CPP-NPA courses and lectures, the military said.

Police Regional Office 4B Director Brig. Gen. Thomas Apolinario Jr. asked peace stakeholders in Mimaropa to continue supporting the campaign of the government in addressing the insurgency problem.

“I encourage all of the LGUs [local government units], stakeholders and peace-loving Mindoreños to continually cooperate and support our government,” he said. “Let us join our hands to protect our Mangyan IPs against these NPAs. Be with your Army and Police in achieving stable and genuine peace in our island.”’

Brig. Gen Elias Escarcha, acting commander of the 2nd Infantry Division, said the localized peace talks with the rebels and the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) are luring surrenderees in Regions 4A and 4B.

“We will sustain our gains until they are defeated the soonest possible time. Rest assured that NPAs who desires to surrender will be processed to avail themselves of the E-CLIP,” he said.

The E-Clip is the government’s incentive program for yielding rebels.

Under the program, a former rebel can receive P15,000 in immediate cash assistance, P50,000 in livelihood assistance, firearms remuneration and access to housing, loans, medical and legal assistance, among others.

The NPA and the 50-year war rarely mentioned outside the Philippines

From the Philippine Lifestyle News (May 20, 2019): The NPA and the 50-year war rarely mentioned outside the Philippines


While the Duterte government’s war on drugs, and the Islamic insurrection by the amusingly named MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) tend to me the main headline grabbers for death and destruction in the Philippines, there’s a whole other war being fought that rarely gets a mention outside of the Philippines — meet the NPA.

To give them their full name, The New People’s Army are an outlawed Maoist revolutionary army that has been waging war against the Philippine state since it was founded in March 1969 by Jose Maria Sison, Bernabe Buscayno and Lucio Manlapaz.

The NPA engages its guerrilla struggle under the Maoist theory of Protracted People’s War. This involves winning over the countryside, and the peasants, before moving on to take over the cities.

The NPA works as the armed wing of the outlawed — and therefore non-election participating — Communist Party of the Philippines, which is allegedly led by Benito Tianzon.

ALSO READ: Presumptive President Duterte offers cabinet positions to Communists

The formation of the New People’s Army was very much a product of its time, with the Sino-Soviet split resulting in competing socialist ideologies in the Philippines, with the Maoist side, backed by China at the time favouring armed insurrection.

During the Marcos dictatorship they enjoyed their most popular period, with many, particularly poorer peasants, seeing the prospect of socialism as a great alternative to the poverty of the time.

Of course things changed through the 80s and 90s with the end of the Marcos regime and return to democracy. Add to this the fall of the Soviet Union, and many believe the insurgency should have died a natural death.

However, the CPP and NPA instead doubled down with their “Second Great Rectification Movement” in 1992 in which they admitted their mistakes of the past and — much like the FARC in Colombia — vowed to push on.

ALSO READ: Duterte to communists: "No more talk, let's fight!"

Over the past 30 years things have largely carried on like that.

The NPA, unlike the FARC, doesn’t control large swaths of the country, but are active in most provinces, where they collect “taxes” from the local businesses and individuals and are involved in firefights with government forces at least once a month.

In 2016 there was a ceasefire and peace talks between the government of President Duterte — who was taught by NPA founder Sison at university — and the NPA. These ended in 2017 with the president labelling the NPA and CPP as terrorist organisations, and telling police to should shoot female militants in the vagina.

So, for now the war rumbles on, low key, much as it has done for the last 50 years, just don’t expect to hear much about it, nor expect to see a Democratic Peoples Republic of the Philippines any time soon.

MILF: Repeating same mistakes of poor governance and corruption will put Jihad to waste - Iqbal

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Website (May 18, 2019): Repeating same mistakes of poor governance and corruption will put Jihad to waste - Iqbal

Photo courtesy of Prof. Alih S. Aiyub

“We cannot afford to put to waste our almost 50 years of 'Jihad-fi-sabilillah' by repeating the same mistakes of poor governance and corruption,” Mohagher Iqbal, education minister of the the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) said.

In a consultation meeting with the rank and file personnel of the BARMM’s education agency on Friday (May 17), Iqbal said, “At the end of the day, we are accountable to God in the discharge of our duties and responsibilities.”

The consultation was aimed to draw out issues and concerns of the region’s education ministry workforce.

It also elicited suggestions and inputs from the employees to improve other things for system, institution and human resource audit have efficient and effective operations for quality service delivery of quality education.

The education minister further pointed out the officials and employees of the new autonomous Bangsamoro government is in place for the problem-solving process.

He said the education ministry will take proper measures to see to it that the issues and concerns will be addressed and the status and benefits of the employees will be accorded for properly.

Iqbal said, “In fact, we are considering to give you (both Muslims and Christians) Ramadhan bonus aside from the bonuses mandated by law"

He also suggested to the ministry's finance officer to increase the basic pay of contractual utility and security personnel from P7,500 to P10,000 per month. 

6 former rebels, 1 Militia ng Bayan receive financial aid

Posted to Kalinaw News (May 18, 2019): 6 former rebels, 1 Militia ng Bayan receive financial aid

Rebel returnees who are recipients of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program of the Department of the Interior and Local Government pose with Governor Arthur Defensor Sr. (4th from right), DILG Provincial Director Teodora Sumagaysay, Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office chief Dr. Neneth Q. Pador, and Col. Alberto Desoyo, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade, among others, after receiving their cash rewards on Friday, May 17, 2019.

SIX New People’s Army (NPA) and one Militia ng Bayan members availed themselves of financial aid from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) under its Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-Clip).

The former NPA rebels received P65,000, of which the P15,000 is for immediate assistance and the P50,000 is for livelihood assistance. They were from Lambunao, Calinog, Bingawan, Igbaras, and Barotac Nuevo.

The MB member, meanwhile, received P15,000.

The Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO) is in-charge of assisting the beneficiaries come up with a business plan for their proposed livelihood project. Most of them are into livestock business.

“We want to make sure that the money is used for its intended purpose,” said DILG-Iloilo Director Teodora Sumagaysay.

E-Clip is an expanded version of the program caters even to MB members. It also features expanded benefits like housing, among others.

“We are also giving P21,000 to organization or units where these Militia ng Bayan members surrendered. They mostly surrender with the Philippine Army,” she said.

The DILG director encouraged the remaining rebels to return to the fold of the government, as there are programs in store for them.

The 61st Infantry Battalion also presented to Governor Arthur Defensor Sr. the surrendered firearms and ammunition on May 17. These include US rifle caliber .30 M1 Springfield (Garand), caliber .45 pistol, homemade 12 gauge shotgun, caliber .357 revolver, caliber .38 revolver, and MG7 grenade.

Kalinaw News: Soldiers Seize NPA Arms Cache, Foils Extortion in Rizal

Posted to Kalinaw News (May 18, 2019): Soldiers Seize NPA Arms Cache, Foils Extortion in Rizal

Elements of the 80th Infantry Battalion recovered three firearms, five hand grenades and a rifle grenade during an intelligence operation at Sitio Batangasan, Brgy San Andres, Tanay, Rizal on 16 May 2019.

Brigadier General Arnulfo Marcelo B Burgos Jr, Commander of the 202nd Infantry Brigade which has operational jurisdiction over CALABARZON, said that “this accomplishment is a product of our former rebel engagements” wherein those who surrendered “actively participate in the government’s campaign against the NPA terrorists”.

He added that “this innovative operational concept is part of the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF ELCAC) 4A’s operationalization of the whole-of-nation-approach concept in defeating insurgency in this part of the country”.

Lt Col Christopher Diaz, Commander of the 80th Infantry Battalion, reported that “the war materiel belong to the terrorists’ extortion group who were targeting the farms in the area and, for the longest time, have been threatening the people of Tanay”.

In a statement, Lt Col Diaz assured the public that “your soldiers are, and will always be, ready to respond to any NPA terroristic actions” while asking for the community’s continued support, cooperation and vigilance “since security is a shared responsibility”.

BGen Elias Escarcha, Acting Commander of 2nd Infantry Division, lauded the troops’ success against the enemies of the state.

“The fact that the NPA terrorists left these war materiel as they tried to leave the area in a hurry is a manifestation of the NPA’s prevailing fear upon the government’s military might and their diminished will to fight”, added BGen Escarcha.

He ended his statement by reiterating the “government’s call for localized peace talks so that our people may finally enjoy just and lasting peace as well as progress and development which we truly deserve”.

Relatedly, 21 former rebels who surrendered early this year received their cheques representing government grants under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program or E-CLIP from Sec Eduardo Año of DILG during a ceremony at Camp Vicente Lim on May 17.

Since the 202nd Brigade’s maiden implementation of E-CLIP in Luzon and Visayas last August 14, 2018 wherein 13 former NPAs were formally welcomed to mainstream society by the SILG and Sec Delfin Lorenzana during a ceremony in Tanauan City, Batangas, a total of 108 surrenders with 63 firearms were already recorded by RTF ELCAC 4A.

Per the unit’s record, those enrolled have already received the immediate and livelihood assistance while some were either given employment in their areas or have been registered as beneficiaries of 4Ps.

These are on top of the more than Php670, 000.00 worth of housing, education, and health care benefits, among others, which the government is offering in its effort to unify the country and attain genuine, lasting peace.

Sectoral groups slam suspected electoral fraud in 2019 polls

From Rappler (May 18, 2019): Sectoral groups slam suspected electoral fraud in 2019 polls

Sectoral groups voice out their concern over perceived irregularities in the midterm polls outside the PICC, where the Commission on Elections is conducting the official canvassing of votes

VOICE OUT. Protesters march towards PICC, Comelec's official canvassing headquarters to voice out against election anomalies, on May 17, 2019. All photos by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

VOICE OUT. Protesters march towards PICC, Comelec's official canvassing headquarters to voice out against election anomalies, on May 17, 2019. All photos by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

Sectoral groups called out alleged electoral fraud in the 2019 polls on Friday, May 17, during a protest outside the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), where the Commission on Elections is conducting the official canvassing of votes.

Groups including Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Gabriela, Agham, and League of Filipino Students were among those who joined the protest.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan spokesperson Renato Reyes slammed the incompetence of the Comelec due to the technical glitches that occured in the 2019 polls, where there were many cases of malfunctioning vote-counting machines and SD cards. (READ: [ANALYSIS] How to fix what went wrong in the 2019 elections)

Reyes pointed out that perceived election irregularities could affect the integrity of the ballots cast by the people.

"Hindi natin tanggap ang resultang bulok ng halalan. Hindi natin tanggap ang pandaraya [sa halalan]. Lalaban tayo para sa inang bayan," Reyes added.(We do not accept the rotting election results. We do not accept this election fraud. We will fight for our motherland)

‘Rigged results'

This year’s polls were marred by technical glitches, irregularities in the transmission of votes, and alleged election fraud across the Philippines.

Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

Election polls watchdog Kontra Daya spokesperson Danilo Arao questioned the 7-hour delay of transmission of votes and demanded accountability from the Comelec since the gap showed a possibility of disenfranchisement of the votes of the Filipino people. 

(READ: [EXPLAINER] Transmission glitches don’t necessarily mean electoral fraud)

"Sa pamantayan ng information technology (IT), ang pitong oras na dead air o kawalan ng movement sa file transfer ito ay nangangahulan ng pagpapatalsik na ng sinumang IT specialist na umuupo rito," Arao said.

(In the standards of information technology, the seven-hour dead air or lack of progress in the file transfer could be cause of the firing of the IT specialist handling this.)

"Ang kapani-paniwala na lang po sa mamamayang Pilipino ay ang niluto ang election (What the Filipino people believes that there is an election fraud happening)," added information technology specialist Jon General.

General pointed out that the candidates who entered the 12 spots in the Senate pushed forward policies such as the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN), and war on drugs among others.

Dismayed by the results, he wondered how a majority of voters have supported controversial pro-administration candidates.

"Hindi po kami naniniwala na ang mamamayang nahihirapan na dahil sa TRAIN Law ay ipapanalo ang taong nagsulat ng TRAIN Law. 'Yong mamamayan na galit na galit na sa pagpatay, ipapanalo 'yang General Bato dela Rosa na 'yan. Si Bong Go na ngayon lang namin narinig, personal alalay lang ni Duterte ay number 3 na sa eleksyon," General added.

(We cannot believe that the people who struggled because of TRAIN Law will champion the author of TRAIN Law. The people who were angry at the killings will be championed by General Bato dela Rosa. Bong Go, whom you’ve only heard now and who is Duterte’s personal aide, is number 3 in the elections.)

Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

Labor Win bet Neri Colmenares asserted that the fight for transparency and integrity of the elections is not just about the opposition candidates of Otso Diretso and Labor Win but also about the clamor of the Filipino people for an independent Senate.

"It is no longer just about us. It is about respecting the right of the Filipino people to choose their leaders in society," Colmenares said.

Colmeranes was joined by his fellow Labor Win bet Leody de Guzman, Otso Diretso’s Erin Tañada and incumbent representatives of Makabayan bloc partylist.

PH-Indonesia coordinated patrol culminates May 18

From the Mindanao Times (May 19, 2019): PH-Indonesia coordinated patrol culminates May 18

The first leg of this year’s Philippine-Indonesian Coordinated Patrol culminated yesterday as the patrolling ships of both countries are expected to reach their final point in the territorial waters of Indonesia in the Celebes Sea.

The Border Coordinated Patrol, which is aimed at securing the common border between the two countries and curtailing maritime crimes including smuggling and piracy, was formally opened on May 2 at the Pinnacle Hotel, Davao City.

The Philippines and the Republic of Indonesia have increased this year’s coordinated border patrol activities to curb the smuggling and human trafficking at the high seas in both countries.

The increase of patrols is also aimed at increasing the inter-operability and capability of ensuring a safe and secure common maritime border of both countries.

The send-off ceremony last May 4, 2019, signalled the start of the first leg of the activities wherein the Philippine Coast Guard joined and sent its contingent during the initial phase of the first leg.

The first leg has concluded on May 10, 2019, after reaching their final point in Indonesian waters.

Col. Ezra Balagtey, the spokesperson of Eastern Mindanao Command, said the second and third leg of the activities, which will be staged in the middle of this year, will focus more on maritime and security patrol activities, while the fourth leg will be a combination of exercises and border patrol activities.

The coordinated patrol between the two countries started in 1975 when the Philippines and Indonesia signed the Border Patrol and Border Crossing Agreements.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. Felimon Santos Jr., commander of Eastern Mindanao Command, expressed optimism on the crime and terrorism deterrent impact on the conduct of the coordinated patrol.

“This coordinated naval operations, which we are conducting annually, strengthen the bilateral cooperation of the two countries in securing the border and as we increase the frequency of our coordinated plus our unilateral and independent patrol, we will be able to deter, and curb sea crimes; and prevent terrorists from using the border as transit point, ” Santos said.

Truth prevailed about Reds-linked party-list groups: NTF ELCAC exec

From the Philippine News Agency (May 19, 2019): Truth prevailed about Reds-linked party-list groups: NTF ELCAC exec

Major General Antonio Parlade, Jr., AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil-MIlitary Operations

A ranking official of the National Task Force to end Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) said Sunday the truth has prevailed about militant party-list groups after the latter’s severe vote losses.

Major Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr. laughed off militants’ claims that their electoral losses are due to cheating and poll rigging saying the losses are due to the public's enlightenment and awareness of communist rebels and their allies’ deception for many years.

"The people are not stupid, and now they know about the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) and their allies’ duplicitous nature," said Parlade, who is also Armed Forces of the Philippine Deputy Chief-of-Staff for Civil-Military Operations.

Parlade also chided communist-linked party-list groups for not denouncing the atrocities and violence committed by their Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) allies which contributed heavily to their defeat in the just-concluded May 13 mid-term elections.

"No matter what Satur Ocampo (former Bayan Muna representative) Neri Colmenares (former Bayan Muna representative and Labor Win senatorial candidate), Edre Olalia (of the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers), (Sarah) Elago (of Kabataan Party-list), (Cristina) Palabay (of Karapatan), (Carlos) Zarate (Bayan Muna party-list representative), and others will say about their loss, one thing is clear. They have not denounced the violence of the CPP-NPA and their terroristic activities," he said in a statement.

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

Parlade earlier said the severe defeat suffered by Makabayan bloc party-list groups in Monday polls is a wake-up call as people no longer believe in their advocacies. "The result of the recent elections has shown that the people are finally awake.

The 'Kamatayan' (Makabayan) bloc's dismal performance during the election is a vindication for the truth. Their lies and duplicity have been exposed. In due time, more people will be talking about 'Kamatayan' bloc's direct participation in this armed rebellion," Parlade said.

Of the party-list system He also scored the militants for taking advantage of the party-list system and using it to further their struggles aimed at destroying the country's institutions and democratic way of life.

"The party-list system was designed so the marginalized sector will be duly represented in Congress. We know some of its crafters had a different agenda, including advancing the National Democratic Revolution, hiding under the cover of legal front organizations and its parliamentary struggle. They succeeded in fooling the people and the government since 1986 until the present government said enough," Parlade said.

Winning war vs. Reds

With the activation of the NTF ELCAC, he said the government now has the means to counter the lies and propaganda being spread by the CPP-NPA.

“Now we have the NTF ELCAC, finally, and we see, on a daily basis, how effective it is in addressing the real causes of poverty and that is insurgency. Of course, a major aspect of the NTF effort is poverty alleviation,” he added.

He said though that part of that effort is to make sure the people are made aware of these revolutionary dual tactics of the CPP and the 'Makabayan bloc.

“They joined the parliamentary struggle so they have no reason not to abandon the armed struggle. Yet they won't denounce this violence of the NPAs. The people have judged you for that during the last election. Now accept that verdict, instead of coming up with alibis of cheating and rigging," he said.

Bitter pill

Parlade said denouncing the CPP-NPA is a bitter pill to swallow because they have been conditioned by decades of propaganda to believe that the masses are strongly supportive of their cause.

"We know it’s going to be a challenge on your part because all these years you believed your own propaganda of the masses supporting you. Well, they don't so deal with that," he added.

Partial and unofficial results from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) transparency server also showed that progressive groups, which consistently obtained high votes in the previous elections, significantly dropped this year compared to 2016.

The progressive groups that are mostly part of the Makabayan Bloc are the following with their corresponding number of votes, as of May 17:

Gabriela – from 1,367,795 votes in 2016 to only 444,635 in 2019;

ACT Teachers – from 1,180,752 votes in 2016 to only 392,674 votes in 2019;

Kabataan – from 300,420 votes in 2016 to only 194,745 votes in 2019; and Anakpawis – from 367,376 votes in 2016 to only 145,771 votes in 2019.

Gabriela, ACT Teachers, and Kabataan also lost voters, except for their ally Bayan Muna whose votes almost doubled in 2019 at 1,107,134 from only 604,566 in the previous polls.

Parlade said Makabayan bloc’s low ratings is also attributed to CPP-NPA founding chair Jose Maria "Joma" Sison’s video disclosing that they are legal front organizations of the CPP-NPA.

Why ISIS has its eyes on the Philippines

From The New European (May 19, 2019): Why ISIS has its eyes on the Philippines (By Lesley Ann Daniels)

With the defeat of the Islamic State in Syria, ISIS fighters are exporting their combat to other parts of the world. One of the places they're eyeing with interest is the Mindanao region in the southern part of the Philippines.

Military on the streets of Cotabato City during the plebiscite in January 21, 2019. Photo: Jes Aznar/Getty Images

This area is fertile soil for radicalisation. Different clans and extremist militants struggle for control of the shadow economy of drugs, extortion, kidnapping and other sources of illicit income.

In 2017, extremist groups linked to Islamic State and previously Al-Qaeda fought a six-month battle with the Philippines government over Marawi, a city of 200,000 people, leaving it in ruins and killing more than 1,000 people.

ISIS are looking to capitalise and exploit existing identity issues in the region. And one factor which might assist them is the recurring failure of the Philippines government to resolve these issues.

There are approximately five million Muslims in the Philippines, now concentrated into a corner of the Mindanao island, plus an archipelago of smaller islands, measuring only 13,000 square kilometres.

They call themselves the Moro people and believe themselves to be a nation - the Bangsamoro - that is separate from the rest of the Philippines.

Originally, the Moros spread over all of Mindanao, the second-largest island in the Philippines.

When the islands were colonised first by Spain from 1565 and then by the United States in 1898, the Moros retained their culture and languages while the rest of the country adopted Spanish and Christianity. However, the United States began a policy of encouraging Christian settlers from the rest of the Philippines to move into Mindanao and dispossess the local people of their land. This policy was continued by the central government after independence from the United States.

By 1982, the Moros owned only 18% of the land on which they lived. Today, their region is the poorest and least-developed area in the Philippines. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, GDP per capita is approximately US$650, about 20% of the average for the Philippines, and most people are subsistence farmers.

Since the 1970s, armed groups in the Bangsamoro area of Mindanao island have been fighting for independence, with an estimated 120,000 deaths from the conflict. Despite peace agreements with successive groups, parts of the area are still lawless and racked with violence.

Using identity markers as fuel for mobilisation and conflict onset is a well-known mechanism. A failure to deal with identity claims in peace settlements will often lead to failure. In the Philippines, the government has repeatedly failed to accommodate the Moros and accept that the Philippines is a multinational state where all groups have equal rights. The Moro are still a second-class minority within their own country, without their own government and without investment.

Dealing with identity claims is important. On the one hand, granting rights and autonomy to minority groups makes peace stronger because it reduces their grievances. On the other, it helps to unite the minority group and reinforce its identity.

In the Philippines, grievances have not been satisfied through attempts to secure peace. In 1996, the government first signed a peace agreement with the Mindanao rebels. However, the expected autonomy did not take place, in part because Muslims felt that they had been subsumed into the Philippine culture.

For example, the former rebel leader ran for election but as a member of the party of the Philippine president. The region did not get the control it hoped for over its budgets, but, rather, was dependent on unpredictable handouts from the central government. Nor were the Moros given political representation in the central government, where political appointments were optional.

Furthermore, the former rebels have been accused of using their political position only for widespread personal enrichment, while the situation of the Mindanao people was not significantly affected by the changes.

Thus, the peace agreement failed because it did not reduce the grievances of the Moros, but neither did it serve to unite them and bring real political representation.

As a result, other Islamic groups continued fighting. A peace agreement was made with one of the groups in 2014, though it was only ratified in the Philippine Congress in 2018. It remains to be seen whether the concessions in the peace agreement can create a sense of Moro unity, reduce their sense of grievances and improve their governance. In the meantime, hard-line Islamist groups and rival clans fester, a rich breeding ground for ISIS fighters looking for recruits.

However, this does not need to be the outcome of an identity conflict. At the westernmost tip of Indonesia another scenario has unfolded.

The region of Aceh is the most Islamic area of Indonesia and was the site of a long-running low-level fight for independence which claimed up to 15,000 lives.

As in Mindanao, this was largely an identity conflict in an area that with a proud and independent history that found itself one of its nation's poorest and most exploited regions. This sense of resentment this engendered was a powerful mobilising force for fighters as well as their supporters within the civilian population.

When peace was agreed between the government of Indonesia and the armed movement (GAM) in 2005, the agreement granted significant autonomy to Aceh, including control over revenue, local political representation, and recognition of the distinctive religious, language and cultural environment.

Aceh was given powers that no other area in Indonesia has and now controls itself as a self-governing and distinct entity. Since the agreement was signed, the area has been peaceful, with large-scale reconstruction and investment.

Granting identity rights has augmented the sense of coherence of a sub-national state. Aceh controls its own budget, determines its own development policy, invests in its own education system and has its own legal system and symbolic head of state. These rights, powers and institutions work together to create a sense of unity within Aceh.

The area is not without its disputes. Rival political factions attempt to win support by appealing to a narrow and hard-line view of Islamic law in order to mobilise people. Yet these disputes are contained within the political system, rather than preventing the creation of a political system, as in Mindanao. A return to violence seems inconceivable.

The peace agreement in Aceh worked because, on the one hand, it reduced the sense of grievance and economic resentments while granting political power. On the other, it created a separate and unified Aceh identity. By giving wide-ranging recognition to Aceh, the government of Indonesia defused the resentment against the central government.

Identity is widely used as a way to mobilise fighters. Concessions over identity can also work to create peace, by tackling grievances and creating a more coherent sense of identity. Governments are often scared to recognise minority groups, believing that giving them rights will create a desire for more autonomy.

However, recognition can also unify groups, creating a confident and coherent nation that can demand better internal governance, better political representation, and ultimately, a more durable peace.

[Lesley Ann Daniels is an AXA Research Fund post-doctoral fellow at the Institut Barcelona Estudis Internacionals; this article also appears at]

Dutch hostage joins Sayyaf in Philippines

Posted to the Mindanao Examiner (May 19, 2019): Dutch hostage joins Sayyaf in Philippines

SULU – Philippine police say a Dutch hostage of the Abu Sayyaf has joined the notorious pro-ISIS terrorist group 7 years after he and Swiss wildlife photagrapher were captured in the southern province of Tawi-Tawi.

In February 2012, Abu Sayyaf militants under Hajan Sawadjaan and suspected Moro National Liberation Front members kidnapped Lorenzo Vinciguerra, from Switzerland; and Ewold Horn, 54, from Holland, in the coastal village of Parangan in Panglima Sugala town in Tawi-Tawi.

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

Police released to the Mindanao Examiner photos of abducted Dutch and a Swiss wildlife photographers Ewold Horn, 52, from Holland, and Lorenzo Vinciguerre, 47, of Switzerland. The duo was taken by gunmen on February 1, 2012 in the town of Panglima Sugala in Tawi-Tawi province in the southern Philippines. (Library Photo)

Horn, according to Sulu police commander Pablo Labra, has developed Stockholm syndrome, a condition which causes hostages to develop a psychological alliance with their captors as a survival strategy during captivity. “We received information that he has developed Stockholm syndrome and has been spotted carrying a weapon,” Labra told The Zamboanga Post.

It was not immediately known whether Horn had fought security forces side by side with the Abu Sayyaf. “We really don’t know if he had fought troops, but if he engages security forces and the lives of our troops are put in grave danger then we have no other recourse but to fight back,” he said.

Labra said police forces continue to search for Horn and other foreign captives and at the same time maintain the operation against the Abu Sayyaf. “The operation against the Abu Sayyaf is continuing,” he said.

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

The remains now of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in sulu’s capital town of Jolo in this photo taken May 12, 2019. (The Zamboanga Post)

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

President Rodrigo Duterte also recently warned foreigners to stay out of Zamboanga following intelligence report that ISIS and Abu Sayyaf militants are targeting foreign nationals. “There’s a certain place which I would not recommend to anybody to go there, not just as yet, is Zamboanga. Some Europeans go there for the bird watching and they are captured and eventually they are decapitated even after the payment of ransom. It is the ISIS actually. It used to be the Abu Sayyaf. Now it’s an Abu Sayyaf territory. They do nothing but to kill and destroy,” he said, but Duterte may have confused Zamboanga to Tawi-Tawi when he said that some Europeans birdwatchers were kidnapped there. (The Zamboanga Post)

Labaw sa 73rd IB, gihulipan na

From Radio Mindanao Network (RMN) (May 19, 2019): Labaw sa 73rd IB, gihulipan na

*General Santos City— Hingpit ng gihulipan si Lt. Col. Marion Angcao, isip labaw sa 73rd Infantry Battalion kung asa gihimo ang turn-over of command sa 73rd IB headquarters sa Malita, Davao Occidental.*

*Alas 10 ang takna kaganihang buntag dihang gihimo ng seremonya nga gitambungan sa mga opisyal sa local nga panggamhanan, anaa usab ang presensya ni Col. Adonis Bajao, commander sa 1002nd Brigade ug Major General Jose Faustino Jr., Commander sa 10th Infantry Division, Phil. Army.*

*Mupuli kang Lt. Col. Angcao mao si Lt. Col. Rolando G. Valdez nga gikan sa 10th ID isip Assistant Chief of Staff for Civil Miltry Operation samtang si Lt. Col. Angcao nga mabalhin sa 10th ID isip assistant Chief Of Staff For Personnel.*

*Gipasalamatan man usab ni MGen. Faustino si Lt. Col Angcao sa mga nahimo niini sa 73rd IB sulod sa duha ka tuig ug upat ka bulan niining pangatungdanan ug gilauman nga mapadayon sa bag-ong labaw ang mga nasugdan niini hilabina sa operasyon batok sa rebeldeng New People’s Army.*

Army seizes firearms, grenades from NPA rebels in Rizal

From GMA Mews Online (May 19, 2019): Army seizes firearms, grenades from NPA rebels in Rizal

Army troops seized three firearms, five hand grenades and a rifle grenade allegedly owned by an extortion group of the New People's Army (NPA) as they conducted an intelligence operation in Tanay, Rizal.

The incident happened on May 16 at Sitio Batangasan, Brgy San Andres, when members of the 80th Infantry Battalion recovered the explosives through the help of surrenderees who "actively participate" in their operations, Brigadier General Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr., Commander of the 202nd Infantry Brigade noted.

Burgos added that it is part of the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF ELCAC) 4A’s operationalization of the "whole-of-nation-approach" concept in defeating insurgency.

"The war [materials] belong to the terrorists’ extortion group who were targeting the farms in the area and, for the longest time, have been threatening the people of Tanay," said Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Diaz, Commander of the 80th Infantry Battalion.

Acting Commander of 2nd Infantry Division Brigadier General Elias Escarcha said the NPA had left their explosives as they supposedly tried to leave the area in a hurry.

The army reported that the 21 former rebels who surrendered early this year received their government grants from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) during a ceremony last May 17.

PH Army joins 36th International AIDS Candlelight Memorial

From Rappler (May 18, 2019): PH Army joins 36th International AIDS Candlelight Memorial

The Philippine Army hosts this year’s commemoration in solidarity with the initiative to curb the HIV epidemic in the country

SOLIDARITY. Members of the Philippine Army unveil the symbolic red ribbon during the commemoration of the 36th Philippine International AIDS Candlelight Memorial held at Fort Bonifacio, Taguig, on May 16. Photo courtesy of San Juan City Social Hygiene Clinic

SOLIDARITY. Members of the Philippine Army unveil the symbolic red ribbon during the commemoration of the 36th Philippine International AIDS Candlelight Memorial held at Fort Bonifacio, Taguig, on May 16. Photo courtesy of San Juan City Social Hygiene Clinic

MANILA, Philippines – With the theme “One Big Fight for Health and Rights of People Living with HIV,” the 36th annual International AIDS Candlelight Memorial (IACM) was held at the Philippine Army Grandstand in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig on Thursday, May 16.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines , through the Army, co-hosted this year’s IACM activity in partnership with the Department of Health, Philippine National Aids Council, and Project Red Ribbon.

The 2019 IACM event started with a parade of commitment, lead by the Philippine Army band, along with various partners of the HIV and AIDS advocacy in the country.

Meanwhile, parallel activities such as HIV testing, poster-making contest, and accomplishment display booths were also held for this year’s commemoration.

Members of the Philippine Army spearheaded the ceremonial unveiling of the red ribbon, an emblem of the battle against HIV and AIDS, with public health workers, and HIV and AIDS support organizations.

Project Red Ribbon president, Ico Rodulfo Johnson, said that this year’s commemoration is worth noting given that this was the first time that the Philippine Army is taking a significant role in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

Army medics were trained and certified to conduct testing among its ranks.

MESSAGES OF HOPE. Posters with messages of support for people living with HIV were laid out on the ground during the 36th Philippine International AIDS Candlelight Memorial. Photo by Danica Oliveros Asejo

This year, the commemoration started with an HIV testing week in social hygiene clinics and treatment hubs in Metro Manila from May 8-15.

Quezon City was recognized for the most number of people tested during the HIV testing week. Other HIV and AIDS partners also showcased their best practices through their exhibit booths.

“What is notable in this year’s IACM is the integration of inclusive testing. We have offered testing for minors in Boy’s Town in Marikina, one for prisoners in Valenzuela City Jail, and another for Taguig Drug Rehab,” Johnson said.

In addition, several private companies have also had their respective clinic nurses and doctors trained to conduct testing in their respective companies.

“Chevron, Teleperformance, and Sitel have already integrated HIV testing in their clinic services. This is a great initiative given that their sites now have their own clinics catering to their employees. By making HIV testing accessible, we hope we can encourage more people from these private companies to get tested.” Johnson added.

IACM, a community mobilization campaign to raise social consciousness about HIV and AIDS, is spearheaded by the Global Network of People living with HIV. It serves as an important intervention for global solidarity, breaking down barriers of stigma and discrimination, and giving hope to new generations.

The memorial is usually commemorated every 3rd Sunday of May, with regional groups hosting their respective commemoration activities across the country.

Increase in training of Philippines, US forces eyed

From the Philippine Star (May 19, 2019): Increase in training of Philippines, US forces eyed

Gen. Charles Brown Jr., US Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) commander, and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr. discussed the proposal of increasing the tempo of training exercises between the two air forces. TONY WICKMAN/U.S. AIR FORCE

A senior US Air Force officer in the Pacific is eyeing an increase in training opportunities between his unit and the Filipino forces.

Gen. Charles Brown Jr., US Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) commander, and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr. discussed the proposal of increasing the tempo of training exercises between the two air forces.

The US Embassy issued a statement saying Brown discussed with Madrigal the possibility of increasing multilateral training opportunities between the PACAF and the AFP during his visit at Camp Aguinaldo.

Brown was in the country from Wednesday until Friday for a series of engagements with top AFP officials.

“Our relationship with the Philippines is one of our most enduring relationships in the Indo-Pacific region,” the US embassy said, quoting Brown as telling Madrigal during their meeting.

The PACAF commander also emphasized the importance of enhanced engagement between both forces, specifically the Philippine Air Force, as it will not only be beneficial to both the Philippines and the US but also to the entire region.

Past air force-to-air force joint exercises between the Philippines and the US were limited and the combined air training was only highlighted during the yearly Phl-US joint Balikatan exercises.

“Enhanced engagement between our people and our forces benefits the entire region, and is grounded in personal relationships established during visits such as these,” Brown said.

Brown later had a meeting with PAF commander Lt. Gen. Rozzano Briguez at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City where they discussed issues involving PACAF’s building partner capacity in the PAF.