Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Abu Sayyaf nabbed in manhunt operation

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (May 22, 2019): Abu Sayyaf nabbed in manhunt operation

GOVERNMENT agents arrested an alleged member of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) listed as one of the most wanted persons in a manhunt operation in Zamboanga Sibugay, the police said Wednesday, May 22.

Police Major Helen Galvez, Police Regional Office-Zamboanga Peninsula information officer, identified the arrested suspect as Rongen Romanillos, 38, who has standing warrant of arrest for murder and attempted murder issued by the court of Imelda, Zamboanga Sibugay. 

Galvez said Romanillos was arrested by joint team of policemen from Tungawan, Zamboanga Sibugay and from Zamboanga City around 12:20 a.m. Wednesday at Bucoy Drive, Camino Nuevo village, this city.

She said Romanillos is listed as the number seven most wanted person in the town of Tungawan, Zamboanga Sibugay.

The arrested suspect was a member of a gun-for-hire-group and was reportedly recruited by the Basilan-based ASG, Galvez added.

She said confiscated from the possession of the suspect were two metal pipes 10 and 20 inches long, respectively, two ammunition of 12-guage shotgun, and a five-inch ice pick with scabbard.

Farmer found dead in Agusan del Norte

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 22, 2019): Farmer found dead in Agusan del Norte

A farmer, who is a member of the Mamanwa tribe, was found dead on Tuesday, a day after he was abducted and stabbed by armed men who were suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

A report from Police Regional Office-13 (PRO-13) stated that Rodito Lapugan Boklas, 40, was cleaning their farm when five unidentified armed men abducted him on Monday afternoon.

A day later, Nenit Cago Boklas, the wife of the victim, found his remains at the mountain of Amontay in Sitio Tagbuaya, Barangay Bangonay, Jabonga in Agusan del Norte.Rodito sustained stab wounds in the right side of his body.

Police said they immediately retrieved the body as the area was reportedly infiltrated by NPA led by alias Gab Monter and alias Sadam Dayong.

Recovered from the scene was one 23-inch bolo owned by Rodito.

His remains were brought to the Jabonga Health Center for examination and were transferred later to Solania Funeral Homes in Cabadbaran City in Agusan del Norte.

Meanwhile, police officers from the Jabonga Municipal Station are preparing a criminal complaint against the NPA rebels.

Army 63rd Infantry Battalion condemns killing of soldier securing road project

From the Manila Bulletin (May 22, 2019): Army 63rd Infantry Battalion condemns killing of soldier securing road project

The Army 63rd Infantry (Innovator) Battalion condemns the killing of a soldier tasked to secure the Samar Road Project in Brgy. EJ Dulay, Laoang, Northern Samar Tuesday (May 21).

2nd Lt. Lyle Navarro, Civil-Military Operation Officer of the 63rd IB identified the victim as Cpl. Alex Saliwan.

“Protecting vital development programs of our government like road constructions in the countryside is not that easy where the communist-NPA-terrorists always work against the completion of these projects. This barbaric and terroristic act of the NPAs affects the development of our community.”

Police reports disclosed that a squad from temporary patrol base of 63rd IB led by SSgt. Ariel Bariguez was waylaid by around 50 suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) at around 4 A.M. while preparing for their security patrol.

The firefight lasted for about 30 minutes. Two guerilla fighters were reported dead and several wounded, while the assailants withdrew towards different directions.

PLtCol. Bella Rentuaya, Police Regional Office 8 information officer said the troop also lost 1 R3 rifle and 1 HH Harris Radio.

MILF: Socsksargen Ulama to form umbrella organization of Islamic scholars

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Website (May 20, 2019): Socsksargen Ulama to form umbrella organization of Islamic scholars

Photo courtesy of Ust. Abdulaziz Faisal Lasad

More than fifty Ulama from South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City (Socsksargen) agreed to form their umbrella organization, body of individuals who are experts on Islamic law, that will serve as guide in the economic, religious and socio-cultural affairs of Muslims in the region.

The move was made by the participants of the Ulama Consultation on April 30, 2019 who realized that there is need for them to take action to address various issues and concerns affecting the Muslim communities.

Through a workshop, the Muslim scholars identified those concerns as tribalism, disunity, strong influence of western culture, Riba (usury), poverty and violent extremism.

In the same workshop, the actions they identified that they should do included collaboration with various stakeholders to intensify Islamization drive, participation in Halal industry development, reaching out remote Muslim communities, and engagement in development projects implementation.

They also noted the need for the Muslim communities to support the operations of the Madaris centers all over the region which is crucial in providing the Muslim youth with balance education.

The Ulama noted the strong need for coordination among themselves in their missionary works considering that they are divided by from where they obtain their degrees in Islamic education from foreign countries.

Photo courtesy of Aic Ha EL

They also see the need for them to be equipped with skills in using electronic gadgets and the internet considering that the Muslim youth today can be easily be reached through social media.

The Muslim scholars also expressed their worries in the emergence of radical groups that foster violent extremism to advance their cause in the name of Islam.

The Ulama consultation was sponsored by The Asia Foundation through the Maguindanaon Development Foundation Inc. in collaboration with Mindanao State University-Gensan, and the local government units of Sarangani Province and General Santos City.

The activity was part of the Peace Connect Project implemented by MDFI in the region with the primary objective that is to increase trust and understanding between religious community leaders, youth across religious communities in Mindanao and effective engagement in promoting inter-group harmony.

Professor Moner Bajunaid, a renowned Muslim scholar in the country and Secretary General of the National Ulama Cooperation of the Philippines, facilitated the consultation.

Atty. Guialil Kanda, Field Director of National Commission on Muslim Filipinos in Socsargen, and Assistant Regional Director Datu Tungko Saicol of DENR Region XII graced the event.

MILF: Interim Chief Minister Ebrahim receives proposed transition plan

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Website (May 21, 2019): Interim Chief Minister Ebrahim receives proposed transition plan

Photo courtesy of ICTO-ICM
Interim Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim, aka Al Haj Murad, of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) announced last Monday that he would receive the proposed transition plan crafted by the Coordination Team for Transition (C4T).

Ebrahim made the announcement at Monday’s flag ceremony held inside the BARMM Compound in Cotabato City.

“Today I will be receiving formally the proposed transition plan crafted by the CT4T (Coordination Team for Transition) as agreed by both peace panels of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Government of the Philippines,” Ebrahim said.

“I shall be submitting the same with the appropriate revisions from the Cabinet to the Bangsamoro Transition Authority,” he said further.

Article XVI, Section 6 of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) otherwise known as Republic Act 11054, provides, thus:

“Within the first sixty (60) days of the transition period, the interim Chief Minister shall submit to the Bangsamoro Transition Authority a transition plan that shall contain the proposed organizational plan, as well as, the schedule for implementation therefor. The Bangsamoro Transition Authority shall, by a

majority vote of all its members, approve or otherwise act on the proposed transition plan within ten (10) days upon submission by the interim Chief Minister. If the transition plan is not acted upon within sixty (60) days, it shall be deemed approved. The transition plan shall be implemented within fifteen (15) days from its approval.”

The Chief Minister also announced in the same flag ceremony that he has already issued a directive to all the ministries and offices of the Bangsamoro Government to provide Ramadhan incentives for all its employees.

MILF: Galvez eyeing Japan to help BARMM Education improves its technology system

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Website (May 22, 2019): Galvez eyeing Japan to help BARMM Education improves its technology system

During his courtesy visit yesterday, to the Office of the Minister of Basic, Higher, and technical Education ((MBHTE) Mohagher Iqbal, BARMM, Sec. Carlito Galvez, Jr of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP said that he will facilitate a talk with Japanese government to help the BARMM education improve its Information and Technology system.

Galvez said that they will fly to Japan soon and he will bring the voice of the ministry in a meeting with Japanese Government officials on what can they offer to develop a kind of system that could efficiently and effectively deliver the services of MBHTE.

Japan has expertise on technology that can be pooled to improve the information and technology system of the ministry of education.

Transparency and accountability are among of the major challenges in the ministry from vacancy, hiring and recruitment of staff, promotions, monitoring and tracking of human resources, non-human resources or infrastructures, finance, procurement, supply and logistics, correct and accurate data of students, teachers and school buildings, many other.

Iqbal thanked Galvez for this very timely initiative in order to help rationalize the operation of his known super-ministry in the BARMM. “This can be the way to a systematic and objective human resource audit that lead toward smooth operations of the ministry,” Iqbal said.

During the exchanged of promising ideas, Iqbal told Galvez to also lobby with Japan for the construction of sports complex for the Bangsamoro people.

In the recent Palarong Pambansa 2019 held in Davao City, it was observed that Bangsamoro athletes has improved their performance with direct care and supervision of MBHTE by garnering gold and silver medals for the first time.

It will enhance further their level of competency if they have sports facilities and scholarships.

Galvez suggested that if some country will donate a sport complex, the office of the minister must be built-in in that building too.

“It is best that if we have the building your office will be located in the sports complex,” Galvez added.

Other talks transpired in the meeting was what could be the role of education that is contributory to peacebuilding, development of BARMM areas, academe social and economic enterprises?

Professor Alih Sakaluran Aiyub, member of the MBHTE transition team, who was also present in the meeting told luwaran that the ministry will tap SCUs and private institutions on how academe can help on technical know-how and transfer of technology in the community having potential to agri-and agro-industrial business.

Aiyub disclosed that it was suggested, that universities will help in coming-up with a feasibility studies/project proposals to be submitted to the parliament for further study.

Former AFP Chief-of Staff Gen. Galvez and MILF Peace Implementing Panel Chair Iqbal are known to be acquainted with the Bangsamoro peace process. The OPAPP and MBHTE will continue to cooperate and to show support in the Bangsamoro transition period led by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

MILF: Peace Implementing Panels turn-over transition Plan to BTA

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Website (May 22, 2019): Peace Implementing Panels turn-over transition Plan to BTA

The Implementing Panels of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) turned over today in this city their Proposed Transition Plan to the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).

The Plan was officially accepted by BTA Interim Chief Minister Ahod “Murad” Ebrahim, Al Haj.

Ebrahim said the Proposed Transition Plan will serve as a working draft which will be further enhanced by the Technical Working Group created by the Regional Cabinet.

“Subjecting the proposed Transition Plan to a TWG composed of permanent employees can elicit vital learning or lessons in bureaucratic norms, ethics, practices, and experiences,” he explained.

The Chief Minister also thanked the members of the Coordination Team for the Transition (CT4T) to the BTA as well as the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for the technical assistance and resources it extended to the BTA.

The proposed Transition Plan was crafted by the CT4T and submitted to the GPH and MILF Implementing Panels chaired by Minister Mohagher Iqbal and Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Executive Director Gloria Jumamil-Mercado.

The plan includes the critical priority codes that the BTA should legislate, electoral, local government, education, administrative, revenue and civil service codes.

It is crucial for the codes to be passed into law to provide the necessary structure when crafting the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s budget for the next fiscal year, and the usage of the block grant.

Among the main priority programs of the BTA are education, health and sanitation, food security, environment protection, among others.

In his message, Iqbal said he was very pleased with the achievement of another milestone in the Bangsamoro Peace Process.

He hopes that “the chief minister will find it (proposed Transition Plan) valuable and useful in establishing a government structure that is ethical, inclusive, dutiful to the needs of the constituency it vowed to protect and serve.”

“Indeed, the work placed in this plan was inspired by the aspirations of the people in the Bangsamoro, which includes just and lasting peace for generations to come,” he added.

For her part, Jumamil-Mercado expressed her gratitude to the CT4T for drafting the transition plan.

“We’d like to express our gratitude to the CT4T who worked tirelessly to come up with a plan that is inclusive and inspired by the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people. Let us sustain the gains of peace as we continue to work for peace and development for the Bangsamoro,” she said.

In his remarks, Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. said the proposed plan embodies the parties’ commitment to utilize the appropriate processes and mechanisms to ensure the efficient transition from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao government to the BTA.

“We hope that the interest of the people, the reform in the Bangsamoro, and collaborative engagement among various agencies both at the regional and national level be given utmost priority as we implement the transition plan,” he said.

Galvez reaffirmed President Rodrigo Duterte’s strong support for the Bangsamoro, as he underscored the national government’s unwavering commitment to implement all signed peace agreements with the various Moro fronts.

“President Duterte wants all stakeholders to help the Bangsamoro. We (OPAPP) are your partner in this journey towards self-determination and development of Bangsamoro not only until 2022 but even beyond. On a personal note, it’s a lifetime crusade. I am and will be your big brother,” he passionately said.

Galvez and the members of the government’s Implementing Panel also went to the session of the BTA to observe the parliamentary procedures.

The CT4T GPH representatives were composed of Undersecretary Hernan B. Jumilla (DBM), Atty. Jose I. Lorena (OPAPP), and Engr. Baintan Ampatuan (ARMM), and Atty. Krunimar Escudero III (DBM).

On the other hand, the CT4T MILF members were composed of Executive Secretary Esmael Pasigan, Engr. Mohajirin Ali, Atty. Sha Elijah Dumama Alba, Abdulmotalib Ismi, and Aragasi S. Mohammad.

The CT4T has already fulfilled its mandate with the submission of the proposed Transition Plan and will cease to exist.

The body endorsed the plan to the Implementing Panels on March 26, 2019 in Manila, beating the 60-day deadline as provided in Article XVI Section 6 of the Bangsamoro Organic Law.

NDF/Sison: Expect the people’s resistance to rise further against the escalation of oppression and exploitation

Jose Maria Sison propaganda statement posted to the National Democratic Front Philippines (NDFP or NDF) Website (May 22, 2019): Expect the people’s resistance to rise further against the escalation of oppression and exploitation

By Jose Maria Sison
NDFP Chief Political Consultant

May 22, 2019

As a result of his rigging the May 13 elections, Duterte has more than two-thirds majority in the Senate and is in a posaition to dictate the realization of his fascist dictatorship through charter change to bogus federalism and declare martial law nationwide at his whim.

Foreign monopoly capitalism, domestic feudalism and bureaucratic corruption will further oppress and exploit the Filipino people. The dire conditions of underdevelopment of the country, unemployment, mass poverty, mounting debt and tax burden, soaring prices, plunder of natural resources and social wealth, mass murder with impunity and the worst forms of deception will continue.

With overweening arrogance, the Duterte regime will continue to thrive on serving the evil forces of imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism; and blame the people, the legal democratic forces and the revolutionary resistance for the worsening socioeconomic and political crisis of the semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system.

We can expect the broad masses of the people to engage in protest actions as in the time of fighting and defeating the Marcos fascist dictatorship. We can also expect that a big new wave of mass activists will join the revolutionary underground and the armed revolutionary movement of the people.

More than ever before, Duterte and his armed minions will seek to destroy the revolutionary movement in order to tighten his monopoly of power and plunder. In this context, there is no chance for the resumption of peace negotiations in accordance with The Hague Joint Declaration for so long as the tyrant Duterte is in power.

The people’s struggle for national liberation and democracy will certainly grow in strength faster than ever before precisely in contention with the escalating conditions of oppression and exploitation. It will surge in concert with the revolutionary struggles of peoples abroad against imperialism and all reaction.

South China Sea: US Destroyer Conducts Freedom of Navigation Operation Near Scarborough Shoal

From The Diplomat (May 21, 2019): South China Sea: US Destroyer Conducts Freedom of Navigation Operation Near Scarborough Shoal

The operation is the second of its kind in the month of May 2019.

South China Sea: US Destroyer Conducts Freedom of Navigation Operation Near Scarborough Shoal

Image Credit: DOD Photo

On Sunday, a U.S. Navy warship conducted a freedom of navigation operation near a feature claimed by China, the Philippines, and Taiwan. USS Preble, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, sailed within 12 nautical miles of Scarborough Shoal.

The operation marked the second reported freedom of navigation operation by the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea in the month of May. The Trump administration has typically conducted these operations with an average gap of two months between each one.

Earlier this month, USS Preble and USS Chung Hoon, another Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, sailed within 12 nautical miles of Gaven and Johnson Reefs in the Spratly Islands. Each is the site of an artificial island constructed by China since 2014. Scarborough Shoal does not contain an artificial island and has not been subject to land reclamation activities.

Sunday’s transit was designed to “challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law,” according to U.S. Navy 7th Fleet spokesman Lt. Joe Keiley.

The operation also followed U.S.-Philippine joint maritime activities near Scarborough Shoal. The shoal was the site of a major standoff in 2012 between China and the Philippines. Since then, Beijing has exercised de facto control of the waters around Scarborough Shoal.

It was China’s seizure of Scarborough Shoal that prompted Manila to file a case with a Hague-based tribunal in 2013. In 2016, the tribunal issued an award that largely decided in favor of Manila. China was not a participant in the arbitration process and has largely ignored the outcome.

The U.S. Navy has emphasized that its freedom of navigation program does not specifically target China. “All operations are designed in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows,” Keiley said, adding that “FONOPs are not about any one country, nor are they about making political statements.”

The U.S. Navy’s freedom of navigation program is designed to underscore excessive maritime claims by any country. U.S. FONOPs have been conducted all over the world challenging excessive claims by allies, partners, and adversaries alike.

Over the last year, the Trump administration has drawn attention to China’s continued militarization of the South China Sea, particularly in the Spratly Islands.

The U.S. Department of Defense released an annual public assessment of Chinese military power earlier this month. That report observed that Beijing’s artificial islands in the Spratly Islands were subject to considerable militarization throughout 2018.

Beijing placed “anti-ship cruise missiles and long-range surface-to-air missiles on outposts in the Spratly Islands, violating a 2015 pledge by Chinese President Xi Jinping that ‘China does not intend to pursue militarization’ of the Spratly Islands,” the report said.

The report added that “No substantial land has been reclaimed at any of the outposts since China completed its artificial island creation in the Spratly Islands in late 2015, after adding over 3,200 acres of land to the seven features it occupies in the Spratlys.”

‘China’s most destructive boats’ again poaching at Scarborough

From the Manila Times (May 22, 2019): ‘China’s most destructive boats’ again poaching at Scarborough

Fleets of Chinese vessels have returned to disputed areas in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) to harvest endangered giant clams, the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative-Center for Strategic and International Studies (AMTI-CSIS) said in a report on Monday.

Panatag Island (Scarborough Shoal). File Photo

The vessels — typically dozens of small fishing boat that are accompanied by larger “motherships” — were described as “China’s most destructive boats,” as they destroy large swaths of coral reef to get at the giant clams, which are transported to Hainan for processing into jewelry and statuary.

Their activities had dropped sharply from 2016 to late 2018 in the wake of an arbitral tribunal finding that China had violated international obligations but the AMTI-CSIS said that before the end of last year, “satellite imagery has shown these fleets operating frequently at Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Islands) and throughout the Paracels, including at Bombay Reef.”

The ships normally drag the reinforced props out their outboard motors across the reef to break up the coral but in Scarborough they are using tubes hooked up to engines to extract clams, which local fishers claim is a destructive practice that spreads sediment.

“This appears to be an adaptation of a tactic employed by salvagers whereby a high-pressure pump creates enough suction to remove sediment from the seabed,” AMTI-CMSS said, adding that “it is clear that Chinese authorities are aware of and condoning these environmentally destructive practices.”

Broadcast network ABS-CBN, it noted, has filmed the Chinese Coast Guard maintaining a constant presence at Scarborough Shoal, previously administered by the Philippines but now occupied by China in 2012.

Imagery from Dec. 7, 2018 and March 8, 2019 show evidence of new scarring at Scarborough, which was already damaged from earlier clam harvesting up to 2016.

With the Spratly Islands, meanwhile, AMTI-CSIS said it had not found clear evidence of renewed harvesting. It pointed out, however, that “on April 7, during the same period that Chinese maritime militia vessels were clustering around Philippine-occupied Loaita (Kota) Island and Loita Cay, a mothership and a number of small boats were present at nearby Lankiam (Panata) Cay.”

“The mothership was about 20 meters long while those seen at Bombay Reef are typically closer to 30 meters, but the smaller boats are roughly the same dimensions,” it added.

While the absence of new scarring at Lankiam Cay would have indicated that no clam harvesting had taken place, AMTI-CSIS warned that the new methods being used at Scarborough “suggest that documenting the activities of these Chinese fleets has become more difficult.”

“Unlike the prop scarring on shallow reef surfaces, destruction caused by high-pressure water pumps used in deeper waters is unlikely to be visible in satellite imagery,” it added.

“That suggests that for every clam harvesting operation that is documented in the South China Sea, others will go unnoticed. But with tens of thousands of acres of reef surface already damaged or destroyed and fish stocks teetering on the brink of collapse, the effects of this wanton destruction of the marine environment will be felt across the region.”

Water Wars: Disjointed Operations in the South China Sea

Posted to Lawfare Blog (May 21, 2019): Water Wars: Disjointed Operations in the South China Sea (By Doug Stephens IV)

USS Bertholf and Philippine vessels BRP Batangas and BRP Kalanggaman conduct exercises near Scarborough Shoal. (Credit: DOD/Chief Petty Officer John Mason)

In the first weeks of May, U.S. vessels have been busy all over the South China Sea, drawing China’s ire and frustration. From May 2 to May 8, the destroyer USS William P. Lawrence joined ships from the Philippines, India and Japan in transiting through the South China Sea, performing formation exercises and other low-profile drills during the voyage.

On May 6, the destroyers USS Preble and USS Chung-Hoon performed a freedom-of-navigation operation (FONOP) through the Spratly Islands chain, passing within China’s 12-nautical-mile territorial claim of the Gaven and Johnson Reefs. Later that day, Chinese authorities released a statement on Weibo claiming “indisputable sovereignty” over the features and demanding that the U.S. stop performing such operations. On May 15, U.S. naval operations chief John Richardson responded that China’s anger in this instance was disproportionate to the circumstances: “I’ve done the analysis and I can state with confidence that our level of operations has been consistent over the decades.”

On May 14, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf teamed up with two Philippine ships for a first-of-its-kind exercise near Scarborough Shoal. The vessels practiced search and rescue tactics as two silent Chinese ships monitored the activities from less than 3 nautical miles away. The following day, the Bertholf docked in Manila, where it remained through May 19.

In Politics

On May 6, the Supreme Court of the Philippines ordered President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration to protect assets claimed by the Philippines in the South China Sea, including Scarborough Shoal, Mischief Reef and Second Thomas Shoal. The move is apparently an attempt to stop Duterte from reversing national policy on the subject as he did in 2018 and 2016. On May 13, midterm elections in the Philippines gaveDuterte’s allies a broad victory. Although his controversial drug enforcement methods and outspoken stance on maritime policy have generated significant opposition, Duterte’s faction flipped the Senate in his favor.

On May 13, the committee for resolving the maritime boundary dispute between Singapore and Malaysia held its first meeting, which it claimed was “constructive.” The two countries had determined to suspend their overlapping port limits in March and stated a commitment to working through the problem peacefully and under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.

IMDEX Asia 2019, a major maritime defense conference, was held in Singapore May 14–16 and boasted the presence of 33 navies (including 25 warships), scores of public and private exhibitors, and more than 10,000 trade visitors from around the world.

In Operations and Technology

India’s rapid series of joint naval operations has continued after last month’s major AUSINDEX-19, held with Australian forces in the Bay of Bengal. On April 15, the Indian Navy partnered with the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet for a submarine-hunting exercise south of the Maldives. Finally, from May 1 to May 10, India and France heldVaruna 17, their largest joint naval exercise yet. The two-stage exercise began at Goa, but the second stage of the operation was performed off the coast of Djibouti, where China established its first overseas military base in 2017.

China’s navy continues to grow and upgrade its ship inventories. On May 10, two new Type 052D destroyers were launched at the Dalian shipyards, bringing the total number of Type 052Ds in or entering service to 20. On May 13, Chinese officials in Sansha announced a contract for a 1,900 ton maritime law enforcement vessel that will be stationed in the contested Paracel Islands. Finally, the Center for Strategic and International Studies’s China Power blog assesses that China’s third aircraft carrier appears to be visibly under construction at the Jiangnan shipyard. This vessel will be the first Type 002 carrier; while details on the ship are scarce, reports in 2017 claimed it will have a displacement of 85,000 tons.

Lockheed-Martin has offered the Indian Air Force an exclusive contract for the F-21 fighter if they complete the proposed purchase of 114 aircraft. Unveiled in February, the F-21 is based on the F-16 platform but optimized for local production in India.

Spokesmen for the U.S. Marine Corps have indicated that plans to transfer 5,000 marines from Okinawa to Guam will be underway as early as 2024. The currently under-construction Camp Blaz will house the transferred units, bringing the total number of U.S. service members on the island to approximately 12,800.

The Marine Corps has also signed a $47.6 million contract with Raytheon to field a new land-to-sea missile system. The Naval Strike Missile platform has an effective range of more than 100 nautical miles and will support long-standing efforts to increase the Marine Corps’s ability to support Navy operations from shore.

A Chinese-funded base being built in remote Cambodia has triggered rumors of military expansion. On May 11, Cambodian Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Chhum Sucheat vigorously denied that the port would have any Chinese military involvement, pointing out that the Cambodian constitution bars foreign military bases. The similarities between the construction zone in Koh Kong province and China’s Spratly Island bases had been noted two days prior by Charles Edel at War on the Rocks.

On May 14, the Malaysian Royal Navy chased and captured 14 Vietnamese fishers, claiming their vessel had trespassed in Malaysian waters. The arrested men have been transferred to the care of Malaysia’s Maritime Enforcement Agency.


At the International Maritime Security Conference, held May 14 in Singapore as part of IMDEX Asia 2019, Singaporean Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh and Chinese academic Capt. (Ret.) Tian Shichen debated whether the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) was purely a product of Western nations or reflected traditional Asian values. Koh argued that UNCLOS was a global endeavor, while Shichen claimed that Asian countries had been largely ignored during the drafting of the international maritime treaty. Collin Koh, a Singaporean academic, live-tweeted the discussion, as well as the rest of the conference.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies has released a report this week on how the U.S. should enhance its relationships with the Pacific island nations. The long list of recommendations focuses on deepening economic and diplomatic ties between the U.S. and regional powers, especially through trade and strategic transparency.

An interview in The Diplomat previews the recent book by Andrew Erickson and Ryan Martinson on China’s Maritime Gray Zone Operations. The two U.S. Naval War College scholars detail their holistic view of China’s strategic maritime goals and suggest that the U.S. could be doing much more to stand behind its regional allies in the face of extralegal activity.

In AMTI, Renato Cruz de Castro analyzes the political implications of Balikatan 2019, the large U.S.-Philippine joint exercise held in April. He notes that this year’s operations included significant amphibious drills, including the taking of occupied islands and airfields, and argues that it signals an approaching end to the calm in Chinese-Philippine relations.

[Doug Stephens IV is a joint JD/LLM student at Harvard Law School and the University of Cambridge. He holds a B.A. in English from Liberty University and a M.A. in English from James Madison University.]

Lorenzana: PHL eyeing to acquire US surveillance planes due to be retired from service

From GMA News (May 22, 2019): Lorenzana: PHL eyeing to acquire US surveillance planes due to be retired from service

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Tuesday night expressed his interest in acquiring the P3C Orion surveillance planes that the US government will be retiring from service, to add to the fleet monitoring and protecting Philippine territory.

“It will be good if we acquire even one P3C Orion. Provided it has all its original equipment. Otherwise, it will just be another transport plane. We will find out if we can get one or two,” Lorenzana said.

The US Navy has already set the last deployment of the P-3C Orion ahead of its retirement.

Lorenzana said that having the aircraft is important for the Department of the National Defense (DND) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to monitor and protect the country's territory in the South China Sea.

“Very important as our domain awareness will be greatly enhanced,” Lorenzana said.

The Defense secretary said that they will express their interest in acquiring the P-3C Orion to the US soon.

Marawi siege inspires new course at PMA

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 22, 2019): Marawi siege inspires new course at PMA

Official says academic offering to examine impact of political, economic and environmental changes on national security

ASSAULT AND RESCUEA team of soldiers simulates an assault and rescue operation for Philippine Military Academy cadets during an Army caravan at Fort del Pilar in Baguio City. —EV ESPIRITU

FORT DEL PILAR, BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — This year’s new batch of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) cadets will pursue a national security management course to handle future crises involving homegrown terrorism and foreign naval incursions, PMA officials said here on Tuesday.

The Marawi siege, which took place on May 23, 2017, resulted in the deaths of civilians and soldiers and destruction of property, so cadets, who are the future officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, must be taught how to confront similar attacks, Lt. Gen. Ronnie Evangelista, PMA superintendent, said.

Evangelista led the special operations command to take back Marawi from the Islamic State-inspired Maute Group. He spoke after presenting this year’s top 10 cadets of the graduating Mabalasik Class of 2019.

“The Marawi siege cost us many lives, both military and civilians, and billions of [pesos] and we cannot afford another such incident,” he said.

He said 165 soldiers died during the five-month Marawi operation while many others suffered permanent disability.

Security landscape
The fast-changing national security landscape today required the PMA to develop a Bachelor of Science in National Security Management, which would examine the impact of political, economic and environmental changes on national security, said Brig. Gen. Cheston Valencerina, PMA dean of academics.

“The less economic activities in an area, the more security problems [develop]. This is what is happening, [just] look at Mindanao,” Valencerina said.

Cadets will be taught that when building detachments, soldiers should consider the impact on the environment and the socioeconomic and political situations of the host area, “because all these will affect national security,” he said.

The new course will be offered to cadets who enter the academy in June.


Earlier, the PMA had incorporated subjects that addressed the evolving threats to the country.

LONELY ROADA tricycle negotiates an empty road in Marawi City’s center, a business district that was destroyed by the five-month fighting between government troops and terror groups in 2017. The ground zero of the siege has yet to be rebuilt. BONG S. SARMIENTO

“[The Marawi siege] has been a learning experience for us. There has been changes … like integrating urban warfare training in the curriculum to make future [military operations] successful,” said Cadet First Class Alden Altamero, a native of Kidapawan City who placed fifth in the graduating class.

Cadets have also been taught to be aware of the country’s problems with China, which has claimed parts of the West Philippine Sea.

“I believe the Navy is doing its best to protect what is ours,” said Cadet First Class Dionne Mae Umalla, the top graduate who will join the Navy when she graduates on May 26.

Akbayan loses House seat for first time since 1998 polls

From Rappler (May 22, 2019): Akbayan loses House seat for first time since 1998 polls

It's a heartbreaking defeat for one of the longest serving party-list organizations in Congress and a significant voice in the opposition

KEEPING ONE SENATE SEAT. Akbayan loses in Congress but still has one seat in the Senate via Senator Risa Hontiveros, seen here with outgoing Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin (left). File photo by Jire Carreon/Rappler

KEEPING ONE SENATE SEAT. Akbayan loses in Congress but still has one seat in the Senate via Senator Risa Hontiveros, seen here with outgoing Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin (left). File photo by Jire Carreon/Rappler
For the first time since the 1998 elections, party-list group Akbayan will not be gaining a seat in Congress, official results from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) showed on Wednesday, May 22.

Akbayan was not mentioned among the 51 parties that the Comelec proclaimed as winners in the 2019 elections. This means the group failed to get enough votes to assure it of one seat in the House of Representatives.

The stunning defeat for Akbayan is a first in its history as one of the longest serving party-list organizations in Congress.

Since 1998, Akbayan had managed to get at least one of its candidates elected into Congress in every election year. It's an uncommon feat for a party-list group, one that only another group – Butil party, which represents farmers – shared with Akbayan.

Its former representatives include former human rights commission chairperson Loretta Rosales, Senator Risa Hontiveros, professor and book author Walden Bello, Vice President Leni Robredo's spokesperson Barry Gutierrez, and newly elected Dinagat Islands Governor Kaka Bag-ao.

For the 2019 midterm polls, Akbayan fielded its current House representative Tom Villarin as its first nominee. Other proposed party representatives were former National Youth Commission chairperson Gio Tingson, and Catigbian Municipal Councilor Doris Obena.

Staunch opposition

Akbayan's defeat means less opposition voice in the Duterte-controlled House of Representatives.

In the 17th Congress, Villarin, who hails from Mindanao, spoke out against the constitutionality and extension of martial law in the southern island region. He also called out the increasing militarization of government agencies, hitting the military takeover of the Bureau of Customs and questioning the use of the President's intelligence funds.

As part of the "Magnificent 7" independent minority bloc in the House, Villarin was among lawmakers who stood against the government's anti-drug campaign and its push to restore the death penalty, among others.

Villarin also authored a bill seeking to provide compensation to victims of the 2017 Marawi siege, many of whom remain displaced until today.

Slow fall

Preelection surveys documented the gradual decline of support for the party.

The only time Akbayan was included among top party-list groups assured of one seat in the House was in Pulse Asia’s March 2019 survey, with 2.17% voters' preference.

This dropped to 1.18% in the pollster's April 2019 survey. By Pulse Asia's May 2019 survey, Akbayan no longer figured among parties that had a statistical chance of gaining one seat.

Bayan Muna, 3 other Left groups defy red-tagging, keep House seats

From Rappler (May 22, 2019): Bayan Muna, 3 other Left groups defy red-tagging, keep House seats

Despite sustained government attacks on their leaders, Bayan Muna, Gabriela, ACT Teachers, and Kabataan manage to win in the party-list race

SWEET VICTORY. Bayan Muna ranks second in the 2019 party-list elections despite government's campaign against it. Photo from the Facebook page of Bayan Muna

SWEET VICTORY. Bayan Muna ranks second in the 2019 party-list elections despite government's campaign against it. Photo from the Facebook page of Bayan Muna

They were called “milking cows” of terrorists, tagged by the Philippine military as communist fronts, and slammed by presidential daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte during the election season. But all this failed to stop leftist groups from winning in the 2019 party-list race.

Official results from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) showed that out of 5 members of the leftist Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives, 4 are returning to Congress: Bayan Muna, Gabriela, ACT Teachers, and Kabataan.

Its other member, Anakpawis, failed to gain enough votes to get a seat.

This victory is no easy feat.

An aggressive state campaign mobilized various government agencies against leaders and groups associated with Makabayan.

The justice department declared over 600 people as "terrorists," including former Bayan Muna representative Satur Ocampo. The Philippine military accused them of being part of a plot to oust President Rodrigo Duterte.

Even before the campaign season began, police were reported to have compiled a list of teachers who where members of ACT Teachers by searching schools and ordering the Department of Education to identify them. (READ: Teachers to PNP, DepEd: We're not terrorists)

Meanwhile, the National Youth Commission – under its former chair Ronald Cardema – launched attacks against Kabataan, which clinched the last spot among party-list winners. The NYC had tagged its current representative and first nominee Sarah Elago as a supposed "ally" of the New People's Army.

MAKABAYAN BLOC. ACT Teachers manages to gather enough support to win a seat in the 2019 elections. File photo by Jire Carreon/Rappler

The government went as far as arresting officials of the groups – such as Bayan Muna's Ocampo and ACT Teachers Representative France Castro – who were on a humanitarian mission to help rescue Lumad students and teachers. Police filed human trafficking and kidnapping charges against them.

These operations continued until the eve of elections. The Makabayan bloc had to contend with fake news circulated against it, which peddled the lie that Comelec had disqualified its members from the elections.

BACK IN THE HOUSE. Gabriela party is able to return to the House of Representatives after winning the 2019 elections. File photo by Jire Carreon/Rappler
Solid base

The win of the 4 groups assures an opposition voice in the Duterte-dominated House.

Members of the Makabayan bloc frequently spoke out against administration policies such as the killings in the war against illegal drugs, the reimposition of the death penalty, the TRAIN law, and the imposition and extension of martial law in Mindanao.

Preelection surveys showed voters’ steady support for the groups.

In Pulse Asia’s party-list surveys from March to May 2019, Bayan Muna, Gabriela, and ACT Teachers (except in May) had a statistical chance of winning at least one seat in the House if elections were held during the survey period.

In a thought piece on, Ocampo said results showed that while the Duterte administration’s tactics had done some harm, "it is far from succeeding."

In particular, Bayan Muna had topped Pulse Asia’s March 2019 party-list, garnering 8.5% of voters’ preference to place it ahead of the pack of 134 party-list groups that vied for seats in the House of Representatives.

The group kept that lead during the pollster’s April 2019 survey, with 7.94% voters’ preference. Pulse Asia’s May 2019 survey saw support for the group pegged at 6.7% voters’ preference.

ACT-CIS topped the 2019 party-list elections.

Paramilitary forcing Lumad evacuees to go home, group claims

From the often pro-Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) online publication the Davao Today (May 22, 2019): Paramilitary forcing Lumad evacuees to go home, group claims

(Photo courtesy of PASAKA-SMR)

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The Lumad group PASAKA slammed the military and paramilitary group Alamara for forcing Lumad evacuees to return to their communities amidst the height of intensive and continuing military operations in the hinterlands.

The group reported the presence of the leaders of Alamara and military personnel in civilian clothes outside the UCCP Haran on Saturday last week and forcibly made some families of evacuees leave the Haran Compound by having them aboard in trucks.

PASAKA identified the Alamara leaders Datu Basing Balanban, Dol-om Tumagsa, and Jovelyn Tiklunay, all coming from Kapalong, Davao del Norte.

The group added that certain Awing Apoga, leader of Alamara in Talaingod, Davao del Norte also came over the next day and made a call on leaders and evacuees to return to their communities.

Apoga also made a warning that more Alamara leaders will be coming in the next few days.

Lumad families staying at Haran Compound may go home at any time they wish, PASAKA Secretary-General Jong Monzon clarified.

Monzon’s clarification came to belie the allegations that some Lumad families had already escaped from the UCCP Haran Compound.

“We recognize the right of every Lumad and we do not refuse such request,” Monzon said.

He also expressed fear the Alamara and the military will use Lumad families they forced to go home against their fellow evacuees who are still inside the evacuation center in Haran.

“They will possibly be declared as fake surrederees, and accuse other IPs (Indigenous Peoples) staying in Haran as members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA),” Monzon said.

Monzon’s group also emphasized that the continuing harassments of Alamara and military in the countryside are the very reason why Lumad families fled from their homes and communities.

In 2014, over a thousand Ata Manobo from the hinterlands of Talaingod evacuated after army troopers occupied their communities and launched aerial bombings.

The Lumad families who evacuated also reported of harassment made to them by the soldiers and members of Alamara.

Since then, hundreds of Manobo families continued to seek temporary refuge inside the UCCP Haran compound.

“In the past four years, we experienced how they harassed and killed our fellow Lumad and students, how they intimidated our students and teachers, how they forced Lumad to surrender and recruited them into the Alamara,” PASAKA said in a statement.

Monzon said that “even in the evacuation center, the Lumad are still facing harassments from the military and Alamara.”

Forcing the evacuees to go home also took place in the past, citing the case when Congresswoman Nancy Catamco had a dialogue with them in 2015.

Monzon said Catamco also forced the evacuees to go home despite the real threats to their lives.

PASAKA also accused agents of the military and Alamara as those behind the burning of the evacuation houses inside the compound sometime in 2016.

Asked for comment on the issue, Captain Jerry Lamosao, spokesperson of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division told Davao Today on Wednesday that “there were no military in the UCCP Haran last weekend.”

On the other hand, Col. Eugene Osias, assistant chief of staff for Civil-Military Operations (CMO) of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) was quoted in a report of Philippine News Agency dated May 21, confirming the “rescue” of IPs on Saturday.

“For a long time, the call of the Lumad evacuees is for them to return home. They have been staying here for more than four years. They will only go home if their demands are met, that includes the pull out the soldiers from their communities, the end to the attacks in Lumad schools, disarm and disband the paramilitary group, and put an end to martial law,” the group’s statement said.

'Whole-of-Nation' approach highlighted in joint RDC, RPOC meeting

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 22, 2019): 'Whole-of-Nation' approach highlighted in joint RDC, RPOC meeting

Governor Jayvee Tyron Uy of Compostela Valley presents the whole-of-nation approach at the joint full meeting of the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) and the Regional Development Council. Uy chairs the RPOC.
Regional Peace and Order Council XI (RPOC - XI) Chairman and Compostela Valley Governor Jayvee Tyron Uy presented in the joint full meeting of the RPOC and the Regional Development Council XI (RDC- XI) the recent accomplishments and ongoing implementation of the "Whole of Nation Approach" in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas in his province.

“We followed the whole of nation model in helping a community rebuild itself after the government was able to clear the area from insurgency,” shared Uy in the Joint RDC-RPOC held Thursday (May 16) at the Grand Regal Hotel.

Uy spoke before government regional heads, representatives of civic and business groups, and Finance Undersecretary Bayani H. Agabin who represented Davao region’s Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez.

The local government executive presented the provincial government’s initiative in helping the former rebel-infested Sitio Puting Bato rebuild and move forward.

Sitio Puting Bato is a mountain community in Barangay Ngan, Compostela town. Puting Bato is inhabited by Dibabawon, Mangguangan, and Mandaya indigenous peoples.

It used to be a conflict-affected area. It also served as host to a "Salugpungan" school that peaked its enrolment in 2013 but students started to disconnect from the Salugpungan in recent years.

The intent to help sustain government programs for rebel returnees was then re-focused to rebuilding the community.

There was no road that led to the community which made it difficult for government workers to reach the area and provide basic services.

“The LGU ensured to have the road network established first. After the road, we scored a major breakthrough by building the first classrooms for Puting Bato Elementary School through the bayanihan way.”

The goal, he said, was to create normalcy and the appropriate way was by providing basic education to the residents.

There were setbacks if the government failed to act urgently, thus, the local chief executive thought of a strategy to gather more stakeholders to speed up the rebuilding process.

Provincial government employees took turns in visiting the area and helped in building the classrooms. The local official opened the “bayanihan” to civic groups such as Gawad Kalinga and private individuals who volunteered to put in their share.

“ We are now on our seventh day of building the classrooms and it is set to be done on May 31, ready for the school opening,” Uy said.

Governor Uy during his visit at Sitio Puting Bato, a former rebel infested community.

The once rebel camp in Compostela Valley where soldiers could hardly get in and penetrate is now a model peace community which will soon open classes for its young IP graders.

Uy admitted inefficiencies before when the community never felt the presence of government.

“I personally asked for their forgiveness for failing to reach out to them in the past. What is important is now when the government is here bringing all other stakeholders in the community to help them rebuild their lives.”

The entire Provincial Peace and Order Council of Compostela Valley continues to seek government interventions to respond to the immediate and long-term needs of the IPs in Sitio Puting Bato.

4 NPA rebels killed in SurSur clash

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 22, 2019): 4 NPA rebels killed in SurSur clash

CARMEN, Surigao del Sur -- Four New People’s Army (NPA) rebels were killed in a clash with the Philippine Army in the mountainous area of Carmen town, Surigao del Sur Sunday afternoon, May 19.

Lt. Col. Xerxes Trinidad, 36th Infantry Battalion (IB) commander, said the troops encountered more or less 10 fully armed NPA terrorists of Sandatahang Pampropaganda sa Platoon 2, Weakened Guerilla Front 30 (SPP2, WGF30) under Raul Alacre alias Megan of North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC).
The exchange of fires lasted for about 15 minutes after which the NPA terrorists scampered to different directions leaving their wounded and killed comrades behind.

The four CNT members killed were identified as: Dylan Ghem Padilla Jimenez, Ruel Alacre; Fe Doliente; and Ermil Tomian. Except for Jimenez, the codenames of the other three NPAs are still being validated by the higher headquarters, the official said.

Seized from the encounter site were five high powered firearms composed of three AK47, and two M16 rifle, twelve magazines of AK-47, two long magazines of M16, three cellular phones, assorted ammunition, personal belongings and high valued documents.

Lt. Col. Trinidad has extended their deepest sympathies to the bereaved families of those NPAs killed. He added that they have already coordinated with the local government units and local authorities to ensure that the killed NPA terrorists will be delivered to their families for proper burial.

Army, NPA clash in Surigao Norte; 1 firearm recovered

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 22, 2019): Army, NPA clash in Surigao Norte; 1 firearm recovered

SURIGAO CITY, Surigao del Norte -- The 30th Infantry "Python" Battalion (30IB) recovered one (1) high-powered firearm after a clash with CPP-NPA Terrorists (CNTs) on May 2, 2019, in Barangay Camam-onan, Gigaquit town.

According to 30IB Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Allen Raymund C. Tomas, while the government troops were conducting security operations in preparation for the mid-term election on May 13, 2019, they encountered more or less 15 CNTs on the afternoon of May 1, 2019.

The following day, in a pursuit operation, the troops were able to track down and catch up with the fleeing disoriented CNTs that led to another firefight that lasted for about 20 minutes.

The troops are all safe and unharmed, while the retreating CNTs scampered in a different location, leaving behind one M16 rifle with long magazine, one backpack, and assorted foodstuffs.

In the first quarter of 2019, series of encounters between 30IB and CNTs were recorded which resulted to the death of four NPA members, recovery of four high-powered firearms and six anti-personnel mines or Improvised Explosive Device (IED). (1LT Ken T. Enciso, CMO-30IB, Philippine Army/PIA-Surigao del Norte)

Army discovers NPA war materials, food cache in Surigao Norte

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 22, 2019): Army discovers NPA war materials, food cache in Surigao Norte

SURIGAO CITY, Surigao del Norte -- Soldiers from 30th Infantry (Python) Battalion (30IB) discovered war materials and food cache of the CPP-NPA Terrorists (CNTs) on Saturday morning, May 18, 2019 in the mountainous part of Sitio Little Baguio, Barangay Payapag, municipality of Bacuag, this province.

The government troops of 30IB acting upon the revelations of former NPA supporters, discovered two bandolier with six magazines of M16, two magazines of AK47, 15 rounds of 5.56mm ammunitions, 10 rounds of 7.62 ammunition for AK47, 21 rounds of 9mm ammunition, seven rounds of caliber 357 ammunition, two rounds of 7.62mm ammunition for M14, one caliber 45 ammunition, nine pieces size D batteries and two backpacks with personal belongings.

The troops also recovered five container gallons filled with approximately 25 kilos of rice each, hidden deep in a small cave in the area.

The concerned informants revealed the CNTs are continuously recruiting residents to join them in taking up arms against the government and become members of Milisyang Bayan (MB).

Among the tasks of MB members are to monitor government movements, provide and act as courier of food, medical supplies and other necessities going to CNT hideouts in the mountains and also task to bear arms and conduct terroristic activities with the CNTs as part of the test of loyalty.

In his statement, 30IB Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Allen Raymund C. Tomas said the discovery of the materials is a clear manifestation that villagers are already tired and afraid of the CNTs' extortion and exploitation among civilians most especially on forcing them to provide food, money, materials and transporting these supplies to terrorist supply drop-off points. (1LT Ken T. Enciso, CMO-30IB, Philippine Army/PIA-Surigao del Norte)

Army denounces NPA deception in Northern Samar

From the Philippine News Agency (May 22, 2019): Army denounces NPA deception in Northern Samar

ABANDONED. The villagers in Las Navas town in a dialogue with Philippine Army after they were brought by a left-leaning group to the town center to protest the alleged human rights abuses by the military. The soldiers and the local government took care of the elderly, women and children after they were abandoned by the group at the town plaza. (Photo from Philippine Army 20th Infantry Battalion FB page)

The Philippine Army has denounced a front organization of the New People's Army (NPA) for spreading fake news on the alleged human rights abuses committed by government forces in Las Navas, Northern Samar.

In a statement repeatedly posted on social media by the Philippine Army’s 20th Infantry Battalion (IB), the military unit branded the members of the group Katungod Sinirangan Bisayas-Karapatan as “liars” as they advance the interest of the communist-terrorist NPA.

The Army also questioned the group for conducting its own “national fact-finding mission” on the killings and abuses in the towns of Las Navas and Calbiga, Samar on Tuesday. The group pushed for the investigation even without representatives from national government agencies.

“They conducted their fault finding mission in the guise of being official representatives of the Commission on Human Rights. Their intention is to deceive the people in remote communities,” the military said.

The 20th IB issued this statement after the NPA’s front organization posted photos on May 10 of the evacuation of about 20 residents of San Miguel village and nearby communities due to alleged “militarization” in the area.

“They deceived these people and brought them to the town center to protest the alleged human rights abuses of 20th IB. In a dialogue with the local government, they failed to stand their arguments since none of the village officials affirmed the alleged human rights abuses,” the Philippine Army said.

The soldiers and the local government took care of the elderly, women and children after the Katungod Sinirangan Bisayas–Karapatan abandoned them at the town plaza.

“The same soldiers whom they branded as human right violators assisted these locals in cooperation with Las Navas local government to bring them back to San Miguel the following day,” the military added.

The military has called on the communist rebels anew to stop the atrocities, lies, and deception.

It was in San Miguel village where nine-year-old Armando Jay Raymunde was killed after NPA rebels detonated a landmine near an army detachment on April 18.

A week later, Apolinario Lebico, the village chief of San Miguel was gunned down by NPA rebels while on board a motorcycle. The recent violence in Las Navas was on May 7 when armed rebels shot farmer Melvin Cabe while hunting birds in Tagab-iran village.

The recent violence has sparked public outrage against the communist rebels in Las Navas town. After these incidents, the terror group has been hurling issues against the military to impress to the public that soldiers are anti-poor, fascist, and human rights violators.

PMA cadet splits allowance to fund uncle’s dialysis treatment

From the Philippine News Agency (May 22, 2019): PMA cadet splits allowance to fund uncle’s dialysis treatment

Philippine Military Academy First Class Cadets Aldren Altamero (left) and Kathleen Rose Sareno Ea (right). (Photo grab from PMA Facebook page)
One of the top 10 cadets of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) MABALASIK Class of 2019 kept half of his allowance as a cadet to help finance his uncle’s kidney dialysis and his siblings’ school needs.

Aldren M. Altamero of Barangay Balabag, Kidapawan City, ranks fifth among the top 10 PMA cadets who will graduate on May 26 and will be commissioned as second lieutenants in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

MABALASIK stands for “Mandirigma ng Bayan, Iaalay ang Sarili, Lakas at Tapang, para sa Kapayapaan”.

“He is very helpful, even when he was still young. He was very helpful to his siblings and friends,” his uncle, Orlando Ondoy, said. 

Altamero’s father died when he was 12 years old and his mother worked overseas, Ondoy recalled.

It was Ondoy who took the cudgel as Altamero’s second father and sent him to school.

Altamero was an honor student at the University of Southern Mindanao-Kidapawan City Campus when he decided to join the country’s premier military school in 2014.

Anita, his mother, had just returned home from abroad to attend her son’s graduation.

According to Ondoy, Altamero had been keeping part of his allowance as a PMA cadet and had been sending it to his family in Kidapawan City, including Ondoy’s dialysis.

Ondoy could not hide his tears when he saw Altamero on TV news. Speaking to reporters, he said he did not regret pushing Altamero to become a soldier to serve the country. Altamero will join the Philippine Air Force.

Mayor Joseph Evangelista said the people of Kidapawan are proud of the achievements of “our kababayan.” A welcome program from the city government awaits Altamero when he returns home after graduation.

Meanwhile, in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat, a tricycle driver and his wife were also celebrating the upcoming graduation of their only child in the country’s top military school.

Bert Ea, father of Cadet 1st Class Kathleen Rose Sareno Ea, a 21-year-old resident of Barangay San Pablo, Tacurong City, could not contain his excitement when he talked about setting foot in Baguio City soon.

Bert and his wife Mercy will attend their daughter’s graduation on May 26.

Allan Freno of Tacurong City’s information office said Ea is the second female Tacurongnon to graduate from the PMA.

She is the first cadet from Tacurong City who was included in the top 20 of her graduating class. Ea did not finish her BS Medical Technology Course at the Notre Dame of Marbel University to join the PMA.

She also graduated as valedictorian of her class at the Notre Dame of Tacurong College’s High School Department.

Ea’s mother, aside from being a housewife, also works as a nanny to help her tricycle driver-husband. Ea will be commissioned as a second lieutenant and is joining the Philippine Navy.

Protection assured for IPs who 'escaped' from Davao church compound

From the Philippine News Agency (May 22, 2019): Protection assured for IPs who 'escaped' from Davao church compound

The Army’s 10th Infantry Division (10ID) assured the safety of the 31 members of the Ata-Manobo tribe who returned home after reportedly escaping from the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Haran Compound in Madapo Hills, this city, as they reintegrate with their communities.

Capt. Jerry Lamosao, 10ID spokesperson, said the military will provide them the necessary protection. He also encouraged them to communicate with the government when necessary.

During Wednesday's AFP-PNP press briefing at the Royal Mandaya Hotel, Lamosao said the IPs were safely transported to their communities in Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong town in Davao del Norte on Tuesday after a case conference with government agencies.

He said the government will continue to help the IPs, along with the local government of Kapalong and government agencies, such as Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Lamosao said the IPs were given their basic needs, as well as psycho-social intervention, and will, later on, be provided with livelihood assistance.

The Kapalong local police reported that the IPs, accompanied by personnel of the Army’s 60th Infantry Battalion, arrived in the municipality last Saturday.

Of the 31 rescued, 10 are of legal age and 21 are minors. The youngest are two children aged two years, while the oldest is 55 years old.

They were also brought to the Davao del Norte District Hospital-Kapalong Zone for a medical and physical examination before they were turned over to the local social welfare officials.

They have been secured by the 60th Infantry Battalion since their reported escape from UCCP Haran on Saturday with the help of some tribal leaders and the Kapalong local government.

Ex-NPA finance man recounts horrible life for a lost cause

From the Philippine News Agency (May 22, 2019): Ex-NPA finance man recounts horrible life for a lost cause

EX-REBEL. Julieto 'Tatay Bong' Pescadero Canoy, a Cebuano who became a finance officer of the New People’s Army in Mindanao, shares his horrible experience while in the mountains fighting for false causes, in an exclusive interview at an undisclosed location in Cebu City on Wednesday (May 15, 2019). Tatay Bong is now repaying his past iniquities by convincing former comrades to give up and go back to the fold of the law. (PNA photo by John Rey Saavedra)

It was the promise of the “organizers” to give him farmland to till, which prompted him to join the New People’s Army (NPA). It was a promise that changed his life, when what was given to him was a gun to kill his fellow farmers who decried the rebels’ abuses.

Julieto Pescadero Canoy, who traced his family in Cebu but had been known in the Davao del Sur-South Cotabato hinterlands as “Tatay Bong,” in an interview, recalled how the “black propaganda” of the NPA rebels twisted his mind to join as an organizer and later as “terrorist fighter” and “finance officer”.

Tatay Bong, 65, was born in Cebu. His father was a farmer from Toledo City and his mother hailed from Argao in southern Cebu. He recalled how NPA organizers deceived him through disinformation and empty promises and made him a “fighter for a false cause” for 31 years.

When his parents arrived in Davao del Sur in the late ‘50s, he recalled how productive their life was, as a family, but all of that changed due to deceptive information he got from the organizers.

He joined the rebel movement at the age of 26 in 1980 in Davao del Sur.

“Mag-uuma gyud ko. Na-engganyo pagsulti nila sa tulo ka batakang problema sa nasud. Niapil ko kay kun makadaog mi, hatagan mi og yuta. (I was a farmer. I was brainwashed by their discussion on three top problems in the country. I joined when they promised for a farmland once we win),” Tatay Bong recalled.

Transformed into a full-blown organizer because of his talent in public speaking, Tatay Bong recalled how he became the peddler of lies and deceptions to the farmers when he himself organized farmer groups in other towns.

Later on, the farmer-turned-organizer became suspicious of his group’s main agenda when he discovered that the results were not the ones promised him.

“Di man yuta ilang gihatag nako, armas man kay pagubaton man mi sa mga PC (They gave me no farmland, they provided me with a gun to fight against the Philippine Constabulary),” he further recalled.

Collecting dues from poor farmers

As a farmer, Tatay Bong knew about “hand-to-mouth” existence, with their farm yield not enough to sustain a family’s needs.

However, being part of a farmer-group organized by the NPA, each member should pay a monthly due of PHP5 to the organization, he said.

Collecting the farmer’s monthly dues was what taught Tatay Bong the skills of a “treasury man” and later on assigned to be the command’s finance officer.

He served as finance officer in Davao del Sur and South Cotabato.

According to him, he started to doubt what he was fighting for when he saw the big shots of the NPA in Mindanao.

Being a finance officer, he recalled having a meeting with the bigwigs of the NPA, like George Madlos alias “Ka Oris” and his wife, Myrna Solarte alias “Maria Malaya”, in one of the towns in Caraga region, to remit the proceeds of their extortion activities in the mountain villages there.

In those meetings, Tatay Bong said he could compare himself to a real fighter, and could not identify with the top NPA officials, in the way they dressed and the texture of their skin. “Ako lago, way ligo, itom og panit. Silang Ka Oris ug Maria Malaya hamis kaayo og panit (I was bushy, unbathed, dark skinned. Both Ka Oris and Maria Malaya have smooth skins),” he noted.

NPA as hindrance to progress

As a farmer, Tatay Bong said he could still recall how progressive the life of the farmers in Davao del Sur.

He said that during those days when there were no NPA rebels in his place, farm life was a happy life for them in the village.

“Sa una, gamay pa ko, mga hinapos ang dekada 50, katimaan pa ko nga puwerteng daghana namong produkto sa kabukiran, kargahan namo trak (Before, when I was a child, around the end of year ‘50s, I could remember that we have so many produce from our farm that we load up to the trucks),” he recounted.

“Bag-ong entrada ang tuig ‘70s paingon ‘80s, grabe ang binakwitay wa nay tarong among uma. Wa na mi mahimo kay sige naman mi bakwit, sige naman binakbakay kay daghan naman rebelde, naa namay daghang armas sa kabukiran (As year ‘70s came until ‘80s, we could no longer cultivate our farm because of massive evacuation that occurred. Nothing that we could do because of the rise of number of rebels and the proliferation of firearms in the mountain),” Tatay Bong narrated.

He is still hopeful that farming villages in Mindanao can still regain the usual glory once there would be no more NPA terrorizing them and extorting money.

NPA in urban areas

The former NPA finance officer said that the national government should boost its “political propaganda” against the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

He stressed that NPA rebels as terrorist can now be found in the urban areas, blending with their comrades in the legal front.

He said some of those marching on the streets and shouting anti-government slogans are NPA terrorists who just momentarily left their guns in the bushes.

He said that urban metropolis, like Cebu, is a favorite vacation and meeting place for NPA terrorists and their conduits in the legal fronts.

As former troop leader before he got arrested by the Philippine Army Scout Rangers in the boundary of Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Sur, he said six female students had fought beside him.

While he could not recall which universities they came from, Tatay Bong could only remember that these female students functioned as medical officers for his team of 21 NPA terrorists.

“Mga produkto sila sa organizing sa siyudad. Nahimo silang NPA (They were products of organizing activities in the city. They ultimately became NPA),” he said.

Horrible life as terrorist

Tatay Bong recalled how the people, especially their comrades, were drawn together and tied with strings after being sentenced to death by a Kangaroo court, during the “Kampanyang Kahos,” the NPA’s campaign against alleged spies, moles, and infiltrators.

“Luoy kaayo tan-awon akong mga kauban. Gilambinglambing, gihiktan dayon hagpakon ang tangkugo og pinintol (I pitied some of my colleagues. They were tied together then bashed with a pinintol), he said.

Pinintol or anvil is a solid piece or heavy block of iron or steel, on which, hot metals are usually hammered and shaped into bolos or knives.

He saw some of his comrades dug their own graves. He said some were even buried alive.

According to him, he was haunted by his conscience with what he saw while he was still actively fighting against the government forces.

“Sa pagsulod nako, among edukahon ang mga mag-uuma nga mokuyog namo. Ang di mokuyog, palayason, ang di molayas patyon (When I joined the NPA, we convinced the farmers to join us. Those who would not join us would be asked to leave. Those who would not leave would get killed),” he recounted, while stressing those were the reasons he was looking for a way to sever his ties with the terrorists.

The time to end his rebel days came in 2011 when he was arrested in Barangay New Tubigon, Sibagat town of Agusan del Norte.

He said that when the Scout Rangers chanced upon him, he raised his hands to surrender and at the same time closed his eyes.

But the thought of being killed by the Scout Rangers never crossed his mind as they even addressed him as “Tay”, when asked about his identity.

Fast forward to 2019, through the power of mass media and community forums, Tatay Bong wants to repay for his horrific iniquities by becoming active in convincing fellow NPA terrorists to go back to the fold of the law.

Now a gentle member of the citizenry and following the laws and ordinances in his place, Tatay Bong said he is not afraid to face his former colleagues, even the bigwigs of the CPP-NPA-NDF, to show that their lost cause is not the answer to the country’s problems but serves as hindrance to achieving progress.

Mandatory ROTC to instill patriotism, nationalism among youth: PNP

From the Philippine News Agency (May 22, 2019): Mandatory ROTC to instill patriotism, nationalism among youth: PNP

The Philippine National Police (PNP) has expressed support to the House of Representatives' passage of the bill making the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program mandatory for senior high school students.

"We are convinced that the ROTC program is designed to build a solid foundation to instill patriotism and nationalism among the youth to become useful citizens who possess the skills, knowledge and the heart to uphold and defend the country's national institutions and sovereignty," PNP Chief, Gen. Oscar Albayalde said in a statement on Wednesday.

He said the PNP would make representations in the drafting of the law and its implementing rules and regulations that would include subjects on law enforcement, disaster response, rule of law and civil rights in addition to basic military science subjects.

"A small country like ours deserve to have a strong reserve force that can be called upon to augment the existing complement of regular forces. God forbid that we will need to mobilize our reserve force like what we did in World War II, but when the situation presents itself, the reservists shall prove themselves ready and up to the task," he said.

Albayalde said the PNP also welcomes legislative measures that seek to expand the role of women in law enforcement with a significant 20 percent hike in the number of female personnel in the police service.

"As far as the recruitment and selection process is concerned, I am pleased to announce that the PNP is 100 percent compliant with the requirements of the law in terms of gender equality and empowerment of women," he said.

He said the PNP has done away with the traditional troop ceiling for women and other gender restrictions in recruitment and selection thus opening equal opportunities in filling-up of vacant positions.

He said the 180,767-strong PNP is composed of 83.4 percent male and 16.6 percent female personnel. Women officers comprise 14 percent of the PNP Officer Corps.