Sunday, May 26, 2019

AFP-CRS: AFP-PNP Solidifies Forces for Cordillera

Press Release posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP-CRS) Website (May 26, 2019): AFP-PNP Solidifies Forces for Cordillera

FORT MAGSAYSAY, NUEVA ECIJA – The Joint Task Force of the Armed Force of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) signed into existence Joint Campaign Plan “Kapanatagan Cordillera” 2019-2022 yesterday, in La Trinidad Benguet.

The campaign plan was signed during the RJPSCC Meeting held at the Police Regional Office Cordillera (PROCOR) Log Cabin in Camp Major Bado Dangwa, La Trinidad, Benguet.

Joint Campaign Plan “Kapanatagan Cordillera” is a broad plan that shall serve as a guide to the AFP and PNP in the performance of their tasks of promoting peace, ensuring security and supporting development initiatives.

Participants during the event were Lieutenant General Emmanuel B. Salamat AFP, Commander of the Northern Luzon Command; Major General Lenard T. Agustin AFP, Commander of the 7th Infantry Division, Philippine Army; Major General Pablo M. Lorenzo, Commander of the 5th Infantry Division, Phil. Army; and Police Brigadier General Israel Ephraim T. Dickson, Regional Director of PROCOR.

A short briefing and narration on the concept of the said campaign plan was presented before the actual signing of the plan that will be implemented for three years.

MGen. Agustin of the Kaugnay Task Force is positive that the campaign plan will be successful as it is geared towards inclusive growth and is anchored on several national strategic guidance such as the National Security Policy (NSP), the Philippine Development Plan, and the National Peace and Development Agenda, to name a few. He also mentioned that 7ID, as well as other AFP units, supports the PNP in all of their efforts.

He said, "As could be gleaned from the result of the past midterm national and local elections in CAR, it registered many firsts as declared by Regional Election Division- Cordillera Administrative Region (RED-CAR) which was a result of strong partnership and collaboration between the AFP and PNP. Now that we have shifted back to combat mode, all the more that we must work closely with each other in order to finally end the local communist armed conflict as desired by the President based on Executive Order Nr 70."

“This joint systematic approach of the government security agencies to ensure the socio-economic development of the people of the Cordillera Region through Campaign Plan “Kapanatagan Cordillera” shows the dedication of our security forces in putting an end to terrorism and insurgency in the area. So, the Army will put its best efforts to show that for us, this is not just a task but a heartfelt service for our people.” MGen Agustin added.

Think national, start local: tamingthe Philippines communists

From the Interpreter (May 27, 2019): Think national, start local: tamingthe Philippines communists (By Luke Lischin)

Peace talks to prise regional commands away from a longstanding insurgency hold promise but a national approach is key.
Insurgent group the New PeopleĆ¢€™s Army has sought to foment a communist revolution in the rural regions of the Philippines (Photo: Manman Dejeto via Getty)

Insurgent group the New People’s Army has sought to foment a communist revolution in the rural regions of the Philippines (Photo: Manman Dejeto via Getty)

For more than 50 years, the Philippine insurgent group the New People’s Army has sought to foment a communist revolution in the rural regions across the country. The group has sustained itself by recruiting or coercing the support of local villages within designated regional commands.

But just as the group was about to celebrate its anniversary in March, the Philippine’s government suddenly dissolved the longstanding negotiations for dealing with the insurgent group’s political wing, known as the National Democratic Front. Instead of dealing with the whole, the authorities in Manila sought to exploit the distinctly local qualities of the insurgency by holding a series of peace talks across the various regions.

Instead of dealing with the whole, the authorities in Manila sought to exploit the distinctly local qualities of the insurgency.

Such localised talks have the potential to open communication between the government and regional NPA commands. In turn, this could reduce violence by lowering barriers to surrender and carefully reintegrating former rebels.

Since the NPA was founded in in 1969, approximately 40,000 people were killed over the course of the insurgency. Boasting an estimated membership of 26,000 fighters towards the end of President Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship in the 1980s, the insurgency suffered defections and purges as a consequence of its internal rectification campaign known as the “Second Great Rectification Movement”. Current military estimates place the strength of the NPA at around 4,000 fighters.

For this latest drive for peace to succeed, extensive dialogue between local commands and representatives of the national government is essential; enticing rebels away from their commands with inducements can winnow the ranks of the NPA, but cannot end the insurgency. Without negotiated agreements to disband, disarm, and reintegrate guerrillas into civilian life, the government risks exacerbating the conflict by adding to the surplus of private armed groups plaguing the Philippines.

The approach is not entirely new. After the collapse of negotiations in 2013 due to alleged NPA atrocities and the resulting incarceration of communist leaders, President Benigno Aquino announced a “new approach” involving localised talks. Unfortunately, Aquino did not pursue a coherent strategy and did not succeed. Nevertheless, the legacy of Aquino’s efforts survived through local development programs, including PAyapa at MAsaganang PamayaNAn (PAMANA), which went on to become an important tool under the Duterte administration.

PAMANA is a “complementary track” to peace negotiations under the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP). The focus is on improving governance, reducing poverty, and empowering conflict sensitive or affected communities. Under Duterte, these efforts were combined into what was termed an Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), and based on military reporting, 423 NPA fighters and supporters surrendered to avail themselves of E-CLIP and other programs in the regions of CARAGA and Northern Mindanao within the first 3 months of 2019. Further, thousands of fighters and unarmed NPA supporters were reported to have surrendered in the months leading up to December 2018.

Unsurprisingly, the political wing of the NPA is opposed to localised peace talks. Jose Maria (Joma) Sison, the founder and chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines has derided localised talks as a cynical ploy by the Duterte administration to divide and conquer the NPA, and delegitimize the National Democratic Front. Joma has consistently argued that localised talks and livelihood assistance programs for those who surrender are “a waste of funds” that actually profit local officials receiving public monies for fake surrenders.

Scepticism of the number of NPA fighters surrendering is warranted, given the NPA continues to fight, and in the absence of publicly-available data on the number of NPA recruited versus those killed in action, detained, or who surrender. The National Democratic Front remains confident in the strength and integrity of the insurgency group.

Nevertheless, the government has successfully negotiated the surrender of NPA splinter groups in the past with mixed results. The Revolutionary Proletarian Army–Alex Bongcayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) split from the communist mainstream in 1995, and signed a peace agreement with the government in 2000 (although without actually disarming or disbanding due to unresolved issues). While a final agreement is currently undergoing review, outbursts of fighting between the rival Communist groups remain common, particularly on Negros, the country’s fourth largest island.

There are plenty of lessons to draw from decades of experience. Most obviously, negotiators and the Duterte administration should see localised talks as a complement to broader talks with the National Democratic Front, rather than a substitute. Local talks should not serve as an excuse for the Duterte administration to disengage from the peace process entirely.

[Luke Lischin is an Assistant Research Fellow at the National War College, Washington, D.C., and an independent consultant on political violence in Southeast Asia. His work has been featured in publications including New Mandala, The Diplomat, Rappler, PinterPolitik, and The Asia Times, among others. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the views of the National War College.]
Insurgent group the New People’s Army has sought to foment a communist revolution in the rural regions of the Philippines (Photo: Manman Dejeto via Getty)

ASG attacks community dialogue; 2 kids, 6 terrorists killed in clash with military

From the Manila Bulletin (May 26, 2019): ASG attacks community dialogue; 2 kids, 6 terrorists killed in clash with military

Two children died while five soldiers and two other civilians were wounded when a large band of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) attacked a community dialogue with the military in Patikul town of Sulu.

Lt. Col. Gerard Monfort, spokesman of the Joint Task Force Sulu, said the fierce clash also resulted in the death of six ASG fighters and seven of their companions were wounded during the clash in Barangay Igasan at around 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

Monfort said a platoon of the 6th Special Forces was in Barangay Igasan to hold a community dialogue on livelihood and infrastructure projects being planned by the government in the barangay.

During the discussion, at least 30 fully-armed Abu Sayyaf men arrived and attacked the site.

Some of the soldiers engaged the ASG fighters while most of the troopers were tasked to secure all the civilians attending the dialogue.

“Our troops stood their ground with the mission of preventing the Abu Sayyaf from advancing,” said Monfort.

It was the civilians themselves, according to Monfort, who begged the soldiers not to allow the ASG from entering their community.

“The civilians told our troops there that if the ASG successfully enter their community, their houses will certainly be burned,” said Monfort.

The worst that could happen is that the ASG may also execute some civilians for talking to the military.

At all cost

2Lt. Christian Capiz, the platoon leader, said that they could have easily withdrawn from the area to consolidate forces with reinforcing Army troopers but he said it would be too dangerous for the civilians who would be left behind.

“We could have easily withdrawn and at least go to a safer position but I could not leave behind the civilians who were panicking and the children who were already crying,” said Capiz.

The pressure to secure the community was intense for the soldiers in the area.

When Capiz was leading the maneuver, he himself saw the pitiful condition of the civilians at the height of the gun battle.

The fleeing residents did not know where to go while some were already evacuating their wounded relatives.

At the back of his mind, Capiz said he knew that the worst could happen to the civilians if the ASG would outflank them and eventually get control of the community.

“So I ordered my men to hold their ground and prevent the ASG from advancing at all cost,” said Capiz.


The ASG withdrew after 30 minutes of gunfight as they lost six of its fighters. Seven others were wounded.

When the firefight was over, two children were found dead as a result of the attack.

They were identified as one-year-old Saiful Abdun and 12-year-old Jahida Usab.

Five soldiers and two civilians were also wounded. They were taken to a military hospital for treatment.


Brig. Gen. Divino Rey Pabayo, commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu, said that the leaders of the ASG in Sulu were furious when they learned that the local residents were meeting with the military.

“They were furious even with their own relatives whom they accused of collaborating with us,” said Pabayo.

While the top leaders of the ASG were already killed, the group still maintains fighters in Basilan and Sulu.

Attempts to wipe them out and even lure them for peace discussion would always fail.

The ASG was notorious for high-profile kidnap-for-ransom, beheading of their captives and soldiers and even bombing activities in the past.

6 illegal aliens arrested in Mindanao as crackdown intensifies at southern backdoor

From the Manila Times (May 26, 2019): 6 illegal aliens arrested in Mindanao as crackdown intensifies at southern backdoor

BUREAU of Immigration (BI) operatives arrested six illegal aliens in separate operations in Mindanao as the agency intensified its drive against undocumented foreigners entering the country through the southern backdoor.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente disclosed over the weekend that the bureau’s Mindanao intelligence task group (MITG) based in Davao City conducted the operations.

The illegal aliens were identified as Indonesians Jimbirs Da Lema and Supian Undingan, who were arrested in General Santos City; Warnakula Weerasuirya Jayathilaka a.k.a. Anton Rowel, a Sri Lankan; and Korean national Kim Yoonsig, who is on the BI blacklist, were arrested in separate operations in Tagum City, Davao del Sur.

Arrested in Davao City was American Branden Fitzgerald Dandridge; and Chinese Tony Co a.k.a. Alex Ubalde in Cagayan de Oro City. Both were overstaying.

“The apprehension of these illegal aliens stemmed from complaints we received regarding the activities of these undesirable foreigners in various places in the South. Hence, we encourage the public to report to us the presence of any illegal alien in their areas, and they are assured that these reports will be acted upon,” Morente said.

All six are now detained at the BI’s detention facility in Davao pending deportation proceedings.

Morente also disclosed that a total of 36 immigration border crossing officers have been deployed to the BI’s six border crossing stations in Mindanao and Palawan.

He said that each of these ports were being manned by six additional border crossing officers tasked to monitor and board and inspect travelers aboard sea craft that would regularly cross the country’s borders with Malaysia and Indonesia.

These stations are located in the ports of Brooke’s Point and Balabac in Palawan; Tibanban, Davao Oriental; Batuganding, Davao del Sur; and the islands of Taganak and Bongao in Tawi-Tawi.

The so-called southern backdoor route is from Sandakan, Sabah in Malaysia to either Zamboanga City or other nearby islands like Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, using a private sea craft and vice-versa. From Sabah, illegal aliens may take a flight to Kuala Lumpur and back.

Foreigners who enter and exit the country via these ports are mostly Malaysians and Indonesians engaged in barter, fishing and other commercial trading activities.

“Consequently, aside from thwarting the entry of suspected foreign terrorists and illegal aliens, these officers are also tasked to monitor and report on the activities of and apprehend human traffickers and illegal recruiters who smuggle their victims in or out of the country via the backdoor. Immigration authorities in the South have always been on a high state of alert since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attack in the US.

The BI has a complete profile and pictures of suspected international terrorists and it would be hard for them to enter the country through standard routes.

Intelligence reports indicated that the foreign jihadists that fought side-by-side with the Maute group against government security forces in Marawi City entered the country through the backdoor.

Sabah dusk-to-dawn sea curfew extended by another two weeks

From the Star Online (May 26 2019): Sabah dusk-to-dawn sea curfew extended by another two weeks

Story image for abu sayyaf from The Star Online

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah's dusk-to-dawn sea curfew will be extended for another two weeks until June 10, says Police Commissioner Datuk Omar Mammah.

He said the extension of the 6pm to 6am curfew was needed due to continuous threats from cross-border criminals, including from kidnap-for-ransom groups.

Omar said the curfew covers areas up to three nautical miles off Tawau, Semporna, Kunak, Lahad Datu, Kinabatangan, Sandakan and Beluran.

"There is a need to continue the curfew in these waters to prevent the encroachment of terrorists and criminals who can threaten the safety of locals, international researchers and tourists on the islands," he said in a statement Sunday (May 26).

"We also want to ensure the safety of the people of Sabah who use the waters and are staying near the Esszone," he said.

He added that the curfew was to facilitate enforcement and monitoring of boat activities in the area as well as establish a sense of security with nearby chalet owners and fishermen through the presence of a security team.

"I have also given the authority to all district police chiefs to issue permits to any eligible applicants who fit the criteria to conduct fishery activities in the areas affected by the curfew," Omar said.

The curfew was first implemented on July 19, 2014, following a spate of kidnappings that also saw the beheading of Sarawakian Bernard Then Ted Fed and the killing of several others, including a policeman and tourists.

Philippines General: 2 Children Killed in Abu Sayyaf Attack

From BenarNews (May 26, 2019): Philippines General: 2 Children Killed in Abu Sayyaf Attack

A wounded civilian is treated at a military hospital in Jolo island in the southern Philippines, May 25, 2019.

A wounded civilian is treated at a military hospital in Jolo island in the southern Philippines, May 25, 2019.  Courtesy of Armed Forces of the Philippines

Two children were killed after gunmen linked to the Islamic State (IS) attacked a village where soldiers and community elders were meeting in the southern Philippine island of Jolo, the military said Sunday.

The attack Saturday afternoon was the latest deadly assault blamed on the
Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), four months after the militants allegedly worked with foreign suicide bombers to attack a Catholic Church in Jolo that killed 23.

Those killed were Saiful Abdun, 1, and Jahida Usab, 12, and six ASG gunmen. Five soldiers and two other civilians were wounded, according to the military.

“The death of the two innocent children and the wounding of civilians are indicative of the ASG’s desperate actions of sowing fear among the local populace,” said Brig. Gen. Divino Rey Pabayo Jr., the commander of Joint Task Force Sulu.

The soldiers were meeting with villager elders in the town of Patikul when about 30 ASG rebels attacked the village, triggering 30 minutes of clashes that led to the casualties, the military said.

Pabayo said soldiers were conducting community work as part of their activities to flush out the ASG gunmen. He said the militants were “furious (with) their relatives whom they suspect of collaborating with our soldiers.”

The attack came as the predominantly Muslim Jolo island was observing the holy month of Ramadan.

History of militancy

The ASG is a group of self-styled Islamic militants who have degenerated into banditry. The group is believed to be holding eight captives, including a Dutch national, a Vietnamese, a Malaysian, two Indonesians and three Filipinos, in Jolo.

In January, the ASG allegedly worked with an Indonesian couple to carry out the suicide bombing at the church in Jolo’s capital, which also wounded more than 100 people. Police and military intelligence officials have blamed the ASG for the attack while Indonesian investigators sent to the Philippines discounted the angle of suicide bombers from their country.

Previously, a senior ASG commander, Isnilon Hapilon, was named as the IS leader in the region. He led fighters from Southeast Asia and the Middle East and took over the southern city of Marawi just over two years ago where he had planned to establish a caliphate.

Government troops reclaimed the city five months later after fierce gun battles. Hapilon was among the more than 1,200 rebels, soldiers and civilians killed in Marawi.

With his death, it is believed that the overall leader of the ASG-IS faction is little known, Jolo-based militant Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, who allegedly planned the church bombing, according to officials.

For the first time, Duterte lets Defense chief hand out diplomas to PMA graduates

From ABS-CBN (May 26, 2019): For the first time, Duterte lets Defense chief hand out diplomas to PMA graduates

For the first time, Duterte lets Defense chief hand out diplomas to PMA graduates

BAGUIO CITY - President Rodrigo Duterte delegated the distribution of most diplomas during the graduation of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, as he watched from his seat.

This is a first since he assumed office. In previous PMA commencement exercises, Duterte handed out the diplomas to all PMA graduates.

But on Sunday, the President only awarded the diploma, presidential saber, and the certificate of ownership to a house and lot to PMA Mabalasik Class of 2019 valedictorian, Dionne Umalla.

Vice President Leni Robredo then handed the award to salutatorian Jonathan Mendoza.

But for the rest of the graduating class, it was Lorenzana who awarded the diploma.

After the distribution of diplomas, the President again stood up to award the PMA 2019 class goat, Danmark Solomon with a caliber .45 gun. He also gave his watch to cadet Albert Jalaguit.

The graduation ceremony was delayed for close to two hours, after Duterte arrived late.

It was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., but the President arrived a few minutes before 11 a.m.

WESTMINCOM: WestMinCom conferred with Plaque of Excellence

Posted to the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) Website (May 25, 2019): WestMinCom conferred with Plaque of Excellence

The Western Mindanao Command, under the leadership of Lieutenant General Arnel B. Dela Vega, was conferred with a Plaque of Excellence by the AGI Team during the Annual General Inspection (AGI) Exit Briefing yesterday afternoon, May 24.

The award was presented to LtGen Dela Vega by Major General Antonio Ramon A. Lim, the Inspector General, at the Conference Room of the Western Mindanao Command in Camp Navarro, Calarian, Zamboanga City.

The award was given for attaining an overall rating of 96.45% for Calendar Year 2018 during the 2019 Annual General Inspection conducted from May 14 to 24, 2019.

The AGI looks into the mission accomplishment, security preparedness, unit readiness, state of morale and discipline, and the effective and efficient utilization of resources of the Command.

“We are very honored to receive this kind of award. I would like to personally express my sincerest gratitude to all the officers, enlisted personnel and civilian employees of this command and all the ground units,” said Lieutenant General Arnel B. Dela Vega, commander of the Western Mindanao Command.

“This recognition is for all of us. Our hardwork and dedication has been paid off,” LtGen Dela Vega added.

WESTMINCOM: 6 Abus killed, 7 others wounded in recent Sulu clash

Posted to the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) Website (May 26, 2019): 6 Abus killed, 7 others wounded in recent Sulu clash

While conducting focused military operation, troops of the 13th Special Forces Company, 6th Special Forces Battalion encountered 30 Abu Sayyaf Group members under Mundi Sawadjaan in Barangay Igasan, Patikul, Sulu at 5:35pm yesterday, May 25.

A firefight ensued that lasted for 30 minutes after which enemies withdrew bringing along their casualties.

6 abus were killed and 7 others were wounded during the encounter while 5 soldiers were slightly wounded.

Troops were acting on a reported harassment by the ASG in the said barangay where 2 children were reportedly killed and 3 others were wounded.

Troops immediately responded and assisted the residents to safely vacate the area.

Despite of being wounded during the first burst of fire, acts of heroism were displayed by 2nd Lieutenant Christian Capiz, the platoon leader of the Special Forces, with 2 other Enlisted Personnel, when they safely secured 3 children caught in the middle of the firefight.

“I could have easily withdrawn my troops to a safer position, but I cannot leave behind the trapped and panicking children. So I ordered my men to hold their position and prevent the advance of the ASG at all cost” 2Lt Capiz said.

Brigadier General Peter Angelo Ramos, Commander of the 1102nd Brigade said that the desperate ASG attack against the innocent civilians is a total disrespect to the tenets of Islam as a religion of peace and a blatant disregard in the observance of the holy month of Ramadan.

He said, “ASG attacks to civilians is not new to us. As can be recalled, they harassed our hapless civilians with mortar fires during the Medical and Civic Action Program in Brgy. Tanum, Patikul sometime in February of this year. Similarly, they ambushed a group of Brgy Taglibi school teachers, who were on their way to their work which resulted to the wounding of 2 PNP security escorts”.

Brigadier General Divino Rey C. Pabayo Jr., Commander, Joint Task Force Sulu stated that the ASG was enraged with the civilians for cooperating with the AFP. “They were furious even to their own families whom they suspected of collaborating with our soldiers” General Pabayo mentioned.

“The death of the 2 innocent children and the wounding of 3 other civilians are indicative of the ASG’s desperate actions of sowing fear among the local populace. Hence, I urge the peace-loving Tausugs to strongly condemn this unIslamic and treacherous acts of the ASG. Let us remain firm with our resolve in putting an end to this senseless killing of innocent civilians,” General Pabayo further elaborated.

Wounded soldiers and civilians are currently recuperating at the Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista Station Hospital in Jolo, Sulu.

“We deeply condemn this terroristic act of the Abu Sayyaf,” said Lieutenant General Arnel B. Dela Vega, Commander of the Western Mindanao Command.

“On behalf of the men and women of WestMinCom, I would like to personally extend my condolences to the bereaved family of the innocent children who were slain by the terrorists,” LtGen Dela Vega added.

“Rest assured we will go after the remaining bandits and we will intensify security operations in the area,” he concluded.

Source: PIO Western Mindanao Command

16 killed and wounded in Sayyaf fighting in Sulu

From the Mindanao Examiner (May 26, 2019): 16 killed and wounded in Sayyaf fighting in Sulu 

Two children were reported killed and 8 others wounded, including 5 soldiers, in fierce clashes with Abu Sayyaf militants in the southern Philippine province of Sulu, the miliyary said Sunday.

The Western Mindanao Command said
at least 30 militants clashed with Special Forces soldiers in the village of Igasan in Patikul town.

Troops were deployed in the area after receiving reports that the Abu Sayyaf attacked a community there and killed 2 children and wounded 3 others.

It said the weekend fighting lasted for half an hour and that 6 militants were allegedly killed, but the military did not say if troops recover the bodies of the slain enemies under
Mundi Sawadjaan.

The military said soldiers from the 13th Special Forces Company under 2nd Lieutenant Christian Capiz also assisted villagers in vacating the area.

Brigadier General Peter Angelo Ramos, commander of the 1102nd Infantry Brigade, condemned the Abu Sayyaf attack on civilians especially during the holy month of Ramadan. “The desperate Abu Sayyaf attack against the innocent civilians is a total disrespect to the tenets of Islam as a religion of peace and a blatant disregard in the observance of the holy month of Ramadan,” he said, recalling how militants also targeted a medical mission and policemen escorting government teachers in Patikul town in February that left 2 cops wounded.

Brigadier General Divino Rey Pabayo Jr., who heads the Joint Task Force Sulu, said the Abu Sayyaf attacked civilians on suspicion they were providing information to the military about the militant group. “They were furious even to their own families whom they suspected of collaborating with our soldiers. The death of the two innocent children and the wounding of three other civilians are indicative of the Abu Sayyaf’s desperate actions of sowing fear among the local populace,” Pabayo said and urged the locals to strongly condemn this un-Islamic and treacherous acts of the Abu Sayyaf.

“Let us remain firm with our resolve in putting an end to this senseless killing of innocent civilians,” he said.

6 NPA rebels surrender in Batangas

From the Philippine News Agency (May 26, 2019): 6 NPA rebels surrender in Batangas

Persuaded by their relatives, six suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) have voluntarily surrendered to police in Batangas, the top provincial police official said on Saturday.

Col. Edwin Quilates, director of the Batangas Provincial Police Office (BPPO), said the NPA rebels also surrendered their firearms on Friday at the provincial police headquarters in Camp Miguel Malvar, Barangay Kumintang Ilaya, Batangas City.

“The surrender of these personalities was attained through the persuasion made by their relatives who were recruited informants from the stated units,” Quilates said.

He added the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines also made the surrender possible through the concerted efforts of the military and police units.

"You can read from the faces of these returnees the excitement of their new found freedom from the false hopes and promises of a crooked ideology, and the hope of a brighter future for them and their families,” Quilates said.

“We shook hands and embraced them to let them feel the care and protection of their motherland who have been yearning and waiting for them to return to the fold of the law,” he added.

Quilates said the rebel returnees are now under custody and care of BPPO and undergoing debriefing, processing, and documentation.

He said his office is also facilitating the rebel returnees’ application for government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), which seeks to contribute toward achieving the goal of permanent and peaceful closure of all armed conflicts with non-state armed group.

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

PCOO, TFBM bring int’l media to Marawi City

From the Philippine News Agency (May 26, 2019): PCOO, TFBM bring int’l media to Marawi City

The Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) has brought more than 40 foreign journalists to Marawi City on May 23 to showcase the government's rehabilitation program two years after the Marawi siege broke out.

The reporting tour aims to curb inaccurate information about the current situation in Marawi City.

This is the third reporting event organized by the PCOO-Office of Global Media Affairs (OGMA), following the tour in Eastern Samar to cover the return of the Balangiga Bells in December, and the trip to Cotabato City and Maguindanao for the Bangsamoro Organic Law Plebiscite last January.

More than 40 media personnel participated in the reporting event in Marawi City, coming from outlets based in the United States, United Kingdom, Spain, Japan, China, Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Saudi Arabia.

The trip was organized by the OGMA, in partnership with the Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) and the Philippine Information Agency (PIA).

“We want to bring the journalists there to provide them the accurate narratives to avoid disinformation, which is what the PCOO has been advocating for,” OGMA chief JV Arcena said.

“This is an opportunity to showcase the government's efforts on the ground as well as the sentiment from the locals themselves, to paint a clearer picture of the situation,” he added.

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, meanwhile, lauded the efforts of OGMA and TFBM.

“What you (OGMA) did was important, to provide the international media the correct narratives from the government and the people on the ground. You made their assignment or job easier for organizing a tour and securing them the clearances to get into the restricted areas. Thank you, OGMA for making a difference in this year’s anniversary of the Marawi siege. Thanks a lot for your time and effort, JV Arcena,” Andanar said.

Upon arrival to Marawi City, the international media witnessed the culmination program of the Marawi Week of Peace.

"We ensure Marawi will rise again as a prosperous city again. We are with you until the end of the rehabilitation in December 2021," Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council and TFBM Chair, Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, said in a speech before the locals.

Then, the international media went to the most affected area where they saw the construction of the Bangolo Bridge -- the main artery going to Marawi’s central business district.

They also witnessed the demolition of buildings beyond repair.

Del Rosario said once all debris management work is completed by November, the construction of vertical infrastructure will now commence.

About 24 infrastructure projects are lined up to be built until 2021.

Del Rosario said currently, the main challenge of the rehabilitation program is the clearing of unexploded explosives and ordinances, as he wants to assure that the city is safe before residents return to their homes.

He said bombs planted by the Islamic militants have a 650-meter blast radius -- potentially wiping out all buildings in the area.

Nevertheless, he said TFBM has been prompt in the rehabilitation process.

"We are on the right track. We can do it in less than five years," del Rosario said, noting that the timeline is shorter than the seven-year period estimated by outside experts.

He noted that the government immediately conducted intervention activities as early as two months into the Battle of Marawi even while skirmishes were ongoing. These include land development, construction of temporary housing, distribution of relief goods, and medical outreach activities.

"There are no delays. Propagandists are using delays as a Jihadist recruitment narrative," del Rosario said.

Col. Romeo Brawner, Commander of the 103rd infantry brigade, meanwhile said during the reporting tour that the Islamic terrorists no longer have the capacity to attempt another attack.

“Their capabilities are diminished. The threat posed by Maute-ISIS has gone very low,” he said.

Moreover, the reporting tour also brought the international media to the Sagonsongan transitory shelters where they interacted with the displaced families.

They also witnessed the Department of Social Welfare and Development payouts consisting of PHP73,000 cash and household goods.

“We are on our way to being well. We are finally learning what peace is all about,” Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra said during the tour.

The PCOO-OGMA is tasked to connect Philippine government policymakers with the international media, and to promote priority policy messages through engagements with foreign audiences. (PCOO)

PRRD to PMA grads: If PH is not run properly, you know what to do

From the Philippine News Agency (May 26, 2019): PRRD to PMA grads: If PH is not run properly, you know what to do

SERVE YOUR COUNTRY WELL. President Rodrigo Duterte urges the 261 graduates of the Philippine Military Academy’s (PMA) “Mabalasik” Class of 2019 to serve the country well during the commencement exercises at the Fort Del Pilar in Baguio City on Sunday (May 26, 2019). In his keynote speech, Duterte also called on the graduates to be humble, be teachable and always be grateful for those who taught, prayed and believed in them. (Screenshot photo)
President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday said he expects the 261 graduates of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) “Mabalasik” Class of 2019 to “know what to do” if they believed the country is not being run the way it should be.

“Serve your country well. Die for your country if it needs be. Remember the young Filipinos yet to come, the children and those who are now studying. Don’t forget that,” said Duterte in his keynote speech during the commencement exercises of PMA cadet graduates at the Fort General Gregorio Del Pilar, Baguio City.

“If you think that the country is not run the way it is and if it will destroy your country, you should know what to do. Do you understand me?” he added.

The rain-drenched graduates immediately responded with: “Yes, sir!”

Duterte also gave the graduates three pieces of advice, which involve instilling the values of humility, gratitude, and faith in service.

“As your Commander-in-Chief, I lay down these vital points that I will ask you to instill within yourselves as [junior officers] of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines): Be humble. Nothing beats humility,” Duterte said.

The President reminded the graduates that rank, authority, and trust of their subordinates and the people that they serve are borne out of respect for the office that they carry.

He also urged them to be “teachable”, stressing that the way to success requires order and discipline.

“Next, always be grateful,” Duterte said, urging them to honor seniors, officers, professors, enlisted personnel and other civilians who prayed for and believed in them.

Finally, Duterte called on the graduates to watch out for each other, especially in the field since many complex and irrational state and non-state actors may pose danger to the country.

“Lastly, always look at each other’s backs. In the field, nobody wins alone. Where many old mindsets are fading fast and new ones are coming from the unprecedented sources,” Duterte said.

He also asked them to stick to their respective missions, embody courage and loyalty as they pursue different careers in the military.

“Given this reality, I ask you to always remain faithful to your mission: Be a good soldier who will serve the Constitution, protect the people, secure our sovereignty, and preserve the integrity of our national territory,” he added.

“Let these values be your beacon until your last taps are sung and your perpetual memory would be to see your country truly free,” he added.

The President, in closing, expressed confidence that the graduates would remain to be “idealistic” especially in their pursuit for lasting peace.

"With you behind me, I am confident that we can build the foundations of a better, safer, and more peaceful life for all Filipinos,” Duterte said.

Meanwhile, the President also pardoned the outstanding punishments for PMA underclassmen, reminding them that he would give them a pass because he wanted “good and capable soldiers.”

Duterte also gave PMA class valedictorian Dionne Mae Umalla a Presidential Saber and a certificate of ownership for a one-unit house and lot and PMA goat Danmark Solomon a new pistol.

PRRD pardons cadets facing minor punishments

From the Philippine News Agency (May 26, 2019): PRRD pardons cadets facing minor punishments

PMA GRADUATION. President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his keynote speech during the commencement exercises of PMA cadet graduates at the Fort General Gregorio Del Pilar, Baguio City on Sunday (May 26, 2019). (Redjie Melvic Cawis/ PIA-CAR)
FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City-- President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday issued an order giving pardon to cadets who are facing punishments.

“I therefore say, I Rodrigo Roa Duterte, President of the Republic of the Philippines and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines hereby pardon all outstanding punishments for the underclassmen — 2CL (second class), 3CL and 4CL of the Cadet Corps Armed Forces of the Philippines (CCAFP) as recommended by the Superintendent effective today, May 26,” the President said in his speech during the graduation ceremony of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Mabalasik Class of 2019.

The order will include all those facing punishments for violation of less grave offenses.

He, however, mentioned that they have yet to check the record as to how many cadets are benefitting from the order.

Maj. Reynan Afan, PMA Information Officer, told Philippine News Agency (PNA) that a pardon is a president’s prerogative as commander in chief, and is not mandatory.

Afan said, under normal circumstances, cadets are mandated to follow several regulations during their stay inside the academy.

“There are rules and regulations which the cadets have to comply with starting from the time they wake up at specific time in the morning and before sleeping," he said, citing PMA's book containing rules and regulations.

Afan added that cadets could be reported for not submitting their assignments on time or not coming to class on time, which offenses are in the cadets' book, and considered less grave offenses.

“It is the cadets’ bible that defines how to live in the cadet corps from the moment they wake up until the moment they sleep there is always a regulation,” the officer said.

Afan said that the two cadets reported to have been delisted from the graduates’ list are not included in the pardon issued.

He clarified that the order specifically mentioned the 2nd, 3rd and 4th class cadets only.

Grave offenses are different matters and are not included in the pardon that the President issued.

“That is Honor Code, an entirely separate entity and is not included,” Afan said.

He said cadets commit violations on two bases -- regulation and the honor system.

Prior to signing the order, the President said he "will pardon you this time because I need good and capable soldiers."

Duterte was guest of honor and speaker during the graduation ceremonies on Sunday where 261 cadets were conferred the ranks of Second Lieutenant for those joining the Army and the Air Force and Ensign for those going to the Navy.

Top PMA grad wanted to be doctor, teacher

From the Philippine News Agency (May 26, 2019): Top PMA grad wanted to be doctor, teacher

VALEDICTORY ADDRESS. Philippine Military Academy Mabalasik Class 2019 top graduate, Dionne Mae Umalla, delivers her valedictory address during the graduation ceremony at the Fort Del Pilar, Baguio City on Sunday (May 26, 2019). President Rodrigo Duterte conferred the ranks of Second Lieutenant and Ensign to 261 cadets who completed their four-year education at the country’s premier military academy. (Photo by Redjie Melvic Cawis/ PIA-CAR)

BAGUIO CITY -- Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Mabalasik Class 2019 top graduate, Dionne Mae Apolog Umalla, of Alilem, Ilocos Sur never thought that she would embrace the profession of arms, but entering the country’s premier military academy made her realize how PMA is making her dreams come true.

“We had the hardest training in the academy that is capable of breaking us, even the most indomitable experience is an understatement. Despite this, the academy is a dream-maker, it turned our aspirations into reality, perhaps not exactly the way we wanted, but what we needed,” Umalla said during her valedictory address during the PMA graduation on Sunday.

"We became what not we wanted but what we needed to be, to serve the country and the Filipino people," she added.

Umalla said she really wanted to be a medical doctor but due to financial constraints, she was trapped in a dilemma between her dream and reality.

In her speech, she recalled that after finishing high school, she was given two choices -- one is to take up Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology where she will get a one year free tuition, or take up Bachelor of Secondary Education with free board, lodging and travel from her hometown for the entire duration of her college education.

"I thought of my mother who single-handedly raised us that she may not be able to afford the finances if I pursue my dream of becoming a doctor. That is why even with a heavy heart I pursued education," she said.

"To relieve myself from sulking, I always tell myself that I will be a doctor someday perhaps not a medical doctor attached to my name, but doctor of philosophy," she added.

While in college, she tried to enjoy her course and was on her second year when another challenge came.

Umalla shared that she was close to reaching her dreams of becoming a teacher but another unexpected opportunity came in.

"It was my mother's persistence who pushed me in entering the Academy. I was told by my mother that it’s okay if I’ll just try my luck to apply in the Academy since I have nothing to lose," she shared.

The valedictorian recalled that she was frustrated because nothing seemed to go as she planned.

During her early year in the Academy, she thought of being swept away from her dreams from becoming a doctor and from her passion in becoming a teacher.

"I came to realize that a lot of my underclass are just like me who is pushed and lured to enter the Academy and joining the [military] profession," she said.

On Sunday, while delivering her valedictory speech as top graduate, she talked about realizing her dreams -- as a doctor, because she and other cadets help mend the pains of being away from their families, and as a teacher, when she helps other cadets in their lessons to cope with the demand of academics.

Aside from being the valedictorian, Umalla received 14 awards which include the Presidential Saber for finishing at the top of her class.

She also received the Philippine Navy Saber, the Distinguished cadet award (Starman), the Academic group award, the Humanities plaque, the Management plaque, the Social Sciences plaque, the Natural Sciences plaque, the Computing and Information Sciences plaque, the Department of Leadership plaque, the Joint United States Military Assistance Group award, the Australian Defense best overall performance, the Spanish Armed Forces award, and the Association of Generals and Flag Officers award.

President Rodrigo Duterte also awarded to Umalla a house and lot, a reward for topping her class.

Duterte on Sunday conferred to 260 cadets aside from Umalla the rank of 2nd Lieutenant for those joining the Philippine Army and Philippine Air Force and Ensign to those joining the Philippine Navy.