Monday, July 1, 2019

Commentary: ISIS on the comeback trail

Commentary/analysis by Raphael M. Alunan III posted to his To Take A Stand column in the Business Mirror (Jul 1, 2019): Commentary: ISIS on the comeback trail

On June 28, news filtered in from Indanan, Sulu that two suicide bombers had penetrated the headquarters of the Army’s 1st Brigade Combat Team. As of the latest reports, eight people were killed (the two bombers, three soldiers, and three civilians); while 22 were wounded (12 soldiers and 10 civilians). The Islamic State East Asia Province (ISEAP) allegedly claimed responsibility for the attack.

The suicide bombers, who were riding in tandem on a motorcycle, barged into the military camp and blew themselves up shortly before noon last Friday. Body parts were recovered inside the camp. One of the attackers detonated the bomb he was carrying near the Brigade commander’s parking area. A firefight ensued, backed by mortar and sniper fire from the suicide bombers’ support group that lasted around an hour.

Local sources say one of the two bombers was a Malaysian Tausug, from Sabah in all likelihood. Perhaps the other one was too. Both were vaporized but local intel reportedly knows their identities already. The firefight was carried out by support elements from “black flag” groups affiliated with ISEAP. After ISIS was decisively ejected from the Middle East, it turned its sights on Southeast Asia, mainly Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, calling this area its “province.”

Suicide bombing is a ruthless combat tactic that targets both combatants and non-combatants alike. It does not discriminate. It’s commonplace in the Near East, Middle East, and Africa. That’s where the influence is coming from, giving rise to local black flag groups manned mainly by youthful Muslim extremists and converts.

Adherents of the black flag movements are basically Salafis. The theology they espouse contains elements of Salafi–Jihadi Islam. They display the back flag with Arabic inscriptions. Black is used in an apocalyptic context (end of days symbology) signifying religious intolerance and violence against the Muslim and non-Muslim groups they label as non-believers.

There are two major black flag movements that provide ideological guidance:

1. Al-Qaeda — it still has various groups around the world affiliated to it such as the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Its Philippine footprint strengthened the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), and the Rajah Sulaiman Movement that gave rise to many terrorist actions around the country.

2. The Daula Islamiyah (DI) also known as Daesh (IS) — an offshoot group from Al-Qaeda that stirred a hornet’s nest amongst different Salafi-Jihadi groups around the world. It mobilized fighters and supporters it recruited from among overseas workers, local malcontents, and religious scholars to create a puritanical “state.”

There are Black flag affiliated International Non-Government Organizations (INGOs) which provide support for propagation in Southeast Asia, especially the Philippines, such as the Muslim World League, World Assembly of Muslim Youth, International Islamic Relief Organization, Islamic Wisdom Worldwide, and the Benevolence/Mercy Foundation. There’s a quantum of intelligence briefs and from the 9-11 judicial proceedings showing the link between Black flag groups and INGOs.

Separatist Groups (SG) and Local Terror Groups (LTG) comprise the terrorist-separatist spectrum in the country that include factions affiliated to them. SGs are mainly the Moro National Liberation Front and the MILF. They operate in Northern and Southern Mindanao and ZamBaSulTa (Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi provinces). LTGs are the ASG, the Rajah Sulaiman Movement, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and IS Ranao. An above ground network supports the LTGs.

After Marawi, the surviving fighters allegedly dispersed to six areas: Luzon and Metro Manila; ZamBaSulTa; the Visayas; Central Mindanao; Soccsksargen; and Northern Mindanao.

It’s important to note the incidents that took place since the liberation of Marawi:

• the Magpet, North Cotabato bombing, May 2018;

• the Lamitan, Basilan checkpoint suicide bombing, July 31, 2018;

• the Sultan Kudarat bombing, Aug. 29, 2018;

• the Jolo Sulu Cathedral bombing, Jan. 27, 2019;

• the clashes with the Maute forces in Northern Mindanao last January;

• clashes with the Black flag groups in Maguindanao and Liguasan, November 2018 to February 2019;

• focused Military Operations in Sulu, February to the present;

• the Isulan Bombing, April 3, 2019; and,

• the Sulu suicide bombing, June 28, 2019.

Pre-Marawi, mostly from the turn of the century, the country experienced mass casualty incidents such as the:

• the Ipil massacre, April 4, 1995;

• the Rizal Day LRT bombing, Dec. 30, 2000;

• the Superferry bombing, Dec. 24, 2004;

• the Valentines Day bus bombing in Makati, 2005;

• the Bicutan attempted jailbreak, Feb. 15, 2005;

• the Makati bus bombing on Jan. 25, 2011; and,

• the Quiapo bombings on April 28 and May 6, 2017.

Given the modus operandi of foreign trained fighters and LTGs, and the shift of IS to the Far East, we can deduce that the Philippines will see increased terrorist activity in many forms around the country targeting population centers, military-police personnel, tourism areas, transport hubs, schools, events, and places of worship. Hit-and-run raids, lone wolf strikes, bombings, kidnap-murder, and variations of urban warfare are not far-fetched.

The war on terror is real, it’s truly alarming. And we better pay real attention to it because it’s escalating in our part of the woods in the post Iraq-Levant period. And there are extremist elements that are in tactical alliance with the CPP-NDF-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front of the Philippines-New People’s Army), particularly in the employment of above ground support organizations, recruitment, tactics, and media savvy. It will require a whole-of-nation effort to defeat these threats to human security.

At the top of the list is intelligence and counter-intelligence to prevent acts of terror, and properly deployed anti-terror units backed by well-trained force multipliers. Additionally: audit the curricula of the madrassahs, create teams of religious scholars to counter extremist theology, intensify inter-faith dialogues, develop the economy, and strengthen security partnerships.

The underlay is good governance, backed by a mature and responsible society. We’ve neglected the mission to win back hearts and minds through teamwork amongst the civilian segments of government, the uniformed services, and organized elements of society. Every day we fail to transform our political culture, we extend the horrors of internecine warfare by another day. When will we ever learn?

[Rafael M. Alunan III served in the cabinet of President Corazon C. Aquino as Secretary of Tourism, and in the cabinet of President Fidel V. Ramos as Secretary of Interior and Local Government.]

178 kanhi NPA balayan sa gobyerno

From Superbalita Cagayan de Oro (Jun 30, 2019): 178 kanhi NPA balayan sa gobyerno

DILI tiaw nga benipisyo ang madawat sa New People's Army (NPA) kun mobalik kini sa sabakan sa gobyerno.

Kini ang gibutyag ni Brigadier General Edgardo De Leon kinsa commander sa 403rd Brigade sa 4th Infantry Division Philippine Army.

Gawas sa Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-clip), mahatagan pa sila og kaugalingong balay ug dako og tsansa nga mamahimong sundalo.

Dugang ni De Leon kini nga programa nahitabo lamang sa pamunuan ni Presidente Rodrigo Duterte.

Matud ni De Leon nga daghan karon ang nag-apply sa libreng pabahay dinhi sa Cagayan de Oro diin duna nay mga gi-asikaso nga mga housing village alang sa mga kanhi rebelde ingon man sa Bukidnon dunay 178 na nga gi-proseso alang sa housing.

Dugang niini nga unang higayon nga adunay mass enlistment sa mga kanhi rebelde nga mobalik sa sabakan sa gobyerno, ning bag-o 15 ka kanhi rebelde hingpit na nga nahimong sundalo.

Tungod niini nga talagsaong oportunidad nga mahatagan og maayong kinabuhi nga dili makig-giyera ug magtago tago sa kabukiran, giawhag ni De Leon ang walhong grupo nga manurender.

"Gusto ko lang ulit-ulitin lalo na andon pa sa underground sa tinatawag nilang hukbo sumunod na kayo sa mga nagbabalik loob. Yong mga commanders alam namin na pinipigilan niya ang inyong mga kasamahan na magbalik loob hirap na hirap na marami na ang nagsasabi ng mga nagsurender recently. Hirap na sila pero ang ginagawa na kailangan nilang tumakas dahil yong mga kumander pati pag-ihi at pagdumi binabantayan dahil dumadami na ang tumatakas," butyag niini.

Nanawagan kini sa mga kumander sa NPA nga adunay localized peacetalk sa mga mayor, kapitan, gobernador, kaparian nga andam motabang kanila sa pagbalik sa gobyerno aron mahatagan og igong benipisyo.

AFP-CRS: 2 members of CPP/NPA killed in an encounter in Camarines Sur

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP_CRS) Facebook Page (Jul 1, 2019): 2 members of CPP/NPA killed in an encounter in Camarines Sur

LATEST NEWS: Two members of communist terrorist group (CTG) were killed in a clash between them and the joint elements of 9th Infantry Battalion (9IB) of the 9th Infantry Division (9ID), Philippine Army and Camarines Sur Police Provincial Office (CSPPO).

The dead rebels were identified as Roni Abellada Boncolmo also known as Jake, 45 years old of Barangay Patalunan, Ragay, commanding officer of Komite Seksyon sa Platun 1 of Larangan 2, Komiteng Probinsya 1 of the Bicol Regional Party Committee (BRPC) and a certain Alyas Oris.

The 30 minute firefight resulted to the recovery of six (6) 5.56mm M16 rifles, one (1) 5.56mm M653 rifle, one (1) improvised anti-personnel IED, other war materials and subversive documents.

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Arrested ‘rebels’ face charges

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jul1, 2019): Arrested ‘rebels’ face charges

The four suspected New People’s Army rebels arrested Friday for having explosives in their possession in Manjuyod, Negros Oriental, are now facing charges for illegal possession of explosives, Brig. Gen. Ignacio Madriaga, 302nd Infantry Brigade commander, said yesterday.

The respondents in the illegal possession of explosives charges were
identified as Rea Casuyon Casido, brothers Teodoro and Danny Academia Casido, and Venancio Cadeliña, were later arrested and endorsed to the Manjuyod Police Station.

Recovered from the four arrested suspects were two hand grenades, two rifle grenades, 60 live ammunition and two magazines of KG 9 automatic pistol, 90 ammunition of caliber 9mm pistol, binoculars, four black T shirts with a print PKP (Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas) @ 50, a cellular phone charger and batteries, subversive documents, as well as personal belongings.

During initial investigations, the four arrested suspects claimed that they were deceived to join the rebel movement, that had promised them two sacks of rice per month.

Casido also confessed that his younger brother,Henry, is a full-time NPA red fighter, issued with an M-16 rifle.

Troopers of the newly-arrived 11th Infantry Battalion Alpha Company led by Cpl. Benjamen Descotido were on a clearing operation, when they spotted the four suspects, who were running away from them on Friday in Sitio Maraja, Brgy. Lamogong, Manjuyod town.

Their arrest was made by Army soldiers, who were pursuing an estimated 20 NPA rebels encountered on June 23 by military and police personnel in Brgy. Bantulinao, also in Manjuyod town.

A suspected NPA member identified by Madriaga as Agripino Palomar, 24, also died in the encounter that also yielded five homemade landmines and two rifle grenades, among other war materials and personal belongings left behind by fleeing rebels.

303rd IB gets another battalion

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jul 1, 2019): 303rd IB gets another battalion

The 303rd Infantry Brigade got the supervision of 94th Infantry Battalion, following the realignment of the boundary of two Army infantry brigades in Negros Island.
Brig. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, said yesterday his unit will take charge of the 1 st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th district of Negros Occidental and 1st district of Negros Oriental, while the responsibility for securing areas in southeast Negros Oriental and the southwest portion of Negros Occidental lies with the 302nd Infantry Brigade.

This would also mean that the supervision of 15th Infantry Battalion in southern Negros will now be under the 302nd Infantry Brigade, including the newly-arrived 11th Infantry Battalion, whose troopers are now undergoing training, Arevalo said.

With this development, the 303rd Infantry Brigade will now have three battalions to supervise, including the 79th Infantry Battalion in northern Negros, 62nd and 94th Infantry Battalions in central Negros, in confronting two New People’s Army guerilla fronts.

Arevalo said the realignment of boundaries was based on geographical and threat consideration.

The 11IB and 302nd Infantry Brigade headquarters were both returned from Zamboanga City and Bohol, respectively, to Negros, which is now the priority for clearing operations of armed local insurgents by the Armed Forces of the Philippines Central Command.

Arevalo yesterday distributed plaques of appreciation and letters of commendation to the 15th Infantry Battalion unit and its personnel for a job well done in southern Negros under the supervision of the 303rd Infantry Brigade.

The 302nd Infantry Brigade also confronts two NPA guerilla fronts in southern Negros.

Gov’t builds housing project in former NPA-infested barangay in Bukidnon

From Politiko Mindanao (Jun 30, 2019): Gov’t builds housing project in former NPA-infested barangay in Bukidnon

The government has awarded P16.8-million housing project and services to a former New People’s Army (NPA)-infested barangay in Bukidnon, military said Sunday.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Region 10 turned over the 50 concrete and ready houses to the internally displaced persons, indigenous people, and former communist rebels
from Barangay Iba in Cabangsalan.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar, Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security for Northern Mindanao, and DSWD Secretary Rolando Joselito Bautista graced the event held Friday, June 28.

Aside from the housing project, Serbisyo Caravan was also provided to the residents. The services include free medical/dental checkup and circumcisions, civil registration, Alternative Learning System and Scholarship Registration, and haircut, among others.

Murad condemns ‘senseless act of terror’ in Sulu

From Politiko Mindanao (Jul 1, 2019): Murad condemns ‘senseless act of terror’ in Sulu

Bangsamoro government Chief Minister Al Haj Murad Ebrahim condemned Monday the “senseless act of terror” in Sulu where eight people died and scores wounded.

Murad said he was personally outraged by the supposed suicide bombing incident in Indanan, Sulu on June 28.

Sulu is part of the Bangsamoro Autnomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

“It was a senseless act of terror since the attack inflicted multiple casualties and injuries to innocent civilians. We condemn that act as contrary to the cherished human values such as the sanctity and protection of lives, properties and peaceful living,” Murad said in a statement.

As the Bangsamoro leader, he vowed to assist the law enforcement agencies in pursuing the perpetrators in the recent bombings and similar incident in Sulu in the past.

“I strongly urge the local leaders to be united in the fight against violent armed groups in their respective places,” said Murad, also chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

He also extended his sympathies to the families of those who died in the attack.

“We are one with them in the search for justice and an end to this kind of violence,” he said.

Mass surrenders among NPA members, supporters continue

From the Mindanao Times (Jul 2, 2019): Mass surrenders among NPA members, supporters continue

Communist rebels and supporters surrendered to the different units of the Eastern Mindanao Command on June 27 and 28.

Lt. Col. Ezra Balagtey, the spokesperson of Eastern Mindanao Command, said a team of CPP-NPA surrendered to the joint elements of 27th Infantry Battalion and Regional Intelligence Unit of Police Regional Office 12 in Sitio Matinong, Barangay Colongolo, Surallah, South Cotabato noon of June 28, 2019.

The five rebels were identified by their aliases as Boy Tigas, the team leader; along with Roco, Jomel, Jason, and Mikmik.
They are now under the custody of Regional Intelligence Unit of the Police Regional Office XII for proper disposition and conduct of interview and debriefing.

On June 28, 2019 around 7 a.m., a group of five Milisyang Bayan members in Barangay Manipongol, Maco, Compostela Valley turned themselves to 71st IB in Barangay Nueva Visayas, Mawab.

In a separate instance, a certain alias P4, a member of the NPA in Talakag, Bukidnon surrendered to the elements of 65th Infantry Battalion at Sitio Patpat, Barangay Mambuaya, Cagayan de Oro City on June 27. He brought along his M1 Garand rifle and ammunition.

On the other hand, alias Reden, a team leader of the NPA in the boundary of Compostela Valley and Davao Norte, surrendered to the elements of 72nd IB in Malinan, Kidapawan City, North Cotabato on June 27, 2019.

A group of eight mass supporters, led by a member of Kilusang Rebolusyonario sa Barrio in Barangay Manipongol in Maco, dissociated from the NPA. They sought the help of Lt. Col. Estevyn Ducusin, the 71st IB commander, in Purok 8, Barangay Nueva Visayas, Mawab on June 28.

In Quezon Bukidnon, 10 underground mass organization (Ugmo) members surrendered to the Alpha Company, 88th IB in Sitio Buco, Barangay Banlag, Valencia City, and Barangay Magsaysay, Quezon, on June 28.

On June 27, 2019, a total of 94 members of the Ugmo in Surigao Del Norte appeared in four batches before the elements of 29th IB under Lt. Col. Allen Raymund Tomas. Twelve are from Barangay Tolingon, Mainit; 32 from Barangay Togbongon, Surigao City; 47 from Barangay Ima, Sison; and three from Barangay Mayag, Sison.

Meanwhile Lt. Gen. Felimon T. Santos Jr., commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command, said, “While we are running after the armed group with our focused military operations, we have to stop the recruitment by helping and pushing the peace initiatives of different government agencies and LGUs.”

Regional task force created to end insurgency in Reg. X

From the Mindanao Times (Jul 2, 2019): Regional task force created to end insurgency in Reg. X

A “Super body” was created to synchronize and harmonize government efforts against the New People’s Army in Northern Mindanao.

The task force was officially launched during the Northern Mindanao Joint Regional Development Council (RDC)-Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) meeting on June 28 at the Kaamulan Open Theater in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon.

The regional task force will oversee the implementation of President Duterte’s Executive Order 70 or the “Whole-of-Nation (WNA) Approach” to end local communist armed conflict in Northern Mindanao.

As early as March 2019, the National Economic Development Authority X, in partnership with the 4th ID, 403rd Infantry Brigade, DILG X, Balay Mindanaw, and stakeholders passed a resolution creating the task force.

Capt. Regie Go, the 4th Infantry Division spokesperson, said they will implement a strategy to address the root cause of conflict, internal disturbances, and other forms of violence and armed threats through sustained delivery of basic services and social development packages.

The joint RDC-RPOC Full Councils Meeting was graced by the presence of the presiding officer, Sec Jose Ruperto Martin M Andanar, the Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security (CORDS) for Northern Mindanao together with Engr. Modesto Babaylan Jr. Co-Chairperson RDC-10, RPOC-10 Chairperson Mayor Oscar Moreno of Cagayan de Oro City. Also present were Usec Rufino S Lopez, Deputy Director and Chief of Staff, National Security Council (NSC), Asec Manuel Felix, DILG, Asec Lorenzo Clavejo, NSC, Lt Gen Felimon T Santos Jr, Commander EastMinCom, Dir. Mylah Faye Aurora B Cariño, NEDA-10, Maj Gen Franco Nemesio M Gacal, Commander of the 4th Infantry (Diamond) Division, Dir. Arnel M Agabe, DILG-10, PBGen Rafael Santiago Jr, RD, PRO10, Vice Gov Rogelio Quiño, Bukidnon and other Regional Directors of the different government agencies.

Mayor Oscar Moreno, during his message, emphasized, that the RPOC “is committed to do our job and our role in ending insurgency in Northern Mindanao. What we did is that we merged the two councils (RDC-RPOC 10), who with unity, will focus on peace and development because teamwork is what we need right now in order to finally achieve peace in the region.”

Maj. Gen. Nemesio Gacal, 4th ID commander, said, “This is an opportunity for all of us to move swiftly and effectively towards our collective goal of attaining lasting, inclusive and sustainable peace and development.”

Military signs peace covenant with sultans in Maguindanao

From the Mindanao Times (Jul 2, 2019): Military signs peace covenant with sultans in Maguindanao

The Federation of the Sultanate in Maguindanao has recently inked a covenant with the office of the Civil Relations Service Armed Forces of the Philippines (CRSAFP) during a forum held at Al-Masher Hotel and Restaurant in Maguindanao, Cotabato City.

Present during the Royal forum held last June 22, 2019 were roughly 70 leaders and members of the World Federation of Traditional Kings Sultanate of Mandanaue Darus-salam; Maj. Gen. Bienvenido R. Datuin Jr., commander of Civil Relations Service of the AFP; Marissa G. Datuin, president of the AFP Officers’ Ladies Club; and Col. Jose Victor L. Vargas Jr., PAF, group commander of the 4th Civil Relations Group (4th CRG) based in Zamboanga City.

“We hereby declare our commitment for peace and development to our Mindanaoans. We commit to treat all lives with the loving-kindness and compassion,” the peace covenant read. “We respect the diversity of ways people pursue their individual ideals. We reject the distortions of religious, nationals and radical prejudices, which are used to violate golden rule to treat others as we wish to be treated.”

“We challenge the misuse of beliefs, rights, rituals, practices, philosophies, and traditions used to degrade anyone or which lead to violence. We affirm the necessity of bringing loving-kindness and compassion into action. We call upon all people of goodwill to join this pledge. We pledge that in all we intend, think, and do, we shall strive to bring loving-kindness and compassion into action and into the lives of all we meet,” the covenant added.

Datuin underscored that the signing of the covenant is the military’s way of showing support to advance peace and development in the region. “The AFP supports the advocacy of the sultanate in their efforts to scrap the illegal drugs and violent extremism,” he said.

Maguindanao has been the setting for various rido (clan feuds) and Islamic extremism. The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), operates in the area.

Sulu suicide bombers were young Abu Sayyaf fighters (Warning: Contains graphic image)

Posted to the Mindanao Examiner (Jul 1, 2019): Sulu suicide bombers were young Abu Sayyaf fighters (Warning: Contains graphic image)

Police said 2 pro-ISIS suicide bombers behind deadly attacks recently on an army base in Indanan town in the southern province of Sulu were local members of the Abu Sayyaf.

The duo, who had been
identified by their aliases Black and Norman, simultaneously detonated their explosive belts while sentinels were about to search them.

Police photos show the two Abu Sayyaf suicide bombers wearing explosives vest. (The Zamboanga Post)

Five soldiers were among those killed in the attacks that also wounded a dozen more. Eight civilian casualties were also reported by the police. The mangled bodies of the bombers, including a decapitated head, were also recovered from the scene and brought to the military headquarters in the capital town of Jolo.

A police report identified the attackers as fighters of the Abu Sayyaf under Radulan Sahiron and not Indonesian militants as previously suspected by authorities. An undated photo obtained by the police also showed the bombers clad in white vest rigged with explosives posing side by side with a black ISIS flag.

One of the attackers, police said, previously surrendered to the military. But it was unknown what drove him to rejoin his group and eventually ended up a suicide bomber. This is believed to be the first suicide bombing mission of the Abu Sayyaf.

Senior military officials, escorted by dozens of soldiers, also inspected the site where the bombers blew themselves up. They also visited soldiers wounded in the twin bombings and held an emergency meeting with top government officials.

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the suicide attacks which occured during an extended martial rule in the restive region where security forces are batlling several pro-ISIS groups and communist insurgency. It also released a video recently showing Abu Sayyaf fighters in Sulu renewing their pledge of allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Bahgdadi.

Security has been tightened in Sulu after the bombings with policemen and soldiers putting up additional checkpoints and roadblocks to deter future attacks by terrorists. President Rodrigo Duterte, who previously ordered the military to destroy the Abu Sayyaf, is expected to visit wounded soldiers recuperating at military hospitals here and Zamboanga City. (The Zamboanga Post)

Army forces in Negros realigned to boost anti-insurgency ops

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 1, 2019): Army forces in Negros realigned to boost anti-insurgency ops

An illustration of the new areas of operation of the Philippine Army's 302nd and 303rd Infantry Brigades in Negros Island starting July 1, 2019. (Photo courtesy of 303rd Infantry Brigade, PA)
The Philippine Army has realigned its forces in Negros to boost anti-insurgency operations across the island.

The move was based on the directive of Maj. Gen. Dinoh Dolina, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, to adjust the areas of operations of the 302nd and 303rd Infantry Brigades (IB) in Negros starting July 1.

“This realignment is based on the geographical and threat considerations more than the political boundaries and will further improve the operational effectiveness of the brigades,”
said Brig. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, commander of the 303IB based in Murcia, Negros Occidental.

Under the new set-up, the area of coverage of the 303IB now includes the northern part of the island, including the first to fifth districts of Negros Occidental and the first district of Negros Oriental.

The 94th Infantry Battalion (IB) in Guihulngan City, which was previously part of the 302IB, has joined the 79IB in Sagay City and the 62IB in Isabela town under the 303IB.

On the other hand, the 303IB has ceased control of the 15IB in Cauayan town, which is now part of the 302IB along with the 11IB, which has recently returned from Zamboanga City, and the 47IB based in Bohol.

The 302IB led by Brig. Gen. Ignacio Madriaga, stationed in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental, has assumed responsibility over the southern part of the island, including the sixth district of Negros Occidental as well as the second and third districts of Negros Oriental.

After the return of the 11IB last month, Dolina said that government troops will saturate Negros Island for combat operations and peace development initiatives.

On Sunday, Arevalo announced the realignment of forces and operational boundaries during his field visit at the 15IB headquarters in Barangay Tiling, Cauayan.

He awarded a plaque of appreciation and letters of commendation to the 15IB personnel led by commander Lt. Colonel Patricio Tomales in recognition of their outstanding service to 303IB.

“The 15IB is able to perform well and with that, I commend and thank them for their dedication and support to 303IB. Despite the realignment of forces and operational boundaries, the two brigades will sustain the gains in the campaign against the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) in Negros Island,” Arevalo said.

Couple survives strafing, grenade attack in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 1, 2019): Couple survives strafing, grenade attack in Maguindanao

Google map of Guindulungan, Maguindanao

A couple was injured in a shooting and grenade throwing incident in Guindulungan, Maguindanao on Sunday night.

Capt. Zukarno Kunakon, Guindulungan town police chief, identified the injured couple as Maguid Rajamuda, 41, and Amina, 49, both of Barangay Macasampen.

“The injured couple was rushed by responding neighbors and village officials to the Cotabato Regional and Medical Center in Cotabato City following the incident,”
the police official said during a radio interview here Monday.

Kunakon said the couple sustained multiple gunshot and shrapnel wounds after unidentified gunmen opened fire on them while they were inside their home at past 9 p.m.

Before the suspects fled on a motorbike, one of them fired a 40-mm grenade projectile towards the couple’s house.

Police probers are still trying to determine the identities of the perpetrators.

“Initially, our investigators are eyeing personal grudge as a motive behind the attack,” Kunakon said.

Hunt on for shooters of off-duty soldier in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 1, 2019): Hunt on for shooters of off-duty soldier in Maguindanao

Google map of Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

Police have launched a manhunt against two men who shot and injured an off-duty soldier in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on Sunday.

“We believe that the attackers are either guns-for-hire or motorcycle thieves preying on motorists in our area,”
said Major Julhamin Asdani, Sultan Kudarat municipal police chief, in an interview with reporters here Monday.

Private John Malvic Cagape Pido, 25, of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division based in Barangay Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao, survived assassins’ bullets while heading for home aboard his motorbike to Barangay Capayuran, Pigcawayan, North Cotabato, around 4 p.m. Sunday.

Asdani said two armed men onboard a motorbike tailed the victim and shot him along the stretch of the highway in Barangay Salimbao, Sultan Kudarat.

Pido was hit on the shoulder but managed to drive up to a police outpost along the Delta Bridge in a neighboring village in Cotabato City to seek help.

Elements of the city police mobile company rushed the victim to the Cotabato Regional and Medical Center for treatment.

Asdani said he has already sought for additional police forces and the setting up of checkpoints along the national highway in Sultan Kudarat where a spate of shootings has occurred in recent months.

Since May this year, at least six persons were killed, including two aspiring soldiers from nearby Parang, Maguindanao, in separate shooting incidents at the highway in Sultan Kudarat town.

Offensive vs. ASG continues despite attack on military camp

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 1, 2019): Offensive vs. ASG continues despite attack on military camp

HONORING THE WOUNDED. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, Armed Forces chief-of-staff, awards medal to one of the soldiers wounded during the June 28 attack on a military camp in Indanan, Sulu, while Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, newly-installed Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, looks on. The two officials visited the wounded soldiers on Saturday, June 29, at the Camp Gen. Teodulfo Bautista Station Hospital in Jolo, Sulu. (Photo courtesy of Westmincom Public Information Office)

Government forces have been ordered to maintain intensified operations against security threats in the province of Sulu.

Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, newly-installed Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, issued the order after Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits attacked on June 28 a military camp in the municipality of Indanan, Sulu.

Sobejana said Monday the focused military operation against the ASG bandits in Sulu will "remain relentless".

“Westmincom will be relentless in its effort to bring long and lasting peace and progress in the Bangsamoro Region and the adjoining provinces that it covers,” Sobejana said.

Seven people, including three soldiers, were killed while 22 others were wounded when two suspected suicide bombers staged a noontime attack on June 28 at the headquarters of the Army’s 1st Brigade Combat Team in Sitio Tanjung, Barangay Kajatian, Indanan town.

Two civilians also died, as well as the two suspects behind the attack that injured 12 other soldiers and civilians.

Sobejana and Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, Armed Forces chief-of-staff, extended financial and moral support to the bereaved families of the victims when they visited Sulu a day after the incident.

“The men and women of the Western Mindanao Command extend their deepest sympathy to the bereaved family of those killed in action during the unfortunate incident on June 28,” Sobejana said.

The two officials, accompanied by other military officers, also inspected the explosion site as a thorough investigation is being conducted by the police.

Madrigal has awarded the wounded soldiers during their visit at Camp Teodulfo Bautista Station Hospital in Barangay Busbus, Jolo, Sulu.

He also checked on the condition of the troops and boosted their morale amid the continuing campaign against terrorism in the province.

Ex-CAFGU member gunned down in Guihulngan City

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 1, 2019): Ex-CAFGU member gunned down in Guihulngan City

Suspected members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) shot dead a former member of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) in Barangay Mabunga in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental over the weekend.

The victim was identified as Eleuterio Tabanao Solis, 68, married, and a resident of Barangay T-Hill in Guihulngan City, a report from the Negros Oriental Provincial Police Office (NOPPO) said.

Initial police investigation disclosed that at around 4:45 p.m. Sunday, four young unidentified male suspects shot Solis while he was playing cards with some friends at the Delma Mata store in Sitio Ulayan of the said village.

The suspects fled on foot towards Barangay Magsaysay in that northern city.

The victim was brought to the Guihulngan District Hospital but was declared dead on arrival by the attending physician.

Investigators recovered from the crime scene 12 empty shells of caliber .45 pistol and five empty shells of 9-mm pistol.

NOPPO spokesperson, Police Chief Master Sergeant Edilberto Euraoba III, said the suspects are believed to be members of the NPA’s hit squad, known as the SPARU or Special Partisan Unit.

No motive for the killing of the ex-militiaman has been determined yet.

Honoring the unsung heroes of Korean War

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 1, 2019): Honoring the unsung heroes of Korean War

HONORING KOREAN WAR VETS. Leticia Tamayo Collado and Victoria Tuscano, whose husbands were both veterans of the Korean War, attended the Peace Concert at the Cultural Center of the Philippines last June 25. Rhe concert is an honor to the unsung heroes of the Korean War. (PNA photo by Cristina Arayata)

MANILA -- Sixty-nine years ago, more than 7,000 Filipino soldiers were sent to Korea during the Korean War.

Among them were the late husbands of Leticia Tamayo Collado and Victoria Tuscano. Their husbands, who survived the war, are among those honored for their bravery and sacrifice.

Now at their late stages in life, Collado and Tuscano continue to be treated for what their husbands did in Korea. Recently, they went to the Cultural Center of the Philippines to attend the Peace Concert that the Korean and Philippine government entities organized to honor the unsung heroes of the Korean War.

"The Korean War Memorial Peace Concert"
also aimed to inform the youth about the soldiers' sacrifices, that these have contributed a lot to the peace that they are currently enjoying. 

The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra and the Seocho Philharmoniker of Korea share the stage during "The Korean War Memorial Peace Concert". (PNA photo by Cristina Arayata)

"More than 7,000 Filipino soldiers came to South Korea to defend its freedom and democracy. I strongly believe that this Korea will not be enjoying its freedom and economic prosperity without the noble and great sacrifice of the Filipino people and veterans. Indeed, they deserve the title of a hero," said South Korean Ambassador to the Philippines Han Dong-man in his speech.

He said the next generation must know the value of freedom and the nobility of the veterans.

As such, the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in the Philippines, National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs, and The Patriotic Cultural Association of Korea organized the Peace Concert last June 25. 

Seocho Philharmoniker of Korea (PNA photo by Cristina Arayata)

Han told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) this will be the only time that a Peace Concert would be organized in Manila, also because 2019 marks the 70th year of bilateral relations between the Philippines and Korea.

Collado said the Korean government has been helping the families of Filipino veterans. She said her child graduated dentistry through the support of the Korean government.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra and the Seocho Philharmoniker of Korea shared the stage during the concert. Among their performances included "Bimok", the Korean folk song to commemorate Korean War veterans, as well as the Korean "boating song", "Arirang Fantasy".

Suicide bomber behind Sulu attack: Lorenzana

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 1, 2019): Suicide bomber behind Sulu attack: Lorenzana

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday said the bomb attack at the tactical command post of the 1st Brigade Combat Team (1BCT) in Barangay Kajatian, Indanan, Sulu that killed eight persons and wounded 22 others last June 28 is a suicide bombing.

"That is evident from the report of the soldiers because this guy (the alleged bomber) knocked on the gate (of the tactical command post) so the guard went near to ask what the person need, when the guard was at the gate the person exploded so this is obviously a suicide bombing," he added when asked about this possibility.

He issued this comment in an interview with reporters shortly after the inauguration of the Disaster Emergency Logistics Systems for Asean (DELSA) Phase II warehouse in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City Monday.

"Yes, personally I think it's a suicide bombing because he was carrying the bomb and he detonated it within the perimeter, there were two of them actually," the DND chief added.

He also stressed that martial law is not the answer to every security threat in response to comments on how could such an attack happen when Mindanao is still under the martial law.

Also, the movement of the people is not restricted in the island.

"Martial law actually is not the solution to all these because anybody, an individual or two individuals can just go anywhere because we have not controlled the movement of people in Mindanao, you can basically go anywhere you want without any checkpoints sometimes, you just go, let them go, we just have checkpoints in areas that are dangerous, from one island to another but within the island you can go anywhere you want to go," the DND chief emphasized.

Regarding ISIS claims of having perpetrated the bombing, Lorenzana said that they are still checking and waiting for DNA test results to back up their conclusions.

"ISIS claimed responsibility but we are checking, in fact somebody said the bombers were Indonesians, somebody said Filipinos but let us wait our conclusion until we get (to) the, checking of the DNA of these people," he added.

Earlier reports claimed that the remains of the alleged bomber were recovered by investigators on the scene and submitted for forensic test. The DND chief also emphasized that they are still checking the extent of ISIS' networks in the Philippines along with reports that Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Hatib Sawadjaan is the leader of Islamic State-linked groups in the country.

"We're still checking, that's the news coming out but we still have to check with, our friends in the Middle East, the Americans, the other security agencies," he added. Also, Lorenzana said the security forces in Metro Manila and other urban centers nationwide have to be very vigilant to prevent a repeat of the incident.

As this developed, President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Sunday honored one of three troopers of the 1BCT, killed in the June 28 bombing attack, through the awarding of the Order of Lapu-Lapu Sunday.

The Chief Executive attended the wake of Cpl. Richard Macababbad at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City and handed to the fallen soldier’s mother the Kalasag Medal under the Order of Lapu-Lapu, Philippine Army (PA) spokesperson, Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said in a statement Monday.

He added the trooper was posthumously awarded for losing his life as a direct result of the PA’s operations in support to the anti-terrorism campaign of the President.

Macabaddad died in Indanan, Sulu, on June 28 along with Pfc. Recarte D. Alban Jr. and Pfc. Dominique C. Inte. Twelve other soldiers were also wounded during the bombing.

The Order of Lapu-Lapu was created in 2017 through Executive Order 35. This is an award given to officials and personnel of the government in recognition of their invaluable service in support to the President’s advocacy.

It is composed of four medals namely the Magalong, Kalasag, Kampilan, and Kamagi.

“The PA is grateful for the Commander-in-Chief's concern to our fallen comrades and their families. Our soldiers are aware of the risks that they have to face as they fulfill their duty to serve and protect the people. This recognition serves as a reminder to each of us that our sacrifices matter to our people,” Zagala added.

Radicalization, not poverty, causes insurgency

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 1, 2019): Radicalization, not poverty, causes insurgency

PCOO Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy (right) with Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel G. Romualdez

The notion that poverty is the main cause of terrorism and insurgency may be one of the most contentious ideas in global security studies, but for a Communications official, it is radicalization that causes insurgency in the Philippines.

"It is not poverty that causes this insurgency because indeed there are millions of poor all over the world who are not insurgents, but the radicalization of the terrorist CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army, and National Democratic Front) that has caused this insurgency,"
Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy said.

In a meeting with Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel G. Romualdez, at the Philippine Embassy in Washington, DC on July 23, Badoy said it is appalling that because of CPP founding chairperson Jose Maria Sison, millions of Filipinos live in dire poverty with the theft, murder, torture, rape of fellow Filipinos.

“That is his (Sison) business model -- to keep the poor poor and to cow them into submission to do as they please with them. This madman and card-carrying members of the CPP NPA NDF,” she said.

Sison, who has been in self-exile in The Netherlands since 1987, ought to be made answerable for the crimes he has committed against the Filipino people and I am certain the long arm of the law will catch him and make him pay, Badoy added.

“This coward lives in the lap of European luxury while his gullible followers sow terror in the lives of innocent and poor Filipinos, like our indigenous brothers and sisters,” she added, referring to Sison.

Communist-front organizations, she said, sign up unwitting Filipinos and even non-Filipinos into joining their fronts that spread a false picture of gloom and doom of our country at a time of great positive change in our country has come, and for which the overwhelming majority had thrown their full support of the President and his administration.

She added that President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 70 institutionalizes a whole-of-nation approach in attaining inclusive and sustainable peace and created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC).

“The Whole of Nation approach includes Philippine embassies and Heads of Mission around the world and their commitment to join hands with NTF ELCAC because Sison's terrorist activities have spread to more or less 39 countries,” Badoy said.

She stressed the importance of government missions abroad saying they are the key to ending the spread of the particular brand of terrorism by the CPP-NPA-NDF headed by Sison.

Romualdez, meanwhile, assured the fullest participation of his office in making sure the President's directives get implemented and that his desire to end communist insurgency will be achieved.

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

PH to insist 3rd party Recto Bank probe if results don’t match

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 1, 2019): PH to insist 3rd party Recto Bank probe if results don’t match

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo

The Duterte government will “insist’ on a third-party investigation if both the Philippines and China are unable to reconcile their findings on the sinking of a Filipino fishing boat after it was rammed by a Chinese vessel in the Recto Bank on June 9, Malacañang said on Monday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this remark after baring that Chinese government has rejected the proposal of the Philippines to include a third party noting that it was “not necessary” if the two countries could agree to resolve the issue by themselves.

“Siguro ipipilit na natin. Di tayo nagkakasundo, mag-third partytayo (Perhaps we will insist. If we cannot agree, we should include a third party),” Panelo said in a Palace press briefing.

“Kung hindi tayo magkakatugma, paano mare-resolve (If our findings are not compatible, how will we able to resolve it?) Some independent body, it doesn’t have to be a country,” he added.

Panelo said he learned about China’s stand to reject a third party in its joint investigation on Sunday (June 30) after Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana had a talk with the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

“Sumagot na raw ang China. Ang sabi naman nila, ‘wag na yung third party, kailangan tayo lang mag-usap doon (China has already responded. They say, ‘there’s no need for a third party. Let’s just discuss it among ourselves),’” Panelo said.

“Ang feeling nila, kung meron tayong mga (China feels that if we already have) separate investigation then let’s meet … we exchange our findings and then we decide kung anong gagawin na natin dito (how we are going to reconcile this),” he added.

Panelo said the issue is as simple as finding out whether the alleged ramming and abandonment of Filipino fishing boat with 22 fishermen on board by a Chinese vessel was done intentionally or accidentally.

“Kung yun lang ang issue ang dali lang malaman (If that’s the only issue, it’s easy to find out) if it was an accident or not,” Panelo said.

Panelo expressed confidence that the two countries will be able to reconcile their different findings.

He said Duterte is fine by any method -- with or without a third party.

“Diba sinabi ni Presidente, okay sa’kin lahat ‘yan basta gusto ko matapos na ‘yan at malaman na natin kung sino accountable. Okay lang sa kanya walang third party (Remember, the President said he’s fine with anything, what he wants is that investigation is concluded and we find out who is accountable),” Panelo said.

Panelo said if proven that Chinese crews are indeed guilty of ramming and abandoning the Filipino fishing boat, Chinese government will hold them liable.

“I trust the assurance of the Ambassador of China (Zhao Jianhua), they will not allow that. Kung merong (If there is) irresponsible behavior, they will impose sanctions,” Panelo said.

The Philippine government has already filed a diplomatic protest against China in relation to the alleged abandonment of Filipino fishermen at sea.

The Chinese embassy in Manila, for its part, explained that while the Chinese captain tried to rescue the Filipino fishermen at sea, they were “afraid of being besieged by other Filipino fishing boats” and only fled after they had been rescued by a Vietnamese fishing boat.

Pinoy suicide bombers seen behind Sulu attack

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 1, 2019): Pinoy suicide bombers seen behind Sulu attack

The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Monday said the attack at the tactical command post of the 1st Brigade Combat Team (1BCT) in Barangay Kajatian, Indanan, Sulu last week that killed eight persons and wounded 22 others could have been perpetrated by Filipino suicide bombers.

PNP chief, Gen. Oscar Albayalde, said the carrier of the first improvised explosive device (IED) could be a Filipino.

“What we know so far, even the Armed Forces of the Philippines, is their identity. And they are not foreign nationals,”
Albayalde told reporters in a press briefing Monday.

Albayalde, however, was quick to clarify that verification is still being conducted to confirm the report, noting that there is also a report that the suicide bombers are foreigners.

“There is no confirmed identity yet but there is information from intelligence reports and other witnesses that we are gathering. We can give the true identity not only one but both the perpetrators. If ever, this is the first time that we have locals as suicide bombers,” he stressed.

Authorities also recovered from the blast sites the mutilated bodies of the two bombers.

“We all know that the AFP said there are two suicide bombers. As to what they used, we have yet to determine that,” he said.

Investigation, he said, is still being conducted to determine the type of the improvised explosive device used in the attacks.

Albayalde also ordered the implementation of security adjustments in Mindanao following the bomb attacks last week.

While he did not elaborate on these, Albayalde said these measures would focus on the security of police camps and public places, especially in Sulu and Basilan.

Albayalde said the PNP is working closely with the AFP to establish the circumstances surrounding this incident to possibly identify and make the perpetrators accountable so that the ends of justice may be served.

“Territorial police units in Sulu island, including SAF and regional mobile forces are providing support to AFP for target-hardening operations in other possible targets of similar terrorist activity,” the PNP chief said.