Thursday, July 11, 2019

WESTMINCOM: Abu Sayyaf supporters yield; firearms handed over amid bolstered security operation

Posted to the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) Website (Jul 12, 2019): Abu Sayyaf supporters yield; firearms handed over amid bolstered security operation

Amid the intensified operations launched by the Armed Forces, three Abu Sayyaf supporters yielded to the troops of the 18th Infantry Battalion in Basilan at 8am yesterday, July 10.

Hasid Aslimto Abdurasul, a.k.a Taba; Usaimin Talih Kabong, a.k.a Ninnik; and Gerry Langkat Laikan, a.k.a. Ger, handed over two M1 Garand rifles and a Thompson sub-machine gun.

Subject surrenderors and their firearms were then presented to JTF Basilan Commander, Brigadier General Fernando Reyeg, at the 18IB headquarters in Ungkaya Pukan.

Meanwhile, 25 loose firearms were also handed over by the local chief executives of Albarka and Ungkaya Pukan to 18IB Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Ivan San Jose and were subsequently presented to BGen Reyeg on the same event.

“We are greatly happy with the unwavering support of the local chief executives in all our peace efforts,” said Lieutenant General Cirilito E. Sobejana, Commander of the Western Mindanao Command.

“In our desire to achieve sustainable peace, we continuously convince the remaining Abu Sayyaf militants and other lawless elements to lay down their arms and return to the fold of the law,” LtGen Sobejana added.

WESTMINCOM: ‘NPA deceived us’- 4 ex-Reds

Posted to the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) Website (Jul 12, 2019): ‘NPA deceived us’- 4 ex-Reds

“The New People’s Army has promised us a peaceful life and protection from abusive soldiers; however, it was the other way around. They were abusive,” said alias Carol, one of the four communist terrorists who surrendered to military troops in Zamboanga Sibugay on July 10.

Carol and three other rebels yielded to soldiers of 44th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Balagon, Siay at 4pm on Wednesday.

“They were no longer satisfied by the promises and lies of the NPA in their community,” said Lt. Col. Don Templonuevo, 44th Infantry Battalion Commander.

Said rebels also yielded a homemade shotgun, three handguns, and ammunition.

“We urge other NPA militias and communist terrorists in our area of operations to cooperate and surrender. We also encourage the local chief executives to engage and lead the localized peace talks among communist terrorists to address the issues and problems peacefully,” said Brig. Gen. Bagnus Gaerlan, 102nd Infantry Brigade Commander.

“Rest assured that we will collaborate and support the activities of the local government in addressing peace and security in the area,” added Gaerlan.

Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Roberto Ancan, Joint Task Force Zampelan Commander, commended the efforts of the troops that led to the surrender of said rebels.

“We encourage other communist terrorists to surrender with their firearms, return to the fold of the law, and benefit from the Enhanced Local Integration Program of the government”, said Ancan.

“With the promulgation of Executive Order No. 70, we believe that the E-CLIP will be enhanced to benefit more rebels in our country. Convergence and synchronization of plans, programs, and projects among the government agencies is vital to end decades-long insurgency that only brought misery to our country,” he added.

Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of Western Mindanao Command, said, “Our current thrust to end insurgency is sustained by our commitment to involve the different sectors and the people, through the whole-of-nation approach, and by our efforts and sincerity to aid rebels who wish to cross the line and join the government’s fight against the common adversary.”

“With this in mind, we continue to welcome those who fell prey and became victims of the communist terrorists’ deception. We are here to help and provide you resolutions,” he added.

EASTMINCOM: CTGs forced to withdraw in the Political Boundaries

Posted to the Eastern Mindanao Command (EASTMINCOM) Website (Jul 11, 2019): CTGs forced to withdraw in the Political Boundaries

NSFA, Panacan, Davao City - Lt. Gen. Felimon T. Santos Jr., Commander of Eastern Mindanao Command, directed his subordinate Commanders to relentlessly run after the remnants of Communist Terrorists Groups (CTG) who were forced to hide along the boundaries of regions and provinces in Eastern Mindanao.

His directive came after the security assessment made during the Joint AFP-PNP Command Conference held at Naval Station Felix Apolinario, Panacan, Davao City on July 10, 2019.

"We will adopt a seamless boundary in the conduct of operations so that we can run after those terrorists withdrawing on the boundaries and prevent them from seeking refuge therein to buy time, reorganize, and stage atrocities,"
Lt. Gen. Santos said.

During the assessment, the CTGs’ actions were attributed to the relentless focus military and police operations, the continuous cascade of mass supporters, and the social pressure coming from the communities who long for a peaceful environment.

Meanwhile, the AFP and PNP Commanders at all levels likewise expressed their appreciation on the local peace initiatives of different Local Government Units (LGU) and the conflict sensitive, socio-economic initiatives of the different government agencies and non-government organizations as it facilitated the attainment of peace in the different conflict-affected areas in Eastern Mindanao.

During the first semester of 2019, the Command has recorded 305 firearms that were surrendered while 224 firearms were captured during encounters and combat operations.

On the other hand, 339 NPA regular members and 424 Milisyang Bayan surrendered, while 1,985 members of the Underground Mass Organizations (UGMO) dissociated from CTGs.

Additionally, 36 NPA regulars were killed during encounters and 55 NPA regulars were arrested during the military and law enforcement operations.

As a result, there is a notable decrease in NPA guerrilla units in Eastern Mindanao as some were unfilled and dissolved.

"With these gains, let us support other agencies through the Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict's (TF-ELCAC) mechanism as they will solidify the peace gains that our troops have worked for, by addressing the issues that are being used by the CTGs in agitating the communities for them to join the armed group," Lt. Gen Santos expressed.

Outreach benefits 600 residents in Talaingod

From the Mindanao Times (Jul 12, 2019): Outreach benefits 600 residents in Talaingod

More than 600 residents of Sitio Tibucag, Barangay Dagohoy in Talaingod, Davao del Norte were recipients of the joint community outreach program initiated by the 56th Infantry (Tatag) Battalion on July 8.

The program was led by Lt. Col. Norman Valdez, the battalion commander, in collaboration with the local government unit of Talaingod and Kiwanis International.

The Municipal Health Office of Talaingod, headed by Dr. Montana Amir Dominguez, and the 10th Forward Support Medical Company of 10 Infantry Division, headed by Lt. Col. Raul Sasuca, provided medical services.

Capt. John Louie Dema-ala, the Civil-Military Operations officer of 56th IB, said a total of 192 indigents received medical consultation, free medicines, vitamins, and porridge meal. Meanwhile, 275 students of Tibucag Integrated School received sets of school supplies and toys during the said event.

The Municipal Agriculture Office of Talaingod also conducted a lecture on egg production and corn farming. Rolando E. Salazar, Public Employment Service Office manager of Talaingod, discussed the process of registration and accreditation of an organization.

Dema-ala also discussed the salient features of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) of the government, and subsequently distributed 50 sacks of corn seeds to the farmers in the area.

Lt. Col. Norman Valdez, acting battalion commander of the 56th IB, said in a statement, that soldiers will continue to strengthen partnerships with local governments and other agencies to provide interventions to poor communities.

“This activity may not be enough to address the daily needs of this sitio but we are hoping that through these initial activities, you (Lumads) will also help this community attain economic development that would benefit the people of Sitio Tibucag,” he said.

Army soldiers clash with 20 NPA rebels in Arakan

From the Mindanao Times (Jul 12, 2019): Army soldiers clash with 20 NPA rebels in Arakan

Soldiers clashed with more or less 20 New People’s Army rebels in barangay Kabalantian, Arakan, North Cotabato on at 7:15 a.m. on Wednesday.

They also recovered two grenades, assorted ammo, some parts of an M16 rifle, foodstuff, rifle magazines, and an anti-personnel mine at the encounter site.

Capt. Jerry Lamosao, the spokesperson of 10th Infantry Division, said the firefight transpired after residents of the area informed the troops about the presence of the NPA members.

He said the continued use of anti-personnel mine by the NPAs is a clear violation of the Mine Ban Treaty.

In the Comprehensive Agreement to Respect Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, both the Philippine government and the NPA commit to protect the civilians by not violating the “right not to be subjected to… the use of landmines.”

Lt. Col. Benjamin Dao-on, commander of the 19th IB, said they will continue their focus military operations to ensure the safety of the people of North Cotabato from the threats of the NPA.

“I am thankful for the cooperation we received from the community, which I hope to continue as we work together in pushing a conflict-resilient community,” he said.

Col. Gabriel C. Viray III, commander of the 901st Infantry Brigade, said the government is always open to accepting surrenders from the NPA. Rebel returnees can take advantage of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), which covers livelihood and financial assistance for an easier transition to a normal life.

“The government forces are tasked to continuously fight anyone who will endanger the safety and security of the Filipino people,” Viray said.

3 rebels surrender with firearms in Sarangani

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 11, 2019): 3 rebels surrender with firearms in Sarangani

High-profile members of the New People’s Army (NPA) from Davao Occidental, Malapatan and Maasim areas, surrender themselves and their firearms including one AK-47, one Armalite and one Carbine to Governor Steve Chiongbian Solon (2nd from left), 73rd IB Commander Lt. Col. Ronaldo Valdez (extreme left), 1002nd Brigade Commander Col. Adonis Bajao (3rd from left), and 27th IB Commander Lt. Col. Jones Brisal Otida (4th from left) on July 1. While waiting for further investigation of these former rebels, Governor Solon assured initial assistance to these FRs and personally gave them P8,000 cash each. (Jake Narte – Jori Mae Samillano/SARANGANI COMMUNICATIONS SERVICE)

ALABEL, Sarangani -- Col. Adonis Bajao of the 1002nd Infantry Brigade presented to Governor Steve Chiongbian Solon on Monday (July 1) three high profile rebels from Guerilla Front (GF) 71 who voluntarily surrendered to the military Sunday evening. 

GF 71 of the New People’s Army, according to Bajao, is actively operating in the areas of Sarangani particularly in Maasim and Malapatan and some parts of Davao Occidental where these rebels came from. 

Bajao, the brigade commander, said the three rebels, whose identities were not disclosed yet to protect their safety, have renounced their support to the guerilla movement.

However, they did not directly surrender to military troops out of fear. Instead, these rebels pleaded to some Sovereign Grace pastors on Sunday morning to negotiate their intention to lay down their arms to the government.

The surrenderees also brought with them assorted firearms which include one AK-47, one Armalite rifle, and one Carbine rifle which were likewise presented to Solon on Monday.

Solon asked them to help the government convince other insurgents to also surrender and enjoy the programs for development of the government.

They are now being held in custody for further investigation of the police and army and later be enrolled to the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program.

“For now,” Lizette Lopez, Sarangani’s provincial focal person for the E-CLIP, said, “what we can do is to provide them the immediate assistance like food, clothing and some personal hygiene and ‘yung initial P8,000 financial assistance,” which Governor Solon gave to each of them out of his personal pocket.

Lopez reported the number of surrenderees in the province already totaled to 10 since January.

There were already 495 former rebels in Sarangani enrolled in the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) and in the enhanced CLIP, Lopez said.

With the E-CLIP, Lopez said, “maganda ngayon kasi ang dami nating partners. We have 31 partners. So lahat ng mga national agencies ay kasali, very specific ang dapat na ibigay nila na assistance. Maraming opportunities for livelihood aside sa binibigay ng Department of the Interior and Local Government na P65,000, andyan yung packages for health, and packages for training.”

(It’s better now because we have many partners…..all of the national agencies are part as they are to give specific assistance. There are many opportunities for livelihood aside from the one given by the DILG in the amount of 65,000, there are those packages for health, and for training.)

“Even housing worth of P450,000 they can avail for as long as mayroon silang maipapakita na sariling lupa na titulo,” Lopez said.

The halfway house in Sarangani is already done but Lopez said they could not yet accommodate former rebels for now because of the construction of the fence which is not yet completed. “It will take more or less 2 to 3 months,” Lopez said.

For now, surrenderees will be under the custody of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Lopez added. (Beverly C. Paoyon/SARANGANI COMMUNICATIONS SERVICE)

PNP, Army enhance skills to effectively communicate to grassroots

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 11, 2019): PNP, Army enhance skills to effectively communicate to grassroots

BUTUAN CITY - Eighty-six personnel from the Philippine National Police (PNP) with the Philippine Army have jointly enhanced their writing skills thru the Basic Journalistic Writing lecture-workshop conducted by the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) Caraga held recently at the Police Regional Office (PRO) 13.

Said activity was aimed to update the civil relations units of the two agencies on several techniques and strategies to effectively communicate to the locals in various communities of the AFP and PNP’s area of responsibility in regions 10 and Caraga, and a way to intensify their advocacy efforts against the Communist Party of the Philippines – News People’s Army – National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) and insurgency.

According to Major Regie Go, public affairs officer of 4th Infantry Division (4ID), Philippine Army, this skills enhancement is of great help for the army as they intensify the implementation of community support program with the PNP.

Go added that this too formed part of the implementation of the ‘whole of nation’ approach, which ensures continuous delivery of the basic services, needs, as well as in disseminating relevant accomplishments on peace and development efforts of the law enforcement agencies to the public to make them well-informed citizens.

Capt. Ryan Layug, civil military operations officer of the 403rd Brigade in Bukidnon, region 10, also revealed that more civilians particularly those in conflict-affected areas are already expressing support to the AFP and help maintain peace and order.

Several communities have also declared the CPP-NPA-NDF as persona non-grata.

“Locals in various communities have warmly accepted the Army and the PNP’s CSP and their support and active participation is a big factor towards peace and development, and we hope to work with them in different community activities,” said Layug.

Meanwhile, Police Lt.Col. Christian Rafols II, chief public information officer of PRO13 emphasized the need for this skills enhancement to effectively counter the lies and propaganda circulated by the communist-terrorist groups or the CPP-NPA-NDF that had caused conflict and insurgency. (JPG/PIA-Caraga)

NorMin command, control center site breaks ground

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 11, 2019): NorMin command, control center site breaks ground

Featured Image

Representatives of key government agencies convene in a meeting together with National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Chairman Secretary Delfin Lorenzana prior to the groundbreaking ceremony of the Government Command and Control Center at Lumbia, Cagayan de Oro City. (DILG 10)

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY -- Construction of the Government Command and Control Center at Lumbia Airport here will soon kick off after the groundbreaking ceremony and laying of time capsule was done on July 4, 2019.

The event was was attended by National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Chairman Secretary Delfin Lorenzana together with other involved agencies.

The facility worth P77 million is seen to effectively coordinate disaster preparedness and response measures and monitor disasters that will occur in Northern Mindanao as well as control equipment and manpower sources that will be deployed during calamities.

It is designed to effectively and efficiently carry out communications, warning signals, emergency transportation, evacuation, rescue, health and rehabilitation, public education, and other auxiliary services.

This is to ensure the protection and welfare of the people during disasters and emergencies.

Office of Civil Defense 10 Regional Director Rosauro Arnel Q. Gonzales and Department of the Interior and Local Government 10 Regional Director Arnel M. Agabe said partner agencies are stepping up their efforts when it comes to disaster preparedness measures.

“We place our focus to the most vulnerable barangays in our local government units, which we consider as high-risk areas,” said Agabe.

With this, we gear up in being more proactive in our approaches to strategically come up with appropriate mitigation, preparedness, response, actions and plans, he added.

Construction of the alternate Government Command and Control Center for Mindanao is funded under General Appropriation Act (GAA) 2019.

It involves the construction of three-storey multi-purpose building, including the state-of-the-art operational center and situational analysis and communication virtual room, and conference room that can accommodate up to 30 persons.

With a lot area of 1,284.122 sq.m., said project is one of the slated significant projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). (DILG10/PIA10)

Agusan Norte leaders converge in stakeholders’ security forum

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 12, 2019): Agusan Norte leaders converge in stakeholders’ security forum

BUTUAN CITY, July 12 -- Local leaders in the province of Agusan del Norte have converged for a Stakeholders Security Forum on July 5, 2019 held at the 402nd Infantry Brigade headquarters in Brgy Bancasi, this city.

The Stakeholders Security Forum was an initiative of Agusan del Norte 1st district representative Maria Angelica Rosedell Amante-Matba in partnership with the 402nd Brigade led by Brigade Commander Col. Maurito Licudine.

The forum intends to apprise the local chief executives (LCEs) and key decision makers on the nature, developments and impact of the insurgency situation vis-a-vis the government’s internal security operations and elicit support and commitment in achieving peace and inclusive development in their respective areas.

In response to the call to unite and support the Whole of Nation Approach embodied in the Executive Order 70, the local leaders of the province led by the newly-elected governor Dale Corvera, and the LCEs of the city and municipalities to include mayor Judy C. Amante of Cabadbaran City; Napoleon M. Montero of Jabonga; Aristotle E. Motante of Kitcharao; Richard P. Daquipil of Remedios T. Romualdez; Franklin D. Lim of Santiago; and Fidel E. Garcia, Jr. of Tubay together with the police and DILG officials attended the event.

The officials were informed regarding the security situation in the brigade’s area of responsibility stressing the issues and concerns affecting the political and security environment in the province.

The convergence has generated a unified voice among the local leaders to support and commit in addressing the security problem.

It also tackled the situations of the IP being the most vulnerable target of the exploitation and abuse by the CPP-NPA Terrorist.

“As the governor of the province, I am committing full support to the efforts to address the insurgency problem,” Gov. Corvera declares along with the six LCEs assuring their unwavering support to the AFP and PNP and in working together for the peace and development initiatives. (Cpt Francisco P Garello Jr, CMO Officer, 402IB/PIA Agusan del Norte)

Tagalog News: Rebeldeng nais magbalik loob, handang kupkopin ng Agusan Norte

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 12, 2019): Tagalog News: Rebeldeng nais magbalik loob, handang kupkopin ng Agusan Norte

BUTUAN CITY -- Handang kupkopin ng probinsya ng Agusan del Norte ang mga rebelde na gustong magbalik loob sa gobyerno at mabuhay ng mapayapa kasama ang kanilang mga mahal sa buhay.

Sa katunayan, ipinapatayo na ang isang halfway house upang maging pansamantalang maging tahanan ng mga gustong magbalik sa gobyerno. Ito ay isang transition home at rehabilition center para sa mga former rebels at militia ng bayan.

Ayon kay Ali Kazim Marcaban, coordinator ng Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program o E-CLIP Agusan del Norte, patuloy ang pagpapatupad ng e-clip sa probinsya kung saan ito ay nagbibigay ng psychosocial interventions, gumagawa ng individual case management sa bawat former rebels, pinafacilitate ang chosen livelihood project ng mga ito at tinutulongan silang ecapacitate ang kanilang reintegration sa kumonidad.

Maliban ito sa binibigay na financial assistance sa mga former rebels.

Nanawagan din si dating Ka Tina/Ka Jorge/Ka Yolly at political officer ni Sotero Llamas sa Bicol regional party committee na si Agnes Lopez Fernadez sa mga dati nyang kasamahan sa bundok na bumaba na at magkaroon ng normal na pamumuhay.

Ayon pa kay Fernandez, may magandang programa ang gobyerno para sa kanila at magkakaroon pa ng mapayapang buhay kapiling ang mga mahal sa buhay.

Bilang isang former rebel o FR, malaki ang pasalamat ni Fernadez sa probinsya ng Agusan del Norte sa mga ginagawang tulong lalo na ang pagbibigay ng pondo at mga programa para sa kapwa nya FRs.

Samantala ginanap din ang isang formulation workshop para halfway house manual of operations para sa maayos na implementasyon ng halfway house sa susunod na taon. (NCLM/PIA Agusan del Norte)

'Whole of nation' approach hailed as best way to end insurgency

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 12, 2019): 'Whole of nation' approach hailed as best way to end insurgency

FELLOWSHIP. Major Gen. Lenard T. Agustin (center), commander of the Philippine Army's 7th Infantry Division, poses with members of the Nueva Ecija Press Club, Inc. (NEPCI) and other media groups for a photo during a fellowship program held at Fort Magsaysay, Palayan City, Nueva Ecija on Wednesday (July 11, 2019). Agustin asked the newsmen to convey to the public their programs and projects. (Photo by Marilyn Espiritu-Galang)

FORT RAMON MAGSAYSAY, Palayan City, Nueva Ecija – A military official on Thursday said the government has found the best approach to end insurgency via Executive Order (EO) No. 70, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte last year that institutionalizes a “whole-of-nation approach” in attaining an “inclusive and sustainable peace.”

While underscoring the media’s role in conveying to public the government’s policies, Maj. Gen. Lenard Agustin, commanding general of the Philippine Army's (PA's) 7th Infantry Division (7ID), said the EO is now paving the way for better formulation of programs by the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) hand in hand with the Regional Development Council (RDC).

The EO 70 has created a national task force to help end local communist insurgency and armed conflict in different areas of the country.

In Central Luzon, Agustin said, the local councils have met several times.

"At ang maganda dito ngayon, pag nag-meet ang RPOC, magkasabay na ngayon ang meeting ng RDC (What is good now is that the meeting of the RPOC and the RDC is jointly being held, unlike before)," he said, noting that this enabled them to zero in on issues being raised “right then and there”.

"That's why we're really glad about it because of our past experiences wherein when we conveyed issues, when we conveyed projects being requested by people in the far-flung barangay with the concerned government agencies, a lot of times, nothing happened," the 7ID commander said.

Agustin, who assumed the post last January 2019 and the 7ID top brass, met with groups of reporters from Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Aurora and Tarlac in a fellowship program Wednesday night and a briefing on Thursday.

They have realized, he said, that military solution is not all it takes to end the 50 years of insurgency that it is why EO 70, which is already cascaded to regional task forces, is very much relevant.

Provincial task forces, he said, are expected to be mobilized by August this year until they reach cities and municipalities, down to the barangays.

Meanwhile, Joy Galvez-Dominado, chairperson of Kapisanan ng mga Broadcaster ng Pilipinas (KBP)-Nueva Ecija Chapter, said the 7ID has been their partner in various activities, particularly their advocacy programs "Oplan BroadcasTreeing" and "Oplan Bloodletting" for at least the last seven years.

A member of the 7ID's multi-sectoral advisory board, Dominado said she was surprised when she learned the various programs of the command.

"I wish we would always be connected with Kaugnay Division in serving the people," she said.

FVR impressed with new Westmincom chief credentials

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 10, 2019): FVR impressed with new Westmincom chief credentials

Former President Fidel V. Ramos (right) and Lt. Gen. Cirilito E. Sobejana
Former President Fidel V. Ramos has lauded President Rodrigo R. Duterte for appointing Lt. Gen. Cirilito E. Sobejana as the new commanding general of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), citing the army officer’s credentials as a battle-tested officer whom he awarded the Medal of Valor in 1996.

The Medal of Valor is the highest award of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) given to a soldier for gallantry in combat.

Duterte promoted Sobejana as Westmincom commander last week.

Sobejana was formerly commander of the 6th Division of the Philippine Army based in Central Mindanao.

Sobejana made a courtesy call on Ramos at the latter’s Ramos Peace and Development Foundation, Inc. (RPDev) office in Makati City on Tuesday, to thank the former Commander-in-Chief, who pinned the Medal of Valor during the 61st AFP anniversary held in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Dec. 21, 1996.

Ramos, or FVR as he is fondly called, vividly remembered the day he pinned the medal on Sobejana, who was then an army captain at that time.

“You are a hero,” Ramos told Sobejana, who now holds the rank of lieutenant general.

When he saw Ramos, Sobejana made a snappy salute which FVR acknowledged and congratulated the army general for a job well done in defending the country against terror groups.

Sobejana got the highest military award for leading a 16-man team of Scout Rangers of the Philippine Army when they encountered more than 150 fully armed Abu Sayyaf terrorists in Sitio Sweet Jackal in the town of Matarling, Basilan on the Friday the 13th of January 1995.

At the height of the close-quarter battle, Sobejana was badly wounded on his right arm, but he and his men continued the fight without retreating.

In an interview with the Philippine News Agency, Sobejana said seven of his men were killed in action.

“But the remaining nine of us, all wounded, continued the fighting without let-up. I had with me an M-16 Baby Armalite assault rifle, and I gathered five other firearms left behind by men who were killed near me. I also had 300 rounds of ammunition,” Sobejana recalled.

“When my right hand was hit, the pain was excruciating. I could hear bullets buzzing just a few inches from where I was lying down. Mortar shells and rockets fell all over,” he said.

With a wounded right hand, he used his left hand to fire his weapon at several Abu Sayyaf militants, who tried to advance towards their defensive line, “but we fired at the terrorists, who were killed one after the other”.

“With our heavy volume of fire, the Abu Sayyaf thought we were many,” he said.

“I glanced at my watch; it was 1430H (2:30 p. m.). My men and I continued fighting and firing at the enemy. I was again hit. This time, it was my right hand,” Sobejana added.

“I applied a tourniquet to stop the bleeding (then) I saw one of my men get hit in the abdomen. His intestines came out and we bandaged him,” he said.

During the gun battle, 42 Abu Sayyaf members were killed, and the wounded were brought along by the terrorist group in their retreat.

On Scout Rangers’ side, seven were killed and all the remaining nine, including Sobejana, were wounded.

Sobejana also thanked FVR for sending him to the United States for medical treatment for his severely shattered right arm to save it from being cut-off.

It was then-Defense Secretary Renato S. de Villa, who recommended to then-President Ramos to send Sobejana to the U.S. for further treatment of his badly wounded right arm.

Today, Sobejana has his right arm intact, but the marks of the bullet wound are visible.

Nonetheless, Sobejana is proud as a soldier who defended the country to preserve the republic at all cost, including his life if need be.

Why Fil-Ams’ voice matter in fight vs. CPP-NPA

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 11, 2019): Why Fil-Ams’ voice matter in fight vs. CPP-NPA

‘BE OUR VOICE.’ Tribal leaders pose with members of the Filipino community, in a forum hosted by the Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco, California on Wednesday (July 10, 2019). They appealed to Filipinos to help expose the atrocities of the CPP-NPA-NDF. (Photo by Mac Villarino/PCOO)

SAN FRANCISCO, California — For Filipinos here, raising the Philippine flag in a country like the United States isn’t just about proving that the Filipino diaspora is worth giving a pat on the back by the diverse American culture, but also giving back to the country by speaking up for marginalized sectors back home.

Bernadette Munoz-Roco, who has been working as a nurse in California for decades, said she has been going around areas in Mindanao not just to push for her health advocacy, but to learn the issues confronting peace and development in the conflict-torn area.

Munoz-Roco was among the Filipinos who trooped to the Consulate General of the Philippines here on Wednesday, in a forum where tribal leaders spoke against the atrocities of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

“They were here to tell the truth. It’s my first time to hear the stories of these indigenous peoples. The issues in the Philippines should matter to us, the Filipino-American (Fil-Am) community, and we should educate each other about this,” she said.

Her husband Carmelo, a medical doctor, said the Filipino community should engage all Fil-Am sectors here about the fight of indigenous people to attain sustainable peace.

“If the Filipino American community knows about this, appreciates the hardships they are going through, there will be future actions to help them, not only in terms of health, but also education and improving their natural resources, preventing their community from destruction,” he said.

As Filipinos, Carmelo said it is every Filipino’s obligation to help the IP community “stay as it is.”

“What important gift the Filipino-American community can give is to help them make sure that their communities are intact, that their standard of living improves in time, and they are able to preserve their culture,” he said.

The tribal leaders, who have been getting death threats for speaking about the deception and harassments posed by the communist terrorist groups before the international community, called on Filipinos to be on the lookout for organizations here asking for donations, saying these might be funneled to groups affiliated with the communist insurgency movement.

Why United States?

Datu Jacob Lanes, of the Mandaya tribe from Davao City, said their speaking tour here is significant not only because communist front organizations receive funds from Fil-Am communities in the guise of pro-poor programs, but also to educate Filipinos on the “real situation” in IP communities back home.

“Yung problema sa NPA is connected doon sa mga organizations ng mga Fil-Ams na nandito. Pero hindi lang siya financial support, we believe na kailangan din namin i-educate yung mga Fil-Am communities because they are being fed with lies (The problem about the NPA is connected to the Fil-Am organizations here. But it’s not only about financial support, we believe that we need to educate Fil-Am communities because they are being fed with lies),” he said.

Lanes called on Filipinos to raise the discourse on the issues hounding tribal communities and resist the narrative given by alliance of progressive organizations abroad.

“Rather than magalit, naaawa kami sa kanila because they are also victims sa mga maling paniniwala, at yun ang nakakaawa (Rather than be angry, we pity them because they are also victims of deception),” Roco said.

On the other hand, Datu Nestor Apas urged Fil-Ams to “research properly” on the issue and “be open to discussions.”

“Mas mabuti mag research sila. Mag-research sila sa mga tao na dapat paniwalaan. Bumalik sila sa Pilipinas, pumunta sila sa mga communities namin. Mag-investigate sila, para makita nila ang totoo (It’s better that they research. They should research on whom to believe. They should go back to the Philippines and visit our communities. They should conduct an investigation, so they will be able to know what’s true),” said Apas, chief of Langilan Manobo tribe of Davao del Norte.

Meanwhile, Deputy Consul General Raquel Solano said the tribal chieftains’ speaking tour in America provides a platform for them to be heard by the greater Fil-Am community.

“This is a good thing because they are providing our people information that they would need in order to properly evaluate the development and happenings in the Philippines particularly in respect to indigenous communities in Mindanao,” she said.

In March, the European Union expressed commitment to probe allegations that its assistance funds were being channeled to the CPP-NPA.

The Philippine government has requested the EU to "immediately cease" its funding coursed through legal fronts of the CPP-NPA.

The tribal leaders are making their way across the United States — from New York to Chicago, California and Washington DC — to call on the international community to hear their plight back home.

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

PNP seeks tougher anti-terror measures

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 12, 2019): PNP seeks tougher anti-terror measures

PNP chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde. (File photo)
The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Thursday cited the need for lawmakers to understand the need to support measures that will enhance its capability to secure the country against the threat of terrorism.

PNP chief Oscar Albayalde made the remark after President Rodrigo Duterte asked the police and the military to be prepared for "dangerous times ahead".

Citing the case of the first suicide bombing perpetrated by a Filipino in Sulu last June 28, the PNP chief said he has earlier warned Congress to prepare for these situations.

“I have been telling that to Congress that we really have to prepare for this. I think no less than the President said that there are dangerous times ahead it's because he foresees these kinds of global terrorism will not end in few years time,” Albayalde told reporters on the sidelines of a gun show in Mandaluyong City.

“Unang-una definitely, the playing field will evolve. I think the more that we should get serious on this, not only the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and PNP but also the whole government. There is a need to intensify this campaign, especially our counter-terrorism efforts),” he added.

The country's top cop said certain measures to improve the country's response to terrorism is up for Congress to act on.

"We need a lot of equipment and even the laws, these need to be amended for it to be applicable to the present situation. There is need to amend especially the Human Security Act and the (National) ID system. There are various surveillance equipment. Many are offering that we really have to determine what do we need," Albayalde said.

Albayalde said the PNP and AFP could not afford yet to improve on its surveillance capabilities because it is costly, for “political reasons” and because of the law which protects the people’s privacy.

Once amended, the country's top cop said the Human Security Act could also boost the law enforcer’s surveillance capability and anti-terrorism and insurgency operations.

Since Duterte’s assumption in 2016, the PNP has been provided with not just operational requirements but also morale and welfare services, which have improved living standards of uniformed personnel and their families.

“Over the last three years, the PNP has been able to keep up with our modernization and development plan with the procurement of more and better equipment and recruitment of more personnel,” PNP spokesperson, Col. Bernard Banac said.

“Between now and three years hence, the PNP is in a better position to perform its law enforcement and public safety mandate thru enhanced operational capability,” he added.

The June 28 incident is the third of its kind in Mindanao with the first in a military checkpoint in Lamitan, Basilan on July 31, 2018, killing 10 people.

The second was in a cathedral in Jolo, Sulu which killed 20 persons, including the alleged suicide bombers, last January 27.

Unverified terror reports harmful to public: Lorenzana

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 12, 2019): Unverified terror reports harmful to public: Lorenzana

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. (File photo)
Unverified reports about an Egyptian couple now roaming Sulu and planning to conduct bomb attacks upon instructions of Islamic State terrorists are doing the public more harm than good, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Friday.

Aside from causing undue alarm, the DND chief said the frequent release of such unverified reports have the tendency to make people skeptical and could make them ignore legitimate information on such matter.

"It is unverified news like this that unduly alarm the public. The down side is that if this happens often enough na hindi naman totoo (that it is not true), time will come when the people become inured to the news and will not believe even if it is true. It's like the story of the boy who cried wolf," Lorenzana said in a message to reporters.

Earlier, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said it has yet to receive information regarding the Egyptian terror couple.

"We have no information on the alleged Egyptian couple in cahoots with local terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group in IED (improvised explosive device) explosions in Sulu (as what was reportedly revealed by an academic analyst on terrorism)," AFP spokesperson, Marine Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo announced.

Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism head Rommel Banlaoi claimed that the two are already in the country and these individuals are linked to the Indonesians responsible for the bomb attack at the Jolo Cathedral bombing last January.

He added the couple is in the Philippines to conduct "intermittent bombing operations".

"We are in the process of pursuing leads to the perpetrators of the IED explosions in Sulu and Basilan. But we have no report so far pointing to the participation of such Egyptian couple," Arevalo stressed.

The AFP spokesperson said the military will continue to collaborate with other agencies of government, the local government, and local residents — to include private individuals—to punctuate the need for united efforts to prevent radicalism and counter violent extremism.

JTF-NCR to help secure PRRD's 4th SONA

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 12, 2019): JTF-NCR to help secure PRRD's 4th SONA

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)'s Joint Task Force-National Capital Region (JTF-NCR) will augment security preparations made by the police for President Rodrigo R. Duterte's fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 22.

This was disclosed by Col. Noel Detoyato, AFP public affairs office chief, when asked what security preparations the military will be implementing for the SONA.

"(The) AFP will be supporting the Philippine National Police in the SONA security preparation and implementation. The AFP unit dedicated to support the PNP is the JTF-NCR," he said in a message to the Philippine News Agency Friday.

JTF-NCR is the military formation tasked to protect Metro Manila from all forms of threats.

Earlier, the National Capital Region Police Office said that it will be deploying around 15,000 police officers and auxiliaries for July 22.

This figure includes contingents from JTF-NCR and other law enforcement, traffic and disaster response agencies.

Army conducts security awareness drive to students of Butuan City

Posted to the Malaysia Sun (Jul 12, 2019): Army conducts security awareness drive to students of Butuan City (Philippine Information Agency)

BUTUAN CITY, July 12 -- The 402nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army recently conducted a security awareness drive to selected senior high school students of Butuan City held at the 402nd Brigade Headquarters, Brgy. Bancasi, Butuan City.

In line with the Project S.U.R.O.Y. (Simple Unwinding and Recreational Outing for the Youth) spearheaded by Butuan City Police Office (BCPO), personnel of 402nd Brigade led by Civil Military Operations Officer Major Francisco P. Garello, Jr. conducted a security awareness drive to 35 senior high school students coming from Barangays San Mateo, Nong-Nong and Tungao, all of Butuan City.

"The army recognizes its duty to inform the youth about the nature of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - New People's Army (NPA) Terrorists or CNTs and their deceptive and manipulative recruitment strategy. Our youth is one of the most vulnerable sector in our society and we must protect them from being used as pawns by the CPP-NPA-NDF against our government troops," Garello said.

Likewise, the senior high school students were educated through a static display of the Infantry Brigade squad and a film showing highlighting the different facets of being a soldier.

They were also given lecture on how to join the Philippine Army and its recruitment process.

The baranagays of San Mateo, Nong-Nong and Tungao were identified as CNT-affected areas but have withdrawn their support through their declaration of the CNTs and its allied left-leaning groups as persona non grata in their respective barangays.

According to Col. Maurito L. Licudine, commander of 402nd Infantry Brigade, the youth is the hope of tomorrow and we are pleased that in partnership with the PNP we were able to reach out to this group of young people so that they will not be easily swayed by the sweet talking of the CNTs.

"The youth must be wary of those who exploit their youthful idealism, agitating them with the social problems of our country and dragging them into the armed struggle. It is right to take active part in looking for peaceful solutions but it is not right to bear arms to solve these problems," he said.

Licudine is appealing to the CNTs to spare the children from their violent way of life. "Give them a chance to grow up; a chance to achieve their aspirations; and be successful in life.

"As for the CNTs, heed our call to surrender, avail the E-CLIP and live peacefully with your families and love ones," urged Licudine. (402nd Infantry Brigade/PIA-Caraga)

23 NPAs yield in Davao Norte, Agusan Sur provinces

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 11, 2019): 23 NPAs yield in Davao Norte, Agusan Sur provinces

At least 23 members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), have surrendered to the various Balik-Loob Assistance Centers (BLAC) of the Army's 60th Infantry Battalion within this month.

1Lt. Amadeus Celestial, 60IB civil-military operations officer, said the former rebels decided to turn themselves in following the "intensive military operations" in the hinterland areas of Davao del Norte and Agusan del Sur.

Celestial said some of the surrenderers
turned over firearms and explosives, including an M14 rifle, a Garand rifle, a Carbine rifle, two 9-mm Uzi guns, and a 12-gauge shotgun.

He said 16 of the surrenderers were regular NPA members while the rest were members of the rebels' paramilitary group Militia ng Bayan.

Celestial said the rebel returnees used to operate under five NPA guerilla fronts, some of which has been dismantled by the military.

The Army official attributed the surrender of the former rebels to the government's multi-stakeholder approach that creates "social pressure" and an environment conducive to their return to the folds of the law.

Army hits killing of tribal chieftain in Bukidnon

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 12, 2019): Army hits killing of tribal chieftain in Bukidnon

IMPASUGONG, Bukidnon -- The Army's 8th Infantry Battalion (8IB) of the 4th Infantry Division has denounced the killing of a tribal leader in neighboring Cabanglasan town.

Police identified the victim as Datu Mario Agsab, a chieftain of the Umayamnon tribe, who was killed by motorcycle-riding gunmen at his residence in Barangay Iba, Cabanglasan.

Lt. Colonel Ronald Illana, 8IB commander, described Agsab Thursday as
"strong partner of our unit in attaining peace".

"The late Datu Agsab was known and respected Lumad leader who always engages with 8IB in all activities for peace and development. In fact, he was the one who facilitated the mass surrender of 118 NPA members and supporters," Illana said, referring to the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Illana added that the tribal chieftain "was known for his strong belief and resistance against the NPA-terrorist group, hinting that the rebels were responsible for the killing.

The Army official noted that Agsab was instrumental in the military's launching of the Convergence Areas for Peace and Development (CAPDev) in Brgy. Iba, Cabanglasan, on June 28, where hundreds of residents benefited from various services offered by participating government agencies.

He also dismissed the allegation from a leftist group that a paramilitary group connected with the military was responsible for Agsab's killing, describing it as "propaganda of those who want to destroy us".

Kalumbay, a left-leaning Indigenous People’s group alleged that the paramilitary group Alamara was behind the tribal chieftain's killing, without offering any evidence.The 8IB said Kalumbay's allegation was expected, coming as it did from a group long suspected of having ties with the communist rebels.

Illana said the allegation was "baseless and malicious" since the suspects named by Kalumbay did not appear in the ongoing police investigation.

Meanwhile, Brig. General Rafael Santiago Jr., Police Regional Office-10 director, condemned the killing of Agsab and vowed a speedy investigation on the case.

“I have ordered the provincial director of Bukidnon to assist the chief of police of Cabanglasan town in the investigation for the immediate resolution of the incident. I extend my condolences to the bereaved family,” Santiago said.

Eastmincom orders troops to hunt NPA rebels in border areas

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 11, 2019): Eastmincom orders troops to hunt NPA rebels in border areas

The chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) has directed government troops to run after New People's Army (NPA) rebels who are forced to hide in border areas.

Lt. Gen. Felimon T. Santos Jr. gave the order Wednesday during the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)-Philippine National Police (PNP) security assessment meeting here.

"We will adopt a seamless boundary in the conduct of operations so that we can run after those terrorists withdrawing on the boundaries and prevent them from seeking refuge, reorganize, and stage atrocities,"
Santos said.

Based on government assessments, Santos said communist terrorists are forced to flee in the porous eastern Mindanao border areas to escape heightened military and police operations.

The NPA rebels, he added, are also forced to avoid areas where they traditionally seek support as more communities have rejected the rebels' presence in their villages.

During the first semester of 2019, Eastmincom said about 305 firearms were surrendered while 224 firearms were captured during encounters and combat operations.

On the other hand, 339 NPA regulars and 424 Milisyang Bayan surrendered to the AFP. About 1,985 members of the Underground Mass Organizations (UGMO) also dissociated themselves from the rebels, Eastmincom said.

Eastmincom said at least 55 NPA rebels were killed during armed encounters and 55 were also arrested during the military and law enforcement operations in the same period.

"With these gains, let us support other agencies through the Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict's (TF-ELCAC) mechanism as they will solidify the peace gains that our troops have worked for, by addressing the issues that are being used by the CTGs in agitating the communities for them to join the armed group," Santos said.

Duterte meets with Misuari for 3rd time

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jul 11, 2019): Duterte meets with Misuari for 3rd time

PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE has met with former Moro National Liberation Front rebel leader Nur Misuari and his group in Malacañang, but details of the talks were not made public by the government except photos of the recent gathering.

It was the third time since February this year that Duterte has met with Misuari, who previously expressed his opposition to the government’s peace talks with rival group Moro Islamic Liberation Front headed by Ahod Ebrahim, now the Chief Minister of the Muslim autonomous region previously headed by the MNLF chieftain.

Duterte has been urging Misuari to support Ebrahim and at the same time said he also wanted to continue talking peace with the MNLF. Ebrahim’s group broke away with the MNLF in 1977 following disagreement over policies, although both had fought deadly secessionist wars in the troubled South until Misuari signed a peace deal with Manila in September 1996, and Ebrahim in March 2014.

Also present during the meeting were Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Senator Christopher Go.

Misuari is facing criminal charges over deadly attacks against civilians and soldiers in Sulu province and Zamboanga City since 2001. But Duterte ordered security forces and law enforcement agencies not to arrest Misuari, a close friend of the President and both are advocating a federal form of government.

Misuari at one time threatened to wage war if his demand for federalism fails even if the whole of Southern Philippines are on an extended martial rule.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the Martial Law implementer, said Misuari – who had threatened Duterte when he told him that he will go to war if the government fails to push through with federalism – is no longer capable of waging war because many of his followers have joined other groups or supportive of the government’s peace efforts and the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

But he was quick to say that Misuari and his loyal followers can still create trouble. “They are still capable of creating trouble like what they did in the Zamboanga City siege. But war? Not anymore,” Lorenzana said, explaining that Misuari no longer has manpower.

Lorenzana was referring to the 2001 and 2013 deadly attacks by MNLF forces in Jolo town in Sulu; and Zamboanga City in an effort to stop elections in the Muslim autonomous region and for Misuari to remain the regional governor.

Nur still powerful

But Lorenzana’s view of Misuari as incapable of waging war is naïve, according to residents of Sulu, the stronghold of the MNLF, where it continues to maintain thousands of armed members and supporters.

“They cannot just arrest Misuari and that proves the government is incapable of putting him behind bars for his alleged crimes against humanity in so far as the siege in Zamboanga and Jolo. The MNLF is more stronger now and have more weapons, powerful that your ordinary soldiers,” the 60-year old Ibrahim said, describing Misuari’s firepower.

“He may not be as popular as other politicians, but Misuari has this charisma, the way he talks to the people, just like Duterte. They know how to deal with ordinary people and let them believe what he wants to say,” he added.

Lorenzana said Misuari was just bluffing when he threatened Duterte with war. He dismissed Misuari’s threat as a mere sound bite in an attempt to make himself be noticed. “But he is missing a great chance to be really relevant. He should accept the BARMM, work within it and lend his leadership, stature and expertise to make it succeed. My guess, he’s bluffing,” Lorenzana said.

Honor MNLF peace deal

Misuari opposed the government’s peace talks with the MILF and the BARMM and insisting the MNLF signed a deal with Manila in September 1996 that led to the creation of the Muslim autonomous region which was abolished this year to pave way for the new autonomous region under the rule of the rival Moro Islamic Liberation Front led by Murad Ebrahim.

He is also facing graft charges at the Sandigan Bayan over the alleged anomalous purchase of education materials when he was the regional governor of the autonomous region. Misuari denied all criminal and graft accusations against him.

After the MNLF peace agreement was signed, Misuari became the governor of the Muslim autonomous region. But despite the peace accord, there was a widespread disillusionment with the weak autonomy they were granted.

Under the peace agreement, Manila would have to provide a mini-Marshal Plan to spur economic development in Muslim areas in the south and livelihood and housing assistance to tens of thousands of former rebels to uplift their poor living standards.

Misuari’s loyal forces and former rebels who joined the Philippine Army following the peace accord, attacked a key military base in Jolo town and civilian targets in Zamboanga in an effort to stop the government from calling an election in the autonomous region where Misuari wanted to be a perpetual governor.

Misuari then escaped by boat to Malaysia, where he had been arrested and deported to the Philippines and was eventually pardoned and released by then President Gloria Arroyo and now House Speaker, in exchange for MNLF support to her election bid as well as her allies in the Senate and Congress in 2004. He also ran thrice for governor in Sulu even while under detention, but lost miserably.


Zamboanga City leaders and residents are still demanding justice for the deadly siege that left over 200,000 people without homes following weeks of street battles between security and MNLF forces that killed and wounded some 300 civilians. It was the second time that MNLF forces raided Zamboanga. In November 2001, Misuari’s loyal forces also attacked Zamboanga and left dozens of civilians dead and wounded.

Heavily-armed MNLF gunmen also took hostage over 100 civilians, including women and children, and used them as shield and pawn so they can negotiate with the then Lobregat administration and eventually allowed to escape to Basilan and Sulu provinces.

In 2016, Mayor Beng Climaco banned all MNLF rallies in Zamboanga City following attempts by Misuari’s group to hold a peace caravan despite the charges against Misuari.

“The destruction wrought by the 2013 siege continues to linger, as internally displaced persons – both Muslims, Christians and Lumads, most of whom are those who eluded the conflicts in Sulu and Basilan – have suffered the brunt of the MNLF attack in Zamboanga,” Climaco said. (Mindanao Examiner)

IDF Troops Train Philippine Counterparts in Counterterror Tactics

From the Jerusalem Post (Jul 11, 2019): IDF  Troops Train Philippine Counterparts in Counterterror Tactics (By Anna Ahronheim)

Philippine Army chief Lt.-Gen. Macairog Alberto said that the Counter-Terrorism Trainers' Training was part of the program to hone and improve the antiterror skills of its troops.

Soldiers holding their weapons stand on attention during the 121st anniversary celebration of the Philippine Army at Taguig city, Metro Manila, Philippines March 20, 2018. (photo credit: ROMEO RANOCO/REUTERS)

A delegation of IDF troops trained their Philippine counterparts in counter-terrorism methods despite ongoing concerns of human rights abuses by the government of Rodrigo Duterte, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The 10-man IDF delegation led by Col. Dan Goldfus, commander of the Nahal Brigade, spent two weeks training 175 Filipino elite unit officers at Fort Bonifacio, Taguig, north of Manila.
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IDF Col. Dan Goldfus receives plaque in the Philippines. (Philippine Army Public Affairs Office)

The troops trained by the IDF delegation were in the Philippine’s special units including the Special Forces, First Scout Rangers, and Light Reaction regiments, as well as troops from the 2nd, 5th, 7th, and 9th Infantry Divisions.

Philippine army chief Lt.-Gen. Macairog Alberto was quoted by local media as saying that the Counter-Terrorism Training was part of a program to hone and improve the anti-terror skills of its troops.

Alberto was quoted by PhilipineStar news site as saying that the collaboration with the IDF and other armies in addressing terror is necessary after the siege of Marawi on the island of Mindanao in 2017.

“The Philippine Army sees the collaboration with other armies in addressing terrorism as necessary after its experience during the Marawi Siege in 2017,” Alberto said, adding that “terrorism is a complex threat that requires international cooperation and the continuous exchange of knowledge and information.”

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The Philippine army battled against Islamic State terrorists in Marawi for five months, killing over 1,200 people and leading 200,000 residents to flee. The siege reduced the city to rubble, and led the government to impose a state of martial law twice on the island of Mindanao, which raised fears by human rights groups of human rights abuses.

While it marked the first time that IDF troops have trained Filipino troops, the two countries maintain close security ties as Israel has sold a large amount of weaponry to the Philippine army over the years. Due to tensions in the South China Sea, the overall flow of arms to the region has spiked.

During Duterte’s last visit to Israel, over 20 agreements worth nearly $83 million were reportedly signed. The Philippine News Agency reported that 14 memorandums of agreement and understanding were signed, as well as eight letters of intent from Israeli firms interested in investing in the Asian country.

“These agreements are a clear indication of the enormous business and investment opportunities in the Philippines available to Israelis,” Philippine Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez was quoted as saying at the time. “The Philippines is committed to pursue several growth opportunities by strengthening partnerships with emerging economic partners like Israel. Our engagement with them allows us to reinvigorate ties and increase trade between our countries.”

Duterte has said that he sees Israel as an alternative supplier of weapons, and during his visit he told President Reuven Rivlin that he intends to buy military equipment exclusively from Israel because of the country’s lack of restrictions, unlike the US and others who have refused to sell him arms over human rights violations.

Human rights attorney Itay Mack told the Post on Thursday that while there remains significant human rights concerns with the police, “with the military it depends on what the Philippine army will do with the training in the future.”

According to Mack, there are different rebel groups on the island of Mindanao, some who have made alliances with the Islamic State and others who have been fighting the government for decades.

“In the past few years the Philippines need the support for the fight against ISIS,” Mack said, explaining that the IDF is not the only army that has trained the Philippine military. But the small delegation size could be that it was “more of a show of political support,” he said. “The Philippines have real problems with security, but they are not really dealing with that, rather they are focusing on their war on drugs... It’s a complex situation.”

In late December, Mack and other Israeli attorneys filed a lawsuit with the High Court demanding that Israel refrain from selling arms, weapons systems, and military defense systems to the Philippines, on the basis that it’s a country that violates human rights. The lawsuit said that Duterte is “a mass murderer, supports violence against women, has bombed the schools of minority children, and has equated himself with Hitler.”

The Philippines has cracked down on drug dealers and users with Duterte launching a controversial “war” on drug trade, which according to international human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch, has killed over 12,000 people.

Pinoy suicide bomber a battered child, ran away from home

From ABS-CBN (Jul 11, 2019): Pinoy suicide bomber a battered child, ran away from home

Alleged suicide bomber Norman Lacusa, 23. Photo from AFP WESMINCOM
Norman Lasuca was about 17 when he ran away from home in 2014.

It was a long search for his family until June 28, when twin bombings rocked Indanan town in the restive southern Philippine province of Sulu. Eight were killed, including three soldiers and the two bombers, while at least 12 were wounded.

READ: 8 killed, 12 wounded in Sulu blast

Lasuca, authorities confirmed, was one of the two suicide bombers.
He was the first Filipino to have committed such an attack.

It was his mother, Vilman Alam Lasuca, who identified Lasuca through his severed head recovered from the blast site. It was the first time she saw her son again since he ran away.

A DNA test later confirmed his identity.

“The DNA results…concluded that there is 99.99 percentage probability match on the DNA sample taken from Vilman Lasuca and samples of [Norman Lasuca],” the Philippine National Police (PNP) Regional Crime Laboratory Office in Davao Region stated in its report.

Investigation showed that Lasuca, 23, set off the improvised explosive device he was wearing at a checkpoint near the Philippine Army's 1st Brigade Combat Team.

This created a distraction that enabled his still unidentified accomplice to run in front of the camp’s gate and detonate another bomb.

Citing his mother's narration, authorities said Lasuca grew up a battered child, often beat by his ill-tempered father, Fredericko, a mechanic. He was the 5th among 11 children.

“Siya ay biktima ng pananakit ng kaniyang ama na isang laborer na sa marahil sa pagod at liit ng kaniyang kinikita ay napagbubuntunan ng galit itong batang Norman,” said Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

(He was a victim of physical abuse by his father who was a laborer. Perhaps due to exhaustion and because he had low pay, he turns his resentment to the young Norman.)

The military said terrorist organization Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) recruited, trained, and equipped Lasuca for the attack.

“Accordingly, Lasuca joined the group of ASG when he was 16 or 17 years old due to the influence of his friends/neighbor, the Dela Cruz brothers. Another reason that he joined the group is to escape his father who constantly beat him,” said Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, chief of the Armed Forces’ Western Mindanao Command.

According to Sobejana, Lasuca lived in Barangay Asturias in Jolo and studied elementary in a public school there.

“He initially joined the group of Yasser Igasan and later joined the group of Hajan Sadjaan when Igasan died during an encounter with government forces.”

Clinical psychologist Camille Garcia said a child who experience physical abuse or grow up in violence could either be withdrawn or aggressive.

“Pupuwede kasing mag-develop ng sociopathic behavior eh na tinatawag. So ’pag may ganon, wala siyang remorse, hindi makokonsensiya kung ano man ’yung puwede niyang gawin,” said Garcia.

(He could develop sociopathic behavior. So when that happens, there is no remorse, his conscience won't bother him, whatever he does.)

“’Yung anger na ’yun pupuwedeng ma-stimulate na hindi niya man gantihan ’yung gumawa sa kaniya, puwedeng gawin niya sa iba.”

(This anger that can be stimulated, while he could not take revenge on the one who hurt him, he can do it to others.)


Soldiers walk past the body of a man slumped beside a tricycle following a bomb attack in front of the temporary headquarters of the army's 1st Brigade Combat team in Barangay Kajatian, Indanan town, Sulu, June 28. The attack left 8 soldiers dead and 12 others wounded. Nickee Butlangan, AFP

Suicide attacks have for long been a terror tactic often seen overseas. But recently, bombings carried out by extremists ready to give up their lives to claim that of others have been recorded in the Philippines.

Apart from the June 28 blasts, the tactic was seen in at least 2 other recent bombings: the twin blasts at the Jolo Cathedral during Mass in January, and a van bomb at a military checkpoint in Basilan in July 2018.

“It’s really alarming kasi first-time ever na ma-establish natin na Filipino, ‘di ba?” said Sobejana. “We have to accept the fact na mayroon na talagang ganon.”

(It’s really alarming because this is the first time ever that we have established that [a suicide bomber was] a Filipino, right? We have to accept the fact that we already have one.)

The Indanan blasts, according to terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna, shows the aggressive radicalization of Filipino jihadists by the Islamic State (ISIS), which could mean more suicide attacks – something that Philippine security troops are unfamiliar with.

“There would be more suicide attacks by Filipinos in the South, so we can conclusively say that this is a bombing carried out by Filipinos who have been radicalized,” he said in an interview on ANC.

He added: “This is going to change the threat picture completely, the element of [Filipino] suicide is introduced. The government troops, police and others will have to take security measures and operate very carefully.”

Suicide bombing finds its origins in Russia in the 19th century, and has been carried out from Japan to the Middle East to Sri Lanka and sprouted elsewhere, according to historian Jeffrey William Lewis in a study published by the Ohio State University.

Since the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in 2001, the world has become familiar with “suicide bombers,” often portrayed as those who hold an almost lurid fascination for their willingness to kill themselves while killing others supposedly in the name of Allah.

Prof. Julkipli Wadi of the University of the Philippines Institute of Islamic Studies cited the phenomenon of violent extremism worldwide.

“[This is] driven by the rising ideology among so-called fundamentalists or so called Wahabi or Salafi-oriented teachings. And this ideology has already penetrated to many parts of the world including Southeast Asia, and the Philippines included, particularly Mindanao and Sulu area,” he said.

The Philippines also had a share of suicide bombings during the late Spanish colonization to the Japanese invasion in the Sulu archipelago, performed by so-called juramentados, meaning “one who has taken an oath.”

The group of Moro men fearlessly threw themselves upon invading police and soldiers or Christian civilians, and are expected to be killed themselves, based on the 1993 book "The Cambridge History of Southeast Asia."

The deadly SuperFerry bombing in 2004 was originally a suicide mission, according to security expert Rommel Banlaoi.

“The Filipino suicide bombing attack only confirms what we have been fearing for the last couple of years, and we have seen that coming and now the time has come to have that. And I see what I called a ‘domino effect’ because that has been the desire of the Islamic State to the Philippines: to encourage followers to mount such kind of violent attack through suicide mission,” said Banlaoi.

Banlaoi is president of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research and has been monitoring terrorist activities over the past 2 decades.

It has taken a long process of recruitment and indoctrination in the Philippines, according to Banlaoi.

“Because the level of religiosity of Filipino Muslim is not that deep compared to the Arab world or even compared to Indonesia and Malaysia. The Muslims here are very moderate and secular that’s why it took them time to convince young people of such kind of act,” he said.

Muslims make up a minority of the predominantly Catholic Philippine population.


The Mindanao region has been placed under martial law since May 2017 following 5 months of firefights between state troops and the ISIS-linked local terrorist group Maute in Marawi City.

Apart from focused military operations, target hardening, and intelligence gathering to quell terrorists, the military is also preventing the growth of extremism in the country by conducting community support programs in far-flung and conflict-affected areas.

Established since 2017, the program aims to protect people from being exploited by terrorist groups through lectures on deceptive recruitment and disadvantages of being associated with the underground movement.

Banlaoi said authorities have to double the efforts and outsmart the enemies who are now also using cyberspace to attract jihadists.

“Ang labanan dito, unahan. The Philippine authorities must be 2 steps ahead,” he said.

(The fight here is about who goes first. The Philippine authorities must be 2 steps ahead.)

3 Abu Sayyaf supporters yield in Basilan

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 11, 2019): 3 Abu Sayyaf supporters yield in Basilan

RETURN TO FOLD OF LAW. Brig. Gen. Fernando Reyeg, the Army's 104th Infantry Brigade commander, welcomes the three Abu Sayyaf supporters who surrendered Wednesday (July 10, 2019) to the 18th Infantry Battalion in Ungakaya Pukan, Basilan province. (Photo of courtesy Army's 104th Infantry Brigade)

Three supporters of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) surrendered amid the intensified military offensive against them in the province of Basilan, officials said Thursday.

Maj. Arvin Encinas, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) information officer, said the three ASG supporters surrendered around 8 a.m. Wednesday to the Army’s 18th Infantry Battalion in Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan.

Encinas identified them as Hasid Aslimto Abdurasul Taba, Isaimin Talih Kabong, and Gerry Langkat Laikan. They yielded two Garand rifles and one Thompson sub-machine gun.

The three men were presented to Brig. Gen. Fernando Reyeg, the Army’s 104th Infantry Brigade commander.

Meanwhile, 25 loose firearms were handed over by the local chief executives of Albarka and Ungkaya Pukan to Lt. Col. Ivan San Jose of the Army’s 18th Infantry Battalion commander.

Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Westmincom chief, said he was elated with the "unwavering support of the local chief executives in all peace efforts" of Westmincom.

“In our desire to achieve sustainable peace, we continuously convince the remaining Abu Sayyaf bandits and other lawless elements to lay down their arms and return to the fold of the law,” Sobejana added.

AFP eyes security adjustments in wake of Sulu suicide attack

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 11, 2019): AFP eyes security adjustments in wake of Sulu suicide attack

AFP spokesperson Marine Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo (left) and PNP spokesperson Col. Bernard Banac (right). (PNA photo by Lloyd Caliwan)

Adjustments in security techniques, tactics, and procedures will be adapted following the June 28 suicide bombing attack in Sulu, which claimed the lives of at least seven people and wounded 22 others.

This was bared by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Marine Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo in an interview with reporters Wednesday.

"Definitely, we will have adjustments in our (security) techniques, tactics, and procedure given this development in Sulu but as you know and I know you would understand we just cannot reveal that to you because those are operational matters that cannot be publicly announced," he said.

Arevalo also said the AFP will also develop doctrines for fighting in urban terrain based on the combat experience of soldiers during the five-month battle for Marawi City in 2017.

Earlier, the military and police confirmed that one of the two bombers behind the suicide bombing attack at the tactical command post of the 1st Brigade Combat Team in Barangay Kajatian, Indanan, Sulu, was a Filipino as proven by DNA tests.

"This springs from the outcome of the joint investigation by the AFP and the result of the DNA testing by the PNP(Philippine National Police) of the samples taken from Mrs. Vilman Lasuca (mother) and Alhussin Alam Lasuca (brother) -- both Tausug Filipinos and that of Norman Lasuca, the suicide bomber," Arevalo said.

In the wake of these developments, the AFP and PNP assured the public that they are exerting all efforts to defeat the threat of terrorism in Mindanao.

“The AFP and the PNP would like to allay the fears of our countrymen notwithstanding this development where we can confirm and is now confirming the incidence of the first suicide bombing in the Philippines perpetrated by Norman Lasuca,” Arevalo said.

The AFP, for its part, vowed to "pursue the principals behind this dastardly and cowardly act -- relentlessly and untiringly -- to bring justice and legal retribution for the victims of this crime."

“We wish to highlight the fact that the AFP has its keen focus on Sulu to defeat the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) put a stop to the terrorist activities and atrocities they commit against the people of Sulu, in Mindanao and the country,” he added.

In compliance with President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to crush the ASG bandits, the AFP has earlier deployed a Marine Battalion Landing Team, and another Army Infantry Battalion in Sulu.

The military spokesperson said aside from the already existing forces in Sulu, the 11th Infantry Division was activated to intensify the conduct of a surgical and focused military operation.

This is aside from additional naval and air assets to be deployed in the province.

Arevalo also noted that the military is pursuing the continuing National Action Plan on Preventing and Countering Violent extremism aimed at curbing the spread of radicalism and violent extremism and cutting support for local terrorist groups.

“We vigorously continue our collaboration and information sharing with our counterpart nations like Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia, and the United States to name a few, to harness our conduct of operations,” he added.

The military spokesperson also cited the need to amend the Human Security Act in order to remove the provision, which imposes a hefty fine for members of security forces who wrongfully detained a suspected terrorist and increase the authorized period of detention of a suspected terrorist from three days to 30 days.

“Against this backdrop, we Filipinos should unite in this fight against terrorism. This is not only of the AFP’s and the PNP’s. This drive to protect our nation, our families, and our posterity from the ugly deadly face and outcome of terrorism is everybody's concern,” Arevalo stressed.

Citing the increase in tourist arrivals and the Philippines’ ranking as among the best places in the world to live and work, the AFP spokesperson noted that these are great reasons for the people to work together to fight terrorism.

“We should take inspiration from the fact the Philippines has been ranked 24th best place to live and work, just behind the US, which ranked 23rd, and ahead of China, which ranked 26th. That’s according to the 2019 HSBC Expat’s annual survey, which is based on responses from more than 18,000 expats across 163 markets on three metrics: living, career opportunity, and family life. And the increase in tourist arrival in the Philippines by 9.6 percent reckoned from (January) ‘19. All of these are great reasons for all of us to unite and help one another to curb terrorism,” he added.

The June 28 incident is the third of its kind in Mindanao with the first in a military checkpoint in Lamitan, Basilan on July 31, 2018, killing 10 people.

The second was in a cathedral in Jolo, Sulu which killed 20 persons, including the alleged suicide bombers, last January 27.

AFP modernization now more relevant due to global terror threat

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 11, 2019): AFP modernization now more relevant due to global terror threat

AFP public affairs office chief, Col. Noel Detoyato. (File photo)

With the ever-present threat posed by global terrorism, it is only fitting that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) beefs up its modernization and counter-terrorism efforts.

This was stressed by Col. Noel Detoyato, AFP public affairs office chief, when asked to comment on President Rodrigo R. Duterte's statements that he wants a stronger military and police for "dangerous times ahead" in the Philippines.

“I hope that Congress would tide us over to complete the instruments that we need in dealing, especially with terrorism,” the Chief Executive added.

"This is the reason why the AFP is doubling its efforts in implementing the AFP modernization and it’s counterterrorism operations in the south. The face of global terrorism is ever changing and so we have to keep up with the pace," Detoyato said in a message to the Philippine News Agency late Wednesday.

Also, Detoyato said the AFP is taking advantage of the support of the President to fully transform itself and better perform its mandate.

"We have to take advantage of the support being initiated by our Commander-in-Chief by doubling our efforts in transforming the AFP while performing our mandate," he pointed out.

He added that the war on terror should be addressed now for the safety and security of future generations.

"The challenge of the future war on terror should be addressed now. With the support of the government led by our President and the overwhelming support of the majority of the Filipinos to his leadership we are confident that we can face this 'dangerous times' ahead," Detoyato said.

Palace 'concerned' over Sulu suicide bombing

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 11, 2019): Palace 'concerned' over Sulu suicide bombing

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo. (File photo)

Malacañang on Thursday expressed concern over the June 28 suicide bombing attack in Sulu, which killed eight people and injured 22 others.

“It’s a cause for concern given this is the first time that there is a Filipino suicide bomber,”
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a Palace briefing.

“It goes against the grain of the character of Filipinos. Yung mag suicide ka para sa terrorism (Suicide for terrorism),”
he added.

Panelo called on the public to be vigilant and report suspicious activities to authorities.

“Mag-ingat ano man ang nakikita nilang hindi normal, ipaalam nila sa mga kaukulang awtoridad lalo na yung mga nakikita nilang galaw na mapanganib para sa kanilang kalagayan (Be cautious when they something unusual and report to authorities, especially if there are suspicious activities that may put their lives at risk), Panelo said.

Panelo said that the suicide bombing incident should prompt the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and other security forces to enhance technology in surveillance and intelligence work.

Asked if the country’s first suicide bombing incident would push President Rodrigo Duterte to call for a fourth extension of martial law in Mindanao, Panelo said it would be up to the chief executive.

“That’s the call of the President,” Panelo said.

Martial law in Mindanao was declared on May 23, 2017 following attacks launched by the ISIS-inspired Maute Group in Marawi City and has been extended thrice until December 2019.

On Wednesday, police and military officials confirmed that one of the two suicide bombers who perpetrated the attack at the tactical command post of the 1st Brigade Combat Team (1BCT) in Indanan, Sulu is a Filipino.

This is the third suicide attack in a span of one year -- the first by a Moroccan national in Lamitan, Basilan in July 2018 and the second by Indonesians in Mt. Carmel Cathedral in Jolo last January.