Thursday, August 1, 2019

Pag-asa Island Garrison Blockade Feared As 100 Chinese Boats Seen Around Island

From the International Business Times (Aug 1, 2019): Pag-asa Island Garrison Blockade Feared As 100 Chinese Boats Seen Around Island

A tweet from Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin that said “Diplomatic protest fired off,” coming moments after a press briefing held by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., captures the Philippines' worry about a new confrontation with China over a disputed island in the South China Sea.

In his briefing, Esperon advised that diplomatic action be taken to deal with over 100 Chinese vessels lurking in the waters off Pag-asa, one of the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea where a garrison of marines is maintained by the Philippines. The island is also known as Thitu and is one of the larger islands in the island group. It is approximately 500 kms from Palawan, the governing province of the island.

Esperon said that his information indicated that the Chinese intentions might be to thwart other supply vessels from reaching Kalayaan and Ayungin Shoal, a submerged feature in the Pag-asa chain where the Philippine garrison is stationed.


An aerial view shows Pagasa Island, part of the disputed Spratly group of islands, in the South China Sea off the western Philippines, in 2011. Photo: Reuters

This marks the second time in recent months that the Philippines have protested the Chinese presence in the area. In April, over 200 Chinese boats swarmed the island. Since then the number of observed vessels has varied. In early June the number had dropped to 18. Later that month, the Palawan News reports 50 Chinese vessels. The current influx began a few weeks ago, with the most recent count of 113 reported by the Philippine Navy.

Due to bad weather or in anticipation of the diplomatic protest, most of the Chinese vessels had left the area by Tuesday, leaving only three fishing boats and a coast guard ship.

The continued quarrel between the two countries is caused by the conflicting claims each has over the South China Sea waters. China has the more historical claim with the Nine Dash Line, a U-shaped demarcation line that covers the bulk of the South China Sea. The line first appeared in the late 1940s on a map published by the Chinese government. In 2016 a United Nations arbitration ruled that within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Philippines, China had no legal basis to claim "historic rights" within its Nine-Dash line.

The Spratly Islands are located almost exactly in the center of the South China Sea. Other countries aside from China and the Philippines have an interest in them as well, including Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam. They all stake claims based on EEZs or historical claims. China’s Nine Dash Line includes the entire island chain.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio advised that the protests continue and told reporters, “Otherwise it’s an implied admission that we allow them to do that and we should not allow that.

AFP-CRS: 9 terrorists neutralized in Maguindanao

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP-CRS) Facebook Page (Jul 31, 2019): 9 terrorists neutralized in Maguindanao

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[The Civil Relations Service (CRS) is the unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that engages the public through its public information and community relations programs “to create a favorable atmosphere between the community and the AFP. The CRS is the equivalent of the Psychological Operations and Civil Affairs units of the US Army.]

AFP-CRS: Happy 31st Anniversary 7th Infantry (Kaugnay) Division, Philippine Army!

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP-CRS) Facebook Page (Aug 1, 2019): Happy 31st Anniversary 7th Infantry (Kaugnay) Division, Philippine Army!

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[The Civil Relations Service (CRS) is the unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that engages the public through its public information and community relations programs “to create a favorable atmosphere between the community and the AFP. The CRS is the equivalent of the Psychological Operations and Civil Affairs units of the US Army.]

A Modern-Day Mabini

From One Voice Magazine (Aug 1, 2019): A Modern-Day Mabini (By Amber Lynne Salud)

[One Voice Magazine is a Christian youth magazine that seeks to be a voice of Godly passion in this so-what generation asking What am I here for? Who am I? What is life, really? What is knowing God all about? Do I have what it takes. One Voice Magazine is full of real-life stories of individuals seeking God and God loving them; of poems and pictures that tell of heart cries; of articles on different ministries/outreaches/volunteer work that promote hope, unity, and transformation. It is media giving people a glimpse into a Christianity that has meaning in this present generation.]

As an officer in the Special Operations Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Captain Sharco Mabini’s days may seem dulled down by routine, but to a non-soldier’s eyes, his days are nothing short of inspiring. In his 14 years of service, his daily grind is marked by desire, devotion, and discipline. Becoming a soldier is a childhood dream come true for this 35-year-old man who hails from Tagum City, Davao del Norte. He can still remember seeing soldiers as a young boy and how much admiration he had for them that he knew he just had to become one of them. After he graduated from high school, he immediately asked permission from his mother if he could join the army. His mother didn’t agree with his plan and urged him instead to finish a degree first. His desire was still to become a soldier, but he adhered to his mother’s suggestion. He finished a degree in Criminology in 2004 and then went on to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a soldier.

Sharco Mabini, second from left

As he devoted himself to training and learning to become a soldier, he acquired a new-found devotion for the Philippines as well. He realized that our country’s sovereignty, freedom, and peace had to be defended and safeguarded. Days, weeks, and months spent on the field; rigorous physical trainings under the scorching heat of the sun; and the strict demand of tactical unit assignments were his discipline. All these led him and his team of 80-100 soldiers to the neutralization of the Maute terrorists in Marawi.

The date was the 16th of October 2017—an ordinary day for some Filipinos who were oblivious to the grueling conditions of the Battle of Marawi. To the Maranaos, it was the day of freedom. It was freedom for the bakwits, the displaced Maranao refugees so they could come back home to Marawi. It was freedom for the Maranaon families to search for missing loved ones. It was the day that some families got to grieve and mourn for their dead, and the day that some families got to embrace those who were alive after 5 months. It was the day that the Maranaos were free to rebuild their lives from the ashes left of the capital city of Lanao del Sur.

Life in Marawi was normal before the siege. The city bustled with workers who were making a living through agriculture, exporting, and trading. It was the start of the Ramadhan. What was supposedly a peaceful time spent with loved ones became a time of terror that separated husband and wives and children. It was on the 23rd of May 2017 when the Marawi siege started. Captain Sharco Mabini, along with his unit of soldiers, were deployed and assigned to the infantry brigade whose area of operations included the city of Marawi. The siege was triggered when Captain Sharco Mabini and some of his men conducted a raid on one of the safe houses of a notorious Maute terrorist leader. After the said raid, Maute terrorists all over Marawi City retaliated and stormed Camp Ranao and occupied several buildings at the heart of Lanao del Sur— including the city hall of Marawi City. When the Maute terrorists managed to take hold of some of the buildings in Marawi, that’s when it dawned on the Maranaos and the soldiers that the battle they were about to face was a big one. On the same day, some of the Maranaos started to flee the city, while others hesitated to leave their hometown. The citizens who stayed put in Marawi faced the cruel attacks of the Maute group. The civilians witnessed their homes crumbling down from explosions and some of their loved ones captured and held hostage.

During the Marawi siege, Captain Sharco Mabini was one of the company commanders of Light Reaction Regiment, a counter-terrorism unit of the AFP. As an officer in the said unit, he was responsible to lead his co-soldiers in accomplishing the mission of their unit. This was Captain Sharco Mabini’s first year of duty as a Company Commander.

Fear was one of the things that surfaced in his and his men’s hearts. As soldiers, they knew and understood the danger they were facing. Along with fear was the nagging feeling of doubt—when would this war end? But amongst the range of emotions that he felt, he, too, felt deeply honored to be a part of the army’s mission to protect and defend the city.

His being an officer and a soldier entailed that his emotions would have to be dealt with at a much later time. Customary to SOCOM practice, he focused on accomplishing the mission at hand—to defend the city of Marawi and its citizens. As part of accomplishing this mission, Captain Sharco Mabini intentionally and wholeheartedly forwent his privilege of having personal time and instead set his mind to become meticulous and thorough in their area of work. It was not only the city that was at stake—the livelihood and infrastructure—but more so, lives were at stake. The fate of the Maranaos rested on the very hands of the soldiers.

This SOCOM practice was put to the test when co-soldiers of Captain Sharco Mabini acquired battle injuries and worse, became casualties of war. He lost 5 devoted and professional troops in the span of the urban war, together with more or less 40 men who incurred minor injuries and serious injuries starting from small wounds to amputated limbs. Most of the injuries that his men incurred were due to gunshots and IEDs (improvised explosive device). Despite this, Captain Sharco Mabini remained composed and focused by constantly briefing and debriefing with his unit. They assessed every soldier in their unit and evaluated their strategies and techniques to figure out their shortcomings and weak points as a unit, and to find out how they could improve and strengthen their unit. Sometimes, Captain Sharco Mabini wept for his co-soldiers on his own because as the company commander, his soldiers looked to him not only for tactical strategies and techniques, but also for his leadership and influence. Thus, he could not afford to show emotional frailty at such a crucial time.

The Marawi siege ended five months after it started. The date was the 16th of October 2017. The Armed Forces of the Philippines were able to neutralize the Maute group of terrorists and in doing so, won the longest urban battle in the history of the Philippines. Captain Sharco Mabini and his men subsequently returned to their headquarters in Fort Magsaysay, Palayan City, for re-training, but not without a 30-day break to reconnect with themselves and with their families.

Captain Sharco Mabini is one of the unnamed heroes of the Philippines. There are many more like him who helped realize this herculean task of victory. His name harkens back to another noble hero of the Philippines, Apolinario Mabini. Major Sharco Mabini fought for the Philippines in a different way that Apolinario Mabini did—but the difference in how they fought doesn’t diminish the greatness of what they did for our beloved nation. Indeed, he is a modern-day Mabini—a modern-day hero.

As of this writing, Captain Sharco Mabini still serves in the Philippine Army, furnished with weapons of knowledge and skill from his humbling experiences. Today he is decorated not only with medals of honor, but also with a major upgrade to his name—he entered Marawi a faithful soldier and he came out of it a hero—he is (now) Major Sharco Mabini.

[Amber Lynne Salud serves as one of the senior leaders in Cavite House of Prayer. Her life vision is to see women discover their identity in Christ and to help raise them up as a great host of women who will proclaim Jesus is Lord. She wants to see women take up their role in the Kingdom of God. She is a wedding planner and a writer. On most days, she's watching her husband, Roy, goof around with their son, David.]

AFP-CRS: Peace 88.3 FM: Philippine Navy visit to Russia for Russian Navy Day Parade

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service Facebook Page (Aug 1, 2019): Peace 88.3 FM: Philippine Navy visit to Russia for Russian Navy Day Parade

LOOK | PN Contingent in Russia headed by Captain Richard Gonzaga paid courtesy call to the Commander of Russian Pacific Fleet and Deputy Mayor of Vladivostok. The contingent also showcased the Filipino Culture thru cultural presentations during the PN Hosted Reception aboard BRP Davao del Sur (LD602).

Such activities are part of the PN's visit to Russia in line with its participation to The Russian Navy Day celebration hosted by the Russian Pacific Fleet.

The PN Contingent was accorded by officers from the Russian Pacific Fleet with a send-off ceremony early in the morning of Wednesday, July 31, 2019, bidding adieu to the PN delegation and marking another milestone in he Philippines and Russian navies relations.

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[The Civil Relations Service (CRS) is the unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that engages the public through its public information and community relations programs “to create a favorable atmosphere between the community and the AFP. The CRS is the equivalent of the Psychological Operations and Civil Affairs units of the US Army.]

Kalinaw News: New Army Company Commander assumes post in Surigao del Norte

Posted to Kalinaw News (Aug 1, 2019): New Army Company Commander assumes post in Surigao del Norte

New Army Company Commander assumes post in Surigao del Norte 1

New Army Company Commander assumes post in Surigao del Norte 2

New Army Company Commander assumes post in Surigao del Norte 3

New Army Company Commander assumes post in Surigao del Norte 5

Placer, Surigao del Norte – The Charlie (Crasher) Company of the 30th Infantry (Python) Battalion (30IB) has a new Company Commander in the person of 1st Lieutenant Christian Elpedes who replaced 1st Lieutenant Gabby Ladyong last Sunday, July 28 during a turnover ceremony presided by 30IB Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey A Villarosa at Brgy Diaz, San Francisco,Surigao del Norte.

1Lt Christian Elpedes formally assumed the command of the Charlie Company in a simple change of command ceremony. 1Lt Elpedes replaced 1lt Gabby Ladyong who was also given a higher position in the battalion.

Under his leadership, 1Lt Gabby Ladyong effectively led the “Crashers” and was able to facilitate the surrender of a certain Communist Terrorist Leader (CTL) alyas Noname of Sandataang Yunit Pampropaganda 16B (SYP16B), Guerilla Front (GF) 16, North Eastern Mindanao Committee (NEMRC) during the conduct of the Community Support Program (CSP) in his area of operation (AO). Said neutralization snow-balled to the surrender of CPP cadres, militia ng bayan (MB) members, and other Underground Mass Organization (UGMO) members in mostly Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDA) and Conflict-Affected Areas (ConAA) in Malimono, San Francisco, Sison and Surigao City all of Surigao del Norte. He was able to successfully conduct four (4) youth leadership seminars, an activity that greatly enhanced the youth-participants’ awareness of the lies and deceit during their (CNTs) recruitment. He was able to conduct ten (10) tree planting/growing activities in the different barangays in his area of operation (AO) in coordination with different stakeholders. He was also able to successfully conduct ten (10) live-in seminars, an activity that not just provide CNT recruitment, extortion and atrocity awareness, but
also provides awareness of the evils and dangers of the use of illegal drugs.

In his relinquishment speech, 1Lt Ladyong said, “I am sincerely thankful to the excellent support and performance of the Charlie “Crashers” during my tour of duty.

My profound gratitude also goes to our wonderful partners for peace, the Local Government Units in my AO led by their very vibrant Local Chief Executives, the different subordinate offices of the National Government Agencies, and the different Civil Society Organizations (CSO) and People’s Organization (PO) in my AO. I urge you to continue to extend the same warmth and support to my very able successor”.

In his assumption speech, 1Lt Elpedes said, “I am thankful for the trust and confidence given to me by the leadership of 30IB. I will be more than pleased to carry on the gargantuan task of ridding Charlie Company’s AO of the menace of the CNTs”.

Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Jeffrey A Villarosa, the Guest Speaker and the Presiding Officer said of the turnover ceremony stated, “Please help me welcome our new Company Commander. I have heard plenty of good things about him both in the area of resource management and operations. I am confident that, like his predecessor, he will be able to lead the Crashers to new heights and will be able to help 30IB accomplish its mission in Surigao del Norte and Dinagat Island Province (DIP)”.

Christian is a member of Officer Candidate Course “Gandilan” class of 44-2015. He is also former enlisted personnel with a rank of airman second class (A2C) of Philippine Airforce equivalent to Private First Class of Philippine Army from 2012-2014 before he became an officer of the army.

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[Kalinaw News is the official online source of information on the pursuit for peace by the Philippine Army. It provides information on the activities of Army Units nationwide in the performance of their duty of Serving the People and Securing the Land. This website is a property of the Civil-Military Operations Regiment, Philippine Army located at Lawton Avenue, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.
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EASTMINCOM: Eastmincom partners in Bridge Building

Posted to the Eastern Mindanao Command (EASTMINCOM) Website (Aug 1, 2019): Eastmincom partners in Bridge Building

NSFA, Panacan, Davao City - The Eastern Mindanao Command (EMC) through the 10th Infantry Division and 52nd Engineer Brigade will be a major partner in the construction of an expanded mesh metal bridge project of Davao City Peace 911 and the GMA Kapuso Foundation at Brgy. Mapula, Paquibato District, Davao City.

In a Memorandum of Understanding and Cooperation (MOUC) signed by Vice Mayor Sebastian "Baste" Duterte representing Davao City Government, Lt. Gen. Felimon T. Santos Jr., Commander, Eastern Mindanao Command, GMA Kapuso Foundation, and other major partners on July 31, 2019, in Mapula, Paquibato, EMC through the 52nd Engineer Brigade will carry out the construction while 10th Infantry Division through the 1003rd Infantry Brigade will be tasked to secure the project.

The project is expected to go on full blast this August after a Ground Breaking Ceremony was held the same day, proceeding the MOUC signing.

The said bridge will cater hundreds of mostly Indigenous Peoples (IP) from far-flung Sitios, especially the students going to their schools.

Paquibato District is an IP area of Davao City which is now a focus of the City Government of Davao to be transformed into a conflict-resilient area through their program "Terrorism to Tourism."

"We appreciate the initiatives as it contributes to the whole process of consolidating and developing the area towards a sustainable peaceful community," Lt. Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. said.

Source: Public Information Office, Eastern Mindanao Command, AFP

AFP to train 255 ex-MILF fighters to help secure Bangsamoro region

From Rappler (Aug 1, 2019): AFP to train 255 ex-MILF fighters to help secure Bangsamoro region

Members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces will work alongside soldiers and cops in the Joint Peace and Security Team, says Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr

WAR AND PEACE. Former MILF rebels join a training on capability building in Al Barka, Basilan. Photo by Richard Falcatan/Rappler

WAR AND PEACE. Former MILF rebels join a training on capability building in Al Barka, Basilan. Photo by Richard Falcatan/Rappler

The Armed Forces of the Philippines will train around 255 former combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to join government forces securing the Bangsamoro region.

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) said in a statement that the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the armed component of the MILF, will be trained to be part of the Joint Peace and Security Team (JPST), in line with the normalization and decommissioning process under the 2014 peace deal between the government and the MILF.

OPAPP said that the JPST team shall establish security of the residents within the 6 government-acknowledged MILF camps during the decommissioning process which will begin on September 7.

President Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr said President Rodrigo Duterte will attend the launch of the decommissioning process.

He said that the training would be the gateway for the former MILF combatants to join the AFP and the PNP in maintaining peace and order in the Bangsamoro region.

"The JPSTs shall composed of members of the AFP, Philippine National Police and MILF-BIAF. These teams will serve until the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao interim government (BTA) ends its term in 2022," Galvez said.

He cited the crucial role of JPSTs as the main security for the decommissioning in the different assembly and processing areas (APAS). They will also assist in settling disputes, and help in the fight against illegal drugs and terrorism.

“These JPSTs will be tasked to maintain peace and order in areas that have been mutually identified by the GPH and the MILF,” Galvez said.

“More importantly, these teams will also support the work being carried out by the existing ceasefire mechanisms, particularly in addressing pressing issues on security and maintaining order,” he added.

The decommissioning of the former MILF fighters members is in line with the Normalization Track of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by the government and the MILF in 2014.

The Normalization Track has 4 main components: security, socio-economic development, confidence-building measures, and transitional justice and reconciliation.

Based on the Normalization Track, 30% or 12,000 MILF combatants and their weapons will be decommissioned this year. At least 35% will undergo the same process next year, while the remaining fighters would be decommissioned by 2022 in time for the signing of the Exit Agreement under the CAB.

DND insists China 'squatting' in West PH Sea

From Rappler (Aug 1, 2019): DND insists China 'squatting' in West PH Sea

'Possession' or 'position?' The Defense department clears up post-SONA mess by reiterating the Philippines’ claim of sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea

MABINI REEF. Internationally known as Johnson Reef, Mabini Reef has been reclaimed and turned into a military outpost by China. Image from CSIS/AMTI

MABINI REEF. Internationally known as Johnson Reef, Mabini Reef has been reclaimed and turned into a military outpost by China. Image from CSIS/AMTI

The Philippines has “possession and position” in the West Philippine Sea, the Department of National Defense (DND) said on Thursday, August 1, in a statement on President Rodrigo Duterte’s much-criticized remark in his 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 22.

DND spokesperson Director Arsenio Andolong said "the Philippines has two documents to support its claims versus none for the Chinese,” citing the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 UNCLOS arbitral award as bases of the Philippines’ sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea.

"Thus, the Chinese presence in the West Philippine Sea is akin to somebody squatting on a piece of land owned by someone else,” Andolong said.

In his SONA, Duterte said the Chinese could not be driven away from the West Philippine Sea because they were “in possession” of it.

The remark drew strong criticism from Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who pointed out that China’s reclaimed outposts in the West Philippine Sea only comprised 7% of its total area, which falls within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr afterwards claimed that the word Duterte used was "position” and not “possession,” meaning China had a “positional advantage” in the West Philippine Sea.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana then backed Hermogenes’ claim.

However, the official transcript of the SONA from the Office of the President does use the word “possession” – twice.

“China also claims the property and he is in possession. ‘Yan ang problema. Sila ‘yung (That's the problem. They are the ones) in possession and claiming all the resources there as an owner,” the official transcript of Duterte's speech states.

Possession, position

This latest statement from the DND said China "is in position, and to a certain degree, has possession of only a very small part of the South China Sea” because of its militarized artificial islands in the area.

“South China Sea” is the international name of the sea that connects the Philippines, Taiwan, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.

“West Philippine Sea” is the term used by Filipinos to refer to their EEZ within the South China Sea, which includes the 7 reefs that China reclaimed.

The Philippines has control over 9 islets in the same area, including Pag-asa Island, which hosts a civilian community of about 250 Filipinos.

"In the same vein, the Philippines also has possession and position in the West Philippine Sea,” Andolong said.

"We have to clarify, however, that possession, position, and control are different realities that do not necessarily exist together. Although several claimant countries are occupying features in the South China Sea, not one of them has complete and sole control over that entire body of water,” he added.

Andolong defended the Duterte administration amid criticism that the country lost ground to China after it shelved the UNCLOS arbitral award to broaden ties with Beijing.

"It must also be pointed out that the Philippines never gave up any of its positions in the WPS during the Duterte Administration and, in fact, it is improving the existing facilities of its biggest island, Pag-asa, to accommodate more residents and personnel,” Andolong said.

A source from Pag-asa told Rappler that Chinese vessels continue to ply the waters around the island, especially when Philippine ships deliver construction supplies.

The government is building a beaching ramp and paving the airstrip on Pag-asa Island.

On Wednesday, July 31, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin said he had “fired off” a diplomatic protest against China for its vessels' “swarming” of Pag-asa from July 24 to 25.

The possession/position affair from Duterte’s last SONA drew controversy and highlighted criticism that his administration is too favorable to Beijing.

Duterte was, in fact, asserting a supposed “fishing deal” he made with Chinese President Xi Jinping that allows the Chinese to fish in the West Philippine Sea, which he said was the reason he could not drive them away.

On June 9, a Chinese trawler ran into an anchored Philippine fishing boat at Recto Bank off Palawan and left its 22 Filipino crew marooned.

Duterte downplayed the incident as concerns were raised that Chinese trawlers may be maritime militias in disguise.

The DND statement from Andolong states a tougher line.

"We are ready to defend our sovereignty and sovereign rights using whatever means available to us,” Andolong said.

"Likewise, every able-bodied Filipino should be ready to fulfill his or her duty when the time comes.”

Armed men who ‘observed’ killing of cops in Negros Oriental arrested in Cebu

From Rappler (Aug 1, 2019): Armed men who ‘observed’ killing of cops in Negros Oriental arrested in Cebu

Police officials say the suspects arrested were present when 4 police officers were executed by alleged communist rebels in Ayungon town Negros Oriental

ARMED. Three armed men are arrested by Cebu police in Badian town. Photo courtesy of Police Regional Office-7

ARMED. Three armed men are arrested by Cebu police in Badian town. Photo courtesy of Police Regional Office-7

Three armed men traveling from Ayungon, Negros Oriental, were arrested in Badian town in southern Cebu on Wednesday, July 31, for allegedly being “passive observers” in the ambush of 4 police officers in Ayungon last July 18.

According to regional police, they apprehended the 3 suspects who were traveling to Cebu on a banca after receiving an intel from the Barangay Intelligence Networks (BIN) of Ayungon town.

Brigadier General Debold Sinas, the Central Visayas’ police director, said in a press conference in Negros Oriental on Thursday, August 1, that a police team in Badian, Cebu, was ready to intercept them after receiving the report and spotting the 3 suspects who matched the description of suspects named by the BIN.

According to the spot report, “the [police] team rushed up and accosted the suspects as they were visibly seen holding short firearms,” they added. The banca left with the driver shortly after they got off the boat.

Sinas said while they are still “conducting interviews to know their associations,” the 3 suspects – Danny Harold Tancinco, Ronnie Herebias, and Marlon Basalo – were allegedly "passive observers" when the crime was committed. 

“We understand they were there when the police were executed,” Sinas added.

The suspects will face illegal firearms charges.

The arrest comes after two other suspects were apprehended following a joint police-military operation across 4 towns in the province last week. 

(READ: 2 suspects in Negros Oriental police slaying arrested)

The 4 police officers were among 15 killed on the island in a single week.

On July 31, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that the President may use emergency powers under the Constitution to "quell the lawless violence engulfing the island, as well as to crush all forms of threats aimed to destroy the government."

Panelo said Duterte raised his reward offer to P5 million (from an initial 3 million) for the capture of the killers, "dead or alive." An additional P100,000 was offered for information on anyone who participated in the killing.

RTF-ELCAC to guarantee quality of life for Bicolanos

From the Philippine Information Agency (Aug 1, 2019): RTF-ELCAC to guarantee quality of life for Bicolanos

LEGAZPI CITY (PIA)—To ensure prosperity and adequate social services for the Bicolanos, the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) dubbed as “Task Force Katoninongan asin Kauswagan” was established in the region.

It was anchored from the National Task Force (NTF) to ELCAC in compliance with the Executive Order No. 70 issued by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte that institutionalizes the “Whole of Nation Approach” in attaining inclusive and sustainable peace.

The Regional Task Force to ELCAC dubbed as Task Force Katoninongan asin Kauswagan conducted a meeting on May 27, 2019 at Legazpi City. (Photo by DILG Bicol)

The President himself chairs the NTF-ELCAC with the secretaries as members, while the RTF-ELCAC comprises the heads of different regional government offices in Bicol.

RTF-ELCAC aims to sustain peace and order among the local communities while addressing and providing the basic social services to the public, especially to the Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDAS).

From the 12 clusters at the national level, the RTF-ELCAC Bicol created nine clusters to come up with projects and strategies focusing on the sustainability of support services intervention.

It includes the clusters on “Situational Awareness and Knowledge Management, and Strategic Communication” that aims to provide effective dissemination of government programs; and “Local Government Empowerment” that seeks to develop, institutionalize and sustain peace building advocacy and good governance.

Other clusters are “Legal Cooperation” that will provide systematic and coordinated legal assistance; and “Localized Peace Engagement, E-CLIP and Amnesty Program” to implement the government’s reintegration program effectively for former rebels and their families as they return to mainstream society.

Meanwhile, the “Basic Services Cluster” ensures the delivery of basic services, projects and programs for the people while the “Livelihood, Poverty Reduction and Employment Cluster” will enhance job opportunities, ensure food security and empower communities.

The RTF-ELCAC also comprises the clusters on Infrastructure and Resource Management; Peace, Law Enforcement and Development Support; and Sectoral Unification, Capacity Building, Empowerment and Mobilization.

Task Force Katoninongan asin Kauswagan vows to ensure fair and direct delivery of social services to the poor, disadvantaged and marginalized sector as well as the rebel returnees in Bicol Region. (PIA-5)

Tagalog News: RTF-ELCAC Caraga bumuo ng action plan para sa pagpapatupad ng EO 70

From the Philippine Information Agency (Aug 1, 2019): Tagalog News: RTF-ELCAC Caraga bumuo ng action plan para sa pagpapatupad ng EO 70

LUNGSOD NG BUTUAN - Nagtipon-tipon ang ibat-ibang ahensiya ng gobyerno na siyang bumubuo sa 12 clusters sa ilalim ng Caraga Regional Task Force - Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) dito sa lungsod para bumuo ng ibat-ibang action plan alinsunod sa Executive Order No. 70 o ang pagsugpo ng local armed conflict o insurgency sa rehiyon.

Ayon kay regional director Lilibeth Famacion ng Department of the Interior and Local Govrnment (DILG) Caraga at head secretariat ng Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC), kailangan magtulungan ang mga ahensiya ng pamahalaan at ma-streamline ang mga gagawing hakbang sa kanilang pagtugon sa problema sa insurgency,para mas maging planado at organisado.

Ibinahagi ni Erica Gina Cariño ng National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA)-central office ang mga mahahalagang papel ng bawat cluster at mga programa't serbisyo ng mga ito na dapat maibigay sa apektadong komunidad.

Binigyang-halaga rin ni regional director Manuel Orduña ng NICA regions 10 at Caraga ang ilang programa at kampanya ng administrasyong Duterte na nakatulong sa mga mamamayang pilipino lalu na ang mga programang nakapagbigay oportunidad sa mga former rebels na makapagbagong buhay.

Umaasa naman si assistant regional director Roy Kantuna ng National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Caraga na sa mga nabuong action plans ng mga clusters ay mas mapaigting pa ang kampanya laban insurgency at mas matugunan ang mga pangunahing isyung kinakaharap sa mga conflict-affected areas ng rehiyon.

Ang RTF-ELCAC ay binubuo ng: 1) local government empowerment; 2) legal cooperation cluster; 3) basic services; 4) peace and law enforcement; 5) local peace engagement; 6) sectoral unification capacity building and empowerment; 7) livelihood and poverty alleviation; 8) strategic communication; 9) infrastructure and resource management; 10) situational awareness and knowledge management; 11) E-CLIP and amnesty; at 12) international engagement. (JPG/PIA-Caraga)

Tagalog News: Kahusayan at kakayahan ng 7th ID, ibang yunit ng Army ipinamalas

From the Philippine Information Agency (Aug 1, 2019): Tagalog News: Kahusayan at kakayahan ng 7th ID, ibang yunit ng Army ipinamalas

Ipinamalas ng 7th Infantry Division at iba pang yunit ng Hukbong Katihan ang husay at kapabilidad sa kanilang pagtupad ng tungkulin. (Camille C. Nagaño/PIA 3)

FORT MAGSAYSAY, Nueva Ecija  -- Ipinamalas ng 7th Infantry Division o 7thID at iba pang yunit ng Hukbong Katihan ang husay at kapabilidad sa pagtupad ng tungkulin.

Ayon kay 7th ID Commander Major General Lenard Agustin, patuloy na pinalalakas ng hanay ang kakayahan at kagamitan upang tumugon sa mga gampanin sa pagbabantay kapayapaan katuwang ang iba’t ibang sektor ng lipunan.

Ang aktibidad na ito aniya ay isang pamamaraan upang ipakita sa bawat stakeholder ang kahalagahan ng patuloy na pagkakaisa sa layuning makamit ang tunay na kapayapaan sa bansa.

Pinakita ng Infantry Rifle Squad, Scout Ranger, Scout Sniper, at Special Forces Regiment ang paggamit ng armas, gayundin ang mga taktika sa pagresponde sa isinagawang scenario o halimbawang engkwentro sa pagitan ng mga kalaban.

Nagpakitang gilas din ang Officer Candidate Class 52-2019 sa kanilang Silent Drill Exhibition gayundin ang mga sky divers mula sa Special Forces Regiment Airborne.

Pahayag ni Agustin, sa lahat ng kahandaan at kasanayan ng hanay ay pinakamahalaga ang suporta at tulong ng lahat ng miyembro ng lipunan upang matigil na ang terorismo sa bansa.

Ito aniya ay hindi lamang responsibilidad ng mga kasundaluhan kundi ng bawat sektor at mamamayang Pilipino mula sa mga sangay ng gobyerno, nasyonal o lokal, pribadong tanggapan, hanggang sa mga opisyales at mamamayan mismo ng barangay.

Kaniyang panawagan ay maging maingat, mapagmasid, kumilos at isumbong sa tanggapan ang mga kahinahinalang grupo o aktibidad sa lugar.

Gayundnin ay huwag agad paniwalaan ang mga impormasyong nakikita sa social media at maging responsableng katuwang sa pagpapalakas ng pwersa ng gobyerno laban sa terorismo. (CLJD/CCN-PIA 3)

Tagalog News: Orientation at Action Planning sa EO 70 isinagawa sa Sibugay

From the Philippine Information Agency (Aug 1, 2019): Tagalog News: Orientation at Action Planning sa EO 70 isinagawa sa Sibugay

IPIL, Zamboanga Sibugay - - Nagpulong ang Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTF-ELCAC) sa pamumuno ni Governor Wilter Yap Palma upang mabigyang kaalaman ang mga miyembro tungkol sa Executive Order 70 at makagawa ng mga hakbang tungo sa pagpapatupad nito.

Ang nasabing orientation at action planning ay ginanap sa PDRRMO Bldg. sa Kapitolyo ng Zamboanga Sibugay at dinaluhan ng ibat-ibang ahensiya ng pamahalaan, kasali na ang pribadong sektor at mga stakeholders.

Hinikayat naman ni Gov. Palma ang mga miyembro ng Task Force na magkaisa upang matugunan ang mga pangangailangan ng mga taong nasa liblib na lugar na mahirap maabot ng serbisyo at ipakita sa kanila na mayroon tayong gobyerno na kumakalinga at nag aaruga sa kanila.

Nakiusap din siya sa mga local legislators na ipasa ang resolusyon na nagdedeklarang persona non grata ang mga kasapi ng New Peoples’ Army sa kanilang mga lugar.

Giit pa niya na kung walang kapayapaan, walang mangyayaring pag unlad ng isang bayan at makakamtan lang ito sa pamamagitan ng pagtutulungan ng lahat upang labanan ang banta ng terorismo.

Ayon kay MGen Bagnus Gaerlan, commander ng 102nd Brigade, sa mga taong naliligaw ng landas, “dapat nating ipakita na mas maganda ang ating gobyerno, mas makatao, maka diyos at maka bansa.” (ALT-PIA9/Zamboanga Sibugay)

Tagalog News: Iba’t ibang sektor, nakipagdayalogo sa mga heneral ng Army

From the Philippine Information Agency (Aug 1, 2019): Tagalog News: Iba’t ibang sektor, nakipagdayalogo sa mga heneral ng Army

Binigyang pagkakataon ang iba’t ibang sektor na makipagdayalogo sa mga tagapamuno ng 7th Infantry Division o 7thID at ibang yunit ng Hukbong Katihan. (Camille C. Nagaño/PIA 3)

FORT MAGSAYSAY, Nueva Ecija, Agosto 1 (PIA) -- Binigyang pagkakataon ang iba’t ibang sektor na makipagdayalogo sa mga tagapamuno ng 7th Infantry Division o 7thID at ibang yunit ng Hukbong Katihan.

Ayon kay 7th ID Commander Major General Lenard Agustin, ito ang unang beses na isagawa sa kampo ang ganitong aktibidad na mapagsama-sama ang mga heneral na sakop ng Philippine Army upang talakayin ang mga kasalukuyang isyung kinahaharap ng bansa na may kaugnayan sa pangkapayapaan.

Dumalo sa naturang programa ang mga alkalde, representante ng lokal na pamahalaan, mga katutubo, kabataan, pribadong asosasyon, relihiyon, academe, at mga mamamahayag.

Dito ay kanilang inilahad ang mga nararanasan, katanungang binigyang linaw ng mga tagapamunong nakasasakop.

Ilan sa mga tinalakay na usapin ay ang paglagda ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte sa Executive Order No. 70 gayundin ang mga gampanin ng lokal na pamahalaan partikular ang pagdedeklara ng “persona non grata” sa mga miyembro ng CPP-NPA-NDF sa bawat lokalidad.

Pinangunahan ni Agustin ang hanay ng mga heneral ng 7th ID kasama sina Assistant Division Commander Brigadier General Bismarck Soliba, 701st Brigade Commander Brigadier General Manuel Sequitin, 702nd Brigade Commander Brigadier General Henry Robinson Jr., at 703rd Brigade Commander Brigadier General Rowen Tolentino.

Kasama din sa talakayan sina Mechanized Infantry Division Assistant Commander Brigadier General Pascual Luis Bedia at Army Artillery Regiment Commander Brigadier General Virgilio Bartolome.

Sumentro ang panawagan ni Agustin sa paghingi ng tulong at suporta sa lahat ng mamamayan na tapusin ang terorismo at matupad ang inaasam na payapang buhay, tahimik at malayo sa gulo.

Kulang aniya ang tapang at galing ng mga kasundaluhan kung wala ang tulong ng mga mamamayang nasasakupan.

Pahayag ni Agustin, mayroon pang pag-asa mula sa ating mga sarili bilang pinakamahusay na kakampi, kaugnay sa iisang layuning kapayapaan sa bansang Pilipinas. (CLJD/CCN-PIA 3)

Fate of Salugpungan schools in DepEd-11’s hands

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1, 2019): Fate of Salugpungan schools in DepEd-11’s hands

SALUGPUNGAN DECISION. Department of Education (DepEd) Assistant Secretary Alberto Escobarte said Tuesday (July 30, 2019) that DepEd-11 has been given sole authority to decide whether the tribal schools managed by Salugpungan Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Centers Inc. will be allowed to continue operating or not. (PNA Photo by Che Palicte)

DAVAO CITY -- The decision to lift the suspension -- or even total revocation -- of the license to operate of the controversial Salugpungan Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Centers Inc. (STICLCI) rests solely on the Department of Education-Region 11 (DepEd-11), an official said Tuesday.

Education Assistant Secretary Alberto Escobarte said DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones has already granted the regional DepEd office jurisdiction and authority to decide on the case.

Escobarte added that only DepEd-11 has the competence to decide on the case as it is the one handling the evidence and other pertinent documents relating to the issues hounding STICLCI schools.

On July 22, the extended deadline for the show cause order was granted to the Salugpungan school administrators to answer the allegations made by National Security Adviser Secretary Hermogenes Esperon.

Based on the testimonies of former STICLCI students and teachers, Esperon said Salugpungan schools are being used by the communist New People's Army (NPA) as training and recruitment centers. Esperon's findings prompted Dep-Ed 11 to suspend 55 Salugpungan schools in Region 11.

DepEd-11 earlier said STICLCI executive director Ma. Eugenia Nolasco managed to submit a response to the show cause order directing the school system to answer the allegations.

Nolasco, Escobarte said, "should rebut all the findings of Secretary Esperon and a certain Loyod.”

He was referring to former Salugpungan teacher Melvin Loyod who executed an affidavit claiming that Salugpungan learners were taught with rebellion tactics against the government.

Loyod was assigned to a Salungponan school in Sitio Pongpong, Barangay Sto. Niño Talaingod, Davao del Norte, which has since been stopped operating following clamor from local authorities and tribal leaders who alleged that the school was teaching their learners NPA ideologies.

Escobarte assured that the evidence against STICLCI schools are being examined by a committee, whose findings will become the basis for the DepEd-11 decision.

“If in case the result will not be favorable to these schools, they can immediately write a letter of appeal to Secretary Briones,” he added.

Asked on the timeline of the STICLCI ruling, Escobarte said that it will come out "anytime soon."

2 suspects in 4 cops' slay nabbed in NegOr

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1, 2019): 2 suspects in 4 cops' slay nabbed in NegOr

JOINT OPERATION. Police and military troops continue operations against the New People's Army (NPA), who were allegedly responsible for the torture and killing of four police intelligence officers in Sitio Yamot, Barangay Mabato, Ayungon, Negros Oriental. Joint operations this week have resulted in the arrest of four rebels, two of them suspected to be among those who killed the four policemen. (File photo courtesy of Ayungon Police Station)

Government troops have arrested four members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), two of whom are believed to be involved in the killing of four policemen last July 18 in Negros Oriental, during separate operations.

Based on a police report, government security forces
nabbed Onie Bangala, 37, of Sitio Inasan, Barangay Carol-an, Ayungon; and farmers Epifanio Cabusog Romano; Rico Oracoy, 39; and Lito Cadusale; all of Barangay Mabato, Ayungon.

Bangala was arrested last July 26 by policemen and soldiers after an encounter with suspected communist rebels while doing a tactical operation in the mountains of Ayungon, Mabinay and Bindoy.

He was arrested along with another suspect, Nerie Boy Bangala, 25.

Nerie Boy Bangala managed to flee while authorities were questioning Onie.

However, authorities managed to earlier seized from their possession a homemade shotgun with magazine, two caliber .38 revolvers with five live ammunition, a 7.62 mm live ammunition, 18 ammunition for 7.62 mm, 20 empty shells for 7.62 mm, 192 empty shells for M16 Armalite rifle, five 5ml syringes, two knives and a rifle grenade, among other items.

Romano, meanwhile, was nabbed by authorities last July 29 after an encounter with a group of alleged NPA members in Sitio Talaptapan, Barangay Nalundan, Bindoy where a 20-minute firefight ensued.

No casualty was reported as the suspected NPAs withdrew.

Romano yielded a black bandolier and a rifle grenade. He was later turned over to the Bindoy Police for proper filing of charges.

On the same day, Oracoy and Cadusale, believed to be escaping from the Bindoy encounter, were arrested at a checkpoint in Sitio Yamot, Mabato, Ayungon.

The two are believed to be involved in the killing of the four intel cops last July 18.

Confiscated from them were two caliber .38 revolvers with 10 live ammunition, a rifle grenade, two improvised explosive devices, a black bandolier, an eco bag and a plastic bag.

All of the four are now in police custody.

Zambo Sur dads declare NPA 'persona non grata'

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1, 2019): Zambo Sur dads declare NPA 'persona non grata'

ZAMBOANGA CITY -- Zamboanga del Sur's Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Provincial Board) has recently declared the communist New People’s Army (NPA) persona non-grata in that province, officials said Thursday.

Capt. Clint Antipala, the Army’s 1st Infantry Division information officer, said the declaration was contained in a resolution during the 3rd regular session of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan on July 18.

“The provincial government of Zamboanga del Sur, through its local leaders make out the need for a united and intensive effort with the police, military and the populace for the deterrence of any act of terrorism and insurgency in the province of Zamboanga del Sur,” part of the Provincial Board resolution read.

“Whereas, the local leaders, needless to say, expressly abhor any act of violence, intimidation, and the sufferings caused by the terrorists and insurgents in the province of Zamboanga del Sur, thereby, they deem it of the essence to declare the terrorist group as persona non-grata,” the resolution said.

“Whereas, the declaration of persona non-grata of the Communist NPA Terrorist will give the government and its forces advantage as it is a big step to once and for all end the decades-long insurgency in the Philippines,” it added.

Lt. Col. Marlowe Patria, the Army’s 53rd Infantry Battalion commander, said they will intensify military operations to pursue the remaining NPA rebels still hiding in the mountains.

“We also encourage them to go down, lay down their arms peacefully and join their comrades who are now living peacefully together with their families,” Patria said.

Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Bagnus Gaerlan Jr., the Army’s 102nd Infantry Brigade commander, described the action of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan as "a bold move and of great help in our effort to protect the communities from the atrocities of the communist terrorist group (CTG).”

“With the declaration, the CTG will have a small chance of recruiting our people especially the farmers, the youth, the women and the indigenous people who are vulnerable to the deception of this terrorist group. Likewise, we are expecting enhanced cooperation between and among the people in giving information on the whereabouts of this terrorist group”, Gaerlan added.

Maj. Gen. Roberto Ancan, Army’s 1st Infantry Division and Joint Task Force Zampelan (the Zamboanga Peninsula and Lanao Provinces) commander, lauded the provincial legislators and noted that "the declaration of CTG as persona non-grata is in unison with the EO 70, creating the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

President Rodrigo Duterte's EO 70 seeks to forge a "whole-of-nation-approach” in battling communist insurgency through institutionalized and inclusive peace and development initiatives in the countryside.

“With the help of the local communities, local chief executives and other stakeholders of peace and development, we can end the insurgency, attain a just and lasting peace and continue on with the progress and development of this part of the country,” Ancan added.

NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

South Korea-donated PH Navy ship set to sail home August 5

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1, 2019): South Korea-donated PH Navy ship set to sail home August 5

The BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39), formerly the South Korean Pohang-class corvette "Chungju" (PCC-762), will sail to the Philippines shortly after handover ceremonies on August 5.
This was disclosed by Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana when sought for updates on the ship Thursday.

"Yes, the BRP Conrado Yap, a Pohang-class donated by the South Korean government will be handed over to the FOIC (flag officer in command, Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad), (Philippine) Navy on August 5 and will sail for the Philippines immediately thereafter. This is a second-hand, refurbished frigate," he said in a message to the Philippine News Agency.

The South Korean vessel was formally donated to the Philippines in 2014.

In another message, PN spokesperson Captain Jonathan Zata said the BRP Conrado Yap is now undergoing preparations to sail home at Jinhae, Gyeongsang-namdo, South Korea.

He did not give the exact departure time of the ship from South Korea or the port of arrival of the vessel for security reasons.

However, Zata said the BRP Conrado Yap will be escorted home by the strategic sealift vessel, BRP Davao Del Sur (LD-602), which is now on its way to South Korea after attending Russian Navy Day celebrations in Vladivostok last week.

"(BRP) Davao Del Sur will sail with her (on the way home). She is on her way now (to South Korea)," he added. Upon arrival and commissioning by the PN, the BRP Conrado Yap will boost the Navy's anti-submarine and anti-surface capabilities.

The ship was named Conrado Yap to uphold the legacy of a gallant Filipino military leader, who served in the Korean War as part of the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea.

Yap was a captain in the Philippine Army and considered as the most decorated Filipino soldier during the Korean War.

He posthumously received a Philippine Medal of Valor, the country's highest military honor, as well as a US Distinguished Service Cross, for gallantry in action as part of the Tank Company, 10th Battalion Combat Team (10th BCT), Philippine Army.

The ship measures 88.3 meters long, with a beam of 10 meters and draft of 2.9 meters. Displacement is at 1,216 tons full load. The ship is rated for a crew of 118 personnel and can sustain operational presence for 20 days.

The vessel's Combined Diesel or Gas (CODOG) propulsion configuration of Motor Transport Unit (MTU) diesel engines and LM2500 gas turbine with controllable pitch propellers (CPP) enable the ship to move to a maximum speed of 25 knots to a distance of 4,000 nautical miles.

The ship is armed with two Oto Melara 76mm Oto Melara main guns, a 30mm automatic cannons, anti-submarine torpedoes and variety of sensors, including sonars, and radars.

Esperon presses perjury raps vs. Red front groups

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1, 2019): Esperon presses perjury raps vs. Red front groups

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon. (PNA photo by Benjamin Pulta)

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon on Thursday personally appeared before the Quezon City Prosecutor's Office at the hearing of the perjury charges he filed against groups which initiated the writ of amparo petitions against him, President Rodrigo Duterte and other officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) which were subsequently dismissed by the Court of Appeals (CA).

City Senior Prosecutor Nilo Peñaflor gave the respondents until August 15 to answer the perjury complaint filed by Esperon
against Karapatan, the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) and Gabriela.

"(Dinemanda) nila ang President, ako and seven others eh di nakita na ang mga papel nila ay peke. That's clear perjury, (They sued the President, me and seven others and so it was discovered that their documentation is fake and that's clear perjury," Esperon told newsmen in a chance interview after the hearing.

In the case of RMP which runs the 55 Salugpungan Ta’tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center Inc. (Salugpungan) whose operations were earlier ordered suspended by the Department of Education, Esperon said their registration was "revoked in 2003".

"(K)ung di sila duly registered, bakit sila tumatanggap ng donations (If they are not duly registered, why are they accepting donations?" he said.

Esperon, citing reports of the military and police on the ground and the testimonies of the Mindanao Indigenous People's Counsel elders and leaders, said there was an unmistakable pattern of training anti-government armed rebels by these schools.

As an example, Esperon said these schools have a different "national" anthem which they teach to students.

Students are also taught assembly and disassembly of firearms and learn the alphabets with different anti-government slogans starting with "A for armas (weapon)".

More importantly, Esperon said the schools do not issue credentials to students which would allow their wards to take further studies.

"(A)ng nakakapagtaka, bakit di sila nagbibigay ng (What is puzzling is they do not give) learners' reference number (LRN). Kung wala kangLRN paano ka mag-move on sa (If you do not have an LRN, how do you move to the) next higher level of education. Paano ka makaka-transfer sa ibang (How will you be able to transfer to another) school. In other words, di na-recognize for all the years and time that you will stay in that school, 'yun pala di recognized ng ibang (The years and time of your stay in that school will not be recognized by other) DepEd schools. Eh di ano mangyayari sa mga (What will happen to the) students, they will remain at their mercy," he added.

Solon wants 'last mile' schools in 'Build, Build, Build'

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1, 2019): Solon wants 'last mile' schools in 'Build, Build, Build'

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian 

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Thursday called for the inclusion of the Department of Education’s (DepEd) Last Mile Schools program in the administration’s Build, Build, Build infrastructure program.

Gatchalian, who is the presumptive chair of the Senate Committee on Basic Education and Culture, said some PHP92 billion is needed to fund the construction and improvement of about 8,000 Last Mile schools over the next three years.

He noted that it was just a "paltry amount" compared to the original PHP8.4 trillion cost of the Build, Build, Build program.

The Last Mile Schools program aims to provide students living in Geographically Isolated, Disadvantaged and Conflict-Affected (GIDCA) areas with unhampered and equal access to quality basic education.

“Access to quality basic education is the right of every Filipino and I am glad that the DepEd, under the leadership of Secretary Briones, is giving priority to the schools that have otherwise been neglected or fallen behind their urban counterparts,” Gatchalian said.

“But in order for the program to succeed, mukhang kailangan nating mag-infuse dito ng malawakang suporta, and one way to do this is to have the Last Mile Schools program become part of the Build, Build, Build program,” he added.

Last Mile Schools are schools that have multi-grade classes, with less than five teachers, and a student population of fewer than 100 learners, more than 75 percent of which are usually indigenous people.

They lack complete sets of school furniture, no computers, no internet connection, very few textbooks, and manuals, and lacking laboratory tools and equipment.

"Given that the DepEd has already pledged to prioritize the Last Miles Schools program and also given that DepEd is already working with the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) to open access roads for the convenience of the students, I see no reason why the program should not be part and parcel of Build, Build, Build,” Gatchalian said.

PH won't give up 'positions' in WPS: DND

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1, 2019): PH won't give up 'positions' in WPS: DND

DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong. (File photo)

The Philippines will never give up any of its positions in the West Philippine Sea as it continues to improve its existing facilities in Pag-asa Island, the country's largest possession in the WPS, the Department of National Defense (DND) said Thursday.

"It must also be pointed out that the Philippines never gave up any of its positions in the WPS during the Duterte Administration and, in fact, it is improving the existing facilities of its biggest island, Pag-asa, to accommodate more residents and personnel," DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong in a statement forwarded to reporters Thursday.

Andolong added the Philippines is always ready to defend our sovereignty and sovereign rights using whatever means available.

"Likewise, every able-bodied Filipino should be ready to fulfill his or her duty when the time comes," the DND spokesperson emphasized.

While citing that China may have an advantage in the South China Sea due to its existing structures constructed on its artificial islands which it has hardened and militarized, Andolong said this is still only a small part of the disputed waterway.

"Although several claimant countries are occupying features in the South China Sea, not one of them has complete and sole control over that entire body of water," the DND spokesperson added.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, ratified in 1982 by many countries including the Philippines and China, is the legal basis of the country’s claim of sovereign rights over its exclusive economic zone.

This was further affirmed by the Permanent Court of Arbitration award to the Philippines in 2016, which invalidated China’s so-called historical claim delineated by its Nine-Dash Line.

"Thus, the Philippines has two documents to support its claims versus none for the Chinese. Thus, the Chinese presence in the WPS is akin to somebody squatting on a piece of land owned by someone else," he added.

On Wednesday, the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that Manila fired off a note verbale against a reported swarming of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea.

This came after reports said National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. revealed that at least 113 Chinese vessels have swarmed around the Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island over the weekend.

BI to deport Jordanian linked to Bin Laden’s bro-in-law

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1, 2019): BI to deport Jordanian linked to Bin Laden’s bro-in-law

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) is set to deport a Jordanian national who reportedly worked with a brother-in-law of the late Al-Qaeda terror group leader Osama bin Laden who was arrested in Mindanao early last month.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente on Thursday said 51-year-old Mahmoud Afif Abdeljalil is now under the custody of the government after his arrest by joint operatives of the BI, Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police in Zamboanga City last July 4.

The BI chief issued the mission order that led to the arrest of the foreigner, who will be deported for illegally entering the country.

“We are going to deport him for being an illegal entrant as he has no record of arrival, after he was arrested and deported in 2003 for being an undesirable alien,” Morente said in a statement.

He added that Abdeljalil assumed a fictitious name and resorted to misrepresentation and falsification of public documents which enabled him to reside in the country.

It was learned that authorities started monitoring the Jordanian’s activities in the country when he and his Algerian companion were flagged down at a military checkpoint in Zamboanga in August last year.

After months of intensive surveillance and case buildup, it was confirmed that the alien has been unlawfully staying in the country.

During questioning, Abdeljalil claimed that he returned to the country in 2007 and admitted that he was previously arrested and deported by the BI in 2003 for having an expired visa and involvement in clandestine terrorist activities as a Palestinian under the name Mahmood Afif.

When he was earlier arrested, authorities said the Jordanian served as the point man of Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, a Saudi businessman and Bin Laden’s brother-in-law, in managing several charity organizations in Mindanao that funneled money to Al Qaeda and the Abu Sayyaf Group.

Three years after he was deported, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas reportedly froze Khalifa’s bank accounts and financial assets to prevent funds from being laundered further to the said terrorist groups.

Authorities also alleged that even after Khalifa was killed in 2007, Abdeljalil continued to extend financial support to the Abu Sayyaf using as fronts several mosques and Madrasah schools that he built in Mindanao that received Al-Qaeda funding from abroad.

Davao implements Whole-of-Nation Approach in dealing with CPP-NPA

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1, 2019): Davao implements Whole-of-Nation Approach in dealing with CPP-NPA

Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr.

Provincial government units in the Davao region attested how undergoing a paradigm shift have helped them to effectively implement the “Whole-of-Nation Approach” in addressing the communist insurgency in their respective areas.

“We shifted our priorities from building wars to building peace. Our main strategy involves addressing the drivers and triggers of conflict, establishing a culture of dialogue and open communication in enhancing social cohesion, and building trust [with] the people,”
said Compostela Valley Governor Jayvee Tyron Uy during a meeting with representatives from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) at the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process in this city on Wednesday (July 31).

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier signed Executive Order No. 70 which institutionalizes the Whole-of-Nation Approach wherein all agencies of government will work together in an integrated and cohesive manner in order to bring much needed services to remote, underdeveloped, conflict-affected across the country.

Under the approach, local government units and members of the community will take the lead in providing solutions to finally put an end to the decades-long communist rebellion in the country. Among these strategies are localized peace engagements wherein LGUs will be at the forefront.

“We see them [rebels] as victims -- a victim of ideology. That’s why we need to convince them to go back to the government and instill [in them an] idealism for a better country,” Uy said.

Meanwhile, Davao del Norte Governor Edwin Jubahib stressed that government should focus more on providing the basic needs of residents to prevent them from being vulnerable to recruitment by rebel organizations.

“If the government can support the community’s basic needs, I think there will be no rebellion. We can stop the insurgency,” Jubahib said.

He shared that the provincial government channeled its efforts on improving the state of education in the province. For years, rebel groups have cited the lack of education opportunities as an argument to bring in new recruits into their fold.

“The 17-year olds and below are the most vulnerable groups for recruitment because of their lack of education. But if we give education to their children, the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army cannot recruit, and [they will] support the government,” Jubahib added.

United Nations Regional Coordinator Ola Almgren thanked the provincial leaders for sharing their localized initiatives in line with the Whole-of-Nation approach.

“Thank you for discussing these [localized programs] to us and helping us understand how we can be of assistance to you,” Almgren said.

Over the years, the United Nations and its various agencies have been supporting the Philippine peace process through different programs and mechanisms.

These interventions include the agency’s support to peace-building and Normalization through the UNDP; the Peace Building and Education Support for Children in Conflict Affected Mindanao Project by the United Nations Children’s Fund; and support to the National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security through UN Women.

For his part, Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. reaffirmed the national government’s unwavering commitment to bring sustainable development and long-lasting peace in Mindanao.

“If Mindanao gains peace, the whole Philippines will become peaceful. If Mindanao will progress, the whole Philippines will progress,” Galvez said.

Philippines Protests Beijing’s Ships Swarming in South China Sea

Posted to Radio Free Asia (Jul 31, 2019): Philippines Protests Beijing’s Ships Swarming in South China Sea

Protesters in Manila demand an end to improper Chinese occupation of areas in the South China Sea, July 22 2019.  BenarNews

Manila has filed a diplomatic protest over reports about Chinese boats swarming around territory occupied by the Philippines in the South China Sea, the country’s foreign secretary said Wednesday after its defense chief accused Beijing of acting like a bully in the disputed waterway.

Philippine defense officials had confirmed that 113 Chinese vessels were spotted near Pag-asa Island – which the Chinese call Thitu Island – on July 24 and 25, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin announced via Twitter but without giving a date for when Manila lodged its protest.

“Diplomatic protest fired off. I did. I listen only to military intelligence,” Locsin tweeted.

“When it comes to national security, I am the thinking trigger. The finger is the commander-in-chief and the armed forces which are the protector of people and state.”

The Chinese Embassy in Manila declined comment on Wednesday.

Manila has occupied Pag-asa, located about 300 miles (483 km) west of Palawan province, since the 1970s. The government recently began long-delayed rehabilitation projects in the area, including the island's airstrip and port facilities, with a plan to turn the area into a tourist attraction.

News of the diplomatic protest came the same day that National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon confirmed that Chinese vessels were monitored swarming near or circling Pag-asa.

Chinese military ships were recently seen passing through the Sibutu Strait off Tawi-Tawi province in the southern Philippines waters without notifying Manila, he added.

Philippine officials had reported that Chinese naval ships were seen in that area on at least four occasions this year.

While the Chinese Embassy had previously apologized for not notifying Manila about the passages of the military ships, Esperon insisted on Wednesday that “all military vessels that pass through our territory ask for diplomatic clearance” to avoid causing alarm.

“It just so happened that in our record, we do not have it on record that China asked for diplomatic clearance,” Esperon said. “Their reason is the right of innocent passage in a usual sea lane. In a sense that is correct.

“But in our customs and traditions and agreement with other countries, we always advise the country for diplomatic clearance.”

The strait, which lies between Tawi-Tawi’s main island and Sibutu island, effectively is part of the Tawi-Tawi province in the far southern Philippines. At the same time, it is recognized as an international sea lane connecting the Sulu and Sulawesi seas.

On Tuesday, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana accused Beijing of “bullying” his country in the contested sea.

The Philippines and China, meanwhile, have been dealing with fallout from a June incident when a Chinese trawler rammed and sank a smaller Filipino fishing boat near Recto Bank, also in the South China Sea. The Philippines condemned the incident, but President Rodrigo Duterte has since backed off from a hardline stance.

Chinese official asks for patience

On Monday, Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua asked other claimants to South China Sea territories to be patient while settling disputes, adding that Beijing would not start a war, Rappler reported.

“China adopts a military strategy of active defense which adheres to the principle of defense, self-defense, and post-strike response. Meaning, we will not take the first shot,” Zhao said during a speech in Makati City to mark the 92nd anniversary of China’s People’s Liberation Army.

Esperon questioned Beijing’s sincerity about a diplomatic resolution to the South China Sea issue, which it claims in whole. The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan all have overlapping claims.

“Any country can say that,” Esperon told reporters. “Of course they would say ‘we will not fire the first shot.’ Who will fire the first shot? What country will admit to that? None. It is the same for us.”

The statements by Esperon and Lorenzana appear to take a harsher stance than Duterte, who has called for a soft approach when it comes to China. Duterte recently said he would not risk antagonizing China but would rather seek to solve problems through dialogue.

In July 2016, following a standoff between the navies of the Philippines and China over Scarborough Shoal, a traditional fishing ground for Filipino fishers, an international tribunal ruled in favor of Manila’s claim to the region. But instead of seeking to enforce the ruling, Duterte sought to appease Beijing and to repair bilateral ties.

Beijing, while saying it would adhere to peace in the region, has kept expanding its territories in the South China Sea, and recently installed missiles there that could hit the Philippines in minutes, according to the Philippine government.

Top Central Visayas intelligence officer now Bohol police chief

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 1, 2019): Top Central Visayas intelligence officer now Bohol police chief

Police Colonel Jonathan Cabal answers questions after being installed as the new head of the Bohol Provincial Police Office. Leo Udtohan/Inquirer Visayas

TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol – The top intelligence officer in Central Visayas now heads the police in Bohol.

Police Colonel Jonathan Cabal formally took over as Bohol Provincial Police Office director on Aug. 1, replacing Col. Julius Cesar Gornez, who was BPPO chief for six months.

The turnover ceremony was held at Camp Francisco Dagohoy Headquarters in this city and presided by Police Brig. General Debod Sinas, police director for Central Visayas.

Provincial police director Senior Supt. Julius Cesar Gornez , who served the province for six months and 21 days, has been replaced by Police Colonel Jonathan Cabal during a turnover ceremony at the Camp Francisco Dagohoy Headquarters in Tagbilaran City, Bohol on Thursday morning, August 1. Leo Udtohan/Inquirer Visayas

Cabal was head of the intelligence division of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7), who arrested then board member Niño Rey Boniel in June 2017 for killing his wife, then Bien Unido Mayor Gisela Boniel of Bohol.

He was also instrumental in preventing members of the extremist group Abu Sayyaf from executing their plan in Bohol.

Government troops relentlessly hunted down the 11 bandits, killing all of them, after residents in Inabanga town reported their presence in March 2017.

In the process of hunting down the bandits, three Army soldiers, a police officer and two civilians were killed, while hundreds of families were displaced in the skirmishes that covered three towns and lasted for a month.

After heading the Regional Intelligence Division, Cabal was later assigned to lead PRO-7’s logistics division until his deployment as Bohol provincial director.

Before his assignment in Bohol, Gornez was chief of investigation at the PRO 7’s Investigation and Detective Management Division (IDMD).

He was also a former Tagbilaran City police chief.

“There is time for everything,” said Gornez, quoting a verse from the Book of Ecclesiastes.

Cabal, for his part, vowed to be more liberal and a result-oriented police director.

“I will lead by example and I will always be fair,” said Cabal.

“I don’t want them doing wrong, but I would rather catch them doing right,” he added.

He vowed to continue the war against illegal drugs, fight against criminality and corruption.

“You can bet on it that there will be anti-illegal drugs operations,” he said.

He also enjoined the provincial police force here to make Bohol a safer place to live with as a drug-free province.

Sinas was confident that Cabal would be able to carry out his duties well as the provincial director.

“He is more capable and knows the area,” he said.