Sunday, August 4, 2019

Chinese Design In South China Sea – Analysis

Posted to the Eurasia Review (Aug 5, 2019): Chinese Design In South China Sea – Analysis (By Dr. Rajaram Panda)

Sailors from China's Navy man the rails aboard the destroyer Qingdao (DDG 113). U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Joe Kane

Sailors from China's Navy man the rails aboard the destroyer Qingdao (DDG 113). U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Joe Kane
After fighting with Vietnam for the control of the South China Sea in areas disputed by both the countries, China now is engaged in fighting with the Philippines over the same reason. After Chinese ships came close to Vietnamese vessels in areas claimed by Vietnam, Chinese warships were alleged to have been passing through the Sibutu Strait in Mindanao off the coast of Tawi-Tawi with inactive Automatic Identification Systems (AIS), despite objections made by the Philippine authorities.

The Philippines Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana called the Chinese actions in the West Philippine Sea, the way China’s militia took over Scarborough Shoal as “bullying”. He questioned to the credibility of the remarks made by the Chinese ambassador Zhao Jianhua that China is a peace-loving nation and that it would not start a war or confrontation in the South China Sea, a potential “flashpoint” for armed conflict. Philippines feel that China’s words do not match with its actions in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

In maritime matters, it is common sense that if the AIS are shut off, the intention is to hide the presence of the vessel. Philippines reasoned out therefore that Chinese ships should not deactivate their AIS when passing through Philippine waters. Even if the Philippine radar cannot detect because the AIS are deactivated, the vessels are still visible to the naked eye because the Strait is very narrow.

According to Lorenzana, the Chinese ships had passed through the Sibutu Strait four times since last February and as per international law, if warships intended to pass through Philippine waters, they needed to inform local authorities. It is believed that there exist a verbal agreement between President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping allowing the Chinese to fish in the West Philippine Sea but no such written document is available and no one know what understanding was reached between Duterte and Xi.

It is mysterious that as per the understanding that Duterte had with Xi, the Chinese PLA Navy conducted two goodwill visits to the Philippines. In January 2019, a task force, consisting of two frigates and a replenishment ship docked in Manila for a four-day visit to the country. These send confusing signals to the ASEAN partners having similar issue with China.

To add further to the complexities, 113 Chinese fishing vessels were spotted “swarming” Pag-asa island, Philippine-administered Island in South China Sea, between July 24 and 25. According to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, the information was based on “military intelligence”. Though Locsin was in Bangkok, he was ambiguous saying that the government was unsure on the motivations of the Chinese vessels, though he recommended his government to file protest against China. Pag-asa, also known as Thitu, is the second-largest naturally occurring landmass in the Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea.

As is well known by now that Chinese strategy has been to divide the 10-member grouping of the ASEAN, which is why a mutually-agreed upon target of three years to hammer out a Code of Conduct (COC) to regulate actions in the South China Sea has not been possible and the formidable differences on how to settle disputes continue to exist. Such a strategy suits China well.

When top diplomats from the Asia-Pacific region gathered in Bangkok on 30 July to discuss issues of common concern to the area, including security on the Korean Peninsula and China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, there was little optimism in the horizon that anything concrete shall emerge. Being hosted by Thailand as chair of the 10-member grouping, the gathering had 27 meetings in which 31 countries and alliances participated. Though the core ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting brought together the group’s top diplomats, they were overshadowed by the big power players in the adjunct meetings, such as the ASEAN Regional Forum and the East Asia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. India was represented by Foreign Minister S Jaishankar to participate in the ASEAN-India Ministerial Meeting, the 9th East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, the 26th ASEAN Regional Forum and the 10th Mekong Ganga Cooperation Ministerial meeting.

The heavy-hitters in Bangkok included the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavroc. Other ASEAN dialogue partners included Australia, India, the European Union, Japan and South Korea. Despite much hype, not much progress could be made on the COC. Even when clinched, the final output might not even be a legally-binding document, which means that the COC will be just as ineffective as the present Declaration of Conduct. China, which proposed the three-year timetable starting in 2019, has refused to join a binding COC.

This three-year time frame allows China enough time to continue with its militarization of disputed territories in the South China Sea. The flashpoints are becoming more serious and the perceptions of threats –some real, some unreal – just do not go away but continue to trouble the stakeholders. Even if talks are going on at various levels and forum, it is just like going one step forward but two steps backward, with no solution in sight.

It is difficult to read the mind of President Duterte. China has overlapping claims in the resource-rich maritime area with Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, which covers more than three million square kilometres. The Philippines won in 2016 an arbitration case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) against China’s nine-dash line claim over almost the entire South China Sea. After coming to power, President Duterte has time and again reiterated that Manila and Beijing can settle the issue more effectively through diplomatic negotiations and has set aside the 2016 decision. He has also repeated many times that he will not risk a war with China over their territorial dispute.

It was because of such reason, Zhao felt emboldened to say that China is a peace-loving nation and will not start a war or confrontation in the South China Sea. He further justified that China develops its military entirely for the purpose of self-defense.

But realities are different. China’s stance and Philippines’ ambivalence brings in the issue of the ASEAN’s centrality under question. Vietnam that fiercely opposes the Chinese maritime advance in areas falling under its EEZ, needs friends within the ASEAN and beyond. Philippines’s stance could frustrate such a possibility.

It may be recalled that in April, Chinese fishermen drove Filipino fishermen away from the shoal as wooden ships that bore China’s flag harvested giant clams. In June, a Chinese vessel hit a Filipino fishing boat leaving 22 crewmen adrift in the open sea for hours until they were rescued by Vietnamese fishermen. The incident triggered anger at the administration’s timid response. The mild response of the Philippines encourages China to indulge in what it is doing undeterred.

However, popular opinion in the Philippines is growing against China. There has been low trust rating in local opinion polls in recent times compared with those of the US, a treaty ally of the Philippines. As the world’s second-biggest economy, China claims that it upholds freedom of navigation and overflight because nearly 75 percent of its imported and exported goods and nearly 80 percent of its imported oil and gas transit through the South China Sea. Yet, China is not shy of creating problem even though it could hurt its economy.

In 2012 when China took over the Scarborough Shoal following standoff and showing its “bullying” tactics, the US brokered a deal for the simultaneous withdrawal of Chinese and Philippine ships from the vast fishing shoal, but Beijing reneged on its promise. This prompted Manila to bring its dispute with China to international arbitration the following year. Though Manila won in 2016 a verdict in its favour with the tribunal invalidating China’s “historic claims” to virtually the entire South China Sea based on the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the lack of enforcing power by the tribunal led Beijing to reject the verdict with contempt. After Duterte came to power in 2016, he revived ties with China and refused to immediately seek Chinese compliance to the arbitration ruling. Instead, he prioritized seeking Chinese infrastructure funds and investment, ignoring criticism from ASEAN partners for his China-friendly approach.

So, what did Bangkok summit achieve? Though the joint communiqué issued on July 31 touched upon a host of issues, the most innocuous one was on the stance on the South China Sea. It mentioned the often repeated promise of “maintaining peace, security, stability, safety and freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea and recognized the benefits of having the South China Sea as a sea of peace, stability and prosperity”. It also “emphasized the importance of non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states, including those mentioned in the DOC that could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions in the South China Sea”. Given China’s continuous aggressive posture in the South China Sea, these pronouncements do not make sense as parties involved in this do not respect what is agreed upon.

Notwithstanding these customary statements, ASEAN’s concern on Beijing’s expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea remains. The dispute is long-running with periodic flare-up. In particular Vietnam is quite vocal against China violating its sovereignty by interfering with offshore oil and gas activities in disputed waters. Given the non-cooperation by some ASEAN member nations, Vietnam has to operate outside the conventional ASEAN framework by forming a de facto maritime bloc with Indonesia and the Philippines. India should not be found wanting to extending hands of support as it has its own maritime interests in areas of South China Sea claimed by Vietnam. Moreover India’s naval capability is strong enough to intervene to restore maritime order if needed.

Beijing is aware that all members of the ASEAN grouping are not always on the same page on all the issues and wishes to operate by consensus. This means that a single member can exercise veto over the group’s decisions and declarations. Since China has friends in Laos and Cambodia and others are reluctant to defy, China always enjoys an edge to impose its will on others in the region. That is why China urged non-Asian nations to avoid showing “distrust” and division over contested seas even before Pompeo was to arrive in Bangkok. This was an indirect indictment of Chinese disapproval of many of Trump’s policies for the region. With the unfolding of big power rivalry, Beijing’s military ambitions and Trump’s assertion to play a key role as an Asia-Pacific power could make the situation in the Indo-Pacific region messy. As a matter of fact, China is against non-regional countries, principally aimed at the US, to desist from influencing an issue concerning its “neighbourhood”, demonstrating thereby that ASEAN is its neighbor with whom it would deal bilaterally.

[Dr. Rajaram Panda, former Senior Fellow at IDSA, New Delhi, and until recently ICCR Chair Professor at Reitaku University, Japan, is at present Lok Sabha Research Fellow, Parliament of India. E-mail:]

Revisiting Marawi: Women and the Struggle Against the Islamic State in the Philippines

Posted to the Lawfare Blog (Aug 4, 2019): Revisiting Marawi: Women and the Struggle Against the Islamic State in the Philippines (By Kiriloi M. Ingram)

Photo Credit: Jes Aznar/Getty Images via TIME

[Editor’s Note: The Islamic State’s crimes against women are well known, but it has also managed to appeal to women to join the fight directly or otherwise support the group. Too often, however, governments fail to recognize this risk. Kiriloi Ingram of the University of Queensland draws on her fieldwork in the Philippines to argue that governments and civil society groups need to do a far better job of recognizing the dangers women can pose while also empowering them to help counter violent extremism.  Daniel Byman]


It has been more than two years since the Islamic State’s (IS’s) Philippines franchise and the IS-aligned Maute group laid siege to Marawi city on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines for five months. Though government forces eventually drove the militants from Marawi, the threat from IS militants remains, especially after reports of a recent attack on the nearby island of Sulu. There are currently deep concerns that an equal or even greater threat may emerge in Mindanao. Women played a key role in advancing IS-Maute’s agenda and enabling the group’s infiltration into Marawi, and they will play an essential role as enablers—either for IS-Maute or their opponents—in the city’s fortunes.

Female participation in violent extremism in the Philippines, as well as female support for IS in the Philippines and elsewhere, is a contemporary manifestation of the historical phenomenon of women serving in roles critical to the success of insurgencies. For example, women participated as combatants in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC), and they transported weapons and established safe houses in the Baader-Meinhof Gang. Despite this long history, there is a tendency to diminish the role of women in insurgencies. This has led to women typically being considered a lesser security threat than men, and their utility in preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) is rarely used to its full potential.

As Jacqui True and Sri Eddyono of Monash University have highlighted, there is a lack of research into women as active agents of violent extremism and women’s potential contributions to the prevention of violent extremism in Southeast Asia. To fill this void, my ongoing study examines how official IS propaganda (i.e., produced by its central media units) seeks to target and appeal to female audiences. My fieldwork in Southern Philippines has allowed for a bottom-up consideration of the types of appeals directed toward women at the local level in communities that were formerly controlled by IS. It also offers an opportunity to consider the potential role of women as grassroots buffers to violent extremism and why they must play a key role in P/CVE programming and policies.

IS Propaganda and Targeted Appeals to Women

While the extreme patriarchy and subjugation of women is replicated by IS everywhere the movement is found, the way that its propaganda seeks to appeal to women presents a different (and largely false) portrayal of the group. IS propaganda uses the same overarching strategic logic to appeal to both genders. As outlined in great detail in J.M. Berger’s “Extremism,” this messaging is intended to shape audience perceptions of reality and transform tacit supporters into active participants by presenting life under IS as the safer and smarter option through promises of stability, security and better livelihoods, and by playing on in-group, out-group, solution and crisis constructs.

When targeting female audiences, IS’s English-language propaganda portrays women via five female archetypes. Of the five, three archetypes are associated with the in-group as standards to be emulated: “supporter,” “mother/sister/wife,” and “fighter.” The “corruptor” archetype portrays women as members of the out-group, and the fifth archetype, the “victim,” represents women as being both in need and worthy of saving. These archetypes are deployed as examples of how women should and should not behave and how to understand other women. For example, IS’s most common positive archetype presented in female-targeted messaging during the group’s period of greatest success in 2014 and 2015 was the “supporter,” who was portrayed as a “true” and strong Muslim woman performing hijra (migration) to IS territories. In contrast, the “corruptor” was described as a deceiving, promiscuous and selfish woman, attributes that IS assigns any woman who does not fulfill its expectations of what it means to be a “true” Muslim woman. These gender narratives establish IS’s ideal social, political and religious order, which is intrinsically tied to gender performances, including leveraging “fighter” women to shame inactive men into jihad.

Recruitment of Women in Mindanao

I recently conducted interviews, surveys and focus group discussions with women from Marawi. While Maranao is the dominant language among the women with whom I talked, English is broadly spoken across Mindanao. As a local told me, “English is most people’s second language so it ends up being the first for a lot of us.” While the reach and influence of IS’s English-language propaganda is difficult to gauge, interviews and focus groups with local women reveal that IS’s local efforts to recruit women often played on the five female archetypes. Certainly, poverty and financial stability were consistently described as primary factors that motivated women, often along with family members, to join the local IS group. Women told me of families being promised between 30,000 and 40,000 pesos (roughly 30 to 40 percent of the average annual income) if their children joined, and women were promised financial benefits and important roles in the insurgency.

As part of these pragmatic appeals, recruiters highlighted two particular roles for women. Some women were recruited as snipers (in language evocative of the “fighter” archetype) because of a belief by recruiters that they can “focus longer and have steadier hands.” This use of female operatives as snipers has a precedent in the Philippines in the 2013 Zamboanga siege, an armed conflict between the Moro National Liberation Front and the Philippine military.

Women were also used to recruit men and other women by exploiting their roles as mothers, sisters, and wives of prospective recruits and, ultimately, as supporters of IS’s project. A recent documentary demonstrates this trend in an interview with 18-year-old “Faidah.” Leading up to the Marawi siege, Faidah was recruited by IS militants at the age of 16, and although she was initially hesitant to join, her family’s poor financial conditions drove her support. She was paid 8,000 pesos for joining, and after being tasked with recruiting young men and boys as combatants, her wage increased to 20,000 pesos. This is not uncommon in insurgencies. Recent reports from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Council on Foreign Relations detail women’s active roles as recruiters and fundraisers for IS, Boko Haram, al-Shabab and Jemaah Islamiyah. Some women I interviewed also noted the important role of mothers and wives in supporting their husbands and children who were engaging in combat.

I was told that the majority of recruitment occurred in rural areas outside of Marawi city, where living and financial conditions are poorer and recruiters have easier access to populations. Women, particularly stay-at-home mothers and wives, felt empowered by recruiters’ promises of social standing and financial gains. This is not unique to Mindanao. CVE strategies in Bangladesh and Morocco identify poverty as a catalyst of recruitment when monetary incentives are offered.

Recognizing Women’s Roles in Extremist Recruitment

As Heather Hurlburt and Tamara Cofman Wittes recently pointed out on Lawfare, it is no longer controversial in the realms of business and finance to suggest that businesses thrive and financial stability increases when women are meaningfully engaged. Similarly, the Women, Peace and Security agenda and countries’ subsequent national action plans recognize the strategic importance in advancing gender equality and ensuring female participation in peace processes in order to achieve long-lasting peace.

Women from communities affected by violent extremist recruitment—whether in Australia, Indonesia or the Philippines—often say that they feel as if they are voiceless and powerless. However, my conversations with these women demonstrate why they should be integral to preventing and intervening to halt radicalization and recruitment to extremist groups. The people I interviewed suggested that it was women who were recruited first prior to the Marawi siege. Locals also indicated that violence was directed toward women to sabotage social cohesion. Because of this, women were the first to notice signs of violent extremism and, because of their roles within families, were often first to detect psychological and behavioral changes in others. Sadly, many women expressed a sense of vulnerability that, although they were aware of what was happening around them, due to their social status, they were afraid to speak up. This echoes Rafia Bhulai and Christina Nemr’s findings, which identified sexual and gender-based violence as an early indicator of violent extremism. In recent years, there has reportedly been a spike in gender-based violence in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which may be an ominous sign for the future.

Within the Philippines and Southeast Asia more broadly, women are often subjected to systemic gender-based discrimination that perpetuates the broader social, political and economic inequalities women experience within their communities. Extremist organizations such as IS, Boko Haram and al-Qaeda exploit these feelings of marginalization in order to mobilize female support. Paradoxically, extremist groups direct violence toward women as a means of driving instability into the community and widening gender disparities. Women within extremist organizations are not innocent of this—IS’s notorious al-Khansa Brigade acted as the women’s religious police, and women members of IS unapologetically condoned the enslavement of Yazidi women.

Though women are often the first point of contact for radical groups and willing participants in their mission, there remains a deficit in genuinely and comprehensively embracing gender dimensions and female perspectives in P/CVE policy and programs. This can potentially perpetuate broader social, political and economic gender-based inequalities, which are the conditions that drive women into violent extremism in the first place.

Four Pillars for Women’s Empowerment

The battle scars marking Marawi city are striking as one travels its streets. I recently visited the most damaged area, and it seems the government’s promise to finish rebuilding by the end of 2021 will be difficult, despite the hard work that is clearly being done by the government, military and civil society. Unexploded munitions need to be cleared, which takes time, and an estimated 73,000 residents remain displaced. Less overt, but perhaps even more profound, are the deep psychosocial wounds among Marawi’s people. Interviews with internally displaced people from the city reveal strong feelings of frustration at not being allowed to return to their homes, scarce alternative housing, and limited employment opportunities.

If governments and policymakers want to prevent nonstate violence from resurging in the Philippines, Southeast Asia or other parts of the world, they must work toward breaking the cycle of female engagement in violent extremism and empower women to be champions of a better future. This has practical implications for P/CVE and capacity-building programming from Marawi to Mosul and beyond.

Four pillars have been central to the capacity-building programs I have helped design. First, local women need access to workshops, presented in the vernacular, that provide them with an understanding of (a) trends in violent extremist propaganda and recruitment strategies targeting women, (b) broad principles for effective civil society P/CVE program design, and (c) the experiences of other women via case studies and opportunities to network and engage with other local women. In workshops in Indonesia and the Philippines, the five archetypes discussed here have resonated with local women and often helped them understand dynamics that they recognize or experienced. This understanding informs the second pillar of our programs: Messaging and narrative-driven actions must promote alternative gender roles to the five female archetypes and use female-led actions synchronized with messaging (i.e., narrative-driven actions) to empower women in affected communities. For example, local women in Mindanao have led narrative-driven action programs to provide food and feminine hygiene kits to communities displaced by fighting, synchronized with comprehensive messaging efforts. Third, messaging must be designed to persuade the local audience, particularly those the programming is designed to target. Additionally, messaging and narrative-driven action programs must be evidence based, with clear and measurable indicators of success. Program evaluations should include key female empowerment indicators across social markers (e.g., access to education, rates of underage marriage), political markers (e.g., female inclusion and agency), economic markers (e.g., female unemployment), and health markers (e.g., rates of sexual violence, access to birth control, health care availability, infant and female mortality).

Women are often the barometers of a community’s susceptibility to violent extremism. Therefore, the final pillar focuses on the establishment of grassroots women’s networks. To accelerate a woman’s empowerment, connect her to other women. These networks provide the means by which women can meaningfully engage with sectors that they may feel uncomfortable meeting with individually, such as security and law enforcement agencies. Women in citizen advisory groups and municipal security councils in Serbia and Albania, for example, have effectively interacted with local police to alert them to gendered safety issues. These pillars not only address the complex mix of gender, psychosocial, political and economic factors that are conducive to violent extremism, but they also focus on enabling women to have the power needed to command the trajectory of their own lives and communities.

[Kiriloi M. Ingram is a PhD candidate in the School of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Queensland, Australia.]

9 troopers hurt in Sulu clashes

From the Philippine Star (Aug 5, 2019): 9 troopers hurt in Sulu clashes

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — Nine Army soldiers were wounded in separate encounters with Abu Sayyaf bandit group in the jungles of Sulu on Saturday morning.
The firefight erupted as government security forces were tracking down the bandit group, which is believed to be coddling foreign terrorists.

The military said the first encounter occurred in a hinterland village bordering the municipalities of Maimbung and Parang.

Maj. Arvin John Encinas, spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said members of the 15th Scout Ranger Company initially clashed with about 15 militants at around 8:25 a.m. in Barangay Lagasan.

Several bandits and an Army ranger were wounded in the initial clash.

As the militants were fleeing, they encountered troopers from the Alpha Company of the Army’s 41st Infantry Battalion, which were dispatched in the area to support the Scout Rangers.

Citing reports from the 11th Division and Joint Task Force Sulu, Encinas described the second skirmish as intense, as it left eight soldiers wounded.

The wounded troopers were brought for to a hospital at Camp Gen. Teodulfo Bautista in Barangay Bus-bus, Jolo.

Daesh ‘is losing public support in Mindanao’

From The Arab News (Aug 4, 2019): Daesh ‘is losing public support in Mindanao’ (By Baker Atyani)

Murad Ibrahim, chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the interim chief minister of the newly formed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao speaks to Arab News in Manila in July 2019. (AN photo)

  • Interim chief minister of the newly-formed Philippines' autonomous Muslim region talks to Arab News about his former rebel group’s transition into a political outfit
  • Moro Islamic Liberation Front's 12,000-strong armed component to be decommissioned as part of peace deal
MANILA: From Sept. 7, nearly 12,000 former members of the Philippines’ largest insurgency group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), are going back to normal life.

“We are set to decommission the first 30 percent of our combatants, scheduled on Sept. 7, tentatively. This will involve around 12,000 combatants, and the next 35 percent will be decommissioned after the regional security structure is set up,” Murad Ibrahim, chairman of MILF, said in an exclusive interview with Arab News.

He added that the final third will be decommissioned once “all the agreements have been officially implemented.”

Ibrahim knows a thing or two about second chances.

Once one of the most wanted insurgents in the Philippines, the 70-year-old former rebel turned MILF chief is today the interim chief minister of the newly-formed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

He’s hoping that the government will extend the same space to the first group of combatants to be decommissioned next month as MILF begins its political chapter in the restive south of the majority Catholic nation.

The process has been years in the making.

In 2014, the MILF signed a landmark deal with the government to end a separatist insurgency which killed nearly 120,000 people, displaced two million, and helped radical groups gain a foothold in the region since the 1970s.

The pact which led to the formation of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) — a peace deal that will allow Muslims in the south to start moving toward achieving self-rule by 2022 — hopes to also tackle extremism and end half a century of conflict within Mindanao.

“We are already in the implementing process [of the BBL]. There are two tracks in the peace process. One is the political track, which includes the setting up of the Bangsamoro government, and the other is the normalization track, which also includes the decommissioning of our combatants,” he said.

In a landmark ratification, which had the support of the Philippine Congress and the Bangsamoro people, the BBL was passed in 2014.

[Video: Interview with Murad Ibrahim, chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the interim chief minister of the newly formed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao]

Five years later, on March 29 this year, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority was launched.

“The transition government led by the MILF will serve as the governing structure in the territory in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. We are now fully functioning. The 15 different ministries... have already been set up and are functioning well... we have already passed around 15 laws during the four months of our operation of the government,” he said.

Next on the agenda, Ibrahim says, is to ensure that the first group of combatants are able to adapt to normal life.

“We have agreed with the Philippines government that there will be some waiving of qualifications both for the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of Philippines, so that any of our men who want to apply for enlistment will be ... admitted,” he said.

The task, however, is not without its challenges.

“The first challenge we are facing is [that] we have been a revolutionary organization and so we have to transform from the revolutionary organization to governance,” he said.

For that purpose, he said, the group needs “to capacitate our people for governance.”

“A lot of structure [is needed] in order to fit in with the central government. On the aspect of normalization, we are still facing some security challenges, especially from the small groups who did not join... We are trying to open our door for dialogue with all these groups, to gradually convince them to join,” he said.

The other groups in question include the Moro National Liberation Front [MNLF] and several offshoots of the Abu Sayyaf.

Ibrahim said that the need of the hour is to “mobilize the support of the entire Bangsamoro people.”

“Once the [smaller groups] no longer enjoy the support of the people, they will be... forced to join. We have been opening our door for dialogue and reconciliation with them — both the Abu Sayyaf group and its splinter groups...and then the MNLF. As far as the MNLF is concerned, I think more than half of them have already joined our group...,” he said.

However, he added that part of the challenge remains, especially in analizing the threats posed by Daesh.

The issue of how to handle Daesh fighters and their families looking to return to their homelands is a conundrum facing many countries, including the Philippines.

Several media reports this year have suggested that there were Filipino nationals among the thousands of suspected Daesh members who surrendered to US-backed forces following the group’s territorial defeat in Syria.

The Philippines government, for its part, has said that those who went to the Middle East to train with Daesh were not just from the Philippines, but from other areas of the Southeast Asian region too.

“As far as Daesh is concerned, I think our finding is they have not really built a structure in our area. But there are penetrations — there are some individual groups coming from the neighboring areas of Malaysia and Indonesia. Also, some are even coming from the Middle East — small groups. But they are gradually diminishing and we see that they do not enjoy the support of the people,”
Ibrahim said.

He added that the immediate challenge was the reconstruction of Bangsmoro, which has been “devastated after more than 40 years of conflict and war.”

“We need to reconstruct and that is why we are calling for more investors from outside because we see that that is the only way we can rebuild and run the economy,” he said.

And while that may seem like an uphill task at the moment, Ibrahim said there is no room for failure.

“Now, we have three levels of organization...the MILF, which is still intact, but is no longer advocating for a revolutionary movement; it will be turning into social movement. Then, we have the political party, which will be the mechanism for us to ensure that we control the government in the area, and then the government itself. We have already elevated to another level of struggle — from the armed struggle to the political struggle. Now we are moving to a democratic process and always strengthening our organization,” he said.

Bulatlat/Opinion: A second look into Negros Oriental killings

Posted to the pro-Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)/National Democratic Front (NDF) online propaganda publication Bulatlat (Aug 4, 2019): A second look into Negros Oriental killings

In 2015, on the fifth year of the P-Noy administration’s counterinsurgency program (Oplan Bayanihan), the Armed Forces of the Philippines declared the province of Negros Oriental as a “conflict-manageable and ready for further development” area. The implication was that the state security forces had succeeded in weakening the presence/influence of the New People’s Army in the province as to enable government development programs to proceed unhampered.

Four years after, however, Negros Oriental is back in turmoil. A series of killings of civilians since December 2018 until the last two weeks of July have been reported in media. And Malacañang is using the killings as justification for President Duterte to declare martial law in the province.

Referring to the situation in a speech last Thursday, Duterte said, “I am about to do something drastic. It will not sit well with everybody… but it is needed.” His spokesperson, Salvador Panelo, interpreted the “drastic” presidential move as declaring martial law in Negros Oriental. “It appears to be soon,” he added, saying Duterte would wait for the recommendation of local government officials and security forces on the ground before issuing the declaration.

A day earlier, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon told a media forum that he had received calls from three mayors he didn’t identify who allegedly wanted martial law to be declared in Negros. He said he told the mayors, “Please allow us to handle the situation.” On the same day, AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said the AFP was conducting an assessment, but remarked, “The President declares, we only recommend. If our recommendation is sought… we can consult local executives.”

So with the President having made clear his intention, can one expect the local government officials not to recommend the declaration of martial law? (It seems the onus is being passed on to them). Moreover, considering the experience in Mindanao, wherein Duterte’s martial law declaration in March 2017 (due to the siege of Marawi) has been extended three times already and is eyed for further extension, wouldn’t the same likely happen in Negros?

Why has the “security situation” in Negros – from the viewpoint of the military and the civilian authorities – reverted to being turbulent after becoming “manageable” in 2015? Why, indeed, whereas the US Army-crafted “whole-of-nation (WON)” counterinsurgency approach, adopted by P-Noy’s Oplan Bayanihan, has been continued by the Duterte regime via Oplan Kapayapaan (in the first two years of his term) and changed to Oplan Kapanatagan (2018-2022), with the perspective of attaining all-round stability as Duterte’s legacy to the nation?

The most likely explanation is the “whole-of-nation” approach itself – the same one that has been unsuccessfully applied by the Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 – despite using up a lot of financial, material, and human resources of the national and local governments, is proving to be a failure. Just look at one aspect, the expenditure incurred in the 2018 AFP budget of P195.4 billion – almost half was allotted for its “internal security operations” or ISO, per the AFP public affairs office chief, Col. Noel Detoyato.

An additional explanation for the recent turn of events could be that military field commanders and the AFP itself have been excessively enthusiastic in pronouncing the successes of their Oplans. Recently an Ateneo de Manila University political science professor cited an AFP report which said that of the country’s 81 provinces, 76 were deemed as “conflict-affected.” The report glowingly claimed that of the 76 conflict-affected provinces, 71 have been declared – just like Negros Oriental – “conflict-manageable and ready for further development.” What are the actual conditions now in these 71 so-called CMRFD provinces?

(These data are culled from a special report of the Business Mirror last Thursday, titled “Peace in the Philippines remains an elusive dream.”)

Going back to the three most-recent spates of killing in Negros Oriental, from media accounts the victims totalled 48 civilians (human rights monitoring groups have cited higher figures). The first two clusters – from Dec. 27 to Jan. 15, then on March 30 – were acknowledged to have been authorized joint operations by the AFP and PNP. Here’s how they happened:

On Nov. 22, 2018, President Duterte, through Memorandum Circular 32, directed the Department of National Defense and the Department of Interior and Local Government to coordinate the immediate deployment of additional military and police forces in the Negros provinces, Samar provinces and the Bicol region “to suppress lawless violence and acts of terror.”

A month later, a large-scale AFP-PNP military operation was carried out in Negros Oriental from Dec. 27 to Jan. 15, 2019. It used platoon- to company-size forces in searching houses and arresting targeted persons using close to 100 warrants issued by a single regional trial court judge in Cebu City (RTC-7 Branch 10 Judge Soliver Peras).

The operations resulted in seven persons killed (including a radio broadcaster-commentator in Guihulngan City) and 40 others arrested and charged, invariably, with illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

A second similar operation was carried out from dawn to dusk on March 30 in Canlaon City and the towns of Majuyod and Sta. Catalina. Result: 14 farmers were killed in their homes during the search operations for alleged illegal firearms. The PNP justified the killings, claiming that the slain persons “fought back” (as in the “tokhang” operations against illegal drugs). Malacañang, through presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo, backed up the PNP’s justification.

The third round of killings (civilian victims: 17, according to a Philippine STAR report) was carried out by unidentified men after the NPA acknowledged responsibility for ambushing and slaying four police intelligence men in Ayungon town on July 20. President Duterte reacted angrily, ordered state security forces to go after the NPA unit, offering initially P3 million (later raised to P5 million) for the head only, “not the body,” of the leader of the NPA unit.

Now PNP chief Oscar Albayalde blames the civilian killings on the NPA, and Malacanang does the same. Panelo said Duterte “vows to replicate the atrocious acts done by the communist rebels to civilians, the barangay officials and the law enforcers… in defense of our countrymen.”

Will there be more state-directed killings if and when martial law is declared in Negros? Four Catholic bishops in Negros and the supreme bishop of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (Aglipayan) have cried out “No! Stop the killings!” May the nightly tolling of the church bells ordered by the bishops achieve their objective.

* * *


Published in Philippine Star
August 3, 2019

Reds reply tit-for-tat to Duterte, orders attacks on DDS, too

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 4, 2019): Reds reply tit-for-tat to Duterte, orders attacks on DDS, too

This photo taken on July 30, 2017 shows guerrillas of the New People’s Army (NPA) in formation in the Sierra Madre mountain range, located east of Manila. /AFP FILE PHOTO

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on Sunday (Aug. 4) described President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to the military to respond “tit-for-tat” to supposed rebel atrocities as a “code for killings and torture” that would target civilians, promising to “fight back” for noncombatants who can’t defend themselves.

“The New People’s Army is not shaken by Duterte’s threats,” said CPP in a statement sent by e-mail. “The NPA can defend itself with arms,” it said.

“But unarmed peasants, lawyers, human rights defenders, church people, civilians can’t,” the CPP statement added. “The NPA must fight back for them.”

CPP said Duterte’s order to the military and police to “give NPA rebels what they deserve” was nothing but a directive to target civilians suspected of aiding rebels and sow terror to instill fear among leftist activists and organizers.

Duterte accused NPA of torturing four intelligence police officers before they were killed in Negros Oriental on July 18 but CPP said the policemen were killed in ambush, not tortured and were treated as “armed adversaries of the NPA who died in a legitimate act of war.”

CPP also called on NPA rebels in Negros Oriental to escalate attacks on government targets in response to Duterte’s tit-for-tat order. The order also covered DDS or Duterte Diehard Supporters “to punish those responsible for the killings of civilians.”

CPP rejected Duterte’s claim that he never allowed the military to torture NPA rebels, pointing out how a captured female rebel was shot in her genitals last April by soldiers following Duterte’s order to shoot female guerrillas “in the vagina.”

Bulatlat: One pastor killed, another church worker harassed in 2 days

Posted to the pro-Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)/National Democratic Front (NDF) online propaganda publication Bulatlat (Aug 4, 2019): One pastor killed, another church worker harassed in 2 days

Prayers were offered for slain UCCP pastor (Photo by Kilab Multimedia)


The Ecumenical Bishops’ Forum assailed the continuing attacks against Church leaders and workers under the present administration – with the killing of a pastor in Cotabato and attempted arrest of a chuch lay worker in Bukidnon over the past two days.

“The number of violent attacks against Christian human rights defender has alarmingly increased in the three years of President Rodrigo Duterte’s government. We hold him responsible for the escalating hostile acts being committed against all human rights defenders from civil society and people’s organizations and the church community,” the EBF said.

On Aug. 2, United Church of Christ in the Philippines Pastor Ernesto Javier Estrella was gunned down by motorcycle-riding assailants in Antipas, Cotabato.

Meanwhile, on Aug. 3, a church lay worker from the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines was subjected to harassment when soldiers belonging to the 1st Special Forces Battalion based in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon “invited” her go with them at about 8:30 p.m.

Kristin Lim is also a former station manager of Radyo Lumad, a project ran by the RMP through the assistance of the European Union and the World Association for Christian Communication under the Healing the Hurt Project, said the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.

Lim and the rest of the staff of the now-defunct Radyo Lumad were repeatedly subjected to red-tagging, which was among the reasons the program was shut down, said JB Deveza of the NUJP Western Mindanao Safety Office.

Under President Duterte, church leaders and workers have been subjected to unprecedented threats and harassments.

Apart from the two incidents in the past two days, church leaders such as Catholic Bishops Honesto Ongtioco, Pablo Virgilio David, Teodoro Bacani Jr., and Archbishop Socrates Villegas, three other priests, a religious brother, and scores from the political opposition were slapped with sedition charges over the viral “Bikoy” videos.

Sisters Elenita Belardo and Emma Cupin of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), and Fr. Wilfredo Ruazol of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) and EBF, along with rights and women’s organizations were also charged with perjury by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon.

Last month, church workers from the United Methodist Church were also harassed and accused by state security forces for purportedly coddling members of the New People’s Army and conducted a warrantless search in a church facility in Roxas, Mindoro.

In an earlier statement issued by the Executive Board of the EBF, bishops said that the “accusations and attacks against church people are baseless and undoubtedly devoid of common sense and sound reason.”

The EBF said, “Christians must act together for the defense of justice, human rights, democracy and the common good. Let us fight against the systematic design to undermine the participation and contributions of church people in the people’s struggle for equality, dignity and the common good.”

Moises Padilla mayor, vice mayor accused of rebel links

From the Sun Star-Bacolod (Aug 5, 2019): Moises Padilla mayor, vice mayor accused of rebel links

A FORMER member of the New People's Army's (NPA) rebel who claims now to be on the NPA hit list surfaced on Friday and accused the current mayor and vice mayor of Moises Padilla of having links to the insurgent group.

53-year-old Noli Garinggo, formerly a chairman of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP)
and resident of Moises Padilla, was accompanied by his lawyer in filing his affidavit to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Negros Occidental at Camp Alfredo Montelibano Sr., Barangay Camingawan, Bacolod City.

Based in his sworn affidavit,
he claimed that he served with the KMP and the NPA since 1982 until May 2019 wherein he was disarmed and sentenced to death by the rebels.

In February 2016, his group called for a meeting at a house owned by a certain Neneng Timbad in the town's Barangay Guinpanaan.

When he entered the house, he claimed he saw current Moises Padilla Mayor Ella Garcia-Yulo and the town's current Vice Mayor Ian Villaflor, along with several other district members of the KMP in Central and Southern Negros.

He claimed that instead of discussing plans for a protest rally, the meeting instead became a discussion for the NPA's "datos" or those listed to be liquidated by the rebels, wherein the attendees were all members of the NPA's Kangaroo Court.

When he reviewed the documents of the meeting, Garinggo claimed he saw the name of Nonong Grande in the NPA's hitlist for allegedly blocking private roads and disallowing people from passing unless they join him in his cause or support his own political candidates for the upcoming 2016 national elections.

He, however, claimed that he later found out that the reason why Garcia-Yulo added Garinggo to the list is because he reported the names of her close associates and employees, who are allegedly involved in the town's illegal drug activities.

He claimed the list was later approved by NPA-Leonardo Panaligan Command spokesperson, Ka JB Regalado, who then instructed members of the NPA's Special Partisan Unit to carry out Grande's murder.

Garinggo further claimed that he also saw the names of Joerito Amable, Rusty Caminade, and town Councilor Jolomar Hilario in the NPA's liquidation list. All of whom later murdered in separate incidents.

In 2018 Garinggo was forced into hiding after he separated from his wife, who made false accusations against him before the NPA, until he later learned that he along with his comrade and fellow rebel Jerry Turga were sentenced to death, pointing out that Turgas was disappointed and would oppose how the orders to kill were issued by the NPA as there were no due process through investigation was observed.

Turga was later shot to death by the rebels.

Garinggo pointed out that the reason why he surfaced was because he took pity over the families, especially Grande's family. He also claimed his fellowship with the NPA only caused trouble for him and his family.

Aside from Garcia-Yulo, and Villaflor, Garinggo also accused Grego Herrera, Jimmy Don Plaza, Magno Flores, Moreto Flores, his wife Ma. Luisita Garinggo of having links to the murders in the town.

Meanwhile, it is also clarified that the murder complaint filed against Garcia-Yulo and Villaflor based on earlier affidavits filed by Jully Opiar and Robert Sualog were only dismissed in the Prosecutor level without prejudice and can be refiled.

Both Garcia-Yulo and Villaflor have already denied the allegations of having links to the insurgent group.

After spate of killings, city in Negros now lives in fear

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 5, 2019): After spate of killings, city in Negros now lives in fear

CLIMATE OF FEAR The killings in Guihulngan City have caused fear among residents, including those living abroad, and other people in Negros Oriental. —LEO UDTOHAN

People used to hang out at the seaside Freedom Park in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental province, even late at night.

Now, by 9 p.m., only a handful of brave souls would stroll down the park. Residents now choose to stay in their homes after a series of killings rocked the city, located 138 kilometers north of the provincial capital of Dumaguete.

Mabel, a resident, would see to it that her children were in the house by nightfall.

“We are terrified to go out at night because it seems that life is cheap nowadays,” said the mother of three in Cebuano. She asked to withhold her last name for security.


Mabel told the Inquirer that her family had been terrified by the killings perpetrated by armed men riding on motorcycles.

The Defend Negros #Stop the Killings network has recorded 83 victims of extrajudicial killings in the whole of Negros Island from January 2017 to July this year.

Among the six cities and 25 towns in Negros Oriental, Guihulngan, near the northernmost tip of the province, had the highest number of fatalities—23.

One of the victims, lawyer Anthony Trinidad, was shot dead in broad daylight on July 25 at the city center. Barely 48 hours later, armed men killed siblings Arthur and Ardale Bayawa, both educators, and Buenavista village chief Romeo Alipan.

Guihulngan, a fifth-class city (annual income: P80 million-P160 million), had an estimated 96,000 residents as of 2015. It is the third most populous among the cities and towns in the province.

NPA hotbed

Clashes between New Peoples’ Army (NPA) rebels and government troops are not new to the city, which has long been a hotbed of communist insurgency.

On July 21, 2017, rebels ambushed and killed seven people, including the city police chief, Lt. Col. Arnel Arpon, and five other policemen.

There have been other reported killings since, in Guihulngan and elsewhere in Negros Oriental.

Attacks on militants

Also among the fatalities are civilians, including leaders and members of militant organizations, and residents perceived to be supporting the Left.

Following the ambush on Arpon and other policemen, unidentified armed men shot and killed nine leaders and members of militant organizations from July 23 to Nov. 3 in 2017.

Among those killed was Alberto Tecson, 45, vice chair of the Guihulngan chapter of the fishermen’s group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas.

Tecson was shot dead by hooded men in front of his children at their home in Bulado village on July 24, 2017.

According to his wife Lorena, who went in hiding after receiving threats to her life, soldiers had dropped by the Tecson residence the day before he was killed and accused him of transporting armed men on his motorboat.

The military denied involvement in the murder. No arrests have yet been made.

‘Afraid going home’

This year, the Negros Provincial Police Office recorded 17 civilians killed since July 22, days after the July 18 ambush of four police intelligence officers in Ayungon town in the south.

The killings have caused fear among residents and other people from Guihulngan, including those living abroad.

“Some have actually canceled their flights because of the killings,” said Andrea Trinidad, younger sister of the slain lawyer.

“I don’t feel safe and I am afraid to go home,” she said.

A teacher, who asked not to be named, said: “We try to continue living our lives normally but of course we are concerned even if we have not done anything wrong.”

“When will this end? What is happening to Guihulngan?” another said.

Mabel said gone are the days when they could go out to Freedom Park at night.

“But this is where we earn a living. I have no choice [but to stay],” she sighed.

No need for martial law in Negros Oriental – AFP Visayas chief

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 5, 2019): No need for martial law in Negros Oriental – AFP Visayas chief

Noel Clement

The military commander in the Visayas is not inclined to recommend the declaration of martial law in Negros Oriental, describing the security situation in the province as “manageable.”

“From our level here, I don’t think at this time we need to implement martial law,”
Lt. Gen. Noel Clement, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Central Command (AFP-Centcom), told defense reporters on Sunday.

“It (security situation) is still manageable,” Clement pointed out, adding, “Right now, we’re not inclined actually to recommend martial law.”

The AFP Centcom, based in Camp Lapu-Lapu in Cebu City, is primarily tasked with combating terrorism and insurgency in the Visayas region.

‘Not widespread’

Clement said: “When you talk about martial law there should be rebellion or any insurrection. I think, at this time, that is not happening there (Negros Oriental). There are incidents of killings but [these are] within manageable levels to the point that it is not widespread in the province.”

He said he ordered several months ago the deployment of the 302nd Brigade from Bohol and the 11th Infantry Battalion from Zamboanga City to Negros Oriental. These are “enough forces to contain the situation there,” he said.

More troops were fielded “because of the insurgency problem there, not actually because of the spate of killings,” Clement said.

He said he had yet to receive any instruction to assess the situation in Negros Oriental and come up with a recommendation. He said he was prepared for such an order.

Military officials are consulting with the local government and other concerned sectors in the province to deal with the problem, according to Clement.

“We can’t continue to accuse each other [of the] killings. That’s not the problem there. It has to be addressed from a different perspective, not just to address the killings per se,” he said.

Communist rebels and groups with alleged ties to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), have been blaming the spate of killings on government forces. Police and military authorities countered that the CPP-NPA was actually behind the attacks.

Army overruns NPA camp in Cagayan de Oro City

From Rappler (Aug 4, 2019): Army overruns NPA camp in Cagayan de Oro City

The NPA camp in Barangay Pigsag-an is the first known rebel camp in the city in recent history

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Army soldiers from the 65th Infantry Battalion overran on July 30 a New People's Army camp in Barangay Pigsag-an, just 30 minutes away from the city's booming uptown district. One soldier was wounded.

The rebel camp in Barangay Pigsag-an is the first known NPA camp in the city in recent history.

The 65th IB troops engaged at least 20 NPA rebels and seized their hideout, located in an uninhabited area in the village.

The firefight took place on July 30, when troops led by 1st Lieutenant Rolito V. Tecson Jr conducted a military operation in the forested area of Pigsag-an, after citizens reported the presence of armed men doing extortion and teach-in activities.

Reports from the 65th IB and the 4th Infantry Division's Division Public Affairs Office (DPAO), released on August 3, showed one army soldier was wounded in action while the DPAO said there may have been rebels killed or wounded as blood stains were found around the position of the NPA.

The wounded soldier was immediately evacuated to Camp Evangelista Station Hospital and was reported to be in stable condition.

Troopers recovered an unexploded 10-kilogram improvised anti-personnel mine, which is prohibited under the United Nations Ottawa Treaty.

The soldiers also recovered expended ammunition for M16, M14, and AK47 rifles, as well as some personal belongings.

65th Infantry Battalion Commanding officer Lt. Col. Benjamin B. Pajarito Jr said his troops will intensify their drive against the guerrillas.

Intense military operations in Bukidnon's Kitanglad-Kalatungan Mountain ranges may have forced the NPA to seek new ground here.

This city's mountain barangays in the West share border with Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental, Iligan City, and Lanao del Sur.

Probe of Bangsamoro transition status urged

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 4, 2019): Probe of Bangsamoro transition status urged

COTABATO CITY, Maguindanao, Philippines — Sen. Ralph Recto has sought an inquiry into the status of the Bangsamoro transition, five months after an interim regional government was established by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Recto filed Senate Resolution No. 30 that directed the Senate committee on local government to do the inquiry on the implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) “with the end in view of ensuring that the provisions of the law are satisfied and implemented.”

BTA members appointed

The President organized the interim regional government on Feb. 22 by appointing members to the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) who will serve until June 30, 2022, when the first duly elected parliament members hold office.

This came one month after the BOL was ratified during the Jan. 21 plebiscite.


“It is imperative for Congress to determine the status of the transition and ensure that the funding requirements as provided for in the BOL are appropriated and released by the national government,” Recto added.

Lawyer Lanang Ali, majority floor leader in the interim parliament, disclosed that the Senate committee on local government has tentatively scheduled a meeting based on the resolution on Aug. 14.

Ali said it was better to have such conversation with the national government to clarify matters.

Last month, a Bangsamoro executive called on the President to ensure the release of fund commitments by the national government to finance the interim regional government’s operations.

Another interim parliament member said that in the last four months, the BTA has buckled down to work to smoothen the transition process and lay the foundations for a truly meaningful Moro self-rule.

Lawyer Omar Yasser Sema revealed that as of June 30, the BTA has held 10 sessions — nine regular and one special — and passed 30 resolutions.

Unfilled seats

These resolutions included a request for the national government to release and transfer P1.5 billion in transition fund, and the adoption of the P10-billion public works spending law earlier firmed up by the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which is backed by national funds.

Sema noted that up to today, the 80-member BTA is not complete as five seats are still unfilled.

Security forces arrest BIFF member tagged in Isulan bomb attack

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 4, 2019): Security forces arrest BIFF member tagged in Isulan bomb attack

ISULAN, SULTAN KUDARAT– Security forces arrested on Saturday a suspected member of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) who is facing murder charges in connection with the bomb attack here in August 2018 which killed three people and injured more than 30 others.

PLt.Col. Junny Buenacosa, Isulan police chief,
identified the suspect as Tutin Kuti, 27, who was nabbed by joint police and military intelligence operatives at his house in Barangay Madia, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

Police said
Kuti was among the more than 30 BIFF members, who were tagged as suspects in the bomb attack at an “ukay-ukay” flea market during the festivities of the town’s foundation anniversary celebration on August 29, 2018.

Buenacosa said Kuti was also responsible for the foiled roadside bomb attack on the participants of a parade led by then Isulan Mayor Diosdado Pallasigue along the national highway here in March 2016.

Police authorities are also hunting down Kuti’s cohorts in the August 2018 bombing here who included BIFF leader Abu Toraife.

Regional Trial Court Lorenzo Balo has issued arrest warrant for multiple and frustrated murder against the suspects.

9 soldiers injured in southern Philippine clashes

From Xinhua (Aug 4, 2019): 9 soldiers injured in southern Philippine clashes

Nine members of the elite Philippine Scout Rangers have been wounded in clashes with Abu Sayyaf terrorists in the remote boondocks of Sulu province in the southern Philippines, the military said on Sunday.

The military said clashes broke out around 8:25 a.m. on Saturday in the mountain village of Lagasan near the boundaries of the towns of Maimbung and Parang.

According to the military, the initial fighting broke out while troops were on combat operation. Up to 15 members of the Abu Sayyaf fighters reportedly fired on the troops, triggering a 15-minute firefight. The terrorists reportedly fled the scene.

However, more fighting ensued as another group of soldiers blocked the fleeing terrorists, the military said.

The military claimed “an undetermined number” of Abu Sayyaf fighters were also wounded in the clashes.

920 MILFs to be decommissioned, 225 start training as peacekeepers

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 3, 2019): 920 MILFs to be decommissioned, 225 start training as peacekeepers

COTABATO CITY – President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to witness the decommissioning of 920 fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in a formal ceremony that will be held on September 7, according to officials involved in the normalization track of the 2014 MILF-government peace accord.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (PAPP) Secretary and former Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

“No less than President Duterte will be attending the event to demonstrate his full support to the decommissioning process and normalization,” Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. announced at the kickoff training on August 1 of 225 MILF ex-combatants processed for enlistment in proposed 200 Joint Peace and Security Teams (JPSTs).

Galvez mentioned the old Maguindanao provincial capitol complex in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat as the venue for the “most awaited event” of decommissioning of the former rebels.

The 225 trainees, belonging to the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the MILF’s armed wing, will be entitled to P4,700 subsistence allowance and a kilo of rice and one 50-kilo of rice for the duration of the month-long training at Camp Lucero of the Army’s training center in Carmen, North Cotabato, reports said.

In a statement, Sec. Galvez said the month-long training would be the “gateway” of the MILF-BIAF ex-combatants to military and police services as envisioned in the normalization track prescribed in an annex of the 2014 peace pact.

Initially, the 225 trainees and succeeding batches will represent the MILF-BIAF to 200 JPSTs that will also include police and military contingents to serve as joint peace-keeping forces in the interim government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) – the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).

The BTA operation will last until 2022 upon the election of regular BARMM officials, during which the MILF and government will sign an exit agreement signifying the implementation of the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

BIAF Chief-of-Staff Sammy Al-Masour Gambar, who is also known in BARMM as Abdulraouf Macacua, joined Galvez in addressing the 225 trainees. Gambar represented MILF Chair and BARMM Interim Chief Minister Ahod ”Hadji Murad” Ebrahim.

“Of all aspects of the annex on normalization (track of CAB), decommissioning is the hardest act to be done by our combatants,” said Macacua, who is now BARMM’s minister for environment, natural resources and energy (MENRE).

“We will be turning over our guns to the IDB (Independent Decommissioning Body) even if the security situation in our communities is not yet stable,” he said.

Authorities have acknowledged 40,000 MILF combatants, 12,000 of them fully armed fighters who are subject of the decommissioning process in three phases. The first, second and third phases will cover 30 percent, 35 percent and another 35 percent of the MILF fighters, respectively.

Reports indicated that the September 7 ceremony was within the first phase, which was supposed to commence shortly after the formal inauguration of BTA-BARMM operations last March by President Duterte.

Ebrahim had once said that officials implementing the CAB provisions were “lagging behind (timetable in) the political track,” which covers the decommissioning aspect.

NDF/CPP: The NPA is not shaken by Duterte’s threats

CPP propaganda statement posted to the National Democratic Front Philippines (NDFP or NDF) Website (Aug 4, 2019): CPP: The NPA is not shaken by Duterte’s threats

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today lambasted Rodrigo Duterte for ordering his armed men in the AFP and PNP to “give NPA rebels what they deserve” which is a codeword for “killings and torture.” Duterte made the remarks in a speech last August 2 in Davao City.

The CPP said, “the New People’s Army is not shaken by Duterte’s threats. The NPA can defend itself with arms. But unarmed peasants, lawyers, human rights defenders, church people, civilians can’t. The NPA must fight back for them.”

The CPP further dismissed Duterte’s claim that he never allowed the military to torture or hurt NPA rebels. The CPP pointed out how a captured NPA fighter was shot in her genitals last April by soldiers following Duterte’s “shoot them in the vagina” order.

Moreover, the CPP said the revolutionary forces will hold Duterte personally responsible for any more killings carried out by his agents following his threats.
The CPP calls on NPA in Negros and across the country to intensify tactical offensives against units of the AFP, PNP and DDS in order to punish those responsible for the killings of civilians.

MILF: IMT-15 Bruneian Contingent Pays Exit Call to MILF Leadership

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Website (Aug 4, 2019): IMT-15 Bruneian Contingent Pays Exit Call to MILF Leadership

In photo- Lt. Col. Mohammad Rizal Bin Haji Abdul Hadi with BARMM Chief Minister Al Haj Ahod Ebrahim on his left

Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, (August 3, 2019)- Lt. Col. Mohammad Rizal Bin Haji Abdul Hadi, Leader of Team Site 1, Bruneian Contingent of the International Monitoring Team Batch 15, along with his Team Members ASP Muhammad Nurfairuz Nazri Bin Salleh and WO1 Zoolihsan Bin Haji Ali paid Exit Call today to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front leadership, at the MILF Administrative Camp, Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, BARMM.

They were gladly welcomed by members of the MILF Central Committee, BIAF Officers led by Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim.

Chairman Ebrahim in his welcome message briefly related how the IMT came to being in 2004, as one of the agreements made after the resumption of peace talks following the all-out war declared by then President Estrada in 2001.

The creation of the International Monitoring Team, composed of other countries’ representatives contributed a lot in the decrease of skirmishes, to the point that there were even years of zero number of encounter between government troops and MILF forces.

As Interim Chief Minister of Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), now called by his real name Ahod B. Ebrahim gave updates on how the new parliamentary government is going on since it was inaugurated in March 29, 2019 and mentioned various governing codes in the priority list to be accomplished.

On behalf of the MILF Central Committee and the Bangsamoro people, Chairman Ebrahim thanked the Bruneian Contingent and the international community for their continuous help for the realization of Bangsamoro’s aspiration for peace, meaningful autonomy, and right to self-determination. He noted that the IMT will continue to exist until the Exit Agreement is achieved.

Lt. Col. Mohammad Rizal Bin Haji Abdul Hadi, expressed commitment that they will continue serving and support the peace process agreements. He also mentioned, how honored they are, having the opportunity to serve for peace objective. They were also thankful for having provided with security.

The meeting ended with the usual greetings of salaam (peace), a gesture of brotherhood in Islam, and photo ops.

AFP-CRS: Samar still on full alert

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP-CRS) Facebook Page (Aug 3, 2019): Samar still on full alert

Image may contain: 1 person, text

[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: Don't tell us what to do on human rights (2)

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP-CRS) Facebook Page (Aug 3, 2019): Don't tell us what to do on human rights (2)

"To members of Karapatan, you don't need to remind the State of its obligations, we know them. That's why we have to tell our people what kind of organization you truly are. You are an alliance of advocates for instability and violence. You don't only raise awareness of the experiences of affected Red fighters and your progressive allies. More than anything you raise funds out of this and bail out terrorist criminals."

Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations, J7, AFP

Image may contain: 1 person, text

[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: Don't tell us what to do on human rights (1)

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP-CRS) Facebook Page (Aug 3, 2019): Don't tell us what to do on human rights (1)

“Why can't Karapatan talk about the rights of many parents now asking for the return of their children recruited in PUP (Polytechnic University of the Philippines) by their allies in Anakbayan, and are now in danger after joining the NPAs in the hills? They are minors. Say something."

Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations, J7, AFP

Image may contain: 1 person, text

[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: Marawi clearing of unexploded ordnance continues

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP-CRS) Facebook Page (Aug 3, 2019): Marawi clearing of unexploded ordnance continues

[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: Barangay in Pantukan declared CPP-NPA as Persona Non Grata

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP-CRS) Facebook Page (Aug 3, 2019): Barangay in Pantukan declared CPP-NPA as Persona Non Grata

Image may contain: 1 person, text

[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: Agusan del Norte town declares CPP-NPA as Persona Non Grata

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP-CRS) Facebook Page (Aug 3, 2019): Agusan del Norte town declares CPP-NPA as Persona Non Grata

Image may contain: 1 person, text

[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: Zamboanga del Sur declare CPP-NPA as 'Persona Non Grata'

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Service (AFP-CRS) Facebook Page (Aug 3, 2019): Zamboanga del Sur declare CPP-NPA as 'Persona Non Grata'

Image may contain: text

[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.]