Wednesday, December 4, 2019

OPAPP partners with AFP to foster reconciliation in Bangsamoro

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 4, 2019): OPAPP partners with AFP to foster reconciliation in Bangsamoro

PARTNERSHIP FOR PEACE. Participants pose after attending a three-day training-workshop on Transitional Justice and Dealing with the Past in Tagaytay City on November 27-29, 2019. The event was organized by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, in partnership with the Armed Forces of the Philippines Technical Working Group on Transitional Justice and Reconciliation. (Photo courtesy of OPAPP)

TAGAYTAY CITY -- The decades-long armed conflict in Mindanao, which spanned more than 40 years and several administrations, claimed the lives of thousands, destroyed billions worth of property, and turned once vibrant communities into virtual ghost towns.

Stakeholders have realized that the use of force will not put an end to the cycle of violence. This understanding has led to an approach that aims to promote healing and reconciliation in Mindanao, particularly in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), in partnership with the Armed Forces of the Philippines Technical Working Group on Transitional Justice and Reconciliation (AFP-TWG on TJR), organized a three-day training-workshop on November 27-29 on Transitional Justice and Dealing with the Past to ensure the effective implementation of TJR in the BARMM.

The workshop sought to deepen the appreciation and understanding of AFP officers and personnel on TJR, focusing on the organization’s critical role in the implementation of transitional justice interventions, programs, and processes in the region.

The TJR component under the normalization track of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, aims to address the legitimate grievances of the Moro people, correct historical injustices against them, and address human rights violations and marginalization.

During the training, members of the AFP-TWG were asked to formulate recommendations on how to advance TJR’s four pillars namely: Right to Know, Right to Justice, Right to Reparation, and Guarantee to Non-recurrence. These inputs will then be considered in the enhancement of the AFP’s Action Plan for TJR.

“Nagawa na ng Armed Forces ang kanyang (The Armed Forces did their) role to [bring] these rebels to the negotiating table, at nagkaroon na ng (and there was) agreement. ‘Nung (in) 1997 kay (with) Nur (Misuari), ngayon ‘yung (now) CAB with the MILF. Tapos na natin noon (It was completed),” retired Brig. Gen. Buenaventura Pascual told the participants.

“This time, kailangan na nating mag-transition. I-punta na natin sa tama itong rebelyong ito. Yung role natin dito, tapos na, and it’s good na narining ninyo yung (we need to have transition. Let’s correct this rebellion. Our role here is over and it's good that you hear) TJR because this will be helpful for us to exit from Internal Security Operations at papunta na tayo sa (and we’re heading to) external,” Pascual explained.

He, however, admitted that there have been some shortcomings committed by the military in the past, and now is the right time to address them.

“Nagkaroon talaga ng [shortcomings] noon. Ang pakiusap ko lang sa Armed Forces as an institution, hindi tayo mawawala kung i-admit natin ang [shortcomings]. Mas lalo tayong tataas kung gagawin natin yun (We really committed shortcomings before. My appeal to the Armed Forces as an institution, we will not become weak if we admit our shortcomings. We will become stronger if we will do it),” he said.

Meanwhile, Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. lauded the efforts being undertaken by the AFP to bring healing and reconciliation to the Bangsamoro region.

“We appreciate the AFP is taking steps to correct the historical injustices against the people of Bangsamoro through multisectoral engagement with CSOs and other government agencies,” Galvez said.

“Rest assured that we will continue to support the AFP in capacity building, and the formulation of the TJR Action Plan,” he said.

AFP lauds Gapay appointment as next Army chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 4, 2019): AFP lauds Gapay appointment as next Army chief (By Priam Nepomuceno)

Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay. (File photo)

The entire Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) welcomed on Wednesday the installation of Lt. Gen. Gilbert I. Gapay as the 61st commander of the 97,000-strong Philippine Army (PA).

Gapay will replace Lt. Gen. Macairog S. Alberto who will bow out of the service on Friday upon reaching the mandatory military retirement age of 56.

Gapay is the current commander of the Southern Luzon Command which is based in Lucena City, Quezon.

"In a letter addressed to the Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana, President and Commander-in-Chief Rodrigo Duterte announces his approval of the recommendation of General Gapay as the next Army Chief vice Lt. Gen. Macairog S. Alberto who has reached the mandatory retirement age while selflessly serving the nation and its people with the highest degree of honor and patriotism," AFP spokesperson, Marine Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said in a media statement.

He added that Gapay is a highly esteemed and emulated officer having risen to the ranks after graduating No. 1 in the Philippine Military Academy “Sinagtala” Class of 1986.

"He is a well-rounded General Officer who has excelled in the domains of Operations, Training, and Resource Management," Arevalo added.

Gapay has also served with distinction various sensitive positions in both garrison and field assignments at the PA and AFP General Headquarters.

"He possesses both the expertise and experience in command, leadership, and management which are essential to leading the biggest branch of service of the AFP—the Philippine Army," Arevalo said.

The incoming PA chief's attributes of integrity and competence is beyond reproach, he added.

Lorenzana recommends no further extension of martial law in Mindanao

From the Philippine Star (Dec 4, 2019): Lorenzana recommends no further extension of martial law in Mindanao

MANILA, Philippines — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Wednesday said he submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte his recommendation to no longer put all of Mindanao under martial law in 2020.

The region has been under martial law since May 2017.

A News5 report quoted Lorenzana as saying that “it’s time to go back to normal.”

The recommendation to no longer extend martial law in Mindanao was based on the assessment of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, the report added.

Congress readily agreed to extend martial law in the region three times. The latest extension is until December 31.

The Defense chief last month said that martial law in Mindanao “has been too long.”

"We can do our job especially if the Senate or Congress can pass the Human Security Act to strengthen our law enforcement. That's a better arrangement than the martial law," Lorenzana said then.

RELATED: PNP backs lifting of martial law in Mindanao

President Rodrigo Duterte first placed Mindanao under martial law through Proclamation No. 216, which was issued in response to clashes in Marawi Citu between government forces enforcing the arrest of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon.

He has since extended the martial law rule in the region three times.

RELATED: Duterte is open to Mindanao martial law extension. Is that an effective response vs terrorism?

All extensions were approved by both chambers of the Congress, while the Supreme Court upheld the legality and factual bases of Duterte’s martial law declaration and its subsequent extensions.

Last July, the president said he would not hesitate to extend the declaration again if security officials will recommend it.

“If the local government unit, the governors, mayors and even the congressmen would find that it could be in the best interest of the Filipinos in Mindanao, I would not hesitate to say yes,” Duterte said.

Martial law was welcomed by business groups and local officials, who said it would make the region more stable and attractive to investors. Human rights groups claim, however, that martial law has led to abuses in Mindanao, parts of which have had a heavy military presence even before the declaration. 

IDP Protection Assessment Report - Protracted Displacement in Sulu Province (AFP vs ASG) (IDPPAR no. 03, Issue no. 03, 2019)

Posted to the Relief Web (Dec 4, 2019): IDP Protection Assessment Report - Protracted Displacement in Sulu Province (AFP vs ASG) (IDPPAR no. 03, Issue no. 03, 2019)

REPORTfrom UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Protection Cluster
Published on 30 Oct 2019 —View Original

Download PDF (1.04 MB)


In June 2017, civilians from Barangay Kabbon Takas, Patikul municipality evacuated due to armed confrontations between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the alleged members of the Abu Sayaff Group (ASG). According to the Barangay Chairman, his constituents have been displaced multiple times due to frequent armed encounters. The displaced families fled from Barangay Kabbon Takas to Barangay Kan Ague, in the same municipality. Through an agreement with a private land owner, they were allowed to use a portion of a lot where they built temporary shelters and makeshift shanties to stay in while the situation was still unstable.

In January 2019, the municipal local government unit (LGU) of Patikul in coordination with the barangay LGU of Kabbon Takas had already planned the return of these families. However, this did not materialize after the bombing of the Jolo cathedral occurred later on the same month, prompting President Duterte to announce the launch of -out war against the ASG.


As of this report, more than 284 families (approximately 1,420 persons) have remained displaced for more than two (2) years. Of this total, 150 families (approximately 750 persons) are staying in the old and damaged shanties in Barangay Kan Ague, while 134 families (approximately 670 persons) are living with their relatives and friends. According to the barangay chairman, some of these families went to their relatives in neighboring barangays, and others moved as far as Jolo municipality.

The municipal LGU of Patikul continuously monitors the situation of these families and provides food assistance, despite overstretched resources. According to IDPs interviewed by local partner IRDT in October 2019, they had last received food packs sometime in February 2019. They expressed the need for immediate support, particularly shelter materials to improve their makeshift shelters, food assistance to complement the relief assistance from the MLGU, and livelihood assistance.

Since the onset of their displacement, ten (10) deaths have been recorded among the IDPs due to different illnesses, including a dengue case which was reported by the Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO) of Sulu. The barangay chairman attributed this case to the unsafe location of the temporary shelters and the challenging living conditions.

Southern Luzon commander is new Army chief

From Rappler (Dec 4, 2019): Southern Luzon commander is new Army chief (Pia Ranada)

(UPDATED) Lieutenant General Gilbert Gapay will take the reins of the Philippine Army on December 6, upon the retirement of Lieutenant General Macairog Alberto

NEW JOB. SOLCOM chief Lt General Gilbert Gapay is the next Philippine Army chief. Photo from Southern Luzon Command, AFP Facebook page

NEW JOB. SOLCOM chief Lt General Gilbert Gapay is the next Philippine Army chief. Photo from Southern Luzon Command, AFP Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte has named the general on top of anti-insurgency operations in Bicol, Mimaropa, and Calabarzon as the next Philippine Army chief.

Duterte has picked Lieutenant General Gilbert Gapay, chief of the military's Southern Luzon Command, to take over the post, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told Rappler on Wednesday, December 4.

Gapay's appointment becomes effective on December 6, the retirement date of current Army chief Lieutenant General Macairog Alberto.

"He is competent. He went through all the army commands up to area command. I am sure he will perform well as army chief," said Lorenzana.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines said in a statement that during Gapay's time as Solcom commander, key communist leaders were neutralized and the armed capability of the New People's Army was "significantly reduced." Solcom's operations also supposedly led to a spike in NPA surrenderees in the 3 regions.

Gapay was instrumental in implementing Duterte's Executive Order No 70, which spells out the government's strategy to end armed communist conflict through a local approach. Calabarzon's Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict was the first regional task force created following the EO.

In the days leading to his appointment, Gapay has been busy with relief and rescue operations for Typhoon Tisoy (Kammuri), which affected Bicol, his command's area of operation.

Davao connection. Gapay also had the chance to serve in the President's hometown, Davao City. In December 2016, he became Eastern Mindanao Command deputy commander. During this time, he led the Joint Task Force Haribon, in charge of securing the Mega Davao area after the September 2016 bombing of the Roxas night market.

He was also in charge of security at the launch of the Philippines' chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations held in Davao City in 2017.

Gapay was topnotcher of his class at the Philippine Military Academy, the powerful Sinagtala Class of 1986. His classmates include former police chiefs Ronald dela Rosa, Oscar Albayalde, and PNP officer-in-charge Archie Gamboa.

Gapay also served as commander of the army's Mechanized Division.

40,000 flee as clashes rage in Maguindanao

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 4, 2019): 40,000 flee as clashes rage in Maguindanao (By Edwin O. Fernandez)

Number of evacuees rises and falls, depending on what happens overnight’

DISPLACED A grandmother and her pregnant daughter at the Shariff Aguak evacuation site wait for the go signal to return home amid the ongoing clashes between government forces and members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao, Philippines — Close to 40,000 residents have been displaced by the ongoing clashes between government forces and members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao province, social welfare officials said on Tuesday.

Emma Ali, Maguindanao provincial social welfare chief, said the number of internally displaced persons had reached 38,235 and was still rising in evacuation centers. Some of them had taken refuge in homes of their relatives.

Ali said Shariff Saydona Mustapha town in Maguindanao posted the highest number of evacuees at 3,668 families, followed by Datu Saudi Ampatuan town, 2,021; and Shariff Aguak town, 1,958.
Ready to evacuate

“The number of evacuees rises and falls every now and then, depending on what happens overnight,” Ali said. At one point, the number rose to 48,000 since the fighting between government troops and the BIFF rebels broke out on Nov. 24.

“When there are explosions and shelling at night, people move to safer grounds,” Ali said. “That explains why people in conflict areas have their valuables ready in tricycles or carabao-drawn carts for quick movement.”

Local governments of affected towns had attended to the needs of the evacuees, she said, adding that a civilian was reported to have been hit by a stray bullet. She did not give details.

Datu Anwar Kuit Emblawa, municipal information officer of Shariff Aguak, said most of the affected families already wanted to return home but were still awaiting signal from the government to ensure their safety.

Wanting to go home

“They really want to go home because they are more productive in their communities than in temporary shelters,” Emblawa said. “Mothers are worried that their children will get sick if their stay at the evacuation camps will be prolonged.”

“Until when shall we stay here?” asked Baimona Salang, 45, a mother of four children seeking shelter at Shariff Aguak. “Our life is so hard. We hope the fighting stops because we already have BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) in place.”
Loss of income

She said she was worried that her children would get sick at the evacuation site as she expressed regret for the days she failed to work and her loss of income.

Emblawa said all evacuees from Shariff Aguak had been served with relief goods and supply of safe drinking water.

“We have extended aid to all evacuees, even those from other towns who are here because we believe that disaster response recognizes no boundaries,” said Emblawa, also the executive secretary of Mayor Marop Ampatuan.

He said 65 families from nearby Shariff Saydona Mustapha were getting aid from the local government of Shariff Aguak.

Ali said most evacuees had fled their homes in March when government forces launched air and ground assaults against BIFF rebels.

Babo Kanakan, an evacuee, said it was her ninth time to leave her home in Shariff Saydona Mustapha, one of the towns in Maguindanao where the military claimed the BIFF had strong presence.

“I can’t remember how many times we have evacuated,” she said.

Don't donate to Red groups posing as relief orgs, NTF ELCAC warns

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 4, 2019): Don't donate to Red groups posing as relief orgs, NTF ELCAC warns (By Priam Nepomuceno)

Major General Antonio Parlade, Jr., Armed Forces of the Philippines Deputy Chief-of-Staff for Civil-Military Operations (PNA File photo)

MANILA – A ranking official of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) cautioned the public against giving donations to communist-front groups posing to help victims severely affected by the onslaught of Typhoon "Tisoy".

Major General Antonio Parlade, Jr., who is also Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Deputy Chief-of-Staff for Civil-Military Operations, made this statement in wake of reports claiming that the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) is preparing to mobilize its resources to link with local and international relief and aid organizations to allegedly help people in emergency situations.

Parlade was reacting a report posted on on Dec. 2 that quoted Marco Valbuena, CPP chief public information officer, as saying “They can prepare the necessary equipment and other resources, and link up with various local and international relief and aid organizations, in order to help the people in emergency situations."

"In the onslaught of Typhoon 'Tisoy', again, let's watch out for these swindlers which are front organizations of the CPP. They have mobilized again their above-ground network to generate funds supposedly for typhoon victims. In reality, most of these will go to the CPP-NPA and (Jose Maria) 'Joma' Sison," he said.

In the Southern Tagalog area alone, he cited as an example the Serve the People Corps" as allied with "Anakbayan" and "Samahang Kabataan" which could be utilized for such activities.

"Other initiatives, with different acronyms, will also be common in other affected areas, as well as non-affected areas. Bayan networks will orchestrate all these to provide a semblance of legality," he added.

Same effort during 'Yolanda'

He recalled that during the aftermath of Typhoon "Yolanda" in 2013, communist terrorist group (CTG) mass bases in the Leyte and Samar were affected prompting the CPP-NPA to exploit the situation to their advantage.

"During Typhoon 'Yolanda' (International CN: Hainan) in 2013, many of the CTG mass bases were affected. The devastation in Tacloban and Samar was so widely publicized that the CTG was quick to exploit it," Parlade said.

Reds propaganda

With the whole world mobilizing to help "Yolanda" victims, he said the CPP-NPA came up with their own fundraising program and highlighted the supposed miseries of evacuees in evacuation centers to intensify their approach which in turn demonize the government for its alleged inefficiencies in addressing the problems of the "Yolanda" affected communities.

"More than anything, it was a perfect propaganda to highlight the debilities, inefficiency, if not absence of government in addressing the problems of affected communities," he said.

This approach, he added, was a good one as this allowed the communist rebels to secure funding from abroad aside from portraying the government at the time as inept.

"So it was a win-win strategy to scam money from good Samaritans in US and Europe while destroying the image of a government portrayed as inept. Thus was born this 'People Surge' initiative of the CPP," he said.
This initiative by the CPP-NPA netted them around PHP2 billion in donations without the benefit of audit and accounting, he added.

"It became a good template for the CPP fund generation. When Typhoon 'Pablo' badly hit Compostela Valley in Mindanao in (2012), they founded 'Panday Bulig' with the objective of helping their afflicted mass bases and red fighters, through funds solicited all over the world," Parlade said.

‘40-40-20’ scheme

Documents recovered from Roy Erecre, secretary of KR-SB who was arrested in 2015, showed that after these funding proposals are approved by foreign funding agencies, 40 percent is kept by the CPP with another 40 percent left to front organizations, while the remaining 20 percent released to people's organizations and their beneficiaries.

"This scheme enabled the CPP to expand quickly its Climate Change Network of Community-based Initiative (CCNCI), spanning from such cover as disaster resilience, protection of vulnerable communities, children and women sector, and protecting the environment from development aggression," he said.

Other networks unwittingly exploited by the CPP are Center for Environmental Concerns, Citizens' Disaster Response Center and Philippine Network of Food Security Programs, he bared.

"This is according to documents from Aurora Cayon, a staff of the CPP's National Finance Commission so it is up for them to deny this, especially Viva Salud, whom we identified earlier as one of the foreign NGOs wittingly or unwittingly supporting CPP front organizations. This is happening despite the existence of PD 1564 (Solicitation Permit Law) which requires DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) permit before soliciting for donations," he added.

While everyone should rally to save the world from climate change and disasters, Parlade advised the public not to donate to communist rebel front organizations posing as disaster or environmental protection agencies as this is only swindling.

"Everybody wants to save the world through climate change advocacies but the CPP network of disaster or environmental watchers is simply different. Its all about swindling money from innocent donors," he added.

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

Slain NPA rebel turns out to be missing student

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Dec 3, 2019): Slain NPA rebel turns out to be missing student

AGUSAN DEL NORTE. Troops recover the remains of a slain New People’s Army (NPA) rebel following a clash on November 30 at Sitio Salvacion in the village of Manila de Bugabos, Butuan City, Agusan del Norte. The slain NPA rebel turns out to be an elementary teenage student of Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental, who had gone missing since February, this year. (Contributed photo)

THE New People’s Army (NPA) rebel slain in a clash with government troops on November 30 turned out to be the missing 16-year-old elementary student from Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental, military officials said Tuesday, December 3.

Lieutenant Colonel Ezra Balagtey, Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) information officer, said the slain NPA rebel was identified as Litboy Talja Binongcasan , 16, and a resident of Sitio Shiohan in Malinao Village, Gingoog City.

Balagtey said his identity was established through the help of his brother.

Binongcasan was a Grade 6 pupil of Sitio Siohan Elementary School in Barangay Malinao, Gingoog City.

The military officer said they were informed by the brother that the student went missing sometime February, this year.

The troops recovered the rebel’s remains following a clash on November 30 at Sitio Salvacion in Manila de Bugabos Village, Butuan City, Agusan del Norte. The troopers figured in a 15-minute firefight against the armed group.

The troops recovered of two AK-47 rifles, one M16A1 rifle, one M16A1-RMC rifle, five backpacks, two bandoleers, subversive documents, and other personal belongings at the clash site.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant General Felimon Santos, Jr., Eastmincom chief, expressed grief on the fate of the student and condemned the NPA’s continuous use of children in armed struggle.

“We are saddened with the fate of Litboy. His case is a clear violation of children’s rights. He was deceptively recruited for the ideology he does not even understand. This act is being condemned in the highest form. It paints the true color of the NPAs who disregard the concern and human rights of the people, particularly the children,” Santos said.

3 companions of nabbed ‘NPA spokesman’ freed

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 4, 2019): 3 companions of nabbed ‘NPA spokesman’ freed (By Maricar Cinco)

Human rights group Karapatan in Southern Tagalog (ST) on Tuesday said it would push for the dismissal of the case filed against the three people arrested with alleged New People’s Army (NPA) spokesperson in the region, Jaime Padilla.

The Metropolitan Trial Court of San Juan City branch 58 ordered Rey Rafa, Kayann Trogon, and Jefren Banjawan released after each posted a P36,000-bail for obstruction of justice.

The three were workers from Southern Tagalog who were only tapped to accompany Padilla to the hospital, Karapatan said without disclosing their home provinces for security reasons.

Padilla, 72, was confined to the Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan City for heart ailment, where the rebel leader was arrested from his hospital room on November 25.

The police presented a warrant for four counts of murder issued by a court in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro.

“It is in the interest of Rafa, Trogon, and Banjawan as civilians that Karapatan (ST) pursued and will continue to pursue the absolution of any false accusations against them.”

“Karapatan ST maintains that their willingness to stay with Padilla during his confinement, and their cooperation during his arrest prove that no deliberate obstruction was made,” the group said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Padilla’s legal consultant Kristina Conti said Padilla was transferred from the national police headquarters in Quezon City to a jail in San Jose on November 28.

Conti said Padilla had yet to be arraigned.

5 generals vie for Army chief post

From the Manila Times (Dec 2, 2019): 5 generals vie for Army chief post

Five high-ranking generals have been shortlisted as candidates for Philippine Army chief.

Three three-star generals and two two-star generals were on the list submitted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Board of Generals to President Rodrigo Duterte through Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesman, said on Sunday it is not yet known if Duterte had already chosen the replacement for Lt. Gen. Macairog Alberto, who will reach the mandatory retirement age of 56 on Friday, December 6.

“All [candidates] possess the attributes of integrity, competence, experience, command and managerial expertise to command the more than [180,000] soldiers tasked to protect the people and secure the land,” Arevalo said in a statement.

He hinted that the military could make an announcement “sometime next week.”

Arevalo did not divulge the canidates’ names, but the Army has at least four three-star generals: Lt. Gen. Ramiro Rey of the Northern Luzon Command, Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay of the Southern Luzon Command, Lt. Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. of the Eastern Mindanao Command and Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana of the Western Mindanao Command.

The three-star general, Maj. Gen. Roberto Ancan, is currently head of the Cebu-based Central Command.

All the Army’s infantry division commanders, as well as several deputy chiefs of staff, have a two-star rank.

MILF commander shot dead in Cotabato town

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 4, 2019): MILF commander shot dead in Cotabato town

KIDAPAWAN CITY — A ranking leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) based in the town of Matalam, Cotabato province was shot to death by unidentified gunmen on Monday afternoon.

Police Major Brian Placer, the town’s chief of police, said
Commander Hadji Mansor Blancia Imbong, 51, the deputy brigade commander of the 5th Brigade of MILF’s 108th Base Command, was on his motorcycle on his way home when attacked by suspects along the national highway.

Imbong lived in Purok Tagumpay, Barangay Marbel in Matalam.

Police said the suspects who shot him were riding a four-wheel vehicle which had no plate number.

“(According to) witnesses’ accounts, the suspects were riding a Toyota Hilux when they shot the victim,” Major Placer said.

Police were still trying to find the motive for the shooting and to track down the identity of the suspects.

Imbong was immediately buried in Marbel village of Matalam, following Muslim traditions.

Planned Army camp stirs Marawi folk

From the Philippine Daily Inquier (Dec 4, 2019): Planned Army camp stirs Marawi folk (By Ryan D. Rosauro

Gov’t says new facility will ensure adequate security for war-torn city

BATTLE-SCARRED In this file photo, houses along Marawi’s lake side were destroyed in the aftermath of the 2017 fighting between government forces and Islamic militants. JEOFFREY MAITEM

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Misamis Oriental, Philippines — The national government’s plan to establish another military camp in Marawi City has stirred a brewing controversy as a number of Maranao leaders are opposing it.

But Housing Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, chair of Task Force Bangon Marawi, the body coordinating efforts in rebuilding the war-ravaged city, has sought to allay fears about the plan.

He told reporters here that what is being planned is only a satellite facility of the Army’s 103rd Brigade so that it will have a forward presence in the city’s eastern portion.

Del Rosario, a former military commander, said the existing Kampo Ranao sits on the western side of Marawi, separated from the main urban center by the Agus River.

By having troops stationed in another facility, the military could tighten its presence, preventing another episode of security breach just like what happened in the past when Islamic State-linked militants freely came and went into the city, he said.


Already, President Duterte has issued, through Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Executive Order No. 41, creating a technical working group (TWG) for the establishment of the military camp in lakeside Kapantaran village.

Among other things, the TWG will assist in the relocation of affected families whose properties will be subject for acquisition.

But the plan does not sit well with several Maranao leaders who saw it as an attempt to further militarize the city.

Aminoden Macalandap, president of the Lanao del Sur chapter of Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), said the government must “prove genuine necessity of taking the [private] properties.”

“ … Two military camps in one city is too much. Instead of healing the wounds of history, increased militarization only reinforces the narrative that the Bangsamoro can only be ruled by an iron hand,” Macalandap said.

Drieza Lininding, chair of the Moro Consensus Group, questioned the noninclusion of a local government representative in the TWG, which is led by the Department of National Defense.

He also questioned the lack of consultation on the plan.

But Del Rosario said: “Based on the clamor of some residents, the camp is not necessary. But from perspective of security, the satellite unit is necessary.”

He said the lessons of the run-up to the Marawi siege showed a need to station military troops on the other side of the city. “How come the drug trade proliferated [before]? How come the Maute group entered into the city?” he asked.
‘Small facility’

“We aim to prevent the intrusion of lawless elements into Marawi, and stop the selling of drugs [which used to be] in the central business,” he added.

According to Del Rosario, the camp will be a “small facility, enough for a battalion of soldiers.” Along with rebuilding its key infrastructure, the government will also ensure adequate security, he said.

The planned camp was originally designed for 20 hectares but was adjusted to 10 ha. “But we can live with 8 ha,” Del Rosario said.

The facility will encompass the area that hosts the old City Hall and the property of some 10 private claimants, he said.

Kampo Ranao sits in an American-era military reservation spanning some 60 ha, although portions of the land have given way to other uses. It straddles toward the provincial capitol, the City Hall and a state-owned hydropower generating plannt.